Sunday, November 01, 2015

UNH Captain's Corner: UNH Beats Undefeated Merrimack College 4-2

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

NORTH ANDOVER, MA - UNH continued it's extended series of road games with another convincing win against a previously undefeated team. Entering the game last night, Hockey East opponent Merrimack College was ranked #17 in the country with an overall record of 3-0-2. The Warriors were coming off a 4-3 win Friday night against 8th-ranked Boston University.

In recent years, Merrimack has been a tough opponent within the intimate confines of it's home arena. Their tight checking style combined with solid goal-tending has served them well. Last night, UNH jumped out to two-goal lead with freshman Ara Nazarian scoring his first NCAA goal just 2:18 minutes into the game. Nazarian was set up by a quick pass from below the goal line by right winger Jamie Hill. On the very next shift, Richard Boyd one-timed a rebound off a shot from freshman Marcus Vela. It was Boyd's second goal of the season.

Merrimack got on the board midway through the first period but UNH regained a two-goal lead less than a minute into the second period on a power play goal by sophomore Andrew Poturalski. Linemate Tyler Kelleher created the scoring opportunity when he wheeled around the offensive zone and zipped a cross-ice pass to Poturalski at the opposite faceoff circle.

Once again, UNH pounced early in the third period on another power play goal by Andrew Poturalski. He blasted a shot along the ice just inside the post. It was Poturalski's 5th goal of the season. Five games into the 2015-16 season, UNH has the top two scorers in Hockey East. Kelleher is first with 13 points followed by Poturalski with 12.

Merrimack got one back midway through the final stanza but could draw no closer than 2 goals. Sophomore goalie Adam Clark turned away 28 out of the 30 shots on goal he faced including two breakaway attempts. Clark has played very well in his first two starts of the season. In the wins against Union College and Merrimack, he faced a total of 66 shots on goal and only 4 have crossed the goal line.

UNH improved it's overall record to 3-2-1 and they have one win and one tie in Hockey East competition. Here are the video highlights of the 4-2 victory over Merrimack (courtesy of the Pack Network) and the box score:

Box Score

In my weekly interview with UNH Captain Collin MacDonald, I had an opportunity to ask him about the impressive win against Merrimack College as well as a couple off-ice matters:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Two Saturday nights and two consecutive wins over undefeated teams. What challenges did Merrimack present last night and how did the team respond to them?

Collin MacDonald: We knew it was going to be a tough place to play, it’s a small rink, things happen really fast out there. They made it tough for us to make plays on the wall, especially on the breakout. Our defensemen adjusted and did a great job getting pucks out of our zone. We talked about making small plays all night, and we just tried to execute.

Mike Lowry: Freshman Ara Nazarian scored his first NCAA goal just two minutes into the game. In his first 5 college hockey games, he's compiled a +/- rating of +5. What do you notice as the strengths of Nazarian's play?

Collin MacDonald: The team was happy for Ara last night, he deserved that. He’s very quick and has elite skill. I think he’s had success so far because he’s smart out there, and he sees the ice well. He also supports his teammates on the ice; he works very hard to get open and be an option for his line mates and our defensemen.

Lowry: Adam Clark has been solid in his first two starts compiling a Save Percentage of .939 and a Goals Against Average of 2.00. What has he been doing well in net?

MacDonald: Clarky is playing to his strengths. He’s a huge presence in net obviously, and he’s just been doing whatever it takes to keep the puck out. He communicates well with us out there too, which makes it easier on everyone.

Lowry: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about defenseman Rich Boyd playing forward last night (maybe for the first time in his life) and the "healthy scratch" of some notable players?

MacDonald: Boyder really stepped up for us last night. The kid did it all, scored a goal on his first shift at forward, played the point on a power play unit, and then dropped back to defense later in the game. Some adjustments were made to the line up for reasons I won’t comment on, but it opened up some opportunity for certain players, and I think they all did a great job.

Lowry: Finally, would you comment on the departure of Warren Foegele** from the team and university to play major junior hockey in Kingston, Ontario?

MacDonald: I wish Warren nothing but the best with his hockey career and his future.

** This evening, Foegele posted an assist in his first game with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“I thought this was best for my hockey career moving forward. It wasn’t the best fit at school,” Foegele said in TV interview after the first period. Foegele skated on a line with Watson and Ryan Verbeek. Foegele, who said he had family members and friends in attendance, admitted he was a little nervous but was helped through the early shifts by his new teammates. “The boys made it easier for me to settle down,” Foegele said.


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