Monday, December 07, 2015

UNH Captain's Corner: Maine Home-and-Home Series

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

The UNH-Maine rivalry is one of the best known in college hockey. In the annual "White Out the Whitt" game, a tradition which began in March, 1999, the Whittemore Center is a sea of white as UNH fans wear white jerseys/shirts when the Maine Black Bears come to town. Since the 2012-13 season, the White Out the Whitt matchup has been linked to a home-and-home series with Maine. The rivals play in either Orono, Maine or Durham, NH on the first night and travel the 198 miles to the other campus the following night. Both contests count in the Hockey East standings.

This year, the first game was contested at the Alfond Arena on Friday night. UNH entered the contest with a .500 record in Hockey East competition - 1 win, 1 lose, and 3 ties for a total of 5 points. Maine had earned 4 Hockey East points with 2 wins and 5 loses. UNH built up a 2-0 lead on power play goals by Dan Correale in the first period and Andrew Poturalski in the second period.

Maine responded with 3 unanswered goals in a 4-minute stretch but UNH senior Kyle Smith scored the game-tying goal before the second period ended. Sophomore goalie Danny Tirone closed the door on Maine the rest of the way and played one of his best games of the season making 50 saves on 53 shots on goal. Here's my game summary of the 3-3 tie:

"Tirone Makes 50 Saves; UNH Ties Maine 3-3"

On Saturday night, the teams battled in "White Out the Whitt" on the campus of UNH. Once again, the Wildcats built up a 2-0 lead, this time on first-period goals by sophomore Andrew Poturalski and senior Alternate Captain Maxim Gaudreault. Maine got one goal back later in the first period.

In the second period, UNH extended its lead to 4-1 on Gaudreault's second goal of the game and a power play goal by freshman Ara Nazarian. The Maine goalie was pulled for an extra skater late in the third period and the Black Bears scored to make it 4-2. Moments later, Poturalski sealed the deal with an empty net goal. Here's a link to Parker Wheeler's game report from our blog:

"UNH Wildcats Take 3 of 4 Points on the Weekend Over Rival Maine"

Over the weekend series against Maine, Danny Tirone faced 83 shots on goal and made 78 saves. He looks like he has regained the form that made him one of the top goalies in Hockey East last season. The UNH line of Tyler Kelleher (6G, 21A), Andrew Poturalski (14G,16A) and Dan Correale (9G, 4A) are the #1 scoring line (70 points) and #1 goal-scoring line (29 goals) in the nation.

UNH improved it's Hockey East record to 2-1-4 and is currently tied for 5th place with Merrimack, UMass and Vermont. The Wildcats have played 2 fewer Hockey East games than Merrimack and 3 fewer than UMass or Vermont. More importantly, UNH won the Hockey East series with Maine. The two will face-off again later this month, once in Portland and once in Manchester, but the results will not count in the Hockey East standings.

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the successful weekend against Maine:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on taking 3 out of 4 points on the annual Home-and-Home series with the University of Maine. In your four years at UNH, this is the first season UNH has won the Maine series. Can you describe the atmosphere at the Alfond Arena and the Whittemore Center - both in the building and on the ice - during these rivalry games?

Collin MacDonald: Yeah these games are great. The atmosphere up there is just crazy, the fans are right on top of you, it’s smaller so it’s just incredibly loud, and it’s a great experience. White out the Whitt is something we obviously circle on our calendars every year, our student section was great. We had control of that game the whole night Saturday and it was great to take 3 out of 4 points from them on the weekend.

Mike Lowry: In the 3-3 tie up at Orono, Maine generated 53 shots on goal. During the 5-2 win on Saturday, UNH held Maine to 30 shots on goal. What might account for this big difference in the two games?

Collin MacDonald: It’s hard for me to say just because I wasn’t in the game Saturday. I know we wanted to be better in our defensive zone and I believe we were. Alfond has a smaller ice surface; any shot is a good shot up there so that could’ve been a factor as well.

Lowry: What team and individual efforts over the weekend stood out as positives in your mind?

MacDonald: It was great to see Danny Tirone have two strong outings, especially Friday, that was huge. Matias Cleland was tremendous on the back end. Smith, Max, and Eiserman I thought all had great weekends. I don’t think I have to mention Pots, Kells, and Correale; they are just consistent game in and game out. Saturday I thought was an overall great team effort from my perspective.

Lowry: After a strong sophomore campaign when he was often paired with defensive standout Brett Pesce, junior defenseman Matias Cleland is quietly having perhaps the best season of his UNH career. This was particularly noticeable over the weekend with both Cameron Marks and Dylan Maller out of the lineup with injuries. What makes Cleland one of the top defensemen in Hockey East?

MacDonald: Cle is a warrior, plain and simple. He’s not worried about making anything pretty; he keeps things simple and is very effective. I lost count of how many shots he blocked this weekend, he’s got a great stick, and he jumps in on the offense and helps run the first power play unit. He leads on the ice by example, and is vocal in the room; he’s a guy you are glad is sitting on your bench and not another team’s.

Lowry: Both you and freshman Chris Miller sustained upper body injuries up at Maine and were unable to play in the "White Out the Whitt" game. Are either of you likely to return for the Dartmouth game this Friday?

MacDonald: I can’t say right now if either of us will be ready. We are both just getting our treatments in and taking it day by day.


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