Monday, January 18, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: Back-to-Back Loses

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

A little over a week ago, UNH faced the #1 team in Hockey East and #10 team in the nation - UMass Lowell. The River Hawks also boasted the 4th best defense in the nation. It was the beginning of a final stretch of 15 Hockey East matchups for the Wildcats. Although UNH entered the game 7 points behind Lowell in the Hockey East standings, it had played 4 fewer conference games. Equipped with the 6th most potent offense in NCAA Division I hockey, the Wildcats were looking to begin a move up the HE rankings.

In a classic defensive battle, UNH and Lowell were scoreless with a little less than three minutes left in regulation. In the midst of a mad scramble in the crease, with goalie Danny Tirone and forward Chris Miller laid out on the ice trying to freeze the puck, it trickled across the goal line for a UMass Lowell win. Despite the loss, the team had reason to feel positive about their effort. Head Coach Dick Umile summed it up in the post-game news conference:
"It's as good a defensive game as we've played. I thought we played very hard in the defensive zone and did a really good job there. We had our chances. We had a chance to even tie it up there on the rush. But it was unfortunate the way the goal went in."
Next up for the Wildcats was a home-and-home series against Northeastern University. The Huskies were a bit of an enigma. NU was winless in 11 Hockey East games. They had managed to tie Boston College, Notre Dame, and Vermont but had lost 8 conference games. The Huskies were playing better as of late with a win over Michigan State, a tie with highly-ranked Quinnipiac, and two wins against Saint Lawrence.

On Friday night down at historic Matthews Arena, UNH was thumped by Northeastern 4-2. As Alternate Captain Dan Correale said:
"We didn't play the game we're capable of playing. We haven't played like that in a long time."
On Saturday night, with the students away on semester break and many UNH fans home watching the Patriot's playoff game, the Wildcats did not fare any better. Northeastern dominated the game, start to finish, and easily won 6-2. Here's a link to Parker Wheeler's game report from our blog:

"UNH Gets Smoked At Home in 6-2 Loss to Northeastern"

Tyler Kelleher, the #2 scorer in the nation, summed up the loss:
"Pretty embarrassing for us I think. We all didn't play great at all. It will just get harder as the season goes on. We have Notre Dame next weekend, and then we have BC, Lowell, and Providence, so we've got to figure it out."
I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the twin loses to UMass Lowell:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Last weekend, the team played it's best defensive game of the season against UMass Lowell, the top team in Hockey East. Needless to say, the team must be disappointed with its play in the back-to-back losses against Northeastern University. Is there anything the team can learn from those losses moving forward?

Collin MacDonald: We’re very disappointed with the weekend. It was tough, but with 12 games left there’s no time to dwell on it, and we’re certainly not going to quit. There’s too much character in our locker room to just roll over. Since I’ve been here at UNH, we’ve always played our best with our backs up against the wall. We’re going into the toughest part of our season, this past weekend puts us in a tougher spot, but I think we’ll use it as a wake up call.

Mike Lowry: Although the Poturalski-Kelleher-Correale line continues to be "First-in-the-Nation" in scoring (92 points), they have scored just 2 goals and 7 assists in the last 4 games. What did Vermont, UMass Lowell, and Northeastern do to minimize their offensive impact?

Collin MacDonald: What these guys have done for us offensively this season is something special. So right now it’s not going the way it has been for them, that’s going to happen. They’ll get back to their ways with hard work. They are clearly no secret to other teams so it’s going to get harder as we go down the stretch, but these three are up for it.

Lowry: Freshman Marcus Vela potted 3 goals in the 2 games against Northeastern and has scored 4 goals in his last 5 games. As a fellow power forward, what strengths do you see in Marcus' game?

MacDonald: Marcus is a big, strong kid that has stayed true to his game all year. He plays the body well and is great at protecting the puck when it’s on his stick. He’s a true freshman that is playing like an older guy out there. He’s getting to the net and it’s nice to see him getting rewarded.

Lowry: UNH fans got a chance to see backup goalie Jamie Regan play against Northeastern on Saturday. Regan was an All-Star goalie in the Eastern Junior Hockey League before coming to UNH. Would you describe his style and strengths?

MacDonald: Reags is one of the most athletic guys I’ve ever played with. He uses his athleticism in net. He’s garnered confidence by working in practice over his career here and in this year especially. He might not have the most game experience, but when he’s put in the net, the boys trust him back there; he’s here for a reason.


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