UNH Captain's Corner: Looking for a Win
|UNH Captain Collin MacDonald|
Over the weekend, the Notre Dame hockey team arrived in Durham ranked #13 in the nation. They were riding a ten-game streak without a loss having won 7, including a victory against Boston College, and tied 3. The previous weekend, they had swept Merrimack in two games at Lawler Arena. The Fighting Irish are big - 9 players are 6'2" or taller - and skilled - 9 are NHL draft picks. Their sophomore goalie Cal Petersen, a 5th round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, sported the second lowest goals against average in Hockey East (a little over 1.5 goals per game).
Notre Dame left town with two more wins in the bank and are now ranked #9 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and #10 in the USCHO.com Poll. The Fighting Irish are also tied for 2nd in the Hockey East standings (22 points) just one point behind UMass Lowell.
Meanwhile, the UNH Wildcats are in the midst of a six-game losing streak and are stuck near the bottom of Hockey East. They have earned 8 conference points and are tied for next to last place with UMass Amherst.
On Friday night, Notre Dame used it's size, strength and speed to dominate UNH in all phases of the game. They built up a 4-0 lead midway through the second period and eventually won 5-1. The Fighting Irish outshot the Wildcats 40-25.
One of the very few high points for UNH was their lone goal. With just 24 seconds left in the 2nd period, freshman Ara Nazarian hopped over the boards on a line change. He blocked a shot just inside the UNH blueline, gathered the loose puck, and sped past the Notre Dame back checkers on a clean breakaway. Just as he got a shot away deep in the Notre Dame slot, he was hooked to the ice leading to a penalty shot. Here's a video of Nazarian's penalty shot goal:
Another positive for UNH was the play of backup senior goalie Jamie Regan. After Notre Dame's scored it's 4th goal on just 20 shots, sophomore goalie Danny Tirone was replaced by Regan. He stopped 19 out of 20 shots on goal over the final period and one half. Following the game, Coach Umile praised Regan's play:
"Great for Jamie Regan, he really competed. He works hard every day. Tonight, it was just that quick. ‘Jamie, you’re in.’ And he competed, played great."Here's a link to Parker Wheeler's game report of the 5-1 loss from our blog: "#13 Notre Dame Takes Down UNH With Ease"
After the game, Coach Umile called Jamie Regan and told him he earned the start for Saturday's game against Notre Dame. It was the first time he had ever started in an NCAA game and his play was solid indeed. The Fighting Irish scored a power play goal in the 1st period and another in the 2nd. Andrew Poturalski, the nation's leading scorer and goal scorer, answered with this remarkable power play goal with just under 7 minutes remaining in the 2nd period:
Senior defenseman Harry Quast tied the game in the last minute of the second period. Sophomore Jason Salvaggio set up the goal as he dove and poked the puck to Quast.
Notre Dame's Mario Lucia scored the game-winner on a one-on-one battle with Regan. Two of Lucia's shots were turned away by Regan but the third trickled under his pad. For the second night in a row, Coach Umile was impressed by Jamie Regan:
"He did a great job. Proud of him. He made a great save there at the end. It’s too bad we had to lose the game and didn’t win it for him because he deserved it."Here's Parker Wheeler's game report: "UNH Falls in Close Contest to Notre Dame"
I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the Notre Dame games and what lies ahead for the Wildcats:
Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): It's been a story of feast or famine for the team over the past two months. After riding high on a record of 5-0-1 in December, UNH has lost 6 games in a row. Have you seen any signs that the team is on the verge of turning it around?
Collin MacDonald: Yeah I know we lost the game Saturday night, but it was a nice showing by us to bounce back and play the way we did after Friday night. We’ve talked about how we’re ultimately beating ourselves with mistakes we’re making. We’re getting out of town for a couple weekends and are looking to get some big wins against a few of the top teams in the country. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our team won’t quit.
Mike Lowry: In our interview a week ago, I asked you to describe senior backup goalie Jamie Regan's style and strengths. You said he is "one of the most athletic guys" you've ever played with and that "the boys trust him back there". As luck would have it, Regan got his first NCAA start against Notre Dame on Saturday. Would you describe Regan's performance in the one-goal loss to the Fighting Irish and what it means for the team?
Collin MacDonald: I was really happy for Jamie and proud of the way he played this past weekend. He showed everyone, including himself, how capable he is of playing at this level. It’s inevitable, in the position he’s been in for 3 ½ years, for self-doubt to creep in, but he stepped up and really rid any doubt he or anyone else had in his ability. Saturday he made some big saves; their second goal was just an unfortunate bounce from what I saw. I think an underrated part of his performance was the way he handled the puck; he handled it nicely behind our net and made it easier on our defensemen.
Lowry: With 10 Hockey East games left in the regular season, UNH is tied for next-to-last place in the conference. The top four teams earn a first-round bye in the Hockey East Playoffs and teams 5-8 earn home-ice for the best-of-three opening round series. Aside from the obvious goal of winning one game at a time, what are the team's goals for the remainder of the regular season?
MacDonald: Yeah like you said we just need to take one game at a time. It’s always a goal to have home ice in the playoffs. Home ice in the best-of-three opening series is still a very realistic goal for sure. So getting some wins and moving up to eighth place or better would make that first round easier. I haven’t exactly studied the standings at this point, and don’t know how high we can finish. All I know is that we have 10 regular season games left, and right now we’re focused on our weekend at Providence College.
Lowry: How is the recovery/rehabilitation from your shoulder injury coming along?
MacDonald: It’s a really frustrating injury because of the waiting game that comes along with it. I should know a lot more about my future in the next week or so. I’m just itching to get back out there, I feel like everyday I'm getting a step closer. This has been such a mental challenge, along with a physical one, over the past eight weeks.