Tuesday, February 23, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: Battle with #9 BU

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

This is my 5th season covering the UNH hockey program on The UNH Men's Hockey Blog. In that time, the Wildcats have qualified for the NCAA Tournament once. The 2012-13 team was ranked #1 in the nation in early December, 2012 and eventually earned an invite to the NCAA tourney by virtue of their overall record.

In the 2015-16 season, UNH has not won enough games against top-ranked teams to earn an invitation to the 2016 NCAA Tournament. Their only route to the tourney is the automatic berth awarded to the winner of the Hockey East Playoffs. The Wildcats entered the home-and-home series against Boston University last weekend with a slim 1-point lead over UConn for the 8th spot in the Hockey East standings. Teams that finish the regular season between 5th and 8th place earn home ice in the best-of-three opening round of the Hockey East Playoffs.

BU came to UNH on Friday night in 5th place in Hockey East, just 3 points behind UMass Lowell, and ranked #9 in the nation. The Terriers were battling to finish the regular season in the top 4 of Hockey East thereby earning a bye in the opening round of the HE Playoffs.

After a scoreless first period, BU opened up a two-goal lead on consecutive scores by senior alternate captain Danny O'Regan, a 5th round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks. Junior Jamie Hill sparked a UNH comeback with this nifty, breakaway goal set up by a beautiful, stretch pass from senior defenseman Harry Quast:

Less than 3 minutes later, Michael McNicholas converted a cross-slot pass from Andrew Poturalski on the UNH power play to tie the game 2-2. In the third period, O'Regan completed a hat trick with 2 and 1/2 minutes left in regulation. It could have been a deflating goal for UNH but they tied the game up 36 seconds later.

Sophomore defenseman Cameron Marks snapped a wrist shot from the blueline and the puck appeared to deflect down to the ice off freshman Marcus Vela. Senior Alternate Captain Maxim Gaudreault banged home the bouncing puck for this game-tying goal:

Neither team scored in the 5-minute overtime period. Here's a link to Parker Wheeler's game report of the 3-3 tie from our blog:

#9 BU and UNH Skate to 3-3 Tie

Although BU earned a point on Friday night, they still needed a win on Saturday to move into a tie for 4th place with UMass Lowell. The Terriers responded with 3 unanswered goals over the first two periods. UNH picked up the pace in the third period.

Three minutes into the final stanza, Cameron Marks snapped a wrister toward the net. BU goalie Connor LaCouvee's made the save but left a rebound and Ara Nazarian knocked it home as he was being knocked to the ice. Here's Nazarian's 7th goal of his freshman season:

Three minutes later, sophomore Shane Eiserman lead a 4-on-2 rush up ice and slid a pass to Cameron Marks streaking toward the top of the slot. Marks fired this wrist shot over LaCouvee's right shoulder and pulled the Wildcats to within one goal:

UNH outshot Boston University 11-4 in the final period including a flurry at the end with goalie Danny Tirone pulled for an extra attacker. Here's a link to my game report of the 3-2 BU win:

UNH Comeback vs BU Falls Short

Although UNH lost at Agganis Arena, they maintained their one-point lead in the race for 8th place in Hockey East. The win by BU drew them into a tie with UMass Lowell for fourth place. Next weekend, UNH plays it's final two games of the regular season - a home-and-home series against UConn. They will enter the games 1 point behind 7th place Vermont, 1 point ahead of Merrimack, and 2 points ahead of UConn and Maine.

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the weekend series with Boston University:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): The Wildcats played 9th-ranked Boston University tough over the weekend series and earned an important point. How would you assess the team's performance against the Terriers?

Collin MacDonald: Although we tied Friday night, we didn’t play a great game. Danny Tirone really kept us in it and stole a point for us. Coming back with little time to play showed the character of our team, but we knew we could play much better. Saturday was frustrating because we didn’t bring our game until the third period. We were in desperation mode and took it to them in the third, but it was a little too late to overcome that big of deficit.

Mike Lowry: Over the last 4 games, Jamie Hill has scored some big points including the breakaway goal which sparked the comeback against Boston University on Friday night. He's also been a key contributor on the UNH penalty kill. Would you describe the skill set of your fellow New Jersey native and the ways he contributes to the team?

Collin MacDonald: Hill brings a lot of energy to his game. You’ve seen his skill show, especially as of late. That breakaway goal was a beauty, and he’s made some nice plays setting guys up for goals over the last few weekends. He’s a heads up player, his head is always on a swivel, and he figures out what he’s going to do with the puck before he gets it. Him and Correale have worked hard together on our PK, which has been huge for us.

Lowry: Sophomore defenseman Cameron Marks' wrist shot from the point initiated the game-tying goal against BU on Friday and his goal on Saturday pulled UNH to within one of the Terriers. What are Cameron's strengths and how has his game developed in his first two years in Durham?

MacDonald: It was great to see Marksy have two strong games for us this weekend. He’s a guy who played a big role back there as a freshman. Things weren’t going his way in the beginning of this year, and then he had to battle a tough knee injury. A weekend like last is huge for him going forward. He shows poise with the puck, and is a smart hockey player. We’ll need him to be one of our best players heading into the playoffs.

Lowry: After being out of the lineup since early December with a fractured shoulder, you finally got a chance to play in Friday's game. How do you think you played and how does the shoulder feel?

MacDonald: Yeah I was happy to be back out there. I knew I wasn’t going to play much, but there’s nothing like being back in the fight. Coach decided I was only going to play one game last weekend, and hopefully I’ll be back for both this weekend. My shoulder is sore, but it’s to be expected; I’ve kind of rushed the process so I could finish the year in the lineup.


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