Monday, October 10, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: Season Opening Loss to Bentley

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

For the second consecutive season, The UNH Men's Hockey Blog will include the "Captain's Corner" feature. Beginning with this article, I will periodically interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the team's performance in recent games.

In the series of 15 Captain's Corner articles last season, Captain Collin MacDonald provided insight into the 2015-16 team's ups and downs and the progress of individual players. After his graduation last spring, Collin went on to sign a professional contract with the Toledo Walleyes of the East Coast Hockey League. The Walleyes are an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.

Bentley Game

On Saturday night, the 2016-17 UNH hockey team opened the regular season with a loss to the Bentley University Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. As Ben Nawn pointed out in his game report for The UNH Men's Hockey Blog, it was the second time that the two Division I programs had played each other. Last season, UNH defeated Bentley 5-4 at the end of November.

Bentley, and a number of other Atlantic Hockey Conference schools such as American International College and Sacred Heart University, are upgrading their hockey programs in an effort to attract more talented hockey players. After playing for years at a municipal arena 10 minutes from campus, Bentley University is building a new, on campus arena due to open in 2018.

Bentley has already attracted some skilled recruits such as freshman Jonathan Desbiens. He was a teammate of UNH freshman Liam Blackburn last season with the West Kelowna Warriors. They were West Kelowna's #1 and #3 scorers and the Warriors won the BCHL Championship and the RBC Cup. On Saturday, Desbiens scored Bentley's fourth goal just seconds into the third period.

The UNH loss was frustrating for a number of reasons. The Wildcats outshot Bentley 12-0 over the first 11 and 1/2 minutes of the game. Bentley's first goal came a minute later on only their second shot on goal. UNH had a 5-on-3 power play in each period and did not score. After falling behind 2-0, they appeared to recapture the momentum with 3:19 remaining in the second period on a goal by sophomore Ara Nazarian. However, Bentley answered with their third goal just 36 seconds later. Desbiens' goal sealed the deal in the final stanza.

Here are some video clips of the post-game press conference courtesy of UNH Wildcats Productions:

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the opening game of the season against Bentley University.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): In the news conference after the 5-1 loss to Bentley University, you and Coach Umile talked about two major themes: missed opportunities to score and defensive mistakes that lead to goals. In each period, UNH had a 5-on-3 power play opportunity but did not score. What do the power play units need to do to improve and find the back of the net more often?

Matias Cleland: We have some skilled players on both units obviously and that can lead to guys not shooting the puck as much as they need to. I think we can look to shoot the puck more and get bodies to the net. That being said, we had a lot of shots blocked on the power play on Saturday night. We need to get pucks through traffic and give our guys down low a chance to get second opportunities. This will help our power play a lot.

Mike Lowry: Bentley's first, third and fourth scoring plays involved them controlling the puck below the UNH goal line. What were the defensive mistakes that Bentley capitalized on and what does the team need to do to avoid these mistakes in the future?

Matias Cleland: They did a good job controlling the puck down below the goal line but they found open guys in front. That was the issue with the goals they scored. We need to execute our defensive zone and do our individual jobs. We felt like leaving guys open was a big reason why they were able to score goals on us. If we can fix this, we will be a tough team to score against.

Lowry: Were there team and individual efforts that stood out as positives in your mind?

Cleland: I thought Frankie Cefalu had a great game. He played strong and won the majority of his 1v1 battles which gave him the chance to make plays. He needs to continue playing the way he is.


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