Saturday, October 29, 2016

UNH Downs UMass in Hockey East Opener

Junior Michael McNicholas
2nd Goal of Season
Freshman Liam Blackburn
1st NCAA Goal, GWG

Defenseman Dylan Maller
2nd Goal of Season
Junior Eiserman
1st Goal of Season

AMHERST, MA - The UNH Wildcats opened its 2016-17 Hockey East schedule of games with a convincing 4-1 victory over UMass Amherst. Over their first four games of the season, UNH compiled a 1-3-0 record in out-of-conference play. In each game, the opposing team scored early in the first period and built up a 2-0 advantage. As captain Matias Cleland discussed in this week's Captain's Corner, UNH was determined to keep UMass off the scoreboard early on and score the first goal of the game - and that's exactly what they did.

Over the first 15 minutes of play, junior goalie Danny Tirone turned away 7 UMass shots on goal while the UNH offense generated 8 SOG. On their second power play opportunity of the evening, the Wildcats' top PP unit converted. Senior Tyler Kelleher threaded a cross-ice, back-hand pass to junior Michael McNicholas at the faceoff circle to the left of UMass goalie Ryan Wischow. McNicholas snapped a one-time wrister into the top corner for his second goal in the last two games. Here's the video highlight:

On their first shift of the second period, the all-freshman line of Brendan van Riemsdyk-Liam Blackburn- Patrick Grasso combined for the eventual game-winning goal. Grasso corralled a loose puck in the faceoff circle, cycled down to the corner and dropped a pass to van Riemsdyk. BvR sprinted behind the net and dished a perfect, back-hand pass to Blackburn parked in the low slot. Liam one-timed it between Wischow's legs for his first NCAA goal.

With 6:42 remaining in the second period, UMass went on a 5-on-3 power play for 38 seconds. Tirone, Cleland, Kelleher and McNicholas nearly killed off the 2-man advantage but Shane Bear's slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle thudded off Tirone's left pad and went between his legs with just 2 seconds left.

By the end of the second period, the shots on goal were nearly identical with UNH owning a 20-19 advantage. On their first shift of the final stanza, the combined unit of Eiserman-Nazarian-Vela up front and Wyse-Maller on the back end struck for the all-important two-goal lead. Junior Shane Eiserman lead a rush through the neutral zone and down the right side of the UMass zone. Eiserman pulled up at the half-wall and connected with senior defenseman Dylan Maller streaking down the slot. Maller's burst of speed carried him and the puck around the back of the goal for a pretty wrap-around, backhand tally. It was Maller's 2nd goal in the last three games and his 2nd career goal.

Entering the UMass game, the UNH penalty kill had allowed a goal on nearly 20% of their short-handed situations. However, in a pivotal juncture in the third period, goalie Danny Tirone and the penalty killers came up big to maintain UNH's two-goal lead. With 13 minutes left in regulation and a minute remaining on a UMass power play, defenseman Ivan Chukarov launched a slap shot from the point. Tirone stopped the shot and scooped up the loose puck with his glove as freshman defenseman Anthony Wyse and Dylan Maller cleared UMass players away from the crease.

Ottawa Senators' draft pick Shane Eiserman gave the Wildcats a three-goal lead midway through the final period on UNH's 6th power play opportunity of the game. Sophomore Marcus Vela, who had missed the first 4 games of the season with a shoulder injury, slid the puck to Eiserman behind the UMass net. Shane patiently allowed his teammates to skate into prime positions then passed to Ara Nazarian at the half-wall. Nazarian returned the pass to Eiserman at the top of the crease, he quickly drew the puck to his forehand, and snapped it past the goalie. It was Eiserman's first goal of the 2016-17 season.

Here is the box score for UNH's 4-1 victory over UMass Amherst. The Wildcats returns to action tonight against Merrimack College at the Whittemore Center.


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