Monday, November 28, 2016

UNH Commits Update: November-28-2016

2016 Commit Eric MacAdams
2016 Commit Charlie Kelleher

Player Spotlight - Eric MacAdams

Eric MacAdams has a knack for scoring game-winning goals. In his first season with the Sioux Falls Stampede last year, the 6'0", 180 lbs., right-winger scored 4 game-winners which tied him for 4th in the USHL. This month, MacAdams upped the excitement by scoring 2 game-winning goals, in overtime.

Sioux Falls won 31 games last season, finished 4th in the Western Conference, and qualified for the USHL Playoffs. So far this season, victories have been hard to come by. Entering this month, the Stampede had won only 4 games. That made MacAdams overtime winners all the more important.

On November 5th, Sioux Falls and the Lincoln Stars were tied 4-4 at the end of regulation. Just over a minute into overtime, MacAdams carried the puck end-to-end and snapped a wrister over the Stars' goalies blocker. The hometown fans went wild. Last Friday, the Tri-City Storm visited Sioux Falls and the teams ended regulation in a 3-3 tie. This time, it took MacAdams only 39 seconds to score the OT winner. He received a nice pass from Stampede defenseman Alex Stevens at the blueline, accelerated around the Storm defenseman, and lifted a backhander over the goalies blocker. Here are the video highlights of Eric MacAdams' overtime game-winners:

MacAdams boosted his goal scoring to 8 and assists to 6 in 16 games. He and Denver commit Jack Doremus lead the Stampede in goals. MacAdams is tied for 7th in USHL goal scoring and tied for 3rd in game-winning goals. MacAdams signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with UNH earlier this month, during the early signing period, and is on track to enroll next fall.

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

It didn't take long for Charlie Kelleher to become an impact player in his first season in the USHL. In his second game with the Tri-City Storm, he registered 6 shots on goal. His first assist came in the next game and his first USHL goal came in Game 4 against the Lincoln Stars. Over the last 6 games, Kelleher has scored 4 goals and 2 assists.

On November 4th, Kelleher scored his first game-winning goal. Tri-City dominated the Omaha Lancers in the 4-1 victory and Kelleher scored the game-winner in the waning seconds of Period 1. Swedish player Linus Weissbach and Kelleher broke through center ice on a 2-on-1 break and Weissbach fed a cross-slot pass to Kelleher who buried it:

Charlie Kelleher usually plays right wing on a top line with Cornell commit Alex Limoges at center and Western Michigan commit Paul Washe. Kelleher (6 goals, 9 assists) is tied with Washe for second leading scorer on the Storm's roster. Limoges leads the team with 20 points. Kelleher is tied for 9th in USHL assists and tied for 10th in USHL scoring. Kelleher signed his NLI with UNH last spring and will enroll next fall.

2016-17 Statistics

The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH. ~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 16 2 0 2 4
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 24 1 6 6 4
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 19 6 9 15 4
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 17 8 6 14 32
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 20 2 8 10 24
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 2 2W 0L 2.00 .948
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 16 3 1 4 63
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 1 0 1 1 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 15 2 1 3 12
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 14 6 10 16 2
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep - - - - -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ Eric Esposito has scored 3 goals in the last 3 games with the Youngstown Phantoms. He signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH earlier this month and is on track to enroll in either the Fall of 2017 or 2018.

~ 2018 UNH Commit Corson Green remained on the latest NHL Central Scouting Service "Players to Watch" list for the 2017 NHL Draft. The 6'1", 206 lbs left-shot defenseman maintained a "C" rating which indicates he has the potential to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the 2017 Draft. Green has posted 2 goals and an assist so far in his rookie season with the Chicago Steel in the USHL.

North American Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Mike Robinson was traded from the USHL's Dubuque Fight Saints to the North American Hockey League's Springfield Junior Blues on November 22nd. Robinson had been the backup goalie to the Saints' Jaxon Castor, an Arizona State commit. Castor currently has a 1.93 Goals Against Average and a .914 Save Percentage. Robinson only got 2 starts with the Fighting Saints. He won his first start on October 14th in a 5-3 decision over the Sioux Falls Stampede. In Robinson's second start two weeks later against Waterloo, the Saints surrendered 4 goals in the first 2 periods and Castor replaced him in the final period. The Saints lost in overtime. Robinson has won his first 2 starts with the Springfield Jr Blues and has made a total of 73 saves against 77 shots on goal. Robinson is a 3rd round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks.

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ 6'2", 175 lbs. defenseman James Miller, a 2017 UNH commit, has scored 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games with the Penticton Vees. Miller signed his NLI with UNH earlier this month during the early signing period. Look for an upcoming, feature article on Miller coming soon on the Blog.

~ 2018 UNH commit Angus Crookshank also signed his NLI with UNH this month. He broke his collar bone in the first period of the first game of the Langley Rivermen's season and has missed the last 27 games. Crookshank is on track to return to the lineup very soon.

New England Prep Hockey League:

~ 2018 or '19 commit Ryan Verrier and the Salisbury School are set to open their 2016-17 season this Wednesday against the Taft School.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tirone, UNH Shut Out RPI 5-0

Junior Goalie Danny Tirone
2nd Shutout of Season
Sophomore Chris Miller
Game-Winning Goal

DURHAM, NH - Outstanding goaltending, stingy defense, and plenty of goals - the UNH Wildcats put it all together in their 5-0 drubbing of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before a pre-Thanksgiving crowd at the Whittemore Center. In the recent article "UNH Captain's Corner: #1 Offense in Hockey East", I described how top goal-scorers Patrick Grasso, Tyler Kelleher, Jason Salvaggio, Michael McNicholas, Liam Blackburn and others have turned the UNH offense into the most potent in Hockey East. While that offense continued to excel against RPI, junior goalie Danny Tirone stole the show in his second shutout of the 2016-17 season.

In all, Tirone made 25 saves - some timely and some spectacular. This video of Tirone highlights starts with a big save just 4 minutes into the game. It was particularly important given UNH's tendency to fall behind in a few games early in the season. The second save in the sequence shows Tirone making perhaps his best glove save of the season. Then there's the key saves as UNH killed off a 2-minute, 5-on-3 in the second period. The Wildcats were only ahead 2-0 at the time.

Although Tirone got off to a slow start in his first three games of the season, he has turned it around in his last 8 starts. Since the 4-1 win at UMass in late October, Tirone's has posted a record of 5-1-2. During that stretch, his save percentage improved from .876 to .919 and his goals against average decreased from 3.74 to 2.26.

And yes, the UNH offense scored more than enough goals to cover Tirone's shutout. Here's the game-winner by sophomore center Chris Miller:

Miller has done an outstanding job filling in for the injured Ara Nazarian on UNH's second line. His speed has complimented the strong physical play of wingers Shane Eiserman and Marcus Vela.

UNH also got goals from Tyler Kelleher (8), Liam Blackburn (4), Dylan Maller (3), and Michael McNicholas (7). Here are the highlights of their goals courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

With the win against RPI from the ECAC, UNH improved it's overall record to 6-5-2. Next Saturday, UNH travels to Madison Square Garden for a matchup with Cornell University.

Monday, November 21, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: #1 Offense in Hockey East

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

At the UNH Hockey Media Day in late September, both head coach Dick Umile and captain Matias Cleland addressed the need to replace the goal-scoring of Andrew Poturalski (22 Goals), Dan Correale (16G), and Maxim Gaudreault (12G). Matias said:
"I think we're going to need guys to step into roles and fill some shoes that left. It puts guys in great places. They get what they came here to do and allows them to succeed at where they want to be. I think some guys will step up and fill those shoes."
With a third of the 2016-17 season already in the record books, a number of Wildcats have stepped up to give UNH a potent offense. UNH has compiled an overall record of 5-5-2 and their team offense is tied for 12th place in the nation. They have scored an average of 3.50 goals per game. The UNH power play has scored during 23.32% of opportunities which is the 8th best in all of Division I hockey.

UNH's offensive rankings in Hockey East competition are even more impressive. The Wildcats are #1 in Total Offense (4.40 Goals Per Game) and Power Play Efficiency (36.7%). The 12 Hockey East teams have played between 4 and 7 conference games. UNH has a Hockey East record of 3-1-1 and is tied for 3rd place with Notre Dame and Vermont. BC is in first place with a 5-0-1 record and UMass Lowell is in second at 4-2-0. UNH won the season series against two teams at the bottom of the Hockey East standing. They swept UMass 4-1 and 6-2 and earned 3 out of 4 points against Merrimack (6-2, 3-3). UNH lost 5-3 at BC in the final three minutes of the game. The Eagles were ranked #3 in the nation at the time.

Throughout last season, UNH's first line of Tyler Kelleher at right wing, Andrew Poturalski at center, and Dan Correale at left wing was one of the top scoring lines, and often the top line, in college hockey. Over the first 12 games of the 2015-16 season, the three had combined for 23 goals and 20 assists. Poturalski (11G, 12A) was the #1 scorer in the nation and Kelleher (6G, 16A) was #2. So far this season, the first line of Kelleher, Michael McNicholas (center), and Jason Salvaggio (left wing) has essentially matched the offensive output of the Kelleher-Poturalski-Correale line. Kelleher (7G, 15A), McNicholas (6G, 5A) and Salvaggio (7G, 5A) have combined for 20 goals and 25 assists. Kelleher is tied for 2nd in the nation for scoring and assists. McNicholas is tied for 2nd in power play goals (5).

Kelleher, McNicholas, and Salvaggio are also top scorers in Hockey East competition. Kelleher (2G, 10A) is the leading scorer in Hockey East. Salvaggio is tied for 1st in goal-scoring (5G) and tied for 6th in scoring (7 Points). McNicholas (4G, 3A) is tied with Salvaggio in scoring and has scored the most power play goals (4) in Hockey East.

Freshman phenom Patrick Grasso has also been a key contributor to UNH's offense. Overall, Grasso has tallied 10 goals and 8 assists in 12 games. He is tied for 6th in NCAA scoring, tied for 1st in power play goals (6), and tied for 3rd in goal-scoring. In 5 Hockey East games, Grasso has posted 5 goals and 5 assists. He is tied with Salvaggio and BC's Austin Cangelosi for most goals. He is also the 2nd leading scorer, behind Kelleher, in Hockey East competition.

Grasso's fellow freshman linemates, Brendan van Riemsdyk and Liam Blackburn, have also played like veterans. BvR has scored a goal and 6 assists and Blackburn has tallied 3 goals and 4 assists.

The Captain, Matias Cleland has shown leadership in all aspects of the game including offense. Overall, he has a goal and 12 assists in 12 games - somewhat better than the 1 goal and 9 assists he posted over the first 12 games of the 2015-16 season. Cleland is the 2nd leading scorer among all Division I defensemen and is tied for 3rd in assists among all Division I players. He has scored a goal and 6 assists in 5 Hockey East games which is the second most points among HE defensemen.

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the team's effective offense and the recent string of 3 Hockey East games:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Since our last Captain's Corner, the team played three important Hockey East games, improved its conference record to 3-1-1, and is now tied for 3rd place in the standings. In the first of these games, you erased a 3-goal deficit against Boston College but lost in the last 2 and 1/2 minutes of the game. At the time, BC was ranked #3 in the nation. How do you think the Wildcats stacked up to the Eagles offensively, defensively, and on special teams?

Matias Cleland: I thought we stack up just fine against a top team in all those areas. It was frustrating to lose a game that we worked so hard to come back in. It did show that our team is capable of playing with teams like BC, but I think we knew that before going into that game. We just have to do it for a full 60 minutes.

Mike Lowry: Last season, UNH's power play was the 6th best in Hockey East with a conversion rate of 21.1%. So far this season, the team has scored on 36.7% of its power play opportunities which ranks 1st in Hockey East. The UNH coaches have made two changes to the first power play unit this season. First, forward Tyler Kelleher is on the blue line with you, instead of a second defenseman. Second, freshman winger Patrick Grasso takes Kelleher's place on the forward line, along with Jason Salvaggio and Michael McNicholas. What are the keys to the power play's success this season?

Matias Cleland: We have had some success on the power play so far this year which is very important. I think the keys to our power play is shooting pucks and getting pucks back. Obviously the forwards on that unit are very skilled, so you know they are going to make plays. We've been moving the puck quick and then attacking the net which is why I think we've been successful.

Lowry: Two key players - second line center Ara Nazarian and second pair defenseman Dylan Maller - were injured and out of the lineup for several recent games. Nazarian has missed 5 games so far and Dylan Maller missed 4 games before returning to the lineup last Friday against UMass. Given the philosophy of "next man up", how well has the team done in filling these gap?

Cleland: I'm proud of the guys that have had to step in to fill those spots. Those are two important guys that we lost and the team handled it well. We had to shake some lines up but that's expected throughout the year when there's injuries. We were able to have Maller back for UMASS and hopefully Nazarian will be back soon.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

UNH Sweeps UMass Season Series

Senior Tyler Kelleher
1 Goal, 4 Assists
Junior Jason Salvaggio
2 Goals (GWG), 1 Assist

Freshman Patrick Grasso
1 Goal, 1 Assist
Junior Michael McNicholas
1 Goal

DURHAM, NH - The 2016-17 Hockey East Preseason Coaches Poll had UNH ranked #10 in the 12-team league. At the UNH Hockey Media Day, both Head Coach Dick Umile and Captain Matias Cleland pointed to that poll as a source of motivation. As Matias put it:
"We saw the rankings but they're the preseason rankings. It doesn't matter what they're talking about at the beginning of the season, it's what they're talking about at the end. We want to make some people think again about where they put definitely is (motivating). I think it upset some of us and it's not where we want to be. It's something we want to improve."
It's still very early in the Hockey East schedule but so far, the UNH Wildcats have been taking care of business. Their overpowering 6-2 victory over the UMass Minutemen at the Whittemore Center last evening was reminiscent of the 4-1 win in late October out at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts.

UNH will play each Hockey East team twice during this regular season. UNH has now swept UMass and won 3 out of 4 points in the season series against Merrimack College. UMass was ranked #11 in the Preseason Coaches Poll and Merrimack was ranked #9. In the other Hockey East matchup at Boston College the week before last, UNH was competitive as they erased a three-goal deficit but lost late in the third period.

The UNH Wildcats' 3-1-1 record in Hockey East puts them in a tie for 3rd place with Notre Dame (3-2-1). UMass Lowell is in 2nd place (4-2-0) and BC is in 1st place (5-0-1). What's even more impressive is UNH's position in team offense and individual scoring. For example, take the first goal in the UMass game scored by freshman Patrick Grasso. This goal put Grasso in a tie for 1st place in Hockey East goal-scoring (5):

Grasso also added an assist on UNH's 5th goal of the game. Grasso is now in 2nd place in Hockey East scoring with 10 points. Overall, Grasso has scored 10 goals and 8 assists in 12 games which puts him in a tie for 6th in scoring among all NCAA Division I players.

Not to be outdone, junior Jason Salvaggio scored 2 goals against UMass including the game winner:

Salvaggio has scored 5 goals in 5 Hockey East games and is tied with Patrick Grasso and BC's Austin Cangelosi for the most Hockey East goals. Salvaggio also added an assist on UNH's 5th goal against UMass. He is now tied for 5th place in Hockey East scoring with 7 points. Overall, Salvaggio has tallied 7 goals and 5 assists in 12 games.

Junior Michael McNicholas, who centers UNH's first line between Salvaggio on his left wing and Tyler Kelleher on right wing, scored his 4th Hockey East goal of the season in the second period against UMass. McNicholas is tied for 2nd in Hockey East goal-scoring and tied for 5th in scoring with 7 points.

As you may have noticed in the video highlights, senior Tyler Kelleher put up a ton of points in the 6-2 win over UMass. In addition to dishing out 4 assists, he scored UNH's 5th goal of the game:

Kelleher is now the leading scorer in Hockey East competition with 12 points in 5 games. His 10 Hockey East assists are the most in the league. Overall, Kelleher has scored 7 goals and 15 assists in 12 games. He is the 2nd leading scorer among all NCAA Division I players.

Other outstanding individual efforts in the 6-2 victory over UMass include Jamie Hill's 1st goal of the season, Matias Cleland's 2 assists, and junior goalie Danny Tirone's 35 saves.

Keeping in mind that it's early in the Hockey East schedule, it's still noteworthy that UNH is #1 in Scoring Offense (4.40 Goals per Game) in the league. The UNH power play is the best in Hockey East. The Wildcats have a power play conversion rate of 36.7%. UNH's overall special teams play is also tops in Hockey East with a net score of +9.

Here are the highlights of the Wildcats' 6-2 win over UMass courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

UNH will play out-of-conference games against RPI at the Whittemore Center next Tuesday night at 7:00 PM and Cornell at Madison Square Garden on November 26th at 8:00 PM.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

MacAdams, Esposito & Crookshank Sign NLI With UNH

Eric MacAdams
2017 UNH Commit
Eric Esposito
2017 or '18 UNH Commit
Angus Crookshank
2018 UNH Commit

The early signing period of the National Letter of Intent (NLI) program began last Wednesday and ends today. Three players who had previously given a verbal commitment to play hockey at UNH, have signed an NLI during this early signing period. Eric MacAdams, Eric Esposito, and Angus Crookshank now have a binding agreement to enroll at the University of New Hampshire and play hockey for at least one academic year. Two other UNH Commits, forward Charlie Kelleher and goalie Mike Robinson, signed NLI's with UNH last season. Kelleher signed last April and Robinson signed in November, 2015.

Some of the key provisions of the NLI are:
~ The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NLI member institution.
~ The prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the institution full-time for one academic year.
~ The institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid to the student-athlete for one academic year, provided he/she is admitted to the institution and is eligible for financial aid under NCAA rules.
~ A recruiting prohibition is applied after a prospective student-athlete signs the NLI. This prohibition requires member institutions to cease recruitment of the prospective student-athlete once an NLI is signed with another institution.
~ If the student-athlete does not fulfill the NLI agreement, he/she has to serve one year in residence at the next NLI member institution and lose one season of competition in all sports.

In essence, MacAdams, Esposito, Crookshank, Kelleher, and Robinson are now in the UNH fold. Assuming they meet the eligibility requirements of the NCAA Clearinghouse and the admissions standards of UNH, each will become a Wildcat hockey player either next season or the season after. All other NCAA hockey programs are prohibited from recruiting them. If any of these commits do not fulfill the binding agreement, he will not be allowed to play for another college hockey team for a year.

Eric MacAdams

Eric MacAdams (DOB: 4-29-1997), a native of Salem, Massachusetts, is in his second season with the Sioux Falls Stampede in the USHL. The 6'0", 200 lbs. right-shot, right winger has scored 6 goals and 6 assists in 14 games so far this season. He is currently tied for 9th in USHL scoring and tied for 6th in goal-scoring. Last season, MacAdams tallied 10 goals and 8 assists in 54 Stampede games. His 4 game-winning goals tied him for 4th most among all USHL players. Here's a video highlight of an overtime, game-winning goal MacAdams scored 10 days ago against the Lincoln Stars:

Prior to playing for Sioux Falls, MacAdams played three seasons for Austin Prep School in Reading, Massachusetts. In his junior year, MacAdams was named to the Boston Herald All-Scholastic Hockey "Dream Team". Eric verbally committed to UNH last November when he was 18 years old. He will be 20 years old when he enrolls next Fall.

Eric Esposito

Eric Esposito (DOB: 8-24-1998), a native of West Haven, Connecticut, is playing in his second season with the Youngstown Phantoms in the USHL. The 5'11", 182 lbs. right-shot winger has tallied one assist in 11 games this season. This assist was an important one as it set up the Phantoms' game-winning goal which ended the Chicago Steel's 10-game winning streak:

So far this season, Esposito has accumulated 44 penalty minutes and been suspended for 3 games due to fighting. As a USHL rookie last season, Esposito tallied 2 goals and 8 assists in 48 games. Before moving to Youngstown, Ohio to play for the Phantoms, Eric attended Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut. As a freshman, he tallied 5 goals and 6 assists in 28 games and as a sophomore, he broke out with 17 goals and 14 assists in 26 games.

Eric Esposito was one month shy of his 16th birthday when he committed to UNH in July 2014. At the time, he said his target date for enrolling at UNH was either the Fall of 2017 or 2018. If he enrolls next fall, he will be a 19-year-old, "true" freshman.

Angus Crookshank

This season, 17-year-old Angus Crookshank (DOB: 10-2-1999) was all set to have a big rookie campaign with the Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League. Last year, the North Vancouver native had a breakthrough season with the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy Prep team. In 35 regular season games, Angus scored 42 goals and 19 assists and earned the CSSHL Prep Most Valuable Player Award. He was called-up to play 4 regular season games and 1 BCHL Playoff game with the Rivermen. On the first shift of his first game on January 21, 2016, Angus scored this goal:

A week before the start of the 2016-17 season, Langley Head Coach and General Manager Bobby Henderson said “(Crookshank)’s been real good early on and he’s going to be a major contributor to our offence." In the first game of the season against the Chilliwack Chiefs, the 5'10", 177 lbs., left-shot forward centered the Rivermen's third line. On his first shift, Crookshank assisted on Langley's first goal of the season. Unfortunately for Angus, late in the first period, he threw a body check, fell awkwardly and broke his collar bone. He has been out of the lineup for 22 games but is on track to return later this month.

Angus Crookshank verbally committed to UNH last April when he was 16 years old. He is on track to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2018.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wildcats Earn One Point During Long Week

Junior Michael McNicholas
3 Goals, 2 Assists
Senior Tyler Kelleher
1 Goal, 4 Assists
Junior Jason Salvaggio
2 Goals, 1 Assist

It was a challenging week of hockey for the University of New Hampshire hockey team. They salvaged only one point over a three-game stretch against #3 Boston College, Arizona State, and Merrimack.

On Tuesday, UNH battled back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the Eagles 3-3 late in the third. Eventually, BC was able to grasp back the lead and won 5-3. Although it was a hard-nosed the games, the Wildcats proved they can hang with a top tier team.

Saturday night proved a new challenge for UNH as they tangled with Arizona State University for the first time ever. ASU became a Division I program this season and they came to Durham with 1-8-0 record. Both teams went back and forth up until the third period when ASU scored a pair of goals to tie the game and force OT. Jordan Masters, who had missed the first 9 games of the season with a back injury, lead the charge in the third with his first goal. Jakob Stridsberg tied the game with 90 seconds left in regulation to draw the score to 4-4 and send it to overtime.

At 56 seconds of OT, Brinson Pasichnuk scored his second goal of the night on a controversial play. During the faceoff in the UNH zone, freshman Liam Blackburn fell awkwardly on his left leg and lay on the ice in obvious pain. During the ensuing 8 seconds, ASU continued to pass the puck around the prone Blackburn. Eventually, Pasichnuk batted his own rebound out of the air past UNH goalie Adam Clark to lift the Sun Devils to a 5-4 win. It was a tough loss for the Wildcats and after the game it was quiet. But in college hockey, it is a day-to-day operation and the Wildcats looked to bounce back.

Here are the highlights of the Wildcats' loss to Arizona State courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

After losing two hard-fought games, UNH went into Sunday's game against Merrimack College with a feeling of desperation and it showed. With only 48 seconds remaining in regulation and goalie Danny Tirone pulled for an extra UNH attacker, junior forward Jason Salvaggio tied the game. Both teams registered 2 shots on goal during overtime but neither scored. Although Wildcats had to dig deep in this one, they were able to obtain a much-needed point in Hockey East where it matters most. UNH improved to 2-1-1 in the HE standings and 4-5-2 overall.

The scoring started late in the opening stanza. With just seven seconds remaining in the first period, the Manhattan Beach, California native Michael McNicholas registered his fourth goal of the season. On the power play, senior forward Tyler Kelleher slid the puck over to McNicholas who one-timed it short side past Merrimack goaltender Drew Vogler to make it 1-0.

“Kelleher. Cleland, and I plus Grasso, and Sal, we all move it well. We change sides well I think and Kelleher makes great plays and so does Grasso and this time it worked well for us and I hope it continues moving on into the future,” McNicholas said.

The second period created havoc for the Wildcats who were battling hard on short rest with key players Ara Nazarian, Dylan Maller, and Liam Blackburn out of the lineup with injuries. Maller and Blackburn's injury status is reportedly day-to-day while Nazarian is week-to-week.

The Warriors tied the game up when Derek Petti carried the puck end to end and passed to Hampus Gustafsson to the right. Gustafsson fired a shot past goaltender Danny Tirone. Later in the second, the Warriors took a 2-1 lead at 14:17 with Tyler Irvine capitalizing. At 15:28 of the second, Chris LeBlanc scored his first goal of the season. Michael Babcock tallied the lone assist on the play.

“They really dominated us in the second period, give them credit they do a good job at pinching on the forecheck,” head coach Dick Umile said.

Thanks to McNicholas the Wildcats converted on another power-play opportunity at 16:27 of the second period. Freshman Patrick Grasso was able to finagle around in the Warrior zone then dish the puck to Salvaggio in the slot who found McNicholas at the far end hash marks waiting to strike. The initial shot that Vogler got a piece of, squirted out to McNicholas who then wristed the puck into the back of the net.

“They have done that throughout the season. Grasso has been really good on it. When McNicholas got back (into the lineup) we put him over at what we call the other elbow and he is pretty good at it. Tyler makes some pretty good passes,” Umile said.

For most of the third period, Merrimack put a stranglehold on UNH with a great forecheck and strong saves by Vogler who made 20 on the night. At 19:12 of the third period, the Wildcats pulled Tirone and provided the offense with an extra skater. This was a situation we have seen before where the Wildcats have done well with their net empty. After holding the puck for a little in the Warrior zone, the opportunity and space presented itself and Salvaggio fired one past Vogler to knot the game 3-3. Captain Matias Cleland played a pass tape-to-tape to Kelleher on the far end of the ice to the right of Vogler. Kelleher passed the puck across the goalmouth to Salvaggio who was waiting ever so patiently. It was, in my opinion, the play of the year.

“Kelleher put it on a platter for me so thanks to him,” Salvaggio said.

“We got the look. You practice it all the time. We got the look, got the goalie out, and made the play,” Umile said.

Both teams ended up fighting to get the extra point in OT, but it resulted in a draw as both Tirone (28 saves) and Vogler were resilient. In the end, the Wildcats salvaged one point during the long, three-game week.

“It was huge. We needed that. We would have liked the win, but a point is a point. It was enormous. It is Hockey East and it was desperate. It will be a nice couple days off and get back to it Friday with hopefully some guys back in the lineup,” Salvaggio said.

“I gave the guys credit for battling back. We pulled out an important point and it will mean a lot down the road here. It was a long week and we played some really good games. Guys stepped up. We had some disappointment with the BC game and against Arizona State, but this is a big point in Hockey East and we’ll take that and hopefully get some guys back,” Umile said.

Here are the highlights of the Wildcats' tie with Merrimack courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

Overall, this was a big week for the Wildcats and they showed some fight. That will go a long way down the road. Also, seeing young guys step up to fill some important voids is awesome. The Wildcats are making positive steps forward.

UNH will be back in action prior to Thanksgiving this Friday against UMASS and then a Tuesday night tilt against RPI at 7:00pm before they travel to the Big Apple for a date with Cornell.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

UNH Captain's Corner: 4-Game Unbeaten Streak

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

What a difference two weeks makes. After starting the season with a 1-3-0 record, the UNH Wildcats have beaten Hockey East opponents UMass and Merrimack College, tied Sacred Heart, and defeated Mercyhurst. The turnaround began at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts on October 28th. From my rink-side vantage point, I thought the team played a complete, 60-minute game for the first time this season.

Junior goalie Danny Tirone, who had not played up to his standards in his first three starts (.847 Average Save Percentage), effectively kept the Minutemen off the scoreboard until UNH junior Michael McNicholas converted on a power play with 4 minutes left in the first period. Freshman Liam Blackburn chose an opportune time to score his first NCAA goal. Early in the second period, Blackburn scored the game-winning goal off a nifty, back-hand pass from freshman linemate Brendan van Riemsdyk.

UNH went on to score two more goals, one be senior defenseman Dylan Maller, his second of the season, and another by junior Shane Eiserman, his first of the season. UNH's 4-1 victory is described in the article "UNH Downs UMass in Hockey East Opener".

The following evening, UNH accomplished something that happened only one time last season - they defeated a Hockey East opponent at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats blitzed Merrimack College 6-2 and were lead by a remarkable 4-goal game by freshman Patrick Grasso. Here are the video highlights of Grasso's four goals:

In all, Patrick Grasso scored 8 goals and 2 assists in 6 October games. He was named the Hockey East Rookie of the Month and the Hockey Coaches Association's National Rookie of the Month. Here's a link to Ben Nawn's game report entitled "Tricks & Treats: 4 Grasso Goals Lead Wildcats to 6-2 Victory Over Warriors".

The first weekend in November saw two Atlantic Hockey Conference opponents come to town. On Friday night, November 4th, UNH and Sacred Heart University tied 2-2. The downside was the Wildcats falling behind 2-0 - a troubling pattern over the first four games of the season. The good news was UNH's ability to come from behind and score two big goals in the waning minutes of regulation. Liam Blackburn added a game-tying goal to his NCAA stats with just 27 seconds left in regulation. Here's Ben's game report - "Wildcats' Late Surge Helps Tie Sacred Heart Pioneers 2-2".

Last Saturday night, UNH extended its unbeaten streak to four games by downing Mercyhurst University 3-0. Here's a link to the article "Tirone & UNH Shut Out Mercyhurst 3-0". Danny Tirone earned his first shut out of the 2016-17 season. During the unbeaten streak, Tirone's average save percentage improved to .908. Jason Salvaggio scored this game-winning goal at the 3:08 mark of the second period:

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the 4-game unbeaten street.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on the team's 4-game unbeaten streak. After a slow start to the season, what is the team doing now to produce the wins?

Matias Cleland: Thank you. The team has gained some confidence by winning games and the younger guys are getting more comfortable with college hockey. I think we have been playing good team defense and that has allowed us to win games. Tirone has looked awesome and that has obviously been a big positive for our team. We just have to keep taking it one game at a time.

Mike Lowry: Last week, Coach Umile said he reminded the team about the program's tradition of winning, particularly at the Whittemore Center. Almost all freshman players come to Durham without ties to UNH. For example, you grew up playing youth hockey in your native Colorado, then junior hockey in Iowa and Nebraska. What have the coaches and you, as the senior captain, done to instill pride in the UNH hockey tradition?

Matias Cleland: We watched a video about the history of hockey here at UNH. It showed the winning tradition UNH has had in the past years and what it means to put that jersey on. I think it hit home for a lot of guys. As you mentioned, I grew up in Colorado but I was well aware of the hockey program here. I think this is the case for kids on our team no matter where they come from. We are trying to get back to that tradition.

Lowry: After not playing in the first 3 games of the season, junior Michael McNicholas has scored 2 goals and 3 assists in the last 5 games. He has moved up to centering the first line and is on the team's first power play unit. What strengths does McNicholas bring to the team?

Cleland: He's been great for us and has been making great plays. He's a very skilled player and can do a lot of things with the puck. He's been playing well, and has worked hard to earn the spot he's in now.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Tirone & UNH Shut Out Mercyhurst 3-0

Danny Tirone
1st 2016-17 Shutout
Junior Jason Salvaggio
Game-Winning Goal

DURHAM, NH - On the strength of team defense and timely goaltending by Danny Tirone, the UNH Wildcats earned the first shut out of the 2016-17 Season. The Mercyhurst University Lakers from Erie, Pennsylvania entered the game as one of only three teams in the Atlantic Hockey Conference with a winning, in-conference record. They are 2-1-0 in AHC play while Army is 4-2-0 and Canisius is 3-0-1.

Although Mercyhurst was decisively out-shot 41-14, they managed to hang with UNH throughout the first period. In fact, they had an apparent goal called off after the referees reviewed the video and determined that Tirone had sufficiently covered the puck.

After a scoreless first period, UNH got on the board three minutes into the second stanza. The scoring play began when captain Matias Cleland gathered the puck behind the UNH net and advanced it to senior Tyler Kelleher. Kelleher threaded a pass between two opponents to linemate Michael McNicholas who skated end-to-end and fired a shot on Mercyhurst goalie Colin DeAugustine. Jason Salvaggio, who had entered the Mercyhurst zone on the opposite wing of McNicholas, snared the rebound and snapped it into the net. It was Salvaggio's third goal of the season. Here's a slow-motion video of his goal courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

UNH nursed their one-goal lead for the rest of the second period and well into the final stanza. It was not a comfortable lead. UNH did not score on its first four power play opportunities. That on the heals of a 1-for-10 conversion rate the night before against Sacred Heart University.

On UNH's fifth power play with about 7 minutes left in the game, the exciting duo of Tyler Kelleher and freshman Patrick Grasso combined for the Wildcats' second goal of the game. Once again, defenseman Matias Cleland sparked the scoring play with a tick-tack-toe pass to Kelleher at the top of the slot. Kelleher head-faked a shot and slid the puck to Grasso at the bottom of the faceoff circle and he one-timed it home. Amazingly, Grasso has scored 9 goals in his first 8 NCAA games. He is currently tied for 2nd in goal-scoring among all NCAA players. Here's his tally against Mercyhurst:

Though the Lakers trailed 2-0, they did not go quietly into the night. They turned up the offensive pressure forcing Tirone and the UNH team defense to make what I believe was the "Play of the Game". With 5 minutes left on the clock, Mercyhurst rushed into the UNH zone and fired a shot on Tirone which he blocked. It was quickly followed by a shot from the top of the slot. Tirone aggressively skated out of his crease to block that shot as well. All five UNH players swarmed to keep the loose puck away from Tirone and freshman Liam Blackburn cleared it away to the sideboards where Brendan van Riemsdyk picked it up and skated out of the zone.

About 2 minutes after that key defensive play, UNH converted on the power play for the second consecutive time. Junior Shane Eiserman calmly carried the puck directly toward the Mercyhurst goal and, at the last instant, fed linemate Marcus Vela parked on the right doorstep. He tapped it home to seal the game 3-0. It was Vela's first goal of the 2016-17 season. He missed the first four games of the season with a shoulder injury. Here's his goal:

Here is the box score for UNH's 3-0 victory over Mercyhurst. The Wildcats returns to Hockey East action Tuesday night at Boston College.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Wildcats' Late Surge Helps Tie Sacred Heart Pioneers 2-2

Freshman Liam Blackburn
Game-Tying Goal
Senior Tyler Kelleher
Scores 5th Goal of Season

[Durham, NH] -- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats hockey team dug deep in the third period to draw to a 2-2 tie against the Sacred Heart Pioneers on Friday night. This was the first meeting all-time between these programs. Led by Tyler Kelleher and Liam Blackburn, the Wildcats clawed their way back late in this one.

"They fought their way at the end to not lose the game. We ended up scoring with the goalie pulled and got a power play goal. It was not pretty, but give the guys credit in the third period for finding a way to pull out a tie," head coach Dick Umile said.

The crutch to the Wildcats tonight was not finishing, especially on the power-play (1-10 tonight). Yet, they found a way to tie the game and that is the big takeaway. After a scoreless first period, Sacred Heart found the net first midway through the second.

At 11:03, Austin Mcllmurray connected on his first goal of the season. Kory Kennedy won the faceoff in the Wildcat zone and passed to Jeff Caroll. His shot was deflected towards Mcllmurray who fired a shot into the upper corner past Danny Tirone. Tirone ended the night with 27 saves.

36 seconds later, the Pioneers made it 2-0 after converting on their first power play of the night. Liam Clare had the puck at the point in the Wildcat zone and glided it over to Alec Butcher in the slot. Butcher whiffed on his shot then passed to Minello and he buried it on the one-timer.

"They scored off a face-off play and power-play with good chances," Umile said.

Just to note, Ara Nazarian got injured in the second period after a collision close to the Sacred Heart blue line. His left leg was hurt and after several minutes lying on the ice, he hobbled off. Fortunately, Nazarian was able to come back out to play later in the second period but was limited in the final period. Coach Umile said Nazarian most likely won't play tonight against Mercyhurst.

The Wildcats were able to climb back in the third period. After struggling on their first nine power play opportunites, UNH converted on their tenth attempt. Patrick Grasso carried the puck into the Sacred Heart zone on the odd-man rush near the side boards. Grasso passed one tape-to-tape to Kelleher who fired a shot past Sacred Heart goalie Nathan Perry to make it 2-1. It was Tyler Kelleher's fifth goal of the season.

"It was a good play. It was a good pass. We could see it right from the bench, Kelleher scored far side," Umile said.

The Wildcats had got back the momentum they needed and Kelleher, who had been battling all night, finally was able to get one past Perry who made 35 saves on the night.

"It was good ending up getting the tie, but I don't think we should have been in that position. We need to start taking advantage of our opportunities from the start and not let us fall into that position, but nice to end up with a tie," Kelleher said.

After Chris Miller was called for hooking at 14:20 in the third period, it seemed the Wildcats fight was slowly ending. But late in the game with Tirone pulled, the 'Cats came back.

With 28 seconds remaining in regulation, the third line came up clutch. Blackburn started the play with a pass to Brendan van Riemsdyk along the goal line who then found Marcus Vela. Once Blackburn was able to skate to the near side post, Vela passed one through traffic and Blackburn buried the equalizer. It was 2-2 and the Whittemore Center was loud.

"Definitely a scramble play just trying to get anything on the net. Vela and Reimer were doing a good job on that and the puck just squirted back door to me and I think anyone could have put that in. It was uplifting and brought energy to the guys," Blackburn said.

Although the power play struggled, the Wildcats have to keep their heads held high and look to improve quickly tonight against Mercyhurst University - another AHA (Atlantic Hockey Association) opponent. This will be the second meeting all-time against the Lakers. Coach Umile and Mercyhurst's head coach Rick Gotkin have a total of 54 years of college hockey coaching experience. Puck drop at the Whittemore Center is 7:00 pm.

Check out the highlights of the Wildcats' tie with Sacred Heart courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

Friday, November 04, 2016

UNH Commits Update: November-4-2016

UNH Commit Eric Esposito
Streak-Ending, Game-Winning Assist

Player Spotlight - Eric Esposito

One of the most compelling stories early in the 2016-17 United States Hockey League season has been the Chicago Steel's undefeated streak. The Steel franchise tied a USHL record by winning their first 10 games. So when they travelled to Youngstown, Ohio last Sunday to face the Phantoms, they had an opportunity to set an all-time record.

Entering the game, Youngstown had compiled a respectable 6-4-0 record and trailed the Steel by 8 points in the Eastern Conference. In his second season with the Phantoms, UNH commit Eric Esposito was having, shall we say, an interesting campaign. With less than 5 minutes remaining in the first game of the season, the 18-year-old Esposito (DOB: 8-24-1998) got into a fight trying to protect a fellow player and received a two-game suspension. In his fifth game back after serving the suspension, Esposito got into another fight and was slapped with a one-game suspension.

This US Hockey Report assessment of Eric Esposito at the USA Hockey Select 17 Camp in the summer of 2015 captures the style of play he has shown in the USHL (emphasis added):
"Esposito, who appears to get better every time we watch him, is strong, tough, and plays the game with hustle and energy. He hunts the puck, plays a physical brand of hockey, and outworks his opponents in the corners and around the net. On top of that, his skating has improved and his stickhandling is not only better, but he was consistently able to beat defensemen 1v1 in open ice. He has a bullet of a wrister and created several chances with cross-crease passes off the rush."
As a USHL rookie last season, Esposito tallied 2 goals and 8 assists in 48 games. Over his first 7 games this season, he had not earned any points and had registered a total of 6 shots on goal. It's safe to say that both Esposito and the Phantoms were out to prove something as they faced the undefeated Chicago Steel.

Youngstown built a 2-0 lead in the second period. With 7 minutes remaining in regulation, Esposito rushed the puck through center ice and down the right wing. As he reached the faceoff dot to the left of Chicago goalie Ales Stezka (Minnesota Wild draft pick), Esposito centered a tape-to-tape pass to linemate Curtis Hall (Yale Commit). Hall redirected the puck with his backhand into the back of the net for a 3-0 Youngstown lead. Chicago subsequently scored two goals but was defeated for the first time this season 3-2. Here is the video highlight of Eric Esposito's game-winning assist:

Eric Esposito was one month shy of his 16th birthday when he committed to UNH in July 2014. At the time, Eric had this to say about his target date for enrolling at UNH:
"A certain date for my incoming freshman year hasn't been determined exactly. Either 17' or 18' are both options the coaches and I have discussed, all depending on my development within the next few years. Hopefully I can be there as soon as possible."
At the end of this season, UNH will lose two right-shot forwards to graduation: Tyler Kelleher and Jamie Hill. UNH commits Charlie Kelleher and Eric MacAdams, who are also right-shot forwards, have a Fall 2017 target date for enrollment. For the remainder of this season, Esposito will be out to prove that he is ready to make the jump to NCAA hockey.

2016-17 Statistics

The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH. ~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 11 1 0 1 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 18 0 5 5 0
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 11 2 7 9 2
Eric MacAdams  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 11 5 5 10 10
James Miller  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 11 0 4 4 10
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 9 0 1 1 44
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 1 0 1 1 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 6 0 0 0 4
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 14 6 10 16 2
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep - - - - -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Charlie Kelleher continues to score at nearly a point-a-game clip. He has scored 2 goals and 7 assists in his first 11 USHL games and is tied for 6th in USHL assists and tied for 7th in scoring.

~ 2017 commit Eric MacAdams has scored 5 goals and 5 assists in 11 games and is tied for 6th in USHL scoring.

~ The verbal agreement between the UNH coaches and Jason O'Neill is no longer in place.

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ 6'2", 175 lbs. defenseman James Miller, a 2017 UNH commit, has dished out 3 assists in his last 5 games with the Penticton Vees.

~ 2018 UNH commit Angus Crookshank was injured early in the season, he only played in the Langley Rivermen's first game, and has missed the last 18 games.

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ 2018 or '19 commit Lucas Bahn added another goal to his total on October 27th. The 17-year-old defenseman is tied for 4th in USPHL 18U goal-scoring.

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