Tirone & UNH Shut Out Mercyhurst 3-0
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.