Wildcats Earn One Point During Long Week
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.