UNH Snaps Losing Streak, Downs #15 UVM 4-2
Earlier today, I posted "UNH Captain's Corner: Untimely Losing Streak" which included an interview with Matias Cleland about the Wildcats' 5-game losing streak. Matias offered this perspective on the streak and what the team was focusing on:
"We haven't been scoring enough goals in games to win. Obviously, the last game against Lowell had a lot to do with the defensive zone. We are making some changes that we will take into Vermont this weekend. I always believe that things are never as good as they seem and they are never as bad as they seem. Yes, we have lost some games to some good teams but we have Vermont coming this weekend. That's where all our focus is at as of now."Tonight at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, UNH scored enough goals, played competent defense, and won their first game since the 5-3 victory over Northeastern on January 12th. More importantly, they earned 2 points against Vermont - the team immediately above them in the Hockey East standings. UNH moved into 7th place 1 point behind UVM.
After a scoreless first period, the monkey on UNH's back flailed it's arms again. The Wildcats surrendered the first two goals of the game in the first 5 minutes of the second period. However, this time around, UNH clawed its way back to score 4 unanswered goals. Entering the game, UNH had the #1 power play in Hockey East and it came through 6 and 1/2 minutes into the second period.
Freshman Patrick Grasso began the scoring play by initiating a series of around the perimeter passes. From behind the Vermont net, Grasso passed to Tyler Kelleher at the faceoff circle to the right of UVM goalie Stefanos Lekkas. Kelleher sent the puck to Cleland at the top of the umbrella who then touch passed it to junior Michael McNicholas at the opposite faceoff circle. McNicholas laid a perfect cross-ice pass onto Kelleher's stick and he snapped it home for his 50th NCAA goal:
Just 2 minutes into the third period, junior Jason Salvaggio showed why he's gaining recognition as one of the best shooters in Hockey East - see this Boston Globe article published earlier this week. He carried the puck into the Vermont zone with speed and fired a wrist shot past Lekkas. The game-tying goal was Salvaggio's 17th of the season. He is now tied for 5th in NCAA goal-scoring.
A few minutes later, Salvaggio broke in cleanly toward the Vermont net and was hooked down, setting the stage for this penalty shot:
Credit Lekkas for the outstanding split to block Salvaggio's 5-hole attempt.
One of the changes Cleland mentioned in the interview helped set up UNH's game-winning goals. Freshman left winger Brendan van Riemsdyk was moved to the line with Chris Miller at center and Marcus Vela on right wing. With about 12 minutes left in regulation, that new line maintained possession in the UVM zone and Vela passed the puck back to freshman defenseman Anthony Wyse at the left point. Wyse snapped a wrist shot through a screen of several players for the game-winning goal. It was Wyse's first NCAA goal:
With less than a minute left in the game, Vermont pulled their goalie for an extra skater. UNH goalie Danny Tirone made a couple key saves and Kelleher scored the empty net goal. Tyler Kelleher (18 Goals, 32 Assists) is tied for 2nd in NCAA scoring and leads in assists.
It's worth noting another change the UNH coaches made in the forward lines. Sophomore Ara Nazarian was moved to left wing with freshmen Liam Blackburn (center) and Grasso (right wing). While they did not score, each got a shot on goal and effectively moved the puck in the offensive zone.
UNH and Vermont will close out their regular season series Saturday night at the Gutterson Fieldhouse.