Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Charlie Kelleher Steps Up For UNH

Charlie Kelleher
Hockey East Top Performer

Freshman UNH winger Charlie Kelleher stepped up in an important weekend series at the University of Maine. The Wildcats, who were ranked #9 in the nation on November 6th, had been struggling with a 0-6-1 record since December 9th. Meanwhile, Maine was headed in a positive direction with a 7-2-2 record since December 1st. With the Hockey East Playoffs just a month away, UNH urgently needed to improve its play and Kelleher sparked a pair of come-from-behind ties in the unfriendly confines of Alfond Arena.

As the younger brother of All-American and Hobey Baker Finalist Tyler Kelleher, Charlie faced high expectations long before he donned a Wildcat uniform. Last season, he was tied for 8th in scoring in the United States Hockey League (17G, 34A, 51Pts) and the Neutral Zone scouting service made this prediction:
"The 1997 is an excellent prospect. He is a smart, well-rounded player who understands how to make plays all over the ice. He never takes a shift off and is both instinctive and smart. He gets to good spots and makes plays when he gets there. He will add some strength before he arrives at UNH where he will be a very good Division I player."
Like his brother before him, Charlie began his freshman season as the starting right winger. UNH won the first 5 games this season and Kelleher, playing with seniors Jason Salvaggio (left wing) and Michael McNicholas (right wing), tallied a goal and 6 assists.

In early November, Charlie sustained an upper body injury during practice and missed two key games against UMass-Lowell and Boston University. When he returned to the lineup, he played several games on a line with Brendan van Riemsdyk and Liam Blackburn then moved to a line with Kohei Sato and Frankie Cefalu. During that 12-game stretch, Kelleher's point production dropped to 3 assists.

Entering the back-to-back games at Maine last weekend, both the Wildcats and Kelleher were looking for a change in momentum. He was moved back up to the first line but this time with juniors Ara Nazarian at left wing and Marcus Vela at center. In the 2-2 tie on Friday night, they combined for 9 shots on goal, Kelleher had 3 SOG, and Vela controlled the faceoff and assisted on UNH's first goal by Salvaggio.

After trailing 2-0, then 2-1, UNH tied the game 1 minute into the final period on a Eric MacAdams' goal. With 3:47 remaining in overtime, Kelleher showed his knack for being in the correct position to make a big play. Mitchell Fossier stole the puck deep in the UNH zone and snapped a shot. Danny Tirone deflected the puck with his blocker but it dropped behind him. Kelleher swooped in and tapped the puck back to Tirone preserving the tie:

On Saturday night, Charlie Kelleher assisted on UNH's first 2 goals, scored the game-tying goal, and earned the #1 Star as UNH tied Maine 3-3. On their second shift in the opening stanza, Kelleher lead Nazarian and Vela into the Maine zone. Kelleher cut to the right and dumped a backhanded pass to Nazarian who slid it past Maine goalie Jeremy Swayman.

Midway through the second period, UNH went on its second power play with the game tied 1-1. In the closing moments of the man-advantage, Kelleher corralled the loose puck along the half-wall and feathered a pass out to senior defenseman Rich Boyd at the point. Boyd wristed a shot low to the ice beating Swayman.

Maine grabbed a 3-2 lead at the 8:47 mark of the third period. Two shifts later, Charlie Kelleher tied the game. Senior defenseman Cam Marks sent an outlet pass from the UNH zone to Kelleher at the redline. Kelleher skated down the right side and fired a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle to Swayman's left. The puck deflected off a Maine defender's shin pad and over Swayman's shoulder. The timely goal was Kelleher's second of the season:

Kelleher's accomplishments were recognized by Hockey East as he was named a "Weekly Top Performer". Kelleher bumped his scoring totals up to 2 goals and 11 assists. He is currently the 5th leading scorer on the UNH squad. McNicholas (5G, 17A) leads with 22 points, Max Gildon (7G, 11A) has 18, Blackburn (6G, 9A) has 15, and Salvaggio (7G, 7A), Nazarian (7G, 7A), and Benton Maass (3G, 11A) all have 14 points.

UNH returns to the Whittemore Center Friday night on the front end of a home-and-home series with UConn. The Huskies have accumulated 13 points in 18 Hockey East games and are in 8th place. UNH has 11 points in 14 HE games and is tied with UMass for 9th place.


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