Sunday, November 04, 2012

UNH Shuts Out Maine 4-0

ORONO, MAINE - It's always a challenge to play in the hostile environment that is the Alfond Arena, but UNH made it look relatively easy. On the strength of smothering defensive play, UNH (Overall: 5-1-1; Hockey East: 3-1-1) earned their first road victory of the season by shutting out the University of Maine Black Bears (Overall: 1-7-0; Hockey East: 0-3-0). After UNH's loss on Friday night to UMass Amherst, Coach Umile decided to juggle the offensive lines and the new combinations clicked. In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, three freshman forwards - Collin MacDonald, Maxim Gaudreault, and Dan Correale - were in the lineup. The new line which really clicked was Kevin Goumas at left wing, Grayson Downing at center, and Austin Block at right wing. Together, they generated 14 shots on goal and Austin Block scored two goals, including the game winner, and one set up by Goumas. Casey DeSmith turned in another solid performance stopping all 42 shots he faced. As the team filed off the ice and down the runway, their victorious "whoops" cut through the relative silence of the Alfond Arena. A win to savor.

Between The Lines

The Forward Lines & Defensive Pairings
~ Starting Lineup: Dalton Speelman (LW)- Greg Burke (C)- John Henrion (RW); Trevor van Riemsdyk (LD)- Connor Hardowa (RD).
~ Forward Lines: Goumas-Downing-Block; Thrush-MacDonald-Gaudreault; Correale-Pavelski-Willows; Defensive Pairings: Knodel-Pesce; Kostolansky-Agosta.
~ Absent from tonight's lineup was Nick Sorkin, who had been playing left wing on the first line and Jeff Silengo who had been centering the third line.
~ One potential advantage of the new first line was putting Dalton Speelman at left wing. The left shot forward had been playing right wing which sometimes requires him to catch passes on his backhand and shifting it to his forehand rather than receiving the puck while in full stride. Together, the Speelman-Burke-Henrion line produced 12 shots on goal and scored UNH's fourth goal.
~ The biggest surprise of the night was the third line. Freshmen Maxim Gaudreault at right wing and Collin MacDonald at center, plus sophomore Casey Thrush at left wing. They were an effective checking line in the neutral zone and Maine's zone and generated 5 shots on goal. Interestingly, I'm pretty sure that Gaudreault and Thrush played on the same line for one season when they played junior hockey for Team Maryland.

Game Summary

First Period:
The tone of the game was established just prior to the drop of the puck. Senior Greg Burke and Maine captain Joey Diamond went out of their way to get in each other's face and exchange unpleasantries. Seconds later, the puck went down into Maine's end and Dalton Speelman then John Henrion threw solid body checks in rapid succession. UNH was sending a message that they were not going to be intimidated.
Early in the period, Maine got into penalty trouble with a boarding infraction followed a minute later by a tripping call. Maine killed off the 5-on-3 disadvantage but shortly after, Austin Block (4th goal of the season) scored a 5-on-4 power play goal - the eventual game-winning goal. The scoring play was set up smartly by Connor Hardowa at the right point. He appeared to be setting up for a shot but quickly fed a cross ice pass to Block who was parked just to the right of Maine goalie Dan Sullivan. Block snapped the one timer home.
In the game against UMass on Friday night, UNH often had difficulty breaking the puck out of their own zone.. Tonight, they utilized the area in the middle of their zone, between the tops of the faceoff circles, to move the puck out.
With about 10 minutes left in the first period, the Block-Downing-Goumas line surrounded the Maine net and banged away at the loose puck - a pattern which would be repeated several times.
At the 11:04 mark, Collin MacDonald fired a wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circle to the right of Sullivan. The puck hugged the ice and was labelled for the post on Sullivan's left. He was forced to flash his left leg pad to deflect the puck. It was one of MacDonald's three shots on goal.
Casey DeSmith made a couple of big pad saves - one with his left leg and one with his right - about a minute apart around the 16 minute mark.
At 16:37, Eric Knodel was called for roughing. This turned out to be key turning point in the game. Kevin Goumas killed off a significant chunk of the penalty clock on his own as he skated the puck through the Maine zone and then into center ice. Goumas then made a cross ice pass and received the return pass, and then returned to the Maine end. Seconds later, Knodel jumped out of the penalty box and was fed by Casey Thrush leading to a breakaway. Eric Knodel (2nd goal of the season) skated over the blueline to the top of faceoff circle and unleashed a blast that beat Sullivan to his left side. Rather than Maine tying the game up with a power play goal, UNH was ahead 2-0.
UNH finished the period with a lopsided 17-9 advantage in shots on goal.

Second Period:
Both teams opened the period playing more cautiously with less wide open skating and passing.
About 4 minutes into the second period, DeSmith made a sprawling stop during a scrum in the crease and Trevor van Reimsdyk cleared the puck behind the net. The whistle blew as DeSmith's mask came off. He showed the referee that a strap had come loose, possibly off. The referee penalized DeSmith for dislodging his helmet and delaying the game. Here was another opportunity for Maine to get back into the game. However, the highlight of the 2-minute penalty was an end-to-end rush by TvR capped off by a shot that rang off the post. Maine failed to register a shot on goal during the power play.
The tenure of the game during the middle portion of the second period was marked by a quiet crowd and UNH effectively beating Maine to the puck. In their own end, the UNH defensemen and center were efficient at blocking passes and gaining control of the puck.
Freshman Dan Correale made an impressive move into the Maine zone about 8 minutes into the period. Correale skated the puck across the blueline and around the outside of the faceoff circle. He then shifted the puck from his backhand to his forehand and zipped a wrister at Sullivan. It was UNH's 20th SOG.
At 13:14, Maine was penalized for slashing. Seconds after the UNH power play ended, Connor Hardowa launched a slap shot from the top of the circle. Sullivan made the initial save but Austin Block, parked on the edge of the crease, banged home the puck for a 3-0 UNH lead.
Brett Pesce was called for holding near the end of the period, but the UNH penalty kill - lead by Eric Knodel who blocked a centering pass with his stick then blocked a shot from the top of the slot - prevented any shots on goal.
Shots on Goal: UNH 32, Maine 27.

Third Period:
The final period was riddled with penalties. Perhaps out of frustration, Maine got a little chippy and was called for 6 penalties. UNH had 4 penalties.
UNH tallied its 4th and final goal of the game on a great individual effort by Greg Burke (3rd goal of the season). Burke fired a wrist shot from the faceoff circle to the left of Sullivan. The shot was blocked but Burke gathered the loose puck and snapped another wrister past Sullivan.
Final Shots on Goal: UNH 45, Maine 42.

UNH Stars of the Game

#1 Star - Austin Block
~ Block generated 4 shots on goal and scored twice.
~ Last season as a junior, Block scored 5 goals the entire season. In just 7 games so far this season, he has already matched that total. A large part of UNH's success early this season has been the play of the seniors.

#2 Star - Eric Knodel
~ Second year defenseman Eric Knodel was a huge presence (no pun intended) in UNH's zone. Playing with his usual poise, he blocked passes and shots and generally squelched Maine's attempts at making plays.
~ With his time on the power play and at even strength, Knodel blasted 6 shots on goal. None was more impressive than the one that beat Sullivan on a break away. The sight of the 6'6" Knodel bearing down on you must be an imposing sight for a goaltender.

#3 Star - Casey DeSmith
~ I was a little surprised to see that DeSmith made 42 saves. Many of Maine's shots were relatively harmless. However, DeSmith characteristically made some big saves in the second and third periods.
~ The vocal Maine students hanging over the ice in the upper deck are notoriously unwelcoming to opposing goalies. DeSmith rose to the occasion.

Points of Interest

~ Playing center on the third line in just his third NCAA game was a big challenge and opportunity for Collin MacDonald. He played like he belonged out there. He finished with 3 SOG and a +/- rating of 0.
~ Barring injury, Nick Sorkin and Jeff Silengo will, no doubt, get back into the lineup. The solid play of the three freshman forwards is creating a healthy competition for playing time and giving the UNH coaches many options. Just as important, Coach Umile is utilizing all four forward lines deep into the third period.
~ The Alfond Arena is a great barn for college hockey. The fans being so close to the action creates a claustrophobic atmosphere for the visiting team. Opened in 1977, Alfond is getting a little long in the tooth. However, it's hard to envision Maine playing anywhere else.




Nov 5, 2012, 1:39:00 PM  

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