by Joe Meloni
Little went New Hampshire’s way in its season-opening loss to Boston University Saturday night. The Wildcats played even with BU for the first half of the game.
Beginning the period down, 2-0, UNH opened the third looking to start a comeback, but Matt Nieto’s 1:15 in essentially put the game away for the Terriers.There were certainly some growing pains for UNH, but the Wildcats managed to create some offense early. Senior goaltender Matt Di Girolamo was good despite the four goals allowed — the fourth BU score came on empty-net — with 32 saves. On the other end, Kieran Millan frustrated the UNH offense with some spectacular saves, earning the shutout.
What I saw
- UNH’s speed that is always present gave BU some problems in the early stages of the game, leading to a couple power plays in the first period. The UNH man advantage, though, struggled to finds its rhythm as so many do in the first few games of the season.
- Matt Di Girolamo allowed four goals, but the senior goaltender kept New Hampshire even as long as he could. BU created six Grade-A opportunities in the first period, but Di Girolamo stood strong. Poor defending resulted in most of the looks.
- A few tough penalties stymied any comeback chances for UNH, but the penalty kill prevented the Terriers from extending their lead earlier than they did. Di Girolamo played a major role in that. BU didn’t get many shots through, but created quality chances when they did.
What I thought
- UNH senior Stevie Moses’ name did not appear on the scoresheet, but he created consistent scoring chances for the Wildcats. His six shots led the team, and the dynamic speed he turned into a strong second-half of the season last year was present throughout. Dick Umile’s expectation that Moses become one of the league’s best forwards this season seems like a certainty despite his scoreless opener.
- In the second half of last season, Moses, Mike Borisenok and Kevin Goumas came together and formed a dynamic second line for UNH. Creating their chances with their speed and sharp puck movement complimented the UNH offense, which was led by the multi-faceted top line of center Phil DeSimone and wingers Mike Sislo and Paul Thompson. Moses, Borisenok and Goumas now makeup the top forward line in Durham, but it will be interesting to see if their speed is enough to produce like a top line must.
- The three UNH defensemen making their collegiate debut struggled, but the talent is present. Trevor vanRiemsdyk, Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta are going to be premier defensemen in this conference. The leadership of captain Damon Kipp and juniors Brett Kostolansky and Connor Hardowa will likely bring out the best in their young teammates sooner rather than later.
What they said
“We started off pretty well. The game was kind of hectic in that first period — everyone seemed like they were kind of running around. It kind of settled down. We got a few chances, and we didn’t bury them. The tide seemed to shift when they potted a few goals.” – UNH captain Damon Kipp
The Wildcats were fairly satisfied with their performance in the first period, but a couple defensive breakdowns gave BU the advantage, the lead and, eventually, the two points at stake. Some are down on the Wildcats after the loss, but creating consistent chances in the early season often leads to goals in the following weeks. No one in the UNH locker room is panicking despite the loss. The goals will come for UNH, like they always do.
What they didn’t say
Most are focusing on the loss of Blake Kessel, who forwent his final year of eligibility to sign a pro contract, but Kipp didn’t seem too concerned. Kessel was a great player for New Hampshire, but Kipp’s comments on last season’s blue line compared to this season’s dealt mostly with Matt Campanale.
For the last three seasons, that focus on Kessel meant Campanale often went unnoticed nationally. However, he was consistently among the most reliable players in Umile’s lineup. Leading the team with a plus-25 rating a season ago, Campanale also chipped in 11 assists. Kipp typically paired with Campanale, so he understands the role the departed defenseman played in the success UNH experienced.
What else you should know
- UNH’s loss was its third straight in a season opener. Last year, the Wildcats fell 6-3 to Miami, and two seasons ago Rensselaer defeated UNH, 3-1.
- Down only 2-0 when the third period begin, UNH lost most of its confidence when Nieto made it 3-0 early in the third. The final period ended with BU outshooting the Wildcats, 14-6, despite UNH’s need for a comeback and a pair of power plays.
- New Hampshire’s offense may find itself in an ideal position to find its rhythm, traveling to Matthews Arena for their first look at Northeastern at Friday. The Huskies allowed nine goals in their two games this weekend — a 3-3 time at home against Massachusetts and a 6-3 loss to Maine in Orono. Next weekend also means Boston College’s first visit to the Whittemore Center, a strong performance against the dynamic Eagles could give UNH a quick jolt of confidence.