Durham, N.H.-Despite being outshot 38-23, the UNH wildcats picked up their first win of the year against a tough nonconference opponent, Union College. It’s amazing to be saying that after 5 games UNH was without a win on the young season but in the end they picked up their first win behind an impressive performance by their goaltender, Matt Di Girolamo. He had 37 saves in the game and some of which of the spectacular variety. The first win was hard fought and came as a relief to UNH head coach Dick Umile.
What I saw
-Unh played a much better defensive game than they have for most of the season. Even though the Wildcats gave up 38 shots, the defensive breakdowns that have been costing them goals all season long were fewer and far between. The committed defensive game by UNH gave them a chance to win it. They were blocking shots, playing tight defensively, and keeping the Dutchmen to the outside portions of the ice.
-The goal by Mat Brodie early in the third period could have given UNH every reason to throw in the towel but this moment brought them together defensively for the remainder of the game. UNH kept at it into the overtime period, in which they eventually won.
-Union played a tight defensive system and frustrated UNH skaters in the neutral zone all night. Allowing just 23 shots, the Dutchmen played well defensively only to have their goaltender beaten twice on ‘dirty area’ goals; one by Henrion, who used great stick work and a second a perfect pass from behind the net by Connor Hardowa to a waiting Kevin Goumas on the doorstep for the overtime game-winner 31 seconds in.
What I thought
-Union was very impressive. They played a tight defensive system and forced UNH to beat them on the outside or by sending guys to the front of the net. Their goalie, sophomore Troy Grosenick, was also really impressive. Despite only seeing 23 shots, Grosenick made some impressive saves and was very focused in net.
-New Hampshire played an all around committed defensive game, in most cases. Di Girolamo has taken a benching to prove that he is one of the top goaltenders in Hockey East and possibly the country. Coming into the game Di Girolamo had a very unimpressive 5.20 GAA but in tonight’s game he allowed just one goal to a very talented offensive team,. UNH will win a lot of games in the coming months if Di Girolamo is as focused as he was tonight.
What they said
Union coach Rick Bennett said, “Di Girolamo is a quality goalie and he proved why many thought he was the number one goalie in the country coming in. UNH played an excellent team defense. I know they are a younger core but UNH’s coaching is phenomenal. That is definitely not an 0-4-1 team or whatever they were coming in.
UNH coach Dick Umile said, “We are just happy as heck to win a hockey game… We can maybe get to relaxing a bit. I like the way we battled to win the hockey game. We put ourselves in a position to win the hockey game and that’s all that matters. Matty gave us an opportunity to win it and we did.”
What they did’t say
In the first 6 games, Stevie Moses has only one goal for the Wildcats. Coming into the season, Moses was one of the most highly touted forwards in the country. It was he that Umile and the coaching staff were expecting to come up big this season. Even though Moses has 4 points he has not lived up to the hype in the preseason, in terms of scoring goals. While Moses has struggled to put the puck in the back of the net early, sophomore Nick Sorkin has put away 4 in the young season. Sorkin has become a threat on the ice but I would expect Moses to get stronger as the season goes along, he has had the chances and he will soon start to bury them.
What else you should know
UNH continues its four game home stand with a contest against conference rival, Northeastern. The last time these teams met Northeastern won 4-0 behind a solid effort by goaltender Chris Rawlings. UNH has improved since that game so it should be interesting to see how UNH responds to a team that beat them two weeks ago. Union returns all the way back to New York to play a home game against American International College. This is seemingly a very interesting scheduling quirk to travel back from New Hampshire to play a home game the next night in New York.