Manchester, NH. – Dartmouth got off to a quick start against UNH at the Verizon Wireless Arena, scoring first, but the Wildcats responded 7 minutes later on a 5 on 3 goal, by Stevie Moses, and never looked back winning 4-1. Stevie Moses scored four goals on the night as the UNH first line ran laps around Dartmouth defenders, who didn’t seem to have an answer for it. The win was the second in a row for UNH improving their season record to 8-11-2 heading into a huge two weeks of Hockey East Play, arguably their most difficult and important two week stretch of the season.
The powerplay and defense, which both have been awful at times this season proved to be the strong points in the game for the Wildcats. The powerplay, which had not scored in a seven game stretch going all the way back to November 28 recorded two crucial goals in the middle stages of the game. Casey Desmith hardly got tested in the first two periods as the New Hampshire defense did a great job stifling Dartmouth’s offense usually before it hit the attacking zone. Active sticks, physical play, and blocking shots became the norm in the game as the Wildcats held the Dartmouth offense to just eight shots in the first two periods. Casey Desmith made 22 saves in the game and has only given up one goal in his last six periods of play.
What I Saw
-Defense was the name of the game for Wildcats and when they play well defensively they usually win the game. In their eight wins this season, New Hampshire has given up just ten goals in those eight games. Tonight’s effort was furious and spirited from the start as the Wildcats have put together two solid, defensive performances in a row.
-Casey Desmith stopped everything that he should have and did a great job with rebound control. He smothers the puck and has great ice vision. He wasn’t tested much on the night but when he was he was impressive. Although he was only tested 8 times in the first two periods, he was solid and was only beaten on a pretty 3 on 1 where Doug Jones sent a pretty pass to a wide open Matt Lindblad, where he buried it past Desmith on a play that Desmith had no chance on. Desmith made a few great sprawling saves in the third period but Dartmouth could not beat him.
-Dartmouth could hardly get into any type of offensive rhythm all night. With New Hampshire possessing the puck throughout the first two periods, the offense did not have chance to connect. The only goal came after a New Hampshire powerplay on an odd man rush. Although they scored first in the game, it seemed as though Dartmouth never gained the momentum in the first period and thus UNH responded and pulled away.
What I thought
– Casey Desmith has become the everyday goalie for UNH. It has been interesting to see his progression in the role and he is relishing the opportunity. He is making it really hard for Umile to put the struggling Matt Di Girolamo back in the UNH net. Being a local of the UNH area it must be a thrill for him to be finding some success in the UNH net. Against Dartmouth he was poised and never lost control of the game in front of him.
-Stevie Moses scored four on the night but he could have easily scored more. The UNH top line of Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas and Stevie Moses could run laps around any Dartmouth defenders and they had a tough time keeping up the speed of the line. Seemingly every time this line was on the ice they were near the net and the puck was finding Stevie Moses stick. Moses has been a streaky player and has scored eight of his 16 goals in just two games. It was his second career hat trick and second career four goal night, both this season.
-James Mello kept Dartmouth in the game for long stretches. He has been impressive in the past for the Big green and the fact he received the start was no surprise to me. He always seems to play well against UNH and this was no different. Despite giving up four goals he made many great UNH chances look easy to stop. His performance kept the game 4-1 despite the fact it probably could have been an even larger New Hampshire win.
What They Said
UNH coach Dick Umile said, “Our goal tonight was to come out and play a 60 minute game. We played a real solid first period and then we finished the game with three solid periods. This is a solid win for us. It’s important to play consistent defense, especially in the league we play in. We have done a lot better recently back-checking, defending, and playing a bit more physical. It is paying dividends for us right now.”
UNH forward Stevie Moses said, “It was a great night for me and it was definitely fun for me tonight but we would like win a lot more down the stretch.”
Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet said, “I thought UNH capitalized, they are a very good team, and I thought they did really well defensively. 22(Stevie Moses) is a special player and he got it done. Offensively we weren’t clicking but the effort was there for us tonight. UNH earned it, it looks like they are coming along nicely, and Desmith played solid in their net.”
What They Didn’t Say
The defensive struggles that have plagued New Hampshire tonight seemingly were not present tonight. The UNH team defense is much different in front of Desmith than it is in front Di Girolamo. In front of Desmith, the defense blocks a lot of shots and keeps teams away from grade A areas of the ice while seemingly it is the opposite with Di Girolamo in net. The question every night is what defense will arrive at the rink. With two huge weekends of hockey upcoming, the Wildcats need to build on these back to back defensive performances.
What Else You Should Know
As I stated above, the next two weekends could go a long way in resurrecting a subpar season for New Hampshire. With four games against Merrimack and Boston College in the next two weeks, UNH will be tested but will they past that test. Next weekend UNH will play at Merrimack on Friday before returning back to the Whittemore Center on Saturday. Lawler Arena is always a tough place to play and playing two against Merrimack will prove to be a challenge. UNH is in desperate need of Hockey East points and the next two weeks may go a long way in either helping or hurting their chances at postseason play.