Durham, NH. – On a night where New Hampshire was honoring its seniors on its annual senior night, it was one of the less heralded seniors that gave UNH a spark in the early stages of the second period that would propel them to victory over a struggling Vermont team. Kevin McCarey scored a goal 5:44 into the second period to the tie the game at one and Greg Burke responded 10 minutes later to give the Wildcats a lead, in which they would never relinquish. Brett Bruneteau scored the first goal of the game for Vermont and took a 1-0 lead after one period but Casey Desmith would stop the rest from that point for a total of 29 in the game.
The score of the game in some cases did not give the whole story of the game. In the second and third periods, New Hampshire sent 33 shots toward Vermont goaltender Rob Madore. Rob Madore sent aside 30 of those shots, with many of those being amazing saves. His performance kept Vermont in the game for long stretches but the result was never in doubt despite the close nature of the score. Connor Hardowa would give UNH an insurance goal midway through the third period to seal the victory.
With the win New Hampshire improves to 13-15-3 on the season and 10-12-2 in Hockey East play. The two points keeps them in seventh place in the standings, which is four clear of both UMass and Northeastern who are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot. Next weekend UNH plays UMass in their biggest weekend of the season. With two wins they could lock up a playoff spot and with two losses they could be tied going into the last weekend of the season. Vermont falls to 6-23-1 on the season and has been eliminated from playoff contention.
What I saw
-New Hampshire came out flat in the first period but picked it up in the second and third periods. In the final 35 minutes of the game one could realize that New Hampshire was the better team, something that many thought was the case coming into the weekend. The final two periods looked like desperation from a team that was down 1-0 coming into the second period. The defensive breakdowns that occurred late in last night’s game were not present.
-Vermont got a superhuman effort by Rob Madore. As I have said elsewhere, Rob has had some phenomenal performances at the Whittemore Center and tonight was no different. His 38 saves were impressive enough but some of the saves were of the phenomenal nature. In the final two periods, UNH sent 33 shots his way. Madore was getting peppered with rubber but he kept Vermont in the game for long stretches.
What I thought
-UNH has an ability to turn it up a notch when they have to and this will advantage them moving forward in the season. Despite being in the position that they are in, UNH is 7-4-1 since a loss to Maine at Frozen Fenway. They have been playing well in recent weeks, despite a loss last night, and are seemingly going forward with their season. Casey Desmith has relished his role as the starter and the team plays solid defense in front of him when they have to.
-Vermont came into tonight’s game with a mountain of confidence after scoring a late tying goal and an overtime goal to win it. They scored in the first period to take a 1-0 lead to the locker room but were never able to capitalize on the momentum and fell seemingly flat offensively. Vermont was 0-4 on the powerplay on the night and these missed opportunities seemed to swing the momentum the other way.
What they said
UNH Coach Dick Umile said, “Obviously I thought the guys came out determined to turn it around from last night. I thought they played well and we got some great leadership from seniors. Kevin McCarey played a great game and we played really well. Casey kept us in there when they had chances to score as well.”
Vermont Coach Kevin Sneddon said, “I think we played a pretty good game. Both goaltenders played excellent tonight. I think we ran out of gas in the second period and we didn’t make enough plays tonight; UNH did.
UNH junior forward Greg Burke said, “We know the magnitude of every game now regular season or playoffs. After last night we know we had to win it, we know we have to bring it every game. Right now we are taking it one ice session at a time and have a good week in practice. We need to go down to UMass in a good position.”
What they didn’t say
Midway through the first period UNH freshman forward, Casey Thrush, was given a five minute major for hitting from behind but the most important of the call was that he was also given a game disqualification. This game disqualification, if it is not changed in the coming days, should lead to a one game suspension on Friday night. The forward is a team leading +8 on the season and his defensive skills will surely be missed. The hit was on Brett Leonard who later returned to the game.
What else you should know
UNH heads to Amherst next weekend to take on the UMass minutemen. The weekend series will be crucial to the playoff race as UNH leads UMass and Northeastern by four points. The Minutemen and the Huskies are tied for eighth and ninth, thus two losses by UNH would put them in serious jeopardy of missing the Hockey East playoffs. With two wins UNH would clinch a playoff spot.
Vermont continues their season next weekend with a two game home series against Boston University. Despite being out of the playoff picture, they aren’t quitting. They gave one whale of a series to UNH but ran out of gas late. It will be interesting to see how they fare against Boston University, a team that is on paper better than them.