Durham, NH – UNH and UMass skated to a tentative 0-0 tie after one period, but UNH would take advantage in the second period with two goals. John Henrion opened the scoring at one minute, 10 seconds of the second period as Casey Thrush and him came in on a two on 1. Thrush sent a pass to a wide open Henrion and the score would be 1-0 UNH. Henrion later scored on the power-play coming around the net on a wicked wrister that beat Masterlerz glove side, high to send UNH into the second intermission leading the Minutemen 2-0.
Matt Willows would open the scoring in the third period, as Dan Correale sent him in behind the UMass defense and Willows beat Masterlerz through the five-hole and it was 3-0 UNH. UNH would add an empty-net goal on the John Henrion hat-trick marker and the Wildcats picked up the 4-0 win.
UNH moves into a one point lead in the Hockey East Standings ahead of BC, Providence, and UMass-Lowell, while UMass falls into ninth place out of the playoffs with the loss. UNH’s lead could be short-lived as Lowell will take on Merrimack in a 4 pm matinee at the Lawler Arena tomorrow. With games still pending UNH moves up to fourth place in the ever important Pairwise Rankings, which would give them a number one seed if the NCAA tournament were to begin today.
What I saw
- Both teams played really well throughout the game, just UNH played that much better. Compared to last night, the game was a 360 as it seemed both teams played for a win instead of playing to not lose. The effort from both teams was there and only the first period seemed a bit tentative.
- Both UMass and UNH played really well defensively. UNH held UMass to just three grade-A opportunities in the first 2 period including 0 in the first period, while UMass held UNH top just 11 in the first two periods. For the big sheet of ice at the Whittemore center those numbers are quite low.
- Despite the result, Steve Masterlerz played really well in the contest. He stopped everything that he saw on the night and had really good rebound control. Unfortunate him the defense and goaltender,Casey Desmith, on the opposite end played just a little bit better.
What I Thought
- The effort given by UNH in this game was probably one of their highest this semester. The defensive breakdowns that have troubled them this semester, the inconsistencies in all aspects of their game and the lack of effort that have been the name of their game throughout the semester were non-existent on this night. For the first time this half it seemed as though they gained the urgency needed to compete for the regular season title.
- UMass, despite the score, played well defensively the whole weekend and especially on this night. They gave UNH few opportunities on Saturday night, but UNH was opportunistic on the opportunities they had. Going into next weekend the Minutemen will have a lot of positives to take out of this weekend against UNH. Putting consistency together for a full 60 minutes instead of say 50 might go a long way for them.
What They Said
UMass Coach John Michelletto said,
“I was happy all weekend with our team defense. I thought we defended away and I thought we defended the rush pretty well. Certainly a handful that we gave up Steve Masterlerz had another great night.”
“Its been that way for a while now. Everybody is fighting for every point, whether you are fighting to get in the playoffs or you are a team like UNH wanting to get home-ice. It is the beauty of our league right now that eight of ten teams make the playoffs. Knowing that our destiny is our own hands. The only people we have to entrust in that is us.”
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“Obviously the way things shook out today, it was a big opportunity for us and I thought the team came out from the beginning with great jump.”
“I would agree that it was a pretty complete game from us. We started from the beginning and we did a lot of things well from our own end. The guys responded and played well tonight, penalty-kill, power-play and five on five play.”
UNH forward John Henrion said,
“I thought we played a full 60 minute hockey game. Obviously after last night we were determined to get two points. It was a huge opportunity for us and we took full advantage of it.”
What They Didn’t Say
UMass coach John Michelletto mentioned that first liner Michael Pereira missed much of the second half of the game. Pereira came out for his next shift but did not return after. In the first period UNH’s Dan Correale checked him hard and high, seemingly with an elbow. Pereira was down for a minute but skated back to the bench on his own power and returned for the next shift. No injury was given by the coach, but one could speculate a concussion that is very plausible given the type of hit. Michelletto was upset in the post game press-conference that only a minor penalty was called on Correale.
What Else You Should Know
UNH will play in a huge rivalry weekend at home next weekend against the University of Maine. Not only will a rivalry be in play but both teams will have a lot to fight for, as UNH will be fighting for home-ice in the first round, while Maine will be fighting to hold on to the eighth and final playoff berth. UNH defeated Maine 4-0 earlier in the season, but the Black Bear team that they will will see over the weekend is a much different one than they saw early in November.
UMass will play Merrimack in a home and home series next weekend. UMass will need to put together consecutive, solid performances to beat Merrimack. Friday night they will play at Lawler Arena on the campus of Merrimack College and on Saturday they will host the Warriors. The Minutemen now sit one point back of Maine for the eighth and final playoff spot.