Durham, NH. – UNH and Maine faced off in the so called Border War on Friday night, and the start was typical and similar to most starts between these two teams at the Whittemore Center. UNH scored an early goal at 47 seconds of the first period for the lead, as a Maine turnover at the blue line to Nick Sorkin deking Martin Ouellette and putting it past the Maine netminder. Maine answered 2:09 later when Will Merchant scored his first of the year. Maine outshot UNH 6-3 in the first eight minutes, but the Black Bears stormed back to dominate the last 12 minutes. It outshot UNH 12-0 in the last 12 minutes of the first period.
The second period was much of the same in terms of possession and shots, but UNH scored a go ahead goal off an Eric Knodel midway through the period to take a 2-1 lead. That lead held into the second intermission. UNH scored an early goal in the third period to take a two goal lead into the latter stages of the third period. Mark Anthoine brought Maine to within one goal with 54.7 seconds remaining in the game, but UNH would hold off a fierce Maine rally attempt to win 3-2 in front of a sell-out crowd. UNH improves its record to 14-12-1 overall and 6-5-0 in Hockey East play, while Maine falls to 11-9-2, 5-4-2. New Hampshire moves up to 17th in the Pairwise rankings with the win, with Maine falling to 23rd.
What I Saw
- UNH and Maine were locked in a defensive battle for much of the game. Although both teams had many glorious opportunities, both teams held the other to the bare minimum in shots and chances. After two, Maine held UNH to 16 shots, while Maine had just 22. UNH usually sends near 35 shots a game, so far Maine to hold them down and dominate the possession is something that usually doesn’t happen. UNH likewise did a great job holding Maine out of the quality areas, something it has struggled with in recent weeks.
- Maine outworked UNH for much of the first 40 minutes, but were hardly rewarded with bounces. One thingh that Maine has done this year, is outworked its opponent and tonight was no different. It seemed though that everything of qauality went through the goaltender and just past the post, on the wrong side of it. It happened on multiple occassions and Maine was hardly rewarded with a bounce it probably deserved.
What I Thought
- Maine at home, and Maine on the road are two totally different teams. When the Black Bears are in the friendly confines of the Alfond Arena, it is a team that is posed and in complete control of every game. But when it goess on the road it is a much different team that doesn’t look as skilled or as good. It could be the fact that it is holding the sticks tighter or something so simple, but who knows I guess. Maine is 9-1-0 at Alfond Arena, but a paltry 0-8-2 on the road. The former is expected of Maine teams, but the former needs to get better if it wishes to call itself a contender. Right now, if it can’t win on the road, it won’t go far.
- UNH did a good job without two of its best players, in Grayson Downing and more importantly Trevor van Riemsdyk. In van Riemsdyk’s absence it seemed as though Brett Pesce was asked to do a lot more. Pesce, a second round pick of the Carolina Hurricane’s in last years draft, had arguably his best game as a Wildcat. His poise on both sides of the puck were instrumental in every thing UNH did. From crips passes to stick check’s Pesce did everything right in this game; he may have gone about it quiet but he was very impressive throughout this one but that seems to be his style.
- Maine will outwork every team in college hockey and tonight was different. The bounces didn’t go its way, but it didn’t play horrible. Those bounces will begin going its way, and look for Maine to rattle off some wins.
What They Said
Maine coach Red Gendron said,
“We didn’t play well enough to win tonight. We did a lot of good things and the only thing that concerned me is we need to score more goals.”
“It is a function of execution. If you want to win, you have to execute. The work habits and compete level were there but we didn’t execute well enough for long enough to win the game.”
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“It was everything we thought it would be, a typical UNH-Maine game here at the Whitt. You need guys to step up when guys get injured and Jay Camper did that tonight.”
“Brett battled tonight…. He has to pick up there down low because they have some great players down there, But Pesce is a tough guy down there. We put him up against there top line tonight for that reason.”
UNH freshman forward Tyler Kelleher said,
“It was awesome and everything I expected. I remember coming here, I think I was 15 when I first watched a game here and that was the first game I ever saw here at the Whitt. It was a dream come true for me to play in this game.”
“We are missing some of our main guys right now. We can’t really dwell on it and can’t look back on it. We just need to use what we have and we did tonight to get the win.”
UNH captain Eric Knodel said,
“It is always tough when you lose some of your key guys to injuries but this was a great team win for us. We battled all night and a lot of guys stepped up for us to play some key roles. We were able to get it down.”
“Brett is a great player for us. He is a great skater with a great head on his shoulders and he does a great job playing defense. He has been playing really well for us.”
What Else You Should know
UNH and Maine will conclude the two game series in Orono tomorrow night. Maine is 9-1-0 on home ice this season, with its only loss to Vermont in early November. UNH meanwhile is 5-5-0 on the road, with its last win against Colorado College in late November. Tomorrow night’s game will be shown on FCS nationally and on a Maine local station.
UNH third line center, Kyle Smith, went out in the second period with a concussion. He will miss tomorrow night’s series finale up in Orono.
Will Merchant scored his first goal, and point for that matter, in the first period for Maine. Nick Sorkin’s goal in the second was his 14th of the season, which puts him in a tie for fifth place with NU’s Kevin Roy.