Durham, NH - While it was snowing outside, New Hampshire and Union put on a show in front of smallish crowd at the Whittemore Center. Union opened the scoring at 15 minutes, five seconds of the first period when Mark Bennett put in a goal from zero angle on the backhand to give the Dutchmen a 1-0 lead. UNH responded seconds after its star defenseman, Trevor van Riemsdyk, went down with an apparent right leg injury, as Kyle Smith sent a pass to Tyler Kelleher to send the game into the first intermission tied at one.
The second period was a sluggish period of hockey, at best, by both teams. Union scored the only goal of the second period at 17:26 off a beautiful tip from Max Novak. The Dutchmen took the 2-0 lead into the third period, looking for its second win in as many nights against UNH. Union added an empty netter in the third period to cap the 3-1 win, securing the weekend sweep at UNH. Union improves to 15-4-3 on the season, while UNH falls to 13-12-1.
What I Saw
- Both teams came out flying in the first period, but UNH had a marked advantage in the possession and shots. But as is usually the case, the Wildcats struggled to put one into the back of the net against a good team, such as Union is. Credit Union’s, Colin Stevens, but UNH is the master of not finding loose pucks in front of goaltending and shooting it into the goaltenders’ midsection. For much of the contest, UNH was the agressor and awarded with opportunities.
- From the second period on, the game had little flow and was at times very sluggish. Both teams struggled to win battles and both teams struggled to possess the puck. Although the teams combined for 70 or more shots, it was probably more of a product of both teams struggling to possess than it was good, solid hockey play. For a hockey fan, this was just two teams not playing their best hockey.
What I Thought
- UNH just struggles to finish its opportunities against good teams, there is no sugarcoating it. Given the opportunity to score a goal in front of a wide open net it, as a team wilts. Again, tonight, it was much of the same for them. With the possible/apparent loss of Trevor van Riemsdyk and Grayson Downing UNH’s struggles to do so may have taken a new turn.
- Union, although giving up a lot of shots, did a great job keeping UNH to the outside on the big sheet. It was able to cash in on great interior defense, while struggling to possess the puck. Few teams, can control the possesion on Union like UNH could, but credit Union it did a great job of taking advantage of its opportunities and blocking everything that was dangerous. Colin Stevens was solid net when he had to be, right now Union is just a solid team, just ask UNH players and coach Dick Umile.
- Union handled the big sheet very well and were able to use its transition game to its advantage. It was its way of creating offense while it struggled with the crispness of the game. Union is 3-0-1 on bigger sheets this season, which should bode well going forward to Lake Placid. Tonight may not have been the prettiest game it has played all year, but it still got the win.
What They Said
UNH coach Dick Umile said,
“I thought the team competed hard. Obviously I am pleased with the way we played. Last night, we had our chances. Tonight, we came out and started well. We had our chances tonight. Both of the goals they got were very similar, in that they made a pretty good play on the rush. I thought Casey played well over the weekend. Stevens for them also had a really good weekend.”
“Their transition game is really good. They had strong sticks, they were skilled and fast. They are a good team. They are not highly ranked by mistake.”
UNH forward Kevin Goumas said,
“Union is just a hard working team. They are pretty physical and go to battle pretty hard. They are pretty tough to play against and there isn’t a lot of time and space out there. They is not much time and space with them. They hunt you down.”
Union coach Rick Bennett said,
“Not a lot of teams come into this building and find a way. We, as a staff, are very proud of our guys to find a way in not just one game, but two. This is a tough place to play and I don’t think people realize it until they actually step on that ice.”
“The big sheet shows what guys can skate and what guys can’t. It just opens up the game and some of our guys are just trying to make plays that really weren’t in our bag of tricks, per-say. But again we found a way, when we kept it simple. We drove to the net and it led to a few goals for us.”
“You just have to be smart to play in the defensive zone. Tonight, they broke us down at points. But I thought overall most of their shots were from the outside. We knew they were going to center a lot of pucks and our guys were there to deflect them, which creates a lot of panic but our didn’t panic. That is what I liked about it.”
Union forward Max Novak said,
“It wasn’t the prettiest of games. It was kind of like a ping pong match back and forth out there in the neutral zone and a bunch of turnovers. But it was nice to come out on top.”
“We have been playing pretty solid hockey. On weekends like this where we don’t think we are playing our best hockey, we’re still finding ways to win.”
What They Didn’t Say
Union coach Rick Bennett was hum on whether goaltender Colin Stevens played through an injury from the second period on. He was visibly in angst many times, but seemed to get better as the game went on. Midway through the second period, UNH’s Kyle Smith crashed hard into the net.
“I don’t know about that,” quipped Bennett. “That is a secret.”
The extent of the UNH injuries to Grayson Downing and Trevor van Riemsdyk are unknown. Umile stated, that they will see a doc and get results before saying anything.
What Else You Should Know
Union goes into the Mayor’s Cup game with RPI next weekend with a ton of momentum. The Dutchmen have just one loss in its last 13 games, with a record of 11-1-1. It is finding ways to win and doing so in impressive fashion.
UNH’s inconsistent season continues. Next weekend plays a pair with hated rival, Maine. Maine enters the weekend off a 7-2 shellacking at the hands of Boston College. The teams will play Friday at the Whittemore Center, and again on Saturday up in Orono.