Maine vs. UNH weekend

By Jeff Morton
“They showed why they’re in the top ten in the country, and we showed
why we’re not”, lamented University of Maine head coach Shawn Walsh
after the UNH Wildcats handed Maine their heads in a 4-1 pounding at the
Whittemore Center in Durham, NH Saturday evening. The teams skated to a
0-0 tie the night before, giving both teams reason to be optimistic for
Saturday, but Ty Conklin and the rest of the Wildcats outplayed Maine to
win the weekend and a share of first place in Hockey East.

The first game of the weekend was largely uneventful with extremely
close checking and only a few quality scoring chances. Both goalies
played well with strong defenses playing well in front of them.
Although the game had no scoring, Maine severely outplayed UNH but
could not finish, and UNH’s penalty kill looked more like a 5 on 5
situation. The moral victory went to Maine, but Saturday night was
quickly approaching and UNH had just found a jumbo can of “whoop-ass”
behind an unused jar of “offense,” both would be opened on Saturday
night.

With Saturday night finally upon Durham, the crowd was restless but
definitely more excited than the night before. The arena was full by
6:30 and the students were already chanting and carrying on. The game
started with a distinctly different look, UNH had a scoring
opportunity. UNH head coach Dick Umile hoped out loud the night before
that his team could build on Friday’s performance and keep improving,
well it happened. Although the first period was scoreless, not only had
UNH goalie Ty Conklin played yet another stellar period but the UNH
offense had awakened and was hungry after a long nap. Virtually the
whole game came down to the second period. At 2:14 Josh Prudden
received a “look what I found” rebound right in front of Maine goalie
Matt Yeats and roofed a wrister stick side from about ten feet out. The
Whittemore Center Arena nearly collapsed from the collective sigh of
relief, but along with the UNH offense, was awakened and frenzied. UNH
goalie Ty Conklin was asked what he thought when Prudden scored that
first goal, “whew, (pause) that’s what I said, whew”. Clearly, the
Wildcats and their fans were feeling just a little better and Maine was
a little deflated. Yeats continued to keep Maine in the game with some
stellar goaltending, but at 7:48 just after a Maine time out and
subsequent penalty, Jim Abbott showed incredible patience by receiving
the puck from Nathan Martz in the slot and wristed one in top shelf to
give UNH a two goal lead. UNH continued to outplay Maine badly and,
when they were on the penalaty kill, still outplayed Maine. At 15:16
Jeff Haydar, Darren’s older brother, launches one toward the net, Yeats
makes the stop but leaves out the rebound for UNH’s Mike Lubesnick to
one time it in five hole, to give UNH a 3-0 lead. Adding insult to
injury, Ty Conklin badly out of position, kicks a sure goal out of mid
air, ala Hasek, keeps the score 3-0, and Maine’s hopes in check.
Conklin was fabulous in both games, but the magic had to end sometime
and it did at 18:41 when Conklin made the stop, but his momentum carried
him back away from the puck and Maine’s Dan Kerluke stuffed it in to
salvage some hope for the third period.

The third period was much like the first, but a goal from UNH’s Matt
Swain at 18:57 closed the door on Maine and their lost weekend. Conklin
put the exclamation mark on the game with a lightning quick glove save
at :30. Maine’s Shawn Walsh summed up Conklin’s performance very well,
“If Conklin isn’t the Hockey East player of the week, then someone
better have had quite a weekend”. Maine seemed a little flat both
Friday and Saturday, but UNH was equally as revved up, at least on
Saturday. The game at Maine will certainly be a battle, but UNH has
asserted themselves as the superior team this year.

Up next for UNH is Merrimack then Northeastern, two teams struggling in
Hockey East, but struggling in Hockey East is solid in any other
league. These will not be easy games and will definitely not be taken
lightly, by anyone.


Thanks to Mark Crisman, Jim Carlson and Trina Morton for all their help
in covering and bringing this article to fruition.