“Now I know how Custer felt”, said University of Ottawa’s head coach and UNH alumni Mickey Goulet after being routed 9-1 by the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team Friday night in Durham, NH. Coach Goulet went on to say, in no particular order, “UNH looks incredible”, They put on one hell of a clinic tonight”, and “UNH showed experience and composure”. Not exactly comments used to describe the play of UNH in the last 12 months.
UNH wasted little time in their rejection of last season. In a display as rare as a snow free New England winter, all five UNH players rushed the net to stuff a rebound. The goal was awarded to the rejuvenated Patrick Foley, who returned this season after surgery on both knees last year. UNH went on to score three more goals in the period, produced by the usual suspects, Jim Abbott, Colin Hemingway and Lanny Gare. UNH displayed excellent puck control, tape-to-tape passing, hustle, good decision making and the one thing curiously absent from last season, the ability to finish.
Goaltending, probably the biggest question mark this season was rarely tested, with Matt Carney stopping both shots on goal. Carney did however handle the puck several times and was rock solid with decision making and skill. At times, had he not played like a professional, Carney ran the risk of falling asleep due to inactivity. Michael Ayers, the second UNH goalie, played the second and third periods. He did give up one goal, but like Carney was dangerously close to losing consciousness at times due to inactivity. Ayers provided a Hasek-esque moment when he was apparently beaten badly, while sprawled out he rolled over, in a controlled flail, and stopped the puck with the back of his glove, confusing and frustrating the Ottawa offense while giving the crowd some much needed excitement. The UNH defense was in control of the entire evening killing penalties, controlling Ottawa’s infringements into UNH’s zone, and not only clearing the zone but carrying out of the zone and setting up most of the offensive opportunities.
The second and third periods were much of the same, an ugly butt-whipping for the University of Ottawa. Nathan Martz tallied for UNH, and Darren Haydar, quiet much of the game, showed his nose for the net by flipping two rebounds in for successive goals 7 & 8. Tyler Scott who sat out last season, scored the final goal of the game flipping in a rebound with five seconds left. This goal was important. Not because UNH was in danger of blowing a seven goal lead, but because UNH couldn’t finish last year. Several games the Wildcats played stellar for two periods and took the third period off, even against teams they should have blown out. Three goals in the third period already this year is certainly a good sign. Patrick Foley said “this year we need to finish strong, and tonight I think we did”. How true Patrick.
Overall UNH destroyed an obviously inferior Ottawa team. Good things happened against Ottawa. Goaltending isn’t as much of a question mark, the back of the net got some action from the UNH offense, special teams on the penalty kill as well as the power play were productive and solid, and…UNH actually played sixty minutes. These are all good things to build on but Vermont is due in town soon and Vermont is much stronger than Ottawa. We’ll have to wait, but I think UNH is a better team than last year and they have a great young group of kids to thank for it. I’ll let you know after the Vermont game how those young guys do and if indeed UNH can still play sixty minutes.