UNH vs. Vermont: Thank you sir, may I have another
The first real test for the UNH Wildcats came in the form of the University of Vermont Catamounts. It was hardly a test however, as UNH demolished UVM 7-1 with an awesome display of skill, patience, composure, discipline and obviously, scoring.
The first period was full of missed scoring opportunities for UNH, but that was not all bad. In the past, scoring opportunities were few and far between for UNH and this year they are bountiful. So even in not finishing, UNH was making headway. UNH goalie Matt Carney again saw few shots, but continued to display a simple approach to netminding. Carney made great decisions, didn’t get too fancy and played an all around solid game, leaving the UNH defense free to push the puck up ice. The whole UNH team continued to work hard and make things happen in the period. David Busch breaking away, losing the puck then flipping it in front to a streaking Sean Collins, Mick Mounsey blindly passing the puck while being ridden like a rodeo mule, to Josh Prudden alone in front, Justin Aikens breaking away but dragged down to nullify a great opportunity, all scenes not familiar to UNH hockey until recently. While the period ended 0-0, UNH had to have been feeling something stirring inside, because in the second period eyes would be opened.
In the span of five minutes UNH put Vermont’s collective tail between their legs with three goals. The scoring opportunities were much the same as in the first period, but the difference, much like a great glass of wine or a $20,000 paint job on a ’57 Chevy, was the finish. The first goal came on a cross ice pass from Josh Prudden to Colin Hemingway for a one timer glove side, smooth like lotion. Then, UNH gets a two man advantage and waited only ten seconds to punish Vermont a second time, thank you sir, may I have another. Again Hemingway (see “smooth like lotion”), stationed in front of the net, takes a pass from Jim Abbott and slips it five hole past the Vermont keeper leaving the goalie bewildered and probably a little irritated with his defense. :38 later Josh Prudden takes a pass from Lanny Gare and drives right to the drive through window and orders one goal and a 3-0 lead. Patrick Foley went back because UVM forgot to supersize his order and absolutely drilled a UVM player, and David Busch flattened another, open ice, Scott Stevens style. For the rest of the period UVM just stayed out of the way and made sure to keep the score at least 3-0, whew.
Now the fun part. Not only was it fun to watch the third period as a fan, but as a team, scoring four goals in the third period is just plain amusing. Matt Carney in the only let down of the game, and not really that much of a let down, let one slip by at a really awkward angle, UVM’s crowd erupted, but :26 later was silenced by a Darren Haydar (as Dr. Jack Ramsay would say) “Stuffer”! Much like the Ottawa game , a group of UNH players rushed the net on a rebound and this time Darren Haydar was awarded the glory. At 6:26 Pat Foley received a breakout pass from Jim Abbott, streaked down the left side and let one go, beating the keeper glove side and gave UNH a 5-1 lead. :17 seconds later, before I could finish writing down Foley’s goal, freshman Sean Collins roofed a wrist shot for a 6-1 lead. UVM then pulled their goalie to try to stop the bleeding, and to add insult to injury, David Busch takes a pass from Steve Saviano, shorthanded mind you, goes back to the drive through window after the shift change and orders a 7-1 lead, this time they didn’t forget to supersize it, and UNH cruised to a 7-1 victory.
I spoke with UNH Captain Darren Haydar after the game and he gave me the only quote I needed to hear, “We’re more settled this year”. Yes, UNH is more settled this year, but there is something else surrounding this year’s team, chemistry. Not only can you see it on the ice, but before the game in the corridor outside the locker room, during the press conference, after the game outside the locker room, everywhere. The whole aura of this year’s team has a good feeling. Not too confident, humble, concerned and it seems like these guys really like each other, the coaches and playing hockey. Another year under the veteran’s belts and some youth with personality and skill have taken this team from a tired, almost apathetic team willing to play only forty minutes to a team that plays sixty hard minutes and wont rest until they have buried you. This is not a prediction of epic proportions, just an observation, and a warning to other teams lucky , or unlucky enough to play the Wildcats, that the chin strap had better be tightened up, the legs had better be limber, the mind had better be clear and the diapers changed because this team is sure to make more than a few opposing players and teams soil themselves.