UNH hockey team settles for 1-1 tie with No. 5 Michigan
DURHAM – There was plenty for the University of New Hampshire hockey team to be happy about last night. There was the stifling defense, which sniffed out passes, snuffed out shots and kept the University of Michigan from mounting serious offensive threats. There was the play of Jeff Wyer, a backup goalie last season who was steady for more than 60 minutes against a tough Wolverines team. And there would normally be the final score, a 1-1 tie that meant the Wildcats had salvaged a point from the No. 5 team in the country.
Instead, the tie was, in and of itself, a problem. A point helps, but with the chances the Wildcats got last night, everyone involved with the home team knew it could have been more.
“Oh, no doubt about it,” Coach Dick Umile said. “We’re disappointed that we didn’t win it. I told them, ‘We did everything but win the game.’ ”
The No. 13 Wildcats (1-1-1) do deserve credit for even coming away with the point. Michigan (2-0-1) put the Wildcats in a tough spot early, as Tyler Motte scored a power play goal 15:32 into the game, but the UNH defense halted the Wolverines attack from there, breaking up plays before they could set up and making sure Wyer – who made 17 saves in his second start of the season – didn’t face too many difficult chances over the remaining two periods and overtime.
“I liked the way we competed. They’re a really good team,” Umile said. “Defense played solid. We had good sticks, we turned the puck over. We had a lot of good transition from turning the puck over. And that was not only our defensemen, but our forwards, I thought the backcheck was excellent.”
It’s not difficult to spot where UNH could have flipped the script and come away with a win, however. The Wildcats drew even when Nick Sorkin knocked in a rebound of a Justin Agosta shot 1:49 into the second, but they couldn’t take advantage of Michigan’s recklessness, going 0-for-9 on the power play, and they also hit two posts and saw three rushes on the net go unfulfilled during the first two periods.
“From the second period on, we really took advantage of the game,” said Umile, whose team, largely on the strength of those power plays, had a 35-18 advantage in shots on goal. “I thought we got stronger as the game went on. We had our opportunities to score.”
The biggest missed chance came with 6:01 to play in regulation, after Matt Willows, in his own end, hit a streaking Dan Correale with a perfect pass to the blue line. Correale was hauled down before he could shoot and was awarded a penalty shot, but with the crowd on its feet, Correale’s backhand attempt was stopped by the left pad of Zach Nagelvoort, who stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief of injured starter Steve Racine.
“I looked up and saw it was a penalty shot and was just trying to catch my breath on the bench,” said Correale, who attempted the team’s first penalty shot since Bobby Butler was denied on one in December of 2007. “That’s a move I’m most comfortable with, that backhand drag, and I just got it in a bit too tight and couldn’t get it up over his pad.”
The lone breakthrough for UNH came only two seconds after its fifth power play expired. Kevin Goumas found Agosta in the high slot, and the defenseman’s shot bounced and slid over to Sorkin, who was standing in the crease and had no problem tipping the puck into the net. It was the second goal of the season for senior, who’s off to a good start after scoring two goals in all of an injury-plagued junior campaign.
“It’s been working for me to be around the net. There’s some great passing up top,” Sorkin said. “It’s good to get off to a quick start, just for your confidence and being at the level I want to be at.”
(Drew Bonifant can be reached at 369-3340 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter @dbonifant.)