×

UNH men’s hockey hopes to heat up its offense



UNH Insider
Friday, November 09, 2018

DURHAM – Senior forward Chris Miller and his teammates on the University or New Hampshire men’s hockey team did a little studying of maps this week.

They were not the kind of maps, mind you, that will help them find a new way to get to Lowell on Friday night to take on the River Hawks of UMass Lowell, or maps that will guide them west to Amherst, Mass., for a rematch with the Minutemen next week.

No, these were heat maps. National Hockey League heat maps to be precise. A heat map by definition is “a representation of data in the form of a map or diagram in which data values are represented as colors.”

NHL heat maps show where goals are scored and are, hopefully, a helpful guide to scoring more goals.

The Wildcats have averaged two goals per game so far this season and are looking to increase that number this weekend as they square off against two more Hockey East rivals.

The Wildcats (1-4-1, 1-1-0 Hockey East) play at UMass Lowell (4-4-0, 1-2-0) on Friday at 7:15 p.m. in Tsongas Arena, and face Boston University (1-4-1, 1-2-1) on Saturday at the Whittemore Center at 7 p.m.

The heat maps display what coaches at all levels of hockey through the ages have been known to preach: That most goals are scored in close proximity to the net. That the majority are not pretty goals or highlight-worthy goals.

They are scored in the “dirty” and “greasy” areas, the areas where the going is tight and can be tough.

“Our main approach to practice this week has been offense and getting to those gritty areas right in front of the net,” Miller said. “That’s where you’re going to score goals.

“It’s never easy getting to the front of the net, but hard work pays off. When you do get there, you have at least a better chance of getting the puck in the net. It trickles down from the NHL, the college game, too. It’s where most of the goals are scored.”

UNH’s scoring has been balanced. Ten Wildcats have at least one goal. Freshman forward Jackson Pierson and senior forward Marcus Vela have each has scored twice.

Sophomore defensemen Benton Maass and Max Gildon and senior defenseman Richard Boyd each have a goal as well.

“We’re trying to work on it,” UNH coach Mike Souza said. “We know we have some talented kids. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting one or two and then they seem to happen, but I think there’s a process to scoring goals. Zone time and possession don’t always translate to offense.”

After scoring a single goal in each of their first two games, the Wildcats scored three in each of their next three games. Last Saturday, they got their only goal from sophomore forward Kohei Sato with 1:04 left in the third period in a 5-1 loss to Massachusetts.

“It is a long year,” Souza said. “It’s still early. You try not to look at the record. Our guys, I truly believe, feel good about themselves. I think they realize when they’re playing well, when we’re skating, when we’re transitioning the puck, we can play with anyone. There’s a great sense of positivity in the locker room despite the record.”

Vela, assistant captain Ara Nazarian, Boyd and junior defensemen Anthony Wyse are among the players setting the tone.

“We have a lot of young players,” Souza said. “We’ve had great leadership with Vela and Nazarian and Boyd and Wise. These guys have done a great job and I don’t expect that to change.

“They want to win so bad,” the first-year head coach added. They got a taste of it two weeks ago against Vermont. They know they’re close. We just try to keep hammering home to keep doing the things that we’re working on, we’re practicing, and we’ll get there.”