BUFFALO, N.Y. — Much had been written about New Hampshire coach Dick Umile’s decision to suspend eight of his players prior to the Punch Imlach Classic, but the loudest statement of the night came from the play of Sean Collins, Jacob McFlickier and Steve Saviano.
UNH’s top line factored in seven of the Wildcats’ eight goals, and the nation’s top-ranked team defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 8-2 in the Xerox Punch Imlach Showcase at HSBC Arena.
“Obviously, I’m very pleased with the play of some of our younger players, starting with Jeff Pietrasiak, who made some big saves for us when we were shorthanded,” Umile said. “It was great to see Saviano get those goals tonight … his work ethic typifies what we want to see in our program.”
UNH overwhelmed Canisius with stifling defense and a transition game that had the Griffs backing up for most of the night. But to its credit, Canisius never stopped skating and was able to break Pietrasiak’s bid for a shutout late in the third period on a goal by freshman sensation Michael Cohen.
“At the end of the second period we tried to focus on coming out in the third and continuing our effort,” Canisius coach Brian Cavanaugh said. “We’ve got a lot of great young kids on our team … Its been a tough week. We lost one of our captains [Fred Coccimiglio] this week to injury, but we’ll bounce back.”
UNH’s first goal — shorthanded at 10:53 of the first period — foreshadowed the Wildcats’ dominance.
Collins intercepted a Canisius clearing pass and went in alone to beat goaltender Bryan Worosz. Saviano then got into the act after receiving a Collins pass behind the Canisius net and, in Gretzky-like fashion, proceeded to freeze the defender while launching a backhander past Worosz for UNH’s second goal.
“We knew Canisius would come out and work hard. We felt that if we matched their effort, and went over it, we would come out on top,” Saviano said. “It’s been an emotional week for us … we’re just looking forward to getting everybody back together on Monday.”
UNH broke open the game early in the second when Preston Callander intercepted another clearing attempt and feathered a beautiful pass to streaking Justin Aikins for the fourth UNH goal.
Saviano, Collins and McFlickier continued their scoring spree well into the third period. Saviano finished with a career-high four-goal night while McFlickier chipped in two goals and Collins added three assists.