DURHAM, N.H. — For the first two games of the season, the sixth ranked Wildcats have opted to open with a scoreless first period, and then end it with a win — but this time newbie netminder Brian Foster skated off with a shut-out against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
New Hampshire was strong offensively with 41 shots on RPIs Mathias Lange, and the Wildcats defense was just as good allowing only 17 shots on their own net and producing a solid penalty kill.
The Whittemore Centers 6,015 fans who watched the puck being dumped to open ice a lot in the first period with only 11 combined shots on net for both teams.
RPI was first on the power play when Bobby Butler was put in the box for interference at 4:51. RPI senior Kurt Colling tried to get the puck to linemate Matt Angers-Goulet who was open in front of the crease, but the puck traveled closer to Fosters territory as it skidded off Fosters right shin pad, deflecting the puck to the boards.
When UNH went on the power play at 10:54 (RPI caught with too many men on the ice), technically no shots were taken on RPIs net, but after a few sticks broke in the right end of the RPI zone, UNH senior forward Jerry Pollastrone attempted a shot, but the puck went way above Langes left shoulder.
RPI went on the power play again at 14:39 when UNH co-captain Joe Charlebois got two minutes for roughing, but somehow the Engineers managed to block their own shots for Foster when RPI freshman Josh Rabbani stepped in the way of his own teammate Chase Polaceks shot.
The crowd at Towse Rink booed when UNHs Blake Kessel was called out for crosschecking in his own zone at 17:00 in the first, but this made no difference because RPI couldnt pull one past Foster even with the man advantage.
In the second, RPI had too much passing, getting only one shot in on their power play about eight minutes into the period.
UNH head coach Dick Umile contributes the low number of shots on Foster to his teams powerful defense.
The aggressiveness with our defensemen has kept the numbers down on scoring opportunities, said Umile.
But the speed picked up when UNH sophomore James van Riemsdyk intercepted the puck in the neutral zone with seven minutes remaining in the period. Van Riemsdyk made a quick move around RPIs Peter Merth, and took the shot carrying the puck high into the netting above the goal.
However, at 18:25 one of the many UNH shots on goal finally went past RPIs two-time team MVP. With the puck, Bobby Butler cut across the blue line and drop-passed it to Peter Leblanc who then took a wrister sending the puck over Langes right shoulder and into the top left corner of the net. LeBlancs second goal in two games put UNH on the scoreboard for the lone goal of the night.
The defense played really good, LeBlanc said. They cleared the puck out of our zone quick and we didnt spend too much time in our zone, thats why we got so many shots tonight.
In the third, UNH continued to dominate with 20 more shots on goal, especially when given chances on power play — RPI defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer racked up three consecutive penalties for cross checking at 9:59, interference at 13:18, and kneeing at 15:27 giving New Hampshire plenty of opportunity to race for a second goal. But the Wildcats put themselves in a slippery position when too many men were on the ice at 17:39.
We had to make a big play at the end getting caught with too many men on the ice, said Umile. The guys did a good job on the penalty kill and Brian was calm and cool in the net.
Butler emphasized the importance of his teams solid penalty kill. It was a huge kill at the end, they [RPI] had a chance to tie it up, but we battled hard, down low, got the puck out deep, said Butler.
[Greg] Collins and [Thomas] Fortney were up first and did a great job, and then me and Jerry [Pollastrone] hopped on and killed it. Then the last two groups hopped on, which is huge because it was a whole team effort.
Now (2-0-0) overall, UNH turns their focus to their first Hockey East matchup of the season this Sunday against Boston University.
Were familiar with BU, we dont have to do a lot of cramming to prepare for them- theyre going to be real physical, real strong down low, Umile said. Were going to have to handle that because theyre a very, very good team. Theyve gotten off to a good start as well, but well focus on our preparation for them and were not going to play much different hopefully than we did tonight.