BOSTON– They say things always come in threes, but for the UNH Wildcats, it was the “twos” or more appropriately the “too’s” that kept them to a 2-2 tie against the Northeastern Huskies on Friday night.
In the Wildcats first Hockey East contest of the season, UNH found itself at times to be too sluggish, then too aggressive, but ultimately too short to fight off NU’s aggressive play at Matthews Arena.
“I think we played the first period a little sluggish–we got here late and didn’t get off to the best start, down early,” UNH forward Paul Thompson said. “But we responded. You can’t be mad with the one point. We would have liked to get the win. We had 45 shots again, and we have to start bearing down and start putting some of those in the back of the net. “
The Wildcats are averaging over 36 shots per game and over three goals a game. Their offensive prowess has spread into the depths of all the lines, making every line a dangerous one. In fact, one could make the argument that it wasn’t an offensive problem UNH had against the Huskies–it was little defensive mistakes. Earlier in the week UNH coach Dick Umile said the outcome of the game was going to be determined by team defense, and it was the slip-ups during their own power-play that could have changed the game by one goal.
Interestingly enough, we saw the same thing happen last week against Michigan, where UNH’s aggressive and talented power play unit stepped in a bit too much in the zone, and it resulted in a Michigan 3-0 shorthanded breakaway. While that yielded no goal for the Wolverines last weekend, Friday night it proved to be a game changer, as Northeastern’s Mike McLaughlin found the back of the net just 3:16 into the first period.
That being said, UNH did have a number of chances to put the game away, including some big plays by its top line of Phil DeSimone, Thompson and Mike Sislo. But it was a combination of bad luck and heroics of NU’s man in the net, Chris Rawlings that kept them at bay. Rawlings stopped 43 of the 45 shots UNH bombarded him with, including 20 in the second period.
“[The first line] had [its] chances, they just didn’t finish it,” Umile said. “You have to give their goalie–Rawlings played well. He’s a big guy, he takes up a lot of the net and he played well.”
On the other side of the ice, UNH net minder Matt DiGirolamo faced 39 shots and stopped 37. This season alone, as early as it may be, DiGirolamo has not faced less than 30 shots a game including a 41-shot game with Miami. But according to the goaltender, making that many saves in a game comes with the job description.
“I know how our team plays, and I know I’m going to get shots and I’m going to have to stop them,” DiGirolamo said. “I know we are going to score a lot of goals and I know our D is going to play great, so I mean I knew what I was expected to do coming in.”
The first time DiGirolamo saw this team was his freshman debut two years ago where he managed another tie, stopping 22 shots in the process.
“Every time we play this team it’s close. My first game–I have yet to win here,” DiGirolamo said. “My freshman year I was a little–my eyes were wide and open, especially with these fans. They are great fans, they are unbelievable. I was kind of happy I got to hear the DiGiorno chant again.”