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College Hockey: Wildcats look for scoring

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 24. 2017 4:32AM

Editor’s note: Alex Hall’s New Hampshire College Hockey column debuts today and will run Fridays during the season. It will highlight upcoming games and top performances with state’s men’s and women’s programs.

FINDING the back of the net has proven to be a difficult task for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team recently.

The No. 13 Wildcats (6-4-1, 3-3-1 Hockey East) have scored three goals over their last three games, all losses, heading into their bout at Yale (3-5-0, 3-5-0 ECAC) Saturday at 7 p.m.

Freshmen defensemen Max Gildon and Benton Maass and senior forward Michael McNicholas are tied for the team lead in scoring with 10 points each. Maass and McNicholas have not registered a point over UNH’s three-game losing streak. Gildon tallied an assist in the Wildcats’ 2-1 loss to UMass Lowell on Nov. 10.

UNH coach Dick Umile said the team has been running specific drills in practice throughout the week to jump-start the offense.

“We’re bringing the puck to the net, getting pucks on the goalie, not missing the net and trying to create second and third shots,” Umile said of the drills. “That and also trying to play better in the transition defense and center zone and maybe turning the puck over — creating more turnovers so that we can go back at them. That’s what we’ve worked on.”

Part of the Wildcats’ scoring troubles can be attributed to a recent string of injuries up front.

Forwards Charlie Kelleher (shoulder) and Marcus Vela, who had his appendix removed Nov. 5., did not play against UMass Lowell or in the Wildcats’ 4-0 loss at Boston University on Nov. 11. Sophomore left wing Brendan van Riemsdyk injured his shoulder in the UMass Lowell game and did not play against the Terriers. All three forwards returned to the lineup in the Wildcats’ 3-2 loss to Boston College last Friday.

Senior forward Shane Eiserman, who has not played in UNH’s past six games due to a knee injury, is expected to be in the lineup Saturday, Umile said.

Eiserman logged four points (three goals, one assist) over five games before the injury. If Eiserman plays Saturday, the Wildcats would have every player except forward Joe Sacco (shoulder) available.

“Especially having Eiserman back, he was really hot when he got hurt,” sophomore forward Liam Blackburn said. “To have him and his big body, especially against an ECAC team, it’s going to help a lot to bring his size and his speed and his shot back.”

Umile said scoring is what Eiserman does well but the forward also brings some physicality to the lineup.

“Him and Vela, they’re big, strong, powerful forwards that can forecheck and check and create some havoc,” Umile said.

The Wildcats will try to end their recent skid Saturday against another team that has struggled to capture wins of late. Yale has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Yale and UNH will meet again Dec. 30 in Dartmouth College’s Ledyard Classic tournament.

“They’re an ECAC team, so they’re going to come out playing big, fast and finishing their checks,” Blackburn said of the Bulldogs. “We’ve got to come out, match their speed and try to get a bunch of shots early and try to get the momentum early because we’re going to be playing in their building.”

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IT HAS BEEN quite awhile since the St. Anselm College women’s hockey team has suffered a setback.

The Hawks are off to a 9-0 start this year and have not lost in their last 23 contests going back to last season. That 23-game unbeaten run includes their 3-2 overtime win over Holy Cross in the New England Hockey Conference Open championship game last season.

While St. Anselm is a young team this season, 10th-year coach Kerstin Matthews credited the leadership from her group of five seniors as a reason behind this year’s hot start. Seniors Jackie Guy, Ashley Moran, Kaitlyn Spillane, Paige Gorecki and Samantha Boyer have helped lead a Hawks team that includes 16 underclassmen.

“Those five kids, for lack of a better expression, have walked the walk in regards to our system and our culture,” Matthews said.

Strong senior leadership has not been the only characteristic St. Anselm has displayed. The Hawks are averaging 5.25 goals per game and have allowed just three goals. St. Anselm has earned four straight shutout wins and has tallied six overall.

Sophomore forward Kaley Campbell (seven goals, eight assists) and freshman forward Katy Meehan (six goals, six assists) are two of the Hawks’ frequent scorers but are not the team’s only options. Sixteen St. Anselm players, including six defensemen, have scored at least once. Megan Klaus, a sophomore defenseman, is tied for third on the team in scoring with 12 points (three goals, nine assists).

“We’re looking for everyone to produce offensively, not just the forwards,” Matthews said. “It’s important for us to get production out of all of our lines and defensemen and we have so far.”

St. Anselm’s stingy defensive unit has been anchored by goaltenders Maddie Scavotto, Michaela Kane and Logan Knip. Scavotto, a junior, has started six games. Kane, a sophomore, has played in two contests. Knip, a junior, made six saves in the Hawks’ 9-0 win at Post on Nov. 11.

Matthews does not have a rotation for her three goalies. Instead, like every other position, she decides who will start in net based on who performed best during practice each week.

St. Anselm’s 9-0 start and 23-game unbeaten streak has not made the team overconfident. Matthews said the Hawks focus more on how they played during a game than its result.

“Our goal is to play 60 minutes and the girls know that there have been some games we’ve played 60 minutes and some games we haven’t,” Matthews said. “It doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says. What matters is how many minutes you play.”

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The Dartmouth College men’s hockey team will take the ice for the first time in two weeks Saturday at 7 p.m. at Thompson Arena against former ECAC rival Vermont.

The Big Green (2-4, 2-3 ECAC) are coming off a winless trip to New York, where they fell to both Cornell and Colgate on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11, respectively. Dartmouth then had its two-week break for fall exams.

Dartmouth has allowed three or more goals in five of its six games. The Catamounts (3-9-1, 1-5-1 Hockey East) rank last in Hockey East in goals per game average (2.23).

Vermont has lost four straight and is 1-7-1 over its last nine games.