By Justin Loring, Sports Editor
“They’re a better team than their record indicates.”
The words of Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos resonated following the Wildcats’ 4-3 loss last Friday night. After more than doubling the Spartans’ shot total (45-20) in the loss, UNH was unable to get the tying goal in the final seconds. The Wildcats rebounded with a 5-2 victory the following night, however, helping their record improve to 3-5-0 and going 2-2-0 against Big Ten teams (split season series at Michigan on Oct. 17-18) in the Big Ten-Hockey East challenge. UNH now focuses its attention on a home-and-home series against Hockey East foe Northeastern this weekend.
The State of Hockey East
UNH and Northeastern rank 12th and 11th, respectively, in the conference. UNH is 0-2-0 in Hockey East play, after being swept by UMass Lowell on Oct. 31-Nov. 1 by a combined score of 10-2. Northeastern (0-7-1) owns a conference record 0-3-1, having lost to No. 4 UMass Lowell, No. 10 Vermont and unranked UMass Amherst. Lowell and Vermont sit atop the Hockey East standings with nine points apiece, while Boston University comes in at third with seven points. Ranked No. 3 in the nation last week, Boston College has hit a four-game losing streak (the longest streak in 10 years for the Eagles) and slipped to No. 9 in Hockey East.
Over the weekend, freshman defenseman Richard Boyd had the opportunity to play against his brother, R.J., a Spartan defenseman. “It’s cool, we knew from the start of the summer that they would be on the schedule here,” Richard Boyd said. “It’s good to see him out there, but when I see him, it’s not my brother: It’s just another guy I want to beat.” R.J. had the upperhand on Friday night, but Richard went +2 the following night to help the Wildcats capture a win. “We were chirping all week,” R.J. said. When asked which of the two was better, R.J. laughed and said, “Probably my brother.” Michigan State also had David Bondra, the son of former Washington Capital Peter Bondra.
Changing of the Guard
The most prominent change head coach Dick Umile made on Saurday night was replacing the entire fourth line from Friday night (Collin MacDonald-Michael McNicholas-Kyle Smith). The new line of Shane Eiserman, Jason Salvaggio and Jamie Hill was the most physical line on the ice, registering 10 hits on the night, Eiserman racking up six himself. Durham native Ryan Randall also made his second appearance of the season, registering his first career point on a Matt Willows goal in the second period to tie the game at 2-2. Despite the revolving door among skaters, Adam Clark has been a steady staple in net for the ‘Cats. Clark’s save percentage is sitting at just .881, his goals against average has been a better indicator of his play as of late (2.82 GAA).
Scouting the Huskies
Last season, the Wildcats and Huskies battled in a tough three-game series in the first round of the Hockey East tournament. After splitting the first two games, UNH advanced to the semifinal round with a 5-4 win at home. This season, the Huskies have struggled, ranking at the bottom of Hockey East in scoring offense (1.50 goals per game) and second-worst in scoring defense (3.75 goals allowed). Despite their powerplay operating at a 10.5 percent clip this season, the Huskies have recorded a success rate of 20 percent in the last four games. Derick Roy has started six of the Huskies’ eight games so far this season, with a save percentage of .895 and a goals against average of 3.47. The team is led in scoring by a pair of sophomores, Zach Aston-Reese and Dalen Hedges, with each tallying one goal and five assists.