New Hampshire Shows Its Depth in Win Over Miami
by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter
MANCHESTER, N.H. Those who believe New Hampshire’s Frozen Four chances rested solely with Paul Thompson, Phil DeSimone and Mike Sislo had little reason to change their mind until Feb. 4. That night, UNH coach Dick Umile opted to assemble a new line.
Surrounding heady center Mike Borisenok with speedy winger Stevie Moses always clicked for Umile. The two played together at different points in their two-plus seasons in Durham, N.H., to varied results, and they enjoyed sharing the ice together. At times, though, the connection soured, and the experienced coach sought new combination to maximize the output of the talented pair.
Kevin Goumas, only a freshman, had a similar first six months at UNH. He impressed on occasion, but his connection with the players around him didn’t seem right.
With Maine in town for a weekend pair, Umile flanked Borisenok with Moses to his right and Goumas to his left. UNH defeated Maine, 6-3, that night. Goumas chipped in a goal, assisted by Moses.
The next night, the line stayed together and linked for a goal, scored by Borsienok and assisted by his wingers. UNH won, 5-4, and started a stretch that carried it through the Hockey East Semifinals.
With the Wildcats No. 1 trio of Thompson, DeSimone and Sislo carrying on as expected, Goumas, Moses and Borisenok have followed, providing a second option, predicated on the speed of its wingers and the deliberate three-zone play of its center.
“Stevie Moses is just having a great junior year,” Umile said. “He touches the puck a lot and creates a lot of scoring opportunities. And, quietly, Mike Borisenok is the guy that settles that line, and they have great chemistry to generate offense. Mike is very reliable defensively. They’ve added the depth that we really needed since we put them together.”
Saturday afternoon, Sislo scored the game-winning goal, as UNH advanced to the Northeast Regional final with a 3-1 win over top-seeded Miami. Sislo’s goal awed the crowd, as he worked himself open on the weakside, where defenseman Blake Kessel found him with a blazing pass through the slot. Sislo needed only angle his stick correctly to put UNH up, 2-1, early in the third period. The first and final Wildcat strikes, though, came from Goumas, Moses and Borisenok, and told UNH it could battle back after Miami went up, 1-0, and later sealed their bid to tomorrow’s regional championship.
Goumas’ first strike came on a tap-in after a puck wrapped around the boards bounced perfectly onto his stick to the left of Miami goaltender Cody Reichard. With 1 minute, 25 seconds left in regulation, Goumas’ lob from the red line found the empty net.
While speeds stands ostensibly as Goumas’ biggest weapon, the club’s upperclassmen, including Moses, laud the rookie for his determination along the walls and in the corners. Winning pucks to set up teammates in the slot or battling for loose pucks along the walls are skills prevalent in winning teams. At times, though, the Wildcats, often criticized for being soft, have lacked players willing — and able — to do this.
“It’s been a good combination,” Moses said. “We have some good chemistry. I’ve played with [Borisenok] a lot since we’ve been here, and we’ve always had good chemistry. I think Goumas has fit in really well. He works real hard in the corners, so he can move the puck out front. He’s been finding me a lot. It’s been going really well for all of us.”
While Goumas plays the grinder, Moses’ status as one of the fastest players in the country allows him to stretch defenses, with the puck or without. At times, his wheels move him in the wrong direction, though. With Borisenok on the ice, though, UNH is typically covered.
“He’s great in the defensive zone,” Moses said of Borisenok. “He’s always in position, and I’m a little more of a run and gun kind of guy, always looking on offense. I think it balances out. He does have to cover for me sometimes, but he’ll find me moving up the ice. He’s been great in the defensive zone, and he’s bailed me out more than once.”
Against Miami, though, Moses and his club knew any extra step or blown coverage would provide the RedHawks with a scoring opportunity, and Miami certainly isn’t a club that needs more than one invitation to score. Moses’ commitment to keeping the RedHawks grounded cost the speedster a chance or two on Saturday, but he certainly wasn’t without looks. In the first period, Goumas dug a puck out of the corner and guided into the high slot, where Moses, waiting, ripped a one-timer toward the Miami goal. A sprawling save from Reichard kept the game tied, 1-1, but the work of UNH’s second line clearly gave the RedHawks blue line something else to think about.
Goumas’ second goal, the empty-netter, gave both UNH and Miami a few extra thoughts as well. For Miami, a long offseason to piece together a team capable of getting back the national tournament. Meanwhile, it gave UNH 24 hours to prepare to play for its first trip to the Frozen Four since losing to Minnesota in the national championship game in 2003. Not before a bit of humor from their coach, though.
“Kevin Goumas was supposed to be [in the press conference Saturday night], but I told [sports information director Tom Wilkins] he’s a freshman, he’ll have more opportunities to do this,” Umile joked after the game. “If he does something special [Sunday] night, we’ll bring him in.”
Based on the last month, it may not be Goumas, but odds are we’ll see something special from one of them.