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November 29, 2012 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Hats Off

Goumas Among Many Emerging Storylines for UNH

by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer

As one might expect for a team that has started the season 9-1-2, there are plenty of storylines involving the 2012-13 New Hampshire Wildcats. But perhaps lost in the excitement – of being unbeaten in six straight, of matching the best start in program history, and of goaltender Casey Desmith’s recent record-breaking consecutive shutout streak – is that on November 16, senior assistant captain Greg Burke suffered a shoulder injury against Mass.-Lowell.

And he hasn’t played since.

As a result, head coach Dick Umile – now in his 23rd year in Durham and still in search of his first national title – shuffled the Wildcats’ lineup, moving junior winger Kevin Goumas to the center and away from linemate Grayson Downing.

The immediate result? Two more games without a loss for UNH, though the second was a head-scratcher of a collapse in Colorado Springs, when a 4-0 Wildcats lead turned into an eventual 4-4 tie against Colorado College.

The next night, last Saturday, in a highly anticipated showdown between two of the nation’s top teams, UNH found itself trailing Denver 3-0 after the first period. Early in the second, Wildcats rookie Dan Correale took a slashing penalty – the first penalty, in fact, of his career thus far.

In doing so, he created a scenario for Umile to reunite Downing and Goumas, former linemates, who had separated because of Burke’s injury.

“We’re similar players,” said Goumas. “[Downing] has great vision, great hands, a great skill set.

“Any time we’re out there together, we click.”

And “click” they did. While on the penalty kill, Goumas saucered the puck to Downing, who was racing down the right wing towards Denver goaltender Sam Brittain. Downing scored on a quick wrist shot – and scored again several minutes later, again on a feed from Goumas, and again on a special teams situation (this time four-on-four) that brought the two centers on the ice at the same time.

Continued Goumas, “Any time we have a special teams situation, I think we move the puck pretty well.”

Downing, just a sophomore, went on to score a hat trick in the game. As did Goumas, who in fact accomplished a “natural” hat trick in the third period, scoring once to tie the game 4-4, once to give UNH the lead, and once – an empty-net goal – to seal the Wildcats’ stunning come from behind win over Denver on the strength of not one, but two, hat tricks.

Said Downing afterwards, “One’s always nice, two’s always good, and three – there’s no better feeling than getting a hat trick.”

Other than, perhaps, completing a comeback in an arena in which UNH had never beaten Denver. Goumas, who was thwarted by Brittain time and time again during the course of the game, including on two second period breakaways, ultimately scored the game-winner by making an adjustment.

“When you get that many chances. I just stayed with it,” said Goumas, who leads Hockey East in points (20) and assists (14) and was named the league’s Player of the Week. “Our equipment manager was telling me, ‘You’re going to get about seven more chances.’ I sure did, and I took advantage of those opportunities.

“I was getting a lot of shots blocked by defensemen so [on the game-winner] I held it a little more, took an extra step to the middle, and shot it around him. I don’t think [Brittain] saw it coming.”

A lot of people, actually, didn’t see any of this coming. Last Saturday night in Denver represented a comeback, certainly, in that UNH stormed back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit against one of the nation’s top defenses. But it’s also part of the ongoing story of the comeback of the Wildcats from last season, after suffering through a sub-.500 season, still looking to return to their first NCAA Frozen Four since 2002-03, when a national semifinal win over Cornell propelled UNH to the national title game against Minnesota.

Initial question marks regarding the offensive capability of the Wildcats have all but dissolved at this point – especially after the pair of hat tricks last weekend. But what will Umile do now? Find a way to get Downing and Goumas back on the same line? Only time – and perhaps the ability of Burke’s injury to heal – will tell.

For now, though, it’s yet another storyline – one of many for the surging 2012-13 Wildcats.

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©2014 Avash Kalra. All Rights Reserved.