Third Line's A Charm
New Hampshire Trio Plays Key Role
by Scott McLaughlin/Senior Writer
DURHAM, N.H. It appeared that Boston College would get a much-needed momentum swing heading into the second intermission of Saturday night's series finale.
The series was billed as one of the weekend's premiere matchups, featuring the No. 1 and 3 teams in the Pairwise, and the two best to date in Hockey East. But Boston College, playing the series without famed coach Jerry York, who was recovering from eye surgery, clobbered New Hampshire, 5-2, in the opener in Boston.
Now, with 1:40 left in the period of Saturday's game, the Eagles had just finished killing off seven straight minutes of New Hampshire power plays, including a five-minute major and a full two minutes of 5-on-3 action. They were getting outshot 20-3 in the period, but they still found themselves in a scoreless tie after all the penalties came off the board.
The Wildcats, enjoying a rebound season after last year's disappointment, could have easily been deflated. They could have suffered a letdown on the next shift and allowed BC to grab a 1-0 lead.
But their new third line wouldn't allow that to happen.
Just like they've done on most of their shifts for the four games they've played together, the trio of Dan Correale, Jay Camper and Matt Willows jumped on the ice and provided an instant pick-me-up. They attacked the puck and eventually ended up creating a 2-on-1.
Correale beat his defender to the outside and found Willows going hard to the net. Realizing that he had no one around him, Willows held the puck and got BC goalie Parker Milner to go down before flipping the puck past him. Just like that, the power play's failures were forgotten, and the Wildcats had the 1-0 lead that had eluded them all period. They went on to win the game, 2-1, to force a weekend split.
"With their line, the way they've been playing, every time they're on the ice it's a huge swing in momentum," said senior John Henrion, who scored the game-winner on Saturday. "They got out there and did what they've been doing the past two weeks, since they've been together. They kind of got the intensity back for us. We just had to feed off that."
Three part-time players prior to being put together, Correale, Camper and Willows had just three points combined in the first semester. In the four games they've played together, they've combined for 12. In their first game together, they set up Trevor van Riemsdyk for an overtime winner against Bemidji State. The next game against Rensselaer, they set up Justin Agosta for what proved to be the game-winner.
"They've got chemistry. It's always about chemistry with a line," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "Their play complements each other. They've got great speed. They look alike. They like playing with each other. They have good composure. They're very tenacious in their forechecking. When they get it down low, they can be exciting."
Coming out of winter break, Umile felt pretty good about his top three lines. But instead of continuing to rotate through the six guys who had been competing for time on the fourth line, Umile decided to form two lines from that group and play each line once in the Ledyard Bank Classic.
Collin MacDonald, Scott Pavelski and Jeff Silengo got the first game (a loss to Dartmouth), with Correale, Camper and Willows playing the next night against Bemidji State. Umile liked what he saw from the latter group, and has stuck with them since.
When Nick Sorkin and Greg Burke went down with injuries just a week apart, Umile didn't just move one or two of them up to fill the open spots. Instead he moved the entire line up to third on the depth chart and dropped usual top-nine guys who have been slumping down to the fourth line. With the way the trio has been playing, splitting them up is out of the question for the time being.
"We just all work off each other very well," Willows said. "We just get the puck to each other. We seem to always know where each other are. We just give 110 percent every time we're out there."
Although the Wildcats don't really have any elite point-scorers outside of Kevin Goumas, their depth up front has been a strength all year. Now thanks to the out-of-nowhere production of the Correale-Camper-Willows line, they have even more of it. That group has allowed them to overcome recent injuries, and it could allow them to roll four lines that can score once everyone's healthy.
When you add that to the fact that UNH still has Hockey East's best defense, it looks like the Wildcats could be poised for a deep postseason run after missing out on the NCAA tournament for the first time in 11 years last season.