A quick start was not enough for the UNH Wildcats as the team fell by a score of 2-1 to RPI on Tuesday night in the Whittemore Center. Warren Foegele notched the only UNH goal, the first of his career, at the 8:09 of the first period on the team’s first powerplay of the game. RPI goaltenders Jason Kasdorf and Scott Diebold combined to make 30 saves on the night.
“You rarely say this in a game, but I thought all three goalies were spectacular,” RPI head coach Seth Appert said. “Usually if one goalie gets pulled, it’s because he was poor; that wasn’t the case [tonight].” Kasdorf was pulled at the start of the second period for Diebold due to an apparent injury, but Appert wasn’t committal on the specifics of his injury. “[It was] Lower body, no specifics [on the injury], my gut feels that it’s not dramatically serious but serious enough that we felt it wasn’t worth risking any further injury.”
All the scoring came in the first period, being highlighted by Foegele’s first collegiate score. Defenseman John Furgele put a slap shot on net that was deflected by Collin MacDonald off the chest of Kasdorf. The puck caromed out of the crease and found Foegele’s stick, who was wide open for the powerplay goal. Up until that point, UNH had struggled on the powerplay only scoring on three of its 37 previous attempts.
The Wildcats were missing one of their most important members tonight, as Brett Pesce was out with a sprained MCL, the medial collateral ligament in his knee. Making the biggest impact in his absence was Furgele, who took over as the lead offensive-defenseman in the group. Umile expects Pesce to miss about a month of time, indicating he wouldn’t be back until after Christmas.
“Furgele has done a good job for us, obviously he’s a freshman, we put him on the powerplay and he made a great play to Kelleher [in the third period] that I thought was in … With Pesce out, he and Marks and Maller will play a lot of minutes for us.”
RPI responded at the 14:37 mark of the first following a solid penalty kill by the Wildcats. Matt Neal took the puck behind the net, drawing the defense with him. Defenseman Curtis Leonard snuck into the left faceoff circle where Neal found him with a pass underneath the UNH defense. Leonard left off a laser that went over the shoulder of both Furgele, who was trying to block the shot on the ice, and goaltender Adam Clark, into the top left corner of the net to tie the game at one apiece.
The Engineers notched the eventual game-winner less than two minutes later, this time on a rebound goal buy Parker Reno. In a three-on-two rush, Jimmy DeVito led the offense and fired a shot that deflected off of Clark’s chest. The puck skittered over to Travis Fulton who appeared to hit the post, but his rebound was put home by Reno to make it a 2-1 game.
The second period was by far the most frustrating for UNH head coach Dick Umile and his squad. “We were absolutely horrible handling the puck, especially in the second period,” Umile said. “I don’t know what the heck was going on, but we could not make a play, we could not handle the puck.
“In the third period, maybe we had some chances, but it was probably our worst effort all season.”
Despite actually outshooting the Engineers by a margin of 11-7 in the period, UNH’s lackadaisical effort on the powerplay and inefficiency clearing the puck from its own end doomed the team’s offensive chances. On one powerplay chane, RPI was able to outshoot the ‘Cats three to one, with Adam Clark coming up huge on a wide open chance by Drew Melanson. Neal, one of the best penalty killers for RPI, dumped the puck into the corner and then threw a blind pass to Melanson, who was left wide open by the UNH defense. Clark was able to get in front of the puck for the save, but UNH’s offensive woes have really been the story of its subpar start this year.
Clark also came up huge on a few breakaway chances created by RPI, taking away shooting angles and limiting his rebounds, which he had struggled with early in the season. Following Kasdorf’s injury, Diebold, the starter last season for the Engineers, picked up where he left off and shutout the ‘Cats the rest of the way.
The final period was a little better for the ‘Cats, however were still unable to get anything up on the scoreboard. The final 1:50 of the frame saw RPI take a high-sticking penalty, giving UNH a man advantage to finish the period. Clark was pulled from the net, giving UNH a 6-on-4 chance. Despite their best efforts, the Wildcats couldn’t get anything on Diebold to generate rebounds and the clock ran out on the powerplay, which only went one-for-seven on the evening.
UNH has a much-needed break going into the Thanksgiving weekend, as the team will have two days off to prepare for next weekend’s home-and-home series against No. 12 Boston College.
“We told them to get out of here for a couple of days,” Umile said. “I hope [we can use the break to reset], tonight wasn’t good, I can tell you that.”