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College Hockey: McNicholas, Salvaggio enjoying time with younger Kelleher

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 19. 2017 11:31PM
UNH's Michael McNicholas shoots on UMass Lowell's Tyler Wall at UMass in Lowell. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

DURHAM -- The top line for the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team might have a slightly new look this year but not much has changed in terms of the unit’s production.

Tyler Kelleher, who graduated last spring, Michael McNicholas and Jason Salvaggio logged a combined 142 points (60 goals, 82 assists) skating together as the Wildcats’ top line last year.

McNicholas and Salvaggio, both seniors, are back on the UNH’s top line this year, skating alongside freshman Charlie Kelleher, who is Tyler’s younger brother. Together, they have combined for 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through four games.

McNicholas, who centers the line, and Kelleher are tied with freshman defenseman Benton Maass for the team lead in points (five). Both McNicholas and Charlie Kelleher have tallied one goal and four assists. Salvaggio is tied with Shane Eiserman for the team lead in goals (three) and also has an assist.

McNicholas was named this week’s Hockey East player of the week after recording five points (one goal, four assists) in the No. 17 Wildcats’ two-game sweep of Colgate last weekend.

“McNicholas is a big part of that,” UNH coach Dick Umile said of the top line’s early success. “He’s the centerman. He can move the puck around. Jason has a great shot. He’s a power forward. And we like Charlie Kelleher. He’s quick. He’s a very smart player. He works at both ends of the ice.

“I’m not going to be critical of Tyler just because he graduated but we haven’t lost a lot on that line so far.”

Charlie Kelleher called it an honor to skate with Salvaggio and McNicholas. Salvaggio has an unbelievable shot and McNicholas makes unbelievable plays, Charlie Kelleher said.

“He has some skills with the puck that honestly I haven’t seen before,” Kelleher said of McNicholas. “He knows how to make the right play and when to shoot. And it’s awesome playing with him and kind of watching him, being able to learn how he plays because I kind of want to model myself after the way he plays so it’s nice to watch every night.”

During preseason practices, Umile said Salvaggio and McNicholas enjoyed playing with Kelleher right from the start.

“They liked him right from the beginning so there was good chemistry there right from the beginning,” Umile said. “And that’s always good when the guys on the line like playing with each other.”

Kelleher credited the line’s production to the communication he and his linemates have with each other.

“I think we all just kind of know where each other are out there and it’s been going well,” Kelleher said.

UNH’s top line will look to stay productive tonight and Saturday night when the Wildcats (4-0-0) host Colorado College (3-1-0) of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. UNH will play the Tigers tonight at 7 and again Saturday night at 7 at the Whittemore Center.

The Tigers, who have no seniors on their roster, split their season-opening series at the University of Vermont and swept their two-game series with Alaska Anchorage last weekend.

UNH is third in the nation in goals scored per game (4.25) and tied for sixth in scoring defense (1.75 goals per game). The Tigers are tied for 10th in the nation in goals scored per game (3.25) and tied for 16th in scoring defense (2.25 goals per game).

Colorado College scored two power-play goals and two shorthanded goals on its way to defeating the Wildcats, 4-3, last season in Durham. The Wildcats are 14-6-1 overall and 5-2-0 at home all-time against Colorado College.

“They’re quick, they’re fast, they’re very skilled on the power play,” Umile said of the Tigers. “We’ll get a test this weekend.”

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Umile said sophomore forward Patrick Grasso will not play this weekend. Grasso, who logged 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) last year, is recovering from a shoulder injury and has yet to play this season.

Eiserman and fellow forward Chris Miller will be available this weekend, Umile said. Eiserman, who has not missed a game this season, is dealing with a “knee issue,” Umile said.

Miller, a junior from Windham, did not play in UNH’s 5-3 victory over Colgate last Saturday. Miller will probably skate alongside sophomores Brendan van Riemsdyk and Liam Blackburn tonight, Umile said.