by Joshua Seguin
With the first game in the past, UNH is prepping for a big Hockey East weekend beginning on Friday.
The return to action couldn’t come soon enough for Dick Umile’s team, after BU knocked the Wildcats around to start the season.
Despite the 5-0 loss, Umile and his saw it as a 3-0 game — the fourth g0al coming with an empty-net and the fifth in garbage time.
“Statwise the game was pretty even, we just have to play a full 60-minute game,” UNH coach Dick Umile said.
Umile looking for some finish
After the rough loss against Boston University last Saturday, the word used most around the UNH locker room this week was “finish.”
With multiple grade-A opportunities stopped by BU goaltender Kieran Millan in the early going, the young New Hampshire team has to find ways to score and play better defense, if this season is going to be as successful as the past 10 years for New Hampshire.
As much of the country and region continue to have doubts about the Wildcats, nobody in the dressing room is panicking or looking ahead of Friday.
Players such as John Henrion know that UNH played well enough at times to score goals but cannot get frustrated.
“Millan played well, but we had plenty of chances,” he said. “We have plenty of guys that know how to score and no one is concerned. We just have to finish. We have a very deep team up front which was very evident from scoring opportunities that were spread across multiple lines and everyone needs to contribute, not just one line.”
Fix begins in the back
The offensive woes didn’t spark the biggest questions from those in attendance Saturday night. The defensive breakdowns, in many situations drew the questions, but, in sticking to what he said follow the loss, Umile thinks his defensemen played well with the exception of a few noticeable breakdowns.
“In looking at the film, I still think our defense played OK, but we could do more,” Umile said. “I felt that we gave them four goals that they scored.”
In seeking to improve, UNH will need production from their young guys as well as from their veterans.
Traveling to Northeastern on Friday, Umile expects his team “to get better, create more grade-A scoring opportunities, limit turnovers and find ways to score.”
Even though UNH plays the ranked team in the nation, at the Whittemore Center on Saturday evening, the team seems focused on Friday night’s game against Northeastern.
Northeastern is a team that UNH’s John Henrion described as “stingy, big, fast and physical.”
UNH expects to face Chris Rawlings, who can give any team in the country fits with his large stature. But his dreadful performance against Maine on Sunday has hardly made his appearance in Friday’s game a guarantee. Sophomore goaltender Clay Witt came in and played very well in relief.
Northeastern has a new coach, but many of the faces are familiar to UNH and they will give the Wildcats everything they can handle.
In come the Eagles
Awaiting the Wildcats after when they return to Durham is defending conference champion Boston College.
The Boston College game, on Saturday, will be a huge test for UNH. Some, for whatever reason, expected the Eagles to struggle in the early season as they try to replace Cam Atkinson, Brian Gibbons, Joe Whitney and their other departures. Last weekend’s showing at the Ice Breaker in Grand Forks, N.D., told everyone BC coach Jerry York has replaced everyone he had to.
Ask anyone in the UNH locker room and they are focused on the task ahead of them on Friday and not at the task that will await them on Saturday, albeit Saturday’s game will be barometer as to which direction the Wildcats are actually heading.