DURHAM, N.H. – Dick Umile recorded his 500th career win Friday night as New Hampshire beat St. Cloud State 5-3 in its season opener. Umile becomes the 12th coach, sixth active, to reach the milestone at the Division-I level. He also becomes just the seventh coach to win 500 games at one school.
“The guys gave me the game puck,” Umile said, “and I said, ‘It’s all about having a lot of good hockey players.’ If you last long enough coaching good hockey players, they win hockey games. I just happen to be fortunate enough to be coaching this program with a lot of good hockey players.”
Dalton Speelman led the way Friday night with two goals and an assist in his first game since last November. Connor Hardowa (3 assists), Trevor van Riemsdyk (1 goal, 1 assist), Kevin Goumas (2 assists) and Grayson Downing (2 assists) all registered multi-point games for UNH (1-0-0). Ben Hanowski had a goal and an assist for St. Cloud (0-1-0), and Nic Dowd had two assists.
Hardowa and Speelman both said after the game that it was an honor to be part of Umile’s milestone night.
“We’ve been waiting pretty much all summer for that one,” Hardowa said. “We couldn’t get him that last one last year at BU. It’s nice to see him get that 500th. Not too many people have done it. It’s an honor to be a part of the program when he gets that one. A lot of guys put in a lot of effort to get those 500. We’re just a small piece of it.”
What I saw
-The first 12 or so minutes of the game were pretty evenly played, but UNH completely took control to close out the first period. Shots on goal went from 8-5 UNH to 15-6 in no time at all, and the Wildcats scored twice in the final 3:06. After Goumas forced a turnover in the offensive zone, Hardowa found Greg Burke all alone in front, where the senior lifted a backhander past Ryan Faragher (34 saves). Just over a minute later, the Wildcats struck again. Speelman led a shorthanded rush down the right wing, zig-zagged trough the offensive zone and then found a charging van Riemsdyk for a tip-in goal.
-The end of the second period was the exact opposite. Once again the first half of the period was evenly matched, but then St. Cloud’s special teams took over. Andrew Prochno scored a power-play goal with 5:21 left in the period when he wristed a seeing-eye shot through traffic and past Casey DeSmith (20 saves). Then with less than a minute left in the period, Dowd led a shorthanded rush up ice and threw a shot on net that led to a juicy rebound for Hanowski.
-Then there was the third, which looked a lot like the end of the first. The Wildcats came out guns blazing and registered 13 of the period’s first 16 shots. Speelman scored twice in the first 3:10 (more on him below) to make it 4-2, and UNH’s constant pressure prevented the Huskies from mounting a comeback. Austin Block made it a three-goal lead at 10:43 when he tapped in a beautiful slap pass from Hardowa — the captain’s third assist of the game. The Huskies did score 33 seconds after Block’s goal, and they did generate a few more chances over the last nine minutes, but the game was already out of reach at that point.
What I thought
-Dalton Speelman, who missed all but 11 games last season with a broken wrist, looked incredible in his return. It seems like every year, some forward steps up for UNH and has a big year. Speelman certainly showed that it could be him this year. He was all over the ice, setting up scoring chances on offense and starting breakouts on defense. He showed great patience and awareness in setting up van Riemsdyk’s shorthanded tally, then showed a nice goal-scoring touch with two of his own in the third. The first was an easy tap-in set up by Downing, but on the second, he made a nice head fake and then picked his corner from about 15 feet out. The goal-scoring is particularly promising for the Wildcats, as they are looking to replace Stevie Moses’ 22 goals from last season.
-UNH simply looked like the faster and more aggressive team. Other than a sloppy stretch in the second period, the Wildcats consistently won races to the puck and 1-on-1 battles. St. Cloud coach Bob Motzko admitted after the game that his team got outworked, especially in the third period.
-Winning your first game is always important, but it was especially important for the Wildcats considering that they started last season 0-4-0. That made it an uphill battle for them all season long. Even though they played better in the second half, they were never really close to being a home-ice team or an NCAA tournament team, and a lot of that had to do with how poorly they started. The Wildcats expect to return to NCAAs after missing out for the first time in 11 years, and getting off to a good start could go a long way toward that goal.
What they said
-Umile: “It was important for us to get off to a good start, and obviously we did in the first period. We kind of gave it back there in the second, and give them a lot of credit for battling back. The tying goal at the end of the period to make it 2-2 was not a good play on our part. But the guys came out in the third and did what they had to do. I thought we had great pace in the third period, won ourselves a good game, and got ourselves off to the right start this year.”
-Umile on Trevor van Riemsdyk: “I coach him every day and see what he does every day, and in my opinion he’s as talented a defenseman as there is in the league. If there’s one better, I’d be shocked. He does an awful lot for us.”
-St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko: “We got outworked. Badly. You could tell they were determined tonight. We had a little charge there in the second. We did some things well early in the first, had a good second period. But for the most part, through 60 minutes, their guys were much more determined. They outworked us for pucks, and they must’ve blocked — I don’t know what the stat sheet’s gonna say (the stat sheet says 17 blocks for UNH), but double it. And then we got frustrated. We had two key goals tonight — really limit our turnovers, and penalties. We were absolutely abysmal in both of those areas. And that dictated the entire game.”