DURHAM, N.H.– Revenge is sweet.
The UNH Wildcats tasted just how sweet it was, taking a victory over the Vermont Catamounts on Saturday night, to propel themselves to the Hockey East semifinal round down in Boston on Friday.
Though it might sound easy for the No. 2 seed to take out the No. 7 seed, last year UNH was ousted early by Vermont, preventing the Wildcats from getting to Boston. But this year was different, and in part is was because of UNH’s senior captain Mike Sislo.
With three minutes left to go in the third period, and the score tied 3-3, Sislo put in a rebound just 24 seconds after Vermont tied it up to hoist UNH to a 4-3 series-clinching victory. And to make it a little bit sweeter, he imitated a goal celebration done by a Vermont player, 24 seconds before that.
“I’m looking forward to it, I think all the guys are,” Sislo said. “It’s been tough the past few years, a tough pill to swallow, taking that week off, sitting around waiting and wondering and kind of–we want to control our destiny and want to be playing, so we are looking forward to it.”
Not only did this win punch their ticket to Boston, but it was a win that they could celebrate at home for the last time of their collegiate career.
For the past four years, the “Whit” has been a place they called home, and as is customary after the last game, the team goes around the glass, thanking the fans.
“It was definitely sad going around at the end, but we were happy to win and win the way we did,” Sislo said. “We thought we played pretty well so to go out like that, it will be a good memory and hopefully it will carry into Boston.”
This is the first time the Wildcats have clinched a spot down in Boston since 2008, and it’s a sigh of relief, especially to coach Dick Umile, who has spent the last two years waiting for more than a week to see if his team managed a playoff spot in the NCAA tournament. This weekend also marked Umile’s 300th and 301st career win as UNH’s head coach, just in time to celebrate and relax, until all the teams are decided.
The other three teams that have clinched a spot so far are Boston College, who took out UMass in two games, and Merrimack, who defeated Maine. The only series left undecided is Boston University and Northeastern, who will faceoff in game three Sunday night. For Merrimack, this will be the second time they have advanced to the Hockey East Semifinal round since 1998, and for Boston College, it’ll be their 19th time.
“We are excited to be going back to Boston, we haven’t been there the last couple of years,” Umile said. “I guess you have to go through some adversity to get something good to happen.We won, we are going to Boston, and we are going to enjoy it.”