Chestnut Hill, MA-The University of New Hampshire Wildcats opened the season 6-1-1 in their first eight games. They promised a great season to end Dick Umile’s career.
Since beating UMass Amherst on November 4th, the Wildcats have slumped, going 3-9-1. UNH lost 3-2 to Boston University on Friday night. Meanwhile, the Boston College Eagles have been all over the map to start 2018. They lost to Michigan Tech and tied Northern Michigan at the Ice Vegas Invitational.
BC returned home on Friday night and fell 4-1 to Providence. Both teams have struggled recently and met at Conte Forum on Sunday afternoon to salvage conference points from the weekend. BC clicked while UNH hit a new low point.
The teams were even in the opening frame. Each team got nine shots, Danny Tirone and Joseph Woll made eight saves each, and both teams committed four penalties.
Play slowed to a crawl with eight penalties and five power plays between the teams. BC scored first when down a man. Chris Grando forced a turnover in the neutral zone when UNH was setting up a power play.
Graham McPhee tracked down the loose puck and beat Tirone for his sixth goal of the year and BC’s fourth shorthanded goal, tying them for fourth in the nation. UNH evened up the score with a Benton Maass power-play goal in the waning seconds of the first.
While the first period was even, BC completely controlled the second. BC outshot UNH 9-7 in the period and got three pucks by Tirone. David Cotton started the scoring with a power-play goal 1:11 into the frame.
JD Dudek extended the lead on a finisher to perfect transition passing 4:05 later. Then Graham McPhee capped the run with a rebound goal. UNH got one back when Ara Nazarian beat Woll from his doorstep, but they needed more shots and could not muscle up the offense needed to cut into the lead before the intermission.
The Eagles dominated the third period, outshooting the Wildcats 11-6. UNH had one chance on the power play when Michael Kim sat for hooking.
Sadly, the Wildcats got no shots on goal in those two minutes. Jacob Tortora closed the game out when he potted a Chris Grando pass in transition. BC closed out the 5-2 victory to get two points and reclaim first place in Hockey East from Northeastern.
After the game, Jerry York spoke highly of Dick Umile, who coached his final regular season game in Conte Forum.
“He’s brought such class and dignity to the game. We’re better for having him in the game. I’m still trying to talk him into coming back for a few more years.”
York also extended praise to his team. “We were crisper tonight than the other night. We were more cohesive in our offense tonight. It was a much better game for us than what we had against Providence.”
Graham McPhee recorded two goals and Chris Grando notched three assists, both career highs. BC climbs to 11-9-3 overall and 11-4-0 in Hockey East. The Eagles reclaim a one-point lead in the standings over Northeastern. The Eagles do not play another game until Tuesday, January 23rd when the UMass Amherst Minutemen pay a visit to Conte Forum for a 7 pm puck drop.
Wildcat head coach Dick Umile was appreciative of York’s praises but was furious after the game.
“I told the team we’ll talk when we get home. I don’t know what to say, but right now we are not playing well. Everyone’s contributing to our losses. Seems like every night it’s someone else’s turn.”
UNH falls to 9-11-2 overall and 4-7-1 in Hockey East. They are now 3-10-1 since their season opened so promisingly. Danny Tirone faced 29 shots in net, most of them, Grade-A chances. The senior saved 24 of them, trying his hardest to keep the team afloat.
UNH will regroup for a weekend series in Orono, ME, against their biggest rivals, the Maine Black Bears. Puck drops at 7 pm and 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday at the Alfond Sports Arena.