UNH looks to return to its winning ways
From The Bullpen
Published: Friday, March 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 22, 2013 00:03
The University of New Hampshire’s women ice hockey program has brought a lot of hardware, success and pride to this place we call home. Claiming the title of inaugural women’s ice hockey champions in 1998, the Wildcats never had a losing season in the 33-year history of the program.
They won five ECAC championships between 1986 and 1996. When the Wildcats joined Hockey East in 2002, they won four consecutive Hockey East titles from 2006 to 2009.
To add to that, New Hampshire has more wins than any other women’s ice hockey program, at 668 in its first 32 years. This includes when the Wildcats went undefeated in their initial 74 games (73-0-1) spanning the 1978 through 1982 seasons.
Yet with three consecutive losing seasons, it is fair to ask: Where has that winning attitude gone the past few years?
It was only a few years ago that UNH last claimed its Hockey East title, during the 2008-2009 season.
Since then, however, the program has really struggled. The lowest point came right away, during the 2010-2011 season when the ‘Cats failed to make the Hockey East tournament.
According to current UNH Head Coach Brian McCloskey, the dip in the programs performance can be attributed towards the direction that Hockey East as a conference has gone in the direction that Hockey East as a conference has gone in the past few years.
“Basically, it boils down to the stretch of where we lost more than our share of games, turning over elite players in the past and just how the conference as a whole are stepping in on acquiring more talent to their rosters,” McCloskey said.
It is not to say the program is not acquiring talent, because in order to play Division I hockey, a player must have high-qualified skills to compete, but it has more to do with attracting high profile recruits to Durham.
Schools all around the country are getting better and are being more aggressive. However, just like any “dynasty,” there comes a time where a program is just in rebuilding mode.
Making two consecutive Hockey East tournament berths, despite both being losses in the quarterfinals round, means that UNH fans have something to be optimistic about moving forward.
“I like the way our program has been,” McCloskey said. “It has been competitive, and the young class this year will help get the program back on solid ground.”
With that said, there are still areas in which the program can improve as the rebuilding process continues. One area that McCloskey noted right away when asked was the offense, which to him could use a little depth.
“We need to be a little deeper on offense, because we don’t have enough scoring in the lineup,” McCloskey said.
This is an important aspect of the rebuilding process for the Wildcats, as McCloskey wants to maintain the balanced approach the team currently has offensively. McCloskey pointed to how some teams in Hockey East have begun to rely on a couple of players offensively.
“I rather have a wide variety of skaters contribute on the offensive end then just have one or two skaters score 20 goals,” McCloskey said.
All of this is just part of the struggle that comes with playing in a competitive conference. With teams like Providence, Vermont, Maine and Northeastern currently on the rise and consistent powerhouses like Boston University and Boston College continuing to thrive, New Hampshire has plenty of competition each and every season.
Yet as the competition continues to get tougher for the Wildcats, the coming seasons will go to show whether or not McCloskey and the Wildcats can break out from the pack and return to their winning tradition.