UNH loss a letdown after fast start to year
From The Bullpen
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 01:03
Dick Umile and the Wildcats are in a weird place. The team that spent seven weeks of the regular season ranked in the Top 3 in the nation will not be spending this week preparing for the Hockey East semifinals at TD Garden in Boston.
No, instead the Wildcats returned home to Durham, thinking about all of the things that went wrong over the weekend as they lost a best-of-three series with the Providence College Friars.
Friday, the Wildcats, who went 0-2-1 against PC in the regular season, fell 3-2 to the Friars. I wonder if they knew it was exactly 10 years ago to the day that UNH had last won the Hockey East Tournament? UNH forced a game three after beating the Friars 4-1 on Saturday, but their Hockey East run was ended on Sunday.
Yes, it is disappointing to see this team not make it past the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, but now it is time for some tough love.
I don’t mean to rub any salt on the wound, but let’s face these facts. New Hampshire’s record against the current programs heading to Boston for round two is collectively 6-4-2.
UMass Lowell, the No. 1 seed in the tournament? UNH left the River Hawks panting for air with their hands on their knees as the Wildcats walked away with the regular season series sweep. All in all, UNH beat UMass Lowell 13-4 over the course of those three games.
What about Boston College, the No. 2 seed? BC Head Coach Jerry York reset the record books and became the winningest coach in the history of college hockey this regular season, certainly something to tip your hat to. But hey, the Wildcats went 1-1-1 against the Eagles. Not bad, right?
The apparent third-best team in Hockey East is the Boston University Terriers. UNH faced off against those red sweaters in the early part of the season and took the advantage going 2-1.
And finally, the Providence College Friars. UNH could only muster up one win against this team all year and it came on Saturday. The Wildcats took on PC three times in the regular season and each game found UNH throwing away offensive chances and playing as a seemingly frustrated bunch.
It makes sense, the Wildcats lost to the team that they couldn’t beat all year.
What is frustrating for UNH hockey fans is that the Wildcats didn’t even get a shot at the teams considered the cream of the conference, all of which UNH could have at least competed with just as they did over the weekend with PC.
Looking back on the regular season, it almost seems like a tease. UNH went 12-3-2 in the first half of the season and then 6-6-5 in the latter half.
Were they just playing the easy teams early on? No, the Wildcats beat programs such as Boston College and then-No. 4 Denver in a game where UNH came back with six unanswered goals. Throughout the months of October and November, the Wildcats won 10 times and only lost once.
Just over a week after the Denver game, UNH was ranked No. 1 in the nation, and rightfully so.
So, what happened?
Its early success was enough to float UNH to an opportunistic position in the final weekend where all it needed was one win against Maine to have a strong chance at home-ice in the tournament. The best it could do was put together a tie in the Saturday afternoon game.
A few hours later, the Wildcats were penciled in to travel to Providence for the quarterfinals.
UNH needed that home-ice advantage, plain and simple. Yes, the truth hurts, but it doesn’t matter now and I think we have done enough of this dwelling in the past stuff.
The regular season doesn’t matter anymore. All the teams are back to zero when the playoffs start.
The nice thing about the college game is that losing in the conference tournament does not mean the season is over.
The Wildcats will most likely get a seed in the NCAA tournament as they sit in a three-way tie for the No. 8 spot in the Pairwise Rankings (which ultimately decide who makes the tournament), and they have plenty of time to prepare for it.
UNH hockey gave fans all of the reasons to believe they had what it takes this year to go deep into conference tourney, but ultimately came up short. It has already happened, and it’s time to look forward to what is up next for the ‘Cats.
There is still more hockey to be played.