November 17, 2005
Dividends in Durham

By Jeff Howe

 Hockey East Notebook

Jacob Micflikier is part of a UNH first line that is among the best in the nation.

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In a general sense, just about everything in the wonderful world of sports revolves around one thing, the bottom line. Players who rack up all of their stats in garbage time still get to waltz through life in the spotlight. Teams that win games in an ugly fashion can still find themselves on top of the world while teams that play well but find themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard don’t often see a silver lining around their grim cloud.

Unless, of course, it’s still early in the season.

So despite the fact that the Wildcats got off to 2-3-1 start and battled through a five-game stretch with just a single victory, raising concern that they would be hard-pressed to find Hockey East success without Sean Collins and Preston Callander – they had time on their side.

“When you correlate wins and losses, it was a tough start because we didn’t win any games,” UNH coach Richard Umile said. “But we weren’t playing bad. In the two games against North Dakota (a 3-2 loss and 3-3 tie at the Whitt) and the game against BC (a 3-2 loss in Manchester), we were playing pretty good hockey. We were playing well, and the team and coaching staff felt that.”

Since dropping its contest against the Eagles on Nov. 1, a game in which the Wildcats held a brief 2-1 second-period lead, UNH has ripped off four wins in a row, and until Providence stole a 2-1 overtime decision at Northeastern on Tuesday night, New Hampshire was tied for first place with the Friars in Hockey East with its November surge.

And as much as Umile and Co. in Durham were happy with the way the team was playing early in the season, it may have been tough wiping the smiles off their faces after taking down two of their biggest rivals in BU and Maine last weekend, turning what was a two-game spurt into a sudden steamroll.

“Our rivalry with BU is a great one,” Umile said. “It has been going on for years. UNH and BU have a great tradition. It’s not the rivalry that BU and BC is, but in terms of our team and our alumni, it’s always a big one. We played well, and it was a good hockey game so it was exciting.

“The Maine rivalry for us is our border rivalry. It’s not as long as BC and BU, but the intensity and support it gets from the fans on both sides is second to none.”

Friday night marked the first time UNH has met up with Boston University since wiping the floor with the Terriers in a 5-2 beat down at the FleetCenter last year in the Hockey East semifinals. Though this game was tighter, UNH still hopped on I-93 North from Boston as 3-2 victors.

On Saturday, New Hampshire staged an encore for its fans at the Lake by scoring the last three goals of the game to send the hated Black Bears back to Orono licking their wounds.

“This past weekend was a huge challenge for us, but having gone down to Boston and beating BU, and the annual whiteout here [against Maine] was just some fabulous hockey,” Umile said. “We kept our pace and probably took it an extra step. We played as well as we have played in a long time.”

Heading into the new season, everyone around Wildcat hockey knew they would get their offensive spark from one of the most offensively talented lines in the country with Brett Hemingway, Daniel Winnik and Jacob Micflikier. That group added a notch to their game by combining for seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points during the four-game victory march, a solid improvement after collecting nine lamplighters and nine helpers for 18 points during the six games beforehand.

“I’m not going to say it’s the best [line] in the nation, but you would be hard-pressed to find three players who can play the way that they play together,” Umile boasted. “They are very unselfish. They like playing with each other, but I’ll say that they can match up with any other line.”

But the other three lines have done their job by complementing the top group by adding six goals and nine helpers over the two-weekend run. It will be the other nine forwards in the lineup who Umile feels will determine how much success the relatively young club can achieve come springtime.

“We started winning with the other lines,” Umile said. “We’ve got great balance and chemistry in our other lines. We don’t even think we have a fourth line. We have four groups that go out there as forwards, and that is the reason for our success.”

It also helps that the two-headed goalie monster of senior Jeff Pietrasiak and sophomore Kevin Regan have elevated their games over the quartet of wins, teaming up to save 129 of the 137 shots they have faced during the streak. They have lifted the UNH defense toward the upper-echelon of the league with only 12 goals allowed in six HEA games.

“You need to play good defense if you are going to win in this league, and our guys are committed to playing good defense,” Umile said. “Both of our goaltenders are playing well right now and playing with a lot of confidence, and that has helped us out.”


Honest Jack – You’ll have to forgive Jack Parker for not exactly basking in the glory of his 300th Hockey East win, a milestone he accomplished after a 4-2 victory during his first ever conference slugfest with Vermont on Nov. 4.

Other than that night and a 2-1 road win over Maine the same weekend, Parker has been pretty irritated with his team. After dropping two in a row against Rensselaer and Lowell back in October, Parker said his Terriers were “trying to win on talent and talent alone.”

Well, after coming up on the short end of the stick twice this weekend, first to UNH and then to UMass, Parker bared it all in the Mullins Center press room on Saturday night.

“It was a real good performance by John Curry, but the rest of the players who were out there on my club gave us absolutely nothing. Maybe a couple guys played pretty hard, but in general, as a team, there was no sense of urgency. There was no effort. We absolutely stunk the house up, and we especially stunk the house up with our defensive zone coverage. We never controlled anybody. We gave up over 40 shots, and that is absolutely bizarre. The most disheartening part about that game is how pathetic we are playing people in our own end, and we did the same thing [in the 3-2 loss against UNH on Friday night].”

Great Weekend Getaway
120x60 - Brand Red

Northeastern at Boston College (Fri.)
First-round Beanpot action in November? Not exactly, but instead of waiting for the Feb. 6 matinee at the TD BankNorth Garden, or whatever it will be named in two months, head to Conte Forum to watch the Eagles take on Northeastern.

While You’re There: Take a good look at Conte Forum’s trophy case, where you will find the ball Doug Flutie allegedly threw to Gerard Phelan on Nov. 23, 1984, to knock off top-ranked Miami 45-41 at the Orange Bowl. Look a little closer. Is that a Wilson NFL ball you see? Hmmmm…

Stick Salute

UMass freshman goalie Jon Quick stepped up big for the Minutemen over the weekend, starting in net on back-to-back nights for the first time in his young career, but it was the second leg of his double-dip that provided a cause for celebration. His 39-save showcase ended the team’s six-game losing streak, as he held off the Jack Parker Terriers by a 4-2 billing at the Mullins Center.

Bench Minor

Losing isn’t something that teams tend to do well, but after the River Hawks allowed Maine to have its way with them in a 9-2 embarrassment on Friday night, Lowell has now lost its six games by a combined score of 29-8.

Moving on…

“They hoped that UMass would lay down and die. They hoped that UMass was as bad as their record was. They hoped that they wouldn’t have to work, and that is how they played.”

And there was more…

“I think this team is easily satisfied. That’s for sure. There is no question in my mind that the major problem here is most of my guys want it to be easy, that we have arrived and we’re OK now. But it isn’t easy in this league for anybody at anytime.”

From the sounds of it, practice probably wasn’t very easy this week either.


• Providence freshman Cody Wild tends to score goals that make the crowd go – well – you get the picture. He scored the game-winner in overtime on Tuesday night to give the Friars a 3-2 victory over Northeastern. His previous goal came with 83 seconds left in regulation to lift PC to a 3-2 win over UMass on Nov. 5. And he even scored the overtime clincher in the Friars’ 2-1 exhibition triumph over St. Thomas on Oct. 8.

• During UMass’ 36 power play opportunities in its six league games so far, the Minutemen have scored just two times, but their opponents have scorched UMass for three short-handed tallies.

• BU netminder John Curry may need some new pads soon. In his last three games, he has made 108 saves after only needing to stop 68 shots in his first four appearances.

• Of course, Maine’s nine-goal night against Lowell helped, but the Black Bears had 14 different players score a point last weekend. Just don’t say anything to the Northeastern Huskies, who have only had 14 players score a point all season.

• New Huskies coach Greg Cronin made no secret of the fact that he would take his players down the street to a gym to work on their boxing skills before the season started. That may have something to do with the 28.4 penalty minutes the Huskies have averaged through nine games to this point, a mark that leads Hockey East.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.