By Nick Stoico
The month of November has not been very easy for the UNH men’s hockey team. Saturday night at the Whittemore Center, things got a little bit harder.
After taking Friday night off due to complications with the ice at the Whitt, the Wildcats fell to No. 19 Providence College, 1-0, before a deceptive crowd of 6,005. Friday night’s game was postponed to Jan. 13 and will be played in Durham.
UNH falls to 4-7-0 overall and 1-4-0 in Hockey East.
“We didn’t get any bounces tonight,” said UNH head coach Dick Umile. “I thought we played as well as we’ve played. … We should have had a couple goals early on, but the bottom line is we lost.”
The Wildcats tried to pull ahead with the game scoreless heading into the third period. The UNH offense fired hard at Providence back-up netminder Nick Ellis (29 saves) — who made an unscheduled start in place of PC standout Jon Gillies —but the Wildcats’ efforts were stymied by Trevor Mingoia’s go-ahead goal eight minutes into the period.
Mingoia’s game-winner came off an assist from fellow winger Shane Luke, who lined up Mingoia with a pass across the net, leaving the back door wide open for a shot.
“All of our games seem to be tight with UNH,” said Providence head coach Nate Leaman. “We were fortunate, we got a bounce around their net and it went to Luke and he made a nice pass to Trevor.”
Gillies did not suit up for Providence due to violating team policy, according to Josh Seguin of the College Hockey News.
UNH fired a 29 shots on the sophomore goaltender, but found only a handful of close opportunities. Junior forward Maxim Gaudreault may have had the closest chance in the second period when he made a nifty spin move in front of the crease around a couple PC defenders, but his shot came to slow off the stick and guided away by Ellis.
In the opening minutes of the third period, UNH first-liners Casey Thrush and Matt Willows connected on what was almost a successful one-timer attempt. Willows gained some speed coming into the zone along the left wing side and cut in towards the net. The captain sent a well-placed pass across the front of the crease right onto Thrush’s stick, but Ellis showed spectacular speed and flew across the net to stop the puck with the inside of his leg.
“It’s frustrating when you play in a league like Hockey East and you play teams like Providence … that are so good defensively, it is one mistake or one bounce and that is how you win or lose the game,” Thrush said. “We knew that coming in and unfortunately that one bounce went to Providence tonight.”
Collin MacDonald led the Wildcats in shots with nine and Willows followed up with four. Heading into Saturday night, Willows was tied for second in the conference with 41 shots on net.
The Wildcats were unsuccessful on four power play opportunities in the game. Providence’s Jake Walman was charged with interference and gave UNH the man-advantage with 4:37 remaining in the third. The Wildcats failed to take advantage and did not muster a single shot on net.
On UNH’s first power play in the opening period, the Wildcats maintained possession in the offensive end, but put only one shot on Ellis.
“It’s a hockey game out there and we’ve got to find ways to get the puck by the goaltender,” Umile said. “Power play is one way, when we get that opportunity, hopefully we can find ways to improve that area.”
UNH’s top defenseman, Brett Pesce, who’s NHL rights are held by the Carolina Hurricanes, went down in the second period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury in the area of his hip. Media relations could not confirm specifics of the injury, but Umile said during the post-game press conference that Pesce is “probably going to be out for a while here.”
An update on Pesce’s status will likely come during UNH’s midweek press conference on Wednesday, if not sooner.
Providence’s Nick Saracino has found a lot of success against UNH in the past — seven goals in nine games — but was a ghost on the ice Saturday night, recording just one shot. Junior defenseman Tom Parisi led the Friars in shots with four.
The Wildcats have one more chances at getting another tally in the win column before taking nine days off during UNH’s Thanksgiving break. UNH plays Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.
After the game, Umile said he was pleased with the team’s effort, but if they want to climb back into the rankings, they need to show more.
“I was happy with their effort, but I know it’s frustrating,” Umile said. “The effort can’t be any less than it was tonight otherwise you don’t get out of holes. I’m not saying we are in any holes here, but we’ve got to win some games in Hockey East and there is a long way to go.”
Follow Nick Stoico on Twitter @NickStoico.
Men's Hockey: UNH falls just short of Providence, 1-0
By Nick Stoico