By Justin Loring, Sports Editor
A week and a half off might be just what the University of New Hampshire Wildcats need going into a weekend home-and-home series against No. 17 Boston College. The Wildcats will play at home Friday night at 8 p.m., in a game that will be televised nationally on NBC Sports. The teams will conclude the series in the Conte Forum on Saturday.
DeSmith officially removed from team
On Wednesday, UNH head coach Dick Umile announced that suspended goaltender Casey DeSmith will be reinstated to the university as of Dec. 20, but has been removed from the team.
“Our student-athletes here at UNH are held to a higher standard than the general student body. Because of Casey’s actions the weekend of Aug. 31, I’ve made the decision to dismiss Casey from the team,” Umile said.
Early Struggles for Eagles
After being ranked inside the Top 5 in most national polls early in the season with a 5-1 start, Boston College hit a rough patch, losing its next four games. This was the first time in 10 years the Eagles fell victim to a four-game losing streak. BC has been shutout in three of its seven losses so far this season, tied with Northeastern for the most times shutout this season. Their record currently sits at 7-7-0 and they have lost six of their last nine games.
Last season, goaltender Thatcher Demko was the No. 1 goalie prospect coming out of high school and represented the United States in the World Junior Championships. This year, Demko has continued his success as a starter, starting in all but one game. He currently holds a goals against average of 2.24 and a save percentage of .919. Teddy Gilmore and Adam Doherty lead the team in points with 10 (2g, 8a each) while Ryan Fitzgerald leads the team in goals with seven.
“I’ve talked to [BC head coach] Jerry [York]. He’s had a similar season where [his team] has had difficulty scoring goals,” Umile said. “They’re a very skilled team; on defense, they’re young but very talented. I think they have at least three players that could be on the World Junior team. They’re a team that’s hungry to win some hockey games … these are two league games and we’re just trying to crawl back into position. We have a long way to go.”
Wacky Week for Wildcats
UNH was forced to postpone its Nov. 21 game against Providence due to an issue with the ice, which has been rescheduled for Jan. 13 at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, having lost all three games by just a one-goal margin. The Wildcats last faced RPI on Tuesday, Nov. 25 in the team’s last game before Thanksgiving break.
“I think the break was good for us. We took [last] Wednesday and Thanksgiving day off, then got back here late afternoon [for practice] on Friday,” Umile said.
Members of the team went to defenseman Ryan Randall’s house for Thanksgiving, but due to the snow, they had no power and were forced to go to restaurants for the holiday. “It was kind of crazy [for them] on their days off … also the night of the Providence game when it got cancelled, we all went out to dinner afterwards.”
The State of Hockey East
After being named the No. 1 team in the nation last week, Boston University lost two of its next three games to ECAC opponents Harvard (3-2 in overtime) and Dartmouth (2-0). The Terriers still remain atop the conference ranks at No. 3 with an impressive 6-1-1 record. Vermont (7-3-1) and Lowell (6-0-2) are the top teams in the conference. Providence rounds out the Top 4 with 12 points, while Merrimack (8), Notre Dame and BC (6 each) fall in behind the Friars.
Hockey East newcomer Connecticut is tied with Northeastern for eighth place with five points apiece, while Maine trails by just one point. UNH is tied for last in the conference with just two points (1-4-0 in Hockey East) but can jump as high as seventh with a weekend sweep of Boston College. Only UMass-Amherst has a worse record, at 1-7-0 in Hockey East. “We sure as heck want to get out of the bottom [of the conference],” Umile said. “We could easily be at .500 if we scored an extra goal here or there.”
Changing of the Guard
The Wildcats are struggling in the absence of defenseman Brett Pesce, who is expected to be sidelined for another 2-3 weeks with a knee sprain. “It wasn’t torn, which is the good news and he’ll be back after Christmas,” Umile said. One player who has stepped up in his place is freshman John Furgele.
“He’s done a good job for us … we can put him on the powerplay, he’s handled the puck [on offense] and with Brett out, he and [Cameron] Marks and [Dylan] Maller will play a lot of minutes for us.”
Umile indicated on Wednesday that he’d be making significant changes to the forward lines for Friday’s game. “We made some changes to some lines, [Foegele]’s a legitimate threat to score when he’s on the ice. He’s created a lot of scoring opportunities … he skated yesterday with Matt Willows and Andrew Poturalski and they looked good. We’ve made some changes to get scoring [threats] in at least three lines.”