The UNH men’s hockey team turned the page on last season and wrote a new chapter into its storied history last Saturday at the Whittemore Center. The start of this chapter however, may be one fans will soon forget.
Lack of execution and capitalizing on extra-man opportunities plagued the Wildcats all night. The ‘Cats dropped the regular season home opener to the Bentley Falcons by a final score of 5-1. Sophomore forward Ara Nazarian was the lone goal-scorer for the Wildcats.
“Needless to say I’m very dissapointed. Obviously we had the oppurtunities, not only only the scoring oppurtunities but im talking about three five-on-threes [on the power play],” head coach Dick Umile said following the loss. “Not good. We have a lot of work to do.”
The Wildcats were given seven opportunities to score on the mad-advantage and failed to do so on all of them. UNH posted nine shots on goaltender Jayson Argue during special teams play, but could not find the back of the net given 9:45 of time.
“Overall I don’t think we played bad, we just didn’t finish we didn’t get the shots on net and we didn’t execute on the five-on-threes,” Umile said in regards to the inability to finish.
“I thought it actually changed the entire game,” Senior captain Matias Cleland said on the power play struggles. “We’ve got to put a puck in and start the game off right. It’s going to be back to the drawing board on that.”
Nazarian put the Wildcats on the board at 16:41 in the second period when he found the puck off a pile-up in the far side boards and wristed a shot past Argue to make the score 2-1 in favor of Bentley. But that would be all the Wildcats could generate in the contest.
In the early going, there was reason to believe the Wildcats would not experience the result they did, as solid offensive pressure resulted in a 11-0 shot advantage in the opening minutes. At 12:33 in the first period, the Falcons quieted the crowd as Connor Brassard ripped one past UNH goaltender Danny Tirone to give Bentley a momentum-shifting 1-0 lead. Minutes later, Alex Solovyev put one home off an offensive zone faceoff to put the ‘Cats in a 2-0 hole.
Although Nazarian got the crowd back into it with his first goal of the season, Dino Balsamo quickly answered 32 seconds later with a goal of his own to halt the momentum making it 3-1 Falcons. Jonathan Desbiens and Kyle Schmidt added insurance goals, including one short-handed on an empty net, to hand the Wildcats their first season-opening loss since Oct. 15, 2011 when they fell to the hands of Boston College.
The Wildcats are a young team this year, as six freshmen were called to the starting lineup in Saturday’s game. Inexperience was present and a lack of communication and established chemistry caused for some costly errors.
Umile noted however that the difficulty did not lie entirely on the freshmen but the absence of veteran scoring that returned to the team from last season.
“This is the level that they’re playing at. They did they’re job, they’re ok,” Umile said. “We need to score goals, we had opportunities to score goals. We need somebody to step up…that was very disappointing.”
During the second period, a small fire broke out in the Whittemore Center equipment room. Players and coaches left the ice and the arena was evacuated delaying the game for a moment. Nobody was injured in the incident and people were let back into the building after the area was secure. Play resumed shortly after.
The Wildcats hit the road to New York next weekend as they prepare for a two-game road weekend, with the first opponent being St. Lawrence University on Friday Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. in Appleton Arena.