After a winless weekend against the previously-ranked No. 19 Providence College Friars, the Wildcats once again failed to record a win during a two-game weekend against two ranked opponents, falling to No. 8, Boston College (6-4) and No. 10, UMass Lowell (8-2). Multi-point efforts from players such as Tyler Kelleher, Matias Cleland and Michael McNicholas were not enough to overcome the odds and the ‘Cats fall to 11-13-4 on the season, now losing five-straight dating back to Jan. 21 against Notre Dame.
Head coach, Dick Umile, addressed this in his postgame press conference following Friday’s loss to the Eagles. He acknowledged that the ‘Cats are competing hard, but not getting the desired results to show for it.
“I have no complaints with how hard they compete, a never give up attitude [they] stay with it,” Umile said. “But we got to start playing on the other side instead of being behind all the time.”
Eagles’ forward JD Dudek’s goal five minutes into the first period marked the seventh consecutive game in which the ‘Cats surrendered the first goal. Dudek’s rebound chance gave the Eagles an early advantage, and Colin White, the team’s leading goal scorer, made it 2-0 shortly afterward at 8:44.
The ‘Cats found life off the stick of Patrick Grasso who buried a one-time slapshot on the powerplay past Joseph Woll to cut the deficit to one. The assist came from Tyler Kelleher, which made for his 100th career assist as a Wildcat.
The Eagles’ top-ranked offense went back to work, extending their lead to three goals with an offensive flurry in the second and early third period to make the score 5-2 in the opening minute of the third period.
With tensions high and the ‘Cats desperate, UNH began to play physically, and the Eagles were outmatched for a majority of the third period. Following a power-play goal from Kelleher, Jason Salvaggio cut the deficit to one. Chris Calman whacked Salvaggio after his shot which earned him a game misconduct, giving the Wildcats a five-minute powerplay lasting the end of regulation. The ‘Cats were inches away from tying it as Grasso had a chance to bury the equalizer, but Woll stood tall in the end and the ‘Cats couldn’t claw back and fell 6-4 after an empty-net goal.
“We’ve been good in the third all season, but it just comes down to bearing down right away,” McNicholas said. “We didn’t have a good first and second and we got to be better right away we got to be more focused before the games.”
The ‘Cats hit the road the following night to take on the No. 10 River Hawks, and despite scoring the first goal, UNH couldn’t capitalize and were dealt a dissapointing 8-2 loss at the Tsongas Center in Lowell, Mass.
Both of UNH’s two goals on the evening came on the power play. McNicholas and Cleland both scored on the man-advantage to keep the game close towards the end of the second period. But a third-period explosion from the River Hawks put the game well out of reach. The River Hawks scored five goals in the third period, one on the powerplay, to secure an 8-2 victory.
The team recognizes the road doesn’t get easier, as the ‘Cats now face the challenge of No. 12 Vermont on the road this weekend, but the only thing to do is to keep preparing the way they know how and not lose focus.
“I think we feel like we are right there, there’s definitely things we can improve on and I think when we do, we’re going to get one of these games,” Grasso said. “But until we do that, we got to keep coming to the rink and preparing the way that we know how and try to get one of these games.”
The ‘Cats travel to Burlington, Vermont for two games against the Catamounts this Friday and Saturday. Both games are set to start at 7 p.m.