The name Dick Umile has become a staple to UNH hockey for over two decades. Following the Wildcats’ quarterfinal exit at the hands of No. 4 University of Massachusetts Lowell on March 14, Umile made an announcement that will change the program forever.
On March 15, Director of Athletics Marty Scarano announced that Umile will coach one more season with the Wildcats. Umile’s contract is set to expire following the 2017-18 season and Umile will retire following the conclusion of next season. Former player and current associate head coach Mike Souza will assume the position of head coach following Umile’s departure.
Next season will be Umile’s 28th and final season behind the bench for UNH. During his tenure, Umile has accumulated numerous accolades, including two Hockey East Championships and eight total Hockey East regular season titles. Umile is the winningest coach among active head coaches in Hockey East with a total of 363 league wins. Umile was inducted into the UNH hockey Hall of Fame in the year 1994 as a credit to his 144 point career in the years 1969-72.
In a press release from UNH athletic communications, Umile commented on the excitement of getting to finish out his contract and coach one final season.
‘“I’m excited to come back for the final season of my contract and still have a strong desire to win,” Umile said. “With a strong nucleus returning and exciting newcomers on the way, we are determined to get UNH hockey back to the level of annually competing in the NCAA tournament.”
The Wildcats have suffered a change of pace in terms of postseason play the past couple of seasons. Dating back to 1990, Umile’s first season as head coach, UNH has made the NCAA postseason tournament 18 times, including a stretch of NCAA Frozen Four appearances in the early 2000s. The young roster currently presented and the early departures of now professional players has set back UNH a few years, as they have not made the NCAA tournament since 2014.
The program looks to rebuild with the talent they currently possess, with young stars such as freshmen Patrick Grasso and Liam Blackburn as well as Defenseman Anthony Wyse, the ‘Cats are looking to the future to become a tournament contender every year.
“It’s been a crazy couple of years here, ones that I’m not used to I’m not used to losing at all. You never want to get comfortable with it either,” Umile said. “But I still have a passion to coach and I told that to [UNH Director of Athletics Marty Scarano]…I want to finish it up with one more run, we want to get in [the NCAA tournament] one more time.”
Souza, a former player and graduate of the class of 2000, was part of a historic run in UNH hockey history. Souza’ career between 1996-2000 saw two appearances in the Frozen Four and a national championship appearance in 1999. Next season will be Souza’s third as associate head coach and Umile expresses confidence in the program with Souza set to take over in full after next season.
“We made the decision that [Souza] was going to be the guy that was going to take over the program and he just proves, even after his second year, that he’s going to be a dynamite coach here,” Umile said. “He’s a good teacher he’s a good coach he’s a real people’s person and the guys respect him.”
With the 2016-17 campaign now ended, Umile will make one final push to earn the right to compete in the NCAA tournament next season.