New Hampshire Hockey Column: Wildcats fighting for eighth as playoffs inch closer


Andrew Gardner, Sports Writer

The narrative of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats had quickly been shifting after a five-game win streak in the second half of the season. However, just a few weeks later the team has found its way back down to reality. New Hampshire was outscored 11-3 in a brutal weekend against Merrimack and UConn. 

For UNH, the lack of points this weekend just about firms up their spot in the standings with either the eighth or ninth as the most probable landing spots. New Hampshire currently sits in ninth place with 19 points, which is nine points ahead of Maine and Vermont, who are tied for last. In front of the Wildcats is Boston College (BC), who has just one additional point, after that is Northeastern who has a healthy nine-point cushion.  

With the new playoff format that Hockey East implemented last year all 11 teams in the conference make the tournament, starting with a single elimination first round between each team in sixth-place or worse. It’s more than likely with just seven games left for UNH and BC, they will see each other in that one game playoff, but home ice advantage still has a long way to go before it’s sorted out.  

On the ice this past weekend, the Wildcats failed to convert on a lot of offensive opportunities, especially against UConn which head coach Mike Souza talked about in the post-game.  

“I thought [UConn] were more opportunistic than we were, and they capitalized on their chances, and we didn’t,” explained Souza. “If you watch the game closely, we surely had some good chances we just didn’t capitalize.”  

Offensively the Wildcats are continuing down the same path that they found themselves on earlier this season. They’ve now scored three goals or less in five out of their last six contests, and two goals or less in their last three games.  

With the defense and goaltending having a tough weekend against the Warriors and Huskies, it may spell bad news for a team that needs those units to step up more than ever during these final seven games. This weekend the ‘Cats will travel up to Burlington to take on the Catamounts; a team that ranks dead last in the Pairwise ratings in the entire country. This should be a very winnable game for UNH; however, they have struggled mightily on the road this year, boasting just a 3-9-0 record away from the Whittemore Center. On Super Bowl Sunday the Wildcats return home to take on the Hockey East-leading UMass Lowell Riverhawks.  

At this point in the season the goal for New Hampshire should be to keep everyone as healthy as you can and to try to pull out the eighth seed so the Wildcat faithful can see a home playoff game at the Whittemore Center. IT could be a difficult task with the tough opponents that UNH has coming up after this weekend. The Wildcats will be on the road against Maine before facing Merrimack and UMass Lowell again.  

Photo courtesy of Jess Speechley