UNH Men’s Hockey: Team Drops Two Straight to Open Hockey East Play


Andrew Gardner, Sports Editor

DURHAM, N.H. – For the second year in a row, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats (UNH) men’s hockey team lost two straight games after sweeping the opening weekend. On Friday the Wildcats returned to the Whittemore Center for the first time in 225 days to take on the team that eliminated them in the Hockey East playoffs last year, the Boston College Eagles. 6,179 people piled into the Whitt for the contest, one of the biggest crowds in recent memory. Boston College entered the game with a record of 0-1-0 with their loss coming against sixth-ranked Quinnipiac the weekend before. 

David Fessenden got the start in net for the Wildcats for the first time since the opening night game against Clarkson. The Wildcats jumped out to a lead midway through the first period as the Power Play was cooking once again on Friday.

Liam Devlin ripped a shot from the right circle past the blocker of Boston College’s Mitch Benson to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. The lead wouldn’t last long however as that was the only goal UNH could pop past Benson for the first 40 minutes of play. 

During that time BC was able to deposit three pucks into the back of UNH’s net off the sticks of Mitch Andres, Colby Ambrosio, and Liam Izyk to give the Eagles a 3-1 lead heading into the third period. 

The final frame of play was filled with back-and-forth action until Wildcats defenseman Kalle Eriksson cut the BC lead in half following a shot from the point that went bar down. The Wildcats continued to apply on the Eagles but it was of no use as Ambrosio netted his second of the night on the empty net with just over a minute to go to seal the game for BC. 

“They deserved to win, I thought we beat ourselves a couple of times. There were some uncharacteristic too many men on the ice penalties, I didn’t like the way we managed the end of the game either, but that’s Hockey East, it comes down to the wire.” UNH Head Coach Mike Souza said after the loss.

Despite the loss, the team was appreciative of the number of fans that came out to support the team for their opening home game. 

“Tonight was awesome, that was definitely the best home opener I’ve ever had. That’s probably the best crowd we’ve ever had, besides maybe blue out BU last year” UNH captain Chase Stevenson said after the game when asked about how the crowd at the Whitt was. 

The Wildcats had the opportunity to bounce back with a win against another tough Hockey East opponent in Merrimack in North Andover, MA on Tuesday but things never clicked for the team during this contest. The Wildcats ended up dropping the game 6-1 to the Warriors after Merrimack jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after the first and a 5-0 lead midway through the second which warranted Souza and Goalie Coach Ty Conklin to pull freshman starting goaltender Tyler Muszelik for Fessenden. 

“Their (Merrimack) willingness was greater than ours at the start of the game. Tonight had nothing to do with systems or schemes, I thought their compete was better than ours so credit to them. That was the difference.” Souza said after the game. Later in the press conference, he also mentioned “There was a lot of emotion around this game tonight, and credit to Merrimack.” 

UNH and Merrimack were both playing with heavy hearts after the former captain of the Wildcats and current Warriors assistant coach Josh Ciocco unexpectedly passed away on October 3rd at the age of 38. The teams honored the Ciocco family before the game with a jersey presentation from both teams along with special warm-up jerseys that had “Ciocco” on the back. Both teams’ usual game jerseys were worn, however, every sweater had “Ciocco” on the nameplate for this contest instead of the player’s usual name to honor the former player/coach. 

On the ice, there wasn’t anything special to write home about surrounding the Wildcats. Liam Devlin scored the lone goal for the Wildcats in the third period which extended his goal streak to four games but other than that it was a sloppy showing for the ‘Cats. They were consistently beaten to pucks in the offensive zone and the defenseman was beaten more than once in transition from the Merrimack forwards which led to multiple odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities. 

Sitting at 2-2-0 to start the year the Wildcats are looking to make strides in what is a big weekend coming up. On Friday at 7 p.m. the Wildcats take on Army in an out-of-conference game but quickly return back to Hockey East play as a rematch is scheduled with Boston College down in Boston Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.

It’s a pivotal weekend to see if this UNH team is the squad we saw dominate two weekends ago in upstate New York or the pretenders of Hockey East which we saw last week.