UNH Men’s Hockey: Crucial Weekend for Hockey East Points is Set to Take Place in Burlington


Andrew Gardner, Sports Editor

DURHAM, N.H. – It seems that the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Men’s Hockey team couldn’t be further away from that fantastic 2-0 start in upstate New York. An 0-6-1 opening stretch in Hockey East and an overall record of 1-6-1 since opening weekend has put the Wildcats in quite the hole. 

“I think the spirit of the team, contrary to what people may think, is in a really good place right now which is great.” Said Head Coach Mike Souza. 

The Wildcats entered the season with 12 new players on the squad, which was near the top for the most of any club in the NCAA this year. Despite a flashy comeback against Clarkson on opening night and a win the following day against St. Lawrence, the lack of experience on this UNH roster is quickly coming to the forefront as the team enters the middle part of November. 

The schedule has been challenging for the Wildcats as over the last two weekends they’ve faced off in home and home series against #13 Providence and #16 Northeastern. The Wildcats picked up their lone Hockey East point of the season in the opening game against Providence which was played at the Whitt. The Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead early into the second period with goals coming off the sticks of first-year forward Morgan Winters and sophomore defenseman Colton Huard. 

However, the lead would not last, as UNH managed just five shots in the final 39:28 of the game. Providence on the other hand took over as senior forward potted a goal in the second period, with junior forward Chase Yoder finding the back of the net in the third for the equalizer. 

The game was pushed to overtime where the Wildcats were able to earn a Power Play, but were unable to capitalize. After five minutes in the extra period the game remained knotted at two. Technically in the record books the game goes down as a tie, but because it was a Hockey East game the two teams went to a shootout to determine who got the coveted extra point. 

Providence’s first-year goalie Phillip Svedeback was able to stop all three of UNH’s attempts as the Friars were able to put one in the back of UNH’s first-year goalie Tyler Muszelik net, who was making his first home start, to take the extra point. 

That was the most exciting game the Wildcats have had in the last two weeks as the following night they went down to Schneider Arena in Providence where they lost to the Friars 3-1. 

Last weekend against Northeastern the results weren’t much better as the Huskies cleaned up against the Wildcats winning the two contests by scores of 6-2 and 3-0. First-year forward Jake Dunlap and senior forward Chase Stevenson were the two Wildcats to find the back of the net over the weekend. 

That brings us to today, as the Wildcats are set to square off against the Catamounts of Vermont tonight at 7pm. in Burlington. This will start a two game weekend series at UVM in quite possibly the most crucial weekend of Mike Souza’s head coaching career. 

The Catamounts and Wildcats occupy the basement of Hockey East, the Wildcats having one point in seven games, and the Catamounts still looking for their first after six games played. 

“I think it’s pretty simple what the goals are this weekend and I think they’re the same as Vermont’s. Our plan is to go up there, compete, and win.” Souza said.

The Catamounts enter this weekend with a record of 2-6-1, with wins coming against Holy Cross and Colgate. 

Pairwise, is a useful analytical tool used to rank teams in the NCAA. The official definition of it on the USCHO website states “The PWR method compares each team with every other such team, with the winner of each “comparison” earning one PWR point. After all comparisons are made, the points are totaled up and rankings listed accordingly.” Essentially it’s a mathematical power ranking of all 61 Division One NCAA Hockey teams. These teams are as evenly matched as it gets as UNH currently sits at 43, with UVM at 42. 

If UNH wants to come out of the weekend with more points than the Catamounts, they’ll have to find a way to get the offense going at the rate it was producing during the first weekend of play. In the eight games since that weekend, where the team scored four goals in each game, the Wildcats have managed to score more than two goals in a game just once. The team will need to rely on forwards Robert Cronin and Liam Devlin to spark the offense. Devlin leads the team with four goals, all of which came in the teams first four contests. 

“I’m just trying to get myself ready to shoot the puck and score more, like getting inside the dots and the dirty areas.” Sophomore forward Robert Cronin said. 

The Wildcats will likely split another weekend of action in net between senior goaltender David Fessenden and Muszelik, a strategy Coach Souza has rolled with over the last two weekends. 

You can watch UNH take on the Catamounts at 7pm on ESPN+ both tonight and tomorrow night in what is set to be a hungry fight for points between two teams who desperately need them. 

Photo Courtesy of UNH Athletics