Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats are in a ratings war
THE University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team has slipped to fifth place in the Hockey East standings and could well slide back another spot or two before it plays another league game.
The Wildcats will start worrying about Hockey East again in a couple of weeks.
Right now, they’re on a hot streak and intent on raising their profile in the national rankings and ratings.
Dick Umile’s team answered a Dartmouth goal with a couple of its own in the closing minutes of the Battle for the RiverStone Cup game on Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Arena for a 4-2 win over the Big Green.
The Wildcats won their fourth straight game and boosted their record for the season to 13-10-1.
They were No. 20 in the USCHO poll last week and on Sunday were No. 13 in the PairWise rankings that simulate the method used by the NCAA to help pick its tournament teams.
There’s plenty of room for more upward mobility and UNH is taking aim at some.
Union, ranked No. 4 last week, comes to the Whittemore Center for games on Friday and Saturday.
The Dutchmen provide UNH’s last chance to gain stature against a nonconference opponent in the regular season.
“It’s our biggest week of the season,” said Umile after Saturday night’s game. “It’s a great opportunity for us. They’re our last two non-league games and we can put ourselves in good position here as we go into the final stretch in Hockey East after next week.”
Union split a pair of ECAC games over the weekend in its first games back after the holiday break. The Dutchmen had a 10-game unbeaten streak snapped with a 2-1 loss at Quinnipiac on Friday night.
They bounced back with a 3-0 win at Princeton on Saturday. Junior Colin Stevens had 33 saves for his third shutout of the season and has a save percentage of .916, a goals-against average of 2.12 and a record of 10-2-1.
In its last two games before the break, Union went to then-No. 1 St. Cloud and won its first game, 4-1, and tied the second, 3-3.
The Wildcats are looking forward to the test.
“There are only so many games left,” said senior forward Kevin Goumas. “We don’t want to take any losses. We want to keep a winning streak going.”
UNH led most of Saturday’s game, but had to rally late for the win.
Dartmouth’s Charlie Mosey scored to tie the game at 2-2 with 3:20 left and UNH answered with Dalton Speelman’s winning goal 65 seconds later.
Goumas scored his second with 33.3 seconds left.
Coach Bob Gaudet liked the way Dartmouth played on Saturday and likes the way it has been playing overall, despite its 3-12-2 record, and feels it will be a team to be reckoned with down the stretch.
The Big Green have only ECAC games left now, starting with home games against Colgate on Friday and Cornell on Saturday.
UNH athletics director Marty Scarano had some anxious moments early last week after the University of Massachusetts started talking to football coach Sean McDonnell to see if he might be interested in coming to Amherst to interview for their job as head football coach.
In the end, after lengthy discussions with Scarano and UNH President Mark Huddleston about where the Wildcat program was headed and other matters, McDonnell declined the offer to interview.
Scarano said he was thrilled and he was no doubt relieved.
“We have some pretty fabulous things going on and we’re excited about the future of the program, where we’re at and what we want to accomplish,” Scarano said. “We’re all very like-minded and no one represents the university better than Sean.”
The front-burner project at the moment is getting lights put up to allow for home games next season, a project that will also include renovations to the stands on the home side of Cowell Stadium.
Work should begin as early as March or April and be wrapped up by August, Scarano said.
McDONNELL on Saturday did not want to talk about UMass, which will be hiring Mark Whipple to return as coach, according to reports over the weekend. Whipple, a former offensive coordinator at UNH, won a national title in 1998 at UMass in his first stint at the school.
McDonnell said Scarano’s account of what happened last week was all accurate.
About a half a dozen players — including Nashua South quarterback Trevor Knight, wide receiver Rory Donovan of Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton. Mass., and defensive back D’Andre Drummond-Mayrie of Central Catholic in Lawrence, Mass. — have verbally committed to accept UNH scholarships, according to many reports.
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from naming or commenting on potential recruits until they sign national letters of intent to accept those scholarships on Feb. 5.
UNH has three official recruiting weekends set up starting next weekend.
THE GYMNASTICS TEAM hosts its first meet of the season on Sunday with Minnesota, Brown and Yale coming in to compete. The Wildcats lost their opener at Rutgers on Saturday. . . .The track teams play host to Holy Cross on Saturday at noon. . . . The men’s basketball team, 2-13 overall and 0-2 in America East, has a pair of league home games up next. UMBC, 5-11 and 1-2, is in on Wednesday at 7 and Hartford plays at UNH on Saturday at 1. . . . Senior Kelsey Hogan of Nashua had a career-high 35 points to lead the UNH women to a 71-68 overtime win over Stony Brook on Saturday. UNH is 7-7 and plays at UMBC on Wednesday at noon and at Hartford on Saturday at 2.