×

UNH hockey notebook: Freshman defenseman leaves Durham, returns to juniors



Monitor staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

DURHAM – James Miller, a 6-foot-2 lefty defenseman, has returned to Junior A hockey after a short stay in Durham.

The 19-year-old from Alberta played in a pair of games in October while sophomore Anthony Wyse recovered from concussion symptoms. His last game was Oct. 28 at Vermont.

Miller’s transfer back to the Penticton Vees of the BCHL was made official on Monday.

UNH men’s hockey coach Dick Umile said Wednesday that Miller made the decision to leave and will not return to the Wildcats’ roster next season. If Miller returns to the college game, it won’t be to Durham.

“No, he’s not coming back here,” Umile said. “He’ll go somewhere else.”

Miller was one of seven incoming freshmen this season along with fellow blue-liners Max Gildon, Benton Maass, goaltender Mike Robinson, and forwards Charlie Kelleher, Kohei Sato and Eric MacAdams.

When Wyse returned to the ice, Miller was on the outside looking in with Cam Marks, Maass and Gildon filling out the top four. Seniors Richard Boyd and Dylan Chanter have played as the third pair in all 20 games this season.

Miller, who will turn 20 in February, will surely get more time on the ice with the Vees. He played in 37 games last season and accumulated 18 points with six goals and 12 assists.

“He was frustrated,” Umile said. “Obviously, he didn’t play as much as he would like (here). He played early on in the season. Good kid, he’s going to be a good player.”

Umile added: “He’s a kid that’s getting better, he’s getting stronger and he made the decision that’s he’s going to move on and play juniors. He wants to play games.”

Trying to turn the page

Just when it felt like the Wildcats were turning a corner toward their first win since early December, it all came undone in the third period against Brown on Saturday.

UNH went into the final period with a 4-0 lead. Brown cut its deficit to two goals with more than 11 minutes left on the clock. It turned into a one-goal game on Tyler Bird’s power-play goal with less than five minutes to go, and Londonderry native Brent Beaudoin tied it up with 1:32 remaining.

The Wildcats settled for their second tie of the season, but it felt like UNH “gave it away,” Umile said.

He didn’t go into detail about how the third period collapse was addressed in practice this week, but it was certainly discussed.

“Oh yeah, we talked about it a lot to be quite honest with you,” Umile said. “It’s playing a 60-minute game. There’s a variety of ways you can give it away, whether it’s shorthanded goals up at Hanover against Dartmouth (Dec. 29, 3-1 loss), or the third period the other night, maybe thinking the game is over. We had chances to score (and) we missed those opportunities in the third period along with the four (goals) they got. It was frustrating, no question.”

The Wildcats welcome Boston University to the Whittemore Center on Friday at 7 p.m. They’ll travel to Conte Forum in Chestnut Hill, Mass., for a matinee with Boston College (10-8-3) at 1 p.m. Sunday.

With 14 Hockey East matchups left, UNH forward Ara Nazarian is confident the Wildcats can get their season back on track.

“That’s what we’re looking forward to,” said Nazarian, who has 12 points in 20 games. “It’s not even close to over. There’s still 14 games left ... there’s definitely a lot of time to climb the Hockey East ladder and get some wins here down the road.”

Boston College sits atop the standings with 20 points on a 10-3 conference record. BU is four spots down the list with 13 points. UNH is further down in seventh place with nine points, but has played the second-fewest conference games with just 10. UMass has played the fewest with eight.

Marks said the goal is to break into the top four by season’s end, a position they are currently six points away from.

“Right now is the best time of the year,” Marks said. “The rest of the games coming up are all Hockey East games, and BU and BC are some of our biggest rivals. The guys are excited. Destiny is in our own control and it starts on Friday.”

UNH’s last outing against the Terriers (8-11-1) wasn’t pretty. BU blasted UNH with a 4-0 loss, the only time the Wildcats have been shut out this season.

In the nine games leading up to that Nov. 11 meeting, UNH averaged more than four goals per game. In the 10 games since, UNH’s scoring clip has dropped to 2.6 per night.

The Wildcats shook off their offensive struggles with three goals in the first period against Brown, their best start to a game this season. But that was an afterthought postgame.

“That was the really disappointing part,” Umile said. “For the team’s confidence it would have been great if we could have finished it in the last 20 minutes, but we didn’t. On the positive side, it shows that we are capable of doing that.

“It is what it is,” Umile said. “We’re done with non-league.”

Hockey East slate

The nonconference portion of the schedule is over. UNH was 5-4-1 against the ECAC, NCHC and Atlantic Hockey conferences. It’s been a down season across Hockey East against out-of-conference teams, but the Wildcats mostly avoided the heavy hitters from outside the region, namely the Big Ten (7-0-1 against Hockey East).

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference also dominated Hockey East, mounting a 14-7-1 record. UNH split games with its only NCHC opponent, Colorado College, in October.

UNH was 4-2-1 against ECAC competition (Colgate, Dartmouth, Yale, RPI and Brown), adding to Hockey East’s 23-14-6 record against the ECAC overall.

Now, the road ahead consists of 14 conference games for the Wildcats leading up to the playoffs in March.

UNH has six home games remaining against BU, UConn, UMass, Vermont, Maine and Northeastern.

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)