Northeastern beats UNH men’s hockey, 4-0, in Umile’s final home game

  • Michael McNicholas (11) handles the puck away from Lincoln Griffin (19) during Hockey East action between UNH and Northeastern in Durham on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. GIL TALBOT / UNH Athletics

Monitor staff
Sunday, February 25, 2018

DURHAM – While Northeastern celebrated its best regular-season finish of this decade, the Wildcats suffered through their worst in nearly three.

The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team was shut out for a second straight night, taking a 4-0 loss against No. 11 Northeastern at the Whittemore Center on Saturday.

For UNH coach Dick Umile, it was his last game behind the bench at Towse Rink. Umile, in his 28th year with the team, will retire at the end of the season.

But that wasn’t on Umile’s mind Saturday.

“Reality will set in, sure,” he said. “Just more focused on the game tonight.”

The Wildcats (10-18-6, 5-14-5 Hockey East), last in Hockey East for the first time since the 1987-88 season, will face Maine in Orono next weekend in a three-game series to open the tournament. Maine finished sixth in the league after losing on Saturday to Boston College, the regular season champions.

New Hampshire will try to move on from this weekend where they were outscored 12-0 in two games against the Huskies (21-8-5, 15-6-3), which finished second in the league.

UNH senior captain Dylan Chanter isn’t dwelling on where his team finished in the standings. Drawing a first-round playoff series with border rival Maine makes it easier, he said.

The team learned its playoff opponent in the locker room a few minutes after the game ended.

“In my mind, it doesn’t get much better than that,” he said. “I don’t know how to explain the feeling, but when you hear that … you’re almost ready to go again, you can almost go out there and play another game because you have the adrenaline rush right away.”

It was only the sixth time Northeastern has defeated UNH in Durham and the first time in two years.

The Huskies focused in the defensive end for the third period to protect a 3-0 lead. UNH finished with the edge in shots, 34-25, bolstered by 16 shots in the third as the Wildcats tried to avoid a scoreless weekend.

Danny Tirone started his final game at the Whittemore Center but was replaced after Adam Gaudette, the nation’s leading scorer, netted Northeastern’s third goal early in the second period.

Tirone is UNH’s all-time leader in saves and games played, having surpassed Kevin Regan’s marks earlier this season.

Freshman netminder Mike Robinson, a San Jose Sharks prospect, took over in net and turned away the nine shots he faced through the second and third periods.

Umile, looking for at least one goal from his team this weekend, pulled Robinson for the extra skater with 47 seconds left. Northeastern’s Brandon Hawkins scored on the empty net just 11 seconds later. 

“Mike did a solid job,” Umile said. “I pulled the goalie at the end just because I wanted to score a goal. We didn’t get one all weekend.”

The Wildcats stared down a 3-0 deficit entering the third period.

Gaudette scored 46 seconds into the middle period after Garrett Cecere fired a shot from outside the left circle. Tirone (12 saves) made the initial stop but he couldn’t control the rebound as Gaudette came in and knocked the puck into the goal.

Northeastern took a 2-0 lead in the first period. Nolan Stevens smacked the puck into the net with 6:24 left in the period after Gaudette’s shot from close range snuck through Tirone’s pads and sat idle in the crease.

The Huskies added their second goal just 54 seconds later. Jeremy Davies carried the puck through the left circle with UNH defenseman Benton Maass on his hip. Davies shot from a tight angle toward the left post and snuck the puck over Tirone’s shoulder into the top of the net.

It was the third time UNH has been shutout this season. The Wildcats were dealt a 8-0 shellacking at Northeastern on Friday.

Creating scoring will be an emphasis heading into the playoffs. UNH hasn’t scored more than three goals in a game since their 4-4 draw with Brown on Jan. 6.

“It was night and day (compared to) what we did (Friday) night,” Umile said. “Obviously we’ve got to find ways to score goals. We won’t win up (at Maine) if we don’t score goals, as we all know.”

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