UNH hockey notebook: Senior leaders tested through four-game slide

  • UNH senior captain Dylan Chanter waits for the puck to drop during a game against Dartmouth at the Ledyard Classic in Hanover on Dec. 29, 2017. China Wong / UNH Athletics

  • Senior alternate captain Danny Tirone looks on from the crease during a game against Dartmouth at the Ledyard Classic in Hanover on Dec. 29. China Wong / UNH Athletics

  • University of New Hampshire senior alternate captain Danny Tirone protects the net during a game against Dartmouth at the Ledyard Classic in Hanover on Dec. 29. BELOW: Senior captain Dylan Chanter waits for the puck to drop at at the Ledyard Classic. UNH is hoping to shake off it’s recent skid when the Wildcats host Brown on Saturday. Photos by China Wong / UNH Athletics

Monitor staff
Published: 1/4/2018 9:34:44 PM

DURHAM – The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team closed the first half of the regular season on a two-game slide. They started the second half with another pair of losses at the Ledyard Classic in Hanover last weekend.

After a hot 6-1-1 start to season, UNH has hit an unforgiving wall of ice with eight losses in their last 11 games.

Senior captains Dylan Chanter and Danny Tirone are facing their hardest test in leadership as they try to galvanize their teammates and escape this slump.

“Just being positive at all times,” Chanter said Wednesday. “Obviously, there’s times when you’ve got to hold guys accountable, but definitely being positive and just understanding that this will end. A lot of teams go through rough stretches in a season. That’s where we’re at and we’re ready to get out of it.”

They’re next chance is Saturday when UNH (9-9-1, 4-5-1 Hockey East) hosts Brown (5-7-1, 4-6-0 ECAC) in Durham. Puck drop is 7 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.

For Tirone, the emphasis is on trust. Frustration is mounting, but the senior netminder said it hasn’t turned into negative energy between teammates in the locker room.

“I think we’re a pretty mature team in the sense that a lot of guys kind of take it on themselves with what they could have done differently,” he said. “I feel that way when I give up goals. I think that’s a good thing when you’re struggling as a team that guys will kind of look within instead of pointing fingers. That’s the kind of attitude that gets you out of a rut like this.”

Chanter and Tirone have impressed coach Dick Umile with their approach to leading this iteration of the Wildcats.

“They’re terrific,” Umile said. “Those two guys are the two hardest workers on our team. ... The team works hard and I think it’s because of guys like (Chanter and Tirone), the seniors, the leadership. They do it by example.”

The team is trying to take a fresh look at the road ahead as the calendar turned to 2018. There’s still plenty of time to climb back into a contending role with 14 Hockey East dates left. A win this weekend against Brown could get the wheels turning. On the other hand, a fifth-straight loss could set them back further in terms of record and mentality.

“This is an important game for us as a team for confidence,” Umile said. “At one point there I thought we were playing with some good confidence. Obviously losing four games in a row … is not where we want to be.”

Following its 3-1 loss to Dartmouth on Friday, the team gathered to reflect.

“We just addressed some things and went around the room if anyone had something to say,” Chanter said. “We want to get back to that feeling we had at the beginning of the year when we had nothing to lose. The right thoughts are in the locker room right now. I think it just comes down to winning hockey games.”

Happy for Butler, Bellamy

As the longtime head coach and a former Wildcat player himself, Umile was obviously excited to hear UNH alums Bobby Butler and Kacey Bellamy were chosen to represent the U.S. in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games.

“It’s exciting news,” Umile said. “We have two Olympians in Kacey Bellamy and Bobby Butler representing the University of New Hampshire, and that’s awesome.”

Butler, a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist and 2010 Hockey East Player of the Year, plays for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL and leads the team in goals (13) and points (25). He’s played a combined 127 NHL games with stops in Ottawa, New Jersey, Nashville and Florida.

Butler helped lead UNH to three Hockey East regular season titles in 2007, 2008 and 2010, and the NCAA tournament in each of his four seasons.

Umile said he communicated with Butler and his father through text after USA Hockey announced its roster during Monday’s Winter Classic.

The Admirals captured an emotional video of Butler telling his father he made the team. The footage quickly circulated the web earlier this week.

“It was fun watching it,” Umile said Wednesday. “I saw it again on CNN this morning.”

Bellamy is heading to her third Winter Games and will serve as an assistant captain. Bellamy led the Wildcats to a Hockey East championship in 2009 and was named the tournament’s MVP. She’s played in both of North America’s professional women’s hockey leagues, the CWHL and NWHL.

Done for the year

Umile announced Wednesday that forwards Patrick Grasso and Joe Sacco will both undergo season-ending shoulder surgery. They will apply for medical redshirt status at the end of the season to gain an extra year of eligibility.

Grasso, one of the top rookies in the nation last year, missed the first five games of the season with a shoulder injury sustained in the offseason. His season ends with two goals and eight assists in 12 games. Sacco, a sophomore, played in two games.

Also on the mend is freshman back-up goaltender Mike Robinson, who Umile predicts will miss three weeks with mono and an ankle injury.

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

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