UNH’s tough early-season schedule continues this Friday night with a big game against defending Hockey East and National Tournament champion Boston College.
UNH got off to a terrible start last year against a tough non-conference schedule, but got hot before Christmas in the heart of the Hockey East schedule, then, with a come-from-behind 3-3 tie in the second to last game of the season, the Wildcats clinched the regular-season crown.
This season, UNH has gotten off to a better start against an arguably tougher slate of games in the early-going. First, the Wildcats split two games at then No.3 Miami then tied another team ranked No. 3 at the time in Michigan at home. They followed that up with a 2-2 tie at Northeastern, then blew out then No. 14 Cornell at its barn, 7-4.
2-1-2 is actually an identical record through five games as the Wildcats had last season, but the results against marquis opponents have been much better this year.
In Boston College, however, the Wildcats face maybe their most formidable opponent yet. The Eagles return almost their entire roster from their championship-winning team. While the Whitney brothers, Joe and Steve, get most of the attention, has been one of the best in the nation with nine points (six goals, three assists, plus-5 plus-minus rating) and quietly will put together a convincing Hobey Baker resume.
Between the pipes, the Eagles have maybe the best goaltending tandem in the nation in John Muse and Parker Milner. Combined, the two have a 1.71 goals against average (GAA) and a .940 save percentage.
The Eagles will need that on Friday when they face a UNH squad that is second in the conference and eighth in the nation in offense. Unlike last year where Bobby Butler was the clear goal scorer on the team, this year’s Wildcats feature balance attack that has served well a UNH squad that has been around the block a few time, too.
Junior Stevie Moses leads the team with four goals, followed by senior captain Mike Sislo and fellow senior Paul Thompson with three apiece. Senior Phil DeSimone and junior Mike Borisnok are tied for the UNH lead in points with six apiece (two goals, four assists).
The X factor is junior goaltender Matt DiGirolamo, a small, quick butterfly-style goaltender who follows in the footsteps of larger stand-up style keepers, such as Kevin Regan and Brian Foster. DiGirolamo is still trying to find his way after playing just under 93 minutes last season. So far the results have been mixed.
One other thing to look out for is the power play. While not outstanding, the UNH power play is second in the conference at just a shade above 19 percent and no team in Hockey East is spending more time in the penalty box this season than Boston College, who is averaging 18.4 minutes in the box per game. Of course, it needs to be noted that the Eagles are killing over 90 percent of those penalties.
BC has lost two of its last four, but they are undefeated in their own building and dating back to 2005, UNH has only beaten the Eagles at the Conte Forum three times (3-4-3). In a game that could prove crucial down the stretch, it could go either way when the puck drops.