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October 12. 2012 11:25PM

Wildcats win season opener, give Umile 500th career win at UNH

UNH hockey coach Dick Umile inside the Whittemore Center in March had reason to smile last night with his 500th career win as head coach of the Wildcats. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

DURHAM — Dalton Speelman came back with a bang. Start the party.

Speelman, a junior right wing, potted a pair of goals early in the third period to lead the University of New Hampshire to a 5-2 season-opening win over St. Cloud State on Friday night in front of 4,320 at the Whittemore Center.

The win was No. 500 of his career for UNH coach Dick Umile, putting him in exclusive company. He's one of six active Division I active coaches who has reached that milestone and one of 12 overall.

Greg Burke, the senior left wing from Lee, collected the game puck after the final whistle and senior captain Connor Hardowa presented it to Umile in the locker room.

“Like I told the team, the guys gave me the game puck, it's all about having a lot of good hockey players,” Umile said. “If you last long enough coaching with good hockey players, they'll win hockey games. I just happen to be fortunate enough to be coaching this program with a lot of good hockey players.”

Umile's achievement will be celebrated in a pregame, on-ice ceremony before UNH and St. Cloud close out the series with a 7 p.m. game tonight.

The Wildcats were intent on getting this season off to a better start than last.

Last year, they were shut out in their first two games and started 0-4-1 in their first five games.

They rallied in the third period on Friday night.

UNH went up 2-0 with a pair of late goals in the first period and gave up two late in the second to leave it tied 2-2 going into the third.

“Coming into the third period, coach got on us pretty good like we needed and I think we responded well to his motivation,” Speelman said.

Speelman was playing in his first game in 11 months. He shattered his left hand and wrist after going into the boards in a game against UMass-Lowell last Nov. 18 and missed the rest of the season.

Speelman scored a goal on each of his first two shifts in the third period to put UNH back in charge of the game.

Sophomore Grayson Downing got the puck across to Speelnan for a power play strike just 31 seconds into the period.

A pass by sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk sent Speelman charging to the net the next time out and he ripped a shot past goalie Ryan Faragher's stick for the two-goal lead.

Senior Austin Block tipped in a Hardowa shot from the point for 5-2 at 10:43.

St. Cloud's Tim Daly got one back just over a minute later and the Wildcats held on from there.

Burke opened the scoring off a nice feed from Hardowa, who kept the puck in at the point. Hardowa quickly got it up to Burke alone in front of the net. Burke put the puck on his backhand and tucked it behind Faragher and it was 1-0 with 3:06 left in the first period.

St. Cloud went on the power 30 seconds later. Less than a minute after that, van Riemsdyk finished off a two-on-one with Speelman for a short-handed goal and 2-0. Hardowa, who had three assists for the night, had one on that goal, too.

The Huskies answered with their own pair of quick-strike goals — one on the power play and the next shorthanded — late in the second period to tie things up.

Defenseman Andrew Prochno scored the first with a shot from the point with 5:01 left in the period and Ben Hanowski got the next with 35 seconds left in the period.

Casey DeSmith, a sophomore from Rochester, made 20 saves for the win ... Umile's first win came at Vermont, a 5-4 decision on Oct. 26, 1990. He passed Charlie Holt as UNH's all-time winningest coach with victory No. 348, 6-1 at Merrimack, on Feb. 16, 2005. Win No. 400 came at Boston University, 4-1, on Oct. 19. 2007.

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