Wildcat skaters top UMass-Lowell again, 5-2
LOWELL, Mass. - Like all coaches regardless of sport, New Hampshire's Dick Umile could find a nit to pick regarding his team's play.
But after Saturday night's 5-2 Hockey East victory over UMass-Lowell, Umile may need a telescope to find it.
Dalton Speelman scored two goals and Grayson Downing assisted on two as the Wildcats (11-1-2, 8-1-1) exited Tsongas Arena with the fewest losses through the first 14 games of a season in program history.
Moreover UNH is the only team in Division I hockey with only one loss on its record.
UNH was ranked No. 2 in the country last week, but with the weekend sweep of UMass-Lowell and No. 1 Boston College's weekend split with BostonUniversity, it's quite possible the Wildcats will emerge as the top-ranked team in the country when the newest polls are released on Monday.
"We can nit-pick but right now we're playing pretty good hockey in all three zones," Umile said. "We have one more game before our Christmas break against Boston University on Thursday night so we're just focusing on playing 60 minutes of good hockey.
"It was a good effort by everybody."
Not only are the Wildcats playing "good hockey" but they're also playing confident hockey.
"I think the confidence on the team is unbelievable," Speelman said. "I think we come into every game thinking we're going to win.
"I think coach puts a good game plan together for us. I think we do the little things right and I think that helps with our confidence."
Another sign of a confident team is its ability to maintain its composure when it falls behind.
That was the case again Saturday when the River Hawks (4-7-1, 2-6-1) grabbed a 1-0 lead at 8:54 of the first period when Stephen Buco scored the first of his two goals by burying the rebound of a Terrence Wallin shot.
UNH tied it with 18 seconds left in the period when Eric Knodel one-timed the rebound of a John Henrion shot past Doug Carr (30 saves).
"We fell behind 1-0 but there wasn't even a worry," Umile said. "We took control from the middle of the second period on and played an excellent third period."
Justin Agosta scored his first goal of the season at 1:34 of the second on a slap shot from the right point to give UNH a 2-1 lead. But the River Hawks tied it 22 seconds later when Buco caught Casey DeSmith (22 saves) out of position and flicked the puck into an open net.
Speelman put UNH ahead for good at 11:41 when he deflected in a cross-ice pass from Brett Kostolansky for a 3-2 lead.
Brett Pesce applied the crusher at 10:56 of the third when he snapped home a shot from the left point and Speelman added an empty-net goal with 17 seconds remaining.
"In Denver we were down 3-0 and came back to win (6-4)," Speelman said. "I think one thing that's a positive for our team is we don't really get flustered. We don't get too worried. We keep our composure and we do the little things we need to do. We work hard in our defensive zone and in our offensive zone which is why I think things have been working out well."