Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Seniors lead the way back to hockey tournament
"We missed a good opportunity to make it to Boston," said senior forward Austin Block. "We definitely had expectations that we were going to be there. It's disappointing. But now we're going to play for the national championship. It's exciting."
The Wildcats, who are 19-11-7, sat out the Hockey East championship round after losing in three games at Providence in the quarterfinals.
Hockey East went on without them and No. 1 seed UMass Lowell outlasted first Providence, 2-1, in the semifinals, and then Boston University, 1-0, on Saturday night to win its first league tournament title.
UNH simulated a game with a scrimmage on Saturday afternoon and now looks forward to playing in the NCAA Northeast Regional at Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday. Semifinal games are at 4:30 and 8 on Friday and the regional championship is at 6:30 on Saturday.
The Wildcats did not qualify for the national tournament last year.
Block and a handful of his classmates, led by captain and defenseman Connor Hardowa, paved the way back to the national event, said coach Dick Umile.
"We've been very pleased with our seniors," he said. "They really held the team together. They went (to the NCAAs) as sophomores. Last year was disappointing and it's good to see them get back there as seniors."
Block and John Henrion are two of the team's leading goal scorers and Scott Pavelski centers the fourth line. All had career years.
Defenseman Brett Kostolansky is one of the alternate captains.
The other alternate is Greg Burke, a forward from Lee, who played only 13 games because of a couple of injuries. He has not played since sustaining a head injury in a game against Boston College on Jan. 12.
Block shares the team lead for goals with sophomore Grayson Downing at 15. He also has eight assists. Henrion has 14 goals and 10 assists for 24 points.
Block had 10 goals and 17 assists total in his first three years as a Wildcat. Henrion had 20 goals and 20 assists coming into this season.
Pavelski has four goals and three assists in 36 games this year. He had three goals and an assist in 79 games his first three seasons.
Henrion leads the team with three game-winning goals.
The Wildcats must have more of that type now.
"We need to score goals that win games for us, not ones where we lose by one," Block said.
Junior Kevin Goumas leads UNH in scoring with 10 goals and 32 assists for 42 points. He has totals of 25-69-94 in 105 career games.
A couple of sophomores are next on this year's scoring sheet. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk is at 7-24-31 and Downing at 15-15-30.
Casey DeSmith, a sophomore goalie from Rochester, has a goals-against average of 2.24 and save percentage of .924 heading into his first NCAA tournament.
Sophomore Karla Gray of Buffalo scored a 9.875 to win the East Atlantic Gymnastics League balance beam individual title in the league meet at North Carolina on Saturday.
The Wildcats were contending for the EAGL title until their last rotation, but ended up sixth. North Carolina State won the meet and was followed by Maryland, Pittsburgh, George Washington, North Carolina and UNH.