Umile: 'It's been great'By ALLEN LESSELS
March 07. 2018 12:05AM
DURHAM — The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey season ended with a loss at Maine on Saturday night.
The end of an era came Tuesday afternoon in the media room on the rink level at the Whittemore Center when Dick Umile put a news conference wrap on his 28th and final season as head coach of the Wildcats.
It was an emotional and quick-hit run through nearly three decades of UNH milestones and memories over the best seasons in program history, covering NCAA tournaments and Frozen Fours, tremendous finishes and tough travel with a few misty moments to collect his thoughts accompanied by a couple of laugh-worthy items tossed in as well.
Soon, the coach will officially turn over the reins of the program to Mike Souza, a standout on some of Umile’s most outstanding teams and an associate head coach on his staff.
But this was a time for looking back.
“We were just looking at a practice book from 1998-99,” Umile said. “The practice that we had out in Anaheim. I called Mike downstairs to look at it. The practice book. The lineup. Comments about our championship game (against Maine). We had 48 shots on net. Two lines were in one forecheck. Two lines were in another forecheck. That kind of stuff. We were just reminiscing. . . . I was kind of cleaning out the stall and came across that book. There were a lot of great memories, but that obviously was one of the big ones.”
The coach proceeded to rattle off several more:
• “Beating North Dakota. Thomas Fortney .1 seconds on the clock. Faceoff play.” (In the Northeast Regionals in Manchester in 2009)
• “Souza’s pass to Mark Mowers. Albany. Shorthanded. Beat BU. To go to the Frozen Four in Boston.” (1998)
• “Darren Haydar’s goal to send us to Anaheim.” (1999)
• “I think one of the weekends here with Maine, speaking of Maine, when we won our first Hockey East regular season. Won both games here at the Whitt. So whether it was the national championship game or a BU game or against BC here at the Whitt, the Whiteouts with Maine. You never forget those.”
Memorable, too, were the last game at Snively Arena, traveling to the JFK Coliseum in Manchester while the Whittemore Center was being built and then opening the new arena with a win over defending national champion Boston University.
“They were still sweeping up in the concourse the day of that game so we could get the game in. BU was No. 1 in the country. Mowers scores the first goal. We take it to overtime. I mean, you could not have written the script any better that day with playing BU, opening night at the Whittemore Center, overtime game. Tommy Nolan scoring the goal and the place is going crazy.”
“We closed Snively. Eric Boguniecki beats BC. I can see Boguniecki jumping against the glass down at that end in Snively after we won it. That ended Snively Arena.”
“We went on the road basically for a year and a half. Get dressed in a locker room somewhere in the Field House. Carry our skates on our sticks, get in a yellow school bus to Rochester every day. We qualified for the NCAA tournament that year. Eric Flinton. Eric Royal.”
There were chuckle-worthy memories: the septic system issues that had the team putting its skates on in the hallway at JFK and a long, long bus ride back from Notre Dame a few seasons ago necessitated by a snowstorm that beat a long, long trip to Alaska several years before that.
“We had some laughs at least on the bus ride from Notre Dame and made it in time for the Patriots game,” Umile said.
To top it off, the Patriots beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl that night.
Moments and memories.
Loads of wins — 596 to be exact. Third in wins among Division I coaches still working this year. He led the Wildcats to the Frozen Four on four occasions. Eighteen NCAA tournament appearances in those 28 years. Eight Hockey East regular season championships. Twenty 20-win seasons. Six Hockey East Coach of the Year awards.
Now the coach steps aside.
“Obviously, I’m going to miss it,” Umile said. “But I’m really excited that Mike Souza is taking over. I told the team yesterday he’s like one of my own. He knows all about UNH. He’ll do a terrific job.”
Umile is excited to watch what Souza does with the program going forward.
“We’ve been fortunate to have some great assistant coaches here,” Umile said. “Mike was someone that had played here and got into coaching and hopefully some day would come back here and coach. He’s a natural at it. He’s got a great feel for the game. He really knows the game well. He’s a people person. People like him right away. He’s respected right away. He’s really good. UNH is fortunate he’s going to be running this program and coaching these kids.”
Then, the face of UNH hockey since 1990, was up from the table and headed to the door.
“Thank you all for everything,” Umile said. “It’s been great.”