DURHAM -- From a goal-scoring point of view at least, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey season to date can be broken down quite neatly.
Through the first 14 games of the season the Wildcats scored 29 goals total, just over two goals a game. Through their last nine games, they have scored 35 goals, nearly four a game.
UNH’s record in its first 14 games: 2-7-5. The team’s record in its last nine: 6-1-2.
“I think all the guys are buying into what we’re trying to do, putting pucks on net,” said sophomore forward Charlie Kelleher. “All of our forwards and ‘D’ can make plays, so everyone’s kind of sticking to that and trying to follow what the coaches say and it’s clearly been working as of late. Got to keep that going.”
The Wildcats knocked off Merrimack, 5-0 last Friday and tied Maine, 4-4, on Monday. They beat Boston College, 6-4, in the game before that.
They’ll look to keep it going in a home-heavy schedule over the next two weekends.
UNH plays Connecticut on tonight at the XL Center in Hartford at 7 p.m.
The teams play at the Whittemore Center on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Next weekend, Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2, Maine comes to town for a pair of White Out the Whitt games.
The Wildcats are not only scoring more goals in this stretch that started in early December: They are getting balanced scoring across their lineup.
In two of the last three games, and six times in the last nine games, players from three different lines have scored a goal.
“There are some things we addressed that we didn’t think we were doing well enough early in the year,” said head coach Mike Souza. “I don’t think we were getting enough pucks to the net, the same stuff a lot of people talk about. It’s funny how sometimes it goes in and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Souza likes the way the forward lines have been performing.
“I do think these combinations that we have found the last few weeks, the guys complement each other well,” Souza said.
The line of junior Liam Blackburn centering for freshman Angus Crookshank and senior Chris Miller has been especially productive.
Each had a goal in a come-from-behind 4-4 tie at Maine and Blackburn had a pair of assists and Crookshank one.
Blackburn extended his point-scoring streak to 13 games at Maine. He has at least one goal in each of the last four games and has eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points in the 13-game stretch.
The other lines have senior Marcus Vela centering for junior Brendan van Riemsdyk and sophomore Patrick Grasso, freshman Jackson Pierson centering for senior Ara Nazarian and sophomore Eric MacAdams and senior Frankie Cefalu centering for freshman Joseph Cipollone and sophomore Joe Sacco.
UNH is 8-8-7 overall entering the weekend and at 4-5-4 in Hockey East is ranked seventh in the league. The Wildcats are a point in front of Maine and a point behind Providence.
UConn is 7-14-1 overall and is 10th in the league at 2-10-1 for five points.
The Huskies are 0-9-1 in their last 10 Hockey East games.
UConn has won the last six games in the series against UNH.
Souza spent two years working as an assistant to UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh, one of his mentors, before coming to UNH as an associate head coach starting with the 2015-16 season. Cavanaugh worked with Jerry York at Boston College for nearly 20 years and helped the Eagles to four NCAA titles.
“I think he’s a pretty special person,” Souza said of Cavanaugh. “He’s a great leader. He’s a great guy, a great mentor. He worked under Jerry for 18 years. I think they played in eight national championship games. . . . It will be fun for me, quite honestly. I’ve had a chance to coach against him now several times. We haven’t beaten them. More importantly, there are four huge points on the line for both teams. That’s the main story for the weekend.”