Mike Souza’s team hosts Boston College tonight, Dartmouth tomorrow night.
DURHAM — Home at last.
The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team, already five games into the 2019-20 season, gets to play its first contests in the friendly confines of its home rink this weekend, taking on a couple of longtime and close rivals.
The Wildcats face No. 15 Boston College, once again stacked with talented and high-profile players coached by Jerry York, in their home opener Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Whittemore Center. Saturday night, Dartmouth College comes to town for another 7 p.m. game.
“It’s awesome,” said junior forward Charlie Kelleher about the first home weekend. “The support my first two years means so much to us, their coming out and being loud and being there through thick and thin. We’re pretty excited to go out and try to get a couple of wins in front of them this weekend.”
Head coach Mike Souza chuckled during his weekly press conference Wednesday when it was pointed out that he has a winning record against York and Boston College.
The Wildcats tied BC 2-2 on the road on Nov. 16 last season and behind junior Patrick Grasso’s two goals, beat the Eagles, 6-2, in Durham on Jan. 12.
“I have a ton of respect for coach York. Who doesn’t?” Souza said. “What he’s meant to college hockey ... To win over 1,000 games and just to think of the years in the business and the success in the business is unbelievable, the more I think about it.”
BC is 2-3 so far this year, bringing York’s career total for wins to 1,069. He’s in his 48th season as a head coach, 26th at BC and the total wins are the best ever in college hockey. The closest to him in Division I is the late Ron Mason of Michigan State with 924. The closest coach still active in Division I is Mercyhurst’s Rick Gotkin with 561.
And get this: York’s lineup Friday night will likely include three first-round picks in the 2019 NHL entry draft. In fact, BC has three of the top 16 picks.
Freshman forward Matt Boldy was picked 12th by the Minnesota Wild, freshman goalie Spencer Knight was picked 13th by the Florida Panthers and freshman forward Alex Newhook was taken 16th by the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s the usual BC,” said UNH senior defenseman Anthony Wyse. “They’re super-skilled, like to play fast. We’ve got to do our best to neutralize their speed. That’s what they’re known for.”
The Eagles, 2-3-0 overall and 0-1-1 in Hockey East, have played a tough schedule. They opened with wins over now-No. 7 Wisconsin, 5-3, and at Colgate, 3-0. They’ve lost their last three games, at No. 1 Denver, 3-0 and 6-4; and against No. 8 Providence, 6-2.
UNH is 2-2-1 overall and 1-1-0 in Hockey East.
The Wildcats beat Merrimack, 3-2 in overtime last Friday, and lost at Boston University, 3-0, on Saturday. They outshot the Terriers, 14-4, in the third period and the only goal in the 20 minutes was an empty-netter late.
“I thought that third period, even though we didn’t score, was the best period we’ve played all year,” Wyse said. “We have to get ‘Ws,’ but I thought we played real well in the third period and we have to build off that.”