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March 6, 2011 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

No New Hardware for UNH, For Now

by Joe Meloni/CHN Reporter

DURHAM, N.H. — Boston College captain Joe Whitney tried his best when discussing the value of the Eagles 2010-11 Hockey East Regular Season Championship. He talked about the meaning this pivotal weekend will have for his club moving forward into the Hockey East and the NCAA Tournaments.

Lessons in winning aren’t exactly a commodity BC needs too desperately.

The current senior class, which includes Whitney, center Brian Gibbons and goaltender John Muse, has won nine championships in its four seasons at the Heights. Most recently adding its first regular season title to its resume with the sweep of New Hampshire this weekend.

New Hampshire, which dressed six seniors in its 4-3 loss to the Eagles on Saturday night, led BC by one point when Friday’s match between the clubs began. Picking up a win this weekend – just one –would have earned UNH its third Hockey East Regular Season crown in the last four seasons. Instead, this senior class will leave Durham in a couple months having only earned the distinction twice.

Not bad, really. Most seniors in this league never win a single title, never mind two. The distinctions stop there, though, and it’s not for a lack of opportunity.

Twice, the class played on teams which ended the regular season on top of the conference, but failed to do anything after that. Last season, the Wildcats won the league by a point, before losing to eighth-seeded Vermont in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. With the at-large bid they earned, they went to Albany, N.Y., as the No. 3 seed, defeated second-seeded Cornell, then were bounced by No. 4 RIT.

As sophomores in 2008-09, the class played on a club earning the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament. Boston College, the No. 6 seed, came to Durham and rolled over the Wildcats without much objection from anyone in a blue-and-white sweater. Once again, the Wildcats moved on to the NCAA Tournament. That time, it wasn’t poor performance that outsted the Wildcats, so much as a team no one could find a way to beat. In the Northeast Regional final, the Wildcats fell, 2-1, to Boston University, which won a national title a couple weeks later.

Finally, when the current seniors were freshmen, they played for a team, which won the league’s regular season by eight points. Two weeks later, it lost a triple overtime thriller to eventual national champion, Boston College, in the Hockey East Championship game.

For the seniors, led by UNH’s top line of Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone, these final few games in a UNH sweater are more than just a chance to win a league championship for the first time or a national championship – again, for the first time. It’s an opportunity to vindicate themselves and their program.

UNH coach Dick Umile, despite obvious disappointment, was quick to praise his club’s compete-level Saturday night. He talked about their determination to earn a trip to the TD Garden for the first time since his seniors were freshman, and his satisfaction with their performance – despite blowing a 2-0 second period lead.

Still, opposing fans’ joke that UNH stands for "University of No Hardware" will remain unless the 2010-11 Wildcats, led by a truly gifted group of seniors, can be the final team standing when either of the two tournaments they’re about to participate in come to an end.

Shaking hands with BC at the end of the game, the dejection was palpable. The Wildcats gathered around the circle at center ice and saluted their fans before drifting off the ice, while the Eagles hurriedly headed to their locker room to accept a trophy from league commissioner Joe Bertagna.

Bertagna has another trophy to award two weeks from tonight in Boston. A few weeks after that, there’s another available in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Two more trophies the Wildcats are capable of winning. Two more chances for their seniors to add a major championship to their legacy in Durham.

Without a title, they'll no longer be a group capable of ending the program's drought. They, despite their place as some of this program’s best players, will become just another group of UNH stars that left without raising a banner.
 

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