Tuesday, October 24, 2017

UNH Captain's Corner: Win Streak to Open 2017-18 Season

UNH Captain Dylan Chanter

Snively Arena Circa 1965
(Photo Credit: Don Sieburg)
The 1993-94 UNH Hockey season marked the end of an era. It was the last go-round for beloved "Lively" Snively Arena. Dick Umile was in his fourth season as head coach and Glenn Stewart was the senior captain. The Wildcats won the first 7 games of that season, 3 at Snively Arena and 4 on the road. The 1991-92 team, which also included Umile and Stewart, holds the UNH hockey record for the longest unbeaten streak at the start of a season (8).

Fast forward 24 years from that 93-94 season - Umile is in his 28th year as head coach and Stewart is the associate head coach (along with Mike Souza). The current team was picked to finish 8th out of 11 teams in the Hockey East Preseason Coaches Poll. Needless to say, a UNH win streak to start the 2017-18 season was not on anyone's radar. But so far, UNH has turned out to be a formidable opponent.

The Wildcats swept 5th-ranked UMass Lowell in a home-and-home series on opening weekend (see "UNH Captain's Corner: Season Opening Sweep of Lowell") and earned the #20 ranking on the USCHO.com Division I Men's Poll. It was the first time UNH had been nationally ranked since the 2014-15 season. It was also the best start to a season since 2012-13.

On the second weekend, UNH swept Colgate University (ECAC) at home 5-0 and 5-3. The 4-game win streak to begin the season started to create more buzz. It tied the streak posted by the 2012-13 Wildcats, the last UNH squad to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and the 1998-99 team which lost the National Championship game in overtime. UNH moved up to #17 in the USCHO national poll and senior centerman Michael McNicholas earned the Hockey East Player of the Week honor (1 Goal, 4 Assists).

When UNH defeated the Colorado College Tigers (NCHC) at the Whittemore Center last Friday, the 7-game win streak to start the 1993-94 season and the team record, 8-game streak in 1991-92 became realistic targets. My article "UNH Plays of the Game: UNH 6 CC 3" includes the key offensive and defensive plays including freshman defenseman Max Gildon scoring his hat trick goal. On Saturday night, UNH barraged CC goalie Alex Leclerc with 40 shots on goal but lost 2-1 in overtime.

Although the UNH record for most consecutive wins to start a season is no longer in play, the Wildcats 5-game win streak helped move them up to #14 in the USCHO National Poll. In addition, Max Gildon earned the Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors.

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Dylan Chanter about the successful start to the 2017-18 season.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulation on the best start since the 1993-94 season. Back then, Coach Umile was in his 4th season as head coach and Coach Stewart was the team's captain. As the current streak was progressing, did the team talk about trying to keep it going or did you try to ignore it as a distraction?

Dylan Chanter: The streak was something new for many of the guys, especially to have it so early in the season, but I believe it was a testament to our hard work in the preseason and this season thus far. For the most part, we just try to keep our sights on the game ahead of us, so I can’t say it really affected us too much.

Mike Lowry: Danny Tirone is also off to an outstanding start. Compared to last season, his Goals Against Average has dropped from 2.99 to 2.00 and Save Percentage has risen from .910 to .932. Have you noticed any changes in his method or approach to goaltending that may have contributed to this improvement?

Dylan Chanter: Danny is a guy with tremendous work ethic. That has remained true coming into this season. As a team, we hung him out to dry on many occasions last season and his stats were tarnished because of our poor play in front of him. With more improved defensive play and Danny’s natural ability to make game-changing saves, we have a great chance to win a lot of hockey games this season.

Lowry: The team is playing a more physical style as compared to recent seasons, both in terms of body checks and physically enforcing a no-go area around Tirone. Is this a deliberate, strategic change?

Chanter: Defending our net is a crucial ingredient in winning hockey games and one we are trying to implement to our play. In terms of our physical style, I think that is due to our bigger roster this season. The addition of more size and great offseasons by our returning guys gives us the ability to be more physical.

Lowry: Freshman defenseman Max Gildon currently leads the team in goals (6), power play goals (3), and the +/- stat (+6). As a fellow defenseman with over three years of NCAA experience, which of his skills are you most impressed by?

Chanter: The fact that Max is 18 years old is truly impressive. I am extremely impressed by Max’s poise and confidence when he has the puck in all areas of the ice. His shot is also something that is a threat whenever he has the puck in the offensive zone. On top of these traits, Max is a great guy in our locker room and will hopefully be there for years to come.


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