Where I went: The Whittemore Center to watch the University of New Hampshire Men’s Hockey team at 128 Main St, Durham

What it is: The University of New Hampshire Men’s Hockey team took on division rival Vermont in the home opener.

What I did: I got a phone call from my friend Aiden asking if I wanted to go with him to a game because he had a couple of tickets to the season opener. Hockey has always been one of the top sports at the University of New Hampshire and I remember my dad taking me to games as a kid. It had been years since I last attended a game, and it has been on my bucket list for this column ever since I took over a couple months back — so, of course, I jumped at the chance to see a game. It did not disappoint.

At the start of the home opener, the Wildcat record stood at 0-2-1, but with a new coach and a young team the expectations are always a little lower for the first couple of games of the season as the team begins to come together. This is just the natural process of sports, and it was very obvious over the first two periods of play. Vermont started the game off strong, netting their first goal with just under seven minutes left in the first period and then again with just seconds remaining before the intermission. The score stood at 0-2 Vermont, and at this point Aiden and I got up to head to the concession stand.

By the start of the second period, things were slowly beginning to come together. Our defense looked solid and refused to allow any Vermont player access to an easy shot on net, but our offense still seemed sluggish aside from a couple of decent shots on the opposing goalie. The biggest issue for both sides seemed to be over-anxiousness, as any time either offensive player crossed the centerline, a frantic shot or inaccurate pass immediately ensued. Chalk that up to early-season jitters. Just as the second period was coming to a close, a stray pass flew up and into the hands of a quick-witted spectator three seats down from us, and with that the second intermission was preceded by the same 0-2 score.

At this point, with the game showing signs of being over before the final period, Aiden and I tried to determine whether we thought it was going to be worth it to stay until the end of the game. With the first pitch of Game 4 of the World Series starting soon, priorities needed to be set. We elected to stay for the first couple of minutes of the third period and have the Red Sox play on my phone so we could check in periodically between plays.

The Wildcats came out from the intermission a completely different team. Prior to this period, we might have had a handful of shots on net, but now we were assaulting it. Eventually our first goal came on a tip-in rebound from a front and center slapshot ricochet. The crowd went wild as we celebrated our first goal almost 4 minutes into the final period, and the ceremonial fish was thrown onto the ice. The score stood 1-2 Vermont. We were skating with newfound speed and adrenaline, but the clock was ticking. A sharp whistle indicated the start of a power play in favor of UNH. This was our chance, and we did not disappoint. Another slapshot ripped across the ice and off the pads of the Vermont goalie, only to be chipped back in to the side of the net by our nearby forward. The game was tied at 2 apiece. The horn sounded and this game was heading to overtime.

With nothing but momentum on our side, an excited buzz filled the arena as the players lined up for their five minutes of sudden-death overtime. Five minutes were on the clock, but we only needed two. One minute and 40 seconds into overtime, the third put-back rebound was tipped between the legs of Vermont’s goalie and the crowd went wild. The comeback was over, and with it, the University of New Hampshire Men’s Hockey team, and their first-year coach Mike Souza, collected their first win of the season, and of his UNH career.

Who else would enjoy this: The University of New Hampshire offers some of the most exciting and top-tier athletics in the state of New Hampshire, with hockey, for years, being one of the finest teams in the nation. Although still adjusting to new leadership in first-year coach Mike Souza, the team shows a lot of promise. Those who enjoy fast-paced, top-level college hockey would enjoy stopping in at “The Whit” for a game, as well as those who are simply looking to support the University of New Hampshire. UNH hockey games are fun for all ages and seem to always offer suspense by ending in dramatic fashion. I would highly recommend stopping in to watch either the men or women’s games as they are both headed toward another successful season.

— Andrew Clay

*Featured photo by Andrew Clay

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