The University of New Hampshire is coming off its eighth regular-season Hockey East title and is thriving on outstanding offense, scoring two or more goals in 26 consecutive games since November. When the Wildcats take on the Vermount Catamounts on Friday night in the quarterfinal round of the Hockey East Tournament, they will be powered by the top line of Bobby Butler, Paul Thompson and Phil DeSimone, who have been virtually unstoppable all season. The trio has combined for 113 goals and 15 in their last six games.
Butler not only leads the team in scoring with 47 points, but also sits first in Hockey East in goals and second in points. In his last seven games, he's racked up seven goals and three assists, including an explosive four-goal performance on Feb. 12 against Providence.
UNH head coach Dick Umile believes that Butler is one of the few players with the ability to single-handedly change the flow of a game.
"He presents a threat every time he's on the ice," Umile said. "He could be quiet for one shift, then explode another. His work ethic and leadership sets him apart. During practice, he's first on the ice and last to get off."
The second line of Mike Sislo, Peter LeBlanc and Steve Moses also is a threat and has been on fire, contributing 31 goals in the last eight games.
UVM will rely heavily on the scoring ability of the Colin Vock—Brayden Irwin—Sebastian Stalberg combo. Irwin leads the team with 34 points and has racked up three goals and three helpers in his last four games. Vock sits second on the team with 28 points and has been good for three goals and three assists through his last five games, two of which were multipoint efforts.
The goaltender matchups will feature UNH's Brian Foster and UVM's Rob Madore. Foster has started all 33 games and is 15-11-7 with a 3.06 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage. He's allowed six goals on 69 shots in his last two games. Madore enters the game at 11-10-7 overall with a 2.70 GAA and a .907 save percentage.
As Umile said, the playoffs present a whole new season. The rankings might as well be thrown out the window.
"The No. 1 vs. No. 8 can be deceiving, since the tournament games represent a new season," he said. "I expect each game to go down to the wire. It's going to take us 60 full minutes, capitalizing on specialty situations, and solid team defense to advance in the playoffs."
Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon's team has fought for position and has been able to push through obstacles and adversity this season to clinch a playoff spot.
"We're not about to take this opportunity for granted, and we're looking forward to the matchup with UNH," Sneddon said. "We've been able to close the gap with them in recent years, especially this year with a couple of close matches."
He's confident in his team's improved play in the second half of the season, especially within the past two weeks and with Madore's performances.
"The momentum of our great play during the BU and Lowell series games should carry through to UNH," Sneddon said. "Rob Madore has stepped up his game lately and is playing some of his best hockey."