The UNH Coaches Blog will be a weekly feature in which selected coaches share thoughts and insights about their program. This week’s blog highlights the men’s ice hockey team.

We will close out the first half of the season Friday night at Providence College (7 p.m.). Providence is always a tough team and Schneider Arena is always a difficult place to play. I think Friday’s game will be a good challenge for us as we look to continue to play well into the holiday break.

I am pleased with how the team has developed and improved over the first three months of the season. Obviously, we struggled in October but I think our guys were committed to getting better and we had a much better November and early December. It’s nice to be on top of Hockey East, but we know it’s going to take a major effort to stay up there. As I’ve said several times this season I think there are seven or eight teams that could win this league and the margin between the teams is extremely small. With that being said you need to come ready to play every night and take advantage of opportunities you are given.

I think our younger guys are becoming comfortable with their roles on the team and overall it’s been our team defense and special teams that have been the difference. When you mention team defense, of course, it starts in the net with Brian Foster. Brian has been very good for us, he’s won the league’s Defensive Player of the Week a couple of times and overall I think he’s been one of our best players all year.

Of course, offensively our top line has been outstanding. Bobby Butler, Paul Thompson and Phil DeSimone have tremendous chemistry and are doing all the little things as well in addition to all the points. However, I think that we are starting to get balance from all of our lines. Lines are just starting to get comfortable with each other and the end result has been balanced scoring of late.

We have a bit of a layoff for the holidays, but we come right back with three home games followed by our annual game against Dartmouth at the Verizon Wireless Arena. We’d really like the fans to come up and support us after the first of the year and before all the students return home from holiday break. We play Cornell on Jan. 3 (3 p.m.) and Mass.-Lowell and Massachusetts the following weekend (Jan. 8 and 9 - 7 p.m., respectively) all at the Whitt so we’d love to see you there.

Happy Holidays everyone and I hope to see you all back at the Whitt for an exciting second half of the season.

(Dick Umile ’72 is in his 20th year as UNH men’s ice hockey head coach. He was an assistant coach in the program for one year and associate coach for another year before being elevated to head coach.)

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