Reporters at the Tsongas Center that evening had their stories done and ready to file long before the final horn. No one needed more than a quote or two from Umile about this game.
There was only one question that truly mattered: Is this Dick Umile’s final post-game presser, or will he return next season?
WEEI’s Scott McLaughlin asked the question. Umile’s response: “No comment on that.”
A contract extension from 2015 keeps Umile, 68, behind the UNH bench through next season. It is believed he will retire either this offseason or next year when the contract expires.
Mike Souza, a 2000 graduate of UNH and Umile’s hockey program, was hired as associate head coach shortly after Umile’s contract was extended. A transition began to take motion as Umile directly identified Souza as the heir apparent.
Souza “will have an opportunity to succeed me and take over the program,” Umile told the Foster’s Daily Democrat in August 2015. “That will be the transition going forward. ... I’m excited about it. I’ll finish my career coaching at UNH.”
In the time since, the Wildcats have endured two of their worst seasons in terms of record in recent memory.
This decade has not been kind to UNH. After qualifying for 10 straight NCAA tournaments from 2002 through 2011, the Wildcats have missed five of the last six. They made it interesting this season with a first-round upset of Merrimack in the Hockey East tournament, but the gap widened to four years since their last NCAA berth in 2013.
Umile has led UNH to four Frozen Four appearances and two national championship games in 1999 and 2003, but neither ended with the team bringing hardware back to Durham. The Wildcats have not been a Frozen Four team since that 2003 season, which closed in 5-1 loss to Minnesota for the title.
We’ll talk to Umile once more on Thursday in his final media session to close the season. The question will be asked again, and perhaps Umile will have an answer.
(Nick Stoico can be reached at 369-3339, firstname.lastname@example.org
or on Twitter @NickStoico.)