Nickulas To Leave UNH For Pros

Hockey East power New Hampshire lost its leading goal-scorer Wednesday, as forward Eric Nickulas announced that he will renounce his senior year to play professionally.

“It was a really tough decision, but right now I think it’s the best choice I can make,” Nickulas said. Although his NHL rights are held by the Boston Bruins, he does not intend to restrict his options.

“If we can’t agree on a contract, then I’m looking toward the IHL (International Hockey League),” Nickulas said, naming the defending champion Detroit Vipers as one possibility.

UNH head coach Dick Umile, who learned of Nickulas’ decision Tuesday, was resigned but not surprised.

“It was in the back of my mind all summer,” Umile says in Foster’s Online, a New Hampshire news and sports website. “When [Nickulas] called and said he wanted to talk to me…I kind of had an inkling of what he was going to say.”

The timing of Nickulas’ decision essentially precludes his replacement with a new recruit. He totaled 29 goals and 22 assists last season for the high-powered UNH offense, and would have been an assistant captain this year.