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February 23. 2012 11:50PM

Allen Lessels' College Hockey: UNH takes show on the road

DURHAM -- Road work ahead.

The University of New Hampshire hockey team's regular season is down to its last three games and they're all on the road, starting tonight and Saturday at the University of Massachusetts.

Getting into road mode is not a bad thing: Chances are, if the Wildcats get into the Hockey East tournament, any games they play in the postseason will be away from home, too.

The first goal is making the league tournament.

The Wildcats can lock down one of the eight spots in the tournament with either one win against Massachusetts or a pair of ties.

UNH coach Dick Umile likes the idea of taking care of business tonight.

“I want to win every game,” he said with a smile. “I'd much rather win Friday. If we don't, Saturday will be a long day. There's nothing worse than when you lose on Friday night, hanging around all day Saturday, waiting to get back at it.”

At 10-12-2 in Hockey East, the Wildcats enter the weekend in seventh place in Hockey East, a point behind sixth-place Providence and four points ahead of Northeastern and Massachusetts, who are tied for eighth place. Eight teams make the tournament.

UMass is 11-14-5 overall and 7-12-4 in the league and came up with a big win at Maine, 4-1, on Saturday night after losing on Friday night, 7-3.

UNH struggled early in the season both at home and on the road. The Wildcats were 0-6-2 on the road before freshman goalie Casey DeSmith of Rochester led them to their first win in someone else's building, 1-0, with 26 saves at Providence on Jan. 11.

Starting with that game, they are 3-1-1 on the road. The loss was a 4-3 decision at Boston College that the Wildcats led with just over three minutes to play.

UNH is 5-0-1 in its last six games against UMass and 10-1-3 in the last 14. The only loss in that stretch was a 4-3 overtime setback in Amherst on Nov. 13, 2009.

The Wildcats put themselves in a bind with a rough first half of the season and now hope to first make the playoffs then do some damage once they get there.

“We know where we are now and where we stand and what people are saying about our chances,” said senior forward Kevin McCarey. “I think the odds probably aren't in our favor to do well at the end of the season. But we believe in ourselves. I think that's all that matters right now.”

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THE DARTMOUTH MEN, 10-13-4 overall and 7-10-3 in the ECAC, close out the regular season with home games tonight at 7:30 against Clarkson, 15-13-6 and 9-7-4, and Saturday at 7 against St. Lawrence, 13-16-3 and 10-13-4.

The Big Green are ninth in the ECAC, two points behind St. Lawrence and Yale, going into the weekend. Dartmouth can finish anywhere from fifth to 11th. In the 12-team ECAC, where eveyone makes the postseason, the top four teams earn byes into the quarterfinals; No. 5 through 8 host first-round games next weekend.

Saturday is Seniors Night at Thompson Arena. The team's 10-member senior class is the largest in the ECAC.

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ON THE women's side, St. Lawrence is in town to play Dartmouth in a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals of the ECAC tournament.

The teams meet today at 3:30, on Saturday at 2 and again on Sunday at 2, if necessary.

Dartmouth pulled off a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over Brown on Saturday to earn home ice for this round. The Big Green ended up tied for fourth with St. Lawrence at 14-6-2 and got home ice when it came down to the third tiebreaker.

Against Brown, Dartmouth coach Mark Hudak made the unusual move of pulling his goalie for the last minute of OT because his team needed a win and a tie would do nothing for the Big Green.

Senior Jenna Hobeika scored with 22 seconds left and Dartmouth had its home ice.

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The St. Anselm men's and women's team host post-season action this weekend.

The men, 12-8-5 and the No. 1 seed for the Northeast-10 tournament, play No. 4 St. Michael's Saturday night in a semifinal.

The women's ECAC Open tournament will be held at St. Anselm's Sullivan Arena on Saturday and Sunday.

No. 1 seed Holy Cross plays No. 4 St. Michael's at 1 p.m. on Saturday and No. 2 St. Anselm plays No. 3 Sacred Heart at 4.

The consolation game is at 1 p.m. on Sunday with the championship at 4.

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ST. ANSELM junior forward Tim King of Weymouth, Mass., and Plymouth State junior forward Kyle Greco of Hillside, Ill., are two of the 18 finalists for the Joe Concannon Award.

The award, presented by the Gridiron Club of Boston, goes to the best American-born player who is playing in New England for a Division 2 or Division 3 team.

King leads the Hawks with seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points and Greco leads the Panthers at 13-19-32.

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THE UNH WOMEN, 10-21-3 overall and Hockey East's No. 6 seed at 4-15-2, play a first-round tournament game at No. 3 Boston University, 20-13-1 and 14-7-0, on Sunday at 3.

The Wildcats beat BU 4-2 on Jan. 19, but lost to the Terriers 5-2 on Nov. 12 and 5-1 on Feb. 4. ... The New England College men, 9-11-5 overall, are 6-8-4 in the ECAC East and seeded No. 7 in the league tournament. The Pilgrims play a quarterfinal tournament game at No. 2 Castleton on Saturday at 7 p.m. Castleton is 17-6-2 and 12-4-2.

Allen Lessels covers college hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at alessels@unionleader.com.


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