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December 23. 2012 6:42PM

UNH Notebook: Trying to keep a good thing going

University of New Hampshire senior defenseman and captain Connor Hardowa felt torn.

Sure, he looked forward to a Christmas break and the chance to get home to Edmonton, Alberta, and see family and friends and pick up a few presents.

But he wasn't crazy about interrupting a season that got off to a great start and that he, and others, thinks has the potential to be something special.

"You've got a season like this going, you don't really want to leave it for too long," Hardowa said before the Wildcats left campus for their break. "You want to keep playing and keep playing. It will be nice to get away from everything and take your mind off hockey for a little bit, but it will also be nice to come back."

Hardowa and his teammates are due back on campus on Wednesday to begin preparing for the second half of the season.

It starts with a bang in the Ledyard National Bank Classic in Hanover on Sunday when two of the best teams in the nation, UNH and Dartmouth, square off at 7 p.m.

UNH, 11-2-2 overall, is ranked No. 2 in the country behind Boston College. Dartmouth, 7-2-2, is No. 10.

In the PairWise rankings that figure in strength of schedule and various other calculations, Boston College is No. 1, UNH No. 2 and Dartmouth No. 3.

Bemidji State and Massachusetts play in the first game of the Ledyard tournament in Thompson Arena at 4 p.m. on Sunday. UNH and Dartmouth are the nightcap.

"It will be great," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "It's going to be great for the state of New Hampshire. We're the two Division I programs in the state and we're both in the top three. It doesn't get any better than that."

UNH plays either Bemidji State or Massachusetts at 5 on New Year's Eve for either the tournament championship or in a consolation game, depending on the outcome of Sunday's games. Dartmouth plays at 7 on Monday night.

The Wildcats have a home game against Rensselaer on Jan. 5. After that, it's Hockey East the rest of the way, starting with a home-and-home series against Boston College on Jan. 11 and 12. UNH is at BC on Friday night and the teams meet in Durham the next night.

BC is 11-2-1 overall and holds down first place in Hockey East with a 9-2-1 record for 19 points.

UNH is 8-2-1 for 17 points in the league.

Hardowa thinks the Wildcats have the pieces to make a run at championships.

"We have scoring pretty much through all our lines," he said. "We've got defensemen who can play both offense and defense and we've got a goalie, two goalies, who can sit there and stop pucks for us all night long if we make mistakes."

Junior forward Kevin Goumas leads Hockey East in scoring with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points. Sophomore forward Grayson Downing is at 7-6-13 and sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk at 5-8-13.

Senior forward Austin Block tops UNH in goals at 9-3-12.

Casey DeSmith, a sophomore goalie from Rochester, has the best save percentage (.939) and goals-against average (1.82) in the league. Junior Jeff Wyer came on in relief at Denver and earned a win when UNH rallied for a 6-4 triumph. He has a .947 save percentage and 1.18 GAA.

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The men's and women's basketball teams each are down to one non-conference game remaining before they open the America East portion of their schedule.

Both Wildcat teams play at Colgate next weekend and then begin conference play against Vermont on Wednesday.

The women are at Colgate on Saturday at 4 and then at Vermont on Wednesday night. The men play at Colgate on Sunday at 3 and play Vermont at home on Wednesday.

The UNH women fell to 5-6 with a 58-47 loss at Cleveland State on Saturday.

The Colgate women are 4-7 and have lost their last six games. Iona beat them, 73-47, on Friday.

The UNH men got belted at Penn State, 72-45, on Sunday and are now 4-7.

The Colgate men are 3-9 and lost, 73-61, at St. Francis (N.Y.) on Saturday.

Last season, point guard Jordan Bronner, then a sophomore, scored 24 points in a 71-64 UNH win over Colgate in Durham.

Looking ahead a week, the Vermont men are 7-4 and the Vermont women are 3-9.

alessels@unionleader.com


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