Allen Lessels' College Hockey: BC weekend for UNH
Then again, the Eagles, the defending NCAA champions and titlists three times in the last five seasons, have put together impressive runs against most everybody in college hockey.
UNH takes its latest shot and first of the season against Boston College in a home-and-home series starting tonight at Conte Forum at 7 (NESN). The two teams play again on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center.
Boston College swept three regular-season games against the Wildcats last year.
"We definitely don't like losing, said UNH sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk. "That kind of sticks out in our mind that they swept us last year and we didn't take any points from them. We definitely want to come in and make a statement that we're right back up there and deserve to be at the top."
The Wildcats made statements throughout the first half of the season and bounced back from a rough start of a year ago.
They are 13-3-2 overall and ranked No. 4 in the country in this week's USCHO poll and go up against BC, No. 3 and 12-3-2. It's the first time UNH and its opponent have both been ranked in the top five since No. 5 UNH took on No. 4 Minnesota in November of 2008.
UNH sits second to BC in the Hockey East standings. BC is 9-2-1 for 19 points and UNH is 8-2-1 for 17. Boston University, which plays at Merrimack tonight, is another point back in third.
"There's a long way to go," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "But one of our first goals is to win the regular season championship and going head to head with them, this will be an important series for that."
The Wildcats lost their first game against BC, 5-1, last year and then gave the Eagles a couple of tough games in late January. But they could not pull out a point and lost twice, 5-4 at BC, and 3-2 in overtime at UNH the next night.
"We had them twice last year and gave it up," Umile said. "Hopefully we can do a better job of finishing this year."
The Wildcats will be try to take the same approach that led to an eight-game unbeaten streak in the first half and a quick stay at No. 1 in the country in early December.
"We need to keep it simple," van Riemsdyk said. "Move the puck and get it deep and get on them hard. When we try to do too much is when we get in trouble. When we were at our best and were really rolling early in the year, we were keeping it simple, playing smart, backchecking hard and picking up and taking away other teams' opportunities."
BC's streak of success against UNH goes beyond last year, too.
The Eagles have won the last five games in the series and are 8-1-2 against the Wildcats dating back to mid-February in 2009.
More dramatically, BC is undefeated in its last seven games at the Whittemore Center at 5-0-2.
UNH last beat BC at home, 3-2, on Feb. 20, 2009.
THE DARTMOUTH men's hockey team, flying high with a 4-1 win over then-No. 2 New Hampshire in the first round of its Ledyard National Bank Classic on Dec. 30, has not won a game since.
The Big Green lost to Massachusetts, 3-2, in the tournament championship game and then lost at Quinnipiac, 3-2 in overtime, and Princeton, 2-1, in games against ECAC leaders last weekend.
Dartmouth will try to stop its skid with a single game against Harvard on Saturday night at home at 7:30.
The Big Green are ranked No. 12 at 8-5-2. They are 4-3-1 in the ECAC but are 0-3-1 in their last four league games.
Harvard, 5-7-1 overall and 3-5-0 in the ECAC, beat BU, 6-5 in overtime, on Wednesday night.
The Dartmouth women, 9-5-2 overall after a 4-2 win over Vermont on Wednesday, are at home for the weekend. They Big Green, 4-4-1 in the ECAC, play Quinnipiac, 12-7-2 and 8-3-1, tonight at 7 and Princeton, 6-10-2 and 2-8-2, Saturday at 4.
THE ST. ANSELM MEN, 7-2-2 overall and 5-0-1 in their last six games, play at the University of New England in Biddeford tonight and at Southern Maine on Saturday at 4. UNE is 3-9-0.
Mike Richard, a senior from Derry, leads the Hawks with nine goals and seven assist for 16 points.
The St. Anselm women fell to 9-3-2 with a 4-3 loss to Bowdoin on Tuesday and face UMass-Boston at home on Saturday at 3.
Junior Courtney Winters leads the Hawks at 9-10-19.
THE PLYMOUTH STATE MEN, 9-4-0 overall going into a home game against Westfield State on Thursday night, play Framingham State at home on Saturday night at 6.
Senior forward Alex Cottle leads the Panthers with four goals and 13 assists for 17 points and sophomore Mike Freitag is tops in goals at 7-9-16.