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Allen Lessels' College Hockey: Friar Power
Providence College forward Tim Schaller, of Merrimack, is second on the Friars in scoring. (COURTESY)
The Wildcats are unbeaten in their last 17 games against the Friars, dating to a 7-1 loss on Feb. 24, 2006.
UNH, ranked No. 3 in the country, brings a 14-4-2 overall record and 9-3-1 mark in Hockey East into Saturday night's game at the Whittemore Center. The Wildcats trail Boston College by two points in the standings and lead Boston University by one.
Providence was 9-8-3 overall and 7-4-2 in the league going into a game on Thursday night at UMass-Lowell.
Six of UNH's next seven games are against Providence and Merrimack, teams sitting fourth and fifth in the league standings.
"They're two of the teams in the middle of the pack who want to get to the top, where we want to remain," said UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, the sophomore from Rochester.
DeSmith is buddies with Gillies. The two were teammates with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League and he's looking forward to playing against Gillies for the first time.
Bruce Gillies, Jon's father, was a standout goalie at Bishop Brady in Concord, moved on to UNH, and was the team's Most Valuable Player in 1984.
Jon, 6-foot-5 and out of South Portland, Maine, was drafted in the third round by the Calgary Flames last year and is off to an impressive start with the Friars.
He made 44 saves in a 2-0 win over Massachusetts last Saturday for his third shutout of the season and led Hockey East in save percentage (.931) and goals against average (1.95) going into the game against Lowell.
"He's had a fantastic year and he's a terrific goalie," DeSmith said. "He doesn't give up much net and he tracks the puck very well. A lot of time bigger goalies don't move as well and he does and that sets him apart."
DeSmith is second to Gillies in both save percentage (.928) and goals against average (2.05) and last year beat the Friars three times, allowing three goals total and stopping 97 of the 100 shots he faced.
"DeSmith's an elite goalie," said second-year Friars coach Nate Leaman. "We learned that the hard way last year. He played tremendous against us."
Schaller, a 6-foot-2 senior out of Merrimack, centers Providence's top line and is tied for second on the team in scoring with five goals and eight assists for 13 points.
"Last year we asked him to carry almost all of our offense," Leaman said. "This year we're a little more spread out. Numbers-wise Tim might not be having as good a year, but as far as him contributing to the game and to our team he's been even better. He's having a great year."
Schaller, who missed much of the second half with mononucleosis and a concussion, had 14 goals and seven assists in 26 games last season.
After a single game this weekend, UNH plays a pair against Merrimack next weekend, at Merrimack on Friday and at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday at 5.
The Wildcats play at Northeastern on Feb. 1 and have Merrimack at home on Feb. 2. They are at Providence on Feb. 8 and play the Friars at home on Sunday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m.
The Dartmouth men snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 in over Harvard on Saturday to improve to 9-5-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the ECAC.
The Big Green are in a three-way tie for third place with Yale and Union, two points behind second-place Princeton.
Dartmouth plays at Brown, 5-7-4 and 1-4-4, tonight and gets a shot at Yale, 9-4-3 and 5-3-1, on Saturday.
The Dartmouth women, 11-5-2 and 6-4-1, play Union, 7-12-3 and 0-7-3, at home tonight and Rensselaer, 6-14-2 and 4-6-0, on Saturday.
The St. Anselm men, 8-3-2 overall and 5-3-1 in the ECAC East, play a pair of home games this weekend. The Hawks face UMass-Boston, 11-3-1 and 4-3-1, tonight at 7 and Babson, 9-3-3 and 5-2-1, on Saturday at 4.
The St. Anselm women, 8-3-2 and 6-1-2, are at Southern Maine, 4-6-4 and 3-3-2, tonight at 7 and at Plymouth State, 3-11-0 and 2-6-0, on Saturday at 2. Plymouth State plays UMass-Boston at home tonight at 6.
The Plymouth State men took an 11-4-0 overall record and 7-1-0 mark in the MASCAC into a game at Salem State on Thursday night. The Panthers are at Worcester State on Saturday.
The UNH women, 8-11-2 overall and 4-4-1 in Hockey East, are at Connecticut for games on Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. both days. UConn is 3-17-2 and 1-8-0.