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Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: After BC, things get tight in Hockey East hockey
But they were unable to take advantage of it.
Instead, the Wildcats suffered a rare loss to Providence College, 6-5, on Saturday night at the Whittemore Center, yet another weekend result that tightened the league standings..
"Everybody was aware of what was going on and what was happening," Umile said. "If you don't come out and play your best, it's going to get you and it got us as well."
The Wildcats, who had just the one game over the weekend, play Merrimack College three times in their next four games.
UNH is 14-5-2 overall and 9-4-1 in Hockey East. The Warriors are 9-9-5 overall and 7-5-2 in the league.
The teams square off at Lawler Arena in North Andover, Mass., on Friday night at 7:30 and play again on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.
Merrimack took three points in its series at Maine over the weekend and was one of the teams that closed the gap on UNH and the other leaders in Hockey East.
Boston College lost to Massachusetts, 5-2, on Friday night and Boston University fell to Northeastern, 6-5. BC rebounded to crush Northeastern, 9-3, on Saturday, but BU lost again, 4-3, to UMass Lowell.
The Eagles continue to lead the league and at 11-4-1 in Hockey East games have 23 points for a four-point cushion on second-place New Hampshire.
Things tighten up after that.
Providence, which had been winless in its last 17 games against UNH at 0-15-2, pulled into a third-place tie with BU. Providence and BU trail the Wildcats by just a point.
Merrimack is three points behind UNH. UMass-Lowell is a point behind Merrimack.
"It just makes the whole league even tighter," said Umile of the weekend's results. "It makes it real tight right now."
UNH and Merrimack evenly split a tight series last year. UNH won, 2-1, and tied, 1-1, at Merrimack. The Warriors won the game in Durham, 3-2 in overtime.
One of the goals going forward for the Wildcats will be to get back to playing the type of defense they played in the first half of the season. They allowed as many as four goals in three of their first 19 games. They've given up five and six in two of their last three games.
"In the second half of the season, we've been a little iffy on defense," said junior forward Kevin Goumas, who said the sixth goal on Saturday night was his fault because he failed to cover his man. "In the first half, we played great defense and were really backchecking all the way. The second half it's been a little lackadaisical and it's been showing."
Merrimack junior goalie Sam Marotta has climbed among the league leaders with a string of good games. He has started Merrimack's last three games and has gone 3-0-3 in his last six starts. He has given up eight goals in those six games and leads the league with a goals-against average of 2.04 and is second in save percentage at .927.
Providence freshman Jon Gillies made 37 saves for the win against UNH and has a GAA of 2.12 and a save percentage of .930.
Casey DeSmith, UNH's sophomore from Rochester, was replaced in net by junior Jeff Wyer when Providence made it 4-0 before the midway point of the second period. DeSmith has a 2.21 GAA and save percentage of .923.
The Wildcats, who dropped a 69-59 game to Boston University at home on Saturday, have lost eight straight games, a skid that started with a 61-59 overtime loss at Boston College on Dec. 16.
Hartford is 10-9 overall and 3-3 in the league and has lost three straight games.
A fierce late rally came up just short and the women's basketball team fell to 6-11 and 1-4 with a 55-53 loss at home to BU on Saturday afternoon.
Senior Cari Reed led the Wildcats with 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Junior guard and captain Kelsey Hogan missed her second game with a leg injury and is out indefinitely, said acting head coach Mike Roux. Roux is filling in for Maureen Magarity, who is on maternity leave.
CORY SINOTTE, a senior out of Hooksett and Manchester Central, won the 3,000 meters and junior Victor Adejuyigbe, out of Penacook and Merrimack Valley High School, won the 55-meter run to help the men's track team to a 120-61 win over Holy Cross on UNH's Paul Sweet Oval on Saturday.
Sophomore Nicholas Sullivan of Newport and freshman Christopher DeCarlo of Derry and Pinkerton Academy were first and second in the 200 meters.
Senior Darcy James of Exeter won the 1,000 and sophomore Virginia Lavallee of Kingston and Sanborn Regional took first place in the 55-meter hurdles to lead the women, who fell to Holy Cross, 94-87.
THE GYMNASTICS TEAM upset No. 19-ranked North Carolina State, 193.850 to 193.525, in the first of three straight home meets at Lundholm Gymnasium on Friday night.
Temple and Brown come to Lundholm to take on the Wildcats on Saturday.
UNH faces George Washington and Yale on Feb. 3.