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Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Men's hockey team responding with authority
University of New Hampshire goalie Casey DeSmith of Rochester makes a save on Merrimack College's Brian Christie during the first period of the Riverstone game at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester Saturday. (MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER)
The Wildcats had a 5 p.m. start and, depending on how later games turned out, ran the risk of tumbling into fifth place in the league and slipping in the national picture, too, if they lost.
They responded with a solid 6-2 win to shore up their standing in the league and in the country.
"We'd been kind of on a little bit of a skid there," said sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, who assisted on four of the goals. "It's nice to see that given a little adversity - not a must win, but a pretty big win for us - that we can show up and have a big effort from everyone. It's good to see that about our team character."
Van Riemsdyk and coach Dick Umile cited the role of senior captain Connor Hardowa and the rest of the Wildcat veteran leaders played in getting the team going.
"Just before the game, we had a quick little talk and it got us all ready," van Riemsdyk said. "We understand how important the games are. Every one's important."
The Wildcats will now try to string together a few victories.
They won a fifth straight Hockey East game against UMass Lowell on Dec. 10, but have not won consecutive league games since that night. They are 2-4-0 in their last six Hockey East contests.
At 15-6-2 overall and 10-5-1 in the league, UNH sits tied for second place with Boston University. Boston College, despite being swept by last place Maine at home over the weekend, continues to lead the league. The Eagles have a two-point edge on UNH and BU, but have played two more games than UNH and one more than BU.
Providence is in fourth place, two points behind UNH and BU, and UMass Lowell and Merrimack are tied for fifth, another point behind PC.
The Wildcats finish off their season series at Northeastern on Friday night and then do the same against Merrimack on Saturday night at home at the Whittemore Center. Northeastern is 7-12-3 overall and 4-10-3 in the league and fighting for a playoff spot.
UNH beat Northeastern at home, 4-3, on Oct. 26 and tied the Huskies, 0-0, the next night in Boston.
Umile went with junior Jeff Wyer in goal on Friday night in place of Casey DeSmith, the sophomore from Rochester, who had struggled in a couple of his recent starts.
DeSmith was back in the net on Saturday and made 35 saves for the win.
Umile shuffled his forward lines too.
Freshmen Dan Correale, skating on the top line for the first time, and Collin MacDonald, playing in his 11th game of the year, each contributed his first goal of the season. The goals came in the last 62 seconds of the second period and gave UNH a 4-1 lead and control of the game.
"We were just looking to get people out there and compete," Umile said. "It didn't make any difference what line you were on. That was the theme tonight: Just play."
"He's very quick," said Sparta coach Frank Marchiano. "He went down to the Temple camp and ran a 4.76 in the 40. He's got speed off the edge and is good at getting to the quarterback. I think he was seventh in the state with 15 1/2 sacks. He had 89 tackles this year, two interceptions and two safeties."
Delaware, James Madison, William & Mary and Albany were among those recruiting Boryeskne, Marchiano said.
Boryeskne made his official recruiting visit to UNH a week ago.
Sparta was 9-2 and went to the state finals.
The football team continues to bring recruits in for official visits. The national letter of intent signing period, when recruits officially accept their scholarships, begins on Feb. 6.
The women play host to Maine on Tuesday night at 7 and the men are at Maine on Wednesday night.
The UNH women are 7-12 overall and 2-5 in America East.
Maine is 2-18 and 1-6 and picked up its first league win, 67-51, at home against Stony Brook on Saturday.
Danielle Walczak, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Lee who played at Oyster River in Durham, leads Maine in scoring at 9.5 points a game and is second in rebounding at 5.2.
The UNH men snapped a nine-game losing streak with Saturday night's 63-45 win at Binghamton and are 5-14 and 1-6.
Seniors Ferg Myrick, 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Chris Matagrano, 12 and 10, had double-doubles against Binghamton.
Maine is 8-12 and 3-4 and coming off a 79-69 loss at league-leading Stony Brook on Saturday.
UNH plays Stony Brook, 15-5 and 6-1, at home on Saturday at 4.
The Wildcats take on George Washington and Yale at home on Sunday at 1 p.m.