Allen Lessels' College Hockey: Wildcats are all talk and action
DURHAM -- The time, University of New Hampshire captain Connor Hardowa said, just seemed right for a little talk.
The Wildcats dropped a 3-2 decision at Merrimack College on Friday night and got off the bus at Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday afternoon for a rematch with the Warriors. Hardowa and the rest of the seniors called the troops together.
"We'd kind of fallen off our track a little bit," Hardowa said. "We can't be sitting on what happened before Christmas or anything like that because we haven't really impressed anybody since Christmas. We needed a little bit of a reminder, a little bit of a pick-me-up to remind ourselves of where we are and where we need to go and what needs to be done if we're going to go there."
The message got through for that night at least.
UNH matched its highest goal total of the season and knocked off the Warriors, 6-2, to retain its spot among Hockey East's elite as well as in the national rankings.
Now the Wildcats will try to build off the message and the win.
They are ranked No. 3 in the country and finish off their season series with Northeastern in Boston tonight at 7. On Saturday they close out against Merrimack, too, with the rubber game of that series at home at the Whittemore Center at 7.
UNH is 15-6-2 overall and at 10-5-1 in Hockey East is tied with Boston University for second place, two points behind Boston College. Providence College is in fourth place, two points behind UNH and BU.
Northeastern, 7-12-3 and 4-10-3, is fighting to get into the eight-team playoffs and trails eighth-place Vermont by a point and seventh-place Massachusetts by two points.
Merrimack is tied with UMass Lowell for fifth place, a point behind Providence and three behind UNH and BU.
"It's tough, everyone's tough," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "If you can get four points it's a fabulous weekend. If you split, it's a good weekend and if you lose, it's misery."
BC has had some misery the last few weeks and that has helped tighten things at the top of the league.
Starting with a 2-1 loss at UNH on Jan. 11, the Eagles have gone 1-4-0 in their league games, topped off with 4-1 and 3-1 setbacks to Maine, which has struggled all year, at home last weekend.
BC has played two more games than UNH. The Wildcats pick up one of the games in hand this weekend as the Boston teams head into the Beanpot tournament on Monday night.
Umile shuffled his lines on Saturday against Merrimack and freshmen Dan Correale and Collin MacDonald each scored his first career goal late in the second period to help break the game open.
UNH and Northeastern haven't met since a home-and-home series in late October. The Wildcats came from behind for a 4-3 win on Friday night at home and the teams played to a 0-0 tie on Saturday at Northeastern.
Casey DeSmith, a UNH sophomore from Rochester, made 34 saves for his share of the shutout and Northeastern senior Bryan Mountain, who had relieved Chris Rawlings in net the night before, had 44 saves.
UNH enters this weekend tied for third with Miami in the Pairwise rankings that mimic the system used by the NCAA to select its 16 playoff teams.
Using those rankings, United States College Hockey Online (USCHO.com) puts out a "Bracketology" feature each week predicting how the pairings for the tournament will look.
This week's Bracketology forecasts a Northeast Regional at Verizon Wireless Arena in late March that has Dartmouth playing UNH and Alaska facing Boston College in the first round.
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THE NO. 16-RANKED DARTMOUTH MEN, 11-7-2 overall and 7-5-1 in the ECAC, are at Union tonight and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday night.
The Big Green and Union, 13-8-4 and 6-4-3, are tied for third place in the league, two points behind Yale and eight points behind first-place Quinnipiac.
RPI is 8-11-5 and 3-6-3.
Dartmouth beat Rensselaer, 4-0, and Union, 3-2, in home games in early November.
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THE UNH WOMEN, 10-13-2 overall and 6-6-1 in Hockey East, are at Vermont, 6-15-3 and 4-6-3, for games tonight and Saturday afternoon.
UNH is in fifth place in the league, a point behind third-place Providence, and Vermont is in sixth, two points behind UNH.
.The Dartmouth women, 12-7-3 overall and 7-6-2 in the ECAC, play league-leading Harvard, 17-2-1 and 14-1-0, at home tonight at 7 in their only game of the weekend.
Dartmouth is in sixth place in the league, a point out of sixth and three out of fourth.
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THE ST. ANSELM MEN, 11-5-2 overall and 7-5-1 in the ECAC East, are at St. Michael's tonight and at Norwich on Saturday afternoon. St. Michael's is 6-12-0 and 3-9-0 and Norwich is 16-2-0 and 11-1-0.
The St. Anselm women, 12-4-3 and 8-2-3, are at Holy Cross tonight and at Salve Regina on Saturday night.
Holy Cross is 12-4-3 and 6-3-3 and Salve Regina is 12-7-0 and 8-4-0.
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THE PLYMOUTH STATE MEN, 14-5-0 overall and 10-2-0 in the MASCAC going into a game at Westfield Sate on Thursday night, are at Framingham State on Saturday afternoon.
The Southern New Hampshire men, 4-12-2 and 2-3-1, play at Assumption on Saturday night and are home against St. Anselm on Tuesday night at 7:30.