Allen Lessels' College Hockey: UNH's March mantra is just keep winning
DURHAM -- So what's the big deal about 40 percent of Hockey East's teams being tied for first place with four games left to play? If Merrimack had managed to tie Boston University on Tuesday night rather than lose, 5-2, exactly half of the league's team would own a share of first place this morning.
Instead, No. 5-ranked New Hampshire, Providence College, UMass Lowell and Boston College are locked at the top with 28 points each. Merrimack is a single point back and BU one more behind that.
"With four teams tied with 28 points, it's nerve-wracking," said senior forward John Henrion. "You need all the points you can get."
Like the other three teams sitting in first, the Wildcats control their own future: If they keep winning, the worst that will happen is they'll share the title and the seeding for the Hockey East tournament will come down to a tiebreaker.
The Wildcats are the only team in the league that plays the rest of its games at home, starting against Massachusetts tonight at 7:30 and on Saturday at 7. UNH closes the regular season with games against Maine at home next Friday and Saturday.
"It's about us and not what other teams are doing," said junior forward Dalton Speelman. "It's about what we can do to be better and move on into the playoffs in Hockey East, into the regionals and hopefully on to the Frozen Four."
Massachusetts holds down the eighth and final Hockey East playoffs by a single point over Maine going into this weekend's games.
The Minutemen were the first and only team to beat UNH in the first two months of the season when they took a 2-1 overtime decision in Amherst on Nov. 2.
UNH won its first four league games at the Whittemore Center, but has gone 1-3-1 in the last five.
For the most part, coach Dick Umile has been happy with how the team has played lately at the Whitt.
"We've lost some crazy games here," he said. "We've played well and we've run into some pretty good goaltenders."
They'll try to take advantage of home ice down the stretch to earn more home ice in the Hockey East quarterfinals.
Two of this morning's top six teams will be going on the road in two weeks for the Hockey East quarterfinals.
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THE DARTMOUTH MEN, 13-10-4 overall and 9-8-3 in the ECAC, will look to nail down a top-four spot in the league and bye for the first round of the tournament in a pair of home games that wrap up the regular season.
Princeton, 9-14-4 and 7-10-3, is at Thompson Arena tonight at 7. Quinnipiac, the No. 1-ranked team in the country and coached by Bedford native Rand Pecknold, visits Saturday night. Quinnipiac is 23-4-5 and 16-1-3.
The Big Green go into the weekend tied for the fourth and final bye with Yale. Dartmouth and Yale are a point behind third-place St. Lawrence and two behind RPI.
The Big Green lost at Princeton, 2-1, and at Quinnipiac, 3-2 in overtime, in early January.
The first-round series are next weekend, followed by the quarterfinals on March 15-17.
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THE ST. ANSELM MEN take on Franklin Pierce at home on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the Northeast-10 championship. Senior forward Mike Richard of Derry, the league's Player of the Year, leads the Hawks with 19 goals and 12 assists for 31 points.
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THE PLYMOUTH STATE MEN play host to UMass-Dartmouth on Saturday at 6 p.m. for the championship of the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference and a berth in the NCAA Div. III tournament.
The Panthers, 19-6-1 and the top seed, knocked off Fitchburg State, 7-1, in the semifinals. No. 2 UMass-Dartmouth outlasted Salem State, 5-4 in three overtimes, for its spot in the finals.
Nick Marquis, a UMass-Dartmouth senior from Londonderry, scored with 3:54 left in the third period to complete a comeback from 4-1 down to send the game to OT.
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THE UNH WOMEN, the No. 4 seed for the Hockey East tournament, host No. 5 Providence on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
UNH is 14-15-4 overall and 10-8-3 in the league and Providence is 14-15-5 and 8-10-3 ...
The No. 6-seeded Dartmouth women, 16-8-5 overall and 11-7-4 in the ECAC, play a best-of-three quarterfinal series at No. 3 Harvard, 20-5-3 and 16-3-2, starting today at 4. The teams play Saturday at 2 and, if necessary, Sunday at 2.