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March 27. 2013 8:57PM

Big crowds expected for NCAA hockey regional in Manchester

Marty Scarano couldn't have selected a much better foursome heading for this weekend's NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Northeast Regional.

"All the teams are well-supported, and I'm expecting at least 8,000 (fans), if not more, each night," Scarano, director of athletics at the regional's host school, the University of New Hampshire.

Friday's semifinals at Verizon Wireless Arena start with UMass Lowell playing Wisconsin at 4:30 p.m. and conclude with UNH meeting Denver at 8 p.m. The first game will air on NESN, the second on ESPNU.

The semifinal winners clash Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for a berth in the Frozen Four. ESPNU will broadcast that one, as well.

This is the fifth regional to take place at the Verizon, which opened in 2001. Manchester and UNH also hosted in 2004, '07, '09 and '11.

Although UNH is again the host team, New England neighbor UMass Lowell will be almost as close to home as the Wildcats. Both teams' campuses are less than a 45-minute drive to Manchester, and both have plenty of fans nearby.

"We alloted each school 400 tickets and an additional 200 tickets with student discounts," said Scarano. "I can tell you right now, UNH and UMass-Lowell sold them out. I know Lowell is looking for more."

Scarano, who previously served as AD at Colorado College from 1996 to 2000, also is familiar with the fan support Wisconsin and Denver draw from their base in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

"I can tell you firsthand that Wisconsin is going to bring a great crowd and you'll see a lot of red jerseys in the seats (Friday)," Scarano said. "At last check, Wisconsin was close to selling all their tickets. Denver will bring a crowd, but not as large as Wisconsin. I believe they'll return tickets to be sold to the general public."

As of Wednesday, Scarano said, about 1,000 tickets remained available for the regional. Of the four regionals in the NCAA tournament, he said, Manchester is the leader in total ticket sales.

"One reason for that is because we had advance ticket sales and that went well," he said. "It should come as no surprise that UNH and Lowell will fill most of the seats."

If UNH or Lowell don't advance to the regional final on Saturday, Scarano said, "I think the majority of those fans will still return the next night. I really do. The majority of the people who buy these tickets are true hockey fans, and they want to see great hockey."

Scarano praised his staff at UNH for work behind the scenes and lauded Tim Bechert, the arena's general manager at, for the job he and his staff have done in preparing for the tournament.

"It's also a big win for Manchester because places like restaurants and bars near the arena will be filled," Scarano added. "It will be good for business. Overall, Manchester is arguably one of the best regional sites in the country, and that's why the NCAA keeps bringing its tournament back to the Verizon Wireless Arena."

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