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September 24. 2013 9:53PM

Allen Lessels' College Hockey: UNH, Notre Dame share 3rd in Hockey East poll

BOSTON -- THE University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team comes to Durham to take on New Hampshire at the Whittemore Center in a two-game set on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

The two teams — one a founding member of Hockey East and the other its newest contender as it begins play this year — already have something in common.

UNH and Notre Dame shared the No. 3 spot in the league’s preseason coaches’ poll released on Tuesday during Media Day at the TD Garden.

UMass Lowell and Boston College tied for the top spot in the poll. The River Hawks pulled down seven first-place votes and the Eagles picked up the other four.

It’s a new-look Hockey East as the league enters its 30th season.

“We’re just getting stronger within our league,” said longtime Boston College coach Jerry York. “It used to just be Boston College, New Hampshire, Boston University and Maine (at the top) and it was, who’s going to win? Now there’s Lowell, Providence, Vermont. Merrimack has made some runs. Now we reach out and bring in Notre Dame. Let’s make this even harder. I think it’s good.”

Lowell went 28-11-2 under second-year coach Norm Bazin last season and won its first Hockey East regular season championship, its first Hockey East tournament title and beat UNH, 2-0, in the Northeast Regional championship game to advance to its first Frozen Four.

It’s a new-look league on several fronts.

There are new coaches at Maine and Boston University. There is Notre Dame, the first new team since Vermont signed on for the 2005-06 season. There is a new tournament format. There’s even a new schedule.

Teams are now playing each other just twice a season rather than three times. That leaves them with 20 league games — which will jump to 22 next year when the University of Connecticut opens play in Hockey East — and allows more room for scheduling teams from outside the conference on their way to a 34-game regular season schedule.

“There are some big changes in the league, obviously,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “It’s a good change as far as adding Notre Dame and going from three to two league games is going to be great.”

That adjustment has allowed UNH to set up two-game home series against Michigan (Oct. 18 and 19), Nebraska-Omaha and Union this year and the Wildcats will also be playing in a holiday tournament in Florida against Cornell and either Maine or Princeton.

UNH and Maine have already announced that they will play two extra nonleague games in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. One game each season will be at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester and the other at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland.
For the first time since the 1995-96 season, all of the league’s 11 teams will participate in the Hockey East tournament.

The first five teams will receive a first-round bye and the No. 6, No.
 7 and No. 8 teams will host a single-game playoff. After the first-round the three surviving teams will be reseeded for a best-of-three quarterfinal series. The final four teams will be re-seeded again for the championship round at the TD Garden on March 21 and 22.
Red Gendron, a native of Berlin and former player at New England College in Henniker, takes over at Maine for Tim Whitehead, who is now coaching at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden.
David Quinn has returned to Boston University, his alma mater, to replace Jack Parker.

______

UNH, 20-12-7 overall last season, plays an exhibition at home against Arcadia on Saturday, Oct. 5. The Wildcats open the season against Clarkson on Oct. 11 in the first game of the Ice Breaker tournament at Minnesota.

They play either Mercyhurst or Minnesota the next night.

______

DAN PARKHURST, a 1993 UNH grad and longtime radio and TV voice of the team, was named the 2013 winner of the Concannon Media Award for his coverage of Hockey East on Tuesday. Parkhurst lives in Conway.

______

ECAC Hockey released two pre-season polls on Tuesday at its Media Day in Lake Placid.

Dartmouth was picked No. 7 in the coaches’ poll with one first-place vote and was tied at No. 5 with Cornell in the media poll.

Yale led the coaches’ poll and Rensselaer was second. Rensselaer was tops in the media poll and Yale was next.

Dartmouth finished 15-14-5 overall and 9-9-4 in the ECAC last year.

The Big Green play an exhibition at home against the University of Ontario Institute of Technology on Friday, Oct. 18.

They open with games on the road at Princeton on Friday, Oct. 25 and at Brown on Saturday, Oct. 26.

They start a four-game home stretch with contests against Union on Friday, Nov. 1 and Rensselaer on Saturday, Nov. 2.

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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