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October 27. 2013 9:15PM

Allen Lessels UNH Notebook: Next up, tough Tribe

ONE more down. Four to go.

The University of New Hampshire football team negotiated another step though the minefield of the Colonial Athletic Association on Saturday and knocked off league newcomer Stony Brook, 31-13, in Stony Brook, N.Y., on Long Island.

The Wildcats, thanks largely to three touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Sean Goldrich to senior wide receiver James Mello, won their third straight game, their first on the road and continued their comeback from a 1-3 start to the season.

The comeback is far from complete.

The Wildcats, ranked No. 20 in the country last week, are 4-3 overall and may not have to win out to qualify for the NCAA's FCS playoffs for a 10th straight season. But, preaching one game at a time all the way, they know winning their last four games is the only way to ensure they reach the playoffs.

Anything less than an 8-3 record puts a team's chances of getting into the tournament at risk.

The fact that three of UNH's final four opponents also have their eyes on the playoffs, only adds more spice to the mix. The next two games are against teams in a similar fix as the Wildcats.

UNH is at William & Mary on Saturday and plays James Madison at home on Nov. 9. William & Mary and James Madison are both 5-3 and can ill afford other loss.

The Wildcats, at 3-1, are one of four teams with one loss or fewer in CAA games. Maine is at 4-0, Towson at 4-1 and Delaware also is 3-1.

After William & Mary and James Madison, UNH is at Albany (1-7 overall and 0-4 in the league) on Nov. 16 and closes out the regular season at home against Maine, 7-1 overall, on Nov. 23.

William & Mary beat James Madison, 17-7, at home on Saturday and features an outstanding defense.

The Tribe held James Madison to 90 yards rushing and 298 yards of offense. They allow a league-low 14 points a game. UNH, in contrast, allows 26.4 points a game, which is eighth-best in the CAA.

William & Mary has been a nemesis for UNH coach Sean McDonnell through the years. His teams had lost all nine they had played against the Tribe until they snapped the streak with a 28-25 win in Durham last season.

UNH last won a game at William & Mary, 31-19, in 1998 in what turned out to be the final season of former head coach Bill Bowes.

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THE No. 13-ranked men's hockey team started turning things around before the midway point of the second period of Saturday night's game at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. But it was too late and UNH fell, 4-2, and dropped to 1-3-1 for the season.

RPI scored two quick goals to start the period and went up, 4-0. Casey DeSmith, a junior from Rochester, took over in net for starter Jeff Wyer at that point and the Wildcats rallied.Jeff Silengo and Matt Willows scored within two minutes of each other halfway through the period, but UNH, despite outshooting RPI 11-1 in the third period, could not get another.

No. 12 RPI is 4-1-0.

The Wildcats move into Hockey East play now and face the team that ended their season last year.

UNH is at UMass-Lowell at 7:15 on Friday night and the teams play again at the Whittemore Center on Saturday at 7.

The River Hawks started the season ranked No. 1 in the country, but lost their opener to unheralded Sacred Heart, 2-1, and were 1-3-0 in their first four games. They heated up this weekend, though, and won 4-1 at Michigan State on Friday and 2-1 at Michigan on Saturday.

Sophomore goalie Connor Hellebuyck, a hero of Lowell's run to the NCAA's Frozen Four last season, stopped 62 of 64 shots he saw in Michigan.

Hellebuyck tossed a 28-save shutout at UNH last year in the Northeast Regional championship at Verizon Wireless Regional to lift Lowell to a 2-0 win and into the Frozen Four.

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THE women's cross country team will try to ride the momentum of the New England championship it won two weeks ago in Boston into Saturday's America East championships for men and women at Binghamton.

"We'll just try to build off that," said coach Rob Hoppler. "We feel we're going in the right direction."

UNH has been the runnerup at the league meet the last three years to Stony Brook. The Wildcats plan to be in the championship mix with Stony Brook, Albany and Vermont, with freshmen Ellie Purrier and sophomore Rose Donegan leading the way.

Senior Anne Twombly of Exeter, junior Chelsey Serrano of Manchester and Trinity High and senior Elise Beattie are also top Wildcat runners.

The UNH men are hoping to contend for a title with favorites UMBC and Binghamton.

"We've gotten better every race," said coach Jim Boulanger. "We think it's anybody's meet."John Prizzi and fellow juniors Sam Gagnon and Zach Chabot, both out Manchester Central, and senior Kent Harlow are among the key runners for the Wildcats.

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WOMEN'S hockey coach Brian McCloskey won his 250th career game with Saturday night's 8-5 decision at Penn State. . . . The volleyball team, 12-12 overall and 6-2 in America East, is at Hartford on Friday and at Providence on Saturday. . . . The men's soccer team, 9-5 and 3-2, is at Dartmouth on Tuesday night and plays Binghamton at home on Saturday at 1.

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THE men's basketball team, picked fifth in the America East pre-season coaches' poll, opens the season at home against Suffolk as part of a men's-women's doubleheader on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. Vermont was picked to win the league and Stony Brook was second. Albany was third and Hartford fourth. . . . The women's team plays Worcester State on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m. in its opener. The women were picked fourth in their poll. Albany was No. 1, followed by Hartford and Stony Brook.

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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