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January 10. 2014 1:12AM

Showdown time for UNH, Dartmouth


University of New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin, left, tries to get by Omaha's Brian O'Rourke during the first period of their game Saturday in Durham. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

LAST YEAR, they took their sticks and their pucks and they played elsewhere.

The University of New Hampshire went to Hanover for Dartmouth's Ledyard Bank Classic just before New Year's.

The Big Green took it to the Wildcats for a 4-1 win at Thompson Arena.

"They kicked our butts," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "It just adds to our respect for Dartmouth. They just beat us solid. It wasn't a fluke.

They outcompeted us. They outplayed us."

Which brings us to this weekend.

The state's two Division I teams square off again on Saturday night, this time back at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, their battleground for the Battle for the RiverStone Cup for the last decade. Game time is 5 p.m.

Each team had its share of troubles in the first half this season. And each is off to a good start in the second.

Dartmouth lost its first eight games of the season and its first six in the ECAC. The Big Green are 3-3-2 since then and knocked off Boston University, 4-2, on the road on Wednesday night.Nick Lovejoy, a senior defenseman out of Orford, scored the winning goal against BU. It was the first goal of his career for Lovejoy, whose big brother Ben also played at Dartmouth and now is with the Anaheim Ducks of the National Hockey League.

Dartmouth finishes off a swing through Hockey East with the UNH game.

The Big Green lost to Providence, 3-2, in the first round of the Ledyard Classic a couple of weeks ago and then tied Northeastern, 8-8, in the consolation game. They also tied at Vermont, 1-1, last weekend.

Junior forward Eric Neiley leads Dartmouth with 10 goals and four assists for 14 points. Sophomore goalie Charles Grant made 26 saves for the win over BU and had 33 in the tie with Vermont.

The Big Green are 3-11-2.

"The record doesn't matter," said UNH senior forward Kevin Goumas.

"They're a pretty solid team, especially in the RiverStone Cup. They beat us pretty good last year and I think a lot of guys remember that and we can use it as inspiration, not to get revenge, but to play the hockey that we can."

Goumas leads UNH in scoring with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points. Senior forward Nick Sorkin (12-13-25) and junior forward Matt Willows (11-8-19) are tops in goals. Junior defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk has four goals and 18 assists for 22 points.

UNH has scored two power-play goals in each of its last three games and is 6-for-19 on the power play in that stretch.Casey DeSmith, a junior out of Rochester, has a .918 save percentage and goals-against average of 2.21.

The Wildcats went 1-5-1 to start the season and have had trouble scoring at times.

They hope they broke out of that with a pair of wins, 6-3 and 5-2, over then-No. 19 Nebraska-Omaha last weekend.

UNH has won three straight games to improve to 12-10-1 and made it back into the rankings this week at No. 20.

The Wildcats will likely be missing senior forward Jeff Silengo this weekend. He broke a bone in his hand in the first game against Nebraska-Omaha, sat out the second and will probably miss the Dartmouth game, Umile said.

Freshman defenseman Dylan Maller is a new face in the UNH lineup. He joined the team for the second semester and has played the last three games.

"He lost his brother to cancer just before school started (in the summer) and took the first semester off," Umile said.

Maller, who lives in Parkland, Fla., came to Durham to practice with the team for a week before Christmas and then met up with the Wildcats for their Florida tournament.

"He stepped right in and has played well," Umile said.

Maller had an assist in Friday night's game against Nebraska-Omaha.

.

THE ST. ANSELM MEN are 4-5-2 overall and play the University of New England, 5-7-1, at home tonight at 7:30. The Hawks face Southern Maine, 4-6-3, on Saturday at home at 3.

New England College in Henniker hosts Southern Maine on Friday night at 7:30 and the University of New England on Saturday at 4.

The Southern Maine and UNE coaches both have New Hampshire connections.Brad Holt, son of legendary UNH coach Charlie Holt, is a UNH grad and coaches UNE. USM coach Jeff Beaney is a 1982 graduate of New England College.

.

THE UNH WOMEN, 7-10-2 overall and 2-3-2 in Hockey East, play league rival Providence at home tonight at 7 and are at Providence on Saturday at 7. . . . The Southern New Hampshire men are 9-5-1 and play Westfield State at home on Tuesday.

alessels@unionleader.com


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