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February 02. 2014 9:02PM

Big weekend

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcat eyes are smilin’


University of New Hampshire's Nick Sorkin (21) carries the puck as Notre Dame's Stephen Johns chases during the first period of their game at the Whittemore Center in Durham Saturday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

DURHAM -- IT WAS a productive weekend for the two highest-profile programs at the University of New Hampshire.

It started late on Friday afternoon when the school announced its plans to first raise funds for and then build a $25 million athletics complex to replace Cowell Stadium, home of the Wildcat football team since the 1930s.

After that, the UNH hockey team went out and capped the day with a 4-2 win over No. 14 Notre Dame. The Wildcats followed up with a 5-2 win on Saturday to seal a much-needed weekend sweep.

“It was an opportunity for us to get back in the hunt nationally and to move up in Hockey East,” said a thrilled coach Dick Umile after Saturday’s win.

The Wildcats took full advantage of the opportunity.

Entering the weekend, they were tied at No. 22 in the PairWise rankings that simulate the system the NCAA uses to select at-large squads for the 16-team Division I tournament. UNH was at No. 14 in the PairWise on Sunday.

The Wildcats jumped to No. 4 in the Hockey East standings, too. They are 16-13-1 overall and 8-6-0 in the league. They have a one-point lead on Providence and are two up on Maine.

On the flip side, they are a point behind UMass-Lowell and Northeastern, who are tied for second.

There is more work to be done.

The Wildcats have only a six-pack of games remaining in the regular season, starting with a series at home against Vermont on Friday and Saturday.

The Catamounts are 13-9-3 overall and 5-7-0 in the league. They were tied for No. 17 in the PairWise on Sunday and were in seventh place in Hockey East.

Vermont was off this weekend. In their last four games, the Catamounts split a pair of series at Boston University and Northeastern.

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ATHLETICS DIRECTOR Marty Scarano said feedback on Friday’s stadium announcement has been positive and strong.

“The reaction has been unbelievable,” he said on Saturday. “It’s not surprising. We’ve always felt that there was a pent-up enthusiasm for the project and it really, really has taken off since yesterday’s announcement. It’s just been great.”

The pace of things will likely pick up quickly from here, he said.

Scarano said he, UNH president Mark Huddleston and other school officials presented the project to the finance committee of the Board of Trustees on Thursday in Plymouth in an informational session.

The plan now is to work on raising $5 million in funds privately toward the total cost of the facility, which will seat between 10-12,000 fans.

“We have to go back in April with either the money or a strong commitment that we have $5 million in hand,” Scarano said. “That’s the agreement. We would assume given that — and we’re very confident that we’re going to be able to do that — then we’ll be given the green light to break ground.”

Scarano said construction is projected to take 18 months and work can continue on the West side of the field — which will become the home stands — during the football season.

The goal is to be playing in the new stadium at some point in the 2015 season.

“We’re going to have to really accelerate to try and make the first game in 2015, but we hope to move in some time that season,” he said.

Fundraising has been under way. Scarano declined to announce the amount collected thus far.

“I don’t want to say where we are right now but we have money in hand, we have commitments and we have corporate partnerships,” he said.

“It’s considerable, I’ll say that. We have a great head start toward the $5 million.”

There has been talk of, and starts and stops towards, a new multi-use stadium for at least a decade. Scarano is confident a new facility is close.

“This has been decades in the planning and there have been so many people committed to the project,” he said. “I really want to stress the fact there have been many, many people who have been committed to this and I’m confident people are going to support it.”

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FOOTBALL recruits around the country sign their national letters of intent to accept college scholarships on Wednesday.

UNH and other schools have collecting verbal commitments from recruits in recent weeks.

One of the latest recruits to verbal to UNH is a running back from Florida and another is an offensive lineman from the state of Washington, by way of the Salisbury School in Connecticut.Dayne Herron is a 6-foot-3 and 270 pounder from Oak Harbor, Wash., who took a postgraduate year at Salisbury. Trevon Bryant is a 5-foot-8, 175-pounder from Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Fla.

Herron runs well and has plenty of room to grow, said Salisbury coach Chris Phelps, a 1987 graduate of Laconia High School and former assistant coach at UNH.

“He’s going to be a big kid,” Phelps said. “Depending on what brand of shoe he’s in, he’s anywhere from a size 17 to a 19. He’s still growing into his body. But the thing that caught most people’s attention was his ability to run. He moves very well.”

Herron, Phelps said, had offers from Maine, Rhode Island, Albany and Coastal Carolina.

Bryant is speedy and the total package, said Pedro Menendez coach Patrick Turner.

“We’ve clocked him at 4.40 and 4.42,” Turner said. “He’s got speed, great vision and power for a kid his size. He can catch the ball and he’s got wiggle. He loves to run through people, too. He plays like he’s 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds.”

Weber State, Charleston Southern, Citadel and Delaware offered Bryant, the coach said.

alessels@unionleader.com


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