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Allen Lessels on UNH Hockey: UNH skaters eye home ice advantage
This group of UNH seniors, honored on Friday night before they went out and held on late for a 4-3 win over Boston University, has seen both sides of the home, away-from-home debate.
The Wildcats finished second in the regular season that year and swept No. 7 Vermont in their best-of-three series to advance to the championship round at the TD Garden in Boston.
Each year the Wildcats had to go on the road and played well, but came up just short of winning a series.
Last year, UNH lost its first game at Providence, won the next night 5-2 and then fell 3-2 in the deciding game.
The stakes are high this year.
Last year, the Wildcats had done enough in the regular season and positioned themselves well enough that they earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament despite getting knocked out of the Hockey East tournament in the quarterfinals.
UNH took a 17-15-1 overall record into Saturday night's rematch with BU at Agganis Arena.
The Wildcats are on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament this point and must beef up their resume to qualify for the NCAAs for the 12th time in the last 13 seasons.
The Wildcats may need to win the league tournament for the first time since 2003 to get into the national tournament.
They need to get past the quarterfinals and likely to the championship game to at least get back into the discussion for an at-large spot.
It's not going to be easy.
UNH entered Saturday night's game tied with Maine for third place in the league. But the standings are mighty tight and Wildcats have also played a game or two more than the teams around them in the standings.
That's one of several reasons that holding on for a win on Friday night - thanks largely to junior goalie Casey DeSmith of Rochester - was crucial.
"Every point is going to be real important," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "Points are hard to come by in this league because of the parity. Everyone is pretty good."
Last year, UNH finished in a three-way tie for third with BU and Providence. The Wildcats ended up as the fifth seed and on the road at Providence because of tiebreakers.
With Notre Dame now in the league - and UConn coming aboard next season - all 11 teams make the tournament.
The Wildcats hope to be rocking the Whittemore Center that weekend.