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March 28. 2014 11:57PM

College Notebook: UNH men's hockey club team wins national crown


Members of the University of New Hampshire men's club team celebrate after winning the American College Hockey Association Division 2 championship March 26 in Marlborough, Mass. UNH defeated Florida Gulf Coast University, 5-3, in the final. (COURTESY)

Each of the last three years, the University of New Hampshire men's club hockey team qualified for the American College Hockey Association 16-team Division 2 national tournament but was unable to advance to the final four.

Last week, UNH broke through.

Better yet, the Wildcats beat UMBC in the semifinals and then, led by a couple of forwards and a goalie from the Granite State, knocked off Florida Gulf Coast, 5-3, in the title game on Tuesday afternoon in Marlborough, Mass., to collect their first ACHA national club championship.

"It was a great way to go out," said senior forward and captain Sean Leahy of Durham. "It kind of started at the end of last year at nationals when we were on the last day of pool play and fell just short of getting to the final four. Guys were eager to get back and win it."

The Wildcats ended the season ranked No. 8 in the country a year ago.

Now they're No. 1.

Leahy and freshman Austin Sprague of Manchester, high school standouts at Oyster River and Manchester Central respectively, each scored a pair of goals in the title game.

"I can't say enough about how Sean has grown in the program," said fifth-year coach Stephen McIsaac, a former player on the team. "He was a sixth-line player when he started, and now he's the leading scorer and a great, great leader in the locker room."

Leahy led the team in scoring during the regular season with 21 goals and 18 assists for 39 points in 24 games. Senior Blaine Cardali was next at 12-20-32, followed by Sprague at 13-18-31.

"Austin is the total package," McIsaac said. "He does everything. He's gritty, he's tough and he's got a great shot. He plays every scenario, and he's very good on face-offs."

Freshman Dylan Palmer of North Hampton, who played at Winnacunnet High School and then with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs, made 39 saves in the championship game and was named the tournament MVP. He posted a shutout against UMBC in the semis.

Palmer split the goaltending duties with sophomore Neil Scancerella during the season.

"We have two starting goalies," McIsaac said. "My biggest problem all year was deciding who to put in net. Dylan is a real solid goalie, and nothing fazes him. You can't get him rattled, and Neil is the same way."

The team loses three of the top nine forwards and a couple of outstanding defensemen from the championship-game lineup to graduation.

"But we have a lot of talent coming back and coming in," McIsaac said.

"We're in pretty good shape."

Now the goal has changed a bit: It will be to qualify for the national tournament again, advance to the final four again and defend a national title.

"There's a good core of kids coming back, and they'll have the experience of winning the title," Leahy said. "It's only going to get better."

McIsaac likes to refer to the club team, which practices three times a week, as UNH's junior varsity.

"For me, that takes some of the stigma away," he said. "People hear about us and think glorified intramurals, and it's far from that. ...

Players are seeking us out because we're successful, and they come here and can have the amenities of UNH and play club hockey and be successful. It's a win-win for them and for us."

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CONCORD'S Tewksbury siblings, Griff and Jenna, have had strong starts to their spring seasons at Bates College and Wheaton College, respectively.

Griff, a senior second baseman out of St. Paul's School of Concord, batted .372 over Bates' first 12 games, with a .449 on-base percentage and team highs of .651 slugging percentage, three home runs and 12 RBIs.

Jenna, a sophomore women's lacrosse attack out of Concord High, scored 16 goals in Wheaton's first 12 games.

Yes, their dad is former major-league pitcher Bob Tewksbury.

- - - - - - - - - -

UNH men's soccer head coach Rob Thompson last week named two new assistant coaches, Logan Hoffman and Richie Weinrebe.

Hoffman returns to the University of New Hampshire after spending two years at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay as the first assistant and recruiting coordinator.

Weinrebe returns to his alma mater after spending two seasons at Southern New Hampshire University, where he helped the Penmen, win the 2013 NCAA Division II national championship.

- - - - - - - - - --

THREE Plymouth State University wrestlers have been recognized with postseason honors from the New England Wrestling Association.

Sophomores Chris Perreault and Ray Welch received honorable mention on the 2013-14 All-NEWA Team, Perreault at 184 pounds and Welch at 157. In addition, PSU freshman Clay Callahan was the NEWA All-Rookie Team selection at 165 pounds.

Perreault finished his second straight outstanding season for the Panthers, capping off a 27-7 record at 184 pounds.

Welch enjoyed an outstanding season in his first year with the Panthers, compiling a 17-6 record at 157 pounds.

Callahan enjoyed a strong rookie season, posting a 16-10 overall record in the 165-pound weight class.

- - - - - - - - - -

A TOTAL of four Southern New Hampshire University winter season athletes were named to their respective Northeast-10 All-Conference teams.

Sophomore Erin Doherty of the women's basketball team and junior Dane Caracino, sophomore Jim Gabrione and senior Tyler Holske of the NE-10 champion men's ice hockey team were honored.

"College Notebook" is compiled by the New Hampshire Union Leader staff and published weekly in the New England Sunday News. Email submissions to sports@unionleader.com and include "College Notebook" in the subject line.


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