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College Hockey: Wildcats center is nation's top scorer

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 02. 2015 11:34PM
UNH's Andrew Poturalski celebrates against Massachusetts last month. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

DURHAM — He’s been a bright spot in what thus far has been largely a dim season. University of New Hampshire center Andrew Poturalski enters this weekend’s home-and-home series against the University of Maine as the leading scorer in Division I.

Poturalski, a sophomore, has 11 goals and 14 assists this season. He leads the nation in points per game (1.92) and overall points (25). He’s tied for second in the country in goals, and is third in goals per game (0.85).

“He’s got great vision out there,” UNH coach Dick Umile said. “He can absolutely rip the puck. I get mad at him because he doesn’t shoot enough. He’s an unselfish player, and I want him to be a little bit more selfish.

“He’s got great composure with the puck on his stick. He’s obviously a very talented hockey player.”

Poturalski was named the Hockey East Player of the Month on Wednesday. He collected six goals and seven assists in seven games in November. That includes a three-goal performance in a 4-3 loss at RPI.

Poturalski said when he was being recruited his decision came down to a choice between UNH or RPI.

“RPI and UNH were the top two,” he said. “Vermont was up there. I saw UNH play Maine and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”

The Wildcats (4-6-3 overall, 1-1-3 Hockey East) and Black Bears (4-8-3, 2-4-0) will meet in Orono, Maine, on Friday night (7:30), and will face each other in Durham on Saturday night (7). UNH ended a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) by beating Bentley, 5-4, Saturday.

Poturalski’s line, which includes left wing Dan Correale and right wing Tyler Kelleher, has 58 points (33 goals) this season.

“These are two big Hockey East games on top of a win last weekend,” Poturalski said. “If we can turn that page and keep going strong that’ll be nice going into Christmas break on a little high note.”

Umile said he sees a lot of similarities between Poturalski and former UNH forward Jason Krog, who played at UNH from 1995 to 1999 and is No. 2 on the program’s all-time scoring list (238 points). Ralph Cox completed his UNH career (1975-79) with 243 points.

“That’s pretty special to be mentioned in the same sentence as that guy with everything he’s done, and done for the program,”Poturalski said. “Our whole line has been playing really well and it’s encouraging, but I think the bigger thing is we want to keep winning and hopefully we can build off last Saturday. That’s what matters to us.”

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Maine was winless in its first 11 games this season (0-8-3), but will bring a four-game winning streak into the weekend. The Black Bears swept Vermont on Nov. 20-21, and then swept Princeton on Nov. 27-28.

“They’re feeling pretty good,” Umile said. “Probably anxious to get us up there.”

The Black Bears have two New Hampshire residents on their roster: freshman forward Brendan Robbins (Nashua) and junior forward Brian Morgan (Windham). Morgan has two goals and an assist in 13 games, and Robbins has one assist in 13 games.

Umile said defense continues to be his No. 1 concern.

“I think it’s a team as of late that has been competing,” he said. “We’re scoring goals. The power play has gone well, but we are just not as good defensively as we’re capable of being. We’re finding ways to leave people open at the wrong time. We have got to get better defensively. If we had cut down one goal a game it would turn the whole thing around.

“It’s a combination of (goaltending) and the team in front of (goaltender Danny Tirone). Some of the scoring opportunities are no fault of the goaltender. Defensively you don’t have to have a lot of skill. You just have to compete, have a strong stick and do your job. Everybody do their own job. That’s what we’re trying to drive home.”

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Both UNH-Maine games will be televised by Fox College Sports. … Maine leads the all-time series against UNH 63-52-6. … UNH and Maine will also play two non-conference games at non-campus sites this season. The teams will meet Dec. 29 in Portland, Maine; and Dec. 30 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester.