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College Hockey: Wildcats brace for streaking Boston College

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 16. 2017 8:28PM


The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team will not be as thin at the forward position tonight as it found itself last weekend.

UNH coach Dick Umile told reporters Wednesday that Marcus Vela will play and he thinks Charlie Kelleher will also return when the No. 11 Wildcats host Boston College tonight (7) at the Whittemore Center in Durham. Umile also said there is a chance sophomore forward Brendan van Riemsdyk might be available.

Vela, a junior, will return to the lineup for the first time since having his appendix removed on Nov. 5. He has registered three points (one goal, two assists) over seven games. Kelleher injured his shoulder during practice on Nov. 8 and missed both of UNH’s games last weekend. The freshman has logged seven points (one goal, six assists) over eight games.

“Anytime you can get guys back in roles that they’re used to playing in, I think it adds a lot to the lineup,” sophomore forward Patrick Grasso said.

UNH (6-3-1, 3-2-1 Hockey East) was without four forwards heading into its 4-0 defeat at Boston University last Saturday after van Riemsdyk suffered a shoulder injury in the Wildcats’ 2-1 loss to UMass Lowell the night before. Vela, Kelleher, van Riemsdyk and senior forward Shane Eiserman (knee) were all out for the BU game.

Matt Dawson, a junior defenseman, centered UNH’s fourth line against the Terriers last weekend.

“Anytime you lose any of the guys on our team it hurts but we definitely lost four key guys that help our lineup every night,” Grasso said. “It’s challenging because guys are playing in different lineups and different positions than they’re used to.

“It’s not an excuse but it’s definitely a challenge.”

Sophomore forward Joe Sacco, who made his season debut against UMass Lowell the night before, reinjured his shoulder in the loss to BU.

Sacco, who Umile said could be out for awhile, and Eiserman, who has missed UNH’s last five games, will not play tonight.

“It’s basically just the next guy up,” senior defenseman Cam Marks said. “The next guy steps into the role the other guy had and just does his job and produces. That’s just the mindset we have whenever top guys go down like that.”

While they will not be as depleted up front as last weekend, the Wildcats will likely need to channel that approach tonight.

Boston College (6-5-1, 6-1-0 Hockey East) has won five straight games — all against conference foes — and sits atop the Hockey East standings. The Eagles outscored Vermont, Merrimack and Connecticut a combined 16-7 over their winning streak.

UNH is 1-3-1 over its last five games.

Former Pinkerton Academy star JD Dudek, a junior forward from Auburn, has two goals and five assists in all 12 games for the Eagles.

Boston College is 16-2-4 over its last 22 meetings with the Wildcats. Tonight will mark the 150th meeting between the two programs.

“I mean anytime you see BC on the schedule — not that we take any game more important than the next — but it’s definitely one that guys get amped up for,” Grasso said.

UNH, which is tied with BU for third in the league standings, is second in Hockey East in goals per game (3.2). The Wildcats also boast the stingiest defense in Hockey East (2.2 goals per game). The Eagles’ 2.33 goals per game average ranks 10th in Hockey East.

“We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves with the injuries,” Umile said. “We’re just trying to put things together so we can compete and compete harder.”

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UNH senior goaltender Danny Tirone will likely make Wildcats history tonight. The assistant captain from Trumbull, Conn., is 10 saves shy of reaching the 3,000 mark for his career. Kevin Regan, who played for UNH from 2004-08, is currently the only goalie in program history to log 3,000 stops. Regan finished with 3,235 career saves.