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UNH's Kohei Sato pins Providence College's Ryan Tait on the boards during the teams' Dec. 1 game in Durham. Sato has been used as the Wildcats' extra skater six times so far this season.

Thanks, NCAA: Local coaches use the new rule for defense, offense or depth. Their choice.

RAND PECKNOLD and Red Gendron have used it primarily for defensive purposes. Mike Souza has utilized it to add depth to his forward unit.

The ability to dress an extra skater in games this season has led college hockey coaches to use that additional spot for a variety of purposes.

Ahead of this season, the NCAA made a rule change that now allows teams to dress 19 skaters for games. Previously, teams could dress up to 18 skaters.

Souza, who coaches the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team, said he thinks the genesis for the change came from the fact the International Ice Hockey Federation allows teams to dress 19 skaters when playing in its tournaments like the world junior championships.

Pecknold, who is the coach of the Quinnipiac University men’s team, said the rule change is something coaches had previously tried to get the NCAA to pass.

“It gets an extra kid in the lineup that’s not in the stands in a suit and it’s an excellent decision,” Pecknold said. “We were trying to push it through like five or six years ago and it got voted down and then it finally made it through this year. I thought it was a good choice by the NCAA.”

Pecknold, who is from Bedford, prefers to use the new rule to dress seven defensemen and 12 forwards instead of 13 forwards and six defensemen.

“I think it just gives you more options,” Pecknold said. “With our seven D, (defensemen Luke) Shiplo and (Zach) Metsa both can play forward if they need to. They can move up if we’re stuck. That would be our preference but it doesn’t always work that way. We’ve gone 13 and six a few times.”

Like Pecknold, Gendron, who is the University of Maine men’s coach, has primarily used the rule to add another defenseman to his lineup. Gendron, a Berlin native and New England College alum, said it can also be helpful when dealing with injuries.

“I think it depends on who your 21st-best player is,” Gendron said after Maine’s 5-3 win over UNH on Feb. 2. “And there are things (the media) would never know. Hey, maybe there’s a forward that’s a little banged up so they need that extra forward to take some of his shifts. ... But for us, it’s worked well with dressing a seventh D but I don’t think there’s any ironclad strategy that this is the way you ought to do it.”

Souza, who is neither for nor against the rule change, said from a rhythm standpoint, he believes it’s more beneficial to use the extra skater as a forward. The Wildcats have dressed 13 forwards in 25 games this season.

It can be difficult to give the extra forward consistent shifts at times, Souza said, but it provides him the ability to insert that player onto any line where another forward might be struggling during a game. Souza also said having the extra skater came in handy when the team dealt with a string of injuries in December and early last month.

“One positive is it gives us the ability to have an extra guy on the bench,” Souza said. “If a guy is not going, we can use this particular (extra) guy. Oftentimes, the extra skater hasn’t ended the night as the extra skater. I think players are aware of that — that we use the bench that way. It helps you stay on your toes as an athlete and I think that’s kind of a cool thing from a coaching perspective.”

Throughout the first half of the season, Dartmouth men’s coach Bob Gaudet used the new rule to dress seven defensemen, with Charley Michalowski usually filling that role as the extra skater. Michalowski, who is not currently listed on Dartmouth’s roster on its team website, is a forward but volunteered to play defense while the Big Green were dealing with injuries on the blue line.

“Now instead of six, there’s seven so you literally can have a forward go back there and actually get some reps as a defenseman,” Gaudet said after Dartmouth’s 3-2 loss to UNH on Dec. 7. “Or you can play them up front and have an extra forward. Or a particular game, maybe you’ve got somebody that’s a little bit banged up and maybe can’t play the minutes. It’s interesting.”

UNH sophomore forward Kohei Sato has the most experience on his team in the extra skater role. Sato has been the extra forward in six of the 16 games he has played in this season. Classmate Joe Sacco has the second-most experience on the Wildcats serving as the extra forward, which he has done in four of the 28 games he has played in.

Sato said being the extra forward gives him added motivation to be dialed into the details and do his job during his shifts.

“I’m kind of really happy that they made it that way so more guys can be in the lineup and add value to the team or contribute to the team,” Sato said.

The Wildcats have this weekend off before resuming play next weekend with a home set against Northeastern. Dartmouth visits the North Country to play at No. 11 Clarkson on Friday night and Mark Morris’ St. Lawrence Saints on Saturday night.

NEC starts tournament

The New England College men’s team will play at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., in the New England Hockey Conference quarterfinals Friday at 7 p.m. The Pilgrims (16-4-5, 9-4-5 NEHC), who have lost just one of their last 18 games, are the No. 5 seed while Hobart (17-6-2, 11-5-2) is the fourth seed.

Hobart enters as the No. 10 team in this week’s USCHO.com Division III national rankings. NEC is the first team to be listed as “others receiving votes,” making the Pilgrims, in effect, 16th.

The New England Hockey Conference, as usual, is packed with ranked teams. The conference’s top three seeds, UMass Boston, Norwich and Babson, are ranked ninth, fifth and 15th nationally, according to USCHO.com.

NEC tied Hobart, 4-4, in Henniker on Jan. 25 and fell to the Statesmen, 3-1, on the road on Nov. 17. Hobart enters the postseason on a seven-game unbeaten streak.

Hawks women are top seeds

The Saint Anselm College women’s team will enter the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance tournament as the top seed in the five-team field. The Hawks (22-2-1, 15-0-1 NEWHA) will host the winner of next Tuesday’s quarterfinal game between fifth-seeded Post and fourth-seeded Saint Michael’s College in the semifinals on Feb. 23.

Third-seeded Franklin Pierce University (17-9-1, 6-7-1) will play second-seeded Sacred Heart University in the semifinals.

Saint Anselm will host both the semifinals and championship games.

Nichols, Guimont honored

Saint Michael’s sophomore Riley Nichols and Franklin Pierce junior Delaney Guimont were both named to this week’s NEWHA weekly honor roll.

Nichols, a forward from Gilford, logged three points (two goals, one assist) over the Purple Knights’ two-game sweep of Post last weekend. Guimont, a defender from Bedford, logged a goal in the Ravens’ 5-0 win over Nichols last Friday and tallied an assist in their 3-0 triumph at Anna Maria the next day.

Beaudoin leading red-hot Brown

The Brown men’s team is on a hot streak, which Londonderry’s Brent Beaudoin has played a part in.

The Bears (10-10-3, 7-6-3 ECAC) have gone 4-1 in their past five games, over which Beaudoin has logged six points (three goals, three assists). The junior forward scored twice in Brown’s 3-0 win at RPI on Jan. 25 and tallied a goal and an assist in the Bears’ 4-1 stunner at then-No. 4 Quinnipiac last Saturday.

Brown, which will visit Dartmouth on Saturday, Feb. 23, is among the teams that received votes for this week’s USCHO poll.

Harvard’s Reilly Walsh, a defenseman from Andover, will take a three-game point streak into the No. 18 Crimson’s bout at ECAC foe Saint Lawrence on Friday.

The sophomore has tallied two assists in each of Harvard’s past two games: a 5-3 win over No. 20 Union last Friday and a 5-2 triumph over Boston University in the Beanpot consolation game Monday. Walsh also assisted on Harvard’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Boston College to open the Beanpot tournament on Feb. 4.

Walsh has logged a career-high 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) for the Crimson (13-7-3, 9-5-2 ECAC) this season.

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The NH College Hockey column runs Thursdays during the season. Alex Hall can be reached at ahall@unionleader.com.