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April 08. 2013 10:55PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Spring football features battle for next year's QB spot



THE University of New Hampshire football team hit the quarter pole of spring football this morning.

The Wildcats get 15 spring practice sessions per NCAA rules and had their fourth this morning. The spring wraps up with the annual Blue-White game on Saturday, May 4 at noon.

By then, head coach Sean McDonnell hopes, he and his staff will have a good read on which of two candidates will be the starting quarterback when the team reports back for fall camp in August.

Andy Vailas, a junior-to-be out of Bedford and Phillips Andover, and Sean Goldrich, a sophomore, battled for the position last year, too.

"In my mind there are a lot of positions up for grabs and it all starts with the quarterback position," McDonnell said. "The good thing is we sat here last year and wondered if these guys could do it. We found out both could. They're both back and it's great to have competition between the two of them."

Goldrich won the job for last year's opener as a redshirt freshman and played well in a win over Holy Cross.

He was hurt early in the second game against Minnesota and Vailas came on in relief and played well in a string of starts.

Both quarterbacks played a lot during the season, at times in the same series and at times they were on the field at the same time.

McDonnell has said he would prefer to have a clear No. 1 quarterback to lead the team.

"Hopefully by practice 15, we'll have a great idea who it will be," he said. "That would be good, but I don't know if it's going to happen."

Valias is coming back from shoulder surgery and cannot be hit in spring practice.

McDonnell is excited about competition at various positions, including wide receiver where known producers R.J. Harris and Jimmy Giansante, who will be juniors, are sidelined as they recuperate from injuries.

Their absence opens the way for others, including Mike Kelly, a sophomore out of Merrimack and Bishop Guertin, to get more and better chances to impress, McDonnell said.

"Kids like Jared Allison and Mike Detroia, Mike Kelly and Kyon Taylor will get opportunities to show what they can do with quality repetitions with the No. 1 quarterbacks and No. 1 offensive linemen," the coach said.

UMass Lowell, which ousted UNH from the NCAA tournament with a 2-0 win in the Northeast Regional final at Verizon Wireless Arena just over a week ago, carries the Hockey East banner into the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh this week.

The River Hawks play Yale at 4 in one semifinal on Thursday and Quinnipiac takes on St. Cloud State in the other at 8. The winners play for the championship on Saturday at 7.

Thoughts at UNH, meanwhile, have turned to the 2013-14 season.

Dick Umile's players had last week off and have this week off and then finish up the semester with four weeks of conditioning.

The schedule for next year has not been officially released, but the Hockey East portion of it is tentatively out, along with various other pieces.

The plan is to open the season with the Icebreaker Tournament in Minnesota where UNH will play Clarkson in the first round, Umile said. Minnesota and Mercyhurst play in the other first-round game. The Icebreaker is set for Oct. 11 and 12.

Notre Dame begins its first season in Hockey East in the fall. The Fighting Irish are due to play a two-game set in Durham on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

UNH is scheduled to play its first league games at UMass Lowell on Nov. 1 and home against Lowell the next night.

Hockey East grows to 11 teams with the addition of Notre Dame. Connecticut is due to join the league in the 2014-15 season.

Starting in 2013-14, league teams will play each other twice as opposed to the customary three times. That will give each team 20 league games for 2013-14, leaving them with 14 non-conference games. The Icebreaker games are exempt from the count, so UNH will have 16 nonconference games.

Michigan is coming to Durham for a pair of games in October and the Wildcats are playing in the annual Florida College Hockey Classic at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla. The Wildcats play Cornell in their first game there and Maine plays Princeton. The Big Red and Black Bears are co-hosts of the tourney.

UNH will resume its series against Dartmouth at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester and play home games against Brown and Union among its other non-league games, Umile said. Brown and Union played each other in the ECAC championship game back on March 23, with the Dutchmen prevailing, 3-1, to earn the NCAA's automatic berth. Union beat Boston College in its first-round NCAA game before being eliminated by fellow ECAC member Quinnipiac in the East Region final.

THE TRACK TEAM hosts the Wildcat Invitational on Saturday at 11 a.m. on its Reggie Atkins Track & Field facility.

Maine, Bowdoin, Bentley, Fitchburg State, Babson and some individuals from other schools are expected.

"We're working on getting some experience as we head towards the conference meet," said Jim Boulanger, who runs the UNH program.

The America East championships are at Binghamton on May 4 and 5.

THE LACROSSE TEAM improved to 4-7 overall and 1-2 in America East with Saturday's 13-12 win over Binghamton.

The Wildcats now play three straight homes games starting with a contest against Boston College on Wednesday at 4. They get back to league play on Saturday against Stony Brook at noon and face Boston University at 4 p.m. next Wednesday, April 17.

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