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April 14. 2013 8:09PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcat Coach Dick Umile likes new Hockey East playoff format

HOCKEY EAST will make changes to its scheduling and league tournament format next year as it transitions and grows.

It's been a 10-team league for most of the last decade - since Vermont signed on for the 2005-06 season - but that is about to change.

Notre Dame joins Hockey East starting in October. The University of Connecticut comes over from Atlantic Hockey the following October for the 2014-15 season to bring the league to 12 teams.

For the last couple of decades, Hockey East teams have played each other three times a season.

Starting next season, they will play each other only twice a year.

Next March, for the first time since it was last an eight-team league in 1993-94, all Hockey East teams will participate in the league playoffs. Hockey East has been the only league that has not allowed all its teams into the post-season in recent years.

"I was for it," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "I think everyone should have the opportunity to play in the playoffs. We're one of the top leagues and everyone gets beat up during the season and it's tough. Good teams get left out of the playoffs. And it's only going to get tougher."

The new playoff format calls for an extra round of playoffs.

Teams that finish first through fifth in the league standings will get a bye in the first round. The teams that finish sixth, seventh and eighth will host the 11th, 10th and ninth place teams for a best-of-three series.

The three surviving teams will be reseeded for the quarterfinals and the original top four teams will play host to best-of-three quarterfinals.

The Hockey East championship round will again be played at the TD Garden in Boston on March 21 and 22.

Notre Dame will play at UNH on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 next season. The Fighting Irish will also play at Boston College, UMass Lowell, Providence and Vermont in their first season. Boston University, Maine, Massachusetts, Merrimack and Northeastern will play at Notre Dame next year.

UNH opens the 2013-14 season against Clarkson in the Ice Breaker tournament in Minnesota on Oct. 11. Mercyhurst and Minnesota play the same night. UNH will play Minnesota or Mercyhurst the next night.

The Wildcats are scheduled to play their first Hockey East game at UMass Lowell on Nov. 1. They close the regular season at Merrimack on March 1.

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MEN'S basketball coach Bill Herrion, whose contact was extended by two years last week and now runs through the 2015-16 season, was grateful for the move.

"First of all, I really appreciate the support from president (Mark) Huddleston and obviously Marty Scarano (the director of athletics) for what we're doing with our basketball program," Herrion said. "We took a small step backwards this year and our work is not done. We're totally committed to our goals of eventually winning the America East and getting to the NCAA tournament."

John Edwards, Daniel Jackson and Matt Miller are among the new faces expected to take the court for the Wildcats next season.

Miller is a 6-foot-4 sharpshooter who sat out last season as a transfer from Div. II Seton Hill University.

"He can really shoot the ball," Herrion said.

Edwards, a 6-foot-6 forward who played the last two seasons at Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, and Jackson, a 6-foot point guard from Texas, both signed national letters of intent to accept scholarships last fall.

"We think Edwards is going to be real good," Herrion said. "We liked him from Day 1. And Jackson is good with the ball. Our guard play has to improve."

Brewster coach Jason Smith thinks Edwards will be a nice fit in Durham.

"He played real well for us down the stretch," Smith said. "He guards real well. He'll guard the other team's best perimeter player, he can guard bigs and he'll rebound all night. He'll have a good career at UNH."

According to published reports, UNH has received a verbal commitment from another Texan. Jacoby Armstrong, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Wylie, Texas, was in Durham for an official visit a couple of weekends ago and reportedly later called to accept UNH's offer.

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THE 21ST ANNUAL UNH Ski Team Golf Tournament is set for May 11 at The Links at Outlook golf course in South Berwick, Maine.

The cost is $125 per person for breakfast and lunch and there will be a raffle and auction. More information is available at unhskiing.com or from director of skiing Cory Schwartz at cory.schwartz@unh.edu.
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THE LACROSSE TEAM fell to 4-9 overall and 1-3 in America East with a loss to Stony Brook on Saturday. The Wildcats play Boston University at home in Cowell Stadium on Wednesday at 4.



alessels@unionleader.com

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