Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats winners on one wild weekend
DURHAM -- WHAT a weekend.
University of New Hampshire director of athletics Marty Scarano and his fellow administrators grinned widely on Saturday as scores and reports of games came in from assorted fields and courts.
While the No. 25-ranked UNH football team knocked off No. 22-ranked James Madison, 33-17, at Cowell Stadium to stay in the running for another bid to the FCS tournament, across the street the field hockey team took out Albany, 3-2, to win its second America East championship in the last three years and lock up its spot in the NCAA tournament.
A little later, the men’s and women’s basketball teams warmed up for what’s to come shortly with wins over Division III opponents. The women wiped out Worcester State, 77-30, and the men followed suit with a 94-70 win over Suffolk.
In the meantime on Saturday night, the men’s hockey team scored early and often and got three goals from junior Grayson Downing in a 9-0 triumph over Massachusetts on the road to complete a weekend sweep of the Minutemen that the Wildcats hope has them on their way after a tough start to the season.
Now Scarano and his crew will try to keep the good times rolling with another wild week ahead.
These are just some of the highlights.
Dick Umile’s hockey team, riding its first two-game winning streak since beating Merrimack on Jan. 26 and Northeastern on Feb. 1 of last season, takes on Brown in a rare Tuesday night game at the Whittemore Center.
The field hockey team, which is 15-6 overall and has won eight straight games, was waiting Sunday night to learn its assignment for the NCAA tournament.
The men’s soccer team, seeded No. 2 for the America East tournament, plays No. 3 Hartford on Wednesday at home at 7 in an America East semifinal game. The Wildcats, who are 12-5-0 and were 5-2-0 in the league, had a quarterfinal round bye. Hartford beat Binghamton, 1-0 in overtime, on Saturday night to earn its spot in the semis.
Men’s hockey gets back at it with a game at Northeastern on Friday and plays the Huskies again at home on Saturday.
The football team goes to Albany and needs a win there to set up a regular season-ending clash with Maine that could have huge playoff ramifications.
A 17-0 LOSS at William & Mary nine days ago did not sit well with the Wildcats, especially the offense.
“It was embarrassing,” said offensive coordinator Ryan Carty late on Saturday afternoon. “It was embarrassing. We worked on it and we used it to fuel us. We have a lot of pride in this offensive staff room and we have a lot of pride in the offensive meeting rooms and these kids, it hurts them as much as it hurts us, and they didn’t let it happen again.”
Andy Vailas, who learned he was starting as the less-injured of the top two UNH quarterbacks just before the game, had just led the team to a 535-yard day of total offense against a touted James Madison defense.
The Wildcats passed for a season’s best 449 yards. Their previous best this year was 288 yards passing.
Vailas, a junior from Bedford who was limited in his running by a bad knee, completed a career-high 28 of a career-high 49 attempts for a career-high 397 yards and two scores.
Junior wide receiver R.J. Harris, back in the lineup after missing three games with concussion symptoms, caught a career-best three TD passes, two from Vailas and one an option pass from running back Nico Steriti.
UNH is 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association and if it can win its last two games should have a good shot at making the playoffs.
Albany is 1-9 overall and 0-8 in its first year in the CAA and likely will be sky-high for Saturday’s game.
Albany gave league-leading Maine all it could handle, but fell, 33-27, at home on Saturday. The Black Bears improved to 9-1 and 6-0 and have complete control of the league race. They can wrap up the title outright with a win at home against Maine on Saturday or at New Hampshire on Nov. 23.
THE HOCKEY TEAM’S line of Downing centering for senior Dalton Speelman and freshman Tyler Kelleher came up with five goals on Saturday night.
Kelleher had a goal and two assists and Speelman had a goal and an assist.
Senior Kevin Goumas, moved to center between senior Nick Sorkin and junior Matt Willows, also had a goal and two assists.
Casey DeSmith, a junior goalie from Rochester, made 23 saves before giving way to sophomore Jamie Regan for the last six and a half minutes on Saturday.
DeSmith made 22 saves in UNH’s 4-1 win at the Whittemore Center on Friday night for his first win of the season. DeSmith’s work over the weekend improved his goals-against average to 2.30 and his save percentage to .914.
Brown is 3-2-1 overall and 1-2-1 in the ECAC. The Bears lost to Quinnipiac, 3-0, on Friday night and beat Princeton, 6-3, on Saturday.
THE MEN’S basketball team plays at Duquesne on Wednesday night and takes on NJIT in Lundholm Gymnasium on Sunday at 5. . . . The women are at NIT on Wednesday and play Northeastern at home on Saturday at 2.
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