On to Maine
Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Once more, with even more feeling
DURHAM -- THEY did it once when desperate times called for disruptive measures and they must to do it again on Saturday.
New Hampshire needed to beat Maine, the Colonial Athletic Association champ and its bitter rival, nine days ago to keep its season alive.
The Wildcats, playing into December once again, are faced with the same challenge for the second time in three Saturdays.
They play at Maine in the second round of the FCS tournament on Saturday at 2 p.m.
UNH handed Maine its first FCS loss of the season, 24-3, at Cowell Stadium in the last game of the regular season. Now the scene shifts 198 miles north.
Maine earned a first-round bye, the No. 5 seed for the tournament and a home game for the second round with its 10-2 overall record and CAA title.
UNH improved to 8-4 overall and earned another game against the Black Bears with Saturday’s 45-7 demolition of Lafayette, the Patriot League champion, at Cowell Stadium.
“The kids played pretty hard,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell at mid-afternoon on Sunday. “We were very efficient on offense and getting 10 sacks on defense doesn’t happen very often. We did some good things, but like I’m going to tell the team in about 45 minutes, that doesn’t matter. You’ve got to have a short memory and erase all this stuff. This team (Maine) had a week to prepare for you. It’s good to win it and it’s good to be in it, but now we go on to the next thing.”
The winner of the Maine-New Hampshire game advances to the tournament quarterfinal round to take on the winner of a game between No. 5 seed Southeastern Louisiana and Sam Houston State in Hammond, La.
Southeastern and Sam Houston are Southland Conference rivals and Southeastern won a home game between the two, 34-21, on Nov. 16.
UNH’s offense got rolling against Lafayette and a defense that is getting better and better highlighted the wins the last two weekends.
The Wildcat defense punished the Leopards with those 10 sacks, three by senior defensive end Jay Colbert, and was consistently able to turn the ball over to the offense with third- and fourth-down stops.
Until Lafayette scored late in the fourth quarter, UNH had not allowed a touchdown through eight periods spanning three games.
Maine had been averaging 32 points a game behind by senior Marcus Wasilewski, the all-CAA, first-team quarterback.
The Wildcats got a fumble and an interception on Wasilewski. Maine had not turned the ball over in its previous four games.
Wasilewki complimented the Wildcats on their game plan and execution after the game and said their coverage made it difficult to find places to throw the ball.
“I think UNH played a great football game, no ifs, ands or buts about that,” Wasilewski said. “You could tell they were the do-or-die team and needed to get this win and they did.”
McDonnell agreed. “The biggest thing was, we had a lot more to gain from winning than they did,” he said.
Both will be do-or-die teams on Saturday in Orono.
Maine will be looking for a little payback and a victory in its first home playoff game ever.
New Hampshire will be looking for a second win in the playoffs for the first time and for its first win against a conference rival in the playoffs.
The Wildcats are in the FCS tournament for the 10th consecutive year and for the fourth time in the last eight years they will play a CAA team in their second round. Each of the three previous games was on the road and UNH lost each time.
UMass knocked the Wildcats out of the tournament, 24-17, in 2006.
UMass had won the regular-season game, 28-20, at UMass on Nov. 4.
Villanova eliminated the Wildcats, 46-7, in 2009. UNH beat Villanova, 28-24, on Oct. 10.
Delaware beat UNH, 16-3, in 2010. The teams did not play during the regular season that year.
Those games were all quarterfinals and UMass and Delaware each advanced to the championship game and lost.
Villanova went on to beat Montana, 23-21, for the 2009 title and finished with a 14-1 record. The only loss came at UNH.
THE men’s hockey team picked up a couple of wins at Colorado College — 6-2 on Friday and 3-0 on Saturday behind Casey DeSmith’s 32-save shutout — over the weekend to get back above .500 at 9-7-1 and now takes aim at a couple of Hockey East games against Boston College.
It will be the last chance for the Wildcats to pick up league points for more than a month.
UNH plays at BC on Friday night at 7 and the teams meet at the Whittemore Center on Saturday at the same time.
After Saturday, the Wildcats take a Christmas break.
The line of senior Kevin Goumas centering for classmate Nick Sorkin and junior Matt Willows accounted for all three goals on Saturday and five goals total at CC.
Goumas had two goals and an assist on Saturday and Sorkin had the other goal and two assists.
Goumas leads the Wildcats with seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points. Sorkin at 11-7-18 and junior defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, 3-15-18, are right behind.
Sorkin has his 11 goals in 17 games. Coming into the season, he had 14 goals in 101 career games.
DeSmith, a junior from Rochester, lowered his goals-against average to 1.84 and improved his save percentage to .934.
UNH has nine points and is in second place in Hockey East, a point behind first-place Providence.
Boston College is a point behind UNH, but has played two fewer games than UNH or Providence.
The Eagles are 8-4-2 overall and 4-1-1 in the league and have lost their last two games. They dropped a 5-1 decision at Maine on Nov. 23 and fell at home, 5-4, to Holy Cross of the Atlantic Hockey Association on Friday.
BC junior forward Johnny Gaudreau leads the league in scoring at 12-13-25 in 14 games.
firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @AllenLessels