The University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team has five non-conference games remaining before it gets back to Hockey East play for the rest of the regular season.
Four of those next five games are at home in the Whittemore Center against top-20 teams, starting with Nebraska-Omaha Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 7.
“It’s down to the point now where we have to take it like every game is a playoff game,” said senior defenseman Justin Agosta on Thursday afternoon. “These out-of-conference games are huge because these teams have some good wins that can help us in the ratings.”
UNH is unranked at 10-10-1 overall and 5-5-0 in Hockey East, and needs to string together some wins to improve its chances of getting an at-large invitation to the NCAA tournament if it does not win the league tournament in March.
Nebraska-Omaha brings an 8-7-1 record into the weekend and is No. 19 in this week’s USCHO poll.
After this series against the Mavericks, UNH plays Dartmouth at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester next Saturday at 5 p.m. and then plays host to Union for games on Jan. 17 and 18.
Union is ranked No. 6 this week with a 12-3-3 record.
Nebraska-Omaha last played on Dec. 6 and 7 at Colorado College, and lost (4-2) and tied (3-3) in the pair of games. The Mavericks swept a pair of games at then-No. 8 Miami the weekend prior.
Junior forward Josh Archibald leads the Mavericks with 11 goals and six assists for 17 points, and has three game-winners. Senior forward Ryan Walters has four goals and 12 assists.
“They’re a very aggressive team. They play extremely hard and they have some pretty good balance,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “One of the bigger things you see on film is the balance. They come at you one line after the other.”
UNH outshot Cornell 46-24 and Princeton 46-23 in games last weekend in the Florida College Classic, but managed only a split on the weekend.
The Wildcats lost to Cornell, 4-2, in their first-round game and came from behind to beat Princeton, 3-2, in the consolation game.
“Overall, we’ve played well,” Umile said. “We’ve just got to find ways to win games whether we outshoot the other team or not.”
Most often, the Wildcats do outshoot their opponents.
They were outshot in three of their first four games this year but have been outshot only once in the 17 games since.
“We need to not just outshoot people, but to score more,” Agosta said. “And the thing is we need more goals at important times in the game, when we’re down 3-1 or when it’s 3-2 and we need a goal to tie. We need goals at the right time.”
Agosta had a goal against Cornell last weekend and scored a goal that made it 2-2 against Princeton and then had an assist on the game-wnner by Matt Willows.
- - - - - - - -
THE Dartmouth men (2-11-1 overall) played a wild 8-8 tie with Northeastern in the consolation of the Ledyard Bank Classic in Hanover on Monday.
The Big Green lost to Providence, 3-2, in the first round of the tournament a night earlier. They have three more games against Hockey East teams before returning to ECAC play. Dartmouth plays at Vermont on Friday, at Boston University on Wednesday and then plays UNH at the Verizon on Saturday.
Junior forward Eric Neiley leads the Big Green with nine goals and four assists for 13 points.
- - - - - - - -
THE St. Anselm men (3-3-2 overall) had games scheduled at SUNY-Potsdam Friday and Saturday and are at Franklin Pierce on Tuesday. Senior goalies Nick Dries and Robert Kang each have a save percentage of .935. Dries has a goals-against average of 2.13 and record of 2-1-2, and Kang is at 2.66 and 1-2-0 ... The St. Anselm women (10-1-0) play Franklin Pierce at home on Sunday at 2 and are at Bowdoin on Tuesday at 7 ... The Plymouth State men (4-6-0) were scheduled to play Amherst Friday at 4 in the Norwich tournament ... The Southern New Hampshire men (7-4-1) play Tufts (2-7-0) in the Codfish Bowl today at 4 at UMass-Boston and face either UMass-Boston or Suffolk on Saturday.