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January 16. 2014 11:02PM

Allen Lessels' College Notebook: UNH skaters host No. 6 Union College for two games

DURHAM -- The Black Bears can wait.

The University of New Hampshire hockey team finally gets back to Hockey East action with a home-and-home series against bitter rival Maine next weekend, starting on Friday night at the Whittemore Center.

The Wildcats will have plenty of time to worry about that next week.

They have a more immediate task at hand.

No. 6-ranked Union College is in town to take on No. 17 UNH Friday at 7:30 and Saturday night at 7 at the Whitt.

The Dutchmen are 13-4-3 overall and at 9-2-0 are a point behind first-place Quinnipiac in the ECAC. They will put UNH’s four-game winning streak to the test.

“They’re one of the top teams in the country right now,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “They’ve been on a roll.”

Union advanced to the Frozen Four of the NCAA tournament two years ago and last year beat Boston College, 5-1, in the East Regional in Providence before falling to Quinnipiac in the Regional final, 5-1.

The Dutchmen have picked up where they left off. In mid-December, they went to then-No. 1 St. Cloud State and ran their unbeaten streak to 10 with a 4-1 win and 3-3 tie.

They lost at Quinnipiac, 2-1, last Friday in their first game back from break and beat Princeton, 3-0, on Saturday night.

Junior goalie Colin Stevens made 33 saves for his third shutout of the season on Saturday. He has a .916 save percentage and 2.12 goals against average.

Senior forward Daniel Carr leads Union with 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points. Four of his goals have come on the power play.

After this weekend, UNH has 10 games remaining, all of them against Hockey East opponents.

“This weekend is a big step for our season” said junior forward Matt Willows. “It’s almost like playoff hockey now. It’s coming down to the end here and everything is real tight. ... We dropped a couple of nonconference games that we should have pulled out and I think this is a time for us to redeem ourselves and come away with a couple of wins this weekend.”

Willows and senior linemates Nick Sorkin and Kevin Goumas have been on fire the last few games and have, along with defensemen Eric Knodel and Trevor van Riemsdyk, fueled the team’s invigorated power play.

Willows has at least one goal in each of the last four games and has six goals and two assists in that stretch. Goumas is at 3-5-8 and Sorkin at 1-5-6 in the last three.

The Wildcats have scored seven power play goals in the last four games in 23 chances to boost their overall success rate to 21.1 percent.

They’ll see what kind of damage they can do to Union’s penalty kill, which ranks 10th in the ECAC at 77.3 percent.

UNH senior forward Jeff Silengo, who missed the last two games with a hand injury, is due back in the lineup this weekend.

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Dartmouth fell to 3-12-2 overall with Saturday’s closing-minutes 4-2 loss to UNH in the Battle for the RiverStone Cup at Verizon Wireless Arena.

It’s all about the ECAC now for Dartmouth, which is 2-8-0 in the league, and plays Colgate, 9-9-3 and 5-3-1, tonight at 7 p.m. at home and Cornell, 8-4-3 and 4-3-2, on Saturday at the same time.

Coach Bob Gaudet likes the way his team has been playing and thinks it can be a factor down the stretch, especially if a few guys who have been out with injuries make it back into the lineup.

“I’ve been around it a long time and I think we can be a team to be reckoned with,” Gaudet said. “We’re getting better and better.”

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St. Anselm College is playing host to a full schedule of games this weekend as part of a “Pink in the Rink” event to help raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer and raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Wing at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester.

A Chuck-A-Puck contest and other activities will be held throughout the weekend.

The event opens with the St. Anselm women, 12-2-0, playing New England College today at 4 p.m. The Hawk men, 5-5-3, take on UMass-Boston, 12-1-2, at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the women play Castleton State at 1 p.m. and the men face Babson at 4 p.m.

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The Southern New Hampshire men, 10-5-1, are at Salve Regina, 6-9-0, on Saturday night and play Franklin Pierce at home on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ... The UNH women, 8-11-2 overall and 3-4-2 in Hockey East, are at UConn on Saturday at 2 p.m. and play the Huskies at home on Sunday, also at 2. ... The Plymouth State men are home against UMass-Dartmouth on Saturday at 6 p.m. ... The New England College men play Babson at home tonight at 7 and have UMass-Boston at home on Saturday at 4..

alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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