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Hockey Preview:UNH vs. Sacred Heart University and Mercyhurst University

UNH vs. Sacred Heart University

Friday at 7 p.m. Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H.

UNH is 3-3; SHU is 2-4-1

UNH vs. Mercyhurst University

Saturday at 7 p.m. Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H. UNH is 3-3; MU is 2-2

When it comes to the Atlantic Hockey Association, the Wildcats have already seen their fair share of troubles.

In a 5-1 season-opening loss to Bentley University, the Wildcats will once again play host to not one, but two AHA members Sacred Heart University and Mercyhurst University in a two-game home series this weekend.

Considering last year’s below-standard performance at the Whittemore Center and this season’s early struggles, the Wildcats have taken a stroll down memory lane to remind themselves what it means to put on a UNH Wildcats hockey jersey.

“Pride, tradition, the Whittemore Center. At one time it was the place to play,” head coach Dick Umile said. “We talked about that as a team. Talked about some of the former teams, former players. Showed videos several times of the Whittemore Center…What it’s like to wear the jersey.”

Bringing back that winning atmosphere and attitude won’t be easy, but six home games in the next seven overall is a solid starting point for this year’s Wildcats.

UNH will battle Sacred Heart on Friday, Nov. 4. Shutting down the Pioneers starts with continuing to pepper opposing goaltenders. Brett Magnus in particular for the Pioneers has been shaky. Seeing the majority of playing time through six games, he is averaging a 3.19 goals against average allowing 19 past. Danny Tirone has a slightly better stat line to show for comparision, posting a 2.84 goals against average letting only 14 past.  For an offense that has posted 21 goals this season, consistent offensive pressure on a vulnerable goaltending core will be one of the keys to victory, as opposed to a more defensive-minded gameplan. With the rise of early-season star Patrick Grasso, the Wildcats have plenty of ammunition to provide.

Concerning Mercyhurst, the Lakers will be heading into their fifth and sixth games of the season, the past three games were at home and one was at a nuetral site. Their most recent matchup resulted in a 6-3 victory over American International College. To come out with a victory over the Lakers, the Wildcats will have to contain the Lakers’ top two scorers: Derek Barach and Lester Lancaster. Both have four goals on the season. Barach leads the team with seven points overall. The Wildcats have 62 blocked shots this season. If the game comes down to any small component, it will be blocked shots. Keep open shots away from Tirone and UNH will find success in the offensive game.

A two-game homestand before returning to heavy competition next Tuesday, Nov. 8 vs. No. 5 Boston College allows UNH to get some much-needed momentum heading back into a Hockey East mindset. The pride of UNH hockey may lie at stake in these two home games and beyond, as the result of this weekend could very well be a lasting impression on a new fan’s view on this young Wildcat team. Against some less-intensive competition, the Wildcats have an opportunity to prove that they are still a high-caliber team to play, and both games being held at the Whittemore Center give the Wildcats a chance to establish home dominance once again.

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