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Hockey preview: UNH vs. Arizona State University AND UNH vs. Merrimack College

UNH vs. Arizona State University

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

UNH is 4-4-1; ASU is 1-8

For the first time in program history, the Wildcats will welcome a team from the Grand Canyon State of Arizona. The Arizona State University Sun Devils make their way to Durham on Saturday, Nov. 12 for a Division I battle with UNH.

The Sun Devils are a new NCAA Divison I hockey program, as they have now finished nine games of their second season in Division I. During the 2016-17 season thus far, the Sun Devils are 1-8, but don’t let that record fool you.

Arizona State has played nine games, all against ranked opponents, including Hockey East teams Notre Dame and Northeastern. Their first win over a ranked opponent came on Oct. 11 beating Air Force in Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona 5-2.

With the tradition of UNH, and the lack of experience in Arizona State, it looks like a matchup that heavily favors UNH. However, for forwards like Chris Miller, it’s no matchup to look past.

“We shouldn’t really look past [Arizona State] at all,” Miller said. “They’re going to give us a good game, just like any team would.”

When looking at the Sun Devils from a statistical standpoint, they’ve scored a high of four goals offensively all season, which came in their only win against Air Force. Their top performers are Robbie Baillargeon and Dylan Hollman, who have tallied seven and six points respectively through nine games this season.

The goaltending has been a shared role for the Sun Devils, as three goalies have been shuffled into the lineup logging many minutes. Ryland Pashovitz, Robert Levin and Joey Daccord have all played in at least three games this season. Each goaltender has a save percentage below the .900 mark.

The Wildcats’ play will determine the outcome of this game, if they stick to their systems and play smart hockey, they’ll do just fine against the Sun Devils, if they come out flat and unprepared, they could be in trouble.

UNH vs. Merrimack College

Sunday at 4 p.m. Whittemore Center in Durham, N.H.

UNH is 4-4-1; MC is 4-4-2

The Wildcats go back-to-back with home games once again, as they host for the second time this season the Merrimack College Warriors in its return to Hockey East play.

Despite an even .500 record overall, the Wildcats have a 2-1 record against Hockey East opponents, which is tied for the second spot in the confernce standings. One of those wins came against the Warriors in their first matchup on Oct. 29; a 6-2 victory for the Wildcats, their first at the Whittemore Center this season.

Looking at the last matchup, UNH did what it needed to do all season, score the first goal. Not only did it score the first, it scored four unanswered thanks  in large part to the efforts of Patrick Grasso.

A five-goal cushion in the third period was more than enough to secure the victory, even if Merrimack posted two quick goals to make it somewhat competitive.

Saturday may have a different result, however. The Warriors have played well as of late, defeating Mercyhurst 5-1 and playing ranked opponent Providence College to a draw 2-2. A big factor to the Warriors’ success in the last two games was due to the elevated play in goaltending.

In the matchup vs. the Wildcats, Drew Vogler let up four goals on eight shots, and even was pulled from the game for Craig Pantano. Since then, Vogler has been on his game. He has saved 56 shots with only three goals allowed. He still remains one of the top goaltenders in Hockey East with a seventh-ranked save percentage of .914, a few shots better than Tirone’s .907. Vogler will come in riding a legitamate wave of momentum into Sunday.

This matchup in many cases is a must-win, not just because it is early in the season and that UNH wants to start to build a winning streak, but the first set of Hockey East matchups proves to be crucial in the playoff seeding race for the Hockey East playoffs come March. Last season, the ‘Cats went 1-1-3 through their first five games, they finished as the tenth seed in the standings.

In the 2013-14 campaign, UNH went 5-2 through the first seven, they finished fourth in the standings, and appreared in the Hockey East championship game. It is of the most importance that UNH captilalizes on its chances to grab points in the Hockey East standings in the early goings of the season, to further solidify themselves a healthy advantage come playoff time, and not have to worry about playing catch-up at the end of the season.

This game should be fas-paced much like every Hockey East matchup. The puck drops for game two of UNH vs.Merrimack at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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