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UMass hockey to face UNH

Another chapter of the rivalry between the Massachusetts hockey team and New Hampshire will be written this weekend when the two programs meet for the 100th and 101st time at the Mullins Center.

The Wildcats have dominated the all-time series, holding a 75-17-7 record against the No. 14 Minutemen dating back to Feb. 13, 1926.

“It’s been historically a terrific program,” UMass coach Don Cahoon said about UNH. “They’ve been as consistent and proven as anyone in college hockey and they’ve done everything but win a national championship.”

The Minutemen are coming off a sweep of Niagara in a home-and-home series where they won 4-1 and 4-2 in consecutive nights. Facing the Wildcats (2-5-2, 2-1-1 Hockey East), UMass will look to improve on both its 6-1-0 overall record and its 3-1-0 Hockey East record.

UNH, meanwhile, has struggled out of the gates this season, dropping its first two contests of the year and losing three of its last four.

The Wildcats, however, have not had the easiest schedule as they’ve faced tough opponents in No. 1 Miami (Ohio) twice, and conference foes Boston College and UMass Lowell.

Though winless against out of conference teams, UNH has fared well for the most part in the Hockey East with victories against Northeastern and Maine.

Cahoon knows that the Wildcats’ record isn’t indicative of their team and feels that with its back against the wall, UNH will come out fighting.

“You have to look at where their losses are coming from. Any of those [results] could happen to any of the good programs in the country,” he said. “I expect you’re going to get a very formidable opponent, someone that’s extremely prepared, kind of anxious and playing with a sense of urgency because of their record.”

Unlike the past, the Minutemen and Wildcats will play for the first time in one venue on back-to-back nights. Cahoon and UNH coach Dick Umile organized it, knowing that the travel to and forth to the two schools is difficult. Both coaches were reluctant to continue a home-and-home series and instead would like to be better situated in one location for both games. Next year, the Wildcats will play host while the Minutemen will travel to the Whittemore Center.

Despite the two home games, Cahoon doesn’t feel UMass holds much of an advantage.

“It’s nice to play at home, you would like to think it gives you an edge, an extra skater with the crowd, but the truth of the matter is that the game is played between the glass and I don’t know how much of an advantage it really is,” Cahoon said.

The Minutemen will try to break through with a win against the Wildcats after posting a 0-5-2 record in the last seven meetings. Though the three contests last season all went to overtime, UMass couldn’t pull out a victory. Two of the games ended in draws, while UNH took the lone win.

As close as the games were last year, Cahoon knows that they could have gone either way for either team.

“Sometimes it’s a bit of puck luck. All three games we could have won, and they could have won all three games,” he said. “We have to do a little bit more than they do. We have to a better job of making it difficult on their goaltending and do a better job of defending and winning some crucial battles at crucial times in the game. That can create an edge in itself.”

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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