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UNH hockey: Reeling Wildcats face softening schedule

Now might be as good a time as any to go over the good news and bad news facing the UNH men’s hockey team.

Finding the bad news is easy. Just look around. The Wildcats have been, by far, Hockey East’s least successful team, with a 1-5-1 overall record that is hardly a death sentence but isn’t insignificant either. They’re not scoring. They’re not keeping teams from scoring. They’re not killing penalties, not scoring on the power play, not playing consistently. So on and so forth. When you have one win in November, such a list isn’t hard to make.

So for the bad news, look at the standings. Look at the statistics. For the good news, look at the schedule.

If UNH is going to make a run and get back into the Hockey East race, now’s the time. The Wildcats have Massachusetts up this weekend, which is 3-4-1 and has a negative goal differential. Next up is unranked Brown in a Tuesday tilt, and next weekend the Wildcats face Northeastern, which started 5-0 against weak competition but was picked to finish last in the conference preseason poll.

It’s a tough task facing UNH, but this window provides the team a chance to get it done.

“We’re in a tough spot,” Coach Dick Umile said after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to UMass Lowell in overtime, “and we’ve got to scratch and claw and get ourselves out of this hole.”

If UNH continues to meander through this stretch, it’ll really be in trouble. No. 6 Providence (the team that gave the Wildcats headaches en route to beating them in the Hockey East tournament last year) awaits, followed by Boston College after a game against Harvard and a pair of contests at Colorado College.

The sum of the situation is an urgency placed on this weekend, though the Wildcats shouldn’t go into it devoid of confidence. Though a worsening record makes it sound more and more like a trite excuse, it really has been a brutal slate so far for the Wildcats. Each team they’ve faced is currently ranked (including No. 16 Clarkson, which UNH beat, 4-1), and UNH has played only one dud so far this season. In three of those losses (3-2 to Minnesota, 3-2 in overtime to Michigan, 3-2 in overtime to UMass Lowell), the Wildcats still put forward great efforts.

Those great efforts still resulted in losses, however, and now, effort’s not enough. UNH needs wins, and if they don’t come soon, the season could slip away for good.

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