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UNH hockey: What to watch for vs. Rensselaer

The Wildcats’ tough out-of-conference schedule continues this weekend, as one weekend after a pair of games against No. 4 Michigan, No. 13 UNH will travel to face No. 12 Rensselaer on Saturday night, the team’s only game of the weekend.

Though the Engineers (3-1) aren’t a conference foe, there’s a degree of familiarity with them for many of the Wildcats. UNH beat Rensselaer last January, 5-2, getting goals from five different players, including three (Jeff Silengo, Justin Agosta and Eric Knodel) who are still on the team. Casey DeSmith stopped 20 of 22 shots in the win.

RPI will catch the Wildcats (1-2-1) at a good time. While UNH came away with only one point in two games at home (albeit against an undefeated Wolverines team), the Engineers looked impressive over the weekend, beating Boston University on the road, 3-1, and trouncing Sacred Heart, 7-1.

Here are a few things to watch for in the matchup:

∎ What’s the Wildcats’ plan for Ryan Haggerty? The Engineers have scored 18 goals in four games and Haggerty’s led the charge, as the junior forward is the country’s leading goal scorer with seven tallies in four games. UNH will have to find a way to tame him, and part of that mission may be making sure Eric Knodel is on the ice whenever Haggerty is. The UNH captain is big (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) with a long reach and great instincts in his own end, allowing him to break up chances that seem to develop away from him. He and defensive partner Trevor van Riemsdyk are a combined plus-7 for the season; no other UNH defenseman is above even.

∎ Who gets the start? Coach Dick Umile employed a goalie rotation for the first two weekends, and with one game on the docket for this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see whether he goes with Jeff Wyer, who’s been superb in two starts, or Casey DeSmith, who started last year but has been between the pipes for both losses. If Wyer gets the start, it adds more reason to believe the goaltending platoon will be a strategy for the long haul.

∎ If the Wildcats grab the lead, they’ll have to show they can hold it. Finishing’s been an issue in the brief season sample we’ve seen so far, as UNH has led all but one of the games it’s played, including both games it ended up losing. Late scoring (or a lack thereof) has been a culprit, as UNH has one third-period goal in four games.

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