Wildcats looking at time off as a positive

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Though the reason for taking time off last weekend might not have sat too well with New Hampshire, the third seed in this weekend’s NCAA regional in Manchester, N.H., the Wildcats team is looking at the rest as nothing but a positive.

UNH, of course, was missing from last weekend’s Hockey East Championship tournament at the TD Banknorth Garden after being upset by Boston College the weekend prior in the league quarterfinals.

“Last weekend was great to have that time off to rest and recuperate and recover from some sickness,” said Wildcats forward Sean Collins. “This week in practice has been a good pace. Guy in practice have been going hard and I think it will translate this weekend.”

“The weekend off can be looked at as a good thing and that’s the way we’re looking at it,” said senior defenseman Kevin Kapstad. “I thought we did a really good job preparing this week for North Dakota. Now we just want to compete and move on from there.”

Home Not-so-sweet Home

The Verizon Center has not exactly been a pleasant place for UNH to play, particularly in the NCAA tournament. UNH has lost both of its NCAA games in Manchester, falling to fourth-seed Miami, 2-1, in 2007 and second-seeded Michigan, 4-1, in 2004.

To prepare for this weekend, the team split practice time between local arenas in Dover and Exeter, N.H., as its home rink has been overtaken by a flower show. It’s likely whether or not the Whittemore Center was occupied that head coach Dick Umile would have moved practices to a different rink to simulate the smaller ice surface at the Verizon Center. The Manchester rink will is 200-by-85 feet as opposed to the Olympic-sized 200-by-100 ice sheet that the Wildcats play on at the Whittemore Center.

The maintenance crew at the Verizon Wireless Arena, home of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, had to work overtime to prep the building. The crew needed to repaint all the lines to conform to college standards. The neutral zone in the NHL and AHL is smaller than a college rink.

Chance of Heart for Bourque

According to the U.S. Hockey Report, Ray Bourque’s son Ryan has decided to forgo his commitment to UNH and instead play junior hockey for the Quebec Ramparts, a team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Patrick Roy, an old teammate of Ray’s on the Colorado Avalanche, coaches the Ramparts. UNH coach Dick Umile had little to say when asked to comment on the situation during Friday’s presser at the NCAA Northeast Regionals in Manchester, NH.

“My reaction to that is North Dakota right now,” said Umile. “We’ll talk about that later on, I’m more concerned about the team that we’re going to be coaching tomorrow.”

Scouting North Dakota

The twelfth ranked Wildcats (19-12-5) are making their ninth straight NCAA post season appearance and the seventh ranked Fighting Sioux (24-14-4) are close behind with seven consecutive appearances themselves. The Wildcats are confident that using their minds and bodies are essential in Saturday’s game.

“My opinion about North Dakota is that they’re just real good,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “They do a lot of things well; they’re big, they’re skilled, they’re a strong team. They come after you, they forecheck you. They’re physical and obviously they’ve got some skilled players. So they can not only play that game, they have great transition.”

Umile Added, “We’ll have to play well, there’s no question. It’s all about competing and being ready to compete and playing smart. You don’t want to go into a game like this and make bad plays or unnecessary penalties because you’re just asking for trouble. So we’re looking to compete, play physical ourselves, and play smart.”

“It’s really exciting we get to play a power house team and bring them into our own building,” said senior Kevin Kapstad. “They’re just like any top notch team that goes up and down the ice and plays real physical. Obviously they have great tradition and are always in the NCAA tournament, but we’re not too focused on how they play, if we play our game I think we’ll be fine.”

Melissa Parrelli contributed to this report.

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Senior Writer Jim Connelly is a senior writer and has been with USCHO.com since 1999. He is based in Boston and regularly covers Hockey East. He began with USCHO.com as the correspondent covering the MAAC, which nowadays is known as Atlantic Hockey. Each week during the season, he writes "Tuesday Morning Quarterback."