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March 17. 2013 9:27PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Wildcats have done enough for an NCAA bid

NOW they wait.

Another piece of the University of New Hampshire hockey season ended with Sunday's 3-2 loss at Providence College.

The Wildcats hope to be playing again in Manchester at the end of the month.

Providence, the No. 4 seed in the Hockey East tournament, opened the quarterfinal series with No. 5 seed UNH with a 3-2 win on Friday night and closed it out on Sunday. UNH forced a third game with a 4-1 win on Saturday.

The Friars moved on to play No. 1 seed UMass Lowell in the first Hockey East semifinal on Friday at 5 p.m. at the TD Garden in Boston.

The Wildcats are 19-11-7 and likely have done enough through the course of the season, thanks to a great first half, to qualify for the national tournament.

But they must wait until Sunday night to find out for sure.

UNH helped itself in the national picture and in its chances to make the NCAA tournament with Saturday's Game 2 victory.

The Wildcats improved their lot in the PairWise that mimic the system used by the NCAA to select the at-large teams for the 16-team event. Five spots in the tournament go to winners of league tournaments.

UNH was tied for seventh in the PairWise with North Dakota after Sunday's loss.

If the Wildcats qualify for the NCAA tournament, they are assured a spot in the Northeast Regional on March 29 and 30 at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester as the host team there.

Which is not to say there won't be some anxious moments next weekend while results come in from around the country and teams jockey for coveted playoff spots.

The anxiety will likely build during the day next Sunday.

The NCAA Selection Show, when teams get their playoff assignments, is not scheduled until 9 p.m.

UMass Lowell captured its first Hockey East regular-season championship and now looks for its first tournament title.

No. 2 seed Boston College and No. 3 Boston University, who have owned the Hockey East tournament for most of the past decade, play in the second semifinal on Friday night at the Garden.

The Eagles have won the last three league tournaments and six in the last eight years. BU won the crown in the two years BC did not.

Boston College and Lowell are both good bets to make the NCAAs no matter the results in Boston.

BU and Providence likely need to win the Hockey East title to get into the national event.

UNH grabbed a 2-1 lead midway through the second period on Sunday, but was unable to hold on.

Sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk figured in both Wildcat goals.

His shot on net led to a John Henrion rebound goal to tie the game 1-1 late in the first period.

UNH was on the power play halfway through the period and van Riemsdyk had the puck out front. He looked and saw Grayson Downing to the left of Providence goalie Jon Gillies. Van Riemsdyk sent the puck in and Downing redirected it past Gillies.

Van Riemsdyk has been a key part of UNH's offense all season. Junior defenseman Eric Knodel has been contributing on offense, too.

Van Riemsdyk has seven goals, and his two assists on Sunday gave him 24 assists and a total of 31 points. Knodel has 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points.

"Eric is having a terrific season," said UNH coach Dick Umile. "And having Trevor out there is like having another defenseman on the ice. He is a clever player and likes to get into the offense. There is no doubt they have added offense to our team."

But they, and the rest of the Wildcats, came up just short on Sunday.

______

GAIL GOODSPEED'S gymnastics team heads to the Eastern Atlantic Gymnastics League championships at the University of North Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

UNH warmed up for the league event with a second-place finish in a meet at Kent State on Friday night. The home team won and UNH topped Southeast Missouri and Cornell. The Wildcats will be out to improve on last year's sixth-place EAGL finish.

West Virginia, which is no longer an EAGL team, won last year's title. UNH will compete against North Carolina, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Towson, George Washington and Maryland in Chapel Hill.

alessels@unionleader.com

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