ORONO – Mark Anthoine sat in the stands of Harold Alfond Stadium in early October and watched the University of Maine football team claim the Brice-Cowell Musket for the first time since 2002, with a 16-13 overtime victory against New Hampshire.

Growing up in Lewiston, Anthoine understood the significance of the Maine-UNH rivalry. But that night the rivalry suddenly resonated with Anthoine, a freshman forward on the Maine hockey team.

“It’s kind of an unwritten grudge,” Anthoine said. “It will always be there in every sport. You hear all the chants, you see all the posters, you hear all the nicknames each school has for the other. So to be a part of that is even better.”

Anthoine will get his most authentic taste of the rivalry tonight when the Black Bears host New Hampshire in hockey at Alfond Arena.

“It’s a great rivalry, a longtime rivalry,” said Anthoine, whose team is ranked sixth and eighth in the national polls. New Hampshire is third in each poll.

“To be a part of it is going to be even better. You see the process that goes into preparing for it and the emotion that goes into it.”

The 31-year-old hockey rivalry between Maine and New Hampshire doesn’t have the national recognition of Michigan-Michigan State or the history of Boston College-Boston University. But it still encompasses a certain magnitude.

“The first time we played Maine, the upperclassmen talked about what a battle it’s been,” UNH senior forward Phil DeSimone said. “It’s not one game in particular that stands out to me. It’s every game I’ve played in against Maine.”

Maine center Robby Dee agreed.

“This is our biggest rival, definitely,” said Dee, a senior. “Every time we play them it’s chaotic, whether we play them here or there. They’re really fun games to play in and there’s a lot of excitement going around.”

The rivalry, UNH Coach Dick Umile said, captivates each state.

“Everyone in each state relates to UNH and to Maine,” said Umile, a former UNH player in his 21st year as the Wildcats’ coach.

Maine leads the all-time series 56-45-5, yet UNH is 7-3 in its last 10 games against the Black Bears. For this year’s Maine players there is no one moment that defines the rivalry the Black Bears have with New Hampshire. Instead it’s a progression that seems to add a new chapter.

“The three years I’ve been here, the atmosphere’s been unbelievable,” said Spencer Abbott, a junior left wing for the Black Bears. “We pack the house, they pack the house. We’ve got a good streak going at home (5-0-1 this season) and we want to keep it going, but we play (UNH) like it’s any other team we’re playing.”

Brice O’Connor, a freshman defenseman for Maine, grew up in Londonberry, N.H. His childhood allegiance was to Boston College — O’Connor’s father, Bob, was a goalie for the Eagles from 1979-82 — but he admitted that when he had to, he rooted for UNH for geographical reasons. Now O’Connor looks forward to the opportunity to be a part of the rivalry.

“I love it but I wasn’t all about UNH growing up, so it’s not like I’m betraying my home state,” O’Connor said, laughing. “But I’ve heard about the rivalry and I’ve heard our fans are going to be unbelievable this weekend, so I’m really excited to see what it’s all about.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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