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Hughes brothers hope to enjoy happy holiday homecoming

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CANTON — Joined by their St. Lawrence University hockey teammates, the Hughes brothers are looking forward to making this weekend a holiday homecoming of sorts.

George and Gunnar Hughes, who have roots in the Boston area, and the Saints (5-3-2) celebrated Thanksgiving in Massachusetts and will play at Northeastern (4-6-1) tonight and at No. 10 Boston University (6-4-0) on Saturday night.

“It’s going to be fun,” George Hughes said. “We lived about 20 minutes from BU and I was a fan of BU growing up. So it will be exciting to play in Boston, for sure.”

George Hughes, a senior defenseman, and Gunnar, a sophomore winger, are continuing a tradition of brother acts at St. Lawrence.

“It’s always been a tradition here at St. Lawrence,” George Hughes said. “It’s awesome — being a little bit older then Gunnar, I never got the chance to play with him and along with last year I finally have that chance. It’s been great.”

“It’s a dream, I always wanted to play college hockey,” said Gunnar Hughes, “and getting the chance to play with my brother makes it special.”

This weekend is special for both players, who are the latest brother combination at the school, following in the tradition of the Flanagans, Raleys, Kellers and Wallmans, to name a few.

“It’s special for families to have that,” St. Lawrence coach Greg Carvel said. “As parents, I’m sure it’s nice to only have to travel to just one rink. They’re great kids and they come from a great hockey tradition and family — their father was a real good player at Harvard.”

While both aren’t Boston natives, as the Hughes family relocated from the Chicago area to Westwood, Mass., about 12 miles from the city, in their teen years, they consider Beantown, and its hockey tradition and history, as home.

“I grew up in Chicago and my dad (George) grew up playing in Boston and he went to Harvard,” George Hughes said. “Boston hockey was a big part of our family growing up.”

“We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” Gunnar Hughes said. “I’ve always wanted to play against those teams because I grew up watching them play. I have a lot of friends who are going to be there watching as well as playing against us on the ice, so it’s an exciting time.”

In addition, the Hughes’ sister, Aleca, served as senior captain of Yale’s women’s hockey team last season and their mother, Allison, competed athletically for Boston University.

The two brothers are different types of players on the ice with George, who leads Saints defensemen in scoring (one-goal-nine assists-10 points) having more of a “high-skilled, high-speed style,” with Gunnar (2-3-5) sharpening his skills as a power forward.

“They’re model players for this program,” Carvel said. “George has been our best defenseman for some time, and Gunnar has really developed into a power forward — the kind of player St. Lawrence is known for. He works real hard and is hard to play against.”

St. Lawrence is looking to bounce back after a disappointing weekend at home in which it tied Princeton, 3-3 on Friday and lost 6-2 to now No. 18 Quinnipiac.

The Saints are looking to halt a four-game winless stretch (0-2-2) — all in ECAC Hockey play.

“I think we have to do some soul searching right now,” George Hughes said. “I think we had a great start, but maybe we got complacent. The past two weekends have shown us that we definitely haven’t arrived. We just have to show up (this) weekend and keep working hard.”

FEASTING ON HOCKEY EAST

The Saints are unbeaten in their past seven games at 6-0-1 against Hockey East opponents dating back to January 2010.

The streak began with a 5-2 win over Boston College in the Denver Cup on Jan. 1, 2010 and has included 6-4 and 2-1 victories over Vermont and New Hampshire respectively in the 2010-11 season, a 2-1 win over Vermont and a 6-6 tie with Merrimack last season.

Most recently, St. Lawrence won two games — 5-0 and 5-1 — in a sweep at Maine Oct. 19-20 in the second week of this season.

LEADING THE WAY

St. Lawrence senior captain Kyle Flanagan is tied for first in the country in points (19) with Bentley’s Brett Gensler, and Saints teammate Greg Carey is tied for second in points (18) with Denver’s Nick Shore.

Flanagan is tied for first in the nation in assists (11) with three others and both Flanagan and Carey are tied for third in goals (8) with four others.

Flanagan and Carey are also tied for first in the country in power-play goals (4) with six others.

Flanagan and Carey have at least a point in all but one game this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS STRUGGLING

While the Saints’ special teams have struggled recently, their power play is still ranked 12th nationally (21.8 percent) while their penalty killing is 20th (85.2).

However, St. Lawrence will look to rebound after its special teams came down to earth against Princeton and Quinnipiac.

The power play converted only twice from 14 chances while the team allowed four man-advantage goals from nine opportunities.

Sportswriter Chris Fitz Gerald covers St. Lawrence University hockey for the Times. He can be reached at cfitzgerald@wdt.net and followed on twitter at @cfitzwdt.

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