MANCHESTER, N.H. — Brian Morgan scored five goals as a freshman forward for Maine last winter.

None gave him more satisfaction than the one he tallied Jan. 25 to wrap up a 4-2 win over New Hampshire. The net may have been empty, but Morgan was full of emotion.

“I had a big smile on my face,” said Morgan, who grew up a Black Bear fan while living in Windham, N.H. “That definitely did feel special, scoring against the home state.”

Maine and New Hampshire will renew their rivalry this weekend, at two rinks that usually host professional teams. Friday’s game is at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. Saturday’s rematch is at the remodeled and rechristened Cross Insurance Arena in downtown Portland, which is sold out for the occasion. Both faceoffs are at 7 p.m.

These are bitterly contested games for all involved. But for those who grew up here, like Maine defenseman Jake Rutt, the intensity burns strongest.

“The game is a little bit faster. Everyone wants to tell their kids when they’re older that they beat UNH or they beat Maine,” said Rutt, a senior assistant captain. “This is the funnest weekend of the season right here.”

Rutt grew up in Augusta and got an early taste of the rivalry that remains indelible.

“I was Maine through and through and had season tickets one year with my dad (Norman). I didn’t really follow UNH that much, because you don’t do that when you’re in Maine,” he said.

“I saw them play each other in ’03. It was packed. It was one of those nights they gave out the thundersticks. It was one of the loudest things I’d ever experienced. It felt like a Bruins game. That environment definitely was one of the things that made me always want to play for Maine.”

Rutt’s family moved to Scarborough when he was 16, and he played and practiced in what was then the Cumberland County Civic Center while competing for the Red Storm. As a sophomore at Maine, he got to play there again, against Mercyhurst. He remembers looking up at the crowd and seeing former teammates and friends from the Scarborough community. He anticipates experiencing that again Saturday, and can’t wait.

“I’m trying to get all the guys on the team to give me their tickets, so my family doesn’t go broke,” Rutt said. “I feel very comfortable in that building. You try not to think like, ‘I need to impress these guys’ (in the stands). You have to understand the emotions and think, how can I help my team win here.”

Morgan was born in North Carolina and latched on to Maine as his favorite hockey team after his family moved to Massachusetts. When he was 12, they moved a little farther north and Morgan found himself surrounded by New Hampshire fans.

“When I committed to Maine, I definitely got my fair share of criticism, mainly from my teachers in high school and my friends,” he said.

There will be plenty of friends in the Verizon on Friday. Morgan knows they won’t be rooting for the Black Bears, but thinks they’ll at least send some love his way.

“Hopefully, they’ll be cheering for me,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll boo me. It’s all pretty good-natured.”

There will be nothing good-natured about the action on the ice. These are two teams desperate for victories. Maine has dropped its last eight games for its longest losing streak in 29 seasons. The Black Bears are 3-12-1, an almost identical start to the 3-11-2 stretch that opened the 2012-13 season, which ended with the dismissal of Coach Tim Whitehead.

New Hampshire is 4-9-1 and one point behind Maine in the Hockey East standings with a 1-5-1 league record (Maine is 2-6). The Wildcats were staggered by the September arrest of goaltender Casey DeSmith for domestic assault, which resulted in him being removed from the team.

Both teams are going on extended holiday breaks after this weekend’s games, and would love to do so on a positive note.

“I think it’s the perfect way to end the first half of the season,” Morgan said. “Playing a rivalry weekend, they’re kind of in the same situation as us, struggling to get wins. And it’s not like it’s going to be a home game, It’s two neutral rinks. This can definitely be a turning point for us if we go down and battle hard. I think we’re ready to get two wins.”

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