New Hampshire was in the mix last year for the regular season title and, despite falling to Providence in the Hockey East playoffs, secured the second seed in the NCAA’s Northeast Regional. The Wildcats got to within one game of the Frozen Four but lost to Massachusetts-Lowell.
Although they lost some significant players, this team once again looks to be a league and national contender. This program has been the model of consistency, earning NCAA tournament berths 14 of the last 16 seasons.
The strength starts between the pipes, where Casey DeSmith recorded all but three decisions last year, going 19-10-7 with a 2.23 GAA and a .924 save percentage.
“We’re very, very comfortable with our goaltending,” Wildcats coach Dick Umile says. “Casey looks great. He’s in great shape and he’s competing hard. I expect him to [play] with an awful lot of confidence and pick up hopefully where he left off the beginning of last season.”
Despite losing two key defensemen, the Wildcats return All-American Trevor van Riemsdyk, a difference-maker with his offensive capabilities, along with seniors Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta, both of whom also bring a strong offensive component to the blue line.
“We lost Connor Hardowa and Brett Kostolansky, two senior defensemen, but Brett Pesce was a freshman who played very, very well for us last year,” Umile says. “And Trevor is a very, very skilled player who had a fabulous season. I believe he’ll be an All-American again.”
Last year’s squad played strong in its own end and often carried the territorial play but failed to finish its offensive chances with the consistency of past UNH teams. Of the three forwards who scored 15 goals, only Grayson Downing returns. However, top point-producer Kevin Goumas is also back along with other Wildcats players looking to move into more prominent roles.
“We have to find out who’s going to do the scoring for us,” Umile says. “John Henrion and Austin Block had pretty good seasons as senior forwards last year, but Kevin Goumas is an exciting, dynamite, fierce competitor. I think he’s going to step it up in goal production along with Grayson Downing.
“We’ve got a good sophomore class that we feel is going to do some good things for us, [especially] Danny Correale and Maxim Gaudreault. That’s going to be an important class for us as they step in and play some key roles for our team.
“We’ve got freshman Tyler Kelleher coming from the national program. He’s a smart hockey player who’s going to come in and play on our top lines and add some offense to our program.
“But we’ve got a good nucleus coming back, a mature group that’s had experience. I think we’re going to get scoring from multiple players.”
About the Wildcats
2012-13 overall record: 20-12-7
2012-13 Hockey East record: 13-8-6 (tie-third)
2013-14 predicted finish (coaches’ poll): Fifth
Key losses: F John Henrion, F Austin Block, F Dalton Speelman, D Connor Hardowa, D Brett Kostolansky
Players to watch: F Kevin Goumas, F Grayson Downing, F Casey Thrush, F Nick Sorkin, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, D Eric Knodel, G Casey DeSmith
Impact rookies: F Tyler Kelleher
Why the Wildcats will finish higher than predicted: They have strong goaltending and a difference-maker in Trevor van Riemsdyk on the blue line. If the Wildcats can finish their offensive chances, another regular season title should surprise no one.
Why the Wildcats will finish lower than predicted: The Wildcats could get off to a slow start while trying to fill the holes up front and on the blue line.