New Hampshire sees opportunities, not questions, with key player losses

Many people see New Hampshire as a team of question marks. Having lost their top four scorers — the entire first line of Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone, all of whom graduated, along with top-scoring defenseman Blake Kessel, who signed an NHL contract — there is reason for concern of where the offense will come from this season for the Wildcats.

For coach Dick Umile, though, it’s not about question marks as much as it is about opportunity.

Those with the biggest opportunities are among the top returning scorers, namely Stevie Moses, Mike Borisenok and Kevin Goumas. Down the stretch last season, that trio, which comprised Umile’s second line, rose to the occasion, taking over offensively when teams keyed on the Thompson-Sislo-DeSimone line. The experience that they gained is what Umile hopes will carry his team’s offense this year.

“We just move up that second line,” said Umile. “I think they’re going to put numbers up. We’ll be fine scoring.”

The Wildcats also return arguably the top goaltender in the conference in Matt DiGirolamo. Thus the only question mark left may be defense. Kessel’s early departure, along with the loss of defensive stalwart Matt Campanale leaves some reason for concern.

Umile, though, believes he has a solid puck-moving defenseman entering in Trevor van Riemsdyk (brother of one-time UNH standout James van Riemsdyk), and likely will lean on the rookie to create offense from the blue line.

About the Wildcats

2010-11 overall record: 22-11-6

2010-11 HEA record: 17-6-4 (second)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Third

Key losses: Forwards Paul Thompson, Mike Sislo and Phil DeSimone; defensemen Blake Kessel, Matt Campanale and Mike Beck

Players to watch: Goaltender Matt DiGirolamo; forwards Stevie Moses, Mike Borisenok and John Henrion; defenseman Brett Kostolansky

Impact rookie: Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk

Why the Wildcats will finish higher than the coaches poll: In DiGirolamo, they have one of the top goalies in the country and you know they’ll be able to score.

Why the Wildcats will finish lower than the coaches poll: In addition to the five seniors who graduated, Kessel’s early departure leaves a big hole on the blue line and the point on the power play.