Suspension of top goaltender changes the plans for New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Brett Pesce (left) anchors the defense (photo: Melissa Wade).

This year’s New Hampshire team was supposed to be built around senior goaltender Casey DeSmith, who would help cover up the mistakes of a young corps of blueliners.

All that changed at the beginning of September when DeSmith was arrested on domestic assault and resisting arrest charges, leading to a suspension that will last for at least the first semester.

So much for the original game plan.

Freshman Adam Clark and junior Jamie Regan will have to fill the void between the pipes for at least that semester. Regan saw all of seven minutes of action last year, and while Clark may surprise, DeSmith’s eventual projected successor is still a year away.

“We’ve got a commitment on a goaltender coming in next year, but right now we’ll go with our freshman and our returning junior netminder,” UNH coach Dick Umile says. “We’re excited about [Clark]. He’ll take the brunt of our goaltending needs, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Brett Pesce anchors a defense that lost three of its top four contributors, all of whom factored significantly in the Wildcats offense.

“That’s going to be the area where we’re [lacking] experience,” Umile says. “We don’t have a whole lot coming back. We’re going to need some freshmen to come in and play.”

At forward, the Wildcats lost some major contributors but do have some depth coming back.

“I think up front we’re going to be fine,” Umile says. “We’ve got a good nucleus of forwards coming back. We’re going to be a team that needs multiple scorers, and we’re going to have to do a good job defensively from the net out.”

The unexpected loss of DeSmith for at least the first semester hasn’t cast a pall on the team, according to Umile. There’s no woe-is-me attitude, even though the Wildcats will be relying on some new faces.

“Our goals are still the same, that hasn’t changed,” Umile says. “We’re going to have 10 freshmen, and we’re going to need three or four of them to help us play, especially on defense.”

About the Wildcats

2013-14 record: 22-18-1

2013-14 conference record: 11-9, (tie, fourth)

2014-15 predicted finish (coaches poll): Fifth

Key losses: D Trevor van Riemsdyk, D Eric Knodel, D Justin Agosta, F Kevin Goumas, F Nick Sorkin, G Casey DeSmith (first semester)

Key returnees: F Matt Willows, F Grayson Downing, D Brett Pesce

Why the Wildcats will finish higher than predicted in the coaches poll: Good depth up front may help cover up for inexperience on the blue line and potential problems in net.

Why the Wildcats will finish lower than the coaches poll: DeSmith’s suspension for at least the first semester opens a gaping hole in net. With three of last year’s top defensemen gone, that’s a bad combination.