Monday, June 23, 2014

Know Your Enemy: New Hampshire

By all rights, UNH had a pretty decent season last year, one which would be considered mostly successful for most programs - a top-half finish in the conference, a decent run in the playoffs, and a 20-win campaign usually spells a pretty fair outing. For New Hampshire, it was a bit more disappointing, especially considering the way their season ended. A 4-0 loss in the Hockey East championship game and no NCAA appearance is certainly enough for this program to be unhappy with how things turned out, especially considering the senior-laden status the Wildcats had last season.

New Hampshire
Nickname: Wildcats
Location: Durham, NH
Founded: 1866
Conference: Hockey East
National Championships: 0
Last NCAA Appearance: 2013
Last Frozen Four: 2003
Coach: Dick Umile (25th season)
2013-14 Record: 22-18-1 (11-9-0 Hockey East, 4th place)
Series: UNH leads, 25-21-0
First Game: February 7, 1964 (Troy, NY)
Last RPI win: October 26, 2013 (Troy, NY)
Last UNH win: January 6, 2013 (Durham, NH)

2014-15 game: November 25, 2014 (Durham, NH)

Key players: G Casey DeSmith, sr.; F Grayson Downing, sr.; F Casey Thrush, sr.; F Matt Willows, sr.; F Dan Correale, jr.; F Maxim Gaudreault, jr.; D Brett Pesce, jr.; D Harry Quast, jr.; F Kyle Smith, jr.; D Matias Cleland, so.; F Tyler Kelleher, so.; F Shane Eiserman, fr.; F Warren Foegele, fr.; F Mike McNicholas, fr.; F Andrew Poturalski, fr.

Previous KYE installments:
For a team accustomed to going to the NCAA tournament, two seasons out of the last three ending before Selection Sunday is unheard of - in fact, the last three seasons is the first time that's happened since the early 1990s, during Dick Umile's first three seasons behind the bench. To be fair, the Wildcats last year were hard-luck losers when it came to missing the NCAAs, finishing 60 minutes away from an automatic bid and 17th in the Pairwise as the 3rd team out. Close, but not close enough.

In the meantime, UNH loses five of its top six scorers from last season, returning only Willows, who had an eye-opening 39-point breakout season as a junior. That total more than doubled his total offensive output from his freshman and sophomore outings. Downing and Pesce are the only two other 20-point scorers returning for the Wildcats.

Along the blue line, the Wildcats will be young, as their only senior defenseman has just one game to his resume in three seasons. Pesce and Quast will qualify as the elder statesmen in the back. Whatever weakness the defense has will at least be bolstered by a proven quantity in net as DeSmith enters his senior season with over 5,500 minutes in goal for the Wildcats and a respectable 2.32 GAA for his career. His numbers were not as strong last year as they had been in the past, but they were still strong enough to regularly keep UNH in games.

He may need to be stronger this year as the Wildcats bring a younger core of skaters back. They'll need to rely on bigger output from their junior and sophomore classes than they did last season, and that doesn't always lead to success. Incoming freshman Foegele, who is likely to join UNH as an NHL draftee (Pesce is currently the only one on the team), should add a bit of punch. Still, with a team that brings in enough raw talent the way UNH does, they're more likely than most programs to find a way to make it work.

One advantage that New Hampshire will always have when playing against RPI at home is the rink size - Durham has one of the few Olympic-sized sheets in the east, and considering that the Engineers play nearly all of their games on NHL-sized rinks (the ECAC is exclusively made up of the less-wide playing surfaces), the home ice advantage is slightly more pronounced for the Wildcats.

UNH pretty much always presents a solid challenge for RPI, but the series in the last 10 years or so has just as frequently created a fairly decent back-and-forth contest no matter where the game is played. Two years ago in New Hampshire the Engineers played a strong road game against a blistering-hot Wildcats team and just couldn't overcome a better performance from the other side. Last year, RPI jumped on UNH quickly and then held on to claim a victory. Either scenario could again play itself out in Durham without too much surprise this coming season - but this has all the makings of a really outstanding game, especially since this year it arrives two months into the season, at a point where both sides should know their strengths and weaknesses well.

1 comment:

  1. Another nice article from WAP. If I may offer one minor correction, the only way Foegele will help this defense is by keeping the puck in the attacking zone - he's a forward. Perhaps you confused him with Furgele? The more likely freshman to bolster the D-corps is Dylan Chanter, although they necessarily will be giving a few freshman their shot.

    See you in Durham!

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