By: Kyle Williams
Last Season: 19-19-2 (HE: 10-11-1); 8th place
Losses: F Grayson Downing, F Matt Willows, F Casey Thrush, F Jay Camper, D Ryan Randall
Newcomers: F Brendan van Riemsdyk, F Liam Blackburn, F Ara Nazarian, F Patrick Grasso, F Chris Miller, F Charlie Kelleher, D Joseph Masonius, D Nick Nonis
Last year’s UNH team should have been a disaster. They lost five of their top seven scorers from the year before, including three legitimate all-stars in Kevin Goumas, Eric Knodel, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Then, before the season started, they suspended goalie Casey DeSmith indefinitely. And yet somehow, behind Grayson Downing and the surprising emergence of freshman goalie Daniel Tirone, they managed to hold onto the last spot for a home game in the Hockey East tournament, and made it all the way to the semi-finals.
This will be another year of transition for the Wildcats. Downing is gone, along with fellow line mates Matt Willows and Casey Thrush, which represented three of last season’s top five point scorers. However, there is talent on this squad that will give fits to every team in the conference; Tyler Kelleher finished in the top ten in goals (18) and assists (24) last season, and Andrew Poturalski will look to build on a freshman campaign that saw him finish with twenty-nine points, good for fourth among all rookies. UNH will have continuity on the blue line, bringing back its top four defensemen in Matias Cleland, Brett Pesce, Harry Quast, and Cameron Marks. But by far, the biggest question mark facing this team is in goal: can Tirone come close to replicating his output from last season (2.14 GA/.924 SP), when he was a top five goalie in the conference? If he can, UNH will be a tough out come tournament time; they’re fast, their scorers are opportunistic, and the Olympic-sized ice gives them one of the best home ice advantages in the conference.
Bottom Line: This team feels like it has the highest variance of any team in Hockey East. In the best case scenario, Kelleher is an all-star, Poturalski takes a leap, Tirone is strong in goal, one or two rookies put in good minutes, and this team finds itself competing for a top four spot at the end of the season. However, if Tirone’s play drops off and Kelleher can’t find his scoring touch consistently, this team could easily finish in the bottom four. In reality, Tirone will drop off slightly, the first line will score goals at a good clip, they’ll pull off one or two upsets at the Whittemore Center, and finish somewhere in the middle of the conference standings.