Thursday, October 02, 2008

Season Preview Part IV: The Best Defense...

... Is a good offense.

Yeah, cliche and patently untrue, but it sounds good.

Ah, offense. If there is one thing that a University of New Hampshire men's hockey team is known for it is unrelenting offense. In the past two seasons the team has been ranked no lower than fifth nationally in offensive production and have been in the top five, three of the last four seasons.

And you don't have to look further than sophomore sensation, James van Riemsdyk, to see that this year's team is going to put a whole lot of pucks in the back of the opposition's net.

This Philadelphia Flyers' 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft had big shoes to fill last season and he surely did. Relied upon to fuel the second scoring line as a freshman he did so in a big way, scoring thirty-four points in thirty-one games.

I think that there is just no predicting what van Riemsdyk may accomplish this year - players like this come along so rarely - but truly, the sky's the limit. If a good line chemistry has developed between him and, say, Pollastrone and Butler, or classmates DeSimone, Dries and Thompson - I could see almost any combination of these guys on his line - then we could seriously be looking at a single season Wildcat scoring record even in today's age of trap defense and incredible goaltending. I would not be surprised if his point production approaches two points per game.

In that vein, we are going to see improvements from all of these guys. With a summer's seasoning behind them these 'Cats, many of them unused to the sting of defeat, look for them to return with redoubled effort and skills honed in preparation for a year of redemption and another shot at that elusive title.

One thing we won't see much of is this year's freshman forwards, barring injury or one of them stepping up in a big way. The 2008-2009 Wildcat forward squad is returning thirteen upperclassmen. The only ones who didn't see significant playing time last season are senior, Alan Thompson, who has recovered from knee surgery to partake in his final year at UNH, and sophomores Greg Manz and Danny Vranek. Don't expect any of these guys, including our new freshmen, to make it an easy decision for the coaching staff as to who will get the final spot with Alan Thompson almost surely a lock for one of the two spots opened up by the departures of Matt Fornataro and Mike Radja.

And not to belabor the point but don't forget - this team is going to be defense first minded. Line by line each one of these skillful forwards is going to be focused on taking care of their own zone before taking care of business in their preferred end. Count on it.

Wrapping up the 2008-2009 Season Preview tomorrow, it's Part V: Let's Get It Started.

Go 'Cats!


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