UNH Opens Season Against St. Cloud
Much has been made of UNH's painfully slow start to last season - with good reason. Playing their first two games at Boston University then Northeastern, UNH did not score a goal. Opening night at the Whittemore Center against BC wasn't much better as UNH registered one goal in their third consecutive loss. The Wildcats finally started to find the back of the net in a road trip to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota - the team UNH faces this weekend. UNH scored 5 goals the first night in St. Cloud but lost 7-5. In the fifth game of the 2011-12 season, UNH earned its first point tying St. Cloud 3-3.
The two primary deficits during the first half of the season were inconsistent goaltending and ineffective team defense. In the second half of the season, UNH improved in these areas and won a fair share of games. Freshman goalie Casey DeSmith emerged as a top tender in Hockey East. First-year defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk, Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta matured and the forwards improved their backchecking. As the season opens this weekend with back-to-back games against St. Cloud, UNH is hoping the solid defensive play will be the backbone of some early season victories.
History: ~ This will be St. Cloud's final season in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Next season, they will join a new conference - the National Collegiate Hockey Conference - with teams such as Denver, North Dakota, Minnesota-Duluth, and Miami. ~ SCSU has never won the WCHA Regular Season Title but has won the WCHA Playoffs once in 2000-01.
Upperclassmen to Watch: ~ Senior forward Ben Hanowski (#10) lead St. Cloud last season with goals (23) and points (43). The Pittsburgh Penguins selected Hanowski in the 3rd Round of the 2009 draft. ~ SCSU lost 3 of its top 5 goal scorers from last season. Junior forward Nic Dowd (#26) was the 4th leading goal scorer last season with 11 goals. Dowd is a 7th Round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings. ~ Junior defenseman Nick Jensen (#14) was the 3rd leading scorer last season with 32 points. Jensen was drafted in the 5th Round of 2009 by the Detroit Red Wings. ~ Like UNH, the starting goalie for SCSU will be a sophomore. Ryan Faragher (#29) finished his freshman season with an impressive 2.75 GAA and .915 Save%. Casey DeSmith numbers as a UNH freshman were 2.33 GAA and .926 Save%.
Freshmen to Watch: ~ 5'10" forward Joe Benick (#9) is a highly-touted recruit from the BCHL Champion Penticton Vees. Benick was the leading scorer for the Canadian Junior A Champion Vees with 38 goals and 76 assists. Benick reportedly broke his leg in practice and will be out of the Huskies' lineup for several weeks. ~ 5'7" forward Jimmy Murray (#16) put up big numbers last season with the Omaha Lancers (USHL) scoring 21 goals and adding 50 assists.
Outlook: ~ The WCHA Coaches Preseason Poll has St. Cloud finishing in 4th place behind Minnesota, North Dakota, and Denver.
UNH ~ UNH returns 7 out of the 8 top scorers from last season - Nick Sorkin, Kevin Goumas, Grayson Downing, Trevor van Riemsdyk, John Henrion, Connor Hardowa, and Austin Block. ~ UNH's first line of Nick Sorkin (LW), Grayson Downing (C), and Dalton Speelman (RW) is a novel configuration. Downing primarily played left wing last season and not on the 1st line. Sorkin played left wing on the 1st line with Kevin Goumas at center and Stevie Moses at right wing. Speelman missed most of last season with a wrist injury. ~ Downing and Speelman both played well in the exhibition game win with St. Francis Xavier. ~ Freshman defenseman Brett Pesce played a regular shift in the exhibition game. ~ Sophomore Trevor van Riemsdyk is the quarterback of the UNH power play. ~ Goalie Casey DeSmith stats as a freshman last season ranked him tied for 1st in Hockey East in save percentage and 4th in goals against average.
Outlook: ~ The Hockey East Coaches Preseason Poll has UNH finishing in 4th place behind BC, UMass-Lowell, and BU.