Thursday, September 29, 2016

Head Coach Dick Umile at UNH Hockey Media Day

UNH Head Coach
Dick Umile

The UNH Men's Hockey program held the annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at the Whittemore Center. Here are the proceedings of the press conference with Head Coach Dick Umile:

Some thoughts on the coming season?

Coach Umile: "Here we are. We're quite excited to get going, to be honest with you. I won't talk much about last year but we're looking forward to getting after it again so we can start competing.

The guys are excited and they've worked hard. We've had minimal two hours a week instructional practices. We open Saturday with our first official day of practice and then the exhibition game with New Brunswick.

That being said, Matias Cleland is our captain and he's a terrific captain. He's done a great job already in the preseason, the way he's lead the team. We're looking forward to some challenges - no doubt we're going to have our work cut out for us - some question marks.

I do feel good about a couple of the players, a guy like Jason Salvaggio who looks pretty good in the minimal practices we've had. He's come back in great shape and I think he's someone who can put up some numbers and fill some of the scoring we're going to need up front. Along with Marcus Vela, Ara Nazarian, and Shane Eiserman. I think those are some forwards who can replace some of our scoring. I'm anxious to see how they play and compete - we're going to need it.

Defensively, I think we're going to be stronger than last year. In goal, with both goalies (Danny Tirone and Adam Clark). Adam Clark has come back in great shape - he's gone through his rehab, so he doesn't have any problems there. So in goal I think we're going to be solid there and there will be good competition.

At the defenseman position, Matias obviously is a leading, experienced defenseman along with Cam Marks. So there's two or three junior defensemen along with the forwards. I've said this before, our junior class is an important class, last year's sophomores. It's big in number and it's big in what we're going to need to add depth and skill to our team, in goal, forwards and defense."

Can you comment on the incoming freshmen?

Coach Umile: "They're a good group - Anthony Wyse, he's a big, strong, fast defenseman. We're very, very impressed with him. So he, and another freshman defenseman Nick Nonis, but Wyse is going to be a regular with us. Up front, we've got some speed, we've got some size. Brendan van Riemsdyk, Liam Blackburn, and Patrick Grasso, we've got some skill. Grasso's very, very quick so I think they can add some of the depth we're going to need. We don't have a lot of numbers, but I think we've got a little bit of everything in the freshman class. It's a wait and see how they compete and figure out the level they are going to be playing at."

As far as the returners go, what do you see as the strength going into the season - defense and goal?

Coach: "Yes, based on that, I would say the defense and in goal - and last year's sophomore forwards are going to be an important group, their experience. But our strength I think will hopefully be at defense which we weren't very good at last year - we struggled in that area."

What are your expectations of Cleland this year? He had a pretty good year last year.

Umile: "Yes, he put in a lot of minutes last year, he did pretty well with points and blocking shots. He's a real leader both on and off the ice. I expect him to play a lot of minutes in key situations, obviously.

Dylan Maller's back this year. He had an injury last year and he was in and out of the lineup, we didn't have him at the end of the season. Hopefully he stays healthy because he can help us. Right now he's healthy. It makes a big difference back there at defense."

Up front, expectations of Tyler Kelleher? You're going to need him to probably put up more goals than he did last season. I know he's kind of a pass first guy sometimes. Are you going to want him to score more this year and be a little more selfish?

Coach: "Al, you're right on. We want him shooting more than he passes because he passed too much last year. Not that passing was a bad thing playing with Poturalski or the people he's going to be playing with. But he looks great, he's come back in great shape. The few times we've been on the ice he looks good out there. He's going to be one of our top experienced forwards and goal scorers - I hope (chuckle)."

Any idea on who he's going to be paired up with linewise? I know Nazarian sort of got thrown into that mix last year.

Umile: "Right now, I'd say early on, he'll probably play with Nazarian. It might be Nazarian and Kelleher and we're not quite sure about some of the other combinations. But Nazarian being a lefty and Kelleher a righty, they feed off each other pretty good so they could be a good combination."

You talked about the strength you have at the goaltending position. Any thoughts on who might get the nod in the first game or are you still figuring that out?

Coach: "No, well, we play just one game that first weekend when we open up with Bentley. When we go up to New York, up in Canton and Potsdam, both will play probably and we'll split it and see how it goes from there. They're both in great shape and we have confidence in both."

Will Clark get a medical red shirt for last year?

Coach: "Yes, he just got it. He got that year back, so athletically he's only a sophomore. If he comes back for that fifth year, depending on how everything goes in his career, he'll have another year of eligibility."

So they're (Clark and Tirone) going to start even?

Coach: "Ya, probably. You know we haven't really gotten on the ice a whole lot with them. You know, we go out there with them three times a week for like 40 minutes. I feel both of them will start out and we'll take it from there. Both will have an opportunity to play and compete and we'll see where it goes. If they're both playing great, that's fine with me - as long as we win hockey games."

Do you foresee offensively, a more balanced attack? The three guys who left account for almost half the goals for the team.

Coach: "Yes, we have to replace that along with Poturalski - that's a lot of goals and a lot of points. Maybe if we play harder on defense, we won't need as many goals. I think there's going to be guys in that junior class that are going to score goals - along with Nazarian and Vela, those are two good hockey players."

Any thoughts on the preseason coaches poll that came out yesterday? How do you kind of use that going into the season?

Coach: "Motivating. I told my team how I felt about it but I don't want to put it on camera. But, the way we ended the season and we graduated a lot of seniors and lost Poturalski - so that's the way people feel we're going to finish but..."

How do you think the rest of the season will shake out - with Hockey East pretty well represented in the preseason national poll?

Coach: "With the top bracket, there's no question BU with the drafts coming in and what's coming back, and Northeastern's run at the end of the season and they have a lot coming back. It was pretty right on as far as the top bracket goes. But after the top bracket, I believe it's wide open and hopefully we can compete in that area and that will be our goal. There's not much difference between the bottom six."

Is there any added anticipation with the season coming up where you get to play at places like Madison Square Garden and Frozen Fenway?

Coach: "Ya, it's real exciting to be quite honest with you. The program's been to Fenway Park before but it's never been to Madison Square Garden. So that's real exciting playing Cornell at Madison Square Garden. They really support Cornell at MSG so it's going to be really exciting."

Of the returning upperclassmen, have any of them really impressed you in terms of their offseason conditioning?

Coach: "Ya, I think Salvaggio has really come back in great shape physically. Off ice we have an iron man program, and he's done very well in all of his testing. So he's in great shape and he looks good out on the ice. Tyler Kelleher is in great shape and he looks good. And obviously Matias, and if Maller stays healthy it's going to be important for us. Cam Marks got hurt a couple times last season and a year ago last summer he had mono so he never came in great shape at the beginning of last season. This season he looks good and in great shape so hopefully he can play a lot of minutes as well."

What's the competition like in practice for spots?

Coach: "We don't have large numbers - we probably have four lines with a couple extra forwards so a lot of the guys are going to be playing. It's going to be a matter of who's going to be playing on the top three lines."

Do you think any of the freshmen are ready to step in?

Coach: "Oh ya, the freshmen will play. They're going to have to play, we're going to need them to play for depth. As I say, we don't have a whole lot of numbers. We might even have a freshman line out there at the beginning of the season.

A lot of wait and see but we're lead by a very good captain and we're motivated and everyone's looking forward to the start of the season."

How come you don't have any alternate (captains)?

Coach: "You know, for what it was worth, we went with one captain, one guy in charge of the team. If we need to have an alternate for some reason, we'll vote on it. Matias got a lot of the votes and we just went with Matias. And I think the other guys who could have been the assistants - there were several of them, and you don't want to have several assistants."


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