Hockey East Preview: UNH Wildcats

unh-logoHead Coach: Mike Souza (1st season)

Last Season: 10-20-6 (5-14-5 Hockey East); Lost to Maine in the Hockey East Tournament First Round

Key Losses: G Danny Tirone, F Michael McNicholas, D Cameron Marks

Newcomers: F Joseph Cipollone (Purchase, NY), F Angus Crookshank (North Vancouver, BC), F Filip Engaras (Stockholm, Sweden), F Eric Esposito (West Haven, Conn.), F Jackson Pierson (Zionsville, Ind.), D Drew Hickey (New Canaan, Conn.), D Will MacKinnon (Plymoth, Michigan), D Ryan Verrier (Reading, Mass.), G Ty Taylor (Richmond, B.C.)

Projected Finish: 9th

By Mack Krell

The University of New Hampshire Men’s Hockey team enters the 2018-19 season looking to improve on a .361 winning percentage in 2017-18. They will look to do this with a new head coach as Coach Mike Souza takes hold of the reigns. However, he will be without the Wildcats record-breaking goalie Danny Tirone, who graduated this past May.

After coming in last place in Hockey East in the 2017-18 season, The Wildcats season ended early in the Hockey East tournament when they lost in consecutive games to Maine. Between the two games, they were outscored 7-3. The Wildcats were only able to win the 5 conference games they did because of the play of two important seniors,  Tirone and forward Michael McNicholas.

Each of these players will be deeply missed by this UNH squad. Tirone broke the school’s all time records in multiple categories, including games played and career saves. He also holds the Hockey East Tournament record for career saves with 544 saves during the tournament. He has created large shoes to fill by incoming goalie Mike Robinson, a sophomore already drafted by the San Jose Sharks.

In addition to losing their netminder, the Wildcats will also be without their leading points scorer, Michael McNicholas. During his senior season, McNicholas led the team in assists and points with 19 and 24, respectively. The Wildcats will be without a leader on the other end of the ice as well, defenseman Cameron Marks. Marks led the team with 62 blocked shots.

Having lost core seniors at each position, the Wildcats will turn to rising senior forward Ara Nazarian to be the leader on this team. He will be joined by a cast of young talented players. Nazarian last season was awarded the team award for best offensive player. He finished last season with 9 goals and 13 assists, and will have to do even more this season for the Wildcats to improve on their 10 win season from last year.

Nazarian will be joined as a leader of the team by rising junior defenseman Anthony Wyse, who was awarded the team’s award for best defenseman last season. In the 2017-18 season he stacked the score sheet with five goals, three assists, and 40 blocked shots. Even as a junior, he will be looked at to be a leader on the defensive end of the ice for the Wildcats.

These team leaders will be joined by a cast of freshmen looking to make their mark on the team. One of those players is defenseman Will MacKinnon, who Coach Souza is excited to have on the team. Souza said about MacKinnon, “He is a strong defenseman that can move the puck. He will bring character to our team on and off the ice.” Along with his fellow freshmen, MacKinnon will look to make an immediate impact.

Bottom Line: The Wildcats finished the 2017-18 season at the base of the mountain in Hockey East. The only choice they have is to try to climb the steep mountain and see what they can hold onto. With a new coach in Mike Souza, and a team that has nowhere to go but up, the Wildcats will look to throw everything they have into this season. If Coach Souza can get his players to focus on the fundamentals and not getting down when things get tough, they have the chance to create some upsets in Hockey East and gain some momentum.

Start a Conversation