Hockey East Preseason Power Rankings: No. 3 UNH

By Scott McLaughlin/DFP Staff

3) University of New Hampshire
2009-10 record: 18-14-7 (15-6-6 HE)
Finish in HE: 1st (lost in tournament quarterfinals)
Key returners: Sr. F Paul Thompson (19-20-39), Jr. D Blake Kessel (10-28-38), Sr. F Phil DeSimone (10-27-37), Sr. F Mike Sislo (14-15-29), Jr. F Stevie Moses (6-18-24), Jr. D Damon Kipp (3-13-16)
Key losses: F Bobby Butler (29-24-53), F Peter LeBlanc (14-21-35), G Brian Foster (2.98, .908)
Notable freshmen: F Kevin Goumas, F Nick Sorkin, D Eric Knodel
Coach: Dick Umile

How they finished
After an incredible 10-1-2 run from mid-November to mid-January that put them firmly atop the standings, the Wildcats went just 4-4-3 down the stretch and barely hung on to win the regular-season title. Their struggles continued when they were upset by Vermont in three games in the conference quarterfinals. UNH blew out Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, only to get blown out themselves by upstart RIT in the regional finals.

The Wildcats lose Hobey Baker finalist Bobby Butler and 35-point scorer Peter LeBlanc from last year’s third-ranked offense, but they bring back everyone else. Paul Thompson, Phil DeSimone and offensive-minded defenseman Blake Kessel all broke the 35-point plateau last season, making UNH one of just three teams (along with BC and Maine) to return at least three players who reached that mark. Mike Sislo, who led the team in goals two years ago, got off to a slow start last season but finished strong with 20 points in his final 17 games. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of production the Wildcats get from their freshman class, which is weaker than usual due in part to a number of recruiting violations.

Defense and goaltending
The biggest challenge for the Wildcats will be replacing Brian Foster, who put up solid stats while playing more minutes than any other goalie in the conference last year. Junior Matt DiGirolamo didn’t see a whole lot of time in net last season (just 92 minutes), but he did well in his limited appearances (3.24, .906) and appears to be in the driver’s seat heading into the season. In front of him, UNH returns all six starting defensemen, led by Hobey Baker hopeful Kessel. As long as the Wildcats get steady netminding, there’s enough talent here to keep them near the top of the conference and earn them a 10th straight NCAA bid.

Scott’s poll
1) Sept. 28
2) Sept. 27
3) New Hampshire
4) Boston University
5) Merrimack
6) Vermont
7) Northeastern
8) Providence
9) Massachusetts-Lowell
10) Massachusetts

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