Wildcats ready for exhibition match with Acadia

By Justin Loring
On October 4, 2013

The UNH men's ice hockey team ended last season with a bitter taste in their mouths. After a season which saw them rise to No. 1 in February, the Wildcats were eliminated in the Northeast Regional Final by Hockey East foe UMass-Lowell, the eventual national runner-up. 

With an exhibition match in Durham against Acadia on Saturday, the Wildcats are returning much of their core team, including forwards Kevin Goumas and Grayson Downing, defensemen Eric Knodel and Trevor van Riemsdyk, and goaltender Casey DeSmith

"It's a mature group in the sense that we've got an experienced nucleus, starting from the net out, which is always a good thing," head coach Dick Umile said.

During the offseason, defenseman Brett Pesce was drafted in the third round (66 overall) by the Carolina Hurricanes. The sophomore blue liner was one of the youngest members of the team last season and is looking to have a breakout campaign this year with UNH. 

The team's success last season was predicated on defense and goaltending. DeSmith, the reigning team MVP, will again be the backbone of the defense. He was third in Hockey East in goals against average (2.23) and fifth in save percentage (.924). 

Senior captain Knodel and junior alternate van Riemsdyk look to anchor a defensive group, which had the best penalty kill unit in Hockey East (92.3 percent). Van Riemsdyk was the second-highest scorer on the team with 33 points (8g, 25a) and is looking to put himself in the upper echelon of collegiate defensemen.

After missing last season's Regional Final, Goumas (concussion) and Downing (undisclosed) are the top line forwards who have great chemistry. The graduation of Austin Block has left a vacant spot at the right wing position, which could be filled by a number of players. Seniors Dalton Speelman, Nick Sorkin and junior Matt Willows could all take that spot, which will create an interesting competition to watch in the upcoming season. 

UNH will open the 2013-14 season with two home games against the Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 18-19. This season marks the inaugural Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge, which sees marquee match ups between Boston College-Minnesota, Wisconsin-Boston University and Michigan State-UMass Amherst. 

The team will travel to Colorado College to take on the Tigers in a two-game series over Thanksgiving break and will also compete in the Florida College Classic during Christmas. The week after Winter Break, Hockey East newcomers Notre Dame will come to Durham for a televised broadcast on Jan. 31-Feb. 1. 

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