Go Cats! Woooooooooo!
Come on, if you get that GIF it is hilarious. For those of you who don't know what is going on, that is my interpretation of the animation they started showing at hockey games last year. I made that in about 3 minutes (including scanning it) which is probably the same amount of time it took for the real one to be made. I don't know if I have ever seen a worse animation for a sporting event, but I hope the infamous stick figure makes his return this year. I even think it deserves a name for the student section to refer to it.
Anyways, the first home hockey game (it is an exhibition) is Saturday night against St. Francis Xavier who has played here a few times over the past few years. I remember they came two years ago and it was a surprisingly physical game despite UNH blowing them out on the scoreboard.
UNH enters the season ranked 8th in USA Today's College Hockey poll, behind only Boston College (1) and Maine (7) in Hockey East. This should be a entertaining year for UNH, who returns most of their team. They will be without top scorer Bobby Butler and goalie Brian Foster, but I think this year's team will have more depth and a stronger defense, which is good for first year starting goalie junior Matt DiGirolamo. I am predicting a strong Hockey East finish (definitely top 3) although Hockey East has proven to be the strongest conference in all D1 Hockey. It is true, the last three National Champions have come from Hockey East (BC, BU and BC again). This year Merrimack has a much stronger team, Maine may have the best offense in the country and BC returns several key players from their championship team.
Hockey East Predictions:
- UMass Lowell
I really think teams 4-7 could find them selves in any position by the end of the year, maybe even crack the top 3. I feel that BC, UNH and Maine are clearly the best three teams this year. Providence/UMass/UMLowell are at the bottom but there is strong parity between 4-7. Merrimack could actually be closer to the top 3 then the 4-7 teams. Merrimack's Stephane Da Costa, a sophomore, may challenge Maine's Gustav Nyquist and BC's Cam Atkinson for the leading point total in the league. Nyquist's line, for the Black Bears along with UNH's top line (guessing it will be Thompson, DeSimone, Sislo) could both be one of the best in the country. Watch for one of UNH's seniors to have a breakout season like Bobby Butler last year. I like Sislo, but I'd put my money on Thompson or DeSimone.
I was going to make predictions for the team awards, but instead I will share a few thoughts and notes:
Blake Kessel is going to be the team's backbone from the blue line. He showed last year that he has a powerful shot, especially on the power play and is the team's best defensive player. Team captain and forward Mike Sislo had 5 less goals last year then the previous year, probably suffering from losing line mate James van Riemsdyk to the NHL, but I see him putting up better numbers this year. Paul Thompson is the team's top returning scorer (19-20-39) and he is great at doing the dirty work in front of the net, he could be this year's breakout senior. I expect a breakout year for speedster Stevie Moses, who was bothered by a hamstring issue last season despite playing in all 39 games. Sophomores Greg Burke and Dalton Speelman, who showed glimpses of their potential last year, could also have breakout years. Burke could be a top playmaker if he continues to develop. Senior Phil DeSimone is a great playmaker and will probably be the team's top line center (possibly with Thompson and Sislo on the wings). UNH returns it's top defensive line with Kessel and sophomore Brett Kostolansky, as well as assistant captain Matt Campanale who is another solid defenseman. Center Mike Borisenok is a solid defensive forward who can play well on both ends of the ice.
It is safe to say this will be a fun season to watch and hopefully the 'Cats can get that playoff monkey off their shoulder! Also, be sure to brush up on all your chants before the season starts!
Stay classy, not UMassy.