DThe University of New Hampshire men's ice hockey team took a step closer to its ultimate goal last season, but fell just short of a National Championship, losing in overtime of the NCAA title game.
Despite the heartbreak following that loss, the 1999-2000 edition of the Wildcats bring back a host of talented players combined with what may be the strongest recruiting class in the entire nation. The ever-so-close feeling associated with last year's run through the NCAA Tournament has fueled the desire to return to a third straight Frozen Four - and take it one step further.
It isn't very often when you graduate the nation's best player and possibly the best player to ever wear a UNH uniform, but with the loss of Jason Krog, the Wildcats are faced with just that scenario. Krog, the 1999 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, notched an amazing 34 goals and 51 assists for 85 points to lead the entire nation in scoring. For his four years, Krog registered 94-144-238 to become the second all-time leading scorer in Wildcat hockey history.
Without a doubt, filling the skates of Krog will prove difficult and almost impossible, but a strong nucleus of talented returning players will provide the Wildcats with enough offensive firepower that has become the trademark of UNH Hockey. Leading the way this season will be Krog's linemates from a year ago, senior co-captain Mike Souza (Wakefield, Mass.) and sophomore Darren Haydar (Milton, Ontario) who return as the top two scorers in the entire nation. Souza finished second on the team in scoring last season with 23-42-65 and posseses one of the hardest shots in the college game. Haydar led all freshmen last season in scoring with 31-30-61 and became a player associated with a knack for scoring goals.
In addition to the loss of Krog, UNH graduated Chad Onufrechuk and Ryan Harris from the forward unit. In total, the Wildcats lost just 28 percent of the scoring from their forwards to graduation.
Several returning Wildcats could find themselves in the hunt for a spot on the top line with players like senior Jason Shipulski (Saugus, Mass.), senior John Sadowski (Glenview, Ill.), senior Tim Walsh (Concord, N.H.), junior Corey-Joe Ficek (Bedford, N.H.) and junior Johnny Rogers (Etobicoke, Ontario) all ready to take the next step as a top-scoring forward. Shipulski, who finished with 15 goals and 14 assists last season, turned it on during the later half of the year and showed signs of stepping into the limelight with his quick skating and accurate passing. Sadowski (7-9-16) may not be the most prolific scorer on the team, but his determination and leadership should give the Wildcats a boost. Named the top defensive forward on the team last season, Sadowski is again expected to fill that roll and he will be looked upon to increase his scoring production from a year ago. Walsh played in all but two games last season and although he only registered 2-7-9, scoring goals was not the job of this fourth-liner. Walsh should again provide the Wildcats with the same hard-hitting style he brought to the ice last year.
Ficek (10-7-17) and Rogers (3-10-13) lead a talented junior class along with Matt Swain (Oakville, Ontario) that will be looked upon to provide some offensive numbers. While Haydar garnered much of the spotlight from last year's freshman class, there are several players looking to break out in their sophomore campaigns. Sophomores Matt Dzieduszycki (Mississauga, Ontario), Ryan Cordeiro (Somerset, Mass.), and David Busch (Toronto, Ontario) all played key roles in the Wildcats run to the National Championship game. Dzieduszycki registered 2-6-8 after missing several games due to injury, Cordeiro started getting comfortable with the college game and finished the year with 4-10-14 and Busch provided some memorable crushing checks to go along with his three goals and an assist on the year.
The incoming rookie class could quickly find themselves in the middle of the action. Touted as one of the top recruiting classes in the entire nation, this year's freshmen could contribute to the Wildcats immediately. Jim Abbott (Mars, Penn.) is a 6-1, 185-pound left wing who last played for SL Louis of the NAHL. He was a First-Team NAHL All-Star and led the league in goals and finished third in total points with 45-33-78 in 56 games. Patrick Foley (Milton, Mass.) is coming off a year stint with the U.S. National Development Program and the left-winger brings a physical style at 6-1, 200 pounds. He registered 7-9-16 in 52 games with the U.S. Program. Prior to his days with the U.S. Program, Foley spent three years at St. Sebastians prep.
The Wildcats have had success with players coming out of the British Columbia Hockey League with sleek skating fowards like Krog and Derek Bekar and UNH is hoping that trend continues with two BCHL forwards coming in this year. Lanny Gare (Vernon, B.C.) and Colin Hemingway (Surrey, B.C.) both scored over 100 points last season and are considered two of the best prospects to come out of the highly competitive BCHL. Gare, a 5-11, 175-pound center who played for the Vernon Vipers, registered 46-65-111 in 57 games and led his squad to the Royal Bank Championship this season. For his efforts, Gare was named BCHL MVP and a First Team All-Star. Gare was also named RMJHL Rookie of the Year for the 1996-97 season, the same award won by Krog in 1992-93. Hemingway a 6-0, 170-pound winger played for the South Surrey Eagles of die BCHL last season and registered 40 goals and 64 assists for 104 points in 59 games. He finished in the top 10 in the league in scoring and was the second youngest player to rank in the top 10. He was selected in the eighth round (221 overall) by St. Louis in this year's NHL Entry Draft.
Josh Prudden (Andover, Mass.) rounds out the incoming crop of forwards. Prudden played for Pingree before a prep year at Phillips Exeter last season. In 33 cames with PEA last year. Prudden notched 37 goals and 48 assists and was named the NF-PSAC Prep-Private Player of the Year.
At first glance, the defense of the Wildcats may took quite different than last year's unit that set a school record with a 2.21 goals against average. Indeed, the loss of Steve O'Brien and Christian Bragnalo to graduation coupled with the early departure of senior to be Jayme Filipowicz (Arlington Heights, Ill.) equals a total of 390 career games played, but although the experience may have taken a hit, there are still plenty of talented blueliners left on the UNH squad.
Leading the way for the Wildcats this season will be senior co-captain Dan Enders (Madison, Wisc.). Enders played in 29 games after missing 10 games with a broken collarbone. Enders brings the most experience of the blueliners with 102 career games. He has played in both Frozen Fours the past two seasons and will be looked upon to lead the way for the younger defensemen. Another defenseman that returns with a host of experience is junior Eric Lind (New Canaan, Conn.). Lind played in all 41 games last season and notched three goals and nine assists for 12 points. Junior Mark White (Woburn, Mass.) is the only other returning defenseman that saw regular action last year, playing in 34 games. Rounding out the returning defensemen are senior Brendon McEniry (Beaconsfield, Quebec) and junior Sean Austin (Malden, Mass.).
While some of the returning players have not seen significant game-day action, they have been part of the UNH defensive system that has been one of the strongest in the nation the past three years. In Hockey East action the past three seasons, the Wildcats lowest goals against ranking was second and last year UNH was ranked first with just 49 goals allowed in 24 games.
The defense will also be boosted by another strong recruiting class. Tyler Scott (Rockville, Md.) enters the UNH program as a 1999 Draft choice of the N.Y. Islanders (9th round, 268th overall), Scott played the last three seasons for Upper Canada College, a program that created current Wildcats David Busch and Johnny Rogers. Scott brings a physical force at 6-2, 210 pounds. Garrett Stafford (Los Angeles, Calif) and Kevin Truelson (Avon, Mass.) were both considered mid-level draft choices but opted out of the 1999 NHL draft. Stafford is coming off his third season with Des Moines of the USHL. Playing in 56 games last year, Stafford registered eight goals and 33 assists for 41 points. He was a USHL Second Team All-Star member last year and has twice participated in the USHL All-Star Game.
Truelson is considered one of the top high school defensemen coming out this year and was ranked the fourth best high school prospect by the U.S. Hockey Reporter. A standout at Archbishop Williams, Truelson was a two-time Boston Globe Super Team member and was the only underclassman on that honor roll in 1998. A good offensive player, Truleson brings in above average size with his 6-1, 200-pound.frame.
UNH has the luxury of returning the top-rated goaltender in the East in junior netminder Ty Conklin (Anchorage, Alaska). Conklin, who had to sit out the 1997-98 campaign because of NCAA transfer rules, was the man down the stretch for the Wildcats run to the national championship game after splitting time with Sean Matile. With Matile graduated, the bulk of the netminding duties should fall squarely on the shoulders of Conklin. Last season, Conklin played in 22 games and posted an 18-3-1 record with a 1.84 goals against average and .923 save percentage - both of which led all Hockey East goaltenders. For his efforts Conklin was named the top goaltender in Hockey East and earned a spot on the All-New England Team and Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
While it is unlikely that the goaltending duties will be split like a year ago, UNH will have more than a capable back-up in sophomore Matt Carney (Bridgewater, Mass.). Carney played his freshman year at UNH and played last season in the USHL for Des Moines. At Des Moines, Carney played in 38 games and posted a 2.10 goals against average. During his freshman year at UNH, Carney played in five games for a total of 36 minutes and posted a 3.32 goals against average.
Rounding out the UNH goaltenders is junior Michael Filardo (Seaford, N.Y.), who appeared in three games for the Wildcats last season. Filardo, who is hearing impaired, was a goaltender for the silver-medal winning U.S. Team at the 1999 World Games for the Hearing Impaired.