University of New Hampshire season preview

By DJ Powers

The University of New Hampshire Wildcats will open their 2005-06 regular season on October 14th when they travel to the Qwest Center Omaha to face off against Ferris State in the Maverick Stampede Tournament.

UNH lost seven players this offseason. Right wing Dan Travis (FLA) and defenseman John Doherty (TOR) have both transferred to Quinnipiac and the remaining five have graduated.

The Wildcats suffered their greatest losses up front with the departure of Sean Collins (PIT), Preston Callander and Justin Aikins (CBJ). Collins and Callendar finished last season as UNH’s top scorers, while Aikins finished sixth in scoring.

A trio of juniors in Brett Hemingway (COL), Daniel Winnik (PHO) and Jacob Micflikier will be relied upon to lead the Wildcats offense this season. Hemingway, along with Collins and Callander comprised one of the nation’s most potent line combinations last season. The trio combined to score 66 goals for UNH. Hemingway led the Wildcats with 11 power play goals and seven game-winners. Winnik enjoyed a sensational sophomore season that saw him rack up 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists). He finished the 2004-05 season second on the team with five game-winning goals and tied for first in team plus/minus (+17).

The diminutive Micflikier proved to be as elusive to opposing defenders, as he was dependable offensively to UNH last season. He returns as the Wildcats top scorer, finishing third in 2004-05 with 44 points (20 goals, 22 assists). UNH’s energetic third line will be returning to help to fill the hole left by the departing players. The line, made up of superb returning sophomores Matt Fornataro, Mike Radja and junior Josh Ciocco, should also figure more prominently this season. Both Fornataro and Radja finished their rookie seasons with the identical records of 8 goals, 12 assists for 20 points. Ciocco also finished with 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists.

In addition to the returning players, UNH will welcome five outstanding forwards this season. Two players who will bring some speed to the Wildcats are Jerry Pollastrone and Thomas Fortney. Pollastrone, a winger who brings some explosive speed to UNH comes from the Salisbury School, where he led the Crimson Knights with 53 points (31 goals, 22 assists) last season. Fortney, an outstanding playmaker, comes to UNH from Waterloo (USHL) where he posted 16 points (13 goals, 3 assists).

Trevor Smith is a hard-working player with superb puck skills. He comes to UNH from Omaha (USHL), where he led the Lancers and finished third in the league with 68 points (29 goals, 39 assists). Greg Collins, a small quick left wing played with the Clark Cup Champion Cedar Rapids Roughriders last season, where he posted 32 points (8 goals, 24 assists). Collins is the younger brother of Boston College senior Chris Collins. New Hampshire native Alan Thompson comes to UNH from Chicago (USHL), where he posted 15 points (five goals, ten assists). Prior to playing for Chicago, Thompson enjoyed a stellar prep career at the Holderness School.

UNH lost two of their most reliable defensemen in Robbie Barker and Tyson Teplitsky to graduation. Coupled with the departure of Doherty, the Wildcats defensive corps will be a relatively young group this season. Three of the Wildcats eight defensemen are upperclassmen. Senior Brian Yandle, who enjoyed a career year last season, returns as the top defenseman. Yandle finished with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) and was named to the All-America East Second team.

Fellow senior Michael Hutchins (SJ) and junior Chris Murray will add some stability and leadership to the defense. Sophomores Craig Switzer (NSH) and Brad Flaishans look to continue to build on their solid rookie campaigns. The smooth skating Switzer finished with 14 points (1 goal, 13 assists) playing in all 41 games last season. Flaishans is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who finished with 10 points (two goals, eight assists). The Glendale, Arizona native had only begun to show what he is capable of and UNH is banking on seeing more of it this season.

The Wildcats welcome three new defensemen led by 2005 NHL draft selection Joe Charlebois (CHI). The strapping Potsdam, NY native comes to UNH from Sioux City (USHL), where he amassed 25 points (1 goal, 24 assists) and 146 penalty minutes. While he is known primarily for his size and toughness, Charlebois also possesses some underrated skill, particularly in his passing abilities. Joining Charlebois as the newest Wildcats defensemen are Jamie Fritsch and Kevin Kapstad. Fritsch comes to UNH from the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL), where he finished the season with 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists). Kapstad comes to UNH from Governor Dummer Academy, where he led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 32 points (10 goals, 22 assists).

With a young defensive corps, the Wildcats will be relying heavily on their superb goaltending tandem of senior Jeff Pietrasiak (PHO) and sophomore Kevin Regan (BOS). Pietrasiak was outstanding in the early part of last season but his performance became inconsistent. Nevertheless, he put up some very respectable numbers, going 11-7-3 that included two shutouts in 22 appearances. One of Pietrasiak’s most memorable performances of the season came back on October 15th versus CCHA powerhouse Michigan. Pietrasiak stopped 44 of the Wolverines 48 shots, including 23 in the third period to preserve a 4-4 tie for UNH. Pietrasiak will look to return to top form this season, but he’ll be battling the younger Regan in the process.

Regan became the story for the Wildcats in the latter half of the season. He posted a 15-4-2 record with a 2.35 goals against average. His .928 save percentage was fifth in the nation. One of Regan’s best performances of the season came in the NCAA Tournament’s Northeast Regional semi-final game versus Harvard. He went the distance, making 39 saves to help lead UNH to a thrilling 3-2 overtime win. Regan’s outstanding season performance earned him a selection to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and he was also the runner-up to UMass-Lowell’s Petri Vetri for Rookie of the Year. Both Pietrasiak and Regan will make for a goaltending battle that will be not only worth following, but will benefit the UNH team as a whole as well.

(Number of NHL prospects on 2005-06 roster: 7)

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