The Wildcats have a very strong core of returning forwards led by seniors Matt Fornataro (Calgary, Alberta), who is the 102nd captain in the history of Wildcat hockey, and senior Mike Radja (Yorkville, Ill.), who is the top returning goal scorer from the 2006-2007 season.
Fornataro, who was named a Hockey East All-Conference Honorable Mention selection, had a breakout season in his junior campaign with a career-high 40 points (13g, 27a) playing in all 39 games for the ‘Cats. He ranked tied for third on the team in goals and his point total was 10th best among Hockey East players. He posted 30 points in league play to rank fourth among conference skaters. Forntaro ranks fifth on Hockey’s East active scoring leaderboard with 72 points (26g, 46a).
Radja also enjoyed his finest season as a Wildcat last year posting a career-high 37 points (19g, 18a), which ranked fourth on the Wildcats’ roster and his 19 goals ranked second only to former Wildcat Trevor Smith, who amassed 21 goals. Radja was also a Hockey East All-Conference Honorable Mention selection and was Hockey East Player of the Month in December. He returns for his senior season as UNH’s active leading career scorer with 74 points (35g, 39a) in 113 career games for the Wildcats and the third leading active scorer in the Hockey East conference.
Juniors Jerry Pollastrone (Revere, Mass.), Greg Collins (Fairport, N.Y.) and Thomas Fortney (Webster Groves, Mo.) will have increased roles in UNH’s offense with the departure of five key letterwinners up front.
Pollastrone also made significant contributions last year with a career season of 31 points (9g, 22a) skating on UNH’s second line with Fornataro and Smith. Collins, who was named the Warren Brown Award winner at the annual team banquet as the ‘Cats best defensive forward, played in 33 games last year registering a career-high 11 points (4g, 7a). Fortney was a constant for UNH as the third line center posting 13 points (6g, 7a) and was one of 10 Wildcats who played in all 39 games in 2006-2007.
Sophomores Bobby Butler (Marlboro, Mass.), Peter LeBlanc (Hamilton, Ontario) and Danny Rossman (Boxford, Mass.) all gained valuable experience as freshmen and will have an increased role for the upcoming season. Butler was UNH’s leading rookie scorer with 12 points (9g, 3a) and he was a big factor during the Hockey East playoffs posting four points (3g, 1a) in four games, which included the game-winning goal in double overtime to defeat nationally ranked Massachusetts in the Hockey East semifinals on March 16th at the TD Banknorth Garden. Butler scored a goal in his first collegiate game on Oct. 20, 2006 at Colorado College. LeBlanc had five points in his first season in Durham and was the only Wildcat rookie to play in all 39 games in 06-07. Rossman saw playing time in 19 games as a freshman and he scored a huge game-tying tally in the Hockey East semifinal against Massachusetts. Rossman amassed four points (1g, 3a) in his opening season in Durham.
The Wildcats will welcome seven freshmen forwards to the Wildcat lineup headlined by 2007 NHL Draft picks James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, N.J.) and Phil DeSimone (East Amherst, N.Y.). Matt Campanale (Chester Srpings, Pa.), Danny Dries (Lake Orion, Mich.), Greg Manz (Wayne, Pa.), Mike Sislo (Superior, Wis.) and Danny Vranek (New Port Richey, Fla.) will add depth to the position for the upcoming season.
vanRiemsdyk was the second overall selection in the June draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. He has skated the last two seasons for the United States National Program. He led the US Under-18 Team in scoring this season with 63 points (33g, 30a) in 42 games. vanRiemsdyk was a member of the gold medal winning team of the World Under-18 Championships in 05-06. DeSimone is a three-year veteran of the USHL playing with the Sioux City Musketeers. DeSimone, the 06-07 USHL Player of the Year, scored 73 points (26g, 47a) in 60 games with a +13 plus/minus rating.
Juniors Joe Charlebois (Potsdam, N.Y.) and Jamie Fritsch (Odenton, Md.) solidified their spots on the Wildcat blueline as the pair both played in all 39 games last season. Charlebois tallied four points in his sophomore season with a +10 plus/minus rating, which was the fifth best total among Wildcat defensemen, while Fritsch recorded a career-high 11 points (2g, 9a), which was the fourth best point total among UNH blueliners. Fellow junior Kevin Kapstad (Boxboro, Mass.) played in all but one game a year ago for UNH, tallying a career-high six points (4g, 2a). Also adding depth in defense will be sophomore Nick Krates (Palos Park, Ill.), who made his collegiate debut against St. Lawrence of Dec. 8.
The freshman blueliners include Mike Beck (Long Beach, Calif.) and Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, Pa.). Beck played the last four seasons in the United States Hockey League, including the last two seasons for the Sioux City Musketeers for coach Dave Siciliano. Last season, Beck recorded 41 points (7g, 34a) in 56 games as the fifth leading defensive scorer in the league. His +19 plus/minus rating was a team best among defensemen and he was named Sioux City’s Defensive Player of the Year in 06-07. Campanale skated the last two seasons for the Green Mountain Glades of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). He played in 43 games posting 33 points (8g, 25a) as the Glades leading defensive scorer last season and ranked fourth among league blueliners in scoring. Campanale was an EJHL First-Team All-Star selection in 2006-2007.
Backing up Regan once again will be sophomore netminder Brian Foster (Pembroke, N.H.). Foster played in seven games allowing just 11 goals in over 298 minutes of action. He posted a 2.11 GAA, .933 save percentage and was 2-2-0 overall. Prior to coming to UNH, Foster was in net for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League. He played in 26 contests and posted a 12-9-3 record with a 2.81 GAA and a .903 save percentage, helping guide the team to the 2006 Clark Cup Championship. Foster was a fifth round draft pick of the Florida Panthers in the 2005 NHL Draft.
The Wildcats will open their schedule with an exhibition game on Friday, Oct. 12 against New Brunswick at the Whittemore Center. UNH officially kicks off the season with a road game on Friday, Oct. 19 vs. Boston University at Agganis Arena.
The ‘Cats will then host WCHA foe Colorado College for a two-game set Oct. 26-27 at Towse Rink and will meet with national runner-up Boston College on Nov. 10 and Feb. 23 in Durham, along with a Feb. 22 meeting at Conte Forum. UNH and Massachusetts will tangle Dec. 8 at the Mullins Center. It will be the teams’ first meeting after the Wildcats’ memorable 3-2 double overtime win at the TD Banknorth Garden in the Hockey East semifinals on March 16.
UNH will face Hockey East rival Maine for the first time Dec. 16 at the Whittemore Center and will head to Alfond Arena in Orono on Feb. 8-9. After Christmas the ‘Cats travel to Grand Forks, N.D. for a two-game series with Frozen Four participant North Dakota on Dec. 28-29 at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
The Wildcats will play one game at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, N.H. this season on Saturday, Jan. 19 vs. Dartmouth in the seventh annual “Battle for the RiverStone Cup.”
UNH and the Terriers will complete the three-game league series Jan. 25 at the Whittemore Center and Jan. 26 at BU. The ‘Cats open February with a four-game road trip highlighted with the single game against Vermont on Feb. 1 at Gutterson Field House, the trip to Maine and a Feb. 15 meeting with Providence at Schneider Arena.
The Wildcats will conclude the regular season with the Vermont Catamounts on March 7 and 8 at the Whittemore Center.