When describing the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team’s incoming freshman class, coach Mike Souza said the seven players possess a combination of size, skill, power and hockey sense and that no two players are the same.
“I don’t think any players we’re bringing in, you can say like, ‘Oh, those guys play like each other,’” Souza said. “They each bring their own skill set to the table, which is what I’m excited about.”
The Wildcats announced the class, which consists of defensemen Luke Reid, Joe Nagle and Nikolai Jenson, forwards Cam Gendron, Carsen Richels and Nick Cafarelli and goaltender Jeremy Forman, on Tuesday.
Reid, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 190 pounds, recorded 38 points (four goals, 34 assists) in 105 United States Hockey League games for the Chicago Steel over the past two seasons. The Warman, Saskatchewan, resident played for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League during the 2017-18 season, totaling 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) over 54 games.
Nagle (5 feet, 10 inches, 185 pounds) logged 56 points (six goals, 50 assists) in a combined 167 North American Hockey League games for the Northeast Generals and New Jersey Titans. The Weymouth, Mass., resident played for the Generals for four seasons and in 12 games for the Titans after a late-season trade last year.
Jenson (5 feet, 11 inches, 187 pounds), who is from Cold Spring, Minn., spent the past two seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, tallying 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 100 games.
Reid, Nagle and Jenson will bolster a UNH blue-line unit that graduated last year’s team captain, Anthony Wyse, and lost last year’s leading scorer, Max Gildon, who signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Florida Panthers in March. As a junior last season, Gildon led UNH in points (28) and assists (21).
“I think it goes without saying replacing Max is not easy to do,” Souza said. “He signed an NHL contract for a reason...He was a really, really good player for us so I don’t think necessarily you can replace him with any one person but what we’re excited about is adding depth — the three guys we’re bringing in and there’s also another opportunity for some of our current players to step into that ice slot.”
Souza noted with Wyse and Gildon’s departures, there is a significant amount of ice time up for grabs within the defensemen group. Wyse and Gildon each played between 24-28 minutes a game for the Wildcats, Souza said.
Gendron, a 6-foot-3-inch, 180-pound center/wing from Hampstead, is the lone New Hampshire resident in the class. He spent the past two seasons with the New Jersey Titans in the NAHL, totaling 59 points (23 goals, 36 assists) in 106 games. He previously played two varsity seasons for the Winchendon (Mass.) School, during which he logged 81 points (28 goals, 53 assists) and served as a captain during his senior season.
“The thing that was really appealing to us is he’s a versatile player,” Souza said of Gendron. “He plays center but he can play wing and the kid seems to be getting better the past couple of years.”
Richels, who is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 230 pounds, will come in as a true freshman after playing three years of varsity hockey for Blaine (Minn.) High School. The Ham Lake, Minn., resident ranks fourth all-time in Blaine program history in goals (83), assists (85) and points (168). Richels was named both the team’s offensive MVP and a Minnesota Mr. Hockey finalist after tallying 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) last season.
“I think Richels is a heckuva prospect,” Souza said. “He’s a big, prototypical power forward who can really, really shoot it....As he gets adjusted to playing at our level, we think he has a very, very bright future for us for many reasons.”
Cafarelli (5 feet, 10 inches, 185 pounds) played in 42 BCHL games for the Wenatchee Wild in what was his first junior hockey season last year. The Middleton, Mass., resident was named the team’s forward of the year after registering 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists). At the high school level, Cafarelli played at Austin Prep of Reading, Mass., for three varsity seasons, recording 75 points (32 goals, 43 assists).
Forman registered a .906 save percentage and 2.7 goals against average over 27 NAHL games for the Corpus Christi IceRays last year and spent the previous two seasons with the Buffalo Jr. Sabers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“He has an incredibly high academic profile with a tremendous work ethic and track record of being somebody that is reliable and a tremendous teammate,” Souza said of Forman.
A Northbrook, Ill., resident, Forman differs in size from current UNH goaltenders Mike Robinson and Ty Taylor. Forman is 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighs 160 pounds. Robinson, a Bedford resident and San Jose Sharks prospect, and Taylor, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, are both 6 feet, 4 inches tall. Robinson weighs 195 pounds. Taylor weighs 200 pounds.
“I think we have two NHL prospect goaltenders and (Forman) comes in, we’re not going to pigeon hole him into any particular role but I think he’ll come in and push those guys and be a great teammate and who knows where it all goes?” Souza said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the incoming class is not able to be on the Durham campus this summer and get acclimated to the school and program. When the full team arrives on campus this fall, though, Souza said he is confident its leaders will help the freshmen easily integrate into the program.
“We expect the upperclassmen to lead these guys (the freshmen) in a positive direction, especially considering it’s such a unique time,” Souza said. “We talk often about mental toughness, playing through things. This is a unique experience for all of us — everyone.”