DURHAM — Anthony Wyse had a choice to make before entering his senior year at the University of New Hampshire. He could stay in school and play his final year with the UNH men’s hockey team or pursue the National Hockey League opportunities that were presented to him.
After weighing his options, the defenseman from Newton, Mass., elected to stay at UNH. Wyse’s teammates elected him as their captain for this season.
The Wildcats open their 2019-20 campaign Friday night at 7 at Miami of Ohio of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The teams will play again at Miami’s Steve Cady Arena Saturday night at the same time.
Wyse, who has not been drafted by an NHL team, and teammate Max Gildon attended the Florida Panthers’ NHL Development Camp in late June. Wyse also participated in the Nashville Predators’ development camp last year.
“It was definitely a tough decision but at the end of the day, I love this place,” Wyse said at UNH’s media day Sept. 25. “I want to finish what I started. I want to graduate and I just kind of want to be part of what we’ve been starting — (getting) the winning culture back up and start winning some championships. I would just love to do that here in my final year as a senior.”
UNH coach Mike Souza said during the team’s media day that at times last year, he did not know if Wyse would return for his senior campaign because he expected Wyse would have the chance to sign an NHL contract.
“I think that’s a testament to him wanting to be here and how much he cares about the program,” Souza said of Wyse’s choice to remain at UNH.
Wyse reiterated during UNH’s media availability on Wednesday that he realizes it will take a lot of hard work but he would love to experience what was once a regular occurrence for the program: playing for a Hockey East title at TD Garden in Boston.
“I know that used to be the norm every single year in the past and I don’t see why we can’t start doing that this year,” Wyse said.
Wyse and the Wildcats will begin their quest to reach TD Garden against the Miami Redhawks this weekend.
UNH went 1-0-1 against the Redhawks over the teams’ two games in Durham last year. Miami has a new coach, Chris Bergeron, who spent the previous nine seasons at Bowling Green. Miami opened its season Sunday with a 7-4 home loss to No. 17 Bowling Green.
“They play extremely hard,” Souza said of the Redhawks on Wednesday. “(Bergeron’s) Bowling Green teams played extremely hard. The two teams went at it last week, which was pretty unique. I’m sure it was an interesting experience for Chris...Our guys, they’re going to be in for a battle out there so we have to be ready.”
UNH had a practice run of sorts on Sunday, when it beat the University of Guelph, Ontario, 4-3, in an exhibition game in Durham. Liam Blackburn and Angus Crookshank provided the offense, both scoring an even-strength and power-play goal. Mike Robinson, a junior from Bedford, and sophomore Ty Taylor split time in goal. Robinson made 14 saves and allowed one goal over 31 minutes, 29 seconds in net. Taylor made six saves and allowed two goals over 28:31.
Miami went 11-23-4 overall, finished last in the eight-team NCHC and averaged a conference-low 2.29 goals per game last season. The Redhawks were predicted to finish last in the NCHC again this year in the conference’s preseason media poll.
UNH went 12-15-9 overall — its fourth consecutive year below .500 — and was swept by the University of Massachusetts in the first round of the Hockey East playoffs last season. The Wildcats tied with Maine for the sixth-best goals-per-game output (2.5) and finished with the No. 9 defense (2.86 goals allowed per game) in the 11-team Hockey East last year.
“The real season starts now,” Crookshank said. “Nothing to take away from Guelph — they’re a great team and everything — but it’s a whole other animal going over to Miami. That place is going to be rocking and it’s going to be a tough place to play.”
Ice chips: UNH owns a 7-5-2 all-time series record against the Redhawks...The Wildcats are 50-37-3 in season-openers and 23-28-0 all-time when opening the season on the road...Ken Cail, who was the Manchester Monarchs’ play-by-play announcer for 17 of the former Los Angeles Kings affiliate’s 18 seasons, will have the call on the Wildcat Sports Radio Network when UNH hosts Providence College on Jan. 18.