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UNH Men’s Hockey: Welcome Back UNH Hockey

Courtesy of UNH Athletics.

DURHAM, N.H.-After a devastating overtime season ending loss to the Providence Friars last year, the University of New Hampshire men’s hockey team feels as ready as ever to bring on the 2023-24 season. 

Eight players are joining the team as part of the freshmen class. Head coach Mike Souza is already pleased with what they have already brought to the team and the intensity they give. 

“No one’s coming in and we’re like, ‘oh wow, we’re disappointed’. We’ve been very pleased with our freshmen class. And it’s put pressure on some of our returning players to be quite honest with you and so that is a good thing for our program,” said Souza. “The lineup as I told the kids yesterday is always fluid, never set in stone, but we certainly had incomers put a lot of pressure on returners, and I think that’s good for the returners as well”. 

Like Souza, junior captain Alex Gagne is excited by what he has seen from his underclassmen teammates already and looks forward to their impact in the upcoming home opener. 

“It’s exciting to see them (freshmen class) right off the bat. They’re gonna bring a lot to the table, which is going to be huge for us” said Gagne. 

Gagne is specifically impressed with two of the freshmen and what he has been witnessing from them. 

“Nick Ring, just seeing him in practice, how slippery and how evasive he is. Whenever I’m going against him it’s always hard because he’s always juking in and out, you can never get a hold on him,” said Gagne. “J.P. Turner…in practice and then when we played Maine in our preseason game, you could see how responsible his game is, which I think will earn a lot of trust from the coaching staff”.

Along with the freshmen class, another player that is bringing a lot of attention to the team is sophomore goaltender, Tyler Muszelik. Muszelik split the previous season with various goalies but now with his rookie season under his belt and an offseason filled with training, he is expected to be a constant starter for UNH. 

“I think he’s had a really productive summer. He was here all summer, trained here. And he’s maturing, his games maturing, as he’s matured as a person. And he’s a competitive guy…he’s not someone that’s going to be overt about how competitive he is. He’s not going to bang a stick or yell but he’s very competitive,” said Souza. “And I’ve been very pleased with his just level of commitment to just getting better. He’s worked tirelessly with our goaltending coach. And just these he’s a kid who’s really a joy to be around. He wants to be a player so bad. And I think he’s got a bright future and we’re certainly optimistic with Tyler”.

While Gagne is witnessing Muszelik, the freshmen class and the other underclassmen players experience different aspects of college hockey, he too, is going through one himself with the new addition to his jersey. 

“Obviously, being captain here is a huge honor… it was kind of overwhelming… I didn’t know I was going to be selected as captain. Obviously with becoming captain, there’s a great deal of responsibility that I take a lot of pride in,” said Gagne.

To deal with the pressure Gagne looks to his assistant captains and the other veterans on the team to showcase multiple types of leadership. 

“I know it’s not just me leading the ship. It’s our leadership group of Harrison Blaisdell and Nikolai Jenson but it’s also the core of the older guys who are returning ,” said Gagne. 

A New Hampshire native himself Gagne remembers watching UNH growing up and how exciting it is to now be playing for them. 

“I can remember my first game. It was actually when I was eight. I don’t remember if it was preseason or their first game but it was against a Canadian team… It’s special to be from New Hampshire and just even wear the UNH jersey’s special but to have a letter on it’s awesome,” said Gagne. 

In just a short amount of time Gagne and his teammates will lace up their skates for their first game of the regular season which will also be a league game. The Wildcats will be taking on the nationally ranked Boston University (BU) Terriers on Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. in the Whittemore Center. 

While it is unusual to play a league game right off the bat Souza says it’s not something that is going to phase his players and hopefully the crowd. 

“We play BU three times this year. We got to go out and compete against them or whoever the schedule asked for. I’m excited, it’s a national game. Obviously, it’s homecoming here at UNH. It’s one of our longtime rivals,” said Souza. 

Similarly to Souza, Gagne is not worried about the name of the team they are playing against, just the end result.

“Our main goal, whoever we’re playing, doesn’t matter if it’s BU, Maine, UConn, whatever, our focus is when that buzzer hits at the end of the third period, we want to win, we want to be singing our victory song in the locker room,” said Gagne. 

Fans that can not make it to the game can also watch live on NESN or ESPN+.      


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