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UNH Hockey: Hurricanes prospect Brett Pesce embracing greater role on blue line

Sophomore Brett Pesce has three goals and five assists for the No. 20 Wildcats.

Brett Pesce
Brett Pesce
Gil Talbot

Casual observers with lesser knowledge of the game insist Brett Pesce isn't flashy or doesn't do anything special out on the ice, but to keen observers, he is a solid, very dependable young defenseman.

"He's not flashy at all. He makes plays that make him seem flashy at times because he skates so well. He battles in the corners so well and he does the little things that make him a great hockey player. He's not a huge goal scorer even though he turned into one this weekend," said UNH captain Eric Knodel.

The Tarrytown, NJ native has taken on a bigger role for the No. 20 New Hampshire Wildcats the past two weeks with the absence of Trevor van Riemsdyk who is out with an injury.  Pesce has been paired on the top defensive unit with Knodel, a Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick.

"I love playing with Brett. Last year when he was a freshman I played with him the majority of the year. I really know how he plays and we feed off each other very well," said Knodel. "It's been working well for us."

Coaches and teammates have raved about Pesce's work ethic and drive for years, and it is evident with how he plays that he works hard on his game and doesn't take shifts off.

"He was unbelievable this weekend how he battled. I can't say enough about that kid and how he plays. No matter the situation he just goes full head of steam in there.

"He was tremendous. He was a real warrior out there this weekend. He got the game puck last night [against Notre Dame]. He could have probably got it again tonight," said UNH head coach Dick Umile after his team swept the Fighting Irish in a Hockey East series.

Pesce, the Hurricanes third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, has a keen sense of awareness in his own zone and rarely makes a mistake or gets caught out of position, but his ability to win puck battles is one of his biggest attributes.

"He didn't get drafted by the NHL for nothing. He's a sophomore that is just coming on and playing with a lot of confidence. He's physically strong on the puck. He's a hard guy to knock off the puck," Umile explained.

Pesce grew up in the North Jersey Avalanche program and played a year of junior hockey for the Jersey Hitmen in the EJHL before matriculating to UNH. He also gained valuable international experience competing for the US National Development team and skating for the red, white and blue in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

That international experience in big games will help Pesce as he and his teammates make a final push for the Hockey East playoffs and the NCAA Tournament over the final month of the regular experience. The Wildcats host the University of Vermont for a pair of Hockey East contests this weekend at the Whittemore Center.

Pesce is working on his offensive game, as evidenced by his two goals and three assists over the last three games, but he projects as a solid, dependable stay-at-home blue liner at the next level. But before he turns the page to the next chapter in his hockey career, Pesce and his UNH teammates have some team goals they'd like to accomplish.

Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on twitter @JeffCoxSBNation.