Monday, June 29, 2015

UNH Recruit Mike Robinson - 3rd Round Pick of San Jose Sharks

San Jose Drafts Goalie Mike Robinson in Third Round

Mike Robinson, UNH's "Goalie of the Future", has been drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. On Saturday, Robinson was seated in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers, when he heard his named called. The 6'4", 200 lbs. goalie from Bedford, New Hampshire was the 86th overall pick and the 7th goalie selected in the draft.

Mike Robinson (DOB: 3/27/1997) verbally accepted an athletic scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire last August. He has been training with Mike Buckley of Goaltending Development Services(GDS) for 10 years. Coach Buckley is the goalie development coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and was formerly UNH's goalie coach. Robinson plans to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2016.

Over the years, UNH fans have been fortunate to watch seven UNH goalies who were NCAA All-Americans:

Rod Blackburn 1958-61 – NHL Draft began in 1963.
Cap Raeder 1972-75 – 1973 NHL Draft, Round 12, 167th Overall.
Jeff Levy 1990-92 – 1990 NHL Draft, Round 7, 134th Overall.
Ty Conklin 1997-2001 – Not drafted.
Mike Ayers 2000-04 – 2000 NHL Draft, Round 6, 177th Overall.
Kevin Regan 2004-08 – 2003 NHL Draft, Round 9, 277th Overall.
Brian Foster 2006-10 – 2005 NHL Draft, Round 5, 161st Overall.

Mike Robinson's selection in the 3rd Round makes him the highest, NHL-drafted goalie in UNH history.

UNH "Goalie of the Future"
Mike Robinson
Robinson is committed to play for the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the United States Premiere Hockey League next season. Last season, in his junior year in high school, Mike played every game for Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School Hockey Conference. While the team struggled with a record of 7-16-2, Robinson posted a Save Percentage of .902 and a Goals Against Average of 3.20. In May, Robinson was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 7th Round of the USHL Phase II Draft. However, he did not attend Lincoln's recent Tryout Camp and does not currently plan on playing in the USHL next season. Robinson did participate in USA Hockey's Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in early May.

I had an opportunity to interview Mike, via email, about his selection in the NHL draft, his strengths, and plans for enrolling at UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your selection in the 3rd Round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Would you describe what it was like sitting in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida as Day 2 of the draft began?
Mike Robinson: Sitting and waiting for my name to be called was very nerve racking. I tried to stay calm through the whole process and not let myself get too nervous about waiting though.

Mike Lowry: When the NHL Central Scouting Service came out with its "Players to Watch" list last November, you were not included. Now, the San Jose Sharks have drafted you in the 3rd round and you were the 7th goalie selected - ahead of other top goalie prospects. What are some of the factors you think lead to your rapid climb up the draft ladder?
Mike Robinson: I feel very honored to be selected by such a great organization like the San Jose Sharks. And being selected by them in the 3rd round is an honor. I feel like from not being on the list in November for Central Scouting, to be drafted in the 3rd round is just a reflection of all the hard work I have put in this year. And I have my teammates at Lawrence Academy to thank, for all the hard work they put in every practice to make me better.

Lowry: Did the scouting staff of NHL clubs interview you ahead of the draft? Did you have a sense that San Jose might draft you?
Robinson: I was interviewed by Florida and Colorado down in Florida before the draft. I did have a feeling that San Jose might pick me. They had a lot of interest in me when they interviewed me, just after the season.

Lowry: What are the skills that you think might make you a successful NHL goalie in the future?
Robinson: My strengths as a goalie are that I have a big frame, being 6'4", but along with that is my athleticism in the net. Those aspects I feel set me apart from other goalies.

Lowry: Now that you've been drafted by San Jose, are you still planning to enroll at UNH in either the Fall of 2016 or 2017?
Robinson: I've talked to Coach Umile. I will be a freshman in 2016.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

UNH Recruits: Plans for 2015-16 Season

Jason O'Neill Succeeds at
Madison Tryout Camp
Eric Esposito Succeeds at
Youngstown Tryout Camp

The 2014-15 hockey season ended on a high note for UNH fans last week as NHL rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. On this stormy summer day in mid-June, it's tempting to think we've entered the "off-season". But in the world of 21st-century hockey, the seasons tend to blend together for professional and amateur players. This coming weekend, the NHL will conduct the 2015 Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers. Four UNH recruits - Marcus Vela, Mike Robinson, Liam Darcy, and Joseph Masonius - are hoping to hear their names called in the mid to late rounds.

Meanwhile, all the UNH recruits are busy preparing to join new teams or to return to their current teams. This article provides the latest information on each recruit's plan for the 2015-16 season. I'll begin with two 2017 or '18 UNH recruits who recently participated in Tryout Camps for teams in the United States Hockey League (USHL).

Jason O'Neill

In early May, 18-year-old Jason O'Neill (DOB: 3/23/97), a 5'11", 170 lbs., left-shot forward, was drafted by the Madison Capitals in the third round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, O'Neill scored 19 goals and 27 assists in 33 games for the 18U Skipjacks Hockey Club in the United States Premiere Hockey League. O'Neill is from Odenton, Maryland and he recently graduated from high school.

Last week, Jason O'Neill participated in the Madison Capitals' tryout camp. When the camp was over, O'Neill earned a spot on the Capitals' 30-player protected list. In August, he will return to Madison for their training camp. By opening day of the USHL season, all teams must trim their active rosters down to 23 players.

Eric Esposito

In May 2014, Eric Esposito (DOB: 8/24/1998), a 5'11", 165 lbs., right-shot forward, was drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 16th round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, Esposito had a breakout year as a sophomore at Loomis Chaffee Prep School in Windsor, Connecticut. He scored 18 goals and 14 assists in 26 New England Prep School games. His older brother Alex, a University of Vermont recruit, scored 5 more points than Eric and was Loomis Chaffee's leading scorer.

Eric Esposito, who hails from West Haven, Connecticut, participated in the Youngstown Phantoms' Tryout Camp last week. He has earned a spot on the Phantoms' 23-man active roster. While that's great news for Eric, he won't be relaxing anytime soon. Esposito, who turns 17 in August, will participate in the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp in Williamsville, NY this weekend. He also competed in the Select 16 Camp last summer and the Select 15 Camp in 2013.

2016 UNH Recruits

Liam Blackburn will return to the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL for a third season. As a 17-year-old rookie in the 2013-14 season, Blackburn scored 19 goals and 28 points in 53 games. Last season, he increased his goal scoring to 23 and nearly doubled his assists up to 53. During the regular season, he tied for 6th in BCHL scoring and posted the third most assists. Blackburn (DOB: 6-8-1996), a 5'10", 167 lbs., left-shot center from Prince George, British Columbia, signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the University of New Hampshire during the early signing period last November.

Patrick Grasso will return to the Des Moines Buccaneers for his third full season in the USHL. Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996), a 5'7", 152 lbs., right-shot forward from Des Moines, Iowa, scored 9 goals and 25 assists in 60 games last season. He was the 5th leading scorer on the Buccaneers squad.

Nick Nonis will return for a second season with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL. In his rookie season, the 6'3", 195 lbs. left-shot defenseman scored a game-winning goal and added 6 assists in 56 games. Nonis (DOB: 12/19/1995), a 2014 graduate of Governor's Academy, lives in Hampton Falls, NH.

Brendan van Riemsdyk, the Rookie of the Year in the United States Premiere Hockey League last season, will return to the Islanders Hockey Club for one more season. His 29 regular-season goals were the 4th highest in the USPHL. In 2013, BvR (DOB: 1/28/1996) was drafted by the Sioux City Musketeers in the 4th Round of the USHL Draft. However, after graduating from Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, he chose to play in the USPHL. Brendan van Riemsdyk is a 6'5", 183 lbs. left-shot, left-winger who hails from Middletown, NJ.

2016 or 2017 UNH Recruits

Joseph Cipollone is committed to play for the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League in the 2015-16 season. The recent graduate of the South Kent School will attend the Vipers' Camp later this summer. Last season, Cipollone (DOB: 3/29/1997), a 5'10", 165 lbs., left-shot center, was the second-leading scorer for the Selects Hockey Academy 18U team. In 28 United States Premiere Hockey League games, Cipollone scored 22 goals and 36 assists. He was drafted by the Bloomington Thunder in the 7th Round of the 2015 USHL Draft. However, he chose not to attend Bloomington's Tryout Camp. Joseph Cipollone is from Purchase, NY.

Liam Darcy, who just graduated from Berwick Academy, will play for the Islanders Hockey Club in the USPHL next season. Over his four-year career at Berwick, the 5'10", 174 lbs., left-shot defenseman scored 20 goals and added 55 assists. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Darcy as the 204th North American skater eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. Back in 2013, Liam Darcy was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 6th Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He did not attend Green Bay's recent Tryout Camp having chosen to play his junior hockey in New England. Liam Darcy (DOB: 2/26/1997) is from South Berwick, Maine.

Justin Fregona, a recent graduate of St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario, is committed to play for the Langley Rivermen in the BCHL next season. Fregona lead the St. Andrew's Saints in scoring last season with 34 goals and 43 assists in 57 games. In Fregona's junior year, Warren Foegele - current UNH Wildcat and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick - was St. Andrew's leading scorer with 58 goals and 49 assists. Fregona (DOB: 5/29/1997), a native of Mississauga, Ontario, is a 5'7", 154 lbs., right-shot forward.

Charlie Kelleher will be returning to the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the USPHL next season. Last season, Kelleher was hampered by a bout of mononucleosis but still managed to score 13 goals and 22 assists in 40 USPHL games and was selected to the USPHL All-Star team. Kelleher (DOB: 2/4/1997), a 5'8", 195 lbs. right-shot forward, recently graduated from Longmeadow (MA) High School. In 2013, Charlie was selected by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the 3rd Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He chose to play for the Junior Bruins organization and continue his high school education in Longmeadow. Charlie is the younger brother of UNH's high-scoring Tyler Kelleher.

Aaron O'Neill will be entering his third season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL next fall. In April, 2013, Green Bay used it's first round draft pick to sign the 15-year-old O'Neill (DOB: 5/5/1997) to a tender contract. Aaron, who just turned 18 and graduated from Ashwaubenon (Wisconsin) High School, played in 32 games in his first season with Green Bay. Last summer, he underwent shoulder surgery and missed the first month and 1/2 of the 2014-15 regular season. The 5'11", 170 lbs., right-shot center posted a goal and an assist in the remaining 41 games.

Mike Robinson, the 6'4", 200 lbs. goalie from Bedford, New Hampshire is committed to play for the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the United States Premiere Hockey League next season. Last season, in his junior year in high school, Robinson (DOB: 3/27/1997) played every game for Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School Hockey Conference. While the team struggled with a record of 7-16-2, Robinson posted a Save Percentage of .902 and a Goals Against Average of 3.20. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Mike Robinson as the 8th North American goalie eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. He will travel to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida this weekend for the NHL Draft. In May, Robinson was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 7th Round of the USHL Phase II Draft. However, he did not attend Lincoln's recent Tryout Camp and does not plan on playing in the USHL next season. Robinson did participate in USA Hockey's Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in early May.

2017 or 2018 UNH Recruits

See information on Jason O'Neill and Eric Esposito described at the top of this article.

2018 UNH Recruits

Joel Farabee (DOB: 2/25/2000), UNH's youngest recruit, plans on playing for the Selects Hockey Academy 16U team in the United States Premiere Hockey League 16U Conference next season. Last season, the speedy, skilled, forward played a total of 66 games with the Selects Academy 16U team and registered 14 goals and 40 assists. Farabee, a native of Cicero, New York, will be a sophomore at the South Kent School (CT) next year. One of Farabee's goals for the future is to play for the National Team Development Program.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UNH Preparing To Name Alum Mike Souza as Associate Head Coach

Associate Head Coach
Mike Souza
"I can tell you Mike Souza has a great personality and as (UNH Athletic Director) Marty Scarano has said, he is the "mayor" and that is important at UNH. He is a good communicator which would, I believe, make him successful both with the team and as a recruiter. He is basically family with Coach Umile and that would help him in their work together." Coach Scott Borek, Providence College (personal communication).
It's no secret that UNH Hockey Head Coach Dick Umile is preparing to name Mike Souza, a 2000 alum, as the new Associate Head Coach. According to ESPN anchor John Buccigross, the official announcement will come sometime this week. The position became available on June 5th when Scott Borek left to join Nate Leaman at Providence College as their Associate Head Coach.

The 37-year-old Souza (DOB: 1/28/1978) has coached for the last two seasons at the University of Connecticut. He was initially hired as an assistant coach by UConn Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh and was promoted to UConn Associate Head Coach two months ago.

According to multiple sources, Mike Souza was Coach Umile's top choice to replace Coach Borek. Their relationship dates back to the mid-1990's when Souza was a star at Wakefield (MA) High School and Coach Umile recruited him to play at UNH. The 1996 graduate scored 97 goals and 107 assists in three seasons and was inducted into the Wakefield Warriors' Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

Over the last week, there has been speculation that Mike Souza would eventually replace Coach Umile upon his retirement. This speculation was sparked by Mike Anthony, who covers UConn hockey for the Hartford Courant. On June 10th, he tweeted that according to sources, Souza would be "named associate, and head coach in waiting, under Umile at UNH". Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if the official announcement of Souza's hiring addresses this subject.

Whether or not Mike Souza becomes the "head coach in waiting", it is clear that he and Coach Umile have developed a close relationship over the years. As Coach Borek said, Mike Souza "is basically family with Coach Umile". A review of Souza's playing and coaching career provides insight into the nature of their relationship.

UNH #7 Mike Souza
1999 Frozen Four
Long-time UNH fans will remember Souza as the top scorer in the 1999 Frozen Four in Anaheim where the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the University of Maine. Souza scored the crucial game-tying goal in the third period of the Championship Game. He also scored 2 goals in UNH's semifinal win over Michigan State. Souza, along with Jason Krog and Jayme Filipowicz, were named to the 1999 All-Tournament Team (see Associated Press photo).

In his four-year career at UNH, Mike Souza played in 156 games and scored 66 goals and 90 assists. In his sophomore season, he tallied 25 points for the 1997-98 team that advanced to the Frozen Four. Souza was the Wildcats' captain in his senior year and was named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star. A 2000 interview with Allen Lessells provides some insight into the early stage of Souza's relationship with Coach Umile:
"(Coach Umile) does a good job of picking his spots. Whether it's individually, going one-on-one with someone or constructive criticism for the whole team. To be a good coach I think you have to pick your spots. Our coaching staff does a good job with that, and it obviously comes from him. The guy bleeds blue and white. It's amazing. Sometimes he gets so into it in the pre-game talk that it's funny. But it's great. It's something you kind of want everyone to see once."

Souza's Professional Playing Career

Soon after Mike Souza finished his freshman season at UNH, he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd Round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Souza was the 67th overall selection - the same as Warren Foegele in the 2014 NHL Draft. After graduation, Souza played left wing for the Norfolk Admirals, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, for two years. In his third AHL season, he was traded to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Over that span, Souza averaged 14 goals and 15 assists per season.

After two more seasons of splitting time with AHL and ECHL teams, Souza went to Germany and Switzerland to play professionally in the 2005-06 season. He then played five seasons in Italy-A, the top professional league in Italy. He lead SG Cortina in scoring during their 2006-07 Championship season. Souza also played for the Italian National Team in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships from 2008-2011. The highlight was 2010 when Souza lead Team Italy in scoring (1g, 4a) as they competed in the Elite Division of the IIHF Championship. Former UNH star Stevie Moses and Team USA recently won the bronze medal in the 2015 edition of this prestigious tournament.

Souza's Coaching Experience

The backstory of Mike Souza's transition from playing to coaching, described by Dan Guttenplan in the New England Hockey Journal, sheds more light on his 20-year relationship with UNH Head Coach Dick Umile. By the end of the 2010-11 season in Italy, Souza realized his playing career was coming to a close and, with a wife and two young daughters, he needed to make a career decision. He sought advice from Coach Umile:
"He was pretty frank with me about the ups and downs (of coaching). Coming from playing I realized I'd have to grind it out for a program in a transition phase. (Umile) was one of the most influential people in my life, and I wanted to be like him. Here's a guy year after year who has a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and he has a stoic nature to him. He doesn't let the kids know what's going on behind the scenes."
Coach Umile referred Souza to Brown University Assistant Coach Mark White, a former teammate and roommate of Mike's at UNH. White, in turn, recommended Souza to Head Coach Brendan Whittet for the vacant assistant job at Brown. Souza was hired and spent the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with the Brown Bears. His primary responsibilities included recruiting, coaching the forwards and overseeing the power play. Coach Whittet credited Souza with "having a keen eye for talent and an ability to connect with recruits of all backgrounds." Near the end of Souza's second season with Brown, Whittet offered this glowing assessment:
"I think he has all the traits to be a head coach. He's a guy that really gets it. He understands kids. He puts in the work. Obviously you have to pay your dues like all of us have. There has to be some ability to translate overseeing an organization from being an assistant. That's a reality for Mike. I'm so excited he's part of our staff; he's invaluable to Brown hockey."
Around this time, Coach Umile said this about Souza:
"Mike has a tremendous personality. People enjoy him, and he's a great competitor. He was a great player and he did a lot for the program, on and off the ice. He's quickly become very well-respected in college-coaching circles."
In May, 2013, the University of Connecticut took a bold step in its preparation for joining Hockey East with the hiring of Boston College Assistant Mike Cavanaugh to be their head coach. A month later, Coach Cavanaugh hired Mike Souza to be his assistant coach at UConn. For the past two seasons, Souza has been primarily responsible for coordinating the Huskies' power play and directing the team's recruiting.

Less than two months ago, Coach Cavanaugh promoted Souza to the position of associate head coach. In the official announcement, Cavanaugh said:
"I am pleased to announce that Mike Souza has been promoted to Associate Head Coach at the University of Connecticut. Mike's extensive playing experience and coaching skills continue to enhance our program. He was an integral part of our success competing in our first year in Hockey East and will continue to be a key part of the growth of this program."

3 Former UNH Captains - 3 UNH Coaches

With Mike Souza on board, the UNH men's hockey coaching staff would be comprised of three former team captains and members of the UNH Century Club. Coach Umile captained the 1971-72 squad and scored 144 points in three seasons (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity hockey). Associate Head Coach Glenn Stewart, who is 44 years old and was hired by Umile last August, was the Wildcats' Alternate Captain in the 1993-94 season. Stewart scored 102 points in four seasons before embarking on a 9-year professional playing career.

Mike Souza's return to his alma mater as the Associate Head Coach of the UNH Wildcats would also be a home-coming, of sorts, for his wife Kelly. The couple met at UNH and she played for the UNH women's hockey team. The love of hockey is spread throughout their extended family. Kelly's sister Krissy played hockey for Brown University. Her other sister Kim is married to Chris Bourque who plays in the AHL and is Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque's son. Mike Souza is the cousin of former UNH star and current AHLer Paul Thompson.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Scott Borek Becomes Associate Head Coach at Providence

Providence College Associate
Head Coach Scott Borek

The small number of UNH hockey fans who follow the USCHO fan forum have probably noticed the recent posts speculating on coaching changes. The rumors had veteran Associate Head Coach Scott Borek leaving UNH to join Nate Leaman's staff at Providence College and UConn Associate Head Coach Mike Souza replacing Borek at UNH. The guessing game picked up steam and credibility yesterday when the Providence Journal's Assistant Sports Editor Mark Divver tweeted "Hearing Scott Borek is favorite for @friarhockey associate head coach job".

Moments ago, it became official with Providence College announcing that Scott Borek is the new Associate Head Coach at Providence College.

The Associate Head Coach position for the 2015 National Champion Providence Friars became vacant on May 23rd when Steve Miller announced he was leaving Providence to be with his wife and children in Denver. PC Head Coach Nate Leaman, winner of the 2011 Spencer Penrose Award while at Union College, hired Miller last summer. He was responsible for coaching the defensemen and power play unit. Previously, Miller had been at Denver University for 20 years where he recruited and coached 41 NHL draft picks.

Coach Borek has been with Head Coach Dick Umile at UNH since the 2002-03 season. Over those 13 seasons, the Wildcats compiled an overall record of 281 wins, 174 losses, and 60 ties and a Hockey East record of 183-99-48. UNH qualified for the NCAA Tournament for 9 consecutive seasons from 2003 through 2011 and once again in the 2012-13 season. The Wildcats lost to Minnesota in the Championship Game in Coach Borek's first season in Durham. During Coach Borek's tenure, the Wildcats were the Hockey East Regular Season Champions in 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

During games and in practice, Borek has been primarily responsible for coaching the forwards and the power play. During the second half of this season, I noticed that Coach Borek coached the defensemen during games. I've watched a number of UNH practices in recent years and it's obvious Coach Borek takes a major responsibility in managing the sessions.

Scott Borek has earned a reputation for being a tireless, successful recruiter of young talent. He has been the driving force, literally and figuratively, in gaining commitments from 6 UNH players who became NCAA First Team All-Americans - Mike Radja, Kevin Regan, Blake Kessel, Bobby Butler, Paul Thompson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. He also recruited 4 players subsequently named NCAA Second Team All-Americans - Trevor Smith, Brad Flaishans, Matt Fornataro, and Brian Foster. 16 of Coach Borek's recruits at UNH were NHL draft picks including James van Riemsdyk, the 2nd overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Eight of the young players recruited by Coach Borek went on to score 100 or more points in their UNH careers. In addition to All-Americans Matt Fornataro, Mike Radja, Bobby Butler and Paul Thompson, standout scorers Mike Sislo, Phil DeSimone, Kevin Goumas, and Grayson Downing earned membership in the UNH Century Club. Bobby Butler was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist in the 2009-10 season.

Stevie Moses, who recently signed a $1 million contract with the Nashville Predators and excelled for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships last month, is another one of the UNH stars recruited by Scott Borek. Three years after graduating from UNH, Moses broke the single-season goal scoring record in the Kontinental Hockey League - the second best professional hockey league in the world. In an extensive interview I had with Stevie last winter, he expressed high praise for Coach Borek:
"I had a lot of (recruiting) interest when I was playing juniors. It came down to Maine, UNH, Dartmouth, and Boston College. Maine, UNH and Dartmouth wanted me to come in 2008 and BC wanted me to do an extra year of juniors and come in 2009. I committed early in my junior year of high school so it was two years before I was going to enroll."
"Scotty Borek was the first of all those schools to talk to me. I went up to UNH for an interview so I had been talking to them for the longest. I felt it was the best fit for me. Of course, growing up in Massachusetts, BC was intriguing but when it came down to it, I really felt good with Coach Umile and Borek and Coach Lassonde at the time. I really had good talks with them all. It made it an easy decision."
"I think Coach Borek is a great recruiter and a good assessor of talent. I think Coach Umile puts a lot of trust in him. When Coach Borek says this player is going to fit into our system, Coach Umile listens to him."
"Scott and Dave (at the time) do a lot of the recruiting. They must have watched me play 50 to 75 times before I committed. They followed all the recruiting rules by the book. They also spoke with my parents. My Dad’s been a huge part of my hockey career. He was my coach and my parents still watch every game I play in. My Dad spoke to Scotty a lot and he and I trusted the UNH coaches."
"Obviously, it was an early decision. I was pretty young, 16 years old I think, and it was the right decision for me."
In 2009, Coach Borek organized the first annual University of New Hampshire Hockey Team Camp. The summer showcase has attracted some of the top 13 and 14-year-old players from all over North America including notables Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, and Sonny Milano. The teams and their young stars gain exposure to top college and prep school coaches.

The naming of Scott Borek as the Associate Head Coach at Providence College represents a home-coming of sorts. After he suffered a playing career ending spinal injury as a sophomore at Dartmouth, he became a volunteer assistant coach for his last two years in Hanover. In 1985, he landed his first assistant coaching job at Providence College. He and Coach Umile were assistants for Head Coach Mike McShane, another former UNH player, for three seasons. Then, in 1988, Borek moved over to Brown University as an assistant to Head Coach Bob Gaudet (a former Dartmouth assistant coach and current head coach). Borek spent 4 seasons with Brown before landing the head coaching job at Colby College.

The official announcement of Borek to Providence leads to the second strand of the rumor mill. Various sources have speculated that former UNH captain and star Mike Souza will be the top candidate to replace Coach Borek at UNH. More on that story in a subsequent post.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

UNH Recruits Update: Final 2014-15 Stats

2015 UNH Recruit
Joseph Masonius

The long 2014-15 season is over for all the young players committed to the University of New Hampshire. This final update of the season includes the statistics for each of the 20 UNH recruits.

I have received confirmation from 6 recruits on their plan to enroll at the University of New Hampshire for the first semester of the 2015-16 academic year and to play for the Wildcats next season. Five forwards - Frankie Cefalu, Jason Kalinowski, Christopher Miller, Ara Nazarian, and Marcus Vela - plan to join the UNH Class of 2019. For a link to an article highlighting each recruit's accomplishments, click on the player's name.

The 6th recruit planning to arrive at UNH this fall is 18-year-old defenseman Joseph Masonius from Spring Lake, New Jersey. Masonius is the subject of the Player Spotlight.

Player Spotlight - Joseph Masonius

Masonius (DOB: 2-17-1997), a 6'0", 180 lbs. defenseman, has been a member of the United States National Team Development Program for the last two seasons. Just a few weeks ago in late April, Masonius and Team USA won the International Ice Hockey Federation Under-18 World Championships in Switzerland. Here are player statistics and background information for Joseph. It includes 2 informative links. Click on his name and a link to his statistics comes up on a separate screen. Click on the date next to "Commit to UNH:" for a link to an article which announced his verbal commitment to UNH.

Joseph Masonius
US National Under-18 Team
United States Hockey League
DOB: 2-17-1997 Hometown: Spring Lake, NJ
Defense, 6'0", 180 lbs. Shoots Left
Commit to UNH: 10-13-2012 at Age 15 years, 8 months.
"The first time I visited UNH I knew it was the place I wanted to be. It's a perfect fit. I am very excited to join Coach Umile and his staff in a few years, but for now I look forward to continuing my development."

Player Year Team League GP Goals Asst Pts +/- PIM
Joseph Masonius  (D) 2014/2015 USA U18 Team USHL 24 0 10 10 +10 45
NCAA 18 5 5 10 14
NAHL 2 0 1 1 0
Int'l. 17 0 5 5 22
2013/2014 USA U18 Team USHL 22 0 2 2 -2 32
Int'l. 15 0 5 5 20

Scouting Reports

Joseph Masonius #2
In the NHL Central Scouting Service's 2015 Midterm Rankings, Joseph Masonius was listed as the #201 North American skater. He was not included in the 2015 Final Rankings.

From Ryan Kennedy, The Hockey News, November, 2014:
"It was a glorious weekend of Michigan hockey for me, as I took a road trip to Ann Arbor to take in games featuring the National Team Development Program (NTDP)...The NTDP got two wins over United States League opponents...All (the) games gave me a great look at some top prospects and here are a few of them below, plus more kids we can’t wait to see in the NHL some day:
By the end of the weekend, anytime I sensed a big hit coming, I just assumed it was Masonius – and I was usually right. The University of New Hampshire commit can rock opponents with his physicality and he also has a pretty decent point shot. Draft eligible in 2015.”
Here are some highlights from those games. Masonius is #2 in the white jersey:

In January, Masonius played in the 2015 USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game. The game was played in Dubuque before a packed house which included over 100 NHL scouts. Joseph Masonius was a top performer for Team West scoring the first of their four goals, firing 3 shots on goal, and finishing with a +2 rating.
Mike Morreale from wrote:
"Masonius, who is not rated by NHL Central Scouting and is committed to the University of New Hampshire in 2015-16, did his best to get the attention of scouts. The 6-foot, 180-pound left-hand shot exhibited plenty of poise and feistiness throughout. His goal in the second came off a shot from the top of the left circle at 15:47.”
Here's Masonius' goal scored off a faceoff late in the second period:

The statistics for the recruits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2016 Recruits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2016. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ The year the recruit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ The date the recruit signed the National Letter of Intent.
~ How old the recruit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The recruit's performance in the current season as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2015 Recruits
Frankie Cefalu  (F) Walpole Express EHL 44 17 46 63 48
Playoffs 4 4 3 7 2
Jason Kalinowski  (F) Bloomington Thunder USHL 42 2 9 11 60
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 5 0 0 0 4
Joseph Masonius  (D) USA U18 Team NCAA 18 5 5 10 14
USHL 24 0 10 10 45
NAHL 2 0 1 1 0
Int'l. 17 0 5 5 22
Christopher Miller  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 33 8 12 20 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
Ara Nazarian  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 60 12 16 28 16
Marcus Vela  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 50 20 26 46 57
Playoffs 3 0 1 1 4
2016 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 55 22 51 73 34
Playoffs 4 1 2 3 0
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 60 9 25 34 12
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 56 1 6 7 41
Playoffs 4 0 1 1 4
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 47 29 12 41 54
Playoffs 4 2 1 3 14
2016 or '17 Recruits
Joey Cipollone  (F) Selects Academy 18U USPHL 18U 24 18 33 51 30
Playoffs 4 4 3 7 2
Non-League 30 7 20 27 -
Natl. Champ. 4 3 0 3 4
Liam Darcy  (D) Berwick Academy NEPSHC 26 2 6 8 -
Islanders Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 4 0 0 0 0
Justin Fregona  (F) St. Andrews College CISAA 19 10 13 23 18
Playoffs 4 2 1 3 2
Non-Conf 33 21 24 45 26
Natl. Champ. 5 3 6 9 0
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 37 11 21 32 26
Playoffs 3 2 1 3 0
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 41 1 1 2 12
Mike Robinson  (G) Lawrence Academy NEPSHC 25 7W 16L/2T 3.20 .902
Boston Jr Rangers EHL 8 4W 4L 2.35 .937
Jake Ryczek  (D) Sioux City Musketeers USHL 55 6 12 18 26
Playoffs 5 0 0 0 0
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) Loomis Chaffee NEPSHC 26 17 14 31 -
Playoffs 1 1 0 1 -
CT Wolfpack U16 Split CT HC 34 17 15 32 44
Jason O'Neill  (F) Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 29 16 24 40 39
Playoffs 4 3 3 6 0
Non-League 9 4 2 6 -
2018 Recruits
Joel Farabee  (F) Selects Academy 16U USPHL 16U 28 8 25 33 16
Playoffs 3 0 2 2 0
Non-League 31 6 10 16 -
Natl. Champ. 4 0 3 3 0

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ As I reported earlier this month, Liam Blackburn has decided to play one more season with the West Kelowna Warriors, then enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2016.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jumbo-Sized News for UNH Hockey

Jumbotron Ready for 2015-16 Season

The UNH Athletic Department has announced that a state-of-the-art, four-sided jumbotron will be hanging over center ice at the Whittemore Center this season. But that's not all! An HD video board will replace the beloved "stick-figure men" board at the west end of the arena and electronic ribbon boards with LED functionality will be installed on the skybox level.

Coach Dick Umile hit the nail squarely on the head:
“This is an incredible game-changer for our program and our fans. The new videoboard will improve the already tremendous atmosphere inside the Whittemore Center and help us continue to recruit top-notch student-athletes in our ultimate quest to win the national championship.”
Way back in December, 2011, I posted "All I Want for Christmas is a Jumbotron". It's been a long time coming but UNH hockey fans can now celebrate a special Christmas in May. Here's a re-post of the article I wrote on December 23, 2011:

Ever since instant replays became commonplace on TV coverage of the NFL in the 1960's (it's true, you can look it up), the brains of sports fans have been trained to look for them. Exciting plays, scores, near misses, controversial calls - we want to see them again, the sooner the better. With the proliferation of Jumbotrons and other video scoreboards in hockey arenas all over the country, fans and players alike gaze upwards to see what just happened. But not at the Whittemore Center, home of the UNH Wildcats.

Travelling to away games this season, I've noticed how integral the video scoreboard has become to the college hockey experience at many schools. The type of scoreboard and the way the video display is used often reflects the character of the school. The Agganis Arena at Boston University, opened in 2005, has all the bells, whistles, and glitz you'd expect at a venue in the entertainment hub of New England. The robust, 4-sided Jumbotron suspended over center ice is shaped like the one at the old Boston Garden. When the game is in progress, the video displays on each side are used like an IMAX theater. The fans can either follow the actual players on the ice or watch the live video of the play around the puck. To maximize its entertainment value, the video scoreboard at Agganis is also used for other purposes such as player interviews and the between-periods dance contest.

In contrast, Harvard University utilizes its video scoreboard in a much more understated way. The Bright Hockey Center, originally built in 1956 and renovated/expanded in 1978, also has a four-sided video scoreboard suspended over center ice but it is smaller and tucked up into the rafters. In between periods, fans are shown a minidocumentary on the history of Harvard Hockey.

When the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH was opened in 1995, it was a state-of-the-art hockey facility. For the fans it offers great site lines, a spacious promenade where you can still see the ice, clean and ample restrooms, many seats with arms and backs, and good quality concession stands. Upgrades have included seamless glass on the boards. Players are attracted by the spacious locker rooms and amenities, the olympic-sized rink, and the fan enthusiasm.

The only element missing from the hockey experience at the Whittemore Center is a video scoreboard. Much of the infrastructure is in place. The wiring was reportedly installed years ago and TV cameras are provided through UNHWildcats.TV. Their coverage now includes instant replays.

Of course, budgets at New Hampshire's flagship university are tight and getting tighter every year. New Hampshire taxpayers are known for their thriftiness (some would say stinginess). However, a new video scoreboard does not need to be an extravagant Jumbotron. It would be more fitting to purchase a single-sided scoreboard to replace the one at the north end of the arena. Would you rather watch the two, beloved stick-figure fans in stilted "animation" or full-color, instant replays of the hockey action?

Perhaps the best solution would be a video scoreboard similar to the one some fans saw at St. Cloud State University earlier this season. Take advantage of New Hampshire's entrepreneurial spirit, round up several prominent businesses based in New Hampshire, and surround the video screen with their logos. Doesn't matter much whether the logo square footage far exceeds the size of the video display as long as fans can see the replays. Or maybe some former UNH players who have lucrative careers in the sport could guarantee contributions to a fund drive specifically for a video scoreboard for The Whitt.

It's best not to underestimate the value a video scoreboard has in recruiting talented players to UNH. Watch any NHL or NCAA hockey game and notice what the players on the bench automatically do following an important play in a game. Whether they want to see themselves in action, review a controversial call, or see a pretty goal-scoring play, the players are looking up at the video screen. It's as much a part of the modern hockey game as composite hockey sticks.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Liam Blackburn Plans Fall 2016 Arrival at UNH

2016 UNH Recruit
Liam Blackburn

UNH recruit Liam Blackburn has decided to play one more season in the British Columbia Hockey League and become a UNH Wildcat in the Fall of 2016.

The 18-year-old Blackburn (DOB: 6-8-1996), a 5'10", 167 lbs. center from Prince George, British Columbia, signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the University of New Hampshire during the early signing period last November. The NLI is a written agreement in which the player agrees to attend the school for at least his freshman year and the school agrees to provide an athletic scholarship for at least the freshman year. In most situations, the prospective scholar-athlete who signs an NLI attends the school the following year. However, he has the option to delay enrollment for one year.

Blackburn had a breakout year in his second season in the BCHL. As a 17-year-old rookie with the West Kelowna Warriors, he scored 19 goals and 28 points in 53 games. This season he increased his goal scoring to 23 and nearly doubled his assists up to 53. During the regular season, he tied for 6th in BCHL scoring and posted the third most assists. On February 15th, Blackburn broke the Warriors' single-season record for most assists. Here's a video of his record-setting assists (he is #26 in the black jersey):

Blackburn verbally committed to UNH on October 7, 2014. When I interviewed him shortly after he committed, he explained his decision:
Warriors' Forward Liam Blackburn
(Photo Credit:  Greystoke Photography)
"Some of the main reasons I chose UNH included the campus, which I thought was gorgeous. I also like that the team plays in Hockey East, the travel is simple and allows less absences from class. I also feel the style of play will fit me best and the olympic ice size will benefit me. I had considered a few other schools such as Nebraska Omaha, Merrimack, and Penn State. I visited a couple schools but after my visit to UNH there were no schools in competition."
Around the same time, in an interview with Kyle Anderson, the Director of Media and Play-by-Play Voice of the West Kelowna Warriors, Liam laid out his thoughts about coming to UNH next season or in the Fall of 2016:
"I'm just trying to make myself the best player possible and whether that's making myself ready for college next year or the year after, I mean, that's a choice I'm probably going to make later in the year. Either way, I don't think there's a wrong choice. An extra year of juniors would be nice to develop physically but mentally, I think I'm prepared to go."
Blackburn's decision to play a third season of junior hockey before coming to UNH is reminiscent of the path chosen by graduating senior Grayson Downing and freshman Andrew Poturalski. Downing, who also played for the Warriors in the BCHL, posted 36 goals and 43 assists in his third season. As a freshman at UNH, he had an immediate impact scoring 10 goals and 13 assists. Poturalski scored 29 goals and 38 assists in his third season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the United States Hockey League. In his inaugural campaign with UNH this season, he was the Wildcats' 4th-leading scorer with 14 goals and 15 assists. No doubt, Liam hopes to replicate this development path over the next two seasons.

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