Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Poturalski Scores Hat Trick; Tirone Struggles; RPI 4, UNH 3

UNH's Andrew Poturalski Leads
Nation in Goals and Scoring

The UNH Wildcats' third game in five days turned out to be a microcasm of the 2015-16 season. UNH drove into the campus of RPI in Troy, New York with an overall record of 3 wins, 5 loses, and 3 ties. Their top scoring line of Tyler Kelleher, Andrew Poturalski and Dan Correale had produced the bulk of the team's offense. Kelleher and Poturalski were the #1 and #2 scorers in college hockey.

On the downside, UNH had surrendered 43 goals in 11 games which put that them in the bottom 10 of all Division I teams. Sophomore goalie Danny Tirone, who had played in 9 of 11 games, entered the RPI game with a record of 1-6-3 and a goals against average in the bottom 10 of all goalies who had played in at least 33% of their teams' minutes.

Over the first 30 minutes of tonight's game, UNH and Tirone surrendered 3 goals to the RPI Engineers. Andrew Poturalski spearheaded a UNH comeback by scoring a hat trick late in the second period and into the first minute of the third period. Linemates Kelleher and Correale were on the ice for all three goals. Then, as has happened too often this season, UNH gave up the game-winning goal in the closing minutes of play.

As college hockey heads into the Thanksgiving break, UNH can still boast of having the top 2 scorers in the nation. Sophomore Andrew Poturalski has scored the most goals (11) and points (23) in the nation. Junior Tyler Kelleher has the most assists (16) and is the second leading scorer with 22 points. However, the Wildcats now have a record of 3-6-3, the 4th most goals allowed (47 goals in 12 games) in Division I hockey, and a starting goalie with the 5th highest goals against average (4.01) out of the 81 Division I goalies.

Sophomore goalie Adam Clark has played in two games so far this season - victories against Union and Merrimack. Clark has a goals against average of 2.00 and a save percentage of .939. When he hurt his shoulder in practice during the first week in November, the initial estimate was he'd be out of the lineup for one to two weeks. He has not practiced or played in three weeks which suggests the injury may be more serious than originally hoped.

Here are the highlights of tonight's 4-3 victory by RPI.

The first 3 RPI goals were scored by Mike Prapavessis, Drew Melanson, and Riley Bourbonnais:

2nd Period goal by Andrew Poturalski with assists from Matt Dawson and Chris Miller at the 12:38 mark:

2nd Period power play goal by Andrew Poturalski with assists from Matias Cleland and Cameron Marks at the 13:21 mark:

3rd Period goal by Andrew Poturalski with assists from John Furgele and Tyler Kelleher at the 1:04 mark:

3rd Period Game-Winning Goal by Alex Rodriguez at the 15:59 mark:

Here is the box score for the 4-3 loss. UNH returns to action on Saturday night against Bentley College at the Whittemore Center.

UNH Recruits Update: Nov-24-2015

2016 Commit Charlie Kelleher
Junior Bruins
2016 Commit Brendan van Riemsdyk
Islanders Hockey Club

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

Since returning to the lineup after missing the first 5 games of the USPHL season, Junior Bruins' forward Charlie Kelleher has been on a roll. Kelleher has scored at least one point in 15 out of 17 games. He is currently on a 5-game scoring streak with 2 goals and 8 assists over that span. The Junior Bruins have won all five games and are in 2nd place in the USPHL Premiere Division just 1 point behind the league-leading Islanders Hockey Club.

On Sunday, Kelleher lead the Jr. Bruins to a 3-0 shutout of the Springfield Pics. He assisted on the game-winning goal while the team was short-handed. He also scored the team's second goal on a power play. Kelleher has scored 7 goals and 20 assists in 17 games and is tied for 4th in USPHL scoring. He has played in 10 fewer games than the league's leading scorer.

Player Spotlight - Brendan van Riemsdyk

2016 UNH commit Brendan van Riemsdyk is in the midst of a USPHL scoring streak of his own. BvR has scored at least one point in his last 6 games. The Islanders Hockey Club forward posted 2 goals and 6 assists in his latest streak. IHC won 5 out of 6 of those games and is in first place in the USPHL Premiere Division.

On Friday, the Islanders HC played their final game before the Thanksgiving break. Van Riemsdyk scored a goal and 2 assists in the 6-4 victory over the Okanagan European Eagles. BvR is tied for 7th in USPHL goal-scoring and is tied for 3rd in power play goals.

At this point last season, van Riemsdyk had posted 16 goals and 5 assists in the first 21 games of his rookie campaign in the USPHL. So far this season, he has more than doubled his assist output to 13. The big left winger has netted 9 goals.

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.
~ How old the recruit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The recruit's performance in recent seasons 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
2016 Recruits
Liam Blackburn*  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 25 10 20 30 24
Justin Fregona*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 26 18 12 30 23
Patrick Grasso*  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 18 8 5 13 2
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 17 7 20 27 10
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 25 0 4 4 22
Brendan van Riemsdyk*   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 22 9 13 22 8
Mike Robinson*  (G) Junior Bruins USPHL - - - - -
2016 or '17 Recruits
Joe Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 9 2 1 3 2
Vernon Vipers BCHL 12 4 3 7 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 13 0 4 4 0
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 6 0 1 1 0
2017 Recruits
Eric MacAdams  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 14 3 1 4 25
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 14 0 3 3 14
Jason O'Neill  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 17 1 4 5 0
* = National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ In a November 16th victory by the Des Moines Buccaneers, UNH commit Patrick Grasso scored the game-tying goal on a power play. The Bucs downed the Sioux City Musketeers 3-2. Grasso now has 8 goals in 18 games, is tied for 5th in USHL goal scoring, and tied for 4th in power play goals.

~ 17-year-old UNH commit Eric Esposito contributed 2 assists to a Youngstown Phantoms' victory over the Lincoln Stars on Friday night. Eric's second assist came on brother Alex Esposito's (Vermont commit) 6th goal of the season.

~ UNH's newest commit Eric MacAdams dished out the game-winning assist in a 3-1 Sioux Falls Stampede win over the Tri-City Storm on Saturday. It was MacAdams' first USHL assist.

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ 2016 UNH Commit Liam Blackburn posted 3 assists over the last three West Kelowna Warriors' games. He now has scored 30 points in 25 games and is tied for 9th in BCHL scoring. In 122 games over three seasons with West Kelowna, Blackburn has scored 146 points (49G, 97A). He just became the 4th leading scorer in the Warriors' history. Former UNH star Grayson Downing is the 6th leading Warriors' scorer with 129 points (65G, 64A) in 132 games.

~ Justin Fregona, who signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH, scored 2 goals and 3 assists in the Langley Rivermen's last 4 games. His 18 goals in 26 games are the 5th highest in the BCHL. He is also tied for 9th in scoring.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

UNH Falls 6-3 to #2 BC

UNH Freshman Matt Dawson
Snaps Thatcher Demko's Streak

DURHAM, NH - The Wildcats welcomed #2 in the nation Boston College into the Whittemore Center and held tough for roughly 50 minutes, before watching the Eagles take over and hold on to a 6-3 lead.

In the first period, the Wildcats put up quite the battle against the Eagles and played a solid twenty minutes. Unfortunately, the Eagles were able to capitalize on a mistake by the UNH power play. Just 9 seconds into UNH's first power playof the game, Ryan Fitzgerald was able to take a faceoff win and speed down the ice before blasting a shot past the glove of Danny Tirone to give BC a 1-0 lead. The goal came at 6:23 of the first period and deflated the UNH power play opportunity.

However, UNH hung tough after that. They were able to respond before the end of the period on another power play chance at 17:40 of the first. Freshman defenseman Matt Dawson sniped a shot over Tatcher Demko's shoulder to tie the game 1-1. This ended Demko's streak of three straight games without allowing a goal.

The second period was one of special teams. There were five penalties combined for both teams, and plenty of opportunities to take control of the game for both teams. Early in the second, UNH would fall victim of two penalties in one minute and needed to kill off a 5 on 3 for one minute and a 5 on 4 for another minute. In my opinion, this was a statement kill for the Wildcats. They shut down the Eagles power play with blocks, active sticks and phenomenal saves by Tirone to keep the game tied. At the end of the power play, Andrew Poturalski drew a penalty on a short handed bid and ended the BC power play in explosive fashion. The fans at the Whittemore Center came to their feet in applause for the Wildcats.

The strength of BC's defense was evident through the first 40 minutes and UNH was struggling to get many high quality opportunities on Demko. Despite getting 18 shots on goal, they remained with one tally on the board.

At 11:30 of the second period Teddy Doherty found a puck sitting in the slot, between multiple legs and fired it past Tirone, who had lost sight of the puck. The goal gave the Eagles the lead for the second time, 2-1.

Again, UNH was given a few golden opportunities on two power plays late in the second period, but they were unable to capitalize and the BC defense and goaltending again proved too much for the Wildcats. The UNH power play was mainly kept to the outside and didn't have many looks at shots towards Demko.

In the third period, Boston College eventually became the team that prevailed. Despite keeping up with the Eagles for most of the game, UNH fell behind by two goals at 7:45 of the third. Matthew Gaudreau took advantage of John Furgele misplaying the puck into the referees skates and gave BC a 3-1 lead.

UNH answered back on a goal by John Furgele who redeemed himself after his earlier mistake and pulled the Wildcats to within one. Furgele was set up by a beautiful pass from freshman Chris Miller.

Another miscue by the UNH defense led to the fourth BC goal. Matt Dawson fell down in the neutral zone, which lead to a odd man rush for the Eagles. BC was able to find the trailing defenseman Teddy Doherty who made no mistake in putting the puck past Tirone to make it 4-2.

Less than a minute later, Adam Gilmour stretched the BC lead to 5-2. Tyler Kelleher drew the Wildcats to within 2 goals with 90 seconds left in regulation. UNH pulled Tirone for an extra skater but BC scored an empty netter to seal the deal and secure the 6-3 victory.

The Wildcats suffered their first Hockey East loss and will play on the road Tuesday at RPI.

Here are the video highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics:

Box Score

Saturday, November 21, 2015

UNH Blows Another Late Lead Despite Fixing Defensive Struggles, Ties UMass Amherst 2-2

UNH Defenseman Matias Cleland
Scored Game-Tying Goal

DURHAM, NH - UNH played arguably their best game this season, especially through the first two periods, and were able to handle the UMASS offense allowing only two goals. However the Wildcats still walked away with only one point for the third time in four Hockey East games.

UNH dominated play in the first period. From a defensive and offensive standpoint, the Wildcats were pushing the tempo and keeping the Minutemen on their heels. The transition game was 100% in favor of UNH, with defenseman jumping into the rush on multiple opportunities and forwards connecting on passes tape to tape. The only negative for UNH after the first period was the 8 shots on goal. However, they were able to sneak one past UMass goalie Nic Renyard at 10:19 of the firs.t

After a timeout on the ice, it looked like UNH executed exactly what they drew up. A faceoff win for Tyler Kelleher was placed on the stick of sophomore defenseman Cameron Marks at the point, who wristed a shot towards net where Andrew Poturalski crashed perfectly on the far post to tip it in for a 1-0 UNH lead. There were essentially no scoring chances for the Minutemen in the first twenty minutes.

The second period was more of the same. Despite an early defensive breakdown for UNH, they played well and dictated the game for 40 minutes. At 2:04 of the second period, UNH was caught with four men up ice and the Minutemen turned it into an odd man rush. After a shot was deflected down in front, freshman Kurt Keats cleaned up the garbage and tucked it under the arm of Danny Tirone to tie the game at one. It played along with the theme of the season of UNH having too many men joining the rush and not back checking in time.

Just over five minutes later UNH responded at 7:31 of the second with a four-on-four goal by Matias Cleland going top shelf over the glove of Renyerd. The play was created by the nations leading scorer, Tyler Kelleher, who patiently held the puck behind the net before Cleland snuck in from the blue line and found an open spot for the pass. It was Cleland's first goal of the season. UNH took a 2-1 lead heading into the final period.

After focusing on defense all week long in practice, UNH showed it helped by allowing only eight shots through two periods. It seemed like UNH should have been ahead by multiple goals at that point - they were outshooting UMass 22 to 8 - but they couldn't take advantage of their opportunities

In a sequence midway through the third period, UNH threatened to extend the lead with multiple shots on goal and drew a UMass charging penalty. However, during the UNH power play, the Minutemen were able to have more offensive possession on the penalty kill and from that point on, UMASS looked like the better team for the first time all night. They outshot the Wildcats 13-8 in the final stanza.

Two minutes after the UNH power play ended, UMass tied the game on a Shane Walsh goal at the 11:51 mark. Tirone made a fantastic save on an initial shot but the rebound was left in the crease. Walsh got a touch on it for his ninth goal of the season.

Both teams had power play opportunities in overtime, but came up empty and the game ended with a score of 2-2.

"We've got to stop blowing leads like that. It's starting to be a pattern and it's starting to be unacceptable." Tyler Kelleher said after the game.

Dick Umile, Matias Cleland and Tyler Kelleher all looked frustrated with leaving another point on the table in conference play.

The Wildcats remain undefeated in Hockey East with a record of 1-0-3. UNH has a much tougher task with #2 in the nation Boston College tomorrow night at the Whittemore Center.

Here are the video highlights courtesy of UNH Athletics:

Box Score

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

UNH's Newest Recruit Eric MacAdams

2017 UNH Recruit
Eric MacAdams

This past Saturday, 18-year-old Eric MacAdams (DOB: 4/29/1997), a former star at Austin Prep School and current member of the Sioux Fall Stampede of the USHL, verbally committed to UNH for the Fall of 2017. The 5'11', 175 lbs., right-shot forward from Salem, Massachusetts has been playing right wing for the Stampede in his rookie season and has scored 3 goals in 13 games. Here's his first USHL goal (courtesy of Stampede TV) which came in his fourth game, a 7-3 win over the Sioux City Musketeers:

Eric MacAdams played his youth hockey with the Valley Jr. Warriors (VJW) based at the Haverill (MA) Valley Forum. He was a key member of the VJW '97 Elites team which first gained national attention in the 2009-10 season. Eric and his 12 & Under teammates won the Massachusetts State Championship and advanced to the semifinals of the USA Hockey Tier 1 National Championship tournament. The VJW 12U team was coached by Eric's Dad Steve MacAdams and included future NCAA standouts Casey Fitzgerald and Noah Hanifin.

In the 2011-12 season, MacAdams and the Valley Jr. Warriors '97 Elites won another Massachusetts State Championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 14 & Under National Championship tournament. That team included three future Boston College players - Hanafin, Fitzgerald, and Colin White. The 2011-12 season marked the first time the '97 Elites played a split season (i.e., Fall and Spring) in order to accommodate players joining their Massachusetts high school teams. As an 8th grader, Eric MacAdams scored 4 goals and 15 assists in 19 games for St. Mary's High School in Lynn, MA.

As a freshman, sophomore, and junior, Eric MacAdams played a split season with the Valley Jr. Warriors '97 Elites and became a star player at Austin Prep. His Dad Steve was the head coach for the VJW and an assistant coach at Austin Prep. In his freshman year, MacAdams scored 8 goals and 14 assists in 24 games with Austin Prep as the Cougars advanced to the Massachusetts Super 8 Championship game. In the finals, Austin Prep lost to Malden Catholic who was lead by current UNH freshman Ara Nazarian. That Austen Prep team also featured future Hockey East players Bob Carpenter (BU) and Nolan Vesey (Maine). In that same 2012-13 season, MacAdams posted 8 goals and 6 assists for the Valley Junior Warriors Under 16 team (also known as the '97 Elites).

MacAdams experienced several highs and a couple lows during the 2013-14 season. For all the details, I recommend a feature article by Russ Bitely, the hockey writer for Examine.com. Eric had a strong fall season with the Valley Jr. Warriors Under 16 team scoring 13 goals and 12 assists in 12 games. His sophomore season at Austin Prep was severely hampered first by an injury to his spleen then with a case of mononucleosis. After he returned to the Cougars' lineup in February, he scored the bulk of his 6 goals and 14 assists. For the second consecutive year, Austin Prep advanced to the Super 8 Championship Game but lost again to Ara Nazarian and the Malden Catholic Lancers. MacAdams posted 3 goals and an assist in three Super 8 games.

In the spring of that 2013-14 season, MacAdams and the Valley Jr. Warriors '97 Elites won the Massachusetts State Championship and advanced to the USA Hockey National Championship tournament for the third time. Although the Jr. Warriors did not get past the opening round of the Tier 1 Under-16 tourney, MacAdams scored two goals, including a winning, shootout goal, in their three games. That summer, Eric was invited to the USA Hockey's Select 17 Player Development Camp. Here is Russ Bitely's summary of MacAdams' performance:
"I thought he (MacAdams) showcased a solid all-around game and may just have more offensive punch then he is getting credit. In one game, he was certainly one of the better performers on the ice as I circled his name after he displayed smart, little touches around the ice showing good vision, strong puck possession, and nifty forehand-backhand finish for a goal too. He produced four goals and two assists in the week long player development camp in the five games played."
Last season was Eric MacAdams final one with both the Valley Jr. Warriors and Austin Prep. He posted 8 goals and 9 assists in 12 games with the VJW Under-18 team. As a junior, he was the captain at Austin Prep and he lead the team in scoring with 19 goals and 23 assists in 24 games. At the end of the season, the Boston Herald selected MacAdams to the All-Scholastic Hockey "Dream Team".

One last note: When Eric played for the Valley Jr. Warriors in his teen years, he received coaching from Tom Fitzgerald who is currently the Assistant General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fitzgerald offered this assessment of MacAdams.:
“A great kid! He plays with a ton of emotion, energy, and sandpaper. Strong work ethic and compete level.”
I had an opportunity to interview Eric, via email, about his background, commitment to UNH, and future plans:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?

Eric MacAdams: I chose UNH because not only is it great school, it has a great hockey tradition. They also have some world class coaches and I'm honored to get the opportunity to play for them. Also, the campus is incredible and seems like home for me. The location is nice to, it is not too far from home so my family can come watch.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering?

Eric MacAdams: I was considering Providence, Merrimack, and Boston University. Once UNH had offered, I knew it was the right decision.

Lowry: Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?

MacAdams: The target date for my freshmen year is going to be Fall 2017.

Lowry: Last season, you capped off a three-year career at Austin Prep (Reading, MA) by leading the team in scoring and advancing to the semifinals of the Super 8 Massachusetts High School Championships. Over the summer, you went out to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, tried out for and made the roster for the Sioux Falls Stampede. What were the main reasons you decided to spend your final year of high school playing out in the United States Hockey League?

MacAdams: The main reasons I chose to go to the USHL were because it was the next step in my development and I wanted to achieve my goal of playing Division I college hockey.

Lowry: So far, you've scored 3 goals in 10 games with the Stampede. What's it been like playing against older, more experienced players in the highly competitive USHL?

MacAdams: Playing against older, experienced competition has allowed me to form my game to what it takes at the collegiate level. I've also got a lot of help from my veterans on my team.

Lowry: The Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL selected you in the 14th round of the 2014 Draft. Do you have any interest in foregoing the NCAA route and playing major junior hockey in Canada??

MacAdams: Although it was a honor to be drafted by Drummondville in the QMJHL, college was always the goal for me.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

MacAdams: I think the strengths of my game are playing in all three zones and doing the little things to help my team win. I think I can improve on all aspects of my game.

Lowry: Your Dad, Steve, has coached some of your youth hockey teams with the Valley Junior Warriors organization. What are the most valuable lessons he has taught you?

MacAdams: The most valuable lessons my father taught me were to be a good teammate and person, never get outworked, and give an honest effort all the time.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests?

MacAdams: I'm very interested in Business, Athletic Training, and math.

Monday, November 16, 2015

UNH Captain's Corner: UNH Earns Last-Minute Tie With #13/14 Merrimack

Freshman Chris Miller
Scores Game-Tying Goal

NORTH ANDOVER, MA - UNH finished up a series of six road games with an exciting 3-3 overtime tie against Merrimack College. Merrimack entered the game with an overall record of 6-1-2. Their only loss was to UNH two weekends ago. The Warriors were ranked #13 in the nation in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll and #14 in the USCHO.com Poll.

UNH was looking to rebound from sub-par performances against Michigan State last weekend. In two losses, UNH surrendered 12 goals and was out-shot 42-25 and 43-24. By-and-large, they succeeded. Over the course of the first period and 15-minutes into the second period, UNH dominated Merrimack in time of possession in the offensive zone and shots on goal - 15 to 8. More importantly, in the defensive zone, UNH was quick in their pursuit of loose pucks, effective in covering the front of the net, and efficient in passing the puck.

Given the improved defensive play by UNH, it was somewhat surprising when Merrimack scored the first goal of the game late in the second period. As the video highlights (courtesy of the Pack Network) show, Merrimack's fourth line winger Craig Wyszomirski was uncovered at the top of the crease when he banged the puck underneath a diving Danny Tirone.

Early in the third period, Merrimack made the mistake of giving one of the top power play teams in Hockey East a two-man advantage. First, Tyler Kelleher sniped a top shelf wrister past Merrimack goalie Collin Delia for a 5-on-3 power play goal. 52 seconds later, Kelleher set up sophomore Andrew Poturalski with a pretty cross-crease pass for the second power play goal. UNH is now tied for 9th in the nation in power play efficiency (25%) and is 2nd in Hockey East. Kelleher is the leading scorer in Division I hockey (5g, 13a) and Poturalski is tied for second in scoring (7g, 9a).

With just under 5 minutes left in regulation, UNH turned the puck over to Merrimack right in front of Tirone and a wide-open Jace Hennig buried it. Tirone was not out of position and had no chance of making the stop (see video).

Back in the second game of the season, UNH gave up two goals in less than a minute to Saint Lawrence. The Saints went on to win in overtime. On Saturday night, UNH surrendered the third goal to Merrimack just 21 seconds after their second goal. Brian Christie's initial shot was blocked but he fired the rebound past Tirone who was screened by a Merrimack player at the top of the crease.

Last Thursday, Roger Brown of the Union Leader wrote a feature article on UNH freshman and Windham, New Hampshire native Chris Miller. Coach Umile had this to say about Miller:
"He's playing well. He and (Ara) Nazarian — the two freshmen — are playing very well. He earned (playing time) through practice. The kid's fast, he competes, he's got skill. He's a good hockey player. He battled his way into the lineup and he's staying in it right now."
Trailing 2-3 with a minute left in regulation, Umile pulled Tirone and inserted Chris Miller as the extra skater. Miller joined Kelleher, Poturalski, and Correale up front with Matias Cleland and Cameron Marks on the blueline. As his teammates worked the puck around the perimeter, Miller fought his way to the front of the net. Cleland took a shot from the point and Miller backhanded the rebound as he was falling backward. The video replay of the game-tying goal is worth a look (see highlights above).

UNH improved it's overall record to 3-4-2. The Wildcats have only played three Hockey East games. They have one win and two ties. UMass Lowell and Boston University, who are tied for 1st place with 8 points, have played five and seven Hockey East games, respectively.

Box Score

In my weekly interview with UNH Captain Collin MacDonald, I had an opportunity to ask him about the exciting, tie-game against Merrimack College:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Sometimes, an overtime tie-game can feel like a loss - for example, the 6-6 tie with UMass three weekends ago. The 3-3 tie with #13/14 Merrimack College had the feel of a win with Chris Miller scoring the game-tying goal with just 38 seconds left in regulation. What's your take on the importance of the tie with Merrimack?

Collin MacDonald: It’s huge that we got a point with the tie. It’s especially big from a conference play standpoint, being that we took 3 out of 4 points against Merrimack for the regular season. That being said, after talking with some of the other leaders on the team, they made a solid point. We’re not satisfied with a tie, we gave the game right back to them late in the third, and we can't be happy with that.

Mike Lowry: After a sub-par defensive performance against Michigan State last weekend, the team defense on Saturday night was much improved. Up until the moment Merrimack scored it's first goal late in the second period, UNH had held them to just 8 shots on goal. What did the team do to tighten up defensive play in your own zone?

Collin MacDonald: Talking with the coaching staff after the game, they recognized that we tightened it up pretty well all night. I think we only gave up six grade-A scoring chances, which is pretty solid. We blocked a lot of shots, especially down around our net. In such a small rink like Merrimack’s, shots are fired from anywhere, our centers and defensemen helped with a strong second wave of blocking.

Lowry: Danny Tirone stopped 28 of the 31 shots he faced including 3 in the overtime period. In a prior interview, you talked about his outstanding dedication and work ethic. Did you notice any adjustments in his technique and/or positioning which helped him play a solid game?

MacDonald: Like I’ve mentioned before, we know Danny is going to give it his all every night. I think most of the play was down in Merrimack’s zone in the first period. Which while this makes Danny’s job easy, it can be challenging as the momentum shifts or shots start to come in bunches later in the game. So it was important that he stayed focus, and he made some key saves for us.

Lowry: Were there other individual efforts which stood out in your mind?

MacDonald: Kells had a big night offensively, he’s showing no signs of slowing down, and clearly it’s huge for us. Miller’s late goal was a great effort, he fought to play in the hard ice in front of the net and it paid off.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Brendan van Riemsdyk Signs NLI with UNH

Brendan van Riemsdyk
Signs NLI with UNH

Brendan van Riemsdyk has signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of New Hampshire. A graduate of Christian Brothers Academy near his hometown of Middletown, New Jersey, Brendan is playing his second season with the Islanders Hockey Club in the United States Premiere Hockey League.

BvR has played in 18 games so far this season and has scored 8 goals, including 4 power play goals, and 7 assists. The 6'4", 200 lbs. left-winger is tied for 5th in USPHL goal scoring. Last season, van Riemsdyk was the USPHL Premiere Division Rookie of the Year. His 29 regular-season goals were the 4th highest in the USPHL.

Brendan verbally committed to UNH back in November, 2012 when he was 16 years old. He will be 20 years old when he enrolls in the Fall of 2016. Brendan's oldest brother James, a star forward with the Toronto Maple Leafs, played for UNH in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. In 67 NCAA games, JvR scored 28 goals and 46 assists. James was the #2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft. Trevor, the middle brother in the van Riemsdyk family, is a defenseman with the World Champion Chicago Blackhawks. TvR played for UNH in the 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14 seasons. In 102 NCAA games, Trevor scored 16 goals and 59 assists.

Brendan van Riemsdyk is the fourth UNH recruit to sign a National Letter of Intent. He joins Liam Blackburn, Patrick Grasso and Justin Fregona who also plan to enroll next fall.

UNH Recruits Update: Nov-13-2015

Justin Fregona
Signs NLI with UNH
Liam Blackburn
Signed NLI with UNH
Patrick Grasso
Signed NLI with UNH

National Letter of Intent Signings

Junior hockey players who dream of playing Division I NCAA hockey look forward to "National Signing Day". It's the day when recruits who have verbally committed to play for a college or university have an opportunity to enter into a binding agreement with the institution. But what exactly does it mean to "sign" with a college hockey program?

The actual document which gets signed is the National Letter of Intent (NLI). In an NLI, the college/university offers an athletic scholarship for one academic year (detailed in a written, Athletics Aid Award document) and the prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the school as a full-time student for one academic year.

There are several other provisions spelled out in the NLI including:
~ All other institutions that participate in the NLI program (i.e., the vast majority of colleges/universities in the United States) must cease recruiting the prospective student-athlete.
~ If the student-athlete does not honor the agreement and enrolls in another participating institution, he is not eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics until he has completed one academic year at the latter school.
~ The NLI becomes null and void if the prospective student-athlete does not meet the NCAA eligibility requirements or the admissions requirements of the university/college.

Actually, there isn't a single signing day, per se. For Division I college hockey, there are two signing periods each year. NLI offers may only be made during these periods. This year, the early signing period began on Wednesday, November 11th and ends on November 18th. The regular signing period begins on April 13, 2016 and ends on August 1, 2016. In general, the UNH hockey program, like most other competitive programs, seeks to sign their very top prospects during the early signing period because it prevents other schools from recruiting them.

In most cases, a prospective student-athlete who signs an NLI enrolls in the college/university as a freshman at the beginning of the following academic year. However, as Susan Peal (Director of Operations for the NCAA Eligibility Center who administers the NLI Program) explained to me last spring, the prospective student-athlete has the option to delay enrollment for an additional year. For example, any recruit who signs an NLI during the current, early period may choose to delay enrollment until the Fall of 2017. This is up to the discretion of the prospective student-athlete and can not be imposed by the college/university.

In recent years, I have been reporting all NLI signings by UNH recruits. In theory, any of the recruits I have categorized as "2016 Recruits" or "2016 or '17 Recruits" (see stats summary below) could be offered an NLI by UNH during the current, early signing period. That is primarily because each of those players have already graduated from high school or will do so by the end of the 2015-16 academic year.

To date, there are three UNH recruits who have signed a National Letter of Intent.

Justin Fregona

Yesterday, Justin Fregona signed a National Letter of Intent offered by the University of New Hampshire. He plans on enrolling at UNH next fall. In his first season in the British Columbia Hockey League, the Langley Rivermen's right-winger has scored 16 goals and 9 assists in 21 games. Fregona is tied for 4th in BCHL goal-scoring and tied for 7th in scoring. Four of his goals have come on the Rivermen's power play and two have been the game-winner. Fregona graduated from St. Andrew's College, a university preparatory school in Ontario, last spring. Justin will be 19 years old when he enrolls in the Fall of 2016.

Liam Blackburn

Last November, Liam Blackburn signed an NLI with UNH during the 2014 early signing period. In May, Blackburn announced his plan to delay enrollment until the Fall of 2016. In his third season playing for the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL, Blackburn has posted 10 goals and 17 assists in 20 games. He has scored at least one point in every game so far this season. Blackburn is tied for 5th in BCHL scoring and tied for 4th in assists. Liam will be 20 years old when he enrolls at UNH next fall.

Patrick Grasso

On Wednesday, the Des Moines Buccaneers tweeted that Patrick Grasso signed an NLI with UNH. It's my understanding that the NLI was offered and signed over the summer. Grasso decided to play a third season with the USHL Bucs and he is excelling. In addition to being the Bucs' captain, Grasso has scored 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 games. In each of his first two seasons, Grasso scored 7 goals. He is currently tied for 4th in USHL goal-scoring. Patrick will be 20 years old when he enrolls next fall.

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.
~ How old the recruit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The recruit's performance in recent seasons 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
2016 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 20 10 17 27 18
Justin Fregona  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 21 16 9 25 19
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 14 7 5 12 2
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 13 6 14 20 8
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 21 0 4 4 18
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 18 8 7 15 4
Mike Robinson  (G) Junior Bruins USPHL - - - - -
2016 or '17 Recruits
Joe Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 5 2 0 2 2
Vernon Vipers BCHL 12 4 3 7 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 9 0 2 2 0
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 3 0 1 1 0
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 9 0 1 1 12
Jason O'Neill  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 13 1 4 5 0

News & Notes

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ This weekend, the Islanders Hockey Club is hosting a USPHL Showcase at the Gallant Arena on the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, MA. UNH fans who are in town on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Merrimack have an opportunity to watch three UNH recruits play earlier in the day. At 2:00, Brendan van Riemsdyk, Liam Darcy, and the Islanders Hockey Club faceoff against the Jersey Hitmen. BvR is tied for 5th in USPHL goal scoring with 8 goals in 18 games. At 4:20 on Saturday, Charlie Kelleher and the Junior Bruins will play against the Rochester Junior Americans. Kelleher has scored 6 goals and 14 assists in 13 games. He is tied for 6th in USPHL scoring and tied for 4th in assists.

United States Hockey League:

~ Last Friday, 2016 or '17 UNH Commit Joe Cipollone of the Tri-City Storm scored his second goal in his fifth USHL game. Cipollone's goal came on the Storm's power play and was assisted by 2016 or '17 UNH Commit Aaron O'Neill. It was O'Neill's first assist of the season. He missed the first 10 games of the USHL season with a lower body injury.

Monday, November 09, 2015

UNH Captain's Corner: Disappointing Trip to Michigan State

UNH Captain Collin MacDonald

After impressive victories against previously undefeated Union College and Merrimack College on successive weekends, the UNH Wildcats flew out to Michigan State for a pair of out-of-conference games. UNH entered the games with the 5th best offense in Division I with a goals per game average of 4.50. Junior Tyler Kelleher lead the nation in scoring with 13 points and sophomore Andrew Poturalski was the second leading scorer with 12 points.

So, it came as a big surprise when the Michigan State Spartans shut out UNH 5-0 on Friday night. It was the first time the Wildcats had been shut out since a 4-0 loss to Maine on January 24, 2015. Michigan State outshot UNH 42-25. Here's the link to a report of the game, including video highlights: Michigan State Dominates UNH 5-0.

On Saturday night, UNH quickly fell behind on a Michigan State goal just 32 seconds after the opening faceoff. The Spartans went ahead 2-0 midway through the first period. UNH freshman Chris Miller, a native of Windham, NH, broke the ice for the Wildcats with 7 minutes left in the first and Tyler Kelleher tied it up with a power play goal early in the second.

After Michigan State answered with 2 more goals, UNH came back again on goals by Dan Correale and Andrew Poturalski. The Spartans stormed back with 2 more goals plus an empty-net goal for a 7-4 victory. For the second night in a row, Michigan State generated nearly twice as many shots on goal as UNH - 43 to 24. Here's a game report including video highlights: "UNH Swept by Michigan State 7-4"

After the team returned to Durham, I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Collin MacDonald about the difficult weekend.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): It almost goes without saying that the two games against Michigan State were the most lop-sided losses of the season. They outscored UNH 12 to 4 and they generated nearly twice as many shots on goal each night. What did Michigan State do to make them such a formidable opponent?

Collin MacDonald: Credit to Michigan State, they played hard and won battles all over the ice. That being said, Friday night wasn’t a good effort on our part and we felt embarrassed. Saturday night we battled hard to come back, but it wasn’t the outcome we wanted. All we can do is learn from it and move on.

Mike Lowry: On most of the 11 scoring plays (excluding the empty net goal), the Michigan State goal scorer was no more than one or two strides from the UNH net, sometimes uncovered. What does the team need to do to improve defensive coverage in the scoring zone?

Collin MacDonald: We have to commit to playing harder in our zone, plain and simple. It starts with back checking hard. We have to pick up sticks in front of the net, and make plays to get out of our zone. It’s not just on our defensemen; it has to be a team effort.

Lowry: It was reported that Adam Clark missed both Michigan State games due to a bruised shoulder. When does the team anticipate he'll be able to return to action?

MacDonald: I’m not 100% sure where Clarky is at as far as making a return to the lineup. It’s tough to see anyone on our team get hurt. All I know is that he’s a great guy and he’s committed to getting healthy and helping us win in anyway he can.

Lowry: Chris Miller, a non-scholarship freshman, has been productive on the fourth line scoring 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. For those fans who haven't seen him play yet, would you describe the strengths of his game?

MacDonald: The boys are extremely happy for Millsy. His play has been great since he’s been thrown into the lineup. He waited for an opportunity, and has definitely made the most of it. He’s very fast, has a very good shot, plays a two way game, and makes plays with his feet and awareness out there. On top of all that, he’s an incredible person and a selfless teammate.

UNH's overall record has fallen to 3-4-1. The Wildcats return to Hockey East action on Saturday night at Merrimack College.

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