Monday, April 20, 2015

UNH Recruits Update: April-20-2015

Marcus Vela
Langley Rivermen
Liam Darcy
Berwick Academy
Mike Robinson
Lawrence Academy


The National Hockey League's Central Scouting Service released it's Final Rankings for the 2015 Draft on April 8th. Three UNH recruits, Marcus Vela, Liam Darcy and Mike Robinson, made the final rankings. Vela and Darcy are on the list of North American skaters and Robinson is on the North American goalies list.

Player Spotlight - Marcus Vela

At 6'2", 200 lbs. Marcus Vela (DOB: 3-3-1997) from Burnaby, British Columbia has the prototypical build for an NHL forward. After following him throughout the year, the NHL Central Scouting Service has ranked him as the #131 North American skater eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. Vela was the top-ranked British Columbia Hockey League player in the Final Rankings. In their Midterm Rankings, Vela was #123.

In December, Marcus Vela was selected to play for Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge. In a preview of the event, the NHL CSS provided this scouting report on Vela:
"Key on the power play and penalty kill … plays a responsible two-way game … very strong on the puck … solid on face-offs … brings a physical element … plays with a purpose … good vision … high compete level."
Vela contributed 2 assists in four games for Canada West and tied for second in scoring on the team.

Vela ended the regular season with 20 goals and 26 assists - the third best scorer on the Langley Rivermen's roster. He more than doubled his offensive production this season. As a 16-year-old rookie last year, Vela scored 11 goals and 11 assists. Vela scored 13 goals in the final 13 games of the 2014-15 regular season. He scored his first BCHL hat trick in the Rivermen's last regular-season home game. Though Langley lost to Salmon Arm 4-3 in overtime, Vela's first goal gave the Rivermen the initial lead and his second and third goals tied the game up. Here's a video of Marcus Vela's hat trick - he is #12 in the dark blue jersey:



It's not possible to predict with certainty whether Marcus Vela will be drafted in the NHL Entry Draft this June in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers. As the 131st ranked North American player, he has a good chance of being drafted in the 4th to 7th Rounds. Last year, the #131-ranked player was Ryan Hitchcock and he was not drafted. However, 9 out of 10 of the players ranked from #132-#140 among North American skaters were drafted somewhere in Rounds 4-7.

Player Spotlight - Liam Darcy

Liam Darcy (DOB: 2-26-1997), a 5'11", 175 lbs. defensemen from South Berwick, Maine, recently capped off a four-year career at Berwick Academy just 12 miles up the road from UNH. Over his first three seasons with the Bulldogs, Darcy averaged 6 goals and 16 assists and a point-a-game. Although his point production decreased to 2 goals and 6 assists in 26 games this season, Darcy was still named to the 2014-15 New England Prep All-Star Team by the league's coaches.

On the NHL CSS 2015 Midterm Rankings, which came out on January 20th, Liam Darcy was listed as the #156 North American Skater. In their Final Rankings, Darcy has dropped down to #204. This does not necessarily mean he won't be drafted by an NHL team in June but his chances appear to be lower. Of the players who held the #204 to #210 rank (i.e., the end of the list of North American players) on the 2014 NHL CSS Final Rankings, only one was drafted by an NHL team.

Player Spotlight - Mike Robinson

Tall, athletic goaltenders have become hot commodities in NCAA and professional hockey. Jon Gillies, who backstopped Providence College's run to the National Championship and was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL draft by the Calgary Flames, is a prime example. The 6'5", 215 lbs. goalie from Portland, Maine just signed with the Flames in time for the NHL Playoffs. UNH is hoping that 2016 or '17 recruit Mike Robinson from Bedford, New Hampshire will attain a similar level of success.

Robinson (DOB: 3-27-1997), the 6'5", 200 lbs. goalie who recently completed his junior season at Lawrence Academy, could very well hear his name called at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Last January, Robinson was the #16 tender on the NHL CSS 2015 Midterm Rankings of North American goalies. Robinson started every game this season for UNH alum Robbie Barker's Lawrence Academy Spartans and played nearly every minute. He finished with a record of 7 wins, 16 loses, and 2 ties, a Goals Against Average of 3.20, and a Save Percentage of .902. Apparently, the NHL CSS scouts were impressed because Mike Robinson moved up to #8 on their 2015 Final Rankings for North American goalies.

Of the top 10 North American goalies on the 2014 NHL CSS Final Rankings, 7 were drafted in the 2014 NHL Draft. The 8th-ranked goalie Thomas Perry was drafted in the 5th Round by the Detroit Red Wings. These results bode well for Mike Robinson's prospects this June in Florida. Next season, Robinson will play for the Junior Bruins in the United States Premiere Hockey League - the same team that UNH goalie Danny Tirone played for in the first half of this past season. Both Tirone and Robinson have been coached by Mike Buckley of Goaltending Development Services.

NOTE
The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2015 Recruits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2015. 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
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 55 22 51 73 34
Playoffs 4 1 2 3 0
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. 12 0 5 5 18
Christopher Miller  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 33 8 12 20 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 56 1 6 7 41
Playoffs 4 0 1 1 4
Marcus Vela  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 50 20 26 46 57
Playoffs 3 0 1 1 0
2016 Recruits
Frankie Cefalu  (F) Walpole Express EHL 44 17 46 63 48
Playoffs 4 4 3 7 2
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 60 9 25 34 12
Ara Nazarian  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 60 12 16 28 16
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 47 29 12 41 56
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 4 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

United States Hockey League:

~ In the 2014-15 season, five UNH recruits played in the USHL - Patrick Grasso and Ara Nazarian for the Des Moines Buccaneers, Jason Kalinowski for the Bloomington Thunder, Aaron O'Neill for the Green Bay Gamblers, and Jake Ryczek of the Sioux City Musketeers. Only Ryczek and the Musketeers advanced to the USHL Playoffs. They are currently tied with the Sioux Falls Stampede two wins a piece in the opening round, best-of-five series.

2015 USA Hockey/Toyota National Championships:

~ 2016 or '17 UNH recruit Joey Cipollone and the Selects Hockey Academy 18U team (aka: Central Connecticut Selects) advanced to the Quarterfinals of the 2015 National Championship but lost to the New Jersey Avalanche 2-1. Cipollone scored 3 goals in 4 games and tied for 3rd in goal scoring among all the 18U players.

~ 2018 UNH recruit Joel Farabee and the Selects Hockey Academy 16U team (aka: Central Connecticut Selects) advanced to the Quarterfinals of the 2015 National Championship but lost to Honeybaked 9-2. 15-year-old Farabee scored 3 assists in 4 games.

Monday, March 30, 2015

UNH Defeated Three Final Four Teams This Season



This is how UNH Alternate Captain Casey Thrush summed up the 2014-15 UNH Hockey season following their battle with Boston University in the Hockey East Semifinals:
“At least it ended here. We had a very tough stretch, I’m very proud of the way our team stuck together and really proved a lot of people wrong. The way we played (Friday) and our streak, I think you can say we’re competitive with anyone in the country.”
Competitive indeed. In fact, over the course of the season, UNH played three of the teams that advanced to the Frozen Four - Boston University, Providence, and the University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) - and beat each of them at least once.

Over the first half of the season, the hockey program faced challenges such as the unexpected loss of their veteran goaltender Casey DeSmith in August and the infusion of 11 freshmen - 5 forwards, 4 defensemen, and 2 goalies - into the lineup. By the end of January, UNH had lost 15 games, won 9, and tied 2. They were hovering near the bottom of the Hockey East standings.

Then, in a dramatic turnaround, UNH won 6 of its last 7 regular season games, earned home ice in the opening round of the Hockey East playoffs, swept UConn, and eliminated Providence College in the quarterfinals. Although the Wildcats lost to Boston University, the #3 team in the nation at the time, in the Hockey East Semifinals 4-1, the game was tightly contested well into the final period. As Captain Matt Willows said after the game:
“I think we played pretty much a full 60 (minutes). They’re a great team. We knew it was going to be a battle. I don’t think the score was indicative of the game. We played well. We had our chances. We just didn’t bury them."

Games Against Frozen Four Teams

Looking back over the 2014-15 season, UNH played against all of the teams that earned a berth in the 2015 Frozen Four except North Dakota. The Wildcats played Hockey East opponents BU and Providence during the regular season and in the Hockey East Playoffs. They also travelled to Omaha at the end of December to play two games against UNO. In all, UNH played 10 games against these three teams and compiled a record of 5-5-0.

Boston University

During the regular season, UNH was one of only seven teams to defeat Boston University. In a home-and-home series in mid-February, BU downed UNH 6-3 at the Agganis Arena and UNH beat BU 4-3 at the Whittemore Center. This video clip shows senior Jay Camper's game-winning goal, set up by freshman Warren Foegele:

Providence College

Providence played both regular season matchups at the Whittemore Center. The Friars downed UNH 1-0 on November 21st and the teams were scheduled to play the following evening. However, a problem with the ice making system resulted in a postponement. The game was played on January 13 and was freshman goalie Danny Tirone's first start at the Whittemore Center. UNH won 2-1 in yet another tightly contested match. Grayson Downing, the team's leading goal-scorer, potted both UNH goals. Here is Downing's game-winner:



Then came the dramatic quarterfinal playoff series with Providence down at the Schneider Arena. UNH won the first game 2-1 on a dramatic, overtime goal by Grayson Downing. PC evened the series with a 2-1 win of it's own. Then, UNH won the third and decisive game 2-1 in overtime. Once again, Jay Camper scored an important game-winning goal.

University of Nebraska-Omaha

In the first game against UNO on December 30th, UNH lost in overtime 2-1. The following night, New Year's Eve, the Wildcats exploded for 6 goals. Freshman Andrew Poturalski, Brett Pesce, Grayson Downing, Tyler Kelleher, Matias Cleland, and Matt Willows tallied the goals. It was Danny Tirone's first NCAA game and he got his first college win. Here's the game-winning goal scored by Grayson Downing in the second period:



Grayson Downing lead the team in goals with 21 including 4 game-winners. Matt Willows added 19 goals. The five UNH seniors combined for 50 goals. Junior defenseman Brett Pesce, who signed with the Carolina Hurricanes last week, added 3 goals. Sophomore Tyler Kelleher tallied 18 goals and freshman Andrew Poturalski scored 14. This year's underclassmen and the incoming freshmen will be called upon to replace the scoring production of those who have left the team. In an article published today in The New Hampshire, Tyler Kelleher expressed confidence that they will be able to reach that goal:
“We’re going to lose some of our top guys, but we definitely have a lot of talent on this team,” Kelleher said. “I think all of our guys are capable of stepping in for us. I really believe any of them could perform.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

UNH Recruits Update: March-25-2015

Ara Nazarian
Des Moines Buccaneers
Jake Ryczek
Sioux City Musketeers
Justin Fregona
St. Andrew's College

Player Spotlight - Ara Nazarian

Before Ara Nazarian joined the Des Moines Buccaneers this season, he was a prolific scorer for Massachusetts powerhouse Malden Catholic High School. The Lancers won the Massachusetts Super 8 Championship in Nazarian's freshman, sophomore and junior seasons and he compiled 70 goals and 76 assists in 71 games. After his sophomore year, ESPNBoston.com selected Nazarian as the Mr. Hockey Award winner.

As an 18-year-old rookie in the United States Hockey League, Nazarian jumped out to a fast start scoring 2 goals and an assist in the first four games of the Des Moines season. He cooled off a bit as he adjusted to the USHL. Over his first 45 games, Nazarian tallied 7 goals and 9 assists. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, Nazarian has gotten hot again just when they needed him to. Des Moines is battling for the final playoff spot in the USHL's Western Conference.

Over the last 8 games, Ara Nazarian has scored 3 goals and 6 assists. On March 6th, he scored a goal and an assist and earned the #2 Star of the Game in a tough 4-3, overtime loss to the Lincoln Stars. Last week, Nazarian scored the game-tying goal on a power play and added the game-tying assist on another power play as Des Moines downed the Fargo Force 5-2. He picked up the #2 Star once again. Des Moines trails the Sioux Falls Stampede by 6 points with 7 games left in the regular season.

This coming June will be a big month for Ara. He will graduate from high school and turn 19. His target date for enrolling at UNH is the Fall of either 2015 or 2016. A number of factors such as his development and the needs of the UNH squad are bound to be included in the decision. There are similarities between Nazarian and Andrew Poturalski who also played in the USHL. Andrew just finished his first season at UNH and he was the Wildcats' fourth-leading scorer with 14 goals and 14 assists. In Poturalski's first full season in the USHL, he turned 19 in January and scored 12 goals and 21 assists in 53 games. By comparison, Nazarian doesn't turn 19 until after the season is over and he currently has 10 goals and 15 assists in 53 games. Poturalski ended up playing one more season for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders as a 19/20-year-old and was the USHL's 6th-leading scorer with 27 goals and 37 assists.

Player Spotlight - Jake Ryczek

2016 UNH recruit Jake Ryczek is also approaching the end of his first regular season in the USHL. Ryczek just turned 17 and is a junior in high school. The Sioux City Musketeers' defenseman has stepped up his offensive production as of late. Over the last four games, Ryczek has scored 2 power play goals and added a power play assist.

Jake Ryczek has accumulated 5 goals and 10 assists in his first 50 USHL games. Four of his goals and 5 of his assists have come on the power play. Among the Musketeer defensemen, he is the third leading scorer and second leading goal-scorer. Sioux City has already clinched a playoff berth and has the third most points in the entire league.

Player Spotlight - Justin Fregona

2016 UNH recruit Justin Fregona has capped off his playing career at St. Andrew's College by leading the Saints to another championship. Over the first weekend in March, the top prep school hockey teams in Canada travelled to Toronto for the first ever National Independent School Invitational Championship. The ten teams played at the brand new La Brier Family Arena on the campus of St. Andrew's College in Aurora and the Wilder Arena at Upper Canada College in Toronto.

Overall, St. Andrew's won 4 games and tied one. In the NISIC Championship Game, they defeated Upper Canada College 2-0. Justin Fregona was the top scorer in the tournament with 3 goals and 6 assists. He was also named to the Tournament All-Star team.

In February, St. Andrew's College won it's third consecutive Conference of Independent Schools Athletic Association (CISAA) Championship. UNH freshman Warren Foegele was a leading scorer on the 2013 and 2014 championship teams. St. Andrew's also finished in first place during the CISAA regular season. During the long 2014-15 season, St. Andrew's College played a total of 52 CISAA and nonconference games. Justin Fregona played in every game and scored 31 goals and 37 assists. He tied J.D. Falconer as the leading scorer on the Saints' squad.

Fregona, who turns 18 in May, is a senior at St. Andrew's. Next season, he will play for the Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League. Langley's general manager and head coach Bobby Henderson offered this assessment of Fregona:
"Justin is a natural goal scorer. He’s got great vision and can make plays all over the ice.”
2015 or '16 UNH recruit Marcus Vela played for the Rivermen this season and was the team's 3rd-leading scorer with 20 goals and 26 assists in 50 regular season games.

NOTE
The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the year the player and UNH coaches have targeted for enrollment in UNH. For example, the "2015 Recruits" have a target of the Fall of 2015 to begin playing for UNH.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2015 Recruits
Jason Kalinowski  (F) Bloomington Thunder USHL 38 1 7 8 48
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 5 0 0 0 4
Joseph Masonius  (D) USA U18 Team NCAA 18 5 5 10 14
USHL 22 0 9 9 41
NAHL 2 0 1 1 0
Int'l. 8 0 4 4 18
Christopher Miller  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 33 8 12 20 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
2015 or '16 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 55 22 51 73 34
Playoffs 4 1 2 3 0
Liam Darcy  (D) Berwick Academy NEPSHC 26 2 6 8 -
Islanders Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 4 0 0 0 0
Frankie Cefalu  (F) Walpole Express EHL 44 17 46 63 48
Playoffs 4 4 3 7 2
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 53 9 24 33 10
Ara Nazarian  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 53 10 15 25 16
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 56
Playoffs 4 2 1 3 14
Marcus Vela  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 50 20 26 46 57
Playoffs 3 0 1 1 0
2016 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. - - - - -
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 34 1 1 2 8
Jake Ryczek  (D) Sioux City Musketeers USHL 50 5 10 15 22
2017 Recruits
Mike Robinson  (G) Lawrence Academy NEPSHC 25 7W 16L/2T 3.20 .902
Boston Jr Rangers EHL 8 4W 4L 2.35 .937
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. - - - - -

News & Notes

2015 USA Hockey/Toyota National Championships:

~ Both the Selects Hockey Academy 18U and 16U teams will compete for the National Championship in Amherst, NY beginning tomorrow, March 26th. The teams will play as the Central Connecticut Selects. Joey Cipollone and the 18U team will face the Buffalo Junior Sabres. Joel Farabee and the 16U team will play Victory Honda (Michigan). Both teams will play 3 games in the opening round.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Update: UNH Senior Grayson Downing Signs With Minnesota Wild

UNH Century Club Member
Grayson Downing Signs Pro Contract


UPDATE: The Minnesota Wild have announced the signing of Grayson Downing to two-year entry level contract. He will report to the Minnesota Wild's American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild based in Des Moines, for the rest of this season.

Chad Graff, Minnesota Wild beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, had originally reported that UNH's Alternate Captain Grayson Downing would "very likely" sign with the Minnesota Wild tomorrow. UNH fans will remember Chad as the executive editor of The New Hampshire and sports reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Back in the Fall of 2008, 16-year-old Grayson Downing left his hometown of Abbortsford, British Columbia to pursue his dream of playing professional hockey. Downing travelled 200 miles to join the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League. Earlier that summer he had verbally committed to attend the University of New Hampshire and play for the UNH hockey team. In three BCHL seasons, Downing became one of the top scorers in the league. Now, after an outstanding four-year career as a Wildcat, Grayson is about to realize his dream.

Downing came close to being drafted by an NHL team in the 2010 Entry Draft. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked him as the 144th North American skater in its 2010 Final Rankings. That was the year that Tyler Sequin was drafted first overall by the Boston Bruins. Although Grayson Downing was not drafted, NHL teams continued to scout him during his career at UNH.

Following a successful sophomore season in which Downing scored 15 goals and 16 assists for UNH, the Chicago Blackhawks invited him to their Summer Development Camp. He also participated in the Calgary Flames Player Development Camp this past summer.

Grayson Downing raised the level of his game another notch in his recently completed senior season. He doubled his goal scoring from 10 in his junior season to 21 this season. Downing scored his 100th point in a 5-3 win over Notre Dame on January 31st. He went on to lead the Wildcats to victories in the opening round and quarterfinal series of the Hockey East Tournament. He scored 3 goals and an assist in the two-game series against UConn. In the three-game quarterfinals against Providence College, Downing scored a goal-a-game including the game winner in the first game. Here's the final goal Grayson scored as a UNH Wildcat:



As this season wound down, Grayson Downing was identified as one of the top college free agents. Evan Sporer on NHL.com wrote:
"A talented offensive player, Downing can play at each end of the ice. He's been a consistent performer for the Wildcats, scoring at least 10 goals in each of his four seasons. This year he's up to 21, including an overtime-winner Friday in Game 1 of New Hampshire's Hockey East Quarterfinal series against Providence. He knows how to finish around the goal and has an NHL-caliber shot."
Bill Meltzer, who also writes for NHL.com provided this assessment:
"The 22-year-old senior forward has been a consistent offensive performer throughout his collegiate career and has peaked at the right time in his senior season. Downing has a quick shot release and can draw the defense toward him and dish to an open teammate for scoring chances."
It's no surprise that Grayson has earned an opportunity to make a living playing professional hockey. I join UNH hockey fans in wishing him the best of luck.

UNH Senior Grayson Downing Very Likely To Sign With Minnesota Wild

UNH Century Club Member
Grayson Downing Ready to Sign Pro Contract


According to Chad Graff, Minnesota Wild beat writer for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, UNH's Alternate Captain Grayson Downing is "very likely" to sign with the Minnesota Wild tomorrow. Details of the contract have not yet been announced. UNH fans will remember Chad as the executive editor of The New Hampshire and sports reporter for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Back in the Fall of 2008, 16-year-old Grayson Downing left his hometown of Abbortsford, British Columbia to pursue his dream of playing professional hockey. Downing travelled 200 miles to join the Westside Warriors of the British Columbia Hockey League. Earlier that summer he had verbally committed to attend the University of New Hampshire and play for the UNH hockey team. In three BCHL seasons, Downing became one of the top scorers in the league. Now, after an outstanding four-year career as a Wildcat, Grayson is about to realize his dream.

Downing came close to being drafted by an NHL team in the 2010 Entry Draft. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked him as the 144th North American skater in its 2010 Final Rankings. That was the year that Tyler Sequin was drafted first overall by the Boston Bruins. Although Grayson Downing was not drafted, NHL teams continued to scout him during his career at UNH.

Following a successful sophomore season in which Downing scored 15 goals and 16 assists for UNH, the Chicago Blackhawks invited him to their Summer Development Camp. He also participated in the Calgary Flames Player Development Camp this past summer.

Grayson Downing raised the level of his game another notch in his recently completed senior season. He doubled his goal scoring from 10 in his junior season to 21 this season. Downing scored his 100th point in a 5-3 win over Notre Dame on January 31st. He went on to lead the Wildcats to victories in the opening round and quarterfinal series of the Hockey East Tournament. He scored 3 goals and an assist in the two-game series against UConn. In the three-game quarterfinals against Providence College, Downing scored a goal-a-game including the game winner in the first game. Here's the final goal Grayson scored as a UNH Wildcat:



As this season wound down, Grayson Downing was identified as one of the top college free agents. Evan Sporer on NHL.com wrote:
"A talented offensive player, Downing can play at each end of the ice. He's been a consistent performer for the Wildcats, scoring at least 10 goals in each of his four seasons. This year he's up to 21, including an overtime-winner Friday in Game 1 of New Hampshire's Hockey East Quarterfinal series against Providence. He knows how to finish around the goal and has an NHL-caliber shot."
Bill Meltzer, who also writes for NHL.com provided this assessment:
"The 22-year-old senior forward has been a consistent offensive performer throughout his collegiate career and has peaked at the right time in his senior season. Downing has a quick shot release and can draw the defense toward him and dish to an open teammate for scoring chances."
It's no surprise that Grayson has earned an opportunity to make a living playing professional hockey. I join UNH hockey fans in wishing him the best of luck.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

UNH Eliminates Providence, Advances to Hockey East Semifinals

Senior Jay Camper
Overtime Game-Winning Goal
Senior Grayson Downing
3rd Quarterfinal Goal
Freshman Goalie Danny Tirone
Hockey East Co-Defensive
Player of the Week


PROVIDENCE, RI - The UNH Wildcats faced the classic do-or-die scenario at the Schneider Arena on Sunday evening. Defeat Providence College in Game 3 of the Hockey East Quarterfinals and keep the dream of winning the Hockey East Championship and earning an invitation to the NCAA Northeast Regionals alive. Lose and say goodbye to your senior teammates and clean out your lockers at the Whittemore Center.

As UNH entered the overtime period with the game knotted up 1-1, the stakes could not have been more stark. The team's determination was summed up by senior Jay Camper:
“At the beginning of the (overtime) period, Tyler Kelleher came up to me and said ‘This isn’t my last game playing with you. We’re going to keep playing.’ ”
The biggest impediment to victory, figuratively and literally, was 6'5". 215 lbs. Providence goalie Jon Gillies.

Gillies entered the quarterfinal series as the #1 goalie in Hockey East and #7 netminder in all of Division I with a save percentage of .929 and goals against average of 2.00. The conventional wisdom holds that the best way to get a puck past Gillies is to force him to move side-to-side. No doubt, UNH would have preferred to make this happen with 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 breaks into the Providence zone. However, PC's defensive style of clogging up the neutral zone and inhibiting opponents' transitions into their end made this very difficult.

Providence held UNH to 5 goals in the three-game series. Only one came on a play in which Gillies did not move side-to-side quick enough to make the save. In Game 1, sophomore Tyler Kelleher came at Gillies through the faceoff circle, deked toward the middle of the net, and drew the puck to his backhand. Gillies moved to the middle of the crease to stop a possible forehand shot by Kelleher but did not get back quick enough to the post to stop Tyler's backhand shot.

Grayson Downing's overtime goal in Game 1 and his goal late in the second period of Game 2 came from beyond the faceoff dots with players in front of Gillies. UNH had found a successful strategy for scoring against Providence. Take shots from out around the top of the slot with one or more players between the shooter and Gillies. It worked twice in the decisive third game and resulted in a thrilling, overtime victory.

After a scoreless first period, the red hot Grayson Downing potted the all-important first goal of the game early in the second period. Freshman wingers Shane Eiserman and Warren Foegele dug the puck out of corner, Eiserman sent a backhand pass to Downing at the top of the slot, and he one-timed a three quarter slapshot through a PC defender and over Gillies' glove. Downing is riding a 6-game goal-scoring streak including 2 game winners (vs. Providence and Merrimack) and a 2-goal game (vs. UCONN). He is now tied for second in goal scoring in Hockey East and tied for fifth in NCAA Division I.

Providence tied the score early in the third period during a multiplayer scrum in front of UNH freshman goalie Danny Tirone. He blocked five rapid-fire shots but the last one bounced off defenseman Cameron Marks and flew into the air. PC forward Nick Saracino batted the puck over the sprawling Tirone and into the net.

Midway through the third, UNH killed off two PC power plays. This was a key to victory because Providence had scored two power play goals in their 2-1 win on Saturday night. In the third and decisive game, Providence was awarded five power plays and UNH prevented Providence from scoring. In fact, UNH generated short handed shots during the Friars' power plays in the third period and in overtime.

In the overtime period, both teams were credited with 5 shots on goal. However, two of UNH's shots required spectacular saves by Gillies. The first came off the stick of Brett Pesce during a UNH power play. Gillies flashed his right skate at the last instant and deflected Pesce's wrist shot away. Casey Thrush had the other prime scoring attempt when UNH was shorthanded. Gillies got a piece of Thrush's shot with his right shoulder.

For the second time in the quarterfinal series, UNH defeated Providence with an overtime goal. On Friday night, it was senior Grayson Downing. On Sunday night, it was senior Jay Camper . For the second time in Sunday's game, freshmen Foegele and Eiserman were key contributors to the scoring play. Foegele stole the puck twice and Eiserman set up Brett Pesce for the decisive shot. Camper battled his way to the front of the net, backed into a Providence defenseman, and screened Gillies' view of Pesce's wrist shot from the top of the slot. The puck deflected off Camper's thigh and sailed over Gillies' glove.

Needless to say, the Hockey East Quarterfinal series between UNH and Providence was extremely tight. All three games were won by a score of 2-1. UNH's two overtime victories earned them a spot in the Hockey East Semifinals on Friday, March 20th at the TD Garden in Boston. The Wildcats will face the number one seed Boston University Terriers at 8:00.

UNH can point to several positives as it enters the semifinal series. They have won 10 of their last 12 games. Two of those wins came against teams who also advanced to the Hockey East semifinals. UNH defeated Vermont 6-3 on February 7th and Boston University 4-3 one week later on the 14th.

Freshman goalie Danny Tirone, who was named the Hockey East Defensive Co-Player of the Week following the Providence series, has only allowed 5 goals in the 5 playoff games so far. UNH's top scorers - Tyler Kelleher (17G, 24A), Grayson Downing (21G, 15A), and Matt Willows (19G, 16A) - all contributed multiple points in the Providence series. Kelleher scored a goal and an assist, Downing potted 3 goals, including a game-winner, and Willows registered 2 assists.

UNH's goal scoring against Providence came from its top three lines. The fourth line of Salvaggio-Smith-Hill brought high energy to the Providence games and was not scored upon. UNH's top scoring defensemen - Brett Pesce (3G, 13A) and Matias Cleland (6G, 12A) - each had an assist in the Providence series. Finally, except for defenseman Dylan Maller (foot injury), none of the the players who suited up for the Connecticut and Providence playoff series have injuries which kept them out of the lineup.

From what I saw on three successive nights at the Schneider Arena, the 2014-15 UNH hockey team is a determined group who are playing their best hockey of the season. They are fully aware that the only way to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament is to defeat Boston University on Friday night and win the Hockey East Championship game on Saturday night. They are also well-versed in the formidable challenges that BU will present. Almost time to drop the puck.

Video Review of Goals and Key Plays

PERIOD 1

Generating Shots at Jon Gillies
~ Early in the period, UNH fired a number of quick shots in the direction of the Providence goalie.
~ As this sequence shows, UNH focused more on shooting than making plays in the Providence zone.



Solid Danny Tirone Saves
3:43 & 5:27 of 1st Period - UNH 0, Providence 0
~ Officially, Danny Tirone made 8 saves in the first period. These two came during the first 5 minutes of the period.
~ The second stop came during PC's first of five power plays.



Jason Salvaggio Bids
Late in 1st Period - UNH 0, Providence 0
~ In all three games, UNH's fourth line of Salvaggio-Smith-Hill consistently brought energy.
~ On two occasions toward the end of the first period, freshman Jason Salvaggio carried the puck deep into the Providence zone and snapped quick wrist shots at Gillies.



PERIOD 2

Grayson Downing-21 (Assisted by Shane Eiserman-10 & Warren Foegele-11)
7:06 of Period 2 - UNH 1, Providence 0
~ Foegele and Eiserman made this play possible by winning the puck battle in the corner and half-wall to Gillies right. Eiserman backhanded a pass to Downing at the top of the slot.
~ As he had done in Games 1 and 2, Downing beat Gillies - this time with a slap shot through a screen.



Brett Pesce Bid
16:58 of 2nd Period - UNH 1, Providence 0
~ Junior defenseman Brett Pesce snapped a wrist shot from the right point with Tyler Kelleher and Andrew Poturalski screening Gillies.
~ The puck deflected off a PC defender and nearly slipped past Gillies glove.



Key Danny Tirone Saves
18:54 of 2nd Period - UNH 1, Providence 0
~ With time winding down in the 2nd, PC generated one last rush into the UNH end.
~ Tirone blocked the initial shot but the rebound went off to his right. He smothered the subsequent shot.



PERIOD 3

Nick Saracino (Assisted by Acciari & Tanev)
1:20 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ Tanev swooped behind the UNH net and flipped a backhand pass to Acciari open immediately to Tirone's left. Acciari peppered 3 shots at Tirone, he blocked each one but the rebounds eluded him, Cameron Marks and Andrew Poturalski.
~ With Tirone sprawled face-down on the ice, Saracino poked the puck at Tirone who made another block. This time the puck flew up into the air and bounced off Marks' right glove. Saracino batted the puck over the top of Tirone and into the net.



Dominant Penalty Kill by Grayson Downing & Brett Pesce
9:00 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ With Casey Thrush in the penalty box after a borderline tripping call, Downing stole the puck at center ice, carried it into the PC end, and fed Pesce for a one-timer in the mid-slot.
~ Downing stole the puck again and killed off more time by passing back to Pesce in the neutral zone.



UNH Power Play Bids
17:05 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ With 3 minutes left in regulation, Cameron Marks was elbowed by Anthony Florentino giving UNH its second power play of the game.
~ UNH crisply moved the puck and generated shots on Gillies by Furgele, Cleland, Poturalski, and Foegele.



OVERTIME

UNH OT Power Play Bids
1:09 of Overtime - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ On the second shift of overtime, Andrew Poturalski was boarded in the PC zone.
~ Once again, UNH generated several shots including a Grade A attempt by Tyler Kelleher and two by Brett Pesce.



Casey Thrush Shorthanded Bids
8:14 of Overtime - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ With Poturalski in the penalty box for slashing, Casey Thrush stole the puck just inside the UNH blueline and rushed through center ice and into the Providence zone.
~ Thrush snapped a wrister, that Gillies blocked with his shoulder, and swiped the rebound back at Gillies.



Brett Pesce & Matt Willows Nearly Win It
10:07 of Overtime - UNH 1, Providence 1
~ Pesce stole the puck at the half-wall in the UNH zone and sent Grayson Downing off on a break.
~ Downing sent a drop pass to Pesce who one-timed a slap shot from the top of the of faceoff circle to Gillies left.
~ Gillies just barely kicked the shot with his right skate but the rebound went to Willows streaking down the left wing. Willows' backhander went just wide of the post.



Jay Camper -4 (Assisted by Brett Pesce-13 & Shane Eiserman-11)
12:43 of Overtime- UNH 2, Providence 1
~ The thrilling game winner began with freshman Warren Foegele stealing the puck along the boards at center ice. Foegele backhanded a pass to Jay Camper who carried it into the Providence zone.
~ A PC player poked the puck into the boards and Foegele gathered it again. This time he passed it to Shane Eiserman who tapped it back to Brett Pesce at the blueline.
~ Pesce stickhandled the puck to the top of the slot and fired a wrist shot at Gillies.
~ Meanwhile, Camper had advanced to the low slot in front of Gillies. Pesce's shot deflected off Camper's right thigh, past Gillies' glove and into the goal.



Sunday, March 15, 2015

UNH-Providence Quarterfinal Series Deadlocked: Goal-by-Goal

Senior Grayson Downing
2 Goals, Game 1 GWG
Sophomore Tyler Kelleher
Game 1 Game-Tying Goal
Freshman Goalie Danny Tirone
75 Saves on 78 SOG


PROVIDENCE, RI - On paper, the Hockey East Quarterfinal Series between the University of New Hampshire and Providence College looked like a mismatch. In the preseason HE coaches poll, Providence was picked to win the title. PC entered the quarterfinals as the #2 seed in the tourney and the 10th-ranked team in the NCAA Pairwise Rankings. By contrast, UNH finished the regular season in 8th place with no chance of earning an invitation to the NCAA Tournament on the basis of their record. UNH's only route to the NCAA Northeast Regionals, to be held the last weekend in March at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, NH, is to win the Hockey East Tournament.

On the ice, the UNH Wildcats have played the Providence Friars dead even in the first two quarterfinal games. UNH's come-from-behind, 2-1 overtime victory on Friday night extended their winning streak - which began with a 4-3 win over highly-ranked Boston University on February 14th - to 8 games. Providence rebounded last night with a 2-1 win of their own. The teams will battle tonight at the Schneider Arena beginning at 7:30 with the winner earning a berth in the Hockey East semifinals next weekend in Boston.

When the series is over, I'll offer up my observations on the ebb and flow of the series and the key players and plays. But for now, as a preview of tonight's do-or-die matchup, I want to show the highlights from Games 1 and 2.

Hockey East Quarterfinals - GAME 1

UNH 2, Providence 1 - OT

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown

PERIOD 1

No Goals
Shots on Goal UNH 10, Providence 10

Jay Camper Bid
Early in 1st Period - UNH 0, Providence 0



PERIOD 2

No Goals
Shots on Goal UNH 7, Providence 20 **
** A number of observers thought the UNH SOG were underinflated and PC's were overinflated.

PERIOD 3

Huge Danny Tirone Save
7:08 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, Providence 0



Steven McParland's 5th Goal of Season
10:24 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, Providence 1



Matt Willows Robbed
17:00 of 3rd Period - UNH 0, Providence 1



Tyler Kelleher-17 PP (Assisted by Andrew Poturalski & Matias Cleland)
18:17 of 3rd Period - UNH 1, Providence 1



OVERTIME

Grayson Downing-19 (Assisted by Matt Willows & Casey Thrush)
5:18 of Overtime- UNH 2, Providence 1



Hockey East Quarterfinals - GAME 2

Providence 2, UNH 1

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown

PERIOD 1

No Goals
Shots on Goal UNH 14, Providence 9

PERIOD 2

Mark Jankowski's 6th Goal of Season PP
1:58 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, Providence 1



John Gilmore's 4th Goal of Season PP
3:17 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, Providence 2



Grayson Downing's Shorthanded Bid
10:00 of 2nd Period- UNH 0, Providence 2



Big Danny Tirone Save
11:06 of 2nd Period - UNH 0, Providence 2



Grayson Downing Robbed by Jon Gillies - Real time and Slow Motion
14:30 of 2nd Period- UNH 0, Providence 2



Grayson Downing-20 EA (Assisted by Tyler Kelleher & Matt Willows)
19:57 of 2nd Period- UNH 1, Providence 2



PERIOD 3

Matias Cleland Bid
5:00 of 3rd Period- UNH 1, Providence 2



No Goals
Overall Shots on Goal UNH 36, Providence 32

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