Sunday, February 26, 2017

UNH Looks For Success in Hockey East Playoffs

Senior Tyler Kelleher
21st/22nd Goals
Freshman Liam Blackburn
7th/8th Goals
Junior Danny Tirone
79 Saves


Today, the college hockey postseason is upon us. For the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, it is a brand new season. After the Wildcats got swept by the University of Connecticut over the weekend, the Wildcats will look to start fresh. In a rematch of last year's first round series, UNH will travel to North Andover, Massachusets for a best-of-three series against the Merrimack College Warriors. Last year, Merrimack bested the Wildcats in three games.

This past weekend brought UNH fans exciting hockey and nostalgia as the four Wildcat seniors were recognized prior to Friday's game. In essence, the final weekend slate of games was exciting all over the collegiate divisions in the country and specifically Hockey East where we saw a three-team tie at the top of the conference.

The Wildcats went into last Friday’s regular season home finale with a chance to uphold a home playoff series, but just like the year before, the Huskies came in and spoiled the party. UNH scored fifteen seconds into the game as Michael McNicholas stripped the puck from a UConn defenseman at center ice, skated down the right wing, and flipped a backhand pass to Jason Salvaggio. He deked into the offensive slot and fired one past freshman goaltender Adam Huska for his 21st of the season.

The Whittemore Center was cheering at a capacity level, but five minutes later the Huskies knotted the game up after sophomore prodigy Tage Thompson wrapped around Danny Tirone’s net and fired a shot that consequently went off defenseman Cam Marks skate. At 10:13, UConn struck gold again as Kasperi Ojantakanen got a juicy rebound and buried it past Tirone to make it 2-1.

The Huskies never looked back in this one when at 18:20 of the second period Spencer Nass increased the lead to 3-1. His 15th goal of the season put a clamp on the Wildcats. Ojantakanen sent the apple his way on the play.

At the start of the third period, the Huskies added yet another goal at 8:54 when defenseman Philip Nyberg scored his first collegiate goal. Yet, the Wildcats made it interesting late when Hobey Baker Award nominee and senior Tyler Kelleher recorded his 21st goal of the year - a knuckler that danced its way past Huska from the far side faceoff circle. It was 4-2 and there was life for the comeback ‘Cats.

With only three and a half minutes remaining, Liam Blackburn scored his 7th goal of the season to make the contest 4-3 in favor of the Huskies. The Wildcats fired on all cylinders, but Huska was strong in net and with 27 seconds remaining, Ojantakanen buried the empty netter for his 2nd goal of the night. The Huskies won 5-3 and surely enough, had a stranglehold on the Wildcats heading into the last regular season game of the year down in Hartford.

Here are the highlights of Friday night's game courtesy of UNH Athletics:



On Saturday night, the Wildcats traveled down to XL Center to challenge the Huskies on their senior night and once again had to fight to try and salvage some points in the final regular season tilt.

The Huskies drew first blood at 3:38 of the first period and sent the crowd into a raucous. Max Kalter recorded his fourth of the season when the play came to Brian Morgan who fired a shot on Tirone and Kalter attacked the night and jammed it in.

Blackburn scored his second of the weekend and his 8th of the season to knot the game up at 1-1 at the 10:36 mark. Senior captain Matias Cleland directed a shot from the top of the offensive zone that ricocheted over to Justin Fregona who fed a pass to Blackburn waiting to fire a shot past goaltender Rob Nichols.

Then at 13:41 of the first period, UConn regained the lead 2-1. Thompson registered his 19th goal of the season when Maxim Letunov fed a pass to him from behind the net who one-timed the goal past Tirone.

UNH once again tied it up at 15:52 of the first stanza when Kelleher scored his 22nd goal of the season. The goal came on the power play that was not working on Friday night. Michael McNicholas was able to send one tape-to-tape across the offensive zone onto Kelleher’s stick who, to the right of Nichols, sent one airborne. The shot was deflected, but surely enough found the back of the net to make it 2-2.

The second period provided nip-and-tuck hockey to the fans where both teams had plenty of opportunities, but could not generate any goals. The game remained tied until 4:19 of the second period where Evan Richardson provided the hometown fans with one of the nicer goals you will see all season. Richardson picked up a loose puck in neutral zone and skated with it towards Tirone. After losing an edge and turning around, he was able to regain possession and flick a backhander past Tirone to put UConn up 3-2.

UConn never looked back as they tightened up defensively in the third period and Corey Ronan fired a shot into the empty net with 43 seconds left in regulation to solidify the weekend sweep with a final score of 4-2.

The win put the final touches on a second half that had its shares of ups and downs for the Wildcats but saw them skid down to 10th place at the end of the regular season. With the two wins, UConn surpassed them to take the 9th seed. Although it was a tough final stretch in the schedule, the Wildcats played teams such as Boston University, Notre Dame, and Vermont harder than most.

For Kelleher, he was able to win the Hockey East scoring title with 37 points in 22 conference games. It was the second straight year a Wildcat won the title. Last year, former Wildcat Andrew Poturalski earned the honors. You can vote for Kelleher for the Hobey Baker on their Facebook page.

Moving forward, the postseason is a brand new season. This conference is always a chess match and everyone starts out with a blank record. For UNH, they travel once again down to Lawler Rink where they hope for a different result than last year. Merrimack was able to snatch the 7th seed and will host the Wildcats in the best-of-three game series starting Friday at 7 pm.

Myself (Ben Nawn) and Brian Dunn will bring you playoff action on 91.3 FM WUNH Durham and online this coming weekend.

Friday, February 17, 2017

UNH Commits Update: February-17-2017

Charlie Kelleher
2017 UNH Commit
Benton Maass
2017 UNH Commit
Marek Wazny
2019 UNH Commit

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

The Sioux City Musketeers bolstered it's chances of winning the Clark Cup when it acquired the services of right-winger Charlie Kelleher on February 7th. In a series of moves, the Tri-City Storm, who are dead last in the USHL Western Conference, traded Kelleher (11 goals, 22 assists) and linemate Alex Limoges (13g, 18a; former Cornell commit), their 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, and top goalie Dayton Rasmussen (Denver commit).

In his first season in the United States Hockey League, Charlie Kelleher has established himself as one of the premiere play-makers and scorers in the league. In his final 5 games with the Storm, Kelleher scored 2 goals, including 1 power play goal (see video below), and 5 assists (3 power play assists). Throughout this season, Kelleher has played right wing on the Storms' first power play unit.

Kelleher didn't miss a beat in his first 4 games with Sioux City posting 3 assists. In a game against the Sioux Falls Stampede last Sunday, the Musketeers had an opportunity to move into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Kelleher was moved up to the starting lineup at right wing with Aapeli Rasanen (Edmonton draft pick) at center and Eeli Tolvanen (BC commit) on left wing. Kelleher set up Sioux City's first goal on the power play. As the video highlights show, Kelleher (#13 in White) deked around one defender, moved to the faceoff circle and fed Phiip Knies (Miami commit) for the goal. The Musketeers went on to win the game in a shootout. Sioux City has the most points (59) in the USHL.

Charlie Kelleher has scored at least 1 point in 8 of the last 9 games. He is currently tied for 8th in USHL scoring (44 games, 11 goals, 25 assists). He is tied for 5th in assists. Here are his last 2 goals as a member of the Tri-City Storm and 2 of his assists with Sioux City:

Player Spotlight - Benton Maass

On the first Saturday in February, UNH Commit Benton Maass and Elk River High School faced rival Duluth East HS. The #1 seed in the Minnesota Class AA, Section 7 playoffs was very much in play. Elk River was ranked #4 in the state while Duluth East was #12. Just 26 seconds after Duluth East scored a short-handed goal, Maass tied the game on the power play. Benton (#11 in White) skated down from the blueline into the slot, received a back door feed, and one-timed his 4th goal of the season:



Elk River defeated Duluth East 4-1 and improved their record to 17-4-0. The Elks also moved up to #3 in the Minnesota AA hockey rankings.

On Tuesday, Benton Maass played his final regular season game for Elk River High School. He opened the scoring just 47 seconds after the opening faceoff and Elk River defeated Maple Grove 2-1. Maass finished the regular season with 6 goals (4 Power Play Goals) and 23 assists (7 PPA) in 25 games. Among all defensemen in the Northwest Suburban Conference, Maass was tied for third in scoring. His teammate and fellow captain Nick Perbix (St. Cloud State commit) was first with 40 points.

Elk River (21-4-0) earned the #1 Seed in the Minnesota Boys Section 7AA Hockey Tournament and gained a bye in the first round. Maass and Elk River will have home ice advantage in the quarterfinal round next Tuesday. If the Elks win the Section 7AA Playoffs, they will advance to the State Championship Tournament. When the Elk River season is over, Maass will rejoin the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League.

Benton Maass is on track to enroll at UNH next Fall. The 6'2", 195 lbs., right-shot defenseman is eligible for the 2017 NHL Draft. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Maass as the 158th North American skater. They have identified him as a "C" prospect meaning he's a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the NHL Draft this June.

Player Spotlight - Marek Wazny

2019 UNH Commit Marek Wazny and the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team begin play in the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League Playoffs this evening out in Blaine, Minnesota. The Avalanche won 30 games and lost only 2 in T1 EHL competition. They finished in first place in the East Conference and were the #1 team in the Tier 1 EHL.

In the final game of the regular season on January 29th, Marek Wazny tallied a goal and 3 assists, including the game-winning assist. The North Jersey Avalanche defeated the Philadelphia Jr Flyers 5-1.

Wazny, a 6'1", 170 lbs., left-shot forward, scored 21 goals, including 3 game-winners, and 11 assists in 32 Tier 1 EHL, regular season games. He was tied for 10th in league scoring, tied for 3rd in goals, and tied for 1st in power play goals (6).

2016-17 Statistics

NOTE
The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit'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
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 16 2 0 2 4
Junior Bruins USPHL 20 7 13 20 8
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 41 4 17 21 12
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 40 11 22 33 10
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 4 0 3 3 0
Benton Maass  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 17 2 6 8 10
Elk River Minn HS 25 6 23 29 6
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 41 11 8 19 84
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 31 4 10 14 43
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 16 8W 6L 2.91 .915
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 37 9 4 13 94
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 24 8 8 16 4
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 36 5 7 12 34
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 18U 23 8 17 25 10
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 26 7 15 22 -
2019 Commits
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 32 21 11 32 26
AYHL 20 11 13 24 2
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 7 2W 2L/1T 2.05 .920
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Eric MacAdams has scored 11 goals for the Sioux Falls Stampede and is tied for 12th in USHL goal-scoring.

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ 2018 UNH commit Angus Crookshank tallied his first BCHL hat trick on February 2nd. One of them was the Langley Rivermen's game-winner in the 11-2 victory over the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ 2018 or '19 UNH Commit Lucas Bahn was named the USPHL 18U Defenseman "Star of the Week" on February 13th. In 23 league games with the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team, Bahn has scored 8 goals, including 2 game-winners, and distributed 17 assists. Among all defensemen in the USPHL 18U Division, Bahn is 1st in scoring and 2nd in assists.

Friday, February 10, 2017

UNH Snaps Losing Streak, Downs #15 UVM 4-2

Senior Tyler Kelleher
50 & 51 NCAA Goals
Freshman Anthony Wyse
GWG, 1st NCAA Goal


Junior Jason Salvaggio
Tying Goal, 1 Assist
Junior Danny Tirone
31 Saves


Earlier today, I posted "UNH Captain's Corner: Untimely Losing Streak" which included an interview with Matias Cleland about the Wildcats' 5-game losing streak. Matias offered this perspective on the streak and what the team was focusing on:
"We haven't been scoring enough goals in games to win. Obviously, the last game against Lowell had a lot to do with the defensive zone. We are making some changes that we will take into Vermont this weekend. I always believe that things are never as good as they seem and they are never as bad as they seem. Yes, we have lost some games to some good teams but we have Vermont coming this weekend. That's where all our focus is at as of now."
Tonight at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vermont, UNH scored enough goals, played competent defense, and won their first game since the 5-3 victory over Northeastern on January 12th. More importantly, they earned 2 points against Vermont - the team immediately above them in the Hockey East standings. UNH moved into 7th place 1 point behind UVM.

After a scoreless first period, the monkey on UNH's back flailed it's arms again. The Wildcats surrendered the first two goals of the game in the first 5 minutes of the second period. However, this time around, UNH clawed its way back to score 4 unanswered goals. Entering the game, UNH had the #1 power play in Hockey East and it came through 6 and 1/2 minutes into the second period.

Freshman Patrick Grasso began the scoring play by initiating a series of around the perimeter passes. From behind the Vermont net, Grasso passed to Tyler Kelleher at the faceoff circle to the right of UVM goalie Stefanos Lekkas. Kelleher sent the puck to Cleland at the top of the umbrella who then touch passed it to junior Michael McNicholas at the opposite faceoff circle. McNicholas laid a perfect cross-ice pass onto Kelleher's stick and he snapped it home for his 50th NCAA goal:



Just 2 minutes into the third period, junior Jason Salvaggio showed why he's gaining recognition as one of the best shooters in Hockey East - see this Boston Globe article published earlier this week. He carried the puck into the Vermont zone with speed and fired a wrist shot past Lekkas. The game-tying goal was Salvaggio's 17th of the season. He is now tied for 5th in NCAA goal-scoring.



A few minutes later, Salvaggio broke in cleanly toward the Vermont net and was hooked down, setting the stage for this penalty shot:



Credit Lekkas for the outstanding split to block Salvaggio's 5-hole attempt.

One of the changes Cleland mentioned in the interview helped set up UNH's game-winning goals. Freshman left winger Brendan van Riemsdyk was moved to the line with Chris Miller at center and Marcus Vela on right wing. With about 12 minutes left in regulation, that new line maintained possession in the UVM zone and Vela passed the puck back to freshman defenseman Anthony Wyse at the left point. Wyse snapped a wrist shot through a screen of several players for the game-winning goal. It was Wyse's first NCAA goal:



With less than a minute left in the game, Vermont pulled their goalie for an extra skater. UNH goalie Danny Tirone made a couple key saves and Kelleher scored the empty net goal. Tyler Kelleher (18 Goals, 32 Assists) is tied for 2nd in NCAA scoring and leads in assists.



It's worth noting another change the UNH coaches made in the forward lines. Sophomore Ara Nazarian was moved to left wing with freshmen Liam Blackburn (center) and Grasso (right wing). While they did not score, each got a shot on goal and effectively moved the puck in the offensive zone.

UNH and Vermont will close out their regular season series Saturday night at the Gutterson Fieldhouse.

UNH Captain's Corner: Untimely Losing Streak

UNH Captain Matias Cleland


When the UNH Wildcats walked off the Frozen Fenway field following a 2-2 tie with Northeastern University, they were near the top of the standings in Hockey East. UNH had already clinched the season series against Maine (4-point Sweep), UMass Amherst (Sweep), Merrimack (3 points), and Northeastern (3 points). Their in-conference record of 6-2-2 put them in fourth place, 1 point behind Lowell and Vermont, 2 points behind Boston University, and 5 points behind first-place BC in the Hockey East standings. A finish in the top 4 at the end of the regular season earns a first-round bye in the Hockey East Playoffs.

Series at Notre Dame

The weekend after Frozen Fenway, UNH travelled to South Bend, Indiana for their final regulation series against Notre Dame. This is the Fighting Irish's final season as a member of Hockey East. Next year, they will join the Big Ten Conference. Although Notre Dame began the weekend one point behind UNH in 5th place, they were ranked #14 nationally. On Friday January 20th, the Wildcats built a 2-1 lead on tallies by junior Jason Salvaggio (15th Goal) and freshman Patrick Grasso (15th). Notre Dame tied the game midway through the third period and the teams finished in a 2-2 tie following the overtime period. Here are the video highlights:



The tie improved UNH's record in Hockey East competition to 6-2-3. Unfortunately, it was the last point the team would earn for a while. A 3-0 loss to Notre Dame the next night was the start of a 5-game losing streak. Notre Dame captain Cal Peterson, a 5th round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, made 31 saves and handed UNH it's first shutout of the season. Junior goalie Danny Tirone made 40 saves for a total of 87 saves in the two-game series.

Home Series vs Providence

UNH returned home for a two-game series against Providence College on the last weekend of January. At the time, PC (4-6-2) was 5 points behind UNH (6-3-3) and ranked #19 in the nation. The opener was a tight game and featured outstanding goaltending by Danny Tirone and Hayden Hawkey. Both goalies made 27 saves but Providence scored two back-breaking goals. The first came on a faceoff play with just 1 second left in the opening stanza.

UNH turned up the offensive pressure outshooting PC 11-5 in the third period. However, with under 3 minutes left in regulation, the first line of Salvaggio-McNicholas-Kelleher got caught deep in the offensive zone and PC scored on a 2-on-1 breakout. The Friars added an empty net goal with 21 seconds left.

UNH had entered the Notre Dame series with the #1 offense in Hockey East. The 3-0 loss to Providence marked the second consecutive game the Wildcats had been shut out. They looked to rebound on Saturday night with former UNH stars Trevor and James van Riemsdyk on hand to sign autographs for hundreds of fans before the game.

For the 6th consecutive game, UNH surrendered the first goal of the game. Hobey Baker Award candidate Tyler Kelleher tied the score on a power play late in the second period. Providence went ahead 3-1 on consecutive goals at 4:50 and 13:44 of the third period.

With a couple minutes left in regulation, UNH pulled Tirone for an extra skater and sophomore defenseman Matt Dawson appeared to score UNH's second goal on a wrister from the top of the slot. However, following a video review, the referees disallowed the goal because Jamie Hill made skate-to-skate contact with PC goalie Hawkey immediately before the puck went between his legs.

With just 47 seconds remaining, Tirone went to the bench again and Kelleher set up Grasso with a pretty bang-bang goal. After the ensuing faceoff, UNH successfully added an extra skater for the third time in the final two minutes. Junior defenseman Cam Marks sent a wrist shot on goal with 15 seconds left and Kelleher backhanded the rebound toward the net but it was not to be. Here are the highlights of UNH's come-from-behind effort:



Although UNH ended January with a 3-game losing streak, their position in the Hockey East standings did not change substantially. Following the tie with Notre Dame on January 20th, the Wildcats had 15 points and were tied for 4th place with UMass-Lowell. Vermont (17 pts) was in 3rd, BU (20) in 2nd, and BC (21) in the lead. After the sweep by Providence on January 28th, UNH and UMass-Lowell had 15 points and were tied for 5th place. Notre Dame (16 points) was in 4th place, UVM (17) in 3rd, BU (20) in 2nd, and BC (25) in 1st. With Boston College and Lowell on the schedule for the first weekend in February, UNH did not want to lose any more ground.

Boston College & Lowell

The BC Eagles came to the Whittemore Center last Friday as the 8th ranked team in the nation (Overall: 16-9-2, Hockey East: 11-3-1). When they met in Chestnut Hill on November 8th, UNH overcame a three-goal deficit and tied the game 3-3 with 4 minutes remaining. BC tallied the game-winner two minutes later and added an empty net goal.

On Friday, UNH was not able to overcome the nagging problem of giving up the first goal of the game. In fact, BC scored 2 goals in the first 9 minutes. In a season of ups and downs, the UNH power play has been a consistent bright spot. The Wildcats still have the #1 power play in Hockey East and it came through against Boston College. In the final minute of the first period, the player with the most assists in NCAA Division I men's hockey set up UNH's first goal. Tyler Kelleher (16 goals, 31 assists) cruised along the goal line to the left of BC goalie Joe Woll and fed Patrick Grasso (17 goals, 11 assists) in the slot for a one-timer.

Building on the momentum of Grasso's goal, UNH knotted the game 2-2 soon after the puck dropped in the second period. Junior defenseman Cam Marks connected with sophomore Chris Miller flying through the neutral zone. Miller and sophomore Ara Nazarian entered the BC zone on a 2-on-1 break and Miller snapped a low wrister at Woll. Nazarian banged home the rebound for his 3rd goal of the season.

BC answered one minute after the Nazarian goal and, by the first minute in the third period, had built a 5-2 lead. Once again, the UNH power play sparked a comeback. With 8 minutes remaining in regulation, UNH had a 5-on-3 advantage. Associate head coach Mike Souza, who directs the power play, placed Patrick Grasso and junior Michael McNicholas below the goal line on opposite sides of the BC net. They passed the puck back and forth then McNicholas zipped it to Tyler Kelleher in the right faceoff circle. Kelleher fired a 3/4 slap shot over Woll's shoulder.

UNH made it a one-goal game with 3 and 1/2 minutes left on the clock. Marks made an exceptional play at the blue line keeping the puck in the zone and tapping it to Salvaggio. Jason carried it directly to the top of the slot and fired a wrister into the back of the net. The instant after Salvaggio released the shot, Boston College captain Chris Calnan took a cheap and dangerous shot at Jason's head (see video below). Calnan blind-sided him with a shoulder hit to the head (5-min major) and was kicked out of the game (10-min game misconduct).

The UNH fans who hadn't left the game early got the Whittemore Center rocking. With a minute and a half left in regulation, UNH pulled Tirone which gave them a 6-on-4 advantage. UNH Captain Matias Cleland fired a slapper from the blue line that was blocked. Then Salvaggio sent a cross-crease pass to Grasso who barely missed the conversion. BC potted an empty-netter for the 6-4 victory. Here are the exciting highlights:



After mounting two comeback attempts against Boston College in the energy-filled Whittemore Center, I wonder whether the team experienced a letdown on Saturday night down in Lowell. Whatever the reasons, 10th ranked UMass-Lowell blew out the Wildcats 8-2. Coach Dick Umile summed up the game succinctly - "They looked great, we were awful".

The 5-game losing streak has been costly. Entering this weekend's series at Vermont, UNH sits at 8th place in Hockey East, just 2 points ahead of Merrimack and Northeastern. Finishing the regular season in the top 4 will be a big challenge. The Wildcats are currently 4 points behind 4th place Notre Dame and Lowell. Finishing somewhere between 5th and 8th place and earning home-ice in the opening round (best-of-three series) of the Hockey East Playoffs is more realistic.

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the team's recent down time:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Since our last Captain's Corner, the team played four teams nationally ranked in the top 16 - Notre Dame (16), Providence (11), Boston College (7), and UMass-Lowell (9). After a 2-2 tie out at Notre Dame, the team experienced the longest losing streak of the season (5 games) and the most lop-sided loss (Lowell 8-2). As you look back at that stretch of games, what were the biggest frustrations/disappointments? Did you take away any positives?



Matias Cleland: I think the biggest emphasis has been on scoring. We haven't been scoring enough goals in games to win. Obviously, the last game against Lowell had a lot to do with the defensive zone. We are making some changes that we will take into Vermont this weekend. I always believe that things are never as good as they seem and they are never as bad as they seem. Yes, we have lost some games to some good teams but we have Vermont coming this weekend. That's where all our focus is at as of now.



Mike Lowry: After falling behind 5-2 to Boston College last Friday night, the team rallied late in the third period to make it a one-goal game. Down at Lowell on Saturday, it looked to me like the team was a half-a-stride slower than usual. Was physical and/or mental fatigue a factor against the Riverhawks?

Matias Cleland: That was something I personally thought about. Those kind of games take a lot out of the guys. This was no excuse for what happened down at Lowell on Saturday. It was a bad game, and that's all there is to it.



Lowry: Despite being in and out of the lineup due to a hip injury, your classmate and fellow defenseman Dylan Maller has had the best season of his UNH career. He has tallied 3 goals, 7 assists and 14 blocked shots in 14 games and his +11 rating is the best on the team. Dylan has overcome personal tragedy and repeated injuries in his time at UNH. Would you talk about how Dylan has handled this adversity? Is there a chance he will return to the lineup this season?

Cleland: Dylan has definitely overcome so many obstacles in his time here at school. He has always taken his set backs in stride and looks at how to overcome them. He is facing some adversity right now but he is handling it well. I think we should see Maller soon.



Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Wrap: UNH Falters Against #19 Providence

Senior Tyler Kelleher
15th Goal, 28th Assist
Freshman Patrick Grasso
16th Goal


After a tough road trip in South Bend where the University of New Hampshire Wildcats obtained one point against #14 Notre Dame, the team returned home looking for a big weekend against the up-and-coming #19 Providence Friars (14-8-4, 6-6-2 HEA). Recent history has shown how close these two teams play when facing off against each other. The Wildcats (11-11-4, 6-5-3 HEA), who are tied for fifth in Hockey East, had a golden opportunity to gain some ground in the conference moving towards the likes of Boston College and Boston University, but ultimately fell short both nights.

On Friday, the Wildcats could not get pucks past the Friars defense and fell 3-0. This was the first time in the last 16 meetings between UNH and PC that the game did not end in a one-goal or two-goal decision.

Both teams had looked to skate to a first period draw on Friday night, but with 0.9 seconds remaining, captain Josh Monk ripped his second goal of the season past UNH netminder Danny Tirone. Off the faceoff draw with four seconds remaining Scott Conway sent one to the right point where Jake Walman slid a one-timer to Monk who lifted one past Tirone. A gasp filled the Whittemore Center as both sides seemed destined for a first period scoreless draw.

The game progressed in the second with both teams rushing back and forth down the ice and creating chances, but both Hayden Hawkey and Tirone kept this game close.

It remained a close affair with only three minutes left in the third period when, after Hawkey made a ginormous save on the Wildcats, Brandon Tait went the other way with a 2-on-1 rush down the far side wing. Instead of passing, he decided to wrist one stick side on Tirone and put a nail in the coffin. Fans were on their way out of the Whittemore Center.

It was a disappointing end of the game as the Wildcats outplayed the Friars in the final 20 minutes of the game, but Hawkey proved why he is one of the better goaltenders in the entire nation. In my opinion, the loss was simply based on the defensive presence of the Friars. From constant puck-side attack to blocking shots from the point, Nate Leaman's squad found a way to keep the ‘Cats at a stalemate all night long.

Aside of Tirone’s 27 saves, the Wildcats knew they had to capitalize and score goals on Saturday night.

The buzz was in the air the following night with former Wildcats’ Trevor and James van Riemsdyk signing autographs for the public. Yet, the Wildcats did not have a pleasant surprise with some of the calls that followed.

The Friars took a 1-0 lead at the 9:27 mark of the second period as Brian Pinho, who leads the team in points, found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season. Jake Walman played a pass to Josh Monk who then dished the puck to Pinho. He fired a shot that made its way past Tirone.

Yet, the cardiac ‘Cats continued to fight back the way they have all-season long. Tyler Kelleher, who went into the weekend tied fourth in the nation in points, finally scored a goal. He had been held off since December 30th of 2016 when he scored two against Maine.

At 18:16 of the second period, while the Wildcats were on a power play, Kelleher found the net past Hawkey who had not allowed a goal in over 80 minutes of play. The score made it 1-1. Senior captain Matias Cleland played a pass over to junior Michael McNicholas at the right point and he then found Kelleher low on the left side for the goal. It was a tic-tac toe play that Providence had used similarly the night before and finally UNH had life based on a play that has been successful most of the season.

4:50 into the third period, the Friars reclaimed the lead 2-1 after Brandon Duhaime found the back of the net. It would take a big Wildcat finish to extend this game and it happened late.

At 13:44, Brandon Lemos, who played strong the night before creating many chances for the offense, finally snuck one past Tirone to make it 3-1. Providence had the clear stranglehold. Josh Monk, who had been on the stat sheet throughout the weekend, initiated the scoring sequence when his pass from the right point deflected off Josh Wilkins' stick in the slot to Lemos, who scored from close range on the left side. It was a tough bounce that Tirone and head coach Dick Umile had to swallow.

Yet, when adversity stares the Wildcats right in the face, they find a way to answer. Matt Dawson would not let this game end without some late drama. Except this time, the officials became a roadblock for the UNH comeback attempt. With just almost 2 minutes remaining in regulation, Dawson took the puck from the slot and fired an absolute rocket of a slap shot that rose above Hawkey and into the back of the net. The comeback was on! Yet, after the review the goal was disallowed because of interference in the goalie crease.

I had never heard the Whittemore Center so edgy in my life. At home, that is a tough call to make late in a close hockey game, but sometimes that is just the way it is.

Still, with the extra attacker out there, the Wildcats inched closer to the comeback attempt. With 40 seconds remaining, Jason Salvaggio moved the puck around the far side of the Friar end and found Kelleher waiting near the end boards. Kelleher took the puck and glided a pass to Patrick Grasso who scored on the one-timer. For Grasso, it was his 16th goal of the season.

Overall, it was a challenging weekend of hockey for the Wildcats. The fight was there and the execution at times was apparent. Providence is a always a tough team to face and they showed that they are on the rise scooping up four big points in Hockey East.

The road-ahead is exactly what UNH anticipated late in the season and with Boston College coming to town next Friday, the Wildcats will look to avenge a tough 3-2 loss back earlier in the season. For now, they still sit in a tie for 5th in Hockey East with 15 points, but the time is now to finish hard.

Check out the highlights of Friday night's loss, as well as the post-game press conference, courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:





Next Game Friday, 7:00 PM, Febuary 3rd at the Whittemore Center vs. #11 Boston College.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

UNH Commits Update: January-25-2017

2018 Commit Angus Crookshank
2 Goals in 3 Games
2017 or '18 Commit Eric Esposito
2 Goals, 1 Assist in 4 Games

Player Spotlight - Angus Crookshank

Near the end of last season, UNH commit Angus Crookshank got a taste of playing in the British Columbia Hockey League and made the most of the opportunity. On January 21st, Crookshank was called up from the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy Prep team, donned a Langley Rivermen uniform, and scored a goal on his first shift. In all, Crookshank, who was 16-years-old last season, played in four regular season games and one playoff game for the Rivermen.

Both Crookshank and Langley head coach Bobby Henderson were looking forward to this season with high expectations. Just days before the opening game of the 2016-17 season, Henderson said "He’s been real good early on and he’s going to be a major contributor to our offense". In a cruel twist of fate, Crookshank broke his collar bone in the first period of the first game of the regular season and missed 28 games.

When Crookshank returned to the Rivermen's lineup on December 2nd, he tallied a goal and an assist. He has been a steady scorer ever since. Over a three-game stretch last weekend, Angus scored 2 goals. As these video highlights show, when he carries the puck to the net with speed and quickness, good things happen:



So far, Crookshank has scored 5 goals and 8 assists in 17 games. Of all BCHL rookies who have played at least 17 games, he is tied for 9th in points per game (0.76).

Player Spotlight - Eric Esposito

Last season, as an 18-year-old rookie in the United States Hockey League, Eric Esposito scored 2 goals and 8 assists in 48 games with the Youngstown Phantoms. Near the end of the season, the Neutral Zone** scouts provided this evaluation of his play:

"A tough, hard nosed competitor who is relentless on the forecheck, finishes checks and has deceptive speed. The former Loomis Chaffee star has played a bottom six role in the USHL this season but done so with grit and energy. He'll likely be passed in this years NHL draft but our scouts are confident his best hockey is ahead of him."
Rating - 3 and 1/2 out 5 Stars.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

The "tough, hard nosed" aspect of Esposito's game has been evident throughout his second season with Youngstown. In the first 22 games, he racked up 82 penalty minutes including 3 fighting-major penalties, and 1 roughing-major. During that stretch, Esposito mostly played on the 3rd/4th lines, scored 4 goals and 1 assist, and generated 16 shots on goal.

Over the last 9 games, Esposito has had no penalties and has scored 3 goals and an assist. Two of the goals, including a game-winner, and the assist came in the last 4 games. These goals are best described as "scrappy":



Esposito's target date for enrollment at UNH is either the Fall of 2017 or 2018.

2016-17 Statistics

NOTE
The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit'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
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 16 2 0 2 4
Junior Bruins USPHL 12 5 7 12 4
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 34 4 12 16 10
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 34 9 17 26 8
Benton Maass  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 17 2 6 8 10
Elk River Minn HS 17 3 17 20 4
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 33 9 8 17 82
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 25 3 9 12 26
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 10 6W 4L 3.13 .911
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 31 6 2 8 82
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 17 5 8 13 4
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 30 5 6 11 28
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 16 6 10 16 2
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 19 5 11 16 -
2019 Commits
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 31 20 8 28 26
AYHL 15 8 9 17 2
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 6 2W 1L/1T 1.48 .944
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Charlie Kelleher continues to be among the top scorers in the USHL. He has 9 goals and 17 assists in 25 games, is tied for 12th in USHL scoring, and tied for 8th in assists.

~ For an update on 2018 UNH Commit Corson Green, please see my article "UNH Commit Corson Green: NHL Draft Prospect".

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ 2018 UNH Commit Liam Darcy was named the USPHL Premiere Defenseman "Star of the Week" on January 9th. He also played in the 2017 USPHL All-Star Game. The left-shot defenseman has scored 4 goals and 12 assists in 34 games.

~ Since Joseph Cipollone transferred from the Tri-City Storm of the USHL to the Junior Bruins of the USPHL, he's been scoring at a point-a-game pace. In 12 Junior Bruins games, Cipollone has scored 5 goals and 7 assists. Over the last 4 games, he has tallied 3 goals and 4 assists.

~ 2018-19 UNH Commit Lucas Bahn played in the USPHL 18U All-Star Game (also called the "Young Guns" game).

Tier 1 Elite Hockey League:

~ 2019 UNH Commit Marek Wazny of the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team has scored 20 goals and 8 assists in 31 Tier 1 EHL games. He is tied for 2nd in goal-scoring in the league and tied for 1st in power play goals (6). The Avalanche are currently the 6th-ranked 16U/Minor Midget team in the nation.

New England Prep Hockey League:

~ 2020 UNH Commit Drew Commesso of the St. Sebastian's School has only been scored on 8 times in 291 minutes of play. His .944 Save Percentage is third best in the league.

Minnesota High School Hockey:

~ The NHL Central Scouting Service has ranked 2017 UNH Commit Benton Maass as the 158th North American skater. They have identified him as a "C" prospect meaning he's a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft this June.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

UNH Commit Corson Green: NHL Draft Prospect

Defenseman Corson Green
2018 UNH Commit


Corson Green, a 2018 UNH commit, first officially appeared on the radar of the NHL Central Scouting Service last July. That's when the CSS included Green on it's 2016-17 NHL Draft "Futures List". The 6'3", 207 lbs. defenseman's size and accelerated development were turning the heads of professional scouts.

Last season, as a 16-year-old, Green (DOB: 3/4/1999) was promoted from the Northern Cyclones 16U Tier 1 team to their Premiere team in the Eastern Hockey League. In 16 EHL regular season games, against much older competition, Green scored 3 goals, including a game-winner, and distributed 6 assists including a power play and short-handed assist. He also posted 4 assists for the Northern Cyclone in 6 EHL playoff games.

This season, Green made the jump to the top junior hockey league in the United States - the USHL. The Chicago Steel invited him to their summer tryout camp and he made the team. In late June, the Neutral Zone** scouts evaluated Green at the USA Select 17 Development Camp and pinpointed his skill set:

"While Green is still raw and tends to be undisciplined at times, he very well may have the highest upside of anyone here at the position. He has a big frame and room to grow, he’s super athletic, has a rocket wrister from the point that he gets off easily with his head up and a soft set of hands. He carries well, handles well and can make people miss. His defensive game isn’t poor, but it can be sloppy as he runs around, drifts towards the puck and leaves some of the primary scoring threats wide open. However, he is very tough to beat in the open ice or out of the corners because of his size, athleticism and skating ability. He maintains tight gaps, has an active stick which leads to a lot of steals and poke checks and can transition from a rear guard to leading the rush almost instantly. Very high ceiling once his game matures. He’ll likely be playing for Dan Muse of the Chicago Steel next season where he’ll really benefit from the coaching and structure of the league."
Rating - 4 out 5 Stars.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

In late September, Corson Green began his season with the Chicago Steel. The NHL Central Scouting Service identified him as a "Player to Watch" and a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Green scored his first USHL goal in his seventh game and added another two games later in mid-November. At the time, the NHL CSS updated it's "Player to Watch" list and continued to identify Green as a "C" prospect.

As anticipated, Green's play continued to improve under the tutelage of the Chicago Steel coaches. In December, he tallied 2 more goals and 5 assists. Green was one of 53 USHL prospects on the NHL CSS "Players to Watch" list. As such, I wondered whether he would be named to the 2017 USHL/NHL Top Prospects game. Although he was not named to the original rosters (i.e., two, 20-man rosters), he was a top alternate and was added to the East squad to replace the injured Eero Tervainen (also a "C" prospect).

The USHL/NHL prospects game on January 10th featured one "A" prospect (candidate for 1st round draft), 8 "B" prospects (candidate for 2nd or 3rd round), and 26 "C" prospects (candidate for 4th/5th/6th rounds). Considering the high caliber of the competition, Corson Green played a solid, all-around game. He played right defense (he is a left-shot) on the East squad's second pairing. His play in the defensive zone has improved since the Neutral Zone scouts assessed him last summer. Green demonstrated physical play, corner control, smooth back-checking, puck control, crease defense, and accurate passing:



Green also displayed the offensive skills described by the Neutral Zone scouts last June. His burst of speed out of the defensive zone, through neutral ice, and to the net was particularly impressive:



In his first game back with the Chicago Steel after the USHL/NHL event, Green's speed, puck-carrying ability, and shot lead to this goal in the first period against Team USA:



It was Green's 5th goal of his rookie season. He also has 6 assists. Last Wednesday, the NHL CSS released its Midterm Rankings and Corson Green was identified as the 149th North American skater. There are 7 USHL defensemen ahead of him on this list. UNH's newest commit Benton Maass, who plans to enroll next fall, is ranked #158 on the NHL CSS list of North American skaters.

At this point in the season, it's difficult to predict whether Corson Green will be drafted at the 2017 NHL Draft next June in Chicago. Looking back at last year's NHL CSS Midterm Rankings, defensemen who were ranked at #142, 147, 153, and 156 did not get selected in the 2016 Draft. If Green's development continues at the current, upward trajectory, his chances are bound to improve.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Petersen Stymies UNH, Notre Dame Wins 3-0

Junior Goalie Danny Tirone
87 Saves in Notre Dame Series


In the 2-2 tie with Notre Dame last night, UNH goalie Danny Tirone made 47 saves and earned the #1 Star of the Game. Tonight in South Bend, it was Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen's turn. The junior made 31 saves against the #1 offense in Hockey East. It was the first time this season New Hampshire has been shut out.

Notre Dame's goals came at the 5:44 mark of the first period (Malmquist), 16:06 of the third (Peeke), and 12:17 of the final period (Evans).



UNH had several good scoring chances but Petersen was up to the task. Two of them came in the third period. With 13:23 left in regulation and Notre Dame holding a 2-0 lead, freshman Liam Blackburn got behind the Notre Dame net and centered a pass to fellow freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk in the mid-slot. Petersen turned aside BvR's point blank shot and denied freshman Patrick Grasso's followup bid. Petersen's second big save in the final stanza came at the 8:48 mark with Notre Dame holding a 3-0 lead. Looking to replicate his beautiful goal from Friday night, junior Jason Salvaggio swooped around an ND defender and nearly beat Petersen in tight.



UNH's Danny Tirone made 40 saves tonight and several were outstanding. Here are a few of them including one on a penalty shot in the third period:



With the loss, UNH's record in Hockey East remains at 6-2-3. The Wildcats (15 points) are tied for 5th place with UMass-Lowell. Notre Dame (16 points) moves into 4th place one point ahead of UNH and Lowell. Vermont is in 3rd place with 17 points, BU's in 2nd place with 18 points, and BC has 21 points. UNH returns to the Whittemore Center next weekend for two games against 7th place Providence (10 points).

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