Tuesday, August 14, 2018

All in the Family: David Sacco Commits to UNH

David Sacco
2021 or '22 UNH Commit
"David Sacco hits everything that moves and displays offensive savvy by finding open ice..Good reach & strong puck possessor with upside." Mark Bilotta, Neutral Zone
"David was all over the ice tonight. He was physical, smart, we counted on him to kill off power plays, and he had multiple chances to score, cashing in twice." Kristian Hanson, Head Coach, St. John's Prep
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, the Sacco brothers from Medford, Massachusetts - Joe and David - helped lead the Boston University Terriers to three Frozen Four appearances. Joe Sacco scored a point-a-game in three BU seasons then played 8 full seasons in the NHL. David Sacco was a two-time All-American and is the second-leading BU scorer of all time. He also played in 35 NHL games.

One generation later, the namesake sons of Joe and David Sacco have chosen do pursue their college education and hockey career at the University of New Hampshire. In the winter of 2016, Joe Sacco Jr. committed to UNH and he will be a sophomore with the Wildcats this coming season. Joe Sacco played in 19 games his freshman year at UNH and tallied a key assist in the opening round Game 3 of the Hockey East Playoffs. Last year, Joe suffered a season-ending injury after two games and was granted a medical hardship, redshirt year. He is set to return to the UNH lineup as a sophomore this season.

Last Wednesday, 16-year-old David Sacco Jr. (DOB: 1/3/2002) announced his verbal commitment to UNH. He is on track to enroll at UNH in either the Fall of 2021 or '22. Over the last two seasons, David attended St. John's Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. As a freshman in the 2016-17 season, David played center for the St. John's Eagles and scored 8 goals and 1 assist in 22 games.

Last year, the 6'0", 180 lbs., right-shot center had a breakout season upping his scoring to 11 goals and 12 assists in 20 regular season games and adding a goal and 2 assists in St. John's Prep's 4-game run in the Massachusetts High School Super 8 Tournament. The Eagles advanced to the quarterfinals of the Super 8 Tourney.

In the opening round, St. John's downed Burlington High School 5-3. Trailing 1-0 in the opening period, David Sacco got St. John's on the scoreboard with a one-timer wrist shot from the low slot. This video shows the sequence of play leading up to Sacco's goal. It begins with Sacco (#16 White Jersey) blocking a shot in front of his goalie, carrying the puck into the Burlington zone, working a give-and-go with right-winger Zach Mckenelley, and missing a wrist shot just wide of the goal. The puck briefly leaves the Burlington zone but left-winger Patrick Moran retrieves it in the neutral zone, carries it down the right side, and centers a pretty pass to Sacco who buries it.



In May, after St. John's season ended, David Sacco competed at the Massachusetts High Performance Festival in hopes of earning an invitation to the 2018 USA Hockey Selects 16 Player Development Camp. Scouts from Neutral Zone attended the festival and provided this assessment of Sacco:
"Sacco put up a solid season for the Super 8 bound St. John’s Prep Eagles and now he will join Lawrence Academy for the following year. Here he showed a nice combination of strength and savvy to earn a spot in Nationals. He did not hesitate to finish his checks here, both in open ice and along the boards, using his size. Beyond his strength and bite, he thinks the game well and analyzes where the best opportunities are in the offensive end. He allows the play to develop and capitalizes when he finds the soft ice. Has good reach thanks to his size and uses it well in puck possession. Lots of potential upside as he continues to mature."
Last month, Sacco traveled to Amherst, New York to play against the top 2002-born American players at the 2018 Selects 16 Camp. Once again, the Neutral Zone scouts evaluated the competitors and provided this assessment of Sacco:
"Sacco is a strong, athletic, rugged power forward who plays a man’s game. He hits everything that moves and he goes into corners and comes out with the puck. He hit one player so hard that their helmet came off. With that being said he found himself in the penalty box regularly and took a dumb offensive zone penalty and then chirped the ref all the way to the box. He needs to improve his puck handling ability, particularly at full speed and his overall skill level but he’s got a nice edge to his game and strong frame to really pack a punch when he lowers his shoulder and delivers a check. He scored a really nice deke goal in alone on the goalie and finished the week with a 1-2-3 line in 5 games."

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview David Sacco, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

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?

David Sacco: I decided on UNH for a few reasons. Including I’ve been to many games up at UNH and the place is always rockin. It’s a great atmosphere every night and I’ve wanted to play in front of a crowd like that my whole life. Also I really love the coaching staff at UNH right now. Ever since the start, me and Coach Souza really clicked. I am looking forward to playing for him and the rest of the staff up at UNH.




Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

David Sacco: I visited both BU and UNH and both schools had offered me. However even though my dad went to BU, UNH was the school for me.



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?

Sacco: Me and the coaching staff have decided on going to UNH right out of high school or maybe after one year of juniors depending on my progress over the next few years.



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

Sacco: I love to be physical on the ice and don’t care who I’m playing. I go out every shift and give it my all. I like my defensive play as a center man and also being able to put up points. I also believe I have good hockey IQ which helps a lot. I would like to work on my quickness a little bit and also make my hands a little bit quicker.



Lowry: Last season, as a sophomore center with St. John's Prep, you scored 12 goals and 14 assists in 23 games. Have you always played center? How would you describe your skills in the core areas of a centerman (e.g., faceoffs, passing, forechecking, and assisting your defensemen below the faceoff circles)?

Sacco: For the majority of my life I have been a center. Some games I’ve been put on wing however I’m much more comfortable as a center. I believe I help out the defenders a lot in our own end and also as a center when I receive the puck I feel I’m able to get the puck out of our end and get it up the ice quick for an offensive chance.



Lowry: Your Dad, Dave Sacco - an All-American at Boston University, 1994 US Olympian, and NHL player - was the coach of your mite hockey team and is currently a youth hockey coach with the Valley Junior Warriors. What's the best piece of hockey advice he's given you?

Sacco: My dad has given me so much advice throughout my career so far it’s hard to choose just one. But the one that always stuck with me is have a good mindset. Be confident, no matter who uour playing ,you treat it like it’s game seven of the Stanley cup final. If you go into a game thinking your going to kill the other team, most of the time you get caught sleeping and the other team can surprise you.



Lowry: This upcoming season, you are transferring from St. John's Prep to Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School League. What factors lead to this decision?

Sacco: I decided to transfer because I felt like the hockey at the prep school level was a lot more advanced and that I needed to push myself a lot more leading up to my college career.



Lowry: Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, or North American Hockey League before you come to UNH?

Sacco: I’m not positive if I will have to play juniors or not. However, if I did have to play a year, my goal would to play in either the BCHL or the USHL.



Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Sacco: I plan on graduating either after my junior year or senior year because I’m repeating my sophomore year. I have always been a big math guy in school and would want to major in business, most likely finance.



Lowry: You were diagnosed with Type I diabetes when you were 9 years old. [NOTE: Here's a link to an informative interview with David and his mother Liz Sacco on living with diabetes.] What has it been like to manage your condition while playing the physically demanding sport of hockey?

Sacco: Having Type I diabetes in most people’s eyes puts me at a disadvantage. However I have learned how to play with diabetes and I don’t let it get in my way. I like to prove people wrong and the people that say I’m at a disadvantage just makes me want to work ten times harder to make sure they are wrong.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Former UNH Players Applaud Hiring of Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano

Jeff Giuliano
New UNH Assistant Coach

On July 10th, UNH men's hockey head coach Mike Souza introduced his new assistant coach Jeff Giuliano to the college hockey world:
"I couldn't be happier to bring Jeff Giuliano to our program. Jeff brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the game. He was a player at multiple levels from the ECHL all the way up to the NHL. His network from his time spent as a professional player will lend itself to a lot of opportunities recruiting. Everyone says that they have never met someone who works as hard as him. That's already proven true just being on the job a couple days."

"He'll have instant credibility with all of our players as soon as he walks into the locker room. He's a guy our players are going to look up to. He is a New Hampshire guy and embodies blue collar spirit in a professional manner. I'm excited to have him as part of our staff."
UNH Head Coach Mike Souza
Given that this is Giuliano's first college coaching job, many UNH fans may not be familiar with his background or qualifications. As Coach Souza said, the 39-year-old Jeff Giuliano is a New Hampshire guy who grew up in Nashua, played for and recently coached the Manchester Monarchs, and was inducted into the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. Giuliano is obviously pleased to coach for New Hampshire's flagship university:
"Over my 13-year pro career, I played in a lot of different places. To be able to come back to my home state and do what I love to do and give back to the community - I'm just very fortunate. I'm super excited to be able to get started and join this UNH community." UNH Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano
So what does Jeff Giuliano bring to the table and what kind of a college coach will he be? The first section of this article details his many accomplishments as a player and coach. The second section includes my interviews with three former UNH players - Connor Hardowa, Justin Agosta, and Austin Block - who also played for Coach Giuliano with the Manchester Monarchs. They shared their thoughts on him as a coach and person and how he'll do as a coach and recruiter for UNH.

Jeff Giuliano - Career Highlights

Youth & Prep School Hockey
~ Born June 20, 1979 in Nashua, New Hampshire
~ At age 12, as a member of the Gate City Wings (Nashua Youth Hockey), Giuliano competed in the elimination round of the Boston Bruins Mini One-on-One Tournament at the old Boston Garden.
~ As the senior captain at the St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, Giuliano won the U.S. Hockey Report's (USHR) 1998 New England Prep Player of the Year Award.

NCAA Hockey
~ Played in all 166 games during 4 seasons with Boston College and scored 113 points (40 goals, 73 assists).
~ Giuliano, a left-shot, left winger, was the fifth leading scorer (35 points) on the 2000-01 BC squad that won the National Championship.
~ During the 1999 and 2000 seasons, played total of 8 games against Mike Souza and UNH. Wildcats held 3-2-1 record in regular season games, but BC downed UNH in 1999 Hockey East Championship game and 2000 HE Semifinal.
~ Captained the 2001-02 Eagles and scored 35 points in 38 games.

North American Professional Hockey
~ Although Giuliano was not drafted by a NHL team, he played 101 games over two seasons with the Los Angeles Kings.
~ Scored a total of 3 goals and 10 assists with LA and was voted the Kings' "Unsung Hero" in the 2007-08 season.
~ October 11, 2002: Tallied 5 assists in first professional game with Reading Royals, the LA Kings' ECHL affiliate (at the time, Manchester Monarchs were AHL affiliate).
~ 2002-03 Season: Called up to AHL's Manchester Monarchs, tallied 4 goals, 11 assists in 47 regular season games and 1 goal in 3 AHL Playoff games.
~ Over 6 seasons playing for the Monarchs, compiled 30 goals, 58 assists in 273 regular season games and 7 goals, 4 assists in 29 playoff games.
~ 2006-07 Season: As Monarchs' Alternate Captain, lead team to AHL Eastern Conference Finals.
~ Summer 2015: Monarchs' fans voted him onto the "All-Time Favorite Monarchs" list.

International Professional Hockey
~ 2008-09 Season: Was one of 34 NHL players to join the newly-formed Kontinental Hockey League based primarily in Russia. Scored a goal and 4 assists in 46 games with Dynamo Minsk (Belarus).
~ 2009-2015: Played 6 seasons with the Iserlohn Roosters in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL)/German Hockey League. Was their Alternate Captain in his final season.
~ Tallied 42 goals, 69 assists in 245 regular season games for Iserlohn and 2 goals, 3 assists in 11 playoff games.
~ In late 2014, ended his playing career due to concussion problems.

Coaching Career
~ According to USHR, Giuliano was a finalist for the Boston College Assistant Coach position in May, 2013 after Mike Cavanaugh left for UConn. Head Coach Jerry York reportedly chose UNH alum Mike Ayers because he wanted to hire a goalie.
~ In the summer of 2015, the AHL Monarchs moved to Ontario, California in order to be closer to the LA Kings. The Ontario Reign, the Kings' ECHL affiliate, moved to Manchester. Guiliano was hired as the new Manchester Monarchs' Assistant Coach.
~ Giuliano served as assistant to head coach Richard Seeley, a former teammate with the AHL Monarchs, for the last three seasons.
~ Seeley and Giuliano guided the Monarchs to the 2016, '17, and '18 ECHL Playoffs.

Former UNH Players' Perspective

Although Jeff Giuliano has never coached college hockey, there are several dozen collegians who played for him during his three years as the Manchester Monarchs' Assistant Coach. When the Monarchs were relaunched as the LA Kings ECHL affiliate in the 2015-16 season, Richard Seeley was hired as head coach and he hired Giuliano as his only assistant coach. It was the first coaching job for both.

Seeley's professional career followed a trajectory similar to Giuliano's with some notable exceptions. Unlike Giuliano, he was a defenseman who played Canadian major junior hockey in British Columbia, was drafted by the Kings in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft, but did not play a single game in the NHL. Seeley played six seasons in the AHL including four with the Monarchs. He and Giuliano were Monarch teammates for three seasons. Seeley also played for a KHL team in Croatia, a DEL team in Duisberg, Germany, two teams in Austria, and finally, for the Belfast Giants. His playing career ended in 2010 due to a knee injury.

Three former UNH standouts played 40 or more games for the Monarchs' coaching team of Seeley and Giuliano. Former UNH Captain Connor Hardowa played defense in 78 games for the Monarchs in the 2016-17 season, fellow defenseman Justin Agosta played a total of 85 games over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, and forward Austin Block played 40 regular season games in the inaugural, 2015-16 season.

All three played for the last UNH team to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The 2012-13 Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight but missed out on a trip to the Frozen Four when they lost to UMass-Lowell. It was the last game that Hardowa and Block wore the UNH uniform. Agosta also played for UNH in the 2013-14 season. Over the last two weeks, I interviewed each of them, via email. I asked them to share their thoughts on Jeff Giuliano as a coach and person. In addition, I solicited their opinion on how he'll do coaching UNH players and recruiting prospects, in his first job in college hockey.

Connor Hardowa
UNH 2010-13
Connor Hardowa
In four seasons as a UNH Wildcat, Connor Hardowa scored 11 goals and 32 assists in 143 games and averaged 37 blocked shots over his final three seasons. As the senior captain of the 2012-13 squad, Hardowa played in every UNH game and assisted on the game-winning goal against Denver in the opening round of the NCAA Tourney.

While playing for Monarchs' Assistant Coach Jeff Giuliano in the 2016-17 season, Hardowa scored 3 goals and 16 assists in 60 regular season games. In the Monarchs' run to the ECHL semifinals, he tallied 3 playoff assists. In three ECHL seasons, Hardowa posted 14 goals and 48 assists. He played in 7 AHL games.

Last season, Connor Hardowa played for the Rødovre Mighty Bulls in the top Danish Professional League. He was the leading scorer among the Mighty Bulls' defensemen with 8 goals and 19 assists. He plans to play a couple more years in Europe and get into coaching in the United States when his playing days are over.

Here are Connor Hardowa's thoughts and observations on Coach Giuliano during their time together with the Manchester Monarchs:
"Jeff Giuliano was an awesome coach in Manchester and an integral part of our team, as well as my own, success. He brings a ton of experience from his years on and off the ice and is an extremely hard worker. His commitment to constantly developing the game is impressive and he pushes you to do the same no matter what stage you may be at in your hockey career."

"Coach Giuliano handled the defense and penalty kill during my time in Manchester. As a defenseman, I learned a lot from him and would credit him with our impressive numbers on the PK. He knows defense is a big part of the game and can use individual strengths to help the team win."

"Coach Giuliano brought a positive attitude to the rink everyday and formed a great relationships with his players from day one and that continued long after. Off the ice he is a great guy, and NH local who cares about his players on a personal level. I’ve seen his dedication to the sport and the NH community the last 2 years helping him at various hockey clinics he runs in the Manchester area for players of all ages."
On Giuliano's future as a college hockey coach:
"As for his new role at UNH, I think the Wildcats are in a great spot with the addition of 'Giuls' to the coaching staff. I believe he gained important game knowledge and coaching experience during his time in Manchester and will be able to use those years of experience at UNH as they continue to strengthen the program. He definitely has the skills to help Coach Souza get UNH back to the NCAA tournament and knows what it takes to win a championship at the D-1 level.'

"I think Coach Giuliano will have no problem recruiting some of the top players to come play at the Whitt. He has developed relationships within the world of hockey from Juniors to Pros to help make UNH the dominant college hockey program."
Justin Agosta
UNH 2011-14
Justin Agosta
During his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons at UNH, Justin Agosta played in every game except one. Overall, he scored 9 goals and 36 assists in 116 UNH games. Like Hardowa, Justin assisted on the game-winning goal against Denver in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Agosta had a breakout senior season scoring 6 goals and 20 assists, the 5th most on the team, and he blocked 67 shots.

Agosta played in two seasons for Jeff Giuliano and the Manchester Monarchs. In the 2016-17 season, he scored 7 goals and 18 assists in 40 regular season games and was named a starter in the ECHL All-Star Game. He tallied 3 goals and 15 assists in 45 games the following season. In all, Agosta scored 19 goals and 55 assists in three ECHL seasons and 1 assist in 11 AHL games. Justin has retired from professional hockey and is currently in the student housing business at Quinnipiac University.

Justin Agosta has high praise for Jeff Giuliano as a coach and player:
"I think it’s an awesome hire. He was the D coach the past couple years and I learned a lot from him. He was learning from Rich Seely, the head coach, who was a defensemen for a long time. The best part about him by far is his relationships with the players. He’s an awesome guy to be around. He has a really unique ability to make you feel like a close friend but also respect him as a coach."

"UNH is very fortunate to have him and I don’t think there is a better hire to both coach the defense and more importantly recruit and relate to players."
Austin Block
UNH 2010-13
Austin Block
One of the key reasons the 2012-13 UNH team was ranked #1 in the nation in December, qualified for the NCAA Tournament, and advanced to the Elite Eight was Austin Block. The forward's goal production jumped from 5 as a junior to 15 as a senior. Block lead the 2012-13 Wildcats in power play goals (6) and was the team's 5th leading scorer (15G, 8A). Over his four-year UNH career, Block scored 25 goals and 25 assists.

Block was an original member of the ECHL Manchester Monarchs in their inaugural season. He tallied 3 goals and 9 assists in 40 Monarchs' games before his trade to the Orlando Solar Bears on February 12, 2016. Block has played for the Monarchs, Bakersfield Condors, Orlando, and the Cincinnati Cyclones over 4 ECHL seasons and has posted 19 goals and 43 assists in 130 games. During his first two pro seasons, Austin played in Finland, Sweden, and Slovakia.

Last season, Block played in the first two games of the year with the Cincinnati Cyclones. He was subsequently placed on injured reserve and did not play for the remainder of the 2017-18 season. Regarding his future, Austin said:
"Last season was challenging due to injury but I’ve been repaired and am feeling great and look forward to next season. I'm still undecided on where I’ll be playing next year...My ability to keep playing is a testament to the culture and hard work that the UNH Hockey organization instills in its players. Hoping I can potentially coach at the college level with the Wildcats someday when my playing career comes to an end."
Austin Block, like his former teammates Connor Hardowa and Justin Agosta, is very optimistic about Jeff Giuliano's coaching future with UNH:
"I couldn’t be more proud and excited for Jeff to be a part of my alma mater. He will be a great asset to be hockey program, athletic organization, and University as a whole. He’s one of the most hard working and genuine coaches I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing for. I’m sure he will be an instant success in Durham and I look forward to tracking his progress in bringing a National Championship to Wildcat country."

Friday, June 22, 2018

Quick Centerman Aidan Curran Commits to UNH

Aidan Curran
2020 UNH Commit
"He (Curran) is quick and relentless in his puck pursuit. Quick reactions and can make people miss in open ice." Neutral Zone
In an interview back in the summer of 2016, UNH coach Mike Souza discussed his recruiting philosophy with me. Toward the end of the interview, I asked him if he would be interested in recruiting international players to come play hockey at the University of New Hampshire. He said:
"I do think there's a lot of really good players in Europe, certain countries in particular. I also think there's a lot of really good players here in North America. I always say there may be a really good player in Helsinki but there might be a better one in Boston so I think that just because the kid's a European doesn't mean it's going to help your program more than the kid from North America. But I do believe that there are a lot of benefits to having international players. It's a market that we've been involved with so we'll see where it goes. I think that when I was at Connecticut and at Brown we were able to bring some European kids to both of those programs. We want to get the best possible players for our program and it doesn't matter necessarily where they come from. I think that if it was the right fit for us, we would welcome a kid from anywhere, but he's got to be the right fit for our program."
In the subsequent two years, three international players have committed to UNH. Kohei Sato (Nishitokyo, Japan) recently completed his freshman year in Durham and he scored a goal and an assist in 29 games. Filip Engarås (Stockholm, Sweden), a 19-year-old, two-way center, will join the incoming freshman class this Fall. Tim Stützle (Viersen, Germany), a 16-year-old, high-scoring left winger, is on track to come to UNH in the Fall of 2020.

Coach Souza and associate head coach Glenn Stewart have also continued to pursue prospects from the northern suburbs of Boston. UNH junior Joe Sacco, from Reading, Massachusetts, played youth hockey in Winchester and for the North Suburban Wings in Middleton. Sophomore Eric MacAdams, from Salem, MA, played his youth hockey with the Valley Junior Warriors based in Haverill, Massachusetts. Incoming UNH freshman Ryan Verrier, who's from Reading, also developed his skills with the Valley Jr. Warriors as did 2019 or '20 commit Connor Sweeney from North Andover. MacAdams and Verrier went on to have outstanding careers at Austin Prep School in Reading. Sweeney has excelled at the Pinigree School in South Hamilton and Lawrence Academy in Groton.

Late last month, UNH landed a commitment from another talented player who honed his skills in the rinks just north of Boston. Aidan Curran (DOB: 1/22/2001), a 5'10", 179 lbs. center from Dracut, Massachusetts, has committed for the Fall of 2020. Curran also played youth hockey with the Valley Jr. Warriors. He played two seasons with Austin Prep. As a freshman at Austin Prep, Curran was a teammate of Ryan Verrier and as a sophomore, he was the team's 7th leading scorer with 9 goals and 7 assists.

Curran's announcement came at the conclusion of the Massachusetts Hockey High Performance Festival. He had just earned an invitation to the 2018 USA Hockey Select 17 Development Camp. He is one of only seven forwards born in 2001 to be selected at the highly competitive Massachusetts Festival. Scouts from Neutral Zone attended the festival and provided this assessment of Curran:
"He is quick and relentless in his puck pursuit. Quick reactions and can make people miss in open ice. Has a good stick and can break defenders down one-on-one in transition. He works hard and competes in all three zones. Sees the ice well and knows where he is going with the puck before it comes to him. 3.75 Stars"
Curran recently finished his season with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs who play out of the Tri Town Ice Arena in Hooksett. He primarily played with the 16U team and was called up to play 6 games with the 18U squad.

The Junior Monarchs' midget teams play a full slate of games in two leagues - the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League and the United States Premiere Hockey League. The T1EHL competition is against many of the top U16 and U18 teams in the country. In 27 T1EHL U16 games, Curran lead the Junior Monarchs with 9 goals and 30 assists. His 1.44 points per game scoring average was 3rd in the league behind Ty Smilanic (Denver commit) and Joshua Groll (Michigan commit). His 1.11 assists per game was the best in the U16 Division of T1EHL. Here's a highlight video of Aidan Curran's scoring:



In 22 USPHL 16U regular season games, Aidan Curran tallied 11 goals, including 3 game-winners, and added 30 assist. He averaged 1.86 points per game which was 7th best in the league. His 1.36 assists per game was 2nd best. Curran made the USPHL 16U All Star Team. The Jr. Monarchs 16U team did not make the USPHL Playoffs. Curran scored a goal and an assist in 5 Jr. Monarchs 18U games.

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Aidan Curran, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

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?

Aidan Curran: I think that UNH would be a great fit for me on and off the ice. The olympic ice sheet will be an advantage for me and allow me to play to my strengths as a strong skater and playmaker. As an academically strong student, I wanted to go to a place where education is a priority. UNH will allow me to obtain my goals as a student and will give me tools I can use throughout my life.
Another reason I chose UNH is due to the coaching staff. Mike Souza and Glenn Stewart are great coaches who want their program to succeed. I like how they believe in all their players and want them to achieve their fullest potential. As an aspiring pro hockey player, I feel like the coaches will direct me towards accomplishing that goal. I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play for such an incredible hockey team and an unbelievable coaching staff.



Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Aidan Curran: Although I had some interest from other college programs, I wanted to go to a place that would best suit me as an individual. When I visited UNH, I could definitely see myself as a student there and being totally comfortable in that environment. After meeting with Coach Souza and Coach Stewart, I honestly knew that UNH was the school for me.



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?

Curran: The UNH coaches and I have agreed on the year of 2020.



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

Curran: As of right now, the biggest strengths of my game are my skating and playmaking ability. I like to use my acceleration and agility to my advantage and pick up speed in the neutral zone, which allows me to be sound on the rush. I try to bring energy and compete hard each shift, in all three zones. I have good vision and a pass-first mentality. Because of my pass-first mentality, I sometimes can be hesitant to shoot the puck. This is an area I need to improve on and will be working on that over the summer.



Lowry: Last season with the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs 16U team, you primarily played center. How would you describe your skills in the core areas of a centerman (e.g., faceoffs, passing, forechecking, and assisting your defensemen below the faceoff circles)?

Curran: When I came to the Monarchs, I was primarily an offensive player. To be a center at the next level, it is important to do the little things that are not always awarded on the score sheet. Throughout the year, I worked on winning faceoffs, defensive zone coverage, and to not be afraid to be the first man on the puck down low on the forecheck. As the year progressed, I became more of dynamic player who plays in all three zones.



Lowry: The 2017-18 season was a breakout season for you. In Tier 1 Elite Hockey League games with the Jr. Monarchs U16 team, you scored 9 goals and 20 assists in 27 games, which ranked as the third highest scoring production (1.44 points per game) in the league. In USPHL 16U competition, you tallied 11 goals and 30 assists in 22 games. That was the 7th highest production (1.86 points per game) in that league. Also, you were named a USPHL 16U All-Star. Last week, you competed in the Massachusetts Hockey District Festival and earned a slot at the 2018 USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp. What factors lead to the big step forward in your development?

Curran: For the past year and a half, I have been working with Clint Edinger at Edingers Edge. I owe a lot of my success over the past year to him. He has taught me what it takes to become a player at the next level. Clint has worked with me individually and has given me the tools I need to succeed. He is the type of person who will do whatever they can to help the players who want to improve their game. Overall, the Monarchs organization as a whole have been so great to me and definitely played a major role in my development. I would recommend this organization to anybody who is 100% serious about becoming a better hockey player.



Lowry: Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, or North American Hockey League before you come to UNH?

Curran: I have thought about playing in the USHL, the BCHL, and the NAHL, but my primary focus for right now is to get ready for next season with the Monarchs.



Lowry: So far, you have not been drafted by a USHL or NAHL team. Do you plan to attend one or more USHL and/or NAHL tryout camps this summer?

Curran: I was recently drafted by the Northeast Generals out of the NAHL and I plan on attending their camp this summer. I am unsure whether I am attending any other camps as of right now.



Lowry: This season, you were called up to play 6 games with the Jr. Monarchs U18 team. Is your current plan to play for their U18 or National Collegiate Development Conference team next season?

Curran: My current play for next year is to play for the Monarchs’ National Collegiate Development Conference.



Lowry: When do you plan to graduate from high school? What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Curran: I plan on graduating from high school next year. For the past three years, I have been challenging myself with honors courses. Every subject matters and my grades are extremely important to me, but I believe my academic strength is English/Literature. Right now, I am undecided on a major.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Filip Engarås: UNH Hockey's First Swedish Player

Filip Engarås
2018 UNH Commit
“Filip Engarås is a clever two-way center who reads the game well." Carl Larsson, Swedish scout for Future Considerations
A couple years ago, the New York Times (December, 2015) chronicled the increasing trend of young Swedish players coming to America to play college hockey. The movement reportedly began in the mid-1970's with the Carlsson brothers. Anders Carlsson donned a hockey uniform for Yale University in the 1975-76 season and his brother Mats joined him in the 1977-78 season. By the 2015-16 season, 111 Swedish players had played NCAA hockey and a few, such as Douglas Murray (Cornell) and Carl Hagelin (Michigan), went on to have successful NHL careers.

Last season, four Hockey East teams had one or more Swedish players on their roster - UConn (1), Maine (2), UMass-Lowell (2), and Merrimack (2). In fact, every Hockey East program other than the University of New Hampshire has had at least one native of Sweden, who also played youth and/or junior hockey in Sweden, play for their team. If all goes according to plan, that will change next season. 19-year-old Filip Engarås (DOB: 5/16/1999), a native of Stockholm, has committed to enroll at UNH and play for the Wildcats this fall.

Engarås is a 6'0", 181 lbs., right-shot centerman who played his youth hockey with the Stocksunds-Danderyds-Enebybergs Hockey organization just north of Stockholm. In his final season with SDE, Engarås was the 15-year-old Alternate Captain of the under 18 team in the Swedish J18 Elite League. He tallied 18 goals and 11 assists in 35 games. He was also selected to the 2014-15 Sweden U16 team. In 9 international games, he scored a goal and 2 assists and served as the team's Alternate Captain.

At the age of 16, Engarås moved nine hours north of Stockholm to play for the Skellefteå AIK hockey organization. He began the 2015-16 season with the Skellefteå J18 team and wound up scoring 11 goals and 12 assists in 29 games. He was also called up to play 10 games with the Skellefteå AIK J20 team in the Swedish Super Elite League. Once again, Engarås made the Swedish National team, this time the U17 team. In 6 international games, he posted a goal and an assist.

Over the last two seasons, Filip Engarås has captained the Skellefteå AIK J20 team and his scoring production took off in 2017-18. He went from 10 goals and 9 assists in 40, 2016-17 games to 18 goals and 18 assists in 43 games last season. He tied for 14th in scoring in the Swedish Super Elite League. His +17 rating tied him for 9th best in the league. As these video highlights show, Engarås (wearing #21) skates strong to the net and has a deadly wrist shot:



In mid-February, Filip captained Team Sweden U19 at the 5 Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic. Team Sweden defeated Germany, Switzerland and the Czech Republic but lost to Finland. Engarås scored 2 goals in the tourney.

With the assistance of Dennis Schellenberg, European Head Scout for Future Considerations, I obtained a new scouting report on Filip Engarås from Carl Larsson, Future Considerations' scout for Sweden:
“He is a clever two-way center who reads the game well. Has really great skating abilities and good work ethic. Has improved his release and is now a good shooter, combined with the smartness which he uses to find unexpected passes. I am excited to see his future development as he is that kind of guy that really works hard, on and off ice. He is certainly determined to have a good hockey career.”
Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Filip Engarås, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to pursue a college degree and play hockey for the University of New Hampshire. Would you describe when and why you started to consider coming to the United States to play NCAA hockey?

Filip Engarås: Thank you. I have always had my thoughts on playing NCAA hockey but I made my decision in November when I first talked with (UNH Head Coach) Mike Souza. I want to develop and take steps as a hockey player and I think that playing in a top league as the NCAA will be great for me and a great next step in my hockey career. Also, it's an opportunity to combine great hockey with great education. That’s something I really looking forward to and I am very excited.



Mike Lowry: How did you first hear about the University of New Hampshire and its hockey program? Did you have an opportunity to visit UNH during the recruiting process?

Filip Engarås: I wasn’t familiar with UNH until Mike Souza contacted me. I didn´t have an opportunity to visit UNH under the recruiting process, but I have watched a lot of clips and searched on the Internet about UNH.



Lowry: What are the main reasons you chose the University of New Hampshire?

Engarås: I got a very good first impression when I talked with Mike Souza for the first time. And when he visited me in Skellefteå I was convinced. I felt right away that UNH will fit me perfectly when Mike talked about the program and it's philosophy. It´s well known and a very good school as well.



Lowry: What other college programs did you consider? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Engarås: There were some colleges that contacted me but at that time I had already decided and verbally committed for UNH. Therefore, I didn´t consider any other colleges and I am very confident with my decision.



Lowry: What other playing opportunities in Sweden did you consider?

Engarås: It was to play in either SEL (Swedish Elite League) or in Hockey Allsvenskan (second highest league).



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

Engarås: My strengths are my skating abilities and my hockey sense. I’m working hard in all three zones and I think I have good defensive qualities. It’s the offensive part of my game that I want to improve.



Lowry: I've read that you were born in Stockholm and played youth hockey for the Stocksunds-Danderyds-Enebybergs hockey association just north of Stockholm. When did you start playing hockey and who was a major influence in your development?

Engarås: I was seven years old when I first started skating and as you mention, SDE was my first club. It was there I got my ground education to be a hockey player. They helped me a lot in the beginning. There are some very talented and good trainers in SDE and they are a big reason I’m where I am today.



Lowry: You've played for the Swedish National team at the U16, U17, and U19 level. What has playing in international competition been like for you?

Engarås: It has been great experiences to compete against top players on other national teams. And to be around with the top players in Sweden on training camps.



Lowry: Over the last two seasons, you have been the captain of the Skelleftea AIK J20 team. What makes you an effective captain?

Engarås: I always try to lead by example both on and off ice in all teams I have played with. That´s what I think has been the main reason I have got the honor to be team captain.



Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Engarås: I’m interested in business and leadership studies. I would like to major in business.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Physical Defenseman Will MacKinnon Commits to UNH

Will MacKinnon
2018 UNH Commit
"He plays a mature, deliberate game..a strong, powerful skater..a heads up defender who can handle the puck under duress..smooth hands and offensive instincts." Neutral Zone
"Will’s done a great job, he’s a real hard working young man, a physical defenseman." Danton Cole, Former Head Coach, US National Team Development Program U17, Current Head Coach, Michigan State University
The Mike Souza era of UNH men's hockey officially began with his introduction as head coach on March 14th. His impact as the team's recruiting coordinator over the last three years will be increasingly apparent in the 2018-19 season. 13 players on next season's 27-member roster committed to UNH since Souza and associate head coach Glenn Stewart became the recruiting team. Earlier this week, two new players - defenseman Will MacKinnon and forward Filip Engarås - announced their commitment to matriculate this coming fall (Look for a feature article on Engarås in the coming weeks).

It's no secret that UNH needs to improve its play in the defensive zone. During the last regular season, the Wildcats surrendered the fourth highest goals per game (2.89) and third most shots on goal per game (31.91) among the eleven Hockey East teams. The addition of Will MacKinnon to the blueline, along with fellow freshman defenseman Ryan Verrier and goalie Ty Taylor, should help solidify UNH's defensive play.

The Neutral Zone scouting service has designated MacKinnon as a 4-Star prospect on their 5-Star rating scale. Verrier and Taylor also have a 4-Star rating. They will join three other defensemen, also recruited by Souza and Stewart, who rate at least that high on the Neutral Zone scale: junior Anthony Wyse (4-Star), and sophomores Benton Maass (4-Star) and Max Gildon (4.75-Star).

Will MacKinnon (DOB: 4/13/2000) will be the youngest member of the 2018-19 UNH squad. He turned 18 last month on the day before the final game of the regular season in the United States Hockey League. The 5'11", 202 lbs. left-shot defenseman served as the Alternate Captain for the Des Moines Buccaneers. As the youngest defenseman on the team, MacKinnon started on left defense in the second game of the season and went on to start in nearly half the Bucs' games. He also played on their first penalty kill unit in many games.

MacKinnon scored 2 goals and 8 assists in 57 games with Des Moines. Last July, scouts from Neutral Zone evaluated McKinnon at the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp and noted his offensive strengths:
"His best attribute is his shot; he has great power and an instant release which makes him a scoring threat even from the blue line. He’s strong on his skates and on his stick and did a nice job keeping pucks in the offensive zone and seemed to have developed great sense for when to pinch and when to retreat. He played a puck possession game here and carried the puck up ice regularly to lead or compliment the rush and showed smooth hands and offensive instincts."
The first three clips in this highlight video shows MacKinnon's quick-release, powerful wrist shot. Two of them resulted in goals for him and another was tipped in:



In the 2016-17 season, MacKinnon was a member of the US National Team Development Program Under-17 team. In 56 games, he scored a goal and 3 assists. 34 of those games were with Team USA in USHL competition. As the season wound down, head coach Danton Cole said:
“Will’s done a great job, he’s a real hard working young man, a physical defenseman. But not just limited to that. He makes some good passes and gets pucks on the net, so he’s a pretty well-rounded player."
The Neutral Zone scouts added these observations of MacKinnon at the Selects 17 Camp last July:
"You can tell he’s taken full advantage of the program's strength and conditioning (at the NTDP) as he won nearly every puck battle...What we really liked was that he played hard; he didn’t act like he was above everyone else because of his NTDP resume. He blocked shots on the penalty kill, he went into the corners and dug out pucks and battled all week long."
MacKinnon's tenacious, physical play in the defensive zone is also shown in the middle clips of the video highlights. Although the Bucanneers had the second worst goals for/goals against (145/199) statistic in the 17-team USHL, MacKinnon posted a respectable +/- rating of -9. That marked a substantial improvement over the -20 rating he registered in 34 USHL games in 2016-17.

The USHL, like the NHL, penalizes fighting but it is allowed. In the 2017-18 season, MacKinnon accumulated 127 penalty minutes, the 9th highest among all USHL players. Six of his penalties were 10-minute misconduct infractions. The final clip in the video highlights shows his fight with the Waterloo Black Hawks' Solag Bakich in the final game of the season. It lead to a 5-minute fighting major plus a 10-minute misconduct penalty. In fairness, MacKinnon initiated the fight after Bakich leveled the Bucs' leading scorer Nicholas Werbik with a blind-side hit. Needless to say, MacKinnon will be expected to modulate penalty minutes in the NCAA without losing his physical edge.

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Will MacKinnon, via email, about his hockey career and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Two years ago, you verbally committed to Denver University and their head coach Jim Montgomery. Last November, you signed a National Letter of Intent to enroll at Denver and play for Montgomery. What factors entered into your decision to reopen your college search?

Will MacKinnon: I verbally committed two years ago for the fall of 2018. I was asked to sign the NLI in the fall of 2017 to come in for the 2018 season. Late in the season, Coach Montgomery asked me to return to the USHL for another season which, after discussion with him, I was prepared to do. However, when Coach Montgomery departed for the NHL I no longer felt bound to that decision.



Mike Lowry: When you renewed the recruiting process, what college programs did you consider? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Will MacKinnon: I went through an extensive recruiting process two years ago so I had a pretty good sense of the type of schools and programs that would be a good fit for me this time around. We (my advisors, my dad, and I) spoke to a couple different schools but UNH quickly emerged as the top choice. They had an immediate roster need as well the resources to fill it and I am thrilled with the quality of UNH as a school and institution. I fit well with strong cultures and I liked everything Coach Souza had to say in regards to what he wants the UNH Men’s Hockey Program to stand for.



Lowry: What are the main reasons you chose the University of New Hampshire?

MacKinnon: The main reasons I chose UNH are because it is a great school, has a strong hockey tradition, and is in an excellent hockey conference. I want to be playing against tough competition and Hockey East is a great conference to do that.



Lowry: I've read that your Dad - Dan MacKinnon, Senior Director of Player Personnel, New Jersey Devils - got you started in hockey when you were 3 years old, coached you in youth hockey, and has provided valued guidance throughout your hockey career. What was the best advice he gave you about choosing where to go to college and play hockey?

MacKinnon: The best advice I got from him in regards to choosing where to play college hockey has to be that the identity of the hockey program and the school should fit well with me as a player and person.



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

MacKinnon: I am a high compete/physical player with good hockey sense and a 200 ft. approach to the game. I’d like to think I am mobile, can distribute the puck and feel my shot is an asset from the point.



Lowry: You played one season with the US National Team Development Program's Under-17 team and last season with the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL. What factors entered into your decision to play full-time in the USHL and how did you benefit from playing with Des Moines?

MacKinnon: The NTDP is a great program that has done great things for American players. Development can at times be a situational and/or individual thing so while I took everything out my first year there that I could, I believed as a 17 year old slated to play D1 college hockey the next year, I needed to get more game reps at the USHL level and everything that comes with that.



Lowry: This is the first year that you are eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. Do you have a preference between being drafted or remaining a free agent throughout your college career?

MacKinnon: It would be great to be drafted because NHL teams in this era have so many resources to help their prospects develop. However, if it does not happen, my goals remain the same: to contribute to UNH anyway I can and continue to improve as a player to eventually play pro hockey.



Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

MacKinnon: I am interested in history and business and I am pretty good at retaining information I read and learn. I would like to major in business.



Monday, April 30, 2018

UNH Commits Update 4-30-18: Spotlight on Esposito & Cipollone

Eric Esposito
2018 UNH Commit
Joey Cipollone
2018 UNH Commit

Player Spotlight - Eric Esposito

Eric Esposito is the only player committed to UNH still playing in the 2017-18 season. The 19-year-old right-winger and the Youngstown Phantoms are on the eve of competing in the USHL's semifinal, best-of-five series against the USA U18 team. The Phantoms swept the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the quarterfinal series and Esposito contributed an assist on the game-winning goal in their 3-1 victory in Game 1.

In his third year with Youngstown, Esposito has had a breakout season. He has served as the Phantoms' captain and was the team's second leading goal-scorer during the regular season. His 23 goals more than doubled his output from last season (9 goals). He finished the regular season tied for 8th in USHL goal-scoring. He was also near the top of the league in game-winning goals (3, Tied for 6th most), power play goals (8, Tied 5th), and short handed goals (3, T-3).

As the 2017-18 USHL season entered the final five weeks, Youngstown was battling for a first round bye in the playoffs. The top two teams in the USHL Eastern and Western Conferences earn a free pass in the opening round. The Phantoms were among seven teams in the Eastern Conference with a realistic shot. Esposito rose to the challenge scoring 10 goals, including 2 game-winners, in the last 10 games of the regular season. Here's Esposito scoring his 19th goal on an end-to-end rush and 20th goal on a one-timer in the slot during a 6-1 win over Team USA on March 31st:



In the final two games of the regular season, Esposito scored 2 goals against Team USA and his first USHL hat trick against Muskegon. For his efforts, Esposito was named the USHL Forward of the Week on April 16th. Eric Esposito signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH in November, 2016. He plans to enroll this coming Fall.

Player Spotlight - Joey Cipollone

Joey Cipollone is another UNH commit who produced a substantial jump in scoring in his third season of junior hockey. The 5'8", 170 lbs. center, who turned 21 at the end of March, scored 25 goals and 30 assists in 49 regular season games with the Boston Junior Bruins. In the 2016-17 season, Cipollone played 16 games with the Tri-City Storm (USHL) then 23 games for the Junior Bruins. His combined output was 10 goals and 17 assists.

Joey Cipollone was one of the top scorers in the inaugural season of the National Collegiate Development Conference (NCDC). His 55 points tied him for 5th in NCDC scoring. He tied for 3rd in goal-scoring and tied for 2nd in game-winning goals (6) and short-handed goals (3).

In the opening round of the 2018 NCDC Playoffs, the Junior Bruins played host to the Syracuse Stars. After losing the first game of the best-of-three series, the Junior B's had their backs against wall. In the second period of Game 2, Cipollone tallied 2 short-handed goals in just 32 seconds. The later turned out to be the game-winner. Remarkably, Cipollone scored his third short-handed goal of the series in the finale and it also was the game-winner. Here are the video highlights of his 3 short-handed goals:



The Junior Bruins lost the NCDC semifinal series to the Jersey Hitmen in three games. Cipollone lead the Junior B's with 4 goals and an assist. Next fall, Cipollone will enroll at UNH and begin his NCAA hockey career.

2017-18 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 "2018 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2018. 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
2018 Commits
Joey Cipollone* 3/29/97 (F) Junior Bruins NCDC 49 25 30 55 44
Playoffs 6 4 1 5 4
Angus Crookshank* 10/2/99 (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 42 22 23 45 34
Playoffs 6 3 4 7 6
Team Canada West WJAC 5 2 3 5 2
Team West Prospects CJHL 1 0 1 1 0
Eric Esposito* 8/24/98 (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 60 23 10 33 109
Playoffs 3 0 1 1 2
Jackson Pierson* 9/10/99 (F) Culver Academy Prep 39 24 50 74 -
MidAm Tourney 4 3 4 7 -
18U Nationals 4 3 2 5 2
Green Bay Gamblers USHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ty Taylor* 7/5/99 (G) Vernon Vipers BCHL 31 23W 5L 1.87 .931
Playoffs 10 6W 4L 2.46 .929
Ryan Verrier* 11/19/98 (D) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 56 4 14 18 60
Playoffs 2 0 0 0 0
2019 Commits
Lucas Bahn 9/11/99 (D) Des Moines Buccaneers USHL 6 0 0 0 0
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 32 1 5 6 17
Nolan McElhaney 4/22/99 (D) Cushing Academy NE Prep 31 13 34 47 32
Playoffs 1 0 0 0 2
EMass Senators 18U Nationals 5 3 1 4 26
Chase Stevenson 1/13/99 (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 40 12 11 23 25
Playoffs 4 1 0 1 2
2019 or '20 Commits
Connor Sweeney 5/5/00 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep 29 8 14 22 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
Marek Wazny 2/21/00 (F) Burlington Cougars OJHL 37 7 17 24 28
Brookings Blizzard NAHL 7 0 0 0 0
2020 Commits
Zack Jones 3/31/01 (F) Boston Bandits USPHL 16U 26 22 31 53 20
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 0
NCDC 10 1 0 1 0
Tim Stützle 1/15/02 (F) Mannheim Young Eagles DNL U19 25 18 29 47 8
Playoffs 5 4 4 8 2
MacPhr 2 1 3 4 0
Team Germany U18 Intl 2 2 0 2 4
U18 Worlds 5 1 3 4 2
Team Germany U16 Intl 6 4 3 7 -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

2018 Incoming Class:

~ Ty Taylor, winner of the 2018 British Columbia Hockey League "Top Goaltender Award", signed his National Letter of Intent with UNH in mid-April. He, along with Joey Cipollone (F), Angus Crookshank (F), Eric Esposito (F), Jackson Pierson (F), and Ryan Verrier (D), have signed an NLI with UNH and plan to enroll in the Fall of 2018.

~ At the end of March, informed sources told me that the commitment between UNH and defenseman Corson Green had ended. To date, there have been no announcements of Green committing to another NCAA school or junior hockey team. He started the 2017-18 USHL season with the Sioux Falls Stampede and finished with the Central Illinois Flying Aces. In a combined 49 games, Green scored 2 goals and 7 assists.

NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings:

~ On April 16th, the NHL Central Scouting Service released it's Final Rankings for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. 2018 UNH commit Angus Crookshank was ranked the #135 North American (NA) Skater. In April, 2017, UNH defenseman Benton Maass was ranked the #159 North American skater and he ended up drafted #182 overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2017 NHL Draft (28th selection in 6th Round). Fellow UNH defenseman Max Gildon was ranked the #54 NA skater and was drafted 66th overall by the Florida Panthers (4th in 3rd Round). Therefore, Crookshank has a good chance of being drafted in the 5th, 6th or 7th round this June.

~ 2018 UNH commit Ty Taylor was ranked the 25th North American goalie by the NHL Central Scouting.

International:

~ 2020 UNH Commit Tim Stützle was the youngest member of Team Germany U18 in the 2018 U18 IIHF World Championship held in Riga, Latvia in early April. The 16-year-old forward scored a goal and 3 assists in 5 games as Team Germany won 4 games and lost 1. They finished in 2nd place, behind Latvia, in Division I Group A.

Friday, March 23, 2018

UNH Commits Update 3-23-18: Playoff Champs Stützle, Pierson & Sweeney

Tim Stützle
DNL U19 Champ
Jackson Pierson
MidAm 18U Champ
Connor Sweeney
NE Prep Champ

2018 Playoffs

The current crop of UNH Commits are spread out over a variety of leagues from the British Columbia Hockey League to New England Prep and everywhere in between. For the first time in the history of the UNH men's hockey program, there is even a commit playing in a European junior league. All of these leagues, except for the United States Hockey League, are either in the midst of their playoffs or have recently finished postseason play. As the 2017-18 statistics table shows (see below), some UNH Commits and their team qualified for the playoffs while a few did not. This article focuses on the playoff performances of the commits.

Player Spotlight - Tim Stützle

Tim Stützle's first season in the Under 19 German Development League (DNL) was extraordinary. When Stützle began the season with the Mannheim Young Eagles (Jungadler Mannheim) last October, he was a 15-year-old forward playing against guys 2 and 3 years older. By the end of the regular season, he had scored 18 goals and 29 assists in 25 games and he was one of the top 3 scorers in the league.

Mannheim won the regular season title and began the DNL Playoffs against the 4th-place Dusseldorf team on March 7th. The Young Eagles swept the series 2-0 and Stützle scored 2 goals in the decisive game including the game-winner.

Tim Stützle GWG
In the DNL championship round, Mannheim and the Berlin Junior Polar Bears split the first two games. Stützle distributed 4 assists in the Game 2 victory including the game-winning assist. In the final game, Berlin jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one period. Stützle sparked the Junior Eagles' comeback with his third goal of the playoffs early in the middle stanza. As the video highlights show, Stützle (#8 blue jersey) pounced on a loose puck in the top of the slot and blasted a slap shot over the goalie's glove.

Tied 3-3, the teams battled throughout the opening minutes of overtime. With less than 3 minutes remaining, Stützle received a pass just past the blueline and carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Polar Bears' zone. At the top of the faceoff circle to the goalie's left, he quickly accelerated around a defender into the slot and wristed the game-winner over the goalie's blocker. Although the video coverage did not quite capture the moment of the shot, the picture on the right does.



Tim Stützle finished this season as the second-leading scorer in the U19 German Development League. His 22 goals in 30 games was the 4th highest in the league and the 29 assists were the 3rd highest. Stützle compiled a remarkable +/- rating of +34. He currently is a 5'9", 159 lbs. left-shot, left-winger. For next season, Stützle (DOB: 1/15/2002) has a variety of options including a return to the Mannheim Jungadler U19 team. He is a sophomore in high school and on track to graduate in the spring of 2020.

Player Spotlight - Jackson Pierson

Tim Stützle isn't the only UNH commit who scored a game-winning goal in a championship game for a dominant team. 2018 commit Jackson Pierson (DOB: 9/10/1999) and the Culver Academy Eagles (Indiana) finished the season as the #1 18U Tier 1 team in the United States. In 39 regular season games, Pierson tallied 24 goals and 50 assists. The senior captain's scoring average of 1.90 points per game tied him with Connor Merrill (uncommitted) as the team's leading scorer. Last season, as a junior at Culver Academy , Pierson compiled 28 goals and 34 assists in 36 games (1.72 PPG).

After the end of the regular season, Culver Academy competes in the USA Hockey Mid-American Regional Tournament. In 2016 and 2017, the Eagles won the Mid-Am tourney and advanced to the U18 USA Hockey National Championship Tournament. They were a semifinalist at the 2016 Nationals and runnerup last season.

During the second weekend in March, Pierson and Culver Academy won their first three games in the Mid-Am Tournament held at the Lemieux Sports Complex outside Pittsburgh. In the Championship game against the Esmark Stars, Culver only lead 1-0 at the end of the first period. On the first shift of the second period, Jackson Pierson - the starting center for the Eagles - sent a pass out to the right point, circled toward the net, and banged home a rebound for a 2-0 lead. Midway through the second period, Pierson scored the eventual game-winner. He received a pass at the faceoff dot to the right of the Esmark goalie and snapped a one-timer between the goalie's pads. Culver defeated Esmark 7-3. Here are the video highlights of Pierson's (#18 in white jersey) two goals:



Jackson Pierson will finish his senior season at Culver with another opportunity to win the 18U National Championship. The tourney will be held from April 5-9 outside Philadelphia. Pierson signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH last November. At the recent press conference following the ceremony introducing Mike Souza as the 13th UNH Men's Hockey head coach, Souza announced that Pierson will enroll at UNH next fall.

Player Spotlight - Connor Sweeney

Last season, as a sophomore at the Pingree School, 2019 or '20 UNH Commit Connor Sweeney (DOB: 5/5/2000) was the leading goal scorer in New England Prep School hockey. He scored 31 goals and 12 assists in 29 games. This season, Sweeney transferred to Lawrence Academy for his junior year. In 29 regular season games with the Spartans, Sweeney posted 8 goals and 14 assists. He primarily played center and left wing on Lawrence's second line.

In Neutral Zone's final poll on February 20th, Lawrence fell just outside the top 10 New England Prep schools. The Spartans finished the regular season with a record of 18-10-1. Although they did not qualify for the Elite 8 New England Prep Tournament, they were the #3 seed in the Small School Tournament. After defeating St. Marks 6-2 and Gunnery 3-2 in overtime, Lawrence advanced to the Small School Championship game against the New Hampton School.

In a seesaw battle, Lawrence Academy and New Hampton were tied 3-3 at the end of two periods. On his first shift of the third period, Connor Sweeney scored one of the most important goals of the season. He and linemate Sam Colangelo (Northeastern commit) exchanged tape-to-tape passes as they broke out of the their own zone and through center ice. With a burst of speed and the puck on his stick, Sweeney split the two New Hampton defenders, skated down the slot, and beat the goalie between his pads. The goal gave Lawrence a 4-3 lead. New Hampton bounced back with the game-tying goal 6 minutes later and the teams went into overtime. Gunnar Fontaine, an RPI commit, scored the game-winner for Lawrence Academy in overtime. Here's a video of Connor Sweeney's big goal:



In May, 2016, Sweeney was drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 7th round of the USHL Phase I Futures Draft. He chose not to try out for the Lumberjacks last summer and focused instead on his junior year at Lawrence Academy. He is ranked #217 among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Service midterm rankings.

2017-18 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 "2018 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2018. 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
2018 Commits
Joey Cipollone* 3/29/97 (F) Junior Bruins NCDC 49 25 30 55 44
Playoffs 3 3 0 3 2
Angus Crookshank* 10/2/99 (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 42 22 23 45 34
Playoffs 6 3 4 7 6
Team Canada West WJAC 5 2 3 5 2
Team West Prospects CJHL 1 0 1 1 0
Eric Esposito* 8/24/98 (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 52 15 8 23 101
Corson Green 3/4/99 (D) Central Illinois Flying Aces USHL 25 1 1 2 46
Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 19 1 3 4 39
Jackson Pierson* 9/10/99 (F) Culver Academy Prep 39 24 50 74 -
MidAm Tourney 4 3 4 7 -
Green Bay Gamblers USHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ty Taylor 7/5/99 (G) Vernon Vipers BCHL 31 23W 5L 1.87 .931
Playoffs 8 6W 2L 2.33 .927
Ryan Verrier* 11/19/98 (D) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 46 4 12 16 56
2019 Commits
Lucas Bahn 9/11/99 (D) Des Moines Buccaneers USHL 6 0 0 0 0
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 32 1 5 6 17
Nolan McElhaney 4/22/99 (D) Cushing Academy NE Prep 31 13 34 47 32
Playoffs 1 0 0 0 2
Chase Stevenson 1/13/99 (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 40 12 11 23 25
Playoffs 4 1 0 1 2
2019 or '20 Commits
Connor Sweeney 5/5/00 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep 29 8 14 22 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
Marek Wazny 2/21/00 (F) Burlington Cougars OJHL 37 7 17 24 28
Brookings Blizzard NAHL 7 0 0 0 0
2020 Commits
Zack Jones 3/31/01 (F) Boston Bandits USPHL 16U 26 22 31 53 20
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 0
NCDC 10 1 0 1 0
Tim Stützle 1/15/02 (F) Mannheim Young Eagles DNL U19 25 18 29 47 8
Playoffs 5 4 4 8 2
MacPhr 2 1 3 4 0
Team Germany U18 Intl 2 2 0 2 4
Team Germany U16 Intl 6 4 3 7 -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent


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