Friday, April 21, 2017

UNH Captain's Corner: Reflections on the 2016-17 Season

UNH Captain Matias Cleland


Tyler Kelleher
Dylan Maller
Jamie Hill


One year ago, at the 2016 Men's Ice Hockey Awards Banquet, Matias Cleland accepted and welcomed a unique challenge. He had just become the sole captain of the 2016-17 UNH Wildcats. There would be no co-captains or alternate captains. At the Media Day last September, I asked Matias about his role as the captain:

"Congratulations on being the only captain. Is this the first time you've ever played on a team with just one captain and no alternates?"
Cleland: "Thank you. I think so, yes it is."

"Does it introduce more pressure on you or do you see advantages of being the only captain?"
Cleland: "I don't think it adds any pressure to it. I think we have a large groups of leaders in that room. A lot of guys in the junior class, a lot of guys in my class are leaders and that's how we look at it. I think we're leading by committee and they're all going to be a leader, even if it's a sophomore or a freshman. We can all be leaders on the ice and especially off the ice."

So what kind of captain did Matias Cleland become? These quotes from UNH Head Coach Dick Umile near the end of the season say it all:
"Dick Umile said postgame that Matias Cleland is the best captain he has had in his 27 years behind the UNH bench." Nick Stoico, Concord Monitor
“A guy like Cleland. He is our leader and our warrior. He is committed to it and got his teammates ready to go to battle where they did not want to see the season end. It has been a frustrating season, but now in the new season, we just won two out of three.” Dick Umile, UNH Head Coach
Matias Cleland's senior season will also be remembered as one of the best offensive performances by a defenseman in UNH Hockey history. As the starting left defenseman, point man on the UNH power play, and backbone of the penalty kill unit, Cleland scored 2 goals and 32 assists in 34 regular season games. He was the leading scorer among all NCAA Division I defensemen in the 2016-17 regular season. Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher of Denver University also scored 34 points but he played in 2 more regular season games than Matias.

Cleland's 32 assists in 34 regular season games were the most of any defenseman and he tied for 4th among all NCAA players. 20 of Cleland's assists came on the power play. Dylan Sikura (21), a Northeastern forward, was the only player with more power play assists in the regular season.

Matias added a goal and an assist during the 6 Hockey East Playoff games against Merrimack and UMass-Lowell. That brought his 2016-17 totals up to 3 goals and 33 assists in 40 games. Those 33 assists earned Cleland a special place in the annals of UNH Men's Hockey. Only three UNH defensemen have tallied more assists in a single season. Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Langway scored the most single-season assists (43) by a UNH defenseman in the 1976-77 season. Peter Hermes (1984-85) and All-American Tim Murray (1996-97) tallied 37 assists. On the impressive list of All-Time UNH Leading Scorers, Cleland is tied for 16th for the most assists in a single season.

Matias Cleland's overall performance was honored at the 2017 Hockey East Annual Awards Banquet in mid-March. He was named a Hockey East All-Star Honorable Mention.

Over the course of this season, it's been my pleasure to interview Matias for the "UNH Captain's Corner" series. In this, our final interview, we discussed the 2016-17 season and what his classmates have meant to him over their 4 seasons at UNH.

Captain's Interview

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): As you reflect back on the 2016-17, what were some of the most memorable accomplishments of the team?

Matias Cleland: It was great to beat Merrimack in the best of three at their place in playoffs. We were playing really good hockey and there's nothing better than playoff hockey. Another memorable moment was beating Maine. Maine weekend is always circled on the calendar, and it was great to get two wins that weekend.



Mike Lowry: What was the biggest disappointment?

Matias Cleland: The biggest disappointment was losing to Lowell at the end of the year. We turned it up at the end and that loss obviously ended the year and my career at UNH. I was really proud of how the guys came together and fought until the end.



Lowry: What advice would you give the next UNH captain(s)?

Cleland: I would tell them to realize how great of a program they are privileged to be the leader of and to not take it for granted. I would also tell them to do whatever it takes to win because there's nothing better than winning.

Tyler Kelleher
Dylan Maller
Jamie Hill


Lowry: Over your four years at UNH, you've grown close to your classmates - Tyler Kelleher, Dylan Maller, and Jamie Hill. In the coming years, as your lives move in different directions, what will you remember about them, both as hockey players and friends off the ice?

Cleland: Our class is extremely close, and we will have a life long friendship. We have spent the last four years together, and we will be in touch no matter what we all end up doing.



Lowry: Soon after the season ended, you signed an Amateur Tryout Contract with the Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You scored a goal in your first game and accumulated 7 shots on goal over 5 games. How do you think your play stacked up against the ECHL players? What playing options are you considering for next season??

Cleland: My play stacked up well against other players in the league. There were a lot of good players and the hockey was good. I felt like I played really well and showed what I can do. I'm working to get into the AHL for next year and waiting on some things this summer.



Saturday, April 15, 2017

16-Year-Old Connor Sweeney Commits to UNH

UNH Commit Connor Sweeney
"Sweeney is a tall, athletic prospect with a long, fluid stride." Neutral Zone
Top college hockey prospects develop at different rates. Some "can't miss" prospects, such as recent UNH commit Max Gildon, are singled out by hockey scouts at an early age. When Gildon was just 14 years old and playing for the Dallas Stars Elite U16 team, the scouts at Western Elite Hockey Prospects rated him as "by far the best defenseman in the 1999 class".

Other youngsters who eventually become excellent college players don't register on the scouts' radar until their mid-to-late teens. 6'2", 185 lbs. forward Connor Sweeney (DOB: 5/5/2000) looks like just such a player. Sweeney, who hails from North Andover, Massachusetts, earned a slot at last summer's USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp. The scouts from Neutral Zone** ranked Sweeney as a "C+" forward and provided this assessment:

"Sweeney led his high school team, Pingree, in points as a ’00 this past season. He is a fluid skater who can carry the puck well and make plays off the rush. The son of former NHLer Bob Sweeney, who currently heads the Boston Bruins Foundation, has great upside, size and skating ability, but will need to grow into his frame and get more involved offensively. He was too perimeter here and wasn’t able to create many scoring chances in zone. An athletic, fluid skater with size and major upside. He was drafted by Muskegon in the seventh round of the USHL Futures Draft and is undecided about his plans next season"
Rating - 3 1/2 out 5 Stars.

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

In the 2015-16 season, Sweeney was a freshman at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Massachusetts and tallied 9 goals and 11 assists in 29 games. This season, as a sophomore, Sweeney had a breakout performance scoring 31 goals and 12 assists. He tied for the most goals scored in New England Prep School Hockey.

Connor is the youngest son of former Boston Bruin Bob Sweeney. He was an All-American at Boston College in the early 1980's, played six seasons with the Boston Bruins, and four additional seasons in the NHL. Mr. Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Boston Bruins Foundation, the non-profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children throughout New England.

Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Connor Sweeney, 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?

Connor Sweeney: The coaches at UNH, the strong hockey program and the campus.



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?

Connor Sweeney: The coaches and I have not reached a target date yet.



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

Sweeney: Harvard, St. Lawrence, Maine, UVM, Northeastern and finally UNH. Maine, UNH and Northeastern all made me offers.



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

Sweeney: My strengths are my speed, down low play and shot right now. What I need to improve on is my puck handling all over the ice.



Lowry: In your recently completed sophomore season at the Pingree School, you dramatically increased your goal scoring from 9 as a freshman to 31. You tied with Hebron Academy senior Phillipe Gilmour for the most goals in New England Prep School hockey. What factors lead to your burst of goal-scoring?

Sweeney: I started the season off not scoring a goal and I got really down on myself. My dad just kept telling to keep playing my game and as soon as our Christmas tournament started, I took off. I really started to believe in myself and I think that believing in myself was a huge factor.



Lowry: Last May, the Muskegon Lumberjacks drafted you in the 7th round of the USHL Phase I Futures Draft and you are on their Affiliate List. Do you plan on trying out for the Muskegon roster at their camp in May?

Sweeney: I have not officially decided if I am going out to Muskegon or not in May.



Lowry: If you don't join the squad of a Junior team, where do you plan to play next season?

Sweeney: Lawrence Academy.



Lowry: Last summer, you participated in the USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp. How do you think your skills and development compared with the other top US forwards born in 2000?

Sweeney: I think I was right in the middle. Over this past season, I believe I have become a different player and I hope to make it back to Development camp this summer.



Lowry: Your Dad is a former Boston College hockey star, NCAA All-American, and veteran NHL player. What's the best piece of hockey advice he's given you?

Sweeney: He always stresses that believing in my ability is one of the most important parts in hockey and in everything I do. He has always believed in me which has made me believe in myself. Believing in yourself is half the battle.



Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? When do you anticipate graduating from high school?

Sweeney: I love History and any Science. I have thought about majoring in business at UNH.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

UNH Commits Update: March-29-2017

Benton Maass
3 Goals, 2 Assists in 5 Games
Charlie Kelleher
3 Goals, 3 Assists in 4 Games
Lucas Bahn
USPHL 18U DOTY

Player Spotlight - Benton Maass

6'2", 195 lbs., right-shot defenseman Benton Maass (Pronounced: Mass) began the 2016-17 season playing for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League. He scored 2 goals and 6 assists over the first 17 games and became the Ice Dogs' starting right defenseman, all at the age of 17.

Maass turned 18 on November 22nd and returned to his hometown of Elk River, Minnesota to play his senior season. Elks River High School finished the regular season as the 3rd ranked team in Minnesota and Maass tallied 6 goals and 23 assists in 25 regular season games. After the Elk's semifinal loss in the Minnesota Boys Section 7AA Hockey Tournament, Maass rejoined the NAHL Ice Dogs for the remainder of their season.

Since Maass' return to the lineup on March 10th, the Ice Dogs have chalked up 6 consecutive wins. In his second game back, Maass began a 5-game scoring streak which includes 3 goals and 2 assists. He moved up to the Ice Dogs' starting lineup on March 11th. All three of his goals came on the Fairbanks' power play.

As these video highlights show, Maass starts the power play on the left point then slides down to the faceoff circle on the Ice Dogs' umbrella formation. From there, Maass either makes cross-slot passes or one-times shots on goal. Given his size, mobility, and quick release, it's no wonder the NHL Central Scouting Service has identified Maass as a potential draft pick in the later rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft. He plans to matriculate to UNH this fall.

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

Charlie Kelleher and the Sioux City Musketeers are battling with the Chicago Steel and Waterloo Black Hawks for the best record in the United States Hockey League. With 5 games remaining in the regular season (4 for Waterloo), Sioux City leads with 83 points, Waterloo has 78, and Chicago has 77. At stake is home-ice advantage throughout the USHL Playoffs.

The Musketeers are riding a 5-game win streak and Kelleher has scored 3 goals and 3 assists in the last 4 games. On March 17th, Kelleher tallied Sioux City's 1st and 7th goals in a 8-1 rout of Team USA U17. On March 21st, Charlie scored the game-winning goal in a 4-0 victory over the Fargo Force. As these video highlights show, Kelleher went strong to the net for all 3 goals:



In 57 regular season games - 40 with the Tri-City Storm and 17 with Sioux City - Kelleher has posted 17 goals and 32 assists. He is currently tied for 8th in USHL scoring and has the 5th most assists in the league. It's interesting to compare his production with UNH All-American Andrew Poturalski during his final season in the USHL. The season before Poturalski came to UNH, he scored 27 goals and 37 assists in 60 regular season games with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Kelleher isn't far behind. Like Benton Maass, Kelleher plans to matriculate to UNH this fall.

Player Spotlight - Lucas Bahn

For 17-year-old defenseman Lucas Bahn, 2016-17 has been a season of physical growth and hockey development. At the beginning of the season, Bahn was listed at 5'7", 152 lbs. but by March, he was up to 5'10", 165 lbs.

Bahn played a full slate of 51 games with the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team based in York, Pennsylvania and Odenton, Maryland. During the 23 regular season games in the United States Premiere Hockey League 18U Division (stats for the other 28 games are not available), Bahn scored 8 goals, including 2 game-winners, and distributed 17 assists. Among all defensemen in the USPHL 18U Division, Bahn was 1st in scoring and 2nd in assists. He added 3 goals and an assist in 2 USPHL playoff games. On March 22nd, Bahn was named the USPHL 18U Defenseman of the Year.

With the Skipjacks season over, Lucas Bahn was selected to compete in the Draft Division at the Beantown Spring Classic in early March. The four teams in the Draft Division were selected by NHL scouts and consisted of top prospects from New England, New Jersey and New York born between 1997-99. Most players were on the NHL Central Scouting Service midterm draft list or already committed to a D-1 college program. The scouts from Neutral Zone ranked only two defensemen as "A" players - Lucas Bahn and Jesper Peltonen (Wisconsin commit). Here's their assessment of Bahn's performance:

"Lucas showed off his high end athletic ability. The late 1999 has as much upside as anyone here. He is very fast and that allowed him to take chances offensively but get back to cover. He skated and passed the puck well from his end. He is good in traffic as he made a lot of subtle, productive plays along the wall. He is smart. One thing we noted was he did try to “pick and go” a few times but at this event it’s probably OK. He should be excellent on the big sheet in NH. He defended with positioning and his feet allowed him to turn and go with anyone, anytime. The fact that there were no power plays here surely hurt his game but he still stood out, especially with the puck.."
Lucas Bahn is projected to enroll at UNH in either the Fall of 2018 or 2019. He appears to have a few playing options for next year. The Skipjacks Hockey Club recently announced the creation of a USPHL Premiere team for next season. In late February, Bahn was called up to play two games with the Johnstown Tomahawks in the North American Hockey League so that team may be an option next year. Also, the Waterloo Black Hawks drafted Bahn in the 7th round of the USHL Draft last May, though he is currently not on their affiliate list.

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 23 8 17 25 8
Playoffs 7 1 5 6 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 44 5 18 23 17
Playoffs 6 2 3 5 2
Max Gildon  (D) USA NTDP U18 NCAA 16 0 6 6 6
USHL 25 5 9 14 26
NAHL 1 1 0 1 0
Int'l. 8 1 3 4 14
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 40 11 22 33 10
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 17 6 10 16 4
Benton Maass  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 23 5 8 13 12
Elk River HS Minn HS 25 6 23 29 6
Playoffs 2 2 2 4 0
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 43 11 9 20 86
Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 9 2 2 4 12
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 37 6 12 18 47
Playoffs 7 0 1 1 2
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 21 10W 9L 2.89 .918
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 48 9 7 16 123
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 31 9 12 21 14
Playoffs 6 2 1 3 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 45 5 8 13 46
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 18U 23 8 17 25 10
Playoffs 2 3 1 4 2
Johnstown Tomahawks NAHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 29 7 18 25 -
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 -
2019 Commits
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 32 21 11 32 26
Playoffs 5 1 3 4 2
AYHL 23 15 19 34 4
Playoffs 2 1 3 4 4
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 8 3W 2L/1T 1.77 .932
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH commit James Miller and the Penticton Vees just won the best-of-seven series against the Merritt Centennials in the BCHL Playoffs. Miller tallied one assist in Game 1. They will face the Vernon Vipers in Round 3.

USA Hockey Youth National Championships:

~ Two UNH commits will be competing for a USA Hockey Tier 1 Boys Championship from April 6-10. Marek Wazny and the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team are the 3rd seed in the 16U Tournament in Pittsburgh. Drew Commesso and the South Shore Kings U14 team are the 10th seed in the U14 Tournament in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

UNH Commits Update: March-18-2017

2017 Commit James Miller
2 Goals, 3 Assists in 5 Games
2017 Commit Charlie Kelleher
Game-Winning Goal

Player Spotlight - James Miller

6'2", 175 lbs., left-shot defenseman James Miller missed most of the Penticton Vees' games in December and January due to a an upper body injury. Since his return to the lineup on February 1st, Miller has been the Vees' starting right defenseman.

As the regular season wound down, Penticton was battling for the best record in the BCHL. James Miller stepped up over the final 4 games scoring 2 goals and 2 assists. On February 19th, Miller scored the game-winning goal against the Victoria Grizzlies in overtime. As the video highlights show, he carried the puck through all three zones, dangled it along the edge of the blue line, worked it down low, and finished off a pretty give-and-go with Ty Amonte (Boston University commit).

Two nights later, the Vees downed the West Kelowna Warriors 5-1 and Miller distributed the primary assists on the game-tying and game-winning goals. On the 23rd, Penticton trailed the Surrey Eagles by a goal in the third period. With under 4 minutes left in regulation, Miller started a rush out of the defensive zone, passed to the Vees' captain Nicholas Jones (North Dakota commit), then accelerated through the middle of the neutral zone. Miller received a return pass from Jones and wristed it home from the top of the slot. The Vees lost in overtime. Here are the video highlights of Miller's goals against Victoria and Surrey:



The Vees finished the regular season with the third best record in the BCHL. They were at the top of the Interior Division and received a bye in the opening round of the BCHL Playoffs. Last night, Penticton downed the Merritt Centennials 4-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-seven, quarterfinal series. Miller earned the primary assist on Penticton's final goal. James Miller signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH in November and is on track to enroll this Fall.

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

Like his brother Tyler, Charlie Kelleher is having a very productive 2016-17 season. As UNH fans know, Tyler Kelleher (22g, 37a, 59pts) finished the regular season as the co-leading scorer in NCAA Division I hockey. He also distributed the most assists in the nation.

Charlie Kelleher has scored 14 goals and 29 assists in his first season in the United States Hockey League. He played the first 40 games of the season with the Tri-City Storm and the last 13 with the Sioux City Musketeers. He is tied for 8th place in USHL scoring and tied for 6th in assists.

Since Kelleher's trade to Sioux City, the Musketeers have won 12 games and lost only 1. They currently have the best record (34-10-7) in the USHL. Kelleher has scored at least one point in 9 of his 13 games with Sioux City. Last Friday, Charlie scored the game-winning goal in a 4-2 victory over the Des Moines Buccaneers. As the video highlight shows, Kelleher and Kristian Pospisil entered the Bucs' zone on a 2-on-1 break. Pospisil connected with Kelleher streaking down the slot and he scooped it into the net. It was Kelleher's second game-winning goal of the season.

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 23 8 17 25 8
Playoffs 7 1 5 6 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 44 5 18 23 17
Playoffs 6 2 3 5 2
Max Gildon  (D) USA NTDP U18 NCAA 16 0 6 6 6
USHL 23 5 9 14 24
NAHL 1 1 0 1 0
Int'l. 8 1 3 4 14
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 40 11 22 33 10
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 12 3 7 10 2
Benton Maass  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 19 2 7 9 10
Elk River HS Minn HS 25 6 23 29 6
Playoffs 2 2 2 4 0
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 43 11 9 20 86
Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 5 2 1 3 8
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 37 6 12 18 47
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 0
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 21 10W 8L 2.83 .919
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 44 9 5 14 113
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 31 9 12 21 14
Playoffs 6 2 1 3 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 43 5 8 13 46
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 18U 23 8 17 25 10
Playoffs 2 3 1 4 2
Johnstown Tomahawks NAHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 29 7 18 25 -
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 -
2019 Commits
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 32 21 11 32 26
Playoffs 5 1 3 4 2
AYHL 23 15 19 34 4
Playoffs 2 1 3 4 4
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 8 3W 2L/1T 1.77 .932
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ After missing the first 28 games of the season with a broken collar bone, 2018 commit Angus Crookshank became a top scorer for the Langley Rivermen. In the final 31 games of the regular season, Crookshank tallied 9 goals and 12 assists. His .68 points per game was 16th best among all BCHL rookies. The Rivermen lost the first round of the BCHL Playoffs. Crookshank scored 2 goals and an assist in 6 playoff games.

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ When 2017 UNH Commit Joseph Cipollone transferred from the Tri-City Storm (USHL) to the Boston Junior Bruins, he became their starting left wing and generated a point-per-game over the final 23 games of the regular season. The Jr. B's advanced to the USPHL Championship series but lost to the Islanders Hockey Club. Cipollone scored a goal and 5 assists in 7 Playoff games which tied him for 7th in USPHL scoring and T-4 in assists.

~ 2017 commit Liam Darcy was the starting left defenseman for the Islanders Hockey Club this season. In 6 USPHL Playoff games, Darcy scored 2 goals and 3 assists which tied him for 8th in scoring and 2nd among defensemen.

~ 2018 or '19 UNH Commit Lucas Bahn and the Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U team lost in the second game of the USPHL 18U Tournament of Champions. Bahn lead his team in scoring with 3 goals and an assist. At the completion of the USPHL season, Bahn joined the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League.

National 16U:

~ 2019 UNH Commit Marek Wazny and the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team advanced to the Championship Game of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League but lost in an overtime thriller to the Colorado Thunderbirds. Wazny's 3 assists lead the team. Two weekends ago, Wazny and the NJ Avalanche won the Atlantic Youth Hockey League 16U Playoffs. Wazny scored a goal and 3 assists in the 2 playoff games.

New England Prep Hockey League:

~ 2020 UNH Commit Drew Commesso and the St. Sebastian's School qualified for the Elite 8 New England Prep Championship tournament but lost in the opening round. The freshman goalie did not play. Commesso finished the regular season with a record of 3-2-1 and the 6th best Save Percentage (.932) in the NE Prep League. From April 6-10, Commesso and the South Shore Kings 14U team will compete in the USA Hockey National Championships in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Minnesota High School Hockey:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Benton Maass and Elk River High School downed Forest Lake 10-1 in the second round of the Minnesota Boys Section 7AA Hockey Tournament. They lost to Grand Rapids in the semifinals. Maass scored 2 goals and 2 assists in the 2 tournament games. Maass has rejoined the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the North American Hockey League for the remainder of their season.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Blue Chip Defenseman Max Gildon Commits to UNH

2017 UNH Commit
Max Gildon
"Big smooth skating defenseman...his length and athleticism are very impressive." Neutral Zone
"A two-way defender in the Ryan McDonagh mold...this big wing-spanned blueliner is just scratching the surface of his ability." Future Considerations
"At 6'3” and 203 lbs. (Gildon) has an appealing combination of size and smooth-skating ability." International Scouting Services (ISS)
Competing for the NCAA Hockey National Championship requires outstanding defense. It's no accident that the last UNH team to qualify for the NCAA National Tournament boasted one of the best defenses in the nation. The 2012-13 Wildcats had the 9th best defense in Division 1 and only allowed an average of 2.31 goals per game. In early December, 2012 they were ranked #1 in the country and went on to defeat Denver 5-2 in the opening round of the NCAA's before losing to UMass Lowell 2-0 in the "Elite Eight" round.

Max Gildon - U.S. NTDP U18 (Photo: Rena Laverty)
Since then, the UNH team defense has been heading in the wrong direction and the Wildcats have not qualified for the NCAA tournament. Over the last three seasons, including the recently completed regular season, the team's goals against average has increased to 2.73 (42nd in nation), 3.27 (48th), and 3.47 (52nd) respectively. The UNH coaching staff has taken a big step toward reversing this trend by securing the commitment of one of the top 1999-born defensemen in North America.

Max Gildon (DOB: 5/17/1999), a 6'3", 188 lbs., left-shot defenseman from Plano, Texas, has announced he will be enrolling at UNH next Fall. Gildon (Pronounced: Gil-DON) is in his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) based in Plymouth, Michigan. The NHL Central Scouting Service currently projects him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft coming up this June in Chicago. They rank him #76 among all North American skaters (#30 defenseman) eligible for the draft.

The U.S. NTDP selects the elite American-born, 16-year-old players and strives to develop the most successful national team. Beginning with the U17 players, Team USA represents the nation at international competitions. In recent years, most NTDP graduates were drafted into the NHL and many went on to represent the United States in the Olympics.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2016-'17
Max Gildon  (D) USA NTDP U18 NCAA 16 0 6 6 6
USHL 22 5 8 13 24
NAHL 1 1 0 1 0
Int'l. 8 1 3 4 14
2015-'16
USA NTDP U17 USHL 39 0 8 8 34
NAHL 2 0 1 1 0
Int'l. 15 1 8 9 14


In March 2015, as Max Gildon was finishing up his final season with the Dallas Stars Elite U16, the International Scouting Services (ISS) identified him as one of the top 5 prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft. Needless to say, the top junior hockey organizations in North America were hot on his trail. The U.S. NTDP invited Gildon to the 2015 Evaluation Camp. The Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (a major junior league in western Canada) had drafted him in the 3rd Round of the 2014 Bantam Draft and their general manager was still recruiting him.

Gildon made the NTDP U17 team and had a solid 2015-16 season. One highlight was his performance at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in early November 2015 in British Columbia. Gildon scored a goal and 2 assists in 5 games and Future Considerations, a primary source for information on NHL draft eligible prospects, provided this assessment:
"The big rangy blue liner from the lone star state has a massive coverage range defensively, plays with a physical edge and makes a very strong breakout pass. Gildon can play in any situation, whether PP, PK or 5-on-5 and logs big minutes all while staying consistent in his efforts and decision making. With his size and the type of two-way game he plays his draft (NHL) projection is that of a Top-15 pick for 2017."
This season, Gildon's development has accelerated with the NTDP U18 team. In early November, Team USA won the Five Nations Tournament and Gildon, as the starting left defenseman, scored an assist and generated 21 shots on goal over 4 games. The scouting report from Neutral Zone** provided this assessment of Gildon's performance:

"The big smooth skating defenseman played very well here. His length and athleticism is very impressive. Made good reads with the puck and defended well with his skating ability and reach. Showed he can shoot the puck on the power play with velocity and was a threat to score."
Rating - 4 3/4 out 5 Stars.

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

In late November, Gildon notched his first 2-goal game as a member of the NTDP. The U18 club plays 27 games this season against United States Hockey League teams. In a matchup against the Muskegon Lumberjacks, Gildon scored a power play goal in the first period and an even strength goal one minute later (see Video Highlights below).

On January 1st, Future Considerations released it's 2017 Winter Rankings and Max Gildon was listed at #57. Here's their scouting report:
"A two-way defender in the Ryan McDonagh mold…this big wing-spanned blueliner is just scratching the surface of his ability…the big Texan is a minute-muncher who can contribute at both ends of the ice…a steadying presence in his own zone…strong and physical, not afraid to flex his muscle and willing to play it nasty if required…pins his man and does not let him back into the play…generates decent speed and keeps his gaps tight because of his reach and skating…handles the puck well, although not overly flashy or very creative offensively…can play in all situations…plays a strong transition game, moving the puck quickly and accurately up to his forwards…does not back down from a battle…his point shot is improving with added strength…has loads of room to grow, but also the potential to be a difference-maker at the NHL level."
Over the last month, Max Gildon's progress in the offensive zone has been on full display. In the first game of the 2017 U18 5 Nations Championship in Sundsvall, Sweden, Gildon fired 7 shots on goal, tallied another power play goal, and added an assist (see video highlights). Team USA defeated Finland, the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden and won the championship. Two weeks ago, Gildon sniped a goal in the North American Hockey League Top Prospects Tournament. Here are video highlights of some of the goals Gildon has scored so far this season:



Interview

I had an opportunity to interview Max Gildon, 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?

Max Gildon: The coaches, the campus and the people around the program just sold me on UNH.



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

Max Gildon: I plan on going in as a true freshman.



Lowry: A year ago, you verbally committed to the University of Wisconsin. What factors entered into your decision to reopen your college search?

Gildon: The feeling I got after the coaching change was suspicious and I wanted somewhere that has a great history of hockey like UNH does. I also wanted to go to a smaller college.



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

Gildon: There were a few other schools but once I came to see the campus at UNH, I knew it was the place for me.



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

Gildon: I think my strengths are my intelligence and skating ability. I believe I still have room to grow in all areas however I would like to see improvement on the defensive play in the dirty areas of the ice.



Lowry: Did you have an opportunity to watch the current UNH team play? If so, how do you think you can help the team when you join it?

Gildon: I did and I believe the team is very good and I am hoping I can just do my best to help the team to get that next level of greatness.



Lowry: I've read that your grandfather Larry Smith was instrumental in your start in hockey when you were a youngster in Texas. Would you tell us the story?

Gildon: Yes, both of my parents work and my grandfather lives close to us so he would pick me and my brother (Michael Gildon, Dallas Stars Elite U16) up from day care and take us skating and we would always have a fun time. That's when I fell in love with the game.



Lowry: You played youth hockey for the Dallas Stars Elite Hockey Club near your hometown of Plano, Texas. During the 2011-12 season, you and fellow UNH commit Marek Wazny (8 months younger) were top players on the Dallas Stars Elite 12U team that advanced to the USA Hockey Tier 1 National Tournament. What do you remember about that season and playing with Marek?

Gildon: He was a very smart player and great teammate. I look forward to playing with him again.



Lowry: When you were a 14-year-old defenseman playing for the 2013-14 Stars Elite 16U team, scouts began to compare you to fellow Texan Seth Jones, who was drafted 4th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2013 NHL Draft. Although Jones is nearly 5 years older and your careers have not overlapped, you both played youth hockey for the Dallas Stars Elite followed by two seasons with the US National Team Development Program. Jones went on to become an NHL All-Star with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Following your 2014-15 season, the ISS scouting organization named you as a top 5 prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft. Do you feel it's a mixed-blessing to be the recipient of such high praise and the high expectations that come with it?

Gildon: I feel it has its up side however I try not to concern myself with that kind of stuff. I like to just go out and play hard.



Lowry: You are approaching the end of your two seasons with the US NTDP. Would you describe a couple of the high points of your Team USA experience?

Gildon: This past year we have been winning a lot. All the hard work we put in is showing off like when we won the two international tournaments earlier this year. I have had a lot of fun these past two years.



Lowry: In November, the NHL Central Scouting Service identified you as a potential 2nd or 3rd round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, coming up on June 23-24 in Chicago. In their midterm rankings, you were ranked #76 among North American skaters. As a fan, do you have a favorite NHL team? As a player, do you have a preference for the type of NHL team you would like to play for?

Gildon: Being from Dallas, I root for the the Stars but I do not have a preference as to who I would like to play for.



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

Gildon: I have not really thought about it much. I am just focusing on finishing this year strong and then I will look at my options more in depth after the season.

Monday, March 06, 2017

UNH Wildcats Survive and Advance

Senior Tyler Kelleher
1 Goal, 1 Assist
Junior Michael McNicholas
1 Goal, 2 Assists
Junior Danny Tirone
44 Saves


[North Andover, Mass.] -- The UNH men’s hockey team won 5-2 against the Merrimack College Warriors on Sunday night to wrap up the three-game, weekend series. Tyler Kelleher’s 23rd goal of the season and Danny Tirone 44 saves on Sunday night provided the boost that UNH needed to move on.

After losing the first game on Friday by a score of 4-0, the Wildcats were able to claw back in game two on Saturday leading into a do or die matchup on Sunday.

In Game 1, Merrimack came out firing in front of a sellout crowd at Lawler Rink. The Wildcats shutout loss was only their sixth in 95 postseason games. The Warriors struck first with two goals in the first period coming off uncharacteristic turnovers by the Wildcats. Sam Tavernier scored off a loose puck that defenseman Anthony Wyse could not control at center ice and wristed it past netminder Danny Tirone.

At 15:16 of the first period, Derek Petti registered his 5th goal of the season when a loose puck glided towards Tirone who desperately dove to push it towards the neutral zone. Petti skated around him for the easy empty-netter. The Warriors added an insurance goal in the second period to make it 3-0. A late empty-netter by Tyler Irvine with 3:28 left made it 4-0. Coach Dick Umile and his 10th seed Wildcats were on the brink of elimination heading into game two on Saturday.

Sometimes it comes down to goaltending and UNH saw that from Collin Delia. His 25 saves on Friday helped to secure his third career shutout. On Saturday, the script was flipped with UNH winning 4-0 to force a decisive game three.

UNH went the distance with Merrimack and finally broke Delia's shutout streak at 14:43 of the second period when freshman Patrick Grasso scored his 18th of the year. Sophomore Chris Miller assisted on the play coming off the faceoff setting up for Grasso’s wrister past Delia. Jason Salvaggio then scored his 22nd of the year coming off a pass from behind the net by freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk.

The Wildcats never looked back when in the third period they got a pair of empty net goals to ice the Warriors. The decisive game three was set with momentum tilting toward the UNH bench.

UNH took that momentum and played with it as they struck first in game number three. Only 1:14 in, junior Michael McNicholas cycled to the far side faceoff circle, received a pass from Tyler Kelleher, and wristed one past Delia.

“It is great playing with Tyler, hopefully, he gets the Hobey this year. He has a great hockey sense,” McNicholas said. "It was tough Friday night getting that loss. We knew it was do or die and we came out hard Saturday night and did the same tonight. It shows our character.”

UNH chugged along in the period when at 6:01 Frankie Cefalu scored his first collegiate goal. Senior Jamie Hill was credited with his second assist of the year coming off a Anthony Wyse shot from the near side circle. Cefalu buried the redirected rebound to make it 2-0.

“It was huge to score quickly. That first goal added to our confidence that we had from last night. Tirone was strong in net and we came out in the third and played solid,” head coach Dick Umile said.

Merrimack put a stop to the first-period spree with Hamous Gustafsson’s 15th goal of the year assisted by captain Jared Kolquist. Moving forward in the first, UNH answered when Grasso scored his 19th goal of the year.

The second period remained scoreless and the Wildcats went into the third period up 3-1. They put the pressure on the Warriors and finally scored a long-awaited power play goal. Hobey Baker nominee Tyler Kelleher rang in the third period to make it 4-1.

Merrimack trimmed the lead with 12:06 remaining when Derek Petti pushed one past Tirone. It was 4-2 in the late stages of game three, but Tirone stayed strong in net. Jason Salvaggio scored an empty netter for his 23rd of the year.

Confidence was lacking after Friday night, but Umile thanked his team for hanging tough and captain Matias Cleland for leading the way with his locker room presence and play on the ice.

“A guy like Cleland. He is our leader and our warrior. He is committed to it and got his teammates ready to go to battle where they did not want to see the season end. It has been a frustrating season, but now in the new season, we just won two out of three,” Umile said.

Here are the highlights of UNH's series winning victory over Merrimack:





The Wildcats now move on to the Hockey East Quarterfinals as they challenge the number one-seed UMass-Lowell Riverhawks. UNH lost both contests with Lowell earlier in the year. It will be a challenge, but Umile said, “They are a really good team, last time out they kicked our butt, but earlier in the year we played them tough and we will have to duplicate that moving forward.”

The Wildcats will open up the best-of-three series at the Tsongas Center down in Lowell, Massachusetts Fri. March 10th.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

UNH Captain's Corner: Searching for a Playoff Turnaround

UNH Captain Matias Cleland


With the 2016-17 regular season over and the Hockey East Playoffs about to begin, I thought it might be fun, and informative, to take a look back at the first "UNH Captain's Corner" of the season. Here's a link to "UNH Captain's Corner: Season Opening Loss to Bentley" posted on October 10, 2016.

The article included my first interview with UNH captain Matias Cleland. UNH had just come off a 5-1 loss to Bentley College from the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The Wildcats had difficulties scoring on the power play and preventing goals on defense so I asked Matias what the team needed to do to improve these areas.

As the season progressed, the UNH power play became one of the best in Hockey East and Division 1. In Hockey East competition (22 games for each HE team), the Wildcats' power play scored on 27.6% of opportunities (27 out of 98) - 2nd best in the conference. Across the overall, 32 game season, UNH converted on 22.7% of opportunities (38 out of 167) - 7th best in all of NCAA Division 1.

At the other end of the ice, UNH's team defense mostly struggled. In the 12-team Hockey East Conference, UNH had the 10th scoring defense. The Wildcats allowed an average of 3.50 goals per game. Overall, UNH's defense was ranked #52 in the nation having allowed an average of 3.47 goals per game.

Needless to say, to succeed in the upcoming Hockey East Playoffs, UNH will need to continue to score on the power play and improve play in the defensive zone. In my interview with Matias, we discussed these two key areas as well as the opening round, playoff series against Merrimack College.

Captain's Interview

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): In our first Captain's Corner of the season, which followed a 5-1 loss to Bentley College in the season opener, we talked about two key areas that the team needed to improve. The first was the power play. Against Bentley, UNH had a 5-on-3 power play opportunity in each of the three periods but did not score. I asked you what the power play units needed to do to improve. Here's your answer:
"We have some skilled players on both units obviously and that can lead to guys not shooting the puck as much as they need to. I think we can look to shoot the puck more and get bodies to the net. That being said, we had a lot of shots blocked on the power play on Saturday night. We need to get pucks through traffic and give our guys down low a chance to get second opportunities. This will help our power play a lot."
As the season progressed, the UNH power play dramatically improved. In Hockey East competition, UNH had the second best conversion rate in the league - 27.6%. Your contributions to the power play were a key. As the only defenseman on the first unit, you scored 2 goals and 20 assists (2nd most in Hockey East and the nation) on the power play. Looking beyond the impressive statistics, what did each player on the first power play unit (i.e., yourself, Tyler Kelleher, Jason Salvaggio, Michael McNicholas, and Patrick Grasso) do to make it so effective?

Matias Cleland: Our power play has been effective this year. Each guy on the power play has done their part in making it effective. Kelleher and McNicholas are two skilled players that make plays. Grasso, who plays down low, is another skilled player that makes plays and is great at finding rebounds in front of the net. Salvaggio has a great shot and is great to have in the middle. We need to keep moving the puck quick and getting pucks to the net and we will be successful into the playoffs.



Mike Lowry: The other area for improvement we discussed after the season opener was defensive zone coverage. I asked you what defensive mistakes needed to be corrected: Here's your answer:
"They (Bentley) did a good job controlling the puck down below the goal line but they found open guys in front. That was the issue with the goals they scored. We need to execute our defensive zone and do our individual jobs. We felt like leaving guys open was a big reason why they were able to score goals on us. If we can fix this, we will be a tough team to score against."
In many games this season, UNH struggled in the defensive end. In Hockey East competition, UNH allowed the third most goals per game - 3.50. Over the final 12 games of the regular season (Record: 1-9-2), goalie Danny Tirone faced an average of 40 shots on goal per game. Did leaving guys open in the defensive zone become a chronic problem? Were there other types of defensive breakdowns over the last dozen games? Does UNH have the manpower and ability to overcome these problems in the Hockey East playoffs?

Matias Cleland: The defensive zone is obviously key for any hockey team. I do believe there are areas we need to clean up in the defensive zone, but you also have to look at the teams we played down the stretch. We played some of the most skilled teams in the nation and those type of teams are going to score goals. We just have to limit them. We can't beat ourselves in playoffs and that's going to be the key going into the post season. Everyone has to do their jobs.



Lowry: The opening round of the playoffs at Merrimack College will be a rematch from last season. Last year's team lost the best-of-three series in overtime of Game 3. Earlier this season, UNH defeated Merrimack 6-2 and tied 3-3 at the Whittemore Center. Does Merrimack present a unique challenge on their smaller ice surface and arena? What are the keys to a UNH victory?

Cleland: Merrimack is a good team that plays well in their building. They play hard and have some skilled players. Winning 1v1 battles will be key. Specialty teams and goaltending are always the two main areas in the playoffs. These are two areas that I believe we can win and it'll put us in a position to win the series this weekend.



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