Saturday, December 31, 2011

Brown Out The Whitt

DURHAM, NH - Brown University goalie Marco De Filippo faced 41 shots on goal. He made 39 saves - several were spectacular.

For two periods, UNH goalie Matt Di Girolamo seemed to be fighting the routine saves. On Brown's second and third goals, he didn't succeed. Midway through the second period, UNH was already in a 3-0 hole. With some high-energy offensive play in the third period, UNH managed to make it a 3-2 contest. But in the end, Brown defeated UNH 5-2, including an empty net goal.

A cornerstone of the UNH teams that have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for 10 consecutive years has been outstanding goaltending. Michael Ayers, Jeff Pietrasiak, Kevin Regan, Brian Foster, and last season, Matt Di Girolamo. Without them making the routine and spectacular saves, UNH would not have been so successful.

I recently stumbled across a 2002 interview with legendary goalie coach Mike Geragosian. He has been the "volunteer" goalie coach for Boston University since 1999. In the article, Geragosian pointed out that a key part of his job is to study video of the opposing goalies to search for any vulnerabilities.

Assuming the Brown University coaching staff did this kind of homework, they may have noticed that Di Girolamo seems to be having difficulty with shots to his right, blocker side. On the second goal tonight, the shot went over Di Girolamo's right shoulder. He didn't lift his blocker up quick enough and because of his stature, there was plenty of space above his shoulder and under the crossbar. Another example is the flukey, first goal that BU scored against UNH in their second meeting of the season. On that occasion, Di Girolamo attempted to stand tall with his blocker but the puck snuck past him from a nearly impossible angle.

Throughout last season, Coach Umile made a point of giving credit to Di Girolamo's solid, consistent play in the net. It must have been a tough decision to pull him after the second period tonight. Freshman goaltender Casey DeSmith, who played so well against BU in the game before the holiday break, turned in another poised performance in the final period. On a rare penalty shot, DeSmith stood tall, moved laterally to his right, and made a kick save against Brown's Captain Jack Maclellan.

Next Saturday's game at Frozen Fenway will attract one of the largest viewerships for a UNH hockey game in recent years. On the strength of Di Girolamo's accomplishments last season and his stature as the senior goalie, he probably will get the start against the University of Maine. However, unless Di Girolamo returns to the form that made him a premier goalie in Hockey East, UNH fans may see a lot more of Casey DeSmith in the second half of the season.

This and That
~ Associate Coach Jim Tortorella - brother of the f-bomb throwing Head Coach of the New York Rangers featured on HBO's "24/7" - juggled his defensive pairings throughout the game. Of note, Damon Kipp was paired with Eric Knodel on the first power play unit. Trevor van Riemsdyk had been in that role prior to tonight.
~ With Dalton Speelman and Greg Burke out of the lineup, veteran Austin Block centered the line with freshmen Casey Thrush on the left wing and Matt Willows on the right wing. That line was effective in maintaining the puck in Brown's zone and generating 5 shots on goal.
~ Over the first two periods, leading scorer Stevie Moses seemed to be looking to pass more than usual, without much success. In the final period, Moses returned to the dynamic style which generates so many unassisted shots on goal. He finished the game with 9 shots on goal. If Di Filippo hadn't robbed him a few times, the outcome of the game would have been different.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

UNH Recruit Brett Pesce Joins U.S. National U-18 Team

One of UNH's top defensive recruits, Brett Pesce has been added to the roster of Team USA for two upcoming college games. The U.S. Under-18 National Team Development Program team will be playing Minnesota State University-Mankato on Dec. 30th and the University of Wisconsin on New Year's Eve. Pesce is substituting for Jacob Trouba who is playing for the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta.

Last summer, Brett Pesce participated in USA Hockey's Select 17 Player Development Camp and finished second in scoring among defensemen with a goal and 4 assists in 5 games. He was chosen for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that competed in the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The highlight for Pesce was assisting on the overtime, game-winning goal against the Russian team. Fellow UNH Recruit Jordan Masters was one of the leading scorers for the U.S. Team with 4 goals and 3 assists.

This season, Brett Pesce has primarily played for the Jersey Hitmen of the EJHL while he completes his senior year at Irvington High School in Westchester County, NY. Pesce missed the first 13 games of the Hitmen's season with an upper body injury. Since his return to the Hitmen lineup, Pesce has scored a goal and 5 assists in 17 games. Pesce has also played a few games for his high school team, the Sleepy Hollow/Irvington Legends.

When Brett Pesce committed to UNH last January, the plan was to graduate from high school in the spring of 2012 then play the 2012-13 season for the Omaha Lancers in the United States Hockey League. However, given his strong performance with Team USA last summer and the Jersey Hitmen this season, Pesce may be under consideration for admission to UNH in the Fall of 2012. UNH will lose senior defenseman Damon Kipp to graduation this spring and former freshman Eric Chevrier recently left UNH to play in the BCHL. UNH's newest recruit, defenseman Harry Quast of the Bay State Breakers, will be given an oppportunity to make the 2012-13 UNH squad. Don't be surprised to see Brett Pesce playing for the UNH Wildcats in the 2012-13 season.

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Jumbotron

Ever since instant replays became commonplace on TV coverage of the NFL in the 1960's (it's true, you can look it up), the brains of sports fans have been trained to look for them. Exciting plays, scores, near misses, controversial calls - we want to see them again, the sooner the better. With the proliferation of Jumbotrons and other video scoreboards in hockey arenas all over the country, fans and players alike gaze upwards to see what just happened. But not at the Whittemore Center, home of the UNH Wildcats.

Travelling to away games this season, I've noticed how integral the video scoreboard has become to the college hockey experience at many schools. The type of scoreboard and the way the video display is used often reflects the character of the school. The Agganis Arena at Boston University, opened in 2005, has all the bells, whistles, and glitz you'd expect at a venue in the entertainment hub of New England. The robust, 4-sided Jumbotron suspended over center ice is shaped like the one at the old Boston Garden. When the game is in progress, the video displays on each side are used like an IMAX theater. The fans can either follow the actual players on the ice or watch the live video of the play around the puck. To maximize its entertainment value, the video scoreboard at Agganis is also used for other purposes such as player interviews and the between-periods dance contest.

In contrast, Harvard University utilizes its video scoreboard in a much more understated way. The Bright Hockey Center, originally built in 1956 and renovated/expanded in 1978, also has a four-sided video scoreboard suspended over center ice but it is smaller and tucked up into the rafters. In between periods, fans are shown a minidocumentary on the history of Harvard Hockey.

When the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH was opened in 1995, it was a state-of-the-art hockey facility. For the fans it offers great site lines, a spacious promenade where you can still see the ice, clean and ample restrooms, many seats with arms and backs, and good quality concession stands. Upgrades have included seamless glass on the boards. Players are attracted by the spacious locker rooms and amenities, the olympic-sized rink, and the fan enthusiasm.

The only element missing from the hockey experience at the Whittemore Center is a video scoreboard. Much of the infrastructure is in place. The wiring was reportedly installed years ago and TV cameras are provided through UNHWildcats.TV. Their coverage now includes instant replays.

Of course, budgets at New Hampshire's flagship university are tight and getting tighter every year. New Hampshire taxpayers are known for their thriftiness (some would say stinginess). However, a new video scoreboard does not need to be an extravagant Jumbotron. It would be more fitting to purchase a single-sided scoreboard to replace the one at the north end of the arena. Would you rather watch the two, beloved stick-figure fans in stilted "animation" or full-color, instant replays of the hockey action?

Perhaps the best solution would be a video scoreboard similar to the one some fans saw at St. Cloud State University earlier this season. Take advantage of New Hampshire's entrepreneurial spirit, round up several prominent businesses based in New Hampshire, and surround the video screen with their logos. Doesn't matter much whether the logo square footage far exceeds the size of the video display as long as fans can see the replays. Or maybe some former UNH players who have lucrative careers in the sport could guarantee contributions to a fund drive specifically for a video scoreboard for The Whitt.

It's best not to underestimate the value a video scoreboard has in recruiting talented players to UNH. Watch any NHL or NCAA hockey game and notice what the players on the bench automatically do following an important play in a game. Whether they want to see themselves in action, review a controversial call, or see a pretty goal-scoring play, the players are looking up at the video screen. It's as much a part of the modern hockey game as composite hockey sticks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

UNH Recruits Update: Week 12

Player of the Week - Mike McNicholas

17-year-old forward Mike McNicholas has played in just 11 games in the United States Hockey League, but he has recently started to be a key contributor to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. When the USHL season began, McNicholas was on the roster but rarely dressed for games. Over the first 16 games, he only played in 5 games. McNicholas has now played in 5 games in a row and in these games, has scored 2 goals and 3 assists with a +/- rating of +4.

In the last game, the Lumberjacks pulled their goalie and McNicholas jumped on the ice as the extra attacker. With just 21 seconds left in regulation, McNicholas scored the tying goal against the Indiana Ice. Muskegon won in overtime.

The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2012 Recruits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2012. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ How old the player would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of seniors leaving the team at the end of the previous season.
~ The player's performance in the current season.

Last season, Tyler Kelleher was a freshman at Deerfield Academy and scheduled to graduate in the Spring of 2014. Unless he accelerates his schooling, he's on track to enter UNH in the Fall of 2014. If he graduates from high school a year early, he will have played two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program. At that point, he would be ready - both academically and in terms of his hockey development - to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2013.

2012 Recruits
Dan CorrealeNanaimo ClippersBCHL21012
Maxim GaudreaultSioux CityUSHL25651116
Jamie HillWaterlooUSHL23481234
Collin MacDonaldJersey HitmenEJHL2919133212
Harry QuastBay StateEJHL297182534
Kyle SmithJunior BruinsEJHL261227396
2013 Recruit
Jordan MastersMuskegonUSHL20371033
Matias ClelandWaterlooUSHL1302017
Dylan MallerTri-CityUSHL150222
Brett PesceJersey HitmenEJHL1615618
Andrew PoturalskiBuffalo Jr SabresOJHL2112172912
2013 or '14 Recruit
Michael McNicholasMuskegonUSHL112350
2014 Recruits
Shane EisermanCushing AcademyNEPSAC82810-
Tyler KelleherUSA U17 TeamUSHL14571214
2015 Recruits
Jason KalinowskiSalisbury Prep NEPSAC9 42 6-

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League:
~ After undergoing shoulder surgery and 5 months of rehabilitation, 2012 Recruit Dan Correale has returned to action. Now playing for the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL, Correale scored a short-handed goal in his second game back. It turned out to be the game winning goal as the Clippers defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters 5-0.
Ontario Junior Hockey League:
~ 2013 Recruit Andrew Poturalski broke his ankle during a practice session in the middle of November. He has been cleared to skate this week.
New England Prep School Hockey Conference:
~ 2014 Recruit Shane Eiserman is off to a fast start in his first season of prep school hockey. In 8 games with Cushing Academy, Eiserman has scored 2 goals and 8 assists.
~ 2015 Recruit Jason Kalinowski is also off to a solid start. In 9 games with the Salisbury School, Kalinowski has scored 4 goals and 2 assists.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mike Vecchione's Decommitment from UNH: Part II

Part I of the story began to explore how Mike Vecchione, a top high school hockey player in Massachusetts, initially committed to play at UNH, then recently decided to withdraw his commitment. As noted, Vecchione is the fifth young player since March 2009 who verbally accepted an offer to play UNH hockey but never ended up enrolling in the University. UNH Hockey is not the only top-tier Division I program to have committed recruits end up playing for other teams.

To illustrate, consider what has happened with recruits at Boston College, one of UNH's rivals in Hockey East. In just the the last year and a half, four committed recruits - Vinny Saponari, Brandon Shea, KJ Tiefenwerth and Cody Ferriero - ended up not playing for BC. Saponari, a 4th Round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers (now Winnipeg Jets) who had been dismissed from BU in May, 2010, committed to BC in October, 2010. However, two months later, Saponari had his application for transfer denied by the Admissions Office at BC. He now plays for Northeastern University. Saponari's case is similar to those of Cam Reid and Matt White (see Part I of this series) in that a failure to successfully navigate the academic admission process resulted in the player not playing for the school's hockey team.

Brandon Shea, who is considered a solid NHL prospect, verbally committed to BC when he was 15 years old. In July, 2011, Shea gave up a promised scholarship from BC and a slot with the U.S. National Team Development Program to join the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Shea's chosen path is similar to the case of Ryan Bourque who gave up a hockey scholarship at UNH to play major junior hockey in Canada.

Thanks to the reporting of U.S. Hockey Report, the decommitments from BC of KJ Tiefenwerth and Cody Ferriero provide a rare glimpse into how the verbal commitment process typically works in Division I hockey. Tiefenwerth, who was identified as a potential late-round NHL draft pick by the Central Scouting Service in October, 2010, also committed to BC at a very early age. An October, 2011 article in U.S. Hockey Report described how Tiefenwerth was offered a full BC scholarship in August, 2007 when he was 15 years old but the BC coaching staff later changed their mind. BC reportedly told Tiefenwerth that if he followed through on his commitment to BC, his scholarship would be honored but he would never play hockey for the Eagles. In the face of this rejection, Tiefenwerth maintained his verbal commitment to BC right up until October,2011 when he decommitted. As a member of the Junior Bruins, Tiefenwerth is currently the 4th leading scorer in the Eastern Junior Hockey League and he is expected to sign on with a Division I hockey program.

In September, 2008 at the age of 16, Cody Ferriero verbally committed to accept a BC scholarship. Ferriero was subsequently drafted in the 5th Round of the June, 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks (where his older brother Benn plays). However, in July 2010, just two months before Ferriero was scheduled to enroll at Boston College, he decided to decommit and ended up playing for Northeastern University.

In an in depth interview with U.S. Hockey Report shortly after he decommitted, Ferriero described how he had been recruited by BC and his perspective on what lead to his decommitment:
"When I first went in, they offered me a two-year (scholarship) but they said if things changed I'd be considered for more money. As things moved along, guys left school, guys came in early, guys decommitted. Of the original forwards who originally committed for this fall - Chris Kreider came in early - I was the only one left. I was under the impression that more money would be considered for me. But I never got any calls from the coaches or had any indication that was going to happen and over the past year, year and a half, I kept feeling like I was getting brushed off and it wasn't going to happen. But it wasn't just about the money. It was more a feeling that I wasn't wanted. I was told I would be considered for more money but I never had a chance to get it. I was always told if I come in and play well I would get more money, but once I'm there they don't have to do anything. They don't have to give me more money. They already have me."
According to Ferriero, he requested a meeting with Coach Jerry York and his coaching staff before deciding to decommit.
"I asked questions that were pretty direct about where they saw me and I didn't get straightforward answers. I asked them where I would be on the depth chart and I was told there were 12-13 guys including me who would be competing. I was looking for a more straightforward answer than that... some indication of where they saw me. Most of the time when players get minutes they are usually four-year guys. I only got two years coming in. Where does that stack me up with the other guys? I didn't get a straightforward answer. They brushed me off and didn't worry about what I had to say. I felt pretty upset after that meeting, not so much with the coaches in particular, but... I just didn't want to be stuck in a situation where I wouldn't reach my full potential and be able to compete."
Of course, because of NCAA rules, the Boston College coaching staff have never publicly commented on what happened with Cody Ferriero from their perspective.

Do the Tiefenwerth & Ferreiro Stories Shed Light on Mike Vecchione's Situation?
There are obvious differences between Tiefenweith and Ferreiro's decommitment from Boston College and Mike Vecchione's decommitment from UNH. They involve different hockey programs, coaching staffs, and players. In addition, each player provided varying amounts of information on what happened from their unique points of view. However, these stories do offer insights into how the commitment process typically works.

Offer of Athletic Scholarship:
First of all, when published reports say that a recruit "accepted an offer" and/or "verbally committed", it generally means that the coaching staff of the university has made a verbal offer of financial aid for a specific number of years. The one exception would be a late recruit who will join the team as a "walk on" meaning no financial aid has been offered. From the numerous "commitment" articles I've read in recent months, it is often unclear whether the player has accepted a full scholarship or a lesser amount. I rarely see an article which explicitly says the player accepted an offer for 1, 2, or 3 years of financial aid (known as a "partial" scholarship). The one hard and fast rule is that if an article reports the player accepted a full scholarship offer, it means that tuition, room, board, and related expenses will be paid in full for all four years. Sometimes, the original announcement of the player's verbal commitment will specify a full scholarship (e.g., Shane Eiserman). In other cases, if you look closely, the local newspaper covering the recruit during the course of the season will mention that he has a full scholarship (e.g., this article on Jordan Masters and Michael McNicholas).

None of the articles on Mike Vecchione referenced in Part I reported that he accepted a full scholarship offer from UNH when he verbally committed in March 2010. However, given that the offer was made over a year ago and Vecchione stuck by his commitment until last week, it's safe to assume that a specific amount of athletic scholarship was offered and accepted. In other words, Vecchione has known the level of financial commitment UNH was making from the beginning.

Periodic Discussions of Player's Plans:
When Mike Vecchione first committed to UNH, he reported that Coach Umile was "straightforward" with him and asked him to play junior hockey in order "to get bigger, stronger, and faster." Later, in the spring of his senior year at Malden Catholic, Vecchione reported that the UNH coaches and his coach/advisor would come up with a plan for which junior team he would play for. Vecchione has not claimed that the UNH coaches were inaccessible or provided vague answers to his questions. In fact, the coaches appeared to be straightforward in asking Vecchione to spend another year in the USHL next season.

What About Vecchione's Claim That UNH is Overcommitted for Next Season?
Roster Size:
The only aspect of roster size for next season that is an absolutely certainty is that 3 forwards (Moses, Borisenok, & McCarey), 1 defenseman (Kipp), and 2 goalies (Di Girolamo & Scott) will not be on the roster due to graduation. In addition, Freshman Defenseman Eric Chevrier recently left UNH to play in the British Columbia Hockey League. This year's roster began with 27 players.

Looking at rosters back to the 2003-04 season, UNH has had between 24 and 30 players on the team. The average roster size has been 26. With the 6 seniors leaving, the 2012-13 roster could theoretically carry as many as 9 or 10 freshmen (to make a roster of 29 or 30). In fact, the NCAA does not restrict the number of players that can be on a roster.

Focusing on just the number of forwards on the roster, UNH has 15 this season. With 3 Senior forwards leaving, that leaves 12 forwards returning in 2012-13. Over the last 8 seasons, the highest number of fowards was 16 in 2008-09. In any given game, NCAA rules allow 18 players to dress plus 2-3 goalies. Assuming the typical complement of 6 defensemen in each game, that means that four lines of 3 forwards may dress.

Players who don't dress for games still participate in the rigorous practice and conditioning sessions throughout the season. By all indications, this strategy helped prepare Defensemen Eric Knodel and Justin Agosta for Division I competition. Plus, invariably one or more forwards get injured during the course of the season. Right now, 3 forwards who are upperclassmen have been out of the lineup with injuries providing 3 freshmen forwards with ample playing time.

Adding 4-6 freshman forwards to the 2012-13 roster would mean having 16-18 total fowards. Again, theoretically this does not seem impossible. It was an anomaly but in the 2003-04 season, UNH had 12 defensemen on its roster.

Sufficient Scholarship Money:
Without knowing how much scholarship money has been given to this year's seniors, it is impossible to know how much scholarship money will be available for incoming freshman next season. However, if Mike Vecchione was not offered a full scholarship when he verbally committed, he theoretically could play next season without receiving athletic financial aid. He still would likely be eligible for conventional academic scholarships and subsidized student loans.


As I explained in Part I, without corroboration from an involved party other than Mike Vecchione and the UNH coaching staff, there is no way to know for sure whether UNH did or did not guarantee Vecchione he could join UNH for the 2012-13 season. In describing why he decommitted, Vecchione said the UNH coaches "wanted" him to play another year for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL. This implies that Coach Umile and his staff were not demanding or insisting that he defer for a year.

What Vecchione, or any other recruit has a right to expect is an honest appraisal by the coaching staff of his readiness to make the jump to Division I hockey. Such an appraisal should include a relative comparison between his readiness and the other recruits under consideration. There is nothing in the public record to indicate that the UNH coaches failed to provide this assessment to Vecchione. Given how forthright UNH was in requesting Vecchione postpone enrollment for another year, it seems likely to this writer that they also discussed that topic.

I'd like to close with an anecdote described in the Muskegon Chronicle which covers the Lumberjacks of the USHL. This past summer, forward Casey Thrush had finished up his first season in the USHL and was making plans for the 2012-13 season. The Chronicle reported that:
"Thrush was actually planning to return to Muskegon for a second season this year. While he was ready to play college hockey, New Hampshire didn’t have an opening on the roster. But then a player was injured, opening a spot on the team for Thrush."

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mike Vecchione's Decommitment from UNH: Part I

The U.S. Hockey Report was the first to report that 18-year-old Mike Vecchione of the Tri-City Storm had withdrawn his commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. In a subsequent article in The Daily Item of Lynn, MA, Vecchione explained why he decommitted from UNH:
"We agreed to do a year in junior hockey. Then they told me they want me to do another year out here (in Nebraska). That's not what I agreed to. One of the problems is they overcommitted. They wanted to push me back. I'm ready to play college hockey right now. UNH is a great school with a great program; they just overcommitted."
Mike Vecchione was arguably the best high school hockey player in Massachusetts over the last two seasons. This season, he has taken his game to the next level, playing for the Tri-City Storm in the United States Hockey League, the top junior hockey league in the US. Although Vecchione was not drafted by an NHL team in the Entry Draft last summer, he still has the potential to become an elite college hockey player.

Avid UNH Hockey fans are understandably concerned over the loss of a top prospect who had selected UNH over other top college programs. The concern is amplified by the backdrop of other talented young players first committing to play at UNH, then not enrolling for various reasons. In recent years, two other gifted players have decommitted from UNH. In March, 2009, Ryan Bourque - son of NHL Hall of Famer Ray Bourque - decided to renege on his commitment to UNH in order to play Major Junior hockey in Quebec. A few months later, Bourque was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 3rd round of the NHL Entry Draft. In September, 2010, Joey Laleggia, a top Canadian junior player, decommitted from UNH and ended up playing for the University of Denver this season.

In two other cases, a top prospect who had committed to UNH was not allowed to enroll because they did not meet academic standards. In the summer of 2009, Matt White, a top prospect from California, did not meet the requirements of the NCAA Clearinghouse which establishes minimum standards for student/athletes. White had planned on playing for UNH in the 2009-10 season but withdrew his commitment. Instead, he played another season in the USHL, won the Player of the Year award, and is now playing for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. In August, 2009, Cam Reid was about to make the cross-country journey to sign up for UNH classes when he was informed more than one of his high school classes did not meet UNH's standards. Earlier that summer, Reid had been drafted by the Nashville Predators. He ended up playing one more season of junior hockey and now plays for St. Cloud State University.

Now, Mike Vecchione has become the fifth talented young player in 2 and 1/2 years to not reach the goal of playing hockey for the UNH Wildcats. Although Vecchione has chosen to go another route, there are many indications that his commitment to UNH was sincere.

Chronology of Mike Vecchione's Commitment to UNH
In late March, 2010, Vecchione first gave his verbal commitment to play hockey at UNH. At the time, Vecchione had just turned 17 and was a junior at Malden Catholic (MC) High School. He had helped lead Malden Catholic to the semi-finals of the Massachusetts Super 8 Hockey Tournament and had been named the Player of the Year for Massachusetts.

Former UNH Associate Head Coach David Lassonde reportedly scouted Vecchione at many games and Head Coach Dick Umile made Vecchione the offer after also seeing him play. When Vecchione made his verbal commitment to UNH, he said:
“This was the best fit for me. The campus is unbelievable, and coach [Dick Umile] welcomed me, and he was very nice. I also like their big ice surface, which is perfect for my speed.”
According to MC Head Coach Chris Serino - a former assistant coach at UNH and head coach at Merrimack College - Vecchione was also recruited by Harvard, Boston College, Providence and UMass-Amherst. At the time Vecchione made his verbal commitment to UNH, he was described as an honors student.

In November, 2010, Vecchione made another public gesture reflecting his level of commitment to UNH. According to a brief article in a local newspaper which covers towns north of Boston, Malden Catholic held an event on "National Signing Day" for four of its student athletes. On this day each year, seniors in high schools all over the country sign a National Letter of Intent ("NLI"; also called "LOI" for "Letter of Intent") to play an NCAA sport. The NLI is a binding agreement in which the student agrees to attend the college for one academic year in exchange for athletic financial aid from the college for that academic year.

Typically, the student who signs the NLI is making a commitment to enroll in the college at the beginning of the next academic year. Once an NLI is signed by the student, his/her parent or guardian, and the college, no other NCAA institution may recruit the student for as long as the NLI is in effect. Although Mike Vechionne was one of the four MC students at the event, his presence was apparently symbolic. A spokesperson for UNH has confirmed that Mike Vecchione did not sign a National Letter of Intent to attend the university.

Soon after the student-athlete event at Malden Catholic, Vecchione announced a plan to play junior hockey in the 2011-12 season. In a December, 2010 article in the New England Hockey Journal, Vecchione said:
“I felt UNH would be the best fit for me, but I don’t see myself going up there next year. Coach Umile was straightforward with me. He told me he’d like to see me get bigger, stronger and faster, and asked me if I’d be willing to do an extra year in the USHL.”
Vecchione finished out the 2010-2011 season with Malden Catholic, leading them to the school's first Super 8 Massachusetts High School Championship. In an interview following Malden Catholic's dramatic overtime victory, Vecchione said:
"After we won the state title, I got a call from Dick Umile (the UNH head coach) and his assistant David Lassonde congratulating me. They will have a say in where I’ll be playing next year, but Chris (Serino) is my backbone, my communicator and architect, who will help set everything up for me. I’ll be going away to play juniors for a year, before coming home to UNH.”
At the time, two junior teams were under consideration: Tri-City Storm (USHL), who had drafted Vecchione, and the Westside Warriors (British Columbia Hockey League).

This past August and September, 2011, Mike Vecchione tried out for and made the 23-player Active Roster of the Tri-City Storm. Over the first 17 games of his first season in the USHL, he had scored 4 goals and 5 assists. In a game on November 26th against the Lincoln Stars, Vecchione sustained an upper body injury and has missed 7 games. There is no official word on when he will return to the Tri-City Storms' lineup.

What Were the Terms of Vecchione's Verbal Commitment to UNH?
By design and customary practice, details about the recruiting and commitment process are difficult to come by. Up until a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent, the college is forbidden by NCAA rules to comment on the recruit other than to confirm that the prospect is being recruited. Since Mike Vecchione did not sign an NLI to play hockey at UNH, we will never hear the perspective of Coach Dick Umile and his staff about the recruiting of Vecchione. To date, all we have to go by are the public statements of Vecchione. It seems clear that Vecchione believed he had an agreement with UNH to play the 2011-12 season in the USHL and enroll at UNH in the fall of 2012.

The UNH coaching staff were not required to develop or sign any written agreement during the 20-month period they were recruiting Mike Vecchione. Obviously, there were ongoing discussions between Vecchione and one or more UNH coaches. For example, the decision to leave his hometown of Saugus, MA and travel to Kearney, Nebraska to play in the USHL was made in consultation with UNH. But did any of the UNH coaches ever tell Vecchione that a slot on the 2012-13 roster was guaranteed in exchange for his playing one season in the USHL? We will never know the unequivocal answer to that question because Coach Umile, former Associate Coach Lassonde, and Associate Coach Scott Borek are not allowed to comment. It's possible that either the coach of the Tri-City Storm and/or Coach Serino of Malden Catholic are familiar with the negotiations but neither has commented on the situation.

Events Preceding Vecchione's Decommitment
According to a report on ESPNBoston, Mike Vecchione's informed UNH of his decision to decommit on or around December 1st. Since the USHL season began in October, the Tri-City Storm and Vecchione have faced a number of challenges. The Storm has the second worst record in the USHL and won only 3 games in November. The Storm's owner fired the Head Coach/General Manager on December 7th. On November 26th, Vecchione suffered an upper body injury serious enough to keep him out of the lineup. In the ESPN article, Vecchione described his situation in Tri-City as "things are good".

One unconfirmed possibility is that the early signing period for National Letters of Intent had an impact on the process. For hockey, prospects and universities have an opportunity to sign NLI's from the second to third Wednesdays in November. Perhaps Vecchione was looking for UNH to offer him an NLI in early November and that's when UNH informed him of their request to have him play another year in juniors.

Conclusion for Part I
Most UNH hockey fans are familiar with the successful record of Coach Umile and his coaches. Since the 1991-92 season, UNH has earned a selection to the NCAA Championship Tournament in 17 out of the 20 seasons. Similarly, the UNH coaching staff have recruited and developed numerous players who excelled at the college level. Under Coach Umile's leadership, there have been 8 players to win the Hockey East Player of the Year Award and 23 players who have been named as All-Americans.

It almost goes without saying that Coach Umile and his staff have practiced a successful approach to recruiting and teaching young hockey prospects. Mike Vecchione is a high-profile recruit from a Northern suburb of Boston, near the town where Coach Umile grew up and was a star high school athlete. Vecchione's advisor is a former UNH assistant coach and friend of Coach Umile It's hard to imagine that UNH's decision to ask Vecchione to play an extra year of junior hockey and risk losing his commitment was made lightly.

Part II will explore the process involved when a young hockey player makes a verbal commitment to a college and the phenomenon of "decommitment".

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

EJHL Defenseman Harry Quast Commits to UNH

According to Chris Heisenberg's 2012 List, 6'4", 210 lbs defenseman Harry Quast has committed to play for the University of New Hampshire. Quast's hometown is Chagrin Falls, Ohio and he will be 21-years-old on March 26, 2012. This season with the Bay State Breakers of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, Quast has scored 7 goal and 16 assists, including 5 power play goals and 5 power play assists in 26 games. Quast is currently the leading scorer among EJHL defensemen and is tied for 1st in power play goals. His 5 power play goals also ties him for 4th among all EJHL players. So far this season, Quast has accumulated 26 penalty minutes.

This is Quast's second season playing for the Bay State Breakers. During the 2010-2011 season, he scored 1 goal and 5 assists in 42 games and had 24 minutes in penalties.

During the 2009-2010 season, Quast played with three different teams in the North American Hockey League: the Albert Lea Thunder, Topeka Roadrunners, and Janesville Jets. In 35 games, Quast scored 2 goals and 3 assists and had 42 penalty minutes.

In July, 2008, Harry Quast was invited to the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp. Quast scored 2 assists in 5 games. Other top defensemen at the camp included Brian Dumoulin and Patrick Wey who, like Quast, scored 2 points. Also attending the camp were current UNH freshmen Jay Camper and Casey DeSmith.

Monday, December 12, 2011

UNH Recruits Update: Week 11

Player of the Week - Kyle Smith

2012 UNH Recruit Kyle Smith helped lead the Junior Bruins to three victories in the 11th Annual New England Huskies Invitational Tournament in Fitchburg, MA. In this December Showcase, all of the EJHL teams played three games. Each game consisted of two, 25-minute periods. Kyle Smith posted 2 goals and 4 assists across six periods of hockey. This is the second time this season Smith has been selected as the "Player of the Week" among all UNH Recruits. Both Smith and the Jr. Bruins are having outstanding seasons. In 24 games, Smith has scored 11 goals and 24 assists. He is tied for 5th place in the EJHL in assists and is 7th in scoring. The Junior Bruins lead the Northern Division of the EJHL and are tied with the South Shore Kings of the Southern Division with 44 points.

2012 Recruits
Dan CorrealeNanaimo ClippersBCHLInjured0000
Maxim GaudreaultSioux CityUSHL2254916
Jamie HillWaterlooUSHL21471132
Collin MacDonaldJersey HitmenEJHL 2618102812
Kyle SmithJunior BruinsEJHL241124354
Mike VecchioneTri-CityUSHL174596
2012 or '13 Recruit
Jordan MastersMuskegonUSHL 1827933
2013 Recruits
Matias ClelandWaterlooUSHL1302017
Dylan MallerTri-CityUSHL130222
Brett PesceJersey HitmenEJHL131454
Andrew PoturalskiBuffalo Jr SabresOJHL2112172912
2013 or '14 Recruit
Michael McNicholasMuskegonUSHL91340
2014 Recruits
Shane EisermanCushing AcademyNEPSAC4033-
Tyler KelleherUSA U17 TeamUSHL12551014
2015 Recruits
Jason KalinowskiSalisbury Prep NEPSAC4 11 2-

News & Notes

~ Up until November 26th, 2012 Recruit Mike Vecchione was off to a solid start in his first USHL season. He had scored 4 goals and 5 assists in 17 games. However, that night in a game against the Lincoln Stars, Vecchione sustained an upper body injury and has missed 6 games. There is no official word on when he will return to the Tri-City Storms' lineup.
~ 2013 or 2014 Recruit Michael McNicholas scored his first USHL goal on Saturday, Dec. 10th in a game against the Omaha Lancers. The Lumberjacks lost the game 3-7. Over the last three games, McNicholas has posted a goal and 3 assists. In the nine games McNicholas has played this season with Muskegon, he has an overall +/- rating of +1.
~ 2014 Recruit Tyler Kelleher scored another goal for Team USA this week. Kelleher is averaging nearly a point a game so far this season.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

UNH Recruits At An Arena Near You in December

When the UNH Wildcats wrap up their season series against Boston University on Thursday, the three-week holiday break begins. UNH returns to action on Friday, Dec. 30th at home against Brown University. This is the fourth consecutive season UNH has taken three weeks off from competition before and after Christmas Day. In the early and mid-2000's, UNH usually participated in Holiday Tournaments in arenas from Florida to Minneapolis to Denver.

For UNH fans with an appetite for hockey over this extended break, there are several opportunities to watch future UNH Wildcats in action. Several young players who have committed to play at UNH will be playing games at venues within a reasonable driving distance from the Whittemore Center.

EJHL December Showcase

This Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 8th-11th, the Eastern Junior Hockey League will conduct its December Showcase at the 11th Annual New England Huskies Invitational Tournament. The games will be played on the two rinks at the Wallace Civic Center in Fitchburg, MA. All 14 EJHL teams will be in action.

2012 UNH Recruit Collin MacDonald, 2013 Recruit Brett Pesce, and the Jersey Hitmen will play three games:
Fri. Dec. 9, 5:20 vs. Boston Bandits
Sat. Dec. 10, 7:00 vs. South Shore Kings
Sun. Dec. 11, 10:50 vs. Capital District Selects
The Hitmen feature several other players who have committed to play NCAA Division I hockey including Jack Barre (Dartmouth), Corbin McGuire (Wisconsin) and Jason Stephanik (Quinnipiac).

2012 UNH Recruit Kyle Smith and the Junior Bruins will also play three games:
Thur. Dec. 8, 8:40 vs. Springfield Pics
Fri. Dec. 9, 7:10 vs. Rochester Stars
Sat. Dec. 10, 5:10 vs. New York Apple Core
The Junior Bruins also have several Division I commits including Cody Learned (Yale), Vinny Scotti (Merrimack) and Zach Luczyk (Quinnipiac).

The December Showcase in Fitchburg will feature 14 players who made the NHL Central Scouting Service's "Players to Watch" list for the 2012 Entry Draft. Four EJHLers - Collin MacDonald (Hitmen/UNH), Brian Morgan (Jr. Monarchs/Maine), Jason Stephanik (Hitmen/Quinnipiac), and Jimmy Vesey (South Shore/Harvard) - were given a "B" rating by the CSS. This indicates that they have the potential to be drafted in Rounds #3 through #5 in the NHL Entry Draft next summer.

New England Prep Lawrence-Groton Tournament

From Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 15th-17th, the 38th Annual Lawrence-Groton Holiday Tournament will be held at the O'Brien and Pratt Rinks on the campus of the Groton School and the Grant Arena on the campus of the Lawrence Academy in Groton, MA. The tournament includes 8 prep school teams: Cushing, Culver, Dexter, Groton, Holderness, Lawrence, Pomfret and Proctor. Each team plays one game on Thurday and two on Friday. The Championship Game on Saturday is played between the teams with the best, 3-game records.

2014 UNH Recruit Shane Eiserman and Cushing Academy will play three games over the first two days:
Thurs. Dec. 15, 3:30 vs. Dexter
Fri. Dec. 16, 12:30 vs. Groton
Fri. Dec. 16, 8:00 vs. Lawrence
They will also play a game on Saturday with the opponent to be determined by the records over the first two days. The Cushing Academy team includes Corey Scammon who has committed to play at UMass-Lowell.

New England Prep Flood-Marr Tournament

From Friday through Sunday, Dec. 16th-18th, the 47th Annual Flood-Marr Tournament will be held at the Roberts Ice Rink on the campus of Milton Academy and the Bliss Omni Flood Rink on the campus of the Noble & Greenough School in Dedham, MA. The tournament includes 8 prep school teams divided into two brackets. Salisbury, Deerfield, Kimball Union Academy, and Milton are in one bracket while Hotchkiss, Westminster, Andover, and Noble/Greenough are in the other. Each team plays three games on Friday and Saturday against the teams in their bracket. On Sunday, the Championship Game is played between the team from each bracket with the best, 3-game record.

2015 UNH Recruit Jason Kalinowski and the Salisbury School will play three games over the first two days:
Fri. Dec. 16, 11:00 vs. KUA @ Milton Rink
Fri. Dec. 16, 5:00 vs. Milton @ Milton Rink
Sat. Dec. 17, 1:00 vs. Deerfield @ Nobles Rink
They will also play a game on Sunday at Nobles Academy with the opponent to be determined by the records over the first two days.

This year, the Flood-Marr Tournament will feature 10 players on the NHL Central Scouting Service "Players to Watch" list. Five of the participants - Marc Biega (Salisbury/Harvard), Chris Calnan (Nobles), Alex Gonye (Deerfield), Tyler Wood (Nobles), and Doyle Somerby (KUA) - were given a "B" rating by the CSS.

Monday, December 05, 2011

UNH Recruits Update: Week 10

Player of the Week - Collin MacDonald

For the second time this season, Collin MacDonald has been selected as the "Player of the Week" among all UNH Recruits. When the Jersey Hitmen forward was selected back in Week 3, he had scored 7 goals over a 3-game stretch. This past week, the Eastern Junior Hockey League returned to action after the Thanksgiving break and MacDonald lead his team to 2 wins and an overtime loss. The 6'2", 196 lbs left-winger scored 4 goals in those three games, including 2 goals against the Philadelphia Revolution. MacDonald scored his 4th game-winning goal of the season in the Philly matchup. MacDonald is now the 3rd leading goal scorer in the EJHL and is tied for 10th in total points.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to watch MacDonald and the Hitmen play against the Springfield Pics at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, MA. MacDonald scored the first goal for the Hitmen with less than 30 seconds remaining in the 1st period. On the play, MacDonald was positioned near the crease to the right of the Springfield goalie and he batted the puck in off a rebound. When I first saw MacDonald play back on the opening game of the season in September, he was playing on the third line. Since then, he has become the top-scoring player on the Hitmen and gets significant icetime. MacDonald is now the starting left-winger and plays on the Hitmen's first power play unit.

What impressed me most yesterday was MacDonald's play in the offensive zone. He used his strength and size to control the puck in traffic and along the boards. Early in the third period with the Hitmen trailing 3-4, MacDonald carried the puck from the middle of the blueline, around a couple of Springfield players in the left faceoff circle, and managed to get a shot on goal as he was being held and dragged down to the ice. In the subsequent power play, MacDonald effectively moved the puck along the halfwall and corner boards.

With about a minute remaining in regulation, still trailing by a goal, Hitmen Head Coach Toby Harris pulled the goalie and MacDonald was on the ice to take the faceoff. Seconds later, MacDonald made a nifty spin move and got a shot on goal. Finally, at the 25.7 mark, Quinnipiac recruit Jason Stephanik tied the game. Early in the 4-on-4 overtime, MacDonald showed good speed and puck handling as he moved the puck across the red and bluelines into the Springfield zone. But a minute later, Springfield scored the overtime goal on a sharp-angle shot.

Throughout the game, I was very impressed with the play of 2013 Recruit Brett Pesce, a 6'3", 182 lbs, defenseman. I will feature Pesce in an upcoming post.

2012 Recruits
Dan CorrealeNanaimo ClippersBCHLInjured0000
Maxim GaudreaultSioux CityUSHL2054914
Jamie HillWaterlooUSHL19471132
Collin MacDonaldJersey HitmenEJHL 231892712
Kyle SmithJunior BruinsEJHL21920294
Mike VecchioneTri-CityUSHL174596
2012 or '13 Recruit
Jordan MastersMuskegonUSHL 1727931
2013 Recruits
Matias ClelandWaterlooUSHL1202017
Dylan MallerTri-CityUSHL100112
Brett PesceJersey HitmenEJHL111454
Andrew PoturalskiBuffalo Jr SabresOJHL2112172912
2013 or '14 Recruit
Michael McNicholasMuskegonUSHL80220
2014 Recruits
Shane EisermanCushing AcademyNEPSAC2022-
Tyler KelleherUSA U17 TeamUSHL114594
2015 Recruits
Jason KalinowskiSalisbury Prep NEPSAC1 10 1-

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League
~ 2012 Recruit Dan Correale, who has been recovering from shoulder surgery since mid-summer, was traded from the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League to the Nanaimo Clippers of the BCHL. At the end of last season, Coach Mike Vandekamp left the AJHL franchise in Grande Prairie to become the Head Coach and General Manager of the Nanaimo Clippers. In the 2007-'08 and 2008-'09 seasons, Dan Correale played for the Prince George Spruce Kings in the BCHL. In 2009, Coach Vandecamp recruited Correale to come play for him in Grande Prairie. Now, Dan Correale has followed Coach Vandecamp back to the BCHL. He is expected to be in the lineup in the next few weeks.
~ 2013 or 2014 Recruit Michael McNicholas has been playing more regularly as of late for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. In a Dec. 2nd victory over Youngstown, McNicholas scored the first two assists of his USHL career.
~ 2014 Recruit Tyler Kelleher picked up 2 assists for the USA Under-17 team this week. One came on a game-tying goal in the 3rd period of a game against Waterloo. Team USA went on to win the game in overtime. Upon seeing Kelleher play for the first time last night, Chris Peters - Writer and Editor of The United States of Hockey blog and former Public Relations representative for USA Hockey - tweeted "Tyler Kelleher is a joy to watch. Little guy can fly out there."
New England Prep School Hockey Conference:
~ In his first two games as a member of the Cushing Academy Penguins, 2014 Recruit Shane Eiserman picked up two assists.
~ A minute and a half into the first game of the season, 2015 Recruit Jason Kalinowski scored a power play goal for The Salisbury School. They went on to beat Williston-Northampton 5-1.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

UNH Still Winless on the Road

LOWELL, MA - Earlier in the week, Coach Umile described UMass-Lowell (UML) as a tough team to play on their home ice at the Tsongas Center. They still are. In front of a near sellout crowd, the Riverhawks outplayed UNH over the first two periods and held on to win 3-2.

Thousands of hockey fans came to Lowell tonight on a mission - to see and touch the Stanley Cup. Arriving two hours before the puck was dropped, legions of Bruins fans, proudly wearing the black, gold and white, stood in a long line to have their picture taken next to Lord Stanley's trophy. Even the blond NHL official, made famous by TV commercials of him carting the Cup through an airport, was on hand. The festive atmosphere was capped off by the singing of the National Anthem by none other than the legendary Bruins icon, Rene Rancourt.

UMass-Lowell entered the game trying to redeem themselves from the 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the Wildcats two Fridays ago. UNH was trying to prove to themselves and the rest of Hockey East that they could finally win a game on the road. UML succeeded. UNH did not.

The first period was marked by the UML forwards using their speed to carry the puck into the UNH zone. Less than 3 minutes into the game, Josh Holmstrom raced deep into the circle to the left of Matt Di Girolamo and snapped off a wrist shot. DiGi made the initial save with his stick but the rebound was quickly batted into the net by an open Stephen Buco. In a play reminiscent of some of the goals given up by UNH in the 7-6 loss to Harvard, the UNH defenders and backchecking forwards appeared to be more focused on the UML shooter and the puck, leaving an open forward loose near the crease.

UNH responded with effective forechecking by both the Pavelski-Borisenok-McCarey and Thrush-Camper-Block lines. Each kept the puck in the UML zone for nearly their entire shift and by the 9:04 mark of the 1st period, UNH was outshooting UML 4-3. Then, midway through the period, Freshman Grayson Downing stole the puck behind the UML net and made a move worthy of a highlight film. Downing spun around low in the circle to the right of UML goalie Doug Carr and made a centering pass to Greg Burke who was wide open to the left of Carr. The assist served as a punctuation mark to the Hockey East Rookie of the Month honor Downing earned for November. He now has 5 goals and 8 assists in his first 14 games in the NCAA.

With about 8 minutes remaining in Period 1, UNH would give up the second goal of the night on a play very similar to the first goal. Chad Ruhwedel took a wrist shot from the point and DiGi made the initial save with his right pad but an unguarded Terrence Wallin poked in the rebound. Once again, the UNH defense appeared to be focused on the shooter leaving a player loose to the right of the net. The period ended with UML outshooting UNH 12-10 and leading 2-1.

During the first half of Period 2, UMass-Lowell continued to carry the puck into the UNH zone with speed and they also moved more freely once in the zone. At the 10:44 mark, a UML player hit the post and UML had extended its lead in shots on goal to 20-13. In an apparent attempt to slow down UML's pace, defensiveman Connor Hardowa crushed a UML player into the halfboards, then John Henrion threw two bodychecks in open ice, and finally Eric Knodel laid a big hit on a UML forward.

Just as UNH was gaining the momentum, they gave up what turned out to be the game-winning goal. The scoring play evolved just like the first two goals only this time the initial shot came from the top of the circle to the right of Di Girolamo. This time it was defenseman Malcolm Lyles who took the initial wrist shot and David Vallorani who was left uncovered to the side of DiGi. Vallorani knocked in the rebound; UML 3, UNH 1. SOG: UML 27, UNH 16.

From the beginning of the 3rd period until the end, UNH played like a top-tier Hockey East team. The forechecking of all four lines was relentless at times. The defensemen were pinching in from the blueline at opportune moments to keep the puck in the UML zone. With about 11 minutes left in the period, Trevor van Riemsdyk again demonstrated what a gifted passer he is. One stride before leaving the UNH zone, TvR threaded the needle through center ice to John Henrion who was parked just outside the UML zone. Henrion broke in alone and got off a backhand shot, forcing Carr to make the save of the night.

At the 10:20 mark, Freshman Jay Camper - who was in the lineup in place of Jeff Silengo - fired a nice backhand shot. Shortly thereafter, first-year UML Coach, Norm Bazin, called timeout. When play resumed, UNH defenseman Justin Agosta pinched in from the blueline almost to the corner to keep the puck in play. He then made a tape-to-tape pass to Mike Borisenok in the top of the slot. Borisenok's one-timer made it 3-2 in favor of UML.

With 7:54 left in the game, UML was outshooting UNH 34-24. For the remainder of the period, UNH outshot UML 11-0 and nearly tied it up a few times. UNH went on the power play at 12:06, effectively moved the puck, and Kevin Goumas managed a couple of close-in shots on goal. During a subsequent power play minutes later, Eric Knodel hit the post with a slap shot from the point. With one minute left in regulation, Coach Umile called timeout and pulled Di Girolamo. UNH then kept the puck in the UML zone and managed another shot on goal but the buzzer sounded.

The rubber game of the UNH-UML series is Saturday night at the Whittemore Center. In order to put themselves in position to return to the NCAA Tournament next spring, UNH will need to correct the nagging, defensive mistakes that have kept their overall record below .500.
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