Monday, August 06, 2012

UNH Recruit Matias Cleland Ready For International Tournament

This Sunday, August 12th, UNH recruit Matias Cleland and his Waterloo Black Hawk teammates will be departing for Omsk, Russia for the 2012 Junior Club World Cup (JCWC). The tournament, which is in its second year, features junior teams from ten nations including Russia, Canada, the Czech Republic, and several other European countries. The Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League will represent the USA in the round-robin tournament this year. The games will be conducted from August 18 through August 26. Matias Cleland and two of his teammates will be blogging about their tournament experiences on the Waterloo Black Hawks blog. Last summer, an All-Star team from the Eastern Junior Hockey League - which included incoming UNH freshman Kyle Smith - represented the United States in the inaugural event. The EJHL team won its first two games against teams from Latvia and Slovakia but lost to the Moscow team who eventually won the tournament.

In preparation for the JCWC, Matias Cleland - an 18-year-old, 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman from Longmont, Colorado - participated in Waterloo's Orientation Camp last week. Cleland is coming off a successful first season in the USHL in which he scored a goal and 9 assists in 41 regular season games. His +/- rating was a solid zero. The Black Hawks, who finished the regular season in 3rd place in the Western Conference of the USHL, went on a tear in the playoffs. A 9-goal effort by veteran Jamie Hill (who will be a freshman at UNH) lead the Black Hawks all the way to the 5th and final game in the Championship Series against the Green Bay Gamblers. Cleland sustained a lower body injury in Game 3 of the second round against the Omaha Lancers. After missing the subsequent 7 playoff games, Matias tried to play in Game 3 against Green Bay but could not finish the series. The Gamblers defeated Waterloo in 5 games to win the Clark Cup.

Prior to joining the Black Hawks, Matias Cleland played youth hockey for the powerhouse Colorado Thunderbirds based in Denver. Brett Kostolansky, Alternate Captain for UNH this season, also played youth hockey for the Thunderbirds. In 2010, Cleland played on the Under-16 Midget Minor team that won the Tier 1 National Championship. That spring, Cleland was drafted by Waterloo in the third round of the USHL Futures Draft. In the 2010-11 season, he lead all defenseman on the Thunderbirds' U-18 Midget Major team with 5 goals and 26 assists in 38 games. In March, 2011, Matias Cleland made a verbal commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire.

In the following interview, Matias Cleland describes his preparation for the Junior Club World Cup and his future hockey plans:

C-H-C: On August 12th, you and your teammates on the Waterloo Black Hawks will be leaving for Russia for the 2012 Junior Club World Cup (JCWC). How are your preparations for the trip coming along?
Matias Cleland: They are coming along great! I am leaving on Wednesday, August 8th, to train for a few days in Waterloo. We then leave for Russia on Sunday, August 12th.

C-H-C: A number of veterans from last year's Black Hawk team - including Jamie Hill - are going off to college and won't be playing with you in the JCWC. Do you think the returning players and rookies will make for a competitive Black Hawks' team in the tournament?
Cleland: The guys that have left will be missed greatly. However, yes, I most definitely think that we will make for a competitive team for the tournament.

C-H-C: Last season, you made the jump from midget hockey with the Colorado Thunderbirds to the United States Hockey League. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make both on and off the ice?
Cleland: The biggest adjustments I had to make on the ice had to do with speed. Players were coming at me faster than in midget hockey, so I had to watch my gaps and move pucks quicker. The biggest thing off the ice was getting used to not living at home.

C-H-C: After finishing in 3rd place in the Western Conference, your Black Hawks made a playoff run all the way to the championship series against the Green Bay Gamblers. What was USHL playoff hockey like for you?
Cleland: USHL playoff hockey for me was awesome. It had a feeling to it that cannot be described. Unfortunately, I was injured in the Omaha series, but it still was a great experience.

C-H-C: Are you and UNH still on target for you to come to Durham in the Fall of 2013?
Cleland: Yes, that is the current plan.

C-H-C: You recently completed your senior year in high school. Are you planning to take any courses next year to further your education?
Cleland: Yes. I am going to take U.S. History and English Composition.

The Waterloo Black Hawks will begin their training camp in early September.  They open the regular season on September 28th against the defending USHL Champion, Green Bay Gamblers.


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