Monday, December 03, 2012

Kelleher, Eiserman and Team USA Coming to UNH


On the afternoon of Sunday, December 9th, the top 17-year-old, American hockey players will faceoff against the UNH Wildcats at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. Although the U.S. National Under-18 Team is made up of juniors and seniors in high school, they already have extensive experience competing against teams from the NCAA, the United States Hockey League, and top European Junior Hockey leagues. These elite players have been honing their skills in USA Hockey's National Team Development Program (NTDP) based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

So far this season, the NTDP U-18 team has played exhibition games against NCAA Division I power houses Wisconsin, Notre Dame, North Dakota, Cornell, and Minnesota plus Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville. Against the big 5, the U-18 team tied Notre Dame (1-1) and Minnesota (2-2) but lost to Wisconsin (0-5), North Dakota (4-6) and Cornell (2-6). In the other Division I matchups, Team USA beat Alabama-Huntsville 6-2 in Game 1 and tied them 1-1 in Game 2, and were defeated by Bemidji State 3-4. Against Division III schools Oswego State, St. Thomas University and St. Mary's University, Team USA has dominated winning all three games.

It's always a treat when Team USA comes to town. The last time they played UNH was back in October, 2006. In the 6-1 victory, UNH defeated a U-18 team which featured future Wildcat James van Riemsdyk.

The upcoming matchup between UNH and NTDP U-18 will be particularly special for two players - Tyler Kelleher and Shane Eiserman. Kelleher, a 5'6", 164 lbs. center for Team USA, is committed to play for UNH next season. Eiserman, a 6'2", 196 lbs. left winger, is on target to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2014.

Tyler Kelleher - #19

Tyler Kelleher (DOB: 1/2/1995), the right-shot center on the top line for the NTDP U-18 team, is the team's leading scorer and goal scorer. In 23 games (10 NCAA, 9 USHL, and 4 International games), Kelleher has scored 12 goals, including 4 power play goals, and added 11 assists. In mid-November, Kelleher and Team USA won the Under-18 Four Nations Tournament facing teams from Switzerland, Finland, and Sweden. Kelleher was the leading scorer in the tournament posting 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games.

Tyler Kelleher was selected by USA Hockey and the NHL Central Scouting Service to participate in the inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in late September. The game featured 40 of the top American-born prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Kelleher assisted on one of the two goals scored by his team.

In December, 2010, Kelleher verbally accepted a scholarship offer to play for the University of New Hampshire. At the time, he was a freshman at Deerfield Academy and their second-leading scorer. The previous season, Kelleher had lead Longmeadow High School to the Massachusetts Division III Championship. In March, 2010, Kelleher was one of 40 top American-born players, born in 1995, to be invited to try out for the prestigious U.S. NTDP. Kelleher was selected to join the NTDP Under-17 team and moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to advance his hockey career and attend high school. In the 2011-12 season, Kelleher was the leading scorer (26 goals, 22 assists) on the Under-17 team and the second leading goal scorer.

A couple weeks ago, Tyler Kelleher signed the National Letter of Intent to attend UNH next fall. I recently had an opportunity to interview Tyler about his experiences with Team USA and his commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Growing up in Western Massachusetts (Longmeadow), how familiar were you with UNH hockey? What factors lead you to commit to UNH?
Tyler Kelleher: Growing up in Longmeadow, I didn't attend any UNH games. I went to many UMass Amherst games and I always dreamed of playing in Hockey East. I thought college hockey was the coolest thing to watch. When I got the opportunity to play for a Hockey East team like UNH, it was a no-brainer. I really love the coaching staff and the atmosphere.

Mike Lowry: Have you ever played a game at the Whittemore Center? What's it like to play on olympic-sized rinks (as opposed to the smaller NHL ice surfaces)?
Tyler Kelleher: I've played in one game at UNH two summers ago in a tournament. I loved the rink and I really liked how big the ice surface was. I think it is definitely an advantage for me as a smaller player with more space.

Lowry: Last season, as a member of the U.S. NTDP U-17 team, you played against teams in the United States Hockey League as well as international competition. This season, you've added games against NCAA teams such as North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. Has the competition in the college games been different for you and if so, what adjustments have you made in your game?
Kelleher: So far this year, it has been extremely cool to play against some of the best colleges in the country. It feels like yesterday I was idolizing these kids. I've been a big fan of Danny Kristo of North Dakota and when we played them, I was going to line up against him on the opening faceoff. During our pregame preparation, our coach wrote on the board in the locker room "Kelleher, get your autograph after the game". So that was pretty funny.
As for my game, there is definitely an adjustment. Strength is the biggest difference. You have to make quicker decisions. Also there is less time and space. It has been a dream come true to have this opportunity.

Shane Eiserman - #28

Shane Eiserman (DOB: 10/10/1995), is a left-shot, left winger from West Newbury, Massachusetts. Last summer, Eiserman made the big jump from prep school hockey directly to the NTDP U-18 team (i.e., he did not play on the Under-17 team). As the third-youngest player on the team, Eiserman has posted some impressive numbers. In 20 games, he has scored 7 goals and added 4 assists. In his very first regular season game with Team USA, an 8-1 victory over the Youngstown Phantoms (USHL), Eiserman scored 2 goals, including the game winner, and added an assist. The prototypical strong forward is also a key player on Team USA's penalty kill. So far, he has potted 2 short-handed goals. In the 2012 Under-18 Four Nations Tournament Eiserman made a strong contribution to the Team USA victory. In 4 games, he scored a short-handed goal and an assist, and finished with a +/- rating of +1.

Shane Eiserman just turned 17 years old in October and is a junior in high school. He will be eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to be held in June, 2014. Eiserman is on target to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2014. He has committed to play at UNH once he finishes high school. Eiserman will play in the United States Hockey League next season during his senior year.

Eiserman made his verbal commitment to UNH in August 2011. He had just completed a season playing for St. John's Prep School (Danvers, MA). St. John's advanced to the championship game of the Massachusetts Super 8 tournament but lost 3-4 in overtime to Malden Catholic. Overall (regular season plus playoffs), Eiserman scored 24 goals and 28 assists for a total of 52 points and was named by ESPN Boston to the Massachusetts All-Rookie Team.

Last season, as a sophomore at Cushing Academy (Ashburnham, MA), Eiserman scored 18 goals and 26 assists in 29 games and was the leading goal scorer on the team. His impressive performance last summer at the USA Hockey Select 17 Development Camp helped earn him an invitation to join the NTDP U-18 team.

I also had an opportunity to interview Shane about Team USA and UNH:

  Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): I've read that you wanted to go to UNH since you were a little kid. Would you share some memories you have of watching UNH hockey when you were a youngster?
Shane Eiserman: Yes, I have wanted to go to UNH since I was a little kid. Growing up, I would always love pretending to play for UNH, during street hockey with my brothers and friends. Christmas after Christmas when I was younger, my God Mother Christie would always get me tickets for the hockey games and some sort of UNH apparel to go with them. The jerseys and the UNH atmosphere really stood out to me.

  Mike Lowry: Have you ever played a game at the Whittemore Center? What's it like to play on olympic-sized rinks (as opposed to the smaller NHL ice surfaces)?
Shane Eiserman: Yes, I have played there before in a couple of summer tournaments. I really like the olympic sized rink because your speed is a huge advantage and you are able to make more things happen with more time.

Lowry: You just turned 17 and you've already played several games against NCAA teams such as North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame. Last season, you were playing prep school hockey for Cushing Academy. What adjustments have you made in your game in order to compete at this advanced level?
Eiserman: The adjustment I am continuing to make is just to simplify my game. Everything is at a much faster pace so there is really no time with the puck. At this level, when you try and make things look too pretty, they will end up in the back of your net. I will continue to not look for the prettiest play, but the right one.

In addition to Tyler Kelleher and Shane Eiserman, Team USA features a number of 17- year-old players projected to be drafted in the 2013 NHL Draft next June. The following 10 members of the NTDP U-18 team were included on the NHL Central Scouting Service's Players to Watch list in September:
Forwards - J.T. Compher, Hudson Fasching, Mike McCarron, Tyler Motte, Evan Allen, and Dawson Cook.
Defensemen - Will Butcher, Steve Santini, Keaton Thompson, and Trevor Hamilton.
Compher and Fasching were identified as having the potential to be drafted in the 1st Round.
The exhibition game on Sunday at the Whittemore Center has all the ingredients for an entertaining and competitive matchup.


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