Tuesday, February 05, 2013

UNH Recruit Profile: Joe Masonius

UNH Recruit Joe Masonius at Empire
All-Star Game (Photo: Mike Lowry)

I first wrote about Joe Masonius (pronounced MA-SO-KNEE-US) back in mid-October when he made a verbal commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. At the time, the 5'11", 160 lbs. defenseman was splitting his playing time between the Jersey Hitmen's Empire League team and Under-18 Midget Major team. At age 15, Masonius (DOB: 2-17-1997) was the youngest player on both teams. His teammates were primarily 17 and 18-year-olds.

UNH Recruit Joe Masonius at Empire
All-Star Game (Photo: Mike Lowry)
By mid-January, Joe Masonius had compiled 5 goals and 12 assists in 17 Empire League games. Despite playing in fewer games than other Empire players, Masonius was the 2nd leading scorer among Hitmen defensemen and was tied for 14th in scoring among all Empire League defensemen. His overall performance earned him a spot in the Empire League All-Star weekend.

A few days before the All-Star break, the Hitmen travelled to Norwalk to face the Connecticut Oilers. Joe Masonius scored the Hitmen's second goal and assisted on their 4th which came on a power play. The Oilers eventually tied the game 4-4 and won in a shootout.

The following day, Masonius took another big step in his young career. He was called up by Head Coach Toby Harris to play with the Hitmen's Eastern Junior Hockey League team. Masonius has been with the EJHL club ever since and has played in the Hitmen's last 4 games. The Hitmen are currently on an impressive win streak of 18 EJHL games in a row. They have only lost 5 games during the EJHL regular season and have 68 points - far ahead of the second-best team, the Junior Bruins who have 56 points.

I had my first opportunity to see Joe Masonius play on the second day of the Empire Junior Hockey League All-Star weekend held at the Tri Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, NH. Masonius and the Western Conference All-Stars played three games over two days, defeating the Empire East Conference team and the Eastern States Hockey League All-Stars and tying the Empire South Conference team. I saw the game against the ESHL team on Monday.

A month shy of his 16th birthday, #74 Joe Masonius was noticably taller than most of his All-Star teammates. The left shot defenseman is a graceful, smooth skater with long, gliding strides. In this particular game, Joe played right defenseman.

Joe was reportedly fighting a bad head cold during the competition. If it hampered his performance then his actual skills are even more extraordinary than what he showed against the ESHL All-Stars. This youngster is loaded with talent including:

~ Agility with the puck - On one play, Masonius carried the puck into the neutral zone and eluded a defender with a tight, spin move near the red line. During another sequence, he fired a slap shot while moving backwards away from the net.

~ End-to-end rushes - In the first period (the All-Stars played two, 25-minute periods), Masonius gathered the puck behind his own net and carried it through the three zones. All 5 opposing players took a crack at impeding his progress and he eluded all of them. He made a similar play in the second period stick-handling past a couple opponents.

~ First pass out of the defensive zone - A few times, Masonius made perfect lead passes from the faceoff circle in his own end to a forward breaking into the neutral zone. On one particularly eye-opening play, Masonius sent a teammate in on a breakaway. Masonius threaded a pass from just inside his zone and connected with his teammate positioned near the opposition's blueline.

~ Play-making in the offensive zone - During one sequence, Masonius carried the puck behind the opponent's net, stopped, then passed to a teammate in the faceoff circle for a shot on goal.

~ Physical play - All-Star games tend to be devoid of body checks. However, Masonius stood an opposing forward up with a clean body check just as the skater attempted to cross the blueline into Masonius' end.

Joe Masonius and his large family live in Spring Lake, NJ which is about 25 miles south of Middletown, NJ - home of the van Riemsdyk family. He is a sophomore at Christian Brothers Academy but does not play for their hockey team. Fellow UNH recruit Brendan van Riemsdyk, a star on the CBA team, is a junior.

Masonius' commitment to his hockey career involves a great deal of travel. In order to play with the Jersey Hitmen, he makes a 70 mile trip up the Garden State Parkway to the Capital One Bank Ice Vault in Wayne, NJ. He also trains with and plays for Hockey Essentials which is based in Woodbridge, NJ, 40 miles from his hometown. Masonius has become friends with UNH freshman Collin MacDonald who also trains at Hockey Essentials.

UNH fans interested in seeing Joe Masonius play have a few more opportunities in February. The Jersey Hitmen have games against the Boston Bandits in Bridgewater, MA on Feb. 9 and 10, and the Junior Bruins and South Shore Kings in Foxboro, MA on Feb. 16 and 17.


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