Friday, April 26, 2013

UNH Recruit Michael McNicholas Ready for Western Canada Cup

UNH Recruit Michael McNicholas
 of the Nanaimo Clippers

Starting this weekend, Nanaimo, British Columbia, which sits on the shore of Vancouver Island, will be the hub of Junior A hockey in all of Western Canada. The Champions of the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues have travelled to Nanaimo to compete in the inaugural Western Canada Cup, sponsored by Crescent Point Energy. The teams will be battling for two berths in the Royal Bank Cup Tournament for the Junior A Championship of Canada.

The round-robin phase of the Western Canada Cup begins tomorrow and runs until May 2nd. The Nanaimo Clippers, host team of the tournament, the Surrey Eagles (BCHL), Brooks Bandits (AJHL), Yorkton Terriers (SJHL) and Steinbach Pistons (MJHL) will play each other once. The 4 teams with the most points at the end of the round-robin will advance to the Championship Round. The #1 and #2 teams will play on May 4th and the winner automatically earns one of the berths in the RBC. The #3 and #4 teams play each other for the right to play the loser of the #1-#2 game. The winner of this consolation game will earn the second berth in the RBC.

Michael McNicholas Draws Penalty
For UNH recruit Michael McNicholas (DOB: 3/23/1994), who turned 19 last month, the WCC is a fresh opportunity to end the 2012-13 season on a high note. Prior to breaking a bone in his lower leg on January 7th, McNicholas was the third leading scorer on the Nanaimo Clippers. In 35 games, he had posted 32 points including 10 goals. His 22 assists put him in 8th place among all BCHL players.

Nearly 9 weeks after breaking his leg, McNicholas returned to the Clippers' lineup for the first game of the BCHL playoffs against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Nanaimo won Game 1 and McNicholas assisted on the game-winning goal. After winning the first two games, the Clippers lost three in a row and were eliminated from the playoffs by Alberni Valley. McNicholas played in 4 games.

I had an opportunity to interview Michael McNicholas, via email, about his preparation for the Western Canada Cup:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): After missing 9 weeks of the regular season due to a broken leg, you returned to play in 4 out of the Clippers' 5 playoff games. How close are you to your pre-injury condition (e.g., speed, endurance, etc.)?
Michael McNicholas: I was able to go home for about 2 ½ weeks in between playoffs and the WCC training camp. At home, I made sure to eat healthy and worked out twice each day. I trained with my summer trainer, Chad Moreau. I also received on-ice training from a local youth hockey coach, Jack Bowkus and was able to use the skating treadmill at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo.
I also was able to brush up on skills with several scrimmages. As a result, I felt 100% by the time I returned to Nanaimo to begin practicing with my team in preparation for the WCC where we played camp-style games. My game has improved with each skate.
I feel really good about where I am right now. I am looking forward to the competition at this tournament and, hopefully, the RBC for the national championship.

Mike Lowry: In a preseason interview with The UNH Men's Hockey Blog, you said you hoped to be a reliable, point-producing center for the Clippers and to continue to improve your defensive game. Have you attained these goals?
Michael McNicholas: I believe I have proven to be a reliable player for Coach Vandekamp. The first thing Coach Vandekamp did was move me to the wing where I played on a great line with Greg Fraser and Kyle Kramer. I played wing for most of the season. Prior to my injury I was third on my team in scoring and in the top 15-20 scorers in the BCHL, producing about a point per game. Since WCC camp, I have been centering Matt Grant and Reid Sturos. I feel very comfortable in that role.

Lowry: Nanaimo is hosting the inaugural Western Canada Cup and competing against the champions from the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues. Can you describe what this tournament means for the Clippers' organization and the city of Nanaimo?
McNicholas: This is a huge event for both Nanaimo and the Clippers. The Clippers have a long tradition of excellence (40 years). The WCC tournament is providing the organization with an opportunity to showcase how great the Clippers are. We expect many college and professional scouts to be in attendance.
The tournament will hopefully bring local Nanaimo residents out who don’t normally attend the Clippers’ games to see the Clippers and other hockey teams from Western Canada. I think this will be great for both the city and the Clippers to showcase the high level of hockey available to the local residents. I am very proud and happy to be a part of this inaugural event.

Lowry: The Surrey Eagles are the BCHL Champions and will compete in the WCC. Last December, the Clippers defeated Surrey 5-2 and you scored a goal and an assist. What type of game do you expect from the Eagles?
McNicholas: Since last December there have been many trades for both our team and the Eagles. I wouldn’t assume that they are the same team as last December. Therefore, I believe the Eagles will bring to Nanaimo what they brought against Penticton in the league championship.
They are skilled and fast and have one of the best goaltenders in junior hockey. However, we have not played a game with the existing Clippers’ roster healthy. The fans will be very happy with our level of play. I have confidence that we can defeat Surrey as long as we play to our potential.

Lowry: You graduated from high school last spring. Did you take any post-graduate courses this year? Have you met the entrance requirements of the NCAA Clearinghouse and the UNH Admissions Office?
McNicholas: I have met all of the entrance requirements imposed by UNH admissions. Last fall I took a psychology course at Vancouver Island University after being approved by UNH. I will get credit for this course. I have submitted everything to the NCAA Clearinghouse (eligibility center) and have no reason to believe I won’t be approved. I had previously been told that as long as my grades and ACT score were satisfactory, I should get through the admissions process at UNH.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Forward Collin Bourque Commits to UNH for Fall 2013

Collin Bourque Commits to UNH

20-year-old Collin Bourque (DOB: 1/11/1993), a 5'7", 160 lbs, right-shot forward for the American Hockey Institute/New England Wolves, has committed to play for UNH beginning in the Fall of 2013. The American Hockey Institute (AHI), based in Waterville Valley, NH, is a post-high school facility which prepares student athletes for college hockey. Bourque is a native of Goffstown, NH.

The AHI's hockey team, the New England Wolves, played 59 games in the 2012-13 season. They played a wide variety of junior hockey clubs including teams from the Eastern Junior Hockey League, EJHL-South, and the Empire Junior Hockey League. In addition, the Wolves joined four other post-high school academies in the inaugural season of the Academy East Hockey League. The other teams are Ulysse Prep (Quebec), College Sainte-Foy (Quebec), Bridgeton Academy (Maine), and National Sports Academy (Lake Placid, NY).

Collin Bourque Scored 114 Points in 58 games for
the New England Wolves (Photo:
Collin Bourque was the leading scorer for the New England Wolves scoring 36 goals and 78 assists in 58 games. The Wolves won the Academy East Hockey League regular season title with a record of 13-3-0. In the AEHL playoffs, Stanstead College (Quebec) joined the five regular season teams. The AHI NE Wolves won the AEHL Championship and Bourque scored a goal and 6 assists in 3 games. The league's coaches named Collin Bourque as the Player of the Year. He was also a first-team all star.

In the American Hockey Institute's announcement of Bourque's commitment to UNH, Wolves' Head Coach Steve Jacobs provided this assessment of his leading scorer:
“Collin is a dynamic and versatile hockey player who excels in multiple roles including 5 on 5, power play and penalty killing. He is a special player who creates so much offense with his speed, agility and elusiveness. He understands the game, has a keen sense of awareness in all situations and is a great teammate. He competes hard on the puck and away from it, blocks shots and will do whatever he needs to do to help his team win. He was the best player on the ice in most of our games and we all believe UNH is a great fit and that Collin will have an outstanding career there.”
One of Bourque's assistant coaches with the Wolves is Jon Fontas, captain of the 1978 UNH Wildcats and member of the UNH Hockey Hall of Fame.

Prior to playing at the American Hockey Institute, Collin Bourque played four years with Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA. Bourque scored 13 points (6g, 7a) in his freshman year at Cushing, 22 (5g, 17a) as a sophomore, 11 (3g, 8a, missed 13 games) as a junior, and 21 points (6g, 15a) as a senior. In the 2011-12 season, Bourque played with 2014 UNH recruit Shane Eiserman. In the summer of 2008, when Bourque was 15 years old, he earned an invitation to the USA Hockey Select 15 Player Development Camp. In 5 games, he scored 2 assists. Other notable players at that camp included Cason Hohmann (BU), Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota), and Tyler Biggs (Miami/Toronto).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Casey DeSmith UNH MVP, Eric Knodel Named Captain

UNH MVP Casey DeSmith
UNH Captain Eric Knodel

At the UNH Men's Hockey Banquet this evening, sophomore goalie Casey DeSmith was awarded the Roger A. LeClerc Trophy as the 2012-13 Most Valuable Player. Junior defenseman Eric Knodel was named the Captain of the 2013-14 team. Junior goalie Jeff Wyer and sophomore defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk were named as Alternate Captains.

Full details of other award recipients are available on

Here's a list of the UNH players who won awards:

Kevin Goumas:
Frank "The Fan" Halbert Fan Favorite Award
Guy Smith Award for Best Offensive Forward

Grayson Downing:
Guy Smith Award for Best Offensive Forward

Matt Willows:
Most Improved Player Award

Scott Pavelski:
Warren R. Brown Memorial Award for Best Defensive Forward

Trevor van Riemsdyk:
Rod Langway Best Defenseman Award

Connor Hardowa:
Charles E. Holt Coaches Award

Brett Kostolansky:
Robert A. Kullen Unsung Hero Award

Justin Agosta:
Snively Citizenship and Service Award

Jeff Silengo:
SCO Nate Hardy Ironman Award

Harry Quast:
Sid Knight Award for Best Grade Point Average

Congratulations to all the recipients and Many Thanks to the Seniors.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

UNH Recruits Kelleher & Eiserman with Team USA at World U18 Championship


Tomorrow, April 18th, Team USA will begin its defense of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under 18 Championship. This year, the tournament is being held in Sochi, Russia, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Team USA has won the gold medal four years in a row and 7 out of the last 11 years.

The World U18 will be of particular interest to UNH fans as two future Wildcats are on the Team USA roster - Tyler Kelleher and Shane Eiserman. Kelleher, a 5'6", 164 lbs. center for Team USA, has signed his National Letter of Intent to come to UNH next Fall. Eiserman, a 6'2", 196 lbs. left winger, is on target to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2014.

In a preview of the tournament posted on "The United States of Hockey", Chris Peters - hockey writer, broadcaster and former Public Relations representative for the U.S. National Team Development Program - offered these summaries of their seasons:
"Tyler Kelleher — The NTDP’s leading scorer this year is going to be a key part of Team USA’s scoring attack in Sochi. At 5-6, 154, the size may seem like a concern, but once he gets going, it’s pretty clear 5-6, 154 are just numbers. No, he won’t push anyone around, but he’s going to be tough to catch and even tougher to hit. With good speed and creativity, Kelleher combines both to generate a lot offense and get to where he needs to be to score. His 26 goals and 52 points are both team highs for the U18s this year. He can be awfully exciting to watch with the puck on his stick. 59 GP, 26-26–52, 32 PIM."
"Shane Eiserman — Eiserman has good speed and skill to bring to the table to go along with a solid frame. At 6-2, 196, he’s tough to push around and has shown flashes of strong skills to create offense and get pucks to the net. At his best, Eiserman is tough to contain in the offensive zone and he can get to the middle of the ice well. Consistency is the key for Eiserman. His point totals weren’t overwhelming this year, but he should be able to create a little better within his own age group. He’ll be an intriguing guy to watch. 49 GP, 10-10–20, 37 PIM. Draft eligible in 2014."
Team USA will face the U18 team from Russia on Thursday in the first game of the round-robin phase of the tournament. Team USA is in Group A along with Russia, Latvia, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Group B includes teams from Canada, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Team USA will play one game against each team in its group. The four teams in each group with the most points at the end of the round-robin will advance to the playoff round.

Earlier this week, Team USA defeated Canada 4-1 in an exhibition game. Tyler Kelleher assisted on Team USA's first goal of the game.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

UNH Recruit Andrew Poturalski Coming Fall 2014

Poturalski Coming to UNH
Fall 2014 (Photo:

Friday was a day of big goals and big decisions for UNH recruit and Cedar Rapids' center Andrew Poturalski. In the RoughRiders' 2-1 victory over the U.S. NTDP U17 team last night, Poturalski scored the game winning goal on a power play early in the second period. He posted 4 shots on goal and earned the #1 Star of the Game. On the scoring play (which I watched online), Cedar Rapids had a 4-on-3 advantage. Poturalski carried the puck diagonally from the top of the faceoff circle to the left of the Team USA goalie, to the bottom of the opposite faceoff circle. He spun around and fired a sharp-angle wrist shot which beat the goalie over the blocker.

After the game, Poturalski announced that he will play one more season with Cedar Rapids next year and come to UNH in the Fall of 2014.
“We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. That’s the big thing that Coach (Carlson) said to me, was that we have a lot of good players coming back. We’re going to be a good team next year … I think we’re going to be a really strong team.”
Poturalski will finish his first full season in the USHL tonight in Cedar Rapids' season finale.

Poturalski played 2 games with the RoughRiders in the 2011-12 season as an affiliate player. He scored 2 goals and an assist in his first ever USHL game. Last July, Poturalski broke his leg during an informal practice session in a rink near his home outside of Buffalo, NY. He went through rehabilitation and training at the RoughRiders' facilities at RidertownUSA. Andrew missed the first 5 games of the season. In mid-October, in his first two games, Poturalski scored 3 goals and 2 assists and was named the CCM Forward of the Week in the USHL.

In 52 games this season, Poturalski has scored 12 goals and 21 assists. Four of the goals and 6 of the assists came on the power play. Three of the goals were game-winners. Poturalski is the third leading scorer on the RoughRiders' squad.

Poturalski (DOB: 1/14/1994) had originally targeted the Fall of 2013 to come to UNH. Next season will be his second in the USHL. When he enrolls at UNH in the Fall of 2014, he will be 20 years old.

Friday, April 12, 2013

UNH Recruits Update: April-12-2013

UNH Recruit Patrick Grasso (Photo:

Featured Player - Patrick Grasso

When I interviewed 16-year-old Patrick Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996) last August, right after he committed to UNH, he laid out his plan for the 2012-13 season. He said:
"I attended the (Des Moines Buccaneers' tryout) camp in June and they offered me a spot on the roster, but I feel I still need a little time to mature physically. My family and I talked it over with the coaching staff and agreed that I'll be playing (for the Buccaneers) in the preseason tournament in Sioux City along with a few regular season games."
He planned to play the bulk of the season with the Omaha AAA Under 16 team in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL).

As it turned out, Grasso progressed at a faster than anticipated pace. In October and November, he played a total of 10 USHL games with the Buccaneers and posted 1 assist. At the end of November, Grasso shifted his full-time focus to the Omaha U16 team. In their 22-game regular season, Grasso scored 13 goals and 21 assists and was the 7th-leading scorer in the league. Near the end of NAPHL regular season, Omaha U16 Head Coach David Wilkie had high praise for his forward:
“I think Patrick could have easily played juniors this season, but I think he made the right decision to play for us, focus on development and then go from there. He is so creative with the puck and really puts himself in great position to make things happen for him and his teammates. He is one of the big keys to our power play and when he is playing well, we have a good chance to win.”
In the 5 game playoff series in February, Grasso and Omaha U16 won the NAPHL Championship. Patrick posted 2 assists in the Championship Game and scored 2 goals and 6 assists overall. He finished tied for 4th in playoff scoring among all NAPHL players.

With his U16 season over, Patrick Grasso was called up again to play in the USHL with Des Moines. In his first game back on March 22nd, Grasso scored his first USHL goal. In his next game on the 29th, Grasso was moved up to the Buccaneers' first line and he scored his second goal. Grasso has remained on the first line and added a power play goal and an assist in the last three games. A native of Des Moines, Patrick had this to say about playing for the hometown team:
“Coming out here and playing my first game at home was a pretty cool experience, it’s an awesome arena to play in. I grew up watching the team play, so it was exciting to be able to wear the jersey. Besides, we have the best fans in the league.”
With only two games remaining in the regular season, the Buccaneers are in 6th place in the Western Conference of the USHL. This year, only the top 4 teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs so Grasso's season will end this weekend. Look for Patrick to return as a regular on the Buccaneers' squad next season.

Latest Statistics

NOTE:  The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the year the player and UNH coaches have targeted for enrollment in UNH.  For example, the "2013 Recruits" have a target of the Fall of 2013 to begin playing for UNH.

2013 Recruits
Matias Cleland  (D)WaterlooUSHL30227
Omaha LancersUSHL589283746
Tyler Kelleher  (F)USA U18 TeamUSHL3011112212
USA U18 TeamNCAA211192016
Dylan Maller  (D)Tri-City StormUSHL6014559
Jordan Masters  (F)Jersey HitmenEJHL1835834
2013 or '14 Recruit
Michael McNicholas  (F)Nanaimo ClippersBCHL351022326
2014 Recruits
Dylan Chanter  (D)Merritt CentsBCHL569112031
Adam Clark  (G)Salmon ArmBCHL3718W16L2.89.914
Shane Eiserman  (F)USA U18 TeamUSHL22561127
USA U18 TeamNCAA213368
Cam Marks  (D)Coquitlam ExpressBCHL402468
Andrew Poturalski (F)Cedar RapidsUSHL5111213243
2014 or '15 Recruit
Jason Kalinowski  (F)Salisbury Prep NEPSHC23 918 27-
2015 Recruits
Warren Foegele  (F)St. Andrews CollegeCISAA/MPHL2816203632
Charlie Kelleher  (F)Junior Bruins U18USEHL5411142513
Joseph Masonius  (D)Jersey HitmenEmpJHL175121724
Jersey HitmenEJHL1012335
U18 PlayoffsUSEHL21012
Danny Tirone  (G)Loomis ChaffeeNEPSHC2412W11L1T.914
2015 or '16 Recruit
Liam Darcy  (D)Berwick Academy NEPSHC27 715 22-
Patrick Grasso (F)Des MoinesUSHL153250
Omaha Lancers U16NAPHL221321348
Ara Nazarian (F)Malden CatholicMass H.S.21262046-
PlayoffsMass H.S.59514-
Brendan van Riemsdyk (F)Jersey Devils U16AYHL2418133154
Christian BrothersJersey Prep23163046-
PlayoffsJersey Prep3516-

News & Notes

Player Commitments:

~ 17-year-old Brendan van Riemsdyk will be playing for the Jersey Hitmen U18 team in the United States Premier Hockey League next season. BvR will be a senior in high school.

~ 16-year-old Joe Masonius has reportedly been invited to join the U.S. National Team Development Program Under 17 team next season. The NTDP has not yet officially announced that Masonius has accepted the invitation. Masonius will be a junior in high school.

~ UNH's newest recruit Ara Nazarian plans on playing for Malden Catholic next year. He will be a junior in high school.

USA National Championships:

~ Early last month, Jason Kalinowski helped lead the Salisbury School Crimson Knights to the New England Prep School Elite 8 Championship. Last week, Kalinowski and the Mid-Fairfield Blues represented the New England District in the USA Hockey Tier I Youth U18 National Championship. Mid-Fairfield (CT) advanced to the Quarterfinal Round but was defeated by the Detroit Honey Baked team. Jasper Kozak-Miller, who covered the Nationals for Over The Boards, ranked Kalinowski as one of the Top 10 Performers. He wrote:
"Kalinowski was the key that helped Mid-Fairfield take out eventual National Champs Neponset Valley in pool play, throwing down a goal and two assists in a 5-2 W. He picked up goals in the rest of the Blues pool play tilts, before Mid-Fairfield bowed out to Honeybaked in the quarterfinals."
2013 Western Canada Cup:

~ For the first time, the four Junior A Leagues in Western Canada will determine it's Champion in a round robin tournament. The 2013 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup will be held from April 26 - May 5, 2013 in Nanaimo, British Columbia. The Champions of the British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba Hockey Leagues, plus the host team Nanaimo Clippers, will be competing for two berths in the RBC Cup Canadian National Championship.

UNH recruit Michael McNicholas has fully recovered from a broken bone in his lower leg and is training with the Nanaimo Clippers. Prior to his injury, McNicholas scored 10 goals and 22 assists in 35 games. He played in 4 playoff games with the Clippers. Look for an upcoming, feature article on McNicholas, the Clippers, and their bid to win the Western Canada Cup on The UNH Men's Hockey Blog.

Team USA:

~ With it's USHL and NCAA schedules complete, the U.S. National Team Development Program Under 18 team - including 2013 UNH recruit Tyler Kelleher and 2014 recruit Shane Eiserman - are headed to Sochi, Russia for the 2013 IIHF Men’s World Under-18 Championship. Team USA begins play in the preliminary round on April 18th against Russia. Team USA is aiming to win their 5th straight gold medal in the World U18 Championship.

United States Hockey League:

The USHL teams have only 2 games remaining in the regular season. The top 4 teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences qualify for the USHL Playoffs. Here's how the teams with UNH recruits stand:
Western Conference:
Omaha Lancers (Matias Cleland) - 5th place, 8 points behind 4th place Lincoln.
Tri-City Storm (Dylan Maller) - 8th place, 26 points behind 4th place Lincoln.
Eastern Conference:
Cedar Rapids Rough Riders (Andrew Poturalski) - 6th place, 16 points behind 4th place Muskegon.
Team USA* (Tyler Kelleher & Shane Eiserman) - 7th place, 25 points behind 4th place Muskegon.
* The Team USA games in the USHL are divided between the US NTDP U18 and U17 teams. The U18 team, who Kelleher and Eiserman play for, have finished their USHL season.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

UNHHockey Notes: NCAA Northeast Regional and Costly Concussions

UNH's Grayson Downing Suffers Concussion
Against Denver in NCAA Tourney

The History
On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, the UNH Wildcats visited Magness Arena on the campus of the University of Denver. At the time, Denver was ranked #2 in the nation and UNH was #3. The arena was nearly full with 5500, mostly Pioneer, fans in attendance. DU blitzed UNH goalie Casey DeSmith scoring three goals in the first 9 minutes. Jeff Wyer replaced him in goal.

Less than 4 minutes into the second period, sophomore center Grayson Downing scored a short-handed goal with the primary assist going to junior Kevin Goumas. Minutes later, Downing struck again assisted by Goumas. Denver managed one more goal and entered the third period leading 4-2. Then, the UNH floodgates opened. On the first shift, Downing scored his third goal of the game - a natural hat trick. Midway through the final period, Goumas scored two goals separated by only 3 minutes. Goumas completed his natural hat trick with an empty netter.

UNH had scored four unanswered goals and embarassed DU on their home ice 6-4. Downing and Goumas earned the top 2 Stars of the Game. UNH rose to #2 in the nation and by December 3rd, they were #1. Denver fell to #5.

Opening Round of NCAA Northeast Regional
One week ago, the University of Denver had an opportunity to make amends for the early season collapse as it faced UNH in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. A victory over the Wildcats before a national audience would have made the loss on Thanksgiving weekend seem like a minor glitch in an otherwise successful season.

Following the firing of DU Head Coach George Gwozdecky a few days ago, we now know the tournament game against UNH had far more meaning than most realized. In a news conference the day after he was fired, the DU coach for the last 19 seasons said:
"There had been discussions and talks about my contract, beginning four years ago. Those contract discussions were put on hold a couple of years ago. I expected that they would resume — and they didn't."
Clearly, Gwozdecky had hoped that beating UNH and eventually making a run in the Frozen Four would lead to negotiation of a long-term contract at DU.

To defeat UNH, DU knew that it had to contain the two guys who scored hat tricks against them four months earlier. The play of Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas on that November night in Denver turned out to be emblematic of their 2012-13 season. Goumas finished the season as UNH's leading scorer with 10 goals and 32 assists. In most games, Goumas played on UNH's first power play unit and he scored 2 power play goals. He and Downing also were a primary pair on one of the nation's best penalty kills.

Downing, the first-line center for UNH, tied for the team's lead in goal scoring with 15. His 31 points were the third most on the team. Downing scored 3 shorthanded goals which was the second highest in all of Division I hockey. He also posted 3 power play goals. Considering that Goumas and Downing logged more minutes than most of their teammates, it's remarkable that their +/- rating was +18 and +14, respectively - the two best on the UNH squad.

In the opening round matchup against Denver, Downing centered the first line with freshman Dan Correale on left wing and senior Austin Block on right wing. Goumas centered the second line with fellow junior Dalton Speelman on left wing and sophomore Matt Willows on right. Twice, UNH overcame a one-goal deficit and decisively beat Denver 5-2 (see "UNH Defeats Denver 5-2"). It was UNH's fourth consecutive opening-round victory in the NCAA tournament dating back to the thrilling overtime win over North Dakota in March 2009. But, the outcome was bittersweet as Downing and Goumas were knocked out of the tournament with concussions.

I've watched a DVR replay of the UNH-Denver game and have concluded that while the hits by Denver players which lead to the concussions probably were not part of some pre-game strategy, they were clearly intentional. The DU hit that lead to Downing's concussion was missed by the referees, the ESPN announcers and most fans at home and in the Verizon Wireless Arena. The hit to Goumas' head, though not seen by either referee, was captured on replay for all to see.

Grayson Downing's Concussion
The DU hit that lead to Downing's concussion occurred at the 11:55 mark of the second period. Goumas got knocked out at 19:15 in the third period. Knowing that Downing and Goumas would eventually leave the game with concussions, I first focused on their play prior to the injuries. It's obvious from watching the video that both players were consistently finding open ice to skate in or carry the puck. They were especially effective in eluding opposing players in the neutral zone and in the Denver zone. In the news conference after the game, Coach Umile said that he didn't think Denver was "targeting" Downing or Goumas. That's certainly true in the sense that DU players were not taking runs at them with elbows and/or sticks up during the first period and a half.

At the 16:09 mark of the second period, Casey Thrush drew an interference penalty. Coach Umile sent out the Goumas-Downing-Block-Knodel-vanRiemsdyk powerplay unit. Downing won a faceoff and fired a shot at DU goalie Juho Olkinuora. As Olkinuora was making the save, DU defenseman Josiah Didier pushed Downing in the back knocking him over. Didier then held Downing in a headlock. The puck dribbled into the DU net but after the whistle had blown.

After the ensuing faceoff, won by Austin Block, Downing gathered the puck at the halfwall to the right of the DU goalie. Downing made a nifty spin move while carrying the puck but DU forward Matt Tabrum gave him a two-handed push to the top of the back and Downing fell face first into the boards. Then, Downing passed to Goumas who fired a close-in shot at Olkinuora. UNH had not tied the game up but they were pressing.

With 11:50 left in the second period, the play that lead to Grayson Downing's concussion began as he rushed through center ice with the puck (see video above). Downing crossed the blueline and, at the top of the faceoff circles, skated right between two opposing players. That's when DU defenseman Paul Phillips used his left elbow and forearm to knock Downing in the face (shield). The contact was similar to a clothes-line hit because it knocked Downing backwards and his right skate went flying out from underneath him. Downing managed to keep his left skate on the ice for an instant, spun awkwardly and fell chin first onto the ice. Downing's head snapped backward as his chin hit the ice.

Immediately after the hit, Grayson Downing got up cautiously, coasted toward the net, and tried to knock Phillips with his right glove. Downing then left the ice while bent over at the waist. When Downing got to the bench, he was tended to by the UNH trainer for a cut underneath his chin. Shortly after, John Henrion was called for boarding and Downing missed the penalty kill. Kevin Goumas did fire a shot wide of the DU goal as UNH killed off the penalty.

Five minutes after Downing hit his head on the ice and went to the bench, UNH went on the powerplay. Remarkably, Downing went back into the game with the first powerplay unit. Downing made one impressive spin move in the slot then snapped a wrist shot from the doorstep of the crease. Seconds later, TvR flicked a wrist shot from the top of the slot that beat Olkinuora. Score tied 2-2 and UNH was gaining the momentum.

With a little more than 2 minutes left in the second period, Casey Thrush rushed into the DU zone and drew a tripping penalty. Downing returned to the ice on the power play but was not skating at full speed. Just as the power play expired, Dalton Speelman knocked in a rebound off a Brett Kostolansky, 3/4 slap shot from the high slot. UNH had taken the lead 3-2.

So, Downing managed to skate two shifts after he was elbowed in the face by Phillips and hit his chin/head on the ice. However, Downing did not play for the entire third period and sat on the back bench behind backup goalie Jeff Wyer. Oddly, the ESPN announcers did not notice that Downing was out of the lineup and did not mention his name for the remainder of the Denver game.

UNH's Kevin Goumas: Down and Out

Kevin Goumas' Concussion
I wonder what Coach Gwozdecky said to his DU players in the locker room after the second period. Memories of the UNH comeback at Thanksgiving time must have been in some players' minds. On this night, DU had relinquished the lead twice and UNH had seized the momentum outshooting DU 16-7 in the second period. UNH was ahead 3-2 going into the final period. Did Gwozdecky believe or suspect that the outcome of the third period would determine his future at Denver? We'll never know.

With Grayson Downing unable to play because of a concussion, UNH sent out Kevin Goumas and his linemates Speelman and Henrion to begin the third period. For the next 45 seconds, Goumas skated freely throughout the zones. At the 19:17 mark, Speelman attempted to steal the puck from DU defender Scott Mayfield near the DU blueline. Mayfield flipped the puck back toward the redline. Goumas, who was skating near the exact center of the rink at the redline, reached with his left hand and caught the puck. Just as Goumas was about to drop the puck in front of him, DU center Nick Shore lowered his left shoulder slightly and hit Goumas squarely on the right side of his chin. Goumas was blind-sided by Shore.

Kevin Goumas Knocked Out
of NCAA Tournament (Photo: Mike Lowry)
The CCHA referee closest to Shore when he leveled Goumas was not looking directly at them and apparently did not see what caused Goumas to crumble face down on the ice. The other CCHA referee apparently did not see the hit either. Play continued for an additional 7 seconds before the linesmen and referees realized that Goumas was not getting up. Apparently, one of the linesmen had seen Shore's hit on Goumas because the referees reviewed the play on the video monitor at the scorers' table. Shore was penalized with a 5-minute major, contact to the head penalty and ejected from the game with an additional 10-minute game misconduct. Given that Shore had to go out of his way to lower his shoulder into the side of Goumas' head, a game disqualification for an attempt to injure - which would have kept Shore out of the following game - could have been justified.

During the resulting 5-minute power play, UNH was without it's two key forwards. In the absence of Downing and Goumas, UNH only managed 2 shots on goal for the entire power play. It would be a harbinger of what was to follow the following night against UMass-Lowell.

With it's top two centers out for the final 19 minutes of the third period, UNH was forced to juggle the lines on the fly. Nick Sorkin switched from left wing on the fourth line to playing center. Sorkin, Jeff Silengo and Scott Pavelski were the three centers left in the UNH lineup. UNH scored an insurance 4th goal with a make-shift forward line of Sorkin, freshman Maxim Gaudreault and John Henrion along with defenseman Justin Agosta jumping into the scoring play. Casey Thrush added an empty net goal with 2:20 left in the game.

UNH advanced to the Northeast Regional finals to face UMass-Lowell, one of the hottest teams in the country. The 2012-13 season was over for the Denver Pioneers. Long-time Head Coach George Gwozdecky, who had lead DU to two National Championships, had coached his last game for the Pioneers.

"Without Offensive Core, UNH Bows to Lowell"
My summary of the loss to UMass-Lowell can be seen by clicking the title link above. In the news conference following the 0-2 loss to Lowell, Coach Umile was asked how the team responded to the absence of Grayson Downing and Kevin Goumas. Umile said:
"I thought they did a terrific job. Obviously, it affects a lot of things, face-offs, power plays, shots...They’re two pretty talented players and they’re a big part of our offense. But, that being said, I thought the guys that stepped in tonight and the combinations that we used, the guys did a pretty good job with it. You know , we could have used them on the power play. We only had one power play look but, it changes things...but you know what, it's a team and other guys stepped up, it happened in the past and I thought the guys had a great effort tonight and gave us an opportunity to win."
Against Lowell, UNH managed 28 shots on goal including three over the final couple minutes with an extra UNH attacker. During its only power play, UNH registered just 1 SOG. It was the second time all season UNH had been shutout in a losing effort. The last time had been a 0-1 loss to goalie Jon Gillies and Providence back on Feb. 13th.

Of course, we'll never know whether UNH would have beaten Lowell and advanced to the Frozen Four had Downing and Goumas been in the lineup. Lowell's neutral zone trap and outstanding goaltending from freshman Connor Hellebuyck make the Riverhawks a formidable opponent. However, it would be naive to contend that UNH's chances of winning would not have improved with Downing and Goumas taking their regular shifts.

In the four games prior to the Denver game, Kevin Goumas posted 5 assists and became one of the few Wildcats in recent history to post 40 or more points. In the five games leading up to the NCAA's, Grayson Downing scored 3 goals and 2 assists. Goumas played in all 38 games for UNH this season and had scored at least 1 point in all but 12 of them. Downing also played in every game and scored in all but 17. Their speed, quickness, and play-making abilities were vital elements of UNH's success this season and will be again next year.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

UNH Recruit Profile: Ara Nazarian

UNH Recruit Ara Nazarian Scores Game-Tying and Winning
Goals for Malden Catholic (Youtube Video: Boston Globe)

On Tuesday, 5'10", 170 lbs centerman Ara Nazarian (DOB: 6/19/1996) committed to play for the University of New Hampshire. Nazarian, a resident of Boxford, Massachusetts, recently completed his sophomore season at Malden Catholic and lead the Lancers to their third straight Super 8 Massachusetts High School Championship. Nazarian was Malden Catholic's leading scorer during the regular season posting 26 goals and 22 assists.

In the 5 games of Malden Catholic's Super 8 run, Nazarian scored 9 goals, including 4 short-handed goals, and added 5 assists. The above video shows Nazarian scoring 2 short-handed goals in the first game of the Super 8 Tournament against Springfield Cathedral. The Lancers won the game 3-2 and Nazarian tallied the game-tying and game-winning goals. selected Nazarian as the Mr. Hockey Award winner. He is the first underclassmen to win the award. Former recipients have included Brendan Collier (Malden Catholic/Valley Jr. Warriors/Boston University commit) and Colin Blackwell (St. John's Prep/Harvard).

Last spring, Ara Nazarian was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the 6th round of the USHL Futures Draft. Fellow UNH Recruit Patrick Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996) has played 13 games with Des Moines this season as an affiliate player, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists. During the 2010-11 season, Nazarian played for the Valley Jr. Warriors in the Empire Junior Hockey League. He was the Jr. Warrior's second leading scorer posting 30 goals and 20 assists in 34 games.

I had an opportunity to interview Ara Nazarian, via email, about his background and his 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?
Ara Nazarian: UNH is the best fit for me and how I play, as well as academically. I feel very comfortable being up there and being at the campus.

Mike Lowry:  What other college programs were you considering?
Ara Nazarian:  There were a couple other Hockey East, ECAC, and a mid west school opportunities I was considering.

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?
Nazarian:  There is not a definite date I will be enrolling at UNH, but I'm greatly looking forward to that date when it does come.

Lowry:  You just completed a remarkable sophomore season helping Malden Catholic win the Super 8 Championship and earning the Mr. Hockey Award from Last spring, you were selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL Futures Draft. What's your current thinking on where you might play next season and the season(s) before you come to UNH?
Nazarian:   Next season I am planning on playing at Malden Catholic for another year, and then will determine next steps to continue development in preparation for UNH.

Lowry: Your Dad, Kevin, helps coach the Squirt Major team for the Islanders Hockey Club. Where did you play your youth hockey? Did you get to play for your Dad?
Nazarian:   Growing up, I played for Coach McLean and Fran Murphy with the Islanders. When I was really young, my Dad would help out on the bench and he currently helps out with my younger brothers, Anthony and Alex.

Lowry:   At this stage in your development, what are the strongest aspects of your skills and what areas are you working to improve? Do you have a preference for playing center or wing?
Nazarian:   I'm still continuing to work hard, develop, and learning to be more consistent in all three zones. I've played both center and wing, naturally prefer center, but I'm happy to play either.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests?
Nazarian:   I am interested in the banking and finance area. My academic strengths are in mathematics and managing my time to do well in school, while working hard year round on hockey.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Ara Nazarian Commits to UNH

UNH's Newest Recruit Ara Nazarian (Photo: Jon Chase/Boston Globe)

5'10", 170 lbs centerman Ara Nazarian (DOB: 6/19/1996) has committed to play for the University of New Hampshire. Nazarian, a resident of Boxford, Massachusetts, recently completed his sophomore season at Malden Catholic and lead the Lancers to their third straight Super 8 Massachusetts High School Championship. Nazarian was Malden Catholic's leading scorer during the regular season posting 26 goals and 22 assists.

In the 5 games of Malden Catholic's Super 8 run, Nazarian scored 9 goals, including 4 short-handed goals, and added 5 assists. selected Nazarian as the Mr. Hockey Award winner. He is the first underclassmen to win the award. Former recipients have included Brendan Collier (Malden Catholic/Valley Jr. Warriors/Boston University commit) and Colin Blackwell (St. John's Prep/Harvard).

Last spring, Ara Nazarian was selected by the Des Moines Buccaneers in the 6th round of the USHL Futures Draft. Fellow UNH Recruit Patrick Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996) has played 13 games with Des Moines this season as an affiliate player, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists. During the 2010-11 season, Nazarian played for the Valley Jr. Warriors in the Empire Junior Hockey League. He was the Jr. Warrior's second leading scorer posting 30 goals and 20 assists in 34 games. Here's an article on his year with the Empire Jr. Warriors. Look for more details on Nazarian's future plans on The UNH Men's Hockey Blog.

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