Friday, November 13, 2015

UNH Recruits Update: Nov-13-2015

Justin Fregona
Signs NLI with UNH
Liam Blackburn
Signed NLI with UNH
Patrick Grasso
Signed NLI with UNH

National Letter of Intent Signings

Junior hockey players who dream of playing Division I NCAA hockey look forward to "National Signing Day". It's the day when recruits who have verbally committed to play for a college or university have an opportunity to enter into a binding agreement with the institution. But what exactly does it mean to "sign" with a college hockey program?

The actual document which gets signed is the National Letter of Intent (NLI). In an NLI, the college/university offers an athletic scholarship for one academic year (detailed in a written, Athletics Aid Award document) and the prospective student-athlete agrees to attend the school as a full-time student for one academic year.

There are several other provisions spelled out in the NLI including:
~ All other institutions that participate in the NLI program (i.e., the vast majority of colleges/universities in the United States) must cease recruiting the prospective student-athlete.
~ If the student-athlete does not honor the agreement and enrolls in another participating institution, he is not eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics until he has completed one academic year at the latter school.
~ The NLI becomes null and void if the prospective student-athlete does not meet the NCAA eligibility requirements or the admissions requirements of the university/college.

Actually, there isn't a single signing day, per se. For Division I college hockey, there are two signing periods each year. NLI offers may only be made during these periods. This year, the early signing period began on Wednesday, November 11th and ends on November 18th. The regular signing period begins on April 13, 2016 and ends on August 1, 2016. In general, the UNH hockey program, like most other competitive programs, seeks to sign their very top prospects during the early signing period because it prevents other schools from recruiting them.

In most cases, a prospective student-athlete who signs an NLI enrolls in the college/university as a freshman at the beginning of the following academic year. However, as Susan Peal (Director of Operations for the NCAA Eligibility Center who administers the NLI Program) explained to me last spring, the prospective student-athlete has the option to delay enrollment for an additional year. For example, any recruit who signs an NLI during the current, early period may choose to delay enrollment until the Fall of 2017. This is up to the discretion of the prospective student-athlete and can not be imposed by the college/university.

In recent years, I have been reporting all NLI signings by UNH recruits. In theory, any of the recruits I have categorized as "2016 Recruits" or "2016 or '17 Recruits" (see stats summary below) could be offered an NLI by UNH during the current, early signing period. That is primarily because each of those players have already graduated from high school or will do so by the end of the 2015-16 academic year.

To date, there are three UNH recruits who have signed a National Letter of Intent.

Justin Fregona

Yesterday, Justin Fregona signed a National Letter of Intent offered by the University of New Hampshire. He plans on enrolling at UNH next fall. In his first season in the British Columbia Hockey League, the Langley Rivermen's right-winger has scored 16 goals and 9 assists in 21 games. Fregona is tied for 4th in BCHL goal-scoring and tied for 7th in scoring. Four of his goals have come on the Rivermen's power play and two have been the game-winner. Fregona graduated from St. Andrew's College, a university preparatory school in Ontario, last spring. Justin will be 19 years old when he enrolls in the Fall of 2016.

Liam Blackburn

Last November, Liam Blackburn signed an NLI with UNH during the 2014 early signing period. In May, Blackburn announced his plan to delay enrollment until the Fall of 2016. In his third season playing for the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL, Blackburn has posted 10 goals and 17 assists in 20 games. He has scored at least one point in every game so far this season. Blackburn is tied for 5th in BCHL scoring and tied for 4th in assists. Liam will be 20 years old when he enrolls at UNH next fall.

Patrick Grasso

On Wednesday, the Des Moines Buccaneers tweeted that Patrick Grasso signed an NLI with UNH. It's my understanding that the NLI was offered and signed over the summer. Grasso decided to play a third season with the USHL Bucs and he is excelling. In addition to being the Bucs' captain, Grasso has scored 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 games. In each of his first two seasons, Grasso scored 7 goals. He is currently tied for 4th in USHL goal-scoring. Patrick will be 20 years old when he enrolls next fall.

The statistics for the recruits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2016 Recruits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2016. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ The year the recruit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the recruit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The recruit's performance in recent seasons as well as injuries.
~ Anticipated date of high school graduation.
~ Number of UNH players leaving the team at the end of the previous season and the position they played.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2016 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 20 10 17 27 18
Justin Fregona  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 21 16 9 25 19
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 14 7 5 12 2
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 13 6 14 20 8
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 21 0 4 4 18
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 18 8 7 15 4
Mike Robinson  (G) Junior Bruins USPHL - - - - -
2016 or '17 Recruits
Joe Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 5 2 0 2 2
Vernon Vipers BCHL 12 4 3 7 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 9 0 2 2 0
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 3 0 1 1 0
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 9 0 1 1 12
Jason O'Neill  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 13 1 4 5 0

News & Notes

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ This weekend, the Islanders Hockey Club is hosting a USPHL Showcase at the Gallant Arena on the campus of Merrimack College in North Andover, MA. UNH fans who are in town on Saturday for the Wildcats' game against Merrimack have an opportunity to watch three UNH recruits play earlier in the day. At 2:00, Brendan van Riemsdyk, Liam Darcy, and the Islanders Hockey Club faceoff against the Jersey Hitmen. BvR is tied for 5th in USPHL goal scoring with 8 goals in 18 games. At 4:20 on Saturday, Charlie Kelleher and the Junior Bruins will play against the Rochester Junior Americans. Kelleher has scored 6 goals and 14 assists in 13 games. He is tied for 6th in USPHL scoring and tied for 4th in assists.

United States Hockey League:

~ Last Friday, 2016 or '17 UNH Commit Joe Cipollone of the Tri-City Storm scored his second goal in his fifth USHL game. Cipollone's goal came on the Storm's power play and was assisted by 2016 or '17 UNH Commit Aaron O'Neill. It was O'Neill's first assist of the season. He missed the first 10 games of the USHL season with a lower body injury.


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