Friday, September 30, 2016

Captain Matias Cleland at UNH Hockey Media Day

UNH Captain Matias Cleland


The UNH Men's Hockey program held the annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at the Whittemore Center. Here are the proceedings of the press conference with Captain Matias Cleland:

Your thoughts on the coming season and where you guys are picked in the Hockey East Preseason Poll?

Captain Matias Cleland: "I looked at that once and will never look at it again. Obviously something you don't want to see - we're a little low (in the poll). But we understand how we ended up last season and I've been telling people it kind of left a pretty bad taste in our mouths.

We saw the rankings but they're the preseason rankings. It doesn't matter what they're talking about at the beginning of the season, it's what they're talking about at the end. We want to make some people think again about where they put us, but that's all that went into it. I looked at it once and probably won't look at it again."

Coach used one word "motivating". Is that how you see it?

Matias Cleland: "Ya, it definitely is. I think it upset some of us and it's not where we want to be. It's something we want to improve."

Based on last year, do you feel it's a fair assessment?

Cleland: "I would say, maybe with the ending wasn't how we wanted it, not only the ending but the whole year with the record and everything. I understand it."

What have you seen so far in the captain's practices?

Cleland: "I see a lot. I think the guys came back in really good shape. We're starting to get things down pretty quickly, implementing systems and stuff like that. I think Sunday's going to be a real test to gauge on where guys are at and where the team's at so we're pretty excited about that."

You've got to replace some production up front. Do you see, at least at the start, defense and goaltending as a strength of this team, until the offense gets straightened out?

Cleland: "Ya, I think we're going to need guys to step into roles and fill some shoes that left. It puts guys in great places. They get what they came here to do and allows them to succeed at where they want to be. I think some guys will step up and fill those shoes. In goaltending and defense, we've got some shoes to fill on the back end and help the forwards come along, but once they come into their own, we're going to be a good team."

What do you see your role back there?

Cleland: "For the defense as a whole or for myself?"

Both.

Cleland: "As a whole, we've just got to really help goaltenders see pucks. Allow them to make the first save and then we're clearing pucks out. We've got to be physical. We've go to get out to a good start. We've got to work on blocking shots as a whole, as a core.

For myself, it's just being a leader back there. Keeping things calm..things get a little hectic during games as you know. Just keeping the guys back there calm, leading by example, eliminating mistakes, and all those sorts of things are going to be a big time thing for me."

You mentioned blocking shots. The way you blocks shots, is that part of the leadership?

Cleland: "Ya, definitely. Blocking shots doesn't require a whole lot of skill (chuckle). It just requires you get in front of that puck. A lot of times you may not want to but it's something you've got to do."

How're you feeling about the goaltending situation for you guys going into the year? Obviously, Danny (Tirone) and Adam (Clark) both have experience and being able to go with either guy and feel comfortable.

Cleland: "I think it's a really good thing. They both push each other. They're kind of fighting for that number 1 spot. I think it's a good thing and we'll see what happens with it."

The freshman class - have you seen anyone that's impressed you who might be able to help right away, either up front or on the back end?

Cleland: "I think a lot of them will, actually. I think a lot of them are going to be able to step in and contribute right away. I'm pretty impressed with how they've looked in practice. We're really trying to make them comfortable and let them come in and contribute from the start because we're going to need them. They've been looking really good though."

How can the defense contribute to the offense? You lost quite a bit of production, just with three guys had almost half your goals a year ago. Can you guys help in that regard on the back end?

Cleland: "I think the biggest part we can help out is just getting pucks through on net and not getting shots blocked from the point. I think that will cause a lot of stuff down low, whether it's rebounds, whether it goes straight in. I think that's the main thing we need to focus on the offensive side of things just getting pucks through."

What do you feel like you have to do - obviously in, which is, year in and year out such a tough conference - to ultimately reach the NCAA (tournament)?

Cleland: "There's obviously a lot of skill in our league. I think we're just going to have to work hard not just Friday and Saturday nights but all week in practice and continue getting better every day. Because you've got teams like BU and Providence, you go down the list, who have a lot of skill. I think we each have to be on the same page, go day by day, and not look to far down the road..just take it a day at a time."

You mentioned something about a good start. How important will it be for you guys to get the season off on the right foot?

Cleland: "I think it's really important actually. Since I've been here, we've kind of struggled starting off. Once you get the ball moving and get some momentum, it definitely helps throughout the year. I think it's pretty important to get the team confident."

What did you guys learn from last season that you can maybe apply to this year?

Cleland: "I think we really learned a lot. We learned some really technical things from a team standpoint - what works and what doesn't. The most important thing is losing isn't fun (chuckle). All the little things that go into it that we really have to do in order to win. All those things we've learned and we need to do it every day. I think we've been doing that so far."

Congratulations on being the only captain. Is this the first time you've ever played on a team with just a captain and not alternates?

Cleland: "Thank you. I think so, yes it is."

Does it introduce more pressure on you or do you see advantages of being the only captain?

Cleland: "I don't think it adds any pressure to it. I think we have a large groups of leaders in that room. A lot of guys in the junior class, a lot of guys in my class are leaders and that's how we look at it. I think we're leading by committee and they're all going to be a leader, even if it's a sophomore or a freshman. We can all be leaders on the ice and especially off the ice."

It must have been frustrating last year, you lost a lot of close games. How can you turn that around?

Cleland: "I think being tougher on the back end, which I brought up earlier. That's a big part of it. Just being harder, hard nose in areas, winning one-on-one battles is going to be big time. The more one-on-one battles you win, you'll see statistically, you're probably going to win the game. That's a big piece of it."

How frustrating was it? You guys lost a lot of one-goal games, two-goal games. How frustrating does that become after a while?

Cleland: "It's definitely not fun. Those are heart-breakers and they hurt the confidence a bit. But there's definitely something to learn from those."

Anything you guys are looking to fine-tune in this exhibition game and the early games?

Cleland: "Ya, some of our systems - what works, what doesn't work. See some combinations on different lines and different D-pairings. You look at that from a coaches stand point - see what they like and don't like and go from there."

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Head Coach Dick Umile at UNH Hockey Media Day

UNH Head Coach
Dick Umile


The UNH Men's Hockey program held the annual Media Day on Wednesday afternoon at the Whittemore Center. Here are the proceedings of the press conference with Head Coach Dick Umile:

Some thoughts on the coming season?

Coach Umile: "Here we are. We're quite excited to get going, to be honest with you. I won't talk much about last year but we're looking forward to getting after it again so we can start competing.

The guys are excited and they've worked hard. We've had minimal two hours a week instructional practices. We open Saturday with our first official day of practice and then the exhibition game with New Brunswick.

That being said, Matias Cleland is our captain and he's a terrific captain. He's done a great job already in the preseason, the way he's lead the team. We're looking forward to some challenges - no doubt we're going to have our work cut out for us - some question marks.

I do feel good about a couple of the players, a guy like Jason Salvaggio who looks pretty good in the minimal practices we've had. He's come back in great shape and I think he's someone who can put up some numbers and fill some of the scoring we're going to need up front. Along with Marcus Vela, Ara Nazarian, and Shane Eiserman. I think those are some forwards who can replace some of our scoring. I'm anxious to see how they play and compete - we're going to need it.

Defensively, I think we're going to be stronger than last year. In goal, with both goalies (Danny Tirone and Adam Clark). Adam Clark has come back in great shape - he's gone through his rehab, so he doesn't have any problems there. So in goal I think we're going to be solid there and there will be good competition.

At the defenseman position, Matias obviously is a leading, experienced defenseman along with Cam Marks. So there's two or three junior defensemen along with the forwards. I've said this before, our junior class is an important class, last year's sophomores. It's big in number and it's big in what we're going to need to add depth and skill to our team, in goal, forwards and defense."

Can you comment on the incoming freshmen?

Coach Umile: "They're a good group - Anthony Wyse, he's a big, strong, fast defenseman. We're very, very impressed with him. So he, and another freshman defenseman Nick Nonis, but Wyse is going to be a regular with us. Up front, we've got some speed, we've got some size. Brendan van Riemsdyk, Liam Blackburn, and Patrick Grasso, we've got some skill. Grasso's very, very quick so I think they can add some of the depth we're going to need. We don't have a lot of numbers, but I think we've got a little bit of everything in the freshman class. It's a wait and see how they compete and figure out the level they are going to be playing at."

As far as the returners go, what do you see as the strength going into the season - defense and goal?

Coach: "Yes, based on that, I would say the defense and in goal - and last year's sophomore forwards are going to be an important group, their experience. But our strength I think will hopefully be at defense which we weren't very good at last year - we struggled in that area."

What are your expectations of Cleland this year? He had a pretty good year last year.

Umile: "Yes, he put in a lot of minutes last year, he did pretty well with points and blocking shots. He's a real leader both on and off the ice. I expect him to play a lot of minutes in key situations, obviously.

Dylan Maller's back this year. He had an injury last year and he was in and out of the lineup, we didn't have him at the end of the season. Hopefully he stays healthy because he can help us. Right now he's healthy. It makes a big difference back there at defense."

Up front, expectations of Tyler Kelleher? You're going to need him to probably put up more goals than he did last season. I know he's kind of a pass first guy sometimes. Are you going to want him to score more this year and be a little more selfish?

Coach: "Al, you're right on. We want him shooting more than he passes because he passed too much last year. Not that passing was a bad thing playing with Poturalski or the people he's going to be playing with. But he looks great, he's come back in great shape. The few times we've been on the ice he looks good out there. He's going to be one of our top experienced forwards and goal scorers - I hope (chuckle)."

Any idea on who he's going to be paired up with linewise? I know Nazarian sort of got thrown into that mix last year.

Umile: "Right now, I'd say early on, he'll probably play with Nazarian. It might be Nazarian and Kelleher and we're not quite sure about some of the other combinations. But Nazarian being a lefty and Kelleher a righty, they feed off each other pretty good so they could be a good combination."

You talked about the strength you have at the goaltending position. Any thoughts on who might get the nod in the first game or are you still figuring that out?

Coach: "No, well, we play just one game that first weekend when we open up with Bentley. When we go up to New York, up in Canton and Potsdam, both will play probably and we'll split it and see how it goes from there. They're both in great shape and we have confidence in both."

Will Clark get a medical red shirt for last year?

Coach: "Yes, he just got it. He got that year back, so athletically he's only a sophomore. If he comes back for that fifth year, depending on how everything goes in his career, he'll have another year of eligibility."

So they're (Clark and Tirone) going to start even?

Coach: "Ya, probably. You know we haven't really gotten on the ice a whole lot with them. You know, we go out there with them three times a week for like 40 minutes. I feel both of them will start out and we'll take it from there. Both will have an opportunity to play and compete and we'll see where it goes. If they're both playing great, that's fine with me - as long as we win hockey games."

Do you foresee offensively, a more balanced attack? The three guys who left account for almost half the goals for the team.

Coach: "Yes, we have to replace that along with Poturalski - that's a lot of goals and a lot of points. Maybe if we play harder on defense, we won't need as many goals. I think there's going to be guys in that junior class that are going to score goals - along with Nazarian and Vela, those are two good hockey players."

Any thoughts on the preseason coaches poll that came out yesterday? How do you kind of use that going into the season?

Coach: "Motivating. I told my team how I felt about it but I don't want to put it on camera. But, the way we ended the season and we graduated a lot of seniors and lost Poturalski - so that's the way people feel we're going to finish but..."

How do you think the rest of the season will shake out - with Hockey East pretty well represented in the preseason national poll?

Coach: "With the top bracket, there's no question BU with the drafts coming in and what's coming back, and Northeastern's run at the end of the season and they have a lot coming back. It was pretty right on as far as the top bracket goes. But after the top bracket, I believe it's wide open and hopefully we can compete in that area and that will be our goal. There's not much difference between the bottom six."

Is there any added anticipation with the season coming up where you get to play at places like Madison Square Garden and Frozen Fenway?

Coach: "Ya, it's real exciting to be quite honest with you. The program's been to Fenway Park before but it's never been to Madison Square Garden. So that's real exciting playing Cornell at Madison Square Garden. They really support Cornell at MSG so it's going to be really exciting."

Of the returning upperclassmen, have any of them really impressed you in terms of their offseason conditioning?

Coach: "Ya, I think Salvaggio has really come back in great shape physically. Off ice we have an iron man program, and he's done very well in all of his testing. So he's in great shape and he looks good out on the ice. Tyler Kelleher is in great shape and he looks good. And obviously Matias, and if Maller stays healthy it's going to be important for us. Cam Marks got hurt a couple times last season and a year ago last summer he had mono so he never came in great shape at the beginning of last season. This season he looks good and in great shape so hopefully he can play a lot of minutes as well."

What's the competition like in practice for spots?

Coach: "We don't have large numbers - we probably have four lines with a couple extra forwards so a lot of the guys are going to be playing. It's going to be a matter of who's going to be playing on the top three lines."

Do you think any of the freshmen are ready to step in?

Coach: "Oh ya, the freshmen will play. They're going to have to play, we're going to need them to play for depth. As I say, we don't have a whole lot of numbers. We might even have a freshman line out there at the beginning of the season.

A lot of wait and see but we're lead by a very good captain and we're motivated and everyone's looking forward to the start of the season."

How come you don't have any alternate (captains)?

Coach: "You know, for what it was worth, we went with one captain, one guy in charge of the team. If we need to have an alternate for some reason, we'll vote on it. Matias got a lot of the votes and we just went with Matias. And I think the other guys who could have been the assistants - there were several of them, and you don't want to have several assistants."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

UNH Freshman Liam Blackburn: Elite Playmaking Ability

Liam Blackburn
UNH Forward #26

Background

In his three full seasons with the West Kelowna Warriors, Liam Blackburn became one of the top scorers in the history of the British Columbia Hockey League. In 163 regular season games, Blackburn scored 67 goals and 127 assists (1.19 PPG). Among the all-time leading scorers in the BCHL, Blackburn is tied for 37th in points and is 25th in assists. Add to that the 10 goals and 20 assists he tallied in 34 playoff games and Liam Blackburn's grand total is 224 points in 197 games.

In several respects, Liam Blackburn's career trajectory and skills set resemble those of former UNH star Grayson Downing (Iowa Wild, AHL). Downing is also a native of British Columbia and played three seasons with the BCHL Warriors. Downing was a year younger (ages 16-18) than Blackburn (ages 17-19) during their BCHL careers. Overall, Downing scored 73 goals in 157 games (0.46 Goals Per Game) while Blackburn netted 77 goals in 197 games (0.40 GPG). Liam Blackburn was more prolific than Downing in the assists category. Blackburn distributed 147 assists overall (0.75 Assists Per Game) while Downing produced 75 assists (0.48 APG).

Both Blackburn and Downing are left-shot forwards who primarily play center. Both excel in faceoffs, playmaking, puck control in tight spaces, and special teams' play. At UNH, Grayson Downing became a member of the Century Club scoring 56 goals and 56 assists in 144 NCAA games. Liam Blackburn certainly has the potential to match that production as a Wildcat.

As a 17-year-old, BCHL rookie in 2013-14, Liam Blackburn posted 17 goals and 26 assists in 47 regular season games. Six of his goals were game-winners - the second highest among all BCHL players. After a breakout 2014-15 season in which he tied for 6th in BCHL scoring (73 pts) and posted the third most assists (51), Liam Blackburn decided to play one more season with the West Kelowna Warriors. Last season, Blackburn replicated his regular season output scoring 27 goals and 47 assists (74 pts, T-9 BCHL scoring). He also tied for 4th in the BCHL in combined special team goals (11 PPG, 3 SHG).

In the 2015-16 playoff season, Liam Blackburn established himself as one of the premiere players in Canadian Junior A hockey. During the West Kelowna Warriors' run to their first BCHL Championship, Blackburn dished out the most assists (16) of any BCHL player and tied for 2nd in scoring (23 pts). Next, the Warriors won the Western Canada Cup against the champions of the Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey Leagues. Finally, West Kelowna completed an incredible playoff run by capturing the top prize in Canadian Junior A hockey - the Royal Bank of Canada Cup. Liam Blackburn was the leading scorer in the RBC Cup competition. In six games, Blackburn scored 4 goals, including 2 shorthanded, 1 even strength, and one shootout tally, plus 4 assists.

Liam Blackburn is listed at 5'10", 167 lbs. During his junior career, he primarily played center and occasionally left wing. Liam turned 20 years old last April.

Liam Blackburn
Last Team: West Kelowna Warriors
British Columbia Hockey League
DOB: 6-8-1996 Hometown: Prince George, British Columbia
Forward, 5'10", 175 lbs. Shoots Left
Commit to UNH: 10-7-2014 at Age 18 years, 4 months.
Signed National Letter of Intent: 11-19-2014

Scouting Report from Neutral Zone**

"Liam Blackburn has been a staple of offense in the British Columbia junior league for the past three seasons, totaling over 200 points in his career. What he lacks in size he makes up for in elite hockey sense, vision and playmaking ability. He is creative, instinctual and is able to find his teammates in high traffic areas and get them the puck. His delivery is quick and smooth and he always seems in control of the situation. His poise and awareness with the puck allow him to find open ice, wait for lanes to open and exploit defensive breakdowns. His head is always up and he doesn't hesitate when he has an opportunity. He will enroll at UNH in the fall of 2016 and on the olympic sheet should factor into the lineup as an immediate impact player."
Rating - 4 & 1/2 Stars out of 5 Stars.

National Ranking - Among the top 72, 1996-born forwards evaluated by Neutral Zone Scouts, Liam Blackburn was ranked #6.

According to neutralzone.net, their national rankings break players down into birth years and ranks them against all other college hockey prospects throughout North America. Nationally ranked players have been seen by their Neutral Zone regional scout and then cross-referenced with a national Neutral Zone scout as well. Then the players are graded on over 20 different categories and put into the national database where they are tracked throughout the season. Every player on this list has been seen by multiple scouts in multiple viewings to arrive at their final rank.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

Scouting Report from International Scouting Services

"Skilled offensive forward … good vision … very good agility … can handle the puck in traffic … good hockey sense … dangerous on the power play and penalty kill"

BCHL Achievements

~ 2014 BCHL All-Rookie Team.
~ 2015 BCHL Second Team All-Star.
~ 2016 BCHL and RBC Cup Champions.
~ BCHL "Player of the Week" May 16, 2016.

2015-16 BCHL Highlight Reel

Junior Hockey Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Liam Blackburn  (F) 2015-16 West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 58 27 47 74 51
Playoffs BCHL 24 7 16 23 14
WCan Cup CJHL 5 0 0 0 2
RBC Cup CJHL 6 4 4 8 2
2014-15 West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 55 22 51 73 34
Playoffs BCHL 4 1 2 3 0
2013-14 West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 47 17 26 43 14
Playoffs BCHL 6 2 2 4 0

Links to Articles on Liam Blackburn

High-scoring Liam Blackburn Commits to UNH

UNH Recruit Liam Blackburn Signs NLI

Liam Blackburn Plans Fall 2016 Arrival at UNH

UNH Freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk: Consistent High Scorer

Brendan van Riemsdyk
UNH Forward #7

Background

Like his brothers James (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Trevor (Chicago Blackhawks), Brendan van Riemsdyk was a high-school star at Christian Brothers Academy near their hometown of Middletown, New Jersey. As a senior captain of the 2013-14 CBA Colts, BvR scored 19 goals and 22 assists in 15 games and helped the team become co-champions of New Jersey High School Hockey.

In the 2014-15 season, Brendan van Riemsdyk began his junior hockey career and solidified his reputation as a top goal scorer. BvR finished the Islanders Hockey Club's regular season with 29 goals in 47 games. He tied for 4th in goal-scoring in the USPHL Premiere Division. This past season, van Riemsdyk established his play-making bona fides. During the 2015-16 regular season, he more than doubled his assists from 12 in 2014-15 to 27 this season. The left-shot forward also increased his power play assists from 5 to 11.

Overall, BvR tied for 9th in USPHL scoring last season (47 pts), tied for 5th in goals (20), and tied for 11th in assists (27). He was also a top performer on the power play. BvR tied for 1st in USPHL power play goals (8), tied for 3rd in power play assists (11), and was second in total power play points (19). During the Islanders Hockey Clubs' playoff run, van Riemsdyk posted a goal and 5 assists in the 6 games, good enough for a tie for 3rd in assists among all USPHL playoff players and a tie for 4th in scoring. The IHC advanced to the USPHL championship series but lost to the Jersey Hitmen in a two-game sweep.

Brendan van Riemsdyk is listed at 6'3", 200 lbs. By comparison, when brother James was a freshman at UNH, he was 6'3", 190 lbs. and brother Trevor was 6'2", 185 lbs. as a freshman. BvR primarily played left wing during the last two seasons with the Islanders Hockey Club. In terms of size and skating style, Brendan is more similar to James (left-shot winger) than Trevor (right-shot defenseman). Brendan is 20 years old and will turn 21 in January.

Brendan van Riemsdyk
Last Team: Islanders Hockey Club
United States Premiere Hockey League
DOB: 1-28-1996 Hometown: Middletown, New Jersey
Forward, 6'3", 200 lbs. Shoots Left
Commit to UNH: 11-17-2012 at Age 16 years, 10 months.
Signed National Letter of Intent: 11-13-2015

Coach's Assessment

During his two seasons in the USPHL, Brendan van Riemsdyk was coached by Sean Tremblay, General Manager and Head Coach of the Islanders Hockey Club. Coach Tremblay is credited with encouraging Brendan's older brother Trevor to pursue a Division I scholarship by playing for him on the New Hampshire Junior Monarchs in the old Eastern Junior Hockey League. TvR eventually accepted an offer to play at UNH, became an All-American, and helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the 2015 Stanley Cup.

Midway through last season, Coach Tremblay offered this appraisal of Brendan's skills and future prospects:
"The whole (van Riemsdyk) family has a tremendous set of hands. They should get Lloyd’s of London to insure their hands, and their IQ. All three of them have a great understanding of what they need to do to get better. Every day, Brendan’s working on his speed and quickness. Based on how hard he works and how bad he wants it, I strongly feel Brendan will be the third van Riemsdyk to play in the NHL. He is going to be a really big-time free agent when he’s at UNH. You don’t live for that one [draft] day. The NHL Draft is a great thing, but it’s not that one day that matters, it’s every day that matters, and the van Riemsdyks get that. I see Brendan going to UNH and, with the summer he had and the summer he’s going to have, and with his hands and IQ, I see him getting that [pro] opportunity.”

Scouting Report from Neutral Zone**

"Brendan is big and has strong hands that allow him to score at a consistently high level. His skating is improving but still needs work. The USPHL all-star and UNH recruit can take over shifts and is becoming more consistent. He may have the most upside of anyone in the (USPHL) league."
Rating - 3 & 3/4 Stars out of 5 Stars.

National Ranking - Among the top 72, 1996-born forwards evaluated by Neutral Zone Scouts, Brendan van Riemsdyk was ranked #70.

According to neutralzone.net, their national rankings break players down into birth years and ranks them against all other college hockey prospects throughout North America. Nationally ranked players have been seen by their Neutral Zone regional scout and then cross-referenced with a national Neutral Zone scout as well. Then the players are graded on over 20 different categories and put into the national database where they are tracked throughout the season. Every player on this list has been seen by multiple scouts in multiple viewings to arrive at their final rank.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

USPHL Achievements

~ 2015 USPHL Premiere Division Rookie of the Year.
~ 2015 and 2016 USPHL All-Star.

USPHL Highlight Reel

Junior & Prep School Statistics

Player Season Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Brendan van Riemsdyk  (F) 2015-16 Islanders Hockey Club USPHL Prem 43 20 27 47 50
Playoffs USPHL Prem 6 1 5 6 4
2014-15 Islanders Hockey Club USPHL Prem 47 29 12 41 54
Playoffs USPHL Prem 4 2 1 3 14
2013-14 Jersey Hitmen 18U USPHL 18U 10 5 8 13 2
Playoffs USPHL 18U 3 0 1 1 12
Christian Brothers Acad NJ Prep 15 19 22 41 -

Links to Articles on Brendan van Riemsdyk

The van Riemsdyk Trifecta: 16-year-old Brendan Commits to UNH

UNH Recruits Charlie Kelleher & Brendan van Riemsdyk Face Off in USPHL Playoffs

Brendan van Riemsdyk Signs NLI with UNH

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ryan Verrier, Mass High School Star, Commits to UNH

2018 or '19 UNH Commit
Ryan Verrier


UNH hockey has a long tradition of attracting top high school talent from the northern suburbs of Boston. The last time UNH competed in the National Championship game (April, 2003), they were lead by two former stars from Reading, MA. NCAA All-Americans Steve Saviano and Sean Collins both excelled at Reading High School before their successful college and professional careers. Other notables, from the 1970's and 80's, include All-Americans Bob Miller (Billerica HS), Tim Burke and Andy Brickley (Melrose HS).

In recent years, the high school hockey landscape in Massachusetts has changed. While several Catholic high schools maintain their competitive tradition, some public high school teams have become less potent. A subset of talented prospects who might have played for their local high school 10 years ago are now more likely to join full season, Under-16 and 18 hockey programs such as the Junior Bruins or Islanders Hockey Club, enroll in New England Prep Schools and/or play in junior hockey leagues such as the USHL or USPHL. However, there are still highly skilled hockey players from Massachusetts high schools with the potential to excel in NCAA Division I.

UNH Head Coach Dick Umile and Associate Head Coach Mike Souza both excelled at suburban high schools north of Boston before starring at UNH. Umile graduated from Melrose High School and Souza from neighboring Wakefield HS. They continue to be on the lookout for the most talented high schoolers from that area. For example, Ara Nazarian, who was UNH's 8th leading scorer (7 goals, 7 assists, 2 GWG) as a freshman last season, was a three-year standout at Malden Catholic High School. In his sophomore year at MC, Nazarian was named the Most Valuable Massachusetts High School Hockey Player (i.e., "Mr. Hockey") by ESPNBoston.

Defenseman Ryan Verrier
Austin Prep Star
Last week, UNH gained a commitment from another high school all-star from Boston's northern 'burbs. Ryan Verrier (pronounced: very-er), a 5'11', 175 lbs. defenseman from Reading, Massachusetts, has committed for the Fall of either 2018 or '19. Verrier (DOB: 3-19-1998) recently completed a three-year career at Austin Preparatory School, a Catholic middle and high school also located in Reading. In his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons, the Austin Prep Cougars qualified for the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Super 8 Championship Tournament. Austin Prep advanced to the 2014 Super 8 Championship Game but lost to Ara Nazarian and the Malden Catholic Lancers.

During his three seasons with Austin Prep, Verrier was guided by veteran coach Lou Finocchiaro. Last year, in his 11th year at Austin Prep, Finocchiaro was inducted into the Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Verrier's offensive production steadily increased culminating in his banner season as a junior. Over the course of the 22-game, regular season, Verrier scored 11 goals and added 16 assists. He was the leading scorer on the Austin Prep squad and earned several accolades.

Verrier was named to the 2016 Boston Globe Boys Hockey All-Scholastic "Dream Team" - the top 6 players in D-IA. He was also selected by the Boston Herald for their 2016 All-Scholastic Team. ESPNBoston chose Verrier to the second team MIAA All-State Boys Team and wrote:
"Verrier has proven to be one of the best two-way defenders in the state over his career, as the junior used his speed to score 15 goals, which lead all Div. 1 defensemen. He is just as influential on the defensive side of the puck, as the Cougars defense excelled at limiting shots on net."
During his freshman and sophomore seasons, Verrier was a teammate of another UNH commit - Eric MacAdams. MacAdams, a right-shot forward from Salem, MA, was a year ahead of Verrier and also played three seasons with Austin Prep. He too had an outstanding final season as a junior. He was the captain at Austin Prep and lead the team in scoring with 19 goals and 23 assists in 24 games. At the end of the season, the Boston Herald selected MacAdams to the All-Scholastic Hockey "Dream Team". MacAdams is beginning his second season with the Sioux Falls Stampede and is on track to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2017.

Ryan Verrier has transferred to the Salisbury School in the northwest corner of Connecticut for his senior year of high school. He will join the powerhouse Salisbury School Crimson Knights for the 2016-17 season. Salisbury has won the New England Prep School Championship 5 out of the last 10 years including three in a row in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Scouting Report from Neutral Zone**

"Ryan has established himself as one of the top defensemen in MA high school hockey. He is an elite skater with good edges and a quick first step. He is excellent on the power play and can skate or pass the puck out of his zone. He defends with his skating and good positioning. The 1998 plays a ton and is fun to watch and he can control the tempo of a game. He improved in the last year and should continue that trend. The Reading native will take his skills to Salisbury in 2016."
Rating - 3 1/2 out 5 Stars.

** Reprinted by permission of Brendan Collins, Director of Scouting at Neutral Zone.

I had an opportunity to interview Ryan Verrier, via email, about his hockey career and 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?

Ryan Verrier: Being from the Boston area, I grew up dreaming about playing in Hockey East. As I got older, I made playing in this league my goal and from that point forward, all the hours I put in on and off the ice was to reach and achieve this goal.
When I got to UNH for my visit I immediately fell in love with the campus and the hockey facilities. UNH has a tremendous hockey history and I have always been impressed with the hockey program but what really excited me was the future the coaching staff saw for the program, in particular the culture and commitment to winning.



Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering? Which schools did you visit and which ones made an offer to you?

Ryan Verrier: I visited UCONN, UNH, Merrimack, UMASS Amherst, St. Lawrence, Cornell, and Holy Cross and received offers from 4 of these schools.



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?

Verrier: The target date to enter UNH is fall of 2019, with the possibility of 2018.



Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?

Verrier: My strengths as a hockey player are my skating, poise with the puck, vision and puck movement, and consider myself to be strong both offensively and defensively. Over the next couple of years I will continue to focus in both ends of the ice as well as my general strength and conditioning.



Lowry: You recently finished a three-year playing career at Austin Prep School under the guidance of Massachusetts State Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Famer Lou Finocchiaro. What are the most important lessons you learned from Coach Finocchiaro?

Verrier: I have actually been with Coach Lou since I was 8 years old playing with the Middlesex Islanders Squirts and continued right though my junior year at Austin Prep. Over these many years, he has taught me that respect and integrity are must haves and everything is earned by hard work and commitment both on and off the ice. He has also taught me not only what it takes to be the best hockey player I can be but how to be a good person as well.



Lowry: You decided to transfer to the Salisbury School for your senior year. What factors went into that decision?

Verrier: I decided to go to Salisbury for my senior year because I wanted to challenge myself and try something new. I wanted the experience of living away and being responsible for everything I do, both in the community, classroom and on the ice. Importantly, I was also very excited for the opportunity to create new relationships, with people from all over the world, that will last a lifetime. Lastly, I felt it was a natural progression in my development as a hockey player to play in prep school before moving on to junior hockey.



Lowry: Do you plan to play in either the United States Hockey League or British Columbia Hockey League before you come to UNH?

Verrier: At this point, I do see playing either in the USHL or BCHL as an important step after Salisbury. Either league would give me the opportunity to get stronger, leverage and continue to develop my strengths as well as improve in necessary areas of my game so I can be that impact player when I arrive at UNH.



Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests?

Verrier: My academic strengths are Math and Science and would plan to study business at UNH.

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