Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weekend Wrap: UNH Falters Against #19 Providence

Senior Tyler Kelleher
15th Goal, 28th Assist
Freshman Patrick Grasso
16th Goal

After a tough road trip in South Bend where the University of New Hampshire Wildcats obtained one point against #14 Notre Dame, the team returned home looking for a big weekend against the up-and-coming #19 Providence Friars (14-8-4, 6-6-2 HEA). Recent history has shown how close these two teams play when facing off against each other. The Wildcats (11-11-4, 6-5-3 HEA), who are tied for fifth in Hockey East, had a golden opportunity to gain some ground in the conference moving towards the likes of Boston College and Boston University, but ultimately fell short both nights.

On Friday, the Wildcats could not get pucks past the Friars defense and fell 3-0. This was the first time in the last 16 meetings between UNH and PC that the game did not end in a one-goal or two-goal decision.

Both teams had looked to skate to a first period draw on Friday night, but with 0.9 seconds remaining, captain Josh Monk ripped his second goal of the season past UNH netminder Danny Tirone. Off the faceoff draw with four seconds remaining Scott Conway sent one to the right point where Jake Walman slid a one-timer to Monk who lifted one past Tirone. A gasp filled the Whittemore Center as both sides seemed destined for a first period scoreless draw.

The game progressed in the second with both teams rushing back and forth down the ice and creating chances, but both Hayden Hawkey and Tirone kept this game close.

It remained a close affair with only three minutes left in the third period when, after Hawkey made a ginormous save on the Wildcats, Brandon Tait went the other way with a 2-on-1 rush down the far side wing. Instead of passing, he decided to wrist one stick side on Tirone and put a nail in the coffin. Fans were on their way out of the Whittemore Center.

It was a disappointing end of the game as the Wildcats outplayed the Friars in the final 20 minutes of the game, but Hawkey proved why he is one of the better goaltenders in the entire nation. In my opinion, the loss was simply based on the defensive presence of the Friars. From constant puck-side attack to blocking shots from the point, Nate Leaman's squad found a way to keep the ‘Cats at a stalemate all night long.

Aside of Tirone’s 27 saves, the Wildcats knew they had to capitalize and score goals on Saturday night.

The buzz was in the air the following night with former Wildcats’ Trevor and James van Riemsdyk signing autographs for the public. Yet, the Wildcats did not have a pleasant surprise with some of the calls that followed.

The Friars took a 1-0 lead at the 9:27 mark of the second period as Brian Pinho, who leads the team in points, found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season. Jake Walman played a pass to Josh Monk who then dished the puck to Pinho. He fired a shot that made its way past Tirone.

Yet, the cardiac ‘Cats continued to fight back the way they have all-season long. Tyler Kelleher, who went into the weekend tied fourth in the nation in points, finally scored a goal. He had been held off since December 30th of 2016 when he scored two against Maine.

At 18:16 of the second period, while the Wildcats were on a power play, Kelleher found the net past Hawkey who had not allowed a goal in over 80 minutes of play. The score made it 1-1. Senior captain Matias Cleland played a pass over to junior Michael McNicholas at the right point and he then found Kelleher low on the left side for the goal. It was a tic-tac toe play that Providence had used similarly the night before and finally UNH had life based on a play that has been successful most of the season.

4:50 into the third period, the Friars reclaimed the lead 2-1 after Brandon Duhaime found the back of the net. It would take a big Wildcat finish to extend this game and it happened late.

At 13:44, Brandon Lemos, who played strong the night before creating many chances for the offense, finally snuck one past Tirone to make it 3-1. Providence had the clear stranglehold. Josh Monk, who had been on the stat sheet throughout the weekend, initiated the scoring sequence when his pass from the right point deflected off Josh Wilkins' stick in the slot to Lemos, who scored from close range on the left side. It was a tough bounce that Tirone and head coach Dick Umile had to swallow.

Yet, when adversity stares the Wildcats right in the face, they find a way to answer. Matt Dawson would not let this game end without some late drama. Except this time, the officials became a roadblock for the UNH comeback attempt. With just almost 2 minutes remaining in regulation, Dawson took the puck from the slot and fired an absolute rocket of a slap shot that rose above Hawkey and into the back of the net. The comeback was on! Yet, after the review the goal was disallowed because of interference in the goalie crease.

I had never heard the Whittemore Center so edgy in my life. At home, that is a tough call to make late in a close hockey game, but sometimes that is just the way it is.

Still, with the extra attacker out there, the Wildcats inched closer to the comeback attempt. With 40 seconds remaining, Jason Salvaggio moved the puck around the far side of the Friar end and found Kelleher waiting near the end boards. Kelleher took the puck and glided a pass to Patrick Grasso who scored on the one-timer. For Grasso, it was his 16th goal of the season.

Overall, it was a challenging weekend of hockey for the Wildcats. The fight was there and the execution at times was apparent. Providence is a always a tough team to face and they showed that they are on the rise scooping up four big points in Hockey East.

The road-ahead is exactly what UNH anticipated late in the season and with Boston College coming to town next Friday, the Wildcats will look to avenge a tough 3-2 loss back earlier in the season. For now, they still sit in a tie for 5th in Hockey East with 15 points, but the time is now to finish hard.

Check out the highlights of Friday night's loss, as well as the post-game press conference, courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

Next Game Friday, 7:00 PM, Febuary 3rd at the Whittemore Center vs. #11 Boston College.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

UNH Commits Update: January-25-2017

2018 Commit Angus Crookshank
2 Goals in 3 Games
2017 or '18 Commit Eric Esposito
2 Goals, 1 Assist in 4 Games

Player Spotlight - Angus Crookshank

Near the end of last season, UNH commit Angus Crookshank got a taste of playing in the British Columbia Hockey League and made the most of the opportunity. On January 21st, Crookshank was called up from the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy Prep team, donned a Langley Rivermen uniform, and scored a goal on his first shift. In all, Crookshank, who was 16-years-old last season, played in four regular season games and one playoff game for the Rivermen.

Both Crookshank and Langley head coach Bobby Henderson were looking forward to this season with high expectations. Just days before the opening game of the 2016-17 season, Henderson said "He’s been real good early on and he’s going to be a major contributor to our offense". In a cruel twist of fate, Crookshank broke his collar bone in the first period of the first game of the regular season and missed 28 games.

When Crookshank returned to the Rivermen's lineup on December 2nd, he tallied a goal and an assist. He has been a steady scorer ever since. Over a three-game stretch last weekend, Angus scored 2 goals. As these video highlights show, when he carries the puck to the net with speed and quickness, good things happen:

So far, Crookshank has scored 5 goals and 8 assists in 17 games. Of all BCHL rookies who have played at least 17 games, he is tied for 9th in points per game (0.76).

Player Spotlight - Eric Esposito

Last season, as an 18-year-old rookie in the United States Hockey League, Eric Esposito scored 2 goals and 8 assists in 48 games with the Youngstown Phantoms. Near the end of the season, the Neutral Zone** scouts provided this evaluation of his play:

"A tough, hard nosed competitor who is relentless on the forecheck, finishes checks and has deceptive speed. The former Loomis Chaffee star has played a bottom six role in the USHL this season but done so with grit and energy. He'll likely be passed in this years NHL draft but our scouts are confident his best hockey is ahead of him."
Rating - 3 and 1/2 out 5 Stars.

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

The "tough, hard nosed" aspect of Esposito's game has been evident throughout his second season with Youngstown. In the first 22 games, he racked up 82 penalty minutes including 3 fighting-major penalties, and 1 roughing-major. During that stretch, Esposito mostly played on the 3rd/4th lines, scored 4 goals and 1 assist, and generated 16 shots on goal.

Over the last 9 games, Esposito has had no penalties and has scored 3 goals and an assist. Two of the goals, including a game-winner, and the assist came in the last 4 games. These goals are best described as "scrappy":

Esposito's target date for enrollment at UNH is either the Fall of 2017 or 2018.

2016-17 Statistics

The statistics for the commits, presented in the following table, are categorized by the projected year they will enroll in UNH. For example, the "2017 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2017. I have based these projections on a number of factors including:
~ If a National Letter of Intent has been signed.
~ The year the commit and UNH coaches originally targeted for enrollment in UNH.
~ How old the commit would be upon admission.
~ Number of years in junior hockey prior to admission.
~ The commit'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
2017 Commits
Joseph Cipollone  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 16 2 0 2 4
Junior Bruins USPHL 12 5 7 12 4
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 34 4 12 16 10
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 34 9 17 26 8
Benton Maass  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 17 2 6 8 10
Elk River Minn HS 17 3 17 20 4
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 33 9 8 17 82
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 25 3 9 12 26
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 10 6W 4L 3.13 .911
2017 or '18 Commits
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 31 6 2 8 82
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 17 5 8 13 4
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 30 5 6 11 28
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 16 6 10 16 2
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 19 5 11 16 -
2019 Commits
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 31 20 8 28 26
AYHL 15 8 9 17 2
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 6 2W 1L/1T 1.48 .944
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2017 UNH Commit Charlie Kelleher continues to be among the top scorers in the USHL. He has 9 goals and 17 assists in 25 games, is tied for 12th in USHL scoring, and tied for 8th in assists.

~ For an update on 2018 UNH Commit Corson Green, please see my article "UNH Commit Corson Green: NHL Draft Prospect".

United States Premiere Hockey League:

~ 2018 UNH Commit Liam Darcy was named the USPHL Premiere Defenseman "Star of the Week" on January 9th. He also played in the 2017 USPHL All-Star Game. The left-shot defenseman has scored 4 goals and 12 assists in 34 games.

~ Since Joseph Cipollone transferred from the Tri-City Storm of the USHL to the Junior Bruins of the USPHL, he's been scoring at a point-a-game pace. In 12 Junior Bruins games, Cipollone has scored 5 goals and 7 assists. Over the last 4 games, he has tallied 3 goals and 4 assists.

~ 2018-19 UNH Commit Lucas Bahn played in the USPHL 18U All-Star Game (also called the "Young Guns" game).

Tier 1 Elite Hockey League:

~ 2019 UNH Commit Marek Wazny of the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team has scored 20 goals and 8 assists in 31 Tier 1 EHL games. He is tied for 2nd in goal-scoring in the league and tied for 1st in power play goals (6). The Avalanche are currently the 6th-ranked 16U/Minor Midget team in the nation.

New England Prep Hockey League:

~ 2020 UNH Commit Drew Commesso of the St. Sebastian's School has only been scored on 8 times in 291 minutes of play. His .944 Save Percentage is third best in the league.

Minnesota High School Hockey:

~ The NHL Central Scouting Service has ranked 2017 UNH Commit Benton Maass as the 158th North American skater. They have identified him as a "C" prospect meaning he's a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft this June.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

UNH Commit Corson Green: NHL Draft Prospect

Defenseman Corson Green
2018 UNH Commit

Corson Green, a 2018 UNH commit, first officially appeared on the radar of the NHL Central Scouting Service last July. That's when the CSS included Green on it's 2016-17 NHL Draft "Futures List". The 6'3", 207 lbs. defenseman's size and accelerated development were turning the heads of professional scouts.

Last season, as a 16-year-old, Green (DOB: 3/4/1999) was promoted from the Northern Cyclones 16U Tier 1 team to their Premiere team in the Eastern Hockey League. In 16 EHL regular season games, against much older competition, Green scored 3 goals, including a game-winner, and distributed 6 assists including a power play and short-handed assist. He also posted 4 assists for the Northern Cyclone in 6 EHL playoff games.

This season, Green made the jump to the top junior hockey league in the United States - the USHL. The Chicago Steel invited him to their summer tryout camp and he made the team. In late June, the Neutral Zone** scouts evaluated Green at the USA Select 17 Development Camp and pinpointed his skill set:

"While Green is still raw and tends to be undisciplined at times, he very well may have the highest upside of anyone here at the position. He has a big frame and room to grow, he’s super athletic, has a rocket wrister from the point that he gets off easily with his head up and a soft set of hands. He carries well, handles well and can make people miss. His defensive game isn’t poor, but it can be sloppy as he runs around, drifts towards the puck and leaves some of the primary scoring threats wide open. However, he is very tough to beat in the open ice or out of the corners because of his size, athleticism and skating ability. He maintains tight gaps, has an active stick which leads to a lot of steals and poke checks and can transition from a rear guard to leading the rush almost instantly. Very high ceiling once his game matures. He’ll likely be playing for Dan Muse of the Chicago Steel next season where he’ll really benefit from the coaching and structure of the league."
Rating - 4 out 5 Stars.

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

In late September, Corson Green began his season with the Chicago Steel. The NHL Central Scouting Service identified him as a "Player to Watch" and a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Green scored his first USHL goal in his seventh game and added another two games later in mid-November. At the time, the NHL CSS updated it's "Player to Watch" list and continued to identify Green as a "C" prospect.

As anticipated, Green's play continued to improve under the tutelage of the Chicago Steel coaches. In December, he tallied 2 more goals and 5 assists. Green was one of 53 USHL prospects on the NHL CSS "Players to Watch" list. As such, I wondered whether he would be named to the 2017 USHL/NHL Top Prospects game. Although he was not named to the original rosters (i.e., two, 20-man rosters), he was a top alternate and was added to the East squad to replace the injured Eero Tervainen (also a "C" prospect).

The USHL/NHL prospects game on January 10th featured one "A" prospect (candidate for 1st round draft), 8 "B" prospects (candidate for 2nd or 3rd round), and 26 "C" prospects (candidate for 4th/5th/6th rounds). Considering the high caliber of the competition, Corson Green played a solid, all-around game. He played right defense (he is a left-shot) on the East squad's second pairing. His play in the defensive zone has improved since the Neutral Zone scouts assessed him last summer. Green demonstrated physical play, corner control, smooth back-checking, puck control, crease defense, and accurate passing:

Green also displayed the offensive skills described by the Neutral Zone scouts last June. His burst of speed out of the defensive zone, through neutral ice, and to the net was particularly impressive:

In his first game back with the Chicago Steel after the USHL/NHL event, Green's speed, puck-carrying ability, and shot lead to this goal in the first period against Team USA:

It was Green's 5th goal of his rookie season. He also has 6 assists. Last Wednesday, the NHL CSS released its Midterm Rankings and Corson Green was identified as the 149th North American skater. There are 7 USHL defensemen ahead of him on this list. UNH's newest commit Benton Maass, who plans to enroll next fall, is ranked #158 on the NHL CSS list of North American skaters.

At this point in the season, it's difficult to predict whether Corson Green will be drafted at the 2017 NHL Draft next June in Chicago. Looking back at last year's NHL CSS Midterm Rankings, defensemen who were ranked at #142, 147, 153, and 156 did not get selected in the 2016 Draft. If Green's development continues at the current, upward trajectory, his chances are bound to improve.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Petersen Stymies UNH, Notre Dame Wins 3-0

Junior Goalie Danny Tirone
87 Saves in Notre Dame Series

In the 2-2 tie with Notre Dame last night, UNH goalie Danny Tirone made 47 saves and earned the #1 Star of the Game. Tonight in South Bend, it was Notre Dame goalie Cal Petersen's turn. The junior made 31 saves against the #1 offense in Hockey East. It was the first time this season New Hampshire has been shut out.

Notre Dame's goals came at the 5:44 mark of the first period (Malmquist), 16:06 of the third (Peeke), and 12:17 of the final period (Evans).

UNH had several good scoring chances but Petersen was up to the task. Two of them came in the third period. With 13:23 left in regulation and Notre Dame holding a 2-0 lead, freshman Liam Blackburn got behind the Notre Dame net and centered a pass to fellow freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk in the mid-slot. Petersen turned aside BvR's point blank shot and denied freshman Patrick Grasso's followup bid. Petersen's second big save in the final stanza came at the 8:48 mark with Notre Dame holding a 3-0 lead. Looking to replicate his beautiful goal from Friday night, junior Jason Salvaggio swooped around an ND defender and nearly beat Petersen in tight.

UNH's Danny Tirone made 40 saves tonight and several were outstanding. Here are a few of them including one on a penalty shot in the third period:

With the loss, UNH's record in Hockey East remains at 6-2-3. The Wildcats (15 points) are tied for 5th place with UMass-Lowell. Notre Dame (16 points) moves into 4th place one point ahead of UNH and Lowell. Vermont is in 3rd place with 17 points, BU's in 2nd place with 18 points, and BC has 21 points. UNH returns to the Whittemore Center next weekend for two games against 7th place Providence (10 points).

Friday, January 20, 2017

Tirone Backstops UNH 2-2 Tie with #14 Notre Dame

Junior Danny Tirone
47 Saves
Junior Jason Salvaggio
1 Goal, 1 Assist
Freshman Patrick Grasso
15th Goal of Season

What a difference a year makes. Last season, UNH goalie Danny Tirone had a very tough time with Notre Dame. In the first of a two-game series at the Whittemore Center on January 22nd, Tirone surrendered 4 goals on 16 Notre Dame shots and was replaced by third-string goalie Jamie Regan midway through the second period. He sat out the subsequent night's game against Notre Dame. Tonight at Compton Arena in South Bend, Indiana, Tirone gained redemption with 47 saves, several of the exceptional variety, as UNH tied Notre Dame 2-2.

Once again, UNH showed that it can hang with a ranked team. The Fighting Irish entered the game ranked #14 in the nation. UNH gave up a soft goal just 4 minutes into the opening stanza. Freshman defenseman Anthony Wyse tried to catch a harmless wrist shot from the blueline but it skipped underneath his left glove. Notre Dame's Oglevie scooped up the loose puck and swept it past Tirone, who had no chance to make the save.

In recent games, UNH has had no difficulty bouncing back after giving up the first goal of the game and tonight was no exception. Midway through the first period, the nation's second leading scorer Tyler Kelleher floated a pass to linemate Jason Salvaggio as he entered the ND zone. Salvaggio flashed his goal-scoring abilities as he controlled the puck, held off a defender, and slid the puck between the pads of goalie Cal Peterson. It was Salvaggio's 15th goal of the season and he briefly held the team's lead in goal-scoring. With the assist, Kelleher moved into a tie for leading scorer in the nation (14g, 27a, 41pts).

Not to be outdone, freshman standout Patrick Grasso scored his 15th goal of the season five minutes into the second period on UNH's second power play opportunity of the game. Junior Michael McNicholas took the initial shot on Peterson from the right faceoff circle and Salvaggio fired the rebound forcing another save by Peterson. This time, Grasso batted in the rebound as he was parked just outside the crease. Grasso and Salvaggio are now tied for 5th in goal-scoring in NCAA Division I.

UNH maintained a 2-1 lead for the final 15 minutes of the second period and the initial 9 and 1/2 minutes of the third period. A mere 9 seconds after UNH successfully held off the Irish on their fourth power play opportunity, Wegwerth skated out of the corner and scored the game-tying goal.

The final 15 seconds of overtime served as a snapshot of the entire game. Freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk just missed scoring the game-winner at one end of the ice and Danny Tirone came out of his crease to stone Notre Dame's leading goal scorer Anders Bjork (15 goals).

With the tie, UNH has 15 points in Hockey East competition and is tied with UMass-Lowell for 4th place. Notre Dame has 14 points and is in 5th place by themselves. The teams will play their final regulation, Hockey East game tomorrow night in South Bend. This is Notre Dame's final season as a member of Hockey East.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Minnesotan Benton Maass Commits to UNH

2017 UNH Commit
Benton Maass

Minnesota has long been a hotbed for elite hockey players. For example, there have been 243 Minnesota natives to play in the National Hockey League - more than any other state. One former UNH player, Chris Pryor (Class of 1993) from St. Paul, made it to "the show" as a player with the Minnesota North Stars and New York Islanders and is currently the Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

With so much talent developing in one state, it's a little surprising that only 9 Minnesotans have played men's hockey at the University of New Hampshire. The last was Shawn Vinz from Rochester, MN who graduated in 2007. Maybe that trend is about to change. Last Friday, 18-year-old defenseman Benton Maass (DOB: 11-25-1998) from Elk River, Minnesota committed to UNH and is projected to enroll in the Fall of 2017.

Over the last few months, the 6'2", 195 lbs., right-shot blueliner has been the subject of positive reviews:
"(Benton Maass) is strong and poised and was able to create with the puck." Neutral Zone
"He has excellent mobility and some offensive upside. Sees the ice very well and is good at getting his shot through from the point." George Ross, Scout for Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
"I think we’ve got two of the best defensemen in the state coming back in Benton Maass and Nick Perbix (St. Cloud State commit)." Ben Gustafson, Head Coach, Elks River, Minnesota High School
In early October, the NHL Central Scouting Services released it's initial "Players to Watch" list for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Benton Maass (pronounced "Mass") was on the list and received a "C" rating. The NHL CSS identified Maass as a candidate to be drafted in the 4th, 5th, or 6th round next June in Chicago. He maintained that status on the updated "Players to Watch" list in mid-November.

Yesterday, the NHL scouting service released its Midterm Ratings of 2017 draft prospects and Maass was listed as the #158th North American skater. It's very difficult to accurately predict his chances of being drafted by an NHL team in June. For example, of the #155-#165 North American skaters on last year's Midterm Rankings, only one was selected in the 2016 NHL Draft. What is certain is that NHL scouts are following Maass' development and considering him a potential draft pick.
Defenseman Benton Maass
Elk River High School


Benton Maass grew up playing for the Elk River Youth Hockey Association. Elk River is located about half-way between Minneapolis and Saint Cloud. He started playing for Elk River High School, one of the top teams in Minnesota, as a sophomore. The top, high school conference in Minnesota is divided into 8 Sections and winners of the Sectional Tournaments advance to the Class AA State Tournament. Elk River won the Minnesota State Championship in 2001.

As a junior last season, Maass was a co-captain and scored 6 goals and 16 assists in 25 regular season games. In the Sectional Tournment, the third-ranked Elk River team advanced to the semifinals and Maass tallied 1 goal in two playoff games.

Last June, Benton Maass was selected in the 4th Round (96th overall) of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) Draft by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs. Fairbanks had won the 2016 NAHL Championship. Because the Minnesota High School season did not begin until the end of November, Maass played 17 games for Fairbanks in September, October, and early November. He scored 2 power play goals and distributed 6 assists. These video highlights show both of his goals, one assist, and a heavy hit in the defensive zone:

Scouting Reports

The NAHL held its Annual Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota in late September, 2016 and over 300 NHL, college and junior scouts attended. Among them were scouts from Neutral Zone** who ranked Maass as an "A-" player and provided this assessment:

"The late 1998 did a lot well here. He is strong and poised and was able to create with the puck. He rated in our top three players in each of Fairbank’s games. To become a plus player, Benton must improve play in his own end. He has a ton of upside and was one of the best prospects in the showcase. He is a new player for Neutral Zone and played at Elk River (MN) HS last year."
Rating - 3 3/4 out 5 Stars.

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

Maass left the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in late November and rejoined the Elk River High School team for his senior season. As the team's captain, Maass has scored 3 goals (2 PPG) and 17 assists (5 PPA) in 15 games. Elk River is having one of its best seasons in recent years. The Elk River Elks' record is 12-3-0 and they are ranked #3 in the state.

George Ross, a scout for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League who covers the Minnesota region, provided this assessment of Maass:
"Benton Maass will add much needed mobility to the back end for UNH. Never considered one of the top guys in his age group growing up, he is a classic late bloomer who was somewhat of a forgotten man in a good and deep Elk River program. Before returning to the Elks for the high school season, he spent the fall in Fairbanks (NAHL) and was their best defenseman at the NAHL showcase in Blaine in September. He has excellent mobility and some offensive upside. Sees the ice very well and is good at getting his shot through from the point. Should be a good fit for the big sheet in Durham."


I had an opportunity to interview Benton Maass, 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?

Benton Maass: I chose UNH for a variety of reasons. During my visit, I really connected with the guys on the team and the coaching staff which was a big priority of mine. They made me feel like I was at home. I also really liked the campus and schooling that New Hampshire offers which was another big reason why I decided to go there.

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

Benton Maass: I took my time with the process and looked at a variety of colleges out east and in my home state of Minnesota before committing to New Hampshire.

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?

Maass: I will be enrolling as a freshman next fall (2017) and will be joining the team for the upcoming season.

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

Maass: I think of myself has a solid two way defenseman. I am very calm and poised with the puck and always look to make plays that will benefit my team. The areas I need to work on would be my skating because a player can always get faster and my puck handling skills.

Lowry: The Fairbanks Ice Dogs selected you in the 4th Round of the 2016 North American Hockey League Draft and you played 17 games with them from mid-September to early November. You then returned to your hometown high school team in Elk River, Minnesota for your senior season. Hockey fans from New England may not have a full appreciation of how important high school hockey is in Minnesota. Would you describe the tradition of Minnesota HS hockey and the reasons you decided play for Elk River this season?

Maass: I don’t think there is a better place to play high school hockey than in Minnesota. It is almost all community based which allows you to play with the same guys for most of your youth and high school experience. I chose to stay and play my senior year in Elk River because I wanted one last go and playing with all my friends, most of which I have grown up playing with, and the chance at getting to play in a state tournament.

Lowry: In your sophomore and junior years at Elk River, the team was coached by former NHL defenseman Gordie Roberts. How did he help you develop as a defenseman?

Maass: He always had a lot of good, small tips that he would encourage the defensemen to try during practice and games. Having his experience as a player and scout in the NHL definitely helped with my development as a defenseman.

Lowry: When your season at Elk River ends, do you plan to return to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for the remainder of the NAHL season?

Maass: Yes, I will be returning to Fairbanks to finish out their season after my high school season is done.

Lowry: The NHL Central Scouting Service identified you as a "Player to Watch" and a "C" prospect (a candidate for selection in the 4th, 5th or 6th round) for the 2017 NHL Draft. No doubt, that means that NHL scouts have been showing up at games to watch you play. Does that enter into your mind when you're out there playing? If so, how do you handle it?

Maass: I try to not think about things like that too much. In the end, it all comes down to playing well and continuing to develop as a player and a person.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? Have you thought about what you might major in when you enroll at UNH?

Maass: I have interest in almost all areas of academics. I plan on majoring in business finance at UNH with plans to go to law school at some point after my 4 years at New Hampshire.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

UNH Captain's Corner: Frozen Fenway

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

Back in the winter of 2008, the National Hockey League initiated the modern era of outdoor ice hockey games. They coordinated the construction of a portable, regulation hockey rink on top of the football field at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, New York for the first NHL Winter Classic. Trivia buffs will remember that the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Buffalo Sabres in overtime. It was a wildly popular event with 71,000 fans braving the elements and 3.75 million TV viewers watching in the comfortable indoors.

On New Years Day 2010, Fenway Park hosted it's first outdoor hockey game with the Boston Bruins downing the Philadelphia Flyers in overtime. Former UNH star James van Riemsdyk played for the Flyers. Over 38,000 fans packed the old ball yard and another 3.68 million watched on TV. Recognizing the popularity and marketability of outdoor games, Hockey East launched the inaugural Frozen Fenway event one week later. Boston University beat Boston College 3-2 in front of another sellout crowd.

In August, 2011, Hockey East officially announced an ambitious plan to stage a college-only, outdoor event in the Second Frozen Fenway. The original plan included matchups between UNH and the University of Maine and Vermont versus UMass Amherst on January 7, 2012. Later, additional games between BC & Northeastern, Harvard & Union, and Babson & Norwich were added to the schedule. On a mild, overcast evening before a sellout crowd, UNH rallied from a 4-2 deficit to force overtime against Maine but lost in overtime.

Since that Second Frozen Fenway battle between UNH and Maine in January, 2012, the number of outdoor college hockey games has rapidly increased. Between then and the end of last winter, 18 Division I men's hockey games have been played in outdoor venues from Boston to Denver and several cities in between. The Third Frozen Fenway in January, 2014, which included UMass-Lowell vs. Northeastern and BU vs. Maine, still attracted over 25,000 fans to the ball park. So, when Hockey East announced that UNH would be invited to the Fourth Frozen Fenway this winter, players and fans began to look forward to the spectacle with anticipation and excitement.

Last Saturday evening, the UNH Wildcats faced off against the Northeastern University Huskies under a clear, chilly sky at Fenway Park. UNH had defeated NU the night before in a come-from-behind, 5-3 victory at the Whittemore Center in Durham, NH. The UNH freshman line lead the UNH win with Patrick Grasso scoring 2 goals, Brendan van Riemsdyk adding a goal, and Liam Blackburn assisting on all three.

In front of a bundled up crowd of 16,432 fans, Northeastern got on the board first with a power play goal at the 13:04 mark of the opening stanza. An initial shot flew off the top of the crossbar behind UNH junior goalie Danny Tirone and floated toward the front of the net. Aston-Reese batted the puck out of mid-air, it slid across the crease, and Gaudette buried it into the open net.

Former Malden Catholic High School star Ara Nazarian tied the game 4 minutes later. UNH freshman defenseman Anthony Wyse, a native of Newton, MA, kept the puck in the NU zone along the half-wall, spun around, and flicked a wrist shot on net. Nazarian caught the puck with his skate, kicked it to his stick, and back-handed it home.

UNH took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period on a goal by former St. John's Prep (Danvers, MA) star Shane Eiserman. Eiserman gathered a loose puck behind the NU net, slid it to Nazarian who passed it out to the junior defenseman Cam Marks at the blue line. Marks sent a wrist shot toward the net and it bounced around in the low slot. Linemates Eiserman, Nazarian, and sophomore Marcus Vela were entrenched in front of NU goalie Ryan Ruck and Eiserman banged the puck between his pads.

Northeastern would tie the game 2-2 in the waning seconds of the second period. NU defenseman Jeremy Davies controlled the puck at the point and faked a shot as Patrick Grasso slid across the ice to block one. Davies then wristed the puck along the ice and junior defenseman Dylan Chanter tried to block it with his skate. The puck got by Chanter, he partially screened Tirone, and the puck slid past his left skate into the net.

Although UNH outshot Northeastern 9-7 in the third period and 1-0 in the five minute overtime period, neither team scored. After the game, UNH head coach Dick Umile said "If you can get three out of four points in Hockey East, it's a good weekend."

Captain's Interview

I had an opportunity to interview UNH Captain Matias Cleland about the Frozen Fenway game and the three-point weekend against Northeastern:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Any fan who has laced 'em up can fondly recollect their first times playing hockey outdoors. Would you share some of your memories of playing outdoors when you were growing up in Longmont, Colorado?

Matias Cleland: My buddies and I would get together to play on small lakes and ponds in Colorado every winter. Playing outdoors like that, is some of the most fun I've had playing hockey. We would always stay out way too long and usually get sick but it was worth it.

Mike Lowry: With all the fanfare and buildup to the Frozen Fenway game, what was it like to walk out onto the field, skate onto the ice, and take your first shift?

Matias Cleland: It was surreal. There was a lot that went into playing this game, and we have been looking forward to it since last year. We didn't just play at any baseball field either. It was awesome looking up when we walked out and seeing the "Fenway Park" sign. It was a memory I'll never forget, and I thought Hockey East and Fenway did a fantastic job putting the event on.

Lowry: As the game progressed, it looked like the ice surface was covered with more snow/icechips than in an indoor game. Did the conditions have any effect on the way UNH would typically play a game?

Cleland: The ice definitely got worse as the game went on, but it was the same for both teams. It was pretty hard to handle the puck as the game went on. We have some skilled forwards on our team so they weren't able to make some plays they usually are able to make. We talked before the game that we needed to keep it simple and shoot pucks whenever we get the chance.

Lowry: With all the extended TV timeouts, you and the rest of first unit appeared to play a lot of minutes. By the final period and into overtime, was stamina a factor?

Cleland: The TV timeouts definitely helped out a lot so we could get some rest. Stamina wasn't a factor in the game. After the game, I think we were all pretty tired but I don't think it affected anything in the game.

Lowry: With the come-from-behind, 5-3 win on Thursday night and the 2-2 tie at Fenway, the team earned 3 out of 4 points in the Northeastern series. You're now in fourth place, 1 point behind Lowell and Vermont, 2 points behind Boston University, and 5 points behind first-place BC in the Hockey East standings. You've played three fewer Hockey East games than BC. What are your thoughts on the weekend results and where the team stands in the race for the Hockey East season title?

Cleland: We have put ourselves in a pretty good position going down the stretch here. This weekend was a solid weekend for the team. Northeastern was a good team and they gave us their best effort. The win on Thursday night was a huge win for us. We stuck to the game plan being down in the third and we had been in this position before. It showed that we know how to win those tight games, which is how they will all be from here on out. I think we are improving every game, and we will play some good teams down the stretch here. We have distinguished ourselves as one of those good teams though. We're excited for the back end of the regular season.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

UNH Power Play Dominates, Cats Down Brown 7-4

Senior Tyler Kelleher
5 Assists
Junior Michael McNicholas
2 Goals, 2 Assists

Junior Jason Salvaggio
2 Goals
Freshman Patrick Grasso
Game-Winning Goal

After are a hard-fought 2-1 loss on Friday night against #6 Umass-Lowell, the UNH Wildcats needed to guard against a letdown in their final non-conference game at Brown University. A substantial snowstorm in southern New England on Saturday postponed the game until this afternoon at 4 PM. The extra day of rest and reflection may have helped UNH as they notched a decisive 7-4 win over the Brown Bears.

On paper, the matchup between UNH and Brown looked like a mismatch between the #12 offense in Division I hockey (UNH: 3.39 Goals Per Game) against the #59 defense (Brown: 4.13 Goals Allowed per Game). In particular, Brown needed to avoid penalties as UNH boasts a top 15 power play while the Bears has the second worst penalty kill in the nation. In the end, it didn't turn out well for Brown.

The potent power play unit of Tyler Kelleher, Jason Salvaggio, Michael McNicholas, Patrick Grasso and Matias Cleland put on a clinic converting on all 4 opportunites. McNicholas buried 2 power play goals. Salvaggio tallied a power play goal and an even-strength goal. Grasso scored the game-winner on the power play.

Freshman Brendan van Riemsdyk and senior Jamie Hill also scored even-strength goals. Hills' goal 4 minutes into the final period gave UNH a 7-1 lead. Brown's first line netted 3 goals over the final 8 and 1/2 minutes but it was too little too late.

For a complete recap of the game and stats, check out .

Here are the video highlights of all 7 UNH goals:

UNH returns to action with a home-game against Northeastern on Thursday and another matchup with NU at the 2017 Frozen Fenway on Saturday night.

Monday, January 02, 2017

UNH Ends 2016 On High Note

Senior Tyler Kelleher
2 Goals, 2 Assists
Junior Jason Salvaggio
2 Goals, 2 Assists

[Manchester, NH] -- The University of New Hampshire Wildcats skated past the Maine Black Bears 6-4 on Friday night to close out the 2016 year. Although outshot 37-25, the Wildcats and Tyler Kelleher were able to grind out their third victory over the Black Bears this season.

It did not take long for the Wildcats to strike gold in this one when only :28 seconds in, Jason Salvaggio capitalized for his 10th goal of the season. Cam Marks glided a pass to Kelleher into the neutral zone who then redirected it to Michael McNicholas. He skated into the Maine zone on the right side and passed it to Salvaggio who then buried it past Maine netminder Rob McGovern.

“It is a good win for us. It ends 2016 and is against Maine. We did some good things, but need some work defensively. Tirone made some huge saves and Kelleher has a had great career against Maine and is a threat on the ice every year,” head coach Dick Umile said.

At 1:16, Ryan Smith scored his third goal of the season to level the score and it seemed that the crowd at SNHU Arena was ready to watch an exciting hockey game. Smith retrieved a pass from Cedric Lacroix who then fired a shot just outside the faceoff circle.

One of the biggest plays of the season was at 9:02 in the first period when Shane Eiserman poked checked a puck away in the defensive end at the start of Maine’s first power play and broke away skating down the ice. Eiserman then shot it top shelf past McGovern to make it 2-1.

“It was a great way to start the second half of the year. We all gel pretty good and have good chemistry. Confidence is high right now,” Salvaggio said.

Maine would not go quietly in front of 4,460 at SNHU arena when on their second power play of the night, senior defensemen Eric Schurhamer knotted the game up at two a piece. Florida Panther prospect Patrick Shea saucered a pass over to Schurhamer who from the point wristed one through traffic and past netminder Danny Tirone.

At 5:44 of the second period, Kelleher continued to showcase his All-American talent when he scored his 13th goal of the season to put UNH up 3-2. Captain Matias Cleland found Kelleher in the neutral zone who then skated around two Black Bears and into the Maine zone and fired one into the back of the net.

“Tyler sets them up. That whole line. He is a threat every time he is on the ice. That goal he had was fabulous. I just knew when he was sitting behind the net he get Sal out front. Sal has a great shot and in his junior year he has broke out. We have a good line with them,” Umile said.

One of the biggest stories of the night was freshman Justin Fregona burying his first collegiate goal at 15:30 of the second period. Fregona clawed his way through the Black Bear attack and carried the puck himself into the slot and then wristed one top shelf to make it 4-2.

Maine made it a one goal affair after Schurhamer tallied his second of the night to make it 4-3 going into an exciting third period. With :52 seconds left in the second, Cam Brown fed a one-time pass to Schurhamer who rocketed one past Tirone.

The third period lived up to the hype when both teams were physical and continued to jaw at each other. The momentum seemed in the corner of the Black Bears, but at 14:02 in the final stanza, Salvaggio scored his second of the game and 11th of the season. Marks once again set it up and played a pass to Kelleher behind the Maine net. Goalie Matt Morris had taken over for McGovern. Kelleher found Salvaggio in the slot waiting for the biscuit. It was a tic-tac-goal that got Wildcat fans in Manchester on their feet and more importantly put UNH up 5-3.

TK was able to record his fourth point of the night when he scored an empty netter. Kelleher's 35th point of the season moved him to second place in scoring, behind Union’s Mike Vecchione, in all of D-I college hockey. Vecchione has 37. Kelleher is also tied for third in the nation in goals (14) and tied for first in assists (21).

Maine got the last laugh to make the score to 6-4 with a goal by Patrick Holway. Malcolm Hayes and Housakos recorded assists on the play, but the final score ended 6-4 in favor of the Wildcats.

UNH moved to 9-7-2 on the year and still 5-1-1 in Hockey East as the thick of the schedule now stares them in the face. The Black Bears fell to 7-10-3 on the season.

Here are the highlights of the Wildcats winning the Riverstone Classic courtesy of UNH Wildcat Productions:

Up Next: UNH returns to the Whittemore Center to challenge the #7 UMASS-Lowell River Hawks in a contest that will prove where this UNH Hockey team is really at as the new year begins. For now, a 3-0 sweep of Maine in 2016-2017 is always a great accomplishment.

Tune in Friday on 91.3 FM WUNH Durham at 6:00 PM to listen to the action as Brian Dunn and myself bring you the contest.

Web Site Hit Counter

Firefox 2