Friday, April 28, 2017

UNH Commits Update: April-28-2017

Max Gildon
2017 UNH Commit
Charlie Kelleher
2017 Commit

Benton Maass
2017 UNH Commit
Ryan Verrier
2018 or '19 Commit

Player Spotlight - Max Gildon

Elite hockey players rise to the occasion on the big stage. 2017 UNH Commit Max Gildon delivered an all-star performance at the 2017 IIHF 18U World Championships in Slovakia and helped lead Team USA to the gold medal. The 6'3", 191 lbs., left-shot defenseman scored 4 goals, including a hat trick against the Czech Republic, and distributed 2 assists over 7 games. Gildon (Pronounced: Gil-DON) was the top scoring defenseman on Team USA and tied for 6th among all tournament players. His 4 goals tied him for 3rd in overall goal scoring and were the most of any defenseman.

As these video highlights show, Gildon excels at scoring goals off the rush and on the power play:

Entering the 18U Worlds, Max Gildon was ranked as a 'B' prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Service. They projected Gildon as a candidate to be drafted in either the 2nd or 3rd Round of the 2017 NHL Draft coming up on June 23-24. Chris Dilks of SB Nation concluded that Gildon's performance at the Worlds increased his chances of being drafted in the 2nd Round:
"If there was one US player that really helped himself in this tournament it was defenseman Max Gildon, who scored 4-2-6, including a hat trick against the Czech Republic. Gildon has always had all the physical abilities to be a first round pick, but never quite had the mental side, especially against better competition like he saw against college teams. He showed the ability to use his talents well here. He was probably a 2nd/3rd round guy before the tournament, and this pushed him more towards the second round."
Max Gildon recently signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of New Hampshire. He will enroll at UNH this Fall.

Player Spotlight - Charlie Kelleher

Charlie Kelleher and the Sioux City Musketeers finished the regular season with the best record in the United States Hockey League. After Kelleher was traded from the Tri-City Storm to the Musketeers in early February, he tallied 6 goals and 12 assists in 21 regular season games. Overall, Kelleher scored 17 goals and 34 assists in the regular season. He tied for 8th in USHL scoring, tied 6th in assists, and tied 7th in power play assists (12).

Kelleher and the Musketeers didn't miss a beat in the opening round of the USHL Playoffs. They swept the Des Moines Buccaneers in 3 games and Kelleher lead the team with 3 goals. In fact, he is currently tied for 1st in goal-scoring in the USHL Playoffs. As these video highlights (Courtesy of DMBucshighlights) show, Charlie Kelleher knows how to rush the net and bury his chances:

Sioux City will face the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL Western Conference Finals beginning tonight. Charlie Kelleher plans to matriculate to UNH this fall.

Player Spotlight - Benton Maass

After completing his season with Elks River High School in Minnesota, right-shot defenseman Benton Maass (Pronounced: Mass) returned to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs for their final 9 games of the NAHL regular season. The Ice Dogs won all 9 games. Coincidence? Probably not - Maass scored 5 goals and 3 assists during that stretch.

In the opening round of the North American Hockey League Playoffs, Fairbanks swept the Minnesota Magicians in 3 games. Maass lead the Ice Dogs with 2 power play assists and added 2 assists. He is currently tied for 4th in NAHL Playoff scoring and tied 1st in power play goals.

These video highlights from the 7-2 victory in Game 3 show how well-rounded Maass' game is. He is wearing the #28 Ice Dog jersey. The sequence shows him making a stretch pass, scoring a power play goal, dishing 2 power play assists, and killing penalties:

Like Max Gildon, Benton recently signed an NLI with UNH. He plans to matriculate this fall.

Player Spotlight - Ryan Verrier

Ryan Verrier, a left-shot defenseman from Reading, Massachusetts, transferred from Austin Prep School to the Salisbury School for his senior year. Verrier (Pronounced: VERY-er) scored 7 goals and 18 assists for the 7th-ranked Salisbury Crimson Knights. Among all New England Prep Hockey defenseman, Verrier tied for 9th in assists. Although the Salisbury season ended with a 4-2 loss to Dexter in the Elite 8 quarterfinals, the 2016-17 season was not over for several Salisbury players. Verrier and 5 of his teammates joined the Mid-Fairfield (CT) Chiefs for the USA Hockey Tier-I U18 National Championships.

Mid-Fairfield won all 5 games in the tournament capped off by a 4-3 overtime win over Team Wisconsin in the Championship Game. Ryan Verrier scored 3 goals and an assist in the tournament. Among all tourney players, he tied for 3rd in goal-scoring. Here are all of Verrier's goals - he wears #8 for Mid-Fairfield and is the quarterback on their power play:

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 23 8 17 25 8
Playoffs 7 1 5 6 2
Liam Darcy  (D) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 44 5 18 23 17
Playoffs 6 2 3 5 2
Max Gildon*  (D) USA NTDP U18 NCAA 16 0 6 6 6
USHL 25 5 9 14 26
NAHL 1 1 0 1 0
Int'l. 8 1 3 4 14
U18 Worlds 7 4 2 6 4
Charlie Kelleher*  (F) Tri-City Storm USHL 40 11 22 33 10
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 21 6 12 18 4
Playoffs 3 3 2 5 2
Benton Maass*  (D) Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL 23 5 8 13 12
Playoffs 3 2 2 4 0
Elk River HS Minn HS 25 6 23 29 6
Playoffs 2 2 2 4 0
Eric MacAdams*  (F) Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 43 11 9 20 86
Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 11 2 3 5 20
Playoffs 4 0 0 0 10
James Miller*  (D) Penticton Vees BCHL 37 6 12 18 47
Playoffs 21 0 7 7 6
Mike Robinson*  (G) Dubuque Fighting Saints USHL 1 1W 0L 4.20 .854
Springfield Jr Blues NAHL 21 10W 9L 2.89 .918
Kohei Sato  (F) Northeast Generals NAHL 48 14 22 36 87
North Iowa Bulls NA3HL 7 9 6 15 2
2018 Commits
Angus Crookshank*  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 31 9 12 21 14
Playoffs 6 2 1 3 0
Eric Esposito*  (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 52 9 7 16 123
Playoffs 5 0 0 0 0
Corson Green  (D) Chicago Steel USHL 48 5 10 15 53
Playoffs 5 0 1 1 2
2018 or '19 Commits
Lucas Bahn  (D) Skipjacks 18U USPHL 18U 23 8 17 25 10
Playoffs 2 3 1 4 2
Johnstown Tomahawks NAHL 2 0 0 0 0
Jackson Pierson  (F) Culver Academy Prep 36 28 34 62 2
18U Nationals 4 2 4 6 0
Ryan Verrier  (D) Salisbury School NE Prep 29 7 18 25 -
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 -
18U Nationals 5 3 1 4 2
2019 Commits
Connor Sweeney  (F) Pingree School NE Prep 29 31 12 43 -
Marek Wazny  (F) NJ Avalanche 16U Tier 1 Elite 32 21 11 32 26
Playoffs 5 1 3 4 2
AYHL 23 15 19 34 4
Playoffs 2 1 3 4 4
16U Nationals 3 0 1 1 2
2020 Commits
Drew Commesso  (G) St. Sebastian's NE Prep 8 3W 2L/1T 1.77 .932
14U Nationals 3 1W 2L 2.50 .878
* = Signed National Letter of Intent

News & Notes

British Columbia Hockey League:

~ James Miller (D) and the Penticton Vees won the BCHL Championship and earned the Fred Page Cup. Miller contributed 7 assists in 21 Playoff games - none more important than the last one. In the Game 7 overtime against the Chilliwack Chiefs, Miller kept the puck in the offensive zone and made a key pass for the secondary assist. The Vees advance to the Western Canada Cup tournament beginning on Saturday.

United States Hockey League:

~ 2017 commit Eric MacAdams (F) and the Dubuque Fighting Saints won the opening round of the USHL Playoffs defeating the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3 games to 1. So far, MacAdams has not scored.

~ 2018 commit Corson Green (D) and the Chicago Steel defeated Eric Esposito (F) and the Youngstown Phantoms in the first round of the USHL Playoffs. Green contributed 1 assist while Esposito did not score in the 5-game series.

USA Hockey Youth National Championships:

~ UNH newest commit, Jackson Pierson and the Culver Academy Eagles advanced to the semifinals of the 18U National Championship but lost to fellow UNH commit Ryan Verrier and the Mid-Fairfield Chiefs. Pierson, who played center for Culver, scored 2 goals and 4 assists in 4 games. Among all the 18U players, Pierson tied for 4th in scoring and tied 3rd in assists. Look for a feature article on Jackson Pierson coming soon on The UNH Men's Hockey Blog.

~ 2019 commit Marek Wazny and the North Jersey Avalanche 16U team did not advance beyond the opening round of the 16U National Championships. Wazny, a centerman, tallied 1 assist in 3 games. The scouts from Neutral Zone provided this assessment of Wazny's performance:
"Wazny wasn’t able to produce offensively the way he would have liked to, but he showed a lot of ability throughout the week. He’s tall, athletic and has a long, fluid stride and deceptive agility for his age and build. His hands were smooth and agile throughout the week and he made plays every time he was on the ice. He carries the puck with confidence and poise and he never panics or rushes passes. The issue he had here was that he tried to do too much, he tried to dangle defenseman instead of taking it wide and he skated into adverse situations. Overall, he’s a high ceiling prospect with excellent feet, athleticism and puck control."
~ 2020 commit Drew Commesso and the South Shore Kings U14 did not advance beyond the opening round of the 16U National Championships. Wazny, who started in goal in all 3 games, won 1 game and lost 2. He posted a 2.50 Goals Against Average and a .878 Save Percentage.

Friday, April 21, 2017

UNH Captain's Corner: Reflections on the 2016-17 Season

UNH Captain Matias Cleland

Tyler Kelleher
Dylan Maller
Jamie Hill

One year ago, at the 2016 Men's Ice Hockey Awards Banquet, Matias Cleland accepted and welcomed a unique challenge. He had just become the sole captain of the 2016-17 UNH Wildcats. There would be no co-captains or alternate captains. At the Media Day last September, I asked Matias about his role as the captain:

"Congratulations on being the only captain. Is this the first time you've ever played on a team with just one captain and no 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."

So what kind of captain did Matias Cleland become? These quotes from UNH Head Coach Dick Umile near the end of the season say it all:
"Dick Umile said postgame that Matias Cleland is the best captain he has had in his 27 years behind the UNH bench." Nick Stoico, Concord Monitor
“A guy like Cleland. He is our leader and our warrior. He is committed to it and got his teammates ready to go to battle where they did not want to see the season end. It has been a frustrating season, but now in the new season, we just won two out of three.” Dick Umile, UNH Head Coach
Matias Cleland's senior season will also be remembered as one of the best offensive performances by a defenseman in UNH Hockey history. As the starting left defenseman, point man on the UNH power play, and backbone of the penalty kill unit, Cleland scored 2 goals and 32 assists in 34 regular season games. He was the leading scorer among all NCAA Division I defensemen in the 2016-17 regular season. Hobey Baker Award winner Will Butcher of Denver University also scored 34 points but he played in 2 more regular season games than Matias.

Cleland's 32 assists in 34 regular season games were the most of any defenseman and he tied for 4th among all NCAA players. 20 of Cleland's assists came on the power play. Dylan Sikura (21), a Northeastern forward, was the only player with more power play assists in the regular season.

Matias added a goal and an assist during the 6 Hockey East Playoff games against Merrimack and UMass-Lowell. That brought his 2016-17 totals up to 3 goals and 33 assists in 40 games. Those 33 assists earned Cleland a special place in the annals of UNH Men's Hockey. Only three UNH defensemen have tallied more assists in a single season. Hockey Hall of Famer Rod Langway scored the most single-season assists (43) by a UNH defenseman in the 1976-77 season. Peter Hermes (1984-85) and All-American Tim Murray (1996-97) tallied 37 assists. On the impressive list of All-Time UNH Leading Scorers, Cleland is tied for 16th for the most assists in a single season.

Matias Cleland's overall performance was honored at the 2017 Hockey East Annual Awards Banquet in mid-March. He was named a Hockey East All-Star Honorable Mention.

Over the course of this season, it's been my pleasure to interview Matias for the "UNH Captain's Corner" series. In this, our final interview, we discussed the 2016-17 season and what his classmates have meant to him over their 4 seasons at UNH.

Captain's Interview

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): As you reflect back on the 2016-17, what were some of the most memorable accomplishments of the team?

Matias Cleland: It was great to beat Merrimack in the best of three at their place in playoffs. We were playing really good hockey and there's nothing better than playoff hockey. Another memorable moment was beating Maine. Maine weekend is always circled on the calendar, and it was great to get two wins that weekend.

Mike Lowry: What was the biggest disappointment?

Matias Cleland: The biggest disappointment was losing to Lowell at the end of the year. We turned it up at the end and that loss obviously ended the year and my career at UNH. I was really proud of how the guys came together and fought until the end.

Lowry: What advice would you give the next UNH captain(s)?

Cleland: I would tell them to realize how great of a program they are privileged to be the leader of and to not take it for granted. I would also tell them to do whatever it takes to win because there's nothing better than winning.

Tyler Kelleher
Dylan Maller
Jamie Hill

Lowry: Over your four years at UNH, you've grown close to your classmates - Tyler Kelleher, Dylan Maller, and Jamie Hill. In the coming years, as your lives move in different directions, what will you remember about them, both as hockey players and friends off the ice?

Cleland: Our class is extremely close, and we will have a life long friendship. We have spent the last four years together, and we will be in touch no matter what we all end up doing.

Lowry: Soon after the season ended, you signed an Amateur Tryout Contract with the Wheeling Nailers, the ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. You scored a goal in your first game and accumulated 7 shots on goal over 5 games. How do you think your play stacked up against the ECHL players? What playing options are you considering for next season??

Cleland: My play stacked up well against other players in the league. There were a lot of good players and the hockey was good. I felt like I played really well and showed what I can do. I'm working to get into the AHL for next year and waiting on some things this summer.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

16-Year-Old Connor Sweeney Commits to UNH

UNH Commit Connor Sweeney
"Sweeney is a tall, athletic prospect with a long, fluid stride." Neutral Zone
Top college hockey prospects develop at different rates. Some "can't miss" prospects, such as recent UNH commit Max Gildon, are singled out by hockey scouts at an early age. When Gildon was just 14 years old and playing for the Dallas Stars Elite U16 team, the scouts at Western Elite Hockey Prospects rated him as "by far the best defenseman in the 1999 class".

Other youngsters who eventually become excellent college players don't register on the scouts' radar until their mid-to-late teens. 6'2", 185 lbs. forward Connor Sweeney (DOB: 5/5/2000) looks like just such a player. Sweeney, who hails from North Andover, Massachusetts, earned a slot at last summer's USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp. The scouts from Neutral Zone** ranked Sweeney as a "C+" forward and provided this assessment:

"Sweeney led his high school team, Pingree, in points as a ’00 this past season. He is a fluid skater who can carry the puck well and make plays off the rush. The son of former NHLer Bob Sweeney, who currently heads the Boston Bruins Foundation, has great upside, size and skating ability, but will need to grow into his frame and get more involved offensively. He was too perimeter here and wasn’t able to create many scoring chances in zone. An athletic, fluid skater with size and major upside. He was drafted by Muskegon in the seventh round of the USHL Futures Draft and is undecided about his plans next season"
Rating - 3 1/2 out 5 Stars.

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

In the 2015-16 season, Sweeney was a freshman at the Pingree School in Hamilton, Massachusetts and tallied 9 goals and 11 assists in 29 games. This season, as a sophomore, Sweeney had a breakout performance scoring 31 goals and 12 assists. He tied for the most goals scored in New England Prep School Hockey.

Connor is the youngest son of former Boston Bruin Bob Sweeney. He was an All-American at Boston College in the early 1980's, played six seasons with the Boston Bruins, and four additional seasons in the NHL. Mr. Sweeney is the Executive Director of the Boston Bruins Foundation, the non-profit charitable organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for children throughout New England.


I had an opportunity to interview Connor Sweeney, 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?

Connor Sweeney: The coaches at UNH, the strong hockey program and the campus.

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?

Connor Sweeney: The coaches and I have not reached a target date yet.

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

Sweeney: Harvard, St. Lawrence, Maine, UVM, Northeastern and finally UNH. Maine, UNH and Northeastern all made me offers.

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

Sweeney: My strengths are my speed, down low play and shot right now. What I need to improve on is my puck handling all over the ice.

Lowry: In your recently completed sophomore season at the Pingree School, you dramatically increased your goal scoring from 9 as a freshman to 31. You tied with Hebron Academy senior Phillipe Gilmour for the most goals in New England Prep School hockey. What factors lead to your burst of goal-scoring?

Sweeney: I started the season off not scoring a goal and I got really down on myself. My dad just kept telling to keep playing my game and as soon as our Christmas tournament started, I took off. I really started to believe in myself and I think that believing in myself was a huge factor.

Lowry: Last May, the Muskegon Lumberjacks drafted you in the 7th round of the USHL Phase I Futures Draft and you are on their Affiliate List. Do you plan on trying out for the Muskegon roster at their camp in May?

Sweeney: I have not officially decided if I am going out to Muskegon or not in May.

Lowry: If you don't join the squad of a Junior team, where do you plan to play next season?

Sweeney: Lawrence Academy.

Lowry: Last summer, you participated in the USA Hockey Select 16 Player Development Camp. How do you think your skills and development compared with the other top US forwards born in 2000?

Sweeney: I think I was right in the middle. Over this past season, I believe I have become a different player and I hope to make it back to Development camp this summer.

Lowry: Your Dad is a former Boston College hockey star, NCAA All-American, and veteran NHL player. What's the best piece of hockey advice he's given you?

Sweeney: He always stresses that believing in my ability is one of the most important parts in hockey and in everything I do. He has always believed in me which has made me believe in myself. Believing in yourself is half the battle.

Lowry: What are your academic strengths and interests? When do you anticipate graduating from high school?

Sweeney: I love History and any Science. I have thought about majoring in business at UNH.

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