Friday, March 23, 2018

UNH Commits Update 3-23-18: Playoff Champs Stützle, Pierson & Sweeney

Tim Stützle
DNL U19 Champ
Jackson Pierson
MidAm 18U Champ
Connor Sweeney
NE Prep Champ

2018 Playoffs

The current crop of UNH Commits are spread out over a variety of leagues from the British Columbia Hockey League to New England Prep and everywhere in between. For the first time in the history of the UNH men's hockey program, there is even a commit playing in a European junior league. All of these leagues, except for the United States Hockey League, are either in the midst of their playoffs or have recently finished postseason play. As the 2017-18 statistics table shows (see below), some UNH Commits and their team qualified for the playoffs while a few did not. This article focuses on the playoff performances of the commits.

Player Spotlight - Tim Stützle

Tim Stützle's first season in the Under 19 German Development League (DNL) was extraordinary. When Stützle began the season with the Mannheim Young Eagles (Jungadler Mannheim) last October, he was a 15-year-old forward playing against guys 2 and 3 years older. By the end of the regular season, he had scored 18 goals and 29 assists in 25 games and he was one of the top 3 scorers in the league.

Mannheim won the regular season title and began the DNL Playoffs against the 4th-place Dusseldorf team on March 7th. The Young Eagles swept the series 2-0 and Stützle scored 2 goals in the decisive game including the game-winner.

Tim Stützle GWG
In the DNL championship round, Mannheim and the Berlin Junior Polar Bears split the first two games. Stützle distributed 4 assists in the Game 2 victory including the game-winning assist. In the final game, Berlin jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one period. Stützle sparked the Junior Eagles' comeback with his third goal of the playoffs early in the middle stanza. As the video highlights show, Stützle (#8 blue jersey) pounced on a loose puck in the top of the slot and blasted a slap shot over the goalie's glove.

Tied 3-3, the teams battled throughout the opening minutes of overtime. With less than 3 minutes remaining, Stützle received a pass just past the blueline and carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the Polar Bears' zone. At the top of the faceoff circle to the goalie's left, he quickly accelerated around a defender into the slot and wristed the game-winner over the goalie's blocker. Although the video coverage did not quite capture the moment of the shot, the picture on the right does.

Tim Stützle finished this season as the second-leading scorer in the U19 German Development League. His 22 goals in 30 games was the 4th highest in the league and the 29 assists were the 3rd highest. Stützle compiled a remarkable +/- rating of +34. He currently is a 5'9", 159 lbs. left-shot, left-winger. For next season, Stützle (DOB: 1/15/2002) has a variety of options including a return to the Mannheim Jungadler U19 team. He is a sophomore in high school and on track to graduate in the spring of 2020.

Player Spotlight - Jackson Pierson

Tim Stützle isn't the only UNH commit who scored a game-winning goal in a championship game for a dominant team. 2018 commit Jackson Pierson (DOB: 9/10/1999) and the Culver Academy Eagles (Indiana) finished the season as the #1 18U Tier 1 team in the United States. In 39 regular season games, Pierson tallied 24 goals and 50 assists. The senior captain's scoring average of 1.90 points per game tied him with Connor Merrill (uncommitted) as the team's leading scorer. Last season, as a junior at Culver Academy , Pierson compiled 28 goals and 34 assists in 36 games (1.72 PPG).

After the end of the regular season, Culver Academy competes in the USA Hockey Mid-American Regional Tournament. In 2016 and 2017, the Eagles won the Mid-Am tourney and advanced to the U18 USA Hockey National Championship Tournament. They were a semifinalist at the 2016 Nationals and runnerup last season.

During the second weekend in March, Pierson and Culver Academy won their first three games in the Mid-Am Tournament held at the Lemieux Sports Complex outside Pittsburgh. In the Championship game against the Esmark Stars, Culver only lead 1-0 at the end of the first period. On the first shift of the second period, Jackson Pierson - the starting center for the Eagles - sent a pass out to the right point, circled toward the net, and banged home a rebound for a 2-0 lead. Midway through the second period, Pierson scored the eventual game-winner. He received a pass at the faceoff dot to the right of the Esmark goalie and snapped a one-timer between the goalie's pads. Culver defeated Esmark 7-3. Here are the video highlights of Pierson's (#18 in white jersey) two goals:

Jackson Pierson will finish his senior season at Culver with another opportunity to win the 18U National Championship. The tourney will be held from April 5-9 outside Philadelphia. Pierson signed a National Letter of Intent with UNH last November. At the recent press conference following the ceremony introducing Mike Souza as the 13th UNH Men's Hockey head coach, Souza announced that Pierson will enroll at UNH next fall.

Player Spotlight - Connor Sweeney

Last season, as a sophomore at the Pingree School, 2019 or '20 UNH Commit Connor Sweeney (DOB: 5/5/2000) was the leading goal scorer in New England Prep School hockey. He scored 31 goals and 12 assists in 29 games. This season, Sweeney transferred to Lawrence Academy for his junior year. In 29 regular season games with the Spartans, Sweeney posted 8 goals and 14 assists. He primarily played center and left wing on Lawrence's second line.

In Neutral Zone's final poll on February 20th, Lawrence fell just outside the top 10 New England Prep schools. The Spartans finished the regular season with a record of 18-10-1. Although they did not qualify for the Elite 8 New England Prep Tournament, they were the #3 seed in the Small School Tournament. After defeating St. Marks 6-2 and Gunnery 3-2 in overtime, Lawrence advanced to the Small School Championship game against the New Hampton School.

In a seesaw battle, Lawrence Academy and New Hampton were tied 3-3 at the end of two periods. On his first shift of the third period, Connor Sweeney scored one of the most important goals of the season. He and linemate Sam Colangelo (Northeastern commit) exchanged tape-to-tape passes as they broke out of the their own zone and through center ice. With a burst of speed and the puck on his stick, Sweeney split the two New Hampton defenders, skated down the slot, and beat the goalie between his pads. The goal gave Lawrence a 4-3 lead. New Hampton bounced back with the game-tying goal 6 minutes later and the teams went into overtime. Gunnar Fontaine, an RPI commit, scored the game-winner for Lawrence Academy in overtime. Here's a video of Connor Sweeney's big goal:

In May, 2016, Sweeney was drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 7th round of the USHL Phase I Futures Draft. He chose not to try out for the Lumberjacks last summer and focused instead on his junior year at Lawrence Academy. He is ranked #217 among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting Service midterm rankings.

2017-18 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 "2018 Commits" are projected to begin playing for UNH in the Fall of 2018. 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
2018 Commits
Joey Cipollone* 3/29/97 (F) Junior Bruins NCDC 49 25 30 55 44
Playoffs 3 3 0 3 2
Angus Crookshank* 10/2/99 (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 42 22 23 45 34
Playoffs 6 3 4 7 6
Team Canada West WJAC 5 2 3 5 2
Team West Prospects CJHL 1 0 1 1 0
Eric Esposito* 8/24/98 (F) Youngstown Phantoms USHL 52 15 8 23 101
Corson Green 3/4/99 (D) Central Illinois Flying Aces USHL 25 1 1 2 46
Sioux Falls Stampede USHL 19 1 3 4 39
Jackson Pierson* 9/10/99 (F) Culver Academy Prep 39 24 50 74 -
MidAm Tourney 4 3 4 7 -
Green Bay Gamblers USHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ty Taylor 7/5/99 (G) Vernon Vipers BCHL 31 23W 5L 1.87 .931
Playoffs 8 6W 2L 2.33 .927
Ryan Verrier* 11/19/98 (D) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 46 4 12 16 56
2019 Commits
Lucas Bahn 9/11/99 (D) Des Moines Buccaneers USHL 6 0 0 0 0
Sioux City Musketeers USHL 32 1 5 6 17
Nolan McElhaney 4/22/99 (D) Cushing Academy NE Prep 31 13 34 47 32
Playoffs 1 0 0 0 2
Chase Stevenson 1/13/99 (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 40 12 11 23 25
Playoffs 4 1 0 1 2
2019 or '20 Commits
Connor Sweeney 5/5/00 (F) Lawrence Academy NE Prep 29 8 14 22 10
Playoffs 3 1 2 3 0
Marek Wazny 2/21/00 (F) Burlington Cougars OJHL 37 7 17 24 28
Brookings Blizzard NAHL 7 0 0 0 0
2020 Commits
Zack Jones 3/31/01 (F) Boston Bandits USPHL 16U 26 22 31 53 20
Playoffs 1 0 1 1 0
NCDC 10 1 0 1 0
Tim Stützle 1/15/02 (F) Mannheim Young Eagles DNL U19 25 18 29 47 8
Playoffs 5 4 4 8 2
MacPhr 2 1 3 4 0
Team Germany U18 Intl 2 2 0 2 4
Team Germany U16 Intl 6 4 3 7 -
* = Signed National Letter of Intent


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