College hockey notebook

By DJ Powers

With the first half of the 2008-09 season winding down, much has happened around the NCAA hockey community in the last three months. Here’s a look back at the more notable items involving current NHL prospects.  All stats noted are as of Dec. 30, unless otherwise noted.

Off and running

There weren’t many players who started the 2008-09 season as hot as St. Cloud State sophomore center Garrett Roe. The 2008 draft selection of the Los Angeles Kings posted eight points (one goal, seven assists) in the Huskies opening weekend dismantling of the Mercyhurst Lakers. The only weekend series he was held pointless came against North Dakota on Dec. 12-13. Roe currently co-leads the nation with 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) in 20 games thus far.

The man who is tied for the nation lead in scoring with Roe is Colorado College sniper Chad Rau (TOR). The senior centerman enjoyed an outstanding month of October where he posted at least one point in every game, and finished the month with 11 points (five goals, six assists). The Eden Prairie, MN native has posted 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 22 games.

At Boston College, center Brock Bradford (BOS) got his senior campaign off with a bang, posting six points (three goals, three assists) to guide the Eagles to wins over Wisconsin and Bowling Green respectively. The Burnaby, BC native, who missed all but five games last season due to injuries, currently has 23 points (14 goals, nine assists) in 16 games. His 14 goals ranks second in the nation, while his 1.44 points per game rank fifth.

Not surprisingly, all three players are being mentioned as early candidates for the Hobey Baker Award.

Injuries take toll on Michigan D

The beginning of the 2008-09 season was looking very bright for the Michigan Wolverines blueline. And then the injury bug came along. The first to go down was senior Mark Mitera (ANA). His injury occurred in the waning seconds of the first period in the season opener versus St. Lawrence. Mitera had collided with Saints junior forward Augie DiMarzo that resulted in a torn ACL that required season-ending surgery.

The next to go down was rookie Brandon Burlon (NJ). He suffered an ankle injury just days after Mitera went down. Burlon missed five games due to the injury.

A few days after that, it was junior Steven Kampfer (ANA). The Jackson, MI native was assaulted by a Michigan football player and suffered a fractured skull as a result of the incident. The good news was Kampfer returned to the Wolverines lineup for the GLI this past weekend.

I feel your pain

Two WCHA teams who can relate to Michigan’s injury problems are the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin.

After a torrid 7-0-4 start, the Golden Gophers are 1-3-1 in their last five contests. Part of it could be attributed to some key players being out of their lineup. After a promising start to his collegiate career, freshman Taylor Matson (VAN) suffered a season-ending knee injury on Nov. 28 versus Michigan in the College Hockey Showcase. Teammates Jay Barriball (STL) and Mike Carman (COL) also suffered injuries in the same contest, but both might return to Minnesota’s lineup as early as next weekend for the Dodge Holiday Classic Tournament.

After a slow start to their 2008-09 campaign, the Wisconsin Badgers are playing some of their best hockey right now, coming off of a nail-biting ending against Lake Superior State to win the Badger Showdown holiday tournament over the weekend. However, Wisconsin is also dealing with a depleted lineup right now. With defensemen Cody Goloubef (CBJ) and Ryan McDonagh (MON) at the WJC, and injuries to key players such as junior Blake Geoffrion (NSH) and senior Ben Street, the Badgers need all the warm bodies that they have available. The latest Badger to go down was sophomore Patrick Johnson (MON). He suffered a knee injury in the Badger Showdown semi-final game versus Alabama-Huntsville on Friday.

Spartan woes

Two years removed from a national championship, the Michigan State Spartans find themselves offensively challenged and struggling to post wins. The Spartans currently rank 57th in the nation in team offense, averaging a mere 1.60 goals per game. Only Michigan Tech has averaged fewer goals per game. Furthermore, the Spartans also find themselves in an unusual spot – at the bottom of the CCHA standings.

Not surprisingly, three of MSU’s top NHL prospects in senior RW Tim Crowder (PIT), sophomore defenseman Jeff Petry (EDM) and rookie C Daultan Leveille (ATL) have all posted low numbers in comparison to games played. The three players have played in all 20 games so far. The highly touted Leveille has posted just eight points (five goals, three assists). Crowder has posted just 11 points, which is slightly down from his 13 at this time last season. But where his declining numbers are particularly evident is in goals. Crowder has just three goals on the season, compared to the six he had at the same time last season. Petry is a similar story. He has just seven points (one goal, six assists) thus far. That’s down from the 11 he had at this time last year.

Prior to this past weekend’s Great Lakes Invitational Tournament (GLI), MSU head coach Rick Comley announced that junior defenseman Ryan Turek (STL) was dismissed from the team due to failing to meeting team expectations and senior Nick Sucharski (CBJ) is done for the season after re-injuring his shoulder that forced him to miss time early in the year. Several reports indicate that Sucharski may be applying for a medical redshirt, meaning he could return to the team next season.

Chevy, the driving force behind Denver’s first half success

A sign of a successful team is great goaltending. Over the years, the University of Denver has been blessed with tremendously talented netminders – from Wade Dubielwicz to Peter Mannino and now Marc Cheverie (FLA). The Cole Harbor, NS native has appeared in all 19 games thus far, posting a 13-5-1 record that includes two shutouts. His 2.19 goals against average and .926 save percentage both rank 15th in the nation, while his .711 winning percentage ranks 14th. All while playing one of the toughest first-half schedules. Cheverie has already garnered two WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors, which came back on Nov. 11 and Dec. 2. His most memorable performance came back on Nov. 29 when he stopped 38 of 39 shots and helped the Pioneers hand Air Force their first loss of the season.

Coyotes goaltending prospect the ‘darling’ of Black Bears hockey

After a forgettable 2007-08 campaign, the University of Maine Black Bears are back in the hunt for the Hockey East crown, thanks in part to rookie netminder Scott Darling (PHX). The Lemont, Ill. native has appeared in 14 games, posting a 8-4-2 record that includes two shutouts. His 1.61 goals against average currently ranks sixth in the nation, while his .936 save percentage ranks ninth. Darling’s best month thus far has been November, where he went 4-1-1, posting a 1.32 goals against average and a .951 save percentage during the month, which also earned him Hockey East’s Rookie of the Month honor.

Blue’s dynamic duo: the 2008-09 edition

Last season, it was seniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik. This season, it’s sophomores Louie Caporusso (OTT) and Aaron Palushaj (STL).

Caporusso, one of several Ottawa Senators prospects enjoying a stellar season thus far, has been red-hot right from the get-go. He is coming off a sensational four-goal performance in the Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) at Joe Louis Arena that earned him the tournament MVP and his second CCHA Player of the Week honor while guiding the Michigan Wolverines to successfully defend their GLI crown. The Woodbridge, ONT native currently leads the nation with 18 goals and 0.90 goals per game. He also ranks tied for first with eight power play goals.

Caporusso’s linemate, Palushaj has been equally hot. The Northville, MI native is currently tied for fifth in the nation with 17 assists and ranks tied for ninth with 0.94 assists per game. He also leads Michigan with a plus-10 and 25 points in 18 appearances. Palushaj enjoyed an excellent month of October, where he posted 12 points (six goals, six assists). The performance also earned him the CCHA’s Rookie of the Month honor as well. Palushaj, along with Wolverines teammate Matt Rust (FLA), is currently in Ottawa with Team USA competing in the WJC.

How Swede it is

A trio of Swedish-born collegians is off to terrific starts this season.

Up in Orono, rookie Gustav Nyquist (DET) has University of Maine fans smiling with his dazzling display of skill and some impressive numbers that have him in the hunt for the Hockey East Rookie of the Year honor. The Malmo native leads the Black Bears in a number of categories, including points (17), goals (nine) and power play goals (3). He was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week back on Nov. 3 after notching six points (one goal, five assists) in Maine’s sweep of Niagara.

In Burlington, VT junior Viktor Stålberg (TOR) is helping the Catamounts claw their way up the Hockey East standings with his stellar play. The Gothenberg native currently ranks second on the Vermont roster with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) through 15 games. His seven goals lead the Catamounts. He was named Hockey East’s Player of the Week back on Nov. 24 after posting four points (one goal, three assists) to guide the Catamounts to a sweep over Boston University.

Further west in Ann Arbor, MI, Carl Hagelin (NYR) has continued to develop quite nicely. He has become a key cog in the Michigan Wolverines offensive machine. This season, the Sodertalje native has been used at both center and wing, and playing quite well at both positions. Hagelin currently ranks tied for third on the team with 15 points (five goals, ten assists) playing in all 20 games to date.

Pens prospect a pleasant surprise in the CCHA

He was a fifth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2006 Draft, and after that Chad Johnson wasn’t being spoken about much outside of Fairbanks.

That is until this season.

The senior netminder from Calgary has helped to get the University of Alaska Nanooks off to 9-5-4 start and share of third place in the current CCHA standings. Johnson has appeared in 16 games thus far, posting a 7-5-4 record that includes a nation co-leading three shutouts. His 1.60 goals against average ranks fifth in the nation, while his .941 save percentage ranks fourth. Johnson earned the CCHA Player of the Week honor back on Nov. 23 after backstopping the Nanooks to a weekend sweep of Ferris State. The following week, he was named the CCHA Goaltender of the Week after guiding Alaska to a win and tie against Lake Superior State. With the CCHA using shootouts to determine the awarding of the extra point in the league standings, Johnson was perfect in the shootout, which gave the Nanooks their first shootout win of the season, and more importantly, the extra point.

Fantastic freshmen

The first half of the 2008-09 season saw a number of NHL-drafted freshman prospects off to fantastic starts.

University of Denver center Joe Colborne (BOS) and defenseman Patrick Wiercioch (OTT) have played significant roles in the Pioneers’ early season success. Colborne co-leads the Pioneers in rookie scoring with 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) playing in all 19 games. Colborne earned his first WCHA Rookie of the Week honor back on Dec. 2 after a strong outing against Colgate and Air Force respectively, chipping in three assists for the Pioneers.

Wiercioch currently ranks second in the nation in rookie defenseman scoring with 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 15 games. His 0.93 points per game ranks ninth overall among rookies. His most memorable performance came back on Oct. 17/18 when he posted two goals and two assists to help propel Denver to sweep of WCHA foe Wisconsin. The outing also earned Wiercioch his first WCHA Rookie of the Week honor as well.

In Columbus, C/RW Zac Dalpe (CAR) has been as good as advertised for the Ohio State University. The Paris, ONT native has appeared in all 18 games thus far and leads the Buckeyes in numerous categories, including goals (9) and shots on goal (61). One area where Dalpe has really made his mark has been in scoring timely goals. To date, he has posted two power play goals and leads Ohio State with three game-winners.

In Boston, the Northeastern Huskies is getting great mileage out of their superb rookie class, including RW Steve Quailer (MON), who has quietly put together a strong first half. He co-leads the team in rookie scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) playing in all 16 games to date.

Out in Hamilton, NY, Colgate may be struggling as a team to put up points, but that hasn’t been the case with C Austin Smith (DAL). The Dallas, TX native leads both the Raiders and the ECAC in rookie scoring with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 16 games.

It’s a first

University of Minnesota sophomore goaltender Alex Kangas (ATL) posted his first career shutout win on Nov. 16 versus Michigan Tech.

University of Denver sophomore goaltender Marc Cheverie (FLA) posted his first career shutout win on Nov. 22 versus Minnesota. The loss was also the first of the season for the Golden Gophers.

University of North Dakota sophomore RW Matt Frattin (TOR) posted his first career hat trick on Nov. 28 in the Fighting Sioux’s 7-3 win over Cornell.

University of Denver junior left wing Matt Glasser (EDM) posted his first career hat trick on Dec. 13 in the Pioneers 5-3 win over Minnesota State-Mankato.

From a Star to a Duck

Dec. 14 saw the first NHL trade of the season involving a current prospect in the college ranks. Colgate sophomore C David McIntyre had his NHL rights traded to the Anaheim Ducks in a deal that sent center Brian Sutherby to the Dallas Stars.

McIntyre currently leads Colgate in scoring with 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 16 contests. He also leads the Raiders with a plus-7. The Pefferlaw, ONT native is coming off of a strong performance at the Florida College Classic tournament over the weekend, where he tallied a goal and two assists to lead Colgate to a second-place finish.

The Stars drafted McIntyre back in 2006 (fifth round, 138th overall).

On the shelf

University of Maine senior defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin (CHI) was not in the lineup at this past weekend’s Florida College Classic tournament due to an ankle injury.

Bowling Green sophomore goaltender Nick Eno (BUF) has been out of the lineup since the start of the season with an ankle injury. Eno could potentially see his first action of the season when the Falcons resume their season on Jan. 9 versus Ohio State.

University of North Dakota senior defenseman Joe Finley (WSH) is out of the lineup indefinitely due to a concussion.

University of Wisconsin junior left wing Blake Geoffrion (NSH) has been out of the Badgers lineup with a high ankle injury that suffered on Dec. 5 versus Alaska-Anchorage.

Colorado College senior left wing Scott McCulloch (CHI) suffered a knee injury back on Dec. 5 versus Minnesota-Duluth. He is expected to return sometime n January.

Lake Superior State junior right wing Nathan Perkovich (NJ) has missed the last four games due to a shoulder injury.