March college prospects notebook

By DJ Powers

Prospects shine in the NCAA Tournament regionals

Senior Justin Mercier (COL) posted three goals to propel the Miami University RedHawks to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance. He posted a goal in Miami’s 4-2 win over Denver in the West Regional semi-final last Friday. Mercier also netted both goals; one shorthanded and the other on the power play, in the RedHawks 2-1 win over Minnesota-Duluth in the West Regional final on Saturday. His outstanding performance also earned him the Regional’s MVP honor as well.

Junior Viktor Stalberg (TOR) posted a goal and an assist to help guide the University of Vermont Catamounts to their first Frozen Four appearance since 1996. Stålberg netted the game-winner in the Catamounts 4-1 win over Yale in the East Regional semi-final last Friday. He also assisted on sophomore defenseman Dan Lawson’s bizarre game-winner in the second overtime versus Air Force in the regional final on Saturday. Stalberg was also named to the All-regional team as well.

His University of New Hampshire team may not have made it to the Frozen Four this year, but junior Peter Leblanc (CHI) gave us some of the most memorable moments to come out of the Northeast Regional this year. He posted a pair of goals, including the overtime game-winner, in the wild 6-5 win over North Dakota in the regional semi-final last Saturday. He also assisted on the Wildcats lone goal in Sunday’s 2-1 regional final loss to Boston University. His stellar performance also earned Leblanc a spot on the All-regional team as well.

Boston University sophomore Nick Bonino (ANA) also earned a spot on the Northeast All-regional team after his stellar outing on the weekend. He posted a power play goal and added two assists in the Terriers’ convincing 8-3 win over Ohio State in the regional semi-final last Friday.

Although he didn’t make it on to the All-regional team, sophomore defenseman Colby Cohen (COL) turned in a terrific performance for Boston University. He notched a pair of assists in Friday’s semi-final versus Ohio State and assisted on senior Jason Lawrence’s thrilling game-winner in Sunday’s final versus New Hampshire.

Six prospects among Hobey Baker Top Ten finalists

Six NHL-drafted players were among those named as the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. They were: University of Michigan forward Louie Caporusso (OTT), University of Alaska senior goaltender Chad Johnson (PIT), Wisconsin junior defenseman Jamie McBain (CAR), Colgate junior forward David McIntyre (NJ), Vermont’s Stålberg (TOR) and Boston University sophomore forward Colin Wilson (NSH).

In the recently announced Hobey Hat Trick, only Wilson made the cut. The All-Hockey East Hobey Hat Trick is rounded out by Wilson’s teammate and senior defenseman Matt Gilroy and Northeastern junior goaltender Brad Thiessen.

Prospects honored with individual conference awards


CCHA

Pittsburgh Penguins prospect and University of Alaska senior goaltender Chad Johnson earned the CCHA’s Player of the Year honor after a superb season that saw him lead the CCHA and was second in the nation in both goals against average (1.70) and save percentage (.937). His consistent and clutch play helped to earn the Nanooks a trip the CCHA Tournament semi-finals.

New Jersey Devils prospect and University of Michigan forward David Wohlberg earned the CCHA’s Rookie of the Year after co-leading the conference in rookie scoring with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) and game-winners among rookies (3).

Carolina Hurricanes prospect and University of Notre Dame junior Kyle Lawson was named the CCHA’s best defensive defenseman after posting 16 points (two goals, 14 assists) in 28 conference games this season. Lawson was also named to the All-CCHA Second Team as well.

ECAC

Defenseman Matt Generous was a key cog in St. Lawrence outstanding defense this season and his performance earned him the ECAC’s Best Defensive Defenseman honor. Generous, a Sabres draft pick that recently signed with the team, provided some strong leadership and as well as steadying presence on the Saints blueline this season. In 33 games this season, Generous posted 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and finished with a plus-5.

WCHA

For much of the season, defenseman Jamie McBain was at or near the top of the national rankings in defenseman scoring and that achievement helped earn him the WCHA Player of the Year honor. He became the first Badgers defenseman to win the honor in the illustrious history of the program. McBain, who recently signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, finished his junior season ranked second in the nation with 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists). His 30 assists ranked near the top in the national rankings in that category as well. In addition to his WCHA accolades, which also included a spot on the All-WCHA First Team, McBain was also named one of the ten finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

University of Minnesota freshman Jordan Schroeder was named the WCHA Rookie of the Year honor. Schroeder, one of the top players eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, led both the WCHA and the nation in rookie scoring with 45 points (13 goals, 32 assists) in 35 games. He also led the nation in rookie points per game (1.29) as well. His 45 points ranked second on the Golden Gophers roster.

Schroeder’s teammate Ryan Stoa captured the WCHA Scoring title after posting 36 points (19 goals, 17 assists) in 27 conference games. Overall, Stoa posted 46 points (24 goals, 22 assists) in 36 games. The recently signed draft selection of the Colorado Avalanche, led Minnesota in a number of categories including goals, shorthanded goals (4), game-winning goals (4) and penalty minutes (76). Stoa was also named to the All-WCHA First Team as well.

Minnesota-Duluth junior Alex Stalock (SJ) captured the WCHA goaltending title and was also named to the All-WCHA First Team. He was only the second Bulldog, and the first in two decades to the lead the conference in goals against average (2.39) in WCHA play. Stalock posted an overall record of 21-13-8 that included five shutouts in 42 games. His overall 9.24 save percentage ranks 11th in the nation, while his 2.13 goals against average ranks 13th. He posted one of his most memorable performances in the recent NCAA Tournament West Regional semi-final versus Princeton, where he made 27 stops, including nine in overtime, which gave the Bulldogs a thrilling 5-4 win.

Four NHL prospects among 2009 Frozen Four Skills Challenge participants

Four prospects who have exhausted their collegiate eligibility and had outstanding seasons are Washington, D.C.-bound as participants in the Frozen Four Skills Challenge in April.

Boston College forward Brock Bradford (BOS) and Northeastern University forward Joe Vitale (PIT) are among the players that will represent the East squad, while University of Alaska goaltender Chad Johnson (PIT) and Colorado College forward Chad Rau (TOR) will be representing the West squad.

The Frozen Four Skills Challenge works similarly to that of the NHL Skills Challenge during All-Star Weekend with events such as fastest skater and hardest shot. The Skills Challenge will take on April 10th at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. during the Frozen Four.

Blackhawks prospect makes a big splash in Hockey East playoffs

He played in just 14 games this season and he scored only two goals. But junior Chris Auger (CHI) couldn’t have picked a better time of the year to score those goals for his UMass-Lowell team. Both came in the Hockey East tournament against two eventual NCAA Tournament participants. The first came on a power play in the third and deciding game of the quarterfinals against Vermont back on Mar. 14. His second goal was the overtime game-winner in a stunning upset of Northeastern in the conference semi-finals on Mar. 20. UMass-Lowell’s season came to a close the following night in the tournament championship game against Boston University.

From a Shark to a Duck

Boston University rookie center Nick Bonino has been having an outstanding year, which may partly explain why the San Jose Sharks thought enough of him to offer him up to the Anaheim Ducks at the NHL trade deadline in exchange for Travis Moen. In 42 appearances to date, Bonino currently ranks second on the team in scoring with 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists). His plus-28 leads the team and the nation in that category.

Bonino and his Boston University team are headed to the Frozen Four next week in Washington, DC.

Two prospects transfer to new schools

Goaltender Brett Bennett (PHX) and defenseman Joe Lavin (CHI) will be suiting up for new teams beginning in the 2010-2011 season. Bennett, who was dismissed by Boston University earlier this season, has committed to the University of Wisconsin. Lavin, who left Providence College during the holiday break in December, has committed to the University of Notre Dame.

Under NCAA transfer rules; the two players must sit out one year before they can begin play with their new teams. Bennett will be eligible to suit for Wisconsin this coming fall, while Lavin will be eligible to play for the Fighting Irish in January of 2010.

Bennett and Lavin currently play in the USHL with Indiana and Omaha respectively.

Signed, sealed and delivered

With the college hockey season gradually coming to a close, this is the time of the year that NHL teams stockpile their farm systems by signing players who are draft selections of theirs or free agents. Among the notable drafted players who have signed with collegiate eligibility remaining include Colorado College goaltender Richard Bachman (DAL), University of Wisconsin defenseman Jamie McBain (CAR), University of Michigan defenseman Mark Mitera (ANA), Boston College defenseman Nick Petrecki (SJ) and University of Minnesota forward Ryan Stoa (COL).

Among the notable recent undrafted free agents signings include Alaska-Anchorage forward Paul Crowder, Notre Dame center Christian Hanson (TOR), Colorado College forward Eric Walsky (VAN), and Minnesota-Duluth forward and one of the heroes of the WCHA Final Five MacGregor Sharp, who was signed by the Anaheim Ducks just two days after his team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.