NCAA December prospects update

By DJ Powers





NCAA: December Prospects Report

December featured some great holiday tournaments as well as
the World Junior Championship (WJC) in Grand Forks and Thief River Falls.
Here’s a look back at the events and how NHL prospects fared. Unless otherwise
noted, all stats included are for all non-exhibition games played through
January 4th.

 

 

Disappointing ending for the Red, White and Blue

 

The United States came into the WJC as the defending gold
medallists. When it ended, Team USA didn’t even reach the medal stand, having
finished fourth. Michigan junior Al
Montoya
(NYR) couldn’t duplicate the feat that propelled the U.S. to a gold
medal last year this time around. In addition to losing the tournament, Team
USA also lost the services of Boston University freshman sensation Chris Bourque (WSH) to a knee injury in
the game versus Belarus on December 29th. North Dakota sophomore Drew Stafford (BUF) led Team USA with
five goals. However, it was the phenomenal play of 2006 draft eligible (and
future NCAA player) Phil Kessel that
stole the show for the Americans. Kessel notched six points (four goals two
assists) for Team USA that included a hat trick in the crossover game versus
Sweden back on January 1st.

 

Thrashers prospects had GLI opponents seeing green and white

 

In the always-entertaining Great Lakes Invitational
Tournament (GLI), the Spartans finally had something to cheer about. They
emerged victorious, claiming their tenth GLI championship at the expense of
archrival Michigan. Leading the way for the Spartans were two Atlanta Thrashers
prospects in senior Jim Slater and
junior Colton Fretter. Fretter
scored the championship-winning goal in overtime, while Slater earned tourney
MVP honors. The two players combined for six points (five goals, one assists).

 

If Slater and Fretter are giving the Spartan faithful
something to get excited about, then sophomore defenseman A. J. Thelen (MIN) has them wondering what the heck is going on
with him. Thelen, who had a sensational season last year, hasn’t been the same
thus far this season. In the 19 games he has played in, he has posted eight
points (all on assists). After scoring 11 goals last season, he is still
looking for his first one this season. Thelen was benched for the game back on
December 4th versus conference rival Bowling Green due to taking too
many penalties in a previous game. In addition, he wasn’t chosen for the U. S.
WJC team.

 

Porter a “howling” success with Michigan

 

Phoenix Coyotes prospect, freshman Kevin Porter has arrived. Just ask Notre Dame. In the weekend
series versus the Fighting Irish back on December 3rd and 4th,
Porter posted a five-point (two goals, three assists) weekend performance that
earned him CCHA Rookie of the Week honors. Porter, who was one of five
Wolverines representing Team USA at the recent WJC, also showed the rest of the
hockey world that he was something special. He was a consistent physical
presence and finished the tournament with five points (three goals, two
assists).

 

Speaking of the Wolverines at the WJC, how about the
performance of sophomore Matt Hunwick
(BOS) thus far this season? While he may not have been the most noticeable
player for Team USA at the WJC, he certainly has been in Ann Arbor,
specifically back on December 10th in the game versus conference
rival Bowling Green. In that game, Hunwick notched his first career hat trick,
leading the Wolverines to a 8-3 win over the Falcons. That performance earned
him CCHA Defensive Player of the Week honors.

 

Porter isn’t the only Coyotes prospect on the Michigan
roster that has had heads turning, so has fellow freshman Chad Kolarik. Kolarik has played in all 20 Michigan games thus far
this season. He has posted 13 points (seven goals, six assists). Where he has
been successful offensively has been on the power play. Of his seven goals,
four have come on the man advantage. He co-leads the team in that category.

 

Healthy and playing perhaps some of his best hockey right
now, it’s a wonder that more people aren’t taking notice of senior Jason Ryznar (NJ). He has played in
every game thus far this season, posting 13 points (four goals, nine assists).
His finest recent outing came in the opening game of the GLI versus Michigan
Tech, where he notched a goal and an assist. In the last two years, Ryznar had
been plagued by injuries. Now healthy, he’s been a major contributor for the
Wolverines with the puck as well as away from it.

 

Laliberte streaking with the dogs

 

Boston University junior John Laliberte (VAN) is on one heck of a hot streak right now and
his Terriers team is reaping the benefits. The Saco, Maine native has notched a
point in his last seven games (two goals, six assists) and 12 of the Terriers’
last 13 games (six goals, nine assists). What was Boston University’s record
during the stretch? Winning nine times and losing only four. All of the losses
came against nationally ranked opponents (Harvard, Denver, Colorado College and
Minnesota). Laliberte currently ranks second on the team in overall scoring
with 18 points (seven goals, eleven assists).

 

Back on December 3rd, BU head coach Jack Parker
reached a milestone, becoming only the fourth coach in NCAA history to post 700
wins. Interestingly enough, the victory came against archrival Boston College.
Parker’s 704 wins ranks behind only BC head coach Jerry York for most wins by
an active coach.

 

The Terriers welcomed the New Year by closing the now
legendary, Walter Brown Arena and opening their new home, Harry Agganis Arena.
Their opponent, top ranked Minnesota got the final win at Walter Brown, but the
Terriers got the opening win at Agganis. For the hockey trivia buffs out there,
Boston University’s diminutive junior Brad
Zancanaro
scored the last goal at Walter Brown and the first goal at
Agganis.

 

Sterling shines brightly in Colorado Springs

 

Junior Brett Sterling
(ATL) is making a real case for the Hobey Baker Award this season. His play has
been nothing short of stellar for Colorado College this season. He and linemate
Marty Sertich, another Hobey
candidate, have been wreaking offensive havoc on nearly all of Colorado
College’s opponents this season. Sterling ranks second both on the Tigers
roster and in the nation in points with 33 (17 goals, 16 assists). His 17 goals
lead the Tigers in that category. Sterling also ranks third in the nation in
points per game (1.65), second in power play goals (9) and first in
game-winning goals (5). His four-point (two goals, two assists) performance in
the Ohio Holiday Classic propelled Colorado College to the tournament
championship, while earning him not only tournament MVP honors, but also his
second consecutive WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honor. His earlier honor
came from a six-point (three goals, three assists) weekend performance versus
conference rival Minnesota State-Mankato.

 

The Tigers have continued to be one of the top teams in the
nation despite missing two of their key defensemen in senior Richard Petiot (LA) and sophomore Brady Greco (TB). Petiot is still out
with a groin injury, while Greco is still nursing a hip pointer that he
suffered in the game versus Minnesota back on December 4th. The
Tigers have also announced that freshman forward Scott McCulloch (CHI) has returned home to Lacombe, Alberta to have
surgery on his shoulder.

 

Welcome back

 

Sophomore Colin
McDonald
(EDM) finally made his long awaited return to the Providence
lineup and it couldn’t come soon enough. McDonald had been out since October 30th
with a knee injury. He returned to the Friars lineup during the Ledyard Bank
Classic Tournament in Hanover, NH. He notched a goal and an assist in
Providence’s 3-2 win over Bowling Green in the tournament’s consolation game.
The Friars went 2-7-2 in the 11 games that McDonald was out for.

 

While Providence was welcoming McDonald back into the fold,
the Minnesota Golden Gophers were welcoming back senior Barry Tallackson (NJ) and junior defenseman P. J. Atherton (TB). Tallackson had missed time due to an ankle
injury. Atherton, who was previous dealing with academic ineligibility issues,
was finally given the green light to return to the Gophers. The timing of
Atherton’s debut was perfect as the Gophers had to play in the Dodge Holiday
Classic tournament as well as the series with Boston University without the
services of two key defensemen in freshmen Alex
Goligoski
(PIT) and Nate Hagemo,
both with Team USA at the WJC. Tallackson and Atherton both notched points in
their first game back in the Dodge Holiday Classic opening game versus
Merrimack.

 

Werner picking up the slack at UMass

 

After getting off to a somewhat of a slow start, junior Stephen Werner (WSH) looks to be
returning to form and just in time too. Back on December 9th, the
Minutemen were handed a 4-0 loss by New Hampshire. However, the loss of the
game wasn’t nearly as painful as the loss of top scorer, sophomore Matt Anderson. Anderson suffered a
broken right ankle in the game and is expected to be out of the UMass lineup
for at least another three to four weeks. So who is picking up the scoring
slack in Anderson’s absence? Stephen Werner. Since Anderson’s injury, Werner
has racked up six points (three goals, three assists) in three games. In the
weekend series back on December 29th and 30th versus
non-conference opponents Nebraska-Omaha and Princeton respectively, he led
UMass to a sweep and in the process earning Hockey East Offensive Player of the
Week honors.

 

Sigalet diagnosed with MS

 

Bowling Green senior goaltender Jordan Sigalet (BOS) disclosed that he had multiple sclerosis back
in mid-December. He was first diagnosed with the illness back in March of 2004,
but wished to have his illness kept secret until he felt the time was right to
disclose his illness. Until the disclosure, only his family, teammates and
doctors knew of his illness. Sigalet, who has been the backbone of the Falcons
team, hasn’t played in back-to-back games since he revealed his illness. In the
past, Sigalet was one of the workhorses of the league whose ice time minutes
ranked among the most in the nation.

 

Holiday Tournaments Roundup

 

         
Minnesota repeated as Dodge Holiday
Classic champs to no one’s surprise, first defeating Merrimack 6-2, then
Northern Michigan 4-1 in the championship game. The reunited line of sophomores
Ryan Potulny (PHI) and Danny Irmen (MIN) and freshman Kris Chucko (CGY) combined for eight
points (four goals, four assists) in the two games. The opening game of the
tournament between Northern Michigan and Harvard on December 22nd
will likely go down as the game of the tournament as Northern Michigan’s Tuomas Tarkki and Harvard’s Dov Grumet-Morris (PHI) put on a
sensational goaltending duel. The two netminders combined to stop 70 shots to
preserve a 0-0 tie after 65 minutes before shootout would decide the outcome.
Northern Michigan sophomore Darin Olver
(NYR) scored the eventual winner beating Grumet-Morris high stick side. Olver
and Potulny were among the players named to the all-tournament team. Minnesota
junior Tyler Hirsch, the nation’s
assists leader, took the tournament MVP honor.

 

         
Down in sunny Florida, the Florida
Everblades Classic (aka Florida College Classic) in Estero was a must see
tournament that was won by Boston College. Last year’s winner’s Cornell
finished the tournament a disappointing third. The championship game between BC
and St. Cloud State took an extra session to be decided. Tournament MVP, Boston
College senior Matti Kaltiainen
(BOS) was stellar in goal for the Eagles. In the two games, first against
Cornell then St. Cloud State, Kaltianen stopped 57 of the 60 combined shots he
faced. Equally stellar in goal was St. Cloud State’s Tim Boron, who stopped 24 of shots 25 as well as six of seven shots
in the shootout to earn a tie with Maine and advance to the Championship game.
In the Championship game versus BC, he stopped 42 of 44 Eagles shots.

 

         
In the Great Lakes Invitational, the
Michigan Spartans played some of their best hockey of the season against two
formidable opponents in New Hampshire and Michigan to take the GLI title. The
Spartans were led by two Atlanta Thrashers prospects in junior Colton Fretter, who notched a combined
three goals in the tournament and senior Jim
Slater
, who earned tournament MVP honors after posting a combined three
points (two goals, one assist) in the tournament. New Hampshire senior Justin Aikins (CBJ), who was
outstanding in this tournament, notched a goal and three assists and helped
lead New Hampshire to a victory in the consolation game versus Michigan Tech.
Like the Florida Everblades Classic, the GLI does not name an all-tournament
team.

 

         
In what was perhaps the most hotly
contested tournament, the Ohio Hockey Classic pitted the CCHA against the WCHA.
Both the consolation game and the championship game were decided by a shootout.
In the consolation between Miami-Ohio and Minnesota State-Mankato, it took some
brilliant goaltending by sophomore Chris
Clark
to force an overtime and shootout. The San Mateo, CA native was
peppered with 46 shots stopping 43 of them and all but one shooter he faced to
preserve a shootout win for the Mavericks. The tournament championship game
between Colorado College and Ohio State also required some brilliant
goaltending late to force overtime and a shootout. Colorado College sophomore Matt Zaba (LA) came through,
particularly in the third period. The Tigers who were leading midway through
the third period allowed the Buckeyes to tie the game with less than five
minutes left in regulation. In the shootout, the Tigers won the shootout 3-2
giving them the tournament championship. Colorado College junior Brett Sterling (ATL) took the
tournament’s MVP honors and was also named to the all-tournament team. He
notched a goal and assist in the championship game. Joining Sterling on the
all-tournament team was 2005 draft eligible forward Tom Fritsche of Ohio State. Fritsche, the younger brother of
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Dan Fritsche, notched a combined four points (one
goal, three assists) in the tournament.

 

         
In the Ledyard Bank Classic, host
Dartmouth claimed the championship by defeating Bowling Green in a nine-round
shootout in the opening game before defeating conference rival Vermont 6-3 in
the championship game. BGSU senior goaltender Jordan Sigalet (BOS) was sensational in the game versus Dartmouth
as he stopped 50 of 51 shots he faced through 65 minutes to preserve a 1-1 tie
for the Falcons before eventually falling to the Big Green in the shootout.
Sigalet, Dartmouth forward Tanner Glass
(FLA), Providence forward Colin McDonald
(EDM) Providence senior defenseman Eric
Lundberg
(COL) were among the players named to the all-tournament team.
Dartmouth’s sophomore goaltender Sean
Samuel
, a 2005 NHL draft eligible player, was named the tournament MVP.

 

         
At the Toyota UConn Holiday Classic,
the Brown Bears won the tournament in convincing style, first defeating
Merrimack 4-1 before defeating Holy Cross 5-2 in the championship game. Brown
freshman (and 2005 draft eligible) goaltender Adam D’Alba was stellar in the tournament stopping 39 of 42
combined shots he faced. He earned tournament MVP honors and a spot on the
all-tournament team. Brown freshman defenseman Paul Baier (LA), who notched two assists in the opening game versus
Merrimack, was also named to the all-tournament team.

 

         
In Madison, the Ferris State Bulldogs
repeated as tournament champions of the Badger Showdown, once again defeating
host Wisconsin in the championship game. Perhaps the must-see game of the
tournament took place in the opening game between the mighty Badgers and the
not-so mighty Yale Bulldogs. In a game that many would’ve thought would be an
easy win for Wisconsin turned out to be anything but that. The Bulldogs put up
a very good fight. Yale held the offensively potent Badgers to just one goal in
the game. Wisconsin sophomore Andrew
Joudrey
(WSH) would tally the eventual winner in the shootout that went
seven rounds. In the championship game, Ferris State senior Jeff Legue scored two goals to lead the
Ferris State Bulldogs and earn tournament MVP honors. One of the most
impressive players of the tournament, who was surprisingly left off of the
all-tournament team, was Clarkson freshman Steve
Zalewski
(SJ). Zalewski notched four points (two goals, two assists) to
help lead Clarkson to a 8-1 thumping of conference rival Yale in the
consolation game. Two Chicago Blackhawks prospects that were stellar in the
tournament who were named to the all-tournament team were Wisconsin freshman Matt Ford and Clarkson sophomore
defenseman Michael Grenzy. Ford
notched two goals and assist in Wisconsin’s loss to Ferris State, while Grenzy
notched a goal and two assists in Clarkson’s win over Yale.

 

         
Out west, the Denver Pioneers repeated
as Wells Fargo Denver Cup champions to no real surprise. The opening game in
this tournament between Denver and in-state rival Air Force was perhaps the
wildest game of any of the tournament games. The two teams combined to score 13
goals. The stingy Air Force defense looked to be in a giving mood as they
surrendered nine goals to the Pioneers. Denver senior Jon Foster notched a hat trick while freshmen Geoff Paukovich (EDM) and 2005 NHL draft eligible Paul Stastny each notched two goals and
an assist apiece. In the consolation game, towering senior defenseman Joey Mormina (PHI) notched a goal and
an assist to lead Colgate to a 3-0 victory over Air Force. In the championship
game between Denver and Northeastern, Stastny added a goal and two assists to
his previous three points to earn tournament MVP honors. Pioneers freshman goaltender
Peter Mannino, who was named to the
all-tournament team, was outstanding stopping all 37 Huskies shots he faced.
Denver sophomore defenseman Matt Carle
(SJ), who notched the championship game-winning goal in the tournament, was
also named to the all-tournament team.

 

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