January NCAA prospects notebook

By DJ Powers

The second half of the college hockey season got off to a roaring start with conference races heating up, upsets galore and some memorable prospect performances. Here’s a look back at what happened.

Tip of the hats

Michigan senior center T.J. Hensick (COL) netted his first career hat trick in the Wolverines 6-2 win over Alaska on Jan. 19. Two of his three goals were scored on the power play.

Minnesota senior defenseman Mike Vannelli (ATL) netted his first career hat trick in the Golden Gophers 5-4 win over Denver on Jan. 20. Two of his three goals came on the power play, with one of them the eventual game-winner.

Michigan sophomore defenseman Jack Johnson (LA) netted his first career hat trick in the Wolverines 9-4 rout of Ferris State on Jan. 26. His three goals were all scored on special teams: the first on the power play and the other two short-handed.

Wisconsin sophomore right wing Jack Skille (CHI) netted his first career hat trick on Jan. 27 in the Badgers 4-1 win over Minnesota State-Mankato.

Get out the vote>

Fan balloting is now open for the 2007 Hobey Baker Award at http://www.hobeybaker.com/voting/. Among the top candidates for this year’s award include Miami (OH) junior Nathan Davis (CHI), Minnesota junior Alex Goligoski (PIT) and Michigan senior T.J. Hensick (COL).

The 2007 Pontiac Frozen Four Skills Challenge has been opened up to fan polling this year. Among the prospects eligible for selection (all seniors) include forwards Brian Boyle (LA) from Boston College and Tanner Glass (FLA) from Dartmouth College, and Sacred Heart goaltender Jason Smith (NJ). Fans can vote for their favorites at http://www.ncaasports.com/icehockey/mens/fanpolls.

Wildcats’ Santorelli clawing his way up

Northern Michigan junior and Nashville Predators prospect Mike Santorelli has become a one-man wrecking crew on the Wildcats score sheet this year. He leads Northern Michigan in virtually every statistical category including points (40), goals (25), power play goals (7) and plus/minus (+8). To get an idea of just how valuable Santorelli has been to his team: the Wildcats, who have struggled offensively this season, current rank 50th in the nation in goals scored, averaging 2.47 goals per game with a grand total of 74 goals scored. Of those 74 goals, Santorelli has scored one-third of them, and of the Wildcats 199 points scored, he has accounted for one-fifth of them. He has points in 23 of Northern Michigan’s 30 games and has not been held pointless in back-to-back games this season.

Nationally, Santorelli has gradually moved up the top scorers list. He currently ranks eighth in scoring with 40 points (25 goals, 15 assists). He is tied for 15th in points per game (1.33) and second in goals per game (0.83). His four short-handed tallies lead the nation while his 25 goals and five game-winners are both tied for second.

Santorelli has earned two CCHA Player of the Week honors, the most recent of which came on Jan. 22. Not surprisingly, Santorelli is also garnering quite a bit of interest for the Hobey Baker Award.

Kings of their domain

A pair of Los Angeles Kings prospects have been key cogs in helping their respective teams get back into two hotly-contested conference races.

At Nebraska-Omaha, senior Scott Parse is once again making a strong case for the Hobey after being snubbed last season. He currently ranks tied for third in the nation in scoring with 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists). In January, Parse posted 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in nine games, leading the Mavericks to finish the month with a 5-3-1 record. His best performance came in the most recent weekend series versus Northern Michigan, when he tallied six points (two goals, four assists) and earned his third CCHA Player of the Week honor.

Meanwhile in Amherst, MA, the UMass Minutemen have tightened up the always-fierce Hockey East race thanks to some stellar goaltending by sophomore Jon Quick. In January, UMass went 4-2-1 all in conference play.

The Hamden, CT native currently holds an 11-7-4 record that includes one shutout. His 2.22 goals against average ranks 16th in the nation, while his .927 save percentage ranks tied for ninth. The month of January saw Quick achieve two collegiate career firsts. On Jan. 6, he "scored" the eventual game-winning goal versus Merrimack by virtue of being the last player to touch the puck as a result of an errant defensive play by the Warriors. The next feat came on Jan. 20 in Quick’s most memorable outing of the season. He posted his first collegiate shutout in UMass’ stunning 3-0 upset win over New Hampshire with a 27-save performance.
 

Capital gains

A trio of Washington Capitals prospects are amongst the January notables. Each have made (and are continuing to make) valuable contributions to their respective teams’ runs towards the postseason.

The leadership torch was passed to Travis Morin when David Backes opted to sign with the St. Louis Blues in the offseason, and Morin hasn’t disappointed. The Brooklyn Park, MN native leads Minnesota State in virtually every category, including points (31), goals (13) and assists (18). However, Morin’s stats alone do not even begin to illustrate his value to the Mavericks. He plays in all situations for Minnesota State and is among the team leaders in ice time. As good as his offensive production has been, it is his contributions away from the score sheet, whether it’s winning draws or blocking shots that are not only his more impressive attributes but perhaps his most underrated as well.

Meanwhile, the Huskies of St. Cloud State continue to be one of the nation’s most dominant teams thanks in part to the outstanding junior season of Andrew Gordon. The Porters Lake, NS native, who serves as one of the team’s assistant captains, currently co-leads the team in scoring with 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists). Of the 17 goals that he has scored, ten have come on the power play. His 1.38 points per game co-leads the WCHA and is tied for tenth in the nation. In addition, his ten power-play goals rank tied for second in the nation. One of the keys to Gordon and St. Cloud State’s success has been consistent offensive production. In the 26 games that Gordon has appeared in this season, he has been held pointless in only six of them. January has by far been his most productive month. In the Huskies eight games this month, Gordon has posted 13 points (seven goals, six assists), averaging 1.64 points per game.

Out in Schenectady, NY, the Union College Dutchmen may now have the go-to guy in goal that they’ve been searching for in junior Justin Mrazek. After a streaky first half, the Regina, SK native looks to have finally found his groove. In the month of January, Mrazek posted a 5-3-0 record in eight games, along with a 2.00 goals against average and a .940 save percentage. Overall on the season, he sports a 12-10-2 record that includes two shutouts. Mrazek’s most memorable January outing came in the Dutchmen’s hard-fought 2-1 overtime win over Yale on Jan. 27 in a rematch of last year’s marathon ECACHL first round thriller. In the recent contest, Mrazek turned in a superb 39-save performance to backstop Union College to their third consecutive victory.

Future Leaf Ruegsegger energizing the Pioneers

He was originally slated to come to the University of Denver in the fall of 2007, but as fate (and luck) would have it Tyler Ruegsegger came in earlier than expected and proceeded to take the Denver Pioneers and the rest of the college hockey world by storm.

The Toronto Maple Leafs prospect has brought a wonderful combination of offensive prowess and high energy to the Pioneers lineup this season. He currently ranks third on the team with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) and has played in all 30 games. He also leads Denver with a plus-14 rating. His 27 points rank fifth in the WCHA in rookie scoring.

In the month of January, Ruegsegger posted seven points (five goals, two assists) in eight games, helping the Pioneers earn crucial WCHA victories over Wisconsin, Minnesota and St. Cloud State. The Lakewood, CO native’s most memorable performance came back on Jan. 13 against Niagara, when he posted two goals and earned his first WCHA Rookie of the Week honor.

Dodge driving the Clarkson offense

One of the keys to the success of the Clarkson Golden Knights this season have been their balanced scoring. They have the nation’s eighth-ranked offense that is averaging 3.65 goals per game. The man leading Clarkson’s offensive attack is junior and team captain Nick Dodge (CAR). With 29 points (14 goals, 15 assists), Dodge ranks first in team scoring. His 14 goals also lead the team. The Oakville ON native is one of six Golden Knights who have 20 or more points on the season. In their seven January games (not including the Jan. 6 exhibition versus McGill), Clarkson has posted a 3-1-3 record (all in conference play) and have outscored their opponents by a combined 21-13. In that same stretch, Dodge has posted six points (four goals, two assists). Earlier in the month, he was named the CSTV/HCA National Player of the Month for December after leading the Golden Knights to a perfect 8-0-0 record and posting 11 points (five goals, six assists).

Wounded Terriers

Boston University has gotten off to a torrid start to the second half of their season, but they’ve also suffered a rash of injuries as well.

Senior defenseman Tom Morrow (BUF) suffered a sprained ankle on Jan. 19 versus Merrimack and has been out of the lineup since.

After missing much of the first half of the season with a shoulder injury, sophomore right wing Brandon Yip (COL) has found himself on back on the injured list, this time with an ankle injury. It came in the Terriers 2-5 loss to Boston College on Jan. 26. In the same game, Boston University also lost freshman defenseman Brian Strait (PIT) to a shoulder injury.

All three players are listed as day to day.

Miscellaneous

Quinnipiac junior right wing Dan Travis (FLA) suffered a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 6 versus Princeton.

Sophomore defenseman T.J. Fast (LA) left the University of Denver in early January to play with Tri-City (WHL), citing the desire to concentrate on hockey full time.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.