January college prospects notebook

By DJ Powers

The first month of the new year in college hockey signals the start of the second half of the season when the race for post-season positioning begins to heat up. Here’s a look back at the high- (and low-) lights of the month.

Wisconsin’s golden boy

The World Junior Championships have a way of bringing out the best in players upon their return to their respective college teams, and it’s even better when you’re coming back with a gold medal. Such was the case with Wisconsin rookie sensation Kyle Turris (PHX). Since returning to the Badgers lineup on Jan. 11 versus Denver, Turris has been turning it on with seven points (three goals, four assists) in the six-game span in the month of January. The New Westminster, BC native currently ranks fourth in the nation in rookie scoring with 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists).

Blue Jackets prospect clutch performer for the Green and White

The defending national champion Michigan State Spartans have gotten some great production this season out of nearly all of their top players, but one individual who has quietly been getting it done for the green and white has been junior Nick Sucharski. Since the College Hockey Showcase on Thanksgiving weekend, the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect has been a model of consistency for MSU, having gone just four games without a point. He currently ranks sixth on the team in scoring with 21 points (seven goals, 14 assists). Sucharski’s 14 assists are also tied for first on the team. Back on Jan. 13 versus Notre Dame, Sucharski became the third junior on the team to skate in his 100th game, following Justin Abdelkader (DET) and Tim Kennedy (BUF), who reached the milestone last month.

Miami prospects have opponents seeing red

Senior Ryan Jones (MIN) leads a very balanced RedHawks team that currently ranks first in the nation in both team offense and defense. Jones currently ranks tied for first in the nation in goal scoring with 22 and fifth in points with 35.

Junior Justin Mercier (COL), who has been arguably Miami’s most improved player this season, is enjoying a career year. He ranks second on the team in scoring with 28 points (20 goals, eight assists). Where Mercier has really made his mark has been on special teams. Eleven of his 20 tallies have come on special teams – eight on the power play and three shorthanded.

Miami’s Los Angeles Kings prospects have also been key contributors as well. Junior Alec Martinez currently leads the nation in defenseman scoring with 24 points (seven goals, 14 assists). Fellow junior Jeff Zatkoff leads the nation in both goals against average (1.50) and winning percentage (.870) and is tied for first with a .937 save percentage. One of the more remarkable stats that Zatkoff possesses is that he has allowed three or more goals in only three of the 23 games that he has appeared in to date.

Bradford out for the season

The 2007-08 season has not been so kind to Boston College junior center Brock Bradford (BOS). After breaking his left arm in the season opening Icebreaker Tournament versus Michigan back in October that forced him to miss the next 17 games, Bradford made a triumphant return to the Eagles lineup on Jan. 9 versus Vermont only to suffer a break to the same arm again ten days later in the Jan. 19 game versus archrival Boston University. While the break was not in the exact same spot, it will keep the Burnaby, BC native out of action for the remainder of the season.

Bradford’s return provided a real spark to the Eagles offense. In his four appearances this month, he had five points (three goals, two assists) and helped guide the team to a 3-0-1 record in that stretch.

And you thought that there was no fighting in college hockey

The Jan. 18 tilt between the visiting Western Michigan Broncos and hosts Bowling Green Falcons started out as, and for the most part was a very good contest between two CCHA rivals. However, it would also have a very ugly ending to it.

Bowling Green senior tri-captain Derek Whitmore’s third hat trick of the season and a stellar 35-save performance by rookie netminder Nick Eno (BUF) were overshadowed by a melee that broke out with just 12 seconds left in regulation time. The end result was all ten skaters on the ice being ejected and handed game disqualifications, which carries an automatic one-game suspension. Among the players on the ice during the melee included Western Michigan junior defenseman Chris Frank (PHX) and junior right wing Matt Clackson (PHI). The teams combined to rack up a whopping 207 minutes in penalties.

The Falcons beat the Broncos 4-1 in that game and went on to sweep the weekend series with a 2-1 overtime win the following night.

A night of firsts for a pair of Pioneers prospects

The University of Denver got a much-needed win on Jan. 19 against visiting non-conference foe Bemidji State. But the 4-1 win wasn’t the only significant items of note for the Pioneers that night. Two of their NHL prospects also had a memorable night.

Sophomore winger Matt Glasser (EDM) was finally able to light the lamp with his first career tally at the 14:00 mark of the first period. The goal came in his 35th game in a Pioneers uniform.

Rookie netminder Marc Cheverie (FLA) posted his first career win in his first career start, stopping 26 of the Beavers 28 shots.

Goaltending prospects etching their names in respective teams’ history books

When Colgate senior Mark Dekanich (NSH) and New Hampshire senior Kevin Regan (BOS), leaves their respective programs, they’ll have their own places in the schools’ hockey history books.

Regan has been rewriting the Wildcats goaltending history books since the season began. On Jan. 25 with the win at Boston University, he became New Hampshire’s all-time winningest goaltender with his 59th career win and added his 60th the following night in completing the sweep of the Terriers. Regan has already set new career highs in saves (2,785) and save percentage (.926). He is closing on the school record for goals against average and needs four more appearances to become the all-time goaltending leader in career games.

Dekanich reached two milestones on Jan. 26. The first was the game was his 100th in his career. The second was posting his eighth career shutout in the Raiders 5-0 win over the Brown Bears. The shutout ties him with former Raiders standout netminder Steve Silverthorn for first in school history in that category. He also moved into second place on the team’s all-time career save list with 2,608.

On the shelf

Miami senior Nathan Davis (CHI) continues to be out of the lineup due to a back injury.

North Dakota freshman defenseman Derrick LaPoint (FLA) is currently out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury.

Colorado College senior Scott McCulloch (CHI) is out of the lineup with a concussion.

Maine senior Billy Ryan (NYR) is out with a hip injury.

Wisconsin freshman defenseman Brendan Smith (DET) is day to day with a back injury.

UMass junior defenseman John Wessbecker (TB) continues to be out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury.

Vote for Hobey

Fan voting for the 2008 Hobey Baker Award is now open. Fans can cast their votes in the first phase of the selection process now through March 8 at the Hobey Baker website (http://www.hobeybaker.com/voting/).

Among the top candidates for the prestigious award this year include University of Michigan seniors Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik (PHX), Miami University senior forward Ryan Jones (MIN) and junior goaltender Jeff Zatkoff (LA), Boston College junior Nathan Gerbe (BUF) and Colorado College junior Chad Rau (TOR).

The winner of the 2008 Hobey Baker Award will be announced during the Frozen Four on April 11 in Denver.