NCAA prospects notebook for January, 2014

By DJ Powers

Ryan Dzingel - Ohio State University

Photo: Ohio State Buckeyes forward and Ottawa Senators prospect Ryan Dzingel had a hot hand in January, posting 14 points in eight games during that month (courtesy of Dan Sanger/Icon SMI)

The first month of 2014 featured a little bit of everything involving prospects around NCAA hockey. Hockey’s Future looks back at the notable performances and news items during from that month. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of February 1st.

Olofsson strikes silver with Sweden

Colorado College freshman defenseman Gustav Olofsson (MIN) helped guide host Sweden to a silver medal at this year’s U-20 World Junior Championship. The Umeå, Sweden native led the Swedes in defensive scoring during the tournament with five points (one goal, four assists). Olofsson is part of Colorado College’s excellent defensive corps that features four NHL prospects. In 18 games with the Tigers so far, he has posted six points (four goals, two assists).

Eagles top line soars

Boston College’s lethal top line of junior Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) and seniors Bill Arnold (CGY) and Kevin Hayes (CHI) was the nation’s hottest line in the month of January. The trio combined to post an astounding 48 points (20 goals, 28 assists) in eight games during the month, and they show no signs of slowing down. Gaudreau finished January with 18 points while Hayes and Arnold finished with 17 and 13 points, respectively.

Gaudreau, who currently leads the nation in both points (51) and goals (23), is averaging nearly two points per game. He is on pace to potentially eclipse the 70-point plateau this season. Should Gaudreau accomplish the feat, he will become the first player to do so since Andy Miele (PHX) did it with Miami in 2010-11.

Blackhawks prospects enjoy stellar January

No NHL team got more points collectively from their collegiate prospects in January than the Chicago Blackhawks. The team’s 14 NCAA prospects combined to post 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) and each posted at least one point during the month.

Boston College senior Kevin Hayes led the way with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in eight games that included his first career hat trick on January 18th versus Maine.

Notre Dame freshman Vince Hinostroza was next with 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in nine games during January. After playing with Team USA at the World Junior Championship, Hinostroza simply picked up from where he left off when he returned to Notre Dame. Hinostroza currently leads all NHL-drafted freshmen in scoring with 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 21 games.

Vermont junior Michael Paliotta led Chicago’s defensive prospects with seven points (all assists) in eight games and has quietly become one of the best defensemen in Hockey East this season. Overall, Paliotta has posted 19 points, which includes a team-leading 16 assists in 25 games to date.

Ohio State freshman Matt Tomkins, the Blackhawks’ lone collegiate goaltending prospect, returned to the Buckeyes lineup after missing nearly two months with a leg injury. The Sherwood Park, AB native resumed play on January 10th versus Michigan State, getting not only the win but also posting his first career assist, as well. Tomkins finished the month with a 1-2-1 record in four games. Overall, he sports a 6-5-1 record in 13 appearances to date.

Tips of the hat

In addition to Boston College’s Kevin Hayes (as previously noted), several other prospects posted hat tricks in January, as well.

Wisconsin senior Michael Mersch (LAK) and Notre Dame senior Bryan Rust (PIT) both posted their first collegiate hat tricks on January 10th. Mersch’s came against Michigan while Rust’s came against Alabama-Huntsville.

That same day, Ohio State junior Ryan Dzingel (OTT) posted his second career hat trick and first this season versus Michigan State.

On January 18th, Nebraska-Omaha junior Josh Archibald (PIT) posted his second career hat trick, and first this season, versus Miami. Two of his three goals came on the power-play.

Colgate wins 23rd Mariucci Classic

The surging Colgate Raiders knocked off host Minnesota and Ferris State en route to capturing the Mariucci Classic tournament championship on January 4th. Freshman goaltender Charlie Finn, who was named the tournament MVP, was brilliant between the pipes, stopping 55 of the 57 shots he faced. His strong performance included his first career shutout, which came in the championship game.

The Golden Gophers won the consolation game, defeating RPI 6-2. Junior Kyle Rau (FLA) netted a pair of goals in the victory, including the game-winner. Fellow junior Travis Boyd (WSH) posted three points (1G, 2A) to help guide Minnesota.

Minnesota wins inaugural North Star College Cup

The other tournament that the Golden Gophers were involved in this month was the North Star College Cup, college hockey’s newest in-season tournament that made its debut on January 24th and 25th. The tournament, which features all five Minnesota-based teams, plays on a rotating basis each year with the University of Minnesota being the lone exception. This year’s tournament featured Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State-Mankato and St. Cloud State. Bemidji State, the other member of the group, will make its tournament debut next season.

The tournament got off to a thrilling start this year, with one game needing overtime and the championship game needing a shootout to be decided. Minnesota-Duluth was involved in both of those games. The Bulldogs needed overtime to defeat a depleted Minnesota State-Mankato team 5-4 in the first semi-final game. Freshman Alex Iafallo netted the game-winner to send Minnesota-Duluth to the championship game. There, they would face Minnesota who dispatched St. Cloud State 4-1 in the second semi-final game.

The Bulldogs and Golden Gophers exchanged goals in the first and third periods. After a scoreless overtime, the game went to a shootout. Minnesota would win the championship by virtue of a shootout with juniors Kyle Rau and Seth Ambroz (CBJ) scoring on both of their shot attempts in the first two rounds. Minnesota sophomore goaltender Adam Wilcox (TBL) was named the tournament MVP after a stellar performance stopping a combined 76 of 81 shots in the tournament.

In the tournament’s consolation game, St. Cloud State pulled out a 6-4 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato. Sophomore Jonny Brodzinski (LAK) netted a pair of goals and added an assist to lead the Huskies.

Minnesota State-Mankato got freshman Zach Stepan (NSH) and sophomore Teddy Blueger (PIT) back in the lineup in the consolation game after both players served their one-game game suspensions for fighting in the chaotic January 18th game versus Ferris State that saw the two teams combine for a whopping 216 penalty minutes and numerous player ejections.

Grzelcyk and Russo done for the season

Two of Hockey East’s best defensemen saw their 2013-14 campaigns come to an end in January for very different reasons.

After a strong performance with Team USA at the World Junior Championship, sophomore Matt Grzelcyk (BOS) returned to Boston University only to have his return short-lived. The Charlestown, MA native suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in practice on January 9th that will require surgery. Grzelcyk finishes the season with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 19 games.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame lost their top defenseman, junior Robbie Russo (NYI), after he was ruled academically ineligible for the current semester. The Westmont, IL native appealed the ruling but was denied. Russo finishes the season with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 21 games.

Two prospects among nominees for Hockey Humanitarian Award

St. Cloud State senior Nic Dowd (LAK) and North Dakota junior Mark MacMillan (MTL) are among the 18 nominees for this year’s Hockey Humanitarian Award. The award annually recognizes college hockey’s most outstanding citizen. The finalists will be announced in February. The winner of the 2014 Hockey Humanitarian Award will be announced on April 11th during the Frozen Four weekend in Philadelphia, PA.

NCAA to be represented in Sochi

Bowling Green sophomore defenseman Ralfs Freibergs is headed to the Olympics to play for Team Latvia. The Riga native is also the lone current collegian that will be participating. Freibergs, an undrafted free agent, is part of a very good Falcons team that is making a push for the WCHA title this season. Freibergs currently leads Bowling Green in defensive scoring with 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 29 games to date.

Who’s Hot

Ohio State junior Ryan Dzingel is in the midst of the best season of his collegiate career. The Wheaton, IL native has been the offensive catalyst of the Buckeyes. Dzingel started January off with a bang, netting his first hat trick of the season. He finished the month with 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in Ohio State’s eight games. Overall, Dzingel leads the Buckeyes in virtually every category including points (36) and goals (17) playing in all 24 games to date.

New Hampshire senior Eric Knodel (TOR) was one of the hottest defensemen in January. The West Chester, PA native posted 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in the Wildcats 10 games during the month. Overall, Knodel currently leads the nation among all NHL-drafted defensemen with 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) in 30 games.

Another defenseman that enjoyed an excellent January was Minnesota sophomore Mike Reilly (CBJ). The Chanhassen, MN native posted 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 11 games with the Golden Gophers this month. Reilly, one of the most consistent defensive prospects in the NCAA this season, was held pointless in just one game in January, in the Mariucci Classic consolation game versus RPI. Overall, Reilly leads Minnesota in defensive scoring with 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 26 games.

Reilly’s teammate and fellow sophomore Adam Wilcox was also red-hot in January. The goaltender from South St. Paul, MN went 8-0-3 during the month, which included two shutouts. Overall, Wilcox sports an 18-2-5 record that includes two shutouts. Two of his three ties during the month ended in shootout losses. Wilcox currently leads all NHL-drafted netminders in wins and leads the nation in winning percentage (.820).

Who’s Not

After a very good freshman campaign last season, Colorado College sophomore Hunter Fejes (PHX) has found points hard to come by this season. The Anchorage, AK native posted his first and so far only point of the season (an assist) on January 24th versus Miami. To date, Fejes has played in 22 of the Tigers 24 games.

After an outstanding start to the season, Miami junior Jimmy Mullin (TBL) has struggled to build on that. The Cincinnati, OH native posted just one assist in five appearances in January. That came January 18th versus Nebraska-Omaha. His previous point (also an assist) came back on November 16th versus Wisconsin. Overall, Mullin has played in 19 games to date, posting seven points (one goal, six assists). His lone goal of the season came on November 2nd versus Canisius.

Harvard junior netminder Steve Michalek (MIN) has really struggled to find his groove this season. The Glastonbury, CT native made just two starts (both losses) for the Crimson in January, versus Cornell on January 17th and Union College on January 24th. Although Michalek has split time this season with senior Raphael Girard, he has just one win and one tie in nine appearances. The win came back on November 16th versus Princeton and the tie was against RPI on October 29th.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF