NCAA prospects notebook for February, 2014

By DJ Powers

Connor Hellebuyck - UMass Lowell - Frozen Fenway 2014

Photo: University of Massachusetts-Lowell goaltender and Winnipeg Jets prospect Connor Hellebuyck is having another fine season for the River Hawks, sporting a goals-against average under 2.00 for a second straight season while posting a .939 save percentage (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The final full month of the 2013-14 NCAA season saw teams jostling for post-season conference positioning and some fantastic performances by NHL collegiate prospects. Hockey’s Future takes a look back at the more notable performances that took place in the month of February. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of March 3rd.

Boston College claims two titles

February was a very good month for the Boston College Eagles as they captured, not one, but two titles.

The first came on February 10th when they defeated Northeastern 4-2 en route to claiming their fifth consecutive and 19th overall Beanpot Tournament title. Senior Kevin Hayes (CHI) was named the tournament MVP after netting two goals in Boston College’s two games.

2014 draft-eligible freshman Thatcher Demko was named the recipient of the Eberly Award as the goaltender with the highest save percentage in the tournament. The San Diego, CA native was brilliant between the pipes for the Eagles, posting a .966 save percentage in the tournament, which was the second highest in the Beanpot’s 62-year history.

Boston College claimed their second title during the month on February 16th when they captured their 13th Hockey East regular season championship. This marks the third time in four years that the Eagles have won the conference’s regular season title.

Boston College had their remarkable 19-game unbeaten streak (17-0-2) snapped by Notre Dame on Mar. 1st. That streak matched the Eagles’ 2011-12 total that also saw them go on to win the national championship that season.

Gostisbehere helps guide Union College to another ECAC regular season title

Junior Shayne Gostisbehere (PHI) posted an assist in the Dutchmen’s 6-2 win over St. Lawrence on February 22nd, a win that gave Union the school’s third Cleary Cup in four years as ECAC regular season champions. The Margate, FL native was excellent in February, posting seven points (one goal, seven assists) in Union College’s eight games during the month. His 26 overall points (eight goals, 18 assists) currently co-leads all NHL-drafted defensemen and ranks second among Dutchmen rearguards.

Penguins prospect sets new school records

It’s been a very good year for Nebraska-Omaha junior Josh Archibald (PIT), who is being mentioned as one of the top candidates for this year’s Hobey Baker Award. The Brainerd, MN native set three new Mavericks records during the month of February.

The first and second ones came on February 8th versus North Dakota when he recorded his second hat trick of the season in the Mavericks’ 6-3 win. That hat trick set a new Nebraska-Omaha single-season record. It was also the third of Archibald’s career, setting another new record for career hat tricks.

His third record came on February 28th in the Mavericks’ 6-0 win over Colorado College. In that game, Archibald netted his 27th and 28th goals of the season. His second goal was a new school single-season record, breaking the old record set by former standout Bill Thomas in the 2005-06 season.

Another record for Hellebuyck

Sophomore goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) has once again etched his name in UMass-Lowell’s record books. On Feb. 28th, Hellebuyck posted his fourth shutout of the season with a 1-0 victory over Vermont. The shutout was also his tenth career shutout, tying him for the River Hawks record in that category. Hellebuyck currently shares the record with Carter Hutton, who played for UMass-Lowell from 2006-10. The Commerce, MI native could potentially break the record this season, adding to the three other school records (all single season records) that he holds.

Kings prospects rule in February

No NHL team’s prospects amassed more points collectively in February than the Los Angeles Kings. The team’s seven collegiate prospects combined for 44 points (20 goals, 22 assists) during the month. Equally, if not more impressive is the fact that each prospect posted at least three points in February.

St. Cloud State senior Nic Dowd led all Kings prospects with 11 points (six goals, five assists) in eight games during the month. Dowd’s teammate, sophomore Jonny Brodzinski, was next with eight points (two goals, six assists). Minnesota freshman Hudson Fasching (now traded to Buffalo but a Kings prospect in the month of February), North Dakota freshman defenseman Paul LaDue and Wisconsin senior Michael Mersch all posted six points each. Cornell junior Joel Lowry finished the month with four points and St. Cloud State senior defenseman Kevin Gravel rounds out the group with three points.

Five prospects among candidates for inaugural Mike Richter Award

Five NHL prospects are among the 19 candidates for the inaugural Mike Richter Award. The award, presented by Let’s Play Hockey and the Herb Brooks Foundation, is named after the former Wisconsin standout and legendary New York Rangers goaltender. It is presented annually to college hockey’s top goaltender that has excelled both on and off the ice.

The prospects among this year’s candidates are: Denver senior Sam Brittain (FLA), Providence College sophomore Jon Gillies (CGY), UMass-Lowell sophomore Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Maine senior Martin Ouellette (CBJ), and Minnesota sophomore Adam Wilcox (TBL).

Also among the candidates are two 2014 draft-eligible freshmen in Boston College’s Thatcher Demko and Michigan’s Zach Nagelvoort.

The finalists will be announced prior to the Frozen Four and the winner will be announced during the Frozen Four weekend in April in Philadelphia, PA.

Eight prospects among semi-finalists for 2014 Walter Brown Award

Half of this year’s 16 semi-finalists for the 62nd annual Walter Brown Award are NHL prospects. They are: Yale senior Kenny Agostino (CGY), Boston College junior Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Boston College seniors Bill Arnold (CGY) and Kevin Hayes (CHI), UMass-Lowell sophomore Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), Boston University sophomore Danny O’Regan (SJS), Quinnipiac senior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (WPG), and Harvard sophomore Jimmy Vesey (NSH).

The award, presented by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, annually recognizes the top American-born player playing at a New England D-I college/university. The finalists and winner of this year’s award will be announced in March.

Two prospects among finalists for Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award

Denver goaltender Sam Brittain (FLA) and Brown defenseman Dennis Robertson (CAR) are among the ten finalists for the 2014 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award annually recognizes the top senior that has made notable achievements in four areas – community, classroom, character and competition.

The winner of the award will be announced during the Frozen Four weekend in April in Philadelphia, PA.

It’s a first

A number of NHL prospects around college hockey posted their firsts in the month of February.

Two goaltending prospects posted their first collegiate shutouts in February. The first to accomplish the feat was Harvard junior Steve Michalek (MIN). He posted his first career shutout in the Crimson’s 3-0 win over Dartmouth on February 7th.

Two weeks later, on February 21st, sophomore Zane Gothberg (BOS) accomplished the feat, stopping all 33 shots he faced to backstop North Dakota to a 3-0 win over Minnesota-Duluth.

Boston College senior Bill Arnold (CGY) posted his first career hat trick on February 7th in the Eagles’ 6-1 win over Merrimack. Arnold’s three goals came at even strength, shorthanded and on the power-play. His even-strength goal was also the game-winner for Boston College.

That same day, Nebraska-Omaha sophomore defenseman Brian Cooper (ANA) posted his first collegiate goal in the Mavericks 5-2 loss to North Dakota.

On February 15th, Denver teammates goaltender Evan Cowley (FLA) and defenseman Josiah Didier (MTL) both posted firsts versus Nebraska-Omaha. Cowley, a freshman, stopped 33 of the Mavericks’ 34 shots to earn his first collegiate win. Didier, a junior playing in his 100th career game, posted the first goal of his career with an empty-netter.

That same day, redshirted sophomore defenseman Ben Gallacher (FLA) posted his first goal in a UMass uniform. Gallacher, a transfer from Ohio State, posted his previous goal back on Oct. 27, 2011 versus Alaska as a member of the Buckeyes.

Boston University freshman Brendan Collier (CAR) posted his first collegiate goal on February 17th in the Terriers’ 3-1 loss to New Hampshire.

On February 28th versus Denver, Western Michigan freshman Mike McKee (DET) posted his first collegiate goal, which was also his first career point. McKee, a defenseman, has played much of the season as a forward with the Broncos.

Hot in February

Two of the month’s top-scoring prospects were also part of the nation’s hottest line in February. No prospect collected more points during the month than Josh Archibald (PIT). The junior winger amassed 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in seven games for Nebraska-Omaha in February. Archibald plays right wing on the Mavericks’ sizzling top line that also features fellow Pittsburgh Penguins prospect, freshman Jake Guentzel, and undrafted junior Dominic Zombo. The line combined to post an astounding 39 points (15 goals, 22 assists) for Nebraska-Omaha during the month. Guentzel, the left wing on that line, posted 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in February.

Another player who was hot in February was Quinnipiac junior Matthew Peca (TBL). The center from Petawawa, ON finished the month with 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in seven games for the Bobcats. Peca currently leads Quinnipiac with 24 assists and is tied for third on the team with 34 points in 36 games to date.

Archibald and Peca were the only prospects that posted more points in February than Boston College junior Johnny Gaudreau (CGY). The Carneys Point, NJ native posted 12 points (six goals, six assists) in seven games for the Eagles. Gaudreau is currently riding a torrid 29-game point-scoring streak and could potentially tie or set two new records before season’s end. He is just two games shy of matching Paul Kariya’s 1992-93 Hockey East record for consecutive games with a point and is eight goals shy of matching Boston College’s single-season goal-scoring record held by David Emma and Scott Harlow.

Gaudreau was one of two prospects that posted at least a point in each of his team’s games during February. The other was New Hampshire sophomore defenseman Brett Pesce (CAR). The Tarrytown, NY native posted six points (two goals, four assists) in six games for the Wildcats during the month. Overall, Pesce has posted 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 36 games to date. His five power-play goals co-lead all New Hampshire defensemen and tie him for second on the team.

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF