College prospects notebook, February 2009

By DJ Powers

With the regular season having concluded for some teams and winding down for others, there’s plenty to talk about in this edition of the college prospects notebook. Here’s a look at final full month of the NCAA regular season.

Beanpot Tournament recap

Sophomore Nick Bonino (SJ) posted three goals, including one short-handed against Northeastern in the championship game to earn MVP honors and helping to guide the Boston University Terriers to their 29th title in the 57th annual Beanpot tournament on Feb. 9. Bonino’s short-handed tally was one of three in the game that ultimately cost the Huskies the championship, as Boston University would go on for the 5-2 win. Sophomore sensation Colin Wilson (NSH) added a goal and two assists in the win for the Terriers.

Earlier in the day, Boston College edged Harvard 3-2 behind a pair of goals by senior Benn Ferriero (PHO), including the game winner. For the Crimson, the one-goal loss followed a heartbreaking 3-4 loss to Boston University in the thrilling tournament semi-final on Feb. 2. In that game, junior defenseman Alex Biega (BUF) came literally within one second of tallying the equalizer before the final buzzer sounded ending the game.

Despite his team not winning the tournament championship, junior Brad Thiessen of Northeastern University was named the Dan Eberly Award winner, as the tournament’s top goaltender with the best save percentage for the second consecutive year. The Aldergrove, BC native posted a .925 in the two games in the tournament. In the semi-final game versus Boston College, Thiessen turned in one of his most brilliant performances of the season, stopping 45 of the Eagles 46 shots, 21 of which came in the second period alone, to backstop the Huskies to a 6-1 win and a trip to the championship game.

Trio of NHL prospects among Walter Brown Award semi-finalists

Boston College senior Benn Ferriero (PHO), New Hampshire sophomore James vanRiemsdyk (PHI) and Northeastern senior Joe Vitale (PIT) are among the 16 finalists for the 57th Walter Brown Award. The award, which is presented by the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston, is given annually to the top American-born college hockey player in New England.

The winner will be announced in March after the conclusion of the conference playoffs and prior to the start of the NCAA tournament.

Tropp returns to Michigan State

Buffalo Sabres prospect Corey Tropp has returned to Michigan State. Michigan State head coach suspended Tropp for the duration of the season, including playoffs, for an incident involving University of Michigan defenseman Steve Kampfer (ANA) on Jan. 24. After receiving the suspension, Tropp headed to the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede to retain his collegiate eligibility in hopes of returning to the Spartans lineup next season.

But according to the Feb. 3 USHL press release, Tropp has returned to Michigan State after discovering an NCAA rule that could put his remaining college eligibility in jeopardy. Tropp had already enrolled in classes at Michigan State for the spring semester and in doing so, had he played for another team (NCAA or otherwise) he would become ineligible under NCAA rules. By playing for another team, Tropp could also potentially jeopardize the remainder of his collegiate eligibility as well.

McIntyre on the move…again

He hasn’t even played a second of pro hockey yet, but Colgate junior David McIntyre has already been traded twice. His rights were traded on Feb. 3 when the Anaheim Ducks shipped him to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Sheldon Brookbank. McIntyre was originally a draft pick of the Dallas Stars, had his rights traded to Anaheim back on Dec. 14 in the Brian Sutherby deal.

Charlebois signs with Rockford

After being ruled academically ineligible for the remainder of the season and his collegiate career last month, defenseman Joe Charlebois has left the University of New Hampshire and signed with the AHL’s Rockford Icehogs on Feb. 18. Charlebois was a 2005 draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, the NHL affiliate of the Icehogs.

Ten NHL prospects among WCHA’s 2008-09 Scholar-Athletes

On Feb. 19, the WCHA announced it’s annual scholar-athletes. To be named a Scholar-Athlete, players must have completed at least one year of residency at their member school prior to the current academic year. They must also have a GPA of at least 3.5 for the previous two semesters or three quarters, or may qualify of his overall GPA is at least 3.5 for all terms at their present institution.

The 2008-09 list includes 69 players from both the Men’s and Women’s WCHA leagues. Among them are ten NHL prospects representing six of the ten WCHA member schools. Of the ten NHL prospects included, five are repeat honorees.

The University of Denver has the most with four. They are: Sophomore goaltender Marc Cheverie (FLA), and junior forwards Brian Gifford (PIT), Matt Glasser (EDM) and Tyler Ruegsegger (TOR). Glasser and Ruegsegger are repeat honorees.

Colorado College features two, both of who are also repeat honorees as well as property of the Chicago Blackhawks. They are fifth-year senior Scott McCulloch and junior Billy Sweatt.

The remaining four players are: University of Alaska-Anchorage junior defenseman Nils Backstrom (DET), University of Minnesota-Duluth senior forward Matt Greer (CBJ), Minnesota State-Mankato sophomore forward Andrew Sackrison (STL) and St. Cloud State University sophomore forward Nick Oslund (DET). Of the four, Greer is the only repeat honoree.

Two defensive prospects done for the year

For Clarkson senior co-captain Tyrell Mason (NYI), it wasn’t the way he wanted to end his collegiate career. The stalwart defenseman for the Golden Knight has a season marred with injuries. The latest was a charley horse that suffered versus Quinnipiac on Feb. 14 that became more serious and eventually forced him to miss the remainder of the season. The ECAC open post-season play this weekend. Clarkson will travel to Starr Rink to take on host Union College in the first round.

Meanwhile over at the University of North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux have also lost a defenseman for the season after sophomore Derrick LaPoint suffered a broken tibia and fibula versus Minnesota State-Mankato on Feb. 14. The Florida Panthers draft pick was having a very solid year for North Dakota prior to the injury, playing in 32 games. North Dakota wraps up their regular season this coming weekend at Wisconsin.

On the shelf

In addition to Mason and LaPoint, there are several other NHL prospects currently on shelf.

St. Lawrence junior defenseman Matt Generous (BUF) suffered a knee injury on Feb. 27 versus Union College.

Vermont freshman defenseman Drew MacKenzie (BUF) is out indefinitely with mononucleosis.

University of Denver junior Rhett Rakhshani (NYI) suffered a lower body injury on Feb. 27 versus St. Cloud State.

Notre Dame junior Ryan Thang (NSH) suffered a leg injury on Feb. 6 versus Ohio State and could potentially return to the lineup as early as Mar. 13 when the Fighting Irish open CCHA tournament play against a yet-to-be determined opponent.

Mark Mitera makes triumphant return for Michigan

Senior defenseman Mark Mitera (ANA) made a triumphant return to the University of Michigan lineup on Feb. 27. He returns after missing 33 games with a torn left ACL that he suffered in the first period of the season opener versus St. Lawrence way back on Oct. 9. He underwent successful reconstructive knee surgery on Nov. 6.

Mitera posted a goal and an assist on Feb. 28 to help guide the Wolverines to a sweep of Ferris State in the regular season finale for both teams. The multi-point performance was Mitera’s first since March 21, 2008.

Avs prospect Patterson impressive in first career start

University of Minnesota freshman Kent Patterson earned his first collegiate start on Feb. 27 against Minnesota-Duluth and it was definitely worth the wait. The Colorado Avalanche draft pick stopped 34 of 36 shots he faced to earn a crucial 2-2 tie (and point) for the Golden Gophers in the hotly contested WCHA race.

Red Wings prospect instrumental in Seawolves successful defense of Governor’s Cup

Junior defenseman and Detroit Red Wings prospect Nils Backstrom posted a goal to help guide the University of Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves to a 3-0 win and the weekend sweep of their intrastate rivals from Fairbanks to successfully defend the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup on Feb. 28.

Pens prospect Chad Johnson wins the 2008-09 CCHA Perani Cup

University of Alaska senior goaltender Chad Johnson has won this year’s Perani Cup with 49 points. The Perani Cup is given annually to the player that has accumulated the most star points during the regular season. Points are given for garnering first, second and third stars in each game and tallied at the end of the regular season.

Prospects key in CCHA and ECAC finales

Three of the six NCAA conferences (CCHA, ECAC and Atlantic Hockey) have concluded regular season play this past weekend. The regular season for all teams concludes on Mar. 8.

Senior Erik Condra (OTT) and sophomore Ben Ryan (NSH) assisted on junior linemate Dan Kissel’s game-winner versus Nebraska-Omaha on Feb. 21 to give the Notre Dame Fighting Irish the CCHA regular season crown, the top seed, and a first round bye in the CCHA tournament, which gets underway on Friday, March 6.

The Michigan Wolverines finished second in the CCHA after an impressive home-and-home sweep of Ferris State this past weekend that also saw the long-awaited return of defenseman Mark Mitera.

The Miami RedHawks secured the third seed after a wild 7-5 win over intrastate rival Ohio State on Feb. 28 thanks to a pair of goals by senior Justin Mercier (COL) and three assists by sophomore Tommy Wingels (SJ).

The win by Miami over Ohio State also helped the University of Alaska nail down the fourth place finish and the final first round bye. The Nanooks wrapped up CCHA regular season play on Feb. 21, sweeping Ferris State behind a stellar performance by senior Chad Johnson (PIT). Johnson, a candidate for this year’s Hobey Baker Award, stopped a combined 51 of 54 shots for Alaska. The Calgary, AB native finishes the regular season with the CCHA’s best goals against average (1.69) and save percentage (.939).

Over in the ECAC, Phoenix Coyotes prospect and senior Patrick Brosnihan has been instrumental in guiding the young Yale University Bulldogs to capture their first Cleary Cup as ECAC regular season champions since 1997-98. The Elis, who will have the conference’s top seed and has earned a first round bye in the upcoming ECAC tournament, wraps up their regular season as one of the hottest teams in the nation, going 9-2-2 in their final 13 games.

After losing to Yale on Friday, Feb. 27, the Cornell Big Red came back to win a 3-2 nail biter over Brown the following night to secure the second seed and a first round bye. Senior Colin Greening (OTT) posted a power play goal and added an assist to propel Cornell to victory in their regular season finale.

Three losses in their final five games kept the Princeton Tigers from winning the Cleary Cup this year, settling for the third seed and a first round bye. The Tigers are the defending ECAC tournament champions.

St. Lawrence nailed down the fourth seed and the final first round bye after back-to-back shutout wins over Union College and RPI over the weekend behind a sensational performance by junior netminder Alex Petizian, who stopped all 62 combined shots that he faced. The Saints were outshot in both contests.

NCAA free agents for 2009

As NCAA teams wind down their respective 2008-09 campaigns, it also signals the time when NHL teams come looking to stockpile their farm systems with fresh new free agents. This year, the NCAA has plenty of excellent undrafted free agents available who are getting a lot of attention. Among those that are being heavily pursued by NHL teams include University of Denver sophomore sniper Tyler Bozak, University of North Dakota senior and 2007 Hobey Baker recipient Ryan Duncan, Boston University senior defenseman and Hobey Baker candidate Matt Gilroy, and Notre Dame senior center Christian Hanson.