The second half of the 2014-15 NCAA Hockey season was in full swing in January. It was a month that featured some excellent performances and fantastic finishes. Hockey’s Future looks back at some of the more memorable moments created by NHL prospects competing in D1 hockey. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Jan. 31.
Holiday tournaments roundup, part 2
The 26th annual Ledyard Classic and the 24th annual Mariucci Classic brought the 2014-15 holiday tournament season to a close.
In Hanover, NH, Boston College won their second Ledyard Bank title, defeating Brown and host Dartmouth respectively. Junior Teddy Doherty was named the tournament’s MVP. He posted the game-winning goal in the championship game over Dartmouth and added two assists in the semi-final game versus Brown. Joining Doherty on the All-Tournament Team were sophomore teammate Adam Gilmour (MIN) and Denver freshman Danton Heinen (BOS).
Meanwhile in Minneapolis, MN, UMass-Lowell took the Mariucci Classic championship after defeating RIT and Merrimack respectively. This was the second consecutive holiday tournament that the River Hawks had won this season, having claimed the Frozen Holiday Classic a week earlier. Interestingly, sophomore defenseman Dylan Zink was named the MVP in both tournaments. Zink was joined by sophomore teammate Evan Campbell (EDM) as well as Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly (CBJ) on the All-Tournament Team.
Bemidji State captures North Star Cup Championship
Bemidji State was the only team in this year’s North Star Cup field that was unranked and featured no NHL prospects. But the Beavers turned in stellar performances over Minnesota-Duluth and then top-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato respectively to claim the tournament championship in their first-ever North Star appearance on Jan. 23rd and 24th at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN. Freshman goaltender Michael Bitzer was named the tournament’s MVP after a sensational performance, stopping a combined 54 of 55 shots in the tournament to guide Bemidji State.
Five prospects among candidates for two postseason awards
The candidates for this year’s Hockey Humanitarian and Lowe’s Senior CLASS awards were announced in January.
The Hockey Humanitarian Award recognizes college hockey’s top player that has made significant contributions to both his or her team and community. Among the 15 nominees are two prospects in Michigan senior Zach Hyman (FLA) and North Dakota senior Mark MacMillan (MTL). The finalists will be announced in February.
Hyman and MacMillan are also among five prospects named as candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The other prospects are North Dakota defenseman Nick Mattson (CHI), Vermont defenseman Michael Paliotta (CHI) and Minnesota forward Kyle Rau (FLA). The award recognizes college hockey’s top senior that excels in the community and the classroom as well as displays the highest level of character and competition. The finalists will be announced prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament.
The winners of both awards will be announced in April during the Frozen Four weekend in Boston, MA.
Goaltending prospects excel in January
January was a very good month for four goaltending prospects.
Leading the way was Michigan Tech junior Jamie Phillips (WPG). The Caledonia, ON native continued his magical season in January, posting a 6-2-1 record that included one shutout in the Huskies nine games during the month. Overall, Phillips sports a 21-6-1 record that includes three shutouts starting in all 30 games to date. His 30 total games played lead the nation, while his 21 wins leads the NCAA. Phillips’ third and most recent shutout on the season came on Jan. 30th versus Alabama-Huntsville.
Tied for second in wins nationally is North Dakota junior Zane McIntyre (BOS). The Thief River Falls, MN native posted a 6-2-0 record that included one shutout in North Dakota’s eight games in January. McIntyre posted his first shutout of the season on Jan. 17th versus Niagara. Earlier in the month on Jan. 10th versus Minnesota-Duluth, McIntyre also recorded his first assist in nearly two years. His previous assist came back on Jan. 25th, 2013 versus St. Cloud State. McIntyre currently sports a 19-6-2 record that includes one shutout.
After returning from the World Junior Championship, sophomore Thatcher Demko (VAN) turned in another brilliant performance for Boston College in January. The San Diego, CA native posted a 6-1-1 record in eight games during the month. Overall, Demko has posted a 15-8-2 record. One of his best outings of the month came back on Jan. 9th versus Northeastern. In that game, Demko stopped 30 of the Huskies’ 31 shots to backstop the Eagles to a 1-1 tie.
Posting an identical record (6-1-1) to Demko’s in January was Minnesota State-Mankato junior Stephon Williams (NYI). The Fairbanks, AK native continued his stellar season, backstopping the Mavericks to their first-ever national top ranking during their eight games in the month. Overall, Williams sports a 19-3-1 record that includes three shutouts. His .848 winning percentage leads all NHL-drafted goaltenders nationally, while his 1.66 goals-against average ranks third among all NCAA goaltenders.
Tip of the hat
Three prospects posted their first collegiate career hat tricks in January.
The first to accomplish the feat was North Dakota senior Brendan O’Donnell (TBL) versus Minnesota-Duluth on Jan. 10th. Two of his goals came at even strength, while the other came on the power play. O’Donnell’s 10 goals on the season is a new career high and he is also on pace to eclipse his 18 total points of last season. O’Donnell’s 10 goals currently ranks third on North Dakota’s roster.
The next two prospects accomplished the feat against the same opponent – the University of Connecticut.
The first to do so was Notre Dame senior Robbie Russo (NYI), who became the first defenseman to record a hat trick this season. His three goals included one coming shorthanded. The performance earned Russo his second Hockey East Player of the Week honor on the season. The Westmont, IL native’s 11 goals leads all NCAA defensemen, while his 25 points currently ranks third. Most recently, Russo was handed a two-game suspension by Hockey East for a slashing incident that occurred in the Jan. 24th game versus Northeastern. He is eligible to return on Feb. 6th at Maine.
One week after Russo’s hat trick, Boston College sophomore Ryan Fitzgerald (BOS) accomplished the feat on Jan. 24th. The North Reading, MA native posted all of the Eagles’ goals in the game. Two of his three goals came on the power play, including the game-winner. Fitzgerald’s 13 overall goals through the end of January currently lead Boston College.
No NHL prospect was hotter in January than Michigan senior Zach Hyman. The Toronto, ON is in the midst of his best collegiate season, and his torrid point production continued in January with a whopping 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in the Wolverines’ six games. Even more impressive is the fact that in five of those six games, Hyman posted multiple points. His 16 goals and 37 points both currently lead Michigan.
Michigan Tech senior Blake Pietila (NJD) had perhaps his best month of the season in January. The Brighton, MI native finished the month with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in the Huskies’ 10 games. In addition, Pietila earned two consecutive WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors. Overall, Pietila ranks fourth on Michigan Tech’s roster with 24 points and is tied for third with 11 goals.
Junior Jimmy Vesey (NSH) has been Harvard’s most consistent player this season. He finished a terrific January with 13 points (eight goals, five assists) in the Crimson’s six games and posted at least a point in every game. His eight goals led all NHL prospects during the month. Overall, Vesey leads Harvard in a number of categories including points (35), goals (18) and power play goals (5), all of which are new career highs for Vesey.
No NHL-drafted defenseman was hotter in January than Boston University junior Matt Grzelcyk (BOS). The Charlestown, MA native amassed 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in the Terriers’ eight games during the month. Overall, Grzelcyk leads all BU defensemen with 18 points (one goal, 17 assists) and a +18 rating.
One defenseman returns and two are out
Boston College sophomore defenseman Steve Santini (NJD) made his long-awaited return to the lineup on Jan. 10th versus Northeastern. The Mahopac, NY native missed the previous 16 games, including the World Junior Championship, due to a wrist injury that required surgery. Santini suffered the injury on back Oct. 25th versus UMass.
Injuries have taken a tremendous toll on Harvard this season, and in January it got worse. The Crimson will be without the services of senior defenseman Patrick McNally (VAN) for at least the duration of the regular season due to a leg injury that he sustained on Jan. 23rd versus Cornell. The Glen Head, NY native could potentially return for the postseason. Among the other notable injuries hitting Harvard this season have been those suffered by sophomores Alex Kerfoot (NJD) and Sean Malone (BUF) as well as junior Colin Blackwell (SJS), who remains out due to the effects of post-concussion syndrome.
Another defenseman that is out for at least the remainder of the regular season is Providence College junior John Gilmour (CGY) due to a broken finger he suffered on Jan. 30th versus Boston College. The Montreal, QC native could potentially return for the postseason.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF