College Prospects Notebook: October 2011

By DJ Powers
Photo: T.J. Tynan (CLB) has been among the most consistent forwards in all of collegiate hockey during the month of October. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The opening month of the 2011-12 college hockey season featured some great NHL prospect performances and a few surprises. Hockey’s Future takes a look back at some of the month’s best moments. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of October 31st.

Season-Opening Tournaments Roundup

Four tournaments kicked off the 2011-12 season. Three came in the season-opening weekend, while one came near month’s end.

Up in Grand Forks, ND, Boston College defeated host North Dakota 6-2 to win the 15th annual Icebreaker Tournament on October 8th Junior Chris Kreider (NYR) netted the game-winner and was named the Most Valuable Player. Sophomore Bill Arnold (CGY), who is off to a terrific start for the Eagles this season, joined Kreider on the All-Tournament team after posting a goal and two assists in the contest.

The vastly-improved Colgate Raiders defeated host Nebraska-Omaha in a 4-3 thriller to win the 11th annual Maverick Stampede that also took place on October 7th and 8th. Senior Austin Smith (DAL), who is off to another strong start for the Raiders this season, posted a shorthanded goal and added an assist in Colgate’s win.

The only tournament host to win their season-opening tournament this year was Alaska-Anchorage. The Seawolves defeated St. Cloud State 4-3 in overtime to capture their sixth Kendall Hockey Classic championship crown. Alaska-Anchorage junior Mickey Spencer, who netted a hat-trick in the game, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Junior Mike Lee (PHO), who joined Spencer on the All-Tournament team, was outstanding between the pipes for the Huskies in the losing cause.

The final tournament to get underway took place up in Hanover, NH as the Ivy Shootout dropped the puck on the Ivy League’s 2011-12 campaign on October 28th and 29th. Defending Ivy League and ECAC Tournament champion Yale emerged as the top team, posting a tie versus Princeton and a win over host Dartmouth. Junior netminder Jeff Malcolm stopped 29 of the Big Green’s 30 shots to give the Bulldogs their first win of the season. Princeton junior defenseman Michael Sdao (OTT) and Dartmouth junior winger Dustin Walsh (MON) each posted two points in the tournament.

Exceeding Expectations

Johnny Gaudreau (CGY), Matthew Peca (TB), and Kyle Rau (FLA) came into college hockey this season with some impressive credentials and they have more than lived up to expectations thus far.

Top-ranked Boston College can attribute part of their early season success to the play of Gaudreau. The Carneys Point, NJ native currently leads the Eagles in rookie scoring with nine points (five goals, four assists) in eight games. Of those eight games, Gaudreau has points in five of them as part of Boston College’s outstanding second line that also features juniors Pat Mullane and Steven Whitney. Gaudreau’s most memorable game to date was in the Icebreaker tournament championship versus host North Dakota. In that game, Gaudreau posted the game-winner and added three assists for the Eagles.

Quinnipiac is off to strong early season start thanks in part to the stellar play of Peca. The Petawawa, ONT native is one of only two NHL prospects on the Bobcats roster this season. Peca currently leads Quinnipiac in rookie scoring with eight points (three goals, five assists) in eight games. He immediately established himself as a clutch scorer for the Bobcats, having amassed one power play goal, one shorthanded goal and three game-winners. His most memorable game to date came back on October 18th versus Bentley University. In that contest, Peca posted the game-winning goal on the power play and added an assist.

Rau, the reigning Mr. Hockey award recipient, has been a key cog behind the early season success of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Eden Prairie, MN native currently leads the nation in rookie scoring with 13 (seven goals, six assists) in eight games. Like in his days at Eden Prairie high school, Rau has already proven to be a clutch scorer at the collegiate level as well. Of his seven goals, four have come on the power play, one has come shorthanded and three were game-winners. His three game-winners and one shorthanded currently co-lead the nation, while his four power play goals currently rank tied for second.

NHL Prospects Propelling Surging Golden Gophers

After three disappointing seasons, the University of Minnesota has made an early season statement that 2011-12 will be different. And the Golden Gophers are getting it done both offensively and defensively.

On the offensive side, sophomore Erik Haula (MIN) is leading the way. College hockey’s version of the "Finnish Flash" currently leads the nation with 17 points (seven goals, ten assists) in eight games and is averaging over two points per game. By season’s end, Haula could potentially become the first European to lead the nation in scoring since former Maine Black Bear Gustav Nyquist (DET) accomplished the feat two seasons ago. The Pori, Finland native has already posted multiple points in six of his eight games and the lone game he was held without a point came in the most recent contest versus Alaska-Anchorage on October 29th.

Senior Kent Patterson (COL) has continued to be superb in goal for Minnesota. The Plymouth, MN native currently sports a 7-1-0 record that includes his nation-leading four shutouts. Patterson’s seven wins also co-lead the nation. His best outing to date came in the October 14th and 15th series at defending National Champion Minnesota-Duluth. In that series, he stopped 92 of the Bulldogs’ 100 shots in backstopping the Golden Gophers to their second consecutive (and third thus far) series sweep.

Devils Prospect Helps Guide Huskies to Great Start

One of the teams generating the most buzz around the college hockey community right now are the 5-2-1 Michigan Tech Huskies. Under new head Mel Pearson, Michigan Tech is off to their best season-opening month start since the 2006-07 campaign.

Point production throughout their lineup and rock solid goaltending from their tandem of senior Josh Robinson and junior Kevin Genoe are two reasons behind Michigan Tech’s early season success.

The Huskies have just one NHL prospect on their current roster in freshman Blake Pietila (NJ). The Brighton, MI native is part of a freshmen group upfront that have contributed greatly to the team’s offensive output thus far. Pietila currently leads the Huskies in rookie scoring with seven points (three goals, four assists) in eight games. Where he has been particularly good has been on the Huskies power play, where two of his three goals have come.

Notre Dame’s Top Duo Continue to be Dynamic as Sophomores

Last season, T.J. Tynan (CLB) and Anders Lee (NYI) finished first and fourth respectively in the national rookie scoring race. This season, they’re already among the nation’s top point producers as sophomores. And they show no sign of slowing down either.

Tynan, the reigning National Rookie of the Year, currently ranks tied for second in the nation with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in seven games. The Orland Park, Ill native’s 12 assists currently lead the nation. One attribute that made Tynan so successful last season was his offensive consistency and that has carried over to his sophomore season. He has posted one point in each of Notre Dame’s seven games thus far and has multiple points in four of them.

In college hockey right now, there are goal scorers and then there is Anders Lee. The Edina, MN native currently leads the nation with ten goals and is tied for fourth with 13 points in seven games. What is so remarkable about Lee’s torrid goal-scoring pace is the fact that he has posted a goal in every game thus far, which includes a hat trick versus RPI back on October 21st After posting 24 goals last season, Lee is poised to potentially reach the 50-goal plateau this season at his current pace.

Bruins Prospects Driving Force Behind Clarkson’s Fast Start

After finishing tied for seventh in the ECAC last season, the Golden Knights have quietly become one of the nation’s best teams to start the 2011-12 campaign.

Clarkson, under new head coach Casey Jones, are off to their best season-opening month start since the 2006-07 season.

A pair of Boston Bruins prospects in sophomore Ben Sexton and senior Nick Tremblay lead the Golden Knights offense. Sexton currently sits second on the team with nine points (three goals, six assists) in eight games. All three of his goals have come on the power play. Tremblay co-leads the team with five goals and has eight points in eight games. While the two do not play on the same line, each have been catalysts on their respective lines.

Senior Paul Karpowich (STL) has been the key behind Clarkson’s improved defense. The Thunder Bay, ONT native has appeared in all eight games to date, posting a 5-1-2 record that includes two shutouts. Karpowich has held the Golden Knights’ opponents to two or fewer goals in six of the team’s eight games thus far.

And Then There Were Four

With the opening month of the 2011-12 season now in the books, only four teams remain undefeated. Two of them have perfect records heading into November.

One of them is Merrimack College. The Warriors were one of the best stories coming out of Hockey East last season. This season, they’ve begun building on that success and are out to prove that they’re not just another Cinderella story. Merrimack has only two NHL prospects on their roster this season, but both have been key cogs behind their early success.

After posting just eight points last season, junior defenseman Kyle Bigos (EDM) is on pace to have the best season of his collegiate career. He finished the month with five points (one goal, four assists) in six games, playing in all situations for the Warriors.

Senior netminder Joe Cannata (VAN) continues to be the stabilizing force for Merrimack. In his five appearances thus far, Cannata is a perfect 5-0-0 and currently co-leads the nation with a 1.00 winning percentage. The Wakefield, MA native also currently ranks in the top ten nationally in goals against average (5th) and save percentage (9th). But what maybe the most impressive stat is the fact that he has allowed just seven goals thus far.

The other team with a perfect record heading into November is Colorado College. The Tigers currently sport a 4-0-0 record. One reason behind their success is their slightly revamped top line of the Schwartz brothers and junior Scott Winkler (DAL). The trio has accounted for 18 of the team’s 39 points to date. While sophomore Jaden Schwartz (STL) continues to be the motor that drives the Colorado College offense, the excellent early play of Winkler is what is notable here. Winkler is playing with more confidence and compliments the Schwartz brothers quite nicely.

Junior netminder Joe Howe may not be an NHL prospect, but his continued stellar play certainly has him squarely on the NHL radar right now. The Plymouth, MN native currently leads or co-leads the nation in several categories including winning percentage (1.00) and save percentage (.964). What is perhaps the most impressive stat is that fact Howe has allowed just one goal in three of his four starts to date.

Western Michigan heads into November sporting the best record in the most games played. The Broncos, under new head coach Andy Murray, have posted a 5-0-3 record in eight games. Western Michigan’s early success this season is due to the strong contributions throughout their lineup. Nearly every skater on their roster has at least one point heading into November. Sophomore Chase Balisy (NSH) currently leads the team with nine points (three goals, six assists). Freshman defenseman Garrett Haar (WSH) posted his first collegiate goal, which came shorthanded, in the Broncos’ 2-2 tie with Alaska back on October 22. On the season thus far, Haar has four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games.

Although they’ve only played two games thus far, Yale is off to a 1-0-1 start after an excellent performance in the recent Ivy Shootout tournament.

It’s a First

Two sophomore defensemen posted their first collegiate career goals in October.

It took 39 games for Derek Forbort (LAK) to finally post his first collegiate goal, which came back on October 8th versus Boston College in the Icebreaker tournament championship game. The goal, which came on the power play, is Forbort’s lone tally to date. The Duluth, MN native has posted three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games as one half of North Dakota’s excellent top defensive pairing that also includes senior Ben Blood (OTT).

After not seeing in action as a freshman last season, Eric Knodel (TOR) has earned regular ice time with New Hampshire this season. He has played in all seven games for the Wildcats thus far, posting three points (one goal, two assists). Knodel’s three points also currently lead all New Hampshire defensemen as well. The West Chester, PA native accumulated all of his points in the October 21st and 22nd series versus St. Cloud State. In the first game, he posted his first two collegiate career points (assists). His first career goal came the following night.

Five Prospects Among Candidates for the 2011-12 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award

The 20 candidates, all seniors, for this season’s Lowe Senior CLASS Award have been announced and among them are five NHL prospects. They are: Boston College defenseman Tommy Cross (BOS), North Dakota goaltender Brad Eidsness (BUF), Notre Dame defenseman Sean Lorenz (MIN), Minnesota forward Taylor Matson (VAN), and Maine defenseman Will O’Neill (WPG).

The award annually recognizes the top player in his final year of eligibility that has excelled on the ice, in the classroom and in the community.

The list will be narrowed down to the ten finalists around mid-season. The winner will be announced during the Frozen Four weekend in April in Tampa, FLA.

On the Shelf

Providence College sophomore defenseman Mark "Roo" Adams (BUF) is currently out with a leg injury. He is expected to return to the Friars lineup sometime in November.

Denver sophomore forward Beau Bennett (PIT) is currently out with a right wrist injury. He is listed as week-to-week.

Boston University redshirted freshman forward Yassin Cisse (WPG) has yet to play this season due to a concussion. He is currently listed as week-to-week.

Notre Dame sophomore forward Jeff Costello (OTT) is currently out with an unspecified injury. He is listed as week-to-week.

St. Cloud State junior goaltender Mike Lee (PHO) is out indefinitely due to a lower body injury. Pending an examination, he could potentially be lost for the season.

North Dakota freshman forward Brendan O’Donnell (TB) is out three to six weeks after sustaining a leg injury on October 15th versus Maine.

Boston College sophomore defenseman Patrick Wey (WSH) is out six to eight weeks after suffering a severed tendon in his foot on October 22nd versus Northeastern.