The second half of the NCAA hockey season is underway as teams battle for conference playoff positioning and NCAA Tournament bids. In this month’s NCAA Prospects Notebook, Hockey’s Future looks back at the many excellent performances by NHL prospects during the month of January.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of Jan. 31st.
Wolverines top line red-hot
No line in college hockey was hotter in the month of January than the University of Michigan’s all-prospects top line of freshman Kyle Connor (WPG) and juniors J.T. Compher (COL) and Tyler Motte (CHI). In the Wolverines six games during the month, the trio combined to post a whopping 51 points (24 goals, 27 assists).
Motte led the way with 18 points (10 goals, eight assists). The St. Clair, MI native had multiple points in five of six games in January, highlighted by his first career hat trick in Michigan’s 8-6 win over Ohio State on Jan. 17th. Motte’s 22 goals currently lead the nation.
Finishing behind Motte was Connor with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists). The Shelby Township, MI native also had three multi-goal games during the month. Connor, one of the top candidates for the NCAA Rookie of the Year honor, currently leads the nation with 42 points (20 goals, 22 assists).
Compher rounds out the group with 16 points (six goals, 10 assists). The Northbrook, IL native currently leads Michigan with 27 assists. He also leads the nation with an astounding +29 rating.
What about Jimmy?
Harvard University senior Jimmy Vesey (NSH) continued to make a strong case as one of the favorites for this year’s Hobey Baker Award. The North Reading, MA native amassed 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in the Crimson’s nine January games. It was highlighted by his first career hat trick on Jan. 15th versus St. Lawrence. The consistency that Vesey showed last season has continued this season. Of the Crimson’s 19 games so far, Vesey has been held pointless in only two of them.
WJC returnees come up big in January
Several collegiate prospects returning from the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship simply picked up where they left off and enjoyed an excellent month in January.
White made a triumphant return when he rejoined his Eagles teammates on Jan. 8th versus Providence College. In that game, he posted his first career hat trick and added an assist to lead Boston College to a wild 7-3 win over the defending national champions. Overall, White currently leads the Eagles with 33 points (15 goals, 18 assists) in 23 games. His 33 points also rank second nationally among all rookies.
As impressive as White was for Boston College, Bjork was equally impressive for Notre Dame. The Mequon, WI native was one of the hottest point producers coming into and during the month. Prior to the Fighting Irish’s loss to Boston College on Jan. 29th, Bjork had been riding a 10-game point streak. He was last held off the scoresheet back on Nov. 27th versus Harvard. Overall, Bjork currently leads Notre Dame in both points (26) and goals (10) in 24 games.
Amongst the other WJC returnees enjoying a stellar month were University of North Dakota freshman Brock Boeser (VAN), Boston University freshman Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (BOS) and Michigan sophomore defenseman Zach Werenski (CBJ).
First collegiate goal twice?
A funny thing happened to Ohio State freshman Dakota Joshua (TOR) in the Jan. 15-17 weekend series versus Michigan. He would accomplish a rather unusual feat by the end of the series.
In the thrilling opening game, Joshua posted the game-winner for the Buckeyes in the ninth round of the shootout for his first goal of the season. However, because shootout goals do not count in official NCAA stats, it goes down as his first unofficial collegiate goal. The game officially ended in a 5-5 tie.
In the following game, Joshua would get his first official collegiate goal as well as add an assist in Ohio State’s 8-6 loss. He would go on to post another goal in January – an empty-netter versus Penn State on Jan. 23rd.
Sabres goaltending prospects key to postseason hopes
Buffalo Sabres goaltending prospects Cal Petersen of the University of Notre Dame and RPI redshirted senior Jason Kasdorf are backstopping their respective teams to strong runs for not only conference supremacy but also bids into the NCAA Tournament.
Petersen was one of the nation’s hottest netminders coming into and during January. The Waterloo, IA native went on a torrid run where he guided the Fighting Irish to a 12-game unbeaten streak that ended with a 4-0 loss to Boston College on Jan. 29th. During that streak, Petersen allowed three or more goals just twice. He has played in all of Notre Dame’s 26 games to date. He currently leads the NCAA with 1568:19 minutes played, 725 saves and seven ties.
Although Kasdorf hasn’t seen as much work as Petersen, he has been equally impressive. The Winnipeg, MB native enjoyed a solid junior campaign last season and has simply built on that this season. His current .935 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average are similar to the numbers of his magical first season of 2012-13. Thanks in large part to Kasdorf, the Engineers are positioned to potentially earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011.
Another record for Demko
Boston College junior netminder Thatcher Demko (VAN) continues to make his assault on the Eagles’ goaltending record books. The San Diego, CA native posted his NCAA-leading eighth shutout of the season on Jan. 29th versus Notre Dame. That ties Boston College’s single-season record set by former Eagles standout and current NHL netminder Cory Schneider. With at least nine more games still on tap for Boston College, Demko could potentially surpass that mark before season’s end.
Williamson calls it a career
Penn State junior defenseman Mike Williamson (VAN) has retired.
The Leduc, AB native has had to contend with a myriad of injuries throughout his collegiate career that eventually led to his retirement from hockey. Williamson played in just six games this season. After a promising freshman campaign two seasons ago, Williamson was poised to have an even better sophomore campaign. That all changed as the injury bug would strike, limiting him to just 16 games. Sadly, Williamson’s full potential will never be realized.
Williamson finishes his collegiate career having played in 49 games and posting nine points (three goals, six assists). Although he is no longer playing with the Nittany Lions, Williamson will remain at Penn State to finish his degree.
Hats are for defensemen, too
Motte, Vesey and White weren’t the only prospects to record hat tricks in January. Two defensemen also accomplished the feat.
The first to do it was Boston University senior Matt Grzelcyk (BOS). The Charlestown, MA native recorded his first career hat trick on Jan. 9th versus the University of Massachusetts. He posted a natural hat trick, which included the eventual game-winner, that spanned through the second and third periods. Grzelcyk is the first Terriers defenseman to record a hat trick since 2003.
Later in the month on Jan. 23rd, University of Minnesota junior Michael Brodzinski (SJS) accomplished the feat vs. Wisconsin. This was Brodzinski’s first career hat trick. He also became the first Big Ten defenseman to accomplish the feat since the formation of the conference. Furthermore, Brodzinski’s hat trick is the first by a Golden Gophers defenseman since 2007.
January tournaments roundup
Two non-holiday tournaments took place in January.
The NCAA’s newest member, Arizona State University, played host to college hockey’s newest tournament, the Desert Hockey Classic in Glendale, AZ on Jan. 8-10. Michigan Tech won the inaugural title game over Yale by virtue of a shootout (the game officially ended in a 1-1 tie). The championship game featured a brilliant goaltending duel between Michigan Tech senior Jamie Phillips (WPG) and Yale junior Alex Lyon. After exchanging goals in the third period and nothing being decided in overtime, the game would go to a shootout. In the third round, senior Alex Petan went top shelf on Lyon to give the Huskies the victory. Phillips stopped all three shooters he faced.
The University of Connecticut shutout Arizona State 3-0 in the consolation game. Junior Rob Nichols stopped all 20 shots he faced and freshman Maxim Letunov (ARI) posted an assist in the Huskies win.
The other tournament that took place in January was the third annual North Star College Cup. St. Cloud State University won their first tournament title after edging Minnesota State-Mankato 5-4 in the semi-finals before defeating Bemidji State 5-2 in the title game. Freshman Mikey Eyssimont was named the tournament MVP after a terrific performance where he posted five points (three goals, two assists) for the Huskies.
Minnesota State-Mankato came back and edged Minnesota 3-2 to claim third place. Senior Teddy Blueger (PIT) had a hand in all three Mavericks goals, including the game-winning power play tally. Freshman C.J. Franklin (WPG) also added a goal and an assist in the win.
On and off the shelf
Two thirds of North Dakota’s potent “CBS” line are currently on the shelf. Sophomore Nick Schmaltz (CHI) is sidelined with a lower body injury while senior and top free agent candidate Drake Caggiula is out with a shoulder injury. Their current status is unknown. Adding to the Fighting Hawks woes is freshman Chris Wilkie (FLA), who is currently sidelined with an arm injury. He is expected to be out for at least another two weeks.
Nebraska-Omaha sophomore David Pope (DET) has been sidelined with a concussion. He has begun skating with the team again and is close to returning to the lineup.
Clarkson junior Troy Josephs (PIT) is currently out with an upper body injury and is listed as day-to-day.
Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF