College Prospects Notebook: December 2011

By DJ Powers
Photo: Jaden Schwartz is the sole collegiate athlete representing Canada At the 2012 WJCs. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The final month of the 2011 calendar year featured some impressive performances and fantastic finishes around college hockey. Hockey’s Future takes a look back at the month’s high (and low) lights. Unless otherwise noted, all stats are current as of January 5th, 2012.

College Hockey Well Represented at World Junior Championship

Eighteen current, former, and future collegians are suiting up for their respective countries in this year’s World Junior Championship in Alberta, Canada. The 18 players represent three nations – the United States, Canada and Latvia.

Team USA, led by University of Denver sophomore Jason Zucker and now-former Boston University Terrier Charlie Coyle, have had a disappointing tournament after three consecutive losses, taking them out of medal contention. Zucker and Coyle, both property of the Minnesota Wild, have seven and five points respectively through six games. Bill Arnold (BOS) has been another productive forward, with six points.

While most of the players on the Americans roster have already been drafted, two have not. Defenseman Jacob Trouba, who has committed to the University of Michigan, is one of the top eligible players in the upcoming June Draft. Miami University freshman Austin Czarnik is making a strong case for the Draft in his own right with strong performances not only with Team USA but with the RedHawks as well.

Colorado College sophomore phenom Jaden Schwartz (STL) is serving as Team Canada’s captain this year. Schwartz, the lone collegian on the lethal Canadian squad, has five points (two goals, three assists) thus far. Schwartz’s time with Team Canada last year was short-lived after suffering an ankle injury in the team’s second game. Former Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (DAL), now with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL) is also playing for Team Canada this year.

Rounding out the list of players with NCAA ties are two future collegians representing Latvia in forwards Zemgus Girgensons and Teodors Blugers. Girgensons, another of the top 2012 draft-eligible players, has committed to the University of Vermont. Blugers, who currently plays at Shattuck St. Mary’s, has committed to Minnesota State University-Mankato.

New Year’s holiday tournaments roundup

Six holiday tournaments highlighted the start of the second half of the 2011-12 college hockey season.

Junior defenseman Lee Moffie (SJ) and sophomore center Luke Moffatt (COL) each posted two assists to guide Michigan to their 15th championship crown in the 47th annual Great Lakes Invitational (GLI) at Joe Louis Arena on December 30th. The Wolverines defeated Boston College 4-2 in the GLI semi-final on December 29th before winning the tournament 3-2 in overtime over archrival Michigan State. The Spartans reached the championship game after defeating Michigan Tech 3-1 in their semi-final contest.

Freshman defenseman Kevin Clare, who was named the tournament MVP, posted the game-winner at the 11:44 mark of the extra session for the Wolverines. Michigan senior David Wohlberg (NJ) and Michigan State senior Brett Perlini (ANA) were among those who joined Clare on the All-Tournament team.

Resurging UMass-Lowell started off the second half with a bang, winning the 19th annual Toyota UConn Hockey Classic in Storrs, CT. The River Hawks, who have become one of the best stories coming out of Hockey East this season, thumped RPI 7-2 in their tournament semi-final game on December 29th before needing overtime to defeat host UConn 4-3 on December 30th. The Huskies defeated Atlantic Hockey foe Army 2-0 in their semi-final contest. Senior David Vallorani, who was named the tournament MVP, netted the game-winner for UMass-Lowell at the 13:01 mark of overtime.

Freshman Scott Wilson (PIT) joined Vallorani on the All-Tournament team after posting a pair of goals and adding an assist for the River Hawks. Wilson, who currently leads Hockey East in overall rookie scoring (eight goals, eight assists for 16 points in 16 games), is also making a strong push for this year’s Hockey East Rookie of the Year honor as well.

Further south, Maine took care of business by defeating Clarkson and UMass respectively to win the 12th annual Florida Hockey Classic in Estero, FL. The Black Bears defeated Clarkson 6-1 in their semi-final contest on December 29th before handing UMass a 5-2 loss in the championship game the following night. Senior Spencer Abbott was named the tournament MVP after posting six points (one goal, five assists) to lead Maine. Abbott and linemate Brian Flynn are among the top collegiate free agents that NHL teams will be looking to sign at season’s end.

Clarkson, who finished last in the tournament after losses to Maine and Cornell respectively, played without senior goaltender Paul Karpowich (STL). The Thunder Bay, ONT native missed the tournament due to illness. He had started in all of the Golden Knights’ 20 previous games. Junior Cody Rosen (NYI), who suffered the loss against Maine, made his first appearance in nearly a year. His last outing came in the third period against Union College back on January 8th, 2011.

2010 Frozen Four participant RIT won the 16th annual Catamount Cup up in Burlington, VT after posting wins over ranked CCHA opponents Ferris State in their semi-final match on December 29th, and Lake Superior State in the championship game on December 30th. Junior defenseman Chris Saracino was named the tournament MVP after posting a goal and two assists to lead the Tigers. Host Vermont playing without top goal-scorer Connor Brickley (FLA) finished third in the tournament. Senior defenseman Drew MacKenzie (BUF), one of Vermont’s most consistent players thus far this season, posted a goal and an assist for the Catamounts in the tournament.

Out west, red-hot Northeastern won the 21st annual Mariucci Classic. The Huskies, who are now undefeated in their last eight games (7-0-1) advanced to the championship game after winning the shootout 1-0 in eight rounds versus Princeton on December 30yj. The game, which ended deadlocked at 3-3 after the overtime session, officially goes into the books as a tie. The following night, Northeastern handed host Minnesota a 2-3 loss in the championship game. Sophomore Braden Pimm was named the tournament MVP after posting two goals and an assist for Northeastern. Junior Vinny Saponari (WPG) joined Pimm on the All-tournament team after an impressive tournament performance that saw him net a pair of goals.

Senior Jake Hansen (CBJ) was one of two Golden Gophers named to the All-tournament team. Hansen’s game-winning goal and two assists led Minnesota to a 5-1 win over Niagara in their semi-final game on December 30th.

The most thrilling finish among all the New Year’s tournaments took place at the 33rd annual Ledyard National Bank Classic in Hanover, NH. St. Lawrence won this year’s tournament, winning both of their games in the shootout. In their wild semi-final game on December 30th, both the Saints and their opponent Merrimack finished the overtime session at 6-6. After nine rounds, St. Lawrence advanced to the championship with a 2-1 shootout win. The Saints faced host Dartmouth in the championship game the following night. Once again, the score was tied after the overtime session, this time 2-2. In the shootout, St. Lawrence prevailed with a 3-2 shootout win in the third round. While the Saints did win both games in the shootout, both officially go into the books as ties. Junior Kyle Flanagan, who posted six points in the tournament (three goals, three assists) to lead St. Lawrence, took the tournament’s MVP honor.

After falling to St. Lawrence in the shootout in their semi-final contest, Merrimack bounced back with a strong 3-0 win over Holy Cross to take third place. Senior goaltender Joe Cannata (VAN) improved his record to 10-3-3 and posted his second shutout of the season in the tournament. Junior defenseman Kyle Bigos (EDM) returned to lineup and chipped in two assists for the Warriors.

In addition to the six tournaments, two showcase-type games also took place over the New Year’s weekend.

The first took place on December 30th at Consol Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. Visiting Ohio State defeated host Robert Morris 4-2 in the RMU Hockey Showcase. Sophomore Chris Crane (SJ) chipped in a goal for the Buckeyes. He has posted goals in five of Ohio State’s last six games. Crane currently leads the Buckeyes with 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 19 games thus far.

Providence, RI bragging rights were on the line on New Years Day in the 26th annual Mayor’s Cup. The city’s two D-I teams faced off with Brown emerging with a 5-2 victory over Providence College. Sophomore defenseman Dennis Robertson (TOR) posted his sixth point of the season in the game for the Bears. All of Robertson’s points to date have come on assists. Senior Jack Maclellan, who will be a much sought-after free agent by NHL teams this spring, posted a goal and an assist for Brown. He is currently riding a four-game, goal-scoring streak.

Terriers Lose Two

It wasn’t much of a December to remember for Boston University. While the team finished with a 3-2 record in their five games during the month, the bigger story was losing two of their best players.

The first was the dismissal of leading scorer Corey Trivino (NYI) following his arrest for an off-ice incident midway through the month. The Toronto, ONT native was off to a stellar start for the Terriers prior his dismissal and still leads the team in both points (17) and goals (13).

Several days after losing Trivino, Boston University lost sophomore Charlie Coyle (MIN) to the defending Memorial Cup champion Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL). The Weymouth, MA native will join his new team following his stint with Team USA in the World Junior Championship. Prior to his departure, Coyle appeared in all 16 games for the Terriers this season, posting 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). He also ranked tied for third on the team with a plus-seven.

Who’s Hot

No NHL prospect put up more points in the month of December than Denver junior Drew Shore (FLA). The local product posted 11 points (six goals, five assists) in the Pioneers’ seven games during the month. While he was held pointless in two of the games (both losses), Shore did have three multi-point games during that span. What has been most impressive about Shore is the fact that he’s been a model of consistency as a point producer and a strong leader for the depleted Denver squad. He currently leads the Pioneers in a number of categories, including points (29), assists (17), power play goals (seven) and game-winning goals (five) playing in all 20 games.

Senior Austin Smith (DAL) continued his torrid point production for Colgate in December. The Dallas, TX native racked up ten points (four goals, six assists) in the Raiders’ four games during the month, en route to earning his second consecutive ECAC Player of the Month honor. The most notable aspect about Smith this season has been his consistency and the fact that he has been held pointless in just one game thus far. Coincidentally, it came in the only game that the Raiders were shutout – the 0-2 loss to Yale back on November 5th. He has elevated his play in virtually all areas, which has helped Colgate’s remarkable turnaround this season. Smith currently leads the nation in points (31), goals (19), points per game (1.72) and shorthanded goals (five) playing in all 18 games.

Harvard freshman defenseman Patrick McNally (VAN) came into college hockey this season as a highly touted player and he hasn’t disappointed. December was the Glen Head, NY native’s best month of the season thus far, posting eight points (two goals, six assists) in the Crimson’s four games during the month. McNally, along with junior Danny Biega (CAR), has given Harvard an excellent one-two punch on the blue line this season and nowhere has that been more noticeable than on the Crimson’s excellent power play. Overall, McNally has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) playing in all 12 games to date. His 1.17 points per game currently ranks third in the nation among all defensemen. McNally’s excellent December also earned him the ECAC’s Rookie of the Month honor as well.

After a slow start to begin the 2011-12 season, Northeastern is playing their best hockey right now. One reason can be attributed to the contributions from players such as senior Steve Quailer (MON). The Arvada, COL native has been as hot as his team. In the four Huskies games during December, Quailer has posted six points (two goals, four assists). He is currently riding an eight-game point streak and hasn’t been held pointless since November 11th. During that span, Quailer has posted three multi-point games. He has played in 16 games to date and leads Northeastern in several categories including points (18), assists (11), and power play goals (three).

Who’s Not

After posting points in five of Miami’s eight games in November, freshman Tyler Biggs (TOR) was held pointless in all four of the RedHawks’ games in December. After missing the Denver Cup tournament over the Thanksgiving weekend, Biggs returned to Miami’s lineup. But like much of the team in December, he’s had difficulty finding the back of the net. The last time Biggs posted any points was back on November 18th and 19th in the series versus Bowling Green. One part of Biggs’ game that remained consistent throughout the first half was his physical play. He’s currently second on the team with 37 penalty minutes. To date, Biggs has played in 18 games, posting eight points (three goals, five assists).

It’s been a tough season for RPI thus far, so it should come as no real surprise that some of their top players, including senior defenseman Mike Bergin (DAL), are struggling to get on the score sheet. After posting 13 points in the first half of last season, Bergin has just two assists playing in all 18 games heading into January. His most recent assist came back on November 4th in the team’s 1-4 loss to Clarkson. While the Ottawa, ONT native has played well for the Engineers this season, he hasn’t been nearly as dominant as he was this time last season.

Senior Justin Jokinen (BUF) has appeared in 62 consecutive games thus far for Minnesota State-Mankato dating back to his sophomore campaign two seasons ago. But the Carlton, MN native has struggled in his point production this season. In December, Jokinen posted just one assist for the Mavericks. That came back on December 10th in Minnesota State-Mankato’s 9-1 win over Alabama-Huntsville. His most recent goal came back on November 25th versus Alaska-Anchorage, which was also his only multi-point game to date. Overall, Jokinen has just seven points (two goals, five assists) in 20 games heading into January.

When the 2011-12 season started for Maine, two sophomores were vying for the starting job in goal. Now with the second half of the season already underway, Martin Ouellette (CBJ) has been relegated to the backup role – for now. It’s been a rocky year thus far for the St. Hippolyte, Quebec native. His last (non-exhibition) start came back on November 11th versus UMass-Lowell, where he was pulled after allowing four goals on seven shots. Overall, Ouellette has appeared in seven games, posting a 1-3-0 record. His lone win of the season came back on October 28th versus Providence.

First Times

December saw a number of NHL prospects posting their collegiate career "firsts".

Boston University redshirted freshman Yassin Cisse (WPG) posted his first collegiate goal on December 2nd versus archrival Boston College. That same weekend, St. Cloud State freshman Nick Oliver (NSH) posted his first two collegiate career goals versus Bemidji State.

December 7th versus UMass saw two of Yale’s three NHL prospects achieve "firsts". Sophomore defenseman Gus Young (COL) posted his first collegiate career goal in the contest, while sophomore winger Brad Peltz (OTT) played in his first non-exhibition, career game. On New Year’s Day versus Bentley, Peltz would net his first collegiate career goal.

On December 16th, Colorado College freshman defenseman Peter Stowkewych (WPG) posted his first collegiate career point (an assist) versus Minnesota State-Mankato.

The following night on December 17th, St. Cloud State sophomore defenseman Nick Jensen (DET) posted his first career hat-trick in the Huskies’ 5-1 win over Denver.

Two Harvard freshmen – defenseman Max Everson (TOR) and winger Petr Placek (PHI) each posted their first career point (both assists) on December 31st versus North Dakota.

On the Shelf

Denver sophomore Beau Bennett (PIT) is currently out of the lineup after undergoing wrist surgery. He is expected to return sometime in February.

North Dakota junior Corban Knight (FLA) is currently day-to-day with a leg injury that he suffered on December 9th versus Nebraska-Omaha. Meanwhile, sophomore Derek Rodwell (NJ) is out indefinitely with a broken arm that he suffered on December 30th versus Harvard.

Side Note

On January 1st, the University of North Dakota was forced to drop the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo by the NCAA.