NCAA October prospects report

By DJ Powers


The first
month of the NCAA season provided more than a few surprises as early top-ranked
teams were handed stunning losses by lower-seeded teams. In addition, some of
the nation’s top scorers aren’t necessarily household names. Here’s a brief
look back at how the first month went around the league, focusing on some of
the month’s top performing prospects and their teams. All statistics noted are
for all non-exhibition games played through October 31st.


Michigan rebounds


Coming into the start of the season as the preseason
favorites to win it all, the Michigan Wolverines were given a massive wake up
call when they were handed a stunning season-opening loss by Northeastern in
the opening game of the Lefty McFadden Tournament. Since then, the Wolverines
have strung together a 5-2-1 record. The area of greatest concern for the
Wolverines is their struggling power play. They currently rank a dismal 40th
in the nation, scoring only eight goals on 55 tries. One problem Michigan
hasn’t had to worry about is spreading the scoring around. All of their
forwards and four of their defensemen have scored at least one goal thus far
this season.


Many will be keeping eye on junior sensation Al Montoya (NYR) in the coming months
to see if he can break Marty Turco’s school record for career shutouts. The
former Wolverines and current Dallas Stars goaltender holds the school record
with 15. Montoya posted his 11th shutout of his career back on October 29th
in a 1-0 win over conference rival Ferris State.


Hot start for UNO


One team off to an excellent start is Nebraska-Omaha. The
Mavericks’ early success can be attributed to the stellar offensive production
of sophomore Scott Parse (LA).
Parse, a 2004 Draft selection of the Los Angeles Kings, leads the team in
scoring with 11 points (six goals, three assists), he along with freshman Bill
Thomas have been one of the hottest duos from the CCHA thus far. They have
helped propel UNO to lead the CCHA in team offense, averaging 4.33 goals per
game. Parse had his best outing of the month back on the weekend of October 22nd,
where he amassed five points (two goals, three assists) in helping to lead the
Mavericks to a sweep of conference rival Western Michigan.


Miami has top line


The duo of Parse and Thomas are rivaled by another dynamic
duo from their conference in Miami-Ohio sophomores Matt Christie (ANA) and Marty
(LA). The pair played together on the RedHawks top line last season,
now with freshman Nathan Davis replacing the graduated Derek Edwardson as the
third member of Miami’s top line. Christie currently leads the nation in
scoring with 15 points (five goals, ten assists). His stellar outing earned him
the CCHA Player of the Month. He also earned CCHA Offensive Player of the Week
honors after a five-point weekend in helping the RedHawks to a sweep of
conference rival Notre Dame back on October 15th and 16th.
Guerin, who is second on the team in scoring with ten points (five goals, five
assists), earned CCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors after a four-point
weekend to help Miami win the Lefty McFadden Tournament with wins over Boston
University and Northeastern respectively.


St. Lawrence goaltender stellar


While offense has been the story for Nebraska-Omaha and
Miami, goaltending has been the story for St. Lawrence University. Senior Mike McKenna (NSH) has been one of the
main reasons behind the Saints’ early season success. McKenna was named the
ECAC Goaltender of the Week for three consecutive weeks after stopping 55 of 60
shots in the Icebreaker Tournament and wins over Michigan State and Maine
respectively. Perhaps his most memorable game thus far came back on October 22nd
when he posted a 34-save shutout of Hockey East powerhouse Maine.


Rookie Mitchell strong in ECAC


SLU isn’t the only team pulling off upsets of some of the
nation’s top teams. The University of Vermont handed top-ranked
Minnesota-Duluth their first loss of the season back on October 29th
and ended up skating out of Duluth with a win and a tie under their belts.
Vermont freshman Torrey Mitchell (SJ) had a hand in the Catamounts
success over the Bulldogs, notching two assists in the weekend series and in
the process earned the second of his two ECAC Rookie of the Week honors for his
efforts. He earned his first Player of the Week honors after posting his first
collegiate points (a goal and an assist) in Vermont’s 6-0 shutout win over
Sacred Heart back on October 8th.


Another Shark prospect leads team


Another team pulling of some stunning upsets of their own
is Northeastern. After handing top-ranked Michigan a loss in their season
opener in the Lefty McFadden Tournament back on October 8th, they
went on to handed Colgate a loss on October 23rd followed by a tie
with North Dakota on October 30th. Junior Mike Morris (SJ) currently leads the Huskies in scoring with nine
points (four goals, five assists). His most memorable game of the month came
back on October 19th, where he posted three points (two goals, one
assists) in the 7-4 loss to RPI.


Sigalet helps short Bowling Green


One goaltender that has had to shoulder the load,
especially in recent games for his team, is senior Jordan Sigalet (BOS). Sigalet has been outstanding in his four
starts thus far for Bowling Green. He currently has a 3-1-0 record with a 1.75
goals against average, which ranks him tied for ninth in the nation in that
category, along with a .946 save percentage, which ranks him seventh in the
nation in that category. His most impressive outing was in the weekend split
versus conference rival Lake Superior State where he stopped 63 of 68 shots he
faced on a shorthanded Falcons team. Earlier in the day of the Friday (October
29th) game, BGSU had suspended seven players for violation of team
rules stemming from a photograph that was received by a local newspaper. The
players, all upperclassmen, will not be eligible to return until November 12th.


Weller back on ice for Clarkson


With Bowling Green trying to get through their player
situation, Clarkson has finally gotten over theirs. Freshman Shawn Weller (OTT), who was unable to
start the season due to a situation involving his math credits and the NCAA
Clearinghouse, finally got it all straightened out and was able to dress for
the first time in the weekend series versus Niagara back on October 29th.
His impact was immediately felt as he amassed three points (two goals, one
assist) in helping the Golden Knights earn a split versus the Purple Eagles.


Walter scoring for Lowell


Over at UMass-Lowell, junior Ben Walter (BOS) has become the early story for the RiverHawks. He
currently ranks tied for second in the nation in goals with seven. In UML’s
weekend games versus RPI and Union College on October 29th and 30th,
he exploded for five goals, including a four-goal game on October 29th
versus RPI. His performance earned him Hockey East’s Offensive Player of the
Week honors.


BC hit by injuries


The Boston College Eagles are off to a flying start with a
3-1-0 record and head coach Jerry York got his 700th win, only the
third coach in NCAA history to do so. However, their last two games they had to
do without the services of their top two defensemen in Andrew Alberts (BOS) and Peter Harrold. Both are out with injuries.
Alberts, who is nursing a knee injury, is expected to be out for another two to
four weeks. Meanwhile, the Eagles are getting some excellent contributions from
several of their prospects, namely junior Patrick
(OTT) and freshman Cory
(VAN). Eaves, who was named Hockey East Player of the Month,
currently leads the Eagles in scoring with 11 points (three goals, eight
assists) and leads the nation in points per game with 2.75. He had his best
outing thus far back on October 15th when he notched four points
(one goal, three assists) to help lead the Eagles to a 6-2 victory over
reigning national champions Denver. Schneider, a 2004 Draft selection of the
Vancouver Canucks, is a perfect 2-0-0 thus far. He posted his first collegiate
win back on October 19th versus conference rival UMass-Lowell. He
earned his second win back on October 29th versus WCHA powerhouse
North Dakota in a performance that also earned him Hockey East Rookie of the
Week honors.


Zajac and Stafford scoring for the Sioux


Speaking of North Dakota, the Fighting Sioux have had
problems of their own. Offense has been hard to come by this early season. This
time last season, UND had the top offense in the country. They are currently
ranked tied for a surprising 38th in the nation in total team
offense. With play about to begin in the second month of the season, the
Fighting Sioux’s ability to find some more offense just got a little bit more
difficult thanks to a knee injury to sophomore Brady Murray (LA) that will keep him sidelined from two to four
weeks. Murray has amassed only four points (two goals, two assists) thus far.
Two players that will be relied upon heavily to carry the offense are sophomore
Drew Stafford (BUF) and freshman Travis Zajac (NJ). Both have played
together on UND’s top line with Murray. Zajac leads the Fighting Sioux in goals
with six, while Stafford is tied for third on the team in scoring with six
points (two goals, four assists). Zajac had his best outing of the month back
on October 30th, when he notched two goals en route to North
Dakota’s 3-3 tie with Northeastern. Stafford had his best outing of the month
back on October 8th in the weekend sweep over Maine that included
scoring a game-winning goal on a penalty shot. His two-goal weekend performance
also earned him WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.


Earl and Pavelski hot in Wisconsin


While North Dakota has been struggling offensively, that
hasn’t been the case for several of their WCHA counterparts. The Wisconsin
Badgers’ team offense currently ranks second in the nation, scoring an average
of five goals per game. Perhaps the biggest story for the Badgers has been
sensational play of the duo of sophomore Robbie
(TOR) and freshman Joe Pavelski
(SJ). The duo has combined for 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists). They both lead
the team in points with 11 apiece. Earl had perhaps his best outing of the
month in the weekend split versus Denver back on October 29th, where
he amassed four points (one goal, three assists). Pavelski, a 2003 Draft
selection of the San Jose Sharks, also leads the nation in scoring and points
per game (1.83) among rookies. He had his best outing thus far back in the
weekend sweep over Michigan Tech on October 22nd. He had four points
(two goals, two assists) and earned WCHA Rookie of the Week honors as well.
Another sophomore who is off to a red-hot start for the Badgers is backup
goaltender Brian Elliott (OTT). He
is a perfect 2-0-0 and has yet to allow a goal this season. He has posted
shutouts against Mercyhurst and Michigan Tech respectively.


Goligoski leads WCHA defensemen


The Minnesota Golden Gophers, like the Wisconsin Badgers,
are also a relatively young team this season. The Gophers have ten freshmen on
their roster and none have garnered more attention for his early season start
than defenseman Alex Goligoski
(PIT). The offensive defenseman, who has drawn comparisons to former Gophers
defenseman Paul Martin, has been impressive. He currently co-leads the WCHA in
scoring among defensemen with seven points (one goal, six assists). He plays on
Minnesota’s top defensive unit with junior Chris Harrington. Goligoski’s first
collegiate goal came back on October 16th in Minnesota’s stunning
3-2 loss to Alaska-Anchorage in the title game of the Nye Frontier Classic.


Potulny leads nation in goals


After missing nearly all of last season due to injury,
sophomore Ryan Potulny (MIN) is also
off to a scorching start. He currently leads the nation in goals with eight. Of
his eight goals, five have come on the power play, a category that he co-leads
nationally. He had his best outing thus far back on October 9th in
the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game where he notched his first career hat-trick
in helping to lead the Gophers to a 5-2 win over defending national champions


Colorado College strong in goal


One WCHA team who is quietly putting together an excellent
early season start is Colorado College. The Tigers possess arguably the best
goaltending tandem in the nation in senior Curtis
(CGY) and sophomore Matt
(LA). Both have kept the Tigers undefeated. In his two starts,
McElhinney has posted a .945 save percentage, which ranks him eighth in the
nation in that category and a 1.50 goal against average, which ranks him sixth
in the nation. Zaba in his two starts has posted a .902 save percentage and a
2.00 goals against average. While the goaltending duo have been outstanding,
another duo that has been equally, if not more impressive in juniors Brett Sterling (ATL) and Marty Sertich.
The twosome currently leads the Tigers in scoring with ten points apiece as
well rank second in the nation points per game with 2.50. What has been very
impressive about Sterling has been his consistency on the Tigers power play. In
the four Colorado College games thus far, he has scored a power play goal in
every one.


Moulson starts strong for Cornell


Last weekend, the Ivy League schools (Brown, Cornell,
Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton and Yale) officially opened their respective
regular seasons. The most impressive start out of the gate has been the play of
Cornell. In their first two wins over Army and Sacred Heart respectively, the
Big Red outscored their opponents 14-2. Junior Matt Moulson (PIT), who led the Big Red in scoring last season, has
picked up right where he left off. Thus far, he has four points (two goals, two
assists), tying him for the team lead in scoring.


Out of Action


In addition to the aforementioned players Alberts and
Murray, the injury bug has already hit several other players around the league.
Among them is Wisconsin freshman Matt
(ANA), who is expected to be sidelined for the next two to four
weeks with a wrist injury he sustained in Wisconsin’s 5-3 loss to Denver on
October 30th.


Boston University sophomore Kenny Roche (NYR) and Maine sophomore Mike Hamilton (ATL) both will not play in their teams’ respective
November 5th games. Each were assessed game disqualifications. Roche
was assessed a DQ for a hit from behind penalty while Hamilton was assessed a
DQ after spearing Boston University junior defenseman Dan Spang (SJ). Both incidents took place in the October 31st
game between the two teams.


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editorial staff.