NCAA college prospects notebook for February, 2013

By DJ Powers

Jon Gillies - Providence College

Photo: Providence College goaltender and Calgary Flames prospect Jon Gillies turned in a strong February performance to cement his place as a top freshman goaltender in 2012-13 (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

With the final full month of the 2012-13 regular season drawn to a close and the conference standings slowly coming into focus, February saw many great NHL prospect performances. Hockey’s Future takes a look back at some of those feats, along with other newsworthy items from around college hockey. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Feb. 28.

Gillies sets new record at Providence College

Freshman goaltender Jon Gillies (CGY) etched his name into the Friars' record books on Feb. 13th when he posted his fourth shutout of the season in Providence College’s 1-0 victory over New Hampshire. The shutout set a new, single-season record for that school. Gillies is also the first Friars' freshman netminder to record more than two shutouts in a single season. His four shutouts currently lead all NCAA goaltending prospects and ties him for second nationally in that category.

Depending on how well he plays for the remainder of the season and how long he remains at Providence College, Gillies could potentially break the school’s career shutout record in the future, as well. The career record is seven, which is held by Tyler Sims.

Gillies, who is also making a strong bid for Hockey East Rookie of the Year, recently earned his second conference Rookie of the Month honor after backstopping Providence College to a 3-0-3 record in February. His previous Rookie of the Month honor came back in November.

North Dakota’s “dynamic duo” continues to roll along

Two of the nation’s hottest scorers in February were University of North Dakota senior linemates Corban Knight (FLA) and Danny Kristo (MTL). The duo, which has been on a tear since mid-December, has continued their torrid point production during the month. Kristo and Knight combined for 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in North Dakota’s six games during February. Both players currently lead all collegiate NHL prospects with 43 points apiece.

Hayes out for remainder of season

After helping Boston College to another Beanpot Championship, things went downhill from there for junior Kevin Hayes (CHI). Just days after that tournament, the Dorchester, MA native was suspended indefinitely due to a violation of team rules. Hayes was reinstated and resumed play on Feb. 26 versus UMass Lowell only to be sidelined for the duration of the season due to bruised right quadricep muscles that required surgery.

Hayes finishes the season with 25 points (six goals, 19 assists) in 27 games.

The hits keep coming for the Terriers

After losing sophomore Yasin Cisse (WPG) to the QMJHL in December, Boston University saw yet another prospect leave the program. This time, it was freshman Wes Myron (VAN). The Victoria, BC native left the Terriers program at the end of January to pursue a pro career. He is currently playing with the Vancouver CanucksECHL affiliate, the Kalamazoo Wings. According to head coach Jack Parker, Myron was unhappy with his ice time and thus left the team.

Roughly two weeks later, after the team’s disastrous Beanpot tournament showing, Parker suspended sophomore defenseman Alexx Privitera for the remainder of the season due to on-ice disciplinary issues. Prior to his suspension, the Old Tappan, NJ native played in 23 games, posting 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) and racked up 74 penalty minutes that included a game-disqualification in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame game versus Denver on Dec. 29. Privitera, who is eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, was one of the nation’s best shot-blockers and one of the Terriers’ top defensemen who saw regular ice time playing alongside senior Sean Escobedo. It is unclear if Privitera will return to Boston University’s lineup next season.

Two prospects among finalists for 2012-13 Lowe’s SENIOR Class Award

Harvard defenseman Danny Biega (CAR) and St. Cloud State forward Ben Hanowski (PIT) are among the ten finalists for this year’s Lowe’s SENIOR Class Award. The award recognizes the top senior that has displayed excellence in four areas – community, classroom, character and competition.

The winner will be announced during the Frozen Four weekend on April 11-13 in Pittsburgh, PA.

Five prospects among semi-finalists for 2013 Walter Brown Award

Yale junior Ken Agostino (PIT), Boston College sophomore John Gaudreau (CGY), Providence College freshman Jon Gillies (CGY), Boston University freshman Matt Grzelcyk (BOS) and Harvard freshman Jimmy Vesey (NSH) are among the 16 semi-finalists for the 61st annual Walter Brown Award. The award recognizes the top American-born player playing at a New England college/university.

The finalists and winner will be announced in March prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Samuels-Thomas key in Quinnipiac’s claim of first ECAC regular season title

The Quinnipiac Bobcats laid claim to their first-ever ECAC regular season title on Feb. 15th, despite having their astounding 21-game unbeaten streak snapped at the hands of St. Lawrence with a 2-1 loss. One player that helped the Bobcats accomplish that feat was junior Jordan Samuels-Thomas (WPG). The Windsor, CT native has had a streaky season, but he had his best month of the season in February. Samuels-Thomas, who posted Quinnipiac’s lone goal in the title-clinching game, finished the month with six points (four goals, two assists) in the team’s eight games. His 11 goals co-lead the Bobcats, while his 18 points in 32 games ranks third on the team.

Agostino helps guide Yale to 2012-13 Ivy League Championship

Despite struggling through much of the month, the Yale Bulldogs were able to claim their third Ivy League title in four years after defeating Princeton 4-3 on Feb. 23rd. Among the players that helped propel the Bulldogs was junior Ken Agostino (PIT). Although the Flanders, NJ native didn’t have a hand in Yale’s four goals in the title-clinching game, he has been one of the driving forces behind the Bulldogs’ offense all season. Agostino currently leads Yale with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 27 games to date. He has also been one of Yale’s most consistent point producers this season, having only been held pointless in just nine games.

Penn State ends season with a bang thanks in part to Gardiner

The Nittany Lions’ inaugural D-I season came to an end on Feb. 25th, but what an ending it was. Penn State, who finished with a respectable 13-14-0 record, saved their best victory for last, handing Wisconsin a stunning 3-2 loss in overtime.

One of the reasons behind the Nittany Lions’ success this season can be attributed to the play of sophomore Max Gardiner (STL). The Deephaven, MN native chipped in a pair of assists in Penn State’s season finale and finishes the year with 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) in 27 games. His 19 assists leads the team while his 22 points is third on the team.

Gardiner was a part of the Nittany Lions’ outstanding top line that also featured freshman Casey Bailey and junior Taylor Holstrom. The trio accounted for 34 percent of Penn State’s offense this season and comprised three of the team’s top four scorers.

Next season, Penn State will play as a member of the newly formed Big Ten (Hockey) conference.

Take it outside

The month of February featured three outdoor games involving six of the nation’s top teams.

The first took place at TD Ameritrade Park, home of the D-I College World Series, in Omaha as host Nebraska-Omaha faced off against North Dakota in the Mutual of Omaha “Battles on Ice” on Feb. 9. The game was part of a doubleheader that also featured USHL intrastate rivals, the Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars. North Dakota won their game, 5-2. Junior Mitch MacMillan netted the game-winner at the 10:32 mark of the first period. Corban Knight, Danny Kristo and sophomore defenseman Nick Mattson (CHI) each tallied a goal and an assist in the win for North Dakota. Sophomore Josh Archibald (PIT) continued his hot streak, posting a power-play goal and senior defenseman Bryce Aneloski (OTT) chipped in two assists in the loss for the Mavericks.

The second outdoor event was the Hockey City Classic that took place at Chicago’s Soldier Field in front of an announced crowd of 52,051. The doubleheader featured CCHA powerhouses Miami and Notre Dame squaring off in the early contest. Current WCHA and soon-to-be Big Ten foes Minnesota and Wisconsin faced off in the late game.

The Fighting Irish defeated the RedHawks 2-1 in the early game. Junior Jeff Costello (OTT) netted the game winner at the 8:33 mark of the third period. Freshman Mario Lucia (MIN) posted Notre Dame’s other goal in the victory.

In the late game, the Badgers got out to a commanding three-goal lead before hanging on to edge the Golden Gophers, 3-2. Junior Sean Little posted the game-winner at the 16:22 mark of the second period. Sophomore Brendan Woods (CAR) chipped in two assists and senior defenseman John Ramage (CGY) tallied a goal in Wisconsin’s win. Sophomore Seth Ambroz (CBJ) and junior Zach Budish (NSH) netted the goals for Minnesota in the loss.

Who’s hot

Freshman goaltender Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) has gotten UMass Lowell back into the hunt for the Hockey East regular season title after a stellar February that earned him his first Hockey East Player of the Month honor. After missing the month’s first two games due to injury, Hellebuyck made a triumphant return with a perfect 5-0-0 record in his five starts. In that stretch, he allowed a total of eight goals. Hellebuyck leads the nation with a .957 winning percentage. Overall, he has appeared in 13 games for the River Hawks, posting an 11-1-0 record that includes three shutouts.

Another Winnipeg Jets goaltending prospect that had a stellar February was RPI freshman Jason Kasdorf. The Winnipeg, MB native posted a 7-1-0 record and has put the Engineers in position for a first-round bye in the upcoming ECAC Tournament. Kasdorf opened the month with his first two career shutouts on Feb. 1 versus Harvard and versus Dartmouth the following night. He allowed a total of 12 goals in RPI’s eight games in February. The performance also earned him the ECAC’s Goaltender and Rookie of the Month honors. Overall, Kasdorf sports an 11-3-2 record that includes two shutouts in 18 appearances to date.

Minnesota junior Erik Haula (MIN) has quietly continued to be one of the nation’s most consistent point producers this season. He had yet another strong month in February, posting eight points (four goals, four assists) in the Golden Gophers’ six games during the month. Haula, who finished last season with 49 points, is on pace to eclipse the 50-point plateau this season. The Pori, Finland native leads Minnesota in several categories including points (39), assists (24) and plus-minus (plus-17) playing in 29 games to date.

After struggling to find some consistency for much of the year, Michigan sophomore Phil Di Giuseppe (CAR) finally found his groove and had his best month of the season in February. In the Wolverines’ six games during the month, Di Giuseppe posted nine points (three goals, six assists). Overall, he has posted 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 32 games to date. Di Giuseppe’s 23 points rank third on the Michigan roster.

Between a rash of injuries and struggles on offense, Maine continues to fight for a berth in the upcoming Hockey East tournament. But one bright spot for the Black Bears has been the play of freshman Devin Shore (DAL). The Ajax, ON native had his best month of the season in February, posting nine points (one goal, eight assists) in Maine’s seven games. He also posted at least one point in each game during the month. Shore currently leads the Black Bears with 17 assists and ranks second on the team with 20 points. He is also one of just five players on the Maine roster to play in all 32 games to date.

Who’s not

After leading Ohio State in scoring last season, junior Chris Crane (SJS) has struggled mightily to find that same magic this season. The West Chester, OH native was held pointless for the second month this season. After being held pointless in the month of December, Crane looked to have finally turned the corner only to fall back into a slump in February. His last point (an assist) came back on Jan. 25th versus Lake Superior State. Crane has played in 33 games to date, posting eight points (five goals, three assists). While he has struggled to produce points this season, Crane continues to be a physical force for the Buckeyes, leading the team with 46 penalty minutes.

Michigan State freshman Matt DeBlouw (CGY) got off to a terrific start to his collegiate career, but recently points have been hard to come by. It hasn’t been for a lack of trying, however. DeBlouw was held pointless in the month of February. His last point (a goal) came back on Jan. 19th versus Ferris State. Despite his scoring drought, DeBlouw continues to lead the Spartans in rookie scoring with 16 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 34 games to date.

Senior Scott Winkler (DAL) has been one of Colorado College’s go-to guys for much of the season. But the Asker, Norway native found himself mired in a slump and being held pointless in the month of February. He last made it onto the scoresheet on Jan. 12th versus North Dakota when he tallied a pair of goals. Despite his recent offensive struggles, Winkler is in the midst of his best year of his collegiate career. He has played in all 32 games so far for the Tigers, posting 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists).

Follow DJ Powers on Twitter via @DJPowersHF