U.S. Hockey Report
Todd Grant, a 6'0", 180 lb. RW for the Danville Wings (NAHL), has committed to Miami. Grant, who is the 8th leading scorer in the NAHL (7-12-19 in 13 games), was also offered full rides by St. Cloud State, Clarkson, and Western Michigan.
A native of Indianapolis, Ind., Grant played high school hockey at Park Tudor HS before coming to Danville. He's a smart player who sees the ice very well, and he can set up or finish in equal measure.
Give Him the Game Puck
-- A USHL record came close to being broken on Friday night when Lincoln Stars forward Preston Callander notched eight points (3g,5a) in a 14-3 dismantling of Cedar Rapids. The eight points left Callander, a UNH recruit out of Regina, Sask., one point shy of the league mark of nine, set by Waterloo Black Hawks forward Chris Ferraro in the 1991-92 season. It also lifted Callander into a tie for the league scoring race with Sioux Falls Stampede LW Thomas Vanek.
-- Shattuck-St. Mary's, in their third try at a win against a USHL team this season, beat the Rochester Mustangs by a 6-3 score last week. Shattuck is led by junior Zach Parisé, who has a 27-17-44 in 18 gp; and sophomore Brady Murray, who's the son of Andy Murray, who's coaching out west somewhere. Murray is 9-15-24, also in 18 games. Others Shattuck forwards in the point-per-game range are juniors Jacob Micflikier, Bill McCreary, and Tyler Hirsch; and seniors Chad Mayfield, Marty Mjelli, and Vince Pulera. And how bad is Rochester? Verrrry bad, as in a 1-11-0 league record (and a powerplay that's gone five for 70.) At the current rate, the Mustangs can expect to finish the season with five or six wins. The record for least wins in a season? Zero, zippo, by the 1986-87 Omaha Lancers, who finished their expansion season with a 0-48-0 record and went through three coaches -- Les Gall, Ed Bruneteau, and Rick Fleming -- along the way. It's one of sports dubious achievements, as unlikely to be duplicated as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak or Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game.
-- Former UMass-Lowell assistant Mark Taylor has hired Neil Donovan, the scoring leader at UMass-Lowell in 1996-97, to assist him at Hobart College. Donovan has leadership qualities. He captained Lowell in his senior year and, before that, the Omaha Lancers and Catholic Memorial.
MacNeil Making a Statement
Ex-Cushing Academy goaltender Ryan MacNeil, now in the EJHL with the Exeter SnowDevils, is putting space between himself and the other goalies in the league.
The numbers are impressive. Overall, MacNeil is 11-0-1 with a .964 save percentage and 1.32 gaa. In league play, he's posted a 5-0-1 record, a .962 save percentage, and a 1.23 gaa. He's averaging about 32 shots a game, and looks really comfortable, moving with ease, and playing with a confidence that his teammates seem to be feeding off of.
In a 2-2 tie with the Junior Coyotes on Sunday, MacNeil made a number of big saves, none bigger than a breakaway save in the waning minutes on Coyotes sharpshooter Chris Chaput, a Providence recruit. Chaput wound up just firing it into MacNeil's pads, something Exeter coach Sean Tremblay has seen a lot of. "Ryan holds his ground nicely," he said, adding that MacNeil often lays off the shooter's first move, thus pressuring the shooter into committing first.
The Div. I schools, who were going back and forth on MacNeil last year at Cushing, are watching closely now. Brown was there on Sunday. On Wednesday night, Providence College was in the building, and MacNeil responded by knocking off the Boston Jr. Bruins, up until then the only undefeated team in the league.
Dartmouth and Harvard were interested in MacNeil last season, so don't be surprised to see them step back into the picture, too.
Cushing goalies are in a damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don't situation. Because of the program's strength, they're going to get seen. But, because of the strength of the defense and the inferiority of many opponents (yes, some of the better teams do duck Cushing), they're not going to see a lot of rubber. Last year, MacNeil faced an average of 13.5 shots per game, posting a 1.82 gaa, but an uncharacteristically low .850 save percentage. At times, he looked like his thoughts were elsewhere, which can happen when all the action is at the opposite end of the ice.
Last year, the attitude of Div. I recruiters (and the USHR, for that matter) was of the "We don't know what to think" variety. This is similar to what happened to Joey Exter, a Cushing goalie who graduated in '97. Exter is at Merrimack now, but he had to go all over the map to get there.
Right now, MacNeil, whose physical ability has never been questioned, appears very keyed in. A native of Wayland, Mass., MacNeil is 6'0" and 175 lbs. He's a 4/10/81 birthdate.
Lampman, Hickey Make Their Choices
6'1", 200 lbs. Omaha Lancers left-shot defenseman Bryce Lampman, an '82 birthdate from Rochester, Minn., will be playing next fall for the University of Omaha-Nebraska. Lampman, who has two goals in nine games this season, will be counted on to make an immediate contribution at UNO, where five defensmen will be graduating after this season.
6'0", 205 lb. Gerry Hickey, a forward with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, has committed to UMass-Lowell. Hickey, who is in his second year with the the RoughRiders, has a 3-6-9 line in eight games. Last year, as a rookie out of Xaverian HS in Boston, Hickey posted a 19-13-32 line with 180 pims. Hickey, who's from Hanover, Mass., on the South Shore, is an '80 birthdate.
Tallackson Commits to Gophers
6'4", 194 lb. U.S. National Program RW Barry Tallackson has committed to the University of Minnesota.
On Sunday, Tallackson traveled from Maine, where the Under-18 Team was appearing in the Black Bear Classic at Orono, to Minneapolis. A native of St. Paul, where he played for St. Paul Johnson through his 10th grade year, Tallackson visited the U on Monday and Tuesday.
There had been talk of Tallackson visiting the University of North Dakota, but that never happened. The only school the big winger made an official visit to was Minnesota.
Tallackson, who has size and a bomb of a shot, has an 8-7-15 line and 29 pims in 14 games. He's the team's leading goal scorer and is third (behind Ryan Whitney and Dwight Helminen) in total points.
Tallackson is a 4/14/83 birthdate and would have to opt in to be eligible for the June NHL draft.
Joining Tallackson as freshmen at Minnesota next fall are G Travis Weber, who committed just a week ago; LD Keith Ballard; LC Jake Fleming; and LW Mike Erickson. With the exception of Erickson, they were all teammates last year in Ann Arbor.
The Chicago Chill Midget AAA Autumn Invitational, held over the weekend at the Glacier Arena in Vernon Hills, Ill., was won by... the Chill. The squad, coached by Jim Marchi, who played under Larry Pedrie at Illinois-Chicago, went 2-0-2 in the tournament's round- robin portion, then, in the playoffs, knocked off TI and Compuware.
Top gun for the Chill was '85 forward Mike Brown, who was outstanding all weekend, particularly in crunch time, figuring in all three goals (2g,1a) in a 3-1 semi-final win over Team Illinois. In the title game, he was back at it, notching two goals and an assist as the Chill knocked off Compuware, 4-2. Not surprisingly, the 5'10", 170 lb. Brown was named MVP of the tournament.
Mike Bartlett, the Chill's smooth-skating center, didn't put up the points Brown did, but he's outstanding nonetheless, an elite-level 15 year old. Bartlett, 5'11", 160 lbs., is an '85.
Others who stood out on the Chill include 5'10" D Jeff Likens, an '85 who's been converted from forward; 5'10" '84 F Jordan Friedman; and a trio of '82 forwards in Brett Coburn, Joey Olson, and Brett Adams.
6'0" Chill goaltender Robert Martinez, a late '82, was named the all-tournament goaltender, kicking out 27 of 29 shots in the championship game against Compuware. The Chill's other goaltender, 6'4" Brandon Zickler, was interesting. An early '83, he's generally either hot or cold. On Sunday morning, he was on his game, kicking out 31 of 32 shots in the Chill's win over TI.
-- Compuware went 4-2-0 and, as always, has a lot of good players despite the fact that most of the high- end kids at this age level are up playing with the junior team. One who stood out in Chicago was 6'0", 188 lb. winger Marco Trevino, a big strong '84 who scored a couple of nice goals.
Also outstanding was 6'0", 149 lb. defenseman Patrick McGrath, a late '83 from Ann Arbor who we used to call a sleeper. No longer. In Chicago, McGrath, along with Pittsburgh's Dylan Reese, were the D-men on the all-tournament team, so the word's out.
5'10" Justin Tobe, a 12/27/84 birthdate, was very good in goal for Compuware, as was 5'7" Brad Lukas, also a late '84.
-- Team Illinois went 4-1-0. A player to watch is 6'1", 180 lb. Rylan Burns, an '84 defenseman from Calgary who was selected by Kootenay in the second round of the WHL draft, but wants to play college hockey. Burns has size, poise, outstanding sense, above- average skills -- and he competes. He likes to get into the offensive flow. Has all the tools to dominate by the end of the season. If he has a weakness, it's his feet, which are a little slow.
6'0", 173 lb. Danny Richmond, an '84 defenseman, was also outstanding. Great feet. Great skills. Needs a little work on his decision making.
-- The Joe Gaul-coached Pittsburgh Hornets went 4-0-0 in the round robin, but were knocked off in the semis 1-0 by Compuware. However, 5'9" Brian Bakowski, the Hornets' '85 goaltender, was very good in a losing effort, kicking out 16 of 17.
Pittsburgh's hands-down star is '84 defenseman Dylan Reese, whose name should be familiar to readers of these pages. The 5'11" Reese, who played on the U.S. Select 17 Team that journeyed to the Czech Republic in August, is an excellent offensive d-man with great puck skills. Reese, as mentioned above, was named to the all-tournament team in Chicago.
Also looking very good on D was Chris Wey, who is 6'1", 175 lbs. and on the raw side, but steadily coming into his own.
Up front, 5'10" Adam Fincik, an '84, is an excellent prospect, as is 6'1" winger D.J.Morgele, an '83. Other '83s who contributed up front included Sean Berkstresser and Ken Trombetta.
-- The Alaska All-Stars (1-3-0) had one of the tournament's top prospects in forward Nate Thompson, a late '84 who has speed and skill. Thompson, 5'10", 155 lbs., was on the Select 16 team that went to the Czech Republic in August.
Jeremy Smith, a 5'8" d-man with a Dec. 84 birthdate, keeps getting better. He's smart, plays bigger than his size, and has good puck skills. 5'9" forward Mike Ramirez, an '84, played well. So did Justin Childers, an '84 forward (who can also play D) with excellent puck skills.
-- The Buffalo Saints (3-1-0) are a solid team but no one really stood out in a major way. Late '82 forward Nick Buser, who's 5'8", has speed and skill and took it end-to-end a few times.
-- The Marquette Electricians (0-3-1) struggled. However, forwards Rob Lehtinen, who's 5'11' and an '83; and Mike Dagenais, a 6'0" winger and an '84 birthdate, both stood out. Best defenseman was 6'0" Bobby Selden, an '85, and an excellent prospect.
-- The Madison Capitals (0-3-1) had a couple of prospects in Joe Lewis, a 5'11" forward and an '83; and 5'10" defenseman Kyle Klubertanz, an '85 who can skate and showed good mobility.
-- The Soo Indians (0-3-1) got some great work in net from Derek Smith, a tiny -- he's 5'2" -- reflex goalie who can skate and is just plain fun to watch.
Up front, 5'9" John Stockler, an '83 from Princeton HS in Minnesota had a good weekend. So, too, did Mike Ginop and Josh Bal, both '82s and both former Marquette Electricians.
-- HoneyBaked went 2-1-1. '83 forwards Bryan Dobek and Nick Lang both played very well, as they usually do. Others who stood out up front for HoneyBaked included Brent Cooper, a 6'0, 190 lb. emerging power forward; and 5'11", 140 lb. forward Andrew Miller, a lanky kid with good hands who just takes it to the net. He's the younger brother of Michigan State goaltender Ryan Miller.
On defense we liked 5'10" defenseman Kevin O'Connor, an '84 who was belting someone every time you looked up. O'Connor has a Bryan Marchment-like mean streak. Then there's 5'10" Matt Hunwick, whom we've written of before. Hunwick, an '85, is one of the top 15-year-old d-men in the country.
-- The Rochester (Minn.) Midgets, made up of players drawn from the city's three high schools -- Lourdes, John Marshall, and Mayo -- were a thrown-together short season team and didn't do very well (0-3-1). However, goaltender Jeff Jakaitis, an '83, was outstanding.
Up front, 5'10" '84 forward Kevin Huck, a good skater, opened some eyes with his play, as did Brandon Harrington, a 6'1" '85-born RW from Lourdes who is an average skater but has good hands and sense.
The prize may be on defense, however, in the person of Jake Taylor, a 6'2" '83 who was always up into the play and showed a real physical presence, too. Taylor has some pro potential down the line.
No Bucks, No Pucks
Reliable sources are confirming that the St. Louis Sting (NAHL) has been lax in paying its vendors, to the point where team creditors are calling the league's front office looking for help. And while the league is keeping a close eye on the situation, there is fear the Sting may not make it through the entire season.
This would be another setback for the NAHL, which had to step in and take control of the Grand Rapids franchise (now Lansing, aka Capital Center) last year, and watched the Rochester Junior Americans suspend operations at the end of last season.
The unfortunate situation in St. Louis came to light in September when Sting coach Rick Zombo was ‘fired’ less than 24 hours prior to St. Louis’ opening game: a pre-season tournament affair the Sting were hosting! No one knows the exact truth, because lawyers for both sides have put a gag on their clients, but rumors run anywhere from the team looking to dump a salary, to Zombo’s clashes with new ownership boiling over.
Through the first few weeks of September, St. Louis was run by interim coach Mike Murphy, who was an assistant under Zombo. At the end of September, Leigh Mendelson was hired, saw what a mess things were, and bailed out. Now, St. Louis has a new head coach in John Vivian, the son of Jack Vivian, the former NY Islanders chief scout and co-founder of the CCHA. The younger Vivian, who coached the Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins short-lived entry in the Metro Toronto League a couple of years ago, had returned to college and was coaching a Detroit area pee-wee team when St. Louis signed him to a reported two-year deal last week. Along with with Director of Player Development Kevin Burgherr, Vivian is getting help from former NHLers Jamie Rivers and Mike Zuke. Rivers is helping out until he signs a new NHL contract.
Vivian hopes to bring some stability to the chaos surrounding the Sting. Things had gotten so bad that many players were moved, notably Yan Stastny (son of former NHL great Peter Stastny), who essentially requested a trade, and was dealt to Omaha (USHL) just before the Sept. 30 trading deadline.
However, those who remain are persevering. After getting beat 7-2 at home by the Chicago Freeze, the Sting came back hard the following night, but still lost, bowing 5-3 to Chicago in a close game.
Though currently 2-10-1, the Sting are not totally devoid of talent. Defenseman Mike Grobe, an '80 out of Edina, Minn. who's committed to Yale, is a big, stay-at-home type of d-man. ’82 left-shot D Bernie Chmiel, their leading scorer (5-5-10 in 11 games) is getting some collegiate feelers, as is Ethan Graham, also an '82 and a left-shot D. Cornell is reportedly interested in Graham, who's 6'1", 175 lbs. and played Jr. B for the Columbus (Ohio) Crush last season.
Notes: While the NAHL keeps its eye on the Gateway City, league officials confirmed that a group headed by former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Kevin Constantine has made formal application to bring a NAHL franchise to Pittsburgh, perhaps as early as next year.
On the injury front, Cleveland Barons forward Tommy Goebel, a small -- he's 5'8", 150 lbs. -- quick, nifty forward, broke his leg in an Oct. 14 game at Lansing. It happened in the neutral zone, when an opposing player fell, taking Goebel's legs out from under him. Goebel has had surgery, there's been a pin put in, and he should be 100% again. It will take a while though -- Goebel isn't expected back until at least February 1st.
St. Louis Blues, an Addendum -- While writing of the money problems and rapid turnover of coaches within the St. Louis Sting (NAHL) organization above, we also made a slight mistake, stating -- as does the St. Louis organization -- that forward Yan Stastny, by his own request, had been traded from St. Louis to the Omaha Lancers (USHL). What actually happened was that Stastny was double-listed -- i.e, he was on the protected lists of both the Sting and the Lancers. A player in such a situation can switch teams/leagues provided it's done by September 30. Stastny, sensing perhaps that things in St. Louis weren't looking too promising, opted to make the jump. St. Louis got nothing in return.
Former "interim" coach Mike Murphy got fed up and bailed out of the Sting organization after he tried to pay for the squad's hotel charges on October 8, the day the Sting were eliminated from a playoff berth at the Compuware Classic. The credit card was declined. Two days later, Murphy went to owner Robert Lees and resigned.
Vanek Taking College Route?
16-year-old Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) LW Thomas Vanek, the current USHL scoring leader with a 12-6-18 line in ten games, is reported to be losing interest in major junior and gaining interest in taking the NCAA route to pro hockey. Vanek, a 6'2", 185 lb. early '84 birthdate from Graz, Austria is a decent student who (like numerous Austrians) speaks several languages fluently.
If Vanek, currently an 11th grader, does take the college route, he'll be among the prize catches of the class of 2002. Right now, he's interested in Boston University, which contacted him during the summer month when contact between NCAA schools and foreign-born players is allowed; and the University of Wisconsin.
Vanek is a skilled power forward with size and, obviously, a ton of scoring ability. His coach at Sioux Falls, Bob Motzko, said Vanek is already ahead of where they expected him to be going into the season.
"That's the scary thing," Motzko said. "We're really starting to see what he can become."
UNO Gets Groslie
Chicago Steel (USHL) RW Gus Groslie has committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Groslie, a 5'11", 183 lb. '80 birthdate, played at Moorhead (Minn.) HS a couple of years ago. He then went to the Fargo-Moorhead Ice Sharks the year before the the franchise was shifted to Chicago.
So far this season, Groslie has a 5-3-8 line in six games.
McCormick to St. Cloud St.
LC Brian McCormick of the Victoria Salsa (BCHL), the third leading scorer in the league, has committed to St. Cloud State. McCormick, a 5'11", 180 lb. '80 birthday from Castlegar, B.C., is a pure scorer. However, his lack of speed has caused most top DI programs to overlook him.
On Wednesday, McCormick notched a pair of goals in a 5-3 win over Nanaimo, and has a 15-10-25 line in 14 games this far this season. He trails only Burnaby's Milan Gajic (30 pts.) and Prince George's John Morlang (27 pts.) in the league scoring race.
St. Cloud has already had Gajic in for an official visit. Now, they're looking to set up an official for Todd Grant, a 6'0", 180 lb. RW for the Danville Wings (NAHL). Grant, who's from Indianapolis, Ind., where he played high school hockey at Park Tudor HS, is a smart player -- he sees the ice very well -- and can set up or finish equally well. He leads Danville in scoring.
Ladochi Returned for More Seasoning
Northern Michigan freshman LD Ray Ladochi, in what is described as a "mutual decision" with NMU's coaching staff, has left Northern for the USHL, where he'll sign on with the Sioux Falls Stampede. Northern wants Ladochi, an '82, to get more game experience at the Jr. A level.
Ladochi, a tough-as-nails blueliner from Algonac, Mich., is 5'11", 190 lbs. A year ago he was playing for the Honeybaked Midgets before getting picked up by the Danville Wings, where he played 30 games.
Gophers Get Their Goalie of the Future
U.S. National Program goaltender Travis Weber, who visited the University of Minnesota over the weekend, has committed to the Gophers.
Weber is the second goaltender from the National Program to choose Minnesota, joining Adam Hauser, who's a junior with the Gophers this season. Like Hauser, Weber is also an Iron Ranger, hailing from Hibbing, home of the World's Largest Open Iron Ore Pit, Bob Dylan, and Kevin McHale.
Weber, who's 5'11" and 205 lbs., is an agile, quick goaltender who plays his best in pressure situations. Two seasons ago, he absolutely sparkled at the Minnesota State High School Tournament as a 10th grader. Last year, he was excellent at the World Under-17 Tournament in Timmins, Ontario, making some unbelievable saves that allowed the U.S. to survive a penalty-filled first period and get back into the game against Ontario.
Other schools that Weber considered were Wisconsin and Notre Dame.
Former UVM Star Dies at 44
On the same night the University of Vermont welcomed hockey back to the Gutterson Field House, Randy Koch, a star for the Cats from '74-78, died at a nearby hospital.
Koch, who was in great physical shape, had been hospitalized at Burlington's Fletcher Allen Medical Center after an angioplasty two days earlier, on Thursday. The exact cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy.
Koch, 44, a hard-nosed, swift-skating LW and natural scorer is currently fifth among Vermont's all-time scoring leaders (73-93-166 and 178 pim in 129 games). After his freshman season, Koch was drafted by the N.Y. Rangers in the 6th round of the NHL draft.
Koch, who was brought up in New Jersey and attended the Lawrenceville School before the family moved to Boston and Randy transferred to Andover, is the younger brother of Bill Koch, who was also an excellent player at UVM, and uncle to Geoff Koch, senior LW at the University of Michigan.
One of Randy's three children, Colin Koch, a forward, is a prep player at the St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.
USHL Four Nations Roster Announced
Here's the USHL Select Team roster for the 2000 Four Nations Tournament, to be held in Fussen, Germany November 10-12.
The other three nations competing are Norway, Germany, and Switzerland.
Every USHL team is represented on the roster. Sioux Falls, Omaha, Lincoln, and Des Moines each will be sending the maximum of three players; Green Bay and Waterloo will send two apiece, and the remaining six teams will each send one.
Conspicuous by his absence is defenseman Keith Ballard of the Omaha Lancers. Ballard won't be able to go because he's missed a lot of school this fall, as the Lancers have played nine road games thus far, on top of which Ballard took back-to-back college visits. In addition, Ballard is a candidate for the U.S. World Junior Team, so he has to be protected now from falling behind.
Imports are ineligible, so players like Sioux Falls wing Thomas Vanek (Graz, Austria) and Omaha center Riley Riddell (Camrose, Alberta) are unable to take part.
The team was selected by the two coaches, Des Moines' Tom Carroll and Waterloo's Scott Koberinski, who took nominations from the league's teams (except, of course, their own) before making their final decision.
The team will depart from Chicago on November 6, play an exhibition game in Berlin on November 8, and afterward head to Fussen for the three-day tournament. The team will return to the United States on Mon. November 13.
USHL Select Team/Four Nations Tournament Roster
Goaltenders: Daniel Weinreib (Eggertsville, NY -- Dubuque); Michael Mantua (Northville, Mich. -- Des Moines).
Defensemen: Chris Harrington (St. Cloud, Minn. -- Omaha); Jason Krischuk (Anchorage, Alaska -- Omaha); Tim Judy (Bowie, Maryland -- Sioux City); Andy Schneider (Grand Forks, ND -- Lincoln); Matt Jones (Naperville, Ill. -- Green Bay); Brett MacKinnon (Wayzata, Minn. -- Cedar Rapids); Nick Fuher (Grand Forks, ND -- Lincoln).
Forwards: J.B. Bittner (Pittsburgh, PA -- Sioux Falls); Chris Fournier (Anchorage, Alaska -- Lincoln); Chad LaRose (Fraser, Mich. -- Sioux Falls); Dave Iannazzo (Maple Grove, Minn. -- Sioux Falls); Alan Swanson (Marquette, Mich. -- Green Bay); Gus Groslie (Moorhead, Minn. -- Chicago); Doug Meyer (Bloomington, Minn. -- Des Moines); Luke Fulghum (Colorado Springs, CO - Waterloo); Brian Canady (Kenai, Alaska -- Waterloo); Wade Chiodo (Thief River Falls, Minn. -- Des Moines); Chase Watson (Media, PA -- Rochester); Jake Fleming (Maple Grove, Minn. -- Omaha); Brad Thompson (St. Louis Park, Minn. -- Tri-City)
Alternates in case of injury before departure: G Bill Zaniboni (Plymouth, Mass. -- Tri-City); D Andrew Alberts (Eden Prairie, Minn. -- Waterloo); Josh Anderson (Fergus Falls, Minn. -- Chicago); Scott Polaski (Colorado Springs, CO -- Sioux City); Andy Contois (Marquette, Mich. -- Green Bay).
Coaches: Tom Carroll (Des Moines), and Scott Koberinski (Waterloo).
Four Nations Tournament Game Schedule:11/8/00 vs. EHC Eisbaren (exhibition game); 11/10/00 vs. Germany; 11/11/00 vs. Switzerland; 11/12/00 vs. Norway
Quinnipiac Making a Mark in the BCHL
Quinnipiac, favored to win the MAAC and the auto-berth that goes with it, is working British Columbia hard, and it's paying off. Several recruiters who've spent a lot of time covering the BCHL feel that defenseman Chris Chandler, who recently committed to Quinnipiac, is one of the top three defenseman in the league.
Of the BCHL d-men, Duncan Keith, the '83 with Penticton, is still the #1 prospect -- and NCAA powerhouses are falling all over themselves to get him on board. However, after Keith -- and there's a big gap -- the names most often mentioned are Tyson Teplitsky and Chandler. Teplitsky, an '82 from Saskatoon playing for Nanaimo, reportedly has a full from Lake State, an official visit to UNH, and interest from, among others, North Dakota (depth, brother). Teplitsky is smart, moves the puck well, and can run a powerplay. Chandler, an '82 whom a few recruiters like as much as, if not more, than Teplitsky, played midgets last year and is still adjusting to Tier II.
Quinnipiac's second significant recruit out of the BCHL is goaltender Jamie Holden of the Merritt Centennials. The Centennials are weak so Holden doesn't have the numbers he had last year, when he had a strong team in front of him. Holden also had a lot of colleges watching him early, among them Princeton, CC, St. Lawrence, and Dartmouth.
The BCHL goaltender putting up the big numbers right now is Dave Leneveu, an '83 at Nanaimo, who's posting a league-leading 1.74 gaa, and .937 save percentage. Others highly regarded include Jordan Sigalet, an '81 from Victoria who's just been offered by Bowling Green; Dan Yancey, an '82 for Penticton, Trevor Clay, an '83 with Trail, and John DeCaro, a late '82 with Langley. DeCaro is an American, from Marysville, Washington.
Last, but by no means least, is Ryan Cyr, an '84 with Chilliwack. Cyr, who's drawing raves, is in a different category, as he may go major junior with Seattle.
As long as we're on the subject of Chilliwack (and '84 birthdates), let's move on to the forwards and mention that the Chiefs have a couple of the BCHL's most valued prospects for next year's recruiting class in centers Jeff Tambellini and Gabe Gauthier. Right now, those two, both highly skilled '84s, look to be the best of the current 11th graders. Gauthier, who played a year at the Berkshire School (Mass.) before heading to the BCHL, is a native of Buena Park, California a stone's throw from Disneyland. He was a first-round pick (12th overall) of Saskatoon in last spring's WHL Bantam Draft.
Finally, the 12th grade forwards. Right now, the #1 guy is UNH recruit Justin Aikens, an '82 LC from Langley who committed to UNH last spring. Others include Pentiction C Matt Amado, an '83 who committed to Notre Dame over the summer; league-leading scorer Milan Gajic, an '81 LC from Burnaby who's visited St. Cloud and UNO, and has a number of other schools moving in; Quinnipiac recruit Chris Tarr, an '80 from Nanaimo who's tied for 7th in league scoring; Matt Ellison, an '83 with Cowichan Valley; Brandon Bernakevitch of Surrey; Ryan MacMurchy, an '83 RC from Vernon who just visited Wisconsin; Rory McMahon, an '82 RW from from Penticton; and Chad Clover, an '82 LC from Vernon.
A Freshman Sits and Watches
Last Thursday, one day before the Maine Black Bears took to the Alfond Arena ice for their season opener vs. North Dakota, top freshman Colin Shields was declared ineligible.
Here's what happened. Shields, who's from Glasgow, Scotland, where his dad coaches in the Scottish league, took a full load of courses at a Cleveland-area community college last year. He wasn't taking those courses to become academically eligible for college, but, rather, because immigration laws require foreigners in the U.S. on student visas to take a full load of courses or go home.
By taking the full load, Shields' classification under NCAA rules changed to transfer student. The NCAA requires students to have 12 hours of transferable -- that's the operative word here -- credits in order to play. Shields didn't have that, thus he's ineligible as a transfer.
The situation was reportedly discovered by Maine's compliance officers last week while doing a last-minute review.
It appears that Shields is the innocent here, the foreigner who's stepped into the byzantine world of the NCAA. The Maine staff never asked Shields if he was taking a full load of juco courses, and Shields never volunteered the info, though it was there in the transcript the compliance officers looked at last week.
Assistant coach Gene Reilly, who's running the bench while Shawn Walsh is in California getting treatment, described the Shields situation as "weird and unique," adding that Maine has had its share of foreigners but had never come up against this kind of a situation.
At any rate, Maine is appealing the case to the NCAA. The Black Bears, for whom Shields would have been on the top line as well as top power play unit, need a pure scorer, and Shields fits the bill. Last season, he posted a 46-49-95 line with the Cleveland Barons (NAHL) and led the league in scoring by an 11-point margin over teammate Jimmy Slater.
Shields can practice with the Black Bears and retain his scholarship, too. Lurking on the horizon is the Philadelphia Flyers, who in June selected Shields, a 1/27/80 birthday, in the sixth round of the NHL draft. However, Shields can not play major junior because he wasn't selected in the CHL Import Draft -- and the Flyers are unlikely to give money to a sixth-round pick who has yet to prove himself at college.
... Make That Two
Michigan Tech worked until the last moment in an attempt to get winger Bryan Perez academically eligible, but when the season began Friday night against Wisconsin, Perez was sitting and watching.
Perez, a 6'1", 192 lb. banging winger from Blaine, Minn. played for the last two years for the U.S. National Program. Unlike Shields, Perez' situation is pretty simple. He's a partial qualifier, which means he can stay in school, receive aid, practice with the team, and step in next year as a sophomore.
His other options are to go major junior or to the USHL, where Sioux Falls owns his rights.
This is a tough hit for the Huskies, for whom Perez would have stepped in and played on the top two lines. Of course, they knew there was a good chance that the winger might not get eligible, but also realized it was a nothing ventured/nothing gained proposition. Last month, Michigan Tech went through the same trouble trying to get forward John Snowden, Perez' former teammate, eligible. It didn't work, and Snowden left to play for the Lincoln Stars (USHL).
Conboy, Pohl Head South
Minnesota-Duluth sophomore D John Conboy, who played 27 games last season; and wing Mark Pohl, a redshirt last year, have been told they're not in the Bulldogs' plans for this season.
The Tri-City Storm (USHL) have signed them, and both players will be in uniform when Tri-City plays at Sioux City tonight.
Mark Strobel, Tri-City coach Jim Hillman's former assistant with the Twin Cities Vulcans, is now an assistant under Scott Sandelin at UMD, so there's a connection there.
In his 27 games last season, Conboy, a raw, strong type who can skate it end to end, was 0-2-2. The year before, at Silver Bay HS -- that's north of Duluth -- he captained the Mariners to their first-ever appearance at the Minnesota State High School Tournament (Class A), posting a 19-23-42 line in 27 games.
Pohl, the younger brother of Minnesota junior John Pohl, had 91 points (47g,44a) during his senior season at Red Wing HS.
Note: In other USHL news, White Bear Lake HS defenseman Tim Hambly has signed on with the Waterloo Black Hawks for the ten games allowed before joining his high school team in November.
Recruiters Zero in on NTDP Top Guns
With Omaha Lancers defenseman Keith Ballard having decided on Minnesota over North Dakota, the number of top U.S. recruits for the fall of 2001 is dwindling to a precious few.
The top remaining guys -- all '83s -- are in the U.S. National Team Development Program (as was Ballard last season).
6'4", 192 lb. RW Barry Tallackson is a Minnesota native -- he played for St. Paul Johnson before joining the NTDP -- and most observers thought it was a slam-dunk that he'd wind up with the Gophers. Recently, however, North Dakota has moved into the picture, so another Gopher-Sioux recruiting battle is shaping up. Tallackson will visit Minnesota next week, and North Dakota is working to set up Tallackson's visit there. St. Cloud State is also talking, trying to squeeze into the picture.
6'4", 202 lb. LW Jason Ryznar, who's an Anchorage, Alaska native, has five schools on his list: Boston College, Maine, Michigan, Michigan State, and Minnesota. He visited Michigan State last week, right after his team upset the Spartans in an exhibition game. He'll visit Maine when the Under-18 Team arrives in Orono Oct. 20-21 for the Black Bear Classic, and BC immediately after. A potential first-round draft pick if he were to opt in.
5'9", 165 lb. RW Dave Spina has a list of Notre Dame, Boston University, and Denver. Right now, Notre Dame is working him hard. Right after the Black Bear Classic, he'll visit BU. Denver has a geographical advantage, as Spina is from Mesa, Arizona.
5'11" goaltender Travis Weber, an Iron Ranger from Hibbing, Minn., has three schools he's considering: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Notre Dame. He visited Wisconsin last week, and is at Minnesota this week.
Note: Of the schools listed above, Minnesota is recruiting three National Program players (Ryznar, Tallackson, Weber); Notre Dame is right there with two (Spina, Weber), and the remaining nine schools one apiece.
Hennessey Shines at Midget Buc Bowl
The following is all based on one day's viewing (Fri. 10/6), but it didn't take half that long to establish that Josh Hennessey, a 15-year-old forward from the Walpole Stars and Milton Academy, was the best prospect at last weekend's Midget Buc Bowl, hosted by the Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) and head coach/g.m. Tom Carroll.
Hennessey, who we had rated as the #1 forward at the Select 15 Festival in August, did nothing to hurt that ranking. Here, he pulled a double as he was both the best prospect in the tournament and the best player on the ice, regardless of age. Hennessey, a 5'11" left-shot center, is a strong, skilled player who can break through checks, set teammates up, and finish. He was a real workhorse here, as the Stars, coached by Fred Lane, skated only two lines.
Also looking good was Joe Cappellano, Walpole's 5'9", 170 lb. RD. Cappellano, who's from S. Boston, Mass., showed strength, speed, and hands. He had a couple of nice offensive rushes.
The Pike's Peak Miners had a couple of defensemen who stood out. One, Kieran O'Connor, is a 6'2", 180 lb. '82 who's tall. lanky, and mobile. He's not overly physical, but he has a good feel for the game, and moves the puck well. The other, Michael Findorff, is 6'4", 175 lbs, but only an '84, and a bit raw. He's a project who has good tools. Moved puck well on the breakout.
A standout on the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers was 6'2", 175 lb. center Brandon Jackmuff, an '84 with good straight-ahead speed and a willingness to mix it up. He plays with a short stick, which hampers him.
Also noticeable on the Flyers was forward Matt Weindel, a skilled '83 forward from Westchester, Pa.; and Jim Gehring, also an '83 forward.
Team Ohio had some nice players. Defenseman Zack Roberts, a 6'3", 220 lb. '83 from Monroeville, Ohio played well. So, too, did Chris Colvin, a 6'1", 190 lb. '84 D from Brunswick Hills, Ohio.
Up front, John Dengel, a 6'0", 196 lb. '84 from Shaker Heights was quite noticeable, as was 5'9", 160 lb. Jerrod Kuhn, an '83 right-shot center with speed, skill, and a lot of jump.
Compuware, coached by John Kissel, went 4-1 and won the whole tournament. 6'2", 213 lb. winger David Rohlff, an '84, played well. So, too, did 5'10", 161 lb. LW Sean Nappo, an '83 with a quick release and a heavy shot; and 6'0', 188 lb. winger Marco Trevino, an '84.
On D, 5'9", 143 lb. Chase Podsiad looked good. He's an '84 with very good mobility who can break it out with a nice pass or skate it out.
In net, Justin Tobe, a 5'11" late '84 from Northville, Mich., was sharp.
The Madison Capitals had a couple of players, like 5'10", 155 lb. RD Kyle Klubertanz, who's from Sun Prairie, Wisc. (sounds plenty bucolic, doesn't it?) Klubertanz skates well, is mobile and has a tendency to use a pokecheck rather than hit. However, he's only an '85. Definitely worth following.
'83 forward Patrick Gilles, who's 6'0", 175 lbs., also played well.
Dallas Metro featured the Ludwig twins -- Tyler, a forward, and Trevor, a defenseman. Both brothers are 5'10" and '85 birthdates from Colleyville, Texas. Tyler Ludwig, the forward, is perhaps the better prospect of the two. He's a good all-around player: an OK skater with good hands and a good sense of the game. Trevor, a defenseman, is a little thicker. While neither twin has any one outstanding physical trait, they know what they are doing and could develop nicely. Bear in mind that they're only '85s -- and from Texas.
Another Dallas player who impressed was 5'11", 170 lb. center Geoff Smith, a quick, skilled '83 from Irving, Texas.
The Chicago Young Americans featured Andrew Goberstein, a 5'9" RW who has strength, skill, quickness, and is a smooth skater, too. Goberstein is a bit of a perimeter player, but the skill is definitely there. He's only an '85.
Others looking good for CYA were forwards Justin Barr, Adam Fingerhut, and Brandon Fenninger; and defenseman Anthony DiSilvestro.
St. Louis had one player that stood out, RD Jeff Dunne, a 5'10", 160 lb. '85 who can skate.
There were six additional teams at the tournament. Some we were unable to see because of time constraints; some had no noteworthy players.
Count Chocula is Better
Last weekend, the Atlantic District Select 15 Team, coached by John Riley and featuring players such as forwards Steven Mandes and Ryan Collis, defensemen Thomas Maldonado and J.D. McCabe, and goaltender Zane Kalemba, journeyed up to Lake Placid, NY to play a pair of scrimmages with the U.S. National Women's Team (i.e., the next U.S. Women's Olympic Team).
For the women, it was their first scrimmage after arriving in camp days earlier after a brief holdout that revolved primarily around the question of licensing fees.
Anyway, the two teams split the games, the women winning the first, 2-0; and the boys the second, 8-2.
In the first game, Riley said, the women's squad, coached, as last time, by Ben Smith, was crisp, moved the puck well, and better utilized the big surface. They were also savvy when it came to clogging up the lanes, and excellent stick-on-stick.
The boys, on the other hand, were a little tentative, not really understanding how to play without body contact. By Sunday, however, they figured it out and Mandes, with two goals, led the Atlantic 15's to victory.
Olympic hopefuls drawing raves included the new kid on the block, 17-year-old forward Natalie Darwitz, a high schooler from Eagan, Minn. who has great hands, skating ability, and vision. In other words, she has it all.
Another newcomer, Minnesota's Krissy Wendell, the younger sister of the men's Erik Wendell, was also excellent.
Of the three goaltenders the boys faced, Brown '00 graduate Ali Brewer stood out the most.
Returnees who jumped out at the boys were familiar names, like Harvard defenseman Angela Ruggiero, who was still at prep school (Choate) when she won her gold medal in 1998; former Harvard forward A.J. Mleczko, and 29-year-old veteran Cammi Granato.
When the scrimmages were all over, Mandes, his team's top forward, pulled out a Wheaties box from '98 that featured the U.S. Women's Olympic team, and asked them to sign it for him, which they did, of course.
Retribution, but not Divine
At the University of Michigan's Icebreaker Cup, while Colgate and host Michigan were preparing for overtime play on the tournament's first night, some of those on hand were thinking back to what happened last March 25th in the NCAA Regionals when the two schools entered OT tied at 2-2, only to have Colgate go down to defeat on an extremely unfortunate call.
For those in Bora Bora on that night, the Red Raiders, at about the four minute mark of overtime, had possession of the puck along the wall by the hash marks, from there working it down low to where center Mike O'Malley slipped the puck past Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn. As the Colgate players celebrated, referee Jim Fitzgerald, who said he'd lost sight of the puck (he was out of position to make the call in the first place), was waving off the goal. Colgate coach Don Vaughan immediately jumped up onto the dasher asking -- with urgency -- that Fitzgerald call up to the video judge to have the play reviewed.
It didn't happen. Fitzgerald refused, claiming that the play had been whistled dead and therefore there was no need to revisit the matter (leaving aside the fact that the NCAA had gone to the trouble of installing $10,000 worth of video equipment in the building just for moments such as this). The supervisor of officials, who can only review a play when specifically asked by the on-ice officials, could just sit and twiddle his thumbs.
At any rate, just about everyone in the building who had a good look -- scouts, reporters, and fans -- said that if the play had gone upstairs for review, Colgate would have won it all right there. They didn't, of course, and a little over eight minutes later, Michigan's Geoff Koch deflected a Mike Comrie shot to win it for the Wolverines.
So were the events of Saturday night, when Colgate goalie Jason Lefevre kicked out 30 shots and came out on the top in the shootout, divine retribution? Not quite, as losing an NCAA playoff game can never be equated with losing a regular season game (which went into the books as a tie, anyway).
Afterward, Michigan forward Josh Langfeld, who scored both of Michigan's goals, was telling a reporter that Lefevre's taking advantage of the bad ice conditions by pushing snow in front of the crease "didn't show a lot of class."
Langfeld should muzzle himself. After all, Michigan won the big one last spring. This time around, it wasn't Lefevre's snow piles that defeated Michigan. It was the Wolverine power play -- particularly the forwards stationed down low -- which fizzled drastically, going 1-for-12. Michigan also entered OT with a 5-on-3 followed by a good run of 5-on-4 and still failed to come up with anything.
But enough editorializing for now.
However, before leaving the Wolverines, we should mention that the play of 6'4", 225 lb. freshman defenseman Michael Komisarek was outstanding. Komisarek, ex of Suffolk PAL, the New England Junior Coyotes, and the US National Program, has come a long way in the past year. He's trimmed down, and is skating like never before. His passes were hard and tape to tape, and he put at least three good shots on Lefevre. He also took the puck off a Colgate forward on a 1-on-1 and quickly turned the play back up ice. A 1/19/82 birthdate, Komisarek is a virtual no-brainer as a first-round NHL draft choice. The question is, how high will he go?
Teammate Mike Cammalleri, a 5'9" sophomore center and also an '82, will get drafted, too, though not in the first round. He's too small. However, for pure skill, he's hard to beat. There are not many players who, playing the point on the power play, can consistently zip the puck through traffic, right onto the sticks of forwards moving around down low. Great hands, great vision, and a fun player to watch.
In the early game, North Dakota's 5'10", 160 lb. senior Jeff Panzer, a Grand Forks native who played for the Fargo-Moorhead Ice Sharks, showed skill, drive, and his usual tremendous passing ability. Panzer is an NHL free agent prospect come March, maybe April.
However, a key free agent prospect should be UNH senior goaltender Ty Conklin. On Friday night, Conklin, who also led the Green Bay Gamblers to two straight National Championships in the mid-nineties, allowed but two goals-- one fluky, one on the powerplay -- and kicked out 34 shots plus another seven in the shootout. Not too shabby.
One who has been drafted is UNH sophomore Colin Hemingway, a 6'1" St. Louis Blues draft pick, had eight points in 22 games last season, and should triple that this year. A high-skill player, he can skate, can snipe, and should be able to put up Darren Haydar-like numbers this season.
Good Get for Tech
Charlie Cook, a 6'0", 185 lb. RD with the Soo Indians (NAHL) committed to Michigan Tech last night.
Cook, who stood out at the Compuware Tournament where Tech coach Tim Watters was in attendance, is a good get for the school, an up-tempo D man who can skate. Cook adds an offensive dimension, too. In Friday's game, he showed off his shot, roofing one off a draw.
Cook, who also had interest from Cornell and Maine, will be able to step in right away and contribute up in Houghton.
For a Michigan kid, Cook is a bit of an anomoly, having played high school hockey in his hometown of Port Huron, Michigan (that's right across the St. Clair River from the bright lights of Sarnia, Ont.) before moving to the UP and playing for the Indians, coached by former Lake Superior State goaltender Joe Shawhan.
A Big Forward for the RedHawks
A.J. Greco, a 6'2", 190 lb. RC/W with the St. Mike's Buzzers (OPJHL) has committed to Miami University. A 3/7/83 birthdate, Greco is a big, strong winger with pro potential. A native of Williamsville, NY, Greco played for the Buffalo Selects Midgets before heading to Ontario a couple of seasons ago. Cornell, Bowling Green, Michigan, St. Lawrence, and Merrimack were among the other schools reported to have shown interest in him.
PC Lands Top Sask League Forward
Derek Allan, a 6'1", 185 lb. RW with the Nipawin Hawks (SJHL), has committed to Providence College. Allan, who last winter averaged nearly a point a game and was named to the Sask League's all-rookie team, has, in seven games this year, a 7-6-13 line. Allan, who has great hands, is a sniper, someone who can bury it for the Friars, who see him stepping in as a freshman next fall and being among the top nine forwards. He's an 11/3/81 birthdate.
Krischuk to CC
Omaha Lancers 5'10", 175 lb. LD Jason Krischuk has committed to Colorado College. Krischuk, who's in his second year with the Lancers after coming from the Alaska All-Stars Midget program, is an offensive defenseman who can skate it end-to-end and put up points. Last year, Krischuk had 18 points in 58 games. This year, he has a 1-5-6 line in Omaha's first five games. Krischuk is an '80 birthdate. CC was interested in Krischuk last year, so this commitment may have been a bit of a fait accompli.
Sioux City Musketeer Tim Judy, a 5'10", 170 lb. RD, has committed to Northeastern University. Judy, a native of Bowie, Maryland who played in the Washington Little Caps organization before going to Sioux City in the fall of 1998, is a 1/14/81 birthdate. He's smart, poised, and brings some offense, too, posting a 1-4-5 line in seven games for a team that doesn't exactly light it up.
Another Sioux City Musketeer, RC Brian Kerr, has committed to Union College. Kerr, a 5'11", 180 lb. native of Kirkland, Quebec is a USHL rookie and an '80 birthdate. He's been out of commission with an appendectomy until this past weekend, when he scored a powerplay goal in his second game back, a 4-3 shootout win over Des Moines.
Moving to the EJHL, we have a commitment from RC Derek Damon of the Exeter Snow Devils, who'll be going to the University of Maine. Damon, who may have to sit a year because of academic reasons, is a Maine native -- he's from Bangor and played at St. Dom's -- so he won't cost the Black Bears a scholarship. Last season, Damon led the Snow Devils with a 25-46-71 line in 59 games played.
NAHL Dominates at Compuware
As this is being typed, the Compuware Tournament is going into playoff action. In one semi, the Texas Tornado will be facing Compuware, while in the other the Chicago Freeze will be facing the Lansing Pride.
The tournament, which featured 20 teams -- all nine NAHL teams (with the exception of the U.S. Under-17 Team), and 11 outside teams -- is a rather bloated affair. Some might say it is an embarrassment of riches -- 20 teams! One building! One weekend! -- but, unfortunately, most of the teams were not ready for the bright lights of Plymouth, Michigan. Get this: in games between NAHL teams and outside teams, the NAHL went 19-0-0 and ran up double-figure scores in at least half a dozen of those contests. In other words, the only time an NAHL team lost came when facing another NAHL team. The Compuware Tournament would be better served if it followed the Buc Bowl format and limited entries to the nine league teams plus one outside Jr. A team.
Anyway, some random thoughts on some of the players. Let's start with Todd Watson's Compuware Ambassadors. Up front, 5'10" RC Danny Knapp, an '83, was lighting it up, while LC Steve Brudzewski was working his tail off. LW Josh Sciba, only an '85, didn't look out of place at all.
Their best D was also an '85, 6'1", 184 lb. Frank Rediker. Like Sciba, Rediker is very skilled, with a ton of high-end potential.
We didn't get to see Danville too much -- but 5'10" LC Jason Tejchma, an '83 -- looks much more comfortable than he did at the Buc Bowl. Of course, it helped that he had two top wingers in Todd Grant and Adam Wallace. Tejchma could easily be coach Josh Mervis's top forward next year. '82 LW R.A. Mobile, a big Illinois kid who made the mistake of going major junior with the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) is with Danville, too. Mobile, who'll lose a year of college eligibility, has been with the Wings for a little over a week.
Texas can flat out light it up. 5'7" LC Jason Guerriero, is leading the league in scoring. 5'11" LW Rich Hansen isn't far behind. Same goes for 6'0" LW Kyle Foddrill and 5'10" LC Jason Deitsch.
Springfield's top two players are 6'4" '83-born goaltender Mike McKenna, and RD Matt York, a 6'1" '80 from Michigan who leads the team's offense from the blue line. York should be able to play Div. I next season. 6'1" LW Steve Krisfalusi also looked strong.
St. Louis, a team in total chaos off the ice -- they have gone through two coaches, Rick Zombo and Leigh Mendelson, in one month, and just last week saw star forward Yan Stastny leave to play for the Omaha Lancers (USHL) -- was very focused on the ice. Pat Caslin, a left shot playing the off wing, is their top remaining forward, a big strong kid who gets himself room and buries it. Nothing flashy about the D, though '82 left-shot Bernie Chmiel has some offensive flair. 6'3" Mike Grobe, who's committed to Yale, is a steady, stay-at-home defenseman. Same with 6'2" Brandon Davis, also an '82.
Lansing goaltender Tim Heneroty looked very sharp in shutting out Danville, 2-0, in opening day action.
Soo Indians RD Charlie Cook, an '82, looked excellent. He's a definite DI guy, a 12th grader from Port Huron who makes big contributions at both ends of the ice. 5'11" LC Barry Pochmara, an '80, is the Soo's top forward. Pochmara is a hard-working center who's not particularly skilled, but definitely has a knack, fighting through checks, working it down low, and finishing.
The Cleveland Barons have a lot of talent. 6'1" center Jimmy Slater, an '82 who's heading to Michigan State next year, was, as we expected, a standout. So, too, was 6'1" Danny Fritsche, an '85 RC from Parma. Ohio who played bantam last year but is adapting nicely to juniors. We've written extensively about Fritsche, a 9th grader, in the past and our opinion hasn't changed -- no 15-year-old in the U.S. has more high-end potential.
Other Barons who stood out include Brandon Kaleniecki, a 5'9" left-shot forward who's an '82 birthdate and another emigré from St. Louis (he came over in return for a tender), and 6'0" RD Peter Harrold, who's an '83 and an 11th grader in high school. Harrold just keeps getting better, and is an excellent DI prospect. Another youngster who played well is 5'8" RW Tommy Goebel, a late '84 whose quickness allows him to get open almost at will. He's a 10th grader in high school, and will make a nice Div. I player in a few years. Cleveland is a fun team to watch.
On the Chicago Freeze, 5'9" RW Craig Piscopink, an '80 from Wayne, Michigan, was outstanding. He can take the puck and just go. Piscopink should finish among the handful of top scorers in the league. He'll definitely be going Div. I next season. Among the interested schools are Maine and Michigan. Eric Przepiorka, a 5'9" '81 LC can score at about the same clip as Piscopink, though he is not as strong on his skates as the former. LW Joe Gaul, whom we wrote about last week, is heading to Dartmouth. Justin Flaishans, who has a semester at Denver under his belt, will be a three-year-player at a Div. I school. The two '83s -- both late '83's -- up front, LW Chris Conner, and LW Blake Stewart, who this typist sees more as a center, will make fine Div. I players, as well. Conner has speed, quickness, is shifty, and can score. Stewart is a smart, clever player who sees the ice well, has a nose for the net, and can skate.
Chicago will be hosting the Gold Cup and, up front, they have the firepower to win the whole thing. However, taken as a whole, their defense is not particularly skilled. They feature a raft of big stay-at-home guys. The only sub six-footer is 5'10", 144 lb. left-shot Mike Mannina, an '82 who is the most skilled blueliner on the club.
In goal, of course, is Michigan recruit Jason Bacashihua, who was hammered going into the corner after a puck and had to leave Saturday's game vs. Walpole. He returned to action on Sunday, though
In closing, here's something that goes back to what we were saying above. Among the four semifinalists, Compuware outscored their opponents 25-3, while Texas was 21-3, Chicago 21-8, and Lansing, 9-2. Blowouts don't help scouts make evaluations, and scouts who missed Friday, the only day that featured NAHL teams going head to head, wound up watching a lot of one-sided contests.On Saturday and Sunday over half the games were decided by six goals or more.
A Helping Hand for the Black Bears
University of Maine coach Shawn Walsh has brought on temporary coaching help in the person of E.J. McGuire, the long-time pro coach who last year was a scout in the Rangers organization before being let go in the summertime purge.
McGuire, who started out as a player and then coach at Brockport State College, was an assistant to Mike Keenan at both Philadelphia and Chicago before coaching in the AHL with Portland and Hartford.
At Maine, his title is, for lack of a better term, guest coach. He's an unpaid assistant coach who's doing it because of, yes, the fact that he's between jobs, but also because of a long-time friendship with Walsh, who's battling kidney cancer.
McGuire, who is reported to be heading to an NHL administrative position shortly, will be helping the Black Bears in every capacity -- video, on-ice work, wherever he's needed. Before bringing McGuire on, Walsh asked his regular assistants, Grant Standbrook and Gene Reilly, if it would be OK. They said it would.
In accordance with NCAA regulations, McGuire is only allowed to be on the staff until Walsh returns, which is expected to be for the Ohio State series October 27-28.
U.S. U-18's Upset #4-Ranked Spartans
Did Michigan State play all their regulars in last night's 6-4 loss to the U.S. Under-18 Team?
Yes, they did -- and included among the group were seven former U.S. National Team members.
For the Under-18's, playing in the program's first-ever game against a U.S. Division I college team, their youth showed early as the Spartans came out of the gate hard and blitzed them for two early goals, one by Rusty Dolyny and one by John Nail, to take a 2-0 lead at the 3:47 mark of the first. However, by the middle of the period, the Under-18's, on goals by Barry Tallackson and future Spartan Lee Falardeau, tied it up at 2-2. At 12:03, State's Steve Jackson scored to make it 3-2 for the home team.
Early in the second, Michigan recruit Eric Nystrom tied it up for the youngsters, but Sean Patchell quickly regained the lead for the Spartans. Just a few minutes after that, defenseman Matt Gens tied it back up for the U.S., sending the game went into the third period deadlocked at 4-4.
In the third, the U.S. got the game-winner at the 12:50 mark when defenseman Bryan Miller, a BU recruit, scored off a faceoff play. Afterward, State tried to mount a comeback but U.S. goaltender Travis Weber held the fort. Tallackson scored an insurance goal for the 6-4 final margin.
"This team showed a lot of maturity tonight," U.S. National Program coach Mike Eaves said afterward. "Every line went out and played as a unit. We made plays at key times with every unit contributing."
"I hope," added Eaves, "that this will open a lot of people's eyes to just how talented the players in this program are."
Notes: Joe Blackburn (12/8) played the first half of the game for the Spartans, letting in the first four goals; Ryan Miller (6/4) then took over, allowing the final two... Michigan State outshot the Under-18 team, 43-20... The Under-18 team went into the game with 10 games under their belt, seven against USHL opponents, but had yet to show any real consistency from night to night... One edge for the U.S.: the Spartans, with only a handful of practices under their belt, didn't have the game legs necessary to counter the Under-18's in the third period... As for the U.S. kids, they were awed early -- and exuberant afterward... On Saturday night, the Under-18's journey to Kalamazoo to face Western Michigan University... Tallackson's two goals give him seven on the season, tops on the Under-18 team. Defenseman Ryan Whitney picked up a pair of assists, giving him the team's point lead with 16... Falardeau (1g,1a) and Jason Ryznar (2a) each had two-point nights for the Under-18 team; Jeremy Jackson (2a) and Brad Fast (2a) each had a pair of points for Michigan State... In his strongest start of the season, Weber kicked out 39 shots in the for the Under-18 Team... Attendance at Munn Arena was 7,197.
Gophers Get Their Man
Omaha Lancers left-shot defenseman Keith Ballard committed to the University of Minnesota tonight, finally bringing to closure the big question: UND or the U.
"It was an extremely tough decision," said Ballard by phone from Omaha, to where he'd just returned from the Twin Cities. "It was one of those win-win situations. They're both great schools."
"After visiting North Dakota, I saw myself going there," Ballard said. "Then I went to Minnesota and liked it there even more."
As to what factor tipped the scales in the U's favor, Ballard cited the fact that he would be Minnesota's sole freshman recruit on the blueline next fall. "I'll be able to step right in and make an impact," he said. Ballard also said that he preferred the idea of playing in Minneapolis. "It's a little bigger than Grand Forks," he said.
Ballard, who has an older sister attending North Dakota, grew up in Baudette, Minnesota, up on the Ontario border. He said that when he was younger he followed both schools, and had difficulty making up his mind as to which was his favorite. "I went back and forth between the two," he said.
Ballard, who's 5'10", 186 lbs. and an 11/26/82 birthdate, is a candidate for this year's U.S. National Junior Team. He played for the Lake of the Woods High School until after his 10th grade year, when he went to the U.S. National Team Development Program. He would have gone back there for his senior year, but, as an '82, he wouldn't have been eligible for the World Under-18 Tournament. Instead, Ballard, along with fellow Gopher recruit Jake Fleming, decided to go to the Omaha Lancers and try to win a league title.
It should be noted that getting Ballard, along with Ryan Whitney the country's top defenseman in the current recruiting class, is big for the Gophers, and will help Don Lucia and his staff bring in the very best of the in-state players, which was for decades a given at the U, but no longer necessarily so by the time Lucia arrived on the scene in April 1999.
Ballard's Choice Imminent?
Omaha Lancers defenseman Keith Ballard will be returning to his USHL team today after being at the University of Minnesota on an official visit since Sunday. However, before Ballard leaves the Twin Cities, he'll sit down with Gophers coach Don Lucia for a 1 pm CST meeting.
Ballard may (or may not) come out of that meeting with his mind made up. Right now, sources close to the situation are reporting that Ballard, who visited the University of North Dakota Sept. 24-26, is playing his cards close to the vest and has given no indication to his teammates or even coach/G.M. Mike Hastings as to which way he's leaning. But with his official visits coming to an end, look for a decision soon.
Wilson to Report to Cedar Rapids
Sometimes today, former Boston College LW Jeremy Wilson will arrive in Cedar Rapids, where coach/G.M. Mark Carlson expects him in the lineup when the RoughRiders meet Rochester in a home game Saturday night.
Why Cedar Rapids? Well, after Des Moines added him to their protected list last Tuesday (9/26), several USHL teams approached Buccaneers coach/GM Tom Carroll about a trade. Carlson, who tried to recruit Wilson to Northeastern two years ago and likes his tenacity, speed, and toughness, offered Carroll a first-round pick in next May's draft as compensation for the former Cushing Academy winger, and a deal was struck.
There are several Massachusetts players on the RoughRiders -- Matt Kelly, Gerry Hickey, and Danny O'Brien -- so Wilson should feel right at home.
Youth Has its Day
The consensus from the Marquette Electricians Midget Tournament, held over the weekend on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, a stone's throw from the shore of Lake Superior, was that the most highly skilled players were the youngest, specifically the '85s.
First, a tip of the hat to Compuware, which went 4-0-0 in round robin and then edged the Shattuck Prep Team (also 4-0-0) in the semis by a 4-3 margin. In the title game yesterday afternoon, Compuware knocked off HoneyBaked, 4-2, with Vinny Jalaba notching two goals and an assist and Brad Lukas kicking out 22 shots.
Now, to the '85s:
On defense, Marquette Electrician Bob Selden, a Jan. '85 birthdate who's 6'0", 185 lbs. drew unanimous praise. He has size, skill, and a head for the game. His breakout passes are excellent, as is his decision-making. The next-best '85 defenseman at the tournament was Matt Hunwick, a 5'10" left-shot from HoneyBaked. Good hands and very poised.
Up front, there's a trio of particularly skilled '85s: Mike Bartlett, Aaron Bader, and T.J. Hensick. All three are strong candidates for the NTDP and all have been written about before here, as they were standouts at the Select 15 Festival in August. Bartlett, who's 5'10" could already be the Chicago Chill's #1 center. His strong suit is his skating -- it's just very, very strong, and he always keeps his feet moving. Bader, a 5'11" converted defenseman now playing forward for Shattuck-St. Mary's has a good, long stride, and a powerful, accurate shot. T.J. Hensick, a 5'7" scoring machine with HoneyBaked, has great hands and a real nose for the net. Here, he was named the tournament's most valuable offensive player, blowing away the competition with a 6-6-12 line in the four round-robin games.
Would you like a sleeper? How about James Unger, a center with the Cleveland Barons Midgets who's 6'1", and a big, strong power forward who plays with an edge. Unger has the ability to handle the puck in tight spaces, which makes him dangerous in front of the net. It's only his skating that keeps him from the upper echelon.
Of the '84s, the standout -- no surprise here -- was 5'9" Zach Parisè, a forward from Shattuck-St. Mary's who's quick on his feet, quick with his stick, has a bullet of a shot, and thinks the game extremely well. Parisè should be playing in the National Program, or in juniors. Another standout was '84 center Brady Murray, son Andy Murray, the former Shattuck coach now working in the luminance of LA's Staples Center. The younger Murray, who's a Canadian citizen, is 5'5", has a motor, and hits everything in sight. Another Shattuck player who was very impressive was forward Jacob Micflikier, who's tiny, but very skilled and extremely creative. McFlickier led all led Shattuck scorers through the round-robin portion with a 5-2-7 line. Casey Bickley, Vince Pulera, Bill McCreary, and Chad Mayfield were other top scorers for Shattuck, who in those first four games outscored opponents 23-6. (For the record, HoneyBaked outscored opponents 30-10, and Compuware 19-4.)
The standout '84 defenseman was the Pittsburgh Hornets' Dylan Reese, a 5'10" right shot who is almost certainly the best defenseman of his age playing midget hockey. Very up-tempo. Good in his own end, but makes an enormous contribution offensively, too. Very up-tempo.
Another '84, Compuware's Mitch Ganzak, a 5'10", 190 lb. left-shot D, also opened eyes -- he was named the tournament's most valuable defensive player.
The best '83 at the tournament was, according to several scouts, Marquette Electrician forward Rob Lehtinen, a hometown boy. Lehtinen, who's 5'10", didn't score a ton of points, but he does a lot at both ends of the ice, skates well, can come up with the big goal, and is extremely versatile. For the Electricians he's a forward, but every summer at the Select Festivals he's a d-man. Observers are split as to which is his better position. Reportedly, St. Cloud State, where Lehtinen recently took an unofficial visit, likes him more on the blueline.
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