NAHL Players Overlooked in USHL Draft
USHL teams, in last week’s draft, selected only 11 NAHL players, which is a discouraging sign for a league that's goie through a lot of turmoil, particularly so in the past year. What’s worse, only a few NAHL players were selected in the top five rounds. The top pick out of the league was Youngstown goalie Tyler Sims, selected by Cedar Rapids in the first round, Sims, by the way, is the son of former Boston Bruins defenseman Al Sims, who’s now coaching in Corpus Christi. Other selections were Texarcana F Erik Condra (4th round), Bismarck F J.J. Koehler (5th round), Texarkana F Jason Price (10th round), Lone Star F Cody Chupp (12th round), Toledo G Jason Kearney and Minnesota D Josh Meyers (13th round), Bismarck F Jacob Hipp (15th round), Springfield Jr. Blues defenseman Mike Findorff (17th round), Billings F Brett Watson (18th round), and Youngstown G John Murray (19th round).
If indeed the NAHL is to have a future it may have to go younger and position itself more as a development league for the USHL. Many parents worry, justifiably, about sending their 15 and 16 year old sons away to live on their own, but with the cost of the top U.S. midget programs sky high, it’s something we’ve been seeing happen for quite a while. The rosters of Midwestern Ontario Jr. B teams are just loaded with underagers who flock over the border from Michigan to play.
Now, if Hockey Canada’s talk about limiting the roster spots in Canadian Tier II and major junior to two Americans per team actually comes to pass, then a lot of those kids will have no choice but to play in the NAHL.
New England prep and high school teams had 15 players drafted – over half of whom were in the top four rounds.EJHL teams had nine. Included among them was Maine recruit Brett Tyler (by Indiana, 16th round). It’s a flyer, but Tyler is reportedly on the border academically. If he loses his eligibility at any time – either now or in the future – Indiana will attempt to add him.
This year, like every year, the bulk of players drafted into the USHL come from Minnesota high schools and midget programs from around the country.
Bulldog! Bulldog! Bow Wow Wow!
Right shot center/wing David Meckler of the Clark Cup champions Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) has made a verbal commitment to Yale for the ’05-06 season.
A 6’1”, 175 lb. native of Highland Park, Ill., Meckler is a 7/9/87 birthdate who has good hands, skates well, and is a late-bloomer physically.
When it came to decision time, Michigan State, Brown, and Yale were the finalists.
This past season, as a 16-year-old rookie year at Waterloo, Meckler, in 56 games, posted a 9-8-17 line with 43 pims. In the playoffs he played 10 games and had a 3-1-4 line with 4 pims. He was tenth on the team in scoring, but of the players in front of him, all but fellow Chicagoan Zach Bearson were at least 2-4 years older.
Next season, look for Meckler to carry a bigger load of the offense.
Before coming to Waterloo, Meckler played in the NAHL with the Chicago Freeze as a 15 year old. The year before that, ’01-02, Meckler played for the TI midgets.
As for the above headline, it is not the most sublime Cole Porter (Yale, 1913) lyric, but since it is one of just two college fight songs he wrote at Yale – the other is “Bingo, That’s the Lingo” -- it at least has history on its side.
Pearce to Fighting Irish
U.S. Under-18 goaltender Jordan Pearce has verbally committed to play for Dave Poulin’s squad at Notre Dame in the fall of ’05-06.
Pearce, 6’0 and 189 lbs., came into the NTDP as a 10th grader. So even though he was an ’86, he was still a late '86, meaning that even though the other ‘86s in the NTDP graduate from school next month, Pearce still has another year in school. He will do it in Lincoln, Nebraska and play for the Lincoln Stars (USHL) .
He’s a phenomenal student with a 4.0 gpa.
He’s an athletic, butterfly goalie who kept the Under-18s within striking distance in games versus Michigan and Michigan State. He also played against Notre Dame in South Bend, but lost that one, 4-0, kicking out 35 of 39 shots.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with him here,” said NTDP coach Darrin Madeley, an NCAA championship winning goaltender at Lake State. He’ll have success at both Lincoln and at Notre Dame.”
A 10/10/86 birthdate, Pearce is from Anchorage, Alaska. Up North, he played for both Service HS and the Alaska All-Stars Midgets.
At the NTDP this year, he played 35 games and posted a 3.57 gaa and an .874 save percentagae.
Pearce took unofficial visits to both Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Wisconsin Getting Close
University of Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves is expecting to have his new – or partly new -- coaching staff in place next week.
The X-factor, of course, is whether or not Badgers associate head coach Troy Ward gets the AD job at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he played his college hockey. After graduating in 1984, Ward signed on as an assistant coach at Eau Claire, and was later moved up to the head job, which he held from ’87-90. Ward, 41, is one of four finalists for the job, but the only one with no experience as an AD – or assistant AD. Ward interviewed at the end oflast week. Wisconsin-Eau Claire has said they will name their guy by June 1, which is Tuesday.
Ward has been Eaves’ top guy the last two years, and when Eaves and former assistant John Hynes were at the World Juniors, it was Ward who ran the Badgers. Ward’s staying or leaving affects whether one or two guys is chosen and also what role they will play. Ward, for example, doesn’t relish life on the road, so Eaves would need at least one assistant coach to be a major road warrior.
Just about everyone close to the scene believes UNO assistant Mark Strobel, 30; andseven-year Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) head coach/GM Mark Osiecki, 35, to be the top two candidates.
The other three candidates are Gary Shuchuk, 37, a player-coach with Springfield (AHL) this past season; Eric Raygor, 31, an assistant at Wayne State (CHA); and Chris Tok, 31, who has spent the last three years as an assistant at the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL).
All five candidates are former Badger captains.
RPI assistant coach Ivan Moore has resigned to spend more time with his family. Moore, 35, a defenseman with the Engineers from 1988-92, will be returning to the business world, in which he worked for eight years prior to joining the RPI staff two years ago. Moore, who has a one-year-old son, cited a desire to spend more time with his family.
Look for Michigan Tech head coach Jamie Russell to make a decision on his new assistant within the next two to three weeks. 24 coaches have made formal applications. Former assistant Marc Maroste has taken a job running the Portage Golf Course in Portage, Michigan.
Sims – the goalie, not the computer game – to PC
Look for Youngstown Phantoms (NAHL) goaltender Tyler Sims to join Providence College this September, taking the roster spot vacated when sophomore goaltender Bobby Goepfert was dismissed from the team two weeks ago.
Sims, an 11/9/85 birthdate, played for coach/GM Bob Mainhardt at Youngstown, sharing time early in the season, but quickly establishing him as the #1 guy. For the season, he played 40 games, posting a 2.63 gaa and .925 save percentage, which was third best in the league.
Earlier this month, Sims, who’s 6’0”, 180 lbs., was drafted in the first round of the USHL draft by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
In the next week or so, Sims will graduate from high school with a4.0 gpa, not bad considering he went to four high schools in four years – that kind of bouncing around can happen when your father is a pro coach, and Sims is the son of former NHL defenseman Al Sims, who won a Memorial Cupwith the Cornwall Royals (QMJHL) and then played on the Boston Bruins blue line in the ‘70s.
In 2002-03, Sims played for the Metro Jets, a Detroit area team in the Central States Hockey League, a Junior B loop.
Sims was unable to hook up with a Jr. A team after last season, getting cut by one USHL team and three NAHL teams before getting an opportunity – that he made the best of – at Youngstown.
Sims had offers from Army and Air Force. Union talked to Sims. Miami-Ohio talked to him, and reportedly made an offer, too. Miami, though, got strong seasons from their freshmen goaltending duo of Brandon Crawford-West (33 gp) and Steve Hartley (8 gp), and Sims felt he might not be getting a lot of playing time there as a freshman.
The situation is ideal at Providence. Former Burlington High and St. Sebastian’s goaltender Dave Cacciola, who was very good in the 11 games he played this season, posting a 2.06 gaa and a .933 save %, will be a senior. So the path is clear for Sims to be the number one man for three years after that. His offer from Providence was a good one.
So Sims was set to play for Cedar Rapids – who now need a top-flight goalie -- for another year of juniors – until Providence called.
Gendron to Take Over in Indiana
Indiana Ice (USHL) GM Josh Mervis isn’t talking, but look for Red Gendron to be named the relocated franchise’s new head coach. Gendron was with the Indiana staff at last week’s USHL meetings in Minneapolis, but still hasn’t been officially named as head coach, which has left a lot of observers scratching their heads, wondering why the Ice would pass up an opportunity to actively publicize the naming of such a high-profile coach, someone with both an NCAA championship ring, and a Stanley Cup ring.
It’s an unusual situation, but our hunch is that the Ice may have plans to somehow piggyback the announcement onto the racing of the Indianapolis 500, a major American tradition which goes off Sunday afternoon in front of nearly 300,000 fans and millions more watching on television.
If we’re right, then the Ice have a golden opportunity to introduce the new franchise to the Indianapolis area.
Of course, there's also the possibility that our hunch is wrong, and the Ice could be waiting until after the Indy 500 to make the announcement, hoping to gain attention in local papers and on TV during a quieter time.
Whatever the reason, Gendron is the coach. For more on him, scroll down to the USHR news of 5/11/04.
Parker Gets His Guy
USNTDP coach David Quinn will be the new assistant coach at Boston University, effective July 1.
Quinn accepted the job at around 2:30 this afternoon, and then met with his players at around 3:30 pm. Basically, he told them that they had come to the program to better themselves as players, and that he had done the same from the coaching end -- and now had further opportunity to better himself.
Look for John Hynes to coach the Under-17 team this coming season, a plan which had been in effect for a long while.
The consensus is that the next coach of the Under-18 Team will come from outside the program. The players are concerned because they have just signed their contracts for next season, and now don't know who will be coaching them.
Quinn Top Dog
Coach Jack Parker’s #1 choice as the new BU assistant is U.S. National Team Development Program coach David Quinn.
But will Quinn take it?
Initially, he wasn’t that interested. After all, last June Quinn was a candidate for the Vermont job that went to Kevin Sneddon.In the interview process, though, he made an extremely positive impression on the search committee, the players, and AD Bob Corran. Sneddon had more head coaching experience than Quinn, and got the job. The latter, though, created some buzz and put himself on the map as a strong candidate as a Div. I coach down the line. Meanwhile, he’s adding to his head coaching experience right where he is.
Is Quinn interested in the BU post now? That’s hard to say, but Parker flew out to Ann Arbor to meet with Quinn recently. So this is serious. Some people we’ve spoken to think Quinn will take it, others think he won’t. What does Quinn think? Has he made up his mind? He’s on vacation right now, and unreachable. So it’s anyone’s guess.
For the last past two seasons, Quinn has been a head coach in the NTDP, in charge of the Under-17 Team. This fall, Quinn is expected to take over the Under-18s. These are the ‘87s, and they’re a strong group. Quinn would be putting them up against a lot of Div. I colleges, and the team could make some noise at next April’s IIHF World Under-18 championship. So he’s in a good position.
If Quinn goes to BU, although he’ll be an assistant, he’ll also be back in the college game. In addition, there’s the loyalty factor, he’s one of Parker’s guys, BU is his alma mater, and it’s close to family – Quinn is from Cranston, RI and has been away for eight years.
Quinn, 37, starred at the Kent School in Connecticut in the early ‘80s. From there, he was drafted in the first round of the 1984 draft (#13 overall) by the Minnesota North Stars. That fall, Quinn enrolled at Boston University, where he was a budding star by his sophomore year. However, his career was curtailed after his junior season by Christmas Disease, a rare blood disorder. Four years later, with the disease under control, Quinn made a comeback, playing a couple of seasons of minor pro. But after so much time away from the game, he couldn’t get back to the form that had earlier made him one of the top pro prospects to ever come out of New England.
Quinn then got into coaching right away, working for Ben Smith at Northeastern from 1993-96, then joining Mike Kemp’s staff at Nebraska-Omaha from 1996-2002, helping build the program from scratch. The team has not had a winning season since Quinn left, and there has been speculation that, should UNO be as bad this year as the last two, then Quinn would be the top candidate to return there as a head coach.
In March, Quinn was named as one of the two assistants to the 2005 U.S. National Junior Team.
This should all be sorted out soon, so stay tuned.
Big Changes for Terriers
The long-rumored hiring of BU men’s associate head coach Brian Durocher as the first head coach of the BU women’s varsity hockey team will be announced soon.
BU has had a club team for a while, but in ’05-06, the Terriers will be beginning NCAA Div. I play. Durocher will be hired by June 30, and will then get to work recruiting the inaugural team.
A native of Longmeadow, Mass., Durocher began his association with BU nearly 30 years ago, arriving in the fall of 1974 as a freshman goaltender. In all four of his seasons, the Terriers reached the NCAA Final Four. Durocher (along with Jack O’Callahan) was the co-captain of the 1977-78 team, which, with guys like Mark Fidler, Dave Silk, Jim Craig, Dick Lamby et al, went 30-2 and won the NCAA title with a 5-3 win over BC at the Providence Civic Center. In his career, Durocher was 47-13-1 in the Terrier net, and won the Eberly Award (top Beanpot goaltender) in his freshman season.
Upon, graduation, Durocher began his career as a college assistant, spending two years at American International (‘78-80), five years at BU (’80-85), seven years at Colgate (’85-92), four years at Brown (’92-96), and the last eight years at BU (’96-04).
While at Colgate, after the untimely death of Red Raiders head coach Terry Slater, Durocher took over as interim head coach, a position he kept through the conclusion of the season. A couple of years earlier, the Red Raiders, with Durocher recruits like forwards Joel Gardner, Marc Dupere, Steve Spott, Craig Woodcroft, and Jamie Cooke; defenseman Steve Poapst; and goaltender Dave Gagnon, was picked in the preseason to finish fifth in the ECAC, but wound up going 31-6-1, and edging BU, 3-2 in the NCAA semis before falling to Wisconsin in the NCAA title game. None of those guys went on to become NHL stars, though Poapst has managed to stick after a lengthy minor league apprenticeship. Mostly it was just a well-constructed team that knew how to win -- an excellent recruiting feat.
Durocher, always a gentleman, is the father of three children, all girls, two of whom are BU students.
Goepfert Heading West?
Look for Bobby Goepfert, recently dismissed from Providence College by head coach Paul Pooley, to resurface at a western college before long.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha is reportedly very interested, and looks to be the leading contender, though there are some WCHA teams also in the picture. The Mavericks finished this season in the CCHA basement with a 8-26-5 record and are going into this season with two goaltenders, Chris Holt and Kris Tebbs. This season, Holt, as a freshman, played 27 games and posted a 3.24 gaa and a .900 save percentage. Tebbs, a sophomore, played 12 games, and was 3.63 with a .884 save percentage. Those aren’t numbers that inspire confidence.
Goepfert has played two seasons for the Friars and has been very consistent. The ’83 from Long Island, a sixth round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2002 NHL draft, played 13 games as a freshman, and posted a 2.39 gaa and a .924 save percentage. This past season, as a soph, Geopfert played 28 games and finishedwith a 2.53 gaa and a .918 save percentage.
Goepfert, of course, will have to enroll by this fall, and would be limited to practicing with the team. He will be eligible for NCAA competition in the ’05-06 season.
Racine Hiring Now Official
Bruce Racine, a key figure for the Huskies in the ‘80s, the school’s best-ever decade, has been hired as an assistant at Northeastern.
In his four years at St. Botolph Street, Racine led the Huskies to two Beanpot titles (’85, ’88), a Hockey East title (’88), and was named MVP of all three events. Racine was also an All-America in ’87 and ’88. During Racine’s years, the Huskies had two seasons in which they won 20 or more games, something that has only happened once since. In other words, if Racine says Northeastern can win, who’s going to argue?
Racine, now 37, has been out of hockey one season, having retired as a player in the spring of ’03. A native of Cornwall, Ontario, he played for the Hawkesbury Hawks (OPJHL). After graduating from Northeastern in ’88, he played 15 years, primarily in the IHL and AHL. He played 12 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96, backing up Grant Fuhr. The last three years of his pro career were spent on Finland.
In other Northeastern news, 6’1”, 185 lbs. Sioux City RD Louis Liotti will be joining the Huskies after one more season in the USHL. Liotti, one of the top Sioux City defensemen as a rookie this season, will carry an even bigger load next season. Liotti, a 5/25/85 birthdate – hey, happy birthday! – is a Westbury, NY native who played for the Long Island Bobcats and NY Apple Core before heading west. In 60 games, Liotti had a 1-13-14 line with a +8 and 36 pims.
A New Coach at The Hill
Groton School head coach Matt Mulhern will be the new head coach at the Hill School in Pottstown, PA.
Mulhern, a 28-year-old Havertown, PA native, was a RW for four years at Boston College (’95-99), and then played a couple of seasons in the ECHL.
Mulern replaces Tom Eccleston IV, who after eight years as Hill head coach, stepped down last month. Eccleston and his family are Florida-bound south, where he will take a position as director of admissions at the St. Edward’s School, a K-12 day school in Vero Beach, Florida.
-- Former Berkshire head coach Larry Rocha and former Lawrence Academy head coach Charlie Corey will be working as assistants to Valley Junior Warriors (EJHL) head coach Andy Heinze this coming season.
In the winter of ’87-88, Rocha was an assistant on Corey’s staff at Lawrence Academy, where they coached Steve Heinze, Andy’s brother.
Both will also be working as teachers – Rocha at Bishop Guertin and Corey at Bishop Brady. Both schools are in Southern New Hampshire, not far over the Mass. border.
--Former Colgate forward Brad D’Arco has been hired as an assistant at the Brunswick School, where he will also teach history. This summer, D’Arco and his former Taft teammate, John Longo, will be running a hockey school for ‘91s right down to 96s in Bridgeport, Conn. Current collegians J.R. Bria (Union) and Jaime Sifers (Vermont) will also be working at the camp. For more information call (914) 426-1769.
-- John Malloy has retired as head coach at the Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio. He will continue, though, as hockey director and arena manager. Gilmour went 38-13-5 and won the Nichols/Belmont Hill Tournament. Among their victims were Belmont Hill,Upper Canada College, Culver, Nichols, and Northwood.
The Talk Around the Rinks
A couple of weeks ago we wrote of Red Gendron as a candidate for the Indiana Ice (USHL) job. At the time, Gendron was reportedly the top candidate of Indiana GM Josh Mervis. That may still be the case, Another name has popped up, though, and that is Chris Imes, who was a player at Maine when Gendron was an assistant under Shawn Walsh there. Imes, as most of you will recall, was one of the great college defenseman of the last decade of the last millennium, a standout on the 1992-93 Black Bears national championship team that went 42-1-2, and a Hobey Baker finalist in his senior season, 1994-95. That was the year Bowling Green center Brian Holzinger won it.(In case you’re wondering, other finalists that year were Brian Bonin, Greg Bullock, Anson Carter, Mike Grier, Chris Imes, Jay McNeill, Brendan Morrison, Brian Mueller, and Martin St. Louis.)
Imes is from Birchdale, Minn., a little town across the Rainy River from Ontario, and played high school hockey at Indus High School. He’s 31 now and has had coaching experience with the Tri-City Storm (as an assistant), the Pittsburgh Forge (head coach), and in Europe.
-- Len Quesnelle is indeed the new assistant at UMass. And Jason Lammers will be joining Guy Gadowsky’s staff at Princeton. Lammers was on Gadowsky’s staff at Alaska-Fairbanks this past season, and was at Clarkson the year before that.
-- Northeastern will be hiring an assistant before long. We’ve heard two names: Former Northeastern goalie Bruce Racine and former UMass-Lowell center Jeff Daw. At Lowell, Daw’s head coach for all four years was current Northeastern head coach Bruce Crowder.
The top three high school baseball prospects in the Northeast are also hockey players. Two of them stand a strong chance of going in the first round of the major league baseball draft, which will be on June 7th this year.
Here they are.
#1 -- 6’2”, 200 lb. RHP Mark Rogers of Orr’s Island, Maine and Mt. Ararat HS (what, you haven’t heard of it?) is the pick of the litter and an almost certain first round pick. At a game last month, with about 24 scouts in attendance, Rogers threw a no-hitter, striking out 19, and hitting 96 on the radar gun. In addition to the heater, pro scouts like his downward-breaking curveball, too, which has real bite to it.
Rogers is a top high school soccer player, having led Mt. Ararat to a Maine state championship. He’s also a fine hockey player, or at least had the tools to become one if he’d moved on to a top prep or junior program. In our encapsulated notes on him taken at the 2002 USA Hockey Select 16 Festival in Rochester, NY, where he was on the New England district team, this typist had him ranked 29th among all forwards there, sandwiched between NTDP forward William Paukovich and ex-NTDP forward Todd McIlrath, and wrote the following: “Intriguing prospect. Excellent high-end potential. Has size, athleticism, skates well, but is very untutored, having played for Mt. Ararat HS in Maine. This festival was a huge adjustment in speed and skill level for him. If Rogers is able to move on to stronger competition and get top coaching he could really be something. He could be anyway – he’s a 16-year-old pitcher who already throws 90 MPH.”
Rogers has signed a national letter of intent to play baseball at the University of Miami, but is considered signable should he get drafted as high as expected. (Signability is considered a big factor in the baseball draft because, unlike hockey, unsigned players, once they’ve taken their first class as a freshman, are no longer the property of the club that drafted them several months earlier. They have to wait until after their junior season, whereupon they become draft-eligible again.)
#2 -- 6’3”, 220 lb. RHP Jay Rainville of Pawtucket, RI and Bishop Hendricken HS is a University of Tennessee recruit who could also go in the first round, though a bit behind Rogers. Rainville, with a solid frame, and a heavy fastball, can hit 95 consistently. He also has a big, sweeping 75 MPH curveball he’s working on to keep hitters off balance. In many ways, he recalls a young Roger Clemens. Rainville is considered signable.
A Providence Journal all-state defenseman as a sophomore, Rainville did not play hockey this past season, choosing (or being told to?) focus on baseball. When we watched him, even at 15 and 16, he was instantly noticeable for his size. However, he was slowed by the baby fat he carried at the time (which, of course, is no reason to scratch a kid of that age as a prospect). This typist saw Rainville as a player likely facing a long developmental curve, but with a good chance to eventually play in Div. I as a defensive defenseman.
#3 -- 6’6”, 215 lb. Andy Gale of Phillips Exeter Academy and Durham, NH, has, with his tremendous size, the most physically commanding presence of any of the three. He also has excellent blood lines and an at-home pitching coach in his father, Rich Gale, a former major league pitcher and recent Red Sox pitching coach. Gale doesn’t have the velocity of Rogers and Rainville, but isn’t far off, maybe just a few miles per hour, consistently hitting 92. He mixes up this pitches well, though. He throws a cut fastball, and has a very good changeup and slider. His arm action – short and quick -- is deceptive.
Exeter baseball coach Bill Dennehy says Gale is the best pitching prospect he’s had in his 29 years at the school.
Gale, who’s signed a letter of intent to North Carolina, is considered the least signable of the three and will thus likely slide into the third to sixth rounds. Other sources say he actually is willing to forego college to go directly to pro ball, adding that people are assuming that, because Gale is an Exeter student, that he is a lock to go the college route.
As for hockey, we’ve watched Gale since he played pre-prep at Cardigan Mountain, growing and getting better each year. His size and his willingness to hit, would make him an NHL draft pick if he were leaning in that direction. Given that this is a pretty poor draft year, it wouldn’t be too crazy for an NHL team to take him as a ninth-round flyer.
The best pitcher to come out of New England in the last 25 years is, of course,NY Mets LHP Tom Glavine who, 20 years ago next month, was drafted in the same week by the Atlanta Braves (2nd round) and the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (4th round).
Glavine, who played for Billerica HS, had been recruited and would have played hockey and baseball for Providence College starting in the fall of ’84 if the Braves hadn’t come along with a big signing bonus. All major league teams worried that, should he fail to adjust to minor league baseball, that he’d bail and go with hockey. This concern kept Glavine from being a first-round pick, but, with the Braves fearing he might opt for hockey immediately, it also served to drive up his signing bonus.
Three years later, Glavine, twice the Massachusetts player of the year in both hockey and baseball, made his debut with the Atlanta Braves. Someday, he’ll be up for induction to the Hall of Fame.
A Local Star for the Terriers
5’11”, 170 lb. LW Steve Smolinsky of Boston College High has committed to Boston University.
Beginning this fall, Smolinsky, an ’86, will be taking a PG year at the Salisbury School, coached by ex-BU baseball/hockey player Dan Donato.
A speedster with nice hands and an accurate shot, Smolinsky works hard in all three zones. In addition, he’s roundly praised for his character.
Smolinsky scored the double overtime goal, a top shelf backhander, that led BC High to a semifinal win over Waltham and a matchup with Catholic Memorial in the Mass Super 8 championship game. CM won that one, 2-1, but the play of that game came early in the second period when Smolinsky flew down the left wing, slipped it between the skates of a CM defenseman, picked the puck up on the other side and fired it into the far corner.
Early last month at the Midget Nationals in Marquette, Michigan, Smolinsky upped his stock considerably, finishing third in the tournament in scoring (behind only BU recruit Chris Bourque and Maine recruit Billy Ryan), thus setting in motion a bidding war as his team, the Greater Boston League Junior Bruins won the title, beating Shattuck in the finals. Michigan State, CC, and Northern Michigan all reportedly offered full scholarships on the spot. Eastern recruiters were there, too, and, back home, Smolinsky visited BU, UNH, and BC. BU, who watched him both during the regular season and in Marquette, made the best offer – very close to a full.
6’1”, 165 lb. LD Steve McClellan of Catholic Memorial will be heading to Northeastern University in the fall of ’05. Next season, McClellan, an ’85 birthdate, will head off to Cushing Academy and repeat his senior year.
6’2”, 175 lb. Cushing LD Keith Yandle, a sophomore this past season, will be attempting to accelerate, which would put him on course to arrive at UNH in the fall of ‘05.
It’s not yet official, but reliable sources have indicated that former Princeton head coach Len Quesnelle will be appointed to the assistant’s position at UMass vacated last month by Bill Gilligan.
Quesnelle, 38, was fired in March, two days after Princeton closed out a 5-24-2 season. It was his fourth season as the Tigers head coach, having taken over for Toot Cahoon in 2000. Before that, the Bramalea, Ont. native, a former Princeton defenseman, spent 12 seasons as an assistant with the Tigers, working nine years with Cahoon as well as three with current UMass assistant Mark Dennehy.
The other names most prominently mentioned for the UMass assistant’s position have been Red Gendron, most recently head coach at Albany (AHL), and current Harvard assistant Gene Reilly.
Yipper Than Thou
BU has a commitment from Brandon Yip, a 6’2”, 190 lb. right-shot wing from the Coquitlam Express (BCHL). Yip will arrive on Agganis Way for the ’05-06 season.
Although an ’85, Yip was a rookie in the BCHL this past season, posting a 31-38-69 line in 56 games.
Yip has a lot of offensive upside, has good speed, and sees the ice well. He’s very good in open ice and should finish next season among the top 10 scorers in the BCHL.
Yip visited BU about three weeks ago, and followed that with a visit to St. Cloud State. He reportedly had three other visits lined up -- to Michigan State, Northern Michigan and Mankato -- but didn't take them.
BU also has a recruited walk-on in Avon Old Farms forward Pat Percella, a 6’0”, 200 lb. native of Bayonne, NJ. Percella will arrive at BU this fall.
Percella, who had a 5-15-20 line, is no offensive machine, but he is a solid, hard-working two-way player who was a key contributor to Avon’s march to the NEPSAC title this season. BU's success with walk-ons over the years has been well-documented, and we expect Percella will be playing at BU before long. He’s a needed commodity, because a major weakness of the Terriers this past season was the lack of a traditional BU-type fourth line – guys who could just go out there, wear down the other team while keeping them off the board, and maybe pop one of their own every once in while. Proving, of course, that it’s often the little things that spell the difference between a good and bad season.
5’11”, 170 lb. Tim Kennedy, a LW/C for the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL), will be heading to Michigan State in the fall of ’05.
Kennedy, a 4/30/86 birthdate and a rookie in the USHL this season, posted 9-9-18 line in 56 regular season games, then added five points in seven playoff games. Kennedy is a smart, smooth player who sees the ice well. He’s very competitive, plays with an edge, and has a bit of a nasty side.
A Buffalo, NY native, Kennedy played for the Buffalo Saints Midget AAA program before going to Sioux City last fall.
Other schools interested in Kennedy included BC, Ohio State, North Dakota, and Minnesota-Duluth.
Kennedy will be focusing on filling out and getting stronger.
Former Taft star Casey Ftorek, who played this season for the Stratford Cullitons (Mid-Western Ontario Jr. B) will be joining Union College in the fall.
With the Cullitons, Ftorek, who can play center or wing, was 51-55-106 in 71 games, good for third in the league in scoring. The Cullitons won the league championships,
Going into his senior year at Taft, Ftorek’s vision and offensive skills – he just sees it – led to interest from schools like Harvard and BC. However, a month into the season, Ftorek became sick, was hospitalized, and colleges, already a little leery of his size – he’s 5’8”, 170 lbs. -- and the fact that his skating is kind of rough, backed off. This year he had to prove himself all over again. It will be interesting to see how he does at Union. He’ll definitely put a much-needed jolt into the Dutchmen’s powerplay.
Ftorek is the son of Robbie Ftorek, the former Needham High star ow coaching the Albany River Rats (AHL).
Also coming to Union immediately will be 6’3” goaltender Justin Mrazek from Regina, Sask. and the Estevan Bruins (SJHL). Mrazek will take the roster spot that belonged to former NTDP goaltender Tim Roth, who, after two years backing up Kris Mayotte, decided not to play hockey any longer.
Toledo IceDiggers (NAHL) center Dan Pearce will be playing at RPI starting this fall. Pearce, a 6’1”, 185 lb. ’84 birthdate, was Toledo’s captain this season, appearing in 54 games and posting a 9-25-34 line with 113 pims. Pearce, an Ann Arbor, Mich. native who came up through the Compuware system, is a competitive power forward type…
6’3”, 195 lb.Tri-City Storm RW Christian Hanson has committed to Notre Dame for the ’05-06 season. Hanson, a Pittsburgh native and the son of Dave Hanson of Slapshotfame, is a 3/10/86 birthdate. Hanson is a strong student – Harvard, among others, was also in the hunt. A big, two-way forward with a good sense of the game, Hanson posted a 13-10-23 line in 69 games.
BB&N Hires Alum as New Head Coach
Terrence Butt, the associate head hockey coach at Holy Cross, is leaving the college game for a chance to return and coach at BB&N, the Cambridge, Mass. prep school from which he graduated in 1991.
Butt, a Revere, Mass. native, will be taking over from Angus Means, who was dismissed as hockey coach after this past season. Means will continue to teach at BB&N.
Butt played his college hockey at Holy Cross, where he was also a top baseball player. After graduating in ’95, he took a job as an accountant at Ernst & Young before deciding to get into coaching. He joined the Crusaders midway through their MAAC championship season of 1988-89.
Holy Cross head coach Paul Pearl predicts that his associate will be just what BB&N hockey needs, citing the fact that Butt is a good hockey man, a good recruiter, and knows the school well. “Also,” Pearl said, “he’s polished and will project well to potential parents and parents.”
Stafford, Montoya Top Yanks on Central’s Final Ranking
The NHL’s Central Scouting List was released today.
The top-ranked American skater was University of North Dakota freshman RW Drew Stafford. Following him were London Knights (OHL) C Robbie Schremp, Michigan State D A.J. Thelen, and 6’3½” RW Blake Wheeler, who’ll be a senior at the Breck School next season, and a Golden Gopher in the fall of ’05.
The top-ranked U.S.-born goalie was University of Michigan sophomore Alvaro Montoya, who was ranked #1 among North American goalies. The second-highest ranked U.S. goalie was Phillips Andover’s Cory Schneider, who’ll be a freshman at Boston College this fall.
We’ll break this all down a little later.
If you wish to have a printable copy of the full ranking – and your computer has Adobe Acrobat – click below.
USHL Draft Results
The 2004 USHL drafted ended a short while ago and, as expected, Centennial HS center Tom Gorowsky was selected #1 overall by the Sioux Falls Stampede. Click on the link below for the full list from the USHL web site.
Gorowsky Likely to Go #1 in USHL Draft
The USHL draft will take place tomorrow -- Wed. May 12 -- beginning at 1 pm. Indications are that the Sioux Falls Stampede, holders of the #1 overall pick, will use it on Centennial HS center Tom Gorowsky, who led the Cougars to the Class AA Minnesota state championship, led the state in scoring with 94 points, and was named Mr. Hockey.
Other top picks are likely to be South St. Paul goaltender Alex Stalock, an ’87 goaltender out of South St. Paul HS; and ’86 forward Brad Miller of Shattuck-St. Mary’s. Shattuck’s Ryan Duncan should be a high pick as well, but has reportedly indicated an interest in playing in Salmon Arm (BCHL), so he may go later than otherwise expected.
Each of the 11 USHL team has submitted their initial protected list, which can be viewed on the league web site at www.ushl.com
This year the number of protected players on any given team range from 11 (Tri-City Storm) to 18 (Cedar Rapids). This covers veterans plus players (up to four per team) drafted in the Under-18 futures draft last August. A veteran is described as any player who played10 or more games for their USHL team in the previous season.
The way the draft works is that each USHL team will make their selections tomorrow until their protected list reaches 23 players. Using the above example, Cedar Rapids, with 18 protected players already, will pick merely five more in order to get to 23. They will then sit quietly while the other ten teams plow ahead until they have also reached the quota of 23. When everyone is at that number, they all start selecting again until every team has reached 30 players. Then the draft is over and everyone goes home and tells their hometown newspapers what a great draft they had. The rosters are then frozen for a couple of weeks.
What is new with this year’s draft, should the technology cooperate, is that the results will be displayed live – player-by-player -- over the USHL web site. This is similar to what the OHL has done for the past two years – each team phones in its picks, they instantly goes up on the web, and everyone knows right away. Naturally, we love this development. In the old days, when the USHL was competing more with the NAHL, the USHL draft (and NAHL draft, for that matter) was conducted in secret. This required us to go to rather extraordinary lengths to get the list as the draft progressed – and then type it all out. It was fun in a way, but enervating. We prefer the new way.
A New Home for Red Gendron?
Dennis “Red” Gendron, the former University of Maine assistant coach who went on to work in the New Jersey Devils organization for the last ten years, is reported to be the top candidate as head coach of the Indiana Ice (USHL).
The Indiana Ice is the relocated Danville Wings franchise. Wings GM Josh Mervis, who was on Shawn Walsh’s staff at Maine during the ’95-96 season, will continue in that capacity in Indianapolis.
Gendron started this past season coaching the Albany River Rats (AHL) but was replaced midway through by Robbie Ftorek. With the NHL lockout looming, a number of pro guys currently out of work are looking to the junior and college ranks for employment next season.
Gendron has a strong and varied resume. He coached high school hockey in Vermont, leading Bellows Free Academy to four state championships in the 1980s. At the University of Maine, he was an assistant coach for one of the greatest college hockey teams ever, the 1992-93 Black Bears who, with the likes of Paul Kariya, Jim Montgomery, Cal Ingraham, the Ferraros, Chris Imes, Matt Martin, Mike Dunham, and Garth Snow went 42-1-2 and won an NCAA crown. In the spring of ’95 Gendron won a Stanley Cup ring as an assistant with the New Jersey Devils, an organization he also served as a scout and, as mentioned above, assistant coach and then head coach at Albany. Gendron was also an assistant coach with the 1993 U.S. Junior Team.
Ciraulo to Coach Detroit USHL Franchise?
The principles in the deal that would bring the St. Louis Heartland Eagles (USHL) franchise to Detroit are ironing out the details this morning and things could pretty much be in place by the end of the day.
With the USHL draft scheduled for Wednesday, there is an urgency to crossing the t’s, dotting the i’s, and getting the deal done.
Look for Mike Ilitch, who will be adding the relocated USHL franchise to his vast holdings, to name Bill Ciraulo, the head coach of the Little Caesars Midget AAA team, as coach.
Ilitch founded Little Caesars Pizza, one of the world’s largest pizza chains, and he and his family still own the company. Ilitch also owns the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, the Olympia, downtown Detroit’s Fox Theatre, the Little Caesar’s hockey organization, the State Fairgrounds Coliseum, and a number of other businesses. In other words, Ilitch has numerous cross-promotional opportunities that could help his new team to quickly establish a fan base. Ilitch is also capable of absorbing losses significantly longer than some of his less well-heeled USHL owners are.
How quickly will the USHL be adopted by Detroiters? First off, Detroit is a pure hockey city, unlike St. Louis (or Chicago for that matter). However, the Plymouth Whalers (OHL), owned by Peter Karmanos (Ilitch’s arch-enemy), didn’t draw very well for a number of years. However, they have turned the corner over the past year or two.
If you’re wondering whether the USHL will push farther east than Detroit or Indianapolis, consider this: the distance from Kearney, Nebraska (home of the Tri-City Storm) to Detroit is greater than the distance from Detroit to Boston, Mass.
Many of us college hockey observers have been scratching our heads wondering how Guy Gadowsky, who wasn’t even talked about within the coaching fraternity as a possible candidate for the Princeton job, wound up coming out of nowhere and getting it. More often than not it’s who knows who, as with most jobs. Still, we couldn’t find any connections until today. While it may appear slight, in 1992-93, Gadowsky, a left wing, played minor pro with the Richmond Renegades (ECHL). Also on that team was former Princeton defenseman Jeff Kampersal. For the past eight years, Kampersal has been head coach of the Princeton’s successful women’s program. Perhaps Kampersal went to Princeton AD Gary Walters to recommend Gadowsky as a candidate?... A possible assistant for Princeton (they have two openings) is Jason Lammers, the 28-year-old former Clarkson assistant who was on Gadowsky's staff at Alaska-Fairbanks this season.
Detroit Sale Put on Hold for a Year
The proposed transfer of the St. Louis franchise to a Detroit group, which was being worked on this morning, fell apart by the afternoon.
The USHL then proceeded immediately with the dispersal draft of St. Louis Heartland Eagles players.
Sioux Falls, which finished the regular season in last place, went first and selected 6’7” D Joe Finley of Edina HS, who St. Louis had protected in last summer’s underage draft.
Second up -- selected by Lincoln -- was Justin Mercier, a top ’87 forward from Michigan.
Green Bay went third and selected St. Louis goalie Michael Zacharias. The Gamblers had expected to have Boston College recruit Cory Schneider for the coming season, but Schneider’s play was so tremendous at the World Under-18s last month that the Eagles will be bringing him to the Heights right away, thus opening up a spot on the Gamblers for Zacharias.
Here’s the full list:
1. Sioux Falls – Joe Finley, D, Edina (Minn.) HS
2. Lincoln – Justin Mercier, F, St. Louis (USHL)
3. Green Bay -- Michael Zacharias, G, St. Louis (USHL)
4. Waterloo – Thomas Fortney, F, St. Louis (USHL)
5. Des Moines – Tom Gerken, D, St. Louis (USHL)
6. Indiana – Colin Vock, F, St. Louis (USHL)
7. Cedar Rapids – Chase Ryan, D, St. Louis (USHL)
8. River City – Ryan Turek, D, Honeybaked Midget AAA (Turek is committed to Michigan St.)
9. Sioux City – Corey Elkins, F, St. Louis (USHL)
10. Chicago – (Passed)
11. Tri-City – Zach Cohen, F, Team Illinois Midget AAA
Why did the sale fall apart?
USHL president Gino Gasparini reported that the Detroit group called at noon and decided to delay entering the league “because they felt it would be too difficult to get it up and running in time.”
“They have delayed their decision for at least a year,” Gasparini said.
To be more specific, the prime reason the Detroit group, headed up by Bill Ciraulo, the director of the Little Caesars hockey operations as well as head coach of the midget major team, backed out was that the organization felt that, in order to really do things right, they would need the Red Wings marketing and PR department to put their weight behind the proposed USHL franchise.
With the impending lockout, there won’t be any Red Wings games, hence no PR push coming from the Olympia.
The ownership group, which is headed up by Glen Murray, Mike Ilitch’s son-in-law, and includes, among others, a couple of Red Wings players, decided to hold off.
They did not purchase the team.
A year from now, they plan to either reenter the bidding for the franchise, or buy an expansion team, which goes for $750,000, not significantly different price-wise from the St. Louis market value.
The team is likely to be called the Detroit Junior Red Wings, which will take local fans back a decade or so.
“The whole thing depends on the Red Wings. When we get their blessing, we’ll have a great franchise here,” Ciraulo said.
USHL Moving Eastward?
The USHL league office announced early this afternoon that the dispersal draft of the St. Louis Heartland Eagles, scheduled for today, has been “postponed”
There was no other information included, and we’re waiting for a callback from the league office.
However, the very fact that the dispersal draft was scheduled -- and then postponed at the last minute – indicates that it’s 99% certain that a buyer, or at least a potential buyer, has been found for the team.
Reliable sources have indicated that the St. Louis franchise will move to Detroit and likely play out of the Michigan States Fairgrounds Coliseum, a 5,500 seat arena at 8 Mile and Woodward, fairly close to the trendy suburb of Royal Oak, Michigan.
The Coliseum is a brick, old-style arena that underwent a multi-million dollar renovation when Wayne State (CHA) moved their hockey team into the building in 1999-00. It’s an impressive building – and loud, too. Unlike all these new arenas that suck the noise up into the atmosphere, the Fairgrounds Coliseum can be electrifying. Also, the ice is said to be excellent as well.
It would be excellent for junior hockey – and Detroit needs a junior team badly, as a whole season has passed since the Compuware Ambassadors (NAHL) folded shop, leaving a void in an area that’s a major source of hockey talent. If well-marketed, Detroit could be a goldmine.
If we get any more information, we’ll pass it on.
Regan Leads Waterloo to USHL Title
The Waterloo Black Hawks, with goals from Mike Radja and Joel Hanson, defeated Tri-City, 2-1, last night to take the 2004 Clark Cup title, three games to one.
But here’s something unusual, though less so in the last 10 years, with its defense-oriented systems, than ever before: Tri-City, in a losing cause, outshot Waterloo in every single game. Shots for the four-game series were Tri-City 135, Waterloo 92.
The difference in the series was Waterloo goaltender Kevin Regan, a UNH recruit from South Boston, Mass. who faced over 30 or more shots in all four games of the final series. Regan, who had a 2.15 gaa and .915 save percentage in the regular season, upped his game even further in the postseason, playing all 12 of his team’s game and posting a 1.55 gaa and .944 save percentage.
Regan, a 2003 St. Sebastian’s graduate, was named playoff MVP.
With last night’s win, before a home crowd of 3,500, the Black Hawks won the Clark Cup for the first time in the franchise’s 25-year history.
The smart money in the finals was on Tri-City. Skillfully assembled by coach/GM Bliss Littler and assistant Tom Rudrud, the Storm won the regular season with an impressive 43-12-5 record, lost merely one game in the playoffs’ first two rounds, and then hit a wall, namely Kevin Regan. It happens.
However, let’s not take short-change Waterloo, coached by veteran P.K. O’Handley and assistants Chris Tok and Sandy Cohen. The Black Hawks finished the regular season just three games over .500, and no one really expected them to get to finals, but they did, and pulled off the upset.
Gilligan Bids Farewell to UMass
UMass assistant coach Bill Gilligan will not be returning to the Minutemen next season.
Gilligan, who’s been crucial to the recent success of UMass, has been a coach for 25 years, 19 years as a head coach and GM in Austria and Switzerland, and the past six years as an assistant for the Minutemen.
The 49-year-old Beverly, Mass. native cited his family as the reason for his departure. He and his wife, Jennifer, are parents to two young children (with a third on the way). As most of you know, Div. I assistant coaches are on the road unceasingly, and it’s stressful for families.
“I had made my decision (to leave UMass) before Princeton even showed interest in me,” said Gilligan, who went down to New Jersey for his interview last Wednesday. “It might be an inopportune time to leave UMass, but I’m going to take my chances.”
UMass assistant coach Mark Dennehy, who’s worked with Toot Cahoon and Gilligan, said, “I’m not at all worried about Billy (leaving without a job). He’ll land a good one’’
Gilligan, who’s the younger brother of former Vermont head coach Mike Gilligan, is a deep thinker who studies situations from numerous angles, and is passionate about the game. On a personal level, he’s direct, sometimes blunt, yet easy to talk to. The players, who he told as a team the other night, liked him, and he’s highly respected within the game, both in the US. and overseas.
An All-American at Brown, Gilligan graduated in 1977 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, a record that hasn’t been broken in the 27 years since. After playing pro in the old WHA, Gilligan went overseas in 1979 to continue his pro career in Europe – specifically, Austria and Switzerland. After hanging up his skates, Gilligan coached in Austria for Klagenfurt, where Thomas Pock’s father was one of his players; and in Switzerland for Bern, which won three Swiss championships in his four years behind the bench. Gilligan would later return to Bern as GM. He was also an assistant coach with the Austrian National Team, and a three-year head coach of the Swiss National Team which, in 1992, finished fourth in the IIHF World Championship, the highest finish ever for a Swiss team. Gilligan also was the head coach of the Swiss National Junior Team, which opened eyes with its third place finish (behind only Finland and Russia) at the 1998 World Junior Championship in Helsinki. Six years ago, Gilligan began to miss the United States, made inquiries and took an assistant’s position on Joe Mallen’s staff at UMass. Two years later Toot Cahoon took over as the head coach and retained Gilligan. As you no doubt know, Cahoon, Gilligan and Dennehy have brought the Minutemen a long way, with the results really showing in the past two years. This season, UMass finished third, behind BC and Maine.
For UMass, it will be almost impossible to find someone with Gilligan’s breadth of experience and knowledge. But they are on the case, and have started interviewing candidates.
Gilligan plans to move back to the Boston area, where his wife’s family lives. With his extensive experience as a head coach and GM, Gilligan just wants to be a head coach again.
As for UMass, Gilligan said, "I really enjoyed my years there. No regreats at all. I loved it."
Mark Morris Takes Over at Northwood
Mark Morris, who spent 14 plus seasons as head coach at Clarkson before being fired in Nov. 2002, has been named head coach at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY.
Morris takes over for Tom Fleming, who had been head coach for 21 years. Fleming, a former Dartmouth College star, will stay on at the school as a athletic director and math teacher.
Morris, a 1976 graduate of Massena (NY) High School, has a connection with Northwood, having spent a PG year there before heading off to attend Colgate, where he played all four seasons. A defenseman, Morris also played three seasons of minor pro hockey before getting into coaching, first as an assistant at Union, then St. Lawrence. In 1988, Morris took over the Clarkson program and in 14 years – all winning seasons – led the Golden Knights to the NCAA tournament nine times.
Morris’ firing 18 months ago was the result of a well-publicized on-ice physical altercation with one of his players, then-junior forward Zach Schwan. Morris subsequently filed a lawsuit against the school, which was settled out of court.
After he was fired at Clarkson, Morris hooked on with the Vancouver Canucks, helping former minor league teammate Marc Crawford after the Canucks conditioning coach left the squad in mid-season. This past season, Morris was an assistant coach in major junior, working with the Saginaw Spirit (OHL), coached by Moe Mantha.
Morris, 46 and the father of three children, has kept roots in Potsdam, where his wife works as a lawyer. Lake Placid is about 90 minutes southeast of Potsdam.
Morris, in addition to coaching, will be assisting in the school’s admissions and alumni/development office.
Last week, the Northwood job had been offered to former Lake Superior State goaltender Darrin Madeley, currently an assistant coach with the NTDP’s Under-18 Team. Madeley, 36, who had a 39-game pro career after finishing up with the Lakers, decided he didn’t want to uproot his children, thus will continue with the National Program.
Mercyhurst assistant Dave Smith, a star forward at Ohio State who has also been an assistant at Miami-Ohio and Bowling Green, was also reported to be a candidate for the job.
Early on, former Union College head coach Bruce Delventhal had also showed interest, but then dropped out of the hunt.
Out of Left Field
Guy Gadowsky has been named the new head coach at Princeton.
Gadowsky, who has been the head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks (CCHA) for the past five years, is a 36-year-old native of Edmonton, Alberta who went on to Colorado College. After graduating in ’89, Gadowsky played minor pro in the U.S. and in the European leagues as well. His final season was in 1995-96 when, as a player/coach with the Fresno Falcons (WCHL), he scored 52 goals and was named league MVP.
The following year, Gadowsky became the Falcons head coach, a position he kept for several years before taking over at Alaska-Fairbanks in 1999. After seasons with six wins and nine wins, the Nanooks jolted the college hockey world by winning 22 in Gadowsky’s third season and just missing out on an NCAA bid. They’ve been solid in the two years since.
Gadowsky’s hiring at Princeton took many by surprise. Middlebury College coach Bill Beaney was reported to be the front runner. Other candidates known to have interviewed included former NJ Devils assistant Kurt Kleinendorst, Colgate associate head coach Stan Moore, Dartmouth assistant coach Dave Peters, and Quinnipiac head coach Rand Pecknold.
We’ll See You in a While -- Maybe
The St. Louis Heartland Eagles (USHL) have been granted, according to league president Gino Gasparini, a “voluntary suspension of operations.”
That could mean a lot of different things, but it does mean they’re shutting it down for next season -- at least.
A league news release said “delays in the construction of the Heartland Eagles’ new facility were the primary reason for (the) decision.”
We think that low attendance, which was not cited as a factor, may have had something to do with it, too.
Last spring, when the Topeka ScareCrows franchise relocated to the St. Louis area, poor attendance in the Kansas capitol – an average of 1,732 per game – was the reason given for the move. But in St. Louis, specifically the suburb of Chesterfield, the average reported attendance was significantly smaller. The Heartland Eagles drew an average of 1,241 per game – and many observers reportedly felt that number to have been puffed up. Quite puffed up actually: a reliable observer reports that on his trips to Chesterfield this season, the attendance each time was approximately 300.
What’s noteworthy here is that the three USHL teams with the worst reported average attendance were Chicago (2,062), St. Louis (1,234), and Danville (964). The first two are large cities with NHL teams and a ton of other diversions, and one is a tiny town with a population too small to support a USHL team.
The nine teams above them all fit the same profile. Each is a medium-sizedmidwestern city with no competition from other hockey teams. If you’re in Sioux Falls and you want to watch hockey, you watch the Stampede – or stay home and read a book. That’s why Sioux Falls was one of the better-drawing teams in the league despite having a poor season.
The league as a whole drew fewer fans this season, dropping from an average of 3,255 to 2,900.
The Heartland Eagles are working on a new arena in conjunction with Lindenwood University, a NAIA school that is exploring the possibility of going Div. I. The new arena will be in St. Charles, MO., a bit northwest of downtown. We're hard-pressed to see how having a college team in the same building will boost the Heartland Eagles gate.
Some believe the team will do better in the new arena, but there’s little evidence to support such a belief. Most USHL owners don't like to lose money, so if the Heartland Eagles do resurface in 2005-06, which should be treated with skepticism, it might be in some other city entirely. The USHL has a history of letting franchises go dormant while waiting for a buyer to come along. The Rochester Mustangs, mothballed since '02, will reappear in the fall of '05 with a new owner, Lou Mervis, and a new home in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The Thunder Bay Flyers, mothballed since 2000, have, in Jim Markey, a new owner. Markey has been working for quite a while on getting the franchise into Columbia, Missouri. Other teams thahave been announced as coming into the league -- e.g., Olathe, KS. a western suburb of KC -- simply never materialized.
Don't bet on the Heartland Eagles returning to the St. Louis area in the fall of '05. It could happen, but, if past is prologue, it won't.
-- Players currently on the Heartland Eagles roster will be made available to the remaining 11 teams in the league by means of a dispersal draft this Friday (May 7). Teams will make their selection in reverse order of finish. '87 forward Justin Mercier will likely be the first player selected. Goaltender Mike Zacharias, an '85 with two years of USHL experience already, should also be scooped up quickly.
-- The ownership transfer allowing the USHL's Danville franchise to move to Indianapolis has been completed. The Wings franchise, which was purchased by Indianapolis businessman Paul Skjodt, will be named the Indiana Ice.
Texas Wins NAHL Crown
The Texas Tornado topped the Bismarck Bobcats 4-1 to win the 2004 NAHL title before a crowd of 3,312 at the Star Center in Frisco, Texas earlier this evening.
Texas scored the game’s first goal, a powerplay tally by Luke Flicek, at the 2:50 mark of the first. They would never relinquich the lead.
Texas, which outshot Bismarck 42-16, got two goals from Tom Train, and one apiece from Mike Salens and Flicek. All but Train’s first goal came on the powerplay. (Texas went 3-for-9 while a man up; Bismarck 0-for-5.) Brad Cooper and Trevor Ludwig each had a pair of assists for the Tornado. Flicek also picked up an assist, giving himself two points as well. J.J. Koehler scored the lone Bobcats goal.
Scott Talbot kicked out15 in the Texas net; Scot Mickelson had 38 saves for the Bobcats.
With 2:39 left in the second period and Texas leading, 3-1, 34 minutes of penalties were called in the wake of a pair of fights. Jason Palmer and Nick Bydal of Bismarck got five minutes apiece, as did Chris Nichols and Justin Liut of Texas. Liut was also ejected.
In the bronze medal game, which featured no less than eight slashing penalties, several high sticking calls, a couple of fights, a game misconduct and a kneeing penalty, the Springfield Jr. Blues topped the Fairbanks Ice Dogs, 5-2.
Springfield was outshot, but goalie Ian Harper, a Minnesota native, kicked out 29 of the 31 shots he faced, and therein lay the difference in the game.
Springfield got goals from five different scorers: Chris Bolognino, Bryan Jurynec, Chase Podsiad, Ryan Hernandez and Pat Lee.
Robb Ross figured in both of the Ice Dogs goals, scoring on a first-period powerplay, and picking up an assist on Jake Bluhm's third-period powerplay goal.
Liske Top Yank in OHL Draft
6’3”, 185 lb. Payton Liske, a dual citizen from Fonthill, Ont. playing for the Welland Cougers (Golden Horsehoe Jr. B) was the first U.S. player selected in the OHL draft earlier today.
Overall, 52 Americans were drafted (out of a total of 300). All are ‘88s, with the exception of five players, who are noted below.
The Plymouth Whalers selected the most American-born players (6). The Erie Otters were next with five. The Owen Sound Attack, Saginaw Spirit, and Sarnia Sting each selected four Americans. Most teams were between 1-3. A couple of teams -- the Oshawa Generals and Sudbury Wolves -- each had zero.
The first number in the left-hand column below represents the roundeach player was drafted in; the second number designates what position within the round they were selected.
2004 OHL Draft; U.S. Players Only
1-12Owen Sound – Payton Liske, LW, Welland Jr. B, 6-3/185
2-2Saginaw – Scott Fletcher, RD, Honeybaked ‘88s, 6-2/170
2-6Brampton – Blake Geoffrion, LW, Culver Academy, 6-2/180
2-13Kitchener –Jack Combs, LW, California Wave, 6-0/200
3-6Brampton – Luke Lynes, LW, Culver Academy, 6-0/175, ‘87
4-13Plymouth – Jake Helmick, LD, Pittsburgh Hornets Midgets, 6-1/190
4-16Owen Sound – Neil Conway, G, Stouffville Jr. A, 6-0/175
4-20Owen Sound – Bobby Sanguinetti, RD, Lawrenceville School, 6-2/165
5-8London – Pat Kane, LC, Honeybaked ‘88s, 5-9/135
5-13Plymouth – Tommy Sestito, LW, Syracuse Stars Jr. B, 6-4/190, ‘87
5-20London – Kevin Montgomery, LD, Syracuse Jr. A, 6-0/175
6-7Windsor – Steven Kampfer, RD, Little Caesar’s Midgets, 5-9/160
6-8Saginaw – Jordan Franke, RW, Litle Caesar’s ‘88s, 6-3/210
6-12Kingston – Chad Morin, LD, US Under-17, 5-11/175
6-13Plymouth – Zach Redmond, RD. Compuware ‘88s, 6-0/160
6-17Mississauga – Gabe Heller, RD, CYA ‘88s, 5-11/175
7-4Peterborough – Tony Yearego, LD, Honeybaked ‘88s, 6-0/175
7-13Plymouth – Brett Bennett, G, Honeybaked ‘88s, 6-2/175
7-14Kitchener – Nate Hennig, LW, Honeybaked ‘88s, 6-0/205
8-8Plymouth – Anthony Farina, RC, NY Apple Core, 6-2/190, ‘87
8-11Erie – Joe Sova, LD, Chicago Mission Midgets, 6-1/170
8-16Sarnia – Derek Roehl, LC, Little Caesar’s Midgets, 5-9/160
8-20Sarnia – Steve Savor, RW, Shattuck-St. Mary’s ‘88s, 6-2/175
9-3Peterborough – Jon Jacobs, LW, Compuware ‘88s, 6-1/180
9-9Kingston – Adam Bellows, RD, Nichols School, 6-3/175, ‘87
10-2Saginaw – Dustin Gazley, RW, Compuware ‘88s, 6-1/180
10-10S.S. Marie – Kyle Verbeek, RW, Honeybaked ‘88s, 5-10/165
10-11Erie – Kyle Greco, RW, Chicago Yound Americans ‘88s, 6-0/170
10-17Mississauga – Nick Fanto, LW, Victory Honda Midgets, ‘86
11-4S.S. Marie – Neil Ruffini, LC, Detroit Motor City Chiefs, 5-10/170
11-12Owen Sound – Corey Toy, RD, Hotchkiss School, 6-0/175
11-17Mississauga – Chris Summers, LD, Victory Honda, 6-1/170
11-20London – Patrick Maroon, LD, St. Louis Blues ‘88s, 6-1/180
12-11Erie – Brad Reck, RW, Honeybaked Midgets, 6-3/195
12-16Sarnia – Ben Ryan, RC, Victory Honda ‘88s, 5-10/160
13-3Peterborough – Jonathan Wolter, RD, Westminster School, 6-1/170
13-4S.S. Marie – Pat Tiesling, LW, Compuware Midgets, 6-1/180
13-6Brampton – Mike Ratchuk, LD, Buffalo Saints Midgets, 5-9/140
13-7Windsor – Joe Palmer, G, Syracuse Stars Jr. B, 6-1/185
13-8St. Michael’s – Matt Quigley, RW, Pittsburgh Hornets Midgets, 5-10/165
13-9Kingston – Daniel Lawson, LC, Chicago Chill ‘88s, 6-3/200
13-10Ottawa – Zachary Morbeck, LC, Wisconsin Midgets, 6-1/180
14-1Belleville – Dan Grzech, RC, Little Caesar’s ‘88s, 6-1/165
14-2Saginaw – Joseph Schweiger, RW, Belle Tire ‘88s, 6-0/160
14-11Erie – Michael Jarboe, G, Compuware ‘88s, 5-11/155
14-13Plymouth – Eric Bennett, RW, Buffalo Saints Midgets, 6-1/180
14-18St. Michael’s – John Clanton, RW, Belle Tire ‘88s, 6-0/170
15-3Peterborough – Nick Grasso, RC, Suffolk PAL Jr. B, 6-0/170
15-11Erie – Michael Fillinger, LW, Victory Honda ‘88s, 5-11/170
15-15Barrie – Ryan Loach, RW, St. Louis Blues ‘88s, 6-0/170
15-16Sarnia – Josh Schmitt, LD, Buffalo Saints ’88s, 5-11/160
15-18St. Michael’s – Bill Sweatt, LC, Team Illinois Midgets, 5-9/150