Hard Road Ahead for U.S. Junior Team
Vancouver, BC -- The U.S. National Junior team lost a hard-fought 3-2 decision to the host Canadians with the winning goal coming on an empty netter with 33 seconds remaining. Coach Walt Kyle had pulled goaltender Corey Schneider for the extra attacker as the U.S. needed a win – and nothing less -- to advance to the semifinals. The U.S. team quickly fell behind, 2-0, in the first period and battled back to tie it on power play goals from Chris Bourque and Peter Mueller. Phil Kessel who leads the tournament in assists but has yet to score a goal, assisted on Bourque’s goal. Mueller’s equalizer was a thing of beauty as defenseman Erik Johnson, from his own end, noticed the Canadians were changing and threw a long pass to Tom Fritsche at the Canadians’ blue line. Fritsche, with a Canadian defenseman on him, was able to redirect the pass behind him between his legs to a streaking Mueller who went in all alone and beat Justin Pogge to tie it at 2-2. The U.S. certainly had their chances to take the lead in the second period and came close as Jack Johnson twice hit iron, and was robbed by Pogge to start the third period while the US was on a 5-on-3 advantage. However, for most of the third period the Canadians were content to bottle up the US in their own end, something they were extremely successful at as the U.S. generated very few even-strength offensive opportunities. Another factor may have been fatigue as the U.S. team, which is built more on speed and puck control, struggled at times with the Canadians’ physical style of play. Walt Kyle elected to go mostly with two plus forward lines and four defenseman (both Johnsons, Lee and Chorney) as Matt Niskanen and Mark Mitera saw very little ice in the second and third period. (Chris Butler dressed but didn’t play due to an injury.) The U.S. squad, particularly the defense, looked tired late in the game and struggled with the Canadians forecheck to effectively transition out of their own zone. The game was marred by a late flagrant Jack Johnson elbow to Steve Downie which occurred behind the play just after Kyle Chipchura scored the winning empty netter for Canada. Johnson received a major and game misconduct. On tape it clearly looked like Johnson lost his composure, which could have led to a reviewable match penalty. However after the game, tournament officials said Johnson would not be suspended and will be available for the quarterfinals. The US team, after blowing out Norway 11-2, has not played as one would expect from the tournament favorites. They now face a very difficult path through the quarter finals, where they will face a Czech squad that is talented, though without depth, and is also quite exploitable in their own zone. The winner of this game will move onto the semis to face an undefeated, rested and confident Russian team which outscored opponents 21-6 in the preliminary round. On the other side of the bracket Sweden and Finland will battle for the right to square off with Canada in the other semifinal.
U.S. Under-17s Topped by Slovakia, 4-2
Milestone, Sask. -- New Year’s Eve didn’t turn out any better for the U.S. Under-17 team which moved to 1-1 in the preliminary round of the World Under-17 Challenge by losing to Slovakia 4-2. Josh Unice started in net for the US but was pulled by head coach Ron Rolston four minutes into the second period after giving up three goals on five shots. Brad Phillips replaced Unice and kicked out all 15 shots he faced. The US battled back from a 3-0 deficit as Ryan Hayes scored two even strength goals, his second closing the gap to 3-2 with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Slovakia successfully killed off a late penalty and then added an empty netter with two seconds left for the 4-2 win. John Albert, Jason Vaive and James Van Riemsdyk picked up helpers for the US squad, which was 0-for-7 on the power play. The U.S. must quickly regroup as they play the Canadian West team tomorrow at 3:00 pm local time.
U.S. Viking Cup Team Tops Finland
Camrose, Alb. -- In the Viking Cup, the U.S. team finished the preliminary round with a 4-0 record after defeating Finland, 9-5, New Year’s Eve to move into the quarterfinals against the AJHL South squad today. Eight different players scored for the U.S. in a balanced attack. A pair of New York kids -- Tony Romano (1g, 4a) and James Marcou (2g, 1a) -- led the way with multiple point games. Linemate Sean Dolan (1g, 1a) also had a strong game, being named star of the game for the US team. Also scoring for the US were Matt Arhontas, who leads the team with five goals, Justin Milo, Gary Steffes, and Steven Kampfer. Picking up additional helpers were Trevor Lewis (2A), Kyle Okposo, Nick Petrecki. Mario Lamoureaux, and Chris Vande Velde. Brian Foster stopped 22 of 27 shots in net for the win.
Feels Like a Loss
The heavily favored US National Junior team entered the third period with a 2-0 lead over Switzerland, only to give it away as Switzerland scored two power play goals to earn a 2-2 tie in Friday night action at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver.
The U.S. (2-0-1), which also strugged in getting past Finland Wednesday night, now must beat Canada (3-0-0) tonight to finish first in the A pool and gain a bye into the semifinal on Tuesday. A loss means they will have to play in a quarterfinal on Monday.
For the U.S., favorites to win the tournament, tonight is a major gut check as they face Canada, their biggest rival, at a time when they are probably asking themselves big questions. In tonight's game, played before 12,130 at the Pacific Coliseum, they heard, in the game's waning moments, chants of "U.S. sucks" from Canadian supporters cheering on the Swiss comeback effort.
Switzerland has never beaten the U.S. in World Junior competition, losing 15 times and gaining one tie (in 1993) before tonight.
The U.S. scored both their goals in the first period, by Geoff Paukovich and Bobby Ryan.
In the third, the U.S. gave Switzerland five power play opportunities and the Swiss cashed in on two of them, with goals by Eric Blum and Matthias Joggie.
"It's really big for us," said Joggi afterward. "For the nation and everybody in Switzerland, it will be great."
Viking Cup Squad Stays Undefeated
In Lethbridge, Alberta, the U.S. Viking Cup squad remained undefeated, earning a 5-1 win over a pesky Swiss team. The U.S. was able to break open a 2-1 game when Matt Arhontas scored twice in the third period. The goals were Arhontas' third and fourth of the tournament. Justin Milo, Ryan Turek, and Chris Vande Velde also scored for the U.S. with Drew Dobson (3a), Kyle Okposo (2a), Nick Petrecki (1a), Gary Steffes (1a), and goaltender Alex Stalock (1a) picking up helpers. Stalock turned aside 17 of 18 shots for the win. The US outshot the Swiss, 38-18. Next up for the U.S. is Finland on Dec. 31st, although the U.S. has already earned a spot in the quarterfinals along with the AJHL North and AJHL South teams.
In the World Under-17 Challenge in Saskatchewan, the U.S. Under-17 Team lost their exhibition tuneup to Team Pacific, 5-4. Justin Vaive (2g), Brennan Vargas (1g,1a), and Kevin Shattenkirk (1g,1a) accounted for the U.S. goals, while John Albert (3a), Colin Wilson (1a), and Phil McRae (1a) lending a hand. Josh Unice stopped 24 of 29 shots for the loss. Ron Rolston's special teams, a key to success in short tournaments, were inconsistent, giving up three goals in six PKs, and going 2-for-9 on the power play. The U.S. takes on Ontario in their opening game tonight.
Under-17s Top Ontario
Despite being outshot 50-43 (!!), the U.S. Under-17 Team emerged with a hard fought 7-5 decision over Team Ontario in their opening game of the World Under-17 Challenge. The U.S. squad got two goals each from Kevin Shattenkirk and Colin Wilson and one each from John Albert (1g,2a), James Van Riemsdyk (1g,1a), and Teddy Ruth. Earning helpers for the US were defenseman Colby Cohen, Ian Cole, and Joey Lavin along with forwards Mike Cieslak and Ryan Hayes. Brad Phillips kicked out 45 of 50 shots for the win. Key to the US win was improved special teams play (from their earlier exhibition loss to Team Pacific) as they converted two of four power plays while killing off four of five penalty kills. The U.S. jumped out to a 4-2 lead late in the second period when John Albert scored an unassisted power play goal with 26 seconds remaining in the period. The teams traded goals throughout the third period with each team scoring three times. The last U.S. goal was an empty netter with 20 seconds remaining off the stick of Wilson, his second goal of the night.
Up next for the US is Slovakia, who have dropped a 4-3 decision to Quebec. The puck drops at 8 pm EST on New Year's Eve. The US has already faced Slovakia one this year, beating them in a Four Nations Cup game on Nov. 11.
Fuel For the Fire
The Toronto Globe and Mail ran a World Junior Championship feature story the other day under the headline "A U.S. Civil War?" The story details something that readers of this website have known for a long time, i.e. that there is animosity among some of the American players directed toward star center Phil Kessel. However, the story doesn't really go into the fact that the parents probably dislike each other even more than the kids themselves, and have perpetuated the fued. Kathy Kessel, in particular, has shown herself to be gifted at promoting her son -- who hardly needs promoting -- in a manner that other parents have found alienating.
Anyway, here it is, a little fuel for the fire from the Canadian press. Certainly should keep things boiling as the tournament heads towards the US-Canada New Year's matchup.
Toronto Globe and Mail article
US Squeaks Past Finland, 6-5
The U.S. Junior Team edged Finland, 6-5, tonight in Vancouver, BC.
After falling behind 2-0 early, the U.S. came back with three straight goals before the end of the period, the last with 11 seconds remaining.
The U.S. scored again in the final minute of the second period and entered the third with a two-goal lead. That's when things got interesting. After the U.S. went ahead 6-3 on a Kevin Porter goal, Finland turned it up and scored two goals, the last a power play goal with their goaltender pulled. Finland, however, couldn't get the equalizer and time ran out on their comeback effort.
The U.S. outshot Finland, 43-34.
Jeff Frazee was in goal for the U.S. tonight and had 29 saves.
Scorers for the U.S. were: Robbie Schremp (3a), Bobby Ryan (1g,2a), Blake Wheeler (2g), Kevin Porter (1g,1a), Tom Fritsche (1g,1a), Peter Mueller (2a), Phil Kessel (2a), and Brian Lee (1g).
The next U.S. game is on Friday at 4:00 PM PST.
EJHL To Face Off Against Chowder Cup
The Eastern Junior Hockey League is getting into the summer tournament game in New England, announcing its own tournaments for the weekends of May 19-21 and August 4-6. On the latter dates, it would go head-to-head with the Chowder Cup, which is run out of arenas in Walpole and Foxboro, Mass.
The EJHL tournaments will both take place at the five-sheet New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Mass., and the Sports Center is a partner in the tournament.
All 12 EJHL teams will be participating, and, in all, there could be 42-54 entries. The EJHL will be competing with the O’Connells for the best of the summer crop, each trying to bring in the top teams to their respective tournaments. Look for the fur to fly.
“Our primary reason for holding these tournaments is to promote the Eastern Junior Hockey League and the talent in it,” league president Dan Esdale said. “We hope to attract the top competition available.”
Esdale also said that another reason the EJHL is getting into the tournament business is to raise revenue. The EJHL, a junior league in which players pay to play, has a low overhead, hence hasn’t been able to do much in the way of marketing and public relations. Any profits from the two tournaments would go back to the league.
The Chowder Cup will be taking a hit right off the top, as all the EJHL teams which traditionally took part in that tournament will no longer be doing so. In addition, the EJHL plans to undercut the Chowder Cup on entry fees, as well as offer the convenience of all games being played under one roof, not unlike Bob Turow’s Prospects Tourneys.
World Under-17 Challenge On Tap
The World Under-17 Challenge gets underway in Regina and Moose Jaw, Sasketchewan with five exhibitions today -- the U.S. will be playing Team Pacific at 7:00 MST in Moose Jaw which, according to the Hockey Canada web site, now calls itself "The Northern Gateway to Southwest Saskatchewan." Not exactly catchy, is it? Perhaps Moose Jawians have a great sense of humor and like to see visitors totally dizzied -- or they hired a lousy PR firm. Or both.
Anyway, the U.S. Under-17 Team, which has the advantage of playing together all season long, should win it all. After today's exhibitions, there are round robin games starting tomorrow and running through Monday. Each team gets one day off which means that, after the playoffs are completed on Tuesday (Jan. 3), each team will have played six games in seven days, including today's exhibitions.
Team Atlantic has two New England prep players on its roster -- defenseman Scott Jenks of Choate, who is from Bathurst, NB; and Cushing center Brad Malone, who is from Miramichi, NB.
Tournament Web Site
Prep Tournaments, Round 2
The second round of prep tournaments got underway today and will continue through Monday. Please check the Prep News each night for results.
December Prep News
A Grand Haul
Darcy Zajac and Evan Trupp, the fourth and fifth-leading scorers in the BCHL, have both just committed to the University of North Dakota.
-- Zajac, the younger brother of Travis Zajac, a Fighting Sioux sophomore forward and 2004 first round draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, is a right wing in his second year with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. In 35 games he has a 22-30-52 line with 32 pims. Zajac, who is 6'0", 185 lbs., is a 9/23/86 birthdate.
The Winnipeg, Manitoba native made his final choice from between UNH and North Dakota. He will join the Fighting Sioux this fall.
-- Trupp, a 5'8", 150 lb. left wing, has a 17-35-52 line in 35 games with the Penticton Vees. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Trupp played midgets with the Alaska All-Stars and was the Alaska High School Player of the Year in 2004-05. He played on both the Select 16 and Select 17 squads chosen from the USA Select Festivals to go to Europe.
Trupp talked to a ton of schools before narrowing his final choices to Wisconsin, UNH, and North Dakota.
He'll probably be going to North Dakota in the fall of '07.
Bourque, Kessel Lead U.S. in Blowout
Chris Bourque scored five goals while his center, Phil Kessel, added five assists as the U.S. trounced Norway, 11-2, in opening night action at the World Junior Championship in Vancouver, BC.
Two of Bourque's goals came on the power play, and one was shorthanded.
Kevin Porter, the right wing on the Bourque-Kessel line -- as well as the team captain -- had four points of his own (1g,3a). Other scorers for the US were: Erik Johnson (1g,2a), Peter Mueller (1g,2a), Robbie Schremp (1g,1a), Jack Johnson (2a), T.J. Oshie (1g), Jack Skille (1g), and Tommy Fritsche (1a).
The U.S. outshot Norway, 56-19, which was playing in the top tier of the WJC for the first time since 1991. The U.S. won that one 19-1.
There were 25 combined power plays in the game, with the US 5/13 with the man advantage while Norway was 2/12.
U.S. goalkeeper Cory Schneider, one of two Massachusetts players on the team (Bourque is the other) made 17 saves. Minnesota has eight players on this year's junior team.
The crowd at the Pacific Coliseum began booing the Americans, heavy favorites to win the tournament, during player introductions, and the biggest cheers of the night came when Norway scored its first goal. U.S. goals were met with stony silence. The U.S. squad has nine first-round NHL draft picks and four more likely to go in the first round in June.
In addition to the Bourque-Kessel-Porter combination, the U.S. lines were Mueller-Schremp-Wheeler; Gerbe-Oshie-Skille; and Davis-Paukovich-Fritsche.
Other games Monday: Canada 5, Finland 1; Czech Republic 5, Latvia 1; and Russia 5, Sweden 1.
Mon. Dec. 26 -- U.S. 11, Norway 2
Wed. Dec. 28 -- US vs. Finland, 8:08 PST
Fri. Dec. 30 -- U.S. vs. Switzerland, 4:08 PST
Sat. Dec. 31 -- U.S. vs. Canada, 4:08 PST
Mon. Jan. 2 -- Quarterfinals
Tues. Jan. 3 -- Semifinals
Thurs. Jan. 5 -- Medal Games
Who's Still Out There for '06?
In talking with college recruiters and junior coaches, it's clear that the remaining group of U.S.-born players in juniors who are likely to be playing Div. I hockey next season is fairly short. Here, alphabetically arranged, are some of the players you may see committing to a Div. I school over the next few months. Note that the players on this list have either already graduated from high school, or will this spring. We have taken a number of players off the list who are sure bets to play Div. I, but have already decided on playing another year of juniors next season.
Also note that this list includes only USHL and NAHL players (as well as a couple of Americans in the BCHL). Players in prep and high school will be on a separate list later.
Chad Costello, Cedar Rapids (USHL) -- 5'9" '86 forward from Iowa is putting up great numbers as a USHL rookie. Third in league in scoring with with a 14-21-35 line in 26 games.
Mike Davies, Lincoln (USHL) -- Another small '86 rookie forward putting up great numbers. Davies, 5'8" and 165 lbs., leads Lincoln with a 13-17-30 line in 20 games.
Sean Dolan, Indiana (USHL) -- Hasn't put up the numbers and has been inconsistent at times with the struggling Ice, but his package of size (6'2", 177 lbs.), hands, and skating are too much to overlook. 5-5-10 in 25 games.
Kai Kantola, Fargo-Moorhead (NAHL) -- Big strong '87 forward from Raleigh, NC is the lone NAHL representative on the Viking Cup team. A 6'1", 175 lb. right shot center in his second year with Fargo, Kantola, in 28 games, has a 16-13-29 line with 48 pims.
Dan Kissel, Chicago (USHL) -- One of the few bright spots on a weak Steel team. Illinois native is on the small side --- 5'9", 158 lbs. -- but competes well and can finish. 12-16-28 in 30 games.
Eric Lampe, Chicago (USHL) -- '86 from Madison, Wisc. plays a solid two-way game. On a team with a combined -154, he has a +9 and a 6-13-19 scoring line in 23 games.
Jim O'Brien, US Under-18 Team -- The only '89 on the Under-18 team, O'Brien, 6'2" and 184 lbs., is accelerating his studies and is expected to graduate in June. Reportedly, the Gophers have offered him.
Luke Popko, US Under-18 Team -- 5'9", 205 lb. '88 who formerly played at Taft has reportedly been offered by the University of Vermont.
Rich Purslow, Des Moines (USHL) -- The third-leading scorer on the Bucs (after Lewis and Okposo), 5'10" Purslow has a 9-12-21 line in 25 games. Smart, skilled player just needs to add strength. Northeastern, Merrimack, and UNH all showing varying degrees of interest.
Matt Schepke, Omaha (USHL) -- An '85, the 5'9", 196 lb. native of Michigan has really come on this year and is leading the Lancers in scoring with a 17-9-26 line in 29 games. BU and the Michigan schools all showing interest.
Mike Testwuide, Waterloo (USHL) -- 6'3", 210 lb. power forward was hampered by injuries last year. This season, Testwuide, an '87, leads the Black Hawks in goals with 11 in 23 games.
Evan Trupp, Penticton (BCHL) -- 5'9", 151 lb. Alaska native is on the small side but he continues to put up great numbers for the Vees. An '87, Trupp is fifth in the league in scoring with a 17-35-52 line in 35 games.
Jake Bauer, Sioux Falls (USHL) -- An '87 from Minnesota, Bauer, 6'0" and 185 lbs., has helped lead the Stampede resurgence. In 22 games, has a 4-10-14 line with a +13.
Kyle Hardwick, Lincoln (USHL) -- 6'0", 195 lb. defenseman from Warroad, Minn. has played 24 games with the Stars and has a 4-2-6 line with a +2. Late '86 is a rookie in league. A number of the Ivies are interested.
Chad Morin, Sioux City (USHL) -- 5'11", 205 lb. left-shot D, an '87 formerly in the NTDP, is with the Viking Cup team in Camrose, Alberta, where he'll be closely watched. Has a 2-2-4 line with a -6 on the youthful Musketeers. Competes well, skates well. Harvard, Ohio State and others reportedly interested.
Chase Ryan, Des Moines (USHL) -- 6'2", 205 lb. defenseman was let go by Cedar Rapids at the start of the season, but has stepped it up big time for the Bucs. A solid stay-at-home '86 from Illinois, Ryan is fourth in the USHL with a +17 in 25 games. Has a 1-10-11 scoring line.
Brian Schack, Southern Minnesota (NAHL) -- An '87 from Lino Lakes, Minn., Schack has size -- he's 6'3", 210 lbs. In 29 games with Southern Minnesota, he has a 2-10-12 line with 39 pims.
Billy Blase, Salmon Arm (BCHL) -- Has turned his game around after being released by Sioux City. Fifth in the BCHL in save percentage (.909) to go along with a 3.00 gaa and a 10-3-0 record for the first-place Silverbacks.
Riley Gill, Texarkana (NAHL) -- An '85 who stands 6'2", 190 lbs. Northfield, Minn. native has a 2.25 gaa and a .927 save percentage for the second-place Bandits.
Alex Kangas, Sioux Falls (USHL) -- 6'2", 180 lb. rookie goaltender -- he's an '87 -- leads USHL with a 1.68 gaa and a .947 save percentage. Getting a lot of attention.
Pat McGann, Cedar Rapids (USHL) -- Has been stuck behind Minn.-Duluth recruit Alex Stalock, so it looks like he'll be back with the RoughRiders next season. In six games he's undefeated with a 2.13 gaa and a .937 save percentage.
John Murray, Sioux Falls (USHL) -- If it weren't for Alex Kangas, his goaltending partner on the Stampede, we'd be hearing a lot more about this '87 Pennsylvania native now in his second year in the USHL. Murray, who is 6'0", 197 lbs., has a 2.18 gaa and a .923 save percentage in 14 games while playing in a strict rotation with Kangas. It's no wonder the Herd are 24-3-0 this season.
Troy Redman, Texas (NAHL) -- '86 California native came to Texas from the now-defunct Soo Indians, where he was inconsistent at times last season. Redman, 6'1" and 170 lbs., seems to have found himself in Texas where he has a 2.01 gaa and a .928 save percentage in 27 games for the first-place Tornado.
U.S. Opens with Two Wins at Viking Cup
The U.S. 18 and Under Junior Select Team has won its first two games at the Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta.
-- On Monday afternooon, behind a Trevor Lewis hat trick and a pair of goals from Zach Bearson, the U.S. topped Slovakia, 8-4.
The U.S. outshot Slovakia, 40-15. Alex Stalock had 11 saves for the win.
In addition to Lewis and Bearson, U.S. scorers were Kai Kantola (1g,1a), Justin Milo (2a), Tony Romano (g), Matt Arhontas (g), Chris Vande Velde (a), Kyle Okposo (a), Jeremy Dehner (a), Ryan Turek (a), Drew Dobson (a), James Marcou (a), Nick Petrecki (a), and Gary Steffes (a).
-- This afternoon, the U.S. got goals from seven different scorers en route to a 7-2 win over Germany. Brian Foster was in net today and kicked out 26 of 28 for the win.
U.S. scorers were: Steffes (1g,1a), Okposo (1g,1a), Milo (1g,1a), Tony Lucia (2a), Petrecki (g), Arhontas (g), Vande Velde (g), Kantola (g), Dehner (a), and Chad Morin (a).
The U.S. outshot Germany, 30-28.
Viking Cup Website
Roster: U.S. Junior Select 18 & Under Team; Viking Cup, Camrose, Alberta; Dec. 26-Jan. 2.
Goaltenders (2): Brian Foster (Des Moines); Alex Stalock (Cedar Rapids).
Defensemen (6): Jeremy Dehner (Green Bay); Drew Dobson (Waterloo); Steven Kampfer (Sioux City); Tristin Llewellyn (Indiana); Chad Morin (Sioux City); Nick Petrecki (Omaha).
Forwards (14): Matt Arhontas (Waterloo); Zach Bearson (Waterloo); Sean Dolan (Indiana); Kai Kantola (Fargo-Moorhead – NAHL); Mario Lamoureux (Tri-City); Trevor Lewis (Des Moines); Tony Lucia (Omaha); James Marcou (Waterloo); Justin Milo (Indiana); Kyle Okposo (Des Moines); Tony Romano (NY Bobcats – AJHL); Gary Steffes (Cedar Rapids); Ryan Turek (Omaha); Chris Vande Velde (Lincoln).
Head Coach: P.K. O’Handley. Assistant Coaches: Al Bloomer and Bob Crawford
Schedule: US Viking Cup Team
Mon. Dec. 26 -- U.S. 8, Slovakia 4
Tues. Dec. 27 -- US 7, Germany 2
Thurs. Dec. 29 -- Switzerland, 1:00 pm MST
Sat. Dec. 31 -- Finland, 3:00 pm MST
Sun. Jan. 1 -- Semifinals
Mon. Jan. 2 -- Medal Games
Wolverines Bag Another Buc
6'0", 175 lb RW Aaron Palushaj of the Des Moines Bucanneers (USHL) has committed to the University of Michigan. Currently a junior in high school, Palushaj, a 9/7/89 birthdate from South Lyon, Michigan, will join the Wolverines in the fall of '07.
Palushaj, who played for Honeybaked last season, has a 6-14-20 line with a +16 in 24 games as a rookie with Des Moines. He's still growing and gaining strength, which has helped his skating immeasureably over the past season. Palushaj has excellent offensive skills, which are reflected in his stats. He has an excellent shot, makes strong passes, and has no problems playing in traffic. He's also responsible both ways. Right now, he's playing the right side on Des Moines' third line, which is centered by Army recruit Ken Rowe and has Rich Purslow on the left side.
Last week, Palushaj took unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Michigan, and Michigan State. A couple of weeks before that, he visited Colorado College.
Palushaj is the second Des Moines player to commit to the Wolverines within the last week, as he'll be joining fellow teammate Trevor Lewis in Ann Arbor.
Wherever you are on this Christmas Day, we hope you are enjoying your time with your family.
We want to take this time to send out a special thank you to those of you who are USHR subscribers. Your support is crucial to this site, and it is entirely because of you that we are able to cover the amateur hockey world 12 months of the year. We appreciate it greatly.
The Last Top Recruit for '06 Makes His Decision
6'1", 195 lb. Des Moines Bucanneers RC Trevor Lewis has committed to the University of Michigan and will arrive in Ann Arbor this coming September.
Lewis, who has had a ton of interest ever since the Buc Bowl in mid-September, made his final pick from between Michigan and Boston College. Lewis visited Michigan on Dec. 10 and saw the Wolverines top UNO, 7-3. Boston College head coach Jerry York and assistant Mike Cavanaugh showed their seriousness by traveling out to Lewis' hometown of Murray, Utah -- a suburb of Salt Lake City -- to do a home visit with the family earlier this week. (Do you think, when York started his coaching career at Clarkson 35 years ago, that he ever thought he'd be making recruiting trips to Utah?) However, it was all for naught, as Lewis decided on the Wolverines.
Lewis, a 1/8/87 birthdate, played midgets from 2002-04 for the Pikes Peak Miners in Colorado, scoring over 100 points in his second and final season. Last season, his first in the USHL, he turned the corner around Christmas, but banged up his knee and missed over a month. Lewis came back in early February and began lighting it up, scoring over half his points in the last six weeks of the season. He finished with a 10-12-22 line in 52 games played.
This year, as we mentioned, Lewis came out of the chute with a vengeance, and is currently the second-leading scorer in the USHL. In 26 games he has a 19-16-35 line and a +20, just a couple of points behind Maine recruit Ted Purcell of Cedar Rapids, who is an '85. Lewis and his RW, Kyle Okposo, have complemented each other well.
"Going into the season, I knew he'd be good, but I didn't know how good he'd be," said Des Moines' head coach Regg Simon.
Lewis has good speed for his size, he competes and is physical, he makes plays and he can finish.Since the start of the season his stock with NHL scouts has shot up, and he is now projected as a 2nd-3rd round selection for June's draft.
Lewis gives Michigan's incoming class an offensive dimension it needed. After this season, they lose only two forwards -- Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Kaleniecki. Already signed on for the fall is Brian Lebler, a 6'2", 205 pounder from Penticton (BCHL). Lebler, an '88, projects as more of a third line checking forward.
Lewis is currently with the U.S. Junior Select Team preparing for the Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta Dec. 26-Jan. 2.
Brooks Tops USHR Div. II Poll
The Brooks School (5-0-1 NEPSIHA; 7-0-1 overall) sit atop the first USHR Div. II poll of the season. The only "blemish on the Bishops' record is a 4-4 tie vs. St. Mark's on Dec. 10.
Div. II Poll
Salisbury Wins Flood-Marr in OT
In a battle of the top-ranked teams in prep hockey, #1 Salisbury topped #2 Noble & Greenough 4-3 in overtime before a packed house at Milton Academy this afternoon.
Please check the Prep Boys News for the story on this and the nine other tournaments, now complete, that we've been following. Also, check the Prep Girls News for the seven girls tournaments we've been compiling information from. There's a lot to be found in both those sections, specifically a huge amount of results and summaries. Please continue to check back as we'll be filling in some holes over the next few days -- until we have it as complete as possible (without going totally insane).
Undefeated Salisbury Tops USHR Prep Poll
The Salisbury School, 4-3 overtime winners in yesterday's Flood-Marr finale, hold onto the top spot in this weeks USHR prep poll.
Note: We'll be posting our first Div. II poll of the season imminently, hopefully by Tuesday night. And we still have to add in some some scores and more details from the tournaments that ended yesterday. And we have a backlog of national news, too. After all of the hockey of the last five days, today was more of a kick-back-with-the-family-day here at the U.S. Hockey Report. Still haven't bought a Christmas tree, though.
Prep Tournament Updates
Starting today, and over the next four days, the New England prep tournaments will take center stage in our hockey coverage.
We will be posting scores and updates for 10 boys tournaments and seven girls tournaments, so check both the boys' and girls' prep pages between now and Sunday night for updates. We've worked hard this week to arrange better coverage than ever. We have all the schedules posted and we have arranged with coaches and others to get us game information (which explains why there has been so little non-prep coverage this week; don't worry, we'll be catching up with that next week).
Anyway, we hope you enjoy our coverage.
TI Midgets Streak Broken
On Sunday, the #1-ranked Team Illinois Midget AAA squad lost its first game of the season, as Shattuck-St. Mary's topped them 5-2.
TI's record now stands at 41-1-1.
The loss to Shattuck came on the third time the two teams have played this season. TI beat Shattuck 5-1 on Nov. 6 in Minnesota. On Saturday, TI topped Shattuck, 6-3.
The tie came on Dec. 2 to Belle Tire.
TI is coached by Jim Marchi. Leading scorers are Dan Durham and Tommy Wingels.
Salisbury Tops USHR Prep Poll
The first USHR prep poll of the season has been released, and the Salisbury School, which has gone 3-0-0 and has outscored opponents 36-2, is #1.
For the full results, please go to the boy's prep page and click on the "Standings/Polls" link at the bottom of the left-hand column.
-- Former Tabor forward Greg Orsini has joined the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) and was in the lineup in time for last night's scrimmage vs. the Bay State Breakers. Orsini, a former Union recruit, notched one assist. The Montreal native will be completing the season with the Junior Bruins.
-- 6'5" Indiana Ice (USHL) RW John Mitchell, a Wisconsin Badgers recruit, cleared USHL waivers and has been picked up by the Cleveland Barons (NAHL). Mitchell, an '86 from Menasha, Wisc., played last season with Tri-City and Green Bay. In 54 games, he had an 8-6-14 line.
This year, between Green Bay (6 games) and Indiana (14 games), Mitchell has only one goal and one assist
-- 6'3", 210 lb. defenseman Rory Farrell has withdrawn from Union, where he appeared in eight of the Dutchmen's 16 games, and has returned to the USHL, where he played last season with Des Moines. Farrell, an '86, will be joining the constantly retooling Sioux City Musketeers.
-- Exeter, which has a tough matchup with Cushing tomorrow, has had three players expelled from school as a result of an off-campus incident last Saturday night (Dec. 3). The three players are: PG forward D.J. Fimiani (Melrose, Mass.); PG defenseman Ryan McDonald (Bow, NH); and senior forward Sean Ryan (Plymouth, Mass.)
-- Former Avon Old Farms defenseman Adam Blanchette, who has played the last two plus seasons in the QMJHL, has been added to the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) roster. Blanchette, an '86, had a 0-2-2 line with 42 pims in 26 games for Gatineau (QMJHL).
Lombardi an Eagle
5'11", 185 lb. Governor Dummer Academy senior RW Matt Lombardi has committed to Boston College for next season.
Lombardi, a 11/9/87 birthdate from Milton, Mass., is a gritty, physical two-way player who skates well and is projected as a solid checking winger who'll be expected to help keep the other team off the board.
Last season, Lombardi had 11 goals and three assists.
Lombardi's father and sister both attended Boston College.
As long as we're on the subject of Governor Dummer, it's now official: the school, as of July 1, 2006, will become The Governor's Academy. The school's board of trustees, 28 of 30 of whom voted for the name change (with two abstentions), agreed with the findings of a marketing company headed by a GDA alum that concluded that the school's name "stood in the way of our gaining our deserved recognition."
Well, nothing surprises this typist, but the idea that a marketer's findings would lead to a prep school turning its back on its historical origins, is a little tough to swallow.
Governor Dummer Academy was named as a tribute to William Dummer, who was the acting governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1720s. It was Governor Dummer who donated the land for the school, which was founded in 1763.
Orsini to Green Bay
On Saturday, former Tabor forward Keif Orsini was added to the protected list of the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL).
In late November, former Tabor forward Nick Lampson was added to the protected list of the New Jersey Rockets (AJHL). To date, though, Lampson hasn't appeared in any games with the Rockets.
USHL Goalie Carousel
Sioux City, still sitting in the basement of the Western Division with the second-worst team GAA of 4.18 and the second-worst save percentage of .872, got a lift Saturday night at home as Beau Erickson turned aside 29 of 31 shots in a home win over Indiana. It was Erickson's first game in net for the Musketeers, who have now used five goalies this season: Erickson, Jerry Kuhn, Eddie Wheeler, Phil Tetzlaff, and Billy Blase. The latest sent packing was Eddie Wheeler, who was brought in to replace Blase. With three goalies in the fold, it was only a matter of time before another player was released. Taking the spot of Wheeler, who left Salem State College to give the USHL a shot, is 6'2", 215 lb. defenseman Dan Malloy of Stamford, Connecticut. Malloy, who recently left RIT three games into his freshman season, played last season for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL). An '85, Malloy should be able to offer experience, and might be able to help solidify the young Musketeer defense.
Tri-City has also used five goalies and has had a difficult time finding a backup to starter Aaron Rock. Storm head coach Bliss Littler seems to have settled on '88 Derek Brennan for now. Previously, the Storm employed '88 Nick Hopper, a holdover from last year, '86 Aaron Damjonovich, and '87 Elliott Oakland, who was released after the Buc Bowl.
Chicago has also struggled with goaltending and defensive problems. The Steel, in last place in the Eastern Division, have the league's worst GAA of 4.44 and third-worst save percentage of .877. Starter Shaun Williams, a recent Union recruit, has been overworked and has struggled in the last few gamess. Rich Drazin, who came up big in his first start for the Steel after being brought in to replace backup Wyatt Russell, has become inconsistent and now has a 4.32 GAA and .895 save percentage. Earlier this season, Bobby Jarosz was released. Coach Chris Imes must be wondering what is going on, though he inherited a team that lost a tandem of Shane Connelly (Wisconsin) and Billy Sauer (Michigan) after last season. You have to wonder what Connelly, an '87, is thinking now that he's stuck behind junior standout Brian Elliott (Ottawa, 9th Round, 2003) who has played every minute of all 16 games for the #1-ranked Badgers. Elliott leads the nation with a 1.42 GAA and a .945 save percentage.
Indiana, which went through five goaltenders last season and struggled in net after starter Pat Watson (Merrimack) went down with a season-ending groin injury, continues to have goaltending problems this season. The '87 tandem of Cody Reichard and Jay Clark have been very inconsistent and have a combined GAA of 4.00 and a save percentage of .867. Defensive breakdowns have also been a problem for the Ice, who have dropped 11 of their last 13, salvaging only a home sweep of the Storm during this stretch. You can expect to find owner/GM Paul Skodjt looking for some help in net and possibly on the blue line over the next few weeks. If he can't find it, maybe he'll fire himself.
Smith Boots Four
Canisius College first-year head coach Dave Smith, who inherited a team with a history of off-ice problems, has dismissed four players from his squad for violations of the school's athletic department policy.
-- Sophomores Mike and Matt Ruberto, twin brothers from Stoney Creek, Ontario who played for the Oakville Blades (OPJHL) and the Cleveland Barons (NAHL) before arriving at Canisius. Matt, a defenseman; and Mike, the second-leading scorer on the Griffs, are both 22.
LD Craig Nooyen, a 22-year-old sophomore defenseman from Ottawa, Ontario. Nooyen played for the Cumberland Grads (COJHL) before coming to Canisius.
Goaltender Ryan Hatch, a 21-year-old freshman from Medway, Mass. Hatch, who played at Mount St. Charles in Rhode Island, played last season for the Santa Fe Roadrunners (NAHL).
12/5/05 -- Updated
U.S. National Junior Team Named
USA Hockey today named the 22 players who will represent the U.S. at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship in British Columbia Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Goaltenders (2): Cory Schneider ('86/BC); Jeff Frazee ('87/Minnesota).
Defensemen (7): Taylor Chorney ('87/North Dakota); Jack Johnson ('87/Michigan); Chris Butler ('86/Denver); Erik Johnson ('88/U.S. Under-18 Team); Matt Niskanen ('86/Minn-Duluth); Brian Lee ('87/North Dakota); Mark Mitera ('87/Michigan).
Forwards (13): T.J. Oshie ('86/North Dakota); Tommy Fritsche ('86/Ohio State); Bobby Ryan ('87/Owen Sound -- OHL); Nate Davis ('86/Miami-Ohio); Kevin Porter ('86/Michigan); Geoff Paukovich ('86/Denver); Blake Wheeler ('86/Minnesota); Robbie Schremp ('86/London -- OHL); Nate Gerbe ('87/BC); Jack Skille ('87/Wisconsin); Peter Mueller ('88/Everett -- WHL); Phil Kessel ('87/Minnesota); Chris Bourque ('86/Hershey -- AHL).
Head Coach: Walt Kyle. Assistants: John Hynes and Mike Gibbons.
Up front, two incumbents didn't make the cut: Adam Pineault, who, hip injury notwithstanding, was a long shot to make the team, as this group is much stronger on RW with guys like Skille and Wheeler now ready; and Clarkson's Shawn Weller. Leaving off the latter was a tough call as Weller has had a good sophomore season, playing his customary physical game and putting up points (12 games; 9-3-12). Basically, once 6'4" Denver forward Geoff Paukovich (0-3-3 in 16 games) was chosen despite a subpar season, Weller's chances were diminished. However, they were not entirely eliminated: the last forward spot came down to a taffy pull between Weller and Miami's Nate Davis, a solid, hard-working, two-way player who has a 6-7-13 line in 14 games and has been a key to Miami's great start. Davis won, and he's in.
On defense, incumbent Nate Hagemo won't be making it back, due to a shoulder injury that has only allowed him to play three games for the Gophers this fall. Micheal Sauer of the Portland Winter Hawks (WHL) was another candidate whose chances were hurt by injury, though he also didn't play particularly well when watched. Matt Lashoff (Kitchener -- OHL) fell out of contention early, as did A.J. Thelen (Prince Albert -- WHL). There was just one big decision on defense, and that came down to choosing either Keith Yandle (Moncton -- QMJHL), who has been putting up some huge numbers offensively; or Mark Mitera (Michigan), who is stronger defensively. Mitera won that one, and got his ticket stamped for Vancouver.
Goal is probably the easiest position to second guess, as there are several NCAA goalies having better seasons, numerically if not in fact, than either Corey Schneider (2.59/.904 in 12 games) or Jeff Frazee (3.01/.891 in 7 games). They are: Miami's Jeff Zatkoff (1.67/.943 in 8 games); UMass' Jon Quick (2.43/.933 in 7 games); and Maine's 6'5" Ben Bishop (2.17/.914 in 10 games). However, Schneider (back up to Al Montoya at last year's WJC), and Frazee, winning goaltender at the World Under-18s in April, have international experience and were, barring injury or a total freefall, pretty much penciled in. It was their job to lose. In addition, the staff felt Bishop was a project, and Quick was not as strong fundamentally as either Schneider or Frazee. Zatkoff, however, was a different story. He was simply underscouted, coming into the picture too late to get the shake he deserved, even though he's played excellently since the start of the season. It's fair to say he was missed.
Nonetheless, this is a terrifically talented team, and boasts a strong coaching staff to boot. This is the best team the U.S. has had in ages, and easily the favorites going in. This is the team USA Hockey has been pointing toward for several years, and, after this, it could be quite a spell before the U.S. is able to again come up with such a strong entry.
On the NHL size sheets in Vancouver, the U.S. team must do well in their own zone and in transition, particularly against the Canadians. Once they get into the offensive zone, they have too much talent to not score goals, especially on the power play. You can also expect a few of the weaker Euro teams to play a lot of dump-and-chase with a neutral zone trap. This will slow the U.S. team down and put pressure on their D.
The blue line and goaltending will still be key for the U.S. They don't need a lot of scoring from the backline with guys jumping up into the play or wheeling around in the neutral zone taking chances. They need guys who will play aggresively but conservatively from the red line in, play physically in their own zone but stay out of the penalty box, and be able to move the puck under pressure. Even on the penalty kill on an NHL sheet the defensive zone coverage will be much less of an issue. Close off the down low overload/back door plays by blocking the passing lanes. Force shots from the perimeter and clear the rebounds. If the U.S. plays an aggressive PK, and tries to score shorthanded, they will put a lot of pressure on Schneider in net to come up big. Then, if they run into a hot goalie on the other end, the U.S. could wind up in some trouble.
On the Road?
The U.S. Hockey Report has a new feature – a dining guide to the towns, villages, and cities in which prep school hockey can be found.
You can’t miss it. If you go to the main prep page, you’ll see a wheezing bus. Click on the text underneath for your entrée into the world of everything from pizza to pâté.
So next time you want to meet up with folks for lunch in, say, Avon, Connecticut, just go to our dining guide and look over the local offerings.
The restaurant guide is the brainchild of Buzz Patterson, who has not only seen the inside of thousands of hockey rinks, but also every dive and five-star joint between Eastport, Maine and Key West, Florida. Buzz has literally put hundreds of hours into the creation of this guide. It’s fun and informative, and will become ever more so, as we update it based on readers’ feedback. So if you find a great place we don’t know about, please let us in on your secret. On the other hand, if we rave about a place and your opinion differs, let us know about that too.
Finally, if you have a good dining experience and you get the chance, please mention to the proprietor that you read about his or her establishment in the U.S. Hockey Report. We will be soliciting advertising for the dining guide, and if they can see we are pointing thirsty, hungry hockey fans in their direction, they might just be happy to buy an ad.
Thank you, and happy dining.
Weekend Prep Schedule Posted
For this weekend's Div. I and II prep schedule please see the Prep Pages, where it has just been posted. If there are any last-minute time changes, be sure to let us know.