Beantown Classic Awards + “On the Bubble”
Here are the official all-star teams, as voted by the coaches, from the Aug. 17-20 Beantown Classic at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro.
There were other players who played well, quite a few actually. Those who played well and came close to making the all-star teams, but fell a few vote shorts when the coaches’ votes were tallied up are denoted as “on the bubble.”
After the “On the Bubble” section, we listed other players we thought played well. Included are very good players who played under their ability as well as less talented players who played above their normal level.
First, the awards and the official all-star teams for the Pro Division:
MVP-John Muse (Noble & Greenough)
Best Forward-Jake Coyle (Boston Junior Bruins)
Best Defenseman-Edwin Shea (Boston Junior Bruins)
Best Goalie-John Muse (Noble & Greenough)
Best Pro Prospect-Eric Baier (NH Jr. Monarchs), Brian Gibbons (Salisbury), Andrew Glass (Noble & Greenough).
Biggest Surprise-Brad Peltz (Avon Old Farms)
First Team All-Tournament: Forwards: Jake Coyle (Junior Bruins), Paul Thompson (NH Junior Monarchs), and Kief Orsini (Undecided). Defensemen: Edwin Shea (Boston Junior Bruins) and Kevin MacNamara (Belmont Hill). Goaltender: John Muse (Noble & Greenough).
Second Team All-Tournament: Forwards: Nick Pitsikoulis (Westminster), Jason Deluca (Bridgewater Bandits), and Matt Pedemonti (Hebron). Defensemen: Jon Wolter (Junior Bruins) and Artem Gumenyuk (South Kent). Goaltender: Wes Vesprini (Junior Bruins).
Honorable Mention: F Ben Ketchum (Salisbury), F Brian Gibbons (Salisbury), F Francois Brisebois (St. Paul’s), F Brad Peltz (Avon Old Farms), F Josh Franklin (Noble & Greenough), D Ryan McKiernan (Jersey Hitmen), G Ryan Carroll (Tabor).
Pro Division Players On the Bubble:
D Ryan Criscuolo (Boston Junior Bruins)
F Chris Cannizzaro (Syracuse Stars)
G John Vazzano (Gunnery)
F Austin Smith (Gunnery)
F P.O. Michaud (Portland Jr. Pirates)
G Nick Broadwater (Portland Jr. Pirates)
D Kevin Reich (Taft)
D Brendan Reich (Taft)
G Cory Gershon (St. Mike’s)
D Patch Alber (Northwood)
F Phil Ginand (NE Huskies)
F Brian Flynn (Pomfret)
F Alex Killorn (Deerfield)
F Broc Little (Cushing)
D Ryan Ruikka (Lincoln Stars)
F Andrew Glass (Noble & Greenough)
F Jordan Krusch (NH Jr. Monarchs)
F Mark Goggin (Choate)
F John Simpson (Lawrence Academy)
Those were the guys on the bubble. Others who played well, but without the consistency and/or results of those above, included D Josh Burrows (Junior Bruins), F Yuri Bouharevich (St. Paul’s), F Phillipe Ringuette (Lac St. Louis), F William Frederick (Shady Side Academy), F Michael DelMauro (Indiana Ice), F Cameron Lanoue (St. Paul’s), F Cody Warila (Boston Junior Bruins), D Jason Michaud (Gov. Dummer), D Mickey Dudley (Boston Junior Bruins), F Andrew Letellier (Portland Jr. Pirates), F Jeff Herrick (New England Falcons), D Jordan Lalor (New England Falcons), F Matt Rhone (Deerfield), F Mike Griffin (Noble & Greenough), D Dan Reed (Salisbury), D Chris Steele (Nobles), F Peter Boyd (Northwood), F PJ Tatum (Gunnery), D Pasha Kozhokin (Canterbury), D Peter Childs (St. Paul’s), F Bobby Farnham (Andover), D Mark Znutas (Hotchkiss), F Adam Houli (Gunnery), F Bryan Haczyk (Green Bay), D Connor Goggin (Choate), and F Jeff Fanning (NH Jr. Monarchs).
Here are the awards and the official all-star teams for the Futures Division. Again, those who played well and came close to making the all-star teams, but fell a few vote shorts when the coaches’ votes were tallied up are denoted as “on the bubble.”
MVP-Cam Miller (Berkshire)
Best Forward-Brian Kriner (Portsmouth Abbey)
Best Defenseman- Jeff Buvinow (Gunnery)
Best Goalie-TJ Massie (Cushing)
Biggest Surprise-John Dwyer (Phillips Exeter Academy)
First Team All-Tournament: Forwards: Bryan Kriner (Portsmouth Abbey), Cam Miller (Berkshire), and Jack MacNamara (Belmont Hill). Defensemen: Malcolm Lyles (Deerfield) and Jeff Bouvinow (Gunnery). Goaltender: T.J. Massie (Cushing).
Second Team All-Tournament: Forwards: Jeff Ryan (St. George’s), Jordan Messier (Foxboro Stars), Adam Pawlick (Whitesboro HS/Syracuse Stars), and Steve Morra (Junior Bruins). Defensemen: Cheyne Rocha (St. Paul’s), Joey Dillon (Junior Bruins), and Joe Rogalski (Buffalo Regals). Goaltender: Nick BonDurant (Syracuse Stars) and John Cullen (Wheatfield Blades).
Futures Division Players On the Bubble:
D Nick Lovejoy (Deerfield Academy)
F Jeffrey Silengo (Holderness)
G Sean O’Brien (St. George’s)
F John Henrion (Junior Bruins)
D Charlie Carkin (Lawrence Academy)
F John Dwyer (NH Junior Monarchs Empire Jr. B)
F Kevin Lynch (Honeybaked)
D Dawson Luke (Belmont Hill)
D Brendan Rempel (Pomfret)
D Jamie Plamondon (Portland Jr. Pirates)
F Casey Brugman (Cushing)
F Michael Singsigalli (Taft)
D Thomas Freye (Conn. HS)
Others who played well, but without the consistency and/or results of those above, included: D Steve Ginand (Junior Bruins), F Dom Jancaterino (St. Sebastian’s), G Ben Bradley (Pingree), F Paul Cinquegrana (Junior Bruins), F Ben McLaughlin (Pingree), F Derek Arnold (Junior Bruins), F Matt Crowley (Conn. Wolves), D Mike Miller (Honeybaked), F Jason Bourgea (St. Paul’s), F Joe Zarbo (St. Francis Prep), and D Jack Callahan (NJ Rockets).
A Culliton for the Buckeyes
Right-shot center Zach Dalpe of the Stratford Cullitons, the leading scorer in the Midwestern Jr. B League, has committed to Ohio State for ’08.
Dalpe, who has a 6-8-14 line in four games, is a dynamic, gritty playmaking pivot.
An 11/1/89 birthdate from Paris, Ontario, Dalpe has grown over the last year from 5’8”, 132 lbs. to a bit under 6’0” and around 155-158 lbs. His point totals have shot up, too: it's taken him only four games this season to surpass his point totals from last season (6-6-12 in 32 games).
‘Top Uncommitted Player in North America’ Narrows His Choices
The college recruiters we’ve spoken to who’ve made the September swing through the Canadian and US junior leagues consider Salmon Arm Silverbacks 6’1”, 175 lb. rookie center Riley Nash the top uncommitted player in North America.
Nash, who is the younger brother of Cornell 6’3”, 205 lb. freshman defenseman Brendon Nash, is a right shot center. He has size, skating ability, and remarkable quickness for his size. What sets him apart is his playmaking ability – he can really distribute the puck.
Nash has chosen five schools to visit: Cornell, University of New Hampshire, Michigan, Denver, and North Dakota.
Nash played last winter for the Thompson Blazers (Midget AAA) out of Kamloops and was named to the 2006 Pacific Under-17 Team.
So far this season, Nash has a 6-6-12 line for the undefeated Silverbacks, making him the third-leading scorer on the team, trailing only Michigan recruit Ben Winnett and Californian Brian Volpei.
Nash will arrive in the NCAA either next fall or in ’08.
Top Merrimack Player Suspended for Season
Sophomore Rob Ricci, Merrimack College’s leading scorer as a freshman last season, has been suspended from the team for the 2006-07 season due to a violation of team rules and school policy, reportedly drinking-related.
A member of the Hockey East All-Rookie Team, Ricci played 34 games for the Warriors last season and finished with a 10-16-26 line.
A native of Brampton, Ontario, Ricci, who will turn 22 in December, played for the Milton Merchants (OPJHL) and the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL) before enrolling at Merrimack last fall.
Ricci will continue his studies at Merrimack, and will practice with the team, but is ineligible to represent the school on ice until next season when he will return as a junior.
While this is a tough start to the season for head coach Mark Dennehy and his team, the coach allowed that, "I'm thrilled that Ricci thought enough about his teammates, school, and education to decide to return."
-- It doesn't get better: In an unrelated and completely separate incident, goaltender Pat Watson has been suspended for the first six games of the season for violation of team rules. Watson will be eligible to return for the October 28 game against Brown.
Cassidy Hops Along to NTDP
National Sports Academy head coach Chadd Cassidy has been hired by USA Hockey to take the position with the NTDP that opened up when John Lilley left the program a couple weeks back to take a scouting position with Toronto.
Cassidy will be working as an assistant with the Under-18 Team.
Before going to NSA, Cassidy was an assistant at Cortland State, his alma mater, and at Potsdam State.
-- Another Cortland State alum, former goaltender Mike Germain, has been hired as an assistant at RIT. Germain was a volunteer with the Rochester Americans (AHL) last season.
Big Week for the O’Briens
Former Union goaltender Toby O’Brien, who has served both behind the bench and as a GM for the Johnstown Jets (ECHL) for the past eleven years, has left to take a pro scouting position with the New York Islanders.
Last week, his son, Ian O’Brien, a 6’2”, 160 lb. ’90 birthdate who is a goaltender with the Pittsburgh Junior Penguins (Empire Jr. B) committed to Mercyhurst College. Ian, a high school sophomore, will matriculate at Mercyhurst in the fall ’09.
O’Brien, a Massachusetts native, and his family will stay on in Johnstown.
Kramer a Warrior
Taft 6’2”, 195 lb. senior RW Bobby Kramer has committed to Merrimack College.
A power forward, Kramer posted a 3-9-12 line at Taft, though that’s a bit deceiving as he missed the first half of the season with an injury.
Kramer, who took his official visit to Merrimack over the weekend, is a native of New City, NY, which, in case you’re wondering (we were) is about 40 miles north of NYC, on the west side of the Hudson.
He’s a 1/12/88 birthdate, and will be coming to Merrimack in the fall of ’07.
Westminster School 5’10”, 180 lb. forward Nick Pitsikoulis has committed to St. Lawrence University.
Pitsikoulis, a senior from Montreal, Quebec, was the second-leading scorer at Westminster last season, trailing only his linemate, Ben Smith, who is at Boston College now.
On Saturday Jan. 14 Westminster hit the road to take on then-undefeated Salisbury and came back from an early 3-0 deficit to gain a 6-4 upset win. Pitsikoulis scored four goals and Smith had five points.
Pitsikoulis, a 3/2/88 birthdate, was also recruited by Union and Merrimack. He finished the season with a 17-22-39 line. He has a good stick and an accurate shot, is smart, patient, and sees the ice well.
Orsini to Maine
Kief Orsini, an all-tournament forward at last month’s Beantown Classic, has accepted a full scholarship to the University of Maine starting in the fall of ’07.
Orsini, a 5’11”, 190 lb. Montreal, Quebec native, will be playing this season for the St. Jerome Panthers (Quebec Jr. AAA League).
Orsini is projected by Maine as a two-way centerman who can also play defense, on either the powerplay, penalty kill, or even strength. Some recruiters commented that they preferred Orsini as a d-man, as he lacks high-end speed. At any rate, he's comfortable at either position, which gives the Black Bears a versatile player.
Orsini, a 6/27/87 birthdate, played at Tabor Academy in ’04-05. Last fall, he returned to Tabor and made a commitment to play his college hockey at Union College, but Union head coach Nate Leaman withdrew the offer in late November after Orsini and another Tabor forward were expelled from the Marion, Mass. boarding school after reportedly stealing another student’s Ipod.
Orsini joined the Nepean Raiders (CJHL) the first week of December and finished the season there.
Smith to Colgate
5’11”, 160 lb. Gunnery center Austin Smith committed yesterday to Colgate for the fall of ’08.
A sophomore at Gunnery last season, Smith, a slick stickhandler and skater, will be accelerating, playing this season as a senior, and then going on to Penticton (BCHL) in ’07-08. For the college game, Smith could stand to add a little muscle. However, he could easily have played NCAA hockey next year, and several schools wanted him for just that.
Smith made his final decision between Princeton, Yale, and Colgate. The full scholarship offered by Colgate certainly helped the Raiders chances. Colgate head coach Don Vaughn came down to Massachusetts to watch him at the Labor Day Tournament at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro.
Smith, who had a 23-20-43 line last season, has helped put the Gunnery program, coached by Chris Baudo, on the prep hockey map.
An Irving, Texas native, Smith is an 11/7/88 birthdate. He will be eligible for next June's NHL draft.
A Major Midget Tournament for New England
The Marquette Electricians Fall Classic, the granddaddy of Midget AAA tournaments in the U.S., gets underway tomorrow on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Now, New England is getting an equally high-level midget AAA tournament, as the Beantown Fall Classic, in its second year, has expanded, and is bringing in a host of quality teams to the tournament, scheduled for Fri. Dec. 1 to Sun. Dec. 3. The majority of games will be held at The Rinks at Exeter, NH (not to be confused with Phillips Exeter Academy’s rinks) and the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore Center.
The majority of the games will be in Exeter, with several each day at UNH.
The 16-team midget AAA division features six teams that were in last spring’s Nationals (and several others that could easily have been.)
The Midget AAA Division:
Alliance Junior Ducks
Boston Junior Bruins (Empire Team)
Chicago Young Americans
Dartmouth Subways (Nova Scotia)
LA Junior Kings
Pictou Weeks (Nova Scotia)
Portland Junior Pirates
-- The six teams above that made it to the U18 Nationals last April: Pittsburgh, Dallas, the Chill, Shattuck, Belle Tire, and the LA Junior Kings. Team Illinois was the #1 ranked midget team but was upended in regionals.
-- The Alliance Junior Ducks are a combination of top players from the California Wave and LA Selects U-16s. Look for some skill there.
-- In addition to the above there will be a four-team division consisting of the Boston Jr. Bruins (EJHL), New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (EJHL), Northwood School, and a team to be named later. This group will play exhibition games, i.e. no playoff round. Governor Dummer Academy is a strong candidate to be the team named later.
-- But there’s more. The tournament is accepting applications for an elite four-team midget minor division. If the tournament organizers can get four top teams, they will green light the project. Contact Peter Masters at the Boston Junior Bruins office.
A Local D-Man for the Eagles
Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) RD Edwin Shea has committed to Boston College.
Shea, who is 6’1”, 185 lbs. and an 11th grader at Shrewsbury (Mass.) HS, is expected at the Heights in the fall of ’09, meaning he’s slated to play another year of juniors after graduation. Naturally, if Nick Petrecki or Carl Sneep turn pro early, and if Shea is at the top of his game, he’d likely get consideration to come in earlier. But the plan is for ’09.
Shea is beginning his second year with the Junior Bruins EJHL team. Prior to that he played two years with the Junior Bruins full-season midget team (they’ve since become a Jr. B team in the Empire League).
UNH, Maine, and Providence were all heavily involved in recruiting Shea. A good student, Shea also had interest in Harvard, but wouldn’t have been able to get a read from their admissions department for another year.
Shea’s coach, former Boston College defenseman Peter Masters, said that “Shea is as capable a defenseman as we’ve had in the program. We consider him in the same class as Brett Tyler and Cody Wild. Shea is not as pretty as some of the elite defensemen, but he’s every bit as effective. He sees the ice well. He’s a good passer. He can run the power play. And he’s very competitive.”
Shea is a 9/16/89 birthdate, thus not eligible for the NHL draft until ’08.
Elite ‘91s Commit to Notre Dame, Michigan
Two of the top ‘91s in the country, both of whom happen to play for Honeybaked’s Midget Minor team, have made commitments for the fall of ’09.
-- 6’1”, 185 lb. LD Cam Fowler will be joining Notre Dame, which, under Jeff Jackson, is showing early signs of becoming an elite Div. I program as soon as next season. Getting Fowler is a key commitment for the program, as the Northville, Michigan native was, in the opinion of most observers, the top player at this summer’s USA Select 15 Festival. If there were an MVP award at the tournament, Fowler would have won it hands down. He was the dominant D, a distinct notch above every other player at his position. Fowler has size, skating ability, and agility. He knows when to jump up into the play. He has a great shot -- a laser, low and hard. He’s also only 14 years old – and he won’t turn 15 until December 5th. Fowler was the only ’91 defenseman named to the teams that represented the US at the Under-17 Select Tournament in Rochester, NY last month.
Fowler was recruited by virtually all the elite schools. Particularly heavy competition came from Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin.
-- 6’2”, 180 lb. Chris Brown, a Flower Mound, Texas native who’s taken his game to the Honeybaked organization this season, will be a Wolverine in three years. One of the top forwards at the Select 15 Festival, Brown played last winter for the Alliance Bulldogs youth organization, based outside of Dallas. At St. Cloud, playing against his own age group, Brown, a big power forward, was just going right through and over guys. While he has playmaking ability – he had zero goals but five assists at the festival – his power and strength were what set him apart from the pack. He’s still pretty raw and will need to become more of a finesse player as other kids catch up to him in size. Right now, he has the markings of a kid who could someday be a star at the college and pro level. Like Fowler, Brown was one of the eight ‘91s named to the teams representing the US at the Under-17 Select Tournament in Rochester, NY last month.
He’ll Help – Next Year
Northeastern is not going to win any head-to-head battles with BC, BU, or UNH for blue chippers. The Huskies have to be wily, assembling cohesive teams through identifying undervalued and special situation players. They have to work the fringes. It’s always been this way.
One “fringe” player the Huskies have brought in is Dylan Wiwchar, currently a freshman at Northeastern. Wiwchar is tainted because he played a few exhibition games as a 16-year-old with Red Deer (WHL), hence he won’t be eligible to play until next season when he’ll be a 22-year-old sophomore.
(Northeastern has filed an appeal with the NCAA based on the fact Wiwchar only played exhibition games, but chances are slim such an appeal will go through.)
A 6’1”, 210 lb. RW from Sherwood Park, Alberta, an Edmonton suburb, Wiwchar, a 1/25/85 birthdate, played last season for the Bonnyville Pontiacs (AJHL) where he had a 43-45-88 line in 60 regular season games. With the Pontiacs, Wiwchar played on a line centered by Western Michigan recruit Mark Letestu. Wiwchar is very dangerous from the blue line in and his skating is OK, but not great. A strong student, Wiwchar will have a whole year of strength and conditioning, and practice, to work further on his game before becoming NCAA-eligible in the fall of ‘07. Northeastern feels he could be a feel-good story for ’07-08.
-- Jack Walchessen, a 1990 RW from Ortley Beach, NJ and the New Jersey Jr. Titans organization, has gone major junior, signing with the Peterborough Petes (OHL). Walchessen, 5’10”, 175 lbs., is a physical, competitive, high-energy hustling winger. A Met League All-Star last winter, he was drafted by Peterborough in the 11th round of this spring’s draft. Walchessen is the younger brother of former Titans/Cornwall Colts/NH Junior Monarchs defenseman Joe Walchessen, a freshman this year at UConn.
-- The top scorer at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn. was the St. Louis Bobcats’ Shawn Skelly, an ’87 from Walled Lake, Michigan. In four games, Skelly, a finisher with an excellent shot, had a 6-2-8 line. He scored all three goals in his team’s 3-2 win over Alexandria on Friday.
The top two goaltenders, statistically, were 6’3” ’88 Phil Cook of the Springfield Jr. Blues, who allowed a total of two goals in 120 minutes, and posted a .962 GAA; and 6’3” ’86 Steven Ritter, a former Providence Friar now with the expansion Marquette Rangers, who, in 180 minutes, posted a .955 save percentage and a 1.33 GAA.
Martin Making Impression
Yale has a good one coming in the fall of ’07 in 5’10” RD Jimmy Martin, a standout on the Team Illinois Midget Major squad last season.
Martin, a late ’88 from St. Louis, MO, will be playing with Des Moines this season. Bucs coach Regg Simon called Martin, “Probably as polished a D as has shown up here in my four years here. He’s intelligent. He’s an excellent puck mover, and he’s sound defensively.”
Harvard and Princeton were also interested. A couple of WCHA schools were interested, but wanted to wait until the start of the season and see how Martin adapts to the USHL.
Nobles forward Andrew Glass has added BC to BU and Harvard as the schools he’s considering.
Salisbury forward Paul Carey is considering Providence, BU, and Harvard.
Gunnery forward Austin Smith looks to be going the ECAC route -- Princeton, Yale, St. Lawrence, Colgate, and Brown are all suitors.
The schedule for this weekend’s Boston Junior Bruins Shootout is up on their website. Here’s the direct link: Boston Junior Bruins Shootout Schedule.
The Bruins’ Crimson Mafia
Former Choate and Harvard RW John Weisbrod has been hired by the Boston Bruins as a pro scout, a position he held last year with the Dallas Stars (NHL). Previously, Weisbrod was GM/CEO of the Orlando Magic (NBA) and GM of the Albany River Rats (AHL).
Weisbrod, a ’91 Harvard grad whose NHL hopes were dashed by a persistent back problem, is 37 now, and the latest son of Crim hired by new Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, a RW who graduated from Harvard in ‘87.
Last month, Chiarelli hired former St. Paul’s School and Harvard (’88) defenseman Don Sweeney as director of player development.
Weisbrod will report to Jim Benning, the former Maple Leafs and Canucks defenseman who is the Bruins new director of player personnel. Today’s Globe identified Benning as one of the few non-Harvardians among the recent hires. Technically, that’s true. However, Benning’s younger brother, Mark Benning, a small, puck-moving d-man, played for three years with Chiarelli at Harvard after transferring in from the University of Notre Dame. Benning and Chiarelli were both graduated from Harvard in ’87.
Speaking of Harvard, you probably saw that the school has dropped early admission (aka, early action) beginning with the freshman class entering in the fall of ’08 – it was front page news in Tuesday’s New York Times. What does this mean to the school’s hockey program?
The coaching staff claims it will have no effect. All Ivies are going to lose kids early to scholarship schools. It happened last month when Avon Old Farms center Nick Bonino committed to Boston University. Bonino wanted to go to Yale, but to do so he would have had to get his application in to Yale and then wait until sometime after October 1 before receiving a “read” from the admissions department, letting him know if he was likely to get in. Meanwhile, BU’s scholarship offer could have gone to another player. Bonino opted for the scholarship offer.
The Harvard hockey coaches expect they will still be able to get reads on their recruits from the admissions office on the same timetable as in the past. Those recruits, though, won’t get their “official” letter of admission until the same date as the rest of the student body.
Other sports at Harvard could be affected differently by the ruling.
In last weekend’s Woodchuck Classic in Burlington, Vermont, the best games were the three games pitting EJHL teams against the Oakville Blades (OPJHL), who have size and speed. The EJHL took two of three, with the Junior Bruins and the Green Mountain Glades topping Oakville in shootout wins, while Oakville got the better of the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs, 4-3.
Oakville’s 6’1”, 190 lb power forward Julian Cimadamore, an ’89 with good size, good shot, and above average skating ability drew attention, as did the Wellington Dukes big 6’5” goaltender Dan Dunn, an ’88.
US teams, however, took nine of the 13 games vs. Canadian Tier II teams.
Marquette Gets off on the Right Foot
In opening night action at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minn., the expansion Marquette Rangers, coached by Leigh Mendelson, blanked the Springfield Jr. Blues, 2-0. 6’3” former Providence College Friar Steven Ritter made 31 saves in the shutout. Other goalies who came up big in opening night action included 6’2” ’87 Pat Nagle, who kicked out 44 of 47 shots in St. Louis’ 3-2 loss to the US Under-18s. ’87 Shawn Hunwick, Matt Hunwick’s brother, kicked out 28 of 29 in Alpena’s 4-1 win over North Iowa. ’86 Blake Bashor made 24 saves in Southern Minnesota’s 2-0 shutout of Alaska. 6’4” ’88 Derek Brennan kicked out all 20 shots he faced as Santa Fe blanked Bismarck.
An average of 24 penalties per game were called.
Mitchell to UVM?
Rumored to be the top candidate for the vacant assistant coach’s slot at the University of Vermont is Wayne State (CHA) associate head coach Willie Mitchell.
The post has been open since Damian DiGiulian, after nine seasons with the Cats, stepped down late last month.
Mitchell makes sense, not only for his experience but also because he’s a peer of Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. Both Mitchell and Sneddon are Ontario natives who were college freshmen in 1988-89. Things kind of add up.
By the way, Sneddon’s team, Harvard, won an NCAA title that year, the last ECAC team to do so. How long will it be until an ECAC team wins another NCAA title? Or an Ivy team, for that matter? The landscape has changed an awful lot in the last 18 years -- there's no denying that.
Mitchell has been hired for the position.
DiPietro’s Stunning Payday
New York Islanders owner Charles Wang and Garth Snow, who went from over-padded backup goalie to underqualified GM in the wink of an eye last summer, have bestowed a whopping 15-year fully guaranteed $65.7 million contract on goaltender RickDiPietro.
The Islanders, who have been trying to get out from under a 10-year $87.5 million contract they gave Alexei Yashin in 2001, only to find there are no takers, now have DiPietro under contract through until 2022, when the former St. Sebastian’s/NTDP/BU goaltender turns 40.
The general response in hockey, among scouts and agents, is one of shock.
But let’s look at it first.
There are several excellent top goalies in the NHL who are pushing 40 and beyond – Olaf Kolzig (36), Curtis Joseph (39), Dominik Hasek (41), and Ed Belfour (41). Top goalies frequently peak – or at least maintain a high level of play – throughout their thirties, at a time when skaters are generally beginning the downside of their career.
The Islanders are clearly betting that DiPietro will be among this group. And he could be, but the truth of the matter is the Islanders are making a big bet on a tiny statistical sample – a somewhat underwhelming one, too. DiPietro has had two good – not great – years. He’s never appeared in the crucible of the playoffs. It almost goes without saying that we’ve seen numerous young goalies come up with a couple good years in their youth, but when their reactions start to slow, fade away.
The only guy who looks to us to be a good bet for the kind of contract dished out yesterday is Roberto Luongo -- the guy the Islanders got rid of to make room for DiPietro. Luongo has an enormous statistical sample -- one solid rookie campaign followed by six consecutive excellent years with the Florida Panthers. Barring injury, Luongo could be a top NHL goaltender for a long time.
So could DiPietro, but his odds, at least right now, are far, far longer than Luongo’s
Time to Put the Under-18s Back in the USHL?
The NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota gets underway tonight. Among the participants is the U.S. Under-18 Team – not the Under-17s. A USA Hockey press release put out yesterday trumpets Team USA’s games “against tough NAHL opponents.”
We don’t doubt those teams are tough to other NAHL teams, and even to the U.S. Under-17 team, but they are definitely not tough when it comes to competing against the second-year players in the NTDP.
Last year, in regular-season games vs. NAHL opponents, the second-year kids in Ann Arbor went 16-1, and, by our count, outscored their opponents 109-27 and outshot them 700-434. Per game averages were 6.4 goals for and 1.58 goals against. Shots for averaged out to 41.1, while shots against averaged 25.5. Not very competitive, in other words. Why are these games even played?
The Under-18 team is scheduled to play 17 games against NAHL opponents this season. Naturally, they are expected to walk over the competition – if they don’t something is seriously wrong. The Under-18 team will also play 13 games against major conference NCAA Div. I teams, games that the college kids dislike playing. Usually, the Under-18s can skate with BU, Michigan, etc. for a period or two, but then the colleges, physically stronger, pull away and coast to a meaningless win. So, for the Under-18 Team that’s 30 games right there – basically half the schedule – that are essentially non-competitive exhibition games. While the college games have at least some value, the NAHL games have none. A total waste of time and money.
Meanwhile, kids in the USHL are battling every night, playing a rugged schedule against teams fighting for playoff position, to say nothing of the players, many of whom are fighting to avoid being cut or traded. It’s a crucible, one that the Under-18s don’t have to go through. Does it make them soft? Does it make them feel entitled?
Our guess? Not every player, but probably quite a few, and that would include some of the higher-skilled players.
One thing we feel strongly about: the schedule the second-year players at Ann Arbor play is not the best possible for their development. We think they’d be better off playing in the USHL – just spread the kids out across the league and see how they do, see who emerges as the go-to guys. See who becomes the next Kyle Okposo, who opted for Des Moines over the Under-18 Team last year, played with an intense determination that should have landed him a spot on the US National Junior Team, and was selected just two spots behind Phil Kessel in June’s NHL draft. The level of play in the USHL has improved significantly since the early years of the NTDP, when the older team did indeed compete in the USHL -- and didn’t exactly have an easy time of it. The USHL is the right level for the top ‘89s in the country. Walking over the North Iowa Outlaws does them no good. Nor does getting beaten by Div. I powerhouses playing with nothing on the line. Many observers feel that the lack of that daily competitive grind, combined with a massive sense of entitlement many of the players carried, was a major contributor to the recent U.S. struggles at the World Juniors.
It’s hard to argue with them. However, there is a way to solve the problem.
The U.S. Under-18 Team finished the NAHL Showcase with a 4-0-0 record. They outscored their opponents, 25-4, and outshot them, 157-76.
Lilley Leaves NTDP for Scouting Post
US Under-18 assistant coach John Lilley has resigned his position in Ann Arbor to take a job scouting the New England region for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lilley, 33, a Wakefield, Mass. native who played for BU, the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL), and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, would have been entering his fifth season with the National Program.
From all indications we’ve received, the Ann Arbor position is wide open.
Other open job positions open at this late date include assistants posts at the University of Vermont and RIT.
Junior Bruins Shootout Teams Announced
The teams have been finalized for the Seventh Annual Boston Junior Bruins Shootout, which gets underway in a couple of weeks, running from Fri.-Sun. Sept. 22-24. The schedule, however, is still being worked on.
The tournament starts at 8:00 am on that Friday morning. The final championship game on Sunday is scheduled to conclude by 4:00 pm.
The bulk of the games will be played at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro, Mass. Some games will be at the Navin Rink (also in Marlboro, two miles away) and the North Star Youth Forum in Westborough (10 miles away).
Twelve of the 14 EJHL teams will be on hand, and each will play three league games between Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s playoff games will not be counted as official league games. The two teams from the EJHL not attending the Shootout are the New England Falcons and the Bay State Breakers (those two teams will play a league game Sunday at 12:50 pm in Rockland, Mass.).
All 21 of the Empire Jr. B teams will be on hand. They are: the Boston Junior Bruins, Bay State Breakers, NH Monarchs, Valley Jr. Warriors, Green Mountain Glades, NE Junior Falcons, Tyngsboro Huskies, Syracuse Stars, Jersey Wildcats, NY Apple Core, Cap District Selects, Bridgewater Bandits, Foxboro Jr. Stars, Rochester, Buffalo Stars, Virginia Statesmen, Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins, Brewster Bulldogs, Binghamton Jr. Senators, Salem Ice Dogs, and Tri-State Selects.
The following U-18 teams will be on hand: Little Bruins, Cape Cod, Seacoast, BC Eagles, NS Wings, Cleveland, Colorado Thunderbirds, LI Gulls, EMass Senators, NH Monarchs, Green Mountain, New England Falcons, NJ Titans, Ohio Prospects, Hockey Opportunity, NJ Kings, and Fort Lauderdale.
The Under-16 teams on hand will be: Cleveland, Central Penn, Green Mountain, New England Falcons, Portland, LI Gulls, Fort Lauderdale, NE Huskies, BC Eagles, and Ohio Prospects.
Local HeroThe UNH Wildcats have struck again, getting their second commitment of the week, this time from New Hampshire native Greg Burke.
Burke, a 6’1”, 170 lb. LW, is one of the top ‘90s in the country, last year scoring 45 points in 43 games playing for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs Empire Jr. B team. He’s a power forward with a good stick, a player who can drive to the net, or dig the puck out of the corner. His feet are very good for his size/age. Burke was invited to the NTDP tryout camp in March, played well, and went into June’s Select 16 Festival as a top candidate for a slot in the program. However, he injured himself in the second game, and was passed over.
A native of Lee, NH, right outside Durham, Burke will be playing this year for the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs EJHL team.
Burke played his youth hockey in the Seacoast Spartans organization where one of his coaches was current Monarchs assistant and former UNH captain Chris Grassie. Before joining the Monarchs organization Burke played at the Hebron School.
Burke made his final choice from among Vermont, BU, and UNH. He will arrive in Durham in the fall of ’09, one year after Stevie Moses, who committed to the Wildcats the other day.
Leaman Inks Four-Year Deal
The Schenectady Daily Gazette is reporting this morning that Union head coach Nate Leaman has signed a four-year contract to coach the Dutchmen.
This is especially newsworthy because of the fact that Leaman, 33, is the first coach at the school to sign a multi-year contract.
Under previous president Roger Hull, Union hockey coaches worked under one-year contracts and, basically, the program received the same limited resources it did when it was a Div. III program, a major part of the reason coaches moved on to greener pastures.
However, the school has a new president this year, Stephen Ainlay. And the school’s AD, Jim McLaughlin, a Union grad, is in his second year on the job. So there’s new blood in the administration.
Here’s what McLaughlin told the Gazette: “The one thing I’ve always said is that we need to allocate the resources and everything else to compete in [the ECACHL] and what other institutions are doing, and that’s what is going on in this league. We need to be doing the same thing. We’re going to take steps to allocate the resources necessary for this program. This [Leaman’s long-term contract] is one of the major steps in that direction.”
Union, which doesn’t give athletic scholarships, was 9-9-4 in league play last season, finishing tied for sixth with RPI. The Dutchmen were 16-16-4 overall.
This will be Leaman’s fourth season at the school.
6’2½”, 195 lb. defenseman Sean Coffey of the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) has decided not to attend Brown University, where he had been recruited and was scheduled to attend starting in the fall of ’07.
Coffey gave no single reason for the change, simply saying that it was “a personal decision.”
Coffey, a 5/9/88 birthdate, was a young commit, having made his decision to attend Brown while in the tenth grade. A former St. Sebastian’s student, Coffey, from Needham, Mass., will be a senior in high school this year.
Coffey, a defensive defenseman making the leap from the ISL to the USHL last season, is wide open as far as college opportunities are concerned.
A Mighty Mite for Maine
Maine has a mighty mite coming for the fall of ’08 in Joey Diamond, a 5’6”, 152 lb. LW who started out last season with NY Apple Core (EJHL), moved to Long Beach High School in mid-season, and is going to South Kent School as a repeat junior this fall.
A speedy, tough, competitive winger, Diamond was a standout at the Select 17 Festival and was named to the team that represented the U.S. at the Under-18 Junior World Cup last month in the Czech Republic.
Diamond, who visited Maine in late August, will add some punch to South Kent’s attack, which also includes Joe Pereira, who recently committed to UConn, and Nick Lampson.
South Kent, by the way, has also added a third Ukranian from Ivan Pravilov’s Druzhba ’78 team. Joining old teammates Sergei Sorokolat and Artem Gumenyuk will be Danil Guryev, a 6’4”, 200 lb. ’87 LD who played for Suffolk PAL last season.
Shane Fukushima has been hired as an assistant by the Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL), taking the slot made vacant when Chris Tok was hired as an assistant at Michigan Tech.
Fukushima played two seasons for Black Hawks head coach P.K. O’Handley with the old USHL franchise in North Iowa. Also, O’Handley played high school hockey at Superior (Wisc.) HS for Max Fukushima, Shane’s father.
Fukushima, who put up big points playing at Div. III Wisconsin-River Falls in the late ‘90s, has most recently been an assistant at Wisconsin-Superior.
A Mighty Mite for UNH
UNH has matched Maine with a mighty mite of their own – also for the fall of ’08 – in 5’8”, 155 lb. Stevie Moses.
Moses, an 11th grader from Leominster, Mass., will be playing with the Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) this season.
Last season, Moses, playing for the Junior Bruins Empire Jr. B team, was the league’s leading scorer with a 45-53-98 line in 42 games. He was also league MVP.
An 8/9/89 birthdate, Moses is an exciting player, a slippery darter with speed, quickness, and outstanding stick skills. He’s well-suited to the big sheet at UNH.
UNH, Maine and Dartmouth were the schools Moses narrowed his final choice down to. Boston College was interested, but only for ’09.