Woodchuck Gets Chubbier
The Third Annual Woodchuck Classic faces off Thurs. Sept. 6 and runs through Sun. Sept. 9 in Burlington, Vermont.
Hosted by the Green Mountain Glades, the Woodchuck will feature 15 teams in the Jr. A division; nine in the Jr. B division; and six in the midget division.
Two rinks will be used: Gutterson Field House at UVM, and Cairns Arena in South Burlington. Last season, approximately 70 college recruiters and pro scouts showed up.
U.S. Jr. A teams on hand will be largely drawn from the EJHL, as the Green Mountain Glades, NH Jr. Monarchs, Boston Junior Bruins, Bay State Breakers, Syracuse Stars, Cap District Selects, and Jersey Hitmen will all be on hand. Also competing in the division will be the Portland Jr. Pirates.
Canadian Jr. A teams coming down will be the Oakville Blades (OPJHL), Wellington Dukes (OPJHL), Toronto Dixie Beehives (formerly the Oswego Admirals -- OPJHL), Georgetown Raiders (OPJHL), Hawkesbury Hawks (COJHL), Joliette Action (Quebec Jr A), and the Woodstock Slammers (Maritime Jr. Hockey League).
In the inaugural Woodchuck Classic, in 2005, EJHL teams topped Canadian teams, 5-4. Last year, US teams, again all from the EJ, topped Canadian teams, 13-4.
This year, some teams will be starting play on Thursday and leaving Saturday, while others will be coming in on Friday and leaving Sunday. All teams will play one game per day for three days except Hawkesbury, which will play one Friday and then a pair on Saturday.
The Jr. B division will feature nine teams, seven of which will come from the Empire League: The Green Mountain Glades, NH Jr. Monarchs, Boston Jr. Bruins, Bay State Breakers, Syracuse Stars, Cap District Selects, and Brewster Bulldogs. The Portland Jr. B Pirates and Atlanta Knights will also be on hand.
A Woodchuck is another way of saying “Vermonter.” If you’re not a Vermonter, you’re a “flatlander.” There’s no in between. For at least a couple of decades, most residents of Vermont have been born elsewhere, so true woodchucks are now in the minority.
On to the Regular SeasonSorry for the delay in putting together some notes on yesterday’s action at the USHL Fall Classic. For this typist – and many others at the tournament – getting back to the east coast was a two-day process, for reasons no one at Northwest Airlines really cared to explain. At any rate, there was hockey – a half days worth for this observer… In the early game at the big rink, Tri-City and Indiana were tied at 3-3 in the third period when the Storm’s 6’2” ’88 LW Troy Mattila, a Dartmouth recruit, struck for a pair of back-to-back goals. His center, North Dakota recruit Mike Cichy, picked up an assist on both – and Tri-City picked up the 5-3 win. This observer didn’t get a really strong sense of what Tri-City can do, though… didn’t focus enough on them, perhaps. Indiana, to their credit, played much better than the night before, though they had to fight a schedule that had them playing the early game after playing the late game the night before. Go figure. They still finished 0-3 here, though it’s worth keeping in mind that, despite all the attention, these are still exhibition games. Things will change over the long arc of the season. They always do.… At the small rink, Omaha took on the Ohio Junior Blue Jackets and both teams came out hard. Ohio really worked hard, but it made no difference: at the end of one period, they were outshot 10-2 and trailed 2-0. They would eventually lose, 4-0. It was a good test for the Blue Jackets and we saw some nice things from ’90 center Matt Leitner, 89 LW Alexei Dostoinov, and ’90 center Tim Hall, a CC recruit. 6’2” Luke Witkowski, a ’90 who is committed to Western Michigan, looked good on the blue line. Considering that a batch of Ohio’s better players were watching from the stands, they put up a decent fight. Omaha is just too good, though. For the Lancers, center Matt Thurber was on his game, as was his RW, Aaron Lewadniuk, a Bemidji State recruit. UNH recruit Matt White asserted himself well, too… Back at the big rink, Green Bay took on Des Moines, and wound up blanking them 3-0. ’89 wing Anthony Hayes – again – played well for the Gamblers, assisting on two of the three goals. Des Moines was really flat in this game – they had a hard time mounting any kind of an offense…And that was all this observer saw before heading to the airport.
Some general observations: Omaha, which went 3-0 and outscored their opponents, 15-1, clearly is the team to beat. They’re fun to watch. Ditto for Waterloo, which, despite being outshot, smoked Sioux City in yesterday’s late game, 9-3. With some big, strong snipers who can apply a ton of pressure, they will be tough. Cedar Rapids, the only team besides Omaha to go 3-0 here, looked pretty cohesive, especially considering it’s September. For this observer, those three teams were a notch above the rest.
The Fall Classic will be played again in Sioux City next year. The Musketeers did a great job hosting this tournament. Their new arena, which is attached to the old one, is by far the most significant landmark in the city. From the highway, which runs along the banks of the Missouri, it appears as if downtown Sioux City was almost thrown together to provide a backdrop to the arena, which is large and features a high, vaulted ceiling.
For now, though, it’s cutdown week in the USHL. The regular season gets underway this Friday, Oct. 5 and concludes exactly on April 5, exactly six months later, on April 5th.
Our pick for the 2007-08 USHL scoring leader: Matt Thurber (Omaha). Others who should put up numbers are Jason Gregoire (Lincoln); Nick Dineen (Sioux Falls); Andrew Conboy (Omaha); Chris Connolly (Omaha); Jared Festler (Lincoln); Mike Seidel (Cedar Rapids); and Billy Maday (Waterloo).
Day 2 Along the Banks of the Missouri River
Sioux City, Iowa -- Things got rough a mere 57 seconds into Friday’s first game, as Waterloo’s Blake Kessel, after one of his teammates was knocked silly by a hard high stick, dropped the gloves with Des Moines’ Andrew Panzarella. The latter won the fight, but Kessel, a UNH recruit, motivated his teammates who, helped immensely by a steady parade of Bucs marching to the penalty box, quickly scored four power play goals en route to a 5-0 lead after one period of play. In the second and third periods, Des Moines took control of the game back and, with five minutes remaining, had cut Waterloo’s lead to 6-5. That, however, was as close as they got. Defenseman John Lee, a Denver recruit, had four assists for Waterloo, and Notre Dame recruit Billy Maday (1g,2a) and Brett Beebe (1g,1a) also put up crooked numbers. During Des Moines’ third period push, Cornell recruit Locke Jillson (1g,1a) had a nice snipe, as did Chris Knowlton. ’91 defenseman Brad Walch (1g,1a) also had a strong game. Speaking of ‘91s, Des Moines was skating four of them: Walch, Alexander Denezhkin, Ryan Walters, and Matt White (not to be confused with Omaha’s Matt White). The goaltending in this game left a little to be desired… In the following game at the big arena, Omaha rolled over Chicago, as the Steel d-men continuously saw the quick Omaha forwards sneaking behind them for choice scoring opportunities. ’87 LW Chris Connolly, who played at Fargo-Moorhead (NAHL) last season and is the older brother of Minnesota-Duluth recruit Jack Connolly, manned the left point on the power play and was again consistently noticeable. As an older player – and one of the few Lancers who is uncommitted – Connolly is getting a lot of sudden attention from Div. I schools. Omaha ’90 defenseman Patrick Wiercioch took a slash early in the second and was unable to finish the game, much to the dismay of the NHL scouts and colleges wanting to watch him in action. Wiercioch (pronounced Weer-cott) was walking around fine after the game, though, and should be ready to go today. For Chicago, BU recruit Max Nicastro, listed as 6’2”, has added a couple of inches to his frame, hence is still growing into his body a bit. 6’4” Miami recruit Will Weber is making the big leap from Michigan high school hockey and there are growing pains, but he’s big, strong, physical and chippy. He’s not great laterally and takes off with the puck a bit more than necessary – there’s a lot of raw potential, though. In goal, Vermont recruit Rob Madore got the start for Chicago, but struggled and was replaced 4:56 into the second by Nick Pisellini, who blanked Omaha the rest of the way, kicking out all 21 shots he faced. Pisellini, a 6’2” ’90 birthdate and second-year USHL player, is uncommitted for next year, but that will change quickly if he keeps playing as he did yesterday. Michigan State recruit Drew Palmisano picked up the shutout for the Lancers, kicking out all 29 shots he faced. Matt White, Andrew Conboy, and Nico Sachetti were the big guns up front for the Lancers, each notching a couple points… While we were watching this game, Green Bay topped Tri-City 3-1 over at the smaller rink. We missed it, so don’t have much to report. Trusted observers report that Green Bay ’90 goaltender Aaron Crandall, who was at St. Thomas Academy last season, had a very strong game, kicking out 28 of 29 for the win. Crandall is uncommitted. Green Bay has a new player in ’87 defenseman Cameron Burt, who arrived in Sioux City just before the game (his name didn’t even appear in the game sheet), and played a regular shift, impressing observers. At this time last week, we were watching Burt in the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout, playing center for the New England Junior Huskies (EJHL). Burt, a quick, wiry type from Michigan, almost went to Wayne State for this season, but apparently had a premonition… Cedar Rapids beat Lincoln, 6-4. For the RoughRiders, UMass recruit David Boehm used his speed well, notching a pair of goals and an assist (the second goal was an empty-netter). 6’2” Right shot d-man Bryce Aneloski, a ’90 from the TI midgets, played with poise and intelligence and is gaining college interest here. (Note: Cedar Rapids goaltender Kent Patterson is not playing this weekend due to a groin pull. However, he could be ready for the start of the season next weekend.) For Lincoln, St. Cloud recruit Jared Festler, who was quiet on Thursday, showed what he can do – he’s skilled, dangerous, and fun to watch. ’87 Kyle Follmer, who is still uncommitted anywhere, had a goal and an assist for the Stars, and Kyle Verbeek, an ’88 who played Tier II at Sarnia last season, picked up three assists. He, too, is uncommitted… Back at the main rink, we caught the tail end of Ohio’s 3-2 win over Sioux Falls. UMass recruit Danny Hobbs had a goal and an assist to pace the Junior Blue Jackets. ’89 goaltender Pasquale Terrazzano, who is from Lugano, Switzerland, looked good for Ohio, kicking out 27 of the 29 shots he faced… The night cap – Sioux City vs. Indiana – got off to a strange start when Sioux City started the game shorthanded, the result of a penalty to Princeton recruit Will MacDonald getting a minor for crossing the center ice line during pre-game warm-ups. We strongly doubt malicious intent. Also called in the game was a kneeing penalty, so we are quite sure referee Colin Kronforst had studied his rule book in the off-season. Three seconds into the second period, Indiana ’90 d-man Ian Ruel squared off with Sioux City’s Donnie Hallmark, an agitator if there ever was one, and won the fight, but lost the battle: Ruel didn’t return for the rest of the game. Hallmark did, though, and managed to pick up a charging and delay of game penalty within a five-minute span late in the period. All in all, this game, won by Sioux City, 2-0, was nothing to write home about. Indiana did not play well in their own end, and, though they managed to get the puck into Sioux City’s end with regularity, seemed unwilling, or unable, to get the puck on net. ’89 goaltender Josh Robinson picked up the shutout for the Musketeers, stopping all 20 shots he faced, though not many were tough chances. Sioux City center Alex Tuckerman, an ’89 formerly of Nauset (Mass.) HS, scored the game-winner, finding himself alone in the high slot and blasting one by Indiana 6’5” goalie Scott Darling, a Maine recruit. In late-breaking news, Harvard goaltender of the future Matt Hoyle has decided to leave Oakville (OPJHL) and join Indiana, so Darling and Chris Paliafito, who played at Lake Forest Academy last year, will have some company. The 6’3” Hoyle, a 12th grader and ’90 birthdate who was drafted by Indiana last spring, will arrive in Indianapolis this week.
Opening Day in Sioux CitySioux City, Iowa – All of the opening-day games at the USHL Fall Classic were one-goal games with the exception of Sioux Falls’ 3-1 win over Waterloo, in which an empty-netter was scored in the final seconds. The only decisive win was the Omaha Lancers’ 6-1 win over Green Bay. This was the day’s early game – 10:00 am – and this typist was in the air, somewhere over America’s heartland, and missed it. However, one Div. I head coach at the game said the Lancers were “far and away” the best team he saw all day. “I see them losing between 6-10 games all season,” he added. (For point of reference, Waterloo and Omaha each had 17 losses last season). Both Div. I head coaches and NHL scouts were unanimous in their praise for Omaha’s ’90 defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, who kicked off Omaha’s scoring. The NHL scouts have him as a projected first rounder, and, while it’s early -- really early – he could be the league’s marquee player this year. Up front, there doesn’t appear to be any one ultra high-end guy, i.e. no Thomas Vanek. And while Omaha did indeed dismantle Green Bay, outshooting them by a 2-1 margin, it’s perhaps worth bearing in mind that the Lancers were on the ice early, in late August, and had a good chance to bond as a team during their two-game road trip to the QMJHL, where they beat both the Quebec Remparts and the Rimouski Oceanic earlier this month. Yesterday, up front, Ben Arnt, Wisconsin recruit Matt Thurber, and Chris Connolly all had big days for the Lancers. Anthony Hayes played well for the Gamblers… The second game at the big arena was a total dog, with Ohio beating Lincoln, 3-2. There was just no tempo to this game, which is unusual in opening day action at this tournament, where the kids generally come out flying. For Lincoln though, 6’4” ’88 forward Travis Erstad, a Wisconsin recruit, stood out. Meanwhile, at the smaller rink, down Route 29, Des Moines was beating Indiana 2-1 while outshooting them 32-17, with Maine recruit Scott Darling kicking out 30 of 32 in a losing effort. Obviously, we couldn’t be in two places at once, so we’ll make a point of getting a good long look at both those teams today… The ensuing game at the smaller rink was perhaps the game of the day, with Sioux Falls, behind CC recruit Nick Dineen (2g) and Minnesota-Duluth recruit Jack Connolly (1g,2a), edging Waterloo, 3-1 (the final goal, as mentioned, was an empty-netter). This game had a great tempo, and Waterloo looked particularly powerful, with their big forwards potent on the forecheck, giving the Sioux Falls d-men no time whatsoever to gather up the puck in their end. Waterloo, which looked very strong, outshot Sioux Falls, 45-24. The goaltending was great in this game, with Eric Hartzell (30/30 in 40 minutes) and Max Strang (14/15 in 20 minutes both on their game. At the other end, UNH recruit Matt DiGirolamo was sharp, kicking out 21 of 23. On one, a tip by Dineen, he had no chance whatsoever. Waterloo’s d-men were sharp. John Lee, Blake Kessel, and Drew MacKenzie all stood out… Back up Route 29, at the big rink – it does have a name: the Tyson Events Center – we caught the last ten minutes of Tri-City’s 5-4 shootout win over the Chicago Steel. In other words, we didn’t see enough to venture any meaningful commentary, but from the little we saw it appears that Chicago could be much improved this season… We’ll check out those teams a little closer today… The nightcap was a good one, as Cedar Rapids edged host Sioux City, 3-2, in a game every bit as close as its score. The difference in this game was simply that the Musketeers took too many penalties and the RoughRiders took advantage, notching back-to-back power play goals. Their one goal that was not a power play goal was the game winner, which came when UMass recruit David Boehm took advantage of a Seth Helgeson turnover and broke in alone for the game winner with 1:31 remaining. Minnesota-Duluth recruit Brady Helle (30/32 in 60:00 minutes) was excellent for Cedar Rapids. A pair of ’90 forwards who stood out for Cedar Rapids were Cornell recruit Vince Mihalek, formerly of Gilmour Academy, and Stefan Salituro, who was with the Vaughan Vipers last season. Cedar Rapids has a young group of D – Paul Phillips, Matt Tomasonni, Chris Wideman, Matt Donovan, et al -- that will match up with any in the league… Sioux City ’89 forward Spencer Heichman may be only 5’5”, but he impacts the game – last night he scored just 23 seconds after the opening faceoff -- and will be playing Div. I somewhere before long.
Prep Forward to the Heights
Avon Old Farms 6’0”, 190 lb. junior center Patrick Mullane has committed to Boston College for the fall of ’09.
A 7/31/90 birthdate from Wallingford, Conn., Mullane posted an 8-11-19 line in 28 games to help Avon win the 2007 prep title. Look for him to move up to a more offensive role on this year’s team.
Mullane, who was also recruited by Providence College and Quinnipiac, had his heart set on Boston College. Once he knew there was a deal, he cancelled future college visits.
Mullane, who does a lot of things well without being outstanding in any one area, relies on this work ethic to get things down. His play is characterized by his energy, meaning he will be a crowd favorite at the Heights.
Mullane is playing this fall with the Mid Fairfield Midget Majors.
Stefishen Makes His Pick
Langley Chiefs (BCHL) 6’0”, 180 lb. RW Taylor Stefishen will be heading to Ohio State next season.
This season, Stefishen has played in four of his team’s six games and has a 2-2-4 line. Two of those goals and one of the assists came in a 6-3 win over Surrey on Sept. 8, the team’s second game of the season. Because of his role in inciting a line brawl with 2:36 remaining, Stefishen was tagged with a game misconduct and was suspended for two games. He was back in action last weekend.
Last season, as a rookie, Stefishen, in 55 games, had a 25-31-56 line with 73 pims.
An 8/15/90 birthdate, Stefishen has good stick skills, can make plays, has a nose for the net, and plays with an edge.
The North Vancouver native chose the Buckeyes over Denver, Colorado College, Northern Michigan, and Quinnipiac.
Saponari to BU
U.S. Under-18 Team forward Vinny Saponari has committed to Boston University for the fall of ’08.
Saponari, the younger brother of BU freshman forward Victor Saponari, is from Powder Springs, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, and played at Culver Academy before joining the Under-17 Team last season. His first season in Ann Arbor was excellent: he was one of two players from the Under-17 team – forward Jordan Schroeder was the other -- to be moved up to the Under-18 Team midway through the season. In April, Saponari upped his already-high stock when he posted a 4-3-7 line at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship at Tampere, Finland.
Wisconsin was very much on Saponari last year, but backed off a bit when Saponari’s older brother committed to the Terriers in the spring.
Saponari, who is 5’11” and 174 lbs. and a 2/15/90 birthdate, is an excellent skater who likes the high tempo game and has shown an ability to score at every level he’s played at. He has a real knack down low.
Other recruiting news:
The Terriers are still looking for other pieces and are in the hunt for 5’9” Salmon Arm forward Derek Lee, a ’90. They’ll be facing competition from Wisconsin and Michigan.
Lee’s linemate growing up, Langley’s Taylor Stefishen, who’s 6’0”, 180 lbs. and also a ’90, will likely be playing his college hockey at Denver, Ohio State, Colorado College, or Northern Michigan.
Those two are the big fish up front in the BCHL.
The top defensive prospect from British Columbia is former Burnaby Express defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, who is playing this season in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers. Boston College has recently jumped into the picture for Wiercioch, joining Wisconsin, Denver, Michigan, and UNH.
Big Get for Wolverines
6’0”, 165 lb. Compuware Midget Minor forward Luke Moffat, the big wheel among the ’92 forwards, has committed to the University of Michigan. He’s currently a 10th grader, so he’ll be going in the fall of ’10.
Moffat chose the Wolverines over Boston College, Notre Dame, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Last season, Moffat played for the Phoenix Firebirds and, in 53 games, posted a 58-62-160 line. His coach was his father, Kenny Moffatt, who played for Northern Arizona University back when that school had a Div. I hockey program back in the early ‘80s (coached, by the way, by Jim Peters, a former NHLer and RPI assistant who is now leading the quiet life as AD at Vermont Academy). .
Recently, the entire Moffat family moved to Ann Arbor where, starting next season, Moffat will play in the NTDP. Moffat’s mother, a Bowling Green alum, is an Ohio native, and Moffat’s grandparents still live there, about an hour from Ann Arbor.
The Kelowna Rockets drafted Moffat #2 overall in last spring’s WHL Bantam Draft. The young forward’s family seems highly college-oriented, so Kelowna’s odds don’t appear that good. However, we say that with trepidation.
Moffat is a bit of a manchild, a strong-skating, highly-competitive, physical power forward with obvious offensive skills. The 2010 NHL draft is two years, nine months away and we don’t want to overhype Moffat, but, in looking at him, we see a player with the size, skill set, and competiveness to be a high first round pick. He has all the earmarks.
Right now, Moffat is playing on what would have to be the top ’92 line in the country, skating alongside Jared Knight, who is also committed to Michigan for ’10; and Jason Zucker, a Las Vegas native who has excellent mitts. Zucker is focusing in on Notre Dame, Michigan, and Maine.
Their coach at Compuware is Todd Jenkins, who played at the University of Maine in the late ‘80s.
Paul Pearson, the son of long-time Michigan assistant coach Mel Pearson, is a teammate of Moffat, Knight, Zucker and the rest of a squad that can only be described as ridiculously loaded. They are undefeated in the early going.
Moffatt and Little Caesar’s Midget Minor defenseman Jonathan Merrill, who committed to Michigan at the age of 14 last fall, are the only two ‘92s who have been guaranteed slots in the NTDP for next year. There may not be any more kids taken in before the spring evaluation camp, as John Hynes will be opting to take a more cautious route than the program has taken in recent years.
EJHL on Parade
Twelve of the 14 EJHL teams are in action at the Boston Junior Bruins Shootout at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro, Mass. this weekend. Today, we saw all of them – as much as possible, that is, as games are being played simultaneously and we had to jump around a bit. So consider this a somewhat impressionistic take.
The Jersey Hitmen started things off by topping the New England Huskies, 5-3. The Hitmen’s top prospect is Kevin Clare, a poised, smooth-skating 6’1” ’92-born defenseman who has visits to Michigan and Notre Dame coming up in the next week or two. 5’10” LD Andrew Himelson, a ’90, also had a strong game on D, as did former Lincoln Star Ryan Ruikka, an ‘88. Up front, 5’11” Garret Chumley, an ’88, popped in a pair. The Huskies best player was Cameron Burt, a left-shot center who moved back to man the point on the power play. Burt’s an ’87 and should have been in college this year – perhaps next…The Monarchs had no trouble with the Cap District Selects, topping them 5-2. UNH recruit Greg Burke (shoulder) is still out for the Monarchs, but there is still plenty of firepower up front, with Providence recruit Connor Moore, Yuri Bouharevich, and others. The Monarchs’ Justin Gates let in a couple early goals, then settled down nicely. Cap District is thin this year, and Chance Lieb struggled in goal, not that he was getting much help from most of his teammates. However, we thought ’87 RC Kris Threlkeld was solid. The game, however, was ragged but, hey, it’s early in the season. …. In the closest game of the day the South Shore Kings (the former Foxboro Stars) edged the Bridgewater Bandits, 3-2. Both are solid, good-skating teams. The Kings have some good young players in ’90 LW Sean Logue, an 11th grader in high school who should nonetheless be one of the top players in the league this year; 6’1” center Eric Robinson, a ’90; and ’89 LD Ben Rosen, a Brown recruit. ’88 RD Mike Cornell drilled a goal from the right point to give the Kings an early 1-0 lead. ’88 LW Brian Yanovitch and ’89 RC Chris Rooney stood out for Bridgewater… The Junior Bruins led the Boston Jr. Shamrocks (formerly the Harbor Wolves) 7-0 at the half and finished with a 10-0 win. There wasn’t a lot to be learned from this game, apart from the fact that the Junior Bruins are a much, much better team than the Shamrocks, who can only hope they don’t have many days like this… The Syracuse Stars skated well, moved the puck well, and wound up blanking the Valley Junior Warriors, 3-0, with ’87 goalie Marc Stuart picking up the shutout, though he didn't face a lot of shots. Best player for Syracuse, hands-down, is 6’0” ’90 LD Dan Ford who can skate and move the puck – a nice balance of offense and defense. He’ll make a nice player for some Div. I program. So, too, will Syracuse ’90 defenseman Doug Marshall, a good skater with good hands – a little more stay-at-home than Ford. Marshall is listed as 6’2”, but that might be gilding the lily. The Warriors had a hard time getting their offense going, though former Exeter forward Jon Dwyer, an ’89, played well. 6’1” former Exeter defenseman Paul Dimitruk, who played two exhibition games in the Q for Moncton before returning home, played a solid game despite the turmoil he’s gone through…. Apple Core led the Green Mountain Glades, 2-0, at the half, with ’87 goalie Bobby Leiser nursing a shutout-in-progress. The game, though, was dull, so this typist split for coffee, and an opportunity to hammer together these notes.
9/19/07 Murray Makes His Pick
Murray Makes His Pick
U.S. Under-17 goaltender Adam Murray has committed to Denver University for the fall of ’09.
A 6’1”, 187 lb. native of Anchorage, Alaska, Murray is the consensus top ’91 goaltender in the U.S., and found himself at the center of a big recruiting battle.
In the end, Murray chose Denver over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado College, and Michigan.
Murray started the ’06-07 season with Anchorage South High School. During the Christmas/New Year’s break, he went with his midget AAA team, the Alaska All-Stars, to the MAC’s International Tournament in Calgary. He started two games there, kicking out 42 of 45 in one, and 33 of 34 in the other.
At the time, the U.S. Under-17 Team was experiencing goaltending woes, and Murray, despite being an underager, was summoned to Ann Arbor right afterward, moving 2,000 miles and switching high schools in the middle of the year. In 13 games with the Under-17 Team Murray posted an 8-5-0 record with a .925 save percentage.
Since he’s a ’91, and a junior in high school, he’s rostered with the Under-17 Team again this season. Murray is super competitive, with a lot of composure, and a great work ethic. He's a 3/28/91 birthdate and NHL draft eligible in 2009.
9/18/07 Where the Rinks Are
Where the Rinks Are
Why are so many high-end players coming out of Minnesota? Perhaps the single major factor is the huge number of rinks in the state.
Using arenamaps.com as our guide, we counted 512 rinks in Minnesota. Out of that total, 276 are “park rinks” -- generally uncovered, natural rinks maintained by local parks and recreation departments. In other words, great places to get kids on skates at a very young age without major cost or commitment. The other 236 listed rinks are arenas of varying sizes.
And there are more coming. Victoria, Minn., which is 30 miles southwest of the Twin Cities, just passed a referendum to build an arena – at taxpayer’s expense.
Here, then, are the number of rinks by state.
Minnesota (512); New York (173); Michigan (159); Massachusetts (144); Wisconsin (114); Pennsylvania (95); California (86); Illinois (74); North Dakota (66); Ohio (59); New Jersey (54); Texas (50); Connecticut (48); Colorado (46); Maine (41); Missouri (39); New Hampshire (35); Florida (32); Maryland (29); Washington (28); Vermont (26); Virginia (26); Alaska (24); North Carolina (24); Indiana (21); Arizona (19); Rhode Island (17); Iowa (16); Utah (15); South Dakota (13); Oregon (12); Georgia (11); Montana (11); Nevada (10); Tennessee (10); Wyoming (9); Nebraska (9); South Carolina (9); West Virginia (8); Oklahoma (8); Louisiana (8); New Mexico (7); Idaho (6); Kansas (6); Kentucky (6); Delaware (5); Alabama (5); Arkansas (4); District of Columbia (4); Mississippi (4); Hawaii (1).
On a per capita basis – rounded to the nearest thousand -- North Dakota leads the way, with one rink per 9,000 people. However, North Dakota has a population about one-eighth that of Minnesota and, except for the Grand Forks and Fargo regions, lacks the hockey infrastructure and tradition of their neighbor. Minnesota is second with one rink per 10,000 people. Those two ice-bound states are way ahead of the rest of the pack.
Here is the rinks per capita list, rounded to the nearest thousand:
North Dakota (1 per 9,000) 2. Minnesota (1 per 10,000) 3. Vermont (1 per 24,000) 4. Alaska (1 per 28,000) 5. Maine (1 per 32,000); 6. New Hampshire (1 per 37,000) 7. Massachusetts (1 per 45,000) 8. Wisconsin (1 per 49,000) 9. Wyoming (1 per 57,000) 10. South Dakota (1 per 60,000) 11. Rhode Island (1 per 63,000) 12. Michigan (1 per 64,000) 13. Connecticut (1 per 73,000) 14. Montana (1 per 86,000) 15. Colorado (1 per 103,000) 16. New York (1 per 111,000) 17. Pennsylvania (1 per 131,000) 18. District of Columbia (1 per 145,000) 19. Missouri (1 per 150,000) 20. New Jersey (1 per 162,000) 21. Utah (1 per 170,000) 22. Delaware (1 per 171,000) 23. Illinois (1 per 173,000) 24. Iowa (1 per 186,000) 25. Maryland (1 per 194,000) 26. Ohio (1 per 195,000) 27. Nebraska (1 per 196,000) 28. West Virginia (1 per 227,000) 29. Washington (1 per 239,000) 30. Idaho (1 per 244,000) 31. Nevada (1 per 249,000) 32. New Mexico (1 per 279,000) 33. Virginia (1 per 294,000) 34. Indiana (1 per 301,000) 35. Oregon (1 per 308,000) 36. Arizona (1 per 325,000) 37. North Carolina (1 per 369,000) 38. California (1 per 424,000) 39. Oklahoma (1 per 447,000) 40. Kansas (1 per 461,000) 41. Texas (1 per 470,000) 42. South Carolina (1 per 480,000) 43. Louisiana (1 per 536,000) 44. Florida (1 per 565,000) 45. Tennessee (1 per 603,000) 46. Kentucky (1 per 701,000) 47. Arkansas (1 per 703,000) 48. Mississippi (1 rink per 727,000) 49. Georgia (1 rink per 851,000) 50. Alabama (1 per 920,000) 51. Hawaii (forget it!)
(Note: We included the District of Columbia as a state.)
For purposes of comparison. here are the numbers of rinks for each of Canada’s provinces:
Ontario (898); Alberta (420); Quebec (358); Manitoba (203); British Columbia (186); Saskatchewan (165); New Brunswick (85); Nova Scotia (75); Prince Edward Island (27); Newfoundland (26); NW Territories/Nunavit (10); and the Yukon (7).
On a per capita basis, the Yukon, which has at least six months of true winter, leads the way with one rink per 4,411. However, the total population is only about 31,000, so it’s a little hard to find quality players. The wonderfully-named Byron Baltimore, who played two games for the Edmonton Oilers in 1979-80, was from the Yukon – Whitehorse, to be specific.
Here are the Canadian provinces, on a per capita basis. Note that the only U.S. states that would make this list are Minnesota and North Dakota:
1. Yukon (1 per 4,000) 2. Prince Edward Island (1 per 5,000) 3. Manitoba (1 per 6,000) 4. Saskatchewan (1 per 6,000) 5. NW Territories/Nunavit (1 per 7,000) 6. Alberta (1 per 8,000) 7. New Brunswick (1 per 9,000) 8. Nova Scotia (1 per 12,000) 9. Ontario (1 per 14,000) 10. Newfoundland (1 per 19,000) 11. Quebec (1 per 21,000) 12. British Columbia (1 per 23,000).
Getting back to Minnesota, other factors that explain that state’s success are based around the fact that Minnesota youth hockey is community-based and one can play right up through high school – which is the apex in Minnesota – without shelling out big bucks for travel teams or private schools. You’ll find cars and pickup trucks at a high school game on the Iron Range that would stick out like a sore thumb from among the shiny fleets seen outside some suburban rinks in the Eastern U.S. In other words, access to hockey in Minnesota is available to a broader socio-economic segment of the population than in most other parts of the U.S. So the numbers are greater. For the players who stand out in high school, there’s the fall elite league, which allows kids to play high-level hockey and still play a fall sport for their high school. That’s helped Minnesota raise the bar in recent years.
It all starts with access to ice, though, and in Minnesota the supply meets the demand. No one has to drive halfway across the state, and many don’t even have to drive halfway across town. Rinks are everywhere. In other words, it’s not necessary to mortgage the farm to play hockey – and everyone can be home for dinner.
AJHL Showcase This Weekend
All 11 Atlantic Junior Hockey League teams will be on hand for the first time this season at the AJHL Kickoff Showcase, to be held at the Iorio Arena in Walpole, Mass. Fri-Sun. Sept. 21-23.
Here’s the schedule:
Fri. Sept. 21: NY Bobcats vs. Walpole Express, 4:00 pm; Northern Cyclones vs. NJ Rockets, 5:50 pm; Laconia Leafs vs. Binghamton Jr. Senators, 6:10 pm; Portland Junior Pirates vs. Philadelphia Little Flyers, 8:00 pm; Hartford Jr. Wolfpack vs. Washington Jr. Nationals, 8:20 pm.
Sat. Sept. 22: Walpole Express vs. NJ Rockets, 2:10 pm; NY Bobcats vs. Portland Junior Pirates, 2:30 pm; Binghamton Jr. Senators vs. Boston Bulldogs, 4:20 pm; Washington Jr. Nationals vs. Laconia Leafs, 4:40 pm; Hartford Jr. Wolfpack vs. Philadelphia Little Flyers, 6:30 pm.
Sun. Sept. 23: NY Bobcats vs. Washington Jr. Nationals, 8:30 am; Philadelphia Little Flyers vs. Northern Cyclones, 9:10 am; Boston Bulldogs vs. NJ Rockets, 10:40 am; Portland Junior Pirates vs. Binghamton Jr. Senators, 11:20 am; Walpole Express vs. Laconia Leafs, 12:50 pm.
NAHL Showcase Starts Wednesday
The fifth annual North American Hockey Leaguue Showcase gets underway this Wednesday, Sept. 19, at Schwan’s Super Rink in Blaine, Minn. and runs through Sun. Sept. 23.
All 18 NAHL teams will be on hand, each playing four regular-season games. In addition, 30 midget teams will be playing concurrently in the first of three NAHL sponsored midget tournaments. (The second will be held in St. Louis Dec. 13-16, and the third will be in Ann Arbor Feb. 15-18.)
Like Father, Like Son
6’0”, 195 lb. Delbarton School forward/defenseman Alex Velischek has committed to Providence College for the fall of ’09.
Velischek, an assistant captain at Delbarton as a 10th grader last season, is a 12/17/90 birthdate from Kinnelon, NJ, and also played for the New Jersey Devils youth organization.
He has gone back and forth a bit as a forward and defenseman, helping where needed. Some of the colleges recruiting him liked him more on the blueline; others liked him more up front. Look for him to play D at Providence.
Velischek chose the Friars over Boston University, Harvard, and Princeton.
Playing for a New Jersey prep, Velischek has flown a little under the radar, but has a lot of potential. A smart player who sees the ice well, he’s physically strong and a good skater. We felt he was one of the top forwards at the 2006 Select 16s, and that without even accounting for the fact that he was possibly the youngest player there – almost a ’91. He was named to one of the two Under-17 Select Teams the U.S. deployed when hosting the Four Nations Tournament in Rochester, NY that August.
Velischek is the son of former defenseman Randy Velischek, a Hobey Baker finalist in ’82-83 for the Lou Lamoriello-coached Friars. One of Velischek’s teammates that year was current Providence coach Tim Army, then a freshman. Velischek would go on to play in the NHL for 10 years, mostly with the New Jersey Devils.
9/14/07 Boston Junior Bruins Shootout Schedule
Boston Junior Bruins Shootout ScheduleThe Schedule for the Eighth Annual Boston Junior Bruins Shootout, to be held Thurs.-Sun. Sept. 20-23, has been posted at the Junior Bruins website.
The vast majority of games will take place at the New England Sports Center in Marlboro, though some will take place at the North Star Rink in Northboro.
There will be three divisions.
In the EJHL Division, 12 of the 14 EJHL teams will be on hand. (New England Jr. Falcons and Bay State Breakers are the two teams that won’t be appearing.) Each team will play three league games.
In the Empire League, all 21 teams will be on hand. All games will count as league games.
In the midget division, there will be an Under-18 and an Under-16 division. The U18s bracket will have 16 teams while the U16s have eight teams.
Playoffs in all divisions will be on Sunday the 23rd.
’07-08 Prep Tournaments
We’re in the process of putting together a calendar of all prep school tournaments. Whether it’s a little four-team pre-season jamboree or a big Christmas tournament we want to get the word out early in order that coaches and fans can make plans. We need the dates, location, teams participating, and, if ready, the full schedule. Whatever you have, we will gladly accept. Please email the info to firstname.lastname@example.org . If you prefer to fax it, the number is 617-714-3023. Thank you from the U.S. Hockey Report.
’07-08 Prep Tournaments
O’Neill a Black Bear
6’1”, 205 lb. LD Will O’Neill of the Omaha Lancers, a former UNH recruit, has committed to the University of Maine for the fall of ’08.
In the summer of 2006, O’Neill, who had played at Tabor Academy as a sophomore and junior, committed to UNH and left Tabor to spend his 12th grade season in the USHL with the Omaha Lancers. However, the Salem, Mass. native reported out of shape, didn’t get off to a good start, and wound up having to play out of position at forward at times in the second half. On top of all that, he was struggling academically, and, for a while, his getting through the clearinghouse looked to be in jeopardy. UNH cut their ties with O'Neill during the season.
While O’Neill certainly didn’t see it this way at the time, UNH’s move may have been a big wake-up call.
O’Neill’s coach in Omaha, Mike Hastings, reported that he saw a real change in O’Neill between the first half of last season and the second half. “Two words,” Hastings said. “Effort and accountability.”
“I saw a maturation of a kid. I’m proud of what Will accomplished in a year, both on and off the ice. He could easily have just blamed everybody else and said ‘I’m getting screwed’ but he didn’t. He just went to work.”
We asked O’Neill, who turned 19 in April, whether he felt UNH’s decision was based more on his play on the ice or his struggles in the classroom.
“I think it was a combination of the two,” O’Neill said. “There was room for them to use the academic piece when I wasn’t producing in hockey.”
O’Neill said he harbored ill feelings toward UNH at the time. ”I was bummed out,” he said. “I really didn’t know what to do.”
O’Neill said that, in time, he pulled things together. “I just realized I had to kick it into high gear and move on. It (the rejection from UNH) gave me extra incentive to get to the point where I’m at now.”
When Omaha held their tryout camp in early June, O’Neill was ready. “That week was big for me,” he said. “That was a great opportunity to show what I could do again.”
Among those at the camp was Maine coach Tim Whitehead, who after this season will have to replace two key defensemen – Travis Ramsey and Bret Tyler. Whitehead liked what he saw of O’Neill’s play. From that, a late summer visit to Orono was arranged, and now he’s a Black Bear.
O’Neill admits he underestimated the demands of playing in the USHL. “I thought that the summer before I came to the USHL that I had worked hard off ice,” he said. “But I just didn’t know how to eat right, and I got heavy.”
“I want to say that it was too bad about UNH, but I also want people to know that I’m completely the beneficiary of their decision. I’m in good shape right now. I’m rarin’ to get going on this season. And I’m excited about Maine.”
As for UNH, O’Neill said, “That’s behind me now. I’ve moved on. I’m eager to get better and to go on to Maine. So, no, I don’t hold a grudge... but I look forward to playing them.”
As for the upcoming season, Hastings said O’Neill arrived in camp in excellent shape. “It showed me how much he’s learned. You could say that he has reinvented his work ethic and discipline.”
O’Neill, a 4/28/88 birthdate, was a seventh round draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2006 NHL draft.
In 62 games last season (regular season plus playoffs), O’Neill posted a 4-9-13 line with a +5 for the Lancers.
He is the son of Bill O’Neill, who played on Boston University’s 1978 NCAA championship team and has been the head coach at Salem State for 26 years.
Kent School twins Justin and Drew Daniels have both committed to Northeastern for either ’09 or ’10.
Both will be seniors this season, and have added some punch to the Kent program, which has made a comeback under third year head coach Matt Herr.
Last season, Justin posted a 14-32-46 line in 25 games, while brother Drew had a 12-22-34 line. The twins are both 6’2” and 165 lbs. They are cerebral players with offensive skill, though both have to continue working on their skating. They will play juniors, most likely in the USHL, after finishing up at Kent.
The brothers, 6/7/89 birthdates, hail from Suffern, NY, which is in Rockland County, about 35 miles northwest of Manhattan.
Dartmouth was also in the picture for the twins.
Both will be playing this fall for the Mid Fairfield Blues Midget Majors.
Inaugural Hitmen Showcase Starts Friday
The First Annual Jersey Hitmen Showcase runs from this Friday Sept. 14 through Sunday the 16th at the Ice Vault in Wayne, NJ.
There are two divisions, as follows:
Junior A: Junior Bruins (EJHL), Mahoning Valley (NAHL), Apple Core (EJHL), Jersey Hitmen (EJHL), NJ Rockets (AJHL), and NY Bobcats (AJHL).
Junior B: Junior Bruins (Empire), Apple Core (Empire), Maksymum (Empire), Tri State (Empire), Jersey Wildcats (Empire), Pittsburgh Jr. Penguins (Empire), Philadelphia Junior Flyers (MET), and NJ Titans (MET).
The rink is located about 25 miles northwest of Manhattan. Here is a link to the directions:
Another Commitment for Dartmouth
A left shot center from South Burlington, Vt., Bourgea, who had also considered/visited Harvard, Colgate, Holy Cross, and Middlebury, is a 6/17/89 birthdate and will be a senior co-captain at St. Paul’s this season.
Another Commitment for Dartmouth5’8”, 175 lb. St. Paul’s School forward Jason Bourgea has committed to Dartmouth for the fall of ’09.
Bourgea, who has played for New England at the Select 15,16, and 17s, plays a high-tempo game, is strong on his skates, competes hard in all three zones, is a tenacious forechecker, and a strong leader type. As a sophomore, he had a 9-4-13 line, with much of his offense coming in the second half of the season. Last year, he finished with a 16-14-30 line in 29 games, good for third on the team.
By the way, three St. Paul’s School players -- Bourgea, fellow co-captain Mike Daley, and new junior Alex Davidson – are all from South Burlington. Not only that, but they all live on the same street – Butler Drive. Sounds like a nefarious plot to us.
Bourgea is the fourth player to commit to Dartmouth since the beginning of August, as he joins Choate D Connor Goggin, Avon center Paul Lee, and NH Jr. Monarchs goaltender James Mello.
9/5/07 Harlow Leaving Stonehill
Harlow Leaving Stonehill
Former Boston College star Scott Harlow, the head coach at Stonehill College for the past seven years, has resigned that position.
Assistant coach Gary Hebert is expected to be named as the new head coach of the Skyhawks.
Harlow, who will continue as general manager of the Foxboro Sports Center, will be keeping a hand in coaching by working as an assistant on Brian Day’s staff at Noble & Greenough. “I want to take a step back a bit, and just help coach my son’s team,” Harlow said. Harlow, from Bridgewater, Mass., has a son, Matt, who is a freshman forward at Nobles.
At Stonehill, Harlow was named Northeast-10/ECAC Division III Coach of the Year three times.
An All-America forward at Boston College, Harlow is third among the Eagles’ all-time scoring leaders with 223 points, trailing only David Emma and Brian Gionta. After graduation in ’86, Harlow played for four NHL organizations, and made it to the NHL for one game with St. Louis in 1988.
Palmieri to Fighting Irish
5’9”, 165 lb. U.S. Under-17 Team forward Kyle Palmieri has committed to Notre Dame for the fall of ’09.
Palmieri, who played for the New Jersey Devils Under-16 Team and St. Peter’s Prep (Jersey City, NJ) last season, competes hard, has good hands, sees the ice well, and has shown a knack for scoring when the game is on the line.
Other schools in the picture for Palmieri were RPI, which his sister attends; and Ohio State.
Palmieri is the third member of this coming season’s Under-17 Team to commit to Notre Dame for ’09, as he will be joining defensemen Cam Fowler and Sam Calabrese. Another high end prospect heading to Notre Dame with them is Riley Sheahan, a 6’2” center from St. Catharine’s.
New Rink on Horizon
Notre Dame is getting close to building a brand new arena, and it could be ready for the ’09-10 season, the year Palmieri, Fowler, Calabrese, Sheahan, et al will be freshmen.
Recently, Notre Dame got a $15 million anonymous donation. This comes on top of two earlier donations of $5 million apiece. The rink, to be built at the same location as the Joyce Center (Notre Dame’s current arena), has a projected $30 million price tag.
The University administration still has to get it approved with the Board of Trustees. Given that the money is already in hand, that should not prove difficult.
Look for the arena to seat approximately 5,000 fans. It will be a hockey-specific building.
9/4/07 Big Goaltender for Miami-Ohio
Boston Junior Bruins (EJHL) 6’5”, 230 lb. goaltender Connor Knapp has committed to Miami University for either ’08 or ’09.
When he goes is dependent on current Miami goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who will be a junior this season. If Zatkoff, property of the Los Angeles Kings, were to turn pro after the upcoming season, Knapp would go to Miami in the fall of ’08. If Zatkoff were to play his senior year at Miami, Knapp would matriculate in ’09.
Knapp, a 5/1/90 birthdate, is from York, NY, which is about an hour east of Buffalo. At the 2005 Select 15’s, we here at USHR selected him as the #1-ranked goaltender in camp. Last season, Knapp played for the Boston Junior Bruins Empire team and was named the top goalie in the league after finishing up with a .920 save percentage and a 2.19 gaa. In the playoffs, we went 5-0-0 with a 1.24 gaa and a .920 save percentage.
This summer, he had a strong Select 17 Festival. His play there convinced the Miami staff to have him in for a visit afterward.
Big Goaltender for Miami-Ohio
“Usually goalies of his size give up a lot in quickness and reflexes,” says Junior Bruins Empire coach Chris Masters, “but Connor has the quickness of someone who is 5’10”. He’s also unbelievable focused. He will not go into a game unprepared. I can only remember four soft goals he allowed all last season – we track them. He makes the saves he has to make, and also makes some he has no right making. Connor also plays the puck really well.”
In addition to Miami, Knapp took visits to Clarkson and RPI.
'07-08 EJHL Tournaments
Here are the dates for this season’s EJHL Tournaments:
Woodchuck Classic (Burlington, VT), Sept. 6-9.
Jersey Hitmen Showcase (Wayne, NJ), Sept. 14-16
Boston Junior Bruins Shootout (Marlboro, MA) Sept. 21-23
NH Junior Monarchs Tournament (Hooksett, NH), Oct. 12-14
Valley Warriors Tournament (Haverhill, MA), Nov. 9-11
N.E. Huskies Tournament (Fitchburg, MA), Dec. 7-9
EJHL/Empire League Showcase (Marlboro, MA), Jan. 4-6
Avon’s Lee Going Ivy
A Garden City, NY native, Lee wanted to go Ivy and, in addition to Dartmouth, included Harvard, Yale, and Princeton among the schools he visited.
Lee, who is playing with the Mid-Fairfield Under-18 Team this fall, is a big, hard-working player who, in 29 games for Lawrenceville last season, had a 23-16-39 line.
He's a 4/3/89 birthdate.
Avon’s Lee Going Ivy6’3”, 215 lb. center Paul Lee, who has been at Lawrenceville for the past three years but is now at Avon Old Farms for his senior year, has committed to Dartmouth for the fall of ’08.
9/4/07 Bourque Chooses Wildcats
Bourque Chooses Wildcats
One of the top ‘91s in the country, Bourque made his final choice from among UNH, Boston University, and Harvard.
Bourque is the youngest of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque’s three children, and will be the second to attend UNH, as his older sister, Melissa, attended UNH, where she played lacrosse. His brother, Chris, attended BU and is in the Washington Caps organization.
A left-shot forward who can play center or on the wing, Bourque has the potential to be a big-time college player, a possible Hobey Baker Award winner down the line. He'll put up big numbers for the Wildcats, primarily because he has the hands to execute what he sees in his mind -- and he sees it extremely well. His skating with the puck is excellent – very heads-up – and he’s well suited to the Whittemore Center’s big sheet. His passes are excellent, tape-to-tape, even through a thicket of sticks. He has offensive instincts that you really can’t teach. Given the fact that he’s on the small side – he’s 5’7”, 160 lbs. -- he could well be at UNH for the full four years a la Ryan Shannon at Boston College.
Bourque, a quiet, reserved kid and a strong student, played two years at Cushing. As a freshman, he posted a 3-7-10 line. Last year, his sophomore season, he posted a 19-31-50 line while playing on a line with future Wildcat Matt White (now with the Omaha Lancers).
UNH fans can see Bourque, a Topsfield, Mass. resident, when the U.S. Under-17 Team comes to the Beantown Fall Classic October 18-21. Games will be played at both the Whittemore Center and the Ice House in Exeter, NH (formerly known as the Rinks at Exeter).
Omaha and Indiana Hit the Road
The Omaha Lancers and the Indiana Ice hit the road today for the long haul up to Quebec City and Rimouski for this weekend’s USHL/QMJHL exhibition tilts.
First stop will be Sarnia, Ontario, where Omaha and Indiana will face each other in an exhibition game tomorrow (Tues.). From there, they will caravan on to Toronto, where they will visit the Hockey Fall of Fame, the Bell Centre, and chow down at Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant. They day after that, they will move on to Montreal, and practice in one of North America's finest cities.
Omaha Lancers owner/GM Mike Hastings is quite aware that there are observers on both sides of the border who are looking at the exhibition games as something more than what they are.
“Some people want to build this into a war, and it’s not,” he said. “They (the Q) did not have to do this. We’re indebted to them for allowing us to come up and play.”
“We’re fortunate and thankful for what it is – a friendly weekend. When I was 16,17,18 I didn’t have an opportunity to do something like this – to go to Toronto and Montreal and then wind up playing in Quebec City with Luc (Robitaille) on our bench and Patrick (Roy) on theirs, and then going on to Rimouski, where Sidney Crosby played.”
“This is a unique hockey road trip – for anybody. And it came about because of two guys who owned teams and are friends. Luc called Patrick and said, 'Can we come up?'
“They said yes, but they didn’t have to do it. We’re thankful. We will go up there and learn as many things as possible about how they do things.”
Hastings said his team has been practicing for ten days and the players are excited about the trip. “Ninety percent of our guys have never been to Montreal. Ninety-five percent have never been to the Hall of Fame. The whole experience of the trip will be something they will never forget. It’s a great history lesson, the kind you need to do to really appreciate."
"On top that," Hastings added, "the trip will be great for team building.”
With New England bordering Quebec, it’s fair to say that Omaha’s New England players would be especially excited about the games this weekend.
Unfortunately, the squad’s two New Englanders, Will O’Neill and BC recruit Barry Almeida, are both unable to play.
The former has a minor knee injury, while the latter had a minor adjustment to the eye injured in the summer of ’06 and is expected to get clearance to play in games in about two weeks. Hastings said that while Almeida is “crushed” that he can’t play this weekend, the eye will be fine and the latest work was “the end of the process for the whole injury – the final step to his becoming as healthy as possible with the eye.”
Omaha recently added an import player to their roster, defenseman Patrick Wiercioch, a 6’1”, 180 lb. LD who played for the Burnaby Express (BCHL) last season.
A 9/12/90 birthdate, Wiercioch has a ton of schools interested in him – Michigan, Michigan State, UNH, Wisconsin, and Denver are the ones we’ve heard so far.
A Maple Ridge, BC native, Wiercioch is eligible for next June’s NHL draft. Hastings feels he’ll go in the top three rounds.
“He’s driven and focused,” Hastings said, pointing out that Wiercioch shot 400 pucks every day this summer.
Wiercioch, whom Hastings described as “one of the most impressive young men I’ve ever dealt with” is also a straight A student. “His father,” Hastings said, “said he’d support him in hockey as long as he got straight A’s.”
Both of Wiercioch’s parents are originally from Poland, and struggled mightily to get out and settle in North America.
On the ice, Wiercioch has skating ability and hockey sense. He reads the play well, and has a shot. Last season was his first in the BCHL and, in 42 games, he posted a 9-16-25 line with 46 penalty minutes.
9/2/07 U.P. Calling
There’s no better time to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula than October, when the leaves along Lake Superior turn fiery red. It’s special country – pretty spectacular -- and the Marquette Electricians Midget Tournament just makes it that much better.
This year’s tournament – the 17th annual – will be held Thurs. Oct. 4-Sun. Oct. 7 and will feature quite a few teams that haven’t made it to the tournament in the past. Organizers felt that if they just allowed the same teams in every year, other teams wouldn’t bother to apply. So they’ve reached out, and have a handful of newcomers this year.
Once again, there will be twenty teams – four divisions of five teams apiece. They are:
Red Division: Soo Indians, Madison Capitols, KC Russell Stover, Chicago Mission, and Honeybaked.
Blue Division: Cleveland Barons, LA Jr. Kings, Calgary Edge, Compuware, and the Dallas Stars.
White Division: Ojibwa Eagles, PF Chang’s, St. Louis Jr. Blues, Colorado Thunderbirds, and Team Illinois.
Gold Division: Sudbury, Green Bay, Colorado Rampage, Chicago Young Americans, and the host Marquette Electricians.
Dolesh Interim Head Coach at St. Mark’s
Former Dartmouth defenseman Scott Dolesh, who’s been an assistant at the Southborough, Mass. prep school for the last six years, has been hired as interim head hockey coach for the upcoming season.
Dolesh, 33, a Michigan native who also teaches math, takes over for Brian Grady, who left over the summer to accept the head coaching job at Morrisville State College.
In addition, St. Mark’s has a new assistant in Shawn Reid, a Lakeville, Minn. native who played college hockey for the Gustavus Adolphus Golden Gusties. After graduation, Reid worked for the Minnesota Wild for five years, in season ticket sales and with youth hockey associations. For the last five years, he has been in admissions at his alma mater while also serving as an assistant to the Gustavus Adolphus women’s team. Reid will also work in admissions at St. Mark’s.
Birkholz, Hanowksi, Golembiewski All Commit
Blake School 6’0”, 170 lb. forward Josh Birkholz has committed to the University of Minnesota for ’09 or ’10.
A 3/28/91 birthdate from Maple Grove, Minn., Birkholz skates extremely well for his size and age. He can finish, too, as he notched five goals at the Select 16s in Rochester, NY earlier this summer, a performance that earned him a slot on the Under-17 Select Team that won the silver medal last week at the Five Nations Tournament.
Birkholz, who also paints and draws very well, will be a junior at Blake this fall. In 21 games last season, he posted an 11-8-19 line.
6’1”, 185 lb. Little Falls HS center Ben Hanowski has committed to St. Cloud State for ’09.
Hanowski and fellow St. Cloud recruit Jared Festler (who’ll be playing his senior year with the Lincoln Stars) put up big numbers leading Class A Little Falls to the Minnesota State High School Tournament. Little Falls, which is indeed little (pop. 7,758) is about a half hour north of St. Cloud.
Hanowski, a 10/18/90 birthdate, had 111 points, but was topped by Festler, a 5’9” left wing, who had 125. Before those two, St. Cloud State never had a recruit from Little Falls.
Hanowski will return to Little Falls for this, his junior year. It’s expected that he’ll spend ’08-09, his senior year, in the USHL.
6’1”, 177 lb. Zach Golembiewski, who played for Belle Tire last season and was added in July to the U.S. Under-17 Team, has committed to Michigan State for ’09.
Golembiewski, who is from St. Clair, Mich., is a 3/6/91 birthdate and a right shot who played 71 games last season with a 45-50-95 line. He was excellent at Nationals back in early April.