Wednesday, November 19, 2014

UNH Recruit Liam Blackburn Signs NLI

Liam Blackburn Signs
National Letter of Intent

It's official - elite scorer Liam Blackburn will be a UNH Wildcat. The 18-year-old Blackburn (DOB: 6-8-1996), a 5'10", 167 lbs. center from Prince George, British Columbia (the same hometown as current UNH junior Dan Correale), has signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the University of New Hampshire.

The NLI is a written agreement in which the player agrees to attend the school for at least his freshman year and the school agrees to provide an athletic scholarship for at least the freshman year. NCAA recruits are permitted to sign an NLI during two signing periods. This year's early signing period began last Wednesday, November 12th and extended until today. The other signing period is anytime after April 15, 2015.

Last year, three of the ten UNH recruits - Dylan Chanter, Shane Eiserman, and Cameron Marks - signed during the November signing week. Liam Blackburn is the first UNH recruit to sign an NLI during the current period. He will enroll at UNH either in the Fall of 2015 or 2016. That decision will probably be made after the current season.

Warriors' Forward Liam Blackburn Signs with UNH
(Photo Credit:  Greystoke Photography)
Liam Blackburn verbally committed to UNH on October 7th. The day after, Kyle Anderson, the Director of Media and Play-by-Play Voice of the West Kelowna Warriors interviewed Blackburn about the commitment. Liam said that he "talked with New Hampshire before, through the summer quite a bit". At the BCHL Showcase in mid-September, UNH Associate Head Coach Glenn Stewart "watched me both games and we talked after each game and I had good interest in them right away." Coach Stewart had been hired by UNH in late August.

Right after the BCHL Showcase, Blackburn flew to New Hampshire and toured the UNH campus. When I interviewed Liam after he committed, he explained how this visit factored into his decision:
"Some of the main reasons I chose UNH included the campus, which I thought was gorgeous. I also like that the team plays in Hockey East, the travel is simple and allows less absences from class. I also feel the style of play will fit me best and the olympic ice size will benefit me. I had considered a few other schools such as Nebraska Omaha, Merrimack, and Penn State. I visited a couple schools but after my visit to UNH there were no schools in competition."
In his interview with Kyle Anderson, Blackburn laid out his thoughts about coming to UNH next season or the year after:
"I'm just trying to make myself the best player possible and whether that's making myself ready for college next year or the year after, I mean, that's a choice I'm probably going to make later in the year. Either way, I don't think there's a wrong choice. An extra year of juniors would be nice to develop physically but mentally, I think I'm prepared to go."
Blackburn plays for the West Kelowna Warriors and has been a leading scorer in the BCHL since the season began. He is currently the second-leading scorer in the league with 10 goals and 28 assists. He has 6 more assists than his closest pursuer. Here are some of Blackburn's scoring plays including his goals at the BCHL Showcase:

UNH Recruits Update: Nov-18-2014

2015 UNH Recruit
Joseph Masonius

Player of the Week - Joseph Masonius

In his second season with the US National Team Development Program, defenseman Joseph Masonius (pronounced MA-SO-KNEE-US) is starting to attract noteworthy attention. Ryan Kennedy, the associate senior writer and NHL draft expert for The Hockey News, spent last weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan taking in Team USA U-18 and University of Michigan games. Kennedy included Masonius in his list of prospects who impressed him. He wrote:
"By the end of the weekend, anytime I sensed a big hit coming, I just assumed it was Masonius – and I was usually right. The University of New Hampshire commit can rock opponents with his physicality and he also has a pretty decent point shot. Draft eligible in 2015."
Kennedy was referring to Masonius' play in two USHL matchups. On Friday, the NTDP U-18 team downed the Bloomington Thunder 4-3 in a shootout followed by a 9-3 drubbing of the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Sunday. In the Bloomington game, Masonius not only dispensed some solid hits, he also made a few offensive moves. Against Muskegon, Joseph posted his second assist in this season's USHL competition and played solid defense. His +/- rating in each game was +1. Here are some of the highlights:

Masonius is on track to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2015. Current UNH players Shane Eiserman, Tyler Kelleher, and Brett Pesce are also veterans of the US National Team Development Program.

The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the year the player and UNH coaches have targeted for enrollment in UNH. For example, the "2015 Recruits" have a target of the Fall of 2015 to begin playing for UNH.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2015 Recruits
Jason Kalinowski  (F) Bloomington Thunder USHL 4 0 1 1 2
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 5 0 0 0 4
Joseph Masonius  (D) USA U18 Team NCAA 6 1 1 2 4
USHL 6 0 2 2 16
NAHL 1 0 0 0 0
Int'l. 4 0 1 1 14
Christopher Miller  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 12 3 4 7 6
Danny Tirone  (G) Junior Bruins USPHL 15 10W 5L 2.47 .921
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 21 16 5 21 42
Marcus Vela  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 21 3 13 16 26
2015 or '16 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 22 10 27 37 14
Liam Darcy  (D) Berwick Academy NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
Islanders Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 4 0 0 0 0
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 16 3 9 12 6
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 18 8 13 21 8
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 2 0 0 0 0
Ara Nazarian  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 16 2 4 6 4
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 22 0 1 1 16
2016 Recruits
Joey Cipollone  (F) Selects Academy 18U USPHL 18U 8 4 10 14 0
Justin Fregona  (F) St. Andrews College CISAA 0 0 0 0 0
Non-Conf 9 7 5 12 14
Jake Ryczek  (D) Sioux City Musketeers USHL 16 2 0 2 4
2017 Recruits
Mike Robinson  (G) Boston Jr Rangers EHL 8 4W 4L 2.35 .937
Lawrence Academy NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) CT Wolfpack U16 Split CT HC 34 17 15 32 44
Loomis Chaffee NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
Jason O'Neill  (F) Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 15 10 10 20 21

Sunday, November 16, 2014

UNH's Adam Clark and Kyle Smith Excel in One-Goal Loss to NU

Freshman Goalie Adam Clark
31 Saves
Kyle Smith
1st Goal of Season

In the words of the Boston Globe, freshman UNH goalie Adam Clark and Northeastern senior Clay Witt put on "goaltending clinic" last night at the Matthews Arena. Over the first two periods, both held their opponents scoreless with Clark rejecting 16 shots on goal and Witt stopping 26. Both made several outstanding saves and the goalie's best friend - the post - helped Witt twice.

In the first period, Adam Clark showed remarkable agility, particularly for a 6'5" goalie, sliding post-to-post to rob Dallen Hedges at the 10-minute mark and then, Kevin Roy two minutes later.

The second period saw UNH turning up the pressure offensively and only allowing 5 shots on goal. Three of Northeastern's shots came from the faceoff circle to the left of Adam Clark. With 9 minutes left in the period, freshman Nolan Stevens (1 goal, 1 assist, 5 SOG) snapped a point-blank shot that Clark smothered in his chest. Less than a minute later, Clark made a similar save of a Mike Szmatula back-hander. Finally, in the waning minutes, Clark flashed his blocker to stop a close in shot from freshman Brendan Collier (a transfer from Boston University).

In the three games leading up to last night, sophomore Tyler Kelleher was on a scoring tear. He posted three goals, including the game-winner against Michigan State, and added three assists including two in UNH's 5-3 win over Northeastern on Friday night. With 10:53 remaining in Period 2 at Matthews Arena, Kelleher nearly broke the scoreless tie when he rang the post behind Clay Witt. Collin MacDonald, playing left wing on UNH's third line, in place of Warren Foegele (out with a concussion), started a 2-on-1 break by passing to Kelleher at the red line. Tyler broke down the right side and snapped a wrister over Witt's glove. Moments later, Kelleher fired another quality bid, this time a back-hander from the faceoff circle to Witt's right.

Last season, Kyle Smith was named the Most Improved Player on the UNH squad. In both Northeastern games, Smith centered a newly configured first line between Casey Thrush and Matt Willows. Shortly after Kelleher hit the post, Smith rang it again. Smith effectively forechecked, gathered the puck, and fed a pass out to sophomore defenseman Matias Cleland at the left point. Cleland fired a one-timer, slap shot just wide of the net to Witt's right. Smith collected the rebound off the backboards and wristed a shot from a tight angle to Witt's left. The puck hit the inside of the right post and caromed into the slot. Smith and his linemates tried to bang the rebound home but a quick whistle ended the play. Smith's shot off the post warranted a review by the referees but the game remained scoreless.

Two minutes into the final stanza, Kyle Smith tallied the first goal of the game on a 2-on-1 break with Matt Willows. The play started in the Northeastern end when Alternate Captain Casey Thrush blocked a shot, Willows gathered the loose puck and raced up the left side of the ice. As Willows and Smith entered the NU zone, Willows feathered a cross-slot pass to the wide-open Smith who buried it past Clay Witt. The timely goal was Smith's first of the 2014-15 season.

After Northeastern tied the game a minute later on a goal by Ryan Rosenthal (a transfer from Vermont), Adam Clark kept the game close with several more big saves. Rosenthal threatened to score again at the 14:31 mark but Clark stopped the puck with his chest and pounced to cover up the rebound. Less than a minute later, Northeastern went on a power play and Clark turned aside two shots as the power play ended. NU's Nolan Stevens scored seconds later on an outstanding pass from his older brother John. Clark kept UNH within reach with 3:30 left in the game when he turned aside a shot from the slot by Dalen Hedges.

So far in his freshman season at UNH, Adam Clark has allowed 27 goals in 10 games (GAA=2.76) which places him in 9th place among Hockey East goalies. Leave out his worst performance in which he surrendered 6 goals to UMass Lowell and Clark's goals against average would go down to 2.33. Clark's save percentage of .894 is 11th among Hockey East goaltenders. If not for the UMass Lowell game, his save percentage would be .911. Given that Adam Clark was expected to be the backup goalie to senior Casey DeSmith this season, one would conclude that he has done an admirable job. If his play against Northeastern is an indicator, then he is becoming more effective as the season progresses. Next weekend will be a stern test as UNH faces Providence College, and another tall goalie in the person of Jon Gillies, for two games at the Whittemore Center.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Northeastern Edges UNH 2-1 For First Hockey East Win

UNH's Kyle Smith
Scores First Goal of Season

In the home-and-home series between UNH and Northeastern University, each team earned their first Hockey East Conference win of the season. On Friday night at the Whittemore Center, UNH jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Northeastern whittled the lead down to nothing with strong play in the second period. UNH won the game on freshman defenseman's John Furgele's first NCAA goal in the third period.

At Mathews Arena tonight, all three goals were scored in the third period. UNH got on the board first on Kyle Smith's first goal of the season. Shortly after, Northeastern tied the game on a goal by Ryan Rosenthal. NU's game winner came midway through the final stanza on Nolan Steven's first NCAA goal.

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown

Kyle Smith (from Matt Willows & Casey Thrush)
2:02 of Period 3 - UNH 1, Northeastern 0
~ Alternate Captain Casey Thrush blocked a shot and Captain Matt Willows gathered the loose puck and raced up the left side of the ice.
~ Willows and junior Kyle Smith entered the NU zone on a 2-on-1 break. Willows feathered a cross-slot pass to the wide-open Smith who buried it past Northeastern goalie Clay Witt.

Ryan Rosenthal (from John Stevens & Nolan Stevens)
3:32 of Period 3 - UNH 1, Northeastern 1
~ A little over a minute after UNH's goal, the Stevens-Stevens-Rosenthal line got NU on the board.
~ A rush up ice by Andrew Poturalski was broken up just over the redline. Collin MacDonald did a good job back-checking but freshman Nolan Stevens made an outstanding play knocking the puck away from MacDonald.
~ Nolan's older brother John collected the puck, skated across the slot, and wristed a shot that UNH freshman goalie Adam Clark saved with his chest. However, the puck rebounded just out of Clark's reach and Rosenthal slipped it under Clark's stick.

Nolan Stevens (from John Stevens & Mike Szmatula)
8:21 of Period 3 - Northeastern 2, UNH 1
~ The game-winning goal was scored by freshman Nolan Stevens just seconds after UNH had killed off a NU power play. Sophomore John Stevens, Nolan's older brother, dug the puck away from the half-wall to Clark's right.
~ J. Stevens passed to Mike Szmatula below the goal line who skated behind the UNH net and fed it back to John to Clark's right.
~ John made a play with his brother Nolan that they must have practiced countless times. John centered a pass to Nolan open in the low slot. Nolan beat Clark over his glove.

Northeastern earned their first win of the season. Their overall record is 1-8-1 and in Hockey East, they are 1-4-1. Goalie Clay Witt made 35 saves. UNH drops to 4-6-0 overall and 1-3-0 in Hockey East. Adam Clark made 31 saves. UNH returns to the Whittemore Center next Friday and Saturday for two games against Providence College.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

UNH Recruits Update: Nov-11-2014

Skipjacks' Jason O'Neill
4g, 3a, in 2 games

Player of the Week - Jason O'Neill

The Skipjacks Hockey Club, based in Odenton, Maryland, is only in it's second year of existence. It fields two midget-level teams - 16-Under (Midget Minor) and 18-Under (Midget Major) - which compete in the United States Premiere Hockey League (USPHL). Last season, Jason O'Neill lead the Skipjacks 16U team in scoring and was the second-leading scorer in the 13-team league. He posted 27 goals and 49 assists in 29 regular season games.

O'Neill moved up to the Skipjacks 18U team this season and over the first 11 games, he was scoring at a point-a-game clip (5 goals and 7 assists). Over the weekend, O'Neill nearly doubled his total goals as the Skipjacks won 2 games against the Wilkes Barre Scranton Knights. In a 5-2 win on Saturday, O'Neill scored 2 goals and assisted on the game-winner. On Sunday, the Skipjacks won again 5-2 and O'Neill scored 2 more goals, including the game-winning goal, plus 2 more assists. Jason O'Neill is now the third-leading scorer in the 18U Division of the USPHL. He is on track to enroll at UNH in the Fall of either 2017 or 2018.

The statistics for the recruits, presented in the table, are categorized by the year the player and UNH coaches have targeted for enrollment in UNH. For example, the "2015 Recruits" have a target of the Fall of 2015 to begin playing for UNH.

Player Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
2015 Recruits
Jason Kalinowski  (F) Bloomington Thunder USHL 2 0 0 0 0
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders USHL 5 0 0 0 4
Joseph Masonius  (D) USA U18 Team NCAA 6 1 1 2 4
USHL 4 0 1 1 4
NAHL 1 0 0 0 0
Int'l. 4 0 1 1 14
Christopher Miller  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 12 3 4 7 6
Danny Tirone  (G) Junior Bruins USPHL 13 9W 4L 2.33 .923
Brendan van Riemsdyk   (F) Islanders Hockey Club USPHL 19 16 5 21 40
Marcus Vela  (F) Langley Rivermen BCHL 20 3 13 16 26
2015 or '16 Recruits
Liam Blackburn  (F) West Kelowna Warriors BCHL 19 10 25 35 12
Liam Darcy  (D) Berwick Academy NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
Islanders Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 4 0 0 0 0
Patrick Grasso  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 13 3 6 9 6
Charlie Kelleher  (F) Junior Bruins USPHL 17 8 13 21 8
Aaron O'Neill  (F) Green Bay Gamblers USHL 1 0 0 0 0
Ara Nazarian  (F) Des Moines Bucs USHL 13 2 3 5 2
Nick Nonis  (D) Powell River Kings BCHL 20 0 1 1 16
2016 Recruits
Joey Cipollone  (F) Selects Academy 18U USPHL 18U 8 4 10 14 0
Justin Fregona  (F) St. Andrews College CISAA 0 0 0 0 0
Non-Conf 7 5 3 8 16
Jake Ryczek  (D) Sioux City Musketeers USHL 13 2 0 2 2
2017 Recruits
Mike Robinson  (G) Boston Jr Rangers EHL 8 4W 4L 2.35 .937
Lawrence Academy NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
2017 or '18 Recruits
Eric Esposito  (F) CT Wolfpack U16 Split CT HC 29 14 13 27 34
Loomis Chaffee NEPSHC 0 0 0 0 0
Jason O'Neill  (F) Skipjacks Hockey Club 18U USPHL 18U 13 9 10 19 9

News & Notes

United States Hockey League:

~ 2015 or 16 UNH recruit Aaron O'Neill had shoulder surgery over the summer and missed the first 11 games of the USHL season. Last Saturday night, O'Neill suited up for his first game of the season with the Green Bay Gamblers.

USA Hockey/New England District Regional Championships:

~ Eric Esposito competed in the New England District Midget Minor Championships over the weekend. Esposito and the Wolfpack U16 Split Season team made it to the championship game but lost to the Selects Academy.

2014 World Sports School Championship:

~ 2016 recruit Justin Fregona and the St. Andrew's College Saints won the 2014 World Sports School Championship sponsored by the Edge School in Alberta, Calgary. Fregona scored 3 goals and 2 assists in 6 games.

Monday, November 10, 2014

UNH Defeats Michigan State 5-2: Goal-by-Goal Breakdown

Andrew Poturalski
1 Goal, 1 Assist
Tyler Kelleher
GWG, 1 Assist

DURHAM, NH - On Friday night, in the first of a two-game, Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge against Michigan State University, UNH fell behind by two goals with about 9 minutes left in the game. The Wildcats drew to within one on a Tyler Kelleher goal a minute later, then tested Michigan goalie Jake Hildebrand with several quality scoring bids until the buzzer sounded. The Spartans held on for a 4-3 victory. Overall, UNH outshot Michigan State 45-20 but did not bury enough of their chances.

In the Saturday night rematch, the shots on goal were far more even; 24 for State and 21 for UNH. New Hampshire was able to come out on top by doing what they do best - scoring transition goals. As this breakdown of the goal-scoring shows, UNH gained possession of the puck in their defensive zone, quickly broke out through center ice and rushed the Michigan State goalie.

Goal-by-Goal Breakdown

Andrew Poturalski (from Tyler Kelleher & Dylan Maller)
5:40 of Period 1 - UNH 1, Michigan State 0
~ Junior defenseman Brett Pesce stole the puck behind the UNH goal line then flipped a backhand pass to sophomore Dylan Maller.
~ Maller passed to freshman Andrew Poturalski skating out of the UNH zone.
~ Poturalski spotted sophomore Tyler Kelleher on the opposite side of the ice and began a long-distance, give-and-go play by zipping a cross-ice pass onto Kelleher's stick.
~ Kelleher stick-handled through the faceoff circle to Hildebrand's right and fed Poturalski in stride as he rushed the net. Poturaski snapped the puck into the open side of the goal for his third goal of the season.

Mackenzie MacEachern (unassisted)
2:06 of Period 2 - UNH 1, Michigan State 1
~ Pesce sent the puck up the boards, out of the UNH zone.
~ Michigan State's Ebbing intercepted the puck and tried to feed MacEachern with a pass.
~ Sophomore defenseman Dylan Maller attempted to gather the errant pass but appeared to be leaning up-ice at the same time. The puck hopped over Maller's stick.
~ MacEachern pounced on the loose puck and beat freshman goalie Adam Clark over his blocker.

Michael Ferrantino (Cox & Walsh)
11:05 of Period 2 - UNH 1, Michigan State 2
~ With about 30 seconds remaining in a Michigan State power play, the puck went around the boards behind Adam Clark and out to Walsh at the point. Walsh passed down to Cox to the right of Clark.
~ Cox passed to Ferrantino on the baseline. Senior defenseman Ryan Randall was in a good position to defend against Ferrantino but he was playing without his stick (it had broken).
~ Ferrantino lifted a shot over a sprawling Randall and over Clark's blocker.

Matt Willows (from Ryan Randall)
12:45 of Period 2 - UNH 2, Michigan State 2
~ Senior Captain Matt Willows cleared a puck from the crease in front of Adam Clark. Ryan Randall gathered the puck off the half wall to Clark's left.
~ Randall calmly looked up ice and saw Willows streaking through the neutral zone. Randall banked a long pass off the boards at center ice which caromed right to Willows.
~ In the first period, Willows had broken in alone on Hildebrand and fired a shot that just missed the top corner of the net over Hildebrand's blocker. This time around, Willows broke in alone and didn't miss. It was Willows' third goal of the season.
~ For Durham, NH native Ryan Randall, the play resulted in his first point as a NCAA player.
~ This second video shows Willows' goal from my vantage point at rink side.

Tyler Kelleher (from Warren Foegele and Andrew Poturalski)
14:53 of Period 2 - UNH 3, Michigan State 2
~ UNH's third line of Warren Foegele-Andrew Poturalski-Tyler Kelleher are a legitimate threat to score whenever they're on the ice. On Saturday night, they combined for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
~ The scoring play can be traced back to freshman Foegele's high-speed, back checking. After he knocked the puck free from the Michigan State forward deep in the UNH end, Kelleher swooped in and rushed the puck up ice.
~ A passing play from Kelleher to Poturalski back to Kelleher to Foegele produced a close-in shot that Hildebrand turned aside.
~ Both Poturalski and Kelleher dug the puck free along the half wall and Poturalski backhanded a pass to Foegele deep in the faceoff circle to Hildebrand's right. Foegele finessed a between-the-legs, centering pass to Kelleher charging down the slot. Kelleher flipped it over Hildebrand's glove for the game-winner.
~ The goal was Kelleher's third in two nights and fourth of the season. He's tied with Grayson Downing for the most goals on the UNH team.

Dan Correale (from Grayson Downing and John Furgele)
6:55 of Period 3 - UNH 4, Michigan State 2
~ This scoring play got started with freshman defenseman John Furgele hustling into the corner to Adam Clark's right, winning the battle for the puck and poking it up the boards to Grayson Downing.
~ Downing eluded 4 Michigan State players through center ice and into the offensive zone. Meanwhile, Dan Correale was racing down the right wing and into the slot.
~ Downing threaded a pass through 3 State players to Correale who backhanded it over Hildebrand's glove.
~ The goal was Correale's second of the season. John Furgele earned his first NCAA point.

Grayson Downing (unassisted)
18:02 of Period 3 - UNH 5, Michigan State 2
~ With 2:16 left in the game, Michigan pulled Hildebrand for an extra skater. This set the stage for a remarkable goal by Grayson Downing.
~ Matt Willows gathered a loose puck in the UNH zone, skated into the neutral zone, and flipped a shot that was blocked by a Michigan State player.
~ Another State player tried to clear the puck back into the neutral zone but it bounced off a teammate's skate and Grayson Downing managed to get a stick on it as he was falling backwards. While seated on the center ice faceoff dot with his legs out in front of him, Downing wristed the puck down the ice and into the empty net. You've got to see it to believe it.

Adam Clark shutout the Spartans over the last period and a half. He made a number of key saves including these:

UNH improved its overall record to 3-5-0. Next weekend, they return to Hockey East action with a home-and-home series against Northeastern University. NU's current record is 0-7-1.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Michigan State Survives Final Period Rally, Downs UNH 4-3

UNH Sophomore Tyler Kelleher
Scores Two Goals

DURHAM, NH - Trailing Michigan State by two goals with less than 9 minutes to play, the UNH Wildcats refused to let up. Twelve minutes into the third period, freshman Andrew Poturalski circled behind the Michigan State net and fed Dan Correale skating down the slot. Correale wristed a one-timer which ended up behind goalie Jake Hildebrand. The slow motion video of the goal shows that sophomore Tyler Kelleher tipped Correale's shot past Hildebrand. It was Kelleher's second goal of the game and third goal of the season.

Following the Kelleher goal, UNH stormed the Michigan State net in successive waves. The Wildcats had several grade A scoring chances - including a couple more by Kelleher who had 6 shots on goal in the game -but Hildebrand managed to close the door. To appreciate the excitement of the UNH rally and just how close they came to tying the game, there's nothing like a rink-side view:

UNH will face Michigan State again Saturday night at the Whittemore Center. Faceoff is at 7:00. The Wildcats are now 2-5-0 on the season while Michigan State improved to 3-4-0.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

UNH Freshman Rich Boyd Hosts Big Brother and Michigan State Senior Ron Boyd

UNH's Rich Boyd
Michigan State's Ron Boyd

This weekend will be a special time for the Boyd family of Lake Worth, Florida. Don and Karen Boyd's oldest son Ron (R.J.) and the Michigan State hockey team are in Durham, NH for a pair of Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge games. As fate would have it, their youngest son Rich Boyd will be in a UNH Wildcat uniform on the opposite side of the Whittemore Center ice.

The Boyd brothers - Ron, Rich, and Sam, who plays for UMass Boston - fell in love with hockey while growing up in Fort Myers, Florida. They learned the game at a twin-rinks facility next to the Red Sox spring training camp. They progressed with the guidance of the Florida Eels hockey organization. Ron was recruited to play hockey for Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, MA and both brothers, and sister Maggie, followed the same path.

A month after graduating from Cushing Academy, Ron (R.J.) Boyd was selected by the Florida Panthers in the 7th round of the 2010 NHL Draft. He was the second-ever, Florida-born player to be drafted into the NHL. Ron accepted a full scholarship at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut but played in only 15 games before deciding that the caliber of play in the Atlantic Hockey Association was not high enough.

Ron played the remainder of the 2010-11 season with the Chicago Steel in the USHL and then played a year with the Indiana Ice. He entered Michigan State as a sophomore in the 2012-13 season and has been a stalwart on the Spartans' defense ever since. So far this season, the 6'2", 206 lbs. defenseman has posted a goal and an assist in 6 games and has a +/- rating of +3. Ron has 15 shots on goal.

Last year, Rich Boyd capped off a successful prep school career at Cushing Academy. Over the four seasons he played for Cushing Head Coach Rob Gagnon (a former UNH player) Boyd scored 21 goals and 57 assists. He was a captain of the Penguin squad in his junior and senior years and was named to the All-New England Team by the New England Prep School coaches in his final season.

When Rich Boyd committed to UNH back in August, 2013, he did not anticipate enrolling at UNH until the Fall of 2015. However, last May, when UNH senior Justin Agosta decided to play his final year of eligibility at Quinnipiac University, a slot opened up for Boyd to enroll a year early. That has provided the unique opportunity for 19-year-old Rich Boyd to play against 23-year-old brother Ron in an NCAA Division I game.

In addition to Justin Agosta, UNH lost standout defensemen Trevor van Riemsdyk and Eric Knodel at the end of last season. That has provided freshmen Boyd, Cameron Marks, John Furgele and Dylan Chanter the opportunity to play substantial minutes early in the 2014-15 season. Rich Boyd has played in the last 5 UNH games and has posted 2 assists and a +/- rating of -1. The 6'3", 182 lbs., left-shot defenseman has 11 shots on goal which is the second most among UNH defensemen (Brett Pesce has 18 SOG).

A couple weekends ago, Rich Boyd was in the starting lineup against Colorado College. He played on the first defensive pairing with Brett Pesce. As the highlight video shows, Boyd assisted on Maxim Gaudreault and Andrew Poturalski. Boyd has also been logging substantial minutes on the UNH power play and the video shows some of his shots on goal.

I had an opportunity to interview Rich about his brother Ron, the upcoming Michigan State games, and his season so far:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Last season, you were a senior at Cushing Academy on track to enroll at UNH in 2015, and your brother Ron was a junior defenseman for Michigan State. Did you ever imagine that you'd be playing against Ron in a NCAA game?
Rich Boyd: No, I didn't really think about it because I knew that he would be gone by the time I got to UNH, but I knew that Michigan State was on the schedule for the 2014 year and thought wow that would be cool to play against him. I'm very thankful and happy to be getting this opportunity.

Mike Lowry: You and your brothers Ron and Sam grew up playing hockey with the Florida Eels organization in Fort Myers, Florida. Did you all begin skating at the same time? Did you always want to play defense like your brothers?
Rich Boyd: Well, it all started out front of the house in the street when I was three. We were always outside playing street hockey and one day we drove up to the local ice/roller rink and bought some equipment and joined the rec program there.
After a while the ice hockey coach saw us Boyd boys racing around the rink and decided to ask my dad if we could come over to the ice side and give that a try. It only took once and we were hooked.
When I started I was a forward but R.J and Sam were defensemen. I played forward all the way through Peewees until my coach moved me back on D because we were short a few and I just never went back to forward after that.

Lowry: You and Sam followed Ron to Cushing Academy. What attracted you and your brothers to the prep school in central Massachusetts?
Boyd: Well, we knew that Cushing was not only a great hockey school but a great academic opportunity for us. Coach Rob Gagnon recruited R.J and found out he had 2 little brothers and a little sister for the girls team. After that it just started a pipeline of defensemen for Coach Gagnon.
Cushing had a great feeling to it. It for sure had a warm home feeling to it also and we all knew Cushing was the place for us four Boyd's to call home for our high school careers.

Lowry: Ron played in the USHL before enrolling at Michigan State but you made the jump to Division I hockey directly from prep school. What are the main differences you've noticed between prep and college hockey?
Boyd: The pace. Everyone up here is fast and strong. Adjusting to the pace was a major factor and getting stronger because there are no 15-16 year old kids in college. There are 20-23 year old men that your fighting in the corners and in front of the net.

Lowry: I've read that your family has roots in Michigan. What was it like to play your first college game against Michigan in Ann Arbor?
Boyd: It was awesome. Yost Arena is a awesome place to play in. Having some of my family there to support me was an awesome feeling and a great way to start off my college career.

Lowry: You've played in 5 straight games and posted 2 assists with UNH. How would you evaluate your play so far?
Boyd: I think there is still a lot of room for improvement in my game. Everyday in practice, I try to get better. Learning new stuff to make me a better player, but when it comes to games I have a great team with me that makes my job a little bit easier for me.

Lowry: After a pair of loses last weekend to UMass Lowell, what has the team been focusing on in practice this week?
Boyd: Well, we broke down the film from last weekends' games and saw what we needed to work on. Now we have been working on that stuff this week, but what happened last weekend is in the past and there is nothing we can do about it now. All we are focused on right now is who is next and that is Michigan State.

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