Sunday, July 19, 2015

Defenseman Matthew Dawson Commits to UNH for This Fall

Incoming UNH Freshman
Matt Dawson


18-year-old Matthew Dawson (DOB: 8/13/1996), a left-shot defenseman from Tsawwassen, British Columbia (outside of Vancouver) has committed to play for UNH in the 2015-16 season. Last season, the 5'10", 160 lbs. Dawson was the second-highest scorer among the Green Bay Gambler defensemen with 5 goals, including one game-winner, and 8 assists. Green Bay won only 18 games and had the second fewest points in the United States Hockey league.

Dawson played youth hockey with the South Delta Minor Hockey Association and Junior B hockey with the Delta Ice Hawks (same as Chicago Blackhawk defenseman Brent Seabrook). As a 16-year-old rookie with the Ice Hawks in the 2012-13 season, Dawson played against 20-year-olds and performed well enough to be called up for five regular-season games by the Surrey Eagles of the British Columbia Hockey League. Ice Hawks head coach Dave McLellan described Dawson's strengths:
"He moves up the ice really well and is a good fit for our system too. We need guys who can play a possession type game and can break trapping teams with speed."
At the end of the regular season, Dawson joined the Surrey Eagles for their successful run through the playoffs. He played in three playoff games as the Eagles won the 2013 BCHL Championship. In the 2013 Western Canada Cup, which pits the champions of the three western province Junior A leagues against each other, the Surrey Eagles won and Dawson played in all 5 games. In the ultimate championship tournament - the Royal Bank Cup - Dawson and the Eagles advanced to the semifinal round but lost in overtime. Shortly after the RBC, Dawson committed to play for Surrey in the 2013-14 season. In the announcement, Eagles' Head Coach and General Manager Matt Erhart said:
"With the departure of some of our key blue liners from last season, we're excited to have Matthew join our club as a young puck moving defenceman. Matthew performed beyond his years during our run to the RBC Cup, and we're looking forward to him being a part of our team for the 2013-2014 season."
In his rookie season in the BCHL, Matt Dawson lead the defensemen on the Surrey Eagles in the regular season with 6 goals, including 4 power play goals, and 28 assists. Among all BCHL defensemen, he tied for 10th in scoring and tied for 7th in assists. Surrey lost in the opening round of the 2013-14 BCHL playoffs. In 6 playoff games, Dawson scored 2 power play goals and added 2 assists. Dan Sallows, head scout for the Merritt Centennials that season, compiled this highlight video of Matt Dawson's play in the 2013-14 season:



I asked Dan Sallows, who is now the British Columbia interior regional scout for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League, for his evaluation of Matt Dawson:
"Matt has a good quick first step, is excellent at walking the blueline and quarterbacking the PP, isn't overly big but utilizes his IQ, active stick and good body positioning when defending, has decent shot, reads the play well, rarely panics, good at moving the puck and transitioning up the ice, and generally makes smart decisions."
I had an opportunity to interview Matt, via email, about his background and commitment to UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Matt Dawson: The main reasons for my choice of the University of New Hampshire were the amazing campus and facilities - as well as the coaching staff.

Mike Lowry: What other college programs were you considering?
Matt Dawson: I was recruited by other programs but never got into a serious talk about attending. I have always planned on attending a U.S college for hockey. It's a big part of your life and you want it to be the right fit and I think I've found that with UNH.

Lowry: Will you be enrolling as a freshman at UNH this fall?
Dawson: Yes, I'll be enrolling this fall.

Lowry: Late in the 2012-13 season, when you were 16 years old, you were called up to play for the Surrey Eagles in the British Columbia Hockey League. You got to play in all of the games as Surrey won the Western Canada Cup and advanced to the semifinals of the Royal Bank Cup. How did you respond to the pressure of playing in the most prestigious tournaments in Canadian Junior A Hockey at such a young age?
Dawson: As you mentioned, I was called up at the end of the season to play in the playoffs. It was a big step in my junior hockey career but the veteran players on the team made the adjustment much easier for me. The coaching staff of Matt Erhart and Peter Schaefer also were a huge help in making the adjustment and playing me in the right positions.

Lowry: In the 2013-14 season, you were the leading scorer among the Surrey Eagles defensemen with 6 goals and 28 assists. Among all BCHL defensemen, you were tied for 10th in scoring and tied for 7th in assists. At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas are you trying to improve?
Dawson: My strengths are my hockey vision and my ability to make the first pass out of my zone. The areas I am trying to improve on are my strength and ability to get in front of pucks in my zone.

Lowry: The year before coming to UNH, defenseman Dylan Chanter moved from the BCHL to the USHL. Last year, you made a similar move from the BCHL to the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. What was that transition like and did you notice any differences between the leagues?
Dawson: The transition was smooth. Green Bay is a fantastic organization that helped develop my game. The leagues are very similar, the only difference I would notice would be the USHL has a little more depth in every team.

Lowry: You scored 5 goals and 8 assists in 57 games for the Gamblers last season. Which defensive pairing did you play on and did you play on the Gamblers' special teams?
Dawson: I played most of the year with Grant Frederic (a Miami University commit), which I enjoyed a lot. I did play on the power play throughout the year.

Lowry: Where did you graduate from high school? What major do you plan to pursue at UNH?
Dawson: I graduated from South Delta Secondary in Tsawwassen, BC Canada. I plan to pursue a major in Kinesiology. I'm extremely excited to start a new chapter at UNH and look forward to everything that the next few years have to hold.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mike Souza Named UNH Associate Head Coach

UNH Associate Head Coach
Mike Souza


It's official - UNH head coach Dick Umile has announced the hiring of former UNH star and captain Mike Souza as the new Associate Head Coach. The 37-year-old Souza (DOB: 1/28/1978) was Coach Umile's top choice to fill the vacancy created when Scott Borek left UNH to join Nate Leaman at Providence College as their Associate Head Coach. The hiring of Mike Souza has been in the works since early June.

Souza coached for the last two seasons at the University of Connecticut. He was initially hired as an assistant coach by UConn Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh and was promoted to UConn Associate Head Coach two months ago. Last week, Coach Cavanaugh told the Hartford Courant that he believes Sousa will become the UNH head coach when Umile retires:
"He's going to his alma mater and he's going to work for a coach I have the utmost respect for. Dick Umile, when you look at not only his success as a hockey coach, but how he mentors his players, he's a coach I can honestly say truly cares about every kid who comes through his program. Mike couldn't have a better mentor over the next couple of years before he takes over as head coach. It's a wonderful opportunity and I'm really happy for him. It will be a seemless transition when Dick decides to retire. I told Dick I would support it if they were going to move him to head coach. Dick said, 'That's our plan.' I was very happy. I have a great relationship with Dick. He's an upfront, honest guy. I know he cares about Mike like a son."
In today's announcement, Coach Umile did not address his retirement or the possibility of Coach Souza replacing him as head coach.

The relationship between Dick Umile and Mike Souza dates back to the mid-1990's when Umile recruited him to play at UNH. At the time, Souza was a star hockey player at Wakefield (MA) High School. In the late 1960's, Umile had been a high school hockey and football star in the neighboring town of Melrose, MA. Souza graduated from Wakefield High in 1996. He scored 97 goals and 107 assists in three seasons and was inducted into the Wakefield Warriors' Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

In the story of UNH's 40-year quest to win the NCAA Division I Ice Hockey National Championship, the most compelling chapter involves Coach Umile and his star player Mike Souza. On April 3, 1999, Souza drew the UNH Men's hockey program as close to the National Championship as it has ever been. Umile was in his ninth season as head coach and his first line of Mike Souza (left wing), Jason Krog (center), and Darren Haydar (right wing) was the top scoring line in the country with a combined total of 86 goals. Entering the third period of the 1999 championship game in Anaheim, California, the University of Maine lead UNH 2-1. Just over three minutes into the final period of regulation, Haydar (#20) intercepted a clearing effort in the corner to the right of Maine goalie Alfie Michaud and back-handed a pass behind the net to Hobey Baker winner Jason Krog (#28). Krog one-timed his 51st assist of the season to a wide-open Mike Souza in the low slot. Souza banged the puck over Michaud's right pad for the game-tying goal.



For the remaining 16 minutes and 30 seconds of regulation and more than 10 minutes into overtime, UNH sought the elusive game-winning goal which would have earned them the first National Championship. But it wasn't to be. Marcus Gustafsson beat All-American goalie Ty Conklin at the 10:50 mark of overtime. For the last 16 years, diehard UNH fans have been left to wonder what might have been.

Mike Souza had also scored 2 goals in UNH's 1999 semifinal win over Michigan State. He lead all scorers in the Frozen Four games with 6 points. Souza, along with Jason Krog and Jayme Filipowicz, were named to the 1999 All-Tournament Team.

In his four-year career at UNH, Mike Souza played in 156 games and scored 66 goals and 90 assists. In his sophomore season, he tallied 25 points for the 1997-98 team that advanced to the Frozen Four. Souza was the Wildcats' captain in his senior year and was named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star.

Souza's Professional Playing Career

Soon after Mike Souza finished his freshman season at UNH, he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd Round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Souza was the 67th overall selection - the same as Warren Foegele in the 2014 NHL Draft. After graduation, Souza played left wing for the Norfolk Admirals, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, for two years. In his third AHL season, he was traded to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Over that span, Souza averaged 14 goals and 15 assists per season.

After two more seasons of splitting time with AHL and ECHL teams, Souza went to Germany and Switzerland to play professionally in the 2005-06 season. He then played five seasons in Italy-A, the top professional league in Italy. He lead SG Cortina in scoring during their 2006-07 Championship season. Souza also played for the Italian National Team in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships from 2008-2011. The highlight was 2010 when Souza lead Team Italy in scoring (1g, 4a) as they competed in the Elite Division of the IIHF Championship. Former UNH star Stevie Moses and Team USA recently won the bronze medal in the 2015 edition of this prestigious tournament.

Souza's Coaching Experience

The backstory of Mike Souza's transition from playing to coaching, described by Dan Guttenplan in the New England Hockey Journal, sheds more light on his 20-year relationship with UNH Head Coach Dick Umile. By the end of the 2010-11 season in Italy, Souza realized his playing career was coming to a close and, with a wife and two young daughters, he needed to make a career decision. He sought advice from Coach Umile:
"He was pretty frank with me about the ups and downs (of coaching). Coming from playing I realized I'd have to grind it out for a program in a transition phase. (Umile) was one of the most influential people in my life, and I wanted to be like him. Here's a guy year after year who has a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and he has a stoic nature to him. He doesn't let the kids know what's going on behind the scenes."
Coach Umile referred Souza to Brown University Assistant Coach Mark White, a former teammate and roommate of Mike's at UNH. White, in turn, recommended Souza to Head Coach Brendan Whittet for the vacant assistant job at Brown. Souza was hired and spent the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with the Brown Bears. His primary responsibilities included recruiting, coaching the forwards and overseeing the power play. Coach Whittet credited Souza with "having a keen eye for talent and an ability to connect with recruits of all backgrounds." Near the end of Souza's second season with Brown, Whittet offered this glowing assessment:
"I think he has all the traits to be a head coach. He's a guy that really gets it. He understands kids. He puts in the work. Obviously you have to pay your dues like all of us have. There has to be some ability to translate overseeing an organization from being an assistant. That's a reality for Mike. I'm so excited he's part of our staff; he's invaluable to Brown hockey."
Around this time, Coach Umile said this about Souza:
"Mike has a tremendous personality. People enjoy him, and he's a great competitor. He was a great player and he did a lot for the program, on and off the ice. He's quickly become very well-respected in college-coaching circles."
In May, 2013, the University of Connecticut took a bold step in its preparation for joining Hockey East with the hiring of Boston College Assistant Mike Cavanaugh to be their head coach. A month later, Coach Cavanaugh hired Mike Souza to be his assistant coach at UConn. For the past two seasons, Souza has been primarily responsible for coordinating the Huskies' power play and directing the team's recruiting.

Less than two months ago, Coach Cavanaugh promoted Souza to the position of associate head coach. In the official announcement, Cavanaugh said:
"I am pleased to announce that Mike Souza has been promoted to Associate Head Coach at the University of Connecticut. Mike's extensive playing experience and coaching skills continue to enhance our program. He was an integral part of our success competing in our first year in Hockey East and will continue to be a key part of the growth of this program."

3 Former UNH Captains - 3 UNH Coaches

With Mike Souza on board, the UNH men's hockey coaching staff is comprised of three former team captains and members of the UNH Century Club. Coach Umile captained the 1971-72 squad and scored 144 points in three seasons (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity hockey). Associate Head Coach Glenn Stewart, who is 44 years old and was hired by Umile last August, was the Wildcats' Alternate Captain in the 1993-94 season. UNH qualified for the NCAA Tournament in Stewart's sophomore and senior seasons. Stewart scored 102 points in four seasons before embarking on a 9-year professional playing career.

Personal

Mike Souza's return to his alma mater as the Associate Head Coach of the UNH Wildcats is also a home-coming, of sorts, for his wife Kelly. The couple met at UNH and she played for the UNH women's hockey team. Kelly has coached hockey and lacrosse at St. Mary Bay View Academy in East Providence, RI. The Sousa's have two daughters, Ella and Ava. The love of hockey is spread throughout their extended family. Kelly's sister Krissy played hockey for Brown University. Her other sister Kim is married to Chris Bourque who plays in the AHL and is Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque's son. Mike Souza is the cousin of former UNH star and current New Jersey/Albany Devils' forward Paul Thompson.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Marcus Vela, Incoming UNH Freshman, Drafted by San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks Draft UNH's Marcus Vela


Power center Marcus Vela is on his way. On June 27th, the 6'1", 205 lbs., right-shot forward was selected by the San Jose Sharks in the 7th Round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He was the 170th pick overall. Next month, Marcus will leave his hometown of Burnaby, British Columbia for the cross-continent journey to Durham, New Hampshire for his freshman year at the University of New Hampshire.

Less than two years ago, at the age of 16, Vela (DOB: 3/3/1997) went to play Junior A hockey for the Langley Rivermen in the British Columbia Hockey League. Two months into his rookie season in the BCHL, Marcus Vela verbally accepted a scholarship offer from UNH. Over the course of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, Vela netted 32 goals and added 42 assists for the Rivermen. Last December, he played for Team Canada West in the 2014 World Junior A Challenge.

Player Year Team League GP Goals Asst Pts PIM
Marcus Vela  (F) 2014/2015 Langley Rivermen BCHL 50 20 26 46 57
Playoffs BCHL 3 0 1 1 4
2013/2014 Langley Rivermen BCHL 54 11 11 22 41
Playoffs BCHL 12 1 4 5 6


Here are some video highlights of Marcus Vela from the 2014-15 season, courtesy of Langley Rivermen TV:

Scouting Reports

Scouting report from NHL CSS:
"Key on the power play and penalty kill … plays a responsible two-way game … very strong on the puck … solid on face-offs … brings a physical element … plays with a purpose … good vision … high compete level.”
From Elite Hockey Prospects:
"An offensively gifted power center that takes the game as it comes to him. Good hockey sense and possesses the positive character traits that indicate versatility in a lineup; scouts look for these intangibles in players. Decent skating ability, but knows what he can and can't do. Knows how to direct plays and realizes when and how he can step in to make a difference - whether it be through a little bit of rough stuff or with a clutch goal. All-in-all, the type of well-rounded player that can compliment his linemates well, and knows how to make an impact in a game.”

Interview

On NHL Draft day, Marcus Vela was at home in Burnaby, British Columbia with his dad Dave and mother Liz. I had an opportunity to interview Marcus, via email, about his selection in the NHL draft:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your selection in the 7th Round of the 2015 NHL Draft. I understand you were at home in Burnaby, British Columbia on draft day. Would you describe what it was like as Day 2 of the draft began?
Marcus Vela: As Day 2 began I knew that if I were to be selected in the 2015 NHL Draft that it would be on this day. I woke up in the morning and started to watch the draft with my family. Once the draft reached the 5th round mark, I started to watch a little closer because that was where I was projected to go. But, by the beginning of the 7th round my name didn't pop up.
I wasn't too upset because my current mindset is to be ready for my freshman year at UNH this coming fall. I knew that if I didn't get drafted, my journey would not end but in fact I would have the chance to play collage hockey and develop my game further. Once I saw my name pop up, I was excited and honoured to have been selected by the San Jose Sharks.

Mike Lowry: Since last September, the NHL Central Scouting Service has consistently identified you as a prospect likely to be drafted this year. Now, the San Jose Sharks have drafted you and you are the only player from the British Columbia Hockey League to be drafted this year. As the draft progressed into the later rounds, were you concerned that you might not hear your name called?
Marcus Vela: Yes, I started to get concerned as the rounds went on but for me the draft wasn't everything. Obviously, the draft is a huge deal and a great accomplishment but I knew whether I got drafted or not I would be playing collage hockey and would have a chance to develop my game much further. As I found out, I had been selected I was honoured and proud to have been picked by San Jose.

Lowry: Did the scouting staff of NHL clubs interview you ahead of the draft? Did you have a sense that San Jose might draft you?
Vela: Yes, I was in contact with a few teams, one of them being San Jose. I had a feeling San Jose had more interest in me but I did not know how much interest there really was.

Lowry: What are the skills that you think might make you a successful NHL forward in the future?
Vela: My style of play is a 2-way power center. I am responsible in my own end and have a physical element to my game. I can also chip in offensively and help in that area of the game. Aside from the need to develop further before starting a professional career, I believe that being a responsible 2-way power center can make me successful in the future.

Monday, June 29, 2015

UNH Recruit Mike Robinson - 3rd Round Pick of San Jose Sharks

San Jose Drafts Goalie Mike Robinson in Third Round


Mike Robinson, UNH's "Goalie of the Future", has been drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. On Saturday, Robinson was seated in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers, when he heard his named called. The 6'4", 200 lbs. goalie from Bedford, New Hampshire was the 86th overall pick and the 7th goalie selected in the draft.

Mike Robinson (DOB: 3/27/1997) verbally accepted an athletic scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire last August. He has been training with Mike Buckley of Goaltending Development Services(GDS) for 10 years. Coach Buckley is the goalie development coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins and was formerly UNH's goalie coach. Robinson plans to enroll at UNH in the Fall of 2016.

Over the years, UNH fans have been fortunate to watch seven UNH goalies who were NCAA All-Americans:

Rod Blackburn 1958-61 – NHL Draft began in 1963.
Cap Raeder 1972-75 – 1973 NHL Draft, Round 12, 167th Overall.
Jeff Levy 1990-92 – 1990 NHL Draft, Round 7, 134th Overall.
Ty Conklin 1997-2001 – Not drafted.
Mike Ayers 2000-04 – 2000 NHL Draft, Round 6, 177th Overall.
Kevin Regan 2004-08 – 2003 NHL Draft, Round 9, 277th Overall.
Brian Foster 2006-10 – 2005 NHL Draft, Round 5, 161st Overall.

Mike Robinson's selection in the 3rd Round makes him the highest, NHL-drafted goalie in UNH history.

UNH "Goalie of the Future"
Mike Robinson
Robinson is committed to play for the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the United States Premiere Hockey League next season. Last season, in his junior year in high school, Mike played every game for Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School Hockey Conference. While the team struggled with a record of 7-16-2, Robinson posted a Save Percentage of .902 and a Goals Against Average of 3.20. In May, Robinson was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 7th Round of the USHL Phase II Draft. However, he did not attend Lincoln's recent Tryout Camp and does not currently plan on playing in the USHL next season. Robinson did participate in USA Hockey's Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in early May.

I had an opportunity to interview Mike, via email, about his selection in the NHL draft, his strengths, and plans for enrolling at UNH:

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your selection in the 3rd Round of the 2015 NHL Draft. Would you describe what it was like sitting in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida as Day 2 of the draft began?
Mike Robinson: Sitting and waiting for my name to be called was very nerve racking. I tried to stay calm through the whole process and not let myself get too nervous about waiting though.

Mike Lowry: When the NHL Central Scouting Service came out with its "Players to Watch" list last November, you were not included. Now, the San Jose Sharks have drafted you in the 3rd round and you were the 7th goalie selected - ahead of other top goalie prospects. What are some of the factors you think lead to your rapid climb up the draft ladder?
Mike Robinson: I feel very honored to be selected by such a great organization like the San Jose Sharks. And being selected by them in the 3rd round is an honor. I feel like from not being on the list in November for Central Scouting, to be drafted in the 3rd round is just a reflection of all the hard work I have put in this year. And I have my teammates at Lawrence Academy to thank, for all the hard work they put in every practice to make me better.

Lowry: Did the scouting staff of NHL clubs interview you ahead of the draft? Did you have a sense that San Jose might draft you?
Robinson: I was interviewed by Florida and Colorado down in Florida before the draft. I did have a feeling that San Jose might pick me. They had a lot of interest in me when they interviewed me, just after the season.

Lowry: What are the skills that you think might make you a successful NHL goalie in the future?
Robinson: My strengths as a goalie are that I have a big frame, being 6'4", but along with that is my athleticism in the net. Those aspects I feel set me apart from other goalies.

Lowry: Now that you've been drafted by San Jose, are you still planning to enroll at UNH in either the Fall of 2016 or 2017?
Robinson: I've talked to Coach Umile. I will be a freshman in 2016.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

UNH Recruits: Plans for 2015-16 Season

Jason O'Neill Succeeds at
Madison Tryout Camp
Eric Esposito Succeeds at
Youngstown Tryout Camp


The 2014-15 hockey season ended on a high note for UNH fans last week as NHL rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk and the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. On this stormy summer day in mid-June, it's tempting to think we've entered the "off-season". But in the world of 21st-century hockey, the seasons tend to blend together for professional and amateur players. This coming weekend, the NHL will conduct the 2015 Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida, home of the Florida Panthers. Four UNH recruits - Marcus Vela, Mike Robinson, Liam Darcy, and Joseph Masonius - are hoping to hear their names called in the mid to late rounds.

Meanwhile, all the UNH recruits are busy preparing to join new teams or to return to their current teams. This article provides the latest information on each recruit's plan for the 2015-16 season. I'll begin with two 2017 or '18 UNH recruits who recently participated in Tryout Camps for teams in the United States Hockey League (USHL).

Jason O'Neill

In early May, 18-year-old Jason O'Neill (DOB: 3/23/97), a 5'11", 170 lbs., left-shot forward, was drafted by the Madison Capitals in the third round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, O'Neill scored 19 goals and 27 assists in 33 games for the 18U Skipjacks Hockey Club in the United States Premiere Hockey League. O'Neill is from Odenton, Maryland and he recently graduated from high school.

Last week, Jason O'Neill participated in the Madison Capitals' tryout camp. When the camp was over, O'Neill earned a spot on the Capitals' 30-player protected list. In August, he will return to Madison for their training camp. By opening day of the USHL season, all teams must trim their active rosters down to 23 players.

Eric Esposito

In May 2014, Eric Esposito (DOB: 8/24/1998), a 5'11", 165 lbs., right-shot forward, was drafted by the Youngstown Phantoms in the 16th round of the USHL Phase II Draft. Last season, Esposito had a breakout year as a sophomore at Loomis Chaffee Prep School in Windsor, Connecticut. He scored 18 goals and 14 assists in 26 New England Prep School games. His older brother Alex, a University of Vermont recruit, scored 5 more points than Eric and was Loomis Chaffee's leading scorer.

Eric Esposito, who hails from West Haven, Connecticut, participated in the Youngstown Phantoms' Tryout Camp last week. He has earned a spot on the Phantoms' 23-man active roster. While that's great news for Eric, he won't be relaxing anytime soon. Esposito, who turns 17 in August, will participate in the USA Hockey Select 17 Player Development Camp in Williamsville, NY this weekend. He also competed in the Select 16 Camp last summer and the Select 15 Camp in 2013.

2016 UNH Recruits

Liam Blackburn will return to the West Kelowna Warriors in the BCHL for a third season. As a 17-year-old rookie in the 2013-14 season, Blackburn scored 19 goals and 28 points in 53 games. Last season, he increased his goal scoring to 23 and nearly doubled his assists up to 53. During the regular season, he tied for 6th in BCHL scoring and posted the third most assists. Blackburn (DOB: 6-8-1996), a 5'10", 167 lbs., left-shot center from Prince George, British Columbia, signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) with the University of New Hampshire during the early signing period last November.

Patrick Grasso will return to the Des Moines Buccaneers for his third full season in the USHL. Grasso (DOB: 5/29/1996), a 5'7", 152 lbs., right-shot forward from Des Moines, Iowa, scored 9 goals and 25 assists in 60 games last season. He was the 5th leading scorer on the Buccaneers squad.

Nick Nonis will return for a second season with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL. In his rookie season, the 6'3", 195 lbs. left-shot defenseman scored a game-winning goal and added 6 assists in 56 games. Nonis (DOB: 12/19/1995), a 2014 graduate of Governor's Academy, lives in Hampton Falls, NH.

Brendan van Riemsdyk, the Rookie of the Year in the United States Premiere Hockey League last season, will return to the Islanders Hockey Club for one more season. His 29 regular-season goals were the 4th highest in the USPHL. In 2013, BvR (DOB: 1/28/1996) was drafted by the Sioux City Musketeers in the 4th Round of the USHL Draft. However, after graduating from Christian Brothers Academy in New Jersey, he chose to play in the USPHL. Brendan van Riemsdyk is a 6'5", 183 lbs. left-shot, left-winger who hails from Middletown, NJ.

2016 or 2017 UNH Recruits

Joseph Cipollone is committed to play for the Vernon Vipers in the British Columbia Hockey League in the 2015-16 season. The recent graduate of the South Kent School will attend the Vipers' Camp later this summer. Last season, Cipollone (DOB: 3/29/1997), a 5'10", 165 lbs., left-shot center, was the second-leading scorer for the Selects Hockey Academy 18U team. In 28 United States Premiere Hockey League games, Cipollone scored 22 goals and 36 assists. He was drafted by the Bloomington Thunder in the 7th Round of the 2015 USHL Draft. However, he chose not to attend Bloomington's Tryout Camp. Joseph Cipollone is from Purchase, NY.

Liam Darcy, who just graduated from Berwick Academy, will play for the Islanders Hockey Club in the USPHL next season. Over his four-year career at Berwick, the 5'10", 174 lbs., left-shot defenseman scored 20 goals and added 55 assists. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Darcy as the 204th North American skater eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. Back in 2013, Liam Darcy was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 6th Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He did not attend Green Bay's recent Tryout Camp having chosen to play his junior hockey in New England. Liam Darcy (DOB: 2/26/1997) is from South Berwick, Maine.

Justin Fregona, a recent graduate of St. Andrew's College in Aurora, Ontario, is committed to play for the Langley Rivermen in the BCHL next season. Fregona lead the St. Andrew's Saints in scoring last season with 34 goals and 43 assists in 57 games. In Fregona's junior year, Warren Foegele - current UNH Wildcat and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick - was St. Andrew's leading scorer with 58 goals and 49 assists. Fregona (DOB: 5/29/1997), a native of Mississauga, Ontario, is a 5'7", 154 lbs., right-shot forward.

Charlie Kelleher will be returning to the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the USPHL next season. Last season, Kelleher was hampered by a bout of mononucleosis but still managed to score 13 goals and 22 assists in 40 USPHL games and was selected to the USPHL All-Star team. Kelleher (DOB: 2/4/1997), a 5'8", 195 lbs. right-shot forward, recently graduated from Longmeadow (MA) High School. In 2013, Charlie was selected by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the 3rd Round of the USHL Futures Draft. He chose to play for the Junior Bruins organization and continue his high school education in Longmeadow. Charlie is the younger brother of UNH's high-scoring Tyler Kelleher.

Aaron O'Neill will be entering his third season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL next fall. In April, 2013, Green Bay used it's first round draft pick to sign the 15-year-old O'Neill (DOB: 5/5/1997) to a tender contract. Aaron, who just turned 18 and graduated from Ashwaubenon (Wisconsin) High School, played in 32 games in his first season with Green Bay. Last summer, he underwent shoulder surgery and missed the first month and 1/2 of the 2014-15 regular season. The 5'11", 170 lbs., right-shot center posted a goal and an assist in the remaining 41 games.

Mike Robinson, the 6'4", 200 lbs. goalie from Bedford, New Hampshire is committed to play for the Junior Bruins Premiere team in the United States Premiere Hockey League next season. Last season, in his junior year in high school, Robinson (DOB: 3/27/1997) played every game for Lawrence Academy in the New England Prep School Hockey Conference. While the team struggled with a record of 7-16-2, Robinson posted a Save Percentage of .902 and a Goals Against Average of 3.20. The NHL Central Scouting Service ranked Mike Robinson as the 8th North American goalie eligible for the 2015 Entry Draft. He will travel to the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida this weekend for the NHL Draft. In May, Robinson was drafted by the Lincoln Stars in the 7th Round of the USHL Phase II Draft. However, he did not attend Lincoln's recent Tryout Camp and does not plan on playing in the USHL next season. Robinson did participate in USA Hockey's Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp in early May.

2017 or 2018 UNH Recruits

See information on Jason O'Neill and Eric Esposito described at the top of this article.

2018 UNH Recruits

Joel Farabee (DOB: 2/25/2000), UNH's youngest recruit, plans on playing for the Selects Hockey Academy 16U team in the United States Premiere Hockey League 16U Conference next season. Last season, the speedy, skilled, forward played a total of 66 games with the Selects Academy 16U team and registered 14 goals and 40 assists. Farabee, a native of Cicero, New York, will be a sophomore at the South Kent School (CT) next year. One of Farabee's goals for the future is to play for the National Team Development Program.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UNH Preparing To Name Alum Mike Souza as Associate Head Coach

Associate Head Coach
Mike Souza
"I can tell you Mike Souza has a great personality and as (UNH Athletic Director) Marty Scarano has said, he is the "mayor" and that is important at UNH. He is a good communicator which would, I believe, make him successful both with the team and as a recruiter. He is basically family with Coach Umile and that would help him in their work together." Coach Scott Borek, Providence College (personal communication).
It's no secret that UNH Hockey Head Coach Dick Umile is preparing to name Mike Souza, a 2000 alum, as the new Associate Head Coach. According to ESPN anchor John Buccigross, the official announcement will come sometime this week. The position became available on June 5th when Scott Borek left to join Nate Leaman at Providence College as their Associate Head Coach.

The 37-year-old Souza (DOB: 1/28/1978) has coached for the last two seasons at the University of Connecticut. He was initially hired as an assistant coach by UConn Head Coach Mike Cavanaugh and was promoted to UConn Associate Head Coach two months ago.

According to multiple sources, Mike Souza was Coach Umile's top choice to replace Coach Borek. Their relationship dates back to the mid-1990's when Souza was a star at Wakefield (MA) High School and Coach Umile recruited him to play at UNH. The 1996 graduate scored 97 goals and 107 assists in three seasons and was inducted into the Wakefield Warriors' Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.

Over the last week, there has been speculation that Mike Souza would eventually replace Coach Umile upon his retirement. This speculation was sparked by Mike Anthony, who covers UConn hockey for the Hartford Courant. On June 10th, he tweeted that according to sources, Souza would be "named associate, and head coach in waiting, under Umile at UNH". Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if the official announcement of Souza's hiring addresses this subject.

Whether or not Mike Souza becomes the "head coach in waiting", it is clear that he and Coach Umile have developed a close relationship over the years. As Coach Borek said, Mike Souza "is basically family with Coach Umile". A review of Souza's playing and coaching career provides insight into the nature of their relationship.

UNH #7 Mike Souza
1999 Frozen Four
Long-time UNH fans will remember Souza as the top scorer in the 1999 Frozen Four in Anaheim where the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the University of Maine. Souza scored the crucial game-tying goal in the third period of the Championship Game. He also scored 2 goals in UNH's semifinal win over Michigan State. Souza, along with Jason Krog and Jayme Filipowicz, were named to the 1999 All-Tournament Team (see Associated Press photo).

In his four-year career at UNH, Mike Souza played in 156 games and scored 66 goals and 90 assists. In his sophomore season, he tallied 25 points for the 1997-98 team that advanced to the Frozen Four. Souza was the Wildcats' captain in his senior year and was named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star. A 2000 interview with Allen Lessells provides some insight into the early stage of Souza's relationship with Coach Umile:
"(Coach Umile) does a good job of picking his spots. Whether it's individually, going one-on-one with someone or constructive criticism for the whole team. To be a good coach I think you have to pick your spots. Our coaching staff does a good job with that, and it obviously comes from him. The guy bleeds blue and white. It's amazing. Sometimes he gets so into it in the pre-game talk that it's funny. But it's great. It's something you kind of want everyone to see once."

Souza's Professional Playing Career

Soon after Mike Souza finished his freshman season at UNH, he was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 3rd Round of the 1997 NHL Entry Draft. Souza was the 67th overall selection - the same as Warren Foegele in the 2014 NHL Draft. After graduation, Souza played left wing for the Norfolk Admirals, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate, for two years. In his third AHL season, he was traded to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Over that span, Souza averaged 14 goals and 15 assists per season.

After two more seasons of splitting time with AHL and ECHL teams, Souza went to Germany and Switzerland to play professionally in the 2005-06 season. He then played five seasons in Italy-A, the top professional league in Italy. He lead SG Cortina in scoring during their 2006-07 Championship season. Souza also played for the Italian National Team in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships from 2008-2011. The highlight was 2010 when Souza lead Team Italy in scoring (1g, 4a) as they competed in the Elite Division of the IIHF Championship. Former UNH star Stevie Moses and Team USA recently won the bronze medal in the 2015 edition of this prestigious tournament.

Souza's Coaching Experience

The backstory of Mike Souza's transition from playing to coaching, described by Dan Guttenplan in the New England Hockey Journal, sheds more light on his 20-year relationship with UNH Head Coach Dick Umile. By the end of the 2010-11 season in Italy, Souza realized his playing career was coming to a close and, with a wife and two young daughters, he needed to make a career decision. He sought advice from Coach Umile:
"He was pretty frank with me about the ups and downs (of coaching). Coming from playing I realized I'd have to grind it out for a program in a transition phase. (Umile) was one of the most influential people in my life, and I wanted to be like him. Here's a guy year after year who has a tremendous amount of pressure on him, and he has a stoic nature to him. He doesn't let the kids know what's going on behind the scenes."
Coach Umile referred Souza to Brown University Assistant Coach Mark White, a former teammate and roommate of Mike's at UNH. White, in turn, recommended Souza to Head Coach Brendan Whittet for the vacant assistant job at Brown. Souza was hired and spent the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons with the Brown Bears. His primary responsibilities included recruiting, coaching the forwards and overseeing the power play. Coach Whittet credited Souza with "having a keen eye for talent and an ability to connect with recruits of all backgrounds." Near the end of Souza's second season with Brown, Whittet offered this glowing assessment:
"I think he has all the traits to be a head coach. He's a guy that really gets it. He understands kids. He puts in the work. Obviously you have to pay your dues like all of us have. There has to be some ability to translate overseeing an organization from being an assistant. That's a reality for Mike. I'm so excited he's part of our staff; he's invaluable to Brown hockey."
Around this time, Coach Umile said this about Souza:
"Mike has a tremendous personality. People enjoy him, and he's a great competitor. He was a great player and he did a lot for the program, on and off the ice. He's quickly become very well-respected in college-coaching circles."
In May, 2013, the University of Connecticut took a bold step in its preparation for joining Hockey East with the hiring of Boston College Assistant Mike Cavanaugh to be their head coach. A month later, Coach Cavanaugh hired Mike Souza to be his assistant coach at UConn. For the past two seasons, Souza has been primarily responsible for coordinating the Huskies' power play and directing the team's recruiting.

Less than two months ago, Coach Cavanaugh promoted Souza to the position of associate head coach. In the official announcement, Cavanaugh said:
"I am pleased to announce that Mike Souza has been promoted to Associate Head Coach at the University of Connecticut. Mike's extensive playing experience and coaching skills continue to enhance our program. He was an integral part of our success competing in our first year in Hockey East and will continue to be a key part of the growth of this program."

3 Former UNH Captains - 3 UNH Coaches

With Mike Souza on board, the UNH men's hockey coaching staff would be comprised of three former team captains and members of the UNH Century Club. Coach Umile captained the 1971-72 squad and scored 144 points in three seasons (freshmen were not allowed to play varsity hockey). Associate Head Coach Glenn Stewart, who is 44 years old and was hired by Umile last August, was the Wildcats' Alternate Captain in the 1993-94 season. Stewart scored 102 points in four seasons before embarking on a 9-year professional playing career.

Mike Souza's return to his alma mater as the Associate Head Coach of the UNH Wildcats would also be a home-coming, of sorts, for his wife Kelly. The couple met at UNH and she played for the UNH women's hockey team. The love of hockey is spread throughout their extended family. Kelly's sister Krissy played hockey for Brown University. Her other sister Kim is married to Chris Bourque who plays in the AHL and is Hall-of-Famer Ray Bourque's son. Mike Souza is the cousin of former UNH star and current AHLer Paul Thompson.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Scott Borek Becomes Associate Head Coach at Providence

Providence College Associate
Head Coach Scott Borek
 


The small number of UNH hockey fans who follow the USCHO fan forum have probably noticed the recent posts speculating on coaching changes. The rumors had veteran Associate Head Coach Scott Borek leaving UNH to join Nate Leaman's staff at Providence College and UConn Associate Head Coach Mike Souza replacing Borek at UNH. The guessing game picked up steam and credibility yesterday when the Providence Journal's Assistant Sports Editor Mark Divver tweeted "Hearing Scott Borek is favorite for @friarhockey associate head coach job".

Moments ago, it became official with Providence College announcing that Scott Borek is the new Associate Head Coach at Providence College.

The Associate Head Coach position for the 2015 National Champion Providence Friars became vacant on May 23rd when Steve Miller announced he was leaving Providence to be with his wife and children in Denver. PC Head Coach Nate Leaman, winner of the 2011 Spencer Penrose Award while at Union College, hired Miller last summer. He was responsible for coaching the defensemen and power play unit. Previously, Miller had been at Denver University for 20 years where he recruited and coached 41 NHL draft picks.

Coach Borek has been with Head Coach Dick Umile at UNH since the 2002-03 season. Over those 13 seasons, the Wildcats compiled an overall record of 281 wins, 174 losses, and 60 ties and a Hockey East record of 183-99-48. UNH qualified for the NCAA Tournament for 9 consecutive seasons from 2003 through 2011 and once again in the 2012-13 season. The Wildcats lost to Minnesota in the Championship Game in Coach Borek's first season in Durham. During Coach Borek's tenure, the Wildcats were the Hockey East Regular Season Champions in 2003, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

During games and in practice, Borek has been primarily responsible for coaching the forwards and the power play. During the second half of this season, I noticed that Coach Borek coached the defensemen during games. I've watched a number of UNH practices in recent years and it's obvious Coach Borek takes a major responsibility in managing the sessions.

Scott Borek has earned a reputation for being a tireless, successful recruiter of young talent. He has been the driving force, literally and figuratively, in gaining commitments from 6 UNH players who became NCAA First Team All-Americans - Mike Radja, Kevin Regan, Blake Kessel, Bobby Butler, Paul Thompson, and Trevor van Riemsdyk. He also recruited 4 players subsequently named NCAA Second Team All-Americans - Trevor Smith, Brad Flaishans, Matt Fornataro, and Brian Foster. 16 of Coach Borek's recruits at UNH were NHL draft picks including James van Riemsdyk, the 2nd overall selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Eight of the young players recruited by Coach Borek went on to score 100 or more points in their UNH careers. In addition to All-Americans Matt Fornataro, Mike Radja, Bobby Butler and Paul Thompson, standout scorers Mike Sislo, Phil DeSimone, Kevin Goumas, and Grayson Downing earned membership in the UNH Century Club. Bobby Butler was a Hobey Baker Award Finalist in the 2009-10 season.

Stevie Moses, who recently signed a $1 million contract with the Nashville Predators and excelled for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships last month, is another one of the UNH stars recruited by Scott Borek. Three years after graduating from UNH, Moses broke the single-season goal scoring record in the Kontinental Hockey League - the second best professional hockey league in the world. In an extensive interview I had with Stevie last winter, he expressed high praise for Coach Borek:
"I had a lot of (recruiting) interest when I was playing juniors. It came down to Maine, UNH, Dartmouth, and Boston College. Maine, UNH and Dartmouth wanted me to come in 2008 and BC wanted me to do an extra year of juniors and come in 2009. I committed early in my junior year of high school so it was two years before I was going to enroll."
"Scotty Borek was the first of all those schools to talk to me. I went up to UNH for an interview so I had been talking to them for the longest. I felt it was the best fit for me. Of course, growing up in Massachusetts, BC was intriguing but when it came down to it, I really felt good with Coach Umile and Borek and Coach Lassonde at the time. I really had good talks with them all. It made it an easy decision."
"I think Coach Borek is a great recruiter and a good assessor of talent. I think Coach Umile puts a lot of trust in him. When Coach Borek says this player is going to fit into our system, Coach Umile listens to him."
"Scott and Dave (at the time) do a lot of the recruiting. They must have watched me play 50 to 75 times before I committed. They followed all the recruiting rules by the book. They also spoke with my parents. My Dad’s been a huge part of my hockey career. He was my coach and my parents still watch every game I play in. My Dad spoke to Scotty a lot and he and I trusted the UNH coaches."
"Obviously, it was an early decision. I was pretty young, 16 years old I think, and it was the right decision for me."
In 2009, Coach Borek organized the first annual University of New Hampshire Hockey Team Camp. The summer showcase has attracted some of the top 13 and 14-year-old players from all over North America including notables Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, and Sonny Milano. The teams and their young stars gain exposure to top college and prep school coaches.

The naming of Scott Borek as the Associate Head Coach at Providence College represents a home-coming of sorts. After he suffered a playing career ending spinal injury as a sophomore at Dartmouth, he became a volunteer assistant coach for his last two years in Hanover. In 1985, he landed his first assistant coaching job at Providence College. He and Coach Umile were assistants for Head Coach Mike McShane, another former UNH player, for three seasons. Then, in 1988, Borek moved over to Brown University as an assistant to Head Coach Bob Gaudet (a former Dartmouth assistant coach and current head coach). Borek spent 4 seasons with Brown before landing the head coaching job at Colby College.

The official announcement of Borek to Providence leads to the second strand of the rumor mill. Various sources have speculated that former UNH captain and star Mike Souza will be the top candidate to replace Coach Borek at UNH. More on that story in a subsequent post.

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