I relocated to Chicago in 2000 after college at UMass and although Chicago is an incredible sports town, college hockey is virtually non-existant. Despite this void, Chicago lies smack dab in the middle of USHL country and according to a Bleacher report article, ranks as the #8 ranked hockey state in America. Hockey East has a number of Illinois residents, many of whom called the USHL home before embarking on the college journey. One Illinois resident, now calling UMass-AMherst home, is Conor Allen who spoke of the proliferation of youth hockey programs in recent years which many feel is predicated on the recent success of the Blackhawks.
Although I have been in Chicago for 10 plus years, sadly, Saturday night marked my first venture out to a USHL contest as I attented the Muskegon Lumberjack/Chicago Steel game. Given the fact that 254 USHL players have committed to play college hockey, it’s pretty clear that the Chicago based USHL has become one of the primary pipelines to D1 Hockey.
The trip out to Bensenville (home of the Chicago Steel) afforded me the opportunity to take a sneak peak at some Forum Futures who will be gracing the rosters of UMass Lowell, Maine and UNH in the next few years. Michael Fallon (1991, F, UMass-Lowell) was the lone Steel player with HE ties while Muskegon featured three prospects in
Jordan Masters (unfortunately he was dismissed from the team prior to last weekend’s game), Mike McNicholas (1994, F, UNH) and linemate Ryan Lomberg (1994, F, Maine).
Although Lomberg and McNicholas are destined to be future rivals when they head to Durham and Orono, they were linemates for much of the contest Saturday night. I was disappointed not to catch a glimpse of the dimunitive defenseman, Jordan Masters and will be curious to hear of the true impetus behind his dismissal.
I thought Lomberg was by far the most fluid skater amongst the group but he appeared a bit disinterested at times and loafed around like it was a men’s league at times. Lomberg was indeed very slick with the puck and his puck moving skills appeared very natural and smooth. The offensive skills are no doubt there as Lomberg leads the Lumberjacks with 13 g + 12 a through35 games of play.
In a game littered with penalties, McNicholas was the unfortunate off wing he was forced to sit for most of the first and second periods while Muskegon killed several penalties. Because he only had a handful of shifts, it was tough to get a read on him. In the few shifts that I saw McNicholas take, I wasn’t very impressed as his speed was not overwhelming and he seemed a step behind..maybe he was melancholy over the absence of his future UNH teammate, Jordan Masters.
- While we are on the subject, The UNH Hockey Blog names the UNH Recruits of the week
UMass Lowell will indeed be pleased when hard nosed forward Michael Fallon arrives on campus. Fallon was, in my humble opinion, the most well rounded player on the ice. He has a Joe Juneau-esque, hunched over skating stride but appeared very strong on his skates and very agile. Fallon potted his 14th of the season as the Glenview, IL native leads the Steel in scoring through 44 games this year.
February in Cape Cod???
When one thinks of Cape Cod, lobster rolls, the Kennedy compound and perhaps summer cottages come to mind but every February, the Cape Cod Classic gives New Englanders a reason to trek over the Bridge to visit the Cape in February. The Cape does lay claim to arguably the best high school hockey tournament in New England (possibly the country) in the annual Cape Cod Classic. No one covers it better than the Herald’s Jim Clark in his In the Slot blog that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to Mass High School puck.
The Cape Cod Classic matches up some of the perrenial Catholic powers such as BC High, Arlington Catholic and Archies with the elite public schools like Hingham and Billerica. Cape Cod Times previewed the talented field for this year’s tournament which features 5 school’s in the ESPN Boston top 20. Although the names on the back of the jerseys are anonymous at the moment, there is no doubt we will be seeing a number of these players in HE in the next several years. The circuitous route of the college player in this day in age typically leads to a Tier 1 or Junior A league which differs immensely from a decade ago when many of the senior skaters in the Cape Cod Classic would be gearing up for college in the fall.
As if they needed it!!! The Boston College recruiting juggernaut continued to accumulate talent as the Eagles added Nobles F Nate Calnan (’94) to the fold. To continue with our Cape Cod theme, Calnan tallied 19 points for the U18 Cape Cod Whalers this season. The Mack report told us the following about the future Eagle:
“The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right wing has scored 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) this season. He was ranked as the 94th North American skater in the 2012 NHL Central Scourint Midterm rankings. Calnan also played nine games for the Cape Cod Whalers U18 team this season, posting 19 points (9 goals, 10 assists).”
Future concerns at UMass?
There are a lot of unkowns regarding the future of the UMass program as speculation about the head coach and future direction of the program is abound. UMass blogger Fear the Triangle also voiced his concern about the lack of recruits committed to UMass in the next several years. We all know the sophomore class in Amherst is extremely talented but when you weigh the numbers between open roster spots and potential recruits, something seems awry.
Where Are They Now? – Jimmy Hayes
Both Ben Smith and Jimmy Hayes have grown all too familiar with the dreary ride between Rockford (The Worcester of Illinois) and Chicago. Hayes, seems to have turned the corner and his recent 2 point effort against the rival Detroit Red Wings may just keep the young forward in the Windy City as the Hawks make a run for home ice in the West. A few other HE alum, Patrick Sharp and Victor Stalberg (both of UVM) will look to pace the talented Hawks down the stretch.
I wanted to share this post game interview of Jimmy Hayes (from Black Hawks television(following his 2 pt effort in the 2-1 Chicago victory at the UC):
The Utterly Irrelevant
I have voiced my praise of the atmosphere at THE Afond Arena and consider it the best atmosphere in Hockey East. This video gives some unique perspective from a number of visiting players and coaches and allows for an inside perspective for those who have not made the trip to Orono. The Black Bears have a rare blend of magnanimous (yes, they are nicer than Massholes) local fans and students who together make up one of the most unique experiences in all of college sports.
Plays of the Week