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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

First tremors
Top scorers, team nuclei highlight postseason signings

As of Friday, with Colin Wilson’s grab-and-go maneuver to the Nashville Predators’ organization (hey, he got his title with Boston University, did he not?), seven Hockey Easterners out of six different programs have prematurely terminated their collegiate careers in favor of a professional gig.

We now assess the aftermath of the first month of the signing winds, in order of projected impact on the reluctant talent donors:

Brad Thiessen, G, Northeastern to Pittsburgh- As many coaches are apt to preach in bodychecking drills, the less anticipated the hit, the heavier and harsher the impact. That’s the Thiessen twist all over.

Northeastern’s nucleus for each of the last two seasons, the undrafted netminder followed teammate Joe Vitale to the Penguins’ AHL feeder club (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) merely six days after he had finished consuming every possible minute of crease time in the Huskies’ anticlimactic 41-game slate.

Of coach Greg Cronin’s likely replacement resorts, rising junior Mike Binnington hasn’t been seen laboring in formal game attire since the first half of a 5-1 shelling at the hands of the Friars on January 26, 2008. (How times have changed all over the place.) Binnington and classmate Ryan Mula have combined for 54:32 worth of playing time spaced over three games and there are no newcomers to be detected at this time. Surely at least one recruit can be scooped up in plenty of time for the coming season, but can Husky buffs bank on the uncanny notion of the next John Muse/Kieran Millan blossoming on their side of town?

Bottom line: Thiessen was the first token of Northeastern’s rise to relevance and his departure, at best, yanks the program back to its old state circa 2007.

Nick Petrecki, D, Boston College to San Jose- We can grant this much: Petrecki stood out as the enforcer on an egregiously underachieving BC team (161 total PIM when no one else exceeded 52). But more seriously, the Eagles were losing three blue line regulars to graduation as it is. Assuming he does not follow suit to sign on with Pittsburgh, rising senior Carl Sneep will be tasked with helping Bruins’ prospect Tommy Cross rediscover his game and fostering a batch of fairly or utterly untested defenders. He really could have used some assistance from the would-be junior Petrecki.

Colin Wilson, F, Boston University to Nashville- Wilson, followed immediately by classmate Nick Bonino, topped the champion Terriers’ scoring charts. Four seniors ranked third through sixth on that leaderboard and there’s no cause to assume that Bonino –an Anaheim Ducks’ satellite- will not submit to the signing winds between now and September. Ditto backliner Colby Cohen, who placed seventh under BU’s point column with 32 points and is fast ripening his appeal to the Colorado Avalanche –especially seeing as his plus/minus rate spiked from a +1 his freshman year to a rigid +24 this season.

Wilson’s take-off is indubitably a jutting loss, but the fact that those other names were mentioned means it will take an old-fashioned “team effort” of defection to really enhance Professor Parker’s already taxing rebuilding project. Sorry to have to underline that a week after the parade, but this is a fact of life.

Viktor Stalberg, F, Vermont to Toronto- Vermont’s runaway scoring leader with 46 points –directly ahead of senior Dean Strong’s second-rate 31- Stalberg would have made a nice resident bar-setter had he hung about for his senior season. The youthful Catamounts could stand to replenish and/or upgrade their strike force, but in the meantime they figure to return every defenseman and goaltender from their recent venture to the Frozen Four. The loss of Stalberg up front, as well as Strong and fellow graduate Peter Lenes, may hamper the team’s upward climb, but a progressing fortress should keep them from falling far.

James van Riemsdyk, F, New Hampshire to Philadelphia- Household status aside, van Riemsdyk arrived at a long-underachieving UNH program two years ago and he left a still-underachieving program early this month. The Wildcats –going on seven years’ worth of no Lamoriello Trophies or Frozen Fours- are far more scarred by tattered defense and goaltending.

Rob Ricci, F, and Joe Loprieno, D, Merrimack to South Carolina (ECHL) and San Jose, respectively- Two would-be seniors join but three actual graduates and leave behind as many as 21 returnees. Merrimack’s durable annual wager is still no different: are they going to make that head-turning leap to the postseason or what? Note that Chris Barton and Jesse Todd tied Ricci’s team-leading data of 23 points, another five projected returnees finished in the double-digit range, and a respectable goaltending tandem is expected back in Andrew Braithwaite and Joe Cannata.

Singular stardom
Out of seven regular Canadian-raised backstops in the WHEA this past season, only PC’s Genevieve Lacasse has an engagement at next week’s coveted U22 conditioning camp. Not even New Hampshire’s Kayley Herman –who was offered a hack at last summer’s team- saw her name surface when the invited list was discharged late Thursday.

Lacasse will be flanked by a grand total of 26 fellow NCAA collegians, including six direct rival skaters (Courtney Birchard and Kelly Paton of UNH, Rebecca Hewett and Dominique Thibault of Connecticut, and Jenelle Kohanchuk and Tara Watchorn of Boston University).

Perhaps more intriguingly, though, Mercyhurst College –which famously forcefed the radiant rookie a 53-shot workload two months into her career- will send four of its proficient puckslingers to the five-day training convention.

Lacasse’s shot at nosing past at least five of her fellow seven crease cravers en route to a spot in the annual August series versus the U.S. and next winter’s MLP Cup are, shall we say, hardly a lock. But please stand by. She's pulled a surprise or two before, after all.

Unbearable conduct
Orono puckheads would have to be sacrilegiously indifferent not to shudder at the latest off-ice blemish on Maine goaltender’s permanent records. Established freshman starter Scott Darling, one may recall, missed one November bout with Merrimack due to a brief suspension for “violation of team rules”. And now veteran Dave Wilson, who saw a good 33.1% of the Black Bears’ crease time this past season, will reportedly ride the pine as penance for an alleged domestic assault committed earlier this month.

Specifics as to the length of Wilson’s suspension are still at their greyest as head coach Tim Whitehead merely told the Maine Campus “we're waiting to get some feedback from the court system, and then we'll address any potential punishments through the student athlete code of conduct.” But the mere mention of “court system” projects omens of a year’s absence at best.

Quick feeds: The Central Scouting Service’s final prospect leaderboard has PC pickups Alex Velischek and Tim Schaller rated 63rd and 101st, respectively, amongst North American skaters…According to the program’s official website, this Tuesday is the final day to offer up a $35 fee and nab a seat at the PC women’s awards banquet, which will be held considerably later than usual –Friday, May 1 at the Providence Courtyard by Marriott.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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