UMass 5, Maine 4 (OT)
Trenton (The Draft Analyst) — Denis Kravchenko scored twice, and Ray Pigozzi tallied 2:14 into overtime as the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Minutemenn edged the Maine Black Bears, 5-4, in the opening game of the 2015 Capital City Classic. Maine forced the extra session with a pair of goals midway through the third period, with sophomore center Cedric Lacroix scoring the tying goal at 9:35. Nic Reynaud made 33 saves to pick up the win for UMass. Will Merchant paced the Black Bears with two goals, and Rob McGovern stopped 32 shots in defeat.
13 – LW NOLAN VESEY (TOR 6th/2014) Bruising power forward who was positioned on Maine’s third line centered by team captain C STEVEN SWAVELY (UDFA), Vesey had a very successful freshman campaign in 2015 (10g, 13a in 36 gp) but is struggling through a bit of a sophomore slump. It might not be solely his fault, however, as the Black Bears own an NCAA-worst 1.11 goals-per-game average thanks to a paltry 10 goals for in nine games. Still, Vesey was rather pedestrian in his execution of simple plays like breakouts and dump-ins. The South Shore Kings product (and brother of Harvard star Jimmy Vesey) was very active once in the zone, using his size (6’1, 200 lbs) and strength to protect the puck and muscle through a team-high five shots in a 5-4 OT loss to UMass. He’s only in his second year, which we might as well chalk up as a mulligan considering just how inept an offense he’s surrounded by. He was later suspended by Hockey East for an ugly spearing incident on Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko right as the buzzer sounded, which seems to be a thing for him. Vesey had a similar incident last season against Union College.
2 – LHD DANIEL RENOUF (UDFA/1994) A Pickering, ONT native who spent two seasons with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms before signing with Maine two seasons ago. Against UMass, the junior blueliner was very active as a two-way threat, manning Maine’s top power play unit and using very good mobility to break through a congested neutral zone. At 6’3, 210 pounds, Renouf was one of the more assertive Black Bears with four shot attempts, two assists and several key plays at his own blueline by way of using his long reach to break up zone entries. There was an occasion or two where he failed to connect on seemingly simply head-mans, but there is certainly potential for more production if used in a system which promotes skating and puck possession. I would consider him at this point deserving of an NHL camp invite and should be considered as one of Hockey East’s above-average UDFA options.
89 – RW BLAINE BYRON (PIT 6th/2013) Top-line Junior right wing who was one of Maine’s more responsible forwards and wound with an assist, five shot attempts and a plus-3. I was expecting Byron to be a one-dimensional offensive wrecking machine, but he was using his excellent speed and awareness to make sound plays and interdicting open men. An 11th round pick of the Niagara Ice Dogs in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, Byron showed patience when manning the wall both of Maine’s power play attempts, and on several occasions looked like the only forward capable of setting up plays off the rush. He’s listed at 6’1, 186 pounds but I didn’t get the impression he was very physical, let alone that tall.
35 – G ROB MCGOVERN (UDFA/1995) He may have given up five goals on 37 shots to take the loss in a 5-4 OT defeat to the Minutemen, but this freshman from Weymouth, MA can tend goal for my team any day of the week. Outside of a brief flurry where he let in three goals in a five minute span of the second period, McGovern (6’4, 220 lbs) was absolutely stellar with both his positioning and rebound control. One play which stood out was a breakaway he stopped in the 3rd with the score tied 4-4. McGovern marched out to the top of his crease and never flinched for a second while inching back to the goal line, thus outwaiting UMass LW Ray Pigozzi into futile backhand attempt. It’s sad that the poor kid had to shoulder the loss in the one game he received some run support, but through November 10th he’s second among all NCAA frosh goalies with a stellar .934 save percentage and fourth with a 2.13 goals-against average. His 0-4-2 record speaks volumes of what he’s had to deal with this early in the season.
24 – C DENNIS KRAVCHENKO (UDFA/1994) It’s completely understandable if you may have overlooked Hockey East’s second-highest scoring freshman from a season ago when you consider who finished first. And while Kravchenko’s dominant first year in Amherst did not quite measure up Jack Eichel’s historic 2015 campaign, he still produced at close to a point per game. The California native was clearly the game’s most dangerous forward as he tallied twice (one on the power play), took a game-high nine shot attempts and won 68% (15-for-22) of his draws. Kravchenko is fleet of foot and extremely elusive whether static or moving up the ice, and he dipped into his deep bag of trick to solve Maine goalie Rob McGovern. His first goal was a wicked wrist shot under the bar from his off wing (Kravchenko is a lefty), and his second came off a beautiful deke from in close. He’s definitely a special talent, albeit a somewhat undersized one (5’9/170 lbs). In 2013, he led the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL) in scoring, and through November 10th was tied for second in the entire nation in both goals (seven) and points (15) through eight games played. The impressive numbers are certainly supported by what you see on the ice, and we view Kravchenko as somebody who right now is ready for an NHL offer.
21 – G NIC RENYARD (UDFA/1994) Victoria, British Columbia native looked far more impressive than a 5-4 overtime win may initially indicate. Renyard, a freshman who was the CJHL’s Junior “A” Player of the Year and the AJHL’s MVP in 2015, has decent size (6’0/200) and is quick to his feet. But what impressed us most was his rebound control. And we’re not just giving him a hand-waving cliche; this kid’s ability to either steer shots away from danger or simply devour them is what will get him some serious postseason and professional considerations. He even showed athleticism but doing a post-to-post split after a deke on what looked like a guaranteed score. In terms of positioning, he would occasionally challenge shooters above the blue paint but seemed more comfortable digging in along the goal line. Lastly, Renyard was as sharp as a Ginsu tracking the puck, although you’d like to see him push out of the crease a bit more to limit the amount of bodies obstructing his view. To be fair, Renyard has been wildly inconsistent this season — he allowed eight goals on only 31 shots over the two games following the 5-4 OT win over Maine. He stabilized the situation with back-to-back impressive showings against Connecticut, so the ability to perform is there. Renyard is likely a four-year prospect until hitting UDFA.
5 – RHD CALLUM FRYER (2016/1996) Impressive performance by a 6’3 defender who was the most accurate Minuteman blueliner in terms of his breakouts and cross-ice passes. An Oakville, ON native who played for Aurora in the OJHL, Fryer didn’t factor in the scoring but had four shot attempts and finished a plus-1. We were under the impression he was more of a shutdown guy from a previous viewing, and he reinforced that assessment in the win against the Black Bears. He’s not the swiftest skater, but he eliminated his man on every dump in order for his partner to cover up, and did so without extending his stick up high or reaching for a grab. Fryer was one of four freshman defenseman in the lineup that night for UMass, but he certainly didn’t play like he was new to the college game.
19 – LHD IVAN CHUKAROV (BUF 7th/2015) Chukarov was picked up last June by the Sabres as a double-overager (he turns 21 in April), so we were expecting some serious puck movement and offensive flair from a kid who last season was fourth among NAHL defensemen in scoring and a reputation for puck moving. And while we saw instances where he gambled up ice and won, he seemed far more reserved for almost a period and a half until finally taking control and setting up a quality chance off a feathered backhand pass. Don’t get us wrong — he looks and plays with the confidence of an NHL draft pick on a decent college team, and his use on the top power play unit tells us his coach feels the same way. He’s going to be 24 years old upon graduation after four years, but his upside and untapped potential tells us he might not need to be in Amherst that long.
17 – LW GRIFFEN MOLINO (UDFA) Played on flank of Broncos’ fourth line centered by C FREDERIK TIFFELS (PIT 6th/2015). Plays a high-energy game but looked to be thinking before executing. Had several patient zone entries and topped them off with accurate passes to create chances. He also played with an edge; he finished his checks and was very decisive when he chose to use the body. Molino is Trenton, Michigan native who led a talented Muskegon (USHL) squad in scoring in 2014-15 with 18 goals and 46 assists in 57 games. A true freshman, he stands 6’0 and weighs 185 pounds.
19 – C FREDERIK TIFFELS (PIT 6th/2015) Penguins draft pick centered the Broncos’ fourth line and was pretty quiet for two periods. He seemed to always know hwere to be from a defensive standpoint, but it wasn’t until the later stages of the game where he took chances and carried the puck with confidence. He did an excellent job of settling the play down in his own end after a lengthy Golden Knights’ possession, and rather than just throw the puck up the ice for a quick change, he generated a quality chance off a en end-to-end rush. Tiffels did not display the kind of offensive skills you’d expect from one of the only four players Pittsburgh drafted last year. But considering how bad the Broncos were offensively, he was one of the few who stood out.
6 – LHD COREY SCHUENEMAN (UDFA) Like Molino, the 6’0, 200-pound Schueneman (1995) was a standout for the Lumberjacks in 2014-15, finishing second among all USHL defensemen in scoring with 16 goals and 46 points. Against Clarkson, however, he looked like a freshman who had little confidence in his abilities to impact the game from an offensive standpoint while playing the right side on the second pairing. Neither his set-ups or breakout passes were accurate or done with authority, yet it was his play in the defensive end (active stick, good gap control) which almost made up for the aforementioned shortcomings. We’ll chalk it up to having an off night, especially since all out previous viewings revealed a very talented kid with a hard, accurate shot.
7 – LW MATHESON IACOPELLI (CHI 3RD/2014) A freshman power forward with very good strength and good balance, Iacopelli was one of the few Broncos who was able to create time and space and involve himself in cycles which generated chances. He owns a ridiculously powerful shot — literally one of the best, if not the best among collegians.
2 – LHD JAMES DE HAAS (DET 6th/2012) De Haas, a Junior, had an impressive showing controlling possession and refusing to buckle under the weight of a pretty hectic Broncos forecheck. Most of his plays could not be telegraphed, and he always delivered his passes with authority. He also owns a pretty long stride, which he used to skate up the ice with confidence. On one occasion, he took charge of a period of ragged play by twirling away two forecheckers before heading up the ice and feathering a pass at the blue line for a successful zone entry. De Haas has a pretty good shot but his most noticeable asset was the accuracy of his passes. If we were to nitpick anything about his overall solid game, it would be his failure to angle off his man on two separate 50/50 battles.
21 – C SAM VIGNEAULT (UDFA) was the Golden Knights’ best pivot against Western Michigan, dishing out a pair of assists, and doing a good job on faceoffs and in defensive zone coverage. Vigneault’s a big body (6’5, 194 pounds) who looks to pass first, but he also showed some nerve taking the puck directly to the cage while using his size to ward off defenders. A 12th round pick (217th overall) of the Drafted 2012, Shawinigan Cataractes in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft, the Sophomore is a second line center who was flawless on his zone entries on the man advantage; either using the wall with effective dump-ins or shifting direction after entry to ward off pressure. He has points in six of seven games this season (2g, 5a in 6 gp) and has won 56% of his draws.
5 – RHD KELLY SUMMERS (OTT 7th/2014) Summers is Carkson’s top-pairing blueliner who is used in every situation, including manning the point on its primary power play unit. He is not a classic puck-moving defenseman, but he does involve himself in the offense quite a bit. Summers was firing pucks without hesitation throughout the game, which made his intentions to sneak below the circles difficult to predict. He wasn’t as accurate with his passes as de Haas was, and he did play a far safer game than we anticipated. Nevertheless, he’s only a Sophomore and has plenty of time to develop into one of the better defender in the ECAC.
19 – C BRETT GERVAIS (UDFA) Gervais centered Clarkson’s top line while flanked by LW JORDAN BOUCHER (UDFA) and RW NIC PIEROG (UDFA), which generated a few chances but not until later in the game. Still, Gervais is an excellent offensive player with top-end speed and very good playmaking ability. He was also used in multiple situations and also showed the ability to block shots properly rather than risk taking himself out of the play.