Only one game remains on the Hockey East calendar for the month of November which means the 2016-17 college hockey season is just about two months old.
There are some interesting trends and some obscure facts that deserve mentioning as the season is now basically a third of the way home to the finish line.
Boston College senior forward and Boston Bruins prospect Ryan Fitzgerald left Sunday’s game against Minnesota with an ankle injury. The severity is not yet known, but by the looks of it and from rumblings after the game, he could be out a while. If he misses Tuesday’s game at Northeastern, it will be just the second game out of the lineup of his collegiate career.
Along those lines, UMass Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla is the only current senior in Hockey East to have played in every game of his entire collegiate career. The Eau Claire, Wis. native has quietly put up 14 goals and 56 assists while going +46 in 134 games played.
Aside from making the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2013-14, he’s never earned the accolades he rightfully deserves. He’s not the only River Hawk senior to fly under the radar as first line center Joe Gambardella is just four points shy of 100 for his career, and he’s doing it with about as little fanfare as possible. Linemate C.J. Smith, a junior, needs just nine points to hit the century mark.
Vermont senior Mario Puskarich is just two points shy of 100 points after picking up a goal and two assists in his team’s two wins in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The Catamounts beat UMass and Quinnipiac en route to capturing the Belpot at the Friendship Four. Kevin Sneddon’s team deserves quite the kudos for the unexpected strong start. UVM sits at 9-3-2 and in sixth in the way-too-early Pairwise Rankings.
Boston College senior Austin Cangelosi, who went 16-2 on the face-off dot Sunday in the Eagles’ 4-2 loss to Minnesota, is the next closest Hockey East player to reaching the century mark. He needs just three more points for the milestone. In the almost too absurd to believe category, he’s won 124 more draws than he’s lost at a rate of 67 percent. He’s been so good on the dot, this writer actually thought that percentage would be higher.
It might surprise some, but Boston University comes in last place when it comes to the player with the highest career point total. Sophomore Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson has 42, the most of any current Terrier. It speaks to the turnover and recruiting misses among the junior and senior class. Obviously, there are some freshmen and sophomores who, if they stay around long enough, will easily hit the century mark.
It’s been said a few times this season, but the freshman goaltenders in Hockey East have been terrific. The top three and five of the top six leaders in overall save percentage are rookies. The only outlier in the top six is Maine’s Rob McGovern, a sophomore.
In a day and age where almost every goaltender is six-feet tall or bigger, it’s a little bit of a surprise to see UVM freshman Stefanos Lekkas leading the league in save percentage. The 5-foot-9 native of Elburn, Ill. is 8-1-2 with a .940 save percentage. He’s been a major reason for the Catamounts’ early success.
Staying with UVM, freshman Ross Colton leads the team in scoring with six goals and six assists. He had just three points through his first nine collegiate games. The Tampa Bay Lightning prospect has picked up the pace, scoring nine points in his last five outings.
Northeastern sophomore and Vancouver Canucks prospect Adam Gaudette leads Hockey East in shots on goal with 70, good for five per game. He has an uncanny ability to get his shot off quickly and with big time zip. He was a very good player as a rookie, but he’s taken his offensive game to an entirely new level in his second go around on St. Botolph Street. Combined with his explosive stride and ability to get out of the gates quickly, he’s becoming one of the most dangerous players in the country with the puck on his stick.
Merrimack freshman Tyler Irvine had the biggest night of his young career in Friday’s 5-2 win over Providence. The Livonia, Mich. native had two goals and two assists. He had just three points in his first 14 games. Irvine can really fly and has looked like an experienced vet out there for Mark Dennehy’s Warriors.
It could be said that, as Anders Bjork goes, so does the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The Boston Bruins prospect has nine goals and 14 assists on the season, but Jeff Jackson’s team is 0-3-1 when he doesn’t register a point. On the flip side, the Irish are 7-2-1 when he does find the score sheet.
It’s no secret that goaltending is an important part of the sport, but a shining example of this is in Orono where sophomore Rob McGovern, mentioned above, has saved the Black Bears’ bacon on more than one occasion this season. He has a .944 save percentage in his five wins compared to .874 in five losses. While that doesn’t come as much of a surprise, it can hardly all be blamed on him. He’s gotten back into good shape and is looking like the once-promising NHL prospect that he was in prep school with Thayer Academy.
Despite losing a boatload of talent to graduation and starting goaltender Nick Ellis to the NHL a year early, most figured Providence would be able to stay afloat. While there is certainly plenty of time for the Friars to turn it around, the inconsistency has been troubling. One player who has stepped up is Erik Foley. It started with a strong summer at the National Junior Evaluation Camp. He’s the only Friar averaging better than a point per game. PC is 5-1-0 when he scores a goal and 0-4-2 when he doesn’t.
Nate Leaman has always emphasized his defensemen pushing the pace and jumping into the offense. St. Louis Blues prospect Jake Walman is who most would have expected to be leading the charge from the blue line, but it is senior Anthony Florentino who is up by one in the points scored category. The Buffalo Sabres prospect has always had a hard shot. He’s been a little streaky with eight of his 10 points having come in three games.
New Hampshire continued its up and down season with a 3-1 loss to Cornell at Madison Square Garden. One player who has been consistent, at least at the offensive end, is senior defenseman Matias Cleland. He currently owns the longest point streak in Hockey East at 10 games. He picked up the secondary assist on Patrick Grasso’s league-leading 11th goal of the season Saturday night.
UMass jumped out to 2-0 leads in both games of the Friendship Four, but Greg Carvel’s team couldn’t hold on. The Minutemen lost to Vermont, 5-2, in the semifinal before knotting up his former team, St. Lawrence, 2-2, in the consolation game.
UConn sophomore Max Letunov is a little snakebit currently. The San Jose Sharks prospect has been held off the score sheet in four consecutive games, the longest such scoreless streak of his collegiate career.