BY: COLLIN SCHUCK
Whether it’s the holiday season or just a coincidence, former IceRays players seem to have revitalized at the outset of December throughout the ranks of amateur and professional hockey. Five players capitalized with multi-point weekends, with two of these skaters on the same squad.
After returning from his two-game suspension, Dallas Stars forward Ryan Garbutt (’09-’10) has resurged offensively in his last four games played against Eastern Conference opponents. In his returning game last Tuesday against Toronto, Garbutt tallied the Stars’ second goal of the night early in the third period during their 5-3 loss to the Maple Leafs. After going scoreless in their next game against the Red Wings, the 29-year-old left-winger patched the empty net goal late in the third period to help Dallas complete the 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens. The Stars have been in a rut in their recent stretch, going 1-4-1 in their last six games following a three-game winning streak.
The holiday season may not have anything to do with it, but both former IceRays goaltenders playing in the American Hockey League are settling the ship after recent slumps.
In three days, Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) appeared in two games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, one as a starter and another as a replacement, allowing only four goals through 88:16 minutes of ice time. On Friday, the 20-year-old relieved counterpart Rob Zepp after allowing four goals in less than two periods to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, coming into the game with 8:16 remaining in the second period. Stolarz stopped 11 of the final 12 Penguins shots in his side’s 5-1 loss. Two days later, the New Jersey native was able to halt the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on 34 of 37 shots during the Phantoms’ 5-3 win in Connecticut. Stolarz is averaging 2.72 goals allowed per game and a .918 save percentage in two games during the month while improving his record to 3-5-0.
Four games after his last start, Phoenix Copley (’10-’11) returned to his winning ways with the Hershey Bears on Saturday, claiming a close 2-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins one day after Stolarz faced the same squad. 28 of 29 shots were turned aside en route to a Third Star of the Game. Copley remains one of the best goaltenders in the AHL, improving to a 4-3-0 record with a 1.84 GAA and a .929 save percentage. The Alaska native is fourth in GAA and ninth in save percentage.
Last week was a strong output from defenseman Colton Saucerman (’10-’11) in a two-game week against #18 Providence, helping Northeastern University split against their Hockey East opponent. In last Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Friars, the Colorado native scored the Huskies’ only goal of the game, which was also the game’s opening tally, on the power play at 18:08 of the first period. He would follow suit with the game’s first goal–also on the power play–early in the second period in Saturday’s 2-1 edging. Saucerman now has five points in the season through his first eleven games.
Once a skater is able to break a points duck in his first season with a team, the immediate few games will more than likely result in additional tallies. Defenseman Kyle Froese (’13-’14) of the University of Alaska Fairbanks hadn’t scored points in his first ten collegiate games, but since then has put up two assists in his last three games. His last game on Friday slotted a secondary assist in the Nanooks’ 5-4 victory over Minnesota State. The Michigan native recorded 22 points with the IceRays last season in 55 games but seems to be slowly coming into his own in the NCAA Division I ranks. His side will play defenseman Frank Misuraca (’11-’12) and the University of Alabama Huntsville this Friday and Saturday from Fairbanks.
Also adding a helper last week was Ohio State forward Matt Weis (’11-’12) in the Buckeyes’ lone game on Friday. It was a thumping, dropping 8-3 to the rival University of Michigan from Ann Arbor. His assist came as the game’s final goal early in the third period after the Wolverines put up a five-spot on the Buckeyes in the second period. Though his production dropped off through the month of November, this month seems promising after recording one point. The New Jersey native now has one goal and seven assists through his first 13 games as a collegiate skater.
The Cornell Big Red was able to earn a weekend split against #9 University of Denver, however the loss came when former goaltender Hayden Stewart (’12-’13) garnered the start. The Illinois native put up a strong showing, turning aside a season-high 33 shots on 36 attempts while holding Denver scoreless through half of the game. Even with the loss, Stewart only drops to 1-2-0 and still maintains a 1.25 GAA and a .954 save percentage through his first four collegiate games.
With the ACHA now on their Winter Break, we’ll head straight to NCAA Division III play, and we start in Massachusetts where the scoring has proven fruitful at Wentworth Institute of Technology for former forward Kevin Crowe (’10-’11). The Galloway, N.J. senior slotted his fifth goal of the season on Saturday against Stonehill in their 3-2 loss. His power play goal in the third period tied the game before Stonehill scored within the final three minutes of the game. His six points ties for second on the team in points behind co-senior forward Mike Domsodi, and he leads all skaters in goals. Junior forward Jake Diamond (’10-’11) was unable to tally a point in the weekend.
Just north of them in New Hampshire, Plymouth State saw an explosion of points from former IceRays defenseman Tommy Dowell (’10-‘11) and forwards Mike Economos (’12-‘13) and Ian McGilvrey (’12-‘13). The three combined for seven points in their weekend sweep of Framingham State and Westfield State, with two of the three recording three points. In Friday’s 5-4 overtime win, all three skaters recorded one assist: Economos’ midway through the second period, McGilvrey’s early in the third period, and Dowell’s on the game-winner by Chris Zuccaro in overtime. On Saturday, both Economos and McGilvrey aided one another during their 5-2 win. Economos scored the eventual game-winner late in the first period and McGilvrey claimed the lone assist, while the two traded places midway through the second period when it was McGilvrey’s shot to capitalize. The Panthers have started the season strong, recording a 5-2-1 record and points in six-straight games. Through their first eight games, Economos has earned nine points (four goals, five assists), McGilvrey has eight points (four goals, four assists), and Dowell owns three points (one goal, two assists).
On the other hand, Lawrence University has seen their season start in the opposite direction, and a 9-0 demolishing at the hands of #1 St. Norbert on Saturday doesn’t help. The good news is former netminder Anton Olsson (’10-’11) was utilized to attempt to hold off the bleeding. After his counterpart Mattias Söderqvist allowed three goals on five shots in the first 8:25 minutes, Olsson stepped in to save a season-high 41 of the next 47 shots in their loss. That was Olsson’s second appearance this season, and though he didn’t claim the loss, he still owns a 0-1-0 record with a 4.36 GAA and a .892 save percentage.
Neumann University is just two spots outside of the USCHO.com Division III Top-15 rankings and slotted #12 in the D3hockey.com Top-15 rankings in part due to their weekend sweep of Morrisville State and SUNY Canton, and in Sunday’s 6-0 victory over the latter, defenseman Casey Rogers (’10-’11) created a chance for teammate Ryan Luiten for his second of three goals during the win. That helper for Rogers is his second of the season through ten games.
The Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League (USHL) continue to be a force in their 2014-15 campaign, and 17-year-old forward Jake Durflinger (’13-’14) is no exception. With one game during last week’s schedule for the Musketeers, the Walnut Creek native broke an eight-game goal duck to produce in their 5-3 loss by the Lincoln Stars on Friday. His goal was the first of the night for Sioux City as part of a combined seven goals between both sides in the opening period. Durflinger now has 14 points on the year, while places him six on the team in that category.
Four points in three games? That’s the start defenseman Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) has earned for the month of December to boost his season production totals in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). His assist in Friday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Shawinigan aided his Victoriaville Tigers to drawing within one within the final two minutes of the third period. The following night, the Arizona native scored a power play goal early in the first period and added a helper on a power play goal during the third period of Victoriaville’s 7-5 win over the Québec Remparts. To round out the weekend, Pietroniro opened the scoring on the power play at 6:42 of the first period during the Tigers’ 4-3 win at home over Rimouski Océanic. His four points brings him to 23 points (four goals, 19 points) on the season in what is now his best season in the QMJHL in terms of point production.
And we round out coverage in the British Columbia Intercollegiate Hockey League (BCIHL), and though the league hasn’t received the notoriety that other collegiate leagues have, but don’t tell that to forward Beau Walker (’12-’13) who has been just astonishing for East Washington University in his freshman season. In his first 13 games, the former Sacred Heart University skater has recorded points in all but one game: November 1 against Selkirk College. His Eagles ran into a tough matchup against Trinity Western on Friday, but Walker placed assists in each of his team’s goals during the 5-2 loss. His 25-point season (10 goals, 15 assists) leads all BCIHL skaters despite the fact his Eagles are 4-10-0 and in last place.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.GoIceRays.com and hear the audio version during the second intermission of the opening game in every weekend series on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.