By: Collin Schuck – IceRays Staff
Jan. 10, 2017
All levels of hockey are back in action as the 2017 calendar year is off and running. There’s no lack for content in the ninth edition of the IceRays Alumni Report, Vol. III with scoring and great performances up and down the alumni list including weekly honors in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and firsts for two different defensemen as well as a slew of multi-point weekends.
Just after the release of the previous report, goaltender Anthony Stolarz (’11-’12) saw his extended stay with the Philadelphia Flyers come to an end thanks to the return of Michael Neuvirth from the inactive list. However, that didn’t mean he was idle last weekend for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the American Hockey League (AHL). The New Jersey native played his first AHL game on Friday in just under two months but came up short in their 2-1 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack, stopping 21 of 23 shots. The process of patience continues for Stolarz, who now looks for his next call-up and extended stay with the Flyers.
30 games may seem like a long time to wait for your first goal of the season, but offensive points don’t always come quickly for defenseman including Phil Pietroniro (’11-’13) of the Utah Grizzlies in the ECHL. Game 30 was on Saturday against the Rapid City Rush, and the Quebec product opened the scoring just over one minute into the game. That’s just his third professional goal in two seasons in what seems like a down year statistically. Pietroniro has six points so far, which is under his 16-point pace set last season, and is 15 goals below his plus/minus rating, but a team push in the second half for the fifth place Mountain Division team could see those numbers rise.
As all NCAA Division I programs returned to action following the holiday break, forward Emil Romig (’12-’13) did the same against Arizona State last weekend, picking up his first points of the season following a 13-game layoff. The senior Austrian was one of four goal scorers in the second period and attached an assist in the third of the University of Denver’s 5-1 win on Friday while adding an assist in the second period of Saturday’s 6-1 win. The going has been very slow in his final collegiate season, and he owns now 31 points through three and a half seasons with the Pioneers.
In what is a true rarity over the last few seasons, goaltender Hayden Stewart (’12-’13) not only saw action for Cornell University but also started and played an entire contest over the weekend. During the Florida College Classic, the 22-year-old junior turned away 21 of 23 shots throughout the contest against Colorado College but let one of two shots through in overtime in a 2-1 loss. It’s just the second game the Rockford, Ill., native has played all season, joining his 27:41 minute appearance on October 28 in Merrimack. That also matches his game total from last season but is well under his freshman total of 11 games, but riding behind All-American Mitch Gillam has its drawbacks. He’s allowed two goals in 38 shots so far this year.
There’s nothing like a strong welcome back to NCAA Division III play like a three-point night on the road, and last night provided a lift for forward Matthieu Audet (’13-’14) and Western New England University. In their 4-2 win over Framingham State, the Californian earned assists on the game’s first three goals stretching into the second period, meaning he helped on the opening, game-tying and game-winning goals for the Golden Bears. It’s his only points since a two-point night on November 5 against the University of New England in a similar scoreline, but this is still turning into a career season for Audet. He now has a career-high four assists and shares a career-high five points through just nine games, which includes a five-game span of missed games crossing into December.
In one weekend, not only did goaltender Dillon Kelley (’12-’13) double his appearance total but also doubled his win total at Adrian College, earning back-to-back wins against Aurora College. Friday’s 9-2 win saw the junior turn away 18 of 20 shots while following that up with a 14-of-16 save performance in Saturday’s 6-2 win. All four games this season that Kelley has played in have resulted in wins, and he now matches his game total from each of the last two seasons. Along with his 4-0-0 record, Kelley also has a 2.02 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
No such thing as a “sophomore slump” for forward Nick Monfils (’12-’14), and Marian University is benefitting from his production this season. A three-point night on Saturday against Northland College kicked off his scoring for 2017, tallying the eventual game-tying goal late in the second period and helping on the game’s first and last goals as part of a 5-3 win. The Oshkosh, Wisconsinian is blowing by his freshman season totals, now owning career-highs in all major scoring categories with five goals and four assists for nine points through just 14 games. He also owns six points over his last five games and points in seven of his last nine contests.
Apparently, defenseman Brendan Murphy (’14-’15) heard he was featured in the report prior to winter break, so he tacked on a two-point night on Friday to get right back in the conversation. Southern Maine University took care of Skidmore College that night in a 5-3 road win, and the freshman contributed on both power play goals in the second period, scoring on the first and assisting on the second, which proved to be the eventual game-tying goal. Three of the team’s top-four scorers are all defenseman, including Murphy, who owns three goals and four assists for seven points through just 14 games.
USHL alumni have been off to a hot start in 2017 starting in Green Bay, Wisc., where defenseman Michael Bevilacqua (’15-’16) earned a first for the Gamblers: a goal. In Thursday’s 4-2 win over the Bloomington Thunder, the Hamburg, N.Y. product scored what would become the game-winning shorthanded goal late in the first period, giving him first star honors and a 1-to-1-to-1 ratio on goals to shorthanded goals to game-winners. In 29 games this season, Bevilacqua has just two points but more importantly has been reliable defensively, putting up only a -4 in that span while the Gamblers look for breathing room in the Eastern Conference.
Not to be outdone, forward Jake Durflinger (’13-’14) hasn’t seen one game without a point so far in the New Year for Bloomington, though only three games have been played. No matter the sample size, the 19-year-old earned an assist on Thursday followed by the only two goals scored by the Thunder in a 3-2 loss on Friday with both goals coming in the third period to push them within one. He also tabbed an assist on Saturday to complete the four-point weekend, and all of a sudden the Californian has points in four of his last five games, now recording six goals and 11 assists for 17 points through 28 games.
On top of that, one alumnus earned weekly honors for his performance last week between the pipes. Dryden McKay (’15-’16) earned USHL Goaltender of the Week after a strong showing in two games last weekend, turning away 61 of 63 shots faced to help his Madison Capitals to wins in both games and in the process eclipsing the double-digit threshold in individual wins on the season. He now has a 10-7-1 record with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage through 19 games and sits third in the USHL in save percentage as well as in the top-15 in wins and goals-against average. It’s his first USHL weekly award.
Read the IceRays Alumni Report every Tuesday on www.goicerays.com, and hear the audio version on the IceRays Broadcast Network.
Collin Schuck is the Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations for the Corpus Christi IceRays. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @CollinDSchuck.