College Hockey Roundup: BC Recruit Demko shines; Quinnipiac keeps unbeaten streak alive

Image courtesy of usandtp.com

Remember the name Thatcher Demko.

Demko, a Boston College commit who plays goalie for the U.S. Under-18 team, stopped all 23 shots that were thrown his way as Team USA beat Penn State 3-0 on Saturday to salvage a split in a weekend exhibition series.

The San Diego native has been excellent so far this season in exhibition games against Division I schools. He made 35 saves in 2-2 tie against a highly touted New Hampshire squad back on December 9 and made 39 saves on October 26 against a powerhouse University of Minnesota team that features the likes of Nick Bjugstad (FLA 19th overall ’10), Kyle Rau (FLA 91st overall ’11), Brady Skeji (NYR 28th overall ’12), and Zach Budish (NSH 41st overall ’09). Demko is a late ’95 birth date which means he won’t be eligible for the draft until 2014. However, he may accelerate and join BC’s 2013-14 recruiting class because current BC goalie Parker Milner (undrafted) is scheduled to graduate.

Originally, Demko was planning on returning to the USHL’s Omaha Lancers where he played last season before joining the Eagles in 2014-15. Jerry York and the Eagles also have a commitment from USHL’s Cedar Rapids Chris Birdsall, one of the nation’s top ’96 goaltenders. Birdsall is expected to join BC in 2015-16.

Having watched Demko play this past weekend the 6-foot-3 goaltender could be something special for years to come. He uses his size as an advantage in the crease; however he does not rely on it solely. I noticed he’s opting to try out more of a hybrid style of goaltending. He has remarkable athleticism as well.  So far it seems to be working. In 21 games played this year Demko is 15-5-3-0 with a 2.20 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Team USA Coach Don Granato was pleased with his effort on Saturday, especially after he received an early morning text from Demko saying he was ready to win after losing Friday night’s contest 5-2.  “He’s as fierce a competitor as any guy you’ll see out there,” said Granato.

Besides the highly touted draft eligible prospects J.T. Compher (Michigan commit) and Hudson Fasching (Minnesota commit), who both will likely be a top 15-25 pick in the upcoming entry draft, one other player caught my eye this past weekend. Tyler Motte stands at 5-foot-9 but what he lacks in height he makes up with his skating ability and quick feet. Motte can also create space for himself. He is committed to play at the University of Michigan next fall; however he was drafted in the tenth round of the OHL priority draft by the Sarnia Sting. So the junior hockey route is still an option. Motte has 12 goals 10 assists in 34 games played so far this season. He reminds me of the Brad Marchand type of player, a potential quality third line player. While he’s not a lock for the first round Motte could be selected in the second or third rounds.

The Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers each sent a scout to Happy Valley this past weekend. I will be interested to see what direction these teams go in the draft. The Sabres have a wealth of young talent, while the Flyers cupboard is thin.

The National Under-18 Team is a part of the USA Hockey’s National Team Development program based in Ann Arbor, Mich. The program was started in 1996 by USA Hockey as way to identify elite talent throughout the country.  They play a 50 game schedule that includes competition from NCAA Division I and III conferences and teams from the USHL.

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Image courtesy of quinnipiacbobcats.com

One team no one is talking about is the fourth-ranked Quinnipiac Bobcats. They extended their win streak to 16 games on Saturday night as they defeated the No.16  Union College Dutchmen 3-2. Down 2-0 at the start of the third, Mike Dalhuisen, Jordan Samuels-Thomas, and Kellen Jones all scored within seven minutes in the third period for Quinnipiac. The Bobcats improved to 11-0-1 in ECAC Hockey play and 17-3-3 overall while Union drops to 10-7-4 overall and 4-3-3 in league play. Quinnipiac also upped its record to 8-0-0 against ranked opponents this season.

Pacing the Bobcats win streak has been senior goaltender Eric Hartzell. The Minnesota native in 22 games played this year is 17-2-3 with a 1.47 GAA that is best in the nation among goalies who played over 1000 minutes and his .934 save percentage is 12th overall among Division I goalies. His four shutouts are tied for 2nd in the country. If Hartzell keeps up his play I could see him possibly getting a tryout with an NHL squad next year. Things didn’t start off so good for the Bobcats. After seven games, they were 3-3-1 and coming off a brutal home loss to a subpar American International squad.

One could point to their weekend sweep of Colgate and Cornell (Nov. 9-10) that got the Bobcats going. Quinnipiac has won 20 games 10 times in its 14 years as a Division I member. Their only NCAA appearance was a first round loss to Cornell in the 2002 tournament after they won the Metro Atlantic Conference. Not only are they doing well on the ice this season, but off the ice too. Twenty-four players have had a GPA average of 3.0 or better last semester.

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Danny Kristo (MTL 58th overall ’08) of North Dakota now has goals in seven straight games, a stretch in which he has eight goals and eight assists. Kristo is the leading active scorer in college hockey with 139 career points now.  Kristo had a career best four-point game with two goals, two assists Saturday as North Dakota salvaged a split with Colorado College. Kristo has the skills to compete at the next level but at times he lacks the work ethic to compete in the NHL. He has a quick accurate wrist shot. Kristo should get a shot to make Montreal’s roster next year.

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Kyle Rau’s first collegiate hat trick (FLA 91st overall ’11) propelled top ranked Minnesota to a 7-1 win over Alaska-Anchorage Saturday. Rau is a smallish feisty forward who uses his speed to his advantage.  At 5’8 163 pounds, Rau must bulk up to play at the next level. The Florida Panthers, arguably next to the New York Rangers, have the deepest prospect pool in the NHL. With the likes of Nick Bjugstad (Minnesota), Saint John Sea Dog star Jonathan Huberdeau (who should be Panther once the season begins this weekend), and U.S. world junior stars Vincent Trocheck (Plymouth Whalers OHL) and Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota), Panthers fans have plenty to look forward to for years to come.

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The No. 2 ranked Boston College Eagles split a weekend series against the No. 3 New Hampshire Wildcats. On Friday, BC scored five unanswered goals to beat UNH 5-2 at Conte Forum. Johnny Gaudreau (CGY 104th overall ’11) returned to lineup for the first time since capturing gold for Team USA at the World Junior Championships and he certainly didn’t disappoint. The Carney’s Point, NJ native had one goal and two assists. On Saturday, John Henrion snapped a 1-1 tie on the power play with 4:48 left in the third period to give UNH a 2-1 victory. BC’s senior class fell to 9-4-2 in 15 meetings against the Wildcats in their four years. Boston College was without its head coach Jerry York, who missed both New Hampshire games this weekend while recovering from eye surgery.