Thursday, September 18, 2014

Notes from Quinnipiac Media Day

Quinnipiac put together a fall media day today, bringing in coaches and player's from men's and women's hockey as well as men's and women's basketball. Here's a few men's hockey notes to pass along.

** Matthew Peca, whose NHL rights are owned by the Tampa Bay Lightning, says the dream of winning a national championship is what brings him back to Quinnipiac every year. "Our team has had great opportunities to win the last few years," Peca said. "This is the last kick at the can. We have a team that can win a championship and that's one of the main reasons I'm here, to help our team team win an championship, win our league and go out winners."

** His pro career will begin somewhere in the Lightning system, but Peca says the team has never pressured him into leaving school early. "Based on my conversations with them, it's really been up to me," Peca said. "They're happy with where my development is, and how I'm doing as a player here at school. So really they said it's up to me whenever I'm ready. We haven't talked in much detail as to where I'll be after this season, where I'll end up. They don't hound me, which is good, they kind of just let me play." 

** Quinnipiac is in the process of finalizing a bid to bring the annual Ice Breaker Tournament to High Point Solutions area in October 2016. The annual tournament brings together top teams from four different conferences and marks the traditional start to the college hockey season. Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald said the deadline to submit bids is next month, with a winner picked by Dec. 1. Typically held in larger arenas, often at off-campus sites, High Point Solutions Arena would be one of the smallest venues in the 18-year history of the tournament. Exempted from the NCAA limit of 34 games (meaning participating teams can play the Ice Breaker in addition to its 34-game schedule,) it should attract top teams from Hockey East and the Big 10.

**Tickets will be even harder to come by at Quinnipiac this season. Eric Grgurich, executive director of the TD Bank Sports Center, says the school has sold 1,900 season tickets for this season. That's an increase of 400 from last year, and 700 since the Bobcats reached the 2013 national championship game. Since an additional 1,000 seats are reserved for students, that leaves only around 300 and change for the general public (not including standing room only.) As it stands, only SRO is available for Yale's visit on Feb. 20. Harvard, Cornell and the home-opener against Bentley "are close" to sellouts, according to Grgurich.

** Dan Federico's first NHL developmental camp also provided him a chance to skate with the newest addition to the Bobcats defensive core. Justin Agosta, a transfer from New Hampshire and eligible right away, was also in Montreal for the Canadiens' camp. "He's a dynamic offensive player and a big, tough guy," Federico said. "With (Zach Tolkinen) we lost a big body, but Justin should fit right in."

** Junior goaltender Michael Garteig had the perfect summer. He flew home to British Columbia to be best man in a friend's wedding, spend time with the family and attend his first NHL camp in Vancouver. The experience with the Canucks, he says, was an eye-opener. "It was something that definitely motivated me," Garteig said. "I didn't know what to think when I went in there. I had  nothing to lose as an older guy and a college free agent, but there was a lot to gain and I think I gained a lot. It motivated me to want to play pro hockey in two years, or whenever it might be. I know it's a realistic goal, and knowing it's a realistic goal puts shivers down my spine."

** Sam Anas attended the Washington Capitals camp prior to arriving in Hamden two summers ago, there as an unknown with a local tie (he's from Potomac, Maryland.) A big freshman season -- he was the Division I national rookie of the year -- brought him attention and options. He went to Montreal's camp as a commodity. It changed his mindset, an attitude he says will carry over to his sophomore campaign with the Bobcats, where he is expected to be paired with Peca on the top skating line. Matching offensive numbers aren't as important to him as becoming a better all-around player and leader. "I enjoy that responsibiluty. Most teams I've returned to, I've been a captain, I've been a leader. I like that role. As a freshman, you're worried about other things. Now, I think some guys look up to me and I want to set a good example on and off the ice."

** Half-practices began Monday, not enough time to judge much, Pecknold said. But he tossed around a few plans for his personnel, which will include Peca and Anas on the same line to begin the season. "We just need a wing," Pecknold said. He also mentioned moving Travis St. Denis to center and keeping the brother combinations together. Jonah and Nathan Renouf, the newest set of identical twins, join Canon and Bo Pieper, separated by a calendar year.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yale's Gus Young still waiting on Avs

Yale senior defenseman Gus Young remains unsigned by the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted him five years ago. With the August 15 deadline rapidly approaching, it appears he'll hit the free agent market.

New management, led by coach and VP of operations Patrick Roy, have taken control of the team since the Avs took Young in the seventh round out of Noble and Greenough Prep School. Roy doesn't seem particularly interested in signing most of the college players selected by the previous regime. Several sources have said Young will receive plenty of interest if he hits the free agent market next month.

Young, a 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, was a steady and physical presence on Yale's blue line his final three seasons, most notably on the Bulldogs national championship team. Last winter he elevated his offensive game to register career highs of seven goals and 11 assists.

Mike Pereira inks deal with Bridgeport

West Haven’s Mike Pereira has managed to stay relatively local as a hockey player since leaving Notre Dame-West Haven for the New England prep school circuit years ago.

His four years at UMass resulted in 107 career points and two Hockey East All-Academic selections before beginning his pro career on an amateur tryout with Worcester of the AHL last March.

Pereira’s first professional contract, a one-year, two-way deal with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, should bring him a few miles from his home this winter. The AHL contract stipulates he’ll either be in Bridgeport or the New York Islanders’ ECHL affiliate in Stockton, California. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to play hockey in front of some family and friends,” Pereira said. “You can’t ask for much more, right?”

Pereira played at South Kent and Avon Old Farms before accepting a scholarship to UMass, where he was one of the Minutemen’s top scoring threats the past four years. A 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward, he scored 53 career goals in Amherst, including career bests of 17 goals and 17 assists as a sophomore.

Although considered a professional prospect even before he enrolled at UMass, his NHL Entry Draft eligibility passed without a single team taking a flyer.

There was some interest from Worcester and a few ECHL teams, Pereira said, but the chance to play in Bridgeport was a perfect opportunity. He’ll also follow the same path as his older brother, Joe, now an assistant coach at UConn. Joe Pereira, undrafted while at Boston University, also signed an ATO with Worcester immediately after his college season ended before inking a deal with Bridgeport the following summer.

“It’s funny how that all works out,” Mike Pereira said.

 The next several weeks for Pereira will include workouts with area professionals at Northford Ice Pavilion before training camp in September, either with the Islanders or Sound Tigers.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Yale's Jesse Root signs deal with Stars

Jesse Root, Yale's captain last winter, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Dallas Stars. He'll head to the team's NHL camp in September. When Yale's season ended in March, Root signed an ATO with Bridgeport, scoring a goal in his first game.

Root scored one of the most historic goals in Yale history, just 8 seconds into overtime to beat Minnesota, which ignited the Bulldogs championship run in 2013. Always a strong defensive player, Root took his game to another level last season, leading the Bulldogs with 14 goals and 37 points. He was also named "best defensive forward" by the ECAC.

He's remained in the area this summer and is working out at various rinks in New Haven and Fairfield county. We'll also take a moment to thank Jesse for taking time out of his schedule last month to attend and speak at the Register's All-Area MVP banquet at Amarante's in New Haven. He was there to accept the Dave Solomon Memorial Sports Persons of the Year Award on behalf of the Yale hockey team. Here's the clip, courtesy of the Register's Jim Fuller.    

Friday, July 11, 2014

Here's a shot of Devon Toews at Islanders mini-camp

Many thanks to the Isles for sending it along, unsolicited. Toews, who is returning to Quinnipiac for his sophomore season, is one of many QU and Yale players participating in developmental camps this summer.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jordan Samuels-Thomas traded to Buffalo Sabres

Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Quinnipiac's rugged senior forward, was looking at NHL free agency, so the Winnipeg Jets dealt him to Buffalo. A pre relocation draft-pick of the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, Winnipeg had until August 15 to sign him or lose his rights to free agency. Samuels-Thomas didn't attend the Jets prospect camp this week, and was unlikely to sign with the team. Rather than walk away with nothing, Winnipeg will get a 7th-round draft pick in 2015.

Samuels-Thomas is big, strong and tough to move off the puck. He scored 30 goals in two seasons at Quinnipiac after transferring from Bowling Green, including 17 during the Bobcats run to the NCAA championship game in 2013, three during the NCAA tournament.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jonathan Quick, Stanley Cup visit to Hamden a private affair

HAMDEN – Jonathan Quick’s return to his hometown, Stanley Cup in tow, is not open to the general public. The event, scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Hamden High, is exclusively for children and families of the Hamden Youth Hockey Association.

Earlier reports of the visit neglected to mention the viewing party was meant to be a private affair.  On Thursday night, Quick emailed a statement to the Register to clear up the confusion.

“We would like to apologize that incorrect information was released and want to clarify the event on Sunday. Jonathan wants to share the Stanley Cup with the young hockey players of Hamden, where he grew up playing and dreaming of winning it. This will be a private event for only the Hamden Youth Hockey Association and their families at the Louis Astorino Ice Arena.

“Details will be provided to the families who have children who participate in Hamden Youth Hockey. He appreciates all the hometown support he has received throughout his career.”

Quick organized the event as a fundraiser for the family of the late Jason Pagni, a friend and prominent youth hockey coach in Hamden who died in an auto accident in January. His intention from the outset was to make Sunday a special day for the hockey-playing children in Hamden.

All Hamden Youth Hockey Association players, roughly 175, and their immediate families can see the Cup and take photos with Quick that afternoon. Those without invitations will not be able to enter the rink.

Quick, one of the biggest names in the NHL, led the Los Angeles Kings to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons by defeating the New York Rangers last month. The goaltender grew up in Hamden, and his parents still reside in town. Word of his visit spread quickly, first through social media and then a report in the Register earlier this week.

Organizers believed there was potential for thousands of visitors to descend upon the high school for the scheduled two-hour visit. Dan Bush, owner of the company that operates Astorino Rink, said his office has been besieged with calls and emails from fans as far as Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. At least one said he had rented a bus specifically for the event.

Quick had a conference call Thursday afternoon with Bush and a representative from the Kings to finalize plans for Sunday.

Pagni, a Hamden resident and fixture in area youth hockey circles, coached Quick as a youth player and the two remained friends as Quick went off to Avon Old Farms and the University of Massachusetts before starting his pro career. As a tribute, Quick had a quote from Pagni inscribed on his helmet throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. Proceeds from Sunday will be donated to a college fund for Pagni’s two daughters.