The world of college hockey welcomed 2006
much like everyone else did – with hopes and dreams
for bigger and better things in the year to come. The events
of December on and off the ice, however, allow a few clubs
to springboard into the New Year.
Here's a sampling:
• There are several reasons why the
Miami RedHawks are the country’s second-ranked team,
and one of them has nothing to do with what's happening
on the ice.
Head coach Enrico Blasi, along talented assists
Jeff Blashill and Chris Bergeron, have gotten to the point
where their program is in on nearly every top-flight recruit
the Midwest and its environs have to offer. One such recruit
is 5-10, 175-pound center Carter Camper, the North American
Hockey League's top scorer with 20 goals and 54 points in
34 games, who last month gave a verbal commitment to the
RedHawks after entertained offers from Ohio State, Bowling
Green, Vermont, Boston College and others.
"I am really excited about committing to Miami,"
said the 17-year-old Camper, who skates for the NAHL's Cleveland
Barons. "I chose it because it's the right fit for
me academically and athletically. When I visited Miami,
I really connected with the players and coaches and I'm
real excited about the direction their hockey program is
taking. I also feel Miami is the right place for me to continue
my development as a hockey player."
Just a junior in high school, the earliest Camper will arrive
in Oxford would be the fall of 2007. The Rocky River, Ohio,
native relies on a combination of vision, speed and smarts,
and recognizes he needs to improve his strength and physical
"My game is finesse and using my quickness
to get around guys, but I do need to get stronger,"
said Camper, who has played at USA Hockey's Select festivals
each of the last four summers. "I don't mind going
into the corners, but I just need more strength."
years before the “Miracle on Ice”, there
was the miracle on ice that nearly was.
About three weeks prior to the start of the 1964 Winter
Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, the heavily favored
Soviets – in an eerily similar fashion to what
they did to Team USA just before the 1980 Winter games
– blasted Canada, 9-0, in a pre-tournament exhibition
After the shellacking, awestruck Canadian
center Gary Dineen approached his coach, amateur hockey
legend Fr. David Bauer, and asked, "What was
that game we just watched out there?"
"Don't worry,'" Bauer told
Dineen. “We’ll talk about it, take a look
at our notes and figure them out.”
The Canadians nearly fulfilled their coach’s
prophecy by taking a 2-1 lead late in the second period
of the gold medal game before the Soviets rallied
for a 3-2 win.
Dineen, not unlike Fr. Bauer, has devoted much of
his life to amateur hockey. After a three-year professional
career that included a short stint with the Minnesota
North Stars in 1968-69, Dineen started the first junior
A program in Springfield, Mass., in 1973 – the
city where he spent the 1971-72 season as head coach
of the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League
Over the past 33 years, the junior club’s nickname
has changed from Olympics to Whalers to Coyotes to
its current moniker, the Falcons. Dineen has been
the one constant as the franchise’s owner and
general manager, having recently turned over the coaching
reins to, Lincoln Flagg, one of his former players.
The list of notable alums Dineen has
ushered through the Springfield system is impressive
– familiar names such as Bill Guerin, Scott
Lachance, Dan LaCouture, Mike Komisarek and Ron Hainsey
– and the program continues to churn out top
prospects. The most notable member of this year’s
Falcon team is 17-year-old Barry Almeida, a 5-9, 185-pound
forward who has scored 24 goals and 37 points in just
24 games and is already getting interest from schools
such as New Hampshire, Maine, Boston College and Boston
Almeida's game, as evidenced by his
performance at last summer’s Junior World Cup
and U.S. Select-17 Festival, is all about speed. The
breakout effort may have been sparked by a seminal
moment with Dineen.
"Late last season, I didn't think Barry was playing
his game," Dineen explained. "In talking
with one of his old midget coaches, I said, 'Look,
your boy has stopped skating.’ For Barry to
stop skating is like Mike Bossy deciding not to shoot."
Word of the conversation eventually reached Almeida,
who took Dineen's advice to heart.
"You have to respect that coming
from a guy like Coach Dineen who has been around as
long as he has," said Almeida. "If I don't
skate, I'm not as asset out there. So I thought about
it, and a few days later I came up to him and said
'Coach, skater Barry is back.'"
Was he ever. Though the Falcons
fell in the EJHL's championship round, Almeida scored
six of his club's seven postseason goals.
"He could be a real special player, and now he's
really learning all about playing 200 feet of hockey,”
Dineen said. “He used to be able to make a team
better all by himself. Now, he's learning to help
make better all the players around him."
"He needs to play tougher and with a
bit more courage," said one scout, a frequent NAHL
observer. "But he's a good young man with very good
vision, speed and stick skills."
Hockey bloodlines run deep through the Camper household.
Carter’s younger brother, Jay, is a ’91 born
center who's skating with the Baron bantams this year. The
oldest brother, Ben, was also reared in the Barons' development
system – he’s a sophomore forward for Colgate.
"Ben is truly one of my role models," said Carter
Camper. "He's had his share of injuries like the broken
leg he suffered last year, but he's always worked hard and
come back. When he comes home for the summer he's always
pushed me to get better. He's truly one of those 'never
say die' kind of guys and I've always respected him for
• Whenever the North Dakota asks prospects
to hop on the Fighting Sioux train, recruits invariably
seem happy to come aboard. Two more dandies said yes to
the 2005 NCAA Frozen Four runners up last month, as coach
Dave Hakstol secured commitments from 18-year-old left wing
Evan Trupp and 19-year-old right wing Darcy Zajac.
Zajac debuts for the Fighting Sioux next season, while Trupp
will head to Grand Forks in the fall of 2007. Both are products
of the British Columbia Hockey League’s Interior Division
– Trupp plays for the Pecticton Vees while Zajac,
the younger brother of current North Dakota standout Travis
Zajac, skates for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.
At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Zajac ranks fifth in
the BCHL in scoring with 24 goals and 54 points in 36 games,
well past the 33 points he scored in 60 games a year ago.
While he chose North Dakota over other suitors such as New
Hampshire, his brother’s presence in the Fighting
Sioux lineup had, according to Darcy, little to do with
"I was looking for the one I felt would
put me in the best position to get to the next level in
my career,” the younger Zajac said, “and I honestly
feel North Dakota is that place. Look
at the success and the players they've had…it seemed
like the right place to be."
"Darcy may not be quite as skilled (as
Travis), but he plays with more of an edge," said Salmon
Arm coach Garry Davidson, who had Travis on his Silverbacks
squad three years ago. "They have one common denominator:
They both have great focus and are very hard working."
Trupp, an Anchorage native, has been on the
radar screen for some time thanks to several stints representing
the U.S. at various international tournaments including
the 2004 Under-18 World Championships in Slovakia.
A 5-9 151-pound forward, Trupp is tied with his future teammate,
Zajac, in the BCHL scoring race with 18 goals and 54 points
in 36 games.
"He's shifty and crafty," said Zajac of Trupp.
"He seems to find a way to get guys the puck no matter
where they are or where he is on the ice."
• Michigan always seems to cast its
line right where the big fish reside. Just days before Christmas,
Red Berenson once again landed a lunker when Des Moines
Buccaneer center Trevor Lewis – arguably the United
States Hockey League's top recruit this year – agreed
to suit up for the Wolverines for next season.
From the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray, the 18-year-old
Lewis is tied for third in the race for the USHL's overall
scoring lead with 19 goals and 35 points in 26 games.
At 6-1 and 200 pounds, Lewis had also considered likes of
Minnesota, Ohio State, Bowling Green, Ferris State and Boston
"After playing so well at the end of
last year, he's come back with all kinds of confidence this
season," said Des Moines coach-general manager Regg
Simon, who played at Alaska Anchorage. "He has deceptive
speed and a powerful stride. He doesn't always look like
he's skating very fast, but he always seems to get past
everyone and he's not at all afraid to get to the net."
Utah isn't exactly the first place one usually thinks of
when it comes to college hockey recruiting, but if Lewis
continues his rapid developmental ascent, that could change.
"I started skating at two and began playing
hockey at age five," the right-shooting Lewis said.
"I played all the way from squirts to bantams back
home, but it got to the point where I knew I could only
go so far if I stayed (in Utah), so I started looking for
a way to challenge myself and get better."
Lewis bid adieu to Salt Lake City for the
other side of the Continental Divide, where he spent two
seasons with the midget AAA Pikes Peak Miners in Colorado
"A friend of mine had gone there, so I went and tried
out," Lewis explained. "I made it, but those first
steps were huge. I felt so winded and out of shape, but
at our first tournament, I scored a hat trick in my first
game. I was pretty excited, and I don't think my coaches
expected that out of me."
Drafted by the USHL’s Cedar Rapids franchise last
spring, Lewis was unable to crack what was (and still is)
a very deep RoughRiders club. Des Moines’ coach at
the time, Bob Ferguson, who had seen Lewis play at a number
of USA Hockey Select festivals, invited Lewis to join the
Bucs for the 2004-05 campaign.
"He became a big-time player for us,"
said Simon, a Buccaneer assistant before assuming head coaching
responsibilities midway through last season. "He was
arguably one of our better players in the second half. He
can do just about anything and we could put him out there
near the end of big games."
Last season was a difficult one in Des Moines – the
Bucs won just three of their first 26 games en route to
a 17-37-6 finish. This season has been quite different,
however, as the Lewis-led Des Moines team paces the USHL's
East Division with a 19-6-4 record.
"I think I've done fairly well,"
said Lewis, modestly. "I got injured last year (a ligament
tear in his right knee) just after Christmas and missed
eight games. When I came back, I realized what I had to
do – use my speed and my size and not be scared of
going into the corners.
”With all the padding you wear,
you're really not going to get hurt, so I started skating
into the corners without fear and began doing a better job
of taking the puck to the net."