Week 2 of INCH's A to Z series
Inside College Hockey features players to watch in 2009-10
Inside College Hockey's A to Z profiles feature players worth knowing in 2009 from every Division I team. These guys aren't necessarily the best players or the biggest names, but they're each someone you ought to know. INCH moved down the alphabet in Week 2, from C to G.
Look back: Week 1: A-C
Bryce ChristiansonAlaska Anchorage
Jr. | G | Anchorage, Alaska
Key Statistics: While Bryce and UAA coach Dave Shyiak admit disappointment in his sub-.900 save percentage as a sophomore, he went 8-8-4 in 21 games, notching back-to-back shutouts of archrival Alaska late in the season and finishing with the second-best single-season goals-against average (2.60) in school history.
What He Does: Joining his hometown team at midseason as a freshman, there was no gradual transition to the college game for Christianson, whose first start came on the road at powerful North Dakota. Never satisfied with what he knows about the game, Christianson spent time over the summer at a camp outside Madison, Wis., learning more intricacies of the position from Badgers goalie coach Mike Valley and alongside former college stars such as Brian Elliott and Al Montoya. Playing for a program for which good goaltending has been a long-standing tradition, Christianson walks past photos of Seawolf netminding greats on his way to the locker room, and said he wants to be "the next goalie up on that wall."
The Bigger Picture: Two trends in goaltending seem to point to future success for Christianson -- size and puckhandling. At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Bryce notes that equipment keeps shrinking, but size is one attribute no goalie coach can teach. He said one of his focus points in games is to "stay big" and let his ability to fill the space between the pipes lead to easy saves just based on his simple presence. And having watched for years as adept puck handlers like Marty Turco and Martin Brodeur break up the opponent's forecheck and act as a third defenseman, Christianson loves to come out and handle the puck, carefully feeding the offense when he can. In a tandem with senior Jon Olthuis, Christianson looks to provide back-end stability for the Seawolves.
Seawolves coach Dave Shyiak on Christianson: "Bryce is a big goalie and is very athletic. He's still learning to be consistent game in and game out, but he had a good run at the end of the season and is getting more consistent in his work habits."
Jr. | C | Berkley, Mich.
Key Statistics: Cloutier is one of the most impressive rising juniors in Atlantic Hockey, amassing 58 points over two seasons. He's certainly made his impact on the power play, posting 11 man-up goals and seven assists last season -- only Air Force's Jacques Lamoureux scored more power-play goals (15). His 18 assists as a freshman led the team, and he put up 17 more as a sophomore. Where he really improved was his goal production, from six to 17, making him a top-10 goal scorer in the league. Cloutier is good in the clutch, producing four game winners, posting 13 goals and 11 assists in the second half of the season, and going plus-four over his final 23 games. His five-point outing against Canisius in January was the best at Bentley since 1999-2000. A former first-team North American Hockey League all-star with Mahoning Valley, Cloutier ranked third in his junior league with 83 points (42 goals) in 52 games and scored 13 game winners.
What He Does: At 5-10, 175 pounds, Cloutier is big, strong and he's not afraid to shoot the puck. He's pretty accurate with his shot, but he does have to keep his feet moving to get opportunities. The past two seasons, Bentley relied on a strong cast of 2009 seniors, and that allowed Cloutier to develop at his own pace. If there is a knock on his game, Cloutier has had a tendency to take a shift or two off when things are going well. Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist has impressed upon his standout that he can't do that at this level, and believes Cloutier took that message to heart last season. Soderquist said Cloutier, who will be 23 in October, is at his best when he plays hard and a bit nasty.
The Bigger Picture: Bentley loses a senior class that accounted for 190 games, 52 goals and 83 assists last season -- that's a whole lot of points. Cloutier is the leading scorer among the returnees, and he will be counted upon to produce even more. The good news is he won't have to break in new partners with the second line of Cloutier, Erik Peterson and Marc Menzione expected to move to top-unit status. Soderquist believes improved conditioning in the offseason will allow Cloutier to move his feet quicker and be more effective throughout a game.
Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist on Cloutier: "We're really excited to have Dustin back for two more seasons. He is a hard-nosed, blue-collar player. When he grinds it out and plays hard below the dots, he can finish. I think he's extremely excited about being able to step up to the plate."
Jr. | F | Mount Forest, Ontario
Key Statistics: Over his two-year career, the left wing has scored all but two of his 14 goals against conference competition. Among those 14 total goals are eight power-play markers. The junior-to-be has never missed a game during his collegiate career and scored the game winner in two of the team's five wins last season.
What He Does: Corner work, hit, takes a hit in front of the net and still responsible defensively -- even strength and on the penalty kill.
The Bigger Picture: With the departure of leading scorer Matt Sweazey, Coburn and consistent linemate Cody Campbell will see as much ice time as they can handle in all situations. Coburn increased his goal and point totals both seasons and will be looked to for increased offensive production. With the top two centers from last season both seniors now departed, finding the right center to put between them is one of the keys to the Chargers' season.
Alabama-Huntsville assistant coach Chris Luongo on Coburn: "He is probably our best player with the combination of hockey sense, scoring ability and grit. He does some of the dirty work, but still can do the other things as well, a package that doesn't come together in one player very often."
Jr. | F | Burlington, Ontario
Key Statistics: Conacher was the youngest player in Division I hockey as a freshman, two months shy of his 18th birthday, when preseason camp started in October 2007. He broke his wrist the day before the season opener and missed 17 games. Rather than being redshirted, Conacher jumped back into a top line assignment by December and went on to post seven goals and 10 assists over 20 games, netting four power-play tallies. He carried that momentum into his sophomore campaign, producing 12 goals and ranking second on the team with 35 points. He was one of only four Golden Griffins to play all 37 games. Conacher was getting it done out of conference with three goals and eight points in nine non-league games. He has six power-play goals among his 19 career tallies and he had three short-handed goals last season. Before college, Conacher had 62 points in 48 games with the Burlington Cougars, earning Ontario Provincial League West rookie all-star status. He doesn't turn 20 until Dec. 14.
What He Does: Coach Dave Smith said Conacher has the total package except for one thing: The winger is just 5-7. Conacher is shifty on the fly, crafty in the corners and has become a pass-first linemate utilizing his quick, creative hands. Smith wants Conacher to shoot more but stay within his game. He's respected by his teammates and is an academic all-league standout.
The Bigger Picture: Expect to see Conacher playing in every conceivable situation: He controls the puck from the half-wall on the power play and is smart on the penalty kill. He has excelled with both center Vince Scarsella and Jason Weeks, and should end up with one or both of them on one of the top two lines. Smith said pro scouts should take a chance on Conacher in the future.
Canisius coach Dave Smith on Conacher: "He is just a dynamic hockey player, a terrific person and he is extremely committed to playing the game at a high level and high speed. He is a very diligent worker who really will do anything to get better and succeed. Cory competes and has been proving people wrong his entire life."
So. | G | Lemont, Ill.
Key Statistics: Darling started strong, leading Hockey East in goals-against average (1.41) and save percentage (.944) in the first half of the season while racing to an 8-3-1 record. He won only two out of 15 appearances after Christmas, however, allowing at least three goals in 12 of those games. Not all of that was the goaltender's fault, it should be noted -- the Maine offense only surpassed three goals twice in that time.
What He Does: Like his predecessor, 6-7 Ben Bishop, Darling is a tall goaltender (6-5) with pro potential (a Phoenix Coyotes draft pick) and a butterfly style. He spent much of his freshman season working to refine and sharpen his movements in the crease.
The Bigger Picture: Darling was part of a talented freshman class at Maine last season that boasted four NHL draft picks and the team's top two scorers. The group helped the Black Bears return to the Hockey East playoffs and hand Boston University a quarterfinal loss before falling in the best-of-three series, but that barely qualifies as progress for a program that went to the 2006 and '07 Frozen Fours. Darling and his teammates need to show their first-semester form for a full season for Maine to make a real improvement.
Darling on his first season, to the Portland Press-Herald's Rachel Lenzi: "I learned how to battle under pressure, bounce back from adversity and work through the second half. Goaltending-wise, I learned about fighting through traffic and seeing the screens and controlling the rebounds through the screens. I think I'll be that much better next year."
Maury EdwardsUMass Lowell
Jr. | D | Rocky Rapids, Alberta
Key Statistics: Edwards followed up his Hockey East All-Rookie selection in 2007-08 with a spot on the league's first team last year alongside Matt Gilroy. Seven of Edwards' goals came on the power play and he never went more than three games without a point.
What He Does: An offensive defenseman, Edwards skates well and has a bomb of a one-timer from the point. He scored some key goals for the Riverhawks as they reached the Hockey East championship game last season and, just as importantly from a coach's perspective, remains solid defensively.
The Bigger Picture: On the heels of last year's playoff run and with leaders such as Edwards and Scott Campbell returning to the fold, expectations will be heightened at Tsongas Arena this season. This could be a year that Edwards -- who emerged as one of Hockey East's best defensemen last year -- could make the leap to being seen on that level nationally.
UMass Lowell assistant coach Shawn McEachern on Edwards: "Our defensemen are really mobile; we like them to jump up in the play and help the attack. Maury's a leader in that regard. Now he's going to be a junior and we expect that he'll be even better."
Jr. | F | Plainfield, Ontario
Key Statistics: Fleming was Dartmouth's leading goal scorer last year (13) as a sophomore and finished third overall in scoring with 25 points. Four of his goals came on the power play and three were game-winning goals.
What He Does: The 5-11 centerman is the best skater on Dartmouth's team and one of the best in recent memory. His skating was compared to that of J.T. Wyman and his competitiveness to David Jones. That's not bad company, and Fleming has the tools to continue his career as a professional once his college career is over. He is dangerous in all situations and can create his own offense in the offensive zone and in open ice.
The Bigger Picture: Even though he was the team's leading goal scorer, Dartmouth coaches tease Fleming by giving him the label of being a checking-line center. It's in jest, but it is valid because of his solid play in the defensive zone. He is one of the most well-rounded forwards in recent years at Dartmouth, and when the standard for that label is Lee Stempniak, it goes a long way in complimenting Fleming.
Dartmouth associate head coach Dave Peters: "Whatever wings we put him with, his line is probably going to be our top line. He's one of the most complete players we've had."
Justin FlorekNorthern Michigan
So. | F | Marquette, Mich.
Key Statistics: After spending a few productive years downstate in Ann Arbor with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program, Florek flourished during the second half of his freshman season, finishing the year with nine goals, eight assists and a plus-19 rating that was tops amongst Wildcats forwards. An effective power forward who knows how to use his 6-4, 194-pound frame to his advantage, one of his most surprising stats was his mere six penalty minutes in 40 games -- an encouraging sign of hockey maturity from the now-19-year-old.
What He Does: In the final minute of a one-goal game, teams scramble to get either their offensive or defensive specialists out onto the ice. Whether Northern Michigan needs to protect the lead or needs some last-minute heroics, you can count on Florek to be included. Coach Walt Kyle praises Florek for taking "care of so many details" in both the offensive and defensive zone, using his size and reach to help gain or keep control of the puck and for his finishing touch in front of the net.
The Bigger Picture: Much like the Wildcats' team as a whole, Florek really took off after the midway point of last season after becoming acclimated to the style and tone of CCHA hockey. Look for Florek to take on an even bigger role in Marquette this year, as Kyle lists the sophomore as one of the most important cogs in his squad. Florek grew up in the Marquette area and the Northern Michigan staff had their eyes on him for quite some time before he reached the college game, so Kyle can confidently say that Florek's work ethic and character will help him continue to make leaps and bounds as a Wildcat.
Northern Michigan coach Walt Kyle on Florek: "[Florek] was on our fourth line early on last year, but from Christmas on, he was on our top lines. He's going to improve in all facets of his game, and I think he's just scratching the surface of the type of player he can be."
Sr. | F | Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
Key Statistics: Gallagher ranked third on the Big Red in overall scoring with 28 points on seven goals and 21 assists. Five of his goals were power-play goals.
What He Does: More than half (15) of his points came on the power play, where he set up on the off wing and provided a threat to balance the proficiency of the likes of Riley Nash, Colin Greening and Evan Barlow on the strong side. He is a playmaker by nature, but can also finish scoring opportunities. His 28 points as a junior were a significant bump from his first two collegiate campaigns, during which he recorded 18 and 17 points.
The Bigger Picture: Talk about a gamer -- this is a guy who played through a high ankle sprain during the postseason and worked himself into the Cornell lineup in a playoff series against Rensselaer, the ECAC Hockey Championship Weekend in Albany, N.Y., and the Midwest Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich. His contributions helped Cornell keep some consistency among its top six forwards, but the Big Red will need three good scoring lines to remain near the top of an increasingly good ECAC Hockey league.
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer on Gallagher's versatility: "We were kind of forced to play him on the right wing because of his injury but we found out that he liked to play that side. We expect that he will be one of the top forwards in ECAC Hockey this year."
So. | G | Addison, Ont.
Key Statistics: As a backup to Hobey Baker finalist Chad Johnson last season, Greenham saw limited action, starting four games and relieving Johnson in a fifth. The sophomore-to-be used his 294 minutes, 7 seconds of ice time wisely, giving coach Dallas Ferguson confidence that that Nanooks can repeat as one of the nation's stingiest teams with a 3-0-1 record as the reward for an impressive 1.02 goals-against average and .958 save percentage.
What He Does: Greenham's greatest assets as a goaltender are his athleticism and his ability to read plays as they develop. At certain points in his young career, Greenham's hockey sense and athletic abilities have left Ferguson and his teammates wondering how in the world he was able to get across the net and make some big saves. And once Greenham gets across the net to stop the puck, don't expect many rebounds, as Ferguson praises the goaltender for his puck management and control skills.
The Bigger Picture: While all signs suggest it may be a fairly seamless transfer from Johnson to Greenham as it was from Wylie Rogers to Johnson, Greenham won't stop working toward becoming a more complete goaltender by improving the technical parts of his game. The Nanooks are bringing in a pair of promising freshman goaltenders, so Greenham will have some competition in the crease to keep him driven and focused.
Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson on Greenham: "I think that what prepared Scott for the upcoming season is what he went through last year. He played in five games and played very well, and he works with Chad all year waiting for his time to come, and now it's his time."
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