Week 4 of INCH's A to Z series
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 each is someone you ought to know. INCH moved down the alphabet in Week 4, from M to P.
Jake MartoNorth Dakota
Jr. | D | Grand Forks, N.D.
Key Statistics: As has become a yearly teamwide tradition at North Dakota, Marto started slow and finished strong. After recording zero points in his first 14 games as a sophomore, he notched career highs in goals (6), assists (11) and points (17) in the final 29 games of the season.
What He Does: After a solid if not superlative freshman year, Marto dealt with what his coach calls "tougher minutes" right away in Year 2, facing opponents' first and second lines, rather than the third and fourth lines he'd faced as a rookie. He struggled early in the season, as did his team, which was 5-8-1 on Dec. 1. But once Marto's comfort level and confidence improved, things turned around quickly. The team went on a 19-4-3 tear, won the WCHA and by the end of the season Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol was calling the duo of Marto and Derrick LaPoint the team's best defensive pair.
The Bigger Picture: Hakstol threw Marto into special teams roles right away last season, which suits the Grand Forks townie just fine. Marto could hardly feel more comfortable playing for the Sioux, after spending his childhood idolizing North Dakota stars such as the Panzer brothers. Now getting to play the part he dreamed about as a kid, Marto says he relishes time killing penalties and opportunities to be aggressive, trying to jump passes and pounce on an opponent that turns his back or bobbles the puck even a little bit. The coach says that Marto is blessed with tremendous skating ability, and the statistics say he's a key to the team's overall success. Marto had all 17 of his points and was a team-best plus-26 in NoDak's 24 wins last season. He had no points and was a team-worst minus-18 in the 15 Sioux losses.
Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol on Marto: "Jake is a young guy that flies under the radar a little bit, but he's a very efficient defenseman. He's efficient moving the puck, efficient defending the puck and very heady when it comes to jumping into the play and joining the rush."
Alan MazurRochester Institute of Technology
Sr. | D | Burnaby, British Columbia
Key Statistics: Mazur was a good point-getter in juniors, and he carried that into his rookie season at RIT. He ranked fourth in team scoring with 29 points (six goals) in 29 games and led the squad with a plus-19 rating along the way to Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year and third-team all-league honors. Nagging injuries caught up to Mazur the past two seasons, with three scratches in each campaign. He managed to put up 23 points as a sophomore and junior. He dropped to a minus-4 as a sophomore but rebounded to put up a plus-3 last season. Five of his eight goals came during the playoff push over the final 13 games, and he scored once in a semifinal loss to Mercyhurst. Seven of his eight goals came on the power play. In 98 career games with RIT, Mazur has 19 goals (15 on the power play) and 56 assists. Mazur put up tremendous offensive numbers for the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League, with 34 goals and 117 assists in 166 games over three seasons. He led all BCHL defensemen in scoring in 2005-06 with 15 goals and 55 assists in 52 games.
What He Does: Don't let the offensive numbers fool you -- Mazur is not a Brian Leetch-type who is constantly rushing up the ice. He has a tremendous shot from the point and is a very effective playmaker, especially on the power play. He is not a sniper but is someone whom opponents have to respect. Mazur has a good feel for where everyone is on the ice, he is patient and he knows when to shoot and when to pass. Defensively, Mazur rarely gets beat, he is not afraid to block shots and he does a good job of clearing the puck. Coach Wayne Wilson said Mazur plays with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, a tiny edge that works to his advantage.
The Bigger Picture: Mazur is one of the graybeards in the league, turning 24 on Sept. 5, but that maturity helps his game. Last season, Mazur played a lot with classmate Dan Ringwald, and the two standouts have played separately as well, something that should be expected this season. Mazur has worked a lot this summer on weight training, his skating and his flexibility, all of which should improve his game. Wilson is convinced Mazur has pro potential but said he hopes his senior plays within himself and doesn't try to do too much.
RIT coach Wayne Wilson on Mazur: "He's been a real pleasure to coach, someone who goes about his own business and does it very effectively. The guys look up to him and respect what he does. He is not vocal whatsoever, which may be a good thing with younger guys. I know he demands a lot of himself but he's not going to go out and really put pressure on any of the young guys or anyone else -- he wants to win as bad as anyone, but that is not his personality."
Justin MenkeFerris State
Jr. | F | Shamrock, Saskatchewan
Key Statistics: Menke finished fourth on the team with a 5-14-19 line last year, seeing a small drop-off from his 21-point freshman year, but making up for it with strong all-around play. The junior-to-be was the team's top faceoff man, winning 61.8 percent of his draws and he added 17 blocked shots on the season.
What He Does: Menke has a strong shot and makes the players around him better with a selfless style of play. This generosity serves him well in the offensive or defensive zone, where he is always aware of what is going on around him, constantly anticipating his teammates' and opponents' next moves to make or break up the right passes depending on the end of the ice.
The Bigger Picture: After a summer of intense strength training, Menke seemed to lose a step and got off to a statistically slow start last year. Once the Bulldogs got into the second half, however, Menke shed some of the extra muscle and found his groove, finishing the year impressively, with all five of his goals coming after Jan. 1. Look for the junior to play an important role in Ferris State's power play and penalty kill -- coach Bob Daniels calls him the team's best 5-on-3 penalty killer -- and to be on the ice when looking to score a late goal or protect a lead.
Ferris State coach Bob Daniels on Menke: "[Menke]'s not blessed with blazing speed or unbelievable hands, but he is above average in all categories. His play away from the puck is outstanding, he is very generous with his puck movement -- not only able to spot the open man but get it to him, too -- and his hockey IQ is through the roof."
Sr. | F | Toronto, Ontario
Key Statistics: Mironov led the Purps in goals with a career-best 16 and was third on the team with a personal best of 28 points. He was goal-less for the first eight games last season before catching fire, scoring 13 over the last 17 regular season games. Mironov was held off the score sheet in the postseason, but was part of the game with three short-handed goals in 69 seconds against Canisius in November. Mironov scored the middle goal of the trio. He is the son of Dmitri and nephew of Boris Mironov, who combined to play 21 NHL seasons.
What He Does: Mironov comes off either wing and lets it go with one of the best shots in college hockey, but is also willing to forecheck and hit. He occasionally played the point on the power play, and registered some of the best open-ice hits of the season. Mironov usually shows good anticipation in the defensive zone.
The Bigger Picture: Niagara's top power-play unit will feature Mironov and fellow senior Chris Moran on a potent first unit. Mironov was invited to the Toronto Maple Leafs' rookie camp during the summer, so he should be one of the Purple Eagles pro scouts are looking at all season. Look for a contract offer after the season ends.
Niagara coach Dave Burkholder on Mironov: "He is without a doubt one of the best shooters we've ever had at Niagara, and that includes guys like Joe Tallari and Barret Ehgoetz. And that's based on pure velocity and accuracy. He can shoot on the fly and get off the one-timer as well. He is the prototypical power forward who is good at angling and usually finishes his check."
Brett OlsonMichigan Tech
So. | F | Superior, Wis.
Key Statistics: His freshman year was one of immediate impact for Olson, who was named the Huskies' top rookie after playing in all 38 games and finishing second on the team in points with 23. He led Tech in ice time among centers and was named the WCHA's Rookie of the Week once.
What He Does: Homesickness was never an issue for Olson as a freshman, as the 2005 high school graduate started college after three full seasons in the USHL. That maturity and experience proved to be a huge benefit from the opening faceoff, as the injury-riddled Huskies put Olson right to work, centering one of the team's top two lines. His physical maturity proved to be just as important as anything, with Olson being a key cog in Tech's special teams. Coach Jamie Russell said that just weeks into the season, the team's power play revolved around Olson and his natural gift for distributing the puck.
The Bigger Picture: Olson is praised for his offensive flexibility, allowing him to be equal parts sniper and set-up guy depending on what's needed. That versatility and maturity came in handy last season, when the injury bug spent enough time in Houghton to qualify for in-state tuition rates. That meant Olson seemingly had a new linemate every weekend. Coach and player liked the on-ice chemistry and productivity that developed when Olson was paired with Malcolm Gwilliam before Gwilliam suffered a stroke and was lost for the season. Gwilliam will be back to captain the Huskies as a sixth-year senior and, in a sign of how much Olson meant to the Huskies last season, Olson was voted assistant captain as a sophomore by his teammates. Asked about individual goals, Olson talks only about the team and getting the Huskies out of the WCHA cellar in his second go-round.
Huskies coach Jamie Russell on Olson: "We don't like to put a lot of pressure on freshmen, but internally we had big expectations for Brett. As a guy who was a captain in the USHL and an older freshman, we thought he'd have a big year, and he did."
Drew PalmisanoMichigan State
So. | G | Ann Arbor, Mich.
Key Statistics: Palmisano's freshman season was respectable but not outstanding. The sophomore-to-be saw action in seven games, started six and compiled just a 1-3-2 record with a 3.33 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage. Considering the young, struggling team in front of him and his past pedigree, don't write Palmisano off as average yet. In two seasons with the USHL's Omaha Lancers -- Spartan predecessor Jeff Lerg's junior team -- Palmisano matched Lerg step for step, with both goaltenders winning USA Hockey's Dave Peterson award, among other accolades. In his final season in Omaha, Palmisano was a torrid 32-8-3 backed by a 2.02 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage, winning both the Clark and Anderson cups.
What He Does: Palmisano isn't the largest netminder in the league, standing at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, but he certainly takes up more of the net than Lerg and has some great tools to boot. Knowing that Lerg would be graduating after last year, Michigan State brought Palmisano in a year early so that he could learn how to prepare for games and improve his play while teaming with Lerg, one of the hardest workers and most diligent netminders that the CCHA has ever seen.
The Bigger Picture: Jeff Lerg might have been small in stature, but he left some giant shoes to fill. That said, Palmisano's first order of business has to be to gain the confidence of his teammates and to develop the air of invincibility that a great goaltender needs, according to coach Rick Comley. Palmisano will still have a young team in front of him this year, but game experience in tough environments such as Yost Ice Arena and Lawson Ice Arena has given the sophomore some experience in places where his team will need to win to return to contender status.
Michigan State coach Rick Comley on Palmisano: "If you go back to past records like everyone does, Drew replaced Jeff in Omaha and did a lot of the same things that Jeff did, and he won a lot of the same awards. We brought him in a year early to prepare for this year and to watch Jeff in his preparation. Is he special? I guess he has to prove that, but he has all the tools to be a good goalie."
Sr. | D | Smithers, British Columbia
Key Statistics: Pederson has been a solid point producer on the Tigers' blue line for his first three seasons on campus. He had five goals and 14 assists in his junior year, with four of those goals coming on the power play. A dozen of his points came in ECAC Hockey games.
What He Does: Pederson had 19 points as a junior and 16 as a sophomore. The left-shooting defenseman has good size and plays effectively at both ends of the ice. He enjoys playing for the Tigers and enjoys Guy Gadowsky's up-tempo style, which most Princeton players and coaches simply describe as "we try to score goals."
The Bigger Picture: Princeton is coming off of its second straight 20-plus win season and has made back-to-back appearances in the NCAA tournament. The 2008 team had an ECAC Hockey playoff title to celebrate, but the 2009 squad came up short at the end of the season. It saw late leads disappear in the ECAC Hockey semifinals against Cornell and the first round of the NCAA tournament against Minnesota-Duluth. Pederson and a deep, talented group of seniors will be charged with closing the deal to make their last season in Old Nassau a special one.
Pederson on what he's expecting when the team starts preseason practice a couple of weeks from now: "Working hard is the most important thing, and we want to set that tone with the entire team right away. If you start doing it, it becomes habit."
Chris PelusoBemidji State
Sr. | D | Wadena, Minn.
Key Statistics: Even though he has just one goal in 96 career games, Peluso set a career high with 13 assists last season. He was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft out of high school before playing two seasons with Sioux Falls of the USHL. He played with three different defense partners over the final five games of last season and is the nephew of former NHL enforcer Mike Peluso.
What He Does: He does what you want a defenseman to do -- not be noticed -- which is why he perfectly fits the A-to-Z mold. Peluso uses his skating ability to carry the puck if a first pass isn't available. He was one of the unsung players who helped fuel the Beavers' postseason run last season despite being outshot by a 2-to-1 margin.
The Bigger Picture: Peluso will be part of a solid defense corps that lost only one senior, and will help the transition of whoever wins the goaltender battle after the departure of Matt Dalton following his sophomore campaign.
Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore on Peluso: "He's a great skater with good puck skills who helps generate offense as a transitional defenseman. He advances the puck with a pass or by beating forecheckers with his skating. His offensive dynamic is one that goes unnoticed."
Jr. | F | Greenlawn, N.Y.
Key Statistics: After seeing action in just 27 of Nebraska-Omaha's 40 games during his freshman campaign, Purslow became a regular in the Mavericks' lineup during his sophomore season, notching a 12-12-24 line in 40 games for a team that ranked just 42nd in the country offensively. Purslow saw time on the power play and his four power-play goals are tops among returning Mavericks.
What He Does: Standing at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, Purslow has built his game primarily on respectable skating ability and creativity with the puck. These strengths helped him to a productive junior career in the USHL as a prolific scorer and playmaker, leading the league with 82 points during the 2006-07 season while playing for Des Moines. Purslow's awareness on the ice helps him evade big, physical defensemen and nullifies any apparent size disadvantage.
The Bigger Picture: Things will be different in Omaha this year with new head coach Dean Blais calling the shots. Historically, Blais' teams have been known for playing fast-paced, physical hockey, according to assistant coach Nick Fohr, which means Purslow and his teammates will have to make some adjustments in how they play the game. While the Mavericks' staff doesn't expect Purslow to start playing like a 6-foot-4 power forward, he will likely be counted on to physically engage opponents more than he has in the past. Fohr is confident that Purslow can make the adjustments and the junior will likely still play on one of the Mavericks' top two lines and continue to contribute to the score sheet.
Nebraska-Omaha assistant coach Nick Fohr on Purslow: "Richie is a crafty little player who does a good job; he makes smart plays with the puck, and when he gets the chance, he can score. He is not a very big player so he has had to learn to be a smart player in that way. Looking at his past, Coach Blais likes to play up-tempo, physical hockey, so Richie is going to have to adapt. [Purslow] will learn how to use his body, and he's going to have to be fearless at times."
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