INCH wraps up its 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, just people you ought to know. INCH wrapped up its swing through the alphabet with players whose last names begin with S through Z.
Greg SquiresWestern Michigan
So. | F | White Plains, N.Y.
Key Statistics: As one of just four Western Michigan players to skate in all 41 games during his freshman season, Squires scored seven goals and added 22 assists to finish in a tie for third in the team's scoring race and third among freshmen in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The Broncos continually improved throughout last season, and Squires was an impetus for a quick start to the second half, winning CCHA Rookie of the Month in January and February with eight- and nine-point efforts, respectively.
What He Does: As his scoring line suggests, Squires' primary strength is his ability to get the puck to teammates in good position, and linemates Patrick Galivan and Max Campbell cashed in on a regular basis, combining for 35 goals. Beyond his passing ability, Squires is an excellent skater -- critical in Western Michigan's "200-foot" style of play -- with a good shot that coach Jim Culhane hopes he will take better advantage of this season.
The Bigger Picture: With leading scorer Galivan lost to graduation, Squires likely will have to pick up some of his slack on the scoring end to keep the Broncos competitive on a nightly basis. To that end, Culhane would like to see Squires shoot the puck more often and learn to grind and improve the physical element of his game. Seeing that Squires is described as a "come early, leave late" type of player, it could be a smooth transition to keep the Broncos' scoring line lighting the lamp.
Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane on Squires: "Greg's best assets are his puck skills. He has great hands, and he is the type of player that thinks pass first, and the guys who benefited from that were his linemates Patrick Galivan, who led the league in goal scoring, and Max Campbell."
Denny UrbanRobert Morris
Jr. | D | Pittsburgh
Key Statistics: A first-team All-College Hockey America defenseman, Urban finished third on the team in scoring with 27 points -- more than double the combined total of any other two Colonials defensemen. He enters 2009-10 just two points from tying the school mark for career scoring by a defenseman held by Chris Kaufman, despite the fact that Urban has played fewer than half the games Kaufman did. Urban has 48 points in 66 games.
What He Does: The hometown boy isn't afraid to jump up into the rush, but he has gotten better in the defensive zone with more experience. With the rest of the defense, Urban helped turn Robert Morris' season around in front of freshman goaltender Brooks Ostergard late in the campaign, as the Colonials allowed more than three goals in a game just once in their final 10 and posted a 5-2-3 record.
The Bigger Picture: Urban often was paired with fellow right-handed shot Josh Jones last season. He recorded 17 of his 27 points against CHA opponents, so his nonconference production could stand to improve.
Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley on Urban: "He had a very good year last year and is a very dynamic player. He controls the play, skates well, makes a solid first pass and got better as he got more responsibility last season. We need him to repeat that again this season."
Sr. | F | Montreal
Key Statistics: Valery-Trabucco has been one of Union's top offensive performers in all three of his campaigns in Schenectady. As a junior last season, Valery-Trabucco ranked second on the team in goals (15) and points (29). Five of his goals came on the power play. He had 23 points as a freshman and 17 points as a sophomore. With 69 career points entering this season, the 100-point career milestone is within reach.
What He Does: Valery-Trabucco is a skilled scorer whose offensive upside projects to the next level. He was moved from center to the wing last season, and it freed him up to be more creative and productive offensively. He spent time on the right wing on Union's top two lines, finishing the year with Jason Walters and Adam Presizniuk to form one of the least heralded but most dangerous scoring lines in ECAC Hockey.
The Bigger Picture: When Valery-Trabucco gets points, he gets them in bunches. He had six goals and 11 points in a seven-game point streak in January last season but recorded only one goal and one assist in Union's last 11 games as a sophomore. The coaching staff will seek consistency in Valery-Trabucco's senior season, as he and seven other seniors look to keep Union's program heading in the right direction.
Union coach Nate Leaman on Valery-Trabucco and Union's senior class: "The seniors of 2009 made their mark on the program in terms of developing our culture. It's up to this class to build on it and take it a step further. We need to have an unsatisfied attitude, we want to be a team that goes out and attacks, not a team that sits back. This group has the potential to take hold of that."
So. | F | Brentwood, Calif.
Key Statistics: Hockey East's top scorer among freshmen in 2008-09, Wellman earned conference all-rookie team honors after posting 11 goals and 22 points in 39 games. He finished second among Minutemen in scoring and shared the team lead at plus-10.
What He Does: The well-traveled Wellwood grew up in California, went to high school in Michigan and played junior hockey in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He had little trouble acclimating to Hockey East, thanks in large part to his size, speed and physical conditioning.
The Bigger Picture: Wellman gave UMass a solid secondary scoring threat last season. After the graduation of No. 1 center Cory Quirk, coach Don Cahoon has the option to pair Wellman with dynamic James Marcou or keep those two as a one-two punch. Early signs point to a top line of Wellman, Marcou and T.J. Syner that could be among the league's best.
Wellman, in a UMass online chat this summer, on his overtime goal to beat Boston College in November: "After the goal, I was fighting for air under that huge pile. Once that cleared, it was an unbelievable feeling. I will always remember that; it was the greatest moment of my hockey career so far."
Joe WhitneyBoston College
Jr. | F | Reading, Mass.
Key Statistics: As a freshman riding shotgun with Nate Gerbe on the power play, Whitney notched 40 assists and amassed an impressive 51 points. Once Gerbe went pro with the Buffalo Sabres after BC's 2007-08 NCAA championship, Whitney endured a bit of a sophomore slump. Without Gerbe's finishing touch, Whitney ended up with only 15 points in 36 games. Eagles coach Jerry York attempted to spark his playmaker and even shifted Whitney back to defense for a handful of games last season to take advantage of his smooth passing skills and instincts for the game. Whitney went from recording the second-highest assist season for a freshman in the history of the BC hockey program to a forward who didn't even crack 10 assists as a second-year player.
What He Does: Whitney is a playmaking wing who likes to have the puck on his stick, and the 5-foot-6, 164-pounder is at his very best when he's given both time and space to operate offensively. Part of York's thinking in temporarily placing Whitney on the blue line was his overwhelming knack for manning one of the points on BC's power play. Whitney had five power-play scores as a freshman but was down to only one PP strike as a sophomore. Whitney doesn't have the strongest shot in the world and isn't a speed merchant on skates within Hockey East, but he thinks the game as well as anyone on the Eagles' roster. Whitney's biggest need is a partner on his line who can finish consistently, as Gerbe clearly had when Whitney enjoyed his bountiful freshman season.
The Bigger Picture: Whitney's younger brother Steve will join the Eagles as a freshman this season and arrives on the Chestnut Hill campus with an even more outsized reputation than big brother Joe. It could be a prudent move for York to get an early gauge on the on-ice sibling chemistry and potentially move the explosive-scoring brother duo onto the same line. The 18-year-old younger Whitney won a Boston-area Independent School League championship with prep school Lawrence Academy this past winter, then scored more than a point per game for the Omaha Lancers during a quick 12-game audition at the U.S. Hockey League level. Joe's feeding the puck to Steve could be another sibling story (Brian and Steve Gionta, Brooks and Andrew Orpik) to travel through the Eagles' pipeline under York's tenure.
Boston College coach Jerry York on Whitney: "You can't teach what he has. He has able to see people out on the ice, and he's almost like a point guard in basketball with the way he can set things up and know where players are -- without staring at them. His head is always up on the ice, and that's a rare trait and a pretty remarkable one to have as a player."
Chris WidemanMiami (Ohio)
So. | D | St. Louis
Key Statistics: Two numbers jump off the page when looking back on Wideman's freshman campaign in Oxford. First, although he didn't score a goal, he led the team with 26 assists -- placing him fourth in total points for a freshman and in a tie for fourth in the CCHA among all defensemen. And second, he led the team with a plus-11 rating, giving a vivid picture of his all-around ability. The Ottawa Senators fourth-round draft pick in June also was named to the CCHA all-rookie team for his efforts.
What He Does: Wideman is a well-rounded defenseman with great hockey sense and strong abilities in all areas of his game. Because he moves and distributes the puck so well, the sophomore is an integral part of Miami's power play, on which he notched 17 of his assists. But Wideman's contributions to the RedHawks program will go further than simple statistics, as he will continue to be an important part of the tight-knit Miami locker room. He already has shown the ability to lead, helping him become a driving force on a RedHawks team that is focused on continuing to move forward as a program.
The Bigger Picture: Wideman's freshman season was even more impressive when you consider that he ended up in Oxford a year earlier than originally planned thanks to the early departure of Alec Martinez to the Los Angeles Kings system. Having already gained the experience to know what it takes to make it to the Frozen Four, Wideman took another big step in his development with his participation in the U.S. junior national team evaluation camp in August. Not only did he have the opportunity to skate with some of the best American players in his age group (including Miami goaltender Connor Knapp), but he also has a leg up on teammates and competition by entering the fall in top condition, giving him more time to focus on the details that make him an elite defenseman.
Miami coach Enrico Blasi on Wideman: "He does everything really well, and he's one of the best passers that I have ever coached. [But] it's not that he does one thing great, it's that he's good in all areas. He's a very skilled defenseman, he sees the ice well and he makes big plays."
Dennis WilliamsBowling Green
First-year head coach
Key Statistics: After graduating from Bowling Green (117 games played, 12-8-20) in 2001 and taking a brief foray into the Central Hockey League, Williams returned to his alma mater to begin his coaching career as a graduate assistant while earning a master's degree in 2002. From there, Williams spent one season as an assistant coach at Division III Utica College before assuming his first head-coaching job as D-III Neumann College, where he improved a team that went 3-21-1 in the year before his arrival to a perennial winner in just three seasons. (The Knights went on to win this past year's national championship after his departure.) Knowing that his ultimate goal was to be head coach back at Bowling Green, Williams jumped back into the Division I ranks with a year as an assistant coach at Alabama-Huntsville before returning to the Falcons' bench as an assistant last season.
What He Does: It's no secret that things have been rough for the Falcons during the past few years. Questions remain about the long-term viability of the program, but Williams is focused on turning around the on-ice performance after the team has finished 12th in the CCHA in three of the past four seasons. Bowling Green played well at times during the first half of last season, going 5-5-2 in its first 12 games, but really struggled in the second half, winning just two of its final 12 contests. Williams set a goal of gaining home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs this season and believes that he has the pieces in place. The team will suit up 10 freshmen, including five on defense and a goaltender, presenting some challenges for getting the players up to speed early on. But Williams is hopeful that the relationships he built with the incoming players on the recruiting trail and the returning players while working with them throughout last season will help him build unity and reach a competitive steady state quickly.
The Bigger Picture: Spend a few minutes talking with Williams, and he'll leave you with no doubts whatsoever regarding his enthusiasm for the position, and a main focus for him is to infect his players, staff and supporters with his love for Bowling Green hockey. That enthusiasm fits Williams' ideal style of play. Many of the focal points are drawn from the areas that the Falcons have seen success in the past: playing an up-tempo, north-south style of hockey, and focusing on protecting the puck and dictating the physical tone of the game. Williams hopes some changes to the team's practice regimen and an increased focus on teaching through film study will help his players learn how to execute that style effectively. Finally, central to Williams' coaching philosophy is introducing an element of fun to his team. Williams is confident that by making practice "the best two and a half hours of the day" for his players, they will be able to maintain the focus and enthusiasm necessary to sustain control of the game against top-notch opponents.
First-year head coach
Key Statistics: Whittet is a Rhode Island native who played at high school powerhouse Mount Saint Charles before a post-grad year at Kent School en route to being a four-year letter winner for Brown. He appeared in 74 games on defense and was a part of an Ivy League championship team in 1992, two Lake Placid trips for the ECAC Hockey championship weekend and an NCAA tournament berth in 1993. He was an assistant at Brown for coach Bob Gaudet, then followed Gaudet to Dartmouth and spent the past 11 years as an assistant coach there. He is the third Brown alumnus to serve as head coach of the men's ice hockey program.
What He Does: Brown finished in third place in ECAC Hockey in 2004 behind first-team All-American goalie Yann Danis, but not much has gone right since then. The Bears finished the next season with a winning record but have finished in the bottom three of the ECAC Hockey standings for the past four seasons. There was a bright spot to close the 2008-09 season, as Brown upset Harvard in the first round of the ECAC Hockey playoffs behind two stellar performances from freshman goalie Mike Clemente. He'll be back to lead the Bears in Whittet's first year in charge of his alma mater.
The Bigger Picture: "I want to get back to what leads to success. I want a team that is based on competitiveness, that wants to fight and play with aggressiveness," Whittet said. "We want to recruit competitive kids, and when you do that you can have success. We want to be known as one of the hardest-working teams in the country, and when teams play against us, they know that they have been in a battle."
Jr. | G | Erie, Pa.
Key Statistics: The expectation was Zapolski would be an apprentice for one more season behind Matt Lundin and Max Strang but when Lundin struggled and Strang got hurt, Zapolski jumped in and dominated the position the rest of the way. Zapolski was a second-team Atlantic Hockey all-star.
A second-team Atlantic Hockey all-star, Zapolski posted a 13-4-3 record, a 2.22 goals against, and a .931 save percentage in 21 games. His goals against trailed only Air Force's Andrew Volkening and his save percentage topped all Atlantic Hockey netminders by 14 points. Nationally, his goals against ranked 17th (and third among sophomores) and his save percentage ranked second, trailing only Penguins' draft choice Chad Johnson of Alaska. Among his three shutouts was a game-two blanking of Army in the Atlantic quarterfinals, and he posted a 1.99 goals against and .938 save percentage in four playoff games.
Zapolski improved his goals against by more than a goal over his freshman season (3.25) and his save percentage by 33 points. Perhaps the numbers shouldn't have been a big surprise coming off his two seasons in the North Atlantic Hockey League with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms. The former Chicago Showcase most valuable goalie set a league record with 42 wins, led the NAHL with a .929 save percentage, and was third with a 2.32 goals against in his second season.
What He Does: Zapolski does an outstanding job of making all the saves he needs to make. He has good reflexes, sound positioning, always keeps sight of the puck and squares up his 6-foot frame to the shooters. Another great attribute is his ability to remain even-tempered, and put a bad goal behind him. Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin says Zapolski is very, very laid back and always has a smile on his face.
The Bigger Picture: There's a bit of pressure of Zapolski to deliver even better numbers and finally push Mercyhurst over the top in its bid to dethrone Air Force as Atlantic Hockey champ. The starting job is Zapolski's to lose now, and that doesn't look likely with his ever-improving game. Gotkin believes Zapolski will be a great pro goaltender when the time comes.
Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin on Zapolski: "There are big expectations on Ryan Zapolski. People, to a man, felt Ryan had a great year but now he has to take it to the next level. He is a guy who really came out of nowhere. We need to see at least what he did last year, if not more."
So. | F | Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Key Statistics: Zurevinski stepped in to Quinnipiac's lineup as a freshman and contributed 11 goals and 18 points in his first collegiate campaign. He ranked fifth on the team in goals and seventh in points. Three of his goals came on the power play.
What He Does: At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zurevinski is one of the Bobcats' biggest forwards and provided a physical presence in the lineup all year long. He missed only one game all year and was named as the team's Rookie of the Year last year at the end-of-season team banquet.
The Bigger Picture: Zurevinski's impact as a sophomore will be crucial to Quinnipiac's success. The Bobcats lost their top two scorers to graduation in Bryan Leitch and David Marshall. Those two combined to put up 105 points last year and 296 over their college careers. The Bobcats were a .500 team last year at 18-18-3, but were just 4-9 in one-goal games and 3-5-3 in overtime. If Zurevinski can provide the big goal at the right moment, the Bobcats could challenge for a place in the top four of ECAC Hockey.
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