Home Blog Page 3

Future Sabres: Ryan Johnson


By Warren Kozireski —

The college playing career of Buffalo Sabres 2019 first round draft choice Ryan Johnson came to an end this weekend as the senior defenseman helped lead the top-ranked University of Minnesota to the Frozen Four championship game.

The 6’0”, 170 lb. left shot assistant captain was named an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention and the Golden Gophers Sportsmanship Award after his four goal-14 assist campaign.

His statistics (nine goals and 50 assists over 141 career games) with Minnesota might not jump off the page to the casual fan, but he finished third in the Big Ten conference in blocked shots with 62 over 37 games and tied for eighth in plus/minus at +21.

And he has played in every single game in college with the exception of the four games he missed in 2021 while helping Team USA win a gold medal at the U-20 World Juniors.

Prior to college, Johnson was named to the United States Hockey League (USHL)’s All-Rookie Team as he helped Sioux Falls win a third Clark Cup championship in 2018-19.

(Ryan Johnson)

Easily overlooked, but Johnson has all the ingredients winning teams want on their blueline, including in the final three minutes protecting a one-goal lead.

“Obviously it’s been exciting…and more time with these guys has been a blast,” Johnson said prior to the title game. “We’ve had such a fun year and it’s just been amazing. Being in this place we’re thankful.”

Minnesota lost in the national semi-finals last year, but Johnson denies that being a primary motivator for him or his teammates this season.

“I wouldn’t say it was a motivation; I don’t think losing is my motivation. I play for God at the end of the day and, whether we win or lose, I’m grateful that I have hope and I know it’s part of his plan that we’re here and in this position.

Born in California when his dad, Craig, was playing in the NHL, Johnson is a product of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks system.

(Ryan Johnson In Action)

After the Frozen Four title game, Johnson has a decision to make whether to sign a professional contract with Buffalo or become a free agent.

But he is taking in every moment of the final minutes of his college career prior to that.

“It’s kind of hard; each time I kind of see it. You don’t really realize that this could be the last game or whatever, so it’s not really crossing my mind until after.

(University of Minnesota Athletics/Hockey Photos)

Purchase Native Cipollone Plays A Key Role With National Champs Quinnipiac


By Warren Kozireski —

Some college coaches have a fourth line that might see the ice three or four times per period. That is definitely not the case for the Bobcats of Quinnipiac as they used their depth to defeat favored Michigan in the NCAA national semi-final and he University of Minnesota in the national championship game 3-2 in overtime.

“Honestly it doesn’t feel real,” Joey Cipollone said in the postgame locker room. “It will hit me in another week or so, but that’s another culture win. Down 2-0 with our backs against the wall and we just consistently grind and find a way to make plays.”

On that key fourth line is Purchase-born Joey Cipollone, who is in his third year with the program after leaving the University of Vermont midway through the 2019-20 campaign.

“It was a long journey, but it all comes down to my parents and my family,” Cipollone said after the semi-final. “There has been a lot of hard work and sacrifices that go into being here that no one really sees, but all those days where my parents were willing to give up weekends to travel, not only for me, but for my brother and my sister. Those are the little things that add up and result in me being here.

“Being from New York and close to home was obviously something that stood out, but also coming here and having an opportunity to play for a national championship is something that everyone wants to be a part of, and culture here really sold me. All these guys are so invested in team and for each other; we’re such a selfless group and you learn a lot of lessons from that that…that I’ll take with me.”

Cipollone piled up impressive offensive numbers playing for the Connecticut Wolf Pack 16U squad before joining the Loomis Chaffee School for two seasons.

Then in 2017-18, he went west to the Tri-City Storm before heading to Vermont as an 18-year-old freshman.

Since arriving at Quinnipiac, the 5’11”, 185 lb. right wing has scored 19 goals with 19 assists over three seasons. You will most often find him standing near the net in the offensive zone.

“That’s the strength of our team—guy one through 26 can make an impact when called upon and that’s been proven this year. And I think that brings the cohesiveness of the group together.

“For me it’s playing a simple game and being a guy that’s hard to play against. A big thing that we talk about is taking the goalies eyes away, being around the net, causing chaos and, for a guy like me, just being around the net is something I’ve always been good at and that’s where the goals are scored.”

It’s a bit of all-in-the-family as his brother Anthony is a freshman with the Bobcats and their cousin, Joe, just finished his fourth year at the University of New Hampshire. Their sister, Paris, was also a college athlete playing field hockey at Wesleyan.

“Forever grateful to Rand (head coach Pecknold) and the staff for believing in him and letting him come in this year. It’s been a dream come true for me and probably more for my parents. We’ve had some amazing experiences this year playing together, going to Ireland and having my while family out for senior night. Little things like that are stuff that you can’t take away.”

(Quinnipiac Athletic Hockey Photos)

Williamsville’s Clark Taking It All In At The Frozen Four


By Warren Kozireski —

As a freshman goaltender, Chase Clark came on in relief in just eight games this past season for nationally ranked Quinnipiac. Playing behind a Mike Ritcher Best Goaltender Award finalist in teammate Yaniv Perets didn’t help.

But the 6’6”, 218 lb. Washington Capitals 2021 sixth round draft choice isn’t just a casual observer while his team competes at the Frozen Four. He’s watching and learning.

“It’s been a great experience and gotta thank the NCAA hockey for hosting this and beautiful Tampa, the warm weather and the whole experience has been just amazing,” Clark said prior to their semi-final victory over the University of Michigan.

In those eight games, Clark allowed only four goals in over 78 minutes of ice time.

“Definitely a different experience from past years, but I came with an open mindset and learned how to play a new role on a team and just learning from Yaniv Perets, one of the best goalies—in my opinion THE best goalie in the nation right now. It’s been amazing to back him up and learn from him every single day and working with our goalies coach Justin Eddy.

“The way he thinks about the game, the different situations, the reads, biggest thing is work ethic on and off the ice. He puts in the work that nobody really sees, and it really pays off the past two years.”

Clark started playing hockey at seven years old with the Wheatfield Blades and was 15 years with the Toronto Nationals U-16 in 2017-18. He followed that with single seasons with the Buffalo Regals and Jr. Sabres.

(Chase Clark)

Then it was off the NCDC and USHL first with Jersey Hitmen, then Tri-City and finally Muskegon over two seasons before becoming a Bobcat this season.

“Juniors was working one level at a time. Definitely learned a lot and battled a lot of adversity and hopefully I spend the rest of my years here at Quinnipiac. My first year I started in Junior B, which not a lot of guys at this level play, and I worked from Junior B to Junior A and then got a concussion in the USHL.

“I went to the NCDC (Jersey), and Toby Harris gave me an opportunity during covid. Had a really great year there and won a championship and then moved up to Tier 1 UJSHL level.”

Clark still remembers fondly his days with the Regals.

“Gotta thank my head coach, Dan Mancuso; he’s definitely hard on a team and that mental toughness. I still reach out to him to this day looking for advice and such. Those were the best days going on road trips up to Toronto—great memories.”

And the day he was drafted.

“Backstory was I talked to my advisor, and he said to take you mind off of it because you never really know (if you will be selected) until you know, but I went on a bike ride, came back showered and about ten or fifteen minutes later I was sitting on the couch…and saw my name pop up.

“It brought tears of joy because, what an accomplishment and what a great organization to get drafted to. A lot of hard work to come and excited for the future. And Development Camp was an amazing experience…and working with such good people.”

Clark has three sisters who are all great athletes in their own right. Summer plays softball as a sophomore left-handed pitcher at Florida Atlantic University while Madison and Brianna competed at the University of Buffalo and East Carolina in volleyball as a setter and Niagara University as a third basemen respectively.

“One thing my parents really focused on was allowing us to play the sport we love every single day. We kind of pushed each other. Like my dad said, always work hard.”

(Photos by Quinnipiac Hockey Photos)

Future Rangers: Eric Ciccolini


By Warren Kozireski —

Every National Hockey League team is focused on drafting players in the later rounds that are a) flyers on ones that have size or another attribute that can blossom with time or b) players they can own the rights to for a longer period such as college players.

The New York Rangers probably saw a little of both in their 2019 seventh round draft choice in University of Michigan senior forward Eric Ciccolini.

Months prior to being selected, NHL Central Scouting described the Vaughn, Ontario native as one with “high-end skill set … good offensive hockey sense … has puck-on-a-string control … can see the ice at top speed … dynamic offensive threat … speed and quickness are difference-makers.”

One of 15 lettermen returning from last year’s Frozen Four semi-finalist, Ciccolini helped the Wolverines return to the Frozen Four as they rattled off four straight wins to take the Big Ten crown before beating Colgate and Penn State in Allentown to win the NCAA Regional.

“It’s a good experience—I was here last year, but didn’t play, so I took it all in, saw what’s it’s all about and it’s great to be back and playing and making sure I make the most of it,” Ciccolini said before their semi-final loss to Quinnipiac.

“It’s good to be around everyone and try to make an impact on the younger guys on every play and every shift.”

Ciccolini scored in the regionals against Colgate, a goal that ranks pretty high on his list.

(Eric Ciccolini)

“One of biggest ones for me. Pretty cool to play in big game like that and scored the game-winning goal even though we scored 11. It was a pretty proud moment for me for sure.”

The 5’11”, 170 lb. tied his collegiate career best with seven goals this season, but has been forced to rebound through multiple injuries in his career including a concussion, shoulder and knee. He was limited to just four games as a junior.

“My freshman year I played through an injury and then getting hurt again I saw last year how much success the guys had and how much fun they had and I just wanted to come back and do the same.”

Ciccolini spent his U-15 and U-16 years with the Vaughn Kings before jumping to the OJHL with The Milton Icehawks and Toronto Jr. Canadiens, where he had his most successful offensive campaign with 62 points in 48 games prior to joining Michigan.

And he was drafted the summer after that explosive season and was present in Vancouver to hear his name called.

(Ciccolini in action)

“It was a great experience and I’m happier that I was there than at home…and looking back it is something I will always remember.”

Then came two Development Camps with the Rangers, which left quite an impression.

“The facilities are great down there and meeting some new guys was pretty good. It’s so much faster and everyone’s so much bigger and stronger at the next level, but those camps are pretty comparable to here because we play at that high level, especially in the Big Ten.”

In addition to his speed and hockey sense, Ciccolini feels he does have a good shot.

“Something I probably need to use more and it’s something I’ve honed in on and working in the summers to get better. I just hesitate and I need to shoot more.”

If the Rangers sign the 22-year-old, the next stop is likely the American Hockey League and the Hartford Wolf Pack.

(University of Michigan Athletic/Hockey Photos)

College Postseason Awards


(Above Photo: Noah Wilson with Army head coach Brian Riley)

By Warren Kozireski —

Devon Levi was named the 2022-23 winner of the Mike Ritcher Award and Army senior Noah Wilson won the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award while Emily McNamara of Hamilton College and Mark Taylor of Division III National Champion Hobert College were named by the American Hockey Coaches Association as Division III Coaches of the Year in women’s and men’s hockey respectively. Matt Corronato (Greenlawn) was named a Second Team All-American-East..

Levi, also a first team All-American on the East Team, posted an incredible final season of play for Northeastern recording a .933 save percentage, a 2.24 goals against average, and posting a 17-12-5 record in net with six shutouts. His save percentage ranked first in the NCAA this season, while his 1,066 saves were third among all college goaltenders. He also posted 18 games in which the opponent tallied two goals or fewer and had 20 games where he made 30+ saves.

During his tenure with the Huskies, Levi re-wrote the Huskies’ goaltending record book, setting seven new program records:

(Devon Levi/NHL.com Photo)

Best career goals against average (1.90)

Best career save percentage (.942)

Most career shutouts (16)

Best single season goals against average (1.54)

Best single season save percentage (.952)

Most shutouts in a single season (10)

Most saves in a single game (60)

Wilson played in all 37 contests for the Black Knights while serving as an alternate captain. He registered a career-best 12 points. Wilson was standout defenseman for Army, setting a program-record with 84 blocks in a single season during his junior campaign of 2021-22. After Army’s 1-7-1 start to his senior season, Wilson selflessly made the switch to forward which allowed a freshman defenseman to play and earn a role. It marked the turning point of the season for Army, as the team went 5-2-1 in its next eight games.

“Since he got here, he has reminded me the most of Derek (Hines); they are identical in terms of their character,” Army head coach Brian Riley said.

“Coming from West Point and being there for four years, I learned about (Derek) Hinesy from day one and it was a feeling of ‘wow’, I never thought the coaches or anyone saw me on this level,” Hines said after the ceremony.

“To even have my name mentioned in the same sentence as Derek Hines is an incredible honor. To be here and meet his family and the entire week has just been incredible.

“I think I’m the second Army guy and there have been a few Air Force guys, but I think the best part about this is that know that I’m bringing the award home to where it started. That’s why it’s so special for me and my family, my brother (Michael) being a West Point graduate as well. There are plenty of guys on every team in college hockey who could win an award like this and on mine as well, so I’m very happy to be here representing my team.

McNamara led nationally fourth-ranked Hamilton to a 22-6-2 record setting a program record for wins in a season and was named the New England Small College Athletic Coach of the Year. They advanced to the NESCAC playoff championship game before losing to Amherst. The Continentals then defeated Nazareth and Adrian in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament before again falling to Amherst in the semi-finals.

Taylor, also the New England Hockey Conference Coach of the Year, led Hobart to their first national championship in program history. The nationally second-ranked Statesmen finished with a program record 29 wins and swept through the NEHC playoffs. They then defeated seventh-ranked Curry, fourth-ranked Endicott and third-ranked Adrian in overtime in the title game.

Harvard sophomore and Greenlawn native Corronato was named a Second Team All-American after his 20-16 assist season with the Crimson. He signed a professional contract with the Calgary Flames, who selected him in the first round 13th overall in 2021.

(Wilson photo by Koz)

Future Sabres: Aaron Huglen


By Warren Kozireski —

It’s only been two seasons since Buffalo Sabres 2019 fourth round draft pick and University of Minnesota sophomore forward Aaron Huglen missed the entire season due to disc surgery in his back.

But the 6’0”, 170 lb. Minnesota native is more than making up for lost time.

He bettered his freshman year point total by one and made himself familiar on the big stage with a pair of assists in the national semi-final game at the Frozen Four in Tampa including a between the legs pass across the crease to a wide-open Rhett Pitlick on the power play. He added a secondary assist on the clinching goal in the third period.

“Rhett (Pitlick) sent me a Sydney Crosby kind of play similar to that this afternoon, and I said, ‘yeah, we can try that if you break to the net’ and he broke to the net and I found him,” Huglen said after the semi-final.

(Aaron Huglen)

“Tampa is an unreal city, it’s fun to be in the warn weather coming from Minnesota, so I’m excited to be here. We’re here for business and everyone is dialed in, but it’s nice to enjoy the weather too.

“It’s been another year of more confidence and I think it’s been going pretty well. I try to play fast; got some fast linemates too, so it’s fun to play with them.”

Huglen played for Roseau High in Minnesota before joining Fargo in the USHL during his senior year. After recovering from his surgery, he rejoined Fargo and put up a 15 goal with 20 assists regular season followed by eight points in nine playoff contests.

The 22-year-old uses his explosive speed and has hockey bloodlines with his father, Mike, having played Division III hockey at Bethel University and his uncle, Mark, spending time with the Golden Gophers and Notre Dame. His younger brother, Paul, is working his way through junior hockey now in the NAHL and is committed to play Division III hockey at Concordia.

Since being drafted, Huglen hasn’t been able to participate in the Prospect Camp in the fall due to school commitments but has attended the summer Development Camp with Buffalo.

“It’s gone really well. There have been a lot of changes obviously within the organization, but I loved every time that I’ve gone out there. A really, really good staff especially this year.

“They really emphasize a day at a time—a year at a time—keep developing. For me that’s been the same crew so I’m most close with them and they just continue to encourage us day by day.”

(Huglen In Action)

Huglen lost one season and 18 months to his back injury, surgery and the ensuing rehabilitation, but he doesn’t feel delayed in his development in hockey at all.

It was a long process, but in some ways beneficial.

“Mainly personal just trying to figure things out. My faith is everything to me, and in that time, my life changed. Hockey was all I cared about, but when that got taken away, I really had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture in life.

“It’s been a blessing really and I’m thankful for it.”

Huglen has two years of college eligibility remaining if he wants to use it. Or he could decide to begin the next phase of his hockey career once Minnesota completes their Frozen Four championship effort on Saturday.

(University of Minnesota Athletics/Hockey Photos)

Briarcliff Manor’s Moyle Leads Michigan To The Frozen Four


By Warren Kozireski —

While it didn’t end the way stories are supposed to end with a national semifinal loss to Quinnipiac and emotions were raw immediately afterward, University of Michigan captain Nolan Moyle will someday look back on this past season with a lot of pride.

From a head coach controversy to the loss of a long-term equipment manager to a teammate’s serious illness not to mention 12 freshmen that needed to be nurtured into the new culture.

Consider it job accomplished.

“I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to come back here and lead this group,” Moyle said in the post-game press conference. “It was a special year. I just love this team. I love this school. I’m so proud to be a Michigan man. And you always hear just leave this place better than I found it. It’s unfortunate we came up short, but I’m so proud of this group.”

“That senior class has been amazing, just pulling these freshmen in and showing them what Michigan is all about,” first year head coach Brandon Naurato said about Moyle and others. “That’s why I made the comment I did earlier that Michigan is in a better place going forward because of the stamp that that class has left on it.”

The 6’2”, 185 lb. right winger began his junior hockey with the Toronto Marlboros and New jersey Rocket before settling in for two seasons with the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL where he had the best offensive season of his career with 19 goals and 45 points in year two.

“I was fortunate enough to have a really good coach that believed in me at Green Bay and I lived with two different families both of which were awesome. It’s tough when you’re a young kid and you go somewhere and have to live with new people; you grow up a little bit quicker than you expect and I think I learned a lot of life lessons and on the ice you’re playing against bigger, older guys.

“By the time my second year rolled around I was kind of one of those go-to guys and it was good to grow into that role. There’s a lot of people who see the success that you have, but don’t really understand what goes into it. My first year in Green Bay wasn’t all sunshine; it was a big learning curve for me, so it’s good to see it all pay off in the end.”

And then Michigan.

“It’s actually a funny story,” Moyle said the day prior to the semi-final. “My junior year of high school I actually played in Michigan with the U-16’s for Victory Honda and I came out here and was originally committed to Michigan State. Played two years of juniors in Wisconsin, had the chance to come to Michigan, came on a visit and it felt right and I’m really grateful for the last five years.”

“There’s a lot of guys who come in and don’t really know much, so it’s my job and the upperclassmen and the other letters to come in and instill the culture that was instilled in us, so we try to pass that down and set the standards and expectations right away.

“I can’t give those freshmen enough credit; they’ve done an awesome job of listening and learning and maturing and all have had outstanding years…and excelled in every aspect, so it’s really proud to see.”

Though Moyle hopes to continue his hockey career professionally, he has an Internation Business undergraduate degree and has spent this year securing a Real Estate certificate.

“It’s been fun meeting older people in the program is a little different because you’re not taking classes with your teammates or friends, but it’s been a good challenge and responsibility. I enjoy the real estate development side…and I think it might be the path I want to go down when I’m older.”

(Michigan Athletics Hockey Photos)

Clarence Center’s Case McCarthy Forced Into Team Support Role at Frozen Four


By Warren Kozireski —

Prior to the Hockey East semi-final game against Providence, Boston University senior defenseman and assistant captain Case McCarthy had missed just one game all season. But after crashing into the boards and breaking his collarbone, the Buffalo native will now support his teammates with words of encouragement while wearing a sling as they play in the Frozen Four in Tampa.

“It’s really been exciting, I mean obviously you want to play, but being a apart of this and what all of these guys have sacrificed to get to this point has been really cool to be a part of and obviously a very special opportunity this week and something you dream about coming to a school like BU,” McCarthy said the day before the national semi-final.

“Definitely cool to be a part of and a nice place to be in some warm weather too. It’s different being in this position, but I’m trying to do anything I can to help the team or bring a smile to the boys once in a while.

“The past couple of weeks kind of found the way I can just be around and be a part of this. It’s exciting to be around and see the energy.”

Not sure how anyone can be much of a cheerleader for his team just days after getting nine screws put in his collarbone, but hockey players are different from most.

McCarthy was born in Ballston Spa, NY but moved to Clarence Center when his New York State Trooper father transferred to western New York.

He had three goals and a career-best 12 assists and 15 points from the blueline through those 35 games.

As a teenager, he played for a few years in Toronto before coming back to his home area as a Buffalo Jr. Sabres before joining the U.S. National Team Development Program prior to college.

(Case McCarthy – BU Athletics Photo)

Case isn’t the only hockey-playing McCarthy with Gavin now with Muskegon in the USHL and committed to be a freshman at Boston University in the fall along with Aidan, who last played two seasons ago in the CCHL with Navan. All are defensemen.

“We actually all started as forwards and then we were able to skate backwards when we were young, so I guess that was how it all started and kind of took it from there. All we’re all right-handed defensemen.”

And having his youngest brother potentially be a teammate next year might factor into Case’s decision of whether to use his final year of college eligibility or begin his professional career as a fourth-round draft selection in 2019 by New Jersey.

“I’m four years older so I never really had that experience, so it would definitely be a cool experience to play with him, I think. And I know my mom would love it—that would make her year having two of her sons in the same spot. But getting healthy and having these conversations with my family and the coaching staff and making sure everything aligns.”

And after he supports his teammates through the Frozen Four, he will assume an assistant captain role as his brother prepares for his potential selection in the upcoming NHL draft in Nashville in June.

“It (getting drafted) was a really cool experience having my family there and going through the process. Time to help guide him through the process and just to soak it in because it goes really quick.”

“It’s a dream to get drafted into the NHL when you’re younger and having that experience was fantastic and almost surreal. I think I almost tripped on the stairs after my name got called—I almost went down hard. I can coach him to at least get down to bottom of the stairs before having those moments.”

(BU Athletic Photos)

Baldwinsville’s Tuch Trying To One-Up His NHL Brother


By Warren Kozireski —

The last time Boston University reached the Frozen Four, Division I hockey’s final four, now Buffalo Sabres forward Alex Tuch was a freshman. The Terriers lost in the final to Providence.

Now it’s brother Luke’s turn as BU defeated Western Michigan and Cornell in the Manchester Regional to advance to play Minnesota in the first semi-final game at this year’s Frozen Four in Tampa on Thursday.

“I think we’re on a good roll right now as a team and I think we’re focusing on just the next game and what’s in front of us,” Tuch said. “We’re a pretty good streak here…and it’s coming down to one or two games left here.

“This week’s been great; the team is really excited and down here in Tampa it’s obviously warm weather and pretty special and sometimes there can be some distractions with the media and a lot of hype around here, but we’ve done a good job in that it’s just another game, but it’s a big one though.”

Like his brother, Luke came through the U.S. National Team Development Program after his time with first the Syracuse Nationals and Buffalo Jr. Sabres.

While in Buffalo, Tuch lived with former Sabres forward Andrew Peters, who mentored him prior to joining the USNDTP.

This season, the junior left wing had a career-high nine goals with 11 assists while playing in every game for the Terriers.

(Luke Tuch – BU Athletics Photo)

“I think I had an okay season this year; some of that is the teammates I’m playing with. I’m playing with two really good freshmen who are high octane offense and can shoot the puck and make plays.

Being trusted by the coaching staff to play with two freshmen.

“Being a captain on the team and being a leader just along with maturity and being able to relate to the guys because I was an 18-year old freshman too.”

The just-turned 21-year-old was selected by Montreal in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft and has attended the summer Canadiens Development Camp. His draft was the last of two held remotely with draftee interviews via zoom.

“The draft was weird; I was in Boston…I think it was in October and I was in the hotel with my parents. We definitely made the most of it going out to dinner afterward.”

Having an older brother already in the NHL sometimes gives you access to inside information, such as when your brother is going to be traded.

“I remember him calling me the night before the trade went through and he was super-emotional. And I was laying in bed I think around 11:30 at night and I had a test the next morning. He called me and told me he got traded to Buffalo and I couldn’t believe it. A lot of mixed emotions that he had, and I was pretty pumped. We both cheered for Buffalo growing up and it couldn’t have been a better team that he went too.

But it also comes with some pressure and challenges in the locker room.

“We were at dinner last night and the game was up on the screen and he (Alex) scored and everyone’s giving me crap and razzing me a little bit. And then it got called off and they’re yelling that they have to stay onsides. They love joking around, but they root for him which is pretty cool.”

(BU Athletic Photos)

Future Sabres: Lukas Rousek

Lukas Rousek #11 ROCHESTER, New York, USA - FEBRUARY 17: Rochester Knighthawks v Toronto Marlies February 17, 2023 in Rochester, New York, USA. (Photo by Micheline Veluvolu/ Rochester Americans)

By Warren Kozireski —

Keeping your dream alive despite being overlooked multiple times can be difficult, but Rochester forward Lukas Rousek is the role model for putting your head down and continue to work for that opportunity.

Passed over not once, but twice in the NHL Entry Draft as an 18 and 19-year-old, the Czechia native finally was selected in 2019, but not until the sixth round. He arrived in North America last season, but sat out for the entire first half due to a ACL and meniscus injury to his right knee.

BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 27: Lukas Rousek #13 of the Buffalo Sabres poses for a photo with his first goal puck after an NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on March 27, 2023 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images)

New country, new teammates and a new language was again difficult, but Rousek continued to work on his recovery—sometimes alone. Things began turning around late last season as he found a role on the fourth line for 19 games for Rochester and he began to show what he could do with two goals and six points over ten playoff games.

Fast forward to this season and, in his last 13 games with Rochester, the 5’11”, 172 lb. winger had four goals and ten assists and is tied for the team lead in points with 50. He was called up after the March 24th game in Rochester, participated in the morning and pre-game skate in New York, was sent back to Rochester and Played Sunday afternoon before being recalled to Buffalo. The dream became reality as Rousek scored a goal on his first NHL shot and became the first Sabres with at least one goal and one assist in his debut since 1999 when Maxim Afinogenov did it.

“It’s a good moment for me; coach told me I (was going) up and to get to Buffalo,” Rousek said. “They held the plane for me and we fly to the Islanders. Morning skate and I went out before game but couldn’t play because (Tage) Thompson was ready to play.”

“His body of work in the last three or four months,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert responded as to why Buffalo decided to call Rousek up. “This is his first full year because he barely played last year. His commitment to winning puck battles, being good defensively, backtracking and those things went to here (motioning with his hand around head level). He’s hard on the puck now, taking hits to makes plays and, his skill is immense as you see. His mind is elite and I think he earned that (the recall).

“There is a wonder in our mind with Rousek, because of his intelligence, would he look better (in the NHL) playing with all that intelligence on the ice. You don’t know until you go.”

BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 27: during an NHL game on March 27, 2023 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images)

“I’m feeling so much better this year,” Rousek said. “Last year I didn’t play for five months…but we kept going and it was a hard push in the playoffs. (The playoffs) helped me a lot with the adaptation to small rink and faster hockey.

“I think I’m playing good now and every game I play better.

As for staying motivated despite being passed over for almost three drafts?

“It is a bit (of) motivation because the first two years I wasn’t drafted and third year (not) drafted until the sixth round, so I was surprised to even get the chance…so I’m happy to be here.”

And making the most of it.

Levi Makes His NHL Debut With An OT Win With The Sabres


By Warren Kozireski —

In his first professional hockey game after two seasons of collegiate hockey at Northeastern, Devon Levi made several key stops when he needed to and Jeff Skinner scored the overtime game-winner in a 3-2 Buffalo Sabres victory over the New York Rangers Friday night.

“Warmups was unreal, doing my rookie lap looking around and taking it all in, I’ve dreamt that moment my whole life and, to have my family and friends here…with me is just incredible to have that support.

“First period I didn’t face too many shots; the boys shut it down and let get into it and then the shots came slowly. The guys did a good job in front of me letting me see the puck and letting mw do my thing.

“The game went by fast because I was having fun and I guess, when you’re having fun, things go fast. It honestly went by in a blur and it was amazing.”

“We were all cheering for him, but I think the atmosphere was crazy with everyone chanting his name, so he’s a helluva player and a helluva game,” JJ Peterka said about his new teammate.

Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Peterka and Jordan Greenway (Canton), but the Rangers clawed back with one in the second period Kappa Kakko and tied the game halfway through the third on an Adam Fox (Jericho) tally.

“It’s just the game of hockey—the game I’ve been playing my whiole life,” Levi said. “There’s a lot of good players out there, but it’s been my dream to be challenged by the best and finally I have an opportunity right now.

“I think this is a start to me improving every single day and helping the guys go on a playoff run; that’s the goal and I’ll be working as hard as I can to be ready for the call.”

And as for the game puck sitting in his locker?

“To my parents—they brought this moment into existence for me helping me from when I started playing hockey when I was four or five. I remember I didn’t want to play at first and I was crying and he (my dad) pushed me that you never quit. And I developed a passion for the game because of him and because my mom bringing to the rink every day, so this goes to them.”

(NHL.com photo)

Meet The 2022-23 All-CNY Boys Ice Hockey Division I Team



Meet the 2022-23 All-CNY boys ice hockey Division I team. The team is chosen by syracuse.com with input from Section III coaches.

We have four finalists for large school player of the year. They are Jameson Bucktooth, Syracuse; Forrest Ives, Cazenovia; Will Schneid, West Genesee; and Garret Sutton, Baldwinsville.

The winners will be announced at the annual All-CNY Sports Awards on June 22.

Jameson Bucktooth
Syracuse’s Jameson Bucktooth. Phot courtesy of Ashlyn Haynes

Name: Jameson Bucktooth

School: LaFayette

Class: Senior

What’s next? OCC for lacrosse

Who inspires you? My family and Carey Terrance

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? Chipotle

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Gatsby because he’s rich.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “Barbie Girl” by Aqua.

Ryan Considine
West Genesee’s Ryan Considine, Provided photo

Name: Ryan Considine

School: West Genesee

Class: Senior

Position: Defense

What’s next? Attending Utica University.

Who inspires you? My older brother, Jay, because he taught me a lot about hockey and how to be a good person.

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? Turkey sandwich and apples because that has been my pre-game meal since freshman year.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Scooby-Doo.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo.

sports portraits
Cazenovia’s Forrest Ives. Scott Schild | sschild@syracuse.com

Name: Forrest Ives

School: Cazenovia

Class: Senior

Position: Defense

What’s next? Lacrosse at Johns Hopkins.

Who inspires you? Russ LaFever. Hardest worker there is.

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? Chicken and a baked potato. Gets the people going.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Mater from “Cars.” It would be a fun time and he’s very wise.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “Milkshake” by Kelis.

Will Schneid
West Genesee’s Will Schneid, Provided photo

Name: Will Schneid

School: West Genesee

Class: Sophomore

Position: Right wing

What’s next? Play hockey at The Northwood School.

Who inspires you? My parents. They have made it a priority to sacrifice parts of their lives to support all six of their children in school, sports and life.

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? A turkey sub because it’s reliable and consistent.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Happy Gilmore because my golf game could use some work.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “Animals” by Maroon 5.

Garrett Sutton
Baldwinsville’s Garrett Sutton. Provided photo

Name: Garrett Sutton

School: Baldwinsville

Class: Senior

Position: Defense

What’s next? I’m going to St. John Fisher University to play lacrosse.

Who inspires you? Keegan Lynch.

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? Chipotle.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? Wreck it Ralph because he inspired me in my body-checking abilities.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood.

sports portraits
Liverpool’s James Welch. Scott Schild | sschild@syracuse.com

Name: James Welch

School: Liverpool

Class: Senior

Position: Goalie

What’s next? Next year I plan to attend college, but I am currently undecided on where.

Who inspires you? My father inspires me because he set a standard during his playing career in high school, winning multiple state championships, which I always wanted to follow. In addition, his dedication to helping me develop in the game of hockey drove me to achieve many great things.

What’s your favorite pre-game meal? My favorite pre-game meal is meatballs. I’ve never been a big traditional pre-game meal guy. Cook up some meatballs and drop them in some marinara and I was good to go.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? If I could hang out with any fictional character, I would choose Austin Powers. There would never be a dull moment, and I could guarantee that the International Man of Mystery would keep me on my toes because … he’s groovy babyyy!

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed by if anyone found out? “Worldwide” by Big Time Rush.

Coach of the Year

sports portraits
West Genesee’s Frank Colabufo. Scott Schild | sschild@syracuse.com

Name: Frank Colabufo

School: West Genesee

Years coaching: 29 years as head coach at West Genesee, 35 overall. I was an assistant coach for three years at West Genesee and three years at Liverpool.

What person (or event) inspired you to become a coach? In September 1988, Mike Major offered me the opportunity to be his assistant coach at Liverpool High School. I am grateful to him for taking a chance on me.

What do you enjoy most about coaching and why? I mostly enjoy the relationships I’ve made with the players and their families. The hockey program at West Genesee has become a family of its own. It’s humbling to be a part of it.

If you could hang out with any fictional character, who would you choose and why? I’d like to hang out with Michael Scott. He makes me laugh.

What is the one song on your playlist that you would be embarrassed if anyone found? “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana. I spend a lot of time with my granddaughter.

Second team

Zach Blevins, Ontario Bay

Liam Burns, West Genesee

Luke Beck, West Genesee

Jack Donlin, Cazenovia

Keegan Lynch, Baldwinsville

Jake Premo, Rome Free Academy

(Article and photos by syracuse.com)

Cornell’s Mitchell Signs Two-Year Deal With Islanders


ITHACA, N.Y. — Senior defenseman Travis Mitchell has signed a two-year, two-way entry level contract with the New York Islanders, the organization announced Friday morning. Mitchell’s contract with the Islanders will begin with the 2023-24 campaign.

The senior co-captain is coming off a senior campaign in which he recorded 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 34 games for the Big Red. His six goals and 19 points were single-season highs, while his 13 helpers matched his output from the 2021-22 season.

During his tenure on East Hill, Mitchell had 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 95 games with Cornell.

Earlier this year, Mitchell scored goals in three straight games from Dec. 2 – Dec. 29, becoming the fourth Big Red blueliner (fifth occurrence) since 1990-91 to score in at least three consecutive games, joining Doug Murray (twice – 2000-01 and 2001-02), Mark McRae (2000-01), and Nick D’Agostino (2010-11).

Mitchell blocked a Cornell-leading 59 shots this season, 21 more than the player in second place. The 6-foot-3 native of South Lyon, Mich., registered multiple blocked shots in 19 of his 34 appearances this season. In the Big Red’s five playoff games — ECAC Hockey Championship and NCAA Tournament — Mitchell logged 13 blocked shots.

The signing marks the fourth Big Red player to ink a professional contract in the last two days, as fellow senior defenseman Sam Malinski signed a two-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche, and senior forwards Ben Berard and Max Andreev signed amateur tryout agreements with the AHL’s Texas Stars and Coachella Valley Firebirds, respectively. 

(Cornell Men’s Hockey Photo)

Orchard Park’s Urbank Living The Dream


By Warren Kozireski —

Largely due to injury and the pandemic, four years on the Dartmouth College hockey team resulted in just two seasons and 53 games, so Nichols School and Orchard Park native Erik Urbank decided it would be best if he moved closer to home for his final two years of college hockey.

And that decision to transfer to Canisius College seems to have paid major dividends as the Golden Griffins have been one of the hottest teams since January, won the Atlantic Hockey Association championship and the auto-bid to the NCAA tournament. They begin this weekend in Fargo, ND against top-seed Minnesota in the first round.

“Amazing; hard to put into words,” Urbank said after the championship game. “We worked so hard. A couple of months ago we were barely even in a playoff spot, and then just a second half surge we turned it on; it feels so good.

(Erik Urbank)

“I wanted to be part of a contender doing a fifth year and we’ve certainly showed that the second half of the year and we’ve got a really good team.

“I was kind of deciding where to go. Dartmouth was frustrating. Sat out my freshman year with an injury and then covid year we didn’t play and last year an injury again and only played about half the season, so coming here was nice coming home and a big opportunity; I knew we had a good roster with an older team, and we could really do something…and I couldn’t be happier.”

Urbank finished tied for eighth on the team in points with 15 on six goals and nine assists. His season started slowly on the offensive side with just one point over the first three months, but as the calendar turned to 2023, he found his stride with four points in January, six in February and four more in March in the postseason. He also showed off his responsibility defensively as he was tied for the team lead in plus/minus with second-leading scorer Ryan Miotto at +7.

After two seasons at Nichols and one with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, Urbank headed to the USHL splitting the campaign between Des Moines and Chicago.

In the championship game Urbank led the team in shots on goal, had a huge, blocked shot in the final minute of the second period and had the confidence of the coaching staff to be on the ice protecting a one-goal lead in the final two minutes.

(Urbank in action against Niagara University)

“Definitely feels good. Coach could put anybody out there the way we’ve been playing with everybody playing shutdown and bought in to what we’ve been doing with our systems.

While in his fifth year of college, Urbank does have one more year of eligibility and plans to use it—for academic and athletic reasons. He plans to complete his MBA.

“My intention is to play next year; it’s the six-year plan in full effect. I’m excited for next year too, but jobs not finished yet.”

(Photos by Canisius College Men’s Hockey)