Record high number of U.S. college players made the NHL

Stats compiled by College Hockey, Inc. and Let's Play Hockey

Courtesy College Hockey Inc.

NEWTON, Mass. – A total of 300 former U.S. college hockey players participated in the 2011-12 NHL regular season that concluded Saturday, the biggest NCAA representation in history and a 39 percent increase from 10 years ago (216).

Former college players accounted for 30.5 percent of all players in the NHL this season, also a record and the second straight season at 30% or higher. Forty-six former college players made their NHL debuts this season, including seven who appeared after their college seasons concluded.

The 300 former college players who played in the NHL this season represented 45 colleges, led by Michigan (23), Wisconsin (22) and Boston College (21). Colorado College had a record 14 this season.

Among the former NCAA stars who played in the NHL this year were Brian Elliott (Wisconsin), who led the league’s goaltenders in goals-against average and save percentage, and Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts), who led the league in shutouts. Seven 30-goal scorers were among the group, as well as five of the top nine rookie scorers in the league, including rookie goal-scoring leader Matt Read (Bemidji State). Jonathan Toews (North Dakota) led the league in faceoffs and Curtis Glencross (Alaska-Anchorage) led in shooting percentage.

More than half of the NHLers who played college hockey spent all four years in school, with 74 percent staying at least three years on campus. Eighty-four of the former college players who reached the NHL this year were undrafted free agents.

College hockey’s impact in the NHL will continue to be felt moving forward, as already 40 players have signed NHL contracts  at the conclusion of their 2011-12 college seasons – an average of more than one per NHL team. More than 200 NHL draft picks played college hockey this season, and 96 current or future college players, including 2012 CC commit Samuel “Hunter” Fejes were among the players in the NHL Central Scouting rankings for the 2012 NHL Draft that were released today.

Thursday reading: Sioux nickname, ECAC capsules, weekend previews and features

Colorado College goalie Josh Thorimbert (39) made a save in the second period as Denver wing Chris Knowlton looks for the rebound during a college hockey game in Denver, Friday night, Feb. 3, 2012. The Denver Post, Karl Gehring

The NCAA ruled Wednesday that North Dakota would forfeit its NCAA postseason games if any team members, cheerleaders or band member wore the Sioux nickname or image during an event.

Bernard Franklin, an NCAA executive vice president, said in a letter to university provost Paul LeBel that the university “must forfeit competition” if “it has not adhered to this requirement” in any postseason games that UND teams have been invited to play in.

“We ask that the university take measures to minimize or eliminate the presence of the imagery or nickname brought to an NCAA championship venue,” Franklin’s letter says.

That’s a dose of reality for the fans still fighting to keep the nickname, but North Dakota may not have to worry about that if their NCAA Tournament bubble bursts. The letter does not affect the home playoff series or the WCHA Final Five.

North Dakota also continues to struggle to field a full lineup due to injuries.

Here’s a link to the America One video streaming for college hockey around the country. You can always watch the Tigers via a link on CCTigers.com, but wouldn’t you rather watch them live?

Here’s a capsule preview of the Michigan Tech at No. 19 Colorado series. If the Tigers win Friday or Saturday night, more than 1,000 home playoff game tickets go on sale immediately. WCHA Final Five tickets go on sale on Monday.

MSU Mankato heads to North Dakota with a player returning from injury.

The Gophers are focused on beating Wisconsin, not the league title; along with other injury updates, etc. The Badgers’ Jason Clark is featured. Here’s a look at a big week in the Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry.

Another Colorado Thunderbird commits to Denver, which travels to fifth-place Nebraska Omaha this weekend. The Pioneers will be without Beau Bennett and David Makowski.

St. Cloud State hosts No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in another series that will affect home playoff ice possibilities.

Bemidji State goes to Alaska Anchorage with both teams want to build momentum before going on the road in the league playoffs.

Here’s Bruce Ciskie’s take on the WCHA’s top forwards, including Jaden and Rylan Schwartz.

Former Minnesota captain Frank Sanders has died.

Here are Without a Peer’s ECAC first-round playoff capsules. Here’s the Pairwise rankings to see which series bear watching for WCHA fans.

The Patty Kazmaier finalists (women’s Hobey Baker award) were announced and six WCHA players made the 10-player list.

Here’s a rink the CC players will be familiar with after October 2012: the Cornell arena.

Former Tiger Brian Connelly is victorious in his return to AHL Rockford after being traded to Abbotsford a month ago.

This weekend’s schedule courtesy WCHA.com:

Games for Friday, March 2: Denver at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 6:37 pm CT; Wisconsin at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Minnesota State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:37 pm MT; Bemidji State at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.

Games for Saturday, March 3: Denver at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota Duluth at St. Cloud State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota State at North Dakota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Wisconsin at Minnesota (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Michigan Tech at Colorado College (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; Bemidji State at Alaska Anchorage (WCHA), 7:07 pm AT.

Thursday reading: Injuries and apologies

More Tigers are healing up and making the trip to play Minnesota Duluth this weekend and a capsule preview of the series, which will likely determine if the Tigers can secure home playoff ice.

CC is one of the last WCHA teams to see the new AMSOIL Arena.  I assume the duct tape connecting carpet remnants between the locker room and ice is long gone. Yes, the new arena was long overdue.

The UMD students add plenty of atmosphere to the new rink, but apparently, their racist chants during the North Dakota series prompted an apology.

Three Denver players will not play against visiting North Dakota, which will have goalie Aaron Dell on the trip. The North Dakota administrators and coaches continue to point out that continued use of the old nickname only hurts the school.

Playing at Nebraska Omaha will be tough for Minnesota, which coach Don Lucia admits can play pretty well.

Nate Ewell was named as interim director of College Hockey, Inc.

Here are the WCHA players of the week honorees. Here this weekend’s schedule as provided by the WCHA.

Games for Friday, February 24: St. Cloud State at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Colorado College at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; Wisconsin at Bemidji State (WCHA), 7:37 pm CT; North Dakota at Denver (WCHA), 8:07 pm MT; * Alaska Fairbanks at Alaska Anchorage (NC), 7:07 pm AT. * Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup

Games for Saturday, February 25: St. Cloud State at Michigan Tech (WCHA), 7:07 pm ET; Colorado College at Minnesota Duluth (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Minnesota at Nebraska Omaha (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; Wisconsin at Bemidji State (WCHA), 7:07 pm CT; North Dakota at Denver (WCHA), 7:07 pm MT; * Alaska Anchorage at Alaska Fairbanks (NC), 7:05 pm AT. * Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup

Jaden Schwartz leads stirring CC comeback

There’s more to the Colorado College hockey team than just Jaden Schwartz, but the sophomore left wing made his presence well known.

In his first game back playing for the Tigers in almost a month, he played a role in all three goals as the host Tigers rallied to tie No. 13 Cornell 3-3 Saturday night to conclude the final nonconference series of the season.

Schwartz scored his second of the game with 29.1 seconds left in regulation when he fired a hard-angle shot from the right faceoff circle that went between Cornell goalie Andy Iles’ legs to tie the game. It completed a stirring rally that energized the announced crowd of 7,021 and forced overtime at World Arena.

“I wasn’t sure how much time was left so I just shot, looking for a rebound in front,” Schwartz said. “It just went in. Anytime you score the tie the game late at home you have the crowd excited and you have the momentum.”

The tying goal was one of the few mistakes for Iles, who made 39 saves in a 2-1 win Friday over CC and 23 on Saturday. He lifted his stick slightly as he moved over to face Schwartz and the shot slipped through.

“That’s as good a goalie as we’ll see all year long,” head coach Scott Owens said.

Schwartz missed the previous six games, including Friday’s 2-1 loss to Cornell, while leading Canada to a bronze medal at the world junior championships. He recorded three points (two goals) in his first game back after sitting out Friday to rest.

“We’ve been more than Jaden all season but tonight, Jaden obviously was the show,” Owens said. “He made Rylan better and (William) Rapuzzi played well.”

The Colorado College power play came to life with the return of Jaden Schwartz when he scored his sixth goal of the season during the second period to give the host Tigers a 2-0 lead that later evaporated against No. 13 Cornell.

Jaden Schwartz scored a power-play goal and garnered an assist on an earlier man-advantage goal for Rylan Schwartz.

Cornell’s Joel Lowry scored midway through the second period to trim the Tigers lead and Sean Collins knotted it up with 5:13 left to make it 2-2. Cornell then went ahead with 8:06 left on a score by Greg Miller.

The tie, the first of the season for the sixth-ranked Tigers (12-7-1, 9-5 WCHA), is bittersweet. The Tigers were hoping for more than a single point against the ECAC leaders (9-4-2, 6-1-1).

“Your emotions are all over the map,” Owens said. “After falling behind 3-2 and getting a tie, you feel pretty good. Then you have a power play in overtime and you’re thinking you could win it.”

CC outshot Cornell 3-0 in the extra five minutes with two redirected shots by William Rapuzzi on the power play sailing wide of the net. The Tigers missed the net 19 times to finish with 26 shots to Cornell’s 22.

Junior goalie Joe Howe finished with 19 saves in his first start since Dec. 9. His most memorable save was when he stoned Cornell’s Cole Bardreau on a point-blank one-timer with 1:20 left in the first period that kept CC ahead 1-0 for the time being.