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Men’s Hockey Set to Host US Under-18 Team on Friday

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Photo credit: Maxwell LeBuis – YSM Media 

Article reprinted from https://uticapioneers.com.

Men’s Ice Hockey 10/19/2023 1:37:00 PM

Men’s Hockey Set to Host US Under-18 Team on Friday

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UTICA, NY – The Utica University Men’s Ice Hockey team previews its 23rd season of play on Friday as it hosts a team of future National Hockey League stars in an exhibition on Friday, October 20th. The Pioneers will match up against the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Under-18 National Team at 7 p.m. at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Follow Along: Live video and stats will be available at http://portal.stretchinternet.com/utica, and over local radio airwaves at PioneerRadio.org and WPNR 90.7 FM. Ray Biggs ’13 is back for his thirteenth season calling the action, and will be joined by Utica student Jeff Kopek on the call Friday.

A Year To Remember: The Pioneers recorded a 25 win season for the third time in the last four years, and the third time in as many tries where the season length made it mathematically possible to have 25 wins. The 2022-23 team went 25-3-1, captured its seventh consecutive regular season conference title, its sixth straight regular season title as a member of the United Collegiate Hockey Conference, and won its fourth conference tournament title to earn its fourth trip into the NCAA Division III Men’s Ice Hockey Championship Tournament, and an appearance in a second straight year. The Pioneers bowed out in the quarterfinals to the University of New England with a 5-4 overtime loss. Defensemen Jayson Dobay (Weymouth, MA/Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)) and Justin Allen (Hilton, NY/Rochester Monarchs (NCDC)), and forward Remy Parker (Montclair, NJ/University of Maine (NCAA DI)) were all selected to the AHCA All-American Teams, with the two blue liners taking home their second All-America honors. The Pioneers had seven players earn all-conference honors, including returning players Bryan Landsberger(Montreal, Quebec/Nepean Raiders (CCHL)) and Kimball Johnson (Dallas, TX/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)).

Dominance At Home: Since a November 7th, 2021 loss to then-#1 Geneseo, The Pioneers have won their last 21 regular season home games.

The View Near The Top: The Pioneers were once again chosen to finish first in the UCHC in the league’s preseason coaches poll. Utica collected nine out of a possible eleven first place votes. The USCHO Preseason Poll is expected to arrive next week, and DIII Hockey News has placed Utica as its #6 preseason team nationally. 

A New Beginning: With the bulk of its roster departing due to graduation, professional opportunities, or transfer, the Pioneers will largely be starting anew this season with seventeen new players on the roster. This marks the team’s largest roster shift since the 2010-11 season, and with it comes the excitement of new opportunities ahead. 

Up Front: The Pioneers will be undertaking the challenge of replenishing its offense, which led the nation at 5.69 goals per game. Of the team’s 165 goals, 125 were scored by players that will not be part of this year’s team. That leaves a window of opportunity for others to take ownership of the offensive end. Utica’s top returning point-getter is defenseman Kimball Johnson(Dallas, TX/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)), who burst onto the scene with six goals, 21 assists, and 27 total points on his way to all-conference honors. Jakob Breault (Acton Vale, QC/Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA DI)) is the team’s top returning goal scorer after lighting the lamp eleven times in his first season with Utica. Khristian Acosta’s (Port Monmouth, NJ/Mercyhurst University (NCAA DI)) 19 points, and Matt Wood’s (Garnet Valley, PA/Richmond Generals (USPHL)) 17 points from the 2022-23 season are certainly something to account for, as was an eight goal season for Shane Murphy (Oriskany, NY/Danbury Hat Tricks (NAHL))John Gutt(Middletown, NJ/Utica JR Comets (NCDC)) and Chris Carroll (Islip New York) will also be looking to amplify their contributions. Among the newcomers at forward are some exciting contributors, two of which have college experience. Graduate transfer Dante Spagnuolo (Newmarket, ON/Adrian College (NCAA DIII)) is a proven commodity at the collegiate level, and has a 2022 national championship ring to show for it. After transferring from Division I Mercyhurst to Adrian, he averaged a point a game to help boost the Bulldogs to their first national title. Another new player with collegiate experience is Central New York product Michael Herrera (Syracuse, NY/Utica Comets (NCDC)). Herrera played eleven games at Nazareth College before returning to junior hockey with the Utica Jr. Comets. Last year, he tore the USPHL’s National Collegiate Development Conference to shreds with 31 goals and 21 assists for 52 points in a 49 game season. 

On The Blue Line: With two All-Americans out of the picture, Utica’s returning leaders on the blue line will be seniors Kimball Johnson (Dallas, TX/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)) and Brian Scoville (Agawam, MA/Alabama-Huntsville (NCAA DI)). Both players have played very strong minutes and will play an even larger role this season with a freshman-laden group playing with them. Former Utica Jr. Comet Domenick Evtimov (Northbrook, IL/Oklahoma Warriors (NAHL)) returns to the city after a year playing in the North American Hockey League.  Fellow NAHL alumnus Preston Brighton (Castle Rock, CO/Amarillo Wranglers (NAHL)) will be part of the conversation with a solid offensive side to his game, along with an imposing 6’3 frame to go with it. Multi-year BCHL vet Griffen Barr (Nanaimo, BC/Vernon Vipers (BCHL)) is also in the mix, as are a trio of players who played junior hockey in Ontario: Reid Oliver (Elmira, ON/Stratford Warriors (GOJHL))Aydin Parekh (Nobleton, ON/Georgetown Raiders (OJHL)), and Austin D’Orazio (Vaughan, ON/Trenton Golden Hawks (OJHL)).

Between The Pipes: First team all-conference goaltender Bryan Landsberger (Montreal, Quebec/Nepean Raiders (CCHL))returns for his junior year after compiling a 25-3 record as Utica’s starter last year. He has 30 career wins and has won over 90 percent of his decisions while maintaining a 92.8 percent save percentage and 1.64 goals against average for his career. He entered camp in a tough competition for the starting job with transfer student Ethan Roberts (Cary, NC/University of St. Thomas (NCAA DI)). Last year, Roberts manned the net in five appearances for Division I St. Thomas. Although his listed hometown is Cary, NC, he has very strong family ties to the Utica area. Avery Sturtz (Cedar Rapids, IA/Maine Nordiques (NAHL)) also returns for his sophomore campaign and made five appearances last year.

History Against the NTDP: The Pioneers have a long and storied history of competing against the USA National Team Development program, with the majority of meetings taking place against the Under-18 squad. Utica most recently met that squad last season on the road at the NTDP’s home arena in Plymouth, Michigan, and were handed a 6-2 loss against a team that included two top ten selections in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, Will Smith and Ryan Leonard. Lucas Herrmann (Elma, NY/University of New Hampshire (NCAA DI)) and Brandon Osmundson (Virginia Beach, VA/Hampton Roads Whalers (USPHL)) scored the Utica goals. The Pioneers posted victories in the two meetings prior against the Under-18 squad. On January 7th, 2018, the Pioneers scored four unanswered goals in the final 20:14 of regulation to overthrow a 4-1 deficit and win 5-4. Kevin Valenti scored the game-winning goal. That night, the Pioneers played against 2019 first overall pick Jack Hughes, New York Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller, Philadelphia Flyers winger Joel Farabee, Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson, and New York Islanders forward Oliver Wahlstrom, among others. In December of 2013, the Pioneers used another four-goal surge for a 4-1 win at home. Mike Slowikowski, Zac Lazzaro, Louie Educate, and Adam Graff all scored goals for the Pioneers. Players to suit up for Team USA that night included Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, Nolan Stevens, Anders Bjork, and Alex Tuch. The two sides also met at the Aud early in the 2009-10 season, with Team USA collecting a 10-1 win. The Pioneers played against Jason Zucker, Bryan Rust, Nick Shore, Brandon Saad, and Adam Clendening, among others that evening. Early in the abbreviated 2020-21 season, the Pioneers welcomed the US Under-17 team to the Aud for a pair of games in their only matchups with that side. Utica won the first game 6-5 behind Brett Everson’s (Mississauga, Ontario/Hawkesbury (CCHL)) goal and two assists, before dropping a 3-0 decision the second day. Six players from that team were chosen in the first round of the 2022 NHL Draft, including third overall pick Logan Cooley. Fourteen players on the opposition had their name called in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Who To Watch For: Team USA plays a mixed schedule of USHL, Collegiate, and International competitions. They are led by Boston University-bound forward Cole Eiserman, who is expected to be a top five pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Eiserman recently hung five points on his future team in an 8-2 win over the Terriers, and has thirteen goals in his first nine appearances in all competitions. Teddy Stiga is second on the squad with seven goals. James Hagens has six goals himself, and the Boston College-bound forward had five points while leading Team USA to the 18u World Championship last year. The blue line is stacked with Will Skahan, EJ Emery, and Cole Hutson, all of whom could potentially go in the first round of the draft next year. Former Nebraska-Omaha star Nick Fohr is the head coach this season. New York Rangers fans will see some familiar faces among the assistant coaches, as former Blueshirts Matt Gilroy and Ryan Bourque are the team’s top assistants.

What’s Next: The Pioneers open regular season play with a two-game set on Friday, October 27th and Saturday, October 28th against national power Adrian College. Friday’s game begins at 7 p.m., and Saturday’s game begins at 2 p.m.

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PLAYERS MENTIONED

#11 Brett Everson

LW 5′ 11″ Graduate Student Sports Management

#14 Justin Allen

D 6′ 2″ Graduate Student Sports Management 

#5 Jayson Dobay

D 6′ 0″ Junior Business Management

#27 Brandon Osmundson

F 5′ 9″ Senior Sports Management 

#22 Remy Parker

F 6′ 3″ Senior Communications 

#16 Lucas Herrmann

F 6′ 3″ Senior Cybersecurity 

#34 Khristian Acosta

F 5′ 9″ Graduate Student Master of Business Administration

#24 Jakob Breault

C 5′ 11″ Senior Business Administration 

#28 John Gutt

F 5′ 10″ Sophomore Sports Management 

#20 Kimball Johnson

D 6′ 0″ Senior Sports Communications

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