Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Guiltinan in Final Rankings

Kevin Guiltinan (27) possesses a number of highly sought after skills

In a reality series for seventeen year old hockey players across North America and around the world, one player that can be credited for dusting off memories of old school hockey for fans in Prince George and around the BCHL, has been short listed for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to be held in the home of the NHL New Jersey Devils.

Kevin Guiltinan finds his name on the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings in the 162nd spot among North American skaters. Kevin is the type of player that plays on the edge and, at the age of seventeen, can hold an entire team accountable for their decisions and actions on the ice. There are very few players in the game today that command the level of respect that Guiltinan did during his rookie season in the BCHL.

Guiltinan is a hard nosed player that brings back an aspect of the game that has been placed on the shelf and almost forgotten about. A fierce competitor on the ice, a leader in the dressing room and a respectful gentleman away from the arena, Kevin earned the respect and adoration of the fans in Prince George. Whenever #27 was on the ice, a measurable increase in adrenaline levels could be felt in the building and more often than not Kevin would deliver with a thunderous body check or an intimidating stare down after the whistle.

In his first year in the BCHL, Kevin developed into an effective defenceman that could control the play in his own end and shift the play to the other end of the ice. Opposing players would give him space and back off from the crease when he was on the ice. That is one area of the game that I have watched and not appreciated. Having a player like Kevin Guiltinan in the game allowed the Prince George goaltenders to focus on their game without fear of being run in the process of making saves.

"I was able to focus on the puck when he was out there," said Spruce Kings graduating goaltending, Kirk Thompson. "When Kevin was on the ice, I never had to worry about being run or anything else stupid happening out there. I always knew he was going to do his job whether it was getting in the lane and blocking the shot or steering the player to the outside."

Tempering his intimidating side without losing it is a project that the Prince George Spruce Kings coaching staff took on this season. Watching the raw player being shaped this past season was a source of pride for the team and I know that he will continue to develop into a player that any NHL team could stand to benefit from having on their roster. I can't help but think of some of the hybrid enforcers that are out there right now and see myself making comparisons to the likes of Dion Phaneuf, but he plays meaner than the Maple Leafs captain.

"Kevin is definitely a bit of a throw back player," said Spruce Kings General Manager, Mike Hawes. "He plays the game hard, with passion and competes to win every shift. He's also a great teammate who is very eager to come to the aid of any team member at any time."

"My favourite all-time player is Scott Stevens," said Kevin Guiltian of his style of play. "As for a current guy, intensity and tenacity wise, I would have to say Milan Lucic."

On the NHL Central Scouting Defenseman Checklist, Kevin Guiltinan scores some high marks in the key areas of competitiveness, physical play, hockey sense, defensive play and all three psychological factors of leadership, communication and confidence.

"Kevin is a tremendous defenseman who defends very well," Hawes added. "He blocks a ton of shots, sees the ice well, recognizes the smart play and makes a good first pass coming out of the defensive end."

"I think that skating is one of my biggest assets," said Guiltinan via a phone conversation. "My stride allows me to cover a lot of distance quickly which makes me an effective penalty killer."

There are a number of upsides to Kevin Guiltinan for any team thinking of bringing an old school element to their roster and having that physical presence from a player that is not afraid to get dirty and do what has to be done.

"Most importantly to our team, Kevin is a terrific young man who has goals and works very hard every day to achieve those goals," said Mike Hawes. "He is the type of player and person that any team would love to have. Whichever team drafts Kevin will be very fortunate to have him."

At this time last year, the Spruce Kings had two players ranked by NHL Central Scouting in Jujhar Khaira and Paul De Jersey. Khaira was taken by the Edmonton Oilers 63rd overall while De Jersey, who was an overager in the draft, went undrafted. Getting your name on the draft list is one thing and having it called is something else. Kevin knows this and remains grounded in the whole process, content with the prospect of what might be and working hard to achieve the dream of every young hockey player.

"I'm excited for the future, but there is still a lot of work to be done." Guiltinan acknowledged of his current status.

A total of seven players that we were able to see throughout the year in the BCHL are on the list (eight when you include Chad Katunar from the list of North American goaltenders), speaking to the strength of this junior hockey league. Adam Tambellini, from the BCHL Champion Surrey Eagles and a former team mate of Kevin Guiltinan when the pair were in Vernon, leads the charge currently ranked 42nd. David Pope (67, West Kelowna Warriors), Luke Ripley (86, Powell River Kings), Nolan De Jong (111, Victoria Grizzlies), Dane Birks (121, Merritt Centennials) and Jedd Soleway (131, Penticton Vees) round out the list of BCHL players. 2013 NHL Central Scouting North American Skaters Final Rankings

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Trio of Alumni in the NCAA Frozen Four

Zach Davies (3) playing in his final year of college hockey
is heading to the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament

Getting through to the Frozen Four is the dream of every college hockey player and it is being shared by a trio of Spruce Kings alumni this year. Zach Davies, Brooks Robinson and Michael Colantone have all wore the Crown and represented Prince George in recent years and have since moved on to further their hockey careers in the NCAA.

Zach Davies first came to the Spruce Kings as an 18 year old with hopes of lighting it up as a forward in 2006. The coaching staff saw something more in Davies and worked with him on his defensive game putting him on the blue line where things just seemed to fit more naturally.

In his rookie season, Davies put up some numbers as he transitioned from forward to defence, but it was the increase in ice time that really showed off the player that was waiting to emerge. Davies was effective as a stay-at-home defenceman and started an iron man streak that lasted 148 games until he graduated from the Spruce Kings. In three seasons, he missed out on only six games and all of those were in his rookie season.

Showing just how effective he was from the back end, Davies went from a rookie season with 17 points (3G, 14A) to double that the following year with 11 goals and 22 assists. In his third season he increased those totals again to 16 goals and 34 assists for a 50 point year and a career total of 100 points (30G, 70A) in 174 games.

His defensive style caught the attention of the scouts from Quinnipiac and, as they say, the rest is history. What a history it has been for Zach Davies who is having a career year that has been capped off so far with the ECAC Defensive Defenceman Player of the Year Award.

"That was actually a bit of a surprise to me," said Zach Davies in a phone interview from Hamden Connecticut. "I didn't really expect it but it was nice to be noticed. I got a bit more attention from it that's for sure."

"I thought there was some bigger name defenceman and draft picks that more people were looking at," explained Davies. "Danny Biega from Harvard and George Hughes from Saint Lawrence would have been my picks for that award."

Defence is a big part of the College game and Davies shared a little insight on what up and coming players should be concentrating on.

"In college if you don't learn how to play defence you often don't play that much," advised Davies. "I'd say most college players are very sound defensively which is why the NHL is taking interest in so many of the players. They don't have to teach them that part of the game and that makes college players more ready for the NHL."

Great advice and an interesting perspective from the defencive defenceman of the year. We got see those attributes about the player first hand in Prince George and today Zach Davies still recalls fondly his three years with the Spruce Kings.

"I definitely developed a lot as a player in Prince George," recalls Davies. "I played a lot of minutes with the Spruce Kings. I wish we could have done more in those three years but I had fun there."

Four years later, Davies is looking at the end of his college career but not before getting the chance to do something every college hockey player dreams of doing. For the first time in their history, the Quinnipiac Bobcats are into the NCAA Frozen Four with the prospect of being two wins away from a National Championship.

"Obviously this is the highlight of my career here," said Zach Davies about his time with the Bobcats. "It's a highlight for the program. This is the first time (the Quinnipiac Bobcats) have made it to the Frozen Four. Those two games we won were the first wins ever in the National Tournament."

Inexperience at the Frozen Four is a common theme this year with three of the four teams being first timers on the national stage. The Yale Bulldogs last appearance was in 1952, long before it was known as the Frozen Four. The St. Cloud State Huskies and UMass Lowell River Hawks are the other two teams entering the tournament for the first time.

"I'm sure for all people involved, that will be the largest crowd we have ever played in front of," said Davies of playing in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and home of the NHL Penguins. "It's sold out already, so that's 19 to 20,000 people which probably make you a little more nervous than the average game."

The Quinnipiac Bobcats will get the prime time slot of 8:00pm EST for their semi-final matchup against the St. Cloud State Huskies. Although there are no Spruce Kings alumni on the Huskies, that is the former team of both Jordy Christian and Nicholas Rioux.

"They'll be good, there's no question about it," said Davies of the Bobcats first opponent at the Frozen Four. "I think it is a good matchup for us. We'll be ready."

The Bobcats go into the Frozen Four as the number one ranked team thanks to their 18-0-3 run through the middle part of the regular season. To get to the final weekend, the Bobcats defeated Canisius Golden Griffins 4-3 in a come-from-behind nail biter and then followed that up with a 5-1 trouncing of the Union Dutchmen.

"I don't think the rankings will have much to do with it," added Davies. "By the time you get here everybody's a good team. We're just working on our game, fixing little things and trying to improve so that we can give ourselves the best chance to win."

Michael Colantone (24) in his first year of college hockey
is living a dream season heading to the NCAA Frozen Four

In the other semi-final that will get started at 1:30pm in the Pacific time zone, Michael Colantone and the UMass Lowell River Hawks will be in a dog fight with the Yale Bulldogs.

Colantone played one season with the Spruce Kings after being acquired from the Victoria Grizzlies just two games into the 2011-12 season. Colantone came in and immediately found a spot for himself on the top line alongside Paul de Jersey (the BCHL scoring leader for that season) and Jujhar Khaira (highest drafted BCHL player in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft).

The trio lit up the scoreboard to the tune of 251 points with Michael Colantone finishing in the league's top fifteen (33G, 41A). His play earned him a scholarship to the UMass Lowell River Hawks and now in his first year of college hockey finds himself in the Frozen Four.

"It's been good with both the school and the hockey," said Michael Colantone over the phone from Lowell Massachusetts. "I'm maintaining a 3.5 GPA and things are very good right now with the hockey. This is the first time the school has ever made it to the Frozen Four. It was also the first time we've ever won the Hockey East Championship."

A world away from his junior hockey days, Colantone sees all of the extra attention that the team and its players are getting making them feel like celebrities. Balancing all of that with the task at hand of preparing to play in the National Championship is no easy task and isn't being taken lightly by the team either who have requested that all interviews be approved in advance.

The River Hawks will have to play the first semi-game against a team that has been to the final four before; although that was many years ago. The Yale Bulldogs are a bit of an unknown for the River Hawks as the two teams have not played each other this season.

"They play in a different conference," explains Colantone. "We don't really know much about them. We know that they're a good team, but we also know that we're a good team and we have faith in ourselves. We're looking at going there to win."

"This is an awesome opportunity," said Colantone of being able to play in a NHL arena. "Playing at a pro rink just makes it that much better. When we played at the TD Gardens there was something like 14,000 fans which was just incredible."

Playing in his first year of college hockey, it is not certain just how much ice time Michael Colantone will get if any but being along for the ride is just as important for him as it is with any player on the team. In his freshman year, Colantone played in 18 regular season games scoring five goals including three game winners.

"Personally this is great, I never expected this right away coming in," said Colantone. "We've had an excellent year, it's definitely been a great ride and I've learned a lot. Hopefully we can finish out with a national championship and achieve everything there is to achieve."

The Frozen Four gets started on Thursday April 11 with Michael Colantone and the UMass Lowell River Hawks facing the Yale Bulldogs followed by Zach Davies and the Quinnipiac Bobcats facing the St. Cloud State Huskies. The winners of those two games will meet for the National Championship on Sunday April 13th at 4:00pm Pacific.

Zach Davies Anchors Bobcats Defence

Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2013
by Chris Hunn, Register Staff / Twitter: @Chris_Hunn

Zach Davies is in his senior year with the Quinnipiac Bobcats
photo courtesy NH Register

HAMDEN — Quinnipiac senior defenseman Zach Davies isn't used to getting much attention from the media.

He skated off the ice Tuesday to a nearby television camera. A notepad and pencil quickly followed. But that's what happens when you're named the ECAC's best defensive defenseman and play for the top team in the nation.

"It's okay," said Davies, about getting some recent press. "It's kind of nice."

Davis has flown under the radar for most of his four years at Quinnipiac. He's soft-spoken and humble.

"He's been a quiet leader for us," Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. "He's not one to be aggressive and find the cameras or mics or anything like that. He's handled it well. I'm happy for him. He deserves it."

Davies and the Bobcats will open up NCAA tournament play on Saturday against Canisius at 5:30 p.m. at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, R.I.

Quinnipiac boasts goaltender Eric Hartzell, a Hobey Baker Award finalist. Pecknold is also quick to mention the Bobcats' deep and talented group of defensemen when it comes to the season's success. And he says Davies has had the best season of them all.

Davies has been a staple in the Quinnipiac lineup since he was a freshman. He's given the Bobcats consistency and steadiness over the last four years. But Pecknold said he's elevated his competitiveness, which has turned Davies from a very good player to an excellent one.

"This year he's been lights out," Pecknold said. "He's been locked in every game and it's really made him one of the best defensemen in our league."

At 6 feet and 170 pounds, Davies, who is from British Columbia, doesn't stand out in terms of size. But in the words of his coach, he has "NHL skating ability." Add to that a strong stick and a good hockey sense. He finds ways to win battles and blocks shots.

Pecknold also makes sure to note Davies' accomplishments off the ice, too. He holds a 3.85 GPA, graduated in three years and is pursuing his MBA.

Davies attributes much of his success to everyone else, especially second-year assistant coach Reid Cashman. They dissect film together. He offers Davies advice and the confidence Cashman has shown in him — whether it's giving him a last-minute or extra shift — has made a difference.

"He's never too high or too low," Cashman said. "We can rely on that. He's an elite skater. Combine those two things, and he's been great for us this year."

It will be difficult for Davies to avoid some of the spotlight now. He will embrace it, but while remaining soft-spoken and humble.

"Honestly, I had no thoughts of it ever happening," said Davies about winning the league's top defensive defenseman. "Obviously, that has a lot to do with the team and where you play. But it's nice to be recognized."