Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Senators Sign Turris to Five-Year Extension

The Ottawa Senators signed former University of Wisconsin star Kyle Turris to a five-year contract extension, as detailed today at Acquired by trade in December from Phoenix, who drafted him third overall in 2007, Turris has 31 goals and 44 assists for 75 points in 186 career NHL games with the Sens and Coyotes.

Turris, 23, played one season of college hockey after he was drafted, and notched 11-24—35 points in 36 games with Wisconsin in 2007-08. He jumped to the pros right after the Badgers were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in overtime by WCHA rival North Dakota. He played in his first three professional games with Phoenix that spring, recording an assist.

The New Westminster, B.C. native never seemed to find his NHL niche in the desert, although he did post 24-39—63 totals in 76 games with San Antonio (AHL) in 2009-10. He was a scoring machine in junior ‘A’ hockey in his native Canada, collecting 102-91—193 points in two seasons with Burnaby (BCHL) before enrolling at Wisconsin for one season.

Turris probably won’t be the last player to be signed to an extension in the next few weeks. The NHL’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Sept. 15, and it’s been said that the owners will lock out the players as they did eight years ago if a new deal is not brokered by then.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ECAC Headed Back North in 2014

Just when I get back from Atlantic City, the Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey Championship is also getting ready to leave the "World's Favorite Playground".

After two years of very low attendance, and likely another one in March, on the fabled Boardwalk in southern New Jersey, the ECAC announced last week that it will be returning its men’s hockey semifinals and final to Lake Placid in 2014 for the first year of a three-year deal.

The ECAC previously held its title tilt in Lake Placid from 1993 to 2002 before shifting to Albany in 2003 and then Atlantic City in 2011.

I had the feeling last week while walking the Boardwalk that the ECAC was going to pull the plug on AC after that three-year deal expires in 2013. As compared to the last two Augusts, there was virtually no promotion near the site of the 86-year-old venue, Boardwalk Hall, nor anywhere else for that matter.

The past two years saw a large four-color banner that featured all twelve ECAC school logos and a color photo either of game action or a past champion, announcing the championship rounds, stretched across the outside of the venerable facility. This year there was a small green-on-white placard mounted on a column that announced next spring’s playoff, the winner of which gets the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

That small sign was it for marketing, as far as I saw.

There was also the standard inflatable goal-shooting game outside the arena, where kids could step up and take a shot on a plastic net   but hardly anyone was using it the day of the annual Atlantic City “Thunder Over the Boardwalk” air show, which in itself didn’t seem quite as heavily populated as in the past.

It’s just as well. Atlantic City is a great place with a lot of tradition, but unfortunately ice hockey doesn’t rank very highly on that list. The Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies (still can’t stand that name) won an East Coast Hockey League title in 2003, and then moved to California two years later simply because they couldn’t get enough people out of the casinos and into their games.

Lake Placid isn’t exactly inexpensive, and isn’t easy to get to in late winter – but no one can say it lacks hockey tradition. The Olympic ice surface may be larger than what Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Union and the other seven league schools are used to; but with the memory of the “Miracle on Ice” as strong as ever 30-plus years later, the ECAC returning to upstate New York for its conference championship will definitely be like coming home.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Devils Sign Former UNH Sniper Butler

The New Jersey Devils, looking to replenish some firepower after losing former captain Zach Parise  to free agency this summer, yesterday signed former University of New Hampshire star Bobby Butler to a one-year, two-way contract.

Butler, 25, a native of Marlborough, Mass., was bought out by Ottawa in July after tallying six goals and 10 assists for 16 points in 56 NHL games with the Senators last season. He registered 10-11--21 points in 2010-11 with Ottawa, and had 22-11--33 totals in 47 AHL games with its Binghamton affiliate that same winter.

“He signed a two-way (contract), so we’ll just see what develops, but he has the potential of being a top-six forward," said Devils President/GM Lou Lamoriello to The Record.

The six-foot, 180-pound forward, who prepped with the Boston Jr. Bruins before going to UNH, played four years for head coach Dick Umile and the Wildcats. He posted 61-60--121 points in 153 collegiate outings from 2006 to 2010, and helped the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournament berths and three Hockey East Association regular-season championships.

Butler definitely saved his best for last, notching 29-24--53 points in 39 contests as a senior while helping UNH to the 2009-10 Hockey East Association regular-season championship and the NCAA East Regional Final. He also earned Hockey East Player of the Year and First Team All-America accolades, and had two goals and one assist in a 6-2 regional semifinal win over Cornell.

Now he'll be looking to recapture some of his scoring magic in Newark.

“It’s going to be really up to him,” said Lamoriello. “He’ll be given every opportunity.”

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Merrill to Return for Junior Year at Michigan

Newspapers in Detroit and New Jersey revealed this week that New Jersey Devils prospect Jon Merrill, who recently attended a Devils' prospect camp in Newark, will be returning to the University of Michigan for his junior year. A 6'2", 209-lb. native of Brighton, Mich, he was drafted 38th overall by New Jersey in 2010.

Merrill, 20, missed the first 22 games of the Wolverines' season last year, when he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. He then tallied two goals and nine assists for 11 points in 19 outings as Michigan fell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Cornell in overtime.

“I’ve talked to him all winter and spring,” said long-time Michigan head coach Red Berenson at “I think based on this year he knows that he needs another year. Another year in college would be really good for him. He needs a breakout year.”
As a freshman in 2010-11, Merrill recorded 7-18--25 totals in 42 games as the Wolverines were edged in OT by Minnesota-Duluth in the national title game in St. Paul, Minn. In two collegiate campaigns, he has notched 9-27--36 points in 61 contests.

Michigan is slated to open its 2012-13 season on Oct. 9 at home against Windsor.