Monday, July 21, 2014

Dutchmen announce incoming recruiting class

by Ryan Fay

NCAA-hockey champion Union announced its incoming recruiting class Monday.

The eight-player group consists of forward Ryan Scarfo, forward Kevin Shier, defenseman Nick DeSimone, defenseman J.C Brassard, forward Tyler Hynes, forward Roman Ammirato, defenseman Connor Light, and forward Spencer Foo.

"I want to commend [assistant coaches] Joe Dumais and Jason Tapp for their excellent work in putting together this class," said Union head coach Rick Bennett. "It's a group that will establish its own identity over time and blend in well with the team we have in place."

Scarfo, 20, collected 17 goals and 31 assists in 50 games last season with the Powell River Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League. The Kings have been the source of several Union standouts in recent years, including Mat Bodie and Daniel Carr. Scarfo could be next in line.

“He can become a high-end guy who scores and defends against the opposition's top lines,” said Leon Hayward, who coached Scarfo as a prep player at Governor’s Academy. “Union has a steal. He’s someone who will help lead them to many more Frozen Four appearances.”

Shier is another offensive threat. The 20-year-old spent last season with the Ontario Junior Hockey League's (OJHL) Toronto Lakeshore Patriots, recording 21 goals and 33 assists in 46 games while serving as an alternate captain. He was even better in the postseason, pacing the team in scoring with eight goals and 24 assists in 19 games to help lead the Patriots to their first OJHL title.

"Kevin is a gifted offensive player with a quick and accurate shot," said Patriots head coach Jason Fortier. "He has quick hands and is an amazing team first player. Look for Kevin to bring a smile to the rink every day and bring an ability to score big goals."

Between Bodie graduating and Shayne Gostisbehere leaving a year early to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, a lot of offense was lost from the blueline. DeSimone could help replace some of that offense. The 19-year-old skated with the OJHL’s Buffalo Junior Sabres last season and ranked second among league defenseman with 13 goals and 38 assists in 52 contests. He was one of the club’s assistant captains.

“He has great instincts offensively,” said Junior Sabres head coach and longtime NHL player Michael Peca. “He played forward a bit coming up through the game of hockey and that has served him well to see the ice and where forwards might be or be heading. He does a lot of that without putting himself in situations where he's vulnerable defensively.”

Brassard, who was originally committed for 2015-2016, could be another source of offense along the blueline. The 18-year-old played with Noble and Greenough last season and was the top scoring defenseman in New England prep hockey with 11 goals and 32 assists in 27 games.

"He has outstanding skills," said Noble and Greenough head coach Brian Day. "He sees the ice incredibly well. He makes a terrific first pass. He jumps up into the play offensively. He's terrific at running a power play. He's able to put pucks through the net. He has a good shot, and he has the ability to pick corners. He's just a very gifted offensive defenseman."

Hynes adds a local flavor to the class as the 20-year-old hails from Slingerlands, roughly 20 miles from Messa Rink. Hynes, who played with Dutchmen defenseman Jeff Taylor at Albany Academy, was originally slated to arrive last season but opted to defer a year. He split last season with the U.S Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers and Fargo Force. In 59 combined games, he registered 20 goals and 15 assists.

"He can be a great second or third line player," said Lancers head coach Brian Kaufman. "He'll play in front of the net on a power play, he's very good on the penalty kill, and he'll be a great energy guy. He'll finish checks, block shots, and do a lot of things not a lot of people are willing to do."

Ammirato, 21, will be reunited with Dutchmen forward Michael Pontarelli, one of his teammates on the Central Canadian Hockey League’s Cornwall Colts during the 2012-2013 season. The 5-foot-9, 165-pounder played with the North American Hockey League’s Amarillo Bulls last season, compiling 17 goals and 30 assists in 57 games. He was the team’s top scorer in the playoffs with three goals and nine assists in eight games.

"Roman's strength as a player is that he is always competing," said Shawn Anderson, who coached Ammirato during the 2012-2013 season. "You would think looking at him that he will be out-battled in one-on-one situations. It is the opposite; he wins most of his one-on-one's with his speed and smarts. His size is deceiving and he plays a lot like [New York Rangers forward] Martin St. Louis. He scores points whether it is filling the net or making the plays to help put the puck into the net."

While Ammirato will never be the biggest player on the ice, Light might be. The 19-year-old checks in at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds and will add a physical presence at the blueline. He skated with Hynes on Omaha last season and posted three goals and seven assists in 55 games.

"Connor obviously has great size, but he has an exceptional skill set to complement that size,” said Dean Boylan, who coached Light as a prep player at Andover Academy. “He has good hands, very good feet for a big man and he can shoot. I think Connor can eventually develop into a shut down defenseman who is sent out to play against the other team's top unit.”

Foo, 20, is coming a year earlier than expected. He skated with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Bonnyville Pontiacs last season; he led the team and ranked sixth in the AJHL with 40 goals and 27 assists in 60 contests.

"Spencer is an incredibly driven individual who comes to the rink each and every day to improve his game," said Pontiacs head coach Rick Swan. "Over the last two seasons he has made some excellent strides with respect to his development and his potential is huge.

Union opens its 2014-2015 slate with a home exhibition game against the University of Prince Edward Island on Oct. 5. The regular season kicks off Oct. 10, when the Dutchmen host American International.

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