Recruit Update ▲ Hildenbrand A Force Recently For Fargo

There hasn’t been a lot of coaching search news in recent days.  But a lot of the future Minutemen are still in action.  So let’s catch up with them.

Shane Bear – D – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016 (NLI Signed)
44 GP / 11 G / 31 A / 42 Pts / 56 PIM
The Bandits had a bye for the first round of the AJHL playoffs and then swept Canmore in the second round.  Bear had two assists in the series which featured three Brooks shutouts.  Bear had a strong regular season where he was a finalist for AJHL Defenseman of the Year and is considered one of the top defensive blueliners in the league.

Troy Conzo – RW – Wenatchee Wild (BCHL) – 2016 or 2017
55 GP/ 13 G/ 21 A / 34 Pts /  18 PIM
Conzo’s regular season is over.  He has a goal and three assists in nine playoff games so far.  The Wild are facing elimination, down 3 games to 1 to Chilliwack.

Kyler Nachtigall – LW – Brooks Bandits (AJHL) – 2016 (NLI Signed)
58 GP / 15 G / 24 A / 39 Pts / 66 PIM
Nachtigall had an assist in the playoff sweep of Canmore.

Jake Massie – D – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2016 (NLI Signed)
37 GP / 3 G / 5 A / 8 Pts / 25 PIM / -15
Massie hasn’t played in the last week.

Jake McCarthy – D – South Shore Kings (USPHL) – 2016
26 GP / 0 G / 3 A / 3 Pts / 33 PIM
McCarthy went scoreless in his three playoff games for the Kings.

Ty Pelton-Byce – C – Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL) – 2016 (NLI Signed)
53 GP / 15 G / 23 A / 38 pts / 10 PIM / +5
Pelton-Byce had a goal and two assists in his last two games.  The USHL rookie is second on his team in total points and 31st among all USHL skaters.  He’s playing really well right now.  Well enough to get these type of comments from writers for hockey websites:

Brian Williams – C – Omaha Lancers (USHL) – 2016
51 GP / 11 G / 11 A / 22 pts / 32 PIM / +21
Williams was scoreless in his most recent games.

Niko Hildenbrand – RW – Fargo Force (USHL) – 2016
39 GP / 8 G / 10 A / 18 pts / 36 PIM / +6
Hildenbrand has a hot hand, scoring two goals to go with two assists in the last three games.

Justin Dixson – LW – Tri-City Storm (USHL) – 2017 (NLI Signed)
35 GP / 0 G / 6 A / 6 Pts / 10 PIM / -7
Dixson hasn’t played for the past couple weeks.

Colin Felix – D – St George’s (NE-Prep) – 2017
25 GP / 11 G / 20 A / 31 Pts
Felix ended the regular season with 31 points in 25 games, which was tops for defensemen in the Eberhardt division and 6th among all prep defensemen.  He was named ISL 1st team.  They ended up losing to St Mark’s in their first prep playoffs game

John Leonard – LW – Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) – 2017
41 GP / 3 G / 3 A / 6 Pts / 6 PIM / -4
Leonard was scoreless in his most recent games.

Matt Murray – G – Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) – 2017
23-4-0 / .910 save pct / 2.60 GAA / 3 shutouts
Murray got a win in his last regular season game.  He ended the season 5th in wins and goals against average and sixth in save percentage.  He’s splitting time in net during the playoffs and in his one playoff game so far he got the win, giving up just one goal and making 23 saves.  He was presented with his Top Goaltender trophy (won last year by current Minuteman Nic Renyard) and Top Goaltender Team award recently.

Cale Makar– D – Brooks Bandits (BCHL) – 2018 (NLI Signed)
54 GP / 10 G / 45 A / 55 Pts / 28 PIM
Makar had five assists in the four game sweep for Brooks.  In the regular season he accumulated the second most points for a defenseman, despite it being his first year in the league. He was presented with his Rookie of the Year trophy before the first playoff game.

Brian Scoville – D – Winchendon (NE Prep) – 2018
28 GP / 3 G / 6 A / 9 Pts
Scoville finished the season with 9 points in 28 games.  Winchendon did not make the playoffs.

UMass is still in a holding pattern in terms of the the coaching search.  Nothing really new, but Ross Gienieczko did write about the search for the Collegian.  Us fans are in a holding pattern, but it appears the players are too.  I think the fact that we’ve yet to see any underclassmen sign with a pro team means the team is in wait and see mode regarding who will be the new coach.  I thought for sure we’d have a player or two leave for the pros by now.  But we haven’t.  That’s a great sign.

Just because there hasn’t been a lot of publicized news about the search doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of activity behind the scenes.  Very little about the search process has made it public, especially compared to the previous search four years ago.  But it is on-going and if the rumblings are true AD Ryan Bamford is considering a large number of candidates.  For now, we wait.

While we wait for the next chapter of UMass hockey to begin, at least there has been a lot going on in the college hockey world to follow.  On the heels of the Northeastern Huskies shocking everyone by winning the Hockey East tournament, we learned that the league will look a little different in a couple years.  Yes, I’m talking about the fact that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be heading to the Big Ten following next season.

I was never in favor of the Irish joining the league in the first place.  Conferences in college sports have undergone major changes in recent years to the point where schools in New England, Florida, and Texas can now be in the same league.  But Hockey East to me has always been special because it’s a drivable conference.  It’s easy to jump on the Pike for matches in Boston or head down to Providence for some Italian fare and a game.  For the long trips in the league you book a hotel and spend your weekend exploring Acadia National Park or the fine breweries of Vermont.  Notre Dame did not match that unique aspect of the league.

As much as most fanbases weren’t excited to have the Irish in the league, the Notre Dame program themselves didn’t seem that thrilled about playing in the league. Last year we got this story about how the officials were out to get them (no, they’re just bad), the travel was unbearable (duh), and they league’s TV contract wasn’t that good (no kidding).  Boo hoo.  I’m sure the fact that for the most part the Irish have had their asses handed to them since joining the league had NOTHING to do with them feeling like outsiders in Hockey East either.  To me Hockey East is the greatest conference in the country.  Love it or leave it.  And leave it they will.

So what happens now?  It seems logical that the conference will look to replace Notre Dame.  11 teams creates problems (remember that nice “bye” the league gave UMass for the final week of the regular season a few years ago?).  When UConn was added supposedly Holy Cross was the runner-up.  The Crusaders would have to either build a new arena or play their games at the DCU Center if they were to join Hockey East.  Either way they’d have to significantly invest in their program.  I’m not sure they’re willing to do that.

Personally I think Holy Cross would be a good third option for Hockey East.  My top choice would be Quinnipiac.  Their program is in amazing shape right now, apparent with them being the #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.  They have a smallish but very nice arena that would work well.  And they’ve shown that they’re willing to do what it takes to make the hockey program a centerpiece of their athletic department.  It’s unknown if the Bobcats would want to leave the ECAC though where things are working pretty well for them currently and they’ve been able to develop rivalries with other conference foes, namely Yale.

My second option would be RPI.  They’re a little out of the New England footprint, but not by much.  They have great history, strong traditions, and play in one of college hockey’s better old barns.

My wildcard?  The University of Rhode Island.  Hockey East needs the sixth New England flagship.

Frank Vatrano has finally been called back up to Boston and is in the lineup against the Rangers as I write this. says it’s time to unleash him upon the league.



  1. Anonymous

     /  March 24, 2016

    What about Harvard joining? Gets all four Beanpot schools in and cements the Crimson as a national power.


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