November 20, 2013

Junior Isles goalie Brendan Leahy commits to Providence

By Shawn Hutcheon

P.A.L. Jr. Islanders goaltender Brendan Leahy (Reading, Mass.) learned early in his hockey career that there are only so many creases available to the myriad of puck-stoppers at the collegiate level. He wasn’t to be denied.

On Nov. 18, Leahy committed to Providence College of Hockey East.

The netminder said the recruiting process occurred quickly.

“About two weeks ago, coach (Nate) Leaman and (assistant) coach (Ben) Barr contacted me and both said they were looking for a guy to come in around Christmas time for second semester and it kind of went from there,” Leahy said. “We kept in touch over the next week or so and I went for a visit (on campus) on Monday. I loved the school and I could see that Providence was a good fit.”

Leahy said he felt he was wanted from the outset of the process.

“It was nice to be wanted,” the goaltender said. “They’re (Leaman and Barr) very positive and they took a bunch of time with me. I was there from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and couldn’t find anything wrong with the school, the program or the rink. Everything was really cool. It was exciting.”

Of course, Leahy was quick to admit that being recruited by the No. 3 ranked team in the country is not a bad thing either.

Leahy was enjoying his fourth season of junior hockey and used it to help him prepare mentally for games more so than physically. He also believes the years spent toiling in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, the United States Hockey League and finally the United States Premier Hockey League has him fully prepared to make the jump to rigors of Division I college hockey.

“I was in Waterloo (USHL) for about a month and a half,” Leahy said when asked how a Massachusetts native found himself playing junior hockey this season on Long Island, New York. “When I found out I would be coming home, I knew I needed to get playing as soon as possible, especially with my age (20 years old), and got on top of everything and the day after I arrived home, I was playing for the Jr. Islanders so it was a quick transition from the USHL to the USPHL.”    

For fans of the Friars, Leahy described his style of play as a hybrid of two of the National Hockey League’s best goaltenders.

“I really like Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils) and Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres),” Leahy explained. “They keep the game simple and are rarely out of position. They’re always battling. I try to be like them and make the save. It’s worked out so far.”

And what type of person is Providence College getting as its newest student/athlete? After spending almost 24 hours trying to arrange an interview with the young goaltender, he found out that this writer was going to be at a rink where he (Leahy) was visiting a former coach. The netminder took the time out of his schedule to wait for my arrival to conduct the interview.

That speaks volumes to the outstanding character of this outstanding puck-stopper.  

Game of the Week

As Games of the Week go, there is nothing better than when a first-place team meets a second-place club with the top spot on the line. This is precisely what we have this week in the EHL.

The North Division’s second-place Northern Cyclones will travel to Hooksett, N.H., to challenge the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs in a winner-take-all tilt.

The Cyclones trail the Jr. Monarchs by one point and the winner will also hold the lead in total points in the 17-team league.

New EnglandJunior Power Rankings

1) Boston Jr. Bruins (16-3-1-1) - After going 3-2-0 in their last five games, the Junior B’s have slipped into second place in the United States Premier Hockey League. Goaltender Sean Lawrence leads the League in minutes played (1,171: 21), wins (16), saves (560) and save percentage (.938).

2) South Shore Kings (14-7-2-1) - The Kings have moved up to third place in the USPHL standings by posting a 7-3-0 record in their last 10 games. University of Maine recruit Nolan Vesey (N. Reading, Mass.) is third in league scoring with 12 goals and 16 assists totaling 28 points in 24 points.

3) New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (14-4-1-0) - New Hampshire is the team to beat in the Eastern Hockey League as they lead the North Division and the entire circuit with 29 points but after losing two of their last five contests, the Jr. Monarchs have slipped from first to third in our rankings.

4) Northern Cyclones (14-3-0-0) - Since October 12, the Cyclones have been victorious in 12 of their last 14 games to move within one point of the Jr. Monarchs in the EHL’s North Division with two games in hand of New Hampshire. Kevin Valenti is the circuit’s leading scorer with 39 points in 17 games.

5) Islanders Hockey Club (11-8-1-0) - The Islanders have reeled off five consecutive victories and have risen to fifth place in the USPHL and are only one point in behind third place Philadelphia. Goaltender Alex Morin is second in the league with a .932 save percentage and third with a 2.36 goals against average.

6) Connecticut Oilers (12-5-1-1) - The Oilers reside in first place in the EHL’s Central Division but have been on the losing end on three of their last five matches. Joe Widmar, who has committed to the University of Maine, is third in the league with 27 points in 19 games.

7) Boston Jr. Bandits (9-6-2-1) - Since the beginning of November, the Bandits have a record of 2-3-1. They are currently in third place in the North Division of the EHL but lead the Boston Jr. Rangers by just four points. Alex Bonito and Matt Baldino are tied for the lead in team scoring but the club needs more production from the rest of its members.

8) Bay State Breakers (6-10-4-1) - In their last 10 tilts, the Breakers have posted a 1-9-0 record. Scorers need to score and defense needs to defend. The season is getting away from Bay State.

9) Walpole Express (7-6-3-1) - Walpole went 5-5-0 in its last 10 contests and hold a one point lead on the New York Bobcats in the race for fourth place in the EHL’s Central Division. The good news is the Express is just two points out of second place in the division.

10) Connecticut Yankees (7-12-0-0) - The expansion Yankees of the USPHL continue to struggle with a 3-7-0 record in their last 10 matches and are in eighth place, however, they trail the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders by one point in the standings. Newcomer Zach Sabbatini is second in team scoring with 12 points on 7 goals and 5 assists in 13 games.

11)  Boston Jr. Rangers (7-8-2-1) - After starting the season 1-6-1, the Rangers looked to be in for a very long campaign but they have won six of their last ten games to move into fourth place in the EHL’s Northern Division. Goaltender Matthew Beliveau (Goffstown, NH) is 6-1-1 and carries a .921 save percentage on he season.    

12) Portland Jr. Pirates (5-15-1-1) - A 10 game losing streak has turned this season into an uphill battle for the Jr. Pirates. They are mired in last place in the nine team circuit and but trail the Connecticut Yankees by only two points.

13) Valley Jr. Warriors (7-6-0-2) - The fifth and last place club in the EHL’s North Division have gone 5-5-0 in their last 10 tilts. It remains to be seen if this club has turned the corner. They trail the Jr. Rangers by one point and it could be a back and forth battle between the two teams for supremacy in the standings.

14) Hartford Jr. Wolfpack (6-8-1-1) - The ‘Pack are last in the EHL’s Central Division and next to last overall. They’ve won two of their last ten and will need to vastly improve in a hurry if they are to make the postseason.

Twitter: @ShawnHutcheon