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Dumoulin Scores!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 8:00AM

Go ahead, spin it as a potential playoff preview, even a battle for home ice. Geographical rivals. Teams that genuinely dislike one another.

None of those factors told us nearly as much about Tuesday’s 4-1 Penguins win over the Blue Jackets at PPG Paints Arena compared to what occurred at 12:30 of the second period: Defenseman Brian Dumoulin scored a goal.

In a game. Puck went across the goal line. People cheered. Music blared. The whole deal.

“It feels good to get that off my back,” Dumoulin said, describing the feeling of going 150 games and 841 calendar days without a goal in the regular season. “It wasn’t something I was stressing over, but it definitely feels good to have one wind up in the back of the net.”

Dumoulin, of course, scored in the Penguins’ Stanley Cup-clinching Game 6 victory over San Jose and previously in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay. So it’s not a completely unfamiliar feeling for him; Dumoulin simply saves his goals for the biggest moments.

But the zero next to Dumoulin’s name had become something of a running joke on this team, with the good-natured Dumoulin taking it in stride and his teammates rooting for him to finally get one.

As soon as the puck crossed the goal line Tuesday, it was obvious to everyone in attendance how happy the Penguins were for Dumoulin.

“I’ve been saying it for 150 games, ‘This is the time,’ ” Dumoulin said. “It wasn’t that I picked [Tuesday] to score. I wish I could say that. I’ve been trying to score a goal for 150 games now. It was nice to get that one. Hopefully I can start a streak here.”

What did Dumoulin do to celebrate?

“No idea,” Dumoulin said. “I don’t know what I did.”

This one nearly had a cruel twist.

Moments after Dumoulin’s shot caromed off Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson and past goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, coach John Tortorella challenged, arguing the Penguins were offside on the play.

The goal stood, but not without a fair amount of fretting for Dumoulin.

“I knew it was close,” Dumoulin said. “When it went to the review, I didn’t realize how close it was. I was hoping they weren’t going to take that one back.”

On the sequence — played at four-on-four — Dumoulin picked up a pass from Jake Guentzel in the left circle, weaved his way around the net and banked the puck off of Atkinson’s knee.

“I think I blacked out,” Dumoulin said of how the play transpired before turning serious. “Guentzel found me coming down the side. Got a good bounce off Atkinson. I’m sure he’s got a couple on me. He owed me one.”

There was an ear-to-ear smile on Dumoulin’s face after he scored what turned out to be his first in 151 games, like someone just got him the Christmas present he had been waiting months for.

When the goal call was upheld, Dumoulin breathed a sigh of relief as teammates offered individual congratulations.

Fellow defenseman Ian Cole had said he would tackle Dumoulin out of excitement whenever he did actually get a goal, but Cole broke his promise and remained seated on the bench.

“I didn’t want it to be too big,” Dumoulin said. “I have scored a goal before. It shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Definitely the guys were happy for me. It was a fun experience.”

If he’s looking for more sarcastic fun, maybe Dumoulin could point out that he played a team-high 23:00 against the Blue Jackets, perhaps after Penguins coach Mike Sullivan realized Dumoulin’s shooting percentage was perfect.

Dumoulin also registered three hits and blocked a pair of shots, all contributions that helped the Penguins build a three-point lead on Columbus for the race to home-ice advantage in what appears to be an opening-round series between the teams.

“It was a good win for us,” Dumoulin said. “We still have some games here that we need to focus on and keep working and trying to secure that. I thought it was a good effort tonight. They played well. We just have to keep this going.”

One could only reasonably assume that Dumoulin meant his own offensive outburst.

 

Kreider Hits 50 Point Mark

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, 7:00AM

Karly Redpath -www.bluelinestation.com

Chris Kreider hitting the 50-point mark for the first time in his career is a big accomplishment. On top of this, he has broken his career-high point totals for the fourth year in a row.

At just 25, it shows that he has been able to grow in his time with the Rangers and that he has effectively established himself in his place on the roster.

This offseason, after narrowly avoiding an arbitration hearing, Kreider and the Rangers agreed to a four-year $18.5 million dollar contract extension. This keeps Kreider on the roster through 2020 and ensures that the Rangers will get some of his prime years of hockey.

His strong performance on the ice this season comes after a somewhat inconsistent season for Kreider early last year. He was playing a much streakier game – where he would have a multi-point performance one game and then would go cold for the next few. However, he was hot late in the season and finished with 46 points.

Today, Kreider is one of the Rangers most consistent forwards. Via his hard work on the ice throughout the regular season, Kreider has proved that he is not just a valuable asset, but that he is also essential to the Rangers offensive core.

Kreider’s Confidence Establishes him as a Veteran

Kreider is playing the most confident game that the Rangers have seen from him. This is in large part due to the fact that over the offseason, Kreider focused on factors that brought his play down last season.

Recognizing that his game was suffering was an extremely important step in Kreider’s development. This allowed him to focus on getting past those issues and helped him become the consistent power-forward that steps on the ice every night.

Reaching the 50-point milestone shows that Kreider can serve a more veteran role on the roster. Kreider came out of the New York Rangers farm system and has played almost five seasons for them. Though he is just 25-years-old, this background means that despite being on the younger side,  he can serve a leadership role on the team.

Final Thoughts

On a team that has faced many inconsistencies this season, Kreider has been able to rise above and prove that he can be a constant.

Kreider hitting the 50-point mark means that he is ready to take the next step in his career with the Rangers. He needs to stick to the game that he has been playing, remain a source of goal scoring opportunities and continue to grow into this role and own be a leader on the ice.

 

Stevens Signs with Islanders!

Monday, March 27, 2017, 4:56PM

The New York Islanders announced today that forward John Stevens has agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract.

Stevens, 22, served as captain of the Northeastern University Huskies this season and scored 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 25 games. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound forward helped the Huskies win a Hockey East Title and reach the NCAA Tournament in 2016. In four years at Northeastern, Stevens scored 106 points (26 goals, 80 assists) in 138 games. 

A native of Sea Isle City, NJ, Stevens is a two-time Hockey East All-Academic Team member (2014, 2016) and is a candidate for the 2017 Senior CLASS Award, an honor given to NCAA Division I senior student-athletes who excel in competition, community, character, and in the classroom.

Prior to his time at Northeastern, Stevens played one full season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, where he tallied 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) in 59 games en route to helping the Saints win the 2013 Clark Cup Championship.  

 

Sheary Named NHL 1st Star

Thursday, February 2, 2017, 10:31AM

If anybody is absolutely feeling it lately, it’s Conor Sheary. Following a three-point game against the Boston Bruins, he’s now on a four-game point streak; in those four games, he has six goals.

He simply didn’t score against the Montreal Canadiens, which is a shame; in three of his past four games he has two goals apiece.

The Elias Sports Bureau even has a nifty little Boston-based quirk from the Massachusetts-born player:

Sheary is now the fourth current NHL player born in Massachusetts who has notched a multiple-goal game versus the Bruins at some point in his career. The others: Jimmy Hayes, Jack Eichel and Brian Boyle.

 

Sheary has, simply put, been awesome. Which would explain this:

To put that in further perspective, Sheary is now fourth on the Penguins in scoring, with 34 points in 39 games. He’s behind just noted good players Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, who are all top 10 in NHL scoring (and, in Crosby and Malkin’s case, tied for second).

He’s scoring at a .87 points per game rate, so he’s probably Crosby’s new favorite player. And Crosby has, indeed, been involved in about 62% of Sheary’s points this season - and six of Sheary’s nine this past week. 

But while Sheary has only been involved in about 39% of Crosby’s points this season, that’s more than anybody else by a fair margin. Twenty-one times they’ve combined together; the next best player on Crosby’s list is Patric Hornqvist, who has helped on 12 of his points.

Sheary and Crosby are seriously clicking. And while Crosby is the guy creating most of the team’s offence, this past week deservingly belonged to Sheary.

 

Cullity Finds Role on Sound Tigers Blueline

Wednesday, February 1, 2017, 9:56AM

BRIDGEPORT — In just a short conversation Tuesday morning, it felt as if Patrick Cullity used the word “role” in every other sentence. 

Call him a role player for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers if you want, but it’s a good role. 

“His role with us is just a defensive defenseman,” coach Brent Thompson said. “Make a simple outlet pass and be a great penalty killer. He is that. He does a lot of little things that a lot of people don’t want to do.

“He defends hard,” Thompson added. “He makes good breakout passes. He’d block a shot with his face for the team.” 

Cullity, 29, has been a mainstay with the Sound Tigers this year, signed to an AHL contract after splitting last season between Bridgeport and its ECHL affiliate in Missouri. 

Since the team sent Adam Pelech up to the New York Islanders in early November, Cullity has played every game but one. He fills a similar role, and he understands it. 

“At the beginning (of his career), I’d try to do too much,” Cullity said. “I’d try to do too much offensively rather than being that shutdown ... penalty-kill guy, to play against other teams’ top lines.”

If not technically an AHL veteran — coming out of college at 23 after four years at the University of Vermont, he has played 128 AHL games for five teams — he has the experience. 

“His work ethic is probably one of the biggest things,” Thompson said. “He’s a leader in his own right, in what he does every day, how he approaches practice, how he approaches games.”

Cullity called last year a roller coaster, starting and finishing the year with Bridgeport with a month-and-a-half-long stint in the middle. He was on an ECHL deal with Missouri after spending most of the previous three years in that league; he’d come up on tryout deals with Bridgeport. 

He played just one of the first nine games this season, too. 

“You’ve just got to wait for the opportunity,” Cullity said, “and you’ve got to play the role the best you can.”

He has, and his experience is something he can share with the younger Sound Tigers. 

“It’s my seventh year now,” Cullity said. “Looking back, when I was coming out of college, I didn’t know what to expect. Dealing with the ups and downs ... it was a bit of a roller coaster. You kind of roll with it, the good, the bad and the ugly.”

 

Vesey Chooses New York!

Sunday, August 21, 2016, 5:48PM

Upon winning the Stanley Cup in 1994, New York Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen exclaimed, “The waiting is over!” Fast forward to August 2016 and he, and all Rangers fans can repeat that sentence as the Rangers came to an agreement with prized rookie free agent Jimmy Vesey on a two-year, entry-level contract worth an annual average value of $925,000. The deal also includes $1,925,000 in performance bonuses per anum.

Vesey spent the week meeting with the Rangers, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins.

The organizations pulled out their heavy-hitters, such as the Islanders’ John Tavares, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, and Chicago’s Patrick Kane, in an attempt to sway the recent Harvard graduate.

Boston brought Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid, and Torey Krug, to its meeting with Vesey but it was all for naught.

In a Friday evening conference call, Vesey expressed his reasons for choosing the Big Apple.

“I talked to the New York Rangers and their staff and they don’t expect me to be a savior. (They) just want me to help them win hockey games,” Vesey said. “I am very pleased to be a part of the New York Rangers organization. Based on our talks I think New York was the right fit.”

“It was definitely a tough decision. Myself, my agent and my family were very impressed with the Rangers.”

While Vesey went through the interview process, many believed he would sign with various organizations based on his friendships with players and/or members of their managements.

With the Rangers, it was fellow Massachusetts native Kevin Hayes who spoke with Vesey on what to expect if the soon-to-be NHLer signed with New York.

“Obviously, I’m good friends with Kevin Hayes,” Vesey explained. “He’s someone I’ve known since childhood. We played a little bit together growing up and we work out and skate together in the summer.”

“I talked to Kevin a lot,” said Vesey, who played a role in Team USA’s gold medal win at the 2013 World Junior Championships. “He went through the same process as me two years ago (Hayes was drafted by Chicago but chose to sign with the Rangers after his senior season at Boston College), so I leaned on him a lot during the process. He had a big impact on me.”

Influence also came in the form a former New York captain and New England native Chris Drury, who hails from Connecticut, like Vesey he won the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the outstanding NCAA player each season.

“Chris Drury was someone I was really impressed with during the meeting with the Rangers,” said Vesey. “He’s someone I respect a lot based on what he’s done in his career.”

To say that Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton was a happy would be a big understatement.

“It’s a very exciting day for us,” said Gorton. “”He (Vesey) has the ability to score, make plays. I think he can come in and play.”

Due to the salary cap, the NHL has become a younger league than it was before it was instituted in 2004. All of the clubs have been forced to shed veteran players and bring in younger, less experienced athletes. The same is true for New York. Signing the highly-touted Vesey gives them a high draft pick (3rd round, 66th overall to Nashville, 2012 NHL Entry Draft) without trading a pick or players and unlike most draft picks coming out of junior or leaving college early, the forward is ready for top six minutes and responsibilities.

“It was an opportunity with a real good player that became available and help replace some of the depth we had in the past,” said Gorton. “We’re really excited to get a player like this.”

“Training camp is almost upon us, we’ll see where it goes. We think we have some good youth and this helps with that.”

Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

 

Vesey Wins Hobey Baker

Monday, April 11, 2016, 11:24AM

The Hobey Baker Memorial Award announced today the 2016 recipient of college hockey’s top individual prize is Jimmy Vesey from Harvard University. The announcement came during the NCAA Frozen Four championship in a live ceremony held at historic Tampa Theatre in Tampa, Florida and aired nationally on NHL Network.

For Vesey (pronounced VEE-zee), the second time is a charm as he was a Hobey Hat Trick finalist a year ago when he led the nation in goal scoring. Two is a prominent number for the senior captain of the Crimson. For two straight years Vesey has been named ECAC Player of the Year, Ivy League Player of the Year, ECAC First Team all-conference and winner of the Walter Brown Award as the best American-born player in New England.

Jimmy Vesey finished the season recording 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points in 33 games. Over the past two years, he has scored more goals than any other player in college hockey – 56, after bagging a nation’s best 32 last season. It was a happy day on campus a year ago when Vesey spurned offers to turn professional in order to return for his senior year as a student-athlete. However, he did play alongside many pro players when he represented the U.S. in the World Championships last May.  He was a third round draft pick of Nashville of the NHL.

A dynamic offensive talent as his stats verify, Vesey was an impact player in all phases of the game. Regular shifts and power play duties were the norm, but he was often underestimated in his defensive responsibilities. Vesey was a fixture on the penalty kill and was widely recognized as the hardest worker on the team. His compete-level made Vesey a difference maker. 

A native of North Reading, Massachusetts, Jimmy is a Government major and has been ECAC All Academic every year. Off the ice, Vesey helped raise money for the Travis Roy Foundation and the Franciscan Hospital for Children. He provided manual labor at Cristo Rey High School in Boston to prepare it for the school year and volunteered time with local youth teaching them to skate.

Vesey has spent the past 4 summers playing in High End Hockey's 3 on 3 league and skates in the HEH Summer Pro Group.

 

Sheary Gets Call To NHL!

Thursday, December 17, 2015, 4:12PM
Shawn Hutcheon
High End Hockey Journal - Editor
@ShawnHutcheon

Every so often, you hear a name of an up and coming player and you look forward to seeing him play and when you do see him, he exceeds all expectations. Such is the case with Pittsburgh Penguins rookie forward and High End Hockey participant Conor Sheary.

Sheary has spent the last three summers training on the ice under the watchful eye of High End Hockey owner Jon Hutcheon but before that Sheary’s name began making the rounds when he led Cushing Academy in scoring in his sophomore season of prep school hockey and continued his scoring exploits through his senior year.

After graduating from Cushing, the native of Melrose, Massachusetts took his talents to the University of Massachusetts and Hockey East, where he produced 104 points on 38 goals and 66 assists in 138 career collegiate games.

Upon finishing his four years at UMass in the spring of 2014, Sheary was signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Penguins and assigned to their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

He learned the pro game in WBS under former Boston Bruins coach Mike Sullivan and continued to produce offensively, registering 70 points (26 goals, 44 assists) in 84 total games.

While Sheary was in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the big team in Pittsburgh was in the process of making some changes on and off the ice with the addition of Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer, a move that in the eyes of many made Pittsburgh an instant Stanley Cup contender.  However, when the club got off to a slow start and coach Mike Johnston was relieved of his duties on December 12th Sullivan was elevated to bench boss in Pittsburgh.

Another change was the loss of forward Pascal Dupuis to recurring blood clots. A physical condition that led to Dupuis announcing he could no longer play hockey the same week Sullivan took the reigns.  On December 15th, Sheary got the call to the NHL and found himself en route to his hometown of Boston, where he met his new teammates one day before he would play in his first NHL game against the Bruins at TD Garden.

“I had practice (Tuesday) morning in Wilkes-Barre and right after practice coach pulled me into his office and told me I was coming up,” Sheary said. “It was really exciting. I didn’t even know what to say to him. I lost my words. I was just really excited and obviously, a little nervous but the whole day was just pure excitement.”

Unfortunately for Sheary and the Penguins, the whirlwind ended with a 3-0 loss to Boston.

“It’s been a kind of exciting past couple of days, yesterday coming into Boston and knowing I was going to play tonight, it was pretty special and to get the first game under my belt in my own city was pretty cool.”

Despite the Penguins losing the game, Sheary felt he played well, using his speed to his advantage.

“A huge part of my game is my speed and tenacity, I like to use those out there,” he said. “I am just trying to use it at this level as well, and I tried that tonight.”

Not only did he try but succeeded as he opened the game on Pittsburgh’s fourth line, but was moved up to the team’s second line with Evgeni Malkin and Kessel in the second period.

“I think we (as a team) weren’t scoring so I think coach just wanted to mix up the lines a bit, and I obviously got the opportunity to play with those guys, which is pretty cool, and they make a lot of plays and it’s fun to play with those guys.” Sheary said after the game.

“They helped me out, and would say ‘hey did you see me there?’ Or whatever it was on the bench, but for the most part it’s just go play hockey and make plays.”

After the game, Sullivan did not hesitate to voice how pleased he was with Sheary’s effort.

“I thought he was terrific,” the coach said. “I thought he was on the puck, he was quick, he forced turnovers, he was skating. I thought he brought us some juice.”

It is not etched in stone, very little is in the NHL when it comes to rookies remaining in the lineup, but if he continues to provide that “juice”, Conor Sheary may have found a permanent home in Pittsburgh and you can be sure you will be hearing his name mentioned on a more constant basis.

 

Stempniak Leading Way For Devils

Wednesday, December 16, 2015, 12:24PM

By Rich Chere | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on December 15, 2015 at 11:22 PM, updated December 16, 2015 at 7:42 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. — It may have looked like Devils winger Lee Stempniak was showing off in front of his family and friends. Hanging on the crossbar after scoring the go-ahead goal? That seemed out of character for the West Seneca boy made good.

Actually, he was making every effort not to step on Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark after scoring in the Devils' 2-0 win at First Niagara Center, not that far from where he grew up.

"I felt like I was going to step on his his hand. His hand was there and I just didn't want to step on him," Stempniak explained. "Hopefully it wasn't taken the wrong way."

That's not to say Stempniak wasn't thrilled to score his eighth goal of the season in front of 20 family members, including his mother, father, aunts, uncles and cousins.

"It's nice. That will definitely make it a little more fun to see my family after the game," he said. "It's fun to score at home, fun to see your mom and dad after a game in which you score a goal. It's a huge win for us, too."

"We didn't play our best against the Islanders. We came back and had a good response. We weathered the storm at times, but did enough to get the win."

It may sound odd that a 32-year-old NHL veteran still like scoring a goal in front of his parents, but it's not.

"It's like fun. I guess you would look at it like you're playing a kid's game," Stempniak explained. "It's certainly a job and we get paid well to do it and there's a lot of pressure, but it's like the father's trip. You go to the rink with your dad.

"They've been there with you through every step. My parents sacrificed their social life, working overtime almost their whole life just to give my brother and I the chance to play hockey and have a better life. It's fun to be able to share a moment like this with them."

 

Pro Hockey Players LOVE 3 on 3!

Sunday, August 30, 2015, 10:32PM

Pro Players “Love” 3 vs 3 Hockey     

- Shawn Hutcheon (High End Hockey Journal)

The next time you go to an ice rink mention the words “three on three hockey” and wait for the reaction.

If you are sitting/standing next to a hockey parent, odds are very good he or she will have a strong reaction upon hearing those words. Some will tell you how they loved watching their eight-year-old develop as a player by playing the half ice games that consist of three skaters and a goalie on each side while others will say that the concept is ruining hockey.

In 2009, USA Hockey introduced the idea of cutting the rink in half in order to give youngsters a game that is more suited for their skill levels much the same as Little League baseball and other sports have their young athletes play on smaller fields to correlate with their age, size, and strength levels, while learning how to play the game.

The three on three cross ice hockey game has been around longer than six years. Ironically, it has been used by high school, midget, junior, college, and professional coaches to help their players become quicker skaters, along with better stick handlers, passers and shooters.

Three years ago, High End Hockey founder and owner Jon Hutcheon came up with idea of organizing a three on three summer league for professional, college, and midget/high school players with the focus on skill development and while there are those who do not want to admit that small area games will not benefit their 8-year-old, those who play in the HEH summer league beg to differ.

Joe Whitney is one of those players.

Whitney was an offensive force during his four years at Boston College, amassing 142 points in 161 collegiate games. He moved on to the pro ranks in 2011 when he signed with the New Jersey Devils, who sent him to their American Hockey League affiliate, Albany Devils. In four seasons with Albany, Whitney produced 208 points in 277 games. Whitney has also seen action in five NHL games with New Jersey, however, this past July, he bid adieu to the Devils and signed a two year contract with the New York Islanders.

With the numbers Whitney has put up and a new contract, one might think he would spend his summers in the gym and begin skating just prior to heading off to training camp, but he has become a High End Hockey 3 vs 3 League mainstay.   

“This is my third year of playing 3 on 3 hockey and it’s the best thing I do all summer,” said Whitney, who is a native of Reading, Massachusetts. “It’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of good guys down here and it’s a good hour and fifteen minutes of making plays and scoring goals. We’re trying to expand a little. It’s (reputation of the High End Hockey 3 vs 3 league) out there and these next couple of years, it should be stronger. We had four teams this year (in the pro division) and had a lot of good pro and college players, so I think it will grow next year and we’ll get more teams with quality players.”

“I think it’s good because you play on the half ice. It’s (the game) is in tight (areas) and you get a lot of touches of the puck and a lot of chances to score, which a player needs to work on so all in all, it’s been a good experience. I look forward to next years because High End Hockey does a very good job of organizing the league up.”

Steve Whitney followed his brother Joe to Boston College, where he posted 128 points in 162 games. After graduating, Three years ago, Steve signed with the Anaheim Ducks and was assigned to the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals. He will return to Norfolk this season to ply his skills for the Admirals, which has become a member of the ECHL. A swift and agile skater, the 24-year-old forward uses 3 vs 3 hockey to improve his skating skills.

”I definitely love coming down and getting a little three on three in,” Steve said. “It’s only half ice and everything happens pretty quickly. You gotta think pretty quickly, make your play right away. It really helps with your reactions and skating, such as tight turns.”

Will O’Neill patrolled the blue line for the Winnipeg Jets AHL team, St. John’s IceCaps, for the last three-plus years, where he accumulated 107 points in 206 games. In July, he became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. O’Neill spent the summer preparing for his first camp with Malkin, Crosby, and the rest of the Pens, by playing 3 vs 3 hockey.  

”It’s good to out there in a tight area,” said O’Neill, a native of Salem, Massachusetts. “In cross ice areas, you get a lot of touches of the puck and you’re playing against good players with good goalies. You get a lot of shots and a lot of (scoring) chances. It’s good to be out there. Jon Hutcheon does a really good job organizing it. All in all, it’s good hockey, a lot of fun, and we’re looking to expand to six teams next year.”

Like the Whitneys, Conor Sheary, is another member of the NCAA’s 100 point club. He produced 104 points in 138 games during his four years at the University of Massachusetts. Sheary completed his first full season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate last season, where in 60 career games, he has registered 45 points but the postseason has been the Sheary show. His 23 points in 23 playoff games has made the brass in Pittsburgh sit up and take notice of the 23-year-old forward.

Despite his offensive accomplishments, Sheary has become a High End Hockey 3 vs 3 veteran in order to improve his puck handling abilities.

”This is my third year in the league,” the hard shooting forward said. “I liken it to a really good skill session. You get to skate on a half ice rink and move the puck around a little bit. Work on your hands in tight areas. It was good competition with the four teams filled with pro guys and college guys.”

As one might imagine, there is plenty of offense in a small area game and goaltenders see a constant barrage of pucks come their way but former Hockey East star netminder, Clay Witt, likes the action.

”It replicates game situations like three on ones and two on ones,” explained Witt, who will stop pucks for the Utica Comets of the AHL this coming season. “It’s high tempo, you get a lot of scoring chances so, if you can stop at least 75 percent of those, I think you’re going to be good for the season. Like the other guys said, this level of hockey is high and you always want to make those important saves against those guys.”

And there you have it.

Some youth hockey parents may object to 3 vs 3 small area games but those who have risen to the game’s highest levels are proof that not only is it a concept that is past due, It develops players and it is here to stay.

What’s that you say? These players are good but you won’t be convinced until an NHL player talks about small area games, particularly 3 vs 3.

Look at what Harry Zolnierczyk of the Anaheim Ducks has to say, “I love this. Great competition. Great fun. It’s a great way to work on your game in tight areas. Next summer, I’ll bring enough NHL and AHL guys to fill two new teams.”

Oh yeah, 3 vs 3 hockey is here to stay.