coast-to-coast quest for recruits pays off
When it comes
to cross-continent recruiting, Cornell does it as well as anyone.
It's a big reason why the Big Red has not only climbed the mountain
(reaching the 2003 Frozen Four) but done a pretty good job staying
there...the 2004 ECAC playoffs notwithstanding. This past season,
on the strength of All-American goaltender David McKee, coach
Mike Schafer and Co. went 27-5-3 and advanced to the second round
of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Minnesota in Minneapolis.
With the recruits Cornell nabbed this year, the forecast along
the shores of Cayuga Lake looks just as bright.
Some players use roller hockey as a way to stay in shape during
the off-season. Others like soccer.
Eighteen-year-old Salmon Arm Silverbacks defenseman Brendon Nash,
however, prefers rugby over all the rest.
"Rugby's a great training for hockey," said the 6-foot-3,
200-pound Nash. "It helps keep you in shape because you rarely
get a break, you have to play as a team, it's full contact and
it teaches you how to take a hit."
Nash's conditioning has always complemented his offensive skills,
a combination that caught the eye of several schools last year.
Nash accepted Cornell's invitation over the summer.
A left-handed shot, Nash will play another season in Salmon Arm
before heading to Ithaca in the fall of 2006.
2005 freshman class:
F Evan Barlow (Salmon Arm)
F Matt Conners (Apple Core)
• D Taylor Davenport (Drayton Valley)
• G Dan Dileo (Wichita Falls)
F Mike Kennedy (St. Thomas)
F Ryan Kindret (Quesnel)
F Tyler Mugford (Nanaimo)
• D Jared Seminoff (Nanaimo)
F Colin Greening (Nanaimo)
F Justin Milo (Indiana-USHL)
• D Brendon Nash (Salmon Arm)
F Tony Romano (Suffolk PAL)
Ottawa selected Greening with the 204th overall pick in
this year's NHL Draft).
considering a few other schools," the Kamloops, B.C., native
explained, "but Cornell just seemed right. The school has
a great tradition, [Schafer and assistant coach Brent Brekke]
both came to visit me last year, and I made a trip to Cornell
liked it," Nash said. "It was so green, it reminded
me of home."
On the ice, Nash looks right at home almost anywhere.
"He really has a great set of hands," said Silverbacks'
coach-general manager Garry Davidson, who lured Nash to Salmon
Arm from the AAA North Kamloops Lions. "That's what I noticed
about him most. But he also has very good size, which [gives him]
pro potential. He understands if he truly commits himself, he'll
be able to do great things down the road."
Even as a BCHL rookie, Nash performed admirably on offense. But
like many young offensive-minded defensemen, he concentrated on
improving his play in his own end.
"I focused on what I needed to do behind my own blueline,"
Nash said. "I need to be sure I'm making the right decisions
and not get caught running around."
Davidson agreed. "It's good that he knows his strengths and
where he needs to improve. He picks things up quickly, though,
and...I expect him to really take charge and become a solid two-way
No Rush, No Worries
for three years in junior hockey until the right college opportunity
came along wasn't easy. But for 20-year-old goaltender Dan DiLeo,
who heads to Cornell this fall, the wait paid off.
"I wouldn't change a thing," said DiLeo, who spent last
season with Wichita Falls in the North American Hockey League.
"Junior hockey is a great experience, and really, it's like
pro hockey but without the money. The seasons are long, but they
give you an opportunity to learn about hockey, and about yourself.
Gagner is 16 years old, a number that nearly matches the
number of places he's called home.
"I've lived in Minnesota, Dallas, Toronto, Calgary,
Florida, Oakville (a suburb of Toronto) and now Minneapolis
again," laughs Gagner, the son of Dave Gagner, who
spent 15 seasons in NHL. "I've been all over the place."
Gagner, a talented centerman who scored 180 points (you
read that correctly) for the Toronto Marlies midget sqaud
last season, is in the process of sifting through information
from college coaches who would like to see him settle on
their campus for four years.
Before that happens, however, he'll spend at least one season
with Sioux City of the USHL. By committing to the Musketeers,
Gagner is eschewing the defending Memorial Cup champion
London Knights, the team that picked him in the fourth round
of this year's Ontario Hockey League draft.
"My family values education and I think going the NCAA
route will help me reach my goals," Gagner explained.
"I'd love to play in the NHL, of course, and growing
up, the OHL is pretty much all I had ever heard.
"But I know I'd probably never be able to finish college
in four years if I played [major junior] and I'd really
like to have my schooling done before giving pro hockey
Father and son have made unofficial visits to a number of
schools, including Boston College, Boston University, Harvard,
Minnesota, Michigan, Miami, Notre Dame and Wisconsin. But
Sam's only a junior in high school and says he has no intention
of jumping to a decision any time soon.
"I think if I wait, the right opportunity will come
along," he said. "I've no notion of looking for
a big school or a small school. All I want is the one that
will feel right and will help me reach my goals."
"Sam's very mature," says Dave Gagner, who started
a specialty rink development company called Custom Ice after
retiring from the NHL. "What we really want to do is
become more familiar with the college system and get a better
understanding of how it works."
While the Gagners may not be completely familiar with the
college game, there's no question coaches from Durham to
Denver know about Sam
"He's very gifted," says former Sioux City assistant
coach Marty Quarters, who accepted an assistant coaching
position at Merrimack earlier this month. "He's strong
on both sides of the puck, but what you really notice about
him is the way he carries himself. He's such a leader. He
has Steve Yzerman-like qualities that way."
great when kids commit at 17,
but there's so much to learn. For me, I've had three years to
do that and as a result, I feel more than prepared going into
Well-spoken and intelligent, DiLeo proved his Ivy League mettle
by scoring a 29 on the ACT. He takes a cerebral approach to hockey,
too, spending his summers training with long-time Wisconsin goaltending
coach Bill Howard
"Bill's goaltending philosophy suits
me well," said DiLeo."It's not butterfly all the time.
It's more situational. The time and distance you have to work
with, depending upon the play, is
what dictates whether you stay up or down."
That mindset worked well for DiLeo, who put up impressive numbers
with both Wichita Falls and Fargo-Moorhead (the Jets traded him
in January). The St. Louis native posted a 23-8-6 record and a
"We were a game under .500 when Dan got here," said
Wichita Falls coach Brian Meisner."He helped us make a playoff
run. He's very competitive, he works very hard and he's really
taken advantage of the opportunity."
While the trade changed Wichita Falls' fortunes, DiLeo benefitted
a change in climate.
"When I left Fargo it was 30 below
and [in Wichita Falls] it was 60 degrees and guys were running
around in short," DiLeo said. "There couldn't be a better
place to play.
You get to play in a world-class facility (8,000-seat Kay Yeager
Coliseum) and there are great coaches here. It's the total package."
With McKee, a 2005 Hobey Baker Award finalist, returning for his
junior season, Dileo's role with Cornell appears to be limited
at best. But Schafer is obviously looking for depth in goal, and
he's keenly aware of his club's string of netminding success which
allowed standouts such as David LeNeveu and Jean-Marc Pelletier
to leave school early for the professional ranks.
"For all my experience in juniors," DiLeo said, "I'll
be a rookie all over again."
Guy, Big Heart
When Cornell's coaching staff was trying to figure out which of
its players would do the best job of showing 5-foot-6, 176-pound
forward Justin Milo around campus, Schafer decided to pick on
someone Milo's own size—fellow five-and-a-half footer Topher
Scott, who scored five goals and 24 ponts for the Big Red as a
freshman, picked up an assist off the ice, too. Just two weeks
after hosting Milo's visit to Ithaca, the standout forward from
the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede committed to Cornell for the fall
"[Scott] really showed just how great the school was,"
said Milo, an 18-year-old from Eden Prairie, Minn. "I loved
it. It's a great program, and I'm comfortable that I'm making
the right decision."
Prior to joining struggling Sioux Falls, Milo played for a passel
of star-studded programs, including Detroit-based midget team
Honeybaked and Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn.
"He's really been around the hockey world," said Mark
Kaufman, Milo's coach in Sioux Falls last season. "This was
only his first year [in the USHL], but he made a very smooth adjustment
to junior hockey."
"I didn't know what to expect," said Milo, who scored
27 goals and 44 points in 59 games for the Stampede. "My
goals were just to shoot the puck as much as possible and have
a good plus-minus statistic."
Milo's nomadic hockey life continues this season. He'll play for
the USHL's Indiana Ice this time around.
"I have to keep working on my strength, staying low and breaking
the puck out of my own zone," he said. "That's tough
when these big defenseman are coming down on you."
Shaheen is the publisher of Research on Ice and will contribute
recruiting updates to Inside College Hockey throughout the year.
To subscribe to Research on Ice's free daily recruiting e-mail
newsletter, contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.