Tag Archives: NCAA Hockey

NAHL Sets New College Commitment Record

For the fifth straight season, the North American Hockey League has broken its own commitment record, sending 312 players and counting to college over the past year. 16 past, present, and future Knights are among those committed to college to play hockey and receive an education:

Jeff Bertrand Penn State (Big 10, D1) *
Tyrone Bronte Bemidji State University (WCHA, D1)
Curtis Carlson Nichols College (CCC, D3)
Paul Cimilluca Wilkes University (UCHC, D3)
Justin Engelkes Miami University (NCHC, D1) *
Thomas Farrell Army (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Anthony Firriolo Army (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Mike Gelatt Skidmore (ECAC East, D3)
Greg Japchen University of Nebraska-Omaha (NCHC, D1) *
Matt Kidney Salve Regina (CCC, D3)
Paul Maust Mercyhurst College (Atlantic Hockey, D1) #
Mike Morrissey Colby College (NESCAC, D3)
Jack Olmstead University of Michigan (Big 10, D1)
Reed Robinson Niagara University (Atlantic Hockey, D1)
Christian Stoever Merrimack College (Hockey East, D1)
Gabe Temple Michigan Tech University (WCHA, D1) *
* 2019-20 ## Alumni

Click here for the full story

Commitment Record-2018


Michael Morrissey Commits to Colby College

One of the longest-tenured Knights is heading off to college. Michael Morrissey, a 20-year old forward and veteran of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hockey program since its second season, announced his decision to attend Colby College this weekend. He’ll join former Knights forward Joe Schuler as on the roster for the 2018-19 season.

An assistant captain and veteran presence, Morrissey is in the midst of his finest season of junior hockey, recording 11 goals and 17 assists through 54 games played. Coincidentally, the Colby Mules are in the midst of one of their best seasons in their proud history, playing out of the NESCAC Conference in NCAA DIII hockey.

The Mules made waves around the hockey world last Saturday night, when they bested the Geneseo Ice Knights in the final second of regulation to move onto the Frozen Four. That same night, Morrissey scored the game-tying goal, before providing the screen on the game-winner for his Knights against the New Jersey Titans.

“I really liked the coaching staff,” said Morrissey. “Coach Hall, their assistant coach did a great job recruiting me. Blaise MacDonald, the head coach, spent a long time coaching in Hockey East, and has a few national championships to his name. Colby has top-of-the line academics and highly-competitive hockey, so it’s the best of both worlds for me.”

The Mules will travel to Lake Placid this weekend to vie for their first-ever national title, taking on St. Norbert at 6:30 pm EST this Friday. The winner of that contest will play Saturday in the National Championship against the winner of Salve Regina’s and Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s competition earlier in the afternoon. The aforementioned MacDonald has led the Mules to their first NCAA Frozen Four berth since 1996, when then coach Jim Tortorella-brother of John-came up just short of achieving the program’s ultimate goal.

“I’ve been following their run over the past few weeks,” said Morrissey. “It’s pretty exciting-their guys are talking about spending spring break in Lake Placid. It’s really cool to see them make the final four.”

The Knights in the meantime are preparing for a postseason run of their own, having clinched a playoff spot this past weekend. They can enter the playoffs as high as the second seed in the East Division should they finish the year on a strong note.

“I think some of our guys were in a bit of a slump to start the second half, but we’ve returned to playing simple hockey lately,” he said. “We went back to the basics, getting pucks on net and we’ve been able to find some success. We’re looking to carry that into our series with Northeast this weekend.”

Hockey has been a whirlwind ride for Morrissey, a native of nearby Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who’s played with and against NHL talent to develop his own strong skill-set.

“I would say I bring it every night,” he said. “I play an intense, two-way game, and I think I’m a play-making center. I’ve played a lot of years here and each one has been special. I won a national championship with our team in 2012, so that ranks high on the list for me in terms of best memories, but this last year has been great.”

With a high number of players committed to college from this year’s roster, Knights head coach Tom Kowal is thrilled to see the fruits of the program’s efforts result in so many player advancements, but Morrissey’s is one that has been a long time coming.

“Mike’s been here longer than I have,” laughed Kowal. “He’s been a member of some special teams here at the youth and junior level. He’s also played a big part in why the teams he played on were successful. Mike’s a hard-worker and one of the toughest players to play against I have ever coached. He brings a great two-way game to the ice, and it doesn’t matter who we put on his wing, that player gets better next to him. We’ve leaned on him heavily this year and just like you saw against the Titans Saturday, he’s capable of delivering in the biggest moments for us.”

With the final games of his junior career ahead, and college on the way, Morrissey wants to leave the Knights on a high note, but he’s not overlooking those who helped him along the way.

“I have a bunch of people that deserve a shout out, and a lot of special memories having played here,” said Morrissey. “Of course, I want to thank my family and parents for supporting me all this time. My billet family, the Latimers, for taking me in and making me part of their family. I want to thank our coaching staff with the Knights-TK and Whitey have done a lot to help me, and our owner, Dr. DeNaples, for supporting me all the way back to youth hockey and always looking out for my best interests.”

“I’m proud of Mike and the progress he’s made in his career,” said Kowal. “It will be a different place without him, but it’ll be for the best reasons. I’ll be cheering him on as he takes his next step with Colby in hockey and in life.”

The entire Knights organization thanks Mike for his hard work and the many years he’s put in with the program. They will be rooting him on with full confidence that big things lie ahead both in hockey and the world beyond.

Paul Cimilluca Commits to Wilkes University

Knights defenseman Paul Cimilluca committed to the Wilkes University Colonels on Monday. The 97-born defenseman will start his college career next year with the Colonels in their inaugural season in NCAA division III.

“I like that it was close to home,” said Cimilluca of Wilkes’ nearby campus. “It’s a college community, there are something like 10 schools around the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area and a lot of life. It’s a good place for a school, especially in division three. They’re a small school, investing in itself and their sports programs.”

The Colonels will be coached in their first season by Brett Riley, a former forward for Hobart College.

“Coach Riley is a young up-and-comer,” said Cimilluca. “He’s got an impressive history-he turned Albany Academy around in his last job. He comes from a great hockey family with a lot of ties to Army and the collegiate level. His father coached at Army and his grandfather coached both there and Team USA to a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. Needless to say Coach Riley knows his hockey. He’s 100% all-in. That really was the biggest reason I committed to Wilkes.”

Cimilluca is in his second season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights after being a  second-round selection in the Knights 2016 NAHL draft class. The New Jersey native has compiled 15 points in 82 games with the team, playing minutes in all situations.

“Paul has been a great competitor for us from day one,” said Knights head coach Tom Kowal. “He brings a steady, physical game to our blue line and he enjoys challenging the other teams’ top players. That’s the attitude we want from our defensemen. As a veteran he’s also done a nice job introducing younger guys on our team to the style of play and toughness that is needed to play in the NAHL.”

“I owe it all to the NAHL,” said Cimilluca. “They’re arguably one of the best leagues in junior hockey. The top-end teams can compete with teams in the USHL. You have a lot of older junior players that are going to be division one or high-end division three guys. I think that really helps me heading into college, having competed against guys who will be playing at the same or higher levels of hockey. Battling against D-I guys like Jack Olmstead, Tyrone Bronte, Reed Robinson, Justin Engelkes, Anthony Firriolo, Gabe Temple every day in practice-that’s been the best thing for me. It gives me a lot of confidence, knowing I’ve prepared myself against that level of talent.”

Cimilluca will finish out his final months as a junior hockey player with the Knights, a team hungry for success in their third year in the NAHL. He is committed to helping them achieve the highest of their goals.

“I want to be a Robertson Cup Champion, plain and simple,” he said.

“I’m proud to see Paul commit to Wilkes,” said Kowal. “They’re getting a strong player and leader for their first NCAA season and beyond. With him going to school just a few minutes away, it won’t be hard to root for Paul. I look forward to following his college career!”

“I’d really like to thank all the coaches that helped me get to this point in my career, especially Hockey Essentials, The New Jersey Avalanche organization, Bloodline Hockey, and the WBS coaching staff,” said Cimilluca. “I’m looking forward to making an impact at Wilkes University.”

The Knights organization is happy to congratulate Paul on his commitment and thank him for his years of hard work and play on the ice. They are excited to root for him throughout his collegiate career!

Knights Alumni Khristian Acosta and Paul DeNaples Sign Letters of Intent

Congrats to Knights alumni Khristian Acosta and Paul DeNaples on signing their letters of intent today. Starting next season, Acosta will play for UMass Hockey while DeNaples will skate for Penn State Men’s Hockey.

Elijah Latimer Commits to St. Thomas University

Elijah Latimer is heading west. The long-time Knights defenseman has committed to St. Thomas University to play division three college hockey in Minnesota this fall.

“I loved the school when I visited this past season,” said Latimer. “The school, the coach, the team-all of it impressed me.”

The Tommies, who play out of St. Paul, Minnesota, are guided by head coach Jeff Boeser. In his tenure, the team has posted an impressive record of 109-54-22 dating back to 2010. The program has a proud tradition of sustained success, having qualified for the NCAA tournament 16 times since 1983, including two National Championship appearances. Latimer looks to fortify a blue-line that saw three of its members graduate this spring.

“Elijah has grown up with the Knights,” said Knights NAHL head coach Tom Kowal. “He’s been here since day one. He’s made progress every year and had success at every level of our organization. He has a skillset that he’s worked hard to improve, and it’s one that will transfer well to the college level.”

His earliest coach with the Knights echoes these sentiments.

“I coached Elijah from PeeWee to U18,” said Alex Vasko. “He’s always been an excellent backward skater, and there was no question he was going to be best as a defenseman. He’s got excellent positioning, home defense and outstanding skating skills.”

After affiliating with the Knights NAHL team in the 2015-16 season, the 2016 draft pick brought a stabilizing presence to the Knights NAHL defensive corps this past year.

“We always look for our affiliate players to make an impression when we first bring them up to the NAHL level,” said Kowal. “Elijah was someone we were very familiar with and confident in our first year in tier-II. When we gave him a few games in the NAHL, he didn’t disappoint. This past season we drafted him, knowing we were getting a good fit. We were able to lean on him throughout the year to provide us with a strong two-way game.”

Over 54 games this past season, he scored one goal and seven assists, while playing a lot of minutes in a variety of roles. The experience was one he believes has improved his ability and prepared him to play in college.

“The NAHL is such a tough league and we play in a strong division,” said Latimer. “It puts you up against some really athletic players and challenges you in a lot of ways. I think it definitely made me a better player for it.”

The next challenge will be adjusting to his new home, as the long-time local of Northeast Pennsylvania will get settled in St. Paul.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Latimer of the upcoming move. “Just having been here so long, it’ll be different playing somewhere else, but I’m excited for the new experiences college will bring.

Reminiscing all the good times is easy for Latimer, but picking out a single favorite memory proved to be a bit harder.

“We won a lot,” said Latimer of his many years with the Knights. “Probably the best memory was winning the National Championship.”

Latimer’s name is inscribed on a banner hanging inside the Revolution Ice Centre, commemorating the organization’s USA Hockey National Championship in 2012.

“Elijah was part of my Bantam Major team that won the National Championship in 2012,” said Vasko. “He spent two years playing on the same line with Ivan Provorov and was great.”

With all the success that he’s had with the Knights, Latimer was quick to recognize those who helped him reach that goal and others throughout his career.

“I want to thank the ownership of the Knights, they’ve helped me so much. Alex Vasko has been a coach to me from the beginning and has taught me a lot and I’m really grateful for that.”

As Latimer departs, the Knights say goodbye and good luck to one of their most tenured veterans, and the organization is happy to have had him as a member.

“I have always seen a lot of potential in Elijah as a player and that was with him playing on a team with Ivan Provorov, Daniel Sprong, Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev,” said Vasko. “I am very happy for him and wish him the best of luck.”

“It’s going to be odd not having Elijah here,” said Kowal. “He’s been an asset to us on and off the ice, and we’ve all gotten to know him well. I’m proud of how far he’s come and know he’ll be successful wherever goes. We wish him all the best.”

Khristian Acosta Commits to UMass Minutemen

After a trade to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights last October, Khristian Acosta’s ride through junior hockey has been one of continued success.

After his move to the NAHL, Acosta quickly established himself as one of the team’s most dangerous offensive weapons. In just his first 10 games, Acosta totaled six goals and seven assists on his way to a seven-game scoring streak.

“The boys were really welcoming,” said Acosta of his early days with the Knights “They took me in right away. Coach Tom and Coach Andrew were great. They all helped me get comfortable quickly.”

The forward from Middletown, New Jersey would prove that his early offensive returns were no fluke.  In 34 games with the Knights he was more than a point per game player as he picked up a stat line of 12-23-35.

“The NAHL is easily one of the best junior leagues,” said Acosta. “All you have to do is look at the number of college commits to get an idea of what kind of league this is. It builds great character and it’s a level of competition that’s prepared me for the USHL and has helped ready me for my college career.”

It didn’t take long for Acosta’s torrid play to attract attention from the USHL. Following a goal and assist performance against his hometown New Jersey Titans, Acosta was traded to the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. In 20 games to close out 2016-17 he scored one goal and 12 assists.

Moving forward Acosta has his sights set on division one hockey. The 98 birth year has committed to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, beginning in the 2018-19 season.

“Definitely the tradition,” said Acosta on what attracted him to the Minutemen program. “They have a pretty new coaching staff, they play in the best conference in college hockey. They really have a beautiful campus and it’s a great place for me to pursue a business major.”

The Minutemen play in the Hockey East Conference, home to such household names as Boston College, Boston University, and Notre Dame. With origins dating back to 1908, Massachusetts Amherst alumni list isn’t short on proud history either, boasting recent alumni like Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary, Bruins forward Fran Vatrano and Sharks defenseman Justin Braun among many others.

“I’m looking forward to helping make the Minutemen into a powerhouse program,” said Acosta of his soon-to-be home.

Though his stay wasn’t long, Acosta certainly left a great impression on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton organization. He emphasizes the same could be said of its effect on him.

“I had a great billet family; they’re like second family to me-we keep in touch all the time,” he said. “I had a lot of fun hanging out with the boys, winning a lot of games. I think my favorite memory might have to be when we won to get back over .500. That was pretty special.”

Not lost on Acosta were the efforts of those that he encountered in his time with the Knights.

“I just want to thank the Knights organization, coaches, staff and teammates for helping in my development. They’re a great organization.”

The Knights for their part are happy to have had Khristian as a member of their team and wish the best of luck moving forward with his hockey career.



Knights Alumni Denis Smirnov named Penn State MVP, Freshman of the Year

Photo/Craig Houtz

Once a regular at the Revolution Ice Centre, it wasn’t too long ago when it was a common sight for Denis Smirnov to be lighting the lamp for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights. For the 2011-2012 season, the skilled Russian forward averaged three points a game for the Knights AYBHL team, with a line of 39-37-76 in 25 games played. The following year he made the jump to the AYHL 16U Knights and scored 23 goals with 21 assists in 21 games played.

His scoring touch carried over to his USHL career in which he registered 62-80-142 in 160 games played over three full seasons. Now in the NCAA, Smirnov finished his freshman year by leading the Penn State Nittany Lions in total points with 47, assists with 28, and game-winning goals with four.

His 19-28-47 stat line has earned him the nod as the Lions MVP and team Freshman of the Year.  Those numbers placed him in a tie for 15th in the nation in division one scoring, and led all freshman in the country.

Smirnov has been a stellar player at every stop along the way in his young hockey career, and the Knights congratulate him on his well-deserved accolades. The organization will be among many rooting for him as he moves ahead toward a very bright future.

Knights Forward Joe Schuler Commits to Colby College

The 96 birth year will play for the Colby Mules in 2017-18

When the Knights made a trade that brought them Joe Schuler last summer, they were looking for a veteran forward to help bolster a young roster. The Webster, New York native rewarded them by bringing energy and the knowledge gained from already one year spent in the NAHL to their locker room. After a steady regular season, Schuler’s number was called upon often down the stretch to take shifts in some of the team’s biggest moments. In the playoffs, Schuler finished tied for the Knights lead in goals, ending the year on a two-game goal streak.

“First of all, the NAHL, it’s a great league,” said Schuler. “People say tier-II, but it’s extremely competitive. I think it’s made me twice the player I was. It’s helped me prepare for college. Living away from home allowed me to attack my academics more aggressively. I think it made me more independent.”

Schuler will take that dedication to his studies to college when he joins the Colby Mules of the NESCAC next season. The Mules program, located in Waterville, Maine, just completed their 22nd season playing at the division III level of NCAA hockey. Schuler is excited to get to work.

“I think when you visit a place, and it just feels right, that’s what stood out to me about Colby,” he said. “It’s a smaller school that’s challenging academically and they’ve had a hockey program for a long time. In the NESCAC conference, they play a lot of fun, competitive hockey.”

The Mules, once led by Jim Tortorella (brother of John) for their first 16 seasons, are now steered by head coach Blaise MacDonald. His team is coming off a 13-7-4 season in which they finished second in NESCAC’s regular season standings.

“Colby has a great tradition,” said Schuler. “I’m excited to play for a school where hockey and academics are a big deal.”

In reflecting on his final season in junior hockey, Schuler was most sure to talk about his teammates he shared it with.

“I like our guys,” he said. “We had a great group. We had a lot of fun together. Whether we were filling a teammate’s car with packing peanuts, going on long road trips or just hanging out in our hotel, we really enjoyed our time together.”

In parting, he had a few final words of gratitude.

“I just want to thank my parents,” he said.

The Knights organization thanks Joe for his contributions and wishes him all the best moving forward in his career!