It is amazing that college hockey is getting recognized on television during this year's International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships U20 tournament in Helsinki, Finland. Each year when the NHL Network carries the IIHF WJC U20 tournament, they will air promotions on college hockey, letting players in North America know that the major juniors route (i.e. WHL) is not the only way to the NHL. This year in Helsinki, there are 14 U.S.-based college players - three of them playing for their respective international teams - that are playing in this tournament. Usually those that are playing collegiate hockey in the United States will be overlooked by National Hockey League scouts all because they are not playing in either the three-league Canadian Hockey League or in Europe.
This may include these 13 players - two of them women - who hail from the Puget Sound. The Seattle Sin Bin continues our coverage on taking a closer look at these local area players that are currently playing at the NCAA Division III level:
Kyle Blondin (Kent) – Saint Mary’s University [MN] Cardinals
Majoring in biology and going through pre-medical school at the Winona, Minnesota-based private university, Blondin only totaled up two points (goal & assist) last season. But this season the sophomore defenseman has racked up all five of his points via assists. He earned his first multi-point game of his career on November 28th with two assists in the Cardinals’ 7-4 win over Aurora [IL] University. Despite having 16 penalty minutes, he is maintaining a season +1 rating.
The Cardinals have ten points and are sitting in third place in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (3-2-1 MIAC, 6-4-2 overall) and will host the Milwaukee School of Engineering in non-conference action on Sunday.
Cole Corson (Seattle) – Worcester [MA] State University Lancers
After a successful junior career with the Salt Lake City Moose from the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), the freshman forward is now playing collegiately under the guidance of head coach / former NHL player Shayne Toporowski. Corson scored his first and only point of his college career on November 14th in the Lancers’ 5-4 overtime home loss to Fitchburg State University.
The Lancers are 5-5-0 overall and have yet to play in a Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC) game. They do not hit the ice again until Saturday January 9th on the road at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Ryan Doner (Mukilteo) – University of Wisconsin-River Falls Falcons
The junior forward has played in all 13 games at River Falls where he has eight points (two goals, six assists) and has a +3 rating. Ryan has also scored on the power play and also added a game-winner this season. He is the brother of Molly Doner, who currently plays NCAA Division I women’s hockey at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The Falcons are on top of the five-member Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) standings with four points (2-0-0 WIAC, 7-4-2 overall) and are ranked 13th in the latest D3Hockey.com Top 15 men’s poll. UWRF will host Marian University in a non-conference game on Tuesday January 5th.
Bryce Fink (Tacoma) – University of Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjackets
A former member of the Seattle Totems (WSHL), Fink was traded by the Totems to the El Paso Rhinos in the middle of the 2013-14 season, where he would finish the year by winning the WSHL Thorne Cup title and claiming the most valuable player award during the Rhinos’ postseason title run. He would go on to start his collegiate career in goal at Superior for the 2014-15 season where he went 3-7-1 (wins-loss-tie), a 3.02 goals-against average (GAA), and an .895 save percentage. So far this season, Fink has played in seven of the Yellowjackets’ 13 games where he has only gone 1-4-2, 2.66 GAA, and a .906 save percentage.
UW-Superior is last in the conference with two points (0-2-0 WIAC, 3-8-2 overall). The Yellowjackets will host Finlandia University in non-conference action on Tuesday January 5th.
Michael Fretz (Seattle) – Fitchburg [MA] State University Falcons
Majoring in business management, the 21-year-old freshman has scored all four of his points this season. On October 30th – the season opening weekend home tournament – the Falcons suffered a 5-2 defeat to Southern Maine University where Fretz would score the team’s first goal of the season on the power play. The next night against Wentworth Institute of Technology [WIT], Fretz would score more two more goals in FSU’s 7-2 blowout victory. All four teams in the FSU tournament (FSU, Southern Maine, WIT, & Worcester State) went 1-1-0 but the Falcons won their tournament by virtue of goal differential; Fretz was named to the All-Tournament Team. Fretz would score another goal on November 14th as the Falcons held on to a 5-4 win at Worcester State University. Fretz has not played any hockey since.
The Falcons are in fifth place in their conference with five points (2-3-1 MASCAC, 5-4-1 overall) and will visit 3rd-ranked State University of New York (SUNY) Plattsburgh in non-conference action on New Year’s Day.
Eliot Grauer (Mukilteo) – University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers
A former member of the now-defunct Wenatchee Wild in the North American Hockey League, the junior forward has improved his stats from his freshman (2013-14) season where he had seven points (three goals, four assists) in 12 games played. With 12 games played so far this season, though, he has nine points (five goals, four assists), which should make him on pace to shatter his totals from last season in which he had tallied 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 24 games. Through 48 career games, he has amassed 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists), 22 penalty minutes with a +21 rating. Eliot is the brother of Lydia Grauer, who is playing NCAA Division I women’s hockey at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.
The 9th-ranked Pointers are tied for second place in their conference with UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout with two points (1-1-0 WIAC, 8-3-1 overall). UWSP will host Hamline University in non-conference action on Thursday January 7th.
Maureen Greason (Bainbridge Island) – Bowdoin College Polar Bears
After scoring just one point (goal) in all 26 of the Polar Bears games last season, the Bainbridge High graduate has tripled her scoring performance with four points (three goals, an assist) through all of the six games with two of her goals coming via power play.
Bowdoin College are in fifth place in the nine-member New England Small College Athletic Conference (1-1-0 NESCAC, 2-4-0 overall). The Polar Bears play at the University of New England in non-conference action on Sunday.
Jared Pilet (Seattle) – Concordia University [Wisconsin] Falcons
In nine out of the 12 games played with the Falcons, the sophomore forward has only totaled up to two points, with his first point of the season coming in Concordia’s 5-0 home win over Finlandia University back on November 7th. Pilet’s first goal of the season happened on December 4th in the Falcons’ 6-2 win at Aurora (IL) University. Through 34 career games at the Mequon, Wisconsin-based Lutheran higher education school, Pilet (pronounced as PIH-lay) has 10 points (two goals, eight assists), 56 penalty minutes with a +6 rating.
CUW is in second place in the South Division of the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) with 11 points (5-2-1 NCHA, 8-3-1 overall), only two points behind the division leader, 2nd-ranked Adrian University. The Falcons play against Lawrence University in a home-and-home weekend series on January 8th & 9th.
Jordan Robertson (Mukilteo) – Elmira [NY] College Soaring Eagles
Majoring in business administration, Robertson did not play hockey at all last season in upstate New York. The junior forward scored his first point since the 2013-14 season on December 11th with an assist in Elmira’s 6-1 win at Wesleyan University. Robertson, who has only appeared in three games this season, now has seven points (three goals and four assists) through 27 career games played.
Elmira College is in last place in the six-member Eastern College Athletic Conference West (2-4 ECAC West, 6-5-0 overall) and will play back-to-back weekend games – at Brockport (NY) State [Friday January 8th] and at home against SUNY Geneseo [Saturday January 9th].
Skyler Smutek (Seattle) – Marian University Sabres
Playing hockey at his third NCAA institution, the junior defenseman has yet to make an appearance with the Sabres this season. He began his collegiate playing career with the University of Connecticut Huskies in the 2011-12 season that included another Seattle-native on the Husky roster in Trevor Gerling. In two seasons at Storrs, he would total up eight points (four goals & assists, each) in 32 games. He would not play in the 2013-14 season but would transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the 2014-15 season, where he would only score a goal in four games with the Pointers.
The Sabres are in third place in the NCHA South Division with seven points (3-4-1 NCHA, 5-4-3 overall). Their next game is at #13th-ranked UW-River Falls in non-conference action on Tuesday January 5th.
Troy Turpin (Kent) – Becker College Hawks
Although he is listed on the current roster, the freshman goaltender, who is majoring in sports management at the Leicester, Massachusetts-based public school, has yet to see ice time for the Hawks. Becker College is in its final year in the ECAC and will move over to the recently created Commonwealth Coast Conference in the 2016-17 athletic season. The Hawks only have two points and are in eighth place (1-5-0 ECAC Northeast, 4-7-0 overall) in the current nine-member conference. Becker College are back in action on Monday January 4th in non-conference play at Southern New Hampshire.
Kellen Wassell (Edmonds) – Saint Mary’s University [MN] Cardinals
One of two sophomore players – including Kyle Blondin – from the Puget Sound playing at Winona, Wassell is third in team scoring with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) while playing in 10 of the Cardinals’ 12 games – he did not play in the two-game season opening MIAC Hockey Showcase. The forward is maintaining a +5 rating.
Naomi Woolfenden (Mill Creek) – Hamilton College Continentals
Through all six games this season at the public/private institute based in Clinton, New York, the senior defensewoman has one point (assist). In her career, she has amassed 19 points (5 goals, 14 assists) in 65 games played.
The Continentals will enter the new year in fourth place in their conference (2-1-1 NESCAC, 3-2-1 overall) by closing out their five-game homestand on Sunday when they host Wesleyan University in a non-conference game.