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Washington Huskies Hockey Season Review (2015-2016 Edition)

Overall: 17-12-1-1 PAC-8 (regular season): 9-2-1 PAC-8 Tournament: 1-2 Home: 10-1-1-0 Away: 6-9-0-1 Neutral Site: 1-3

Washington Huskies players pose with the Hockey Saves, Inc. military/veterans team get together for a photo op immediately following an exhibition game at Olympicview Arena on Saturday night.
Washington Huskies players pose with the Hockey Saves, Inc. military/veterans team get together for a photo op immediately following an exhibition game at Olympicview Arena on Saturday night.
Lorenzo Z. Villalobos Jr.

Season number two for Matt Cleeton as the head coach for the University of Washington Huskies concluded just about a month ago at the Pacific-8 Hockey Conference Championships in South Lake Tahoe, California.  After shutting out the University of Oregon Ducks, 6-0, in their opening round game, the Huskies suffered back-to-back setbacks.  In the tournament’s first semifinal game against the eventual-tournament champion University of Utah Utes, Washington was defeated by an 11-4 score, while in the 3rd-place game the next morning it was the University of California Golden Bears, who lost the second semifinal game to the University of Southern California Trojans (3-1), that would survive against the Huskies with a 9-7 win to claim the consolation prize.

Not winning the conference title – regular season or tournament – fell short of expectations.

Improving your overall record from the previous season did.

A 17-12-1-1 record (wins-regulation losses-ties-overtime/shootout losses) was an improved mark for a club that finished 12-13-1-1 the previous season.  It was the Huskies’ best season since their 2011-2012 Pacific-8 Hockey Conference championship season when they finished 19-10-0-0 overall, which included losing their ACHA regional tournament game to the Colorado State University Rams.

Alongside Cleeton throughout the season was assistant coach Amanda Hardwick, who was by Cleeton’s side on the bench all season long.  C.J. Fisher and Dane Jordan also contributed their time as assistant coaches during parts of the season as well.

Overall, Washington beat their opponents by providing fast skating, heavy hitting, and keen shots on goal.  And in some cases, Washington was beaten by the same aforementioned.

Freshmen Forwards & Blueliners Leading the Way

Who would have thought that a freshman would finish out his first season by becoming the top scorer on the club?  Well, Tavin Jackson did just that.  In 28 games, the freshman center from Point Roberts, one of five late additions to the Husky roster prior to the start of the season, led the team in goals (30), power play goals (9), multi-goal games (10), multi-assist games (5), points (49), multi-point games (16), and penalty minutes (54).  His 30 goals this season tied Ryan Minkoff’s mark when he, too, established a 30-goal freshman season back in the 2011-12 season.  Other than Minkoff, Corey James previously held the second highest point total by a freshman when he tallied up 38 points in 22 games set back in the 2009-10 season before Jackson eclipsed it with a four-point night in his 24th game back on January 29th vs. Portland State.

Another center that stepped up this season was Christian Cinderella (Sammamish).  He would be another player that made a name for himself right away having played 30 games and producing 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) along with four power play goals.  With his dedicated commitment to the Husky hockey club all season long, he missed a good chunk of playing time with his other team in the Seattle Totems of the lower junior ‘A’ Western States Hockey League.  He has resumed skating for the Totems earlier this month and into the late stages of the WSHL season, Seattle is currently in a fight with the Butte Cobras for the Northwest Division’s final spot for the Thorne Cup Playoffs which is coming up in March.

Defenseman Ryan Jaromin (Arlington) led all defenseman in scoring with 32 points in all 31 games played.  It was the second most points tallied up by a Husky freshman defenseman since Daniel Carson put up 33 points in 27 games back in the 2008-09 season.  The night after clinching the I-5 Cup, he earned all four of his points coming via assists in the Huskies’ 11-5 win at Oregon.  His overall performance earned him All Pacific-8 Conference Third Team honors.

Mason Friedman (San Ramon, California) was another freshman forward that produced well with the Huskies.  In the season opener versus the Washington State University Cougars, he would score the game-winner in UW’s 8-2 win.  One of three Husky players that hailed from the San Francisco Bay Area on this season’s roster, Friedman put up 25 points in 30 games.

Lucas Semkiw, the second of the three Bay Area natives – only played at least half of the team’s schedule but managed 20 points in just 16 games.   The native of San Jose, California would score a short-handed goal during Washington’s 5-4 win over the University of California Golden Bears, a homecoming game of sorts having played youth hockey in the very same arena – Oakland Ice Center.

Washington also saw the speed and finesse play of one Devin Garg.  Coming out of Lake Oswego, Oregon, Garg played four years of hockey with Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota before coming back to the northwest.  And his speed on the Olympicview ice showed how much of a threat he can be to opponents, getting 22 points (9 goals, 13 assists) in 21 games despite a scary hit during a road game at Northern Colorado forced him to sit out three games.  Garg will set his sights on getting healthy during the offseason and be ready before October comes around.

Eli Dingles (Bainbridge Island) earned a lot of playing time (23 games) but provided very little offensive production with just three points (two goals, one assist).

Forward Jordan Fitzgibbon (Whitby, Ontario, Canada), who made his debut with the Huskies during the Spokane road trip, had ten points in ten games.  Out of the four goals scored this season, two of those were game-winners.  His season ended on Jan. 14th after sustaining an MCL/ACL injury during a game at Northern Colorado and is looking to recover, and hopefully will be ready before the start of training camp.

Freshmen Goaltenders Earning the Experience

The freshmen goaltending duo of Jeffrey Miles and Debbie Chen showed the conference that the youth will be effective into the future.

Miles finished 7-11-1-0 with a 5.07 GAA and an .841 save percentage in 20 games.  The native of San Diego, California finished 4-1-1 on Olympicview ice and will see more playing time heading into 2016-2017.   His best overall performance of the season was back on October 16th where Miles stopped 29 of 30 shots in a 1-1 tie with Oregon; his best winning game came on opening night – October 2nd – where he stopped 30 of 32 shots in an 8-2 win over Washington State.

Chen (Taoyuan, Taiwan) debuted on October 9th subbing in for Miles during Washington’s 16-2 loss to the Montana Tech Orediggers in a neutral site game at Boise’s CenturyLink Arena.  Like Miles, she was rusty in her first game against a very tough M.T. squad.  But all three of her starts – ironically against Portland State University – ended up being wins as she concluded her freshman season 3-0-0 in four overall game appearances with a 2.80 GAA and an .852 save percentage. She was the first female goalie in UW club hockey history to earn a start AND a win.  She will more likely be the #1 backup goalie under Miles should Cleeton stick to having just those two goaltenders for the upcoming season.

Seniors Moving On…

Senior left-winger Alex Black (Boulder, Colorado) was one of two seniors to wear the ‘A’ as assistant team captain this season, where he would take the top spot in the assists category with 27 assists.  ‘Blackie’, as teammates called him, led the team in power play goals with five.  Black finished his career becoming the third-highest scorer in Husky hockey history with 176 points completing that feat in 104 games.  Unfortunately, the Pacific-8 Conference never recognized his efforts as he was neglected from voting consideration by the conference in the past four award banquets.

Cory Tung was beneficial for the Huskies this season.  Playing all 31 games this season, he totaled up 17 points (eight goals, nine assists), with three on the power play and one short-handed while serving as the second assistant team captain.  The San Francisco native finishes his two-season career in Seattle with 9 goals, 12 assists for a total of 21 points in 54 games.

Bradyn Kawcak (Fort Collins, Colorado) earned the ‘C’ for his leading role this season as team captain.  As expected, he displayed his role as the leading team captain by earning 20 points (6 goals, 14 assists) in 30 games.  Kawcak saw improvement in this team and noticed a huge step up from the underclassmen, especially from Jackson and Jaromin.   Kawcak will more than likely hand the ‘C’ over to a soon-to-be senior, possibly defenseman Troy Gasser; however, nothing will be confirmed on who the team / assistant captain will be until the new season gets closer.  Gasser served this past season as an assistant captain.

Goaltender James Feldman, who will be finishing up graduate school in law, finished up a memorable season – both personally and professionally on the ice – with a 7-1-0-1 in 10 games in goal for the Huskies.  The native from Anchorage, Alaska earned two shutouts this season including his first one of his career back on November 6th in a 5-0 win over the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars at Olympicview Arena.  His lone regulation loss was the Huskies’ PAC-8 Tournament semifinal matchup with Utah after allowing a long distance goal get passed him unexpected, which took the energy out of the team after playing tight-knit hockey within the first eight minutes of the game.  The Utes won that game, 11-4.  Aside of that, he would go undefeated in all four home appearances including another shutout against conference opponent UCLA, 3-0, back on January 9th.

...While the Juniors Take Over

Defenseman Troy Gasser (Sammamish), who served as the third alternate team captain, will be a candidate on donning the ‘C’ on his jersey as he will be playing as a senior this coming fall.  One of the best offensive blueliners in the conference, he earned all-conference second team honors this season with 28 points (9 goals, 19 assists) in 27 games.  Gasser can provide emotional motivation heading into the new season and will definitely be looked up to by the underclassmen for that support.

A player that did very well this season offensively may have earned himself an assistant team captain role is JD White (Kenmore).  The soon-to-be senior forward dramatically increased his previous season’s point total by 20 points with just a few more games played this year than last year.  White completed his junior season with 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games.  October was a huge month for White as he earned two four-point games –two goals AND assists – in wins over both Oregon and Western Washington.

Keenan Smith (Kirkland) improved his season in both goals (7) and points (13) in 27 games this season.  Built like a defenseman, Smith has stayed within his lane as a left winger pushing the puck up the ice as quickly as possible and managed to be the set-up man for scoring opportunities during even-strength situations.   He also cut his time in the penalty box by 14 minutes from the previous season only spending eight minutes in the box this year.

Veterans Stepping Up

One defenseman that will be on the lookout for next season will be Simon Machalek (Pilsen, Czech Republic), who will be playing as a junior in October.  He scored his first career goal back on January 14th in a non-conference game at Northern Colorado and finished out his season by scoring 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in all 31 games played.  Machalek was a very good defensive playmaker, dumping the puck out in the corners and kept opposing players away from their respective attacking zone.

Let us not forget about Josh McGrew, the local product from Edmonds who – like Machalek – also scored his first career goal late in the season but his fearless play with the puck regardless of his 5’6" size benefitted from applying pressure on Husky opponents this season.  There were times that the opposing teams were able to quickly get into the attack zone and set up plays.  However, McGrew demonstrated his grit on the ice helping out Miles, Chen, and Feldman near the goal and blocking shots when possible.

Other notable veteran players contributing this past season was forward Tyler Jennings (Black Diamond), who did not do too bad concluding his sophomore season picking up 24 points in all of the team’s 31 games played, seven points more than he had in his freshman year.  He had a four-point afternoon (all assists) in a Huskies’ 12-6 win over the Cougars in Spokane back on October 24th.  Joe Kinkopf (Lake Forest Park) had a slight improvement in his scoring from the previous as he picked up nine points (three goals, six assists) in 25 games including getting his first career power play and game-winning goal, respectively.

First-Year Upper Classmen

Meanwhile, sophomore defenseman Graham Gustafson (Spokane) did numerous damage to opponents with some heavy duty hitting throughout the season.  Gustafson is learning to set up plays from the neutral zone but has done stopping the pucks at the puck keeping up the momentum for Washington during crucial games.  He earned all three points coming of assists in 18 games.  One of those assists came on October 23rd vs. WSU, a homecoming game for him as the game was held at the very same rink he played youth hockey – Eagles Ice-A-rena – in Spokane while playing for the Junior Chiefs team.

Three upper classmen playing in their first season with the UW were late add-ons to the roster immediately after training camp concluded.  Junior defenseman Kevin Sigler (Juneau, Alaska), who picked up three points (two goals, one assist) but only played 12 games.  He was recovering from an injury toward the end of the season.  Sophomore forward Lawrence Taicz (Woodinville) earned three points but all of those points came via assists in 17 games, however he only came out onto the ice in late stages of most games he appeared in.  Forward Steven Chiu (Taipei, Taiwan) had some ice time this season but appeared in only 11 games while picking up all five of his points via assists.

Haugen Not Returning for Start of New Season

Junior forward Tyler Haugen (New Richmond, Wisconsin) will not return to the club in time for the start of next season as he will be attending school in Italy during the fall semester, however, it could be possible to see him return after the holidays.  He scored his first and only goal of his collegiate career in the final regular season game against Portland State.

HUSKY OFF-SEASON NOTES

- Before the start of the Pac-8 Tournament in South Lake Tahoe, four Husky players were named to the Pac-8 All-Conference Team.  Gasser and Feldman earned Second Team honors, while Jackson & Jaromin earned Third Team honors.  With Gasser and Jaromin being selected, it marks the eighth consecutive year that a Husky defenseman has been named onto the all-conference team.

- The Huskies finished the regular season portion of the conference at 9-2-1 and earned the #3 seed into the tournament.

- Washington played one final exhibition game with the Hockey Saves, Inc.’s Washington state chapter last Saturday night.  In a 13-8 defeat, both teams skated out at center ice for one final photo shoot before calling it a season.  Feldman skated out wearing the #26 jersey and played parts of the game in a skating role.  He put on the pads and replaced Chen, who started the game, midway through the third period.

- The 2016-2017 season schedule is in the works at the moment and is close to being finished, according to Cleeton.

PAC-8 HOCKEY NOTES

- Utah defeated USC, 5-3, to capture its third and final Pacific-8 Conference Championship on Super Bowl Sunday.  Two days later, the club officially announced they will be transitioning over within the American Collegiate Hockey Association from Division 2 to Division 1 effective next season.  Utah, who entered the tournament ranked #2 in the ACHA West Region, will be participating in its final ACHA Division 2 Nationals Tournament next weekend in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  The Utes will be playing in Pool D with the Boston University Terriers (9th, ACHA East); Lindenwood University – Belleville (IL) Lynx (1st, ACHA Central); and Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks (3rd, ACHA Southeast).

- With Utah leaving the conference, that leaves the Pac-8 with just six teams.  No word yet as to whether traditional Pac-12 school Stanford will have clubs ready to jump into the conference next season.  There has been no indication yet as to whether Oregon State University will have a club team for next season, thus leaving two vacancies in the conference for club hockey.  Stanford had been playing under the ACHA Division 3 level out of the five-member Pacific Collegiate Hockey Association.

- Washington State University Cougars finished the season with a 6-4 win over the University of Oregon Ducks to claim the 5th place in the tournament and a 7-10-1 overall mark.  Forward Zach Sonnichsen earned Third Team honors this season.

- UCLA Bruins debuted their new website last week and has already published their 2016-17 preliminary schedule.  The Bruins failed to make the conference tournament after having a dismal season.

- Despite not having a great year overall, Oregon has been getting a lot of attention with its "candy apple" green jerseys that was worn during the Pac-8 Tournament.  On Tuesday, it was exposed on the ‘NHL on NBC Sports’ Facebook page.