Friday, August 31, 2012

Meet Patrick Grasso: UNH's Newest Recruit

Every few years, a diminutive dynamo with blazing speed, quickness and offensive creativity joins the UNH Hockey Program. Hobey Baker Finalist Steve Saviano, point-scoring machine Jacob Micflikier, leading goal scorer Stevie Moses - all barely taller than 5'6" and around 170 pounds. Next year, it will be Tyler Kelleher - the 5'6", 147 lbs. leading scorer for the US National Team Development Program - who is on track to arrive in Durham. Next in line could be 16-year-old Patrick Grasso, a 5'5", 137 lbs. forward from Ankeny, Iowa who has just committed to play for UNH.

Patrick Grasso (DOB: 5-29-1996) has played all of his youth hockey, from pee wee to midget minor, for the NPI Leafs AAA Hockey Program. The NPI Leafs are sponsored by NPI Security Services and are based in Urbandale, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. Patrick's dad, Michael, has been his coach throughout. During a brief career with the old Wisconsin Capitals of the USHL, Michael Grasso played at 5'10", 170 lbs. - a size Patrick can aspire to.

Last season, Patrick Grasso played for the NPI Leafs Midget Minor AAA 96's. The Leafs played other AAA teams throughout the midwest plus a number of showcase events all over North America. Late in the season, the Amateur Hockey Report scouting service provided this assessment of Patrick:
A seamless and quick skater that is smooth with the puck. Great hands and has a lot of jump. Small but elusive. Able to dictate the play from behind the net or from along the half-boards while on the power play. Disruptive and has a knack for positioning himself to intercept the puck.
In recent years, elite college programs, including UNH, have increasingly scouted young American-born players who are in their middle teenage years. The top American prospects are almost always selected to participate in the Player Development Camps run by USA Hockey every summer. All of the American-born recruits who have committed to play for UNH over the next few years have extensive experience in the USA Hockey Select Camps. Patrick Grasso is no exception. In 2011, Grasso earned a slot at the Select Camp through competition in the Central District of USA Hockey. At the 2011 Select 15 Camp held in July 2011 in Rochester, NY, Grasso scored a goal and added 4 assists in 5 scrimmage games. Of course, the number of points scored is one of several indicators of a player's performance. The scoring stats don't reflect how the player performed in key areas such as defense, skating, and endurance. However, using points as a gauge, Grasso's play was comparable to New Hampshire native Joey Dudek who recently committed to Boston College.

This year, Patrick Grasso earned a slot at the 2012 Select 16 Player Development Camp held in early July. Patrick posted 2 assists in 5 games. In their extensive coverage of the Select Camp, U.S. Hockey Report ranked Grasso as #23 among the nearly 120 forwards who participated in the camp.

The breakout performance that solidified Patrick Grasso's status as a top 1996-born prospect came at the Des Moines Buccaneers Tryout Camp in June. Patrick was not drafted by any team in the United States Hockey League but he was invited by the Buccaneers to their tryout. Over 100 players vied for slots on Des Moines' active roster for the 2012-13 season as well as spots on the team's affiliate list. Right from Day 1, Patrick got noticed. He scored a goal in his first game and went on to score a total of 4 goals in the 5 scrimmage games. On the strength of that performance, Patrick Grasso was selected to play in the Buccaneers Tryout Camp All-Star Game. Patrick scored a goal in the game as his team won 7-2. As he explains in my interview with him (see below), Patrick was offered a spot on the Des Moines Buccaneers roster. He plans to start out the regular season playing for the Omaha AAA U16 Lancers. The Lancers, based in Omaha, Nebraska, are members of the North American Prospects Hockey League.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Patrick Grasso: Thank you. I love the campus and the town. From the academic standpoint, UNH is a very good school. UNH is obviously one of the top hockey programs in the country. The tradition and atmosphere that surrounds the school is outstanding. I loved the coaches, and the winning history at UNH was a huge impact on my decision.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?
Patrick Grasso: We haven't really talked about it that much but it will be between 2015 and 2016.

Lowry:  What other college programs were recruiting you?
Grasso: Minnesota State, Harvard, Yale, Colorado College, RPI, St. Cloud State, Penn State, and Princeton.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas do you plan on improving this season?
Grasso: My quickness and speed are two of my strongest assets. I have good vision of the ice and good hands. I play both ends of the ice. I look to improve my shot.

Lowry: Can you confirm that you will be playing for the Omaha AAA U16 team this year? How will your life change (e.g., living away from home; attending a new school; etc.) as you take the next step in your hockey career?
Grasso: I'm playing for Omaha AAA. It's been a little change so far but I'm attending a fairly small school which is like my school back in Des Moines. I'm living with a few of my teammates from last year so that has made things a lot easier for me.

Lowry: Will you be attending the Des Moines Buccaneers upcoming training camp? What are the prospects for you making the active roster or affiliate list of the Buccaneers?
Grasso: I attended the (tryout)camp in June and they offered me a spot on the roster, but I feel I still need a little time to mature physically. My family and I talked it over with the coaching staff and agreed that I'll be playing (for the Buccaneers) in the preseason tournament (2012 USHL Fall Classic) in Sioux City along with a few regular season games.

Lowry: What school grade are you in and what are your academic strengths?
Grasso: I'm currently in 11th grade and I have a 4.0 GPA. I think I would like to major in some kind of business or sports management.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

UNH Recruit Jordan Masters: Back On Track

In the late summer of 2008, most 14-year-old boys were glued to their X-boxes, hanging with their buddies, and preparing to enter the 8th grade in their hometown middle school. Not so for Jordan Masters (DOB: 4-30-1994), a talented young hockey player from Rochester, New York. Masters was about to embark on a 350-mile journey to Detroit, Michigan to play for the Little Caesar's Bantam Major team in the highly competitive Tier 1 AAA Elite Hockey League. Moving to a big, midwestern city, taking up residence in the home of an unfamiliar billet family, and enrolling in a new school must have been challenging. But Jordan Masters had dreams of someday playing in the National Hockey League and this was the step he and his family felt he needed to take. NHL stars such as Mike Modano, Derian Hatcher, and Doug Weight once played for the Little Ceasar's (LC) teams. Masters finished the 30-game league season as the LC's second-leading scorer with 7 goals and 15 assists. In the 59 league plus non-league games, Jordan scored 28 goals and 30 assists. In their 5-game playoff run in the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association Championships, LC lost in the championship game but Masters scored a goal and overall, was the leading scorer with 5 goals and 4 assists.

In the subsequent 2009-10 season with the Little Caesar's Midget Minor Under-16 team, Masters was the second-leading scorer on the team despite missing 10 league games. His 15 goals and 20 assists in 28 regular season games tied him for 13th among the league's leading scorers. Overall, in 51 league and non-league games, Jordan scored 28 goals and 44 assists. At that juncture in his young career, Masters decided to try to make the jump from Midget U-16 hockey to the United States Hockey League. Although Masters had not been drafted by any USHL team, he was invited to the first tryout camp of the newest USHL franchise - the Muskegon Lumberjacks. In mid-June, 2010, the 16-year-old Masters tried out for the Lumberjacks and made the initial 35-player roster coming out of the camp. However, only 23 of those players would eventually make the active roster for the start of the Lumberjacks' season and Jordan still had some work to do.

In late June 2010, Masters earned a slot at USA Hockey's Select 16 Player Development Camp back in his hometown of Rochester. As luck would have it, the Lumberjacks' Head Coach Kevin Patrick was also one of the coaches at the USA Hockey camp and Masters ended up on his scrimmage team. Jordan took full advantage of the opportunity by scoring 6 goals and an assist in 6 games and finishing tied for 5th among the leading scorers. His performance earned him a slot on the 2010 U.S. Under-17 Select Team that travelled to Switzerland to compete in the Under-17 Five Nations Tournament. In mid-August, Team USA won the tournament and in the championship game against Germany, Jordan Masters scored 2 goals and 2 assists. Overall, Masters was the U.S.'s second leading scorer with 3 goals and 4 assists in 4 games.

By excelling at the Lumberjacks' Tryout Camp and USA Hockey Selects Camp and shining at the international tournament, Jordan Masters had pretty much sewn up a slot on Muskegon's roster for the 2010-11 season. In late August, 2010, Jordan had to pull up stakes from his billet family and school in Detroit and make the 200-mile journey to start anew in the Muskegon community. He met his new billet family at the beginning of training camp and enrolled as a junior at Mona Shores High School. On opening day of the 2010-11 season, Jordan was one of only three 16-year-old players on the Muskegon roster in a league dominated by 18 and 19-year-olds. He ended his rookie season with a respectable 4 goals, including a game-winning goal, and 7 assists in 49 regular season games. As an expansion team, the Lumberjacks made the USHL playoffs, won the opening round against the U.S. National Team Development Program team, then lost the second round to Cedar Rapids. Masters scored one playoff goal.

Last summer was the time Jordan Masters lit up the radar of NCAA Division 1 teams. Following his initial season with the Lumberjacks, Masters made a return appearance to the USA Hockey Player Development Camps - this time as an invitee to the 2011 Select 17 Camp. In the 5 games he played, Masters was the leading goal scorer with a remarkable 9 goals. He added 2 assists for a total of 11 points which tied him with UNH Recruit Mike McNicholas as the leading scorer in camp. Masters and incoming UNH Freshman Brett Pesce were named to the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that competed at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Team USA joined teams from Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Canada for the tournament in mid-August. The U.S. finished fifth with a record of 3 wins and 1 loss. Jordan Masters was the leading scorer for Team USA with 4 goals and 3 assists in 4 games. He was the 4th leading scorer among all players in the tournament.

This video shows Jordan scoring a shootout goal against the Slovakian team:

Dan Stewart, Director of Scouting for Future Considerations, provided this assessment of Masters' play in the Ivan Hlinka Tournament:
"Jordan Masters, a left winger, was the most consistent offensive threat in Slovakia for the USA squad. Masters was another ‘right-place-right-time’ guy who was able to score some big goals an overmatches US squad. Despite his lack of ideal size he went to prime scoring areas without hesitation and was rewarded with boatloads of scoring chances. His quick shot helped him become a difference maker while his grit and determination made him a popular teammate. Masters, who plays for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL, could have pushed his name into the draft picture with a few NHL teams after this performance."

In late August, 2011, shortly after returning from the Czech Republic, Jordan Masters verbally accepted an athletic scholarship offer to play at the University of New Hampshire. Jordan credited his family and Lumberjack's Head Coach Kevin Patrick in helping him make the decision. As one can imagine, Jordan Masters began the 2011-12 season with hopes of building on his first season in the USHL, preparing for college hockey, and attracting the attention of NHL scouts. June 2012 would be the first time Masters was eligible for the NHL Entry Draft. However, the Lumberjacks franchise got off to a rocky start which didn't improve much by mid-season. Muskegon lost 16 of its first 26 games. The Lumberjacks organization traded 2 players, including their second leading scorer and in mid-January, they fired Coach Patrick. By the time Patrick was dismissed, Masters had scored 4 goals and 8 assists in 24 games. He was on pace to double his scoring output from the previous season.

Masters appeared to be making the best out of a difficult situation in the Muskegon locker room and on the ice. Jordan was chosen to play in the first ever USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game scheduled for January 24th. The general managers of the USHL teams and NHL Central Scouting chose the top 40 players eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Masters played for the East team which won 5-3. He assisted on the East squad's second goal to tie the game 2-2. Writing for, Chris Peters (former communications coordinator for USA Hockey), offered these observations of Jordan Masters' play:
"Masters was a key player for the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the Ivan Hlinka, and showed some offensive flashes in the Top Prospects Game. His single-handed effort to get to a loose puck and send a perfect pass led to Baillargeon’s second goal. Masters made it a gimme."

When Masters and the Lumberjacks returned to their regular schedule following the NHL Prospects Game, the team's performance did not improve. From Jan 27th to Feb 11th, Muskegon played 7 games and only won once. Masters scored a goal and 2 assists during this stretch. The frustration of some of the Lumberjacks' players boiled over at the end of 3-0 loss to the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders on Feb 3rd. With 31 seconds remaining in the game, Maine recruit Ryan Lomborg received a 5-minute Major penalty for hitting from behind. When play resumed, the game ended in a melee with 7 Lumberjacks getting Fighting Major penalties and Game Misconducts. Jordan Masters was not involved in this fight.

On February 16, 2012, Jordan Masters' stint with the Muskegon Lumberjacks came to an unceremonious end. In a brief press release, the Lumberjacks announced that Masters was dismissed from the team for "violation of team rules". Since that time, no Lumberjacks official has spoken on the record about what precipitated the dismissal of Jordan Masters. Jordan has not played in a competitive game for the last 6 months. As I announced a few days ago, Masters has decided to resume his junior hockey career this fall with the Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. Throughout this period, UNH has honored their verbal agreement to provide Jordan a hockey scholarship. Masters has also stood by his commitment.

In the following interview, Jordan Masters provides his perspective on his one and a half seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks, his plan to play in the EJHL, and his commitment to UNH.

C-H-C: You recently decided to play next season for Coach Toby Harris and the Jersey Hitmen of the EJHL. What were the major factors that lead you to choose the Hitmen?
Jordan Masters: I had many opportunities to play in all the main Jr. leagues the BCHL, OHL, NAHL EJHL and other USHL teams. After talking with Coach Borek and Coach Harris I just felt like it was a good fit for me and my career. I looked at their program and what they expect from their players and I was very impressed with the organization and the coaching staff. From the ownership to the billet family, they have made me feel right at home - and I can't wait to get started.

C-H-C: Incoming UNH freshman Brett Pesce and Collin MacDonald played for the Hitmen last season and sophomore Matt Willows was the Hitmen's and EJHL's leading scorer in the 2010-11 season. Was that a factor in your decision?
Jordan Masters: Not really, I played with Brett overseas and knew it was a great program and like I said I just felt like it was right for me. I think that the way Coach Harris coaches will be great for my game and in turn I will be able to help to keep up the winning tradition in New Jersey.

C-H-C: Midway through last season, the management of the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL) dismissed you from the team. You have not had an opportunity to address the situation publicly. Would you like to comment on what transpired?
Jordan Masters: It is in the past and I am focused on the future. Muskegon is obviously going in a different direction and is just not for me. I still have a lot of friends there and I wish them all the best. Coach Patrick had a big influence on my career both on the ice and off and I wish him all the best at Vermont. I would not be where I am today without his help and guidance. I am very happy to be moving on and I am grateful for the opportunity that I had in Muskegon and now with the Hitmen.

C-H-C: Given your status as a top player in the USHL, fans of other league teams probably hoped that you would choose to play for their team this season. Why aren't you going to play for a USHL team in 2012-13?
Masters: I have had many offers from USHL teams trying to trade for my rights from Muskegon. The ownership would not release me or trade me. I am very happy here in New Jersey and I am focused on getting back to my style of play and putting up points. I think the EJHL has many great players and has had many great players in the past, and I am not hung up on which league I play in. I chose the Hitmen because of what they are all about not because of what league they are in.

C-H-C: Perhaps the highlight of your USHL career was playing in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects game in late January. What was it like to play in front of so many NHL scouts in that showcase game?
Masters: It was a great experience and I really liked it. I don't think too much about that once the game starts but it was a great experience and I am very thankful I was selected to participate in that game with some of the best players in the country. After playing two years back to back overseas in front of a lot of scouts, it was just another day and I have a job to do. So thats what I focus on in those situations.

C-H-C: 2012 was your first year of eligibility for the NHL draft. What route do you hope to take to make it to the NHL someday?
Masters: I have no control over what happens with the draft. All I can do is work hard and stay focused. If I don't get drafted in the next two years, I am not worried about it. I am planning on getting my education and winning a Championship for UNH. The rest of it will take care of itself. I am confident that I will play in the NHL someday.

C-H-C: This time last year, you verbally committed to play for the University of New Hampshire. What other colleges were recruiting you? What were the main reasons you chose UNH?
Masters: I had many schools recruiting me. My dad and I visited over 10 schools the past two summers before I committed. RPI, Vermont, Ohio State, Penn State, Boston University, Miami of Ohio, Colorado, Minnesota and some others. I have always liked UNH. My dad** took our Bantam minor team to UNH 5 years ago to play a few games, visit some prep schools and get a look at the school. So when I knew that UNH was considering me, I was excited and couldn't believe that I may play there. I have had two of our family friends go to UNH - Phil DeSimone and Greg Collins - so I had an opportunity to speak with them about their experiences. Also, my dad took me to a few games there to watch them. I am looking forward to getting to Durham and getting that trophy that has been a long time coming. Coach Borek and Coach Umile have been great and I can't wait to play for them and all the fans of UNH.
** Jordan's dad Charlie Masters coached his teams from the time Jordan was 5 years old until he moved away to play for Little Caesar's in Detroit.

C-H-C: Originally, you and UNH targeted the fall of 2013 for you to come to Durham? Are you still on track for that arrival?
Masters: I am going to work as hard as I can to be ready to get there and make an impact right away when Coach Umile needs me.

C-H-C: With the disruptions you went through in February, were you still able to graduate from high school? Are you on track to meet the academic requirements for admission to UNH?
Masters: Yes, I graduated from Mona Shores High School in Muskegon. The school was great to work with and they made the transition great. I had a great counselor, Mrs. Zack, that really took an interest in my future and I am very fortunate to have had so many good people in Muskegon, outside the team, that had a positive impact on my life. Yes, I have met all my NCAA requirements and plan on taking classes each semester this season.

The Jersey Hitmen open the 2012-13 EJHL season on September 21st against the Boston Bandits.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Charlie Kelleher Commits to UNH

UPDATE - August 29, 2012
The Boston Junior Bruins have announced that Charlie Kelleher will play for the U18 team this season. The U18 Midget Major AAA team (formerly the Junior Bruins of the Empire League) will play in the new United States Elite Hockey League and will be the primary feeder team to the Junior Bruins of the Eastern Junior Hockey League (EJHL). The Junior Bruins U18 just began their training camp and will host the Labor Day Classic Tournament beginning this Friday at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, MA.

The most talented pair of brothers since James and Trevor van Riemsdyk are now committed to play for UNH. 1997-born Charlie Kelleher (DOB:2-4-1997), younger brother of 2013 UNH Recruit Tyler Kelleher, has verbally accepted a hockey scholarship offer from UNH. Kelleher's target date to enroll at UNH is the Fall of 2015. As a freshman at Longmeadow (Massachusetts) High School last season, Charlie Kelleher - a 5'8", 145-pound center - lead the team in scoring with 24 goals and 32 assists in 23 games. The powerhouse Longmeadow Lancers won its third Western Massachusetts Division III Title in the last four years. In the semifinals of the State Championship, Kelleher scored Longmeadow's only goal in a loss to Hudson. Kelleher earned the Gene Grazia Award for the top high school forward in Western Mass. He was also named to The Springfield Republican's All-Scholastic high school hockey team. The newspaper described Charlie as "a strong skating two-way player; arguably the best defensive forward in region; was outstanding on the penalty kill; quick hands and outstanding playmaker."

Overall, Charlie's accomplishments as a freshman rivaled those of his older brother Tyler Kelleher. As a freshman in the 2009-10 season, Tyler also played center for Longmeadow HS though he was a couple inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Charlie. Tyler finished the regular season with 38 goals and 27 assists and lead Longmeadow to the Western Mass and State Championships. In 2011, Tyler starred for Deerfield Academy then joined the US National Team Development Program last season. Tyler finished last season as the Under-17 NTDP's leading scorer in United States Hockey League competition with 19 goals and 13 assists in 38 games.

Charlie Kelleher was selected by USA Hockey to participate in their Player Development Camps over the last two summers. In July 2011, Charlie tied for 6th in scoring at the Selects 14 Player Development Camp in Rochester, NY. He scored 3 goals and 4 assists in 5 games. Last month, Kelleher scored 2 goals and an assist in 5 games at the Selects 15 Camp. In their extensive coverage of the Player Development Camps, the U.S. Hockey Report ranked Charlie Kelleher 16th among the 97-born forwards.

USHR has reported that Charlie will play for the Boston Junior Bruins U16 team next season. They will play over 50 games in the newly-formed Eastern Junior Hockey League U-16 League. If all goes according to plan, Charlie Kelleher would have the opportunity to play with his brother Tyler in UNH's 2015-16 season when Charlie would be a freshman and Tyler a junior.

Monday, August 13, 2012

UNH Recruit Jordan Masters Will Play for Jersey Hitmen

This fall, 18-year-old forward Jordan Masters will play for the Jersey Hitmen of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. This will be Masters' third season of junior hockey having played the last two years for the Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL). Masters and UNH are still targeting the fall of 2013 for him to come to Durham.

Stay tuned to The UNH Men's Hockey Blog for an interview with Jordan Masters about his junior career and future plans.

Monday, August 06, 2012

UNH Recruit Matias Cleland Ready For International Tournament

This Sunday, August 12th, UNH recruit Matias Cleland and his Waterloo Black Hawk teammates will be departing for Omsk, Russia for the 2012 Junior Club World Cup (JCWC). The tournament, which is in its second year, features junior teams from ten nations including Russia, Canada, the Czech Republic, and several other European countries. The Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League will represent the USA in the round-robin tournament this year. The games will be conducted from August 18 through August 26. Matias Cleland and two of his teammates will be blogging about their tournament experiences on the Waterloo Black Hawks blog. Last summer, an All-Star team from the Eastern Junior Hockey League - which included incoming UNH freshman Kyle Smith - represented the United States in the inaugural event. The EJHL team won its first two games against teams from Latvia and Slovakia but lost to the Moscow team who eventually won the tournament.

In preparation for the JCWC, Matias Cleland - an 18-year-old, 6-foot, 180-pound defenseman from Longmont, Colorado - participated in Waterloo's Orientation Camp last week. Cleland is coming off a successful first season in the USHL in which he scored a goal and 9 assists in 41 regular season games. His +/- rating was a solid zero. The Black Hawks, who finished the regular season in 3rd place in the Western Conference of the USHL, went on a tear in the playoffs. A 9-goal effort by veteran Jamie Hill (who will be a freshman at UNH) lead the Black Hawks all the way to the 5th and final game in the Championship Series against the Green Bay Gamblers. Cleland sustained a lower body injury in Game 3 of the second round against the Omaha Lancers. After missing the subsequent 7 playoff games, Matias tried to play in Game 3 against Green Bay but could not finish the series. The Gamblers defeated Waterloo in 5 games to win the Clark Cup.

Prior to joining the Black Hawks, Matias Cleland played youth hockey for the powerhouse Colorado Thunderbirds based in Denver. Brett Kostolansky, Alternate Captain for UNH this season, also played youth hockey for the Thunderbirds. In 2010, Cleland played on the Under-16 Midget Minor team that won the Tier 1 National Championship. That spring, Cleland was drafted by Waterloo in the third round of the USHL Futures Draft. In the 2010-11 season, he lead all defenseman on the Thunderbirds' U-18 Midget Major team with 5 goals and 26 assists in 38 games. In March, 2011, Matias Cleland made a verbal commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire.

In the following interview, Matias Cleland describes his preparation for the Junior Club World Cup and his future hockey plans:

C-H-C: On August 12th, you and your teammates on the Waterloo Black Hawks will be leaving for Russia for the 2012 Junior Club World Cup (JCWC). How are your preparations for the trip coming along?
Matias Cleland: They are coming along great! I am leaving on Wednesday, August 8th, to train for a few days in Waterloo. We then leave for Russia on Sunday, August 12th.

C-H-C: A number of veterans from last year's Black Hawk team - including Jamie Hill - are going off to college and won't be playing with you in the JCWC. Do you think the returning players and rookies will make for a competitive Black Hawks' team in the tournament?
Cleland: The guys that have left will be missed greatly. However, yes, I most definitely think that we will make for a competitive team for the tournament.

C-H-C: Last season, you made the jump from midget hockey with the Colorado Thunderbirds to the United States Hockey League. What were the biggest adjustments you had to make both on and off the ice?
Cleland: The biggest adjustments I had to make on the ice had to do with speed. Players were coming at me faster than in midget hockey, so I had to watch my gaps and move pucks quicker. The biggest thing off the ice was getting used to not living at home.

C-H-C: After finishing in 3rd place in the Western Conference, your Black Hawks made a playoff run all the way to the championship series against the Green Bay Gamblers. What was USHL playoff hockey like for you?
Cleland: USHL playoff hockey for me was awesome. It had a feeling to it that cannot be described. Unfortunately, I was injured in the Omaha series, but it still was a great experience.

C-H-C: Are you and UNH still on target for you to come to Durham in the Fall of 2013?
Cleland: Yes, that is the current plan.

C-H-C: You recently completed your senior year in high school. Are you planning to take any courses next year to further your education?
Cleland: Yes. I am going to take U.S. History and English Composition.

The Waterloo Black Hawks will begin their training camp in early September.  They open the regular season on September 28th against the defending USHL Champion, Green Bay Gamblers.
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