Rangers’ college prospects making push to qualify for NCAA Tournament

Noah Laba, Colorado College
Noah Laba in action (Colorado College / credit: Casey B. Gibson)

Eight New York Rangers college prospects competed this past weekend, as several teams look to solidify their spot to qualify for the NCAA tournament.

One of this year’s brightest stars has been Noah Laba, who was instrumental in a huge season-series sweep of No.2 ranked North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

Let’s dive into the latest update.

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Noah Laba leads the way for Colorado

The big story of the weekend is Colorado College Tigers completing a sweep of North Dakota. It was the first four-game season sweep in program history, and the team climbed to 11th in PairWise rankings as they improved their record to 18-9-1. Colorado College will be at Omaha on February 23rd and 24th. Sophomore center Noah Laba had one assist while going 9-5 faceoffs with one shot on goal in a 7-1 win Friday. The 2022 4th Round Pick finished Saturday’s 6-2 win with an empty net goal and two assists with two shots while going 11-7 from the faceoff circle.

Laba has been the Tiger’s top center and leads the team in scoring with sixteen goals and twelve assists for twenty eight points in twenty seven games played. He has broken out this year, and may have earned an entry level contract with the Rangers organization when his collegiate season concludes. It would not be a surprise me if he was signed to an Amateur Tryout and assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack in their push for the Calder Cup later this season.

NY Rangers college prospects update

Gabe Perreault
Gabe Perreault warms up (Photo taken by Alan Selavka)

I was in attendance at the Mullins Center in Amherst, Massachusetts as Gabe Perreault and Drew Fortescue of the Boston College Eagles were visiting the University of Massachusetts Minutemen on Friday. Both freshmen were named to the starting lineup for the nation’s number one ranked team, and each finished with one assist during the 5-1 win.

Perreault had the first scoring chance of the game off a break, but his shot missed and UMass goalie Michael Hrabal covered the puck twenty seconds in. A hooking call against Ryan Lautenbach gave Boston their first power play of the game at 5:55. Perreault was featured on the first unit, however, the Minutemen were able to successfully defend the penalty. The home team wouldn’t have their first shot on goal until 9:54, with Jacob Fowler covering to lead into a media timeout. One thing I noticed throughout the course of the game was that Fowler would stay out on the ice stretching during breaks while his counterpart Hrabal returned to the bench. There seemed to be close to a sellout crowd, with a large student section behind and to the left of the visiting team’s net.

Cutter Gauthier broke the scoring at 14:58 for his twenty fourth goal of the season, which stood as the only tally of the period. Boston College led in shots on goal ten to five. Drew Fortescue would get his name on the scoresheet at 8:46 of the second period on Gauthier’s second goal of the game, which ended up being the game winner. It was the defenseman’s four assist of the year and seventh point. One thing I really liked about Fortescue’s game was his ability to carry the puck to lead a rush or attack, which he did throughout the night. With Boston’s talent and high end skill, he isn’t relied on to produce offensively or in special teams situations such as the power play, though I expect Fortescue to take on more responsibility and expanded roles in his sophomore and possible junior year should he remain in school.

As for Perreault, he made an excellent play in the third period to steal the puck near the blueline with around 3:30 remaining on the clock, then passed to Will Smith who found Ryan Leonard for his second goal of the game against his hometown team.

During Sunday’s game, Perreault extended his point streak to fifteen games with a power-play goal and one assist with six shots during a 6-4 win. It was the freshman’s eighteenth multi point game of the season. His forty eight points are leading the NCAA, while his thirty four assists are tied for first.

Teammate Drew Fortescue finished Sunday’s contest with two shots on goal one blocked shot with a -1 rating. The Eagles have an overall record of 23-5-1 and will face the Vermont Catamounts on February 23rd and 24th.

Elsewhere in Hockey East, 2021 5th Round Pick Jaroslav Chmelar was scoreless as the Providence College Friars skated to a 2-2 tie against Boston University on Friday before gaining the extra point in a shootout. The Czech native was credited with three shots on goal with a -1 rating as he is slowly coming back from wrist surgery. He remained at five goals and nine assists for fourteen points in twenty games played after being held to just one shot on goal in Saturday’s 5-2 loss. Providence looks to be above the cutline for the NCAA tournament as the team is currently number 12 in Pairwise Comparison Ratings with a record of 16-10-3. The Friars next game is against UMass Lowell River Hawks on Saturday, February 24th.

Merrimack College turned to junior goaltender Hugo Ollas for both starts against Vermont. The 2020 7th round pick earned a series split after making twenty eight saves on Friday during a 5-2 win before allowing three goals against on twenty eight shots faced in a 4-1 loss Saturday. The Swedish native has a .908 save percentage with a 2.72 goals against average and 6-9 record on the season. Merrimack’s record is 12-18-1 and the team’s next game will be against the Providence College Friars on Thursday, February 29th.

On Monday afternoon, junior defenseman Hank Kempf of Cornell Men’s Ice Hockey was named as one of five finalists for the Hockey Humanitarian Award.

The 7th round pick of the Rangers from 2021 has one goal and four assists for five points in twenty five games played so far this season. Following a 3-0 victory over Brown University on Friday, and a 1-1 tie against Yale on Saturday (Cornell won the shootout), the Big Red clinched the Ivy League title for back to back seasons. The team has a 16-4-5 overall record and will continue ECAC play Friday, February 23rd against Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University on Saturday, February 24th.

Harvard Captain Zakary Karpa had three shots on goal and was 8-7 on faceoffs Friday as the Crimson defeated St. Lawrence University. Harvard lost 3-2 in overtime to Clarkson University on Saturday. The junior center had one shot on goal and a minor holding penalty while going 7-8 from the faceoff dot. The 2022 6th Round Pick of the Rangers has three goals and three assists for six points in twenty four games played. Harvard’s record is 5-16-4 and the team will face Union College on Friday, February 23rd and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, February 24th.

Sophomore forward Brody Lamb had an assist Friday as the Minnesota Golden Gophers were defeated by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 6-1 in Big Ten play. He was scoreless in a 3-2 victory Saturday, as his totals are eleven goals and eleven assists for twenty two points in thirty two games played. Minnesota has a record of 19-8-5 and will host the Michigan Wolverines March 1st and 2nd.

Defenseman Victor Mancini has three goals and six assists for nine points in twenty eight games played as the University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks were idle this weekend. The team has a record of 15-10-3 and will face the Colorado College Tigers in NCHC play on February 23rd and 24th.

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