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Ian Clark's On Hockey: Danford makes his pro debut

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 29. 2014 9:19PM
Manchester's Ben Danford passes by Worcester's Mark Viedensky, in the second period of Friday's game at Verizon Wireless Arena. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

MANCHESTER -- Ben Danford strode down the hallway in the Manchester Monarch locker room, a badge of honor from his debut professional hockey game on full display: A bruise above his lip, another near his right eye, both the result of a Shark shoulder that got a little high in the second period.

"First game, got a little banged up in the face here," the defenseman said with a smile. "But it's all right as long as you get the win. Nothing bad."

Danford, who was competing for a repeat Atlantic Hockey Association championship less than a week earlier with Canisius University, brought some good things to the Monarchs on Friday night in a 5-1 win over the Worcester Sharks at Verizon Wireless Arena.

He took his first shot on goal on his first shift two minutes into the game and played regularly, including on the second power play unit. He didn't have a goal or an assist and entered the game statistics with a double minor penalty for high sticking when he took down Matt Tennyson with 10 seconds to play.

Monarchs coach Mark Morris liked what he saw of the 6-foot, 185-pound, 24-year-old out of Stillwater, Minn., who got to town on Tuesday night after agreeing to an amateur tryout agreement.

"The first day he had to get a physical before we could get him on the ice," Morris said. "He had a couple of skates, but we really didn't have a read on him. He passes the puck well, he breaks it out nicely, he's strong. I'm excited to see what else he's got to show us."

Danford was one of two young defensemen to join the team this week, needed reinforcements with Vincent LoVerde and Brayden McNabb sidelined with injuries.Brendan Ellis, a 6-2 and 210-pounder, who finished up his career at Merrimack College three weeks ago, was the other.

Ellis played three games and had an assist with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL before coming to Manchester.Danford may bring a little more of an offensive look to the blueline and Morris was looking for that with LoVerde and McNabb out.

"They play on the power play and that was the determining factor in why he got in," Morris said. "His game is very similar to LoVerde's."For Danford, getting to Manchester and getting back on the ice helped take some of the sting out of the end of his collegiate career.

"You just feel like you're right back at practice," he said.

"Different team, different guys."

Canisius held off Mercyhurst, 5-4 in double overtime, to advance to the Atlantic Hockey championship game last weekend. On Saturday, the defending champions fell to Robert Morris, 7-4.

It didn't hurt Danford's transition to the pros that the Monarchs scored 1:21 into Friday's game and led 4-0 after a period.

"That made it a little easier, coming in and playing in a game like that," he said. "It was just a real good experience overall. ... It was everything I expected and more, I guess. A great opportunity, great players out there. They make it real easy and the pace of the game is good. Just a lot of fun."

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The Monarchs and Grand Rapids Griffins became the second and third teams in the league to clinch spots in the Calder Cup playoffs on Friday night. The Texas Stars had already locked up their spot.

The Monarchs played the Portland Pirates in Lewiston, Maine on Saturday night and have seven games left in the regular season starting on Friday night at Hartford. Three of the final seven are against the Pirates, including the regular season finale on April 20 in Maine.

Manchester is in the playoffs for the 12th time in the franchise's 13 years. Tickets for games in the first three rounds go on sale on Monday, April 14 at 9:30 a.m.

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So which van Riemsdyk do you figure piled up more points in his University of New Hampshire hockey career? James, the No. 2 overall draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in his two years as a Wildcat forward? Or Trevor, the undrafted defenseman in his two-plus years in Durham?

Trevor gets the family Wildcat bragging rights at the 4th of July barbecue. Barely.

His totals: 16-59-75 in 102 games.

James checks in at 28-46-74 in 67 games during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

Trevor had to be helped off the ice during his last UNH game against Union at the Whittemore Center on Jan. 18. He broke his left ankle when he crashed into boards near the penalty boxes.

Van Riemsdyk passed on his final year of collegiate eligibility and signed a two-year, free agent contract with the Chicago Blackhawks organization on Tuesday morning. He headed to Rockford, Ill., on Thursday to join the Rockford IceHogs, Chicago's American Hockey League affiliate.

He plans to continue his rehabilitation on his ankle there and thinks he might get a chance to play before the season ends.

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Former UNH forward Kevin Goumas made his professional debut with the Adirondack Phantoms, the farm team of the Philadelphia Flyers, on Friday night.

The Phantoms fell to the Syracuse Crunch, 6-4. Goumas had one shot on goal and was called for a minor penalty.

Goumas was a point-a-game guy - precisely - at UNH. He finished his career with 44 goals and 102 assists for 146 points in 146 games.

The 146 points put him at No. 29 on the career scoring list, three points out of the No. 25 spot occupied by Savo Mitrovic (1988-92).Bob Brandt (1966-69), Bob Miller (1974-77) and Colin Hemingway (1999-2003) are all tied at No. 26 with 148 points.

Goumas signed a free agent deal with the Phantoms for next season and is finishing out this season on an amateur tryout agreement. On Twitter: @AllenLessels

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