VISA Small Play: Matt Irwin
Gomez getting ready for his 10th Game 7
There will be plenty of players with lots of big-game experience competing when the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings face off Tuesday in Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinals (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN)
Each team features players who have enjoyed Stanley Cup victories and Olympic gold.
But no one in this game, likely no one in the NHL, can rival Sharks forward Scott Gomez, who will be participating in the 10th Game 7 of his career.
“It means I’m getting old, I guess,” Gomez said after practice Monday. “Someone brought that up the other day and I started thinking about all of them. I couldn’t remember most of them.”
It’s unlikely anyone can rival the big-game experience of the 33-year-old, who posts a 6-3 record in Game 7s played with the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. They include a victory in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final against the Anaheim Ducks and a Game 7 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the 2001 Cup Final.
It all adds up to a variety of emotions for the Sharks veteran.
“I’ll never forget the worst moment, losing a game 7 [in the Cup Final],” Gomez said. “[Devils president Lou] Lamoriello always said it best. ‘When it comes to Game 7, if you can look yourself in the mirror after and know you gave it your all, that’s what it’s about.’ I’ll always remember him saying that.”
Gomez’s considerable experience in Game 7s could prove vitally important on a team featuring a number of players who’ve been fortunate enough to play in one Game 7, let alone nine. For those younger teammates who haven’t played in too many winner-take-all contests, Gomez had some simple advice.
“Don’t [stink],” Gomez said, jokingly. “What I was told was don’t change your game. Do what got you here. Obviously every emotion is going to be running high. When the game comes we’ll be ready. It’s exciting for us.”
Saginaw Spirit standouts Jimmy Lodge to participate in NHL Scouting Combine
SAGINAW, MI — Jimmy Lodge and Nick Moutrey have always dreamed of playing in the NHL.
And this week will be a big step towards securing that future.
The two Spirit forwards are among 18 OHL players who are attending the NHL’s Scouting Combine beginning Monday, May 27 in Toronto. The combine runs until June 1 and features 101 total prospects.
The NHL Draft takes place June 30 at the Prudential Center in New Jersey.
The combine features an interview phase and a fitness test.
“I am looking forward to the interview part of the combine with all the NHL teams there,” said Lodge in a statement. “And I have been training and working out hard for the fitness tests.”
Lodge had a breakout second season with the Spirit, scoring 28 goals with 39 assists for 67 points, while Moutrey tallied 16 goals with 27 assists.
Both Spirit standouts trained in the Toronto area in anticipation of the combine.
NHL Combine: Jimmy Lodge
NHL Dream Draft Pick #27 – Scott Gomez
Devils and Andrei Loktionov agree to new contract
The Devils and center Andrei Loktionov have agreed on a new contract, believed to be a one-year deal for the 2013-14 season.
General manager Lou Lamoriello said the Devils did not want to see Loktionov, who would have been a restricted free agent, play in Russia.
“He’s not going to Russia. He’s staying in New Jersey,” Lamoriello said today. “We will be getting (a new deal) done.”
Igor Larionov, Loktionov’s agent, did not return calls.
The Devils acquired the 23-year-old center for a fifth-round pick in this month’s NHL entry draft in a Feb. 6 trade with the Los Angeles Kings. In 28 games he scored 12 points (eight goals, four assists).
“We saw right off the bat that he knows how to play the game. He creates plays,” Lamoriello said. “He tailed off at the end, certainly, but there is a lot of upside to him as far as the player he is.
“He’s a character. He loves the game. He’s always got a smile on his face, he comes to play and he wants to be here.”
Laurent Dauphin at Canadiens Combine
Saginaw Spirit’s Jimmy Lodge to try out for Team USA
SAGINAW, MI — Saginaw Spirit forward Jimmy Lodge has been selected as one of 40 players to attend the 2013 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. from Aug. 3-10.
The camp determines the Team USA roster for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, Sweden.
The United States won the World Junior Championship in 2013 with former captain Vince Trocheck scoring a goal in the gold medal game.
Lodge had a breakout second season with Saginaw scoring 28 goals with 39 assists in 64 games. A Downingtown, PA native, he is the 21st ranked North American player heading into the NHL Entry Draft on June 30 in New Jersey.
He is one of eight OHL players to take part in the evaluation camp, including North Bay’s Dylan Blujus, Plymouth’s Connor Carrick, Sarnia’s Anthony DeAngelo and Windsor’s Nick Ebert and Patrick Sieloff. Justin Bailey of Kitchener and Windsor’s Brady Vail are also attending.
Goalie invitations will be sent out later in June.
Cameron Askew, la carte cachée du repêchage
Les Voltigeurs font les choses à leur manière. L’organisation drummondvilloise l’a démontré une fois de plus, samedi, à Chicoutimi, en réclamant l’Américain Cameron Askew avec son choix de première ronde.
S’exprimant au 11e rang au total, les Voltigeurs ont causé une réelle surprise parmi les spectateurs réunis au Centre Georges-Vézina en sélectionnant Askew, un solide centre droitier issu du programme prep school de Cushing Academy, au Massachussetts. Il faut savoir que plus souvent qu’autrement, les espoirs américains sont choisis en fin de repêchage, la plupart d’entre eux préférant de toute façon tourner le dos à la LHJMQ.
Visiblement très fier de sa prise, le directeur général Dominic Ricard a assuré qu’Askew est la carte cachée de ce repêchage.
«En terme de talent, on est convaincu qu’Askew peut challenger le top quatre de ce repêchage, à savoir Nicolas et Jérémy Roy, Nathan Noël et Anthony Beauvillier. En fait, depuis Sean Couturier, on n’a jamais repêché un joueur possédant un tel coffre à outils. Il possède tous les éléments pour devenir un attaquant de puissance dans la LNH. Non seulement il a un bon gabarit, mais il patine bien, il a une excellente vision du jeu, un bon tir et il joue avec énergie», a énuméré Ricard au sujet d’Askew, un athlète mesurant six pieds et trois pouces et faisant osciller la balance à 175 livres.
Ce qui a de quoi surprendre encore davantage, c’est qu’au cours des derniers mois, Askew avait laissé entendre qu’il poursuivrait sa carrière dans son pays natal. Le jeune homme de 15 ans s’est engagé envers l’équipe de l’Université de Boston (NCAA), sans compter qu’il a également été repêché par Indiana dans la USHL. Au final, Askew a toutefois garanti aux Voltigeurs qu’il évoluera à Drummondville en 2013-2014. C’est d’ailleurs pourquoi il s’est déplacé à Chicoutimi, samedi.
«Cameron Askew veut être un Voltigeur. Il juge que c’est le meilleur moyen pour lui d’atteindre les pros. Son objectif est d’être repêché dans la LNH lors de son année d’admissibilité, en 2015», a expliqué Ricard.
Rencontré par le www.journalexpress.ca, le principal intéressé à lui-même confirmé son choix d’évoluer à Drummondville la saison prochaine, alors qu’il sera âgé de 16 ans.
«Je suis à la fois fier et excité d’avoir été repêché par les Voltigeurs. Ce fut une décision facile de choisir Drummondville. C’est une excellente organisation. Pour moi, c’est le meilleur moyen d’atteindre la LNH un jour. Je me décris comme un attaquant de puissance qui aime fabriquer des jeux, mais qui peut aussi marquer des buts. Mon objectif pour la prochaine saison est de contribuer à l’équipe du mieux que je peux», a déclaré celui qui est natif de South Boston.
Pour sa part, le dépiste-chef Luc Dagenais a vanté la touche offensive, le maniement de la rondelle et la vitesse d’Askew.
«On voulait améliorer notre attaque en y ajoutant du talent naturel. On a réussi. Askew est un vrai pur-sang. On pourrait le comparer à Adam Pineault, qui a joué avec les Wildcats de Moncton», a lancé l’homme de hockey.
La saison dernière, Askew a récolté 35 points (16 buts, 19 passes) en 29 parties avec Cushing Academy. Il a ajouté 15 points (3-12) en 10 joutes avec les Bruins juniors de Boston, où il affrontait des joueurs de moins de 18 ans.
Seguin: No time for friendship with Kane during finals
BOSTON – Tyler Seguin and Patrick Kane got to know each other while playing on the same team in Switzerland during the NHL lockout, but there won’t be any room for friendship when Seguin’s Boston Bruins and Kane’s Chicago Blackhawks meet in the Stanley Cup finals.
“When it’s playoffs, you don’t know anybody out there except your teammates,” Seguin said after practice this morning at the TD Garden.
“That’s just kind of how it goes, especially in the Stanley Cup finals. Both sides want it. Both sides are going to work hard. I guess you’d call it a friendly relationship, but it’s also business, right?”
Seguin, the Bruins’ third-year right winger, and Kane, the Chicago superstar, played together on the power play and were sometime linemates with HC Biel of the Swiss Elite League.
Seguin scored 25 goals and 40 points in 29 games with Biel. Kane put up 13 goals and 23 points in 20 games.
“It was a lot of fun. I became friends with him. He was a fun player to play with. He can bury
the puck and create opportunities for his linemates,” Seguin said.
“I think we hung out pretty much every day. It wasn’t too long over there when we were together, but it was fun.”
NHL draft tracker: Laurent Dauphin, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Laurent Dauphin has proved he can score — now it’s all about the finer points.
The shifty centre was a poster child for steadily moving up the hockey ladder during his rookie season with the Chicoutimi Saguéneens. Coming in as a 17-year-old, the 6-foot, 166-pound Dauphin finished fifth in rookie scoring by tallying 25 goals and 57 points, including a league-high nine game-winners, across 62 games for a young Sags outfit that finished in the middle of the QMJHL pack. The Repentigny, Que., native also held his own in showcase events; he was named a top player during the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game after being added as an injury replacement just 48 hours before puckdrop and was also a top-six forward and power-play contributor while helping Canada win the IIHF world U18 championship for the first time in five years.
Dauphin, ranked 28th among domestic skaters by NHL Central Scouting, could prove to be a good value pick if his acceleration and physicality progress once he becomes a drafted player.
“Next year, for sure, I need to improve my physical game,” Dauphin says. “Be more explosive in my legs and stronger in battles along the walls. I’m not so afraid of it. There’s time to do that; you cannot train your height, but you can train your weight.
“It’s always about energy for me,” Dauphin adds when asked if any aspect of his first season with Chicoutimi was a letdown. “I was a little down toward the end of the season, and hopefully I can work on that.”
The foursome ahead of Dauphin in the rookie scoring race — Baie-Comeau’s Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau and Valentin Zykov, Moncton’s Ivan Barbashev and Rimouski’s Frédérik Gauthier, Dauphin’s former midget teammate — each played on more successful teams. As a centre, one question with Dauphin over the years to come will be his ability and willingness to distribute the puck, so it might be worth keeping an eye on how much he can improve on his first-season total of 32 assists.
On the other hand, the likely second-rounder has shown he can deliver in the higher-stakes game. As a 16-year-old, Dauphin, along with Gauthier, helped the Collège Esther-Blondin Phenix win the silver medal at the Canadian midget championship. That extra year of minor hockey with coach Paulin Bordeleau helped launch him into the QMJHL waters.
“I went to Chicoutimi with the thought in mind to prove to everybody that I had a place there, even if I didn’t play as a 16-year-old like the others,” he says.
1. It didn’t get a ton of media attention, but how do you look back on having helped Canada capture the world under-18 championship earlier this season?
“It’s tougher to win that tournament than the world junior. You’re missing guys such as [Nathan] MacKinnon, [Jonathan] Drouin, who are still in their playoffs. The U.S. has its full team. We were very proud to win. It was a good experience. I was in triple-A [midget] with [Rimouski centre Frédérik] Gauthier. I made friends with [Charlottetown's Yan-Pavel] Laplante. It was amazing to play with Connor McDavid, too. That was a great opportunity.”
2. Which NHL player(s) do you watch closely because his, or their, style of game is similar to your own?
I like [the Boston Bruins'] Patrice Bergeron — he’s a two-way forward who really competes hard and is good when there’s a situation with a high level of pressure.
3. Hockey is so all-consuming; what is something you like to do to get a mental break from it?
“Probably just take it easy. Go play pool. Or be with my teammates. I have to do so much school because I’m in science. I take a lot of math, chemistry, just to keep every door open at the university level. My mother [Manon St-Jean] is a chartered accountant, my brother’s a chartered accountant and my dad [François Dauphin] is a general manager for a small city [Val-David, Que., pop. 5,000] so education is very important in our family.”
4. Other than the Saguenéens, who has the nicest jersey in the Q?
“I think I like the black Halifax jersey the best.”
5. If hockey did not exist, what sport would you play?
“Probably football, or basketball. I played football for a couple years when I was younger — linebacker or defensive back.”
Olympiques’ Groulx works his trading magic at QMJHL draft
That allowed Groulx to turn around and call on Val d’Or again to send the 8th and 19th picks north for Gatineau native Vincent Dunn, an 18-year-old centre who posted 25 goals and 52 points in just 53 games in his sophomore season.
Dunn, who was also plus-21, now gives the Olympiques two solid centres with captain Taylor Burke, and seven centres in total.
“This is sick,” said Dunn. “I have never been happier in my life. I’m coming back home, where it’s always better to have the fans on your side than against you.”
Finally, Groulx made two picks in the middle of the first round, selecting a pair of diminutive forwards who played midget AAA last season in Quebec.
Gatineau selected St-Francois midget graduate Alexandre Alain with the No. 9 choice and stayed at the podium to take Magog AAA forward Alex Dostie at No. 10.
“We drafted two centres in the first round because we felt weak up front last season,” said Groulx. “With the addition of Dunn and Marc-Olivier Brouillard, we now have a top six completed by Emile Poirier, Martin Reway, Simon, Tardif-Richard and Burke.
“Dunn was one of the top 10 to 15 17-year-old players in the league. We feel our first-round picks are two warriors”
Saginaw Spirit trade with Mississauga Steelheads for forward Kristoff Kontos
SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Spirit are adding a little offensive experience after announcing the franchise has agreed to a trade with the Mississauga Steelheads that sends overage forward Kristoff Kontos to the Spirit in exchange for a 4th round pick in 2014, which originally belonged to Kingston, and Saginaw’s 7th round pick in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection.
It marks the third trade in the last month by the Spirit who’ve added defenseman Sean Callaghan from Ottawa and forward Cody Payne from Plymouth.
Kontos began his OHL career with Sudbury before moving on to Mississauga. A Markham, ON native, he was originally selected by the Wolves in the 2nd round of the 2009 OHL Priority Selection.
He scored 17 goals with 20 assists in 68 games last season and has 45 goals and 76 assists in 269 career OHL games.
Kontos becomes the fourth overage player on Saginaw’s roster along with Eric Locke, Steven Strong and Dalton Young.
Swiss team feeling pride over Kane, Seguin
CHICAGO — Multiple text messages with the Switzerland country code of 41 popped up on Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin’s cell phone on Tuesday.
Seguin didn’t have all the numbers saved into his phone’s memory, but he didn’t have to guess where they were all originating. Ever since Seguin and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane played for EHC Biel, a professional hockey team in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, during the NHL lockout, the two players have found themselves being treated as lifelong members of the community’s hockey family.
With Seguin’s Bruins and Kane’s Blackhawks now meeting in the Stanley Cup finals, EHC Biel’s coaches, players and even their fans have been reaching out to them and delivering congratulatory messages for what the two players have accomplished since leaving Switzerland in early January.
“Today, I got text messages from coaches and a couple players, even some fans who got a hold of my number somehow,” Seguin said at the Stanley Cup finals media day on Tuesday. “I think we had a home there for a certain period of time. It was also a pretty big hockey city. It was a lot of fun. It’s nice to see them still showing the support today.”
Seguin and Kane didn’t know much of each other before they teamed up for EHC Biel. Seguin decided in late September he was going to play for EHC Biel, and Kane waited until late October to see where the lockout was going before he also chose to play in Switzerland.
EHC Biel coach Kevin Schläpfer was ecstatic he was handed two young offensive stars for however long they were going to be there. Schläpfer put Seguin on one line and Kane on another and told them to go to work. They were only united on power plays or when the team was desperate to score late in a game.
“I think they had to take on more responsibility because of their situation here,” Schläpfer said by phone on Tuesday. “They’re two big superstars, and everyone wants something from them. They have to show something every game. I told Kane in Chicago he has other superstars around him, and Tyler in Boston, too. In Switzerland, they have to take control every game. People are waiting on them. I told them make something, get that puck and make something.”
Kane nor Seguin disappointed. Seguin produced 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games, and Kane contributed 13 goals and 10 assists in 20 games.
One of their best games together came in a 7-2 win over Genève-Servette HC on Nov. 2, 2012. Seguin had four goals and one assist, and Kane had three assists in the victory.
“Geneve was in first place and had maybe lost one game and we beat them 7-2,” EHC Biel sports director Martin Steinegger said by phone on Tuesday. “It was just a big Tyler Seguin-and-Patrick Kane show. That was an amazing night for us, for me.”
Kane and Seguin lived in the same housing complex and spent plenty of time together throughout November and December in Switzerland. They developed a friendship off the ice and a high level of respect for what each other was able to do on it.
“He’s a great kid,” Kane said. “I had a lot of fun playing with him in Switzerland. Looking forward to playing against him now. I didn’t know him too much before.
“Just watching him in Switzerland, at first I thought for sure this kid is going to one day lead the NHL in goals or maybe in scoring because of the skill he has. His shot, his speed and his smarts for the game, too, I think you’ll see some special things from him in the future.”
Seguin joked Kane had to say that about him.
“I bought him a lot of movie tickets and dinners over there, so I’m happy he’s having my back,” Seguin said.
Seguin did have similar feelings for Kane’s game, too.
“It was a lot of fun,” Seguin said. “I got to know him. He’s a good guy. Obviously playing with someone that has that much talent and skill is definitely something you’re going to remember. We had a good time.”
EHC Biel’s personnel and fans certainly enjoyed having Kane and Seguin playing for them, but their support for the duo didn’t diminish once they left. The EHC Biel hockey community has taken pride in the players’ individual and team accomplishments throughout the NHL season.
“I think it’s great for me, to be honest, for the whole town,” Schläpfer said. “I’m really proud of that situation. Now, it’s big talk [around the country] and in the papers, too. The papers in Switzerland call me every day wondering if I still have connections with Tyler and Kane. The whole Switzerland follows them. I’m happy. I told the guys I’m happy that a little piece of me is going to be on the Stanley Cup.”
As for who the EHC Biel’s community will be backing in the Stanley Cup finals, Steinegger provided a very Switzerland-like answer.
“That’s a tough call,” said Steinegger, who traveled to see Kane play twice in Chicago in April. “We have an internal family affair. My daughters are a little more for Tyler. My son is a big fan of Patrick. As a Swiss guy, I’m a little neutral.”
Brock Beukeboom to bring size and talent to UPEI
University of PEI
UPEI Men’s Hockey Head Coach Forbes MacPherson is pleased to announce the addition of Brock Beukeboom, a 6’2”, 215-lb defenceman from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL)’s Guelph Storm.
A native of Uxbridge, Ontario, Beukeboom said committing to UPEI was an easy decision. “When we were eliminated from the OHL playoffs, I sat down with my family and talked with people who watch the AUS closely. It quickly became clear that UPEI was a perfect fit for me,” said Beukeboom, drafted 63rd overall by Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2010 NHL entry draft. “The team has a commitment to winning. They play a high tempo style in the best university conference in Canada. I just can’t want to get rolling.”
Coach MacPherson says Beukeboom will bring size, talent, grit, and determination to the team.“Brock is a player who will fit nicely into our system. With his size, he’s tough in the defensive zone, but he possesses the ability to lead the transition game and join the offense when the opportunity presents itself,” says MacPherson. “Adding size and skill to the back end was a big focus for us and I feel Brock brings that, and more, to our lineup.”
Beukeboom is the son of four-time Stanley Cup winner Jeff Beukeboom. Like his father, the big, right-handed defenceman has a reputation for being tough in his own end and difficult to play against. Brock says the similarities end there.
“My dad is the first to say that I have much more focus on jumping into the rush and being a part of the offense,” says Beukeboom, who has 83 points in his OHL career. “My game is a two-way game and when talking with Forbie, I know there’s going to be expectations for me to contribute more offensively which is a part of my game I look forward to improving.”
Beukeboom has been invited to attend the New York Rangers summer camp.
The Panthers finished the 2012–13 season ranked 9th in CIS standings.
“I look forward to meeting Brock and welcoming him to the University of Prince Edward Island,” said UPEI Athletics and Recreation Director Bill Schurman. “Brock will be a great addition to the men’s hockey program.”
A ‘straight shooter’
Brock Beukeboom commits to hockey Panthers with eye on pros
Brock Beukeboom has chosen UPEI to get his education while he chases his dream of playing professional hockey.
“It’s my ultimate goal, but I think most importantly is getting an education,” he said.
The university announced Beukeboom Wednesday as one of the team’s commits for the fall. The 21-year-old defenceman from Uxbridge, Ont., said on Twitter a month ago he was going to be a Panther.
The six-foot-two, 215-pound defenceman, who played five years in the Ontario Hockey League, had offers from a number of schools. A discussion with Panthers’ coach Forbie MacPherson, who Beukeboom called a “straight shooter,” sealed the deal.
“What really caught my attention was he did his four years (of university) and then he did 10 years of professional hockey,” Beukeboom explained. “That’s something I want to do down the road.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Beukeboom, the son of former NHL blue-liner Jeff, in the third round of the 2010 NHL draft. His rights were traded to St. Louis, but he did not sign with them and is a free agent.
He will attend a summer camp with the New York Rangers where his father will run some of the practices.
“I’m fully committed to UPEI. I’m really excited. I haven’t been down there yet, but I have heard nothing but great things from a lot of people,” Beukeboom said.
MacPherson said Beukeboom, who played with the Guelph Storm last season, brings size, talent, grit and determination to the team.
“Brock is a player who will fit nicely into our system. With his size, he’s tough in the defensive zone, but he possesses the ability to lead the transition game and join the offence when the opportunity presents itself,” he said. “Adding size and skill to the back end was a big focus for us and I feel Brock brings that, and more, to our lineup.”
Beukeboom has played against Panthers Jordan Mayer, Tyler Brown, Chris Desousa, Reggie Traccitto and Mavric Parks in the past and right-winger Cody MacNaughton, who also has committed to the Panthers, this past season.
Beukeboom’s father won four Stanley Cups and was know for being difficult to play against.
“My dad is the first to say that I have much more focus on jumping into the rush and being a part of the offence,” said Beukeboom, who has 83 points in his OHL career. “My game is a two-way game and when talking with Forbie, I know there’s going to be expectations for me to contribute more offensively which is a part of my game I look forward to improving.”
Tyler Seguin adjusts, powers Bruins to win
CHICAGO — Tyler Seguin is 21 years old. He can skate all night and stay up late and bounce back the next day. He might be the poster boy for this closing time, 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
Don’t make any plans for Tuesday or Thursday mornings this week. The Bruins and Blackhawks are coming to Boston and can’t settle things in three regulation periods of hockey.
Powered by Seguin’s best game of the playoffs, the B’s beat the Hawks, 2-1, in overtime late Saturday on a wrist shot from the left circle by Daniel Paille after a pinpoint cross-ice feed from Seguin.
Taking care of business and working overtime. That is the theme song of this Cup Final. And the later it goes, the better Seguin gets. He is Boston’s midnight rambler.
Paille and Seguin were together on the ice late Saturday because Bruins coach Claude Julien needed to shake things up. After an abysmal first period, Julien switched Seguin to a line with Paille and Chris Kelly. The new line wound up scoring both goals and Seguin had his best game of the playoffs.
Of the game-winning goal, Julien said, “obviously a great pass from Tyler. That line came up huge for us tonight. I was confident enough to put them out against their second line.’’
Seguin was taking some heat after the Bruins lost the first game of this series in triple overtime. He led the Bruins with eight shots (two on net), but couldn’t put the puck in the net. He didn’t score a goal again Saturday night, either, but he was a difference-maker.
Seguin is a bit of a hot button in Hockey Boston. He’s good, but not yet great. He was under fire before Game 2 when it was noted he had only one goal in 17 playoff games despite a team-high 62 shots.
Sometimes we give up too early on a player. Remember Chauncey Billups? Celtics coach Rick Pitino grabbed him with the third pick in the entire draft (small consolation for not getting Tim Duncan), then traded Billups three-quarters of the way through his first season.
Sometimes we wait too long on a player. Remember Laurence Maroney? The Patriots used their first-round pick on the running back from Minnesota and waited four years before dumping him. Bill Belchick’s patience with Maroney reminded me of Earl Weaver’s explanation for sticking with aging ace Mike Cuellar. Weaver said, “I gave Cuellar more chances than my first wife.’’
Seguin was all the rage when the Bruins selected him with the second pick in the 2010 draft. Bruins fans hoped he would be “The Next One.’’
He has not been “The Next One.’’ We don’t know exactly what he is. We’re not even certain if he’s a center or a winger.
We have seen the skills. We won’t forget the 2011 championship playoff run when he was a healthy scratch for the first two rounds, then scored two goals and had two assists in a single period of the conference final game against Tampa Bay at TD Garden. Seguin was only 19 that night. We saw him score 29 goals last season.
We are dazzled by the speed and stickhandling. No Bruin can get off a shot faster. But the Bruins needed Seguin to deliver in one of those three overtimes against the Blackhawks on Wednesday and Seguin could not score. When you are playing 112 minutes of hockey in a single evening, you figure the guy with the youngest legs has the best chance of finding the back of the net.
“To me, the only thing he needs to do is to be able to finish,’’ Julien said the day after that game. “If he can finish, it will certainly help his confidence, help our hockey club.’’
Seguin expressed some frustration after Game 1, saying, “I feel like I had a ton of chances last game again. I want to finish, and my team needs me to finish. I’m going to keep focusing on that in Game 2.’’
There was speculation that Seguin might be moved up to the first line if Nathan Horton was unable to play because of his shoulder injury, but Horton was able to start the game, so Seguin started with center Rich Peverley and left wing Kaspars Daugavins.
“When it comes to playoffs, you want to show you can play anywhere,’’ said Seguin. “Whether that’s first line or fourth line, you want to play the role that’s given to you. In the end, I’m just trying to help my team win.’’
“It can be frustrating,’’ he added. “I looked back at the tapes of last game . . . there were a lot of chances. I need to find a way to score on those. There are no excuses left anymore. This is the Stanley Cup Final. You’ve just got to find a way.’’
A change had to be made after the first period Saturday. The Bruins were outscored, 1-0, and outshot, 19-4.
“Maybe we thought the game started at a different time,’’ joked Seguin.
“It was a hard period to coach and a hard period to watch,’’ said Julien.
So he made the switch. And Seguin clicked with Kelly and Paille.
“Claude tries to find different combinations,’’ said Kelly, who scored the Bruins’ first goal. “He has a good feel to try to find chemistry with different guys.’’
The game-winner was a beauty. Adam McQuaid got the puck to Seguin, who fired a cross-ice pass to Paille.
And so the series is coming back to Boston tied, 1-1. And we turn our tired eyes to the 21-year-old kid who can skate after hours every night.
Seguin Mic’d Up for OT Game Winner
Tyler Seguin Postgame
NHL draft tracker: Jimmy Lodge, Saginaw Spirit
Jimmy Lodge is not the first Pittsburgher to make an impact for the Saginaw Spirit — he’s merely the first who took a detour through the centre of the universe.
When he was 13, the reedy right-shot centre’s parents, Dory and James Sr., moved him up from Downington, Pa., to Toronto to attend the PEAC school for elite athletes and play minor hockey while billeting with his Toronto Titans coach Tony Comparelli (“his family’s like a second family to me,” Lodge says). The investment paid off this season with the 6-foot-2, 165-pound pivot becoming a point-a-game scorer in Saginaw with hints of being a potential top-six forward in thev NHL.
“Toronto’s kind of similar to an American city, I feel,” says Lodge, who was 21st in NHL Central Scouting’s final North American skaters ranking. “It was hard coming up alone and being away from my parents and not really seeing them. I got used to it, though. It was a relatively easy change aside from that.
“Some people think I have an accent when I go back,” Lodge adds. “But I don’t think I’ve got one.”
Lodge tallied 28 goals and 67 points across 64 games for Saginaw, which has been enriched in recent seasons by two other ‘Burghers. Former Spirit captain Brandon Saad is currently trying to help the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup final. Florida Panthers prospect Vince Trocheck earned a world junior gold medal with Team USA and won the OHL’s top scorer and most outstanding player awards after starting the season in Saginaw and moving to the Plymouth Whalers in January.
Many draft watchers championed Saad and Trocheck before the 2011 draft, when they were selected 43rd and 64th overall. Saad’s question mark was skating, whereas Trocheck’s was size.
Lodge’s draft slot might fall into that range between where his two former teammates were selected. He’s shown top-six potential, but admits he needs to play more physically in order to have a fallback at the next level. Adding size and using it to create space will go a long way toward determining his station in the pro hockey food chain, especially since a lot of his offence has come on drives to the net.
“I just want to build off what I had last year,” Lodge says of the upcoming season in Saginaw. “Just be more consistent and up my numbers.”
1. Did it help your confidence when the Spirit moved Vince Trocheck and had the deadline and signalled you would be playing major minutes the rest of the way?
“Definitely, the second half was better than the first. Moving Trocheck opened up an opportunity for me on the first line. I played with some good linemates and the chemistry well.”
2. How critical will it be for you to add some size over your next two seasons?
“I need to put on more muscle and strength, but it’s also about being more physical on the ice. Finishing my checks and being stronger on the wall.”
3. Which NHL player(s) do you study because he, or they, play a game similar to what you aspire to play at that level?
“[New Jersey Devils centre] Travis Zajac is a guy whom I look up to. He’s a tall guy and eventually I think I could be around his size [listed at 6-3, 200 pounds]. I think I kind of play similar to him.”
4. How exciting was it to play for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament last August?
“That was a really cool thing to represent my country. We didn’t have the tournament that we wanted as a whole, but to play over there and see a different lifestyle was fun. It’s Europe, it’s different how people live. Older cities, different buildings. We went to Bratislava and stayed in some small towns. It was interesting. The beds were pretty small.”
5. Does it stand out in your mind that you were part of USA Hockey’s inaugural — never say first annual — All-America Prospects Game last September?
“Buffalo had a really nice setup and they treated as well. It’s definitely cool to be in the first batch of people who did it, seeing all the top American kids.”more
Thiessen, WBS Penguins force Game 7
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have played 146 playoff games in their 14-year history.
Never before has a goaltender turned in a performance like Brad Thiessen did Monday night.
Thiessen was downright heroic, making 46 saves to lead the Penguins to an improbable 2-1 overtime win over the Providence Bruins at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Penguins are the fourth team in AHL history to force a seventh game after losing the first three games of a series. It will be played Wednesday night in Providence.
“To be honest, when I was out there, there’s a verse in the Bible that says, ‘I can do all things through Him that gives me strength,??” Thiessen said. “I was saying that over and over in my head because I couldn’t do that on my own. It was fun. It was fun to be a part of. I’m just happy to give our team a chance and bring it to a Game 7.”
With the score tied 1-1 entering the third period, Thiessen stepped into the spotlight.
The P-Bruins kept the Penguins hemmed in for almost the entire 20 minutes, thwarting clearing chances with ease, working the puck down low and piling up an amazing 20-2 shots advantage.
Thiessen, who has a .973 save percentage since taking over for Jeff Zatkoff after the first period of Game 2 against Providence, majestically stopped all 20 shots, most notably going from post to post to get his right pad on a Jamie Tardif shot after a cross-crease backdoor pass from Ryan Spooner with 8:40 left.
“We learned on him hard tonight,” center Trevor Smith said. “The last couple games we have too. They have a real strong offense over there and he took the game over for us. Third period, we got away from what we were into and played a lot of D zone and he bailed us out. He’s the first star tonight and for most of the series.”
As the Penguins made their way to the locker room before the start of intermission, they were being outshot 47-15. Something had to change or their season was about to end.
“Our guys, we were afraid to make plays,” coach John Hynes said. “We weren’t playing the game. We were playing not to lose. We were playing not to make a mistake. Therefore, when we had opportunities to make plays, we didn’t. That’s something we addressed with them in the overtime. We had to go out and play hockey and win the game. The difference between the third period and the overtime was 100 percent mental.”
Early in the overtime, Alex Grant slapped a puck from the right wing off the end boards and Smith backhanded the rebound past goalie Niklas Svedberg at the 3:26 mark.
“(Grant) made a great play,” Smith said. “He shot around the block and just missed the net. It laid there real nice for me off the back wall at the side of the net. It laid flat. It kind of bounced up perfect for me on my backhand. It might have hit a D-man’s stick. It was a great feeling to see it go in.”
In regulation, the only blemish on Thiessen’s record was a Craig Cunningham breakaway from the blue line in on a bad line change by the Penguins at 1:07 of the second period.
Providence took a brief break from dominating play a few minutes later and was called for two minor penalties in a span of 1:38. The Penguins made them pay.
Two seconds after a 23-second 5-on-3 power play ended, defenseman Brian Dumoulin picked a corner from the top of the left faceoff circle to make the score 1-1 and set up Thiessen’s star turn.
“They’re a good team. They kind of took it to us,” Thiessen said. “We were able to hold the fort and buy some time to get that big one in OT.”
Thiessen, Penguins push Bruins to limit
Trevor Smith corraled a loose puck and tucked it in with 3:26 gone in overtime as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins closed in on AHL history with a 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins on Monday night.
The Penguins, who lost the first three games of the series, have forced a Game 7 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday (7:05 ET, AHL Live).
Brad Thiessen made 46 saves in a heroic performance for his third consecutive season-saving victory. The Penguins were outshot 47-18 for the game — including 33-5 in the second and third periods combined.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlled play early and was credited with seven of the first 10 shots in the game, but Providence finished the scoreless first period with a 14-10 edge.
Providence struck first just 1:07 into the second period when a slow Penguins line change led to an odd-man break and eventually a 2-on-0 down low. Craig Cunningham took a pass from Jamie Tardif and beat Thiessen, ending the Penguins goalie’s shutout streak at 133:30.
Wilkes-Barre tied it up on the power play at 6:03 of the second when Brian Dumoulin wired a point shot to the top corner over the glove of a screened Niklas Svedberg, seconds after a two-man advantage had expired.
The third period was all Providence, which owned a 20-2 advantage in shots for the frame, but Thiessen was up to the task.
On the game-winning goal, Alex Grant kept a Bruins clearing attempt in at the blue line and put a shot wide of the net. Smith scooped up the puck and wrapped it around before Svedberg could get back in position.
Thiessen (4-1) has now stopped 143 of 147 shots in the series, good for a 0.85 goals-against average and a .973 save percentage since taking over in the second period of Game 2.
Svedberg (6-5) stopped 16 of 18 shots for the Bruins, who have lost three consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 26 to Nov. 2, 2012.
NOTES: Wilkes-Barre is the fourth team in American Hockey League history to force a Game 7 after falling 0-3… Road teams are now 10-3 in overtime games during the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs… The Penguins were 1-for-5 on the power play in Game 6; the Bruins were 0-for-3… Wilkes-Barre improved to 20-11 all-time when facing elimination.
Matt Rupert scores in Memorial Cup vs Halifax
Thiessen leads WBS into history books
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Brad Thiessen spent most of the final two months of the regular season watching Jeff Zatkoff command the net for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Fast forward three weeks, and Thiessen not only righted the ship for the Penguins playoff run, he was the main reason why the team made history on Wednesday night.
After Zatkoff allowed 12 goals in the first four periods of the series against the Providence Bruins, head coach John Hynes turned to Thiessen. From the second period of Game 2 to the end of Game 7, Thiessen responded by allowing a mere four goals. He finished the series with a minuscule 0.70 goals against average and a .978 save percentage.
More importantly, Thiessen guided the Penguins to four straight wins – the fourth coming via a fitting 5-0 shutout to wrap up the series.
By overcoming a 3-0 series deficit, the Penguins became just the third team in the AHL’s 77-year history to win a series after losing the first three.
Thiessen was a big reason behind the historic achievement.
“We were a little down and out and he gave us life early in the series,” Hynes said. “He continued to play well and that allowed us to get our feet on the ground and chip away.”
Thiessen’s feet were on the ground from the time he took over. In Game 3 he stopped 20-of-22 shots in a 2-1 overtime loss. After that, Thiessen only allowed two goals in the next four games – all wins, including two shutouts during the span.
It’s an achievement that even the normally modest Thiessen can’t ignore.
“You don’t really think about it when you’re in a game because I’m just trying to give my team a chance to win,” he said. “Whether it’s 98 percent (save percentage) or 82 percent, if we’re winning games it doesn’t matter in the playoffs.
“I’m just happy I was able to come in and give us a chance.”
Thiessen had plenty of motivation, in addition to the chance for a Calder Cup, to step up this postseason. Not only did his team have its season on the line with each game in the Providence series, Thiessen’s career as a Penguin faced elimination as well.
He’s an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
“I thought about that every now and again. But more important was the game at hand and not whether or not it was my last game here,” Thiessen said. “I tried to keep that in the back of my mind and focus on the game.”
With history on the line, Thiessen was as calm as ever in Game 7 on Wednesday. He made difficult saves look routine – including a stop on a David Warsofsky shot through traffic in front. Even the desperate flurries of shots from the Bruins in the third period didn’t faze Thiessen. He stopped them all, gave up few rebounds and stood tall in his crease.
His play not only drew the praise of coaches and teammates, Thiessen’s opponents couldn’t help but notice as well.
“Give him credit. He played great,” said Providence captain Trent Whitfield as he reflected on the series. “He did what he had to do to give them a chance to win. It happens like that sometimes. You get into a goalie’s head and we were able to get some pucks by him, they make a change and (Thiessen) has a fresh start with nothing to lose. He played great and I tip my hat to him and that entire team.”
Marlies Locker Clean Out: Josh Leivo
Matt Irwin Pregame
Seguin goal vs NYR
Penguins goalie Thiessen turns the page to see Syracuse Crunch as next challenge
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton netminder Brad Thiessen’s immediate ambition upon coming on in relief during Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Providence was to stop the next puck he saw.
And then the next one, too, and the one after that, all the way down the line.
He could never have imagined that besides making saves, he was saving the Pens’ season.
But that’s exactly what he did.
Although the Bruins went on to win Games 2 and 3, Thiessen then anchored one of the most unlikely comebacks in AHL history by helping the Penguins rally from a 3-0 hole to a 4-3 series win.
“Your mindset going in there is hold the fort down, hope you can stop them a little bit,” Thiessen said on Friday. “You’re not thinking too far ahead. You’re thinking about the job at hand.”
Thiessen’s next task is to carry over his near-flawless play into the Eastern Conference finals against the Syracuse Crunch. Thiessen and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton visit Syracuse for Game 1 on Saturday and Game 2 on Sunday.
While Jeff Zatkoff (26-20, 1.93, .920 this season) was the Penguins’ No. 1 in net for much of the year, head coach John Hynes will likely keep playing the lottery ticket that is Thiessen at least for the start of the series.
Thiessen was a serviceable backup during the regular season – (16-12-2, 2.68, .902) – he’s been almost unbeatable with the team’s fate on the line in the playoffs. After jumping in for Zatkoff against the Bruins, Thiessen stopped 177 of 181 shots (0.70, .977) in the rest of the series.
That included a heart-stopping 46 saves in a Game 6 win and and Game 7 shutout. Thiessen, a fourth-year pro, said instead of trying to digest the odds against making a comeback all at once the team just tried to figure out a scenario in which it could simply win the next game.
“Getting into that situation, it’s the time of year you want to be playing. The intensity goes up. I felt like I was seeing the puck well and playing with confidence,” Thiessen said. “You try not to think about it too much. That’s when you over-analyze. I was just trying to play my game and know I’ve done it in the past and can do it again.”
Thiessen bumped into the Crunch twice this season, going 0-2 with a 3.05 goals-against and a .914 save percentage. Now, Thiessen will be staring into an offense that leads the AHL playoffs with an average of 4.29 goals scored per game.
“We know the problems they are going to present,” Thiessen said. “We know they have a real skilled group there. They score a lot of goals. Everyone of their top guys are guys who compete.”
The Crunch will have to use that sandpaper to annoy the 5-foot-11 Thiessen. Crunch coach Rob Zettler said he noticed that the goalie had far too clear a view of most of Providence’s shots.
“He sees the puck, he’s going to make the save. They (the Penguins) did a good job allowing him to see a lot of pucks,” Zettler said. “I think he’s found a groove right now. He’s probably feeling pretty good about himself right now. He’s on a little bit of a roll. It’s our job to get him off it.”
Crunch captain Mike Angelidis is one of those who will be leading the traffic in front of Thiessen’s crease.
“All these goalies are so technical. Most of them will make the original save. It’s getting rebounds,” he said. The playoffs, you have to go to the blue paint. Every team says it. You have to be in his kitchen.”
Thiessen and his teammates will be ready for the heat.
“We have to turn the page (from the Providence series). Tomorrow night, I go out there and try to continue what I’m doing,” he said. “We’re going to be going in fresh tomorrow. It’s going to be a good series.”
Seguin sets up OT GWG in Game 7
Josh Leivo – 05/13/13
Scott Gomez Pregame
Scott Gomez Pregame
Jesse Blacker Pregame
The new Scott Gomez, same as the old
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Lost in the drama which ended Game 2 in the Sharks-Kings series — with Los Angeles scoring twice in the final two minutes to steal a 4-3 win — was a neat little story about a player trying to pick himself off the scrap heap.
San Jose’s Scott Gomez was promoted to third-line center and did not disappoint with his effort, tallying two assists and delivering a strong overall performance in an expanded role.
I know, it’s a little bit too much to take for fans of the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.
But it’s a funny thing when you’re no longer a $7 million player, but rather a $700,000 bargain. The expectations are drastically different. Suddenly, your experience and skating in a bottom-six role is greatly appreciated.
The Sharks took a chance on Gomez early in the season after Montreal showed him the door via a buyout, and they haven’t regretted it.
“He loves the game,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson told ESPN.com Friday. “He worked hard. He came here looking for an opportunity and he got one because he’s earned it. He’s earned the ice time. And that says an awful lot about him, because he’s accomplished an awful lot in this league. His love for the game and his desire to be part of a team and contribute in any way that he can speaks volumes about Scott.”
Gomez is all smiles these days. Being away from the Montreal spotlight, where his offensive shortcomings were a daily media dish, has served him well.
“I think we all get to different stages in our lives,” Hall of Famer and Sharks associate coach Larry Robinson told ESPN.com Friday. “He went through a tough time in New York. And then things went not too bad at the start in Montreal, and then all of a sudden he was their whipping boy. I think you hear it for so long, after a while maybe you start to believe it yourself and you start to question just how good you really are.
“He’s not going to change,” Robinson said. “His strengths have always been, I think, he sees the ice as good as anybody. He’s a true passer. He’s never been and never will be a shooter. But he’s a guy that makes things happen.
“I think now, he’s starting to believe in himself a bit more.”
Robinson was a key figure in both the Sharks taking a gamble on Gomez and the player wanting to make San Jose his next stop. Gomez has huge respect for Robinson, whom he played for in New Jersey, and that made his decision easier.
“Larry is one of the guys that showed me how to be a professional when I came into this league,” said Gomez.
Being a pro means accepting what the new reality is. Gomez has been a bottom-six forward on the Sharks this season after spending most of his career as a top-line guy. But if you’re looking for the grumpy veteran, you’re not going to find one here. Gomez has been only upbeat in San Jose.
“He’s often the life of the locker room, he’s a guy you can laugh and joke with,” said Sharks teammate Adam Burish. “He’s got a good sense of when it’s a good time to have fun and laugh and when it’s a good time to hold guys accountable. He’s done a good job of that.”
And Gomez isn’t scared to pipe up when something needs to be said.
“On the bench, he’s saying things that probably a lot of guys aren’t comfortable saying,” said Burish. “Like calling a guy out, calling an older guy out, he can do it because of where he’s been and what he’s done. I think he’s brought that.”
Gomez’s contributions here are clearly just as important off the ice.
“Gomer has been a very good player for us in a number of different ways,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “I don’t want to say it’s surprising, but he’s almost like a third or fourth coach. He’s trying to do things the right way, he’s trying to get guys to keep their shifts short, he’s trying to make sure we have a high guy, he’s trying to make sure we don’t turn pucks over.
“I didn’t know we were getting that in Scott Gomez, but we got it. And he’s been a big influence that way.”
Just don’t call this the reinvention of Gomez.
The 33-year-old Anchorage, Alaska, native scoffed at that notion. He’s not trying to redo his game. He’s just accepting whatever role he’s being given.
“That’s part of winning, everyone sacrifices,” said Gomez. “I was taught by some of the best. In New Jersey, people forget I started on the wing and on the fourth line. It’s about winning. Every team I’ve ever won on it’s about sacrificing. As you get older, you realize it more. That’s never been an issue. It started with my parents. I was fortunate to start with an organization that only cares about winning.”
So, pout because he’s no longer in a top-line role? That’s not going to happen. What kind of example would that be setting, he asked.
“It would be a slap in the face to everybody that’s helped me along the way if I didn’t help the young guys out and sit here and mope around,” said Gomez. “I came here for a reason. It was my best chance to win, and it’s been great. When your number is called, you better be ready.”
Let’s not exaggerate things here. I don’t think you’re ever going to see Gomez put up big numbers again. But he still has the skating ability and the vision.
At the right price, he can help a lot of teams next season. His performance Thursday night showed that.
“I thought it was the best game he has played since coming to San Jose,” said a veteran NHL scout. “But he still plays a perimeter game. That’s who he is.”
Hey, as Gomez said himself, he’s not going to go out there and start hitting guys like he’s some sort of energy guy. It’s not his thing. But he can still help in his own way. And for a prorated $700,000 salary, the Sharks will take it.
Gomez, 33, had one year — which carried a $7.35 million cap hit — remaining on his $51.5 million deal when the Habs bought him out on the eve of the season. Montreal still paid him his prorated $5.5 million salary this season, and will owe him $1.5 million next season and $1.5 million the season after that as part of his buyout.
Never again will his salary be the story. But Gomez insisted Friday that his big salary in Montreal was never a pressure point that dragged him down. He doesn’t feel liberated now because he’s on a bargain-basement deal in San Jose.
“Money’s never been anything,” said Gomez. “I wasn’t born with it, I wasn’t raised with it. I’ve gotten to play in the National Hockey League, my dreams have come true, I’ve done everything because of this game.”
So no, he insists his salary in Montreal was not a burden.
“Never, never,” he said. “I’ve been in the league a long time, I’ve paid my dues. I’ve never thought about it once like that. It’s never been an issue. You go out there and have fun. Obviously it’s set my life up and my family forever [financially] and I’ll always be grateful for the guys before me that paved the way for that. There’s no question.”
This clearly isn’t the story of the new Scott Gomez. It’s about the old Scott Gomez feeling at peace with a new team.
Hot goalie gives Thunder confidence
STOCKTON – Ask his teammates to describe Olivier Roy in one word and a consensus quickly develops.
The most common answers are “composure” and “poise” – accurate descriptions of the soft-spoken goaltender, who has saved his team several times during a playoff run that has the Thunder on the brink of an ECHL championship.
Stockton will call on Roy again at 4:05 p.m. today in Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Reading Royals at Sovereign Center in Reading Pa. The Thunder is making its first appearance in the finals in its eight-year history and will be the first California team ever to compete in the best-of-seven championship series.
There are many reasons behind the Thunder’s march to the Western Conference title, including several key moments and clutch shots.
“But we wouldn’t be here without (Roy),” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “He’s been phenomenal in the net, and just as importantly as a leader. He has a calmness about him, which helps to calm everybody else down. You just get the feeling that when something goes wrong or it gets tough, he’ll handle it.”
Roy looks almost professorial with his full playoff beard and often speaks in analytical terms, The 21-year-old from Amqui, Quebec, approaches his job as a problem-solver, making the saves the Thunder needs to get wins.
He hasn’t played the Royals, the Eastern Conference champs, but Roy came to the Thunder from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League in March and didn’t play in the regular season against any of the teams Stockton beat on its way to the finals – Las Vegas, Alaska and Idaho.
“I don’t think that matters whether you played anyone before this; it’s how you prepare now,” Roy said. “We’ll study some tendencies of course, but I like to let the game come to me, and you take it as it comes. The guys have been doing an awesome job of playing in front of me. And I just try to stay in my bubble and not let anything distract me.”
Roy hasn’t been perfect in the postseason. On April 9, in a 5-2 loss to Las Vegas, he gave up three goals on nine shots and was replaced by backup Tyler Bunz. Roy came back, and so did the Thunder, which trailed by three goals and was 15 minutes away from being eliminated by the Wranglers in Game 6, but survived to continue its big run.
On May 11, Roy had one of his best games when he stopped 44 shots in the conference-clinching 2-1 win against Idaho.
“I think he’s inhuman. The saves he’s making are ridiculous,” Thunder defenseman Daniel Gibb said. “Everyone’s calm out there because you know if a guy gets by you, Olivier can handle it.”
Roy’s former Thunder teammate and roommate, current Reading forward Ian O’Connor, said he’s told the Royals how tough Roy will be to score against. And the Thunder has plenty of challenges against the Royals.
Reading also has an excellent, young goalie, Riley Gill, and team captain Yannick Tifu had 72 points in 72 games in the regular season.
“It should be a very good series,” Royals coach Larry Courville said. “We’re playing well, and obviously Stockton has also played well. These are two teams that played hard to earn their spots. We haven’t played each other, so it’s a new experience for everybody.”
Stockton is confident that no matter what happens, Roy will give it a great chance to win.
“We know what we are capable of and our best hockey hasn’t come yet,” Roy said. “We’re excited to have a chance to bring a championship to Stockton.”
Scott Gomez Postgame
Galchenyuk leads U.S. to bronze medal at world hockey championship (Larionov)
The Canadian Press
STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Alex Galchenyuk scored twice in the shootout as the United States edged co-host Finland 3-2 in the bronze-medal game at the IIHF World Championship.
The Montreal Canadiens rookie salvaged a medal for the U.S. after the Americans blew a 2-0 third-period lead.
Finland’s Lauri Korpikoski scored twice in the third to send the game to overtime.
Craig Smith, with a goal in the first minute of play, and Paul Stastny scored in the first period for the United States.
John Gibson made 36 saves for the U.S., while Antti Raanta stopped 23 shots for Finland.
CISCO Arena Cam: Scott Gomez
Tyler Seguin pregame
Sorry B.C., but Irwin enjoying Sharks’ run
When your resumé includes the Junior B Saanich Braves — as Matt Irwin’s and Adam Cracknell’s both do — you know you’ve arrived as Stanley Cup playoff rookies the hard way.
But the Island players have earned strong reviews for their roles in the 2013 post-season with the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues, respectively.
Irwin’s play might be eliciting conflicting emotions among his buddies back home as the Sharks look to sweep the home-province Vancouver Canucks in the opening round.
“It’s been a tough decision among my friends who to cheer for — because like me, they grew up cheering for the Canucks — but I hope I’ve converted a few Canucks fans to Sharks fans,” quipped Brentwood Bay’s Irwin.
The Sharks are full value for their 3-0 lead heading into tonight’s Game 4 in the Shark Tank.
“We’ve managed to put together a solid 60 minutes in each of the games so far and we have to stick to our game plan,” said San Jose rookie blueliner Irwin, who has an assist in the three games.
“We’re confident going into Game 4. But we know we’re going to be facing a desperate hockey team that is just going one game at a time and simply wants to return home for Game 5. We know we’re going to see Vancouver’s best effort. Our goal is to take advantage of our home ice and make sure they don’t get back to theirs.”
Irwin’s short but sharp breakout passes have been key in breaking down the Canucks’ defence.
“The first pass out of the zone has always been one of my strengths . . . and on the power play I carry the puck up ice and find the open man,” said the six-foot-one, 25-year-old former Nanaimo Clippers junior.
Galchenyuk’s First Playoff Goal (Larionov)
Bus trips don’t bother Hamilton’s LeBlanc at this time of the year
Stepping off the bus after a seven-hour haul from Pennsylvania to Rhode Island, the legs are a little stiff and the brain’s a little mushy. If he had to go straight from his seat to the ice, his skating might look a tad less than nimble.
Ask him about the grind, though, and brace yourself for an earful of cheeriness.
“I can’t complain about long bus trips this time of year,” Peter LeBlanc says. “It’s better than a long trip home.”
The 25-year-old Hamiltonian’s not going to complain about anything right now. At this moment, life is about as good as it gets.
In a strange season that’s included a loss of playing time, a resulting drop in production, a trade and a life-or-death battle just to get into his first-ever post-season, the third-year pro is now in the midst of an offensive explosion that has him among the points leaders in the entire American Hockey League.
A bit of an unlikely story? Just a bit.
After last year’s breakout season with the Rockford IceHogs in which he scored 24 goals, LeBlanc was expecting big things again this fall. Maybe even a long look from the big club in Chicago.
Except the lockout happened. Suddenly, with plenty of guys dumped down into the minors to stay fresh, his ice time vanished. It was demoted big-leaguers getting opportunities on the power play and being given extra minutes. Halfway through the year, the former Hamilton Red Wing had just four goals.
“With the flood of guys, I just didn’t have the opportunity,” he says. “It was frustrating, but there were a lot of guys frustrated.”
Things got more unsettled in January when, moments after touching down in San Antonio on a road trip, he learned he’d been traded to Washington. He’d report to the Capitals’ farm team in Hershey.
Some guys take insult when they’re dealt. They feel their team didn’t want them or was giving up on them. Not LeBlanc. He saw it as a fresh start and a clean slate. Not to mention a new adventure.
“I didn’t know anything about Hershey,” he says. “Other than always putting a winning team on the ice. And chocolate.”
When he arrived, his play picked up, though still not to where it had been. Meanwhile, his new team that always makes the playoffs was dancing along the edge of not making it this time. He really didn’t want that. In his two years with Rockford, he never made it into the spring tournament.
The season came down to the final game. The Bears won to get in. Then, LeBlanc exploded.
In his first playoff game against the top-seeded Providence Bruins, he had two assists. In Game 2, he had three more. Game 4 brought another pair.
During the regular season, he collected 30 points in 67 games split between the two teams. In four playoff games, he suddenly had seven assists.
Um, what happened?
“I don’t know,” he says. “I kind of like the emotion that’s involved.”
He also uses words such as pressure and desperation and intensity. Whatever you want to call it, he’s loved it.
Funny, though. After waiting so long for this chance and wanting so badly to produce in this situation, he’s spending most of his time not thinking about what he’s doing.
He’s not thinking about the points. Trying not to, anyway. He’s not superstitious, so he’s not trying to remember exactly what he did each day and repeating it or getting caught up in other crazy rituals. He’s not thinking about what might happen if the team can get on a real roll.
All he’s thinking about is Game 5 on Wednesday night. Win the deciding game of the best-of-five opening round and the fun ride continues. Lose and the season’s over.
He desperately wants more bus rides, no matter how lengthy they are.
“I don’t want to say it goes by fast,” he laughs of the time on board. “But it goes by a lot faster than in the regular season.”
Eyes turn to Rupert to control Scheifele
London Free Press
The London Knights have never needed more from Ryan Rupert than they do right now.
Somebody has to put a lid on Barrie star Mark Scheifele after he erupted for five points in his team’s OHL final Game 3 win Monday.
It’s nearly a lock that Colts coach Dale Hawerchuk, still blessed with last change at home in Game 4 Wednesday night, will force Rupert and his mates to prove they can shut down his top line of Scheifele, Zach Hall and Anthony Camara.
Bo Horvat, Seth Griffith and Tyler Ferry won’t get their crack at it again until Friday night back in London.
“We can handle him and play tight against him,” Rupert, the 18-year-old Leafs prospect from Grand Bend, said, “and give him less room to stickhandle and shoot the puck because that’s what he’s best at.”
Scheifele, the 20-year-old Winnipeg Jets first-rounder and Canadian world junior forward, beat Rupert on a faceoff to set up Barrie’s first goal 35 seconds into Monday’s 6-3 loss.
This kind of assignment is hardly new territory for the gritty Knights forward, who lives and breathes hockey at head coach Dale Hunter’s house.
The beauty of Rupert has always been his knack for knocking opponents off their game while chipping in a goal on the big stage, too.
This is the Knights’ fourth trip to the league championship series in the Hunter era.
Rupert has six goals in eight OHL final games over the past two years. That’s the same number Chicago Blackhawk David Bolland scored in two trips to the OHL final with the Knights in 2005 and ‘06.
Only Rob Schremp has more (nine).
“It’s pretty special to be among those guys, but I think that’s just the expectation that comes with being in the finals and I like to provide (it) and help the team out,” Rupert said. “I seem to thrive off the more pressure we get.”
Down 2-1 in the series and going on the road again to face one of the best players in junior hockey, that’s about as much pressure as anyone can handle.
None of the other members of last year’s Hanson Line — sensational Austin Watson and trusted brother Matt Rupert, out injured since the Kitchener series — can help Ryan now. But his history of getting the job done is there.
“You saw last year as a 17-year-old playing how well he did with Matt and Watson up the middle,” London assistant coach Dylan Hunter said, “and they’re playoff guys. Some guys are, some guys aren’t. They have that ability to do it.
“I’m not surprised (Ryan Rupert) has that many goals in the league final. He plays hard and he gets to the dirty areas.
“On the other side, Olli Maatta is the same way on defence. He really raises his game in the playoffs. Those are the guys you need at this time of year.”
Ryan Rupert had a forgettable start to this season. He got hurt and didn’t score a goal until Dec. 7.
But he has since found his confidence and has a combined 17 goals over these last two post-seasons combined.
“I don’t know what it was at the start of the regular season, but I guess it’s the playoffs that count,” Rupert said. “I guess I would rather get it (a slump) over with at the start than at the end. It’s just start playing my game and know my role and that’s when I do my best out there.”
The Knights could really use one of those unforgettable performances in Game 4.
Sharks advance to second round
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Game 4 Morning Skate: Tyler Seguin
Rangers Murphy, Gibson named OHL all-stars
Kitchener Rangers captain Ryan Murphy and goalie John Gibson were named all-stars by the Ontario Hockey League Thursday.
The pair cracked the OHL’s second-team based on votes doled out by the league’s general managers.
It was Murphy’s third consecutive trip to the all-star team while Gibson got the nod the past two years.
Murphy was Kitchener’s leading scorer from the blue-line with 48 points in 54 games. Gibson finished the season with a 17-9-0-1 record in net.
First team all-stars included: Vince Trocheck, Plymouth Whalers, C; Reid Boucher, Sarnia Sting, LW; Seth Griffith, London Knights, RW; Ryan Sproul, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, D; Scott Harrington, London Knights, D; Jordan Binnington, Owen Sound Attack, G; and Plymouth coach Mike Vellucci.
Second team all-stars were: Charles Sarault, Sarnia Sting, C; Garret Ross, Saginaw Spirit, LW; Brett Ritchie, Niagara IceDogs, RW; Cody Ceci, Owen Sound Attack, D; Murphy, Kitchener Rangers, D; Gibson, Kitchener Rangers, G; and Belleville coach George Burnett.
Third team all-stars went to: Boone Jenner, Oshawa Generals, C; Anthony Camara, Barrie Colts, LW; Cameron Brace, Owen Sound Attack, RW; Dylan DeMelo, Mississauga Steelheads, D; Colin Miller, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, D; Malcolm Subban, Belleville Bulls, G; and Oshawa coach D.J. Smith.
Trocheck of the Whalers also won the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s player of the year.
Blacker recalled by Leafs
Galchenyuk Postgame (Larionov)
Boisclair, Roy put Thunder one win from Finals
STOCKTON – Max Boisclair’s hustle and Olivier Roy’s steely resolve put the Thunder one win away from the Kelly Cup Finals.
Bosiclair scored with less than 3 minutes remaining in the third period and Roy faced a mad rush by Idaho, including a penalty shot with 1.4 seconds to go. The Stockton goaltender survived it all, and the Thunder beat the Steelheads 3-2 in front of a crowd of 4,417 at Stockton Arena.
The Thunder leads the best-of-seven ECHL Western Conference finals 3-1, and can secure its first trip to the championship round with a victory at 7:30 p.m. today at Stockton Arena.
Stockton avoided going to overtime for the seventh time in the postseason, but there was plenty of high drama in the final minutes.
Boisclair, who has a point in every game in this series, broke up a 2-2 tie by charging the Idaho net and scoring with 2:36 remaining in regulation. The Steelheads tried to rally and had several good chances – along with some help.
Thunder defenseman Nathan Deck was called for delay of game with 1.4 seconds to go, and Idaho’s Austin Smith was awarded a penalty shot. His offering went wide on Roy’s glove side, and the Thunder ran out the clock.
Roy had 27 saves, while Josh Robinson had 32 for Idaho.
The Stockton players were quite vocal about how dissatisfied they were with their play at the beginning of Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime loss and showed plenty of energy in the first period of Game 4.
The Thunder went after Robinson, getting off four shots in the first 38 seconds of the game, and outshooting Idaho 12-7 in the first 20 minutes.
But Stockton couldn’t score, and Idaho took the lead in the second period when Brett Robinson beat Roy right in front of the crease 47 seconds after intermission.
The Steelheads celebrated, but held the lead for exactly 20 seconds.
With an assist from Matt Bergland, Harrison Reed got off a sharp wrist shot from between the circles to even the contest at 1-1.
The Steelheads paid Stockton back for the quick turnaround goal in the third period. Thunder captain Garet Hunt ignited the loudest cheer of the night when he smashed a long shot past Robinson’s glove 2:59 into the period on assists from Eric Hunter and Ryan Hayes.
Idaho won the ensuing faceoff, and Brett Robinson struck again as he knotted the game at 2-2 just 14 seconds after Hunt’s score.
In the Eastern Conference finals, the Reading Royals beat the Cincinnati Cyclones 3-2 and lead the series 3-1. The Royals can finish off the Cyclones today in Cincinnati.
Galchenyuk to play for Team USA at World Championships (Larionov)
Galchenyuk will join Team USA after spending the season with the Montreal Canadiens.
The 19-year-old won a gold medal with the U.S. at the U20 World Championship four-and-a-half months ago when he played for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting before joining the Canadiens for the delayed start of the NHL season.
In 48 NHL games in his rookie season he scored nine goals and had 18 assists. He also played in five playoff games having one goal and two assists.
Galchenyuk, whose father Alexander Galchenyuk represented Belarus in the 1998 Olympics and in four World Championships, is expected to arrive in Helsinki on Sunday.
Rookie defenseman Matt Irwin plays big role in Sharks success
SAN JOSE, Calif. — When the San Jose Sharks moved defenseman Brent Burns to forward in March it provided an immediate spark to what had been a lackluster season to that point.
Burns’ physical presence up front allowed the Sharks to move Joe Pavelski to the third line and gave a scoring-challenged team much more depth to help lead the Sharks into the second-round of the playoffs.
Burns’ move might not have been possible if rookie defenseman Matt Irwin hadn’t proven he could play in the NHL. That gave the Sharks the depth at the blue line that allowed Burns to play up front when he provided 20 points in 23 regular season games.
“He’s come in and solidified a position in our lineup,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I see him developing beyond his rookie year now and into a veteran type demeanor, a veteran type contribution on a nightly basis.”
Irwin had six goals and six assists in 38 games with the Sharks, teaming with veteran Dan Boyle for most of the year to give the Sharks a defensive pairing with two potent puck movers.
“Game after game you start feeling more comfortable and the coaching staff feels more confidence in you and trusts you a little bit more and puts you out in more situations,” Irwin said. “The more games you play, the more confident you feel.”
Irwin had 2.1 shots on goal per game, the most of any rookie defenseman, and was a regular fixture on the second power-play unit. He has also been reliable on the defensive end and has been a major part of San Jose’s success.
He played the first seven games during a franchise-record 7-0 start and then played only three games during a rough February as some of the veterans were back healthy. Irwin resumed his regular role in March when the team turned the season around with the move of Burns to forward.
“We get off to the good start, and Matt Irwin’s part of it,” McLellan said. “We get healthy and we want to bring some guys back, so Matt Irwin leaves. It doesn’t quite work as well for us. So we bring him back in and eventually get back to where we want to do. I think that speaks volumes to how much he’s contributed and how much we count on him.”
Irwin was rewarded for his strong play with a $2 million, two-year contract that kept him from becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Irwin was undrafted at age 18 and originally signed with San Jose as a free agent in March 2010 after wrapping up a stellar college career at UMass-Amherst when he was second among all NCAA defensemen in scoring in his final season.
Irwin, 25, posted 73 points in his first two full seasons with Worcester in the AHL and started this season there while the NHL was in its lockout. With Burns and Jason Demers hurt at the start of the season, the Sharks needed Irwin in the NHL and immediately paired him with Boyle in a sign of confidence.
“He’s been amazing,” Boyle said. “He’s not only been good I think he’s been better than good. He’s had a tremendous season and he shows a lot of poise. I think that’s his biggest asset right now, his poise out there. It’s tremendous.”
Rupert Nets OT Winner as Knights Force Game 7
The Canadian Press
BARRIE, Ont. — Ryan Rupert scored his second goal of the game in overtime as the London Knights held on to beat the Barrie Colts 5-4 in Game 6 of the Ontario Hockey League final Saturday night.
The Knights victory ties the series 3-3, with the deciding game to be played in London, Ont., on Monday night.
Bo Horvat had a goal and an assist for London, with Brett Welychka and Tommy Hughes also finding the back of the net.
“We have good character and leadership in the room,” said Knights head coach Dale Hunter. “It’s one shot wins, and that’s what’s exciting about overtime hockey.”
Mitchell Theoret scored twice for Barrie, which entered the third period down 4-0 before scoring four straight goals to force overtime.
Andreas Athanasiou and Erik Bradford also responded for the Colts.
Barrie scored three times in 4:11 late in the third to tie the contest.
After Athanasiou got Barrie on the board, Bradford batted in a rebound to bring it to 4-2.
Theoret knocked in an opportunity from the front of the goal just 25 seconds later, setting up the frantic finish.
A pass in front of the goal went off of Theoret’s skate and in, tying the contest.
“It was a great comeback,” said Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk. “We had them on the run for a while.”
But Rupert would take a pass shortly into the extra frame and beat Barrie’s Alex Fotinos, who replaced Mathias Niederberger in the third, to set up a winner-take-all contest on Monday.
“(It was) probably one of my biggest goals,” Rupert said. “Forcing a Game 7 at home, it should be a good one.”
Power-play chances were few and far between on Saturday. Barrie finished the night at 1 for 2 while London went 0 for 4.
Knights goalie Jake Patterson turned aside 23 pucks on the night.
Niederberger made 18 saves on 22 shots before being pulled in favour of Fotinos, who stopped all but one of the eight attempts he faced.
Olivier Roy lifts Stockton to ECHL Finals
STOCKTON, Calif. – Olivier Roy put on the best performance of his postseason career and the Stockton Thunder won Game 5 over the Idaho Steelheads 2-1 to become the 2013 Western Conference champions in front of 4,530 fans at Stockton Arena on Saturday.
The Thunder, who clinched the series over the Steelheads 4-1, will now advance to the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in team history. Stockton will face the Reading Royals, who eliminated the Cincinnati Cyclones in five games.
“It’s a great feeling.” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said, “This building, our fans, our organization, and everyone that’s been involved since Day 1 to present day, they deserve a banner. The opportunity to put a banner in the building is something that I really strived to be able to do, and we’ve fallen short a couple times before. To finally get one is a pretty special accomplishment.”
Nail Yakupov named NHL Rookie of the Month for April (Larionov)
Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov, who led all rookies with 11 goals and 15 points in 14 games, has been named the NHL Rookie of the Month for April.
Yakupov edged Montreal Canadiens center Alex Galchenyuk (6-6—12 in 14 games), Oilers defenseman Justin Schultz (3-8—11 in 14 games), Calgary Flames left wing Sven Baertschi (3-8—11 in 10 games), Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (4-4—8 in 13 games) and Dallas Stars right wing Alex Chiasson (6-1—7 in seven games) for the honor.
Yakupov, 19, scored in seven of his 14 games, including his first career hat trick in Edmonton’s season finale April 27 vs. Vancouver. He had five multi-point efforts and finished the month with a +7 rating.
Selected by the Oilers with the first overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Yakupov led all rookies with 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games this season. He also ranked first among freshmen skaters in power-play goals (6) and shooting percentage (21.0%). Yakupov joins St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (January), Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (February) and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin (March) as Rookie of the Month winners this season.
Nail Yakupov named NHL Third Star of the Week (Larionov)
Edmonton Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov earned the NHL’s Third Star honour as part of the NHL’s “Three Stars” for the week ending April 28.
Yakupov, 19, scored an NHL-best six goals in four games to help the Oilers finish the season with a pair of victories. He was held off the scoresheet in a 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks April 22, but bounced back with his 12th goal of the season in a 4-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks April 24.
The 5’11”, 184-pound winger, posted five goals in the final two games of the season; scoring two goals in a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Wild April 26 and recording his first career hat trick in a 7-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks April 27.
Galchenyuk wins Molson Cup for April (Larionov)
MONTREAL – Goaltender Carey Price is the Montreal Canadiens Molson Cup Player of the Year for the 2012-13 season, while forward Alex Galchenyuk is the Molson Cup recipient for the April segment.
Born in Anahim Lake, British Columbia, Price, the Canadiens’ Player-of-the-Month in February, finished ahead of teammates Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk.
The netminder played 39 games during the regular season, for a career total of 310, ranking him eighth on the team’s all-time list for most games played by a goaltender. Price posted a record of 21 wins, 13 losses and 4 overtime/shootout losses. He maintained a 2.59 goals-against-average, while blocking 921 of the 1,018 shots he faced for a .905 save percentage. Price recorded three shutouts in 2012-13, for a total of 19 in his career, ranking him ninth in team history.
Galchenyuk earned the last segment of the season, finishing ahead of Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native recorded 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists) with a +5 differential in 14 games in April. One of his tallies was a game-winning goal.
Galchenyuk post-practice (Larionov)
Hershey Bears F Peter LeBlanc tied for AHL playoff scoring lead
Hershey centerman Peter LeBlanc (0-5-5) is tied for the AHL playoff scoring lead. “Things have been going well lately and the boys have been putting the puck in the net,” LeBlanc said. “The power play’s been clicking well, so it’s been good.” LeBlanc produced 8-10-18 in 33 regular-season games with Hershey. “He’s done a real good job on the power play,” Bears head coach Mark French said. “He’s a guy who put up real good numbers last year in Rockford. I thought when he first came here, offensively you could see some chances coming, but they weren’t going in. Late in the season, he seemed to get hot, and now he’s staying hot.”
Adam Clendening: Exit Interview
Canadiens’ rookie duo ready to take on the playoffs (Larionov)
BROSSARD, Quebec — Montreal Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk laughed when asked about the scruff of growth on his cheeks and neck — the result, he claims, of going only two weeks without shaving.
Clearly, the NHL’s youngest participant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is ready.
“I think if I shaved before the playoffs, even if we go really far, there won’t be anything on me,” Galchenyuk said. “So I’m probably not going to shave.”
A day later, fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher was asked the same question.
He immediately accused his road roommate of cheating, claiming it’s been more like two months since Galchenyuk last shaved.
“I’m going to be the worst, I’d expect, in the League,” Gallagher said.
The Canadiens’ pair of dynamic rookie forwards can indulge in these light-hearted problems only because their play on the ice has been anything but a problem for their team this season.
In fact, it could be argued the emergence of Gallagher, 20, and Galchenyuk, 19, is the biggest reason the Canadiens were able to turn things around so quickly from the nightmare of last season, giving coach Michel Therrien a balanced attack from his forwards that gave opposing coaches matchup problems all season.
The two likely will begin the Canadiens’ first-round playoff matchup against the Ottawa Senators playing on either side of center Lars Eller, who at 23 is the grizzled veteran of the line.
The young trio is labeled as Montreal’s third line, but none of its members have played like third-liners of late. Eller and Galchenyuk were Montreal’s two best forwards in April, with 13 and 12 points, respectively, in 14 games. Gallagher’s biggest strength this season has been his consistency, but he had a little burst after being moved onto Eller’s line in the team’s second-to-last game, getting two goals and an assist in his final two outings.
“We’ve been playing mostly against other teams’ third and fourth lines, I believe,” Eller said. “I don’t know if other coaches have tried to match lines that hard, but we take whatever comes our way. We don’t worry too much about the opposition; it’s really about what we’re going to do. I truly believe that.”
Eller and Galchenyuk have been playing together practically the entire season. Gallagher was the third member of that line early in the season before being moved to a line with Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais before being reunited with Eller during a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets last Thursday.
In terms of total points, Montreal’s “third” line was its most productive this season despite the fact Eller and Galchenyuk barely have been used on the power play. Eller set a career high with 30 points, Gallagher had 28 and Galchenyuk 27. When it came to even-strength points, Galchenyuk was second on the Canadiens with 26, Eller third at 25 and Gallagher fourth at 24.
“We’re young, we’ve got a lot of energy and we’re just trying to translate it to the ice and get the momentum going for our team,” Galchenyuk said. “We just need to keep doing that in the playoffs.”
The one who has brought the most energy to the team all season, undoubtedly, has been Gallagher.
Listed at 5-foot-9, 178 pounds, Gallagher plays as if he is 6 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, crashing the net shift after shift and battling far larger defensemen for pucks along the boards — and coming out with them on his stick more often than not.
Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban noted how the team would be fine if everyone played like Gallagher. Indeed, his game is tailor-made for the playoffs.
“The good part about my game is it doesn’t have to change at all. I can play the same way, and it just makes it that much more fun,” Gallagher said, flashing his ever-present smile that drives opponents nuts on the ice but makes him so engaging off it. “I’m going to focus on playing the same way and doing the same thing I’ve always done. That said, in the playoffs everything matters that much more. I’m looking forward to it.”
As for Galchenyuk, his game has been more of a work in progress all season as he adjusted to the speed and strength of NHL players. Gallagher had the advantage of spending the lockout playing in the American Hockey League, but Galchenyuk jumped to the Canadiens after starting the season with his junior team, the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League, then helping the United States win the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.
With his 33 OHL games, seven at the WJC and 48 games with the Canadiens, Galchenyuk’s 88 games played this season is by far the most of his career — and significantly more than the eight he played last season (six in the OHL playoffs) following a preseason knee injury.
Except rather than fade down the stretch, Galchenyuk got stronger.
“I think I just felt more comfortable and adjusted to the speed of the game,” Galchenyuk said. “I’m just trying to go out there and be the player I can be and create offense.”
Therrien deserves a good deal of credit for how he managed the integration of Galchenyuk and Gallagher into the NHL, and he’s doing the same thing again late in the season with the addition of rookie defenseman Jarred Tinordi to the Canadiens’ top six on the blue line. However, the coach said it is the team’s makeup that deserves the most credit, with a healthy mix of youth, young veterans Subban, Pacioretty and Josh Gorges, and older veterans Brian Gionta and Andrei Markov to help guide the kids along the way.
“I like the chemistry of our team,” Therrien said. “We have some good veterans who are taking care of those young kids, and we’ve got some great young kids with great work habits who listen to veterans, listen to coaches. I believe that chemistry is very important to a hockey team, and our team has that.
“I believe chemistry brought us to where we are right now.”
And the final, missing ingredients to that chemistry were two young forwards who have performed so well on the ice that their biggest concern heading into the biggest tournament of their lives is facial hair.
Island products take aim at the Stanley Cup
Matt Irwin of Brentwood Bay acknowledges it is surreal that his first career Stanley Cup playoff game tonight will be in his home province against the Vancouver Canucks.
“It’s pretty exciting to be playing against the team you grew up watching,” said the San Jose rookie defenceman by phone Tuesday before the Sharks departed California.
“The key for us is to play our style — our North-South game — and get it in deep,” said the six-foot-one, 25-year-old, who had six goals, 12 points and a minus-one rating in 38 games.
It’ll be a best-of-seven series of mixed emotions for family and friends on the Island.
Dad Mike Irwin quipped: “We can’t lose in this series.”
Yet blood is thicker than Canuck Nation.
“But obviously, we’re cheering for the Sharks,” said Mike Irwin, who retired as staff sergeant after a long career with the Saanich Police.
Meanwhile, two other Island-produced defencemen head into the Stanley Cup playoffs, including Minnesota Wild veteran Clayton Stoner from Port McNeill. Another may change the antipathy toward Toronto many on the Island claim to hold. Ryan O’Byrne of Victoria will skate with the former hapless Maple Leafs, as they make their first post-season appearance in nine years.
“There is so much excitement, energy and passion around [Toronto] … it’s a lot of fun,” said O’Byrne, the six-season NHL veteran, who was traded to the Maple Leafs mid-season from the Colorado Avalanche.
“The city is going nuts.”
With eight defencemen on the Maple Leafs roster heading into the series against the Boston Bruins, O’Byrne will be a game-time decision but he’s taking it in stride like a pro.
“I’m a professional and have to stay ready,” he said by phone from Boston.
“If I get in, I’ll play my game, which is simple, physical hockey. My 19 games of NHL playoff experience with Montreal, including making the  Eastern final, can’t be discounted.”
Both Irwin and O’Byrne are revealing case studies of players who eschewed the major-junior WHL route in favour of the Junior A B.C. Hockey League League, O’Byrne through the Victoria Salsa (now Grizzlies) and Nanaimo Clippers and Irwin through the Clippers.
Irwin got cut from more rep teams than he cares to remember, was never selected in the Bantam draft, and went through Junior B with the Saanich Braves. He never played spring or summer hockey but instead baseball with Jamie Benn who is also from the Saanich Peninsula — and now a highly-paid forward with the NHL’s Dallas Stars — while dads Mike Irwin and Randy Benn coached on the diamond.
“Staying away from hockey in the summers, and playing baseball, kept me fresh for hockey,” said Matt Irwin. “It was a big key as to why I never got sick of hockey.”
These certainly weren’t those pushy hockey families of gaudy Canadian hockey lore.
“My parents never forced me,” said Matt Irwin.
There is certainly a lesson in that.
“My advice to parents is: ‘Don’t go crazy.’ I never ever thought, in all those years of youth hockey, that I had a kid that was going to the NHL, much less Junior A hockey,” said Mike Irwin.
“If the talent is there, it will be found.”
It wasn’t until Matt went to Nanaimo, and played three seasons in the BCHL with the Clippers, that his talent was was truly discovered.
“Bill Bestwick [then Clippers head coach/GM] really lit a fire under Matt and told him he could do this,” said Mike Irwin.
“Bill instilled that confidence in Matt.”
The rise was slow-building, but had become so startlingly evident, that Irwin was signed by the Sharks after just two years in the NCAA at Umass-Amherst and assigned to the Worcester Sharks of the AHL in 2010, where he played through the beginning of this season before the NHL lockout ended.
But the decision to depart the NCAA, which meant leaving school, was wrenching for the family. What if pro hockey didn’t pan out?
Irwin promised his parents he will complete his business degree, which he plans to do long-distance through the University of Phoenix. “You never know how long hockey will last,” said Irwin.
But after making a significant rookie impact, this is a ride that could last awhile for Irwin.
“In the NHL, the speed is quicker … it’s the biggest stage and everything is magnified,” he said.
Not that much fazes this guy. His dad describes him as “boring” but in a good way. “He’s so laid back that nothing gets to him,” said Mike Irwin.
Not even his old favourite Canucks team.
Nail Yakupov Year-End Interview (Larionov)
Tyler Seguin matures into pressure-packed role
In his previous two NHL postseasons, Tyler Seguin was still just the new kid, a young man with tremendous potential and a lot to learn about life, on and off the ice, in the big leagues.
Come playoff time, any good hockey person knew better than to expect too much from a youngster like Seguin. It wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to ask a teenager to step up and deliver amid the heightened intensity and pressure of the playoffs.
But Seguin’s status has changed as the Bruins face off tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at the Garden. He’s not the young, raw kid anymore — even if he is just two months past his 21st birthday — but a player the B’s desperately need to be very good.
In recent Bruins-Maple Leafs matchups, there’s been so much pressure on Toronto winger Phil Kessel; now he’s got company in that regard, as a major spotlight will be focused on Seguin.
In the 2011 playoffs, capping his rookie season, Seguin was a healthy scratch in the first two rounds. He was forced into the lineup at the start of the conference finals vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning by Patrice Bergeron’s minor concussion, and responded with a goal and assist in his first game. Seguin then added two goals and two assists in his second game.
Seguin’s contributions had a profound impact on the 2011 playoff run. Indeed, it could be argued that there would have been no Stanley Cup but for what the then-19-year-old was able to do.
It was an unexpected delight for the team, a bonus. This time around, the B’s need that sort of thing from Seguin — and more of it. There was no pressure on him to produce back then. Now, with 20 playoff games (five goals, five assists) on his resume, there’s plenty of pressure.
“I think Tyler understands that,” Bruins president Cam Neely said as he watched practice yesterday at the Garden. “This is a couple of years removed from when he stepped into the playoffs against Tampa and had that great game for us. I know that he likes to be counted on and relied upon. It’s really going to be up to him to show what he can do. He’s got the skill set for it, and he’s got the experience of what it is to play NHL playoff hockey.”
This season, Seguin clearly made progress in becoming a more complete pro player, posting 16-16-32 totals and a plus-23. A guy who used to turn away from contact now instigates it. He backchecks, he blocks shots, he generally has come to understand the game has to be played not just with the puck, but also without it.
Seguin enters his third postseason much better equipped than in his first two.
“I think that’s a good way to put it: better equipped,” Seguin said. “I feel like I have more experience. I’ve tried to advance and complete my game as a forward, at both ends of the ice. So with the game I play now, I’m more confident going into the first-round series than I was last year.”
Seguin and linemates Bergeron and Brad Marchand went out for steak dinners Monday night in the Seaport District, and they talked about the role the Bruins need them to play. The line carried the team much of the first two months of the 48-game season, then tailed off.
“I don’t know if I can say any of us had the greatest of years like we wanted to,” Seguin said. “It was a very up-and-down season for us as individuals and as a unit. We went out and sat down and talked about it over dinner. I think we’re going to jell right back and get the consistency back.”
Not for the first time, Neely said he wants to see Seguin shoot more — and not be quite so unselfish in trying to set up his mates.
“The way I look at is, sometimes it’s being selfish not to shoot the puck,” Neely said. “That whole line can be too unselfish. Tyler has speed that I’d like to see him use more on the outside, to put himself in positions to shoot the puck — especially with March and Bergy driving to the net. It would create more scoring opportunities for that line.”
Seguin knows it.
“There are times when I have the chance to bear down and shoot the puck hard, and I make an extra play,” he said. “Maybe on a 2-on-1, shoot it low, instead of trying to make that fancy pass.”
Questioned extensively about his past allegiance to the Maple Leafs as an Ontario native, Seguin admitted, “It’s kind of almost a weird feeling, maybe a little bittersweet. I grew up watching them my whole life. I’m excited they made the playoffs. They had a great year. I’m excited to be playing them.”
And in a position to play a key role in sending them home disappointed.
Seguin ready for spotlight against Kessel, Leafs
BOSTON — When the 2012-13 regular season ended and the final standings paired the Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the matchup made an impact on the Seguin family.
“I don’t know if they were that happy,” Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said of his family’s reaction. “My sisters weren’t the happiest. They’ve got to go to school and deal with it all, unlike me. But I don’t think they care too much. They’re excited that we’re in the playoffs, first of all, and they’re excited that we’re playing them.”
Seguin, from Brampton, Ontario, grew up rooting for the Maple Leafs. Now he’ll try to make Toronto’s first appearance in the playoffs since 2004 a short one. Game 1 of the Bruins-Maple Leafs series is Wednesday at TD Garden (7 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS, CNBC).
If history is any guide, Seguin should play a huge role in his current team’s attempt to beat his childhood rooting interest.
In 16 regular-season games against the Maple Leafs, Seguin has 10 goals and 16 points. That’s the most points the 21-year-old has accumulated against any opponent in his three-season NHL career. He admitted after practice Tuesday the games against the Maple Leafs are “something extra special,” and he’s not the only one who feels that way.
In addition to being from the Toronto area, Seguin was selected by the Bruins with a draft pick that originally belonged to the Maple Leafs. The pick, which wound up No. 2 in the 2010 NHL Draft, was part of the package Toronto traded to Boston in exchange for forward Phil Kessel. The Bruins used two other picks acquired in the deal to select forward prospect Jared Knight in the third round in 2010 and defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the first round of the 2011 draft. Games between the Bruins and Maple Leafs in Boston often feature the crowd mocking Toronto’s sniper with chants of “Thank You Kessel!” and booing him mercilessly.
Every Maple Leafs-Bruins game since the Kessel trade has felt like a referendum on that deal. Bruins linemate Brad Marchand said Seguin thrives on the spotlight.
“I think he knows a lot of people are watching and a lot of things are expected of him when we’re playing against Toronto,” Marchand said. “The fact that he came with their pick and he’s from there, he’s got so much friends and family there, and he’s also a superstar. I think all those things combined, he’s expected to bring a lot and he rises to the occasion.”
Seguin’s 16 goals in 48 games this season put him on pace to just about match his 29 goals from a season ago over an 82-game schedule. However, he scored once in the final seven regular-season games and the Bruins’ offense as a whole stumbled to the finish line. Now it’s up to Seguin to make sure those struggles don’t carry over into the postseason. Against the Washington Capitals in the first round last year — a series the Bruins lost in seven games — it took him until Game 6 to get on the score sheet.
“I think that was almost kind of how things have gone this year, not being able to finish off chances and bury the puck,” Seguin said. “But I thought, it’s a year ago now, but I think I was playing well, I just couldn’t score too much. And then the last few games it started paying off and it was too little too late. So I think when I look at this first-round series, it’s about getting off to a better start for myself.”
For most of the first half of the season, Seguin, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron formed Boston’s most consistent line during their second season together. Injuries and problems on the other lines, though, forced some juggling by Bruins coach Claude Julien. Now it appears that line will be reunited against Toronto.
It’s a line that will be counted on to produce and keep the opponent’s top scorers off the board. And the trio has thrived because Seguin has improved enough as an all-round player to hang with his more-experienced teammates.
“I think he’s matured a lot, but also he’s learned to play both sides of the ice,” Bergeron said. “So that really makes him a better player. I think that goes a long way when you’re able to do that and do the little things, the little details, to get your linemates the puck or get the puck out of the zone, whatever it is. It makes a huge difference. And, yeah, I feel he’s improved in all those aspects that you don’t necessarily notice, but as a player and as a linemate it helps a lot.”
Seguin’s continued growth into an upper-echelon player who could continue to decimate the Maple Leafs won’t make life any easier on his sisters and family back home. But in Boston, Seguin’s play makes everyone thankful.
“I don’t know if I can say any of us had the year that we wanted to. It was a very up-and-down year for us as individuals and as a unit,” Seguin said. “But I think us as a line, when we were going, we stayed consistent for a while until things … we had injuries, guys started going out of the lineup and things started to get switched around. So I think now that we know we’re back together, we went and sat down and talked about it over dinner and I think we’re going to jell right back again and get that consistency back. So this will be a great time.”
Peter LeBlanc heating up at the right time for the Hershey Bears
HERSHEY — Peter LeBlanc’s first two pro hockey seasons came and went without the experience of playing in the postseason.
This season, his third as a pro, he’s made it to the playoffs with the Hershey Bears.
Any trepidation he might have had about about dealing with the increased pressure to produce points in the playoffs has gone out the window quickly.
LeBlanc, 25, picked up three assists in the Bears’ 5-4 OT win over the Providence Bruins in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series last Sunday in Rhode Island and had two in Game 1 of the series, giving him a team-leading five points heading into Saturday’s Game 3.
LeBlanc and the Bears can clinch the best-of-five series with a win Saturday (opening faceoff, 7 p.m.).
LeBlanc (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) was acquired by the Bears from Rockford (Chicago Blackhawks organization) for Matt Beaudoin on Jan. 31. He scored 24 goals for the IceHogs last season but only four in 34 games prior to the trade this season. The disparity in his output could be traced to Rockford having deeper scoring depth during the NHL lockout.
LeBlanc, a seventh-round draft pick (186th overall) by the Blackhawks in 2006, scored eight goals and assisted on 10 more in his 18 regular-season games with the Bears.
Leblanc’s two assists in Game 1, one on the power play, helped the Bears build a 4-0 lead. In Game 2, LeBlanc’s pass set up Ryan Stoa’s breakaway goal just 3:14 into the game to put Hershey up 1-0 in a series where strong starts have bolstered the Bears.
“I got a pass from (Julien) Brouillette and I saw Stoa streaking down the wing,” LeBlanc said. “Their defenseman played me instead of Stoa so I fed him an area pass and he made a great move on the breakaway.”
LeBlanc has certainly helped the Bears’ power play, which has scored in five of their 10 chances over the first two games of the series. Three of LeBlanc’s five points have come on power play goals, including Jon DiSalvatore’s game-winner in Game 2.
“When we acquired him, he was having a bit of a down year for a number of reasons,” said Hershey coach Mark French. “He didn’t have a lot of offensive confidence when he got here but it’s grown. He got hot in the last two weeks of the season and, fortunately for us, he’s stayed hot.”
LeBlanc did not get a lot of power play time in Rockford. Now that he has in Hershey, it’s helping his five-on-five game as well.
“You get more touches of the puck on the power play so when you’re playing five-on-five, you’re more comfortable with the puck,” French said. “Plus, with goal-scoring, guys get streaky and he’s on one for us right now.”
Stoa has been playing on a forward line with LeBlanc fairly consistently since LeBlanc arrived in Hershey. Matching the two has worked out well.
“Peter is easy to play with and is a smart player,” Stoa said. “We’ve been close to putting pucks in the net for a long time. They seem to be going in right now.”
LeBlanc may get a new linemate to pass the puck to on Saturday with heralded rookie Tom Wilson joining the Bears. Wilson, the Washington Capitals’ first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2012 draft, comes to Hershey after his junior team, the Plymouth Whalers, were eliminated from the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.
Wilson (6-4, 210), a right wing, skated on a line with LeBlanc and Stoa in practice Thursday at the Giant Center.
“He’s a big body,” French said. “He plays an abrasive style. You wouldn’t have to ask him to play physically and he has a bit of a mean streak in him. He also has some pretty good skill.”
Wilson had nine goals and eight assists in 12 playoff games for Plymouth.
LeBlanc will be glad to distribute the puck to any of his wingers, hoping the passes lead to goals.
“Going to Providence and stealing two games is obviously huge for us but it means nothing unless we finish it off this weekend,” LeBlanc said. “We don’t want to give them any confidence or motivation. The start (of the game) is big. If we get all over them, we can put them in panic mode.”
Something that LeBlanc, despite his limited playoff experience, has managed to avoid so far.
Canadiens rookies rely on fathers for support (Larionov)
After finishing last in the Eastern Conference last season, the Canadiens have already punched their ticket to the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, thanks in large part to the contributions of rookie forwards Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher.
Entering Saturday, 20-year-old Gallagher ranked second among NHL rookies with 13 goals, and 19-year-old Galchenyuk ranked second among first-year players with 15 assists. But their roads to Montreal couldn’t have been more different.
A standout since the age of 13, Galchenyuk was the first player taken in the 2010 Ontario Hockey League draft before being selected third in the 2013 NHL Draft. Undersized, Gallagher was taken in the ninth round of the Western Hockey League draft before the Canadiens selected him in the fifth round, No. 147, at the 2010 NHL Draft.
But there is one major similarity in their divergent paths to Bell Centre: the presence and sizeable role of their fathers.
“We have a lot of talks. And not just about hockey. ‘Are you healthy? Are you happy? Any questions for your parents?’” Ian Gallagher said. “There isn’t a lot of advice that comes from us in terms of performance. That’s left to their team. In terms of mental health and mental wellness and general approach to life, we have plenty of conversations.”
As the longtime strength and conditioning coach of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, the team that selected Brendan 195th in 2007, Ian Gallagher was able to work with his son for four years. At the same time, Alex Galchenyuk Sr. was grooming one of the world’s top prospects. The elder Galchenyuk started coaching his son with the Dynamo Moscow development program, guiding a 13-year-old prodigy who would star on a team made up of players a year older. Galchenyuk Sr. would continue to coach his son in Chicago midget hockey and joined the Sarnia Sting’s coaching staff when the team selected Alex Jr. first in 2010.
“I kind of help him. I don’t push him. I just share information and he reacts. He’ll ask me ‘What’s a better way to this, this and this?’” said Galchenyuk Sr., who admits he was surprised to see his son make the Canadiens roster as an 18-year-old. “I didn’t expect that. But I had a good feeling. His last game before [competing for the United States at the] World Juniors, he got five points and dominated. In my head, I thought it was probably the last game for him in junior.”
Gallagher wasn’t nearly as hands-on with his son’s junior hockey development. In fact, he was somewhat wary when the Giants added his son to their roster.
“It’s just uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to do things with players that are not necessarily something that parents agree with but are in the interest of the program,” Gallagher said. “I think everybody made the best of it and ultimately benefitted from it. From a selfish point of view, it’s nice to have your son at home while he plays junior hockey.”
The rookies have endeared themselves to the Montreal fans this season. After starting the season as a healthy scratch, Gallagher has become a favorite thanks mostly to the fearlessness and energy he’s demonstrated on the ice. They are qualities his father identified at a young age.
“That’s something that I think is part of Brendan’s identity. He likes to compete and he enjoys competition,” Ian Gallagher said. “He likes to be successful in competition. In order to do that, you have to pay a price. I don’t think he looks at himself as sacrificing any more than anyone else on the team.”
While Gallagher has often been portrayed as the hard-working underdog, Galchenyuk has been making headlines for years. Adding the 2013 World Junior title to his formidable resume, Galchenyuk has enjoyed incredible success at a young age. But it hasn’t come without hard work for the Milwaukee-born player, who lives with his mother and older sister in Montreal.
“People don’t realize how hard he works. He is staying focused. He’s controlling what he is doing,” Galchenyuk Sr. said. “It’s not like other teenagers. He has practice and his individual stuff. He controls what he eats always. He’s got his own menu and his mom and his sister cook for him. It was very hard for him to stop drinking Coke.”
Much like their sons, Gallagher and Galchenyuk Sr. enjoyed different careers playing hockey. Gallagher played Junior A but describes himself as having “no chance of being a professional in the sport.” Galchenyuk Sr. played for Dynamo Moscow as well as the fearsome Soviet national team before coming to the United States to play for the Milwaukee Admirals of the International Hockey League.
Entering the playoffs, the two Canadiens rookies have provided stability for one another. Together they’ll be sharing the experience of competing for the Stanley Cup for the first time.
“They are friends. It makes him adapt quicker. Even in the locker room and in practice and in games,” Galchenyuk Sr. said. “It’s better if two young players have good communication off ice and on ice. It always helps.”
Their backgrounds may be wildly different, but Gallagher shares Galchenyuk Sr.’s assessment of the bond their sons now share in Montreal.
“The fact that they’re experiencing the exact same things for the first time together is tremendously helpful,” Gallagher said. “Brendan talks about what a good person and a good player [Galchenyuk] is. That also makes it very comforting.”
Tyler Seguin’s be-Leaf tested
As a child, Tyler Seguin frequently sat in the stands at the Air Canada Centre with his father Paul. He cheered, envisioned himself on the ice, and hoped for a Toronto Maple Leafs win and eventual playoff run.
Seguin got his wish. He’s in the NHL and was on the ice last night as the Maple Leafs made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. But rather than wearing blue and white, he wears black and gold as his Bruins locked horns with Toronto in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Though his loyalty changed, Seguin said the series still is sentimental.
“It was my hometown. So I’d go to Leaf games all the time,” Seguin said prior to the game. “When we go and play at the ACC, I’ll kind of look up at some sections where I know I was sitting growing up as a kid with my dad. I grew up hoping we’d at least make the playoffs and here we are playing against (the Bruins). It’s a cool experience.”
Seguin never forgot his roots. When he was 13 he played at the Westwood Arena for the Toronto Young Nationals, 19 miles from the Air Canada Centre. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, in his rookie season, Seguin brought the Cup back to Toronto and to Westwood for other potential pro prospects to see.
But with the nostalgia that a series with Toronto brings, there’s also the ever-popular comparison with Phil Kessel.
In 2009, the Bruins traded Kessel to the Maple Leafs for a 2010 first-round pick, a 2010 second-round pick, and a 2011 first-round pick. Neither the Bruins nor the Maple Leafs knew what would become of the draft picks, but the B’s emerged with Seguin and another Toronto native Dougie Hamilton with those chips.
Seguin doesn’t believe comparisons to Kessel are justified.
“It’s not like they knew I was going to be the pick. It was just a pick and it happened to be me and Dougie,” Seguin said. “I guess it’s going to be linked just because it’s what people want to talk about and have stories. But other than that, I think Phil is a great player and I definitely have respect for him on the ice. I’ve met him a few times off the ice. He’s a good guy.”
As he skated last night, Seguin was living his dream, only this one includes the twist of a Toronto loss.
“It’s an exciting experience, but I want to take it as just a playoff run,” Seguin said. “(It’s) not about who you’re playing. You’ve got to come out and make sure you’re ready.”
Galchenyuk’s First Playoff Point (Larionov)
Thiessen fine with short notice
During the first two games of the series against the Binghamton Senators, Jeff Zatkoff stopped 69 of 73 shots to guide the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a pair of wins.
For Thursday’s Game 3, however, Zatkoff was a late scratch.
In his place stood Brad Thiessen and his 25 games of playoff experience.
Call it a luxury, having a veteran backup to turn to in case number one can’t go.
“For sure. When (head coach John) Hynes gives the tap to the other guy, I’m sure he feels like it’s a luxury as well,” said center Trevor Smith.
Even if that starting nod comes a bit late.
Zatkoff practiced in full on Wednesday, but was a no-show on Thursday when the team skated onto the ice for warm-ups. Hynes said the team was monitoring Zatkoff’s condition late Wednesday night, and he described it as “pre-existing” and “nothing serious.”
Anyhow, it was enough to give the start to Thiessen – a decision that wasn’t made until five hours before the start of Thursday’s Game 3.
Before then, Thiessen spent the last couple of weeks wondering if he had played his last game as a Penguin.
“It crossed my mind a little bit. Maybe the last game of the season,” Thiessen said. “Thankfully it wasn’t.”
Despite the short notice, Thiessen turned in a stellar performance on Thursday, stopping 19 0f 21 shots to guide the Penguins to a 3-2 win. Not bad for a player who only had a few hours to prepare for big playoff game.
“I had a bit of an inkling (Wednesday night) there might be a chance. Coach called me in the afternoon (on Thursday) to tell me it was my game,” Thiessen said.
Although it was Thiessen’s 26 AHL postseason game, he admits to feeling a few butterflies before the start.
It’s the playoffs, after all.
But his teammates had no uneasy feelings about playing Game 3 with Thiessen, and not Zatkoff, in net.
“He’s a veteran guy and he’s taken this team far in the playoffs before,” said Riley Holzapfel. “We’re not really too worried about it when you have a guy like Brad than can come in and steal you games.”
And that’s exactly what Thiessen did. After allowing an early goal to Binghamton in the first period, he kept them at bay for the rest of the night while his teammates got their offense in order and tallied three goals in the third period for the win.
About the only thing that Thiessen’s teammates felt was a bit odd was how he could come in on short notice and play so well.
“Goalies are weird,” said Zach Sill. “They get ready and you just let them do their thing. We had full faith in Brad that he was going to come out and do the job.”
Hynes said Zatkoff will rejoin the team for Sunday’s practice and he described his condition as day-to-day. While the Penguins next opponent has yet to be determined, as has the start of the second round, Thiessen assured he will be ready if he gets the nod for another start.
Even if it comes at the last minute.
“You’d like to know ahead of time, but you try to prepare the same way whether you’re playing or not,” he said. “As a player you try to elevate your game, and I think I can do that in the playoffs and be a difference-maker. Zatkoff’s been doing a great job, and if I’m called upon again I’ll try to bring the same thing.”
Laurent Dauphin 2013 U18 Highlights
Andrew D’Agostini named 2012-13 MVP of Peterborough Petes
Holding his most valuable player award Andrew D’Agostini says his work with the Peterborough Petes isn’t done.
D’Agostini carried away three awards and Brett Findlay four from the Petes year-end banquet Friday night at the Trentwinds International Centre.
D’Agostini’s remarkable second-half turnaround epitomized the club’s dramatic improvement after Christmas. D’Agostini went on to get his first taste of pro in the ECHL and as a back-up for one AHL game, after the Petes season ended. However, the Petes’ second-half surge has left D’Agostini wanting more.
“I dreamt of this day and I still have dreams I haven’t reached, yet,” D’Agostini. “My goal is to bring a championship to this city and I’m doing everything I absolutely can to achieve that. They absolutely deserve it. I tell everyone who asks I can’t explain how proud I’d be to play a fifth and final season here.”
D’Agostini has seen the team go through adversity and wants to experience success before he leaves.
“I can’t explain, despite the lack of success and the ups and downs, how proud I am to wear the maroon and white. I’d love to come back for a fifth year and bring a Cup and some playoff rounds and exciting hockey to pick up where we left off last season,” he said.
Galchenyuk sets up winning goal vs Ottawa (Larionov)
Roy delivers another ‘wow’ game
The Thunder doesn’t let the little things, or the big things, bother it.
Stockton was outshot, gave up a quick goal in the third period and had one of its scores waved off by officials. But none of that swayed the Thunder, which got another playoff gem from goaltender Olivier Roy and beat the Idaho Steelheads 3-1 Friday in the opener of the ECHL Western Conference finals in front of 3,556 at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho. Game 2 will be at 4:10 p.m. Sunday.
The Thunder took the lead with 6 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in regulation on a goal by Max Boisclair, and Ryan Hayes contributed an insurance goal with 1:27 left. But to get to the victory, Stockton had to go through the usual ups and downs that have marked its postseason.
The Steelheads generated plenty of chances, outshooting Stockton 36-22, but Roy was strong again, turning away every offering except for David de Kastrozza’s shot 14 seconds into the final period to tie the game 1-1.
Soon after that goal, Harrison Reed seemed to have given Stockton the lead, but the officiating crew led by referees Joe Sullivan and J.M. McNulty reversed the call.
The Thunder regrouped, and Boisclair eventually got it the lead.
“We’ve been great at not letting anything like that bother us,” Thunder coach Thomas said. “And Roy was great again; it may have been his best game of the playoffs.”
Roy’s 35 saves was the most he’s had in a postseason game this season.
“No matter what happens, you have to keep pushing,” Roy said. “The defenders in front of me played so well. They blocked shots, and didn’t let them get to rebounds.
The Thunder will be hosting a watch party for Game 2 at the King’s Room at Stockton Arena. Admission is free, and doors will open approximately 30 minutes before game time.
Loktionov plays for Russia (Larionov)
Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images
Sharks’ Scott Gomez could play Game 3 against Vancouver Canucks
SAN JOSE — Sharks coach Todd McLellan is optimistic center Scott Gomez will be available to play against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday in Game 3 of their opening round series at HP Pavilion.
Gomez, out with soreness since he took a big hit April 23 against the Dallas Stars, skated again Saturday at the Sharks practice facility. He skated before games one and two in Vancouver but was held out of the lineup both times.
“There’s no doubt we’d like to get him into the series. He makes a big difference to our team, especially with the power play,” McLellan said. “He’s got the ability to control the puck. As soon as he’s ready and feels good and knows that he can go into that type of competitive environment and contribute, then we’ll use him.”
San Jose went 0 for 5 on the power play in Friday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks, who were effective in bottling up the neutral zone on the penalty kill and not allowing the Sharks to skate into their offensive end unimpeded. Gomez is usually part of the second power play unit.
“This time of year, you just want guys to score,” Gomez said. “You’re not worried about, ‘If I was out there, this would have happened.’”
Gomez is eager to rejoin a playoff push after missing the postseason in 2012 with the Montreal Canadiens, who finished fifth in the Northwest Division.
“This is the real season, this is what you play for,” Gomez said Saturday. “Regular season’s great, but this is the fun part. To know that you’re playing in the playoffs, especially after missing it last year. You know you have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. … You want to be out there, but we’ll see what happens.”
Scott Gomez Pregame
Spirit Announce Signing of Top Pick Mitchell Stephens
The Saginaw Spirit announce today that the team has reached terms on an OHL contract with first round pick Mitchell Stephens. The Peterborough, Ontario native was selected eighth overall in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection after posting 44 goals and 40 assists this past season with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midgets program. Stephens will be participating at this weekend’s Spirit Development Camp, and will also showcase his skills at the upcoming 2013 OHL Gold Cup. The four day event will include eight teams outfitted with 160 of the premier under 16 aged players in Ontario, and will go from May 9th to 12th in Kitchener. The tournament will feature seven players who were selected by the Spirit in the recent OHL Priority Selection.
Dauphin with 2 goals, Verhaeghe with 3 assists in Canada’s 10-1 win
Laurent Dauphin and Josh Morrissey had two goals each as Canada improved its U18 record to 3W-0L.
Carter Verhaeghe assisted on the opening goal from Zachary Nastasiuk seven minutes into the first period. Just under four minutes later, an own goal by Swiss forward Luca Fazzini as he tried to clear the puck from the net following a scrum gave Canada the 2-0 lead.
Things got worse for the Swiss in the second period, as Josh Morrissey, Morgan Klimchuk, Nicholas Baptiste, Laurent Dauphin, and Dillon Heatherington each found the back of the net to push the lead to 8-1.
Sam Reinhart added another marker in the third period, and Dauphin scored his second to close out the 10-1 victory.
Canada will play Group B leaders Sweden in their final preliminary round game, the winner of which will earn the top seed and a matchup against the fourth seed from Group A in the quarter-final.
Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov wants to finish strong, vie for Calder Trophy (Larionov)
EDMONTON – The prize is close, exasperatingly so. But Edmonton Oilers winger Nail Yakupov has gleaned enough wherewithal during his rookie season to champion the team-first approach.
So when the conversation turns to the NHL’s rookie scoring race and the Calder Trophy, and all matters related to individual achievements, Yakupov says his focus is fixed on finishing strong.
A strong finish, coincidentally, would get him that much closer to the rookie scoring title.
Yakupov was kept off the scoresheet in Monday night’s 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place, extending his pointless streak to three games.
The Oilers have three games left to play and Yakupov needs three points to catch forwards Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators’ Cory Conacher for the scoring lead. Huberdeau has 14 goals and 14 assists through 45 games; Conacher has 11 goals and 17 assists.
“Every rookie wants to win the trophy. But, for me, I don’t want to think about it. We’ll see,” Yakupov said.
The 19-year-old from Nizhnekamsk, Russia, followed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall to the draft podium when the Oilers made their third straight first overall selection at the entry draft last June in Pittsburgh and then made his debut when the lockout-shortened season got underway on Jan. 20.
He admits now it has been an adjustment.
“Maybe in the first part of the season when I started scoring goals, I thought it was an easy league and that this would happen in every game,” he said. “But, no, you have to work every day. It’s a pretty tough league. Guys on every team are pretty strong and they play physical.
“So if you want to score and help your team win, you have to work really hard.”
Nugent-Hopkins finished with 52 points in 62 games in his rookie season and was a finalist for the Calder last spring. Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche, who also had 52 points (22 goals, 30 assists in 82 games) took the rookie-of-the-year prize.
“He’s got an unbelievable shot,” Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid said of Yakupov. “I don’t know what it is with the Russians, what they feed them. But he’s got a release similar to (Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and the New Jersey Devils’ Ilya Kovalchuk). So we all know he’s going to be fine offensively. It’s just a learning process for forwards. It’s hard to learn the defensive side of the game, but he’s been fine.
“And his work ethic is unbelievable — on and off the ice. He’s always the last guy out there and he works out all the time. That’s good to see. There are not too many young guys like that … it took me a few years to learn that.”
Yakupov scored his first NHL goal in his second game, then immediately followed that up with a game-tying goal against the Los Angeles Kings two nights later. His celebratory slide on the ice will not be forgotten any time soon.
Along the way, Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger has monitored the rookie’s minutes and his role, moving him from the top six to the bottom six and back up again. He has watched the winger add a physical component to his game, and is hopeful he will eventually spend more time in the scoring areas, given his quick stick.
The defensive side of his game is evolving, too.
In the first 22 games, Yakupov registered six goals, six assists and was minus-10. In the next 22 games, he had five goals, eight assists and was plus-one.
On Monday against the Ducks, playing with new linemates Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen, Yakupov was on the negative side of the ledger again. He turned over the puck in the first period, setting in motion a Ducks power play that Ryan Getzlaf converted into a 1-0 lead. Then he was on the ice when former Oiler Radek Dvorak, left alone at the side of the net, tapped in his fourth of the season to make it 2-0.
He also took a puck in the face, early in the third, shortly before Sami Vatanen beat Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin top shelf to drop the Oilers to 17-21-7. They have now lost eight of their last nine games.
Edmonton will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, then face the Wild in Minnesota on Friday and the Vancouver Canucks back at Rexall Place the following night for the season finale.
Chicago rookie Brandon Saad is right on Yakupov’s heels with 10 goals and 15 assists.
“If you want to be the best player, you have to play everywhere and you have to work and listen to your coaches and your teammates,” said Yakupov, who is pushing the 82-game mark this season. He played 22 games in the Kontinental Hockey League, played in the August series between Canada and Russia as well as the 2013 world junior championship in Russia.
“I feel way better (with my game), way more comfortable with the puck,” he said. “I have changed my game a little bit.”
Former Moosehead Gabriel Desjardins enjoys bittersweet homecoming with Huskies
It wasn’t the type of homecoming Gabriel Desjardins was hoping for.
The former Halifax Moosehead and current Rouyn-Noranda Huskies captain left the province’s capital on Sunday empty-handed with his squad down 2-0 in their semifinal series against the Herd.
“It was a hard one, it hurt a lot,” said Desjardins, who picked up three assists in the Mooseheads come-from-behind overtime victory. “We showed a lot of character, it was a really close game. We just didn’t get it done.”
Going home he knows the Huskies have their work cut out for them.
But even after Sunday’s painful loss, he said it was good to be back where he spent three and a half years developing into the player he is today.
“I remember scoring my first goal as a 16 year old here, that was very special for me, and my first hat trick against Gatineau, that was a great game and a great win for us.”
Beyond his on-ice accomplishments, he remains grateful for his billet family, the MacEacherns.
“Lorraine (MacEachern), she was like a mom to me, she did everything for me.
She was a big part of my development.
“It was funny coming back here, I played three and a half years here, the fans were really great to me, but at the same time I have a job to do. I have a responsibility to my teammates.”
NHL.com Over The Boards – Larionov on Yakupov and Galchenyuk (Larionov)
Rookie Watch, Part 1: Larionov on Yakupov
Hall of Fame player turned agent Igor Larionov wants his prized client, Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov, to make sure he preserves his occasionally controversial brand of showmanship as he continues to develop as a player.
“It’s not like he’s showing off; it’s his normal way of life and how he plays hockey,” Larionov told NHL.com during an interview Sunday at Madison Square Garden. “That’s what I like, his excitement. It should be there every night whatever happens, if you’re losing or if you’re winning.”
The Oilers have been losing a lot lately, but Larionov said he has seen growth in Yakupov’s game. He has been scoreless in three straight games but had at least one point in seven of the previous 10 games and has 25 points in 45 games this season.
“I told him the other day that he’s going through a 48-game season so there’s not much time to look around and adjust your game, adjust your style,” Larionov said. “He has to look at it like he’s doing four years of college in one year, learning on the fly.
“Right now I can see he’s more comfortable. He’s starting to control the puck a little bit longer and he’s making some plays, which is his normal game. I’m glad that every time he steps on the ice he shows some character and desire to play, which is good. He’s still having fun, still enjoying every minute.”
Rookie Watch, Part 2: Larionov on Galchenyuk
Larionov also told NHL.com his plan was to visit his other prized client, Montreal Canadiens rookie Alex Galchenyuk, within a few days to talk to him about what to expect in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“He doesn’t know what it’s all about,” said Larionov, who played in 150 NHL playoff games and won the Stanley Cup three times with the Detroit Red Wings. “He knows the atmosphere in Montreal is good and every game they have 20,000 fans with tons of media attention, but with Montreal going to the playoffs, it’s a different game. That’s what I want to talk to him about.”
Larionov probably won’t have too much explaining to do. Galchenyuk hasn’t looked out of place in the Canadiens lineup.
He entered the game Tuesday at the Devils with 24 points and a plus-10 rating while playing more than 12 minutes a game on the Canadiens’ third line. The numbers aren’t staggering, but considering Galchenyuk, 19, missed all but two games last season with a knee injury, his season has been quite impressive.
“I’m not surprised,” Larionov said. “Last year, with his injury, it was like he took one year off. But I know the way he had been working and the way he had been preparing himself, the way he had been rehabbing to get ready for this season. I knew every single day he was getting better, better and better, so he was gaining some confidence.”
Former Minuteman Irwin Tapped As Sharks Rookie Of The Year
SAN JOSE, Calif. – Former UMass defenseman Matt Irwin has been selected as the 2012-13 Sharks Rookie of the Year, the team announced prior to its game against the Dallas Stars last night. Irwin has played in 35 games this season, posting 12 points (six goals, six assists), which ranks third among all team defensemen and fifth in the NHL among rookie blueliners. Irwin is also tied for the League lead amongst rookie defensemen in power play goals with four and is third in goals with six.
From March 14-18, Irwin posted a three-game goal streak, tying the longest in franchise history for a defenseman and had eight shots on net on March 10 at Colorado, which marked only the 10th time in Sharks history that a defenseman had eight or more shots on net in a game. He made his NHL debut in the Sharks’ season opener on Jan. 20, a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames and was on the ice for 19:06, including 51 seconds on the power play.
Irwin turned pro following his sophomore season at UMass and was named an AHL All-Star with the Worcester Sharks in 2011-12. He signed a two-year contract extension with the Sharks on April 3, 2013.
The Victoria, B.C., native played in 67 games with the Minutemen and totaled 42 career points on 14 goals and 28 assists.
Jimmy Lodge mentioned in final Central Scouting Service rankings before 2013 NHL Entry Draft
SAGINAW, MI — The Central Scouting Service for the National Hockey League released its final rankings in preparation of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in a list that features a pair of Saginaw Spirit standouts.
Forward Jimmy Lodge came in as the No. 21-ranked player in North America, while forward Nick Moutrey came in at No. 58.
The draft is held at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on June 30.
Lodge had a breakout season for Saginaw, moving to the No. 1 line with Garret Ross and Eric Locke following the trade of Vince Trocheck. He finished with 28 goals and 39 assists.
Nine players at one time associated with Wolves drafted to OHL
(KAWARTHA LAKES) It was a very successful OHL draft for local teams and players recently, with a total of nine players who either played in the Kawartha Lakes or live here making the cut.
“It was crazy. Me and my mom just jumped up and hugged, and my mom started crying,” remembers Jesse Saban who was picked up by the Erie Otters, 21st overall in the second round. Jesse was at home in Lindsay with his mom, Cindy, and his grandfather, Raymond, when he received the news.
“It was pretty incredible, I was speechless when people were calling me.”
Being picked 38th overall was also a big shock for the 16-year-old defenceman who said he wasn’t expecting to go that high in the draft. He was also thrilled to be picked up by the Erie Otters.
“I wanted to go there at the start of the year, so I was happy they picked me,” he said, adding that a friend from school also plays on the team and many within the organization have been very friendly and welcomed him on social media.
Mr. Saban attends Peak Center Academy in Toronto, a school for elite athletes and has played for the Toronto Red Wings AAA hockey for about three years.
He credits his 6-foot, 3-inch, 205-pound frame in part for his successful draft, noting that he’s a big guy and, “I’m really strong in my defensive zone,” he says.
But he doesn’t stop there, noting that he will be working hard going into training camp season with his new team.
“I think there is always room for improvement on everything, but my skating definitely, I need to get faster and making quicker decisions on the ice and making the smart call, [because] sometimes the easier play is better.”
And while the young player humbly says you never know what can happen over the summer, at this point he says he’s got his eye on a spot on the team next season.
“I feel pretty confident I’m going to be a part of their team next year, so I’m just going to stay positive and work as hard as I can.”
Before moving to the Red Wings, Mr. Saban spent three or fours years with the AAA Central Ontario Wolves, which he says was a great learning experience and really helped develop him as a player.
Nail Yakupov’s goal vs Chicago (Larionov)
Ouellet has hat trick to lead Armada over Drakkar 4-3 in QMJHL semifinal
The Canadian Press
BLAINVILLE, Que. – Xavier Ouellet completed a hat trick with a tiebreaking goal in the third period as the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-3 on Wednesday in QMJHL playoff action.
The Armada evened the best-of-seven semifinal series 2-2, with Game 5 set for Friday in Baie-Comeau, Que.
The game ended on a ugly note, as a team-wide brawl broke out just as the horn sounded to end the game. The benches cleared and soon the ice was littered with sticks, gloves and helmets as almost every member of each team found a fighting partner. The brawl lasted for several minutes before teams finally headed to the locker rooms.
Ouellet opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 7:24, but Marcus Hinds tied the game three minutes later with his second of the post-season.
Valentin Zykov put Blainville-Boisbriand back up by one with a goal at 8:30 of the second, but again the Drakkar responded minutes later as Carl Gelinas netted a goal 10:16.
Ouellet made it 3-2 with under five minutes left in the period, but Baie-Comeau’s Felix Girard scored early in the third to tie the game once again.
Ouellet got his third at 4:56 and goalie Etienne Marcoux made 10 saves in the final period to preserve the lead. He finished the game with 27 saves on 30 shots.
The Drakkar went 0-for-7 on the power play.
Tyler Seguin at Arena Bar & Grille
Dauphin, Verhaeghe to play for Gold
Yakupov’s goals vs Minnesota (Larionov)
Oil Change Extended: Nail Yakupov’s Training (Larionov)
Yakupov’s hat trick vs Vancouver (Larionov)
Yakupov hat trick could be a deciding factor in selecting NHL’s top rookie (Larionov)
EDMONTON – Nail Yakupov might not be the first Edmonton Oiler to win the Calder Trophy, but he’s going to make it very interesting for the voters before Tuesday’s deadline for the ballots to be filled out.
It was a Tale of Two Seasons for the rookie winger. He had one goal in a 26-game stretch from Feb. 4 through March 30, but scored five goals his last two games and finished with 17. That was the most on the Oilers, also No. 1 for any of the other rookies — Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers, Brendan Gallagher of the Montreal Canadiens and Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The excitable Russian forward tied Huberdeau for the most points (31) and his hat trick against Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo in the third period Saturday was the only three-goal game by a rookie this season.
“Yeah, I want to be top rookie, but we’ll see,” Yakupov said. “It’s nice to be the leader (in goals), but I want to play in the playoffs. Next year, for.sure.”
Yakupov said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff helped him over the rough spot the last month as a linemate.
The feeling was mutual. It’s never a bad thing for the guy with the “C” to play with the young gun, either.
“I thought he did a really good job of learning what it takes to play in this league to play better defensively, to be more patient. And with the patience came more offence,” said Horcoff. “The sky’s the limit with this kid. He’s got a great release.”
Yakupov treats every goal like it’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. He’s never at a loss for a celebration after a goal, whether it’s piling into the glass, saluting people, or after his hat-trick goal, thrusting three fingers in the air.
Vancouver tough guy Tom Sestito even mocked one Yakupov celebration after he scored his first Canucks’ goal in the last period.
Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, eh?
“I’m all for it (celebrating). The kid’s got energy,” said Horcoff. “It’s not like he’s showing off. He’s learning to celebrate the right way, without making everybody on the other team upset.”
“Hey, first year in the league, why wouldn’t he be excited scoring goals,” said Horcoff.
Taylor Hall, no stranger to passion after a goal, has no problem with Yakupov’s exuberance.
“He shows his enthusiasm no matter what game it is … same story in practice,” said Hall. “We’ve just seen a pretty cool transition period for a first-year player from Game 1 to Game 48.”
Yakupov’s offence was a given as a junior with the Sting in Sarnia, also on the world stage with the Russian junior team. He’s just scratched the surface, and he finished only minus four on the season, admirable for a rookie on a 24th-place team.
“He’s made a lot of strides in areas I’m sure he wasn’t well-known for (play away from the puck),” said Hall. “I hope he takes this confidence into the off-season and comes back with a boatload of it.”
Oilers coach Ralph Krueger played Yakupov in all 48 games, even through his stretch when nothing was going in. Krueger felt playing night after night was the education Yakupov needed, not sitting in the press box for a game or two.
“Yak spent so much time the first third of the season trying to find his position on the ice away from the puck that he had trouble integrating himself in the offence,” said Krueger. “But as the process went on, he was so coachable, so interested in tapping into all of our resources, whether that was spending extra time with the assistant coaches or with our fitness coach, getting video from our video coach. He was trying to improve every single day.
“It so nice to see a young player work this hard and get the results so quickly. For him to lead the rookies in scoring, what he did in the second half … we’re all excited for him. His future is very, very bright.”
Yakupov still hasn’t been invited to play for Russia in the world championship next week at Helsinki and Stockholm.
“No calls yet,” he said with a shrug.
After his hat trick, Russia general manager Alexei Kasatonov may rethink things and give him a buzz.
“We’ll see,” said a grinning Yakupov.
Mitchell Stephens and Ryan Orban impress at Saginaw Spirit Development Camp
SAGINAW, MI — The Saginaw Spirit got a glimpse of their future over the weekend and it appears to be bright.
Saginaw hosted prospects and recent draft selections at Saginaw Bay Ice Arena on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28 for its annual Spirit Development Camp where players competed in a pair of scrimmages under the watchful eye of Spirit personnel.
“In general, we’re pretty happy with most of the kids,” Saginaw General Manager Jim Paliafito said. “There’s really no one who disappointed. Kids we picked in the 10th and 11th round played really well. We’re very pleased.”
First round selection Mitchell Stephens suited up for the white team, wearing No. 7 and showed off the speed and offensive skill that made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection.
He was the strongest skater on the ice and generated several scoring opportunities for both himself and teammates.
“I’ve waited my whole life for this, all the way back to novice,” Stephens said. “I’ve wanted to play in the OHL, and playing for the Saginaw Spirit is a great honor.”
“I thought Stephens was really good,” Paliafito said. “(David) Ovsjannikov, the goalie, was outstanding. Connor Graham, who we drafted last year was really good. Chris Bennet from last year’s draft was good. (Ryan) Orban, I thought, was the best defenseman.”
Mike Cammalleri: Year-End Interview
Cammalleri’s GWG vs Colorado
Rockford IceHogs’ rookie Adam Clendening grows his game
ROCKFORD – Rockford IceHogs captain Martin St. Pierre paid rookie Adam Clendening an awfully big compliment.
“We need him the last five games,” he said.
Sure, Clendening was going to play anyway as the ‘Hogs head down the stretch nearly needing to win out to qualify for the AHL playoffs, starting with Wednesday’s game at Peoria. Clendening’s play, though, is one reason the team is even in contention.
He scored the third-period, game-winner Saturday in Peoria. Overall, he has seven goals and 36 assists, collecting the most recent in Sunday’s 4-1 win over the same Rivermen. He stands ninth in points (43) among all rookies and tied for second in assists.
He’s playing more like someone who has been around awhile instead of less than one full season of pro hockey.
“On the ice, the game has come a little bit easier night in and night out over the course of the year, Clendening said. “Part of it is playing every night and getting more comfortable.”
As St. Pierre said, “At this time of the year, we don’t consider anyone a rookie. He’s making a name for himself, and that’s what you need.”
If Clendening is feeling the pressure of the team’s late playoff rush, he isn’t showing it.
“I take it in stride,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve made the playoffs the last couple of years, so the guys are desperate and starting to buy into that.
“It’d be cool to make the playoffs my first year and get that experience right away. We’ll see how it goes.”
Irwin featured in ‘The EJ5′ – Impressive Rookie Defensemen
Whale sign forward Barclay Goodrow to ATO
Whale general manager Jim Schoenfeld announced today that the Whale has signed forward Barclay Goodrow to an Amateur Tryout (ATO) agreement.
Goodrow, who stands 6-2 and weighs 214 pounds, played the last four seasons for the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League. The 20-year-old Toronto native led the Battalion in points and goals this year, with 38 goals and 14 assists for 52 points in 62 games, and was second on the club in penalty minutes with 59. Goodrow added five postseason points, tied for second-best on the team, with two goals and three assists, in five games.
In 250 career games with Brampton, Goodrow has totaled 94 goals and 68 assists for 162 points, along with 187 PIM.
Seguin’s GWG vs New Jersey
Yakupov’s goal vs Phoenix (Larionov)
Prospect Clendening named AHL Second-Team All-Star
Rockford, Ill. – The American Hockey League announced on Thursday that Rockford IceHogs rookie defenseman Adam Clendening has been named to the 2012-13 AHL All-Star Team, earning Second Team honors.
The Niagara Falls, New York native has set IceHogs rookie records in assists (36) and points (43), and his point total also ranks fifth among Rockford skaters. The blueliner shares a team lead in plus/minus rating, showing a +14 in 69 contests throughout his rookie campaign.
Clendening also ranks in the top-10 amongst AHL rookie scoring leaders. His 36 assists rank second among all AHL rookies and are good for tied-11th overall in the AHL, as well.
Earlier in the year, the rookie d-man was selected to represent Rockford at the 2012-13 AHL All-Star Classic in Providence, R.I. – along with IceHogs captain Martin St. Pierre.
Clendening joins Springfield goaltender Curtis McElhinney, Syracuse defenseman Mark Barberio, Texas winger Matt Fraser, Hershey center Jeff Taffe and Syracuse winger Brett Connolly on the AHL’s Second Team All-Star honors.
Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov finds himself in the company of Calder Trophy candidates (Larionov)
EDMONTON – Edmonton Oilers rookie winger Nail Yakupov has worked his way into the Calder Trophy picture with eight points in his last eight games.
But it’s the fire in Yakupov’s belly that’s really hitting home. He had a scuffle with Keith Yandle late in the Oilers loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday. He also fought with Curtis Glencross of the Calgary Flames and left with some scrapes on his face.
The 19-year-old Russian, who has 23 points in 40 games, including 10 goals, doesn’t like to lose.
“He likes to stick up for himself,” said Oilers winger Taylor Hall. “There are similarities in the way we play. He’s an aggressive player who’ll go into the hard areas.
“We’re starting to see him throw bodychecks. You have to do that. If you want to play on the perimeter and stay on the outside, you won’t produce. By going to those areas, sometimes that means you take a shot in the face.”
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger has played Yakupov all over the place in his first NHL season. He was on a line with captain Shawn Horcoff and veteran left-winger Ryan Smyth on Wednesday night, with Smyth setting him up for his 10th goal.
“He played some with Gags (Sam Gagner) and (Ales) Hemsky at the end, but I thought the line he was on was probably our best line,” Krueger said. “He accepts wherever we put him.
“There’s a freeness of spirit about the way Yak plays.”
Yakupov is third in the NHL in rookie scoring four back of Florida Panthers’ Jonathan Huberdeau, who leads all first-year players with 13 goals and 27 points.
Cory Conacher, who’s now an Ottawa Senator after being traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning for goalie Ben Bishop, has 25 points.
Yakupov, who leads all rookies with five power-play goals, and Chicago Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad, currently playing with captain Jonathan Toews, have 23 points apiece.
“Nail’s matured a lot on the ice and made a huge commitment to playing well defensively,” Hall said.
“But what you’re seeing now is him shooting the puck (10 shots in the last five games) and getting into the offensive zone … he’s making simpler plays than he did at the start (of the season),” said Hall, who went through the same learning curve as the NHL’s first overall draft pick.
“The NHL isn’t a league you can ease into. It’s always tough for a young guy.”
Griffith, Matt Rupert back to scoring form
London Free Press
Seth Griffith took part in a shooting session with the London goalies in between Games 3 and 4 of the Knights’ second-round series with the Kitchener Rangers.
For pretty much the first time since he suffered a broken bone in his hand, he was firing the puck with the same kind of power he had before the injury.
That’s a major boost for the former 45-goal man — and the Knights’ — offensive confidence. He went out and scored in the first period of Game 4 Wednesday night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
Griffith and Matt Rupert were London’s best goal scorers the first half of the season. But through the first seven playoff games, they had combined for just one goal.
They scored the first two goals in Game 4.
That’s a good sign, though Rupert left the third period with a leg injury.
Rupert didn’t have an injury slowing him down heading into the playoffs. He hadn’t scored since he was suspended 10 games — the final nine in the regular season and the first playoff game — for a charge on Saginaw defenceman Steven Strong.
The 18-year-old Grand Bend native had a three-game goal -scoring streak right before the punishment, to give him 26 on the season. But it’s hard to keep the momentum going after a month on the sidelines.
“I’m pretty well there,” Rupert said. “I (was) a little off. I’m a little rusty, but I don’t think I’ve done badly.”
Rupert started on a line Wednesday night with his brother, Ryan, and Bo Horvat, who has made his case to be a younger version of last year’s playoff MVP Austin Watson. That Watson-Rupert line was top-notch in the OHL title run, even when they didn’t score.
“All that matters is getting the win,’’ Rupert said.
No one appreciates a blood-boiling battle quite like the Ruperts. They thrive on it.
But before Game 4, Matt was trying to be the voice of reason.
“We got to stay out of that kind of (extracurricular) stuff here,” he said, “and just focus on playing hockey. We have to stay out of the scrums and stuff like that. They’re trying to get us off our game and we’ve got to worry about playing our game. We’ve got to play hard between the whistle in this series.
“We don’t want to get sucked into their type of game.”
The Knights want to dictate to the Rangers how the games will be played.
The more offensive chances they create, the better the opportunity of getting Griffith and Rupert scoring consistently again.
This game may have been the spark.
Seguin’s goal vs NYI
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Buffalo (Larionov)
In Worcester, Admirals fan turns into foe
At this time of year, Norfolk Admirals coach Trent Yawney talks of the move from college or junior to professional hockey.
“It’s the biggest step a hockey player takes,” Yawney said.
Chris Crane took it a week ago, when he left Ohio State after his junior season to sign with the San Jose Sharks and join their AHL affiliate in Worcester.
Whether it was bigger than the one he took to leave Hampton Roads after the fifth grade is another story.
“I played for the Hampton Roads Whalers,” Crane said. “I can remember skating between periods of the Admirals’ games. I was a big fan.”
Tonight and Saturday, he will skate against the Admirals, who visit Worcester for key games in the playoff stretch. Crane plays right wing, largely in a checking role he adopted at Ohio State.
He started skating shortly after he began walking. His father, retired Marine Claude Crane IV, grew up in Chicago and as a kid skated with Brett Hull and longtime NHL defenseman Chris Chelios.
“We were in the (Hampton Roads) area for about 10 years,” said Kim Crane, who works with her husband in their auto business near Cincinnati and has followed her son through most of his hockey stops. “My husband coached in Chesapeake. It was hard to get people to commit that much money for their children to play hockey. We would sometimes go to tournaments with only 15 or so players on a roster.”
While Hampton Roads maintains a healthy program at Chesapeake’s Chilled Ponds – then called Arc Ice – growth opportunities are limited. Local hockey observers can recall only three other players from the program – Jay Holladay, Beau McLaughlin and Gary Williford Jr. – playing professionally, and all topped out in lower minor leagues.
As a second-grader, Crane remembers trying out for a fourth-grade team.
“I was just going out to have fun,” he said. “I didn’t have any expectations. When the coach came and said, ‘You made the team,’ that was the first travel team I played for.”
Retirement from the Marines sent the family to Ohio, where a business opportunity awaited. So did hockey, though the Cranes found the quality wasn’t that far removed from Hampton Roads. Chris Crane quickly outgrew Cincinnati hockey and was offered a chance to play for Detroit Honeybaked, a national-class club.
The family business allowed his parents to rent an apartment in Detroit for them and their 14-year-old son.
He was scouted and eventually drafted by the U.S. Hockey League’s Green Bay Gamblers as a high school junior. There, he played for Jon Cooper, who later coached the Admirals and now coaches the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“He developed my game to where I am today, and I’m thankful for it,” said Crane, whose parents rented an apartment in Green Bay and shuttled back and forth from the business to Wisconsin.
Crane chose Ohio State over an Ontario junior team because it was nearer to his home and parents. He also was drafted by San Jose in the seventh round in 2010. The Sharks recommended he continue growing and developing as an amateur. That changed after his junior season at Ohio State.
“I was told that I actually would develop more in the American League than I would in college,” Crane said.
The assessment noted his size – 6-foot-1, 193 pounds – and his chippy playing temperament.
“They think I will be a better pro than I was in college because of the way I play the game,” Crane said.
The AHL season soon will be over, and ahead for Crane are more classes – probably online – to get his degree. Some of his school work may get done in Sandbridge, where the family plans a summer vacation and where sister Tiffany, a physician’s assistant, resides.
“It’s always good to go back to where you grow up, to where you came from,” Crane said.
Bolduc vs Calgary
Seguin scores vs Carolina
Devils’ Loktionov paying dividends since coming over from Kings (Larionov)
With the trade deadline only two days away, the Devils stumble home from a three-game road trip in which they lost twice in a shootout and once in overtime to face the Islanders tonight in a game pivotal to both teams’ playoff chances.
The Devils are seventh in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of the ninth-place Islanders, with 13 games remaining. If Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello makes another move to strengthen his team before Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline, it will be difficult for him top the payoff he’s gotten so far from the deal he made Feb. 6 for center Andrei Loktionov.
In what has been a steal for the Devils, Lamoriello gave the Los Angeles Kings just a fifth-round draft pick for Loktionov, who has seven goals and four assists in 18 games since joining the team.
“We’ve been very fortunate with how things have worked out with Loktionov,” Lamoriello admitted.
Loktionov, 22, considers himself very fortunate, too. Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2008, the native of Voskresensk, Russia, had gotten a taste of the NHL with the Kings, playing in 59 regular-season games, including 39 last season. He also played in two playoff games during their run to the Stanley Cup last season, but did not get his name on the Cup as he fell two regular-season games short of the required number.
Loktionov was toiling again on the Kings’ AHL team, waiting for another chance to play in the NHL, when the Devils acquired him.
“I just wanted to play and New Jersey gave me that chance,” Loktionov said. “I think I’m doing not bad. I’m so glad to be back playing in the NHL. That’s all I needed, I guess – to play at this level.”
Loktionov wanted to play in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League during the NHL lockout, but the Kings forced him to play in Manchester, N.H., which prompted him to request a trade.
“I was so mad because I had been in Russia for months and they told me I had to come back. ‘You have to play here,’ ” he said. “I didn’t know the reason to play here. I had played already three years in the AHL. Maybe it was a showcase [for a trade]. I don’t know.”
With Loktionov slated to become a restricted free agent this summer, Kings GM Dean Lombardi told The Los Angeles Times that he feared Loktionov “could go back to Russia,” so he took the best deal he could get after the lockout ended.
Loktionov said the idea of playing in Russia next season never entered his mind.
“You never know, I guess, but I wasn’t thinking about going to Russia,” he said. “Maybe [Lombardi] was thinking that, but not me.”
Loktionov couldn’t be happier with how things worked out, though.
“I’m so happy now,” he said. “But, at beginning of the season I wasn’t so happy.”
Before Ilya Kovalchuk injured his right shoulder, Loktionov had earned a spot as the center on his line. With Kovalchuk out, he’s been playing mostly with Adam Henrique and Matt D’Agostini.
Kovalchuk’s absence hasn’t slowed Loktionov, who had two goals and an assist during the Devils’ three-game road trip.
“Every day that I’m around him, I’m impressed by something he does; a skill play he makes you didn’t see coming,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s something every day that he kind of surprises you [with].”
Nail Yakupov pre-game interview (Larionov)
Irwin celebrates Sharks win
Sharks Sign Right Wing Christopher Crane
SAN JOSE, California – San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has signed right wing Chris Crane to an entry-level contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The 21-year old Crane recently completed his junior season at Ohio State University, posting nine points (6-3-9) and 69 penalty minutes in 38 games played.
“Chris has done a great job, under the tutelage of Head Coach Mark Osiecki, in preparing himself for this next stage of his career,” said Wilson.
During his 2011-12 sophomore campaign, Crane registered 24 points (14-10-24) and 30 penalty minutes in 35 games played. He led Ohio State in goals (14) and was tied for first in points (24), sharing the team’s Leading Scorer Award. Amongst all CCHA players, Crane ranked tied for eighth in power play goals (6) and tied for 12th in total goals scored (14).
Crane is a two-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, an Academic All-Big Ten choice, and recipient of the 2011-12 Perani Cup, an award given to the player who earns the most three-star honors on his team during conference play.
The six-foot-one, 195-pound native of Westchester, Ohio was drafted by San Jose in the seventh round (200th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft.
MacDermid sees trade as an opportunity
BOSTON — When Lane MacDermid learned he was traded Tuesday morning to the Dallas Stars in exchange for veteran forward Jaromir Jagr, he was surprised but accepted the news with a positive attitude.
“I didn’t see it coming,” MacDermid said. “This could be an opportunity to get some games. I knew it was going to be hard here to get some games in, so it should work out for both parties.”
MacDermid, 23, heads to Dallas along with unsigned draft pick Cody Payne and a conditional second-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for the future Hall of Famer. Jagr will join the Bruins on Wednesday and will wear his traditional No. 68.
As MacDermid left TD Garden around 3:30 Tuesday afternoon carrying his sticks and with his equipment bag over his shoulder, he joked that he’s been telling everyone he was traded straight up for Jagr.
“It’s kind of cool. Actually, I grew up watching Jaromir play and he’s an amazing player. To be a part of that deal is pretty cool,” he said.
MacDermid played a total of three games for the Bruins this season. Because of his contract status, the Bruins would have lost him through waivers if he were assigned to Providence, so MacDermid remained in Boston as a healthy scratch.
“I was happy to be up here,” he said. “I wasn’t totally expecting to stay up here, so I was happy to be around the club and learn from the guys and coaching staff. It was a good experience.”
As far as being traded, he holds no ill feelings toward the Bruins organization.
“I try not to take things too personally,” he said. “It’s a business and they’re trying to do what’s best for the club. I totally understand.”
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli spoke with MacDermid after the deal was complete.
“He just said, that’s the way the year’s been going and he didn’t want to lose me on waivers, so he’s kept me up,” explained MacDermid. “It was tough to get me in, so this will be an opportunity for me to maybe play some games and get some experience with [Dallas].”
Edmonton Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov adding defence to his offensive repertoire (Larionov)
Derek Van Diest
EDMONTON – Nail Yakupov admits he’s starting to figure it out.
There were high expectations on the Edmonton Oilers most recent first-overall pick coming into the season.
And while Yakupov has shown flashes of brilliance offensively, it’s his defensive game that has the coaching staff showing more confidence in him.
“I think the key thing is my teammates, they help me a lot, off the ice and on the ice,” said Yakupov. “I’m playing with the captain (Shawn Horcoff) and he talks to me all the time and I’m learning and working hard every day.
“Sometimes I don’t have any points but I think the first thing you have to do is work for your team, and I think we have a great chance to make the playoffs this year.”
Yakupov scored a goal and added an assist in the Oilers 4-1 victory over the Calgary Flames Monday at Rexall Place. The two teams face each other again Wednesday in Calgary.
However, it was Yakupov’s work in his own zone that had head coach Ralph Krueger singing the winger’s praises following the contest.
“There are a few things that happen if we go back 11 games and one of them was definitely Nail growing up in such a quick period of time,” Krueger said. “He’s very responsible without the puck, you can see him making strong decisions, he was the first forward back on multiple occasions (Monday). He plays physical, takes multiple responsibilities defensively. He’s been getting smarter with the puck and more patient. He’s understanding the difference between simple plays versus opportunity and that’s all showing up. We’re excited for a kid that age, what he’s done here in these two and a half months, it certainly shows us that we have an exciting future with Nail.”
A star with the Sarnia Sting, Yakupov’s offensive exploits were well documented prior to being selected first overall by the Oilers in last summer’s NHL draft.
Yet with plenty of young, offensive talents already in the mix, the Oilers could afford the luxury of introducing the highly-skilled Russian winger to his own zone.
“When I was younger, I would just play offence and not worry too much about defence,” Yakupov said. “But this is the best league in the world and you have to play defence, too. How well you play defence will depend on how much you get to play. Horc has helped and everybody on the team has helped me a lot.”
Heading into the second half of the home-and-home against Calgary, Yakupov has seven goals and 18 points on the season.
The goal he scored Monday was his first since connecting against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25.
“It’s always nice to score,” Yakupov smiled. “I can’t remember the last time I scored, a year ago probably? I’m excited about it and excited to be able to get the two points.”
Playing with Horcoff and Ryan Jones has proven a good fit for Yakupov. As the team’s third line, the unit’s main responsibility is to keep the puck out of their own net. What they contribute offensively is a bonus. On Monday they scored twice in the win against the Flames.
Yakupov is picking up a lot playing with two veterans.
“That’s the progression of players coming into the league, whether they’re 18, 19, 27 there’s always a little bit of time to adapt,” said Jones. “But he’s an unbelievable hockey player with a ton of skill and a world-class shot.”
Yakupov’s work-ethic has also not gone unnoticed. The 19-year-old is constantly striving to get better, whether it would be on the ice or in the gym.
“He’s a guy that I think when he first came here, it took him a while to get comfortable, especially when it came to the communication, but he’s a highly intelligent player,” Horcoff said. “It took him a while to realize that he has to play both ends of the ice if he wants to play more. He’s starting to realized that now and so, with that realization has come some willingness to learn. Plus we’re really trying to hold each other accountable when it comes to turnovers and dangerous plays. With that we’re going to get results. For Yak it’s a process. He’s such a young player, he’s going to take some time, but he’s on the right track.”
Yakupov’s goal vs Calgary (Larionov)
Seguin scores in Bruins win over Ottawa
Lane MacDermid scores first NHL goal
Nail Yakupov’s first multigoal game (Larionov)
From high school hockey to the big time
NORTH OAKVILLE – Oakville native and former Blade Kellan Lain has taken the next step in his hockey career.
On March 16, Lain signed a professional contract with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks and was assigned to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Chicago.
Lain is the second ex-Blade to play for the Wolves in recent weeks, as Steve Pinizzotto had a conditioning stint in the Windy City before making his pro debut with the Canucks in mid-March.
The decision sign with the Canucks was an easy one for the former Blakelock standout.
“They are a great organization with a tradition of winning,” he said. “They have been interested in me for a couple of years and felt I would be a great fit within their organization.
“Talking with the management, I felt very wanted and they believed in me as a player,” he added. “They have a great development program and provide everything needed to improve and continue getting better.”
Lain’s road to the pros differs from most.
Instead of playing Rep hockey, Lain suited up his high school team, the T.A. Blakelock Tigers.
From there, he moved up to the Oakville Blades and later earned a scholarship to attend Lake Superior State University in Michigan.
The move to the collegiate level almost didn’t happen.
During a playoff game in 2009, Lain suffered a horrific accident. His wrist was cut by a skate blade and he was out of hockey for almost a year. The injury delayed his arrival at LSSU for a year.
The 6’6” Lain spent the last three seasons at Lake Superior State University, where he recorded 39 points (21 goals, 18 assists) in 108 games.
“I loved LSSU,” he said. “It was the best three years of my life. I developed life long friendships and have memories that will last a lifetime.
“We had a great coaching staff and gave me every opportunity to grow and we had good teams each year and got a chance to play with a lot of good players,” Lain added. “It was like having a second family. We were all so close and did everything together.
Lain put in just as much work in the classroom as he did on the ice, and will get his degree early.
“I am on course to graduate this year,” he said. “Receiving my degree in three years and having the opportunity to sign was a perfect situation. My education was very important to me so having my degree provides insurance for the future after hockey.”
Lain chose the Canucks over other Western Conference teams like the Ducks, Coyotes and Red Wings, who were all interested in acquiring his services.
Chris Crane interview
Agozzino pregame interview
Sharks sign Matt Irwin to extension
SAN JOSE – The Sharks signed defenseman Matt Irwin to a two-year contract extension, the team announced on Wednesday.
Irwin will receive $900,000 in the first year of the deal in 2013-14, and $1.1 million in 2014-15, his agent told CSNCalifornia.com.
“We’re very excited to have Matt Irwin for the next two years. We think he has a bright future,” Doug Wilson told CSNCalifornia.com.
“It’s exciting. I’m excited to stay here and continue winning with this team,” Irwin said.
Irwin, 25, was due to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“I wanted to be a Shark,” he said. “They did a great job over the years developing me as a player. It started in Worcester there for two and a half years. I felt like I wanted to stay here, and owed it to them with their loyalty and bringing me up and giving me an opportunity, so I’m excited to be a Shark.”
The deal came together quickly.
“I honestly didn’t pay too much attention to it,” Irwin said. “I was still concerned about playing well and establishing myself that I could play at this level, and let that discussion happen between my agent and Doug. I’m grateful and happy to be here.”
Irwin started the season on the opening night roster, as the injuries to Brent Burns and Jason Demers left the team thin on the blue line. He was reassigned in early February, but returned on Feb. 28 and has been with the club ever since.
Now, he’s here to stay for at least two more years.
“He’s stepped in right from Day 1 in training camp,” Todd McLellan said. “We forget how rushed it was, how little time we had and how little time he had to get accustomed to the NHL pace. He did a tremendous job and a result he’s earned himself an extension which is deserved.”
In 26 games, Irwin has five goals and four assists for nine points and four penalty minutes. The six-foot-two-inch British Columbia native was originally signed by the Sharks as a free agent on March 23, 2010.
Matt Irwin Interview
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Winnipeg (Larionov)
Galchenyuk Postgame Interview (Larionov)
Goldobin Runner Up for Top Rookie (Larionov)
Sarnia Sting forward Nikolay Goldobin finished as the runner-up to Erie’s Connor McDavid for the OHL Rookie of the Year award Thursday.
McDavid won in a landslide, taking 85 points out of a maximum 95 in voting by the league’s general managers, while Goldobin came second with 29 points. Brampton’s Blake Clarke was third with 22 points.
Goldobin led all rookies with 30 goals and 68 points this season, his first in Sarnia after being drafted 36th overall in the 2012 CHL Import Draft. McDavid, the first overall pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection had 66 points in 63 games as the league’s youngest player.
Goldobin was also named to the second All-Rookie Team at right wing, finishing with 65 points in voting, four behind Kingston’s Spencer Watson, who was named to the first team.
MacDermid’s goal vs Anaheim
Neither Lane MacDermid nor dad Paul knew about strange date that now bonds their careers
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Even Lane MacDermid’s dad didn’t know about the odd stat. When the Stars rookie scored Wednesday against Anaheim, his first NHL goal came 31 years to the day after his dad scored his first goal in the NHL.
Paul MacDermid was a winger for the Hartford Whalers and scored his first goal on April 3, 1982.
“I called my parents, and my mom had to research it herself,” MacDermid said. “Neither had any idea that’s what happened. It’s pretty cool.”
Paul MacDermid had 116 goals and 142 assists (258 points) in 690 career games, and Lane would love to produce similar numbers in his career.
“I’m glad to play in the NHL again, it feels good,” said MacDermid, who played mostly in the AHL but had eight NHL games with Boston before being traded to the Stars on Tuesday. “I just want to do my best and show what I can do at this level.”
Amerks Sign Forward Justin Kea to ATO
(Rochester, NY)… The Rochester Americans announced today that the team has signed forward Justin Kea to an Amateur Tryout.
Kea, 19, recently completed his junior hockey season with the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, where he recorded 48 points (22+26) and 102 penalty minutes in 68 games. He also appeared in four playoff games. In three seasons with Saginaw, Kea, a native of Woodville, Ontario, has collected 68 points (29+39) and 227 penalty minutes in 195 games. The 6-foot-4, 206-pound forward was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round (73rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Stephens could go in first round of OHL Draft
It’s been a long road through ups and downs in their minor hockey careers but Peterborough natives Mitchell Stephens and Jordan MacLean are about to reap the rewards.
The families of the two 15-year-old hockey players made sacrifices, endured criticism and overcame obstacles to place the boys in the Toronto Marlboros GTHL program. On Saturday, they are expecting to be selected in the OHL draft with Stephens, a five-foot-11, 170 pound offensive forward, likely to be a first-round pick. Some sources have told The Examiner he could go as high as eighth to the Saginaw Spirit.
He recorded 44 goals and 40 assists for 84 points in 58 games. It’s not as clear when MacLean might be selected. The six-foot, 165-pound defensive defenceman had a goal and 12 assists in 52 games.
In minor peewee, Stephens and his parents Lee and Heather, made the decision to leave the Peterborough Minor Hockey Council’s AAA Petes program. The PMHC did not stand in his way and for two years the family commuted to games in Toronto.
In his third year, other OMHA teams tried to block his release to the GTHL leading to a decision for Lee to move to Toronto and enrol Mitchell at Peak Academy to comply with Hockey Canada residency rules. When MacLean, son of Dan and Jeanette MacLean, decided to join Stephens two years later, he was also blocked from leaving so his mother got a transfer with her provincial government job to Toronto. He too enrolled at Peak.
The Petes team was struggling and both felt they needed a change of scenery.
“It was a better opportunity,” said Mitchell Stephens, who knew the Marlies coaches and some players from a summer hockey team he joined.
“The team wasn’t strong,” MacLean said. “I thought I’d have a better opportunity and it would be a better atmosphere going to Toronto.”
Jeanette said the family was told they wouldn’t be given a release so moving was the only option.
“Peterborough struggles to be competitive,” she said. “It certainly gave the boys an opportunity to play with kids of higher calibre, more competitive hockey and different coaching.”
Lee said minor peewee may seem like a young age to move a child for hockey but he felt it was necessary.
“As players get older it becomes more and more difficult for them to move from their centres,” he said. “For exposure and opportunity the GTHL is recognized as one of the best leagues in the world. The Toronto Marlies have always, historically, produced high-end players.”
Stephens believes players should have the freedom to pursue opportunities wherever they wish. He says Mitchell won two OHF championships and four GTHL titles in Toronto and a silver medal at this year’s OHL Cup Showcase Tournament, where Stephens was his team’s MVP in three of seven games.
“If we hadn’t made that decision we, perhaps, wouldn’t be where we are today,” Lee said.
Both players said it was tough to leave home and friends to go to a new city. MacLean admits there were times he wondered if he did the right thing because he missed friends and home.
“You realize now the sacrifice has paid off,” MacLean said. “My mom made a huge sacrifice. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if she hadn’t moved with me.”
Mitchell admits the pressure of it being their draft year affected he and his teammates early in the season. It took a while to put the distraction aside but when they won the Silver Stick Tournament in Whitby it was a turning point.
“We adjusted to all the hype about the draft and the scouts,” he said. “The boys rallied together.”
Stephens says he’s trying to stay level-headed about the draft.
“I’m trying to keep an open mindset and enjoy the experience. Being drafted is something I’ve always dreamed about. Whether I go eighth, ninth, 10th or in the second round, it’s an honour and a special thing,” said Stephens.
Having grown up in a city with an OHL team, both were aware from a young age what it was all about.
“Going to games when I was young you looked up to players like that,” Stephens said. “You wanted to be there.”
“Even more so now,” MacLean said. “We know friends who we played with before who are now playing in the OHL. You’ve been going to these games since you were little and now you’re looking at friends you sat beside on the bench who are playing in the exact same spot you were watching. It’s a great opportunity.”
Otters Take Saban
The Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League announced this morning that they have selected Toronto Red Wings Defensemen Jesse Saban with their 2ndround pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection Draft being held today via the Internet and conference call, from the Springhill Suites Hotel, located at Interchange Rd, in Erie PA.
Saban, a 6-foot-3 and 205 pound defensemen from Lindsay, Ontario, registered 4 goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 32 games during the 2012-13 season.
“Jesse is a well rounded defender that can punish opponents with his physical tools while supplying some offense,” said Otters Assistant General Manager Dave Brown.
Spitfires Pick Moore
The Winsdor Spitfires top pick in the 2013 OHL Priority Selection is from across the Detroit River
Centre Ryan Moore from Troy, Michigan was grabbed with the 35th overall pick in the draft. Moore finished with 24 goals and 24 assists along with 54 penalty minutes in 36 games in 2012-2013.
Thunder enters postseason riding goalie’s hot hand
STOCKTON – There will be no need for introductions when the Stockton Thunder and Las Vegas Wranglers meet in the first round of the ECHL National Conference playoffs.
The teams already have played eight times, the coaches are best friends and three Las Vegas players were once members of the Thunder. Familiarity is likely to breed competitiveness when the best-of-seven series begins 7:30 p.m. today at Stockton Arena.
The fourth-seeded Thunder (37-26-9) enters the postseason having won four in a row and seven of 11, and is confident it has the roster, led by red-hot goalie Olivier Roy, to make a run deep in the playoffs. First up is No. 5 Las Vegas (37-30-5), and all indications are that this will be a tight series. The Thunder and Wranglers split the eight games, and all but one were decided by one goal.
“It just seems like it’s going to be a good matchup, and a close one,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “It’s going to be a tough series for us to win, for sure.”
Thomas and Wranglers coach Ryan Mougenel have known each other for more than a decade. Thomas was an assistant coach and Mougenel was a player with the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies when they won the Kelly Cup in 2002. Mougenel was an assistant to Thomas for four seasons in Fresno and Stockton before becoming head coach of the Wranglers in 2009.
It’s the first time they will meet in the playoffs.
“I don’t think it’s very fun because I don’t want to lose to him,” Thomas said with a smile. “We know it’s part of the business. It will be exciting for both of us to go after one another and try to see who comes out on top. Put it this way – I’m working extra hard.”
Mougenel, who led the Wranglers to the Kelly Cup finals last season, also has mixed feelings.
“It’s unfortunate that one of us has to lose,” Mougenel said. “We’re obviously close and our families are very close, but at the end of the day both want to win.”
Forwards Judd Blackwater, Geoff Paukovich and Adam Huxley played for Stockton before going to Las Vegas. Huxley was a fan favorite during his Thunder tenure.
“There are players who used to be here, and their coach used to coach here. It’s going to be an exciting series,” Thunder captain Garet Hunt said.
The Thunder’s late-season good fortune can be directly tied to the return of Roy in March from his American Hockey League assignment. He has won four of five games, allowing just six goals during that span. Roy credits the defense in front of him, but his teammates are very confident with him in the net.
“He’s been playing excellent. Our defense has been really stepping up and shutting guys down, stopping a lot of shots, protecting the house more,” Hunt said. “We’ve really been taking a lot of pride in that in the last couple of weeks going into playoffs.”
Roy is backed up by Tyler Bunz, who had a solid season. The Wranglers counter at goalie with veteran Joe Fallon and Mitch O’Keefe, and have a balanced offense led by Andrew Sarauer (21 goals, 41 assists). Center Harrison Reed led Stockton in scoring (21 goals and 24 assists in 45 games).
Galchenyuk shows strengths after shaking goal drought (Larionov)
MONTREAL—Alex Galchenyuk’s first season with the Montreal Canadiens was filled with such high expectations that any struggles were certain to be scrutinized. An 18-game goalless drought certainly wasn’t helping.
But the Habs teenager took advantage of a rare start at his natural center position on Thursday to score his fourth goal of the season in a 4-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
“Even a couple games back I felt I was getting close, I have the chances (and) maybe I missed the net (or) hit the post, but I knew the time would come,” the 19-year-old Galchenyuk said. “I don’t mind (playing) wing, I don’t mind (playing) center.”
Canadiens coach Michel Therrien indicated his decision to play Galchenyuk at left wing had all been part of the organization’s long-term thinking.
“We all know Alex is a center man, we have to work with him. It’s a learning process for him. We want to give him a lot of experience this year so for the future it is a benefit for him for his career,” Therrien said. “Because we lost Tomas (Plekanec) we gave him a chance to play center and he did really well, managing the puck well, was solid both sides of the ice.”
The coaching staff’s work with the Russian-American has helped Galchenyuk make up for his lack of offense with good defense and a +8 rating. So while fellow rookie Brendan Gallagher has seen his name thrown into the Calder Trophy race as a rookie-of-the-year candidate, Galchenyuk has kept working to improve on his 17 points this season.
“Those young players are going to have ups and downs and you have to be sure you are working with their confidence,” Therrien said.
Galchenyuk also credited his father, Alexander, with helping him get back-to-basics.
“He told me to focus on the little things, play a simple game,” Galchenyuk said.
Galchenyuk may be moving back to left wing come Saturday’s game against the Boston Bruins as Therrien said Plekanec could return.
Galchenyuk’s goal vs Boston (Larionov)
Mitchell Stephens drafted eighth overall by Saginaw Spirit
Mitchell Stephens feels he’s landed in the perfect spot to start his OHL career.
The Peterborough native was selected eighth overall by the Saginaw Spirit in the first round of the OHL draft on Saturday. He was one of two local players selected as Logan DeNoble went to his hometown Petes in the 13th-round.
Stephens, a skilled offensive forward, had 44 goals and 84 points in 58 games for the OHL Cup Showcase Tournament silver medalist Toronto Marlboros.
“It’s a great honour to be selected by Saginaw,” said Stephens, who watched the draft unfold at home on the internet. “They have a great coach, a great organization and great players. It’s a special moment for me and my family to be drafted there.”
Stephens is particularly excited about the opportunity to play for Spirit coach Greg Gilbert. The former NHL player and coach was the OHL coach of the year last season
“Greg Gilbert is a great coach,” he said. “He’s turned players like Jimmy Lodge and Eric Locke into NHL draft picks and high-end players in the league. The organization is very well respected. They’re going to be a great team next year with great players. Hopefully, we’ll make a run for an OHL championship.”
Stephens also felt it was a team which offered him a good opportunity to play right away.
“The way I can play I think I can fit into their top six forwards but I can’t take anything for granted or have a sense of entitlement going to camp,” he said. “I have to keep working hard in the summer and, hopefully, get there.”
A lot of speculation had Stephens going to Saginaw but he said until the draft actually took place, he couldn’t be sure. He says he didn’t sleep Friday night.
“Nothing was set in stone. I just had to try to keep a level head about everything and not take anything for granted,” he said. “It wasn’t too much of a shock but it was still a special moment.”
While this is just another step in his evolution as a hockey player, Stephens says it’s a culmination of one dream.
“Ever since I was a kid watching the Petes play the OHL is somewhere I wanted to be,” he said, adding it was special for another reason.
“Seeing all the friends I know get drafted is special,” he said. “I’ve congratulating the guys and they’ve been congratulating me. All the support from everyone is awesome.”
Leafs Sign Leivo To Entry Level Deal
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Monday that they have signed forward Josh Leivo to a three-year NHL Entry Level contract.
The left-winger recorded 19 goals and added 25 assists for 44 points in 34 games while serving as an alternate captain with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season. He later joined Kitchener in a trade on January 8, 2013. He currently has seven goals and 15 assists in 23 games for the Rangers. Overall, his 40 assists, 66 points, and +22 mark leads Kitchener players in all three categories. He is currently tied for 18th in OHL points. Leivo was named OHL Player of the Week for the period ending October 7, 2012 after scoring six goals in three games with a +5 mark.
Leivo, 19, was Toronto’s third choice, 86th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Centre of progression
Marty Williamson called Carter Verhaeghe into his office recently and told him to take it easy.
The coach/general manager of the Niagara IceDogs appreciates Verhaeghe’s willingness to go all-out, all the time, but delivered the message that sometimes less is more.
“We were looking at the young guys and we thought Carter was kind of looking tired,” Williamson said. “The young guys have school and practice and then they work out. We consider Carter a veteran because he does everything — power play, penalty kill and regular shifts — he’s playing as much as anyone his age and I think he was just tired.”
Williamson’s chat centered around knowing when to dig down deep in practice or at the gym, and when to back off a little bit.
“We had a little talk about maximizing his effort, whether it’s slowing down in practice a little bit or whatever because I need him in the games,” Willliamson said. “He’s got to conserve himself a little bit. Young guys are a little panicky sometimes. He’s in the lineup and not every one-on-one battle drill is do-or-die.
“For us to be successful in the playoffs, I need him.”
Verhaeghe, a 17-year-old native of Waterdown, has quietly put together a respectable season for the Niagara IceDogs with 16 goals and 40 points in 63 games, well up from his rookie totals of four goals and 16 points. He broke out of a nine-game scoreless slump with a pair of two-goal games over the weekend in wins over Belleville and Windsor.
“It’s nice to contribute to help my team,” Verhaeghe said. “We had a pretty big weekend in beating Belleville, the top-ranked team in our conference, and then beating Windsor. It’s nice to help out the team best as I can and if it’s offensively.
Williamson noticed a big difference in his sophomore centre this weekend.
“I don’t know whether it was coincidental but he seemed to have a little more speed this weekend and that’s a big key for him,” Williamson said. “He’s got good hands but if he has just average speed he can’t get around people and make things happen. He had better tempo in both games.”
Verhaeghe likes where his game is now, but admitted there is always room for improvement.
“You obviously want to improve all the time. I’m pretty pleased right now but I can always do better,” he said. “I obviously want to contribute more consistently on the offensive side on a regular basis.”
While Verhaeghe has the offensive potential to help the team, his is smart enough and strong enough defensively to chip in at the other end of the ice when he hits a dry spell scoring.
“When things aren’t going your way or they’re not going in, you can’t worry about that,” Verhaeghe said. “You just have to keep playing well and keep on doing it and trust that once things start going your way, things will start going in. If you just keep doing the right things and playing the right way.”
Verhaeghe has come a long way from last season when he often played on the fourth line and rarely saw the ice in crucial situations.
“There’s a big difference from last year. I’m getting more opportunities and trying to do the best I can with it,” he said.” It’s a big difference playing a different role. I feel like I’m getting better and more comfortable and getting better almost every game I play. I’m just trying to develop as a hockey player.
“As a rookie, you pretty much have to do the simple things and play the game the right way. Now, I can try and make plays and try and do more things I’m capable of doing but I wasn’t able to do last year.”
With Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie and Steven Shipley gone next season, the IceDogs expect Verhaeghe to play an even bigger role.
“He should become our No. 1 centre next year,” Williamson said. “He needs to get physically stronger to be able to handle the rigours of the league and the responsibility that goes along with that.
“It’s a big summer for him going forward. He can do it in spurts, but he’s having trouble doing it consistently. A lot of it is physical with him. He needs to put on 10 pounds of muscle and get physically stronger.”
Gomez scores first as a Shark
Seguin’s three-point night vs Toronto
Nikolay Goldobin gives his first full-English television interview (Larionov)
Gomez scores vs St. Louis
Irwin scores vs St. Louis
Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin showing his value offensively and defensively
BOSTON – Don’t look now, but Boston Bruins right winger Tyler Seguin has found his offensive rhythm again. But he’s also showing flashes of spectacular defensive skills.
Seguin connected on the power play and also made an incredible save in front of an empty net to help preserve the shutout as the Bruins took full advantage of the struggling Philadelphia Flyers, 3-0 Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
The Flyers haven’t performed well on the road and against Northeast Division opponents with records of 4-10 and 1-5, respectively.
Seguin hustled back and made a kick save on Flyers center Maxime Talbot with 2:30 left in the third period while Boston was on the power play. Boston goalie Tuukka Rask had gone out to clear the puck away from a streaking Ruslan Fedotenko, then was caught out of the net.
“Oh, that was Tyler?” Rask said with a smile. “I thought it was Dougie (Hamilton). Yeah, it was great. He was telling me he would have caught the guy when I sprinted out of the net, but it’s good to see he’s got my back and he’s got those goalie skills too.”
“He’s starting to take some pride in (his defensive) game as well. Those are good things to hear,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “Every coach likes a two-way player. We certainly don’t want to take the offensive part out of his game, but any time he can help us out at the other end it is a bonus.”
Rask stymied the Flyers with 23 saves, which included a few big stops on the penalty kill as Boston finished a perfect 3 for 3.
Seguin’s score sparked a three-goal attack on Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (25 saves) in a 2:18 span in the first period. That woke up a sleepy sell-out crowd of 17,565, which didn’t have much to cheer about as the B’s didn’t register a shot on goal through the first 11 minutes.
“His game has gotten better,” Julien said. “He had a slow start for the last two weeks – he’s just being more of Tyler. He’s just found his game and he’s really helped that line be a better line.”
Ty Ulmer: Making the Biggest Save of His Life
Biggest Inspiration – No Pun Intended
Tyler Beskorowany was a high draft pick for the Dallas Stars in 2008. Since then, he’s bounced back and forth between the AHL and ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads. The 6’5″ goalie is the main reason Ty decided to give goaltending the green light.
As Ulmer explains, ”He was just a down to earth kind of guy, for being so young and talented, it kind of made me think that anything is possible. For a guy who is 6’5” and could move as fast has he did, and was as talented as he was, I don’t know…I’m amazed. When I first met him, he brought out this kid in me; talked to me like I was a friend, not a fan. He made me feel like I’d known him for a while. I guess I wanted to be like him, that’s why I wanted to play goal.”
Beskorowany reciprocated the comments by saying, “I’m just happy I was able to impact a person by being who I am and by my ability to play hockey. Ty and I have become quite close. We chat on social networks, and when I see him around the rink and other events it isn’t just another fan coming to the game, it’s a friend who brightens my day whether we are winning or losing, whether I’m in a bad mood or good mood. I always have time to chat and hang out with Ty and other people I’ve met along my journey.”
The bond between goalie and fan was solidified a few years back when Ulmer found a keepsake belonging to Beskorowany.
Ulmer started, “We had volunteered to clean the apartments that the players stay in through out the season, and upon doing so, I found a puck in one of the rooms. On the puck were the words “Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Club” along side the teams logo. Knowing that the Griffins were in the AHL, I went through the list of players that had been called up from Idaho to Texas that year. Beskorowany had been one of those players. So I contacted him through social media and came to find out, it was his puck from his first AHL win which happened in Grand Rapids. I told him that I’d keep it till next season and I would give it to him in person in exchange for his autograph on his jersey that we had bought after the season was over.
The next season comes and Tyler doesn’t play in Idaho. Not one game. He had been called up to the AHL, playing for the Texas Stars and played the whole season with them. Another season I kept his puck, and another season of an un-autographed jersey. Following the lockout this season, we were really looking forward to the start of the Steelheads season. Being season ticket holders, we can attend every home game. At the start of this season, I attended another meet and greet, and finally Tyler was there. I gave him his puck along with a ‘congratulations’ – in a joking manner. He was very grateful, and just a couple games into the season, was the first post-game autograph session, and Tyler signed the jersey, with what seemed like a big sigh of relief. I look forward to seeing Tyler in many more successful seasons, be it in the ECHL with Idaho, or in the AHL with Texas, or hopefully with Dallas of the NHL.”
And since then, the relationship has been as strong as ever.
“It was an amazing gesture! You know not every kid who sees a puck would go through that trouble to get it back to me. That puck means a lot to me and for him to do this was just amazing,” Beskorowany stated appreciatively.
Goldobin Making Strides In His Rookie Year – Junior Hockey News (Larionov)
Over the last few short years, the Sarnia Sting has sent high profile players to the NHL. Steven Stamkos was selected first overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2008 NHL Draft. Then last summer, Nail Yakupov became the second Sting player in five years to go first overall as he was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers. Two spots later, the Montreal Canadiens took Alex Galchenyuk third overall.
There is an up-and-coming star in the Sting organization that could follow suit. Nikolay Goldobin, a 17-year old right winger from Mockobckar, Russia, has been turning heads around the OHL in his rookie year with his play-making ability.
In an interview with JuniorHockey.com and with the aid of interpreter and Sting teammate Daniel Nikandrov, Goldobin reflected on the value of playing on a team that has featured three highly-drafted NHL stars. “It’s a good feeling. I’m going to try to play better than they did.”
So far, Goldobin has fared very well in the ‘O’ as he ranks fourth in team scoring with 24 goals and 27 assists for 51 points. It’s not bad considering that he trails Galchenyuk (who is now with the Canadiens), and current linemates Reid Boucher, the league leader in goals with 51, and Charles Sarault, who leads the league in assists with 67. Playing on the team’s top line with Boucher and Sarault has meant that the Sting coaching staff has plenty of confidence in his ability. Goldobin also ranks second behind Erie Otters’ forward Connor McDavid in rookie scoring.
After selecing him 36th overall in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft last summer, the Sting organization weren’t the only team that took notice on Goldobin’s talents. After putting up 13 goals and nine assists in 50 games for the Russkie Vityazi Chekov of the Minor Hockey League (MHL) last season, the Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the Kontinental Hockey League selected him eighth overall in the 2012 KHL Draft. On why he decided to come to North America instead of playing in his home country, he said “My agent [which is former NHL player and Hall of Famer Igor Larionov] helped me out and it gave me a better opportunity to play in the NHL.” On asked who he would like to pattern his game after, he said smiling and without the help of Nikandrov, “[Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Patrick] Kane.”
He has shown on many occasions this season that he has the rare on-ice ability that scouts drool over. Case in point: On New Year’s Day at London’s Budweiser Gardens, Goldobin scored four goals, including the game-clincher in overtime that halted the London Knights’ 24-game winning streak in a 6-5 win. “I had a good game and the team played very well and it was important for our team and organization to break the streak,” Goldobin said. In four games against the defending OHL Champions, Goldobin has slayed the Knights by scoring seven goals and adding two assists. Playing in London seems to be his favorite OHL rink outside the RBC Centre. The other game he played at Budweiser Gardens came on February 7 where he had a goal and two assists and was once again the team’s best player.
Since he isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until 2014, there are some things that Goldobin wants to improve on. “I want to work on my speed, my physical ability to battle and to work on my shot.” With his size (he’s listed at 5’11″, 165 lbs.) along with his drive and determination, there’s room for him to grow into one of the top players in the OHL next season.
Coming to a different country and being thrown into a new environment with hopes of playing in an NHL rink is never easy, but one of the players who have overseen Goldobin’s transition is Nikandrov. “I think he’s progressed a lot… He’s worked really hard and he seems to be skating much better now than he did before.”
If he continues to excel, he could very well be next in line, following the trail of Stamkos, Yakupov and Galchenyuk, as the next player from the Sarnia Sting franchise who could go straight to the NHL.
Christian Thomas’ Goal vs Manchester
MacDermid gets the call for ailing Bruins
WILMINGTON, MA – With the Bruins in the middle of a flu bug that’s coursing through their dressing room, the team promoted tough guy winger Lane MacDermid back up from the AHL prior to their road swing through Florida and Long Island.
MacDermid was on loan to the Providence Bruins for a conditioning assignment and skated in five games for the P-Bruins while notching both a goal and a fighting major during that time. He was back up with Boston for Tuesday’s practice at Ristuccia Arena and skating in a Merlot practice jersey along with Shawn Thornton, Chris Kelly and Jay Pandolfo.
MacDermid got very limited ice time in the handful of games he played in Boston when Thornton suffered his concussion, so the winger was happy to get a more expanded role down in Providence.
“I obviously got more ice time down there, so it was good to get regular shifts,” said MacDermid. “You get back to playing in game situations as well, so that’s good. I just wanted to play well for my team when I did play, and I wasn’t worried so much about coming back up here.”
MacDermid has skated in three games for Boston this season with 10 penalty minutes — earned in a pair of fights against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the same game at the Air Canada Centre — and averaging 3:34 of ice time. The forward has four goals, two assists and 82 penalty minutes in 37 games with Providence this year.
With seven players — including four forwards — missing from practice on Tuesday afternoon extra forwards like MacDermid and Pandolfo could very easily be getting the call during the three-game road swing if the flu persists in the Black and Gold dressing room.
Hershey Bears forward Peter LeBlanc talks about playing in his hometown of Hamilton
Whale’s Version of “The Smurfs” Comes up Huge
The Herb Brooks-coached 1982-83 New York Rangers got big playoff performances from an undersized line featuring Mark Pavelich and Rob McClanahan, both of whom had played for Brooks on the famous 1980 U.S. Olympic team, along with canny Swedish import Anders Hedberg.
That line was known as “The Smurfs”, and it led the Blueshirts, a .500 team during the regular season, to a stunning first-round sweep of the Patrick Division-champion Philadelphia Flyers.
Some 30 years later, a Connecticut Whale front line evoked images of the Smurfs this past weekend, as a grouping of Kelsey Tessier centering Micheal Haley and Christian Thomas helped the Whale to a pair of convincing road victories in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The Whale beat the St. John’s IceCaps 4-1 on Saturday night, and then posted a 7-3 triumph on Sunday afternoon, equaling their biggest offensive output of the season. The Haley-Tessier-Thomas line scored on the Whale’s first shot in both games, and combined to generate five of the 11 goals the team scored in the two contests.
The majority of that offense came off of strong play down low in the offensive zone, too, despite the fact that Haley, the tallest of the three on the line, measures only 5-10, and Tessier and Thomas check in at 5-9, 177 and 5-9, 170, respectively.
Haley joked before Sunday’s game that, “I’m not usually the tallest on a line,” but dismissed the suggestion that physical size should have bearing on whether a player can exert impact as a forechecker.
“Size doesn’t mean too much to me,” Haley, who packs a compact 204 pounds on his 5-10 frame, said Wednesday. “As long as you’re in (on the opponent’s defense) and you’re hitting and disrupting, that’s a good forecheck.”
Whale head coach Ken Gernander agreed, saying, “Tess (Tessier) is a pretty stocky player, Hales (Haley) has some beef, he’s not afraid to mix it up, and a lot of times it’s more about anticipation and body position than actually having to physically outmatch somebody or overpower somebody. If you can beat them to the puck and get body position, more times than not you’ll be OK.”
“It’s a pretty eclectic mix,” Gernander added about his new vertically-challenged combination, “when you’ve got Haley, he’s got a little bit of beef, and he’s kind of underestimated as far as his scoring, he can put the puck in the net, given opportunities. Christian Thomas isn’t near the same player he was two months ago, he’s really come on. He’s using his speed to recover pucks, or to be first on pucks, he’s drawing penalties, bumping people off pucks with body position, then he’s able to make plays. And Tess has, for large part, been a third, fourth (-line) role player and penalty-killer, and now he’s getting a little bit of taste of some offensive opportunities, and making the best of things.”
The sixth-year pro Haley has always been known as a physical player, the kind who can use strength and will to disrupt opposing defensemen in the Whale’s offensive zone. He is quick to point out, however, that his two physically slighter linemates deserve full marks for using their quickness and smarts to give the IceCaps fits.
“They don’t need to crush people, but as long as you’re separating them from the puck and stealing the puck, that’s a forecheck,” Haley said. “Not everybody’s going to be the guy that hits them (enemy defenders) hard, but as long as you’re on them quick, they don’t have time to think.”
Thomas, the rookie and second-round 2010 New York Ranger pick, won a number of important puck battles during the Whale’s successful Newfoundland weekend, and echoed Haley’s thoughts about how to make a forchecking impact as a smaller player.
“Big or small, you just have to get there, make contact and interrupt their progress, the bigger guys, take away their hands and you can get that puck,” Thomas said.
Thomas had his first three-point game as a pro in Saturday’s win, with a goal and two hard-earned assists, and then helped set up Haley for a goal only 68 seconds into Sunday’s game, giving the Whale a lead they would never relinquish. That continued a dynamic uptick in Thomas’ play, which he credits to making consistent use of his excellent foot speed.
“I just try to tell myself to keep moving my feet out there,” Thomas said. “Smaller guy, you move your feet, you’re hard to handle out there. I think I’m a pretty quick guy, so when I get my feet moving I can get to pucks first, and get some space and make some plays.”
The entire line did a good job of making plays in the two wins over the IceCaps. It is one thing to generate chances with eager puck-hawking, but quite another to turn them into scores, and the line was opportunistic in finishing the chances they created. In Haley’s battle-tested view, that’s more a matter of better luck than anything else.
“They’re (goals) just going in now,” he said. “Ride the wave as long as you can, I guess.”
Indeed, the Haley-Tessier-Thomas threesome has only been together for two games, and the way things go in the AHL, it’s certainly not unlikely that it won’t stay together long enough to acquire an enduring nickname like “The Smurfs”. With the four points the Whale grabbed up in St. John’s being so key in the team’s playoff drive, though, whether or not it remains intact, the smallish unit has undoubtedly made an outsized impact on the Whale’s fortunes.
Yakupov pre-game availability (Larionov)
Galchenyuk leads Habs to fifth straight win (Larionov)
NEW YORK – Brandon Prust’s return to the Big Apple was a success as he capped a strong effort by setting up Alex Galchenyuk for the winning goal as the Canadiens defeated the New York Rangers 3-1 Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Lars Eller set the winning goal in motion when he blocked a shot by Marc Staal. Galchenyuk gave the puck to Prust at the side of the net and then went to the crease to take a return pass.
What it means: It was the fifth consecutive win for the Canadiens and they moved into first place in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, one more than the idle Pittsburgh Penguins.
Al Bello, Getty Images
Jimmy Lodge Making Strides in his Draft Year
Anytime a team trades their best player, the assumption is made that said team is entering a rebuild. When the Saginaw Spirit traded their captain, Vincent Trocheck, to the Plymouth Whalers on January 10th, many figured that this symbolized the white towel being thrown for the 2012/2013 season. At the time they were a .500 hockey club, battling it out with the Windsor Spitfires for the 8th spot in the Western Conference. In a somewhat miraculous turn of events, the exodus of their captain has sparked the Spirit. 10-5 since the trade, Saginaw has distanced themselves from Windsor (11 points up). They’re playing incredible hockey and are putting themselves in a position to surprise people in the OHL playoffs. Saginaw still has the opportunity to move up as high as 5th in the Conference too. Many would agree; this was not the expected result following the trade.
So what, specifically, has sparked this team? A valid argument could be made that said spark has been the exceptional play of second year forward Jimmy Lodge. “It hurt to lose Trocheck, since he was probably our best player,” says Lodge. “But we needed guys to step up and score goals in his absence.” Lodge, the Pennsylvania native and former 3rd round draft pick of the Spirit, has certainly done that. In the 15 games since the big trade, Lodge has 26 points (11 goals, and 15 assists). He’s vaulted himself into contention for the top 20 in league scoring, and is second to only Max Domi (of the London Knights) in scoring among 1995 born players in the OHL. Considering Lodge started the season with only 2 goals and 2 assists in his first 10 games, this feat tells you how brilliantly he’s been performing of late.
Lodge is being modest when he’s quick to point out that he’s been a product of how well his line has been playing. I’m of course referring to one of the hottest lines in the entire CHL, consisting of Lodge, Eric Locke, and Garret Ross. “They’re fantastic players,” says Lodge. “We’re just really clicking right now. And that’s giving me more confidence to go out and play well.” I’d say that’s an understatement. In February alone (8 games), those three players have combined for a total of 26 goals. That’s more than the Erie Otters have scored as team this month (25).
It’s Lodge’s ability to see the ice and make those around him better that has helped to elevate the abilities of his line and his team, a trait which he considers his best asset as a player. Lodge’s size, speed and skill package allows him to be the perfect compliment to the tenacious Locke, and the feisty Ross. We should expect nothing less from a player who grew up idolizing Peter Forsberg in his time with the Philadelphia Flyers.
I think it’s certainly unfair to suggest that Lodge’s accomplishments this year were expected. However, nor are they surprising. With the losses of Brandon Saad, Josh Shalla, and Michael Fine, it was plainly obvious that the Spirit’s solid collection of young players (like Lodge, Justin Kea, and Nick Moutrey) would have to step up their game. Lodge came into the season given more responsibility and increased ice time after playing a bit role as a 16 year old. He also donned the Stars and Stripes for this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, an event which brought together the top ’95 players in the world. Needless to say, the pedigree for success was there. However, Lodge does credit last year’s veteran squad with helping him learn to play at this level. “One of the biggest things that I took away from last year’s rookie season was just seeing guys like Saad and Trocheck. You know, watching them and learning about the game. Things like having proper work ethic, how to workout and how to eat,” says Lodge.
All things considered, there’s no question that the trade of Vincent Trocheck forced Lodge into a role he could have struggled with. It’s not an easy task to take on the offensive responsibilities of your former captain; a player many experts consider a candidate for the Red Tilson this season. Sink or swim; and Lodge swam. So why isn’t he getting more exposure for this year’s draft? Quite frankly, that’s a damn good question.
As mentioned, Lodge is currently the second highest scoring ’95 in the league; and the fourth highest draft eligible player (behind Domi, Kerby Rychel, and Sean Monahan). Yet, he doesn’t even crack TSN expert Craig Button’s latest Top 75 for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Lodge goes up against the opposition’s best every night (at least for the past two months) and he consistently comes out ahead. We’re looking at a 6’2 forward who skates well, can put the puck in the net and who makes others around him better. That’s the definition of a prospect I want come June 30th.
Vince Lombardi once said. “Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work.” Whether he knows it or not, the trade of Vincent Trocheck forced Jimmy Lodge into a leadership role. But he was put into that role because he had earned it. Along with the likes of Garret Ross and Eric Locke, Lodge has put Saginaw on his back and delivered. Sooner or later, likely sometime soon, NHL scouts are going to realize; Jimmy Lodge has elevated Saginaw’s spirit.
Keevin Cutting sets Attack games-played record
OWEN SOUND – From the bluelines to the thin red ones, no one has been more at the forefront of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Owen Sound Attack than Bracebridge native Keevin Cutting.
The 20-year-old, five-year player with the Attack set a new record for the major junior club Feb. 13, appearing in his 313th game with the team, breaking a record set by former teammate Marcus Carroll in 2010.
“It’s not something you ever really think of, especially as a rookie; I just wanted to go out and play my hardest and concentrate on that,” Cutting said after a ceremony that night when he was handed a framed jersey to commemorate the occasion. “But I guess the time came and it does feel great.”
A left-handed defenceman, towering over six-feet tall, Cutting’s coaches call him a grinding play stopper, who’s fearless when it comes to putting his body on the line to break up a play or block a shot in front of his goal.
“The thing about Keevin is his character; he puts his team, teammates and coaches ahead of himself all the time,” said Cutting’s head coach Greg Ireland, who took over that post in the 2011-12 season. “The first thing you notice about him is he is such a gentleman and has such solid moral fibre; secondly is his commitment to everyone around him.”
It was those qualities that earned Cutting the captain’s C this season, his last year of eligibility for the OHL.
“He’s a physical player and a real shut-down type of player; he’s been such a big part of helping a lot of the younger players along and they truly look up to him as the leader of this club,” Ireland added.
Cutting says he can’t take all of the credit for helping the younger players along.
“We’ve got a really good club and really the players around me make it pretty easy to lead,” he said.
The team still has about a month to go in the regular season, so although this is his last run with the OHL club, there will be a new record every time he laces up. He was with the club in the 2010 season when they won a championship and said this year’s team isn’t that much different in make up and stands a good chance of making a push into later rounds.
“Just like that team, we’ve got good depth, good speed up front and can move the puck around,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be a long playoff season for us and I can wear the jersey a little longer.
“A little more consistency and I think we could really find our peak,” he added.
Unfortunately his special night was marred by a 2-0 loss to the Guelph Storm, but he added the ceremony was a special occasion and one he won’t forget.
Cutting, who played for the former Bracebridge Bears up until novice and joined a triple-A team in Rama prior to signing on with the Attack, is overage to be drafted now into the NHL but still has the avenue to try-outs with the big-league clubs.
“We’re hoping and pulling for Keevin that there’s bigger and better things for him in hockey in the future,” Ireland said.
“Certainly if any (NHL try-out) opportunity ever came up, I’d jump on it in a heart beat, but I have a pretty good back up plan too: Europe (hockey leagues),” he said.
In his five seasons on the bluelines for the Attack, Cutting has amassed 17 goals and 56 assists for 73 points.
“He will be a difficult player to replace next season, but he works hard with those younger players and you can see his work ethic rubbing off,” Ireland said.
Kitchener Rangers’ captain moves up to Hurricanes
KITCHENER — The Kitchener Rangers have lost their captain.
Defenceman Ryan Murphy was recalled by the injury-depleted Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday afternoon as a stop-gap until their starters make their way back into the lineup.
“It’s a huge loss,” said Rangers’ head coach and general manager Steve Spott. “He’s our captain and plays 20-plus minutes a night.”
The ’Canes have been hit hard by the injury bug and are without veterans Joni Pitkanen (lower body) and Tim Gleason (lower body) in the back end.
Carolina assistant GM Jason Karmanos told the Rangers that the team was looking for help and the coaches wanted Murphy, their first round pick from 2011 and a late cut at this year’s training camp.
“Karmanos said it’s the first time in 15 years that they’ve had to do this,” said Spott.
The Rangers’ bench boss called Murphy into his office and told the rearguard he had some good news and bad news.
“The bad news was that he wasn’t going to play this weekend,” he said. “The good news was that he is going to the Carolina Hurricanes.”
Murphy, who left Wednesday night, is third in team scoring with eight goals and 31 assists in 46 games this season.
It’s expected that the Aurora native will be back in Kitchener once Carolina’s regulars return, but there is no guarantee. If he plays well, he may just stick in the NHL.
The ’Canes have at least five games to test Murphy. After that, the first year of his entry level contract will kick in.
“It caught me off-guard,” said Spott. “Murphy was surprised and shocked in a good way.”
In 2008, the Rangers lost goalie Steve Mason to an injury recall with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mason, who had yet to play a game for the Rangers since being acquired at the trade deadline that year, was eventually sent back to the OHL.
Kitchener rookie Owen Stewart will jump into the lineup in Murphy’s absence and the team will likely use four forwards on their first power play unit to fill the gap.
Carolina takes on the Winnipeg Jets Thursday night. The Rangers face Saginaw at home Friday.
Frontenacs’ DiPerna scores first OHL career goal at home
MISSISSAUGA — Most players who score their first Ontario Hockey League goal will remember the experience for the rest their lives.
On Monday, Mississauga’s Dylan DiPerna was fortunate enough to achieve that milestone in his own backyard.
The Kingston Frontenacs rookie defenceman recorded his first goal, the eventual game winner in a 7-4 win over the Mississauga Steelheads at the Hershey Centre.
“It’s obviously been a while since I scored my last goal,” said DiPerna, a member of last year’s OHL Showcase Cup-champion Mississauga Rebels. “To get that first one in my home town in front of my friends and family is pretty special.”
DiPerna, 16, blasted a point shot past Steelheads goalie Tyson Teichmann in the third period. It took him 35 games to notch his first goal. He also has five assists in that span.
DiPerna was drafted in the second round of the 2012 OHL Priority Selection Draft and is one of four rookies Kingston picked up with the first 25 picks.
DiPerna said having a lot of young players on the team creates a lot of enthusiasm for each game.
“With team success, individual success follows,” DiPerna said. “Having so many young guys, including myself, all being in the same boat makes us work together and it’s a great feeling.”
The Frontenacs are in the midst of a tight playoff race. They hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games remaining.
Monday’s win brought them to within two points of the seventh-place Steelheads, but they only sit four points ahead of the ninth-place Peterborough Petes.
In addition to learning how each point can be vital in the league standings, DiPerna said he’s also learned to be a more patient defender in his rookie campaign.
“With the Rebels, I was more of an offensive defenceman, but here I have to be more calm and stay back more,” said DiPerna, who tallied 31 points in his final season of minor hockey last year. “I think as I get older, I’ll get more (scoring) opportunities.”
Storm Stories-Brock Beukeboom
Professional. Leader. Team player.
These were some of the terms Guelph Storm general manager Mike Kelly used to describe newly acquired Brock Beukeboom when I sat down with him around the holidays this past December.
“We knew that we were getting a good solid defender in the trade,” he said. “But what we didn’t know was that Brock is a real leader on and off the ice. He’s been great in the locker room and he’s been a steadying influence on some of the younger players.”
Five minutes into my interview with Beukeboom and I can see why. He’s well spoken, confident but considerate, too. You can tell right away that he respects the game and appreciates the opportunities that have come his way.
“Playing for the Storm has been great so far,” Beukeboom says about his time in Guelph. “I’ve tried to come in and be a leader and help some of the younger guys, teach them some of the things I’ve learned during my five years in the Ontario Hockey League.”
Earlier this season, Guelph sent a trio of draft picks to the Niagara IceDogs in exchange for the veteran shutdown defenceman. The Storm are the third OHL club that Beukeboom has suited up for, having spent three seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at the start of his junior career.
Needless to say, his impact on this team has been a positive one.
“When I got here I thought that the room was pretty quiet,” Beukeboom says. “I’m an outgoing guy, I have an outgoing personality, so I thought I could help make a difference in the locker room and help turn the volume up a little bit.”
Whether it’s in the OHL or the NHL, Beukeboom is no stranger to moving around. A third round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning back in 2010, he was traded last year to the St. Louis Blues as part of a deal for veteran defenceman Eric Brewer. And when he didn’t sign with the Blues this past off-season, he returned to the O for his last season of junior hockey.
“I’m a free agent right now,” he says. “So we’ll see what happens. My agent has talked to a few teams about me so hopefully I can catch on with an NHL club next season.”
“But you know, I’m only 20 years old, and we’re in a fight right now to make a go of this thing here in Guelph. So I’m focused on that. The other stuff can come later; I’m not in a rush.”
Beukeboom has plenty of options for the future, and he’s quick to point out that he has a fully paid-for University education waiting for him if he so chooses, something he knows can’t be taken for granted.
It’s no secret that Brock comes from a hockey family. His father Jeff Beukeboom played parts of 15 seasons in the NHL as a member of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers in the 1980’s and 90’s. he won cups with both teams, four in total, and now coaches the New York Rangers minor league affiliate Conneticut Whale in the American Hockey League.
Brock’s “Cousin Joe”, as in Joe Niewendyk, is the current general manager of the Dallas Stars. When I ask Beukeboom if Dallas might be a potential destination for him, he laughs and shrugs it off as if to say “you never know”.
When asked if he feels pressure to live up this last name, Beukeboom says, “I did early on in my career. I put a lot of pressure on myself to live up to my dad’s name and my dad’s expectations. But after a while I realized that he and I are two different types of players. And he’s not just a former NHL’er, he’s my dad first. So I’ve learned to live without that burden on me”
“Obviously, my dad has had a big impact on my hockey career,” he says. “He’s always been there for me. He’s a great resource, and he taught me how to be a team guy and how to act like a professional.”
“I’ve also had a lot of coaches help me along the way,” Beukeboom says when talking about the difference makers in his life. “But definitely, the unsung hero of the whole thing has always been my mom. She put in just as much time as my dad and was always there to support me and to help me get where I needed to be.”
It’s obvious that Brock Beukeboom has a bright future ahead of him, and what appeared on the surface to be a depth move by the Guelph Storm has turned out to be much more. If the Storm are headed for any kind of playoff run, Beukeboom will undoubtedly have a key role to play.
And he’ll do it like a pro.
Whale’s Thomas Finding His Scoring Touch
After scoring 129 goals in three seasons in junior hockey, Christian Thomas came to the AHL with a reputation.
Thomas, a 2010 second-round draft pick, was considered a top prospect by the Rangers. With speed, skill and an NHL bloodline — his father Steve spent 20 seasons in the league — Thomas was seemingly on the fast track to Madison Square Garden.
But his road to New York began in Hartford, and it took some time for Thomas to find his footing. He had eight goals and 14 points in his first 40 games and was scratched Jan. 20.
But in the past month, Thomas has flourished. He notched 10 points in the past 12 games and seven in six games, displaying the offensive skill that earned him attention in the Ontario Hockey League.
“I think I’m just moving my feet out there, forechecking and working hard,” Thomas said. “Starting off this year, it was a lot different than juniors. Guys are bigger, stronger, faster. You have to make plays quicker. So I think having played  games here, I’ve adjusted for the most part. Starting to feel out there.”
His transformation has coincided with being placed on a line with veterans Micheal Haley and Kelsey Tessier. Like Thomas (5-feet-9), Haley (5-11) and Tessier (5-9) are smaller in stature but are high-energy players.
“Smaller guys, we work hard and create chances out there,” Thomas said.
Thomas joined the Whale at the end of last season and played in the AHL playoffs, but he faced a different league at the start of this season. The NHL lockout enabled teams to stock their AHL affiliates with better, more experienced players.
For rookies such as Thomas, the jump from junior hockey was immense.
“It’s all the best guys from your junior league,” Thomas said. “Every defenseman is good, every forward you have to watch out for. When you’re out there, you can’t take a shift off. You have to work hard out there or stuff is not going to happen.”
Thomas also saw less ice time in the AHL than in juniors, so there was plenty of time to watch from the bench and learn. For a guy who scored 54 goals in one season for the Oshawa Generals, the perspective was different.
“As a rookie, you can’t expect to play the same minutes you did in juniors, so it’s tough to get going and tough to get points,” Thomas said. “Now I’m getting more of an opportunity. Pucks are starting to go in the net and I’m starting to get chances out there.”
Having a resource like his father helped Thomas navigate his slow start. Steve Thomas played for six teams from 1984 to 2004, including the Islanders and Devils. He scored 421 goals in 1,235 games.
These days, Steve Thomas works in the Tampa Bay Lightning front office. He watches Whale games on the Internet and is in constant contact with his son.
“I would say it’s a big advantage for me,” Christian said. “He played 20 years in the league, he was undrafted, he played in the NHL as a 21-, 22-year-old. Through all his experiences, he helps me so much, on and off the ice. If I have any problem, if I’m feeling down, he helps me out.”
Murphy not fazed in first NHL start
R. Cory Smith
RALEIGH — On a day when one rookie defenseman went down with what appeared to be a very serious injury, another impressed in his first game of his young career.
Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Redmond was cut severely during morning practice Thursday in a fluke accident and had to be rushed to a hospital, where he had surgery for a laceration to his right femoral artery and vein.
That night, an admittedly nervous Ryan Murphy not only skated in his first game as a Hurricane, but earned the start. The Jets won 4-3.
“I was a bit (nervous) for the first couple of shifts stepping out there with guys like Evander Kane and guys that I watched on TV,” Murphy said. “But as the game went on you just figure out that they’re hockey players just like me and you move on.”
Less than 48 hours before his first NHL start, Murphy was on the ice with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. The rookie defensemen joked about hearing he would be called up for the first time.
“I walked off the ice in Kitchener from practice and coach (Steve) Spott called me over and told me he had bad news,” Murphy said with a laugh. “I’d be missing the games in Kitchener that weekend … it was good news and a bit of hectic travel but it was worth it.”
He was a bright spot for the Hurricanes on an otherwise dreadful night defensively. After finishing with two shots on goal and two blocked shots in 23 minutes and 51 seconds on the ice, Murphy was commended by coach Kirk Muller.
“I thought he was great,” Muller said. “For a young kid he moves the puck well and makes great decisions. He joined the rush at the right time and I was really happy with him.”
Murphy goes coast to coast for scoring chance
Andrew Campbell Media Scrum
Stockton goalie knows how to lend hand
Stockton goaltender Olivier Roy stopped 38 shots and had an assist on a goal as he remained unbeaten since returning to the Thunder.
Matt Bergland and Tony DeHart scored within a 2-minute span in the second period for Stockton, which beat the Bakersfield Condors 4-1 on Thursday in front of a crowd of 8,023 at Rabobank Arena. The Thunder has won four of five games.
Roy, who was assigned to the Thunder (28-21-9) on Feb. 12 from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League, is 3-0 with a 0.66 goals against average and a .981 save percentage. The Condors (18-34-5) outshot Stockton 39-26, but could only get a second-period score by Evan Trupp.
“He played very well; they put a lot of pucks on him,” Thunder coach Matt Thomas said. “Olivier was real good and we were able to solve (Condors goalie Brian) Stewart, who has also been hot recently.”
Roy earned an assist on Bergland’s goal. With a Condor bearing down on him, Roy charged the puck at the top of the circle to start the play that ended with Bergland’s ninth goal of the season.
“It’s just a really good read, and you can’t hesitate on a decision,” Thomas said. “He didn’t hesitate. They almost had a breakaway there, and he turned it around.”
DeHart scored 1:58 later on a power play, one of two goals in four power-play opportunities. Stockton went 0 for 6 on the power play in a 4-1 loss to Ontario on Wednesday.
“That was one of the things we really needed to address from the night before, and I’m happy we did a good job of addressing it,” Thomas said. “We needed to do better, and we really worked at it.”
Matt Reber and Shawn Weller also scored for the Thunder, and Eric Hunter had two assists. It was Weller’s first goal since joining the team Feb. 15.
Oliver Roy Interview
Ruperts gunning to shut down Cousins
London Free Press
Forget the two-hand slash and the “loser” label.
Matt and Ryan Rupert really know what would make Nick Cousins squirm Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
That would be a big goose egg beside the pesky Soo Greyhounds star’s name on the stat sheet, jamming his pursuit of the OHL scoring crown.
“If we come out with a win and he’s off the scoresheet or very minimal, I think it would be very rewarding,” Ryan Rupert said. “Even if we don’t get any points, that’s not the big deal. It’s getting the two points and the win.”
The twins practised this week with Bo Horvat. They don’t know if they’ll draw the Cousins assignment, but that’s a prime shutdown line if ever there was one.
“We don’t want him (Cousins) to get points,” Matt Rupert said, “especially since he’s out there chirping our guys and slashing them . . . ”
Matt stopped himself, then grinned.
The brothers don’t take prisoners on the ice and won’t suffer off it.
A few weeks ago, Matt referred to Owen Sound’s Cameron Brace as a “whiny baby” after the Attack forward suckered him into an untimely penalty.
“It’s the way we are,” Matt said. “We’re not going to lie. We’re honest players.”
There were times during London’s four-game losing skid when the Ruperts’ rambunctiousness led to crucial goals surrendered.
But weigh those against the moments their aggressive qualities turn the tide for the Knights.
“We’re going to keep playing the way we’ve played these last three years in London,” Matt said. “There’s probably a few bad bounces with the referees here and there, but I don’t think we’re going to change anything.”
They are learning how to walk the line. If they hurt their team, they won’t play as much — if they let the Soo frustrate them, the Knights are in tough.
“We’ve got to be careful with Cousins and (Colin) Miller can shoot it, too,” London head coach Dale Hunter said. “We have to keep out of the box. Just like against (Niagara’s Ryan) Strome (in St. Catharines last Sunday). You hear the NHL coaches talking, we can’t take any (penalties). (Toronto’s Randy) Carlyle has been saying it. Power plays swing the momentum of the game.”
So does a massive hit, a shot block and a big goal — all of which the Ruperts are more than capable of providing.
Ryan didn’t get off to the best start this year, but he’s no longer discouraged about his numbers. He has reverted back to last year’s mindset.
“We’ve got to realize that’s our job in the playoffs, shutting down their No. 1 line,” Ryan said. “That’s going to be a successful night for us to show Cousins and his line it’s going to be a tough road in the playoffs if we happen to get them.
“Playoff hockey is what I thrive in so once that comes around, I think you’ll see the best of my game.”
It worked last year. They rode shotgun with Austin Watson, all the way to the Memorial Cup final.
“(Dale Hunter) knows we can play defence,” Matt said. “Regular season, you don’t have to check as many lines, but playoffs, their top lines, we’re going to have to shut them down as best we can.”
These days, shutting down Matt Rupert has become a tall order.
He has 26 goals so far. Dale Hunter has entrusted him with more power play time and he has taken advantage of the opportunity to be more offensive.
“He’s a year older and a year better and he shoots the puck harder,” Hunter said. “They’re getting stronger every year.”
That wasn’t by accident. About three summers ago, the Ruperts went into their Grand Bend backyard and put down some wood and plastic so they could blast pucks any time they wanted.
“It’s kind of like ice, so we can shoot off it and keep our shot going,” Matt said. “I don’t know why I’m scoring (like this). It might have been a lot of hard work in the summer.”
Last summer was short, which is just the way the Ruperts intend it. They want to plant seeds in players like Cousins, and Saginaw on Sunday, that they’re in this for the long haul.
“We want to come out strong where we left off last weekend,” Ryan said, “They’re (Saginaw) our number one contender to face in the playoffs right now but you never know. We don’t know who it’ll be, it could be the Soo, but we want to show the rest of the league we’re here to play and not messing around.”
NY Rangers recall Christian Thomas
The banged-up Rangers just keep getting younger.
Late Friday night, the club recalled right winger Christian Thomas, 20, and he is expected to make his NHL debut against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday (7 p.m.).
Thomas, the Blueshirts’ second-round pick in the 2010 NHL draft (40th overall), has 13 goals and 24 points in 52 games for the Connecticut Whale this season.
To make room for Thomas on the 23-man roster, the Rangers put ailing forward Rick Nash on injured reserve (IR). Nash will go on IR retroactive to last Sunday, however, since he already has sat out two games, so despite being on IR, he will be eligible to come off and play any time after Saturday night.
Christian Thomas makes his debut for Rangers
MONTREAL — Instead of playing for the Connecticut Whale in Wilkes-Barre Saturday night, Christian Thomas became the 10th player to debut as a Ranger this season. He wore No. 58, becoming the first Ranger to do so.
Thomas, who is 5-8, was summoned after 52 games this season in Hartford and arrived in the afternoon after plane issues in Philadelphia. He had four goals and three assists in the last six games. In the OHL, he had 137 goals and 120 assists in 244 games over four seasons with the Oshawa Generals and London Knights.
His father, Steve, a 20-year NHL veteran who is a player development consultant with Tampa Bay, made it to Saturday night’s game, arriving from Carolina in the middle of the first period.
“I felt more comfortable as it went on,” said Thomas, 20, who played 12:46, including 1:35 on the power play, and had two shots and three hits. “Third period, I felt it was just another game out there. It was hard to get a ton of stuff going. Montreal was playing well defensively. It was a great experience.”
Coach John Tortorella said before the game: “I know he’s a hard-working kid and scored a lot of goals along the way, and has played better and better with our minor-league team. We just hope . . . that he gives us a little bit of spark, and then we’ll slowly get to know him.”
Thomas first NHL game
Galchenyuk’s goal vs NY Rangers (Larionov)
Galchenyuk post-game (Larionov)
Loktionov sets up Kovalchuk (Larionov)
OJ scores vs Flyers
Yakupov sets up Eberle (Larionov)
Jets centre Olli Jokinen makes serious improvment
PHILADELPHIA – This was more like the Olli Jokinen that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff expected to see after signing the Finnish centre to a big-ticket deal last summer.
After battling through a nine-game pointless streak, Jokinen found his form on Saturday afternoon, scoring a goal in the Winnipeg Jets 5-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Jokinen finished with six shots on goal, won 73% of his draws and was skating much better.
Following the 5-3 loss, Jokinen took little solace in discussing the shot he was able to bury with a nifty 360 degree turning wrister that snuck through the five-hole of Ilya Bryzgalov at 2:34 of the second period.
“I would rather take a win. At the same time, it’s always okay to score,” said Jokinen, who has three goals and five points in 17 games. “You try to stick with the plan and do your best every time. I’ve got to try to keep getting better.”