Thursday, March 31, 2011

Raiders Tie Series, Not An April Fool's Joke

For the Saskatoon Blades and their fans, this is no laughing matter.

They should be genuinely concerned.

The Prince Albert Raiders have climbed right back into the series with a pair of wins, including tonight's 5-2 effort.

The Blades got going early tonight, with a few solid shifts that turned into a drawn penalty. Saskatoon capitalized with Curtis Hamilton scoring to give them the lead within the first 3 minutes.

The Raiders bounced back with a pair of their own to lead 2-1 after 1.

PA kept coming in the second, adding the only goal of the frame on the powerplay.

In the third the Blades needed a big effort and got it with Brayden Schenn kicking it off just over a minute in scoring on the wraparound. But once again the Raiders had an answer in their own barn. They scored again just past the mid point of the period and then hit the empty net to ice it.

The final was 5-2.

The Raiders goals came from Igor Revenko, TJ Constant, a pair from Todd Fiddler and another single by Mark McNeill. McNeill was a monster and seems to be solidifying himself as a top 10-15 selection for the June NHL entry draft. He did it all tonight for the Raiders. A total package of a player with the size and strength to go with great vision and hands to boot.

A big blow came to the Blades in the second when defenseman Duncan Siemens tried to line up Brandon Herrod for a big hit. Herrod turtled and Siemens ran into the dasher, injuring what appeared to be his leg. He didn't return and the team wouldn't say much else. Neither will I.

This game is going to force the Blades to have to look in the mirror and get back to what earned them a pair of huge wins in games 1 and 2. Things are going to have to change.

Getting back in front of their home crowd should help somewhat, but it's going to take a big effort for them to win game 5. That game goes Saturday night at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon.

Game 6 will go in Prince Albert on Sunday.

Raiders Host Blades for Game 4

The Raiders have stolen the momentum back in the series following last night's 6-3 win in Prince Albert.

The Blades were caught somewhat flat-footed as the Raiders scored twice in the first period to open the game. The Blades did a great job to get back into it, but mistakes down the stretch cost them on the scoreboard.

You have to expect another loud crowd tonight at the Art Hauser Centre as the Raiders and their fans truly believe they are right back in this series.

Here are my keys to tonight's game:

For Prince Albert


- Continue to get good goaltending. After a bad performance in game 1, Jamie Tucker was solid last night. He needs to do that again for the Raiders to win.

- Avoid taking penalties. The Blades have had some nice chances on the powerplay and the Raiders must stay disciplined tonight.

- And they have to continue to get offense from their second line. They finally got on the board yesterday (2 goals from Revenko) and it gave them that extra bounce they needed.

For Saskatoon

- Continue what they did in the last 40 minutes last night. The Blades were definitely pleased with that stretch of the game, and if they play like they did to end the game last night they will have a good result here.

- Limit the mistakes in their own zone. A few precious turnovers really cost them down the stretch and allowed the Raiders to steal back momentum as soon as the Blades had it.

- And score the first goal. The Raiders got the first one last night and it got them rolling.


Tonight's game goes at 7:00 from Prince Albert. Once again, we will be on the air at 6:00 on 92.9 The Bull with the 1 hour pregame show.

Nugent-Hopkins is the WHL's Top Player for March

19 points in 8 games is worth some sort of reward. That's what Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Red Deer Rebels did for the month of March.

In those 8 games and 19 points, he also scored 11 goals.

The WHL's top ranked draft-eligible player finished 4th in league scoring with 106 points. He also lead the league with 75 assists.

His Rebels team currently lead the Edmonton Oil Kings 3-0 in their series in the WHL playoffs. Red Deer can advance to round 2 with a win tonight in Edmonton.


In other news, Kelowna Rockets goalie Adam Brown was named the WHL goalie of the month.

He was 6-2 in the month with a 1.61 GAA and a .944 save percentage.

Schenn Racist Remarks on Facebook?

Don't believe everything you hear.

From the Saskatoon Blades:

SASKATOON -- There are rumours surrounding Brayden Schenn's alleged Facebook status regarding First Nations people. He has no association with these comments; these remarks did not come from him. There are several users on social media sites who choose to impersonate him, including numerous users on Facebook. These are not Brayden's views.

Brayden does have a personal Facebook account; it is does not appear in searches due to extreme privacy settings and cannot be viewed by the public. Therefore, any user with the name 'Brayden Schenn' that you can find on Facebook is not him.

Brayden released the following statement, "I would like to apologize to anyone that was hurt by this persons comment. I appreciate all of my fans and am looking forward to focusing on the Blades playoff run."

The Saskatoon Blades Hockey Club has requested a police investigation.

"I just know that last night somebody had come up to our coach before the game and mentioned there was a Facebook page that was allegedly Brayden Schenn's," Blades President Jack Brodsky told CKRM radio Thursday. "Allegedly there were some racial slurs on there. I have not seen that page, and apparently it's gone now. I did a little search on Facebook today and there were about eight accounts that came up as Brayden Schenn's. In fact none of them were him. He has one that's quite private with a lot of filters on it that's only accessible to his friends. Those comments were not Brayden's. It's just a very unfortunate situation.

"We've talked to city police here and they're looking into it but these things are very difficult to trace and follow. What we'd really like to do is assure everyone that these were not Brayden's comments and Brayden doesn't have those types of feelings to First Nations people, nor anyone else. Brayden just wants to play hockey and that's what he's doing. Again it's an unfortunate. These things happen in the playoffs and there's obviously some person out there with not much integrity and it's unfortunate but we just want to focus on the game coming up here (in P.A.) tonight and do the best we can on that."

Raiders Win Big Game 3

It was a pivotal game in the Eastern Conference playoff series between the Blades and Raiders, and Prince Albert earned a massive 6-3 win.

The Raiders had the first period that they need to kick the game off, firing 22 shots on Steven Stanford.

In those 22 shots were 2 goals, by Igor Revenko and Brandon Herrod. The Raiders were an overwhelming force as soon as the puck dropped and those 2 goals ended up being key.

Saskatoon was the team that came out hot in period two, as Josh Nicholls scored 41 seconds in. Just over 3 minutes later it was Chris Collins scoring to make it a 2-2 game.

The Raiders pushed back and Jordan Rowley put them back in front 3-2 shortly after. That push back goal truly summed up the night for the Blades.

In the 3rd, the Raiders added 3 more, one via the open net. Matej Stransky scored for the Blades as the final was 6-3.

The biggest moment came late in the game when it was 4-3. Brayden Schenn skated towards a loose puck and would have had a nearly open cage. Before he got to the puck he was tripped from behind, but there was no call.

A few seconds later the Blades took a penalty and eventually the Raiders got the 5th goal to put it out of reach.

The Raiders truly did get the breaks tonight, both from the puck, and from the guys with the stripes. Seems like not much has changed from the regular season.

Also, someone has to check who the hell is keeping shot totals at the Art Hauser Centre. There is no way the Raiders had 50 shots on goal tonight. The 22 in the first period were very legit as they played great, but they surely did not have 28 the rest of the way. Both Les Lazaruk agreed on the drive home that something around 40 was likely a little more accurate.

Both goalies played well, with Jamie Tucker starting and making 37 saves for the win. Steven Stanford was the tough luck loser, stopping 44 shots in the loss. He was definitely not the reason why the Blades fell.

These two teams do it all again tomorrow night for game 4. The win by PA also assured the series will go atleast 5, with that coming Saturday night in Saskatoonn.

I will try to have a preview up for game 4 by early tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Raiders Home To Face Blades In Game 3

Tonight is the big swing game in the series.

Either the Blades will head into the 4th game with a 3-0 series lead, or the Raiders will be right back in it at 2-1. One thing is for sure heading into the game, the Raiders will have a loud crowd supporting them tonight.

And if the first two games showed anything, it's that they will need that crowd.

Prince Albert has had strong stretches in the first two games, including a very solid opening 20 minutes in game 2 in Saskatoon. But, they couldn't find the back of the net during that stretch. The Blades did, and never looked back.

The opening 10 minutes of tonight's game will be the most important of the season so far for both teams.

Here are my keys to tonight's game:

For Prince Albert

- Use their speed on the forecheck. It’s a smaller rink and that’s a good fit for the Raiders speedy forwards. Force the Blades into quick decisions defensively.

- Capitalize with the man advantage. They’ve outchanced the Blades with the man advantage opportunities, now it’s time to make some of those chances count.

- And they need to score first. They have had two strong starts to games in the series, but it means little if you give up that big first goal.

For Saskatoon

- Trade punches in those first few minutes. You know the Raiders will come out hard, and if they score first, a quick bounce back will be huge.

- Continue to block shots. They are making it pretty easy for Stanford so far by blocking shots and are being led by their captain in this area of the game.

- And be fast in after dump ins. We saw *Eric Williams turn the puck over a few times last game when handling it. Mistakes like that in a smaller rink can hurt you big time.
(*assuming Eric Williams is starting, which I would have to imagine he is)


Puck drop goes at 7:00 from the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert. We will be on the air with the pre-game show starting at 6:00 on 92.9 The Bull.

Top CHL Players to Watch In The Playoffs

I have been hired on part time to write fantasy-hockey related articles for www.fantasyhockeycoach.com. My first one was published today, so I figured I would post it here as well.

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The Canadian Hockey League playoffs kicked off last week. For fantasy hockey players, it’s a great chance to get a bit of a preview into which prospects could take that next step in the near future and become useful to us in the fantasy world. I’ve picked out 5 players from each Canadian league to keep an eye on now that the postseason is underway.

WHL

Ryan Johansen (Portland – Columbus Blue Jackets) - The big center showed it was no fluke that he was picked fourth overall last June. He put together a 92 point year and could be the Jackets long term answer down the middle.

Cody Eakin (Kootenay – Washington Capitals) - Eakin nearly made the Caps this past fall, but was sent back to junior where he put together an 83 point campaign. He could possibly use some AHL seasoning, but he is destined to be a 60+ point player soon with the Caps dynamic offense.

Ryan Howse (Chilliwack – Calgary Flames) - This sniper was second in the league in goals with 51 tallies. That type of offense is exactly what the Calgary Flames could use in their top six.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer – Undrafted) - 17-year-old is the best playmaker in the Dub with a league leading 75 apples. Look for him to be a top three pick in the June entry draft. Datsyuk-like potential.

Stefan Elliott (Saskatoon – Colorado Avalanche) - 81 points in 71 games shouldn’t go unnoticed. A short AHL stint could be in Elliott’s future before hitting and sticking with the Avalanche sometime next season.

QMJHL

Sean Couturier (Drummondville – Undrafted) - Couturier is a big bodied player with big time skill. He ended up T-fourth in Q league scoring this year and should be a top five draft pick into the NHL this season. He should also jump straight into the NHL.

Stanislav Galiev (Saint John – Washington Capitals) - The big, elusive Russian had 37 goals this season and could be a darkhorse to make the NHL next year.

Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint John – Undrafted) - He’s long and lanky and should be a top pick in this June’s NHL draft. He likely won’t jump to the NHL next year, but is a versatile and dynamic prospect for down the road.

Brandon Gormley (Moncton – Phoenix Coyotes) - Lauded as a two-way defenseman, point totals should follow Gormley once he makes his NHL debut. Will be a powerplay defenseman, which will help you if you can snag him.

Simon Despr├ęs (Saint John – Pittsburgh Penguins) - Big, tall and a great skating defenseman. Had 41 points in 47 games this year, one of the top point per game averages among Q blueliners.

OHL

Tyler Toffoli (Ottawa – Los Angeles Kings) - Toffoli proved he was a sleeper of a draft pick for the Kings as he finished T-First in OHL scoring this year, including netting 57 goals. A scorer like this is hard to ignore.

Joey Hishon (Owen Sound – Colorado Avalanche) - The sneaky dynamo led the OHL in points-per-game average this season. He could be playing in the Avalanche’ top six next year as he is already pro-eligible.

Zack Kassian (Windsor – Buffalo Sabres) - Kassian had 77 points this year, a career high. But he also will be a guy that picks up PIM’s in the future, adding that extra element of fantasy value.

Peter Holland (Guelph – Anaheim Ducks) - This big forward can fill a number of different roles and should have a very solid chance at cracking the Ducks roster next year as a 19-year-old.

Ryan Murphy (Kitchener – Undrafted) - He’s not big, but his game sure is. The most dynamic offensive defenseman the prospect world has seen in quite some time. Murphy will provide a unique and explosive role for an NHL team soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blades Up 2-0 Over Raiders

It wasn't the same dominating performance from Saturday, but the Saskatoon Blades showed tonight that they can win in a number of different ways.

The Raiders came out early in this game and looked much better than last night, carrying the play for the first ten minutes or more.

But it was the Blades who scored the only goal of the period as Brayden Schenn broke through the neutral zone and beat atleast 3 Raiders to the front of the goal and slid the puck past Eric Williams.

It was 1-0 after 1.

The Raiders scored in the 2nd period, but Saskatoon still remained in control as they matched that one tally by scoring three of their own. The Blades 2nd period goals came from Dziurzynski, Nicholls and Schenn. Shane Danyluk scored for the Raiders, his first career WHL playoff goal.

The teams traded goals in the third, Curtis Hamilton from the Blades and Antoine Corbin for Prince Albert.

The final was 5-2. The Blades now lead the series 2-0.

The game featured a pair of scraps. In the first period Curtis Hamilton was absolutely destroyed at centre ice by Harrison Ruopp. Brayden Schenn went to jump in and scrap Ruopp, but Siemens charged in and they squared off. Not much of a fight, but it was nice to see a pair of teammates come to the aid of Hamilton. He missed a few shifts, but came back a few minutes later.

Later in the game Dalton Thrower took on Austin Connor. Thrower gave up a ton of size to the 6'4 Connor, but he earned the take down after landing 2-3 solid rights to the big man's chips.

Steven Stanford was solid once again for the Blades, stopping 31 pucks. Eric Williams was decent for the Raiders, also making 31 saves in the loss.

The series now shifts to Prince Albert for games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday.

Saskatoon + Prince Albert Tangle In Game 2

If one thing is for sure following last night's game 1 romp by Saskatoon, it's that the Prince Albert Raiders are going to need to play much better if they have any hope of keeping pace with the Blades.

Saskatoon scored early and often last night on their way to an 8-1 win.

The Raiders had stretches of the game where they looked alright, and stretches where they looked totally overwhelmed.

It could be considered a baptism-by-fire for the Raiders team that was and still is lacking severely in playoff experience. The first ten minutes of the game tonight could tell the tale of how this game will finish, and maybe even how this series will finish.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Prince Albert

- Stay disciplined. They did let their emotions get the best of them a bit last night, but in order to hang with a team like Saskatoon, they will have to stay smart.

- Clog up the front of the net. The Blades got a ton of scoring chances last night from key areas, and the Raiders need to try and block a few more shots.

- And Eric Williams needs to build off his strong third period last night. He could be considered the lone bright spot for the Raiders from that game. (*it hasn't been confirmed that he is starting, but I would bet my life savings on it after how Tucker looked last night)

For Saskatoon


- Get off to another good start. They scored just over 2 minutes in last night and it really got the Raiders running around. A start like that will be very important again for Saskatoon.

- Stay physical. The Blades have to stay aggressive and make sure to hit the Raiders on every chance they get, especially the Prince Albert defenseman.

- And continue to go to the dirty areas in front of the Raider goal. They got a few garbage goals last night just by being in front of the net, that’s a great sign.


Tonight is an early start. It goes at 6:05 from CUC. The game can be heard on 92.9 The Bull, starting with the hour long pre-game show hitting the airwaves at 5:00.

Blades Crush Raiders in Game 1

It started early, and was over early.

In the end, Saskatoon won the game 8-1.

The Saskatoon Blades led game one last night against the Raiders 3-0 after the first period and never looked back. Matej Stransky got Saskatoon on the board within the first three minutes with his first career WHL playoff goal in his first career WHL playoff game.

Brayden Schenn and Dalton Thrower had the other goals in the first.

Saskatoon continued to put the pedal to the metal in the 2nd period. Todd Fiddler scored for PA at 3:33, and that gave Saskatoon that extra push they need to put the game back out of reach. Stefan Elliott answered less than 2 minutes later to extend the lead to 4-1. Then Saskatoon really laid it on. Darren Dietz, Josh Nicholls and Brent Benson added 3 more goals as the Blades led 7-1 after 40 minutes of play.

That 7th goal also chased Raiders goalie Jamie Tucker. I figured we would see 17 year old Eric Williams in goal for PA eventually, but I didn't think it would be this soon. And a credit to Williams, he looked very good and was pretty much the only bright spot for the Raiders.

Dalton Thrower scored his 2nd goal of the game in the third period to totally ice things, an 8-1 final.

Matej Stransky had 1 goal and 3 assists and was the first star of the game.

Lost in the shuffle was Steven Stanford. The Blades goalie was very solid, making 33 saves to earn the W. And to think that Regina Pats head coach Curtis Hunt said that "the goaltending between Stanford and Tucker was a draw in this series". Yeah, right Curtis.

Over 8,000 fans attended the game and that was great to see. I was between the benches and boy oh boy was it loud down there. It was fun and I look forward to doing it again.

I will get the chance tonight as the rematch goes at CUC. An early puck drop tonight, at 6:05. We will go on the air at 5:00 with the hour long pre-game show.

I will try to post a preview later this morning or early this afternoon, we'll see if I have time. It's been a long 24 hours for myself, and it's only going to get longer in the next few weeks. Atleast I hope so, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Blades Vs. Raiders Game 1 Preview

Fans in Prince Albert and Saskatoon have had to wait almost longer than anyone else for this matchup. This is the last series to get underway in the WHL's Eastern Conference playoffs.

The teams should be ready and we will have to see how the long wait between games affects them. The teams haven't played since last Saturday as they both ended the regular season that night.

I don't expect too long of a feeling out period as the teams are more than familiar with each other, having met 8 times during the regular season. The Blades were the big time winners in those matchups going 7-1. But, as I mentioned earlier on this blog in the series preview, the games were closer than that 7-1 mark shows. The Raiders had some stretches of very good hockey at some points, just not consistently enough. They were especially good in their own barn, even though the Blades won 3 out of 4 at the Art Hauser Centre.

A big crowd should be on hand tonight for the series kickoff, including a solid contingent from Prince Albert.

Here are my keys to game 1:

For Prince Albert:

- Get off to a solid start. They can’t be overwhelmed here early in tonight’s game and need to have something positive go there way within their first few minutes.

- Be aggressive on the forecheck. The Raiders have found success this year against the Blades when they are in fast on the Blades defenseman. They need to hit everything below the goal line and try to force pucks loose.

- And Tucker or Williams needs to be very good in goal. I imagine Tucker gets the start as the veteran. This team has had stretches of solid goaltending this year and stretches when it hasn’t been so good. They need consistency in this series.

For Saskatoon:

- Use the crowd. The people have turned up at CUC down the stretch and they want something to cheer about early in this game to make it extra tough on the Raiders.

- Stay disciplined. The Raiders had a very respectable road powerplay this year at 11th best in the league and Saskatoon can’t make extra work for themselves by taking bad penalties.

- And Schenn and Hamilton need to be the go-to guys in this series. These two players have played on the world stage for Team Canada and know how to handle big pressure. They can show that off starting tonight.


Game time goes at 7:05 from CUC. If you can't make it to the rink, check out the broadcast on 92.9 The Bull. We will have an extra long pregame show now that the playoffs start. It goes an hour before the puckdrop. Once the game starts, I will be between the benches TSN-style doing my best Pierre McGuire impersonation. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Saskatoon (1) vs. Prince Albert (8) Series Preview

This is the last series of the Eastern Conference to get underway. It’s almost fitting with how the last half of the season has gone for the Blades. They’ve known for quite some time they were going to be playing in the postseason eventually, they might as well wait another day compared to everyone else.

This is also my last preview of the Eastern Conference as tonight is the debut of the playoffs.

So here it is:

Saskatoon Blades (1) vs. Prince Albert Raiders (8)

The Blades didn’t have any trouble with the Prince Albert Raiders this season. They won the season series 7-1. Some of the games were closer than the scores showed, and the season series was definitely closer than the 7-1 mark shows. To me, that signifies that the biggest edge the Raiders will have is the mental one. If the Blades have any ounce of cockiness in their game, the Raiders have to be able to get into that void and exploit it. Will that happen? I doubt it. Could it happen? Raider fans better hope so.

Up Front

The Blades are led by a cast of characters, none of which can really be matched by the Raiders. They have two of the best lines in junior hockey with Hamilton-Schenn-Trask? and Dziurzynski-Viedensky-Nicholls. *The question mark is beside Trask, because he could possibly be slowed by an upper body injury, but we’ll see if he plays tomorrow night. They can also get some punch from the third line, with the fourth line showing that they are more than capable of carrying their weight this year. Saskatoon tied for first in the WHL this year with 310 goals for. Spokane was the only team to match them. That number also dwarfs what the Raiders have been able to muster this year.

The Raiders are led by California-native Jonathan Parker. He had 45 goals and 86 points. Super-sophomore Mark McNeill had 81 points as well. The Raiders actually had 6 20-or-more-goal scorers. But that’s just it, offense hasn’t been this team’s problem. They had 247 goals, 7th best in the conference. Those type of numbers are passable and I’m sure there will be a game or two in this series where they score 4-5 goals in a game. They have that ability, but in order for them to pull off the upset here, they are going to get some further depth scoring. A guy like Charlie Wells or Brandon Herrod has to elevate their game. Their offense shows that they have a few solid candidates for that role. But will that be enough to overcome a hit or miss blueline and some often-questionable goaltending? We will have to wait and see.

The Blades depth is too much for the Raiders to handle here. They are an elite goal scoring team and win this category.

The Blueline

Saskatoon features nice depth on the blueline. They have a veteran top pairing that features a 20 year old Zahn and the eventual top defenseman in the league in Stefan Elliott. They have a 2nd team Eastern All-Star on their 2nd pairing in Duncan Siemens. They just have a very balanced group. If they keep it simple, they will be in great shape. This team’s blueline shows it’s weakness when they over handle the puck and don’t react fast enough. They can be exposed by a strong forecheck on occasion. Saskatoon allowed 213 goals this year , 3rd fewest in the conference.

Prince Albert have a well rounded blueline. I like the size and toughness of their group. Antoine Corbin has one of the hardest shots in the WHL. Rowley is an ok two way defenseman. Bettauer and Yaworski provide more size and depth. But this group is going to have to have some of the best games of their lives in order to handle the Blades offensive group. They allowed 283 goals, the highest number of any team in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Saskatoon features the best offensive defenseman in the series and the best defensive defenseman in the series. That should show you how I feel about this part of the series. Saskatoon simply has a much better blueline core than the Raiders do.

Between The Pipes

The Saskatoon Blades are one of the deepest teams in the Canadian Hockey League, and that fact is emphasized by their goaltending. Steven Stanford won an amazing 40 games this year, 2nd most in the WHL. He also only lost 5 games, that’s the more impressive thing. Adam Morrison has proven to be a capable backup goalie as a veteran 19 year old. His numbers aren’t quite as good as Stanford’s, but the guy has been around the block and will be ready if he’s needed.

The Raiders goaltending got off to a horrendously slow start this year, but it was an area they improved at as the year moved along. Their veteran goalie Jamie Tucker was up and down as the year wore on and actually battled injury down the stretch. But, he’s back and will be counted on to be the man for the Raiders. Eric Williams did a good job spelling Tucker and in my opinion, is definitely the better goalie. But, the 17 year old will likely start this series on the bench, which I can’t really question.

Here’s the teams 4 goalies’ numbers:

Steven Stanford was 40-5 with a 2.78 GAA and a .910 save %. He had 3 shutouts.
Adam Morrison was 16-7-1-2 with a 2.89 GAA and a .901 save %. He had 2 shutouts.

Jamie Tucker was 14-19-1-2 with a 3.87 GAA and an .889 save %. He had 0 shutouts.
Eric Williams was 17-17-1-1 with a 3.71 GAA and an .898 save %. He had 1 shutout.

I give the nod to the Blades in this area of the series but any goalie in this series can steal a game or two.

Special Teams

The Blades finished 8th on the powerplay at 21.4%.
The Blades finished 6th on the penalty kill at 82.4%.

The Raiders finished 14th on the powerplay at 18.8%.
The Raiders finished 14th on the penalty kill at 79%.

The Sked

Game 1 - Sat Mar 26 7:05 PM Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 2 - Sun Mar 27 6:05 PM Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 3 - Wed Mar 30 7:00 PM Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 4 - Thurs Mar 31 7:00 PM Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 5 - Sat Apr 2 7:05 PM * Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 6 - Sun Apr 3 7:00 PM * Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 7 - Tues Apr 5 7:05 PM * Prince Albert at Saskatoon

*if necessary

The Guessing

Both teams come into the playoffs playing pretty good hockey. The Blades have won 9 of their last 10 games. Some of those games weren’t exactly dominating wins like some might have expected, but they were wins none the less. I also think the team did a pretty good job improving some of their defensive miscues. They cleaned up their defensive zone coverage and looked a lot more like a group.

The Raiders won 3 games in a row to head into the postseason. That type of momentum could be lost with a week long break, but it has to be a nice feeling for that squad to know that they were playing good hockey in the last meaningful games they played.

Many people out there have the Blades winning this one easily, in either 4 or 5 games. I don’t blame those people and can’t really stray too much from that after looking deeper at this series. The Blades are simply the better team in every aspect. They have depth in all areas. I think the Raiders get one win in this series, likely on their home ice in either game 3 or 4. If they want to win more than that, they are going to have to get either some freak goaltending performances or some explosively quick offensive starts to a couple of the games. I don’t see that happening enough for the Raiders to pull this one out.

Blades in 5.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

WHL Eastern Award Nominees and All-Stars announced.

The WHL's Eastern Conference All Stars and Award Nominees have been announced today following yesterday's Western announcement.

The All Stars are as follows:

FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon, SK), Red Deer Rebels*
Defenceman – Stefan Elliott (North Vancouver, BC), Saskatoon Blades*
Defenceman – Brayden McNabb (Davidson, SK), Kootenay Ice*
Forward – Linden Vey (Wakaw, SK), Medicine Hat Tigers*
Forward – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Burnaby, BC), Red Deer Rebels
Forward – Mark Stone (Winnipeg, MB), Brandon Wheat Kings

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – Tyler Bunz (St. Albert, AB), Medicine Hat Tigers
Defenceman – Alex Petrovic (Edmonton, AB), Red Deer Rebels
Defenceman – Duncan Siemens (Sherwood Park, AB), Saskatoon Blades
Forward – Cody Eakin (Winnipeg, MB), Swift Current Broncos
Forward – Brayden Schenn (Saskatoon, SK), Saskatoon Blades
Forward – Quinton Howden (Oak Bank, MB), Moose Jaw Warriors

Some of the major award nominees have also been announced. They are as follows:

WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Matt Dumba (Calgary, AB), Red Deer Rebels

WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Eastern Conference – Darcy Kuemper (Saskatoon, SK), Red Deer Rebels

WHL Defenceman of the Year, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Stefan Elliott (North Vancouver, BC), Saskatoon Blades

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Eastern Conference – Stefan Elliott (North Vancouver, BC), Saskatoon Blades

WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Adam Lowry (Calgary, AB), Swift Current Broncos

WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Jesse Wallin, Red Deer Rebels

WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Lorne Molleken, Saskatoon Blades

WHL Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
Eastern Conference – Spencer Edwards (Coquitlam, BC), Moose Jaw Warriors

WHL Marketing / Public Relations Award
Eastern Conference – Calgary Hitmen, Mike Moore


The player of the year nominees get announced on the 21st of April. All the award winners will be announced at a banquet in Calgary on May 4th.

Red Deer (2) vs. Edmonton (7) Series Preview

Don’t expect this to be the next coming of the NHL’s Battle of Alberta, even if the WHL would love to see that happen. These teams might not currently have a huge rivalry, but that shouldn’t stop it from being a very entertaining series.

So here it is:

Red Deer Rebels (2) vs. Edmonton Oil Kings (7)

Along with the Portland Winterhawks, the Red Deer Rebels were one team that constantly pushed the Saskatoon Blades all season in a battle to be named the league’s top team. They feature a dynamic offense, a solid defense, good role players and possibly the league’s top goalie. Edmonton will have their hands full.

Up Front

The Rebels are led by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The 17 year old is the WHL’s top ranked player for the approaching NHL entry draft. RNH was T-3rd in the WHL with 106 points and led the league with 75 assists in 69 games. But, the Rebels also feature 4 other players who had more than 60 points and have balance all throughout the lineup. They scored 268 goals, 4th best in the Eastern Conference.

The Oil Kings can score goals as well. They are led by two dynamic youngsters in Dylan Wruck and St. Croix. They had 78 and 75 points respectively with Wruck scoring 38 goals. I like TJ Foster and players like Jordan Hickmott, but it’s clear they don’t have the calibre of scorers that the Rebels do. If they are going to have any chance of beating Red Deer, they are going to be aggressive and go to the net hard, something that has been a knock on them all season. They are small up front, but they can’t play small. They scored 249 goals, good for 6th in the East.

The bottom line is that the Rebels are vastly superior in this area of the game, and the first round series should show it.

The Blueline

Red Deer features a very deep, solid and dynamic blueline. That group is led by Panthers draft pick Alex Petrovic. This kid is underrated as an NHL prospect. He is great both ways, shutting players down and providing offense. He had 57 points this year and has a booming shot on the powerplay. Other guys to watch are Colin Archer and 16 year old Matt Dumba. Dumba won’t be counted on for HUGE minutes, but he has to play smart out there. He has a tendency to run around, but he has to be reigned in a bit in this series against the small and quick Oil Kings.

Edmonton is led by Captain Mark Pysyk. The slick two way defender is a Sabres draft pick, in the 1st round. He was 5th on their team in scoring with 40 points this year. The Oil Kings also get a huge boost with 16 year old monster Griffin Reinhart returning from a wrist injury. He healed quickly and was able to play at the end of the regular season. They will need him to be big. Other players to be counted on included Keegan Lowe and veteran Adrian Van de Mosselaer, who will be counted on to play as a shutdown defender.

This area is pretty even. I like that Red Deer has the best “typical WHL defender” in Petrovic, but the all-round talent of the Oil Kings blueline is very intriguing. I give this category to Red Deer by a hair.

Between The Pipes

Darcy Kuemper of the Rebels is arguably the WHL’s MVP. That obviously means that he is likely the top goalie. The numbers show it. He led the league in wins, shutouts, GAA and save percentage. The Oil Kings got ok goaltending this year from Jon Groenheyde and Laurent Brossoit, but I’m not convinced that either of these guys will be good enough to steal a series, which they will NEED to be.

Kuemper was 45-12-3-2 with a 1.86GAA and a .933 save %. He had 13 shutouts.

Groenheyde was 15-19-2-3 with a 3.19GAA and an .893 save %. He had 0 shutouts.
Brossoit was 13-12-0-2 with a 3.32GAA and an .887 save %. He had 2 shutouts.

Red Deer holds an advantage here, and it’s not really close.

Special Teams

The Rebels finished 5th on the powerplay at 22.2%.
The Rebels finished 2nd on the penalty kill at 85.5%.

The Oil Kings finished 19th on the powerplay at 15.9%.
The Oil Kings finished T-11th on the penalty kill at 79.3%.

The Sked

Game 1 - Fri Mar 25 7:30 PM Edmonton at Red Deer
Game 2 - Sat Mar 26 7:30 PM Edmonton at Red Deer
Game 3 - Mon Mar 28 7:00 PM Red Deer at Edmonton
Game 4 - Thurs Mar 31 7:00 PM Red Deer at Edmonton
Game 5 - Sat Apr 2 7:30 PM * Edmonton at Red Deer
Game 6 - Mon Apr 4 7:00 PM * Red Deer at Edmonton
Game 7 - Wed Apr 6 7:00 PM * Edmonton at Red Deer

*if necessary

The Guessing

This series is not as balanced as the first two that I handicapped, that much is obvious. And I think that the results will show that on the ice. Not only are the Rebels the vastly superior team, but they come into the playoffs playing great hockey. They are on a 6-0-1-0 streak and have 7 wins in their last 10 games overall. Edmonton comes in on a 2 game slide with only 4 wins in their last 10. I like the offensive punch of the Oil Kings and I like their blueline (more so for the future than right now) but even those two aspects don’t stack up to Red Deer.

I say Rebels in 5 games. But, I also think this series is the best candidate of all the Eastern Conference battles to be a sweep.

Coming up later today, the WHL announces it's Eastern Conference all-stars and award nominees.

Also, tomorrow will be my final WHL preview as I will look at the Saskatoon Blades and the Prince Albert Raiders.

Blades End Regular Season as CHL's 2nd Ranked Team

Not much change in the CHL rankings this past week.

The Saskatoon Blades finished up number 2 in the rankings with a 56-13-1-2 record. Once again they trailed the Saint John Sea Dogs, who lost 7 regulation games all year. None of those regulation losses came on home ice. Truly amazing.

The Red Deer Rebels stayed steady at 5th in the CHL. Portland was 7th. Both the Spokane Chiefs and Medicine Hat Tigers were honourable mentions.

In other WHL news, Tigers goalie Deven Dubyk was named as the CHL's goalie of the week. He went 2-0 with 2 shutouts.

Stayed tuned as I will have my next Eastern Conference playoff preview up shortly. It features the Red Deer Rebels against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

WHL Western Award Nominees and Bantam Draft Results

The WHL's Western Conference All Stars and Award Nominees have been announced today, along with the Bantam Draft lottery results.

The All Stars are as follows:

FIRST ALL-STAR TEAM
Goaltender – James Reid (Calgary, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Tyson Barrie (Victoria, BC), Kelowna Rockets
Defenceman – Jared Cowen (Allan, SK), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Brendan Gallagher (Delta, BC), Vancouver Giants
Forward – Tyler Johnson (Spokane, WA), Spokane Chiefs
Forward – Ryan Johansen (Port Moody, BC), Portland Winterhawks

SECOND ALL-STAR TEAM

Goaltender – Calvin Pickard (Winnipeg, MB), Seattle Thunderbirds
Defenceman – Brenden Kichton (Spruce Grove, AB), Spokane Chiefs
Defenceman – Ryan Murray (White City, SK), Everett Silvertips
Forward – Brendan Shinnimin (Winnipeg, MB), Tri-City Americans
Forward – Brendan Ranford (Edmonton, AB), Kamloops Blazers
Forward – Ryan Howse (Prince George, BC), Chilliwack Bruins

Some of the major award nominees have also been announced. They are as follows:

WHL Rookie of the Year, Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Sven Bartschi (Langenthal, SUI), Portland Winterhawks

WHL Goaltender of the Year, Del Wilson Trophy
Western Conference – James Reid (Calgary, AB), Spokane Chiefs

WHL Defenceman of the Year
, Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Tyson Barrie (Victoria, BC), Kelowna Rockets

WHL Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year, Brad Hornung Trophy
Western Conference – Tyler Johnson (Spokane, WA), Spokane Chiefs

WHL Scholastic Player of the Year, Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Colin Smith (Edmonton, AB), Kamloops Blazers

WHL Coach of the Year, Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Don Nachbaur, Spokane Chiefs

WHL Executive of the Year, Lloyd Saunders Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Mike Johnston, Portland Winterhawks

WHL Humanitarian of the Year, Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy
Western Conference – Jeff Einhorn (Red Deer, AB), Chilliwack Bruins



The player of the year nominees get announced on the 21st of April. All the award winners will be announced at a banquet in Calgary on May 4th.

The Eastern Conference All Stars and award nominees will be announced tomorrow.


Also this morning, the results from the bantam draft lottery were unveiled live on WHL.ca.

The Kamloops Blazers won the draw, and moved up 2 spots because of that. The order will be:

1. Calgary

2. Swift Current

3. Lethbridge (Via Regina)

4. Kamloops

5. Lethbridge

6. Seattle

7. Everett Silvertips

8. Prince Albert Raiders

9. Edmonton Oil Kings

10. Prince George Cougars

11. Brandon Wheat Kings

12. Chilliwack Bruins

13. Swift Current Broncos (Via Kootenay/Vancouver)

14. Moose Jaw Warriors

15. Kelowna Rockets

16. Regina Pats (Via Tri-City)

17. Kootenay Ice

18. Medicine Hat Tigers

19. Spokane Chiefs

20. Vancouver Giants (Via Portland)

21. Red Deer Rebels

22. Brandon Wheat Kings (Via Saskatoon)


The order of the second round and other rounds will be the inverse order of final WHL regular-season standings.

Medicine Hat (3) vs. Brandon (6) Series Preview

Here is day 2 of my Eastern Conference playoff previews. I said the Warriors-Ice series should be close, well this one absolutely will be too.

Here it is:

Medicine Hat Tigers (3) vs. Brandon Wheat Kings (6)

This should be another interesting battle in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. The Tigers have stayed strong down the stretch to retain the number 3 seed. They also come into the playoffs with 8 wins in their last 10 games. The Wheaties are no slouch either. They are a team that was in the middle of mediocrity in the first 1/3 of the year. After a few smart trades and some solid contributions from veterans, they salvaged their season and come into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the country, not only the WHL.

Up Front

The Tigers are led by WHL player of the year candidate Linden Vey. The Wakaw, Saskatchewan product led the league in scoring with 116 points, including 46 goals. But, he’s not their only weapon. First round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, Emerson Etem, had 45 goals this year. He provides unparalleled speed and jump, as well as a threat to score shorthanded. He had 9 during the regular year. They scored 265 goals, good for 5th in the East.

The Wheat Kings might have the deepest, veteran group of forwards in the entire conference. Sens prospect Mark Stone had a breakout year with 106 points. Scott Glennie was solid with 91 points. Matt McKay was lights out after a trade brought him in from Vancouver. He had 52 points in 31 games with Brandon. They had 281 goals this year, 2nd only to Saskatoon in the East.

Like I said, the Wheat Kings are as deep as they come up front. They are a team that has been together for several years and have experience going on deep playoff runs. I like Brandon’s group more, so I give them the edge here.


The Blueline


Medicine Hat is led by a virtually nameless group on the blueline. But that doesn’t stop them from holding the opposition to low offensive totals. The two top players for the Tigers are Jace Coyle, who had 28 points in 48 games, and Thomas Carr had 41 points in 71 games.

Brandon might have the youngest blueline of any team in the playoffs. They played several games this year with only one 18 year old and the rest being 17 or younger. Those young legs are going to be tested by the speed of the Tigers attack. Brodie Melnychuk is going to have to eat a ton of minutes. 16 year old Ryan Pulock also quarterbacks their first PP unit, so he needs to have a great series for them to win.

I think the age factor will definitely hurt the Wheaties here. Medicine Hat might not have the biggest names, but they did only surrender 196 goals this year. Only the Rebels were better in the Eastern Conference. Yes, that has a lot to do with goaltending, but it does say something about their defenders. Medicine Hat wins this category.

Between The Pipes

This is one area where Brandon is going to truly need to get some great performances. They have relied on two 17 year old goalies, and both of them have been up, down and all over the place this year. Tyler Bunz has been very good for the Tigers this year after being a bit of a sleeper draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers last June.

Tyler Bunz was 35-13-4-4 with a 2.47 GAA and a .919 save %. He had 3 shutouts.

Liam Liston was 20-16-0-1 with a 3.77 GAA and an .880 save %. He had 1 shutout.
Corbin Boes was 10-12-1-6 with a 3.44 GAA and an .888 save %. He had 1 shutout.


I would imagine that Liston gets the ball to start the series, but I’ve seen both players have stellar games this year and Kelly McCrimmon won’t hesitate to throw Saskatoon-native Corbin Boes in between the pipes. Either way, I like the Tigers in this area of the series.


Special Teams


The Tigers finished T-9th on the powerplay at 21.2%.
The Tigers finished 7th on the penalty kill at 81.9%.

The Wheat Kings finished 3rd on the powerplay at 23.3%.
The Wheat Kings finished 21st on the penalty kill at 74.9%.

The Sked

Game 1 - Fri Mar 25 7:30 PM Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 2 - Sat Mar 26 7:30 PM Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 3 - Mon Mar 28 7:30 PM Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 4 - Thurs Mar 31 7:30 PM Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 5 - Sat Apr 2 7:30 PM * Brandon @ Medicine Hat
Game 6 - Mon Apr 4 7:30 PM * Medicine Hat @ Brandon (Winnipeg)
Game 7 - Wed Apr 6 7:00 PM * Brandon @ Medicine Hat

*if necessary

The Guessing


I’m finding it really hard to bet against the Wheat Kings here. Like I said, they absolutely tore up February and March to get into the postseason. They have a scary dangerous group up front. But with that being said, their young blueline and combo of 17 year old goalies will hold them when it’s truly crunch time. Tyler Bunz is just exponentially better than either Boes or Liston. I take the Tigers in 7 games.


Up next, I will preview the Red Deer Rebels and the Edmonton Oil Kings tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Warriors Forward Lyon Will Miss Start Of Playoffs

The Moose Jaw Warriors will be without forward Brett Lyon as they start their first round series against the Kootenay Ice.

Lyon has been handed a 4 game suspension for his high hit on Saskatoon Blades forward Jake Trask.

Trask sat out the rest of the Blades season following the hit on March 16th. Lyon was also suspended idefinitely and missed the last 2 games of the regular season for the Warriors.

The league announced that the suspension is now set at 4 games, forcing Lyon out for 2 more.

Moose Jaw opens the playoffs on the road as they meet up with the Kootenay Ice starting on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Trask is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday's series opener against the Prince Albert Raiders.

He had a career high 30 goals for the Blades this year.

Kootenay (4) vs. Moose Jaw (5) Series Preview

I figured with so many days off before the postseason starts, I would prepare some series preview's for the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

In the week’s first entry, I will look at the 4th ranked Kootenay Ice against the 5th ranked Moose Jaw Warriors. For each matchup I will compare the teams’ offense, defense, special teams, goaltending, post there schedule and dabble into the game of predictions.

So here it is.

====================================

Kootenay Ice (4) vs. Moose Jaw Warriors (5)


I think this might be the most balanced matchup of any of the Eastern Conference’s 4 playoff series. So I guess it’s fitting that these two teams are ranked so closely as the playoffs get underway at 4th and 5th.

Up Front

The Ice are led by former Bronco Cody Eakin, who led the team with 83 points this year as he split time between both teams. But, he is far from their only option. Max Reinhart and Kevin King each had 34 and 33 goals respectively, and both of those players had over 75 points. Their balanced attack led to 272 goals in the regular season, 3rd most in the entire conference.

The Warriors are led by the big, fast and physical Quinton Howden. The Panthers draft pick had 40 goals in 60 games this year. Dylan Hood has also been a guy that has flown under the radar as he had 83 points, which led the team. They scored 245 goals in the regular season, 8th out of 12 teams in the conference.

Looking at the numbers and the players involved, Kootenay definitely has more skill and pure offense up front. The Warriors do have a ton of speed a size up front, so it’s pretty hard to pick which team could come out on top offensively as I think the Warriors team size fits the postseason style of play a little better.

The Blueline


Kootenay’s big anchor is Brayden McNabb. The 6’4 Sabres draft pick plays great defense and also had an astonishing 72 points this year. Joey Leach is also an underrated player on the blueline for the Ice, and they will need him to provide some major depth in their top 4. They got 51 goals from blueliners this year, something not many (if any) teams can say.

Moose Jaw’s defense is big, tough and physical. They may not have anyone as good as McNabb, but I like their group 1 through 6 better than Kootenay. Dylan McIlrath is their big anchor, and was the 10th overall pick of the Rangers last year. He can shut a line down all by himself on some nights. He will likely be up against Eakin in every game. Other players to watch on the blueline are 16 year old Morgan Rielly and 11 goal man Collin Bowman.

It’s close, but I give the edge to the Warriors on the back end.

Between The Pipes

This should be another interesting battle. The 6’5 Nathan Lieuwen of Kootenay takes on 20 year old former-Ice goalie Thomas Heemskerk. Both guys could be considered their respective teams MVP’s this year.

Lieuwen was 33-16-1-3 with a 2.79 GAA and a .903 save %. He had 3 shutouts.

Heemskerk was 36-21-2-4 with a 2.94 GAA and a ..908 save %. He had 2 shutouts.

Talk about similar numbers.

Special Teams

The Ice finished T-6th on the powerplay at 21.8%.
The Ice finished 11th on the penalty kill at 79.3%.

The Warriors finished 16th on the powerplay at 17.7%.
The Warriors finished 9th on the penalty kill at 81.7%.

The Sked

Game 1 - Fri Mar 25 7:00 PM Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 2 - Sat Mar 26 7:00 PM Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 3 - Tues Mar 29 7:00 PM Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 4 - Wed Mar 30 7:00 PM Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 5 - Fri Apr 1 7:00 PM * Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 6 - Sun Apr 3 7:00 PM * Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 7 - Tues Apr 5 7:00 PM * Moose Jaw @ Kootenay

*if necessary

The Guessing

As I have alluded to, this might be the toughest series to handicap in the Eastern Conference. Both teams enter the playoffs with the EXACT same record in their last 10 at 6-3-0-1. But, the Ice are unbeaten in regulation in their last 7, so I might give them a slight edge there.

Like I said above, I like the Ice’ offense, the Warriors defense, the special teams are pretty even. That leaves goaltending and home ice as the big factors for me.

I say the Kootenay Ice win this series in 7 hard fought games. With that being said, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Moose Jaw can find a way to pull this one out.

Up next, I will preview the Medicine Hat Tigers against the Brandon Wheat Kings tomorrow.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stefan Elliott Signs With Colorado Avalanche

The Saskatoon Blades top defenseman has taken the next step on the way to a pro career.

He has signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Elliott was a 2nd round pick (49th overall) by the Avalanche in the 2009 NHL draft. This season he was tied for the WHL lead in scoring by a defender with 81 points. That included 31 goals, 8 more than any other blueliner. He also led the entire league in game winning goals and in plus/minus.

Raiders Forward McNeill WHL POTW

One of the WHL's top 2011 NHL draft prospects has ended the regular season on a solid note as the playoffs approach.

Mark McNeill is this week's player of the week in the Western League.

The Edmonton native had 7 points in 3 games as the Raiders went 3-0-0-0 to finish the regular season. He had 2 goals and 5 assists and was a +4.

The big forward ended the year with 81 points in total, good enough for 24th overall in the league. That included 32 goals.

Expect him to go in the top 15-20 in this summer's 2011 NHL draft.

The Raiders take on the Saskatoon Blades in round 1 of the WHL playoffs starting on Saturday night in Saskatoon.

The WHL also announced that Devan Dubyk has been nominated as the WHL's entry as the CHL's goalie of the week. The Medicine Hat Tigers goalie was 2-0 with 2 shutouts over Calgary to close out the season.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Saskatoon Blades 2010/2011 Official Award Winners

Following last night's win over the Pats, the team announced this season's award winners.

The presentation started with the awarding of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy, given to the league's top regular season team...which the Blades were.

After that, the Awards went like this:

Top Scorer – Marek Viedensky (88 points)

Plus/Minus Award – Stefan Elliott (+62)

Jackie McLeod Ambassador Award – Steven Stanford

Community Minded Award – Darian Dziurzynski

Most Valuable Player - Marek Viedensky

Most Gentlemanly Player – Stefan Elliott (14 PIMs)

Top Scholastic Player
– Brent Benson

Inland Steel Three Star Award

1. Marek Viedensky

2. Stefan Elliott

3. Steven Stanford

Rookie of the Year
– Darren Dietz

Defenceman of the Year – Stefan Elliott

Brian Skrudland Trophy as Best Defensive Forward – Curtis Hamilton

Hardest Hitter – Darian Dziurzynski



As I predicted on Thursday, it was a big night for Marek Viedensky as he took home some major hardware. And it was nice to see Curtis Hamilton get a major award (something I suggested COULD happen). He was a huge part of this team's success, especially before Christmas.

The highlight of the entire event was likely the wipeout and swearing by Marek Viedensky. As he approached the red carpet to accept one of his awards, he fell flat on his ass. In his speech following that, he accidentally dropped an F-bomb when talking about the performance of goalie Steven Stanford on the night.

I don't know which thing was funnier. Either way, it was a good event and good to see some of the guys get honoured for a great (regular) season.

Now it's time for the real games.

Saskatoon Ends Season On A High Note

It was the final game of the regular season last night for the Saskatoon Blades, and it ended up being one of their more complete efforts of the last couple of weeks.

They dumped the Regina Pats 4-2, in front of over 8,000 fans at the Credit Union Centre.

Josh Nicholls got the Blades on the board early with a backhand at 3:01 of the 1st. Just over 10 minutes later, the Pats answered with Jordan Weal scoring his 43rd of the season. It was 1-1 after 1.

The Blades were the only team to score in the 2nd as Marek Viedensky tipped in a Brayden Schenn point shot on the PP to give Saskatoon a 2-1 lead through 40.

The third period started with a bang as Curtis Hamilton and Darian Dziurzynski both scored shorthanded, 41 seconds apart in the first 1:10. That would be the boost the Blades needed.

Lane Scheidl, a Saskatoon product, would score 44 seconds later for the Pats to make it 4-2, but that was as close as it would be.

Steven Stanford made 26 saves for his 40th win of the year.

It was Saskatoon's 32nd win on home ice this season, setting a franchise record. The Blades ended the regular season with a 56-13-1-2 mark, the most wins and points in franchise history.

With a 2 point night, Marek Viedensky lead the team in scoring with 88 points, one more than linemate Josh Nicholls.

The Pats failed to make the playoffs for the 3rd straight year. Saskatoon will begin their postseason next Saturday as they host the PA Raiders.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saskatoon Blades Meet Pats In Regular Season Finale

It's the final game of the year for the Regina Pats, but the Saskatoon Blades are hoping they still have a ton of hockey left in the tank.

The two teams finish off a home and home tonight in Saskatoon. Last night it was the Blades coming forward with a 15 minute effort and beating Regina 3-2 in overtime.

The Blades are going to need to bring a better effort here tonight for a few different reasons.

First of all, they want to enter the playoffs on a high note.

Second of all, they don't want to be embarrassed on their home ice in front of another (expectedly) large crowd.

It must be a tough feeling for a 20 year old on the Pats side of things, knowing this is going to be the last time they play in the WHL. I can't imagine what that must be like. It's like a forced retirement, as long as the player isn't moving on to bigger and brighter things in the hockey world, which most don't.

Anyway, enough about that. Here are my keys to the game:

For Regina

- Play physical. It’s their last game of the year, you might as well run into as many people as possible and try to force some puck's loose.

- Get depth offense. Jordan Weal had both goals last night for them. They need someone else to find the back of the net.

- And end the year on a high note. That comes with playing a smart road game, and sticking to their game plan and playing disciplined hockey, something that got away from them last night down the stretch.

For Saskatoon

- Go into the playoffs in the right way. That comes with a complete effort here tonight. They haven’t had a ton to play for here the last few weeks. They can’t coast in this game.

- Get more contribution from the new players. The Blades will once again be missing 3 players with injury (Cox, Trask, Olsen). Those fill-ins will log big minutes and need to show that they can help this team.

- And use the crowd. A big one is expected again tonight. Give them something to cheer about, especially early.


Following tonight's game the Saskatoon Blades Awards will be handed out, including the Scotty Munro Trophy for the WHL's top regular season record. I recommend all fans stick around and watch that. And, if you are listening to it at home on 92.9 The Bull, we will also have the awards post-game.

The puck drop goes at 7:05 from CUC. You can catch the pregame show on the radio at 6:30.

Saskatoon Blades Earn OT Win in Regina

Saskatoon showed up for roughly 15 minutes of this one, and it still turned out to be enough.

The game was scoreless through 40 minutes and Regina was the first to get on the board.

Jordan Weal got his 41st and 42nd goals of the year at 4:52 and 8:31 of the third to put the Pats out in front. The shots to that point were 30-15 for the home side.

But, that's when the Blades woke up.

Brett Stovin got a goal on the powerplay at 12:42 to cut the lead in half. Josh Nicholls scored almost exactly 5 minutes later, also on the powerplay, to tie things up. For Nicholls, it was his 33rd goal of the year and 86th point. With Viedensky held pointless for the game, those two head into the final game of the year tied for the team lead!

Back to the game.

No one scored in the final 2+ minutes and the game headed to overtime where Saskatoon-product Brayden Schenn ended it with a shot high glove side on Damien Ketlo at 3:55.

The final was 3-2.

Both goaltenders were very good in the game with Adam Morrison earning the win with 34 saves. Ketlo made 31 saves in the loss.

These two teams meet up again tonight in Saskatoon as they close out the regular season. The game goes at 7:05 from CUC. That game will be followed by the team award presentation that goes on the ice, directly following the game. Make sure you stay in your seats to see who takes home the big hardware!

========

Elsewhere in the WHL last night, the Prince Albert Raiders doubled up Swift Current 6-3. With those two points, PA clinched a playoff birth and a first round matchup with the Blades. Here is the schedule for that round 1 series:

Game 1 - Sat Mar 26 7:05 PM Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 2 - Sun Mar 27 6:05 PM Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 3 - Wed Mar 30 7:00 PM Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 4 - Thurs Mar 31 7:00 PM Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 5 - Sat Apr 2 7:05 PM * Prince Albert at Saskatoon
Game 6 - Sun Apr 3 7:00 PM * Saskatoon at Prince Albert
Game 7 - Tues Apr 5 7:05 PM * Prince Albert at Saskatoon

*if necessary

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blades Winding Things Down In Regina

The Saskatoon Blades are playing game 71 out of their 72 game schedule tonight.

The team took off for the provincial capital of Regina just after 2 o'clock today as they will battle the Pats.

The two teams will finish off the season with game two of the home and home tomorrow night back in Saskatoon.

The Blades are 2-1-0-1 against the Pats this year, although Regina is 2-0 in the games that have been played on their home ice. Jordan Weal has been someone to watch against Saskatoon as the speedy forward has 7 points, including 3 goals against the Blades.

Saskatoon is battling some injury issues in this final weekend. Last game they lost Jake Trask (upper body) and Ryan Olsen (upper body) to injury. The day before that, defenseman Connor Cox (upper body) was hurt during practice.

All three of those players will sit out this weekend's games. The team has a full week off until the playoffs, and all three will need that time to heal up and hopefully play.

Yesterday the team called up forwards Austin Daae (17 years old) and Brett Stovin (16 years old).

Just looking at the way the numbers are broken down with the injuries, I would expect that each one of those guys draws in to a game this weekend.

With the Cox injury on the blueline, and the call up of Tanner Sohn, I would expect that Sohn and Tommy Stipancik each get to draw into a game this weekend as well.

I would think you would want to give everyone a chance to get on the ice before the playoffs, that includes 16 and 17 year old callups.

Tonight's game goes at 7:00 from Regina. You can catch the pregame show starting at 6:30 on 92.9 The Bull.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blades-Warriors Fight

Here's the scrap from last night.

Blades Recall Two Forwards

After recalling defenseman Tanner Sohn yesterday, the Blades have added two more reserves today.

Austin Daae has been recalled from the Moose Jaw Generals. Brett Stovin has been recalled from the Winnipeg Blues.

Both players have had their midget seasons end, and it will be a good chance to have those guys join the team for practice on a regular basis. The Blades also suffered a pair of injuries in last night's win over Moose Jaw. Jake Trask took a hit to the head early in the first period. Ryan Olsen fell awkwardly into the boards in the third period. Neither player returned and no update has been provided as of noon today.

According to the Moose Jaw Generals website, Daae had 45 points in 22 games. That included 18 goals.

According to the Winnipeg Blues website, Stovin had 15 points in 27 games this season.

My Blades Award Winners

The Saskatoon Blades are set to announce their award winners for the 2010/2011 season following Saturday's game against the Regina Pats.

I figured I would throw my hat into the ring and voice my thoughts on who should be the award winners. Notice though, these are not predictions. These are my opinion on who I think should be the winners. There are also 2 games remaining, both against the Pats this Friday and Saturday, so that provides an interesting wrinkle into who might win.

Here are my thoughts:


Most Valuable Player - Marek Viedensky. The guy has done it all this year for the Blades. He has carried them for stretches and has been their most consistent offensive player. Even down the stretch as some of the team's players have taken nights off, with not much to play for in the standings, Marek has remained as one of the team's hardest workers. He never takes a shift or a night off. He has also excelled at the defensive end of the ice and even leads the team in short handed goals. Honourable mention to Stefan Elliott, who could very well win. I just don't think it should go to a defenseman, unless he's a runaway winner.

Top Scorer - Marek Viedensky. The year isn't over, but Marek currently leads the team by 1 point over Josh Nicholls. I think he holds on to that lead. His 86 points are currently T-9th in the WHL. I guess this could be considered a "prediction".

Plus/Minus Award - Marek Viedensky. Once again, the year isn't over and he is one back of Stefan Elliott for the team lead, but I see V winning. He is currently +59, compared to Stef's +60.

Most Gentlemanly - Stefan Elliott. Jake Trask is a close second in this one. But to me, it has to be Stefan Elliott, again. He also won the award last season. This year, he's only had 14 penalty minutes. That's a miniscule number compared to his gooning 24 minutes in penalties last year.

Hardest Hitter
- Darian Dziurzynski. There isn't a player on the Blades that consistently throws big hits on the ice like Z. It has to be him.

Hardest Working - Brent Benson. No player gives it his all every game like Benson. The guy is like a wind up toy that never runs out of juice. I've seen him block shots with his bare arms and ankles, and not miss a shift. He takes a beating game in and game out. Honourable mention to Teigan Zahn.

Best Defensive Forward - Marek Viedensky. I've seen this guy kill penalties all by himself as he eats time off the clock by holding the puck in the offensive zone. He back checks hard, is strong on his stick and is good on the draw. This 20 year old is the teams top defensive player. Like I said earlier, he also leads the team in short handed goals with 6. That is 3 more than any other player. Curtis Hamilton comes in a close second. Josh Nicholls is also deserving of some recognition here.

Top Defenseman - Stefan Elliott. Sorry to the other 7 defenders currently on the roster, this one isn't even close. He might not be the team's MVP (in my opinion) but he is most definitely one of the top 2-3 defenseman in the entire WHL. Congrats on a great year Stef. You win this in a landslide.

Rookie of the Year - Darren Dietz. Dietz faces a tough challenge from a few other rookies in Matej Stransky, Lukas Sutter and Ryan Olsen, but this one is Dietz' to lose. He had provided a nice edge to the Blades 3rd defense pairing, and is now on the team's 2nd pairing with Siemens. He adds physical play and some unexpected offensive touch. I am looking forward to him having his name called in June, late in the NHL entry draft. I also envision him on the Blades top pairing next year with Duncan Siemens.

Most Improved Player - Darren Dietz. I've told him to his face that he has been the most improved player on the Blades this year. I stick to my guns and choose him as this year's award winner. Many fans out there thought this guy shouldn't have been close to the teams starting roster this fall (myself not included) but he has worked hard and has become a legit top 4 defender on almost any team in the league. He eats, sleep's and breathes hockey, and it shows.

=========================================

There are a few other awards that will be handed out as well, including the Top Scholastic Player, Most Community Minded Player and the 3 Star Award Winner. I know who has won the 3 Star Award, and I won't put up my opinions on the other two, because I simply don't know which players are good in school and which aren't.

Looking at my award winners, it's really hard to believe that Josh Nicholls AND Curtis Hamilton get shut out. Many of the decisions will be close and I wouldn't be at all shocked if one of those two players ends up snagging an award or two away from a guy like Marek Viedensky. But in my opinion, Saturday could be Marek's night to shine.

I appreciate any comments!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Awful Hit in MJHL Game

This is terrible. I can't believe the stupidity of the player involved, Jesse Enns. The kid should be banned from every league in the world for the rest of his life.



He was banned 40 games for the hit. Here's the rest of the story: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/juniorhockey/blog/buzzing_the_net/post/Video-Assistant-coaches-fight-at-end-of-Junior-?urn=juniorhockey-334565

Blades dump Warriors in Shootout

It was a 3-2 final, but it definitely wasn't played like a low scoring affair.

The Saskatoon Blades threw a total of 45 shots on goal towards Thomas Heemskerk tonight, and the goalie played well enough to earn his team a (meaningless) point.

In the end the game was a shootout win for the Blades. San Jose Sharks prospect Marek Viedensky scored the shootout winner against San Jose Sharks prospect Heemskerk.

The game was scoreless until almost 16 minutes into the 2nd period when Jesse Paradis got his 8th of the year. But the Blades were quick to bounce back as Matej Stransky scored 23 seconds later to even things at 1.

Things would stay that way until Darian Dzirurzynski finished off an ugly play 3 minutes into the third as he slid a loose puck under Heemskerk to made it 2-1 Blades.

The Moose Jaw Warriors had a pair of AP players up for the game, and they played very well on their 4th line. Torrin White scored his first WHL goal in his first WHL game as well at the 10:29 mark of the 3rd to tie it at 2. The 15 year old made a head fake in the slot before going off the post and in to beat Steven Stanford.

Both teams traded chances down the stretch and into overtime but neither team could buldge the twine.

It went to a shootout where the Blades went 2/2, and Moose Jaw going 0/2. Along with Viedensky, Brayden Schenn also scored in the shootout. Quinton Howden and Sebastian Svendsen both were stopped on their attempts.

A lack of PP success was a story as the teams combined to go 0 for 12. The Blades had 7 of those chances, and haven't scored on the powerplay in 5 straight games. They are 0 for 18 in that stretch.

All hell broke loss at 11:50 of the third period, I guess I should mention that. Brent Benson laid a hit on a MJ player at the Blades bench. As he did that, he tried to lift the player up and into the bench. A Warriors player came to his teammates aid (I think Edmondson) and Darren Dietz jumped in. Those two fought. Meanwhile, Dylan McIlrath got his stick/gloves up on Lukas Sutter. After it was all said and done, Sutter and Dietz were left bloodied. Dietz never returned, but looked fine after the game, despite a big cut on his nose. Sutter didn't miss a shift.

Two players also left the game with injury. Jake Trask was rocked by Brett Lyon on his first shift of the game. He was reaching to shoot the puck and Lyon looked to get his arm into the head area of Trask. Ryan Olsen fell awkwardly into the boards in the 3rd period after being hit. He appeared to hurt his shoulder and never returned.

Assistant Coach Dave Struch said both players were ok and neither injury was serious. I guess we will see if that's true or not. Connor Cox was also hurt yesterday in practice. He hit his head and has a minor concussion. I talked to him during the game and he said he was feeling "ok" and will be raring to go by the time the playoffs start on the 26th.

With the win, the Blades earned their 31st win on home ice this year, tying the franchise record. They can pass that record in their final regular season game of the year on Saturday night as they host Regina.

Before that time, the Blades travel to the provincial capital to take on the Pats on Friday night.

I will have a post tomorrow with video of the fights from tonight's game. I will also list my Blades award winners, as the team is set to announce the official winners on Saturday night.

Warriors in Saskatoon

This game means absolutely nothing.

Atleast, in the standings that's the case.

But, with the rivalry that has grown even more this year, it should still make for an entertaining matchup.

The Saskatoon Blades are coming off of a 4-0 shutout win over the Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday night. The Warriors are winners of 3 games in a row, including a 2-1 win over Regina their last time out, also on Saturday.

The Blades have clinched the overall WHL title, and can't be knocked from their perch. The Warriors are in a similar position, albeit further down the standings. They are 5th in the Eastern Conference, but alone on their own island. They can't catch Kootenay for 4th, and can't fall down to 6th.

It seems as if they are destined to play the Ice in round one, with an outside chance of meeting the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Warriors are also likely without super pest Cody Beach tonight, who was hurt in the recent game against the Pats. That might be disappointing to some fans expecting fireworks on the ice, but it's almost a breath of fresh air for the Blades, who can focus (mostly) on simple hockey tonight.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Moose Jaw


- Stay out of the penalty box. The Blades haven’t scored on the PP in 4 straight games and are due for a big explosion.

- Use their speed and size on the forecheck. That’s one area that teams have exposed Saskatoon this year, being able to force some turnovers.

- And continue to slow down the top line. They will be in better shape if they are forcing Viedensky and Nicholls to beat them, instead of Schenn and Hamilton.

For Saskatoon

- Get off to a quicker start. They were outplayed in the first ten minutes of last their last game against Edmonton. They can’t allow that to happen.

- The younger players need to continue to play well. Players like Olsen and Bews have really come on strong lately and that will be needed once the playoffs hit.

- And keep their emotions in check. The rivalry continues to heat up as the season has gone along, but they have to be smart and keep their heads in the game.


Game time goes at 7:05 from CUC. You can catch it, starting with the pregame show on 92.9 The Bull at 6:30.

Tonight is also Faith Night at the rink. Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Darian Durant will be on hand to take part in the festivities.

Saskatoon Stays 2nd In CHL Rankings

A pretty dull week for the CHL's rankings as the top 7 teams all stayed in the exact same order.

Those rankings have the 53-13-1-2 Blades sitting 2nd overall, behind the Saint John Sea Dogs. The Sea Dogs only have 6 regulation losses all season.

The Red Deer Rebels stayed at 5th overall in the rankings, while the Portland Winterhawks hung steady at 7th.

The Spokane Chiefs also remained as an honourable mention.

Blades Add A Defenseman

The Saskatoon Blades have recalled defenseman Tanner Sohn.

Sohn is a 19 year old who was acquired at the trade deadline for a late draft pick in 2013. Now that his season is over with Lloydminster of the AJHL, he will spend the rest of the year with the Blades.

He spent the first part of the year with Vancouver of the WHL, registering 6 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 31 games.

After the trade he was sent to Lloydminster, where he registered 5 points in 14 games.

The move is likely to allow Sohn another chance to step into a game down the stretch, and get more comfortable, just in case he is needed during the Blades playoff run. He has played in one game for the team this year.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ranford Suspension Announced

Brendan Ranford of the Kamloops Blazers has been suspended 6 games for crosschecking a WHL linesman last week.

He was being escorted to the penalty box following a slashing penalty against the Kelowna Rockets on Friday night, when he crosschecked linesman Kris Hartley.

Ranford admitted after the game it was the wrong course of action and that he let his emotions get the best of him during the 5-1 loss.

Despite that, the league has come down fairly hard on the 18 year old Philadelphia Flyers draft pick.

The Blazers only have 2 games left in the regular season and are only 2 points back of Everett in the Western Conference playoff race. But, they also have 2 fewer games remaining compared to the Tips.

If the Blazers miss the postseason, Ranford will sit out the remaining 4 games of his suspension to start next year.

Ranford has 86 points in 68 games this year, including 33 goals. He also has 68 penalty minutes.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rebels Ryan Nugent-Hopkins WHL's POTW

The league's shared-third leading scorer is this week's player of the week.

Nugent-Hopkins had 12 points in 4 games this week for Red Deer. In those 12 points were 5 goals and 7 assists. He was also named the first star of a game once, and the second star of a game thrice.

He has 102 points on the year, including 28 goals and 74 assists.

The 17 year old was the league's first pick in the 2008 Bantam Draft and will be the first WHL player chosen in the coming 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Also announced today, goalie Adam Brown of the Kelowna Rockets is the WHL's nominee for CHL goalie of the week. He went undefeated last week at 3-0 along with a shutout, a 0.65 GAA and a .979 save percentage.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Historic Night As Blades Blank Oil Kings

The final was 4-0, and to be honest it wasn't much of a hockey game entertainment-wise. But, atleast it was historic in more ways than one.

With the win, the Saskatoon Blades set the all time franchise wins record with their 53rd W of the season. That total breaks the record from the famed 1982-83 team. With the team having already wrapped up the league title for most points, it's a nice cherry on top of their season.

Stefan Elliott made sure that wasn't the only record set either. He scored the first goal of the game to tie Pat Price for the most career points by a Blades defenseman. Throughout the rest of the game you could tell Stef could smell the record. He was constantly jumping up into the play, and was even staying out there for full 2 minute powerplays.

In the end, the record was broken on a play that wasn't so pretty, but still counted. Elliott fired the puck on the net from the blueline. Matej Stransky got the rebound and put it towards the net and Brent Benson crashed the blue ice and managed to have it bounce off him and into the net. The record is his. 240 career points as a Blade from the blueline. Truly amazing.

The Colorado Avalanche prospect now has 80 points on the year, a marker that leads all defenseman. He also was credited with the game winner, his 12th of the year. That leads all players, not just defenseman.

It truly has been fantastic to watch Stefan all year. I congratulate him on the record and I hope he has more saved up for the postseason.

The other Blades goals came from Marek Viedensky, his 35th of the year and Darian Dziurzynski, his 33rd.

Steven Stanford made 35 saves for the shutout, his third goose egg of the season.

Next up for the Blades, a home tilt against the hated Moose Jaw Warriors on Wednesday night. I think that could be one of those games that many people expect alot of, but not much happens on the ice. Especially with the playoffs right around the corner.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saskatoon Welcome's Alberta's Hockey Royalty

The Kings are in town for tonight's WHL action at the Credit Union Centre. Those Kings are the Edmonton Oil Kings and they will surely be facing a team with some tired legs.

The Saskatoon Blades are coming off 2 games in 3 nights in Brandon. That trip was capped off with a forced overnight stay in Brandon due to highway closures and winter storms.

Saskatoon is currently en route home and will be pulling up to the rink around the same time as the Oil Kings, maybe even later. Add to that the fact that Edmonton is a hard skating and quick team. Surely the odds are stacked up against the home town team.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Edmonton


- Get off to a quick start. Saskatoon is coming off a tough and long bus ride, Edmonton needs to use their speed early in the game.

- Be physical on the Blades defenders. Any time you have a chance to lay a hit, you have to take it. It could pay off with a forced turnover somewhere during the game.

- And Dylan Wruck and Michael St. Croix have to be the offensive leaders. They are relied upon more than 17 year old's likely should be, but they have to show why they are the teams top 2 scorers.

For Saskatoon

- Be quick breaking out of the defensive zone. With 3 games in 4 nights, you have to try and play as little as possible in your own zone and avoid the grind of trying to defend the cycle.

- Getting depth scoring will be big. Saskatoon has many weapons to go to, and a goal or two from the 3rd or 4th lines could be huge.

- And get a good performance in goal. That speaks pretty much for itself.


Game time goes at 7:05 at CUC. You can check it out on 92.9 The Bull starting with the pregame show at 6:30

Saskatoon falls 4-3 in overtime in Brandon

It was a big game for the Brandon Wheat Kings as they won, and with a little help out of town, they clinched a playoff spot.

It's the 11th straight year the Manitoba franchise will be in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

Saskatoon got goals from Curtis Hamilton, Brayden Schenn and Marek Viedensky. For Viedensky, it was his 2nd short handed marker in two games and the WHL-leading 20th for the Blades this year.

Brandon got goals from Shayne Wiebe, Hampus Gustafsson and Brenden Walker with Michael Ferland scoring the OT winner on a rebound.

Another interest point from the game is that the Blades had ZERO chances with the man advantage. How is that even possible with the way the game is played and called these days? I wasn't there, so I will end my speculation there.

Brandon was 1/4 on the PP.

Liam Liston made 32 saves to win, Adam Morrison made one less, 31, in the loss.

The Blades were forced to spend the night in Brandon due to massive winter storms in the Southeast corner of Saskatchewan and into Manitoba. They are expecting to get back on the road around 9-9:30 this morning and be back to CUC for 5:00....just in time for tonight's game against Edmonton.

Should be an extremely tough turnaround against an Oil Kings team that will have a score to settle after losing last night in PA.

That game goes at 7:05 from CUC. I might have time to get a preview for that up early this afternoon, we'll see.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Saskatoon Blades Clinch Scotty Munro Trophy With Win in Brandon

It was a great team effort as the Saskatoon Blades won in Brandon tonight 5-3.

That win gives them a franchise record for most points in a season with 106.

It also means the Blades can't be caught by any team down the stretch, winning the Scotty Munro Trophy.

The teams 52 wins also ties a franchise record.

The teams went scoreless through the first period tonight.

Saskatoon got off to a good start in the 2nd period, 2-0 off of goals from 16 year olds Ryan Olsen and Levi Bews. After that, whenever the Wheaties pushed back, Saskatoon had an answer as the teams traded goals back and forth all the way til the end of the game.

The Blades got their goals from Bews, Olsen, Curtis Hamilton and two from Marek Viedensky. Hamilton's was the winner. One of Viedensky's was shorthanded, his 5th of the year and 19th for the team. That total is alone atop the WHL.

The Wheat Kings got their markers from 16 year old Ryan Pulock, Mark Stone and Hampus Gustafsson.

Steven Stanford earned the win in the Blades net. Saskatoon won despite only killing off 3 of 5 penalties tonight.

These two teams meet up again on Friday night.

Best of the WHL's Eastern Conference

Another year, another poll. Great work again from the voice of the Brandon Wheat Kings Bruce Luebke.

http://luberslounge.blogspot.com/2011/03/fifth-annual-best-of-east-poll-results.html

Big winners include Darcy Kuemper out of Red Deer, 16 year old Matt Dumba out of Red Deer, Cody Eakin out of Kootenay and a few Blades mixed in there.

Blades Hold Steady At 2nd In CHL

The top 10 teams stayed the same in this week's edition of the CHL team rankings. But, there was some flip flopping.

Saskatoon was one of those teams that held steady at their spot at number 2. Their record of 51-13-0-2 has them only behind the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, who are 53-6-1-2.

Two other WHL teams stayed in the top ten rankings. Portland moved from 6th to 7th this week. Red Deer stayed at 5th overall.

Spokane was once again an honourable mention on the list.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saskatchewan Hosts 2011 Subway Super Series

The 2011 Subway Super Series is coming to Saskatchewan.

The 6 game event puts a team of Russian All-Stars against CHL All Stars. The Russians play 2 games against each the OHL, QMJHL and WHL.

The WHL event in November will feature games in Regina on November 16th at the Brandt Centre. The next night, the 17th, the teams will play in Moose Jaw at their new Multi-Plex.

The WHL matchups are the final two of the series. The first 4 games break down as follows:

Game 1 – Monday, November 7 at Victoriaville, QC.
Game 2 – Wednesday, November 9 at Quebec City, QC.
Game 3 – Thursday, November 10 at Ottawa, ON.
Game 4 – Monday, November 14 at Sault Ste. Marie, ON.

Last year the Russians won the event for the first time in it's 8 year history.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Big Day for Spokane Forward Tyler Johnson

Spokane Chiefs forward Tyler Johnson has signed on with the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning.

After nearly a week of speculation, the 5'9 forward from Spokane, Washington agreed to a 3 year entry level deal.

Johnson currently has 48 goals, 2nd in the league. His 58 assists are ranked 4th in the league. His point total of 106 has him ranked 2nd overall in the league.

He also won a gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships with Team USA in Saskatoon.

Nino Named WHL Player of the Week

Portland Winterhawks forward and New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter has been named the WHL player of the week.

The 18 year old from Switzerland had 9 points, including 7 goals, in 4 games last week.

The big winger is currently on a 5 game goal scoring streak. This year in 49 games he has 61 points. Nino was the 5th overall pick of last year's NHL Entry Draft by the Islanders.

In other news, Chilliwack Bruins goalie Lucas Gore has been nominated as the CHL's goalie of the week. He was 4-0 on the week with a shutout, a GAA of 1.00 and a .968 save percentage.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Blades Kinsmen Telemiracle Night A Huge Success

Great piece here from Kelly Friesen, who writes for Yahoo Sports.

"The minimum bid for the jerseys was $200 and every jersey exceeded the minimum bid - with Brayden Schenn's jersey going for $2,500 and Curtis Hamilton's jerseys fetching $1,500.

When all was said and done, the Saskatoon Blades organization donated $11,000 to the Kinsmen Telemiracle Foundation."

http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/juniorhockey/blog/buzzing_the_net/post/WHL-Blades-Telemiracle-night-a-success?urn=juniorhockey-330326

Nicholls' 5 Point Night Propels Blades Past Warriors

It was a tough start to the game for the Saskatoon Blades last night, but it sure ended well.

The Moose Jaw Warriors got on the board first in the game on a soft shot from a bad angle that beat Adam Morrison just 36 seconds into the game.

But Saskatoon stuck to their game plan and earned a gritty 7-2 win when things were all said and done.

The Blades were boosted big time by 3 shorthanded goals on the night. That's 4 shorties in 2 games this weekend to put the club at 18 on the year, tied for tops in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice.

The Blades got two goals each from Curtis Hamitlon, Darian Dziurzynski and Marek Viedensky. Josh Nicholls added a single, along with 4 assists.

Moose Jaw got their goals from Dylan Hood and Quinton Howden.

The game also featured a ton of bad blood, as usual when these teams meet. First it was Duncan Siemens and Joel Edmundson. I haven't seen Siemens lose too many scraps, but he did here.

Second, it was Marek Viedensky, the 20 year old Euro, fighting Cody Beach, one of the toughest players to fight in the league due to his size and reach advantage (he stands 6'6). Viedensky came out fast and furious and landed a few decent shots at the start, but Beach ended up with the win. Speaking to Viedensky after the game, he basically said that he isn't used to fighting, especially for that long and he got tired.

Give credit to the Warriors, they lost the game, but won several battles in the game.

Adam Morrison started in goal for Saskatoon and bounced back nicely from his bad start in Edmonton and a soft goal early to earn the W. Thomas Heemskerk was in goal for all 7 goals against for Moose Jaw.

Saskatoon now has a few days off before heading to Brandon for a 2 game in 3 night stretch next Wednesday and Friday.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blades Host Warriors

24 hours after a dominating performance against the Kootenay Ice, the Saskatoon Blades host another tough Eastern Conference opponent.

The Moose Jaw Warriors travel to CUC for tonight's game.

The Warriors are coming off two straight, 5-3 wins. That includes a 5-3 home win over Prince Albert last night.

Saskatoon has won 9 of their last 10 overall and are fresh off a 9-2 beat down of Kootenay last night.

Here are my keys to the game:

For Moose Jaw


- Hold steady in the first 10 minutes. Kootenay gave up an early goal last night and things snowballed for them. The Warriors can’t let that happen.

- Stay out of penalty trouble. Saskatoon’s PP is red hot right now, up to third in the league after going 3/5 last night.

- And Heemskerk needs to be good. He was the last time these teams met. The Blades have a ton of confidence and Heemskerk needs to match that.

For Saskatoon

- Teigan Zahn needs to match up well with Quinton Howden. The Blades captain did a great job last night against Cody Eakin, so we all know he is capable of shutting down elite players.

- Use their speed on the Warriors big defenders. They are big, but those guys aren’t always mobile. Take advantage of the speed factor.

- And don’t get too aggressive. Fireworks can be expected when these two teams meet. The Blades can’t let their emotions get the best of them tonight.


Game time goes at 7:05 from CUC. You can also check out the game on 92.9 The Bull starting with the pregame show at 6:30.

Blades Roll Over The Ice On Telemiracle Night

The Blades scored early and often last night as they took care of one of the Eastern Conferences powerhouses.

Saskatoon led 3-0 after the first period and never looked back, beating the Kootenay Ice 9-2.

The win for the Blades gives them 50 on the year, that's only the 2nd time the team has done that in franchise history (joining the 82-83 club). I will spare the details of each goal, because if I did that it would take all morning to write.

The Blades got 2 goals each from Josh Nicholls, Darian Dziuryzinski and Stefan Elliott. Chris Collins, Darren Dietz and Brayden Schenn added singles. Dziurzynski also added a pair of assists to give him 4 points on the night.

The Blades now feature 4 30 goal scorers. (Trask, Elliott, Z and Nicholls)

Stefan Elliott's two goals bring him closer to history. He is now only 2 points back of Pat Price's record for points by a Blades defenseman. Stef has 277 poins for his career with the Blades. Here's to hoping he breaks that record tonight against Moose Jaw!

The Ice got their goals from Joe Antilla and Matt Fraser.

Special teams was a big story with each team scoring a shorthanded goal. The Blades also won the powerplay battle as they went 3/5 while holding Kootenay to 0 goals on 4 chances.

The game also featured a pair of fights. Lukas Sutter fought Jesse Ismond. Later in the game Brayden McNabb hit Chris Collins from behind. Brent Benson jumped in and fought him. Here's a great picture from that scrap. Benny is known for his hair....


Credit for that pic goes to the Saskatoon Blades and photographer Steve Hiscock. Me and Steve joked that the photo looks like Benson is touching one of those electromagnetic balls that makes your hair stand on end.

Saskatoon gets right back at it tonight at CUC. The Moose Jaw Warriors are in town. Just like every other game, it starts at 7:05. You can check it out on 92.9 The Bull, starting with the pregame show at 6:30.

Other notes: Last night's game featured a special jersey for the Saskatoon Blades. It was a retro look with a special blue color. It was done because of Telemiracle night. The players game worn sweaters were auctioned off after the game to raise money for the cause. Sounded like EVERYONE I talked to loved the sweaters. Maybe they should consider adding them as a permanent third uni.