Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Rundown - Week 16

Playoffs spots were locked in and loaded this week as Manitoba and Saskatchewan awaited the winners of the series featuring UBC hosting Mount Royal and Alberta hosting Regina. For these four teams, it comes down to simple math: six wins against three teams over the next three weeks to claim the Canada West championship banner. The first test for each of these four teams would be this weekend, and two losses would send two of the four teams home for a summer of wondering "what if". Let's see who advanced and who gets the summer to reflect in this week's edition of The Rundown!

(6)MOUNT ROYAL at (3)UBC - Game One: Friday saw third-seeded Thunderbirds host the sixth-seeded Cougars in what appeared to be a bit of a mismatch on paper as UBC won all four games played this season, but Mount Royal could point to the fact that three of the four games were only one-goal victories with one of those games being a shootout win. With 28 points separating the two teams in the standings - the same amount amassed by Mount Royal all season - would this series be as tight as the regular season results indicated?

This game started slow for some reason as neither side put up much of a fight in their respective offensive ends. It seemed to take forever for either team to mount some offensive pressure, so perhaps both teams were subscribing to the theory that defence wins championships. In any case, things began to pick up around the midway point of the period, aand it would be the home side who capitalized. UBC's Cassandra Vilgrain walked out of the corned and spotted Brielle Bellerive in front, and Bellerive redirected the Vilgrain pass past Zoe DeBeauville.
Bellerive's goal at 12:24 put the UBC Thunderbirds up 1-0. In what was a very quiet period for both netminders, the horn would sound with UBC holding onto their lead and a 4-3 edge in shots after 20 minutes of play.

UBC showed a little more life in the second period as they began to find seams in the Mount Royal defence, but DeBeauville would surrender nothing. Bellerive, however, was whistled for a cross-check at 14:13, and the Cougars would go to work. Or, more specifically, Reanna Arnold. Nicolette Seper hit Arnold with a pass, and she cut towards the net where her initial shot was denied by UBC's Tory Micklash. However, Arnold followed up on the rebound as she cut across the crease, and she tapped home the uncovered puck past Micklash for the power-play goal at 15:31 to pull Mount Royal even at 1-1! After 40 minutes of play, these teams were deadlocked once more despite UBC holding a 13-8 advantage in shots.

I wanted to report that there was a flurry of goals in the third period, and it looked as though UBC found a lead when they beat DeBeauville at with eight minutes to play, but it was determined that DeBeauville had been interfered with as there was a Thunderbird in the crease. With that goal waved off and no flurry of goals materializing, we'd play through to the final horn with nothing resolved and it was off to overtime!

The first overtime period saw UBC carry the play, but neither side found the back of the net as both defences kept high-quality scoring chances to a minimum. Both DeBeauville and Micklash looked sharp through their eightieth minute in their respective nets, so it was off to a second overtime period to find a winner.

The second overtime period saw better chances with Mount Royal carrying more of the play, but Micklash continued to add bricks to her wall as she didn't allow anything by. There was a Rachel Piitz opportunity that looked like it might end the game, but the veteran Cougar ripped a shot wide with Micklash somewhat out of position. With nothing happening through five periods, we'd move to a sixth period! Would we see another Manitoba-Saskatchewan game where it took eight periods to find a winner?

The two teams skated out for the third overtime period with noticeably less vigor than they did when their legs were still fresh, but the women still battled hard. Both goaltenders withstood the chances thrown at them by their opposition, and the respective defensive units did all they could to recover. However, it would be a loose puck that was the catalyst to the finality of this game.

Tiffany Chiu claimed the aforementioned loose puck in behind DeBeauville's net and threw a backhanded pass into the slot that found Kathleen Cahoon for the one-timer, but she rang it off the post. The rebound, however, ricocheted right back to the big forward, and she made no mistake on the second chance as she found the back of the net at 15:55 of overtime on UBC's sixth shot of the extra frame for the 2-1 triple-overtime victory! Micklash was great in her 115:55 of work in stopping 24 of 25 shots while Zoe DeBeauville did all she could in stopping 33 shots in the loss.

UBC now leads the series 1-0 in the best-of-three contest.

As a note, this game moved into third-place on the longest contest list for Canada West. The only games that saw more overtime than Friday's final was the five-overtime game between Manitoba and Saskatchewan on February 21, 2016 that featured 79:02 of extra time and was ended on a Venla Hovi goal to give Manitoba the win, and the game between Regina and Saskatchewan on March 1, 2014 that saw 62:30 of extra time needed before Alexis Larson scored for Regina to end that game.

(6)MOUNT ROYAL at (3)UBC - Game Two: After playing nearly two full games on Friday night, would either team make it to the rink for the 3pm PT start on Saturday? The Cougars were up early to get a jump on stretching and hydration as per their Twitter feed, and I assume that the T-Birds were executing similar plans of their own. When the puck was dropped, everyone seemed ready to go for Game Two.

Well, it should be stated that the T-Birds looked ready to go because they found the lead just 5:35 into this game when Hannah Clayton-Carroll picked up a puck chopped off of Mathea Fischer's stick, and she wired a shot past Zoe DeBeauville for the early 1-0 lead.
Victoria Byer took a roughing penalty just over a minute later, and the UBC power-play decided to extend the lead. After moving the puck around the top of the umbrella, Brielle Bellerive's perfect tip in front on Madison Patrick's shot found room between the wickets on DeBeauville, and the power-play goal at 6:53 put UBC up 2-0!
These two quick goals seemed to light a fire under the Cougars. Two-and-a-half minutes later, Tatum Amy took a pass from Erin McLean, went to the backhand, and flipped the puck past Amelia Boughn at 9:21 to make it a 2-1 game! The Cougars continued to press through the remaining half of the first period, but Boughn would not be beaten before the horn sounded. Despite leading 7-6 in shots, the Cougars trailed 2-1 to the Thunderbirds after one period of play.

The second period seemed a lot like the first two overtime periods where the two teams had chances, but both goalies wouldn't be beat and the defences continually found ways to clear dangerous second chances. With Mount Royal playing for their playoff lives at this point, it would come down to one more period of play unless the Cougars could find a way to tie this game up.

Mount Royal pushed the play in the third period with the looming blade of the guillotine hanging over them, but vhances were few and far between. UBC had better chances, but DeBeauville stood tall. That proved important because Nicolette Seper found Anna Purschke with a pass, and Purschke found the back of the net past Boughn at 15:58 to tie this game up at 2-2! The final four minutes were exciting, but they resulted in no goals being scored so we went to overtime for the second-straight game!

The good news? This game only needed sixteen minutes of extra time. The bad news? It didn't go well for the Cougars.
Celine Tardif's shot from the half-boards at 15:57 found its way past DeBeauville and into the back of the net for the 3-2 UBC overtime victory as they sweep the Mount Royal Cougars out of the playoffs! Amelia Boughn stopped 15 shots in the overtime win while DeBeauville made 23 stops in this loss.

UBC wins the series 2-0 and advances to play the Saskatchewan Huskies. The reigning two-time Canada West champions and the reigning U SPORTS bronze medalists will go on the road for the next series.

(5)REGINA at (4)ALBERTA - Game One: The season series between these two teams was definitely in the Pandas' favor. Alberta went 3-0-0-1 against Regina with 13 goals-for in the four games played, but Regina lost in overtime and won in the shootout on Clare Drake Arena ice in October, so the Cougars have had success in Edmonton. Could they find a way to upset the Pandas?

In a rather surprising start, it was Regina that dominated the play in the early going as they seemed to catch the Pandas off-guard. Luckily, Kirsten Chamberlin was ready to play as she thwarted a couple of two-on-ones, shut down some chances in close, and generally stonewalled the Cougars. And as it happens in hockey, big saves at one end usually lead to goals at the other.

Amy Boucher does a good job un evading some defenders before springing Hannah Olenyk on a partial breakaway, and Olenyk finds room between Jane Kish's pads for the 1-0 lead at the 18:00 mark!
They may have been outplayed for most of the period, but the Pandas went into the intermission with the 1-0 lead!

Whatever fire Regina started this game with was extinguished in the second period. The transformation was very noticeable as the Pandas carried the play for the majority of the period in all zones. Turnovers also plagued the Cougars as the Pandas' forecheck was relentless. Those efforts paid off for the home squad as Alex Poznikoff's shot from the high slot area somehow got past Kish at 17:16, and the Pandas had a 2-0 lead after two periods.

The third period started the same way the second ended as it seemed the Cougars were sleepwalking through the opening minutes. However, someone set the alarm clock off on the bench as they began to play with more immediacy as the period progressed. As the minutes ticked by, the clock became the Cougars' main opposition, but it looked like they may have solved that opponent. Lilla Carpenter-Boesch's shot was stopped by Chamberlin, but Jaycee Magwood tapped home the rebound in the crease at 18:41, and the Cougars cut the deficit in half with 1:19 to play!

Kish started on the bench with the face-off at center ice, and the six attacking Cougars went to work. They moved the puck well and chances were had, but Kirsten Chamberlin made stop after stop in the closing seconds to ensure that Alberta secured the 2-1 victory! Chamberlin made 14 saves in the win while Kish stopped 19 shots in the loss.

Alberta leads 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

(5)REGINA at (4)ALBERTA - Game Two: With their backs against the wall, the Cougars needed a win on Saturday to extend this series to a third game. The Pandas, knowing they have to travel next weekend, were looking to wrap this series up as fast as possible. What would happen on Saturday? Let's find out.

Just as they did one night earlier, the Cougars came out guns a-blazing as they looked to get the jump on the Pandas. However, that aggressiveness led to a Chelsea Hallson interference penalty midway through the period, and out came the Pandas power-play unit. After the Coygars failed to clear the zone, Amy Boucher picked up the puck and fired a shot on net from a sharp angle that found space between Morgan Baker and the post at 11:01 for the 1-0 Alberta lead!
That goal seemed to deflate the Cougars' attack as the Pandas began to stake control of the period from that point as they controlled the play through to the horn. After one period, Alberta held the one-goal lead.

Alberta used that momentum from the first period to double their lead early in the second period. Off a face-off win by Regina, Hannah Olenyk poked the puck off a Regina defender's stick into the slot, and Deanna Morin got a couple of whacks at it before it ended up behind Baker at 2:37 for the 2-0 lead!
Alberta's dominance continued throughout the period, but they wouldn't be able to solve Baker outside of their one goal on eleven shots. That being said, the Pandas did hold a 2-0 lead going into the third period just as they did one night before, so could they hold on again?

Sensing elimination, the Cougars turned their game up several notches in the third period to try and eliminate the deficit on the scoreboard. Chance after chance early on was turned aside by Kirsten Chamberlin, but the Cougars would finally break through midway through the period. Sam Geekie's long point shot found its way through traffic in front of Chamberlin and eluded the netminder to find the back of the net at 12:15, and the Pandas' lead was cut to 2-1.

The Cougars continued to press the Pandas throughout the final eight minutes of this game, but Chamberlin and the Pandas weathered every storm the Cougars brought. With the Cougars unable to solve Chamberlin a second time, time ran out on their playoffs as the Pandas wrapped up another 2-1 victory on home ice. Chamberlin stopped 23 shots she saw for the win while Morgan Baker took the loss in a 16-save effort.

Alberta wins the series 2-0 and advances to play the Manitoba Bisons. The reigning U SPORTS gold medalists will go on the road for the next series.

The Final Word

Because we don't need the standings, we'll skip right to The Final Word where the top-four teams in Canada West will battle for supremacy. Nine points separated first-place Manitoba from fourth-place Alberta in the standings, so I expect both series to be tight-checking and low-scoring.

The underrated and vastly overlooked Saskatchewan Huskies, who posted a four-and-oh record against UBC this season, will host the U SPORTS' fifth-ranked UBC Thunderbirds, and this series features Canada West's best defensive team and least penalized team - Saskatchewan - against the conference's third-best defensive team and second-most penalized team - UBC. In contrast, UBC had the third-best power-play and fifth-best penalty kill this season while Saskatchewan's power-play was dead-last and their penalty kill was second-best. In other words, if UBC continues their parade to the sin bin, it may not help Saskatchewan since they scored just seven times in 99 opportunities this season.

Where this series may be won and lost is in the blue paint. If Jessica Vance is as dominant as she was in the regular season, the Thunderbirds will need Micklash and Boughn to match her. Her rate of one shutout every two games has to worry the T-Birds a little in a three-game series, and her sub-1.00 means there won't be a lot of goals celebrated unless UBC can unlock the secret to Vance's success.

In the other series, long-time foes Alberta and Manitoba will meet in Winnipeg for another chapter to their recent playoff history. Alberta ousted Manitoba last season in the semi-final in two straight games while Manitoba eliminated Alberta in 2016 in three games in the semi-final. The rubber match, if you will, happens on Manitoba ice for the first time in these last three years, and it features the top-ranked U SPORTS team in Manitoba against the second-ranked U SPORTS team in Alberta. We may be talking about this clash of the titans for some time.

Manitoba was 2-1-1 against Alberta this season, but history has cleared favored the Alberta squad in the matchups. That being said, Alberta was the best offensive team and had the second-best goal differential while Manitoba was the second-best offensive team and had the best goal differential. Both teams can score and both teams can defend, so there aren't a lot of difference between the two teams. Manitoba had the top power-play; Alberta was second-best. Manitoba had the third-worst penalty kill; Alberta had the worst.

The difference in this series might be how the teams play in one-goal games. Yes, Alberta has won two games already, but they looked like the more passive team doing so. During the season, Manitoba was 14-2-1-0 in one-goal games while Alberta was 9-2-2-2. If this series comes down to goaltending, Manitoba's Rachel Dyck and Alberta's Dayna Owen - the two veteran keepers - have virtually identical stats. If Chamberlin continues to start under Howie Draper, Jon Rempel's rookie in Lauren Taraschuk had better stats across the board in all major categories. There's no Lindsey Post this season, so this series could be won and lost in the blue paint based on the personnel decisions Howie Draper and Jon Rempel use.

There will be some amazing hockey played at Rutherford Rink in Saskatoon and Wayne Fleming Arena in Manitoba this weekend, and it would be a shame for you to miss it. Get down to one of those two rinks if you can and cheer on the teams as they battle for a right to represent one of the two Canada West berths in the U SPORTS National Championship!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Morning Hovi Blog In Canada

As you can from the smiles on the faces of the Finnish women in the image to the left, things went pretty well for the Scandinavian nation against their arch-rivals. Finland and Sweden seem to encounter one another in most tournaments, and normally we see Finland and Sweden have pretty close battles. It's becoming more and more clear that the gap is widening between these two nations as Finland flexed their muscles in a 7-2 trouncing of the Swedish women at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

I'm not here to break down the game, though. Hovi Blog In Canada returns today because our favorite Finnish Olympian, Miss Venla Hovi, played a part in the Finnish victory last night. Venla's offensive skills have never been in question after witnessing her play in the Canada West Conference with the Manitoba Bisons, but she has really grown into a great international player with her home country.

Very early this morning, Venla got things started for the Finns with what has been reported as a gorgeous assist on Petra Nieminen's goal to make the game 1-0 in Finland's favor.
I'd like to post the highlight of her assist, but I haven't been able to find one. In fact, I haven't even been able to see the goal myself as every single video highlight package of this game online seems to not include Nieminen's goal. Yes, I'm a little disappointed with that, but we do know that Venla's efforts were rewarded with her assist today.

UPDATE: I now have the highlight as Venla causes the turnover that Nieminen puts in the back of the net!

As it stands, Venla has recorded one goal and one assist in four games with Team Finland, and their victory today sets them up for a rematch with the Americans who they fell to in the preliminary round 3-1 in the opening game of the tournament for both teams. Not to be too much of a homer, but I'm hoping for a Finland-Canada gold medal final, so you know who I'm pulling for in that game.

Without looking to the future too much, though, congratulations to Venla Hovi! Your adopted home is cheering for you and we're proud of the success you're having and Team Finland is having!

Until next time, pitää tikkuja jäällä!

Friday, 16 February 2018

Let's Get Tropical!

I'll be honest in telling you that I don't follow basketball outside of the top stories that dominate the sports broadcasts. I know about the game as I did play basketball in my high school days, but I just can't get into the NBA for some reason. However, I am a fan of the movie Semi-Pro due to the antics of Will Ferrell, and the somewhat-fictional story of the Flint Tropics is makes me chuckle. It may not be his best work, but the ensemble cast that Will Ferrell is a part of in this movie hits all their lay-ups in a successful effort.

So why am I talking basketball on a hockey blog?

On Saturday night, the OHL's Flint Firebirds are playing in the Flint Mega Bowl wearing these uniforms as the Firebirds get tropical!
Those uniforms are outstanding, and I'm pretty sure Jackie Moon would approve! If they have a player wrestle a bear during an intermission, the Firebirds officially are the greatest junior hockey team in the country without doubt. While the orange wasn't a uniform colour used by the Tropics, it actually doesn't look bad as a hockey uniform colour!

If you notice to the right, the Firebirds replicated the stripe that runs off the shoulder and across the chest, but they added the stripe down the right side for some reason. They also changed the font of the number, and they were forced to re-imagine the location of the palm tree and the word mark on their chests. In a rather solid addition in my view, they threw the palm tree on the breezers which I absolutely love. Overall, it's not an exact replica of what the Tropics wore on the court, but it seems the Firebirds will certainly keep the tropical spirit alive with these uniforms. The only question is whether they'll be giving out free corndogs if the Firebirds hit 125 points against the Saginaw Spirit tomorrow night. My guess is there won't be any free corndogs handed out.

It should be a fun time in Flint, Michigan tomorrow with the Firebirds getting tropical, and I think there should be annual Tropics/Semi-Pro game held by the Firebirds. They could have a lot of fun with this as a key game on their schedule, and it may just draw in a pile of fans who may otherwise opt out of watching OHL hockey. As along as Flint remembers the one rule that the Tropics lived by, they should be ok! Because this isn't just a hockey team, it's a lifestyle!

Until next time, everybody love everybody!

Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 282

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight with a ton of stuff to discuss. Obviously, both the men's and women's tournaments are underway at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games, so Teebz and Beans will take a look at that tournament and the results seen there. To be honest, there isn't a lot to really dissect when it comes to Canada's performances, but we'll discuss all the results from the opening week of games. As you may have heard, the Canadian women had a pretty big date with the Americans on Valentine's Day yesterday, and it's always fun to see the mutual hatred come out between these two teams despite them talking about the respect they have for one another. Venla Hovi is playing with Finland as well, so we'll go over all that action tonight!

Teebz and Beans will use the first half of the show for The Olympic Hockey Show once again as they go over the results of the men's tournament followed by what the picture looks like on the women's side. Needless to say, we'll break down the battle waged last night between Canada and the US as we prepare for the expected rematch in the gold medal game. We'll also provide a quick update on Venla Hovi and Finland, so if you want to know about the Olympics from our warped perspective, tune in for the first half of the show! The second half of the show will see us focus on the Manitoba Bisons men's and women's teams as they prepare for the Canada West playoffs, we'll talk about the graduating seniors from the women's team, discuss the fines handed out to Dustin Byfuglien and Madison Bowey for their indiscretions in the Washington-Winnipeg game, chat about the Ottawa-Los Angeles trade, and more! All of this can be heard at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM and UMFM.com!

But I'm going to be busy tonight, you say, so how do I tune in, you ask? We suggest that you download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans go over the results of the Olympic tournament, talk playoffs for the Bisons, chat fines, discuss Phaneuf-for-Gaborik, and more on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: February 15, 2018: Episode 282

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Is This Our Game Plan?

Canada and the United States met in their ongoing battle towards the gold medal in Pyeongchang, and it felt like the animosity between the two teams was at a four-year high. Things had gone well for Canada leading up to the games in the pre-tournament action seen in North America and over in South Korea, and that led me to believe that perhaps Laura Schuler and her coaching staff may have solved the American onslaught we were used to seeing in these games. Canada carried the play for periods of time in the pre-tournament games, and that, in my mind, boded well for these Olympic Games.

And then we saw the Americans throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Canadians tonight, and the onslaught on the Canadian net was back as it had been previously. If this is the game plan that Schuler and her staff are employing against the Americans, how long can they play with fire before they get burned?

Make no mistake that Canada buried the chances they had with Meghan Agosta scoring on one of six Canadian power-plays while Sarah Nurse introduced herself to the world with a gorgeous goal as well in helping Canada win 2-1. It wasn't like the reigning gold medalists just sat back and let the Americans skate circles around them, but it looked like the Americans were the better team for the majority of the night.

Perhaps that's ok in Schuler's world but it seems a little risky when you consider the firepower that the Americans possess. The chances the Americans had were certainly plentiful, but they just couldn't finish. You can credit the Canadian defence and Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse for part of that, but you simply can't give up the number of chances the Americans had on this night without having them burn you at some point.

In Canada's defence, they did score four goals, but two were disallowed. Brigette Lacquette's goal was waved off due to a mass of humanity in Maddie Rooney's crease that included a couple of red jerseys, and Haley Irwin's redirection as she stopped was determined to be a kick so it too was disallowed. While the first goal may be hard to allow under Olympic rules, the second goal could have gone either way in this writer's view.

However, talking about these chances is moot had America been able to convert any of it chances. Four goal posts helped Canada. Renata Fast swept a puck off the goal line. American chances were thwarted by shots that were fanned on. They tried to make one extra pass when a shot was probably the better choice on a few occasions. For a team that poured 45 shots on the Canadian net and only found the twine once, the Americans won't be happy with those results.

Both teams will undoubtedly go back and review the video of this game in looking for ways to generate more offence and capitalize on chances and reduce the opportunities of their foes. The physical side of the game, which is always present in these Canada-USA games, was certainly shown as there were skirmishes and checks that would make the men's game proud, but this preview of what could potentially be the gold medal game certainly offers a lot for the coaches and players to reflect on when it comes to the end results.

While Canada may have won the game, the Americans certainly had every opportunity to win this game as well. A victory is a victory and I won't take that away from Canada as they found a way to claim this win, but I feel that this game only sets up what could possibly be another gold medal game to remember between these long-time rivals as the tension, the bulletin board material, and the animosity continues to grow.

If you're Laura Schuler, though, you have a lot of work to do before the final game of this tournament. If Canada does meet the Americans in that game and they play as they did tonight, it could easily be an American victory. That should concern Schuler because her team is better than what they showed tonight, and she needs to get them back to the level of play they showed in winning five of six pre-tournament North American games.

Let's go, Canada!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The First Move

In a move that caught a number of hockey pundits by surprise, the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators decided to exchange assets tonight as Ottawa sent Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson to Los Angeles in exchange for Marian Gaborik and Drew Shore. Phaneuf, who was playing in the game against Pittsburgh, was pulled mid-game and told of the move while both Gaborik and Shore finished their game before being informed of the deal. Needless to say, both teams needed changes, but is this deal the move they both needed?

As the NHL finalized the details, it was also reported that the Senators would retain 25% of Phaneuf's salary in order to accommodate this deal. In other words, of the $20 million-or-so still owed to Phaneuf on his contract over the next four years, the Senators are on the hook for just over $5 million over those four years. It might be a small pittance to pay when one considers the albatross contract that Phaneuf had and how Ottawa will cut $4,750,000 in salary over the next four seasons.

I have to honest that when I heard Senators owner Eugene Melnyk talking about cutting salary and not being a cap team any longer, I immediately thought that Erik Karlsson was all but gone. The Senators still have some good pieces in Matt Duchene, Bobby Ryan, Mike Hoffman, and Craig Anderson, but I suspect one of those names will finish this season with another team. If you're Erik Karlsson, the additions of Gaborik and Shore do nothing to change the fortunes of the Senators in the long-term, so why would the all-star defenceman give staying a second thought?

Let's be honest: an average savings of about $1.2 million over the next four years is not going to get Karlsson signed when he becomes a free agent. If this team loses Karlsson, the cupboards really are bare when it comes to replacing the international superstar. Thomas Chabot is good, but he's not Karlsson. When you really think of where this team is headed, Erik Karlsson should be one of those cornerstones in that build. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening now.

Gaborik has been a healthy scratch this season after returning from the myriad of injuries he's gone through as he's gotten older. His addition to this roster might help when Bobby Ryan seemingly can't remain healthy, but both men are oft-injured and largely ineffective when playing while injured, so I get Los Angeles GM Rob Blake's wish to include Gaborik in this deal. For Senators GM Pierre Doiron to move Phaneuf, Gaborik and his medical history was the price he had to pay to save $5 million for his owner.

Personally, I don't like this trade for either side, and it might be the best way for two GMs to rid themselves of problems they inherited. At 36, Gaborik's time with Ottawa may be short as a buy-out seems likely this summer. Los Angeles gets a defenceman who doesn't have to be a top-pairing guy, but Phaneuf's decline has been well-documented and it's hard to see him bringing his game to new levels in Los Angeles in an overly-competitive Western Conference.

With both sides having washed their hands of problems they no longer wanted, this might be the start of a very interesting trade deadline season. Ottawa, from all reports, is still looking to shed more salary, and I can't see Los Angeles being happy with their current roster if they're going to push for a Stanley Cup. Let's hope that this trade is the first of many on this year's major contract swap day!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Hovi Blog In Canada

Through my time in writing this blog, doing the radio show, and being around hockey of all skill levels, it's still a little surreal to me that I get to speak with Olympic medalists. You don't really think about it at the time, but seeing Venla Hovi as she is in the photo makes me realize just how lucky I am to know her and how lucky I am that I have a friendship with her. Venla and Finland opened the Olympic women's hockey tournament on Sunday, and I was hoping she might make a major impact after her fantastic showing in Canada West hockey this year.

Apparently, I didn't need to wait long to see Venla do what she does so effortlessly while with the Manitoba Bisons!
I've seen that one-timer at Wayne Fleming Arena and across western Canada before, and it looks even better in Finnish blue! Venla opened the scoring in the Finland-USA game, but Finland would eventually fall 3-1 in this game. It's a little bittersweet as I had hoped that Finland might surprise the Americans, but the Americans finally got their game going in the second period and never really looked back.

Officially, whenever Venla scores a goal or an assist in these Olympics while wearing her Manitoba Bisons-coloured gloves, the highlight, if it can be found, will go up here. She's incredible, she's an inspiration, she's an idol, and she's my friend, so this blog will become Hovi Blog In Canada whenever she scores. If there's one thing I support more than hockey, that would be my friends. Venla Hovi's work in Pyeongchang will be highlighted and promoted whenever she puts her name on the scoresheet.

Finland will tangle with Canada next, so the road to a medal gets no easier for them. They'll battle the Olympic Athletes from Russia at the end of the round-robin on Valentine's Day, so keep your eyes on this blog as I'll post any and all Venla Hovi highlights that I can find.

It's not often that a friend goes to the Olympics, so she's going to get the royal treatment from HBIC!

Until next time, pitää tikkuja jäällä!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Rundown - Week 15

There were playoff spots on the line all over the western half of Canada this week as the Canada West Conference rolled into its final weekend of women's hockey. Manitoba had their destiny in their own hands, but Alberta, UBC, Saskatchewan, Regina, Mount Royal, and Calgary all still had chances at the five remaining spots and a possible first-round bye for the Pandas, T-Birds, and Huskies. The only team that had a chance to play spoiler was Lethbridge, although Manitoba could also be considered a spoiler if they're looking to derail the Dinos' playoff hopes. It was a dramatic weekend when it came to the standings with all the possible changes, so let's check out the action on this week's edition of The Rundown!

LETHBRIDGE at REGINA: Let's start with the team who had a significant chance to ruin a weekend as Lethbridge traveled to Regina to meet the Cougars. Regina started the weekend in seventh-place, so they had to win and get some help for them to reach the playoffs. Both teams came out in the first period looking a little cautious, and it showed in the shot margin as the Pronghorns led 7-6 in shots through one period as they seemed to embrace the role of spoiler. With no goals scored in the opening frame, we'd look to the second period for offence.

The second period seemed to be heading the same way the first period did, but a miscue with the puck behind her net while on the power-play allowed Keely Chalk to wrap the puck around the post and past Morgan Baker at 11:09 for the shorthanded marker and the 1-0 Pronghorns lead! Regina pushed back, but may have pushed too much when Chelsea Hallson was whistled for bodychecking at 15:19 and Tamara McVannel was sent off for roughing at 16:57. On the five-on-three, Lethbridge's Tricia Van Vaerenbergh wired a shot towards Baker that Delaney Duchek got a stick on to redirect past Baker for the power-play marker at 17:11 for the 2-0 lead!

The third period started off defensively, but the Cougars would not go quietly on this night. Lilla Carpenter-Boesch found room through Lethbridge's Brooklyn Paisley on a nice backhander to cut the lead to 2-1 at 10:04. Three minutes later with Jensen Smigelsky sitting in the penalty box, Regina's Bailey Braden notched a shorthanded goal of her own when her and Jaycee Magwood executed a perfect give-and-go with Braden finishing off the play top-shelf over Paisley to make it a 2-2 game!

However, just nine seconds later, Tricia Van Vaerenbergh came streaking down the wing and ripped a shot short side on Baker, and the Pronghorns went back up by a goal with Van Vaerenbergh's power-play tally! The only problem was that lead would last only for a couple of minutes. With Mattie Apperson and Eryn Johanson sitting in the Lethbridge sin bin, Regina head coach shocked everyone in pulling Morgan Baker to go six-on-three! Her gamble would pay off, though, when Tamara McVannel's shot was stopped, but no one checked Emma Waldenberger as she potted the rebound at 15:44 to make it a 3-3 game!

With nothing decided after sixty minutes, the two teams would need extra time. The four-on-four period gave nothing to report, but the three-on-three period would. Magwood used Apperson as a partial screen on a one-on-one in the Lethbridge zone, and her shot found beat Paisley high on the blocker side for the double-overtime winner as Regina takes this game 4-3! Baker was solid in making 31 saves in the win while Paisley made 37 saves in her only appearance this season in a double-overtime loss!

LETHBRIDGE at REGINA: The two-point win elevated Regina into fifth-place with Mount Royal's results yet to come, so the Cougars were looking to solidify that position with another home-ice win over Lethbridge. Lethbridge showed another strong outing on Friday, losing their fifteenth one-goal game of the season. Had Lethbridge taken half those games the other way, we'd be talking about them in a playoff position right now. More on this below in The Final Word, but let's get to Saturday's action!

The two teams began the game testing one another's defence, but neither would budge until just past the midway point of the game. Lehtbridge's Katelyn Breitkreuz was called for closing her hand on the puck, and the Cougars went to work on the power-play. Kylee Kupper found Emma Waldenberger with a pass, and she spotted Lilla Carpenter-Boesch wide-open for the easy tap-in past Jessica Lohues at 13:57 for the power-play marker and the 1-0 Regina lead!

We'll move to the second period where Lethbridge came out strong from the intermission. Tricia Van Vaerenbergh finished off a gorgeous feed from Brett Campbell to find the back of the net behind Jane Kish at 4:09 and tie the game at 1-1! Minutes later, Alli Borrow made the Cougars pay for a turnover by taking the puck in alone on Kish, and she zipped a shot past Kish on the blocker side at 8:51 to give the Pronghorns the 2-1 lead! The remainder of the period was mostly Jessica Lohues and the Pronghorns defence weathering an intense storm in their own zone as they were outshot 18-3 in the period, but they went into the intermission with the one-goal lead intact!

The ice was barely dry when Lilla Carpenter-Boesch decided she was going to take over the game. The Regina forward slipped a wrap-around past Lohues in the Cougars' first offensive zone chance just 24 seconds into the period to make it 2-2! She wasn't done, though, as she netted her hat trick two-and-a-half minutes later. Kylee Kupper wired a shot on net that Lohues stopped, but the rebound landed in the mass of humanity in front of her as a scramble ensued. Emma Waldenberger showed off some solid soccer skills by kicking it over to Carpenter-Boesch who dented twine behind Lohues for the power-play goal at 3:02 to put Regina up 3-2! The Cougars weathered a few offensive sequences by the Pronghorns as they were outshot 10-3, but Jane Kish and the Cougars put themselves in a good spot with a 3-2 victory! Kish made 18 stops for the win while Lohues stopped 31 shots in the loss.

SASKATCHEWAN at MOUNT ROYAL: With the Cougars locking up a playoff spot, it came down to who else could claim the final playoff spot between Mount Royal and Calgary. The Cougars were hosting the Saskatchewan Huskies who were pushing Manitoba for top-spot and looking to claim one of the top-two spots for a bye in the quarterfinal round of Canada West playoffs. The game started like most do for Saskatchewan, and that's with speed and tenacity at both ends of the ice. The Cougars seemed unfazed, though, as they didn't allow Saskatchewan to find the back of the net with some strong play in front of Zoe DeBeauville. We'd go scoreless into the intermission despite Saskatchewan holding an 11-4 advantage in shots.

With no scoring in the second period, we'd move to the third period where a penalty midway through the period was costly. Mount royal's Kate Hufnagel was sent off for holding a Huskies' stick, and the Saskatchewan power-play went to work. Kira Bannatyne showed some great wheels as she burst down the line past a Cougars defender, cut to the front of the net, and slipped the puck through DeBeauville's five-hole as she moved laterally with Bannatyne at 10:19 to put Saskatchewan up 1-0. And since Vance has a sub-1.00 GAA, Mount Royal suddenly found themselves in a deep hole. With the Cougars doing all the could, including a late goal-mouth scramble with six attackers where it appeared Mount Royal may tie the game, Vance simply wouldn't allow the puck to find the netting behind her. At the final horn, the Huskies survived the late push and took the 1-0 victory! Vance was perfect on 15 shots for her eighth shutout of the season while Zoe DeBeauville deserved a better fate on her 25-save performance.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about Jessica Vance here because the Huskies netminder has been lights-out this season when it comes to tending the nets. Vance was putting on a show in Calgary on Friday night once again as she turned away several good chances for the Cougars throughout the night. Vance really has been the story for the Cougars this season as she has turned in quality starts each and every time she has taken the ice. With all due respect to Manitoba's Lauren Taraschuk, Jessica Vance is Canada West's best netminder this season in my view as she officially earned the most wins in Canada West with tonight's win, and has nearly identical statistics to Taraschuk. Of course, there's one more game to play, so we'll see if she can improve on these stats on Saturday!

SASKATCHEWAN at MOUNT ROYAL: Saskatchewan's win saw them move up the standings, and we'll see how UBC, Alberta, and Manitoba made out shortly when it comes to knowing where they stand, but Mount Royal was also scoreboard-watching when it came to Regina and Calgary. We know Regina was in the driver's seat after they won both games and picked up five points, so Mount Royal really needed to win or get some help from Manitoba if they wanted to remain in the playoff hunt! The only problem? Jessica Vance.

Saskatchewan saw Kori Herner score at 9:11 of the first period while Kori Herner added a second goal at 13:25 of the third period. Brooklyn Haubrich punched in an empty-net goal with 25 seconds to play while Jessica Vance continually turned away Mount Royal scoring chances. All twenty shots were handled by Vance, and some of those chances included a glove save on an Anna Purschke breakaway, a couple of bang-bang passing plays, and several shots through traffic. In the end, the Cougars couldn't solve Vance in sixty minutes as the Huskies skated to the 3-0 win. Vance, as stated above, made 20 saves for her ninth shutout of the season while Emily Severson had a solid game in making 21 saves in the loss.

CALGARY at MANITOBA: The Bisons simply needed two points on the weekend to guarantee themselves first-overall in the conference while Calgary was playing for their playoff lives. They had to pick up at least three points to tie Mount Royal and claim a playoff spot via tie-breaker scenario, but they had a gargantuan task in front of them as the lowest-scoring team in the conference. Let's just say this went as one might expect.

The opening period saw Kelsey Roberts stonewall the Bisons on a number of great chances as the Bisons looked a step faster all night. It wasn't until the dying seconds of the period that the Bisons would be rewarded for their hard work. The cycle game was working behind the net when Natasha Kostenko centered a pass with seconds remaining. The pass went all the back to the point, and Caitlin Fyten's shot eluded a number of legs and Roberts in the net as she barely beat the horn to give Manitoba a 1-0 lead at 19:59!

From there, the top team in the conference simply poured on the pressure and the shots in the second period, and that led to this game getting away from the Dinos. Jenai Buchanan fired a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that went high past two defenders and Roberts, and we had a 2-0 lead at 6:18. Three minutes later, Lauryn Keen banked one in off the post at 9:55, and Manitoba was off and running with a 3-0 lead. While the remainder of the second period offered no additional goals, it was more of the same as Manitoba kept heavy pressure on the Dinos, and they went into the second break up three goals.

The third period was more Manitoba. Nicole Carswell scored at 3:24 from a scramble in front of Roberts, Alana Serhan jammed home a loose puck at 7:45, and Natasha Kostenko cashed in Manitoba's sixth goal at 17:19. Needless to say, this was not the Dinos' night as Manitoba skated to the 6-0 win. Lauren Taraschuk had a very quiet night in stopping all eight shots for her fifth shutout of the season while Roberts stopped 24 shots in the drubbing.

CALGARY at MANITOBA: With the Bisons clinching home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs on Friday, the Dinos had everything to play for on Saturday. Knowing that Mount Royal had lost to Saskatchewan meant that Calgary could really put the pressure on their crosstown rivals if they could grab a regulation win. Would they pull off the upset?

It appeared that Manitoba would take the lead early on, but the referees determined that Natasha Kostenko had interfered with Roberts as Kostenko was knocked over in the crease and the goal was disallowed. That seemed to spark goaltender Kelsey Roberts who really deserves a pile credit for the score on Saturday because she was simply incredible in tending the net. She denied a number of scoring chances throughout the opening frame to keep the Bisons off the board, but her team couldn't solve Rachel Dyck in the Manitoba end. At the end of one period, it was 0-0.

The second period saw more dominance from the home team as Manitoba applied more pressure for the majority of the period. Late in the frame, though, the Dinos had their best scoring chance off a one-timer in the high slot, but Dyck was equal to the task as she kept this game deadlocked in a stalemate.

The longer this game went on as a scoreless the draw, the better the chances were for the Dinos to emerge victorious. However, they'd find themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 score midway through the period. Alanna Sharman burst through the neutral zone to catch the Dinos flat-footed, and she drew the defenders towards her on the right side before she slid a gorgeous pass over to Jordy Zacharias who broke in alone on Roberts from the left side. Her shot beat Roberts high, and the Bisons grabbed the 1-0 lead at the 7:37 mark!

While there was hope that the Dinos could find the equalizer, it's tough to score goals when a team registers no shots in the final period of play. That's the reality that the Dinos faced, and even with six attackers they were stymied over and over by the Manitoba defence. At the final horn, Manitoba gutted out the 1-0 win. Rachel Dyck didn't have a lot to do in a six-save shutout while Roberts was spectacular in defeat with a 37-save performance.

UBC at ALBERTA: With a one-point lead over the Pandas and Huskies, the Thunderbirds went to Edmonton with second-place and a first-round bye on their minds. The Pandas, however, were looking to claim second-place themselves, so this series had all sorts of ramifications on the standings in terms of places two through four.

The two teams came out flying, and neither side was willing to give an inch. The tight-checking affair was disrupted when Lindsay Weech launched a shot from the point on Tory Micklash that the netminder couldn't corral, and the Pandas jumped out in front at 7:14. The two teams would continue their clash after resetting, and it seemed as though Alberta would escape the period with the lead. Unfortunately, UBC's Kenzie Robinson found just enough room past Dayna Owen with her deflection of Celine Tardif's point shot with three seconds to play, and we went to the intermission tied 1-1!

The second period was more of the same action where both sides kept the other at bay, but eventually UBC would find a break. While shorthanded, Robinson skated the puck in on the left wing, double-pumped the slap shot, and then ripped it through Owen's wickets for her second of the night and the 2-1 UBC lead! The period would end with this game feeling more like a playoff game between these two rivals, but it would be UBC holding the one-goal lead.

The third period started with a bang as the forechecking Autumn MacDougall caused a turnover behind the UBC net, and she threw the puck out in front where Lisa Lloyd jammed home the puck past Micklash just 19 seconds into the frame, and we were tied 2-2! Alberta, sensing the momentum shift, played extremely good hockey over the final 19:41, but Tory Micklash was just as good as these two teams went to overtime!

In the overtime period, UBC won a puck battle along the boards as Mathea Fischer found Celine Tardif at the point. Her shot towards Owen was deflected by Kathleen Cahoon and that deflection was enough to end the game as Cahoon's redirection found the back of the net at 3:42 of the extra period! UBC picks up the extra point in the 3-2 overtime win! Micklash made 20 stops in the overtime victory while Owen made twelve saves in the extra time loss.

Full highlights from Friday's clash can be found here!

UBC at ALBERTA: With Alberta now trailing UBC by two points, only a regulation win would propel the Pandas ahead of the Thunderbirds in the standings. You had to know that the Pandas would come roaring out of the gates on this one, but UBC did a good job at blocking shots and getting in passing lanes to prevent a lot of chances as they thwarted the Pandas' offensive chances. Alberta led in shots 6-2 after one period, but the score remained 0-0.

The second period saw more of the same play between these two teams as the playoff-like atmosphere continued, but UBC would find a break. Celine Tardif fed Katheleen Cahoon on the right-wing half-boards, and she circled with the puck up to the middle of the point where she let a long wrist shot go that somehow eluded traffic and the glove of Kirsten Chamberlin to put the T-Birds up 1-0 at 7:50! The Pandas kept pressing for the remainder of the stanza, but the intermission would see the Thunderbirds with that one-goal lead.

The Pandas continued to be thwarted by a smothering T-Birds defensive system in the third period, but Amy Boucher decided to put the Pandas on her shoulders. She hopped off the boards and went one-on-five against the Thunderbirds who did very little in trying to check her, and Boucher skated all the way into the slot and finished off her individual effort by going low on the blocker side on Amelia Boughn to make it a 1-1 game at 10:04! Neither team would give an inch as they sacrificed bodies to make plays through the remainder of the period, and the horn at the end of sixty minutes would see these two teams still deadlocked so we'd get more overtime!

Obviously, Alberta couldn't catch UBC at this point, but no team wants to go into the playoffs on the loss or a two-game losing streak. The first overtime saw few chances, and it would lead to a second overtime period. UBC had an early opportunity in the three-on-three, but Chamberlin shut the door. And in hockey, usually a big save at one leads to a chance at the other end, and this game was no different.

Alex Poznikoff did a good job in controlling the puck in the UBC zone despite having a check draped all over her, and she finally broke loose from the check in the right face-off circle, spotted Autumn MacDougall, and MacDougall easily tapped the puck past Boughn to give the Pandas the 2-1 double-overtime win! Chamberlin was good when called upon as she made 12 saves in the double-overtime win while Amelia Boughn stopped 21 shots in the extra time loss.

Highlight of this game are below!

CANADA WEST WOMEN'S HOCKEY FINAL STANDINGS
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Manitoba
19-5-3-1
64 66 39
W9
BYE
Saskatchewan
18-7-1-2
58 49 31
W3
BYE
British Columbia
14-5-5-4
56 60 41
L1
vs MRU
Alberta
13-5-6-4
55 67 43
W1
vs REG
Regina
8-14-2-4
32 44 64
W3
@ ALB
Mount Royal
7-17-3-1
28 35 50
L4
@ UBC
Calgary
7-18-1-2
25 22 51
L3
OUT
Lethbridge
3-18-2-5
18 32 56
L14
OUT
Teams in yellow have clinched a playoff spot.

The Graduating Class

With Lethbridge having no graduating seniors on the team, they'll return in full-force next season with some solid recruits to bolster their line-up. I have more Lethbridge talk in The Final Word, but this team is poised to take steps forward next season with a full squad returning with another year of experience under their belts.

The graduating seniors from Regina include Kylee Kupper, Nikki Watters-Matthes, and Bailey Braden. These three Cougars have been amazing players throughout their Canada West careers, and it was a pleasure to watch them and be in awe of their skills and talents. Cougar Nation found three of the best that this nation has to offer! Before we skip to the next set of games, here's a pretty solid marketing video featuring Miss Braden about her time with the Cougars.

The graduating Mount Royal Cougars include Reanna Arnold, Jordan Finnie, Erin McLean, assistant captain Rachel Piitz, and captain Devonie Deschamps, and all were honoured for their commitment and performances on the ice with the Mount Royal program. These five women were outstanding ambassadors for the school and the game, and they will be missed next season. Congratulations to these five women on incredible careers and for their achievements which included Mount Royal's first Canada West playoff appearance last season!

On the Saskatchewan side, the graduating seniors include captain Kaitlyn Willoughby, Kori Herner, Kira Bannatyne, and Kennedy Harris. Those four are an impressive group in terms of the hockey talent they bring to the ice each and every day, and their presence in Canada West will be missed. All four women have had exemplary careers and have been outstanding leaders on the ice, in the classrooms, and in the community for the Huskies. It won't be the same without them next season, and that's why they're a special group of players. Congratulations, ladies, on fantastic careers with the Huskies!

Calgary only has one senior, but she's a heckuva player as Kate Lumley is the graduating senior for the Dinos. She won't wow you with her stats, but she reads the play extremely well. She jumps in from the point in helping pick up three goals this season, she's sound in her own end, and she became a fixture on the blue line for head coach Danielle Goyette this season. Congratulations to Kate Lumley on a great career with the Dinos!

Manitoba featured five seniors who are graduating this year, and those players are captain Caitlin Fyten, Charity Price, Alana Serhan, Olympian Venla Hovi, and goaltender Rachel Dyck. There simply aren't enough words for these five players, but they were key in the success of the Bisons over the last few years. Dyck was the backbone of this team in the net, Fyten has quietly become one of the best defenders in the conference at both ends of the ice while leading this team by example, Serhan is a force on the ice and one of the vocal leaders off of it, Price is the Swiss Army Knife of the Bisons as she played on every line and in most situations this season, and Hovi was outstanding as a leader and a dynamo at both ends as she played in all situations. Congratulations to the Bisons' five graduating seniors on their incredible careers!

UBC will see four players graduate, and these four women have been integral parts of this Thunderbirds era. Kathleen Cahoon, Alexa Ranahan, Kirsten Toth, and Cassandra Vilgrain will graduate this season, and it's hard to imagine this program without these players. Ranahan only spent two years at UBC after transferring in from Ohio State University, but she was a stand-out defender in her own zone and certainly was well-known to opponents. Toth was a reliable and oft-called-upon player by head coach Graham Thomas for her versatility and skill. Vilgrain transferred in from the University of New Hampshire, and her offensive abilities were on display the moment she donned the jersey. Cahoon was always an imposing player whose height and reach made her a dangerous threat, but she always seemed to score clutch goals at key times for this squad. All four players have been a pleasure to watch over their careers. Congratulations on earning a degree while being outstanding members of the campus, community, and Thunderbirds team!

Last but not least, Alberta will see four players graduate as Morgan Kelly, Ashley Morin, Deanna Morin, and Jacky Normandeau all have filled their eligibility. Morgan Kelly was one of those reliable defenders whose name was never heard because she was always making the right play, and head coach Howie Draper certainly trusted the veteran. It will be odd not seeing twins Ashley and Deanna Morin on the ice next season as those two sisters were all about hustle, effort, and determination as they often were thorns in the sides of their opponents with their relentless forechecking. Jacky Normandeau transferred in from Wilfred Laurier University, but she only saw one game of action. Regardless, Normandeau was an effective defender at WLU where she also played soccer! Congratulations to these four women on their university careers with the Pandas!

The Final Word

The playoff brackets are set as Manitoba and Saskatchewan will await the winners of the Alberta-Regina and the UBC-Mount Royal series. There is no more math and no more games to determine who will play whom. If you're one of the four teams in the quarterfinals, you know you need six wins in nine games maximum as each series is a best-of-three to claim the Canada West championship banner. If you're Manitoba or Saskatchewan, it's four wins in six games. Everything starts next weekend, so get ready for some intense playoff action!

In saying that, Calgary and Lethbridge will miss the playoffs for the second-straight season. Calgary's missing of the playoffs is fairly easy to explain - they averaged less than a goal per game this season. You won't win many games with that little offence, and yet the Dinos found themselves nearly in a playoff spot when all was said and done! Goaltending is the team's forte as Kelsey Roberts had to be perfect most nights, and she delivered over and over again in giving her team a chance to win. If they can find some goal-scoring next season, we could be talking about the playoff-bound Calgary Dinos.

Lethbridge, on the other hand, had outstanding goaltending and decent offence, so what went wrong? Perhaps it was their 3-16 record in one-goal games this season? If they had won five of those 16 losses, that's potentially 15 additional points on their total and that would put them in fifth-place, one point ahead of Regina. You have to wonder what could have been as they were in most games all season long, but just couldn't find that higher gear to get the win. In my view, it seems that Lethbridge is on the precipice of being a playoff team, and I like what Michelle Janus is building at the Lethbridge campus. Let's hope they can bring in a few recruits to help the team, and we could be talking about Lethbridge bumping teams out of the playoffs.

It's that magical time of year, and this blog will have all the details from the Canada West Quarterfinal Series next weekend as we look to crown the 2017-18 Canada West champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Old-Fashioned Slobberknocker

With fighting declining in every league as the emphasis on skill and speed is increased, the classic line brawl has fallen into the extinction category in hockey. Line brawls were fairly common in the 1970s with the Broad Street Bullies and Slap Shot getting the attention over their pugilistic themes, but we've seen the numbers consistently decline to where we are today where they are as rare as fifty-goal seasons. Unless you were in Toledo, Ohio tonight.

The Kansas City Mavericks were visiting the Toledo Walleye tonight in ECHL action, and things went off the rails after Connor Crisp scored his third goal of the night and fourth Walleye goal of the evening. The Mavericks, not enjoying a 4-0 deficit, decided to take matters into their own hands and all hell broke loose.
Wow. The ECHL disciplinarians are gonna be busy. Let's start with the vicious cross-checks delivered by Garrett Klotz of the Mavericks to Toledo's AJ Jenks while he was on the ice. It was a free-for-all after that as players paired off in the defence of their teammates, and it ratcheted up another few notches when Mavericks goaltender Mason McDonald skated in to share in the festivities. That would only set off more fireworks as Toledo netminder Matej Machovsky skated the length of the ice to square off against McDonald. They traded blows until they agreed to end their gentleman's quarrel, and it seemed like all was done once players were separated and escorted to their respective benches and penalty boxes.

Note that I said "seemed like all was done".

With thirty seconds left in the game, caution was once again thrown to the wind.
Another cross-check to the face, another line brawl, and officials simply trying keep the peace while avoiding punches thrown. There was no goalie fight this time, though, as both McDonald and Machovsky were assessed game misconducts for their involvement in the early fracas, so Kansas City's Kent Nusbaum and Toledo's Pat Nagle were able to finish out the game in their respective blue paint.

For the record, Kansas City picked up a mere 65 minutes in penalties on the night while Toledo was assessed 55 minutes in total penalty minutes. Toledo has three minor penalties up until the start of the first brawl while Kansas City only had a pair of penalties. According to Mark Monroe's article in The Blade,
Walleye coach Dan Watson called the situation "absolutely embarrassing."

"Their coaching staff should be embarrassed. Their organization should be embarrassed," Watson said. "Klotz should be suspended for the rest of the year. I think he should be done. It's unacceptable. Our league is trying to get rid of the image from the 1980s and 1990s. If this is going to continue, it won't we'll continue to get a bad rap."
I don't know about it being embarrassing if you're a fan. That's old-time hockey, as the boys would say, as everyone on the ice got involved. Granted, it's probably not what the league wants to see when it comes to promoting its product, but you have to admit that everyone sits up and watches when there's a line brawl that features a goalie fight.

Reggie Dunlop would have been proud!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 9 February 2018

Outstanding Start

I wasn't going to get up any earlier than I normally do for work just to catch the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. After all, if you've seen the teams enter the stadium once, you've seen them do it over and over. Instead, I found myself captivated by the pageantry in these Opening Ceremonies as I prepared for work, and I may have wandered in a little late because I wanted to see as much as I could.

92 nations will take part in this Winter Olympiad, and it was clear that each and every nation was proud to be there. While Tess Virtue and Scott Moir were one of two male-female pairs of flag bearers - Korea being the other - it was Pita Taufatofua who shocked everyone by coming out as the flag bearer for Tonga bare-chested in the near-freezing temperatures! Taufatofua competed in taekwondo in Rio's Summer Games, and he will compete as a cross-country skier in Pyeongchang!

We even saw a little political intrigue at the Opening Ceremonies as Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The unified Korean women's hockey team has brought the two nations a little closer, and I'm hopeful that they can work together during and after the Olympics to make the world a better place.

Speaking of the team, Korean figure skating idol Yuna Kim received the Olympic torch from two members of the unified Korean women's team as North Korean Jong Su Hyon and South Korean Park Jong-ah delivered the torch in unison showing their teamwork. Maybe this bodes well for the team on the ice?

The athletes were led in traditionally as the Greek Olympic team were first to enter the stadium, and it seemed a little anti-climactic when Greece only had two cross-country and two Alpine skiers. Regardless, the Olympic tradition was upheld. Ghana's Akwasi Frimpong, the only athlete from Ghana who will compete in skeleton, was next, and he drew a solid ovation as the lone representative of his country. Ghana was followed by Nigeria who we were told has the first female bobsled team to ever participate in the event from Africa!

Of the 92 nations, Madagascar, Ecuador, Cyprus, Kosovo, Togo, Tonga, and Azerbaijan were all represented by a single athlete. Togo sent one female cross-country skier while Tonga - mentioned above - and Ecuador each sent a male cross-country skier. Madagascar sent one female alpine skier while Cyprus, Togo, and Azerbaijan all sent individual male alpine skiers. While they all may be long shots to win, they're champions in their own countries already!

Of all that happened, it was great seeing the Canadian delegate enter the stadium as I'm excited to see our athletes compete on this international stage. This should be a fun Olympiad, so get settled in and cheer on the athletes for the next two weeks!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Hockey Show - Episode 281

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns tonight to the airwaves and internet streams on the cusp of the one of the biggest tournaments on the planet as the Olympics are scheduled to open officially tomorrow! Yes, I know they've already started with mixed curling doubles and ski jumping and Bean's favorite sport of figure skating, but the event officially kicks off tomorrow, so we'll get you set with an Olympic primer tonight on everything you need to know about the men's and women's tournaments!

Teebz and Beans will sit down tonight and go over all the details you need to know for these two tournaments including where to catch all the action on television, what times our two squads are playing, who they're playing against in each game and in their pools, and when you should be calling in sick to work for the medal rounds. The two tournaments differ in their setups, so you might want to tune in for that piece in the first half-hour of the show. The second half of the show will see us focus on our great city and campus as the University of Manitoba will host at least two Canada West playoff series between the men and women with the possibility of more being very good. We'll also talk about the Jets going through some major injury woes, the suspension handed out to Alexandre Burrows, a big day on campus next Friday, a Friend of the Show earning another accolade, and a ton more if we can squeeze it in heard exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and at UMFM.com tonight at 5:30pm CT!

But I'm going to be busy tonight, you say, so how do I tune in, you ask? We suggest that you download the UMFM app on your phone or tablet. It's the easiest and most convenient way to listen to any of UMFM's great shows any time of the day, so go get it! Just follow this link on your iDevice or this link for your Android device and get the UMFM app! It's never been easier to tune into The Hockey Show or UMFM! Download the UMFM app today, and don't miss any of our great programming or shows! Of course, you can do the radio thing at 101.5 on the FM dial and you can always listen online via the UMFM website!

If you prefer social media, we try to remain up-to-speed there as well! Email all show questions and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter. You can also post some stuff to Facebook if you use the "Like" feature, and I always have crazy stuff posted there that doesn't make it to the blog or show.

Tonight, Teebz and Beans get you ready for the Olympics with their Olympic primer, talk Bisons, chat Jets, discuss Burrows' extended Olympic break, and more on The Hockey Show found only on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM app!

PODCAST: February 8, 2018: Episode 281

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Make It Ten

I'm quite certain that no one at the NHL office in New York City reads this blog. That means there's a good chance that no one from the Department of Player Safety reads this blog either. Whatever the case may be, I have to congratulate the Department of Player Safety as they seem to be finding their teeth, and they're biting into players who decide that the rules don't apply to them. As HBIC stated yesterday, I thought it would be a five-game break for Alexandre Burrows after kneeing Taylor Hall in the head, but the announcement came down today that Burrows would sit for ten games, not the five as I predicted!

There was chatter today that Burrows may appeal the suspension, but he decided against it at the end of the day. It speaks volumes to what the Department of Player Safety is trying to achieve when after having a conversation with Burrows, he decided that a ten-game break was appropriate for the crime he committed. Whatever was said in that conversation carried enough weight to convince Burrows that appealing was futile.

Burrows will miss the next ten games and be eligible to return on March 2 versus the Vegas Golden Knights in Las Vegas, so one has to wonder if Burrows will leave ahead of his teammates and arrive in Vegas with a few days to spare. The Senators play in Washington, DC on February 27, so he legitimately could leave from Ottawa on February 24 after the Senators play the Flyers. With the Senators basically eliminated from the playoffs, would anyone from the franchise bother him if he took a couple of extra days to unwind in Las Vegas?

Regardless of what Burrows does, it's rather impressive to see the Department of Player Safety laying down a stiffer-than-normal penalty on a player who doesn't qualify as a repeat offender. If the Department of Player Safety is sending a message to the rest of the league by using Alexandre Burrows - a non-high-profile player on a team that will miss the playoffs - as an example. That should deter anyone else from using one's knee one another player's head in a big way as that's ten games away from NHL action and ten games worth of salary forfeited because Burrows got a little steamed over Hall's hit.

For once, I applaud the Department of Player Safety in handing down an extreme penalty to a player. Intent aside, there could have been serious injury to Taylor Hall, and for a league that normally brushes aside contact to the head, we're starting to see some real penalties handed out as Andrew Cogliano, Filip Forsberg, and Alexandre Burrows found out. Sure, there's still some disgust in the suspension given to Brad Marchand as he should have got more, but one lives and learns in this case.

Late hits that target the head and knees that target the head are now receiving the harsh penalties that they should. If this is the new Department of Player Safety under George Parros' watch, I commend it for setting some real precedents when it comes to protecting a player's livelihood and health by penalizing those who target the head.

While Gary Bettman may deny any sort of link between brain trauma and hits to the head, it seems the Department of Player Safety is doing all they can to prevent any further major embarrassments by penalizing offenders harshly. Bettman can deny it all he wants, but the science is proving the relationship between mental health and head trauma more and more every day. With the evidence mounting, it may be harder for Bettman to deny long-term, but at least somebody at the NHL Office seems to be paying attention to those who target players' heads.

Enjoy your rest, Alexandre Burrows. You get the entire month off and a trip to Vegas at the end. It almost seems like this ten-game suspension is more of a ten-game vacation with how the Senators' schedule is setup.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gotta Be Five

Alex Burrows is an interesting character. I had the pleasure of watching him be a super-pest and decent scorer in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose before he got his shot at the big time with the Vancouver Canucks. He was always a likeable guy at the AHL level, but there were times where he'd give into some dark idea and do something ridiculously dumb. That has always been the knock on Burrows, but it seemed that as he got older he began to control these urges to do dastardly things on the ice that often hurt his team.

After tonight's game between the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils, it seems as though Burrows fell into some darkness because his attack on Taylor Hall will certainly see him sit for a few games at least.
What is Alex Burrows thinking as he's kneeing Taylor Hall in the head? This isn't the UFC or some sort of wrestling match. Kneeing in all forms in hockey is a punishable offence, yet here we have Burrows delivering knees to the head of Taylor Hall as they lay on the ice. What's scarier is that Hall is lying face-down on the ice, meaning the act of kneeing Hall in the head could potentially drive his face into the ice. There is zero excuse for this, and Alex Burrows should pay with a hefty suspension for this. Thankfully, Hall was no worse for wear after emerging from the pile of humanity.

According to Hall, he told Devils reporter Amanda Stein, "He punched me in the back of the head like 10 times. He kind of lost his mind."
Where Burrows might get nailed to the wall is that the officials had him tied up on top of Hall, and that's when he delivered the two shots to Hall's head with his knee. One could say that in the scrum, there may have been a reaction in trying to get up or something along those lines. When you watch the last replay, it's pretty clear that because his upper body was tied up, he resorted to the next best option he had in trying to deliver some justice to Hall for the solid and clean check he threw seconds earlier.

The unfortunate thing is that despite past indiscretions on the ice, Burrows has kept his name out of the Department of Player Safety's crosshairs for some time. With his record being basically expunged for past incidents, he doesn't qualify as a repeat offender in the eyes of the Department of Player Safety. Because of this, I'm guessing he gets five games for the two knee-shots he delivered.

Some may say that's a heavy price for Burrows to pay, but Hall could have been seriously hurt. Preventing something like this from ever happening again is entirely why the Department of Player Safety would be right to levy the maximum penalty they can as per the CBA.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!