Tuesday, 30 November 2021

The Timing Is Brutal

With the emergence of the Omicron variant in the battle against COVID-19 across the world, one had to figure that a few events would be affected at some point. In saying this, it was announced on Monday that FISU was cancelling the 2021 Lucerne Universiade after Switzerland implemented new travel restrictions that would prevent people from certain countries from flying into the European nation after the new variant strain of the virus had already been detected in the country. I can't fault the government for taking swift action in protecting its citizens in terms of public health measures, but this is absolutely devastating for the athletes who were set to arrive in two weeks. As it stands, this edition of the Universiade will not be played with 2023's Universiade Games in Lake Placid, New York already on the horizon.

"In the face of travel restrictions being imposed in Switzerland and all around the world, we have had no other choice but to cancel the Lucerne 2021 Winter Universiade. This decision was made with a very heavy heart. So many of my fellow Swiss university sports colleagues had already given so much, for so long to this event. But the new travel restrictions mean that staging the event has now ben made impossible," FISU Acting President Leonz Eder said in a statement.

"On behalf of FISU, I would like to offer our solidarity and sincere gratitude to the organising committee of Lucerne 2021 and all the partners who have been working so hard to provide a magical Alpine moment. FISU is also deeply saddened for the delegations from National University Sports Federations from all around the world who had been looking forward to Lucerne 2021."

That sound you hear is a long, audible sigh of disappointment.

We're two weeks from the event that was supposed to take place in Lucerne, Switzerland. This is the second time the Games will be taken from the Swiss city after the original dates for the Games, January 21-31, were cancelled due to the Swiss government locking down their country following a previous pandemic outbreak. Because of the changes in policies for those athletes flying into Switzerland, there isn't enough time for the teams and officials to adjust their schedules to adhere to the Swiss policy of a ten-day quarantine, rendering those people ineligible to participate in their events.

With Lake Placid one year away as it's set for January 2023, the decision to push the competition dates back again was not what the FISU organizers wanted to do, so they've officially cancelled the 30th Universiade Games for good.

My heart goes out to all the athletes who were getting set to compete from countries around the world. Let's not forget that Estonia was sending a men's hockey team for the first time to the Universiade Games and their first game was to be against Canada on December 10. While this gives Estonia an extra 14 months to prepare for their men's hockey debut, it also means that an entire class of players who would have been the first to represent Estonia on the international stage lose that honour through no fault of their own.

It's been a while since I uttered these words out loud, but we're not out of the woods yet. There are still pockets of people who choose to remain unvaccinated despite the benefits of doing so greatly outweighing any perceived negatives, and we're seeing variants like the Omicron variant popping up because the virus is adapting and evolving right before our very eyes thanks to those pockets of people who offer the least resistance. As we see more and more players in the NHL, AHL, and CHL affected by the virus as well, now is not the time for complacency, but, rather, renewed vigor in our fight against COVID-19. Use your head, and please get vaccinated or get the booster if you're already vaccinated.

There are a pile of Canadian university athletes set to make their way over to Lucerne, and I'm absolutely crushed for each and every one of these people who were going to compete for the maple leaf rather than just their schools. For those athletes who are in their fourth or fifth year of eligibility, this opportunity won't be available ever again, and it's that realization that makes me sad for these athletes. They were literally within two weeks of the biggest sporting opportunity of their careers, and now it's gone.

Being that this is a hockey blog, I am hopeful that Hockey Canada does the right thing and sends all of the players that were named for the men's and women's hockey teams the jerseys they would have worn had they landed in Lucerne. They deserve to be honoured as they were set to make Canada proud, so let's make this right by getting them their jerseys. For a few thousand dollars in jersey costs, Hockey Canada, you can create a ton of goodwill towards the program with this gesture.

Hockey players, if you do receive your jersey, please send in photos of you in it! I want to feature you on HBIC if Hockey Canada does the right thing here! You may not get to compete for the country at the Universiade Games, but we can still be proud that you were selected as one of Canada's best players playing at the university level! All photos can be sent here, and I'll get them up on HBIC ASAP!

It will be a much quieter December here on HBIC as there won't be daily updates from the 30th Universiade Games to report, and just writing that sentence has me pretty glum for this holiday season.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 29 November 2021

EBUG Moment!

Rob Mattison, seen to the left in 2011, isn't a household name by any means. Rob's originally from Anchorage, Alaska, but he now calls Tulsa, Oklahoma home after having spent some time in the state attending the University of Oklahoma and tending a little net for the Tulsa Oilers. It's this last stop in his winding hockey career, though, that we'll focus on today because 38 year-old Rob Mattison might have recorded his most memorable win despite him recording no saves of any kind during his latest appearance.

Rob is currently the Tulsa Oilers' EBUG - Emergency Back-Up Goaltender - and his inclusion in last night's game against the Utah Grizzlies seems to be a case of random coincidences coming together at the right time. On Friday, the Anaheim Ducks re-assigned Tulsa netminder Roman Durny to the AHL's San Diego Gulls after they had a goalie suffer an injury. That left the Oilers in a bind as they needed a goalie for the weekend's games, so they went out and quickly signed Jake Ramsey to be an EBUG against Wichita on Friday. He didn't get into the game, but it appears that Mason McDonald, a Calgary Flames 2014 second-round pick, was dressed as the back-up on Friday in Wichita.

I'm not sure what happened between Friday night and Saturday night when the Utah Grizzlies came to Tulsa to play the Oilers, but Mason McDonald was not in the lineup for the Oilers. Instead, Jake Ramsey, the EBUG signed on Friday, made his first in-uniform appearance in front of the home crowd wearing #62. Daniel Mannella wouldn't need any relief on this night despite the fact that Tulsa lost 3-1 to the Grizzlies, so Ramsey watched from the bench for the whole game as he wasn't needed. Again, I don't know what happened to McDonald, but we do know that the two goalies dressed for Tulsa included an EBUG.

Again, I don't know what happened between Saturday night and Sunday night, but it appears Jake Ramsey was replaced by Rob Mattison as the Tulsa Oilers' EBUG as the ECHL transactions show Mattison signed by the club on Sunday. As we know, EBUG contracts are paid-when-played, so perhaps Jake Ramsey had other commitments where he was needed, forcing the Oilers to sign one of their former teammates from their CHL days back in 2011-12 and one of the team's EBUGs from last season.

And this is where our story veers into the category of "awesome" because Rob Mattison, wearing #37, was on the bench for the Oilers on Sunday night as the Grizzlies and Oilers resumed their battle. With Tulsa leading 5-3 late in the game, it appeared that everything was wrapping up nicely until Dylan Sadowy was whistled for a high-sticking double-minor at 17:15. Utah's Luke Martin would score at 17:43 to make it 5-4, and Utah would then tie the game with 25 seconds to play when Brandon Cutler beat Mannella for another power-play goal. Whatever happened on that final goal isn't clear, but Daniel Mannella, Tulsa's starting goalie, was hurt on the ice. When it was clear he couldn't continue, Rob Mattison grabbed his blocker and glove and headed out to the blue paint!

He played the final 25 seconds of the third period without facing any shots, but there was still an overtime period looming. No pressure or anything, right?

Before the water laid down for the new ice surface could freeze for the overtime period, this game was over. Tulsa's Eddie Matsushima roofed a backhander past Utah's Garrett Metcalf just 41 seconds into overtime, and Tulsa escaped with the 6-5 overtime victory! And since Rob Mattison was in net for the 41 seconds of overtime, Rob Mattison earned his first ECHL victory!

Check out this stats line for Mattison: 66 seconds played, zero shots faced, one win. His goals-against-average will remain at 0.00 since he officially registered time in net, but his save percentage will show as "undefined" since he faced no shots. How weird is that stats line? And how cool is it that an EBUG was able to record a win this season? That's beyond awesome, so congrats to Rob Mattison on picking up that first-ever ECHL win in his career at age 38!

What makes this a cool story as we pull back a few layers is the fact that Rob Mattison played one season in Winnipeg, Manitoba at the MJHL level with the Winnipeg Saints! He played just 11 games with the Saints in 2002-03 before the Saints sent him to the AWHL, the American West Hockey League, an American Tier III Junior ice hockey league which merged into the NA3HL back in 2014. His stats, according to EliteProspects.com, weren't all that impressive at the time, but we can add an ECHL win to his list of accomplishments now as Rob Mattison has a pro hockey win to his name!

Tulsa doesn't play again until Thursday, so we'll see where this story goes over the next few days. As Tulsa head coach Rob Murray said last night, "I have never seen an emergency backup goalie get the win without facing a shot," and I can honestly say he's likely right. I don't recall any other game where an EBUG has participated, earned a win, and not made a single save or faced a single shot in the game he played. Rob Mattison is likely the first guy to do that at the age of 38 after last playing a meaningful hockey in 2010-11 for the Troy Bruins in Ohio.

Sometimes, this game makes you smile for the right reasons, and Rob Mattison's story deserves the smiles today. Congratulations, Rob, on your first ECHL win!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

***Stick-tap to Dave W. for the heads-up on this story!***

Sunday, 28 November 2021

The Rundown - Week 7

For three teams, it's the last week of the first half of the schedule. For six teams, it's business as usual as Canada West women's hockey was back in action this weekend. With Mount Royal sitting this one out as they enjoyed a bye week, teams had a chance to make up ground on them as well as each other. As we near exam and holiday season, let's finish off the schedule for Manitoba, Calgary, and Regina while checking out what the other five teams did as they get set for next week on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: We'll start in Saskatoon where the UBC Thunderbirds rolled into town for a two-game set against the Huskies. These two teams began the weekend tied for third-place in the conference with 12 points apiece, so there was a chance for one team to set themselves up nicely with a possible four points at stake. Two of those four points were up for grabs on Friday night as Elise Hugens got the start in net for the T-Birds while Camryn Drever was between the pipes for the Huskies!

The first period saw these two teams get reacquainted with one another as a fairly even period was played. Saskatchewan took a couple of minor penalties to UBC's lone infraction, but none of the advantages resulted in goals on the scoreboard. Through the first 20 minutes, we'd find ourselves locked at 0-0 with the Huskies leading 10-9 in shots.

Things changed in the second period in a big way. Sophia Gaskell found the back of the net for her third goal of the season just 81 seconds in the frame. Isabella Pozzi scored her first Canada West goal with a blast from the point at 6:32 to make it 1-1. Kennedy Brown made the T-Birds pay for taking penalties as she notched her third goal of the season on a 5-on-3 advantage as her deflection found room past Hugens to make it 2-1 for the Huskies at 12:29. Mackenzie Kordic would respond for the Thunderbirds on a power-play of their own when her shot found room past Drever for her third goal to even the game at 2-2 at 14:35, but a Jordyn Holmes goal from a bad angle on the goal line found room through Hugens on the stick side at 16:29, and the Huskies would go into the break with that 3-2 lead.

The third period would see Saskatchewan double their lead on the power-play when Abby Shirley scored her fourth goal of the season on the power-play at 5:54 as they went up 4-2. From there, it was standard Saskatchewan hockey as they locked down the defensive zone and kept UBC's chances to a minimum. The clock would tick down to zeroes, and the result at that time would see the Huskies prevail over the Thunderbirds by that 4-2 score! Camryn Drever picked up her fifth win of the season in stopping 29 shots while Elise Hugens suffered her first loss at the Canada West level despite making 27 saves.

Highlights? The Huskies played at home, and they didn't even post Twitter highlights this week. I get Huskies football is doing something special, but there were at least half a dozen other sports happening at the University of Saskatchewan this weekend. Zero highlights.

SATURDAY: The Huskies' win on Friday meant that they sat two points ahead of UBC in the standings as dawn broke on Saturday. Another win by Saskatchewan would put UBC in some trouble in their quest for a playoff bye, and we already know that UBC was looking for a win to even things up with the Huskies once again. Just as they were on Friday, Elise Hugens was in UBC's crease while Camryn Drever took her spot in the Saskatchewan net.

UBC came out of the gates flying, but Sakatchewan matched them in their intensity. A penalty midway through the period was the catalyst UBC needed to find the scoreboard, and Ashley McFadden converted on the power-play for her third goal of the season to put UBC up 1-0 at the 9:28 mark. Hannah Koroll would add a late goal at 19:12 for her second of the season to move UBC to a 2-0, and we'd go into the intermission with UBC holding the two-goal lead.

The second period saw UBC take control thanks in part to two power-play opportunities that they earned, but they were excellent in their own zone in preventing shots and clearing the ones that made it through to Hugens. When there were rebounds, most were smothered quickly by the UBC netminder, but the 15-6 edge in shots in this frame in favour of UBC showed the ice tilted in one direction. We'd head to the third period with that 2-0 lead holidng, though, as UBC couldn't add to their lead.

The third period was a close-out period for UBC as they shifted to a defensive mode for most of the frame. Even with a couple of power-plays, the Huskies couldn't solve Hugens on this night as UBC earned the 2-0 win over the Huskies! Elise Hugens was excellent in picking up her sixth win and fourth shutout with a 24-save night while Camryn Drever was on the losing end of a 31-save effort.

Highlights of this game are done by imagination only this weekend.

FRIDAY: The Alberta Pandas headed east to Winnipeg for a date with the Manitoba Bisons as these two long-time rivals looked to add a new chapter to their storied battles. Alberta, sitting in fifth-place, needed some points as they were in unfamiliar territory this late in the season. Manitoba was looking to overtake the idle Mount Royal Cougars with a couple of wins this weekend. Friday's game would see Halle Oswald starting for the Pandas while the Bisons opted for Erin Fargey to start for them.

It felt like a normal Alberta-Manitoba game as this one got underway with Alberta forechecking like demons while Manitoba tried to solve the forecheck. This would continue throughout the first period until the unexpected happened. With a delayed penalty call in effect, Manitoba opted for the extra attacker. As they set up with six players on the ice, an errant pass back to the defence went to no one and ended up in the vacant net as Alberta took a 1-0 lead as Payton Laumbach was credited with the goal. That was the only score, and the "own goal" by the Bisons had them down by one heading to the second period.

The second period saw the tide turn somewhat as the Bisons appeared to have used the intermission to overcome the forecheck of the Pandas, putting them back on their heels slightly. Drawing a penalty just before the seven-minute mark, the Bisons went to work as Halle Edwards found a puck in tight on Oswald and slipped it past Oswald's outstretched leg on the backhand! Edwards' fifth goal of the season tied the game at 1-1 at 7:16 as the chess match between these two teams would resume. Alberta had a couple of power-plays that resulted in no additional goals, and we'd move to the third period with the game knotted up at 1-1.

The third period saw the Bisons really apply some solid pressure from the opening face-off. They would be rewarded for the effort at the seven-minute mark when Vanessa Klimpke picked the pocket of an Alberta defender. Her shooting lane disappeared as an Alberta defende got in the way, but she slipped the puck to Molly Kunnas who ripped a shot past Oswald! Kunnas' third goal of the season at 7:05 put the Bisons ahead 2-1! Alberta would turn up the heat in the dying minutes of the game, but Erin Fargey made a couple of key saves as the Bisons stood tall in preventing any additional damage. At the final horn, the Bisons had defeated the Pandas by a 2-1 score! Erin Fargey earned her fifth win of the season in a game where she stopped all 17 shots she faced, but wasn't credited with a shutout thanks to that own goal. Halle Oswald suffered the loss despite making 25 saves.

The only highlights I could rip from social media were of the Bisons' goals. Sorry, Pandas fans, as I don't have video of the own goal credited to Laumbach.

SATURDAY: Manitoba entered Saturday knowing the game would be the last one of 2021, so there was hope they'd finish the first half of the season strong. Alberta needed to find the win column again if they wanted a shot at making a run in the second half of the season. Kirsten Chamberlin was sent to the Alberta crease while Kimmy Davidson got the call for the Bisons!

There was a little "deja vu" as this game got underway as the Pandas once again applied a fierce forecheck that seemed to hem the Bisons in their own zone for periods of time. There wouldn't be any own goals, thankfully, but the Bisons were outplayed in the opening frame for the second-straight night as the Pandas closed the period with a 12-5 advantage in shots.

The second period felt like more of the same as the Bisons appeared confused by the same system that Alberta had used one night earlier. Two Alberta penalties made the shots more even, but Alberta's last shot of the period was the one that counted. Jadynn Morden made a great move to get around a defender, and she roofed a shot inside the far post 1at 19:59 for her second goal of the season to send the teams to the dressing rooms with Alberta leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and 21-12 in shots!

There was no change to how both teams played in the third period as Alberta was clearly the better team on this day. They'd add a little insurance when Payton Laumbach fired home a rebound into a yawning cage for her fourth goal of the season at 9:29, and the Pandas were up a pair of goals. They shifted into a more defensive scheme which only made it harder for the Bisons to score, and the final horn would sound on a solid 60-minute effort from the Pandas as they downed the Bisons 2-0! Kirsten Chamberlin made 17 stops for her second win and first shutout of the season while Kimmy Davidson stoped 26 shots in her first loss of her career.

Apparently, the Bisons aren't making highlight reels for the Pandas since there was nothing to show off from a Manitoba standpoint in this game. Sorry, Pandas fans.

FRIDAY: Regina headed west to Calgary where the Dinos were hosting the Cougars for this weekend's games. The Cougars were looking to separate themselves from the Dinos who sat two points back of Regina while the Dinos were looking to get a win streak going so they could climb into the playoff picture. Arden Kliewer was in the Regina net for this game while Gabriella Durante started for the Dinos!

Regina looked like the more aggressive team in th first period as they certainly got more pucks to the net, but Durante was strong in her net as she denied a handful of shots early. A penalty just past the midway point was the break that Regina needed, though, as Paige Hubbard corraled a loose puck at the side of the Calgary net during a scramble, and she chipped it over Durante into the net for her second goal of the season as the power-play marker put Regina up 1-0 at 12:23! There was just goal seen in the opening period, though, as Regina went into the break leading 1-0 and up 17-9 in shots!

The Dinos flipped the script in the second period as they got more pucks on Kliewer through some more aggressive play, but the Regina netminder was equal to the task. A couple of power-plays for the Cougars resulted in nothing being added to the score for them, so we'd move to the third period with Regina holding a 21-17 edge in shots, but still clinging to the 1-0 lead.

Calgary continued their assault on the Regina net in the third period as they looked for the equalizer, but all they found was a wall named Arden Kliewer. Kliewer denied all chances once again in this period, and the final horn was the curtain call on a magnificent performance as the Regina Cougars downed the Calgary Dinos by that 1-0 score! Arden Kliewer was perfect on 27 shots she faced for her third win of the season and first Canada West shutout in her career while Gabriella Durante likely deserved a better fate than a loss after stopping 27 shots at her end of the ice.

Highlights? Calgary's doing it right! Well done, Dinos!

SATURDAY: With the victory one night earlier, the Regina Cougars were moving in the right direction when it comes to solidifying a playoff spot in the second half. Calgary, despite showing some solid offensive play on Friday, just couldn't solve the Regina goaltender. Both teams were looking for wins as Arden Kliewer was back in the net for the Cougars while Gabriella Durante got the start for the Dinos in a rematch from one night earlier!

We've seen a few players flirt with hat tricks over the course of a game this season, but Elizabeth Lang decided to put this game on her shoulders in the first period. Lang scored at 2:53, 8:17, and on the power-play at 8:48 to start this game off with a natural hat trick as she scored her fourth through sixth goals of the season in that 5:55 span of time! Kliewer got a piece of her first, but not enough as it trickled across the line. Her second goal was a rebound off an Alli Borrow shot while the third was also a rebound off a Rachel Paul shot. Needless to say, Elizabeth Lang had a 3-0 lead over the Cougars at that point. Adela Juzkova would get one of the Lang goals back when she scored her first of the season at 11:13, but the damage had been done by Lang in the opening period as Calgary took the 3-1 lead into the break.

The second period saw things settle down as both teams began to play more defensively sound. There were still chances, but the goaltending and defences were up to the challenge if limiting those opportunities. In a period where shots were 9-9, there were no goals scored, so we'd hop to the third period with Calgary still leading 3-1.

Alli Borrow would dent the twine behind Kliewer on a great individual effort just 1:36 into the period for her fifth goal, and Calgary was content to sit on the three-goal lead as they went into a defensive shell for the remaining 18 minutes. Regina's six shots weren't good enough to beat Durante, and the final horn sounded on Calgary's 4-1 win over the Regina Cougars! Gabriella Durante made 31 stops for her fourth win of the season while Arden Kliewer took the loss on a night where she stopped 31 shots as well.

Highlights of this game are below!

The first-ever regular season meeting between the two "expansion" teams in Canada West went down in Langley, British Columbia this weekend as the MacEwan Griffins headed for the west coast to meet the Trinity Western Spartans. With both teams currently out of playoff spots, there was one goal this weekend for both teams: points. Natalie Bender was in the Griffins' crease while Mabel Maltais got the nod for the Spartans.

MacEwan started the game off as the aggressors, forcing TWU into an early penalty, but nothing would come of that chance. However, the Griffins would find the scoreboard when Kyrelle Skoye's point shot was tipped in front by Rylee Gluska past Maltais for her second goal of the season at 6:56, and MacEwan was up 1-0 before the game was seven minutes old. Trinity Western was whistled for two more penalties in the first and never really got their momentum going, so we'd head to the second period with MacEwan up 1-0 and leading 13-3 in shots.

It appeared that the Spartans tied the game early in the middle frame on the power-play when Neisha Germann's shot beat Bender, but went off both posts rather than finding twine. That momentum built by the Spartans off that chance held the Griffins at bay, but it would only last for so long. Mackenzie Dachuk's wraparound goal at 18:41 was her first Canada West goal of her career, and it took the wind out of the Spartans' sails as the Griffins jumped to a 2-0 lead. The teams would head into the intermission with the Griffins up a pair of goals.

The third period saw the Griffins shift into a more defensive effort as they worked to limit chances for the Spartans. Trinity Western would outshoot the MacEwan in the period, but nothing got by Bender as she backstopped the MacEwan Griffins to the 2-0 win over the Trinity Western Spartans! Natalie Bender stopped all 19 shots she faced in the game for her third win and first Canada West shutout this season, but she also recorded her 12th regular-season shutout in a Griffins uniform to break the record she school shared with Sandy Heim! Mabel Maltais suffered the loss despite making 28 stops.

Highlights are weird thing, it seems. The Trinty Western Spartans posted higlights of the men's team despite them playing in Edmonton, yet they have nothing to show for women's hockey highlights. In fact, the last women's hockey highlights came from three weeks ago. What gives, TWU? Why does every other sport have a highlight package, including teams who played on the road, yet women's hockey doesn't?

SATURDAY: Points were still needed by both teams on this weekend, and MacEwan was halfway there with their win one night earlier. That put added pressure on Trinity Western on Saturday as they needed to keep pace with everyone in the conference! Brianna Sank was in the MacEwan net for this game while Jadeyn Kastning was between the pipes for the Spartans!

The second game of the set felt far more defensively-minded as this one got underway despite the fact that Trinity Western was shorthanded just 17 seconds into the game. That being said, they killed off that penalty, but the second penalty in the frame cost them. Mila Verbicky found a loose puck in a goalmouth scramble, and she popped it past Kastning for her first of the season at 8:50, and, more importantly, her first goal as a Griffin after transferring in from Lethbridge! Another penalty was killed by the Spartans in the period, but there would be no further goals as MacEwan held the 1-0 lead and a 9-6 edge in shots!

The parade to the penalty box continued in the second period as TWU was whistled 86 seconds in before MacEwan was handed two penalties followed by coincidental minors midway through the frame. Needless to say, there wasn't a lot of offensive momentum built either way as the chess game continued on the ice. By the time the horn sounded, MacEwan's one-goal lead still held strong while the Griffins led in shots 17-11.

The third period had the home team in the sin bin once again, but they pressed the Griffins throughout the period as they looked for the equalizer. It wasn't to be on this night, though, as Sank was just as solid in the third period as she was in the first period. When the horn sounded, the MacEwan Griffins skated away with the 1-0 win over the Trinity Western Spartans! Brianna Sank earned her second win of the season and first shutout of her Canada West career with a 21-save night while Jadeyn Kastning deserved a better fate after stopping 20 shots.

It would be nice to show the efforts of both teams, but we already know Trinity Western is running some sort of women's hockey highlight strike. Get it together, TWU.
School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
Mount Royal
16 35 15
vs SAS
16 30 26
14 36 13
vs TWU
14 23 13
11 18 21
vs MAC
10 15 22
10 22 29
8 26 40
Trinity Western
4 8 34

The Last Word

Three teams get bye weeks next week as Regina, Calgary, and Manitoba are done for the first half of the season. With Alberta and MacEwan playing one another, there's a chance that one or both teams could open a chasm that both Calgary and Regina may not be able to close in the second half. Of course, if one team wins both of those games, the battle for the final playoff spot could be a three-horse race down the stretch this season.

Saskatchewan going into Mount Royal will be a good test for the Huskies as they look to bounce back from a split with UBC. Mount Royal is coming off a bye, so we'll see how that plays out since teams are a combined 7-1 on the weekend after the bye. If the Huskies can take a game or two off Mount Royal, perhaps we'll see the fourth different Canada West team on the farcical U SPORTS Top Ten rankings.

UBC will get a chance to renew their interprovincial rivalry against Trinity Western team that is better defensively, but is still struggling with an offence that seems destined to play for a 0-0 result through 60 minutes. UBC had a chance to leap idle Manitoba into sole possession of second-place if they can earn three or more points, so UBC will be hunting for wins. TWU, of course, needs to win just to get back into the conversation for the playoffs. Two more losses might be the beginning of the end of the playoff dream in Season One of the TWU story.

There's one week left in the first half of the season, and there are all sorts of storylines currently be written. We'll add another chapter to those stories next week right here on The Rundown!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 27 November 2021

A Legacy Of Stripes

Being a hockey official is often described as a thankless job. When officials make calls, they're criticized by the offending team for what they feel was hardly an indiscretion, let alone a minor penalty. When they let teams play, they're criticized for allowing too many infractions to go uncalled by both benches. No matter what officials do, they're often the target for a player's or a team's ire despite them ensuring that the game is played without a fullscale riot breaking out. One of those long-time officials was the late Mick McGeough, seen above, and there's now another McGeough carrying on his legacy.

For those that aren't aware, longtime NHL official Mick McGeough passed away on November 23, 2018. Mick worked 1083 regular-season games from 1987-2008 before retiring at the end of the 2008 season. He also refereed 63 Stanley Cup Playoff games, and was one of the last officials to step on the ice without a helmet after being allowed to continue without a bucket when the NHL instituted the rule for officials. McGeough was certainly one of the officials everyone "loved to hate", but he was an exceptional official at all levels of the game where he worked.

One expects a parent's job may influence his or her child's choices for jobs as well, and Mick McGeough's officiating presence rubbed off on his son, Luke, who is working his way through the officiating ranks in Saskatchewan. It's clear that Luke also knows of his dad's influence on the game in Saskatchewan and around the world because Luke does something that not many people are able to do to honour their parents: he wears his uniform to work in memory of his dad!
Luke worked the Yorkton Terriers game Friday evening where he donned his dad's old referee sweater, and he went to work in calling the game between the visiting La Ronge Ice Wolves and the Terriers. Luke and his referee partner, Jeff Bahrey, were busy last night as they called 14 infractions for 50 PIMs combined in the 6-2 Yorkton victory!

Luke McGeough has worn his dad's referee sweater every year on or around the same day his dad passed away in honour of his memory, and I'm proud that Luke is following his own officiating dreams thanks to his dad. He wore his dad's sweater in 2020 for a game between the Estevan Bruins and the Weyburn Red Wings, and wore it for the first time in 2019 during a Midget AAA game in Regina to honour his dad.

Luke's memory of his dad in 2018 after his passing shows what a great guy Mick was when it came to "looking out for his teammates".

"I just hope he'd be proud of me," Luke told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader Post in December 2018, a few weeks after his dad passed away. "My wife was like, 'He'll be proud of the way you reffed either way.' I said, 'That wasn’t really Mick's thing.' He was a ref but he'd be way more proud of me being a good dad — he just loved the grandkids — and a good husband and a good person in general.

"Mick could care less if I was an awful official as long as I'm doing right by everyone else."

It honestly sounds like Mick McGeough brought up Luke and his siblings the right way if doing right by other people was more important than the work he does while wearing the stripes. Life is bigger than one 60-minute block of time where hockey is played, and I feel confident in saying that Mick's priorities were in the right order when it comes to his kids learning to be good people. Those are life lessons that will be used daily, and it seems like Luke has already made them part of his life.

"It's kind of special putting it on right, knowing that dad wore it, get a little sense of pride putting it on," Luke told CTV News in 2020. "I'm pretty proud of all his accomplishments."

I think Mick would be pretty proud of Luke's efforts to be a great person because honouring his dad in this way and sharing it with the teams and players with whom Mick McGeough would have had contact is a pretty special thing to do on behalf of his dad and the memory of his dad's legacy in Saskatchewan hockey. That speaks volumes about the lessons he passed on to his kids about doing right by everyone else, and I'd say Luke's on his way to being a great role model for his own kids.

Your dad was a legend, Luke, and you're writing your own legend now! Keep up the great work both on the ice in your own career, and off the ice in being a great husband, father, and person while bringing the hockey community together through the memory of your dad!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 26 November 2021

Meeting To Plan Meetings

It was decision day at the IIHF offices in Switzerland as they were reviewing China's men's hockey entry for the upcoming 2022 Beijing Olympics. Norway, who are set to be China's replacement if the IIHF deems China's entry to be less than ideal competitively, await the decision that was to be handed down today. Several teams - Canada being one of them - wait in the balance to see if their pool's teams remain the same or change. Needless to say, there was a big decision happening today for the IIHF when it came to their little Olympic tournament happening in China.

In knowing that there were a number of teams, countries, and players waiting for a decision, the IIHF went to work. When they emerged from their boardroom, the IIHF officially had done nothing.

Don't confuse doing nothing with "making no changes". That's not what I wrote. I said they did nothing as in they neither made a decision on China's participation in the 2022 Winter Olympics nor did they give Norway any news on whether they'll be going to Beijing to play hockey. As I said, they did nothing.

According to Reuters,
"During a meeting on Nov. 26, the IIHF Council received a report from the expert group assigned to review all potentially eligible players that might be included on the Chinese men's national team roster," an IIHF spokesperson told Reuters.

"The council was also presented with the most up-to-date eligibility documents from the Chinese Ice Hockey Association concerning the players that were included in its long list.

"These documents, together with the expert evaluation report, will be reviewed over the coming weeks before the council reconvenes to determine further actions. The status of the Chinese men's national team is unchanged."
As I said above, they literally did nothing except listen to China try and make a case for more players to help them be more competitive. They didn't hold their end of the bargain to make a decision that affects not only China, but Norway as well. They didn't improve their little Olympic tournament by any measure. They didn't ensure a more competitive field for the Olympic men's hockey competition. They did nothing.

Instead, they agreed to review the new information presented by the Chinese Ice Hockey Association and reconvene on December 6 where a decision can be made about China's participation in the men's hockey tournament. They literally met to plan another meeting, and these are the people in charge of all the major international ice hockey tournaments on the planet. Astounding.

Honestly, whoever was on China's list of potentially eligible players should have already been in the mix if China was truly serious at competing in their own Olympic Games. The fact that they were withholding or sitting on these names throughout the build-up to this point shows a complete lack of respect for the tournament and for the IIHF since these names could have been reviewed long before November 26.

What makes this laughable, though, is that these eligible players likely won't change much for China's level of competition when it comes to playing teams like Canada and the US. Why the IIHF is even giving these new players any consideration is beyond me, but I guess the IIHF is doing their due diligence to be fair in this process.

I get that China holds all sorts of opportunities for the growth of sports for a number of international federations, but the fact that China can force the IIHF into another week of deliberations because it magically came up with more names for potentially-eligible players is a farce. Just oust the 32nd-ranked Chinese team for being nothing more than a scrimmage team for the opposing nations in their pool, and allow the 11th-ranked team on the planet in Norway to replace them. Having them add a million more names won't make their team any more competitive.

Instead, we'll wait until December 6 for the IIHF's decision.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!