Saturday, 29 February 2020

Keeping Them In The Hunt

While the WCHA quarterfinal games are normally entertaining, I don't spend much time covering the women's US collegiate game for the simple reason that I never get to see the games. I hadn't been following the action early in the evening, but it seemed like more and more people were talking about a game between the Bemidji State Beavers and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs as the night went on. UMD had defeated Bemidji State last night in overtime by a 2-1 score, and tonight these two teams decided that one overtime period wasn't enough.

Gabbie Hughes put the Bulldogs up 1-0 at 8:48 of the first period before Reece Hunt replied at 11:36 for the Beavers to make it 1-1. From there, Maddie Rooney in the UMD net and Lauren Bench in the BSU net put on clinics for how to defend the nets over 120 minutes of play - that's six periods if you're doing the math - as Game Two rolled into a fourth-overtime period tied at 1-1.

Rather than describe the winner, here is the video of the game-winning goal. I'll have more on this player below as you watch an oddly-silent video of the fourth-longest game in NCAA women's hockey history come to an end!
So who was the game-winning goal scorer? That would be the already-mentioned Reece Hunt who forced a Game Three in this series with her goal at 128:43 in this game! If you haven't heard of Reece Hunt, here's your primer on a woman who had a heckuva freshman year for the Bemidji State Beavers under head coach Jim Scanlan.

Hunt was born in Nelson, British Columbia and played her prep hockey in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for the Okanagan Hockey Academy after a 16-goal, 31-point season for the Kootenay Wild in BC Female Midget AAA hockey. Reece's two season at OHA were very productive as she scored well over a point-per-game pace. In 2017-18, she 8 goals and 25 points in 21 games and followed that up by scoring 14 goals and 45 points in her senior year at OHA. Needless to say, she made an impression on the staff at Bemidji State who recruited her to join the Beavers.

She continued to light the lamp at the NCAA level after adjusting to collegiate life. Hunt was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team after scoring four goals and 15 points in 34 games this season that included a February 8 hat trick against the University of Minnesota. As the season progressed, you could see she was figuring out this WCHA hockey scene as she began to pile up the points late in the campaign. Since January 1, Hunt has recorded three goals and five assists in the second-half of the regular season.

That effort has now been seen against the Bulldogs in these two quarterfinal games as Hunt has been in on every goal the Beavers have scored in this series. She recorded as assist on Haley Mack's goal in the 2-1 Game One loss before scoring both goals tonight in the 2-1 victory. Whatever changed over the December break for Hunt, it's been working well for her over the last couple of months!

Game Three between Bemidji State and UMD will happen in Duluth, Minnesota tomorrow at 4:07pm CT. It should also be noted that Bemidi State goaltender Lauren Bench stopped 70-of-71 shots tonight to set a program record for most saves in a single game, breaking the previous record of 66 set by Janet Hicks on February 1, 1999. Bench's 70 saves also tied her for ninth-most in NCAA history. Head coach Jim Scanlan also picked up the 100th win of his coaching career, becoming the first Beavers women's hockey head coach to reach that mark.

For those that may be asking for a little more about Reece Hunt, she does come from a good hockey bloodline as her brother, Dryden, plays in the Florida Panthers system, appearing with both the Panthers and the AHL Springfield Thunderbirds this season, while her dad, Jeff, played for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds! While both have some impressive credentials to their names already, it seems that Reece Hunt is just beginning to write her story as she is now in the NCAA history books with the game-winning goal in the fourth-longest game in NCAA history!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 28 February 2020

Going Home

There is some magic when the New York Islanders play at their original home back on Long Island at the aging Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The crowds seem more engaged than they do when the Islanders play at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the Islanders seem to feed off the boisterous crowds that fill the Nassau Coliseum for games. Despite arguing for the last few years that the Islanders should be playing in their old home for some time now, it always seemed that those arguments fell on deaf ears.

The shovels have broken ground on a brand-new, state-of-the-art arena at Belmont Park for the New York Islanders, so it won't be long before they move into their new home, but a report hit the news today that New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo was heading to Nassau Coliseum for the game between Islanders and the Boston Bruins, and he was going there to make an announcement!

According to a Newsday report filed by Randi F. Marshall, Governor Cuomo will visit the arena to announce that all New York Islanders games will move back to Nassau Coliseum for 2020-21, leaving Barclays Center as footnote in their history! With the new Belmont Park arena project set to open for the 2021-22 season, this move puts the Islanders just eight miles away from their new home in 2021-22, moves them back to Long Island proper where they get better support than 15 miles away at Barclays Center, and puts them back in the arena where they made all their franchise's history.

After watching the Islanders in the playoffs last season where Islanders fans turned the Nassau Coliseum into Thunderdome in their efforts to support the Islanders, this move seems elementary for the Islanders. While there were concerns about Nassau Coliseum's aging amenities, it seems that, assuming the NHL signs off on this, the upgrades made to the arena meet the NHL's standards.

According to this BarDown report,
"A total of $175 million pumped into the arena to make the arena feasible to play in. Saturday's game commences the start of 21 home games the Isles will play at the venue where they called home from 1972-2015 in Uniondale, New York. A good chunk of the funds were specifically used to meet the NHL's requirements in the ice plant redundancy and dehumidification along with infrastructure for the media and broadcasting apparatuses."
There have also been upgrades in the dressing rooms and player's lounge, and it seems the team has listened to its fans as they prefer Nassau Coliseum over Barclays Center according to an Associated Press story from January 2019. Islanders fan Josh Rosenberg told the AP, "I've been coming to Brooklyn since they first started. I mean, it sucks to pay the extra fee to ride the train but I'm a die-hard fan. I'll take the Coliseum any day, but I don't mind taking the trip out here. (The Coliseum has) a way better vibe. It's packed all the time, everybody's cheering and the real fans are there."

As the state and borough look to build momentum for the Belmont Park arena opening, this move back to Nassau Coliseum should rekindle the flame in fans located on Long Island who were unwilling to make the trip to Brooklyn to see their NHL team play. While Nassau Coliseum was never a long-term solution due to its aging infrastructure, playing one last season in the barn where four Stanley Cups were won and countless Hall of Famers took the ice seems like the storybook ending that the Islanders deserve prior to moving into their glitzy new home in 2021.

While it may not be a state-of-the-art arena, it's home for the Islanders and their fans. Going home is never a bad choice.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 388

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is invading your radio airwaves again tonight with more hockey chatter and crazy stories. Honestly, the U SPORTS National Championship scene on both the men's and women's sides are shaping up to be a wee bit bonkers considering who isn't going and who is still in the thick of things, and you'll want to tune into next week's show as we talk to three highly-informed individuals on all the conferences across Canada. On this evening, though, we'll talk about who has and hasn't advanced to make this one of the more unpredictable seasons in recent memory!

The field from Canada West has been set as Alberta will not go from the men's side despite being ranked as a top-three team all season. On the women's side, Calgary took an early dive at the hands of Mount Royal, meaning another ranked team this season will watch from the sidelines. Jason and I will go over who is in, who is not, and who we're hoping will shake things up in both Halifax for the U SPORTS men's hockey championship and in Charlottetown, PEI for the U SPORTS women's championship. We'll also discuss the controversy surrounding the NHL's debate on EBUGs, Jared Bednar's choice of suit from last night, the award winners in Canada West and why the system there is flawed, and more! We're live on the air tonight at 5:30pm CT on 101.5 UMFM!

Where's the best place can you hear the show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason discuss who's in and who's not in the U SPORTS hockey picture, emergency goalies going on or not, Jared Bednar's haute couture choice or not, why Canada West's selection of award winners may be flawed or not, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: February 27, 2020: Episode 388

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Wrong Camo, Bro

If you follow Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, you know he has a saying about the oft-seen nights in baseball where sports team honour the military. As he states at least weekly, "Every single day, somewhere in the uni-verse, it is military appreciation day. Every. Single. Day." He's not wrong, mind you, but tonight the Colorado Avalanche - who play in Colorado which has a significant military presence - hosted their own Military Appreciation Night as they hosted the Buffalo Sabres. Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, who own the Avalanche, have spent the week celebrating the military and the members of the Armed Forces, and tonight;s even at the Pepsi Center saw the Avalanche don special jerseys in the warm-up to honour those who serve bravely.

As you can see in the photo above, it seems that head coach Jared Bednar went off on his own to honour the military, but might have missed the point entirely with his jacket. Yes, that jacket is in the style of camouflage, but not military camouflage! Rather than honouring the men and women of the Armed Forces by sporting a camouflage suit jacket, Bednar looks like he's heading out hunting!

These swatches are the general camouflage patterns that the US Army, the US Navy, the US Air Force, and the US Marines wear. There are reasons for each branch of the Armed Forces to wear their own camouflage pattern, and it's pretty evident that none of the branches of the military look like they rolled off the set of Duck Dynasty. Jared Bednar's choice of camouflage pattern for his suit jacket is clearly not a military pattern, so I have no idea what he was thinking when he either commissioned this jacket to be made or bought it with tonight's game in mind.

Social media had some fun with Bednar's jacket choice, though.
Perhaps some good might come out of Bednar's choice of clothing? Ducks Unlimited has a good idea when it comes to Bednar's jacket!
Whatever happened tonight with Bednar and his choice of camouflage, it's pretty clear that someone got some wires crossed. While there are enough military phrases used in hockey with teams going to battle and warriors on the ice showing bravery, the first thing that Jared Bednar needs to do after this game is go hunting for some new threads.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Stop Taking The Fun Out Of The Game

I've been saying on this blog for some time that the NHL is business. It's a very lucrative business where millionaires are made by showcasing talent that billionaires employ. There aren't a lot of professions on the planet where a guy can go from a $20-per-day per diem to signing a million-dollar contract, but such is life as a professional athlete. Kris Versteeg, pictured to the left, is one of those athletes who showcased his talent in junior hokey to become a millionaire, and he knows what it takes to carve out a niche in the business of hockey as a player. What Kris Versteeg and other players should remember is that there's an element of fun that has to remain in these games or people will stop watching. Knowing who will win before even playing the game takes all the fun out of sports, and it's why his idea of changing the emergency back-up goaltender needs to squashed here and now with extreme prejudice.

If you missed the clip on Rogers Sportsnet on Monday, here is the panel, led by David Amber, talking about the effect that David Ayres' amazing night will have on the game.
Both Versteeg and Kevin Bieksa - two men who made millions of dollars playing the game - are against this idea of having an emergency replacement goalie available in case both healthy netminders carried by a team get hurt in the same game. While I can see their points about football teams going out to "downtown Dallas" to find an accountant to play quarterback, Versteeg's old team, the Chicago Blackhawks, did indeed have an accountant play net for them in Scott Foster, and he helped the Blackhawks win their game against the Winnipeg Jets last season. Maybe show a little more respect for the accountants of the world and their athletic abilities, Kris?

All kidding aside, I find it hard that Kris Versteeg and Kevin Bieksa want to remove or significantly change an element of the game that got them front-page headlines in every newspaper and lead story spots on every sports highlight show on the planet. There's a reason why emergency back-up goaltender (EBUG) feats like Ayres' night are made into big deals - they happen so rarely that when they do happen, everyone watches! Like goalie fights which happen so rarely, the EBUGs get talked about for a few days before everything goes back to normal and life moves on. It's not wrecking the game's integrity or anything along those lines because it's such a rare feat that "once in a blue moon" shouldn't derail any team's season.

This game is supposed to be fun. It's getting harder and harder to access the game at a personal level with rising ticket and merchandise prices, rising costs to play the game, and the oft-seen racial-, sexual-, and gender-based barriers that the NHL seemingly says it's removing, but has made very little progressing on actually removing. Having a 42 year-old goaltender come in and play should be low on the list of things that the NHL needs to fix when talking about a multi-billion dollar industry, but let's make sure we focus on the best thing to happen to hockey in February and try to snuff it out because the integrity of the game is threatened. Which it's not.

While I understand the angle that the Florida Panthers were probably worried that Toronto had an easy path to a win with Ayres in the Carolina net, the fact that the Panthers are hitching their wagons to the successes and fallbacks of another team suggests that a team with 20 games remaining on their schedule are looking for excuses if they do happen to miss the playoffs. That attitude is entirely the wrong way for Florida to be viewing the standings when they still can determine their own fate. If I was Dale Tallon and I heard anyone on the Panthers even whisper words like Anthony Stewart had suggested about the success of the Panthers this season being dependent on this one game between Toronto and Carolina, I'd have buried that player in the minor leagues. If the Panthers want to use this game as a crutch for an overly-underwhelming season, they should fold that franchise because they don't deserve membership in a league where the best of the best play the game.

Hockey cannot live in its own secluded, protected world. It needs great stories like David Ayres' netminding performance to break the monotony of meaningless games in a regular season that often feels much too long. It requires David Ayres' story to break us from the NHL's constant and consistent refusal to recognize CTE cases being caused by head trauma suffered in hockey. It must have tales told about David Ayres to counteract the heinous acts alleged to have been committed by some people involved in the game. Most of all, David Ayres' success is living embodiment that dreams can still come true - even if just for slightly more than one period of hockey - despite all the course changes and different paths he's walked thus far in life.

Look, there are stories of the little guy breaking through in sports all over the place, and we celebrate these stories through movies and folklore. From Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger's time at Notre Dame University as a football player to Vince Papale going from an unemployed substitute teacher to playing three seasons with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, from every kid who dreams of winning the Stanley Cup while shooting tennis balls into a net on his or her front street to the career minor-leaguer getting his one shot with the pro team, David Ayres is all those people and we, the fans, can relate to those stories because we all have that "just gimme a shot" fantasy as sports fans. We love underdog stories because most of us can relate to those tales of overcoming insurmountable odds in one way or another.

When Scott Foster helped Chicago beat the Jets, he lived a dream and never demanded anything else from his moment of fame. David Ayres is doing the exact same thing that Foster did - enjoying his unexpected fifteen minutes of fame after finding himself in the spot. Removing that chance for me, you, or someone we know to seize the opportunity is yet another way of which game is getting harder to justify being a fan, so the NHL should legitimate leave the EBUG rules alone. It's like winning the lottery - many will play, but only a select few every truly win the grand prize. Think of the EBUG like a lottery for some amateur player and fan of the game to experience what it's like to have that opportunity that may have escaped his or her grasp at some point.

It's good for the game because the fans love it. And isn't the point of professional sports, specifically NHL hockey, keeping fans of all ages interested and engaged in the game so that the bottom line stays healthy? You have no league without the fans, so stop trying to take away something the fans love. The integrity of the game isn't at stake when an emergency back-up goalie makes an appearance. Instead, it's the realization of a dream - even just for a few seconds in The Show - of every beer-league goalie on the planet and every kid who has been told "you're not good enough". It's the belief that, given that one moment, we'd all shine brightly and be good enough.

David Ayres was clearly good enough for one night. And that's why everyone is still talking about it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 24 February 2020

Not Seattle, But Close

As we approach the end of February, we are nearing the reveal date that the Seattle NHL group had set for the reveal of the name, logo, and colours of the new NHL team that will play in the Emerald City. The jersey to the left? It has nothing to do with the Seattle NHL franchise. In fact, it has nothing to do with an NHL franchise at all, but the team who will wear this new jersey is only 175 miles away from the 32nd NHL city. What we have here is the newest jersey added to the wardrobe of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks as the CHL franchise will wear these jerseys as their alternate jerseys moving forward!

According to the release last Wednesday, "[t]he Portland Winterhawks announced a partnership with Adidas in the creation of a new alternate crest and third jersey" with the "alternate crest designed by the Adidas National Hockey League (NHL) Design group". Also stated in the release was the fact that "Portland is the only Western Hockey League (WHL) and Canadian Hockey League (CHL) team with jerseys and logos designed by the NHL group."

Please excuse my sarcasm when I say whoop-tee-doo.

The above jersey features the design that the Winterhawks and Adidas settled on as the new alternate uniform. Honestly, the colours are pretty obvious when you consider that Portland wears the same colours as the Chicago Blackhawks, so a black alternate jersey seems elementary in its ingenuity. While they already wear white home jerseys and red road jerseys, could we not get a little more creative on the alternate jersey colour?

The Winterhawks' alternate logo is rather cool, albeit a bit of the EA Sports' NHL "Create Your Own Franchise" options on their video games. It breaks away from Indigenous imagery used by the team on their regular uniforms and gives the "Winterhawk" a unique look that hasn't been seen in hockey. Personally, I like the alternate Winterhawk logo more than the Indigenous logo, and would implore the team to figure out a way to transition to the Winterhawk logo permanently. That's just my two cents on the matter, though.

These new jerseys will be first worn on March 7th and 8th against the Victoria Royals. We'll see how they look on the ice, but they seem to look pretty good on the table in the lede photo. What do you think of the new threads unveiled by Portland - yay or nay? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday, 23 February 2020

The Rundown - Semifinals

Four teams took to the ice this week in Canada West women's hockey as all four looked to advance to the Canada West Final where the final two teams would be able to book their tickets to the U SPORTS National Championship in Charlottetown, PEI. Alberta, Calgary, Mount Royal, and UBC would enter the weekend, but only two will play next weekend for the Canada West banner and the right to go as the higher-seeded Canada West team to Nationals. Let's see how this weekend played out and who will head to PEI on this week's edition of The Rundown.

UBC advanced to the semifinal with a thrilling two-game sweep over Saskatchewan in Saskatoon with both games being won in overtime. Whatever problems plagued UBC in the regular season were erased with the two-game sweep as they got set for another big test. Alberta watched last week as they earned the bye by finishing in first-place, so they were well-rested to enter to this weekend's play.

As a bit of a surprise, the Pandas had offensive dynamo Alex Poznikoff back in the lineup after she missed most of the second-half of the season with an injury, so it seemed they had all hands on-deck for Friday's game! There was no doubt who would start for either team as Tory Micklash was in net for the Thunderbirds while the Pandas went with Kirsten Chamberlin.

I'll save you a lot of reading about nothing, but there were chances throughout the sixty minutes of play by both teams only to see both Micklash and Chamberlin deny all the opportunities. Game One of the semifinal would require overtime as the two teams were still tied 0-0 at the end of regulation time with Alberta leading 29-19 in shots.

The first overtime period was the short ten-minute period where both teams played a little more cautiously, but no winner would be found after Micklash and Chamberlin stood their ground in this period. Shots were 32-22 with 0-0 score still intact.

The second overtime period saw Alberta carry the play for the majority of the frame, but a late power-play for UBC looked like a break the T-Birds needed. They wouldn't be able to solve the Alberta penalty-killing units nor Chamberlin, though, and we'd need another reset as the teams remained tied at 0-0 with Alberta holding a 40-24 margin in shots.

Alberta continued to press in the third overtime period with UBC doing their best to weather the storm. However, on the 48th Alberta shot of the game with Alberta on the power-play, Taylor Anker made a move around Kenzie Robinson who had advanced out towards her, skated into the right face-off circle, and let a wrist shot go that went over the glove of a screened Micklash for the 1-0 triple-overtime victory! Kirsten Chamberlin picked up the shutout and the win by stopping all 26 shots she faced in 107:01 of play while Micklash stopped 47 shots in the triple-overtime loss.

Alberta leads the best-of-three series 1-0!

Highlights of this game are below!

After a marathon-type game the day before, one had to wonder if these teams might look a little slower in Saturday's game. UBC was in must-win mode to keep their season from ending while Alberta was one victory from returning to PEI where they finished in fourth-place one year ago. In a roster note, Alberta's Alex Poznikoff was not in the lineup for this game. Tory Micklash and Kirsten Chamberlin squared off in the nets once again as they stood 200-feet from one another in Game Two.

Again, I'll spare you a lot of reading about nothing as the T-Birds and Pandas battled hard through sixty minutes only to see Micklash and Chamberlin deny all opportunities. UBC played a much more aggressive game in being the designated home team as they looked to push the play in needing to find goals to keep their season going, but we'd head back to overtime once more as the score sat at 0-0 when the horn sounded on regulation time despite UBC outshooting Alberta 20-19.

The overtime period would go back and forth before we'd see a winner six-and-a-half minutes into the frame. Autumn MacDougall's sharp angle shot went over Micklash's right shoulder as she was tight against the post, and the incredible snipe by Canada West's top scorer this season at the 6:28 mark was the difference in the game as Alberta prevailed 1-0 in overtime once again! Kirsten Chamberlin picked up her second-straight shutout and win in blanking UBC on all 22 shots while Tory Micklash suffered the second-straight overtime loss in making 20 of 21 stops.

Alberta sweep the best-of-three series 2-0, and advances to the Canada West Final while becoming the first Canada West representative to qualify for the U SPORTS National Championship in Charlottetown, PEI!

Highlights of this game are below!

In the first-ever "Battle of Calgary - Playoff Edition", the second-seeded Calgary Dinos would host the fourth-seeded Mount Royal Cougars who were playing in their first Canada West semifinal series ever! Mount Royal downed the Regina Cougars in two-straight games to advance to the semifinal while the Calgary Dinos spent the week resting up and getting ready after earning the quarterfinals bye thanks to finishing in second-place.

It was expected to be a mixed crowd at Father David Bauer Arena as the Dinos fans and Cougars fans came out to support their Calgary-based teams. Both coaches went with their aces in the nets as Mount Royal started Kaitlyn Ross following her successful series against Regina while Calgary had veteran Kelsey Roberts in their net to start this semifinal series.

The Cougars came out fired up and firing pucks on Roberts in this game, and it paid off early as Kate Hufnagel won a puck battle behind the net and got the puck to Tianna Ko who stepped out in front and slid the backhander under Roberts at 8:40 to put the Cougars up 1-0! That goal seemed to wake up the Dinos as they stormed back. A long pass to Rachel Paul was sent up to Holly Reuther quickly as the Dinos broke out of their zone and turned it into a 2-on-1 where Ruether fed Sage Desjardins on the left side, and she chipped the puck past a sprawling Ross to make it 1-1 at 10:59! 2:06 later, Reuther was at it again as she made a short pass to Emily Hill, and Hill's long wrist shot found room on the glove side past Ross who may have been partially-screened to put the Dinos ahead 2-1! Both teams had a power-play in the latter half of the period that was unsuccessful, and we'd head into the intermission with Calgary leading 2-1, but Mount Royal up 14-8 in shots.

The second period saw the teams even out the chances as Calgary tightened up their play in the defensive zone while Mount Royal took away some of the space for the Dinos that hurt them in the first period. There were great chances to score for either team, but it would be the Cougars who found twine in this frame just past the midway point of the period. Off a goalmouth scramble that saw Breanne Trotter tangled up with a Dinos defender and Roberts trying to smother the puck, Trotter tapped the loose puck to Tianna Ko standing outside the crease and the diminutive sniper picked up her second goal of the game as she had Roberts down-and-out at 12:05 to make it 2-2! The goalies would handle the final eight minutes with no other lamps lit, and we'd go into the second intermission tied 2-2 with MRU leading 23-16 in shots.

The third period saw both teams work to lock down the defensive zones once more as the shots in this period were considerably less than either of the previous two periods, but it would be good puck movement that resulted in a goal seven minutes into this frame. Elizabeth Lang hit Sara Craven with a pass at the Calgary blue line before jumping up into the play. She took the return pass from Craven as she blew by a defender, allowing her and Delaney Frey to come in on the 2-on-1 where Lang fed Frey perfectly and she fired the puck high as Ross slid across low to put Calgary up 3-2 at 7:33!

Calgary would then defend like their lives depended on it, but were assessed a penalty with 1:00 remaining in the game to allow Mount Royal to go 6-on-4! There were a number of chances had by Mount Royal, but Roberts was stellar in keeping her net clean. With 26 seconds remaining, MRU was whistled for a penalty of their own, and that was the break Calgary needed to hang on for the 3-2 victory in Game One! Kelsey Roberts earned her first win of these playoffs with a 27-save effort while Kaitlyn Ross suffered her first loss after making 17 stops.

Calgary leads the best-of-three series 1-0!

Highlights of this game are below!

Mount Royal would assume the role of home team despite them heading back to Father David Bauer Arena with their playoff lives on the line for the first time this season. If Calgary were to win this game and sweep the Cougars, they would advance to play Alberta next week for the Canada West banner. Kaitlyn Ross and Kelsey Roberts would stand 200-feet apart for these two teams once again.

Fans didn't have to wait long for the scoring to start in this game as a bouncing puck in the Mount Royal zone would be backhanded across the crease by Sara Craven only to find Elizabeth Lang at the back post who swept the puck into the open cage just 1:15 into this game, and Calgary was up 1-0 early! The Dinos kept coming after that goal, but Ross settled down in the net and kept her team within a goal despite some great chances from the Dinos. Roberts, at the other end, was tested, but nothing got by her, so we'd hit the intermission with the Dinos leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and 12-6 in shots.

After an early breakdown in the second period that saw Kaitlyn Ross make an unbelievable save on a rebound, Mount Royal raised their game in both zones to look much better than they had. They would press in the Dinos' zone on a number of occasions, but we wouldn't see a goal until late in the period when a face-off was pushed out to the left side off the right dot in the Calgary zone where Tianna Ko picked it up and went shelf from the hash marks past Roberts at 14:51 to tie the game at 1-1! However, 55 seconds later, Sara Craven chipped a puck past a defender that led to a partial 3-on-1, and Craven fed Lang in the middle who ripped a shot past Ross high on the blocker side to put Calgary back up by a goal at 2-1! The time would tick off the clock as we moved into the second intermission with the Dinos up by that one-goal margin and holding a 19-15 edge in shots.

Mount Royal wasn't content with going quietly into the night, and they jumped on the Dinos early in the third period when Breanne Trotter found room past Roberts just 1:35 into the frame, giving us a 2-2 hockey game! Calgary wasn't interesting in playing a third game based on their response, but Kaitlyn Ross made a number of fantastic saves as this period grew older to keep the teams tied. Those saves might have been the turning point as well because the Cougars would weather the storm to see Breanne Trotter skate down the left wing across the line and center the puck to Tianna Ko who fired a shot over the glove of Roberts with 32 seconds to play as MRU grabbed the 3-2 lead! The Cougars would hold off any further Dinos goals through the remaining 30 seconds of play, giving them the 3-2 victory! Kaitlyn Ross was outstanding in earning her third playoff win with a 29-save effort while Kelsey Roberts suffered the loss on a 21-save night.

The best-of-three series is tied 1-1, and we'll need a Game Three to decide a winner!

Highlights of this one are below!

It's really just one story line for this game: win and you're in. One win for either side will see them travel to Edmonton for a date with the Pandas for the Canada West banner as well as booking tickets to Charlottetown, PEI for the U SPORTS National Championship. For the third-straight night, Kaitlyn Ross was in net for the Cougars while Kelsey Roberts guarded the Dinos' net.

This game started with Mount Royal showing their teeth as they had a few good offensive chances on Roberts before the Dinos came down and tested Ross in the Cougars' end of the ice. This was a quick period in terms of elapsed time, though, as there were few whistles, no penalties, and no goals as the netminders were perfect. Through one period, the game remained tied at 0-0 with MRU leading 10-7 in shots.

The second period saw the teams play more evenly as neither side was willing to give the other any clear looks thanks to blocked shots and clearing rebounds quickly. Shots that did find their marks were easily turned aside by the goaltenders who seemed like they were content with the 0-0 stalemate. Calgary had the lone power-play opportunity in the frame, but it was unsuccessful as the teams went into the second intermission still tied at 0-0 and Mount Royal up 17-13 in shots.

The third period saw both teams bear down and look for the goal that could end the series. Roberts made a handful of incredible stops while Ross made a couple of highlight-reel saves of her own. Each team was awarded a power-play, but neither came away with a goal on the advantages. The horn sounded on regulation time with the teams still deadlocked at 0-0, and we'd go to overtime for the fifth time in these Canada West playoffs with the score showing goose eggs. Mount Royal still held the edge in shots at 29-23.

The ten-minute overtime period started a little more tentatively as neither side was looking to open things up in the "next goal wins" scenario, but there were a few chances. Kate Hufnagel rung a shot off the crossbar behind Roberts late in the period as that was the closest we saw this game ending to that point, but we'd head into another break still knotted up at 0-0 with the Cougars up 32-25 in shots.

The second overtime period started with a rather strange no-call from the officials as Tianna Ko appeared to have a step on the Calgary defenders at the Dinos' blue line before a couple of slashes and hooks brought Ko down as the referee's arm stayed down as well! The Dinos may have gotten away with one there, and it seemed to give them a little life. Minutes later, though, Breanne Trotter won a puck battle behind the net and centered to Ko who was stopped by Roberts. Her rebound went to Tatum Amy who also couldn't bury the puck, but Trotter came back to the crease and shoveled the puck home amidst a crowd of Dinos to give the Mount Royal Cougars the 1-0 double-overtime victory! Kaitlyn Ross earned her fourth win and third shutout of these playoffs with her 28-save effort over 74:22 of work while Kelsey Roberts suffered the double-OT loss after stopping 33 shots.

Mount Royal wins the best-of-three series 2-1, and will advance to the Canada West Final to face the Alberta Pandas while becoming Canada West's second representative at the U SPORTS National Championship in Charlottetown, PEI!

Highlights of this game are below!

While they technically aren't standings, here is how the Canada West Final will play out between Alberta and Mount Royal.

The Last Word

And then there were two. Just the Alberta Pandas and Mount Royal Cougars stand after all the games have been played, leading up to this Canada West Final between the two Alberta-based teams. It will be a true "Battle of Alberta" in the final, so let's take a look at the numbers between these two teams.

Alberta won the season series 3-1-0-0 with Mount Royal winning the first meeting on home ice back on October 18, 2019 by a 1-0 score. After that, Alberta won the final three games of the season series by scores of 2-0 and 3-1 Clare Drake Arena and 3-0 at Flames Community Arena. In the last five years of play at Clare Drake Arena, Mount Royal is 2-5-1-0 in those eight games so things appear to favour the Pandas if the head-to-head scores are of any meaning.

Mount Royal's road record this season was a rather terrible 4-10-0-0 while Alberta was 11-3-0-0 at home. In these playoffs, Mount Royal is 1-1-1-0 on the road while Alberta is 2-0-0-0 at home. Alberta's power-play at home clicks at a 29% efficiency (18 goals scored on 62 attempts) and their penalty-killing units kill off 90.5% of power-plays (4 goals allowed on 42 shorthanded situations). Mount Royal's power-play isn't as lethal at just 7.3% (three goals on 41 opportunities) while their penalty-killing efficiency on the road is just 79.7% (12 goals allowed on 59 shorthanded situations). Alberta has scored five power-play goals on 17 attempts against Mount Royal this season while Mount Royal is oh-for-seven with the player-advantage against the Pandas. It seems pretty clear that special teams favour the Pandas as well.

Where this series may be determined could be based on who scores first. When trailing after the first period this season, Mount Royal turned in a record of 1-8-0-0 while the Pandas were 2-4-0-0. When trailing after two periods, Mount Royal's record was 2-13-0-0 while Alberta didn't have a third-period comeback all season long after going 0-6-0-0 in those situations. Comparatively, when leading after the first period, Mount Royal was 5-0-0-0 while the Pandas were 10-0-0-0. When leading after two periods, Mount Royal was 7-0-0-0 and Alberta was 17-0-0-0.

Based on the fact that Alberta is 2-0-0-0 and Mount Royal is 3-1-0-0 when scoring first in these playoffs, it would seem that whichever team gets a lead on the opposition might be in a good position to win. Perhaps even moreso when that lead comes in overtime as both teams are 2-0-0-0 in games where overtime started with a 0-0 score.

This should be a great final between two teams who know each other very well, and have a bit of a dislike for one other. Everything starts Friday at 7pm MT at Clare Drake Arena in Edmonton, and I highly-recommend you get down to the rink to see these two rivals battle it out for the Canada West banner, the Catherwood Cup, the higher seed at Nationals, and bragging rights for a year! Only one team can "Win the West", and it comes down to a showdown between the Alberta Pandas and Mount Royal Cougars!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Rarefied Ayres

If you don't recognize this goaltender to the left, it's likely due to the fact that you didn't watch any hockey tonight nor were logged into any social media whatsoever. That is David Ayres, the emergency back-up goaltender who was forced into action for the Carolina Hurricanes as they visited the Toronto Maple Leafs after both James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were both felled by injuries in the game. Ayres normally drives the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine for the AHL Toronto Marlies. He occasionally takes a few reps as a practice goalie. He is 42 years and 194 days old as of today. In 2004, he received a kidney in a transplant. And he now has one NHL win in his career!

Ayres' big night hit a pile of milestones. They include:
  • Oldest goaltender to win his NHL debut.
  • Oldest visiting goalie in history to earn a victory in Toronto.
  • First NHL emergency back-up goaltender to record a win.
  • First organ transplant recipient to win an NHL game.

  • First player to make his debut in any of the four major professional sports at age 42 or older since MLB Hall of Famer Satchel Paige made his debut at 42 on July 9, 1948.

  • Second-oldest player in NHL history to make his debut. Only Lester Patrick was older when made his debut at 43 on March 20, 1927.

  • Ayres stopped eight of ten shots he faced against the Maple Leafs in the 6-3 Carolina win.

Not bad, right? Oh, but this got big. Like really big on social media. The hockey community was all over it. People who are casual fans were cheering for Ayres. PGA golfers were tweeting about him. And then the Governor of North Carolina got in on the fun.
I proposed on Twitter that the NHL do the right thing and invite David Ayres and his wife - who was on Twitter and tweeting while her husband was in net! - to the NHL Awards in June where Ayres should present the Vezina Trophy!

What makes this is night a little weird is that this isn't the first brush with the Carolina Hurricanes organization that David Ayres has had. Back on February 1, the AHL's Charlotte Checkers were forced to put Ayres in uniform and on the bench during their game in Toronto against the Marlies after one of their netminders went down with injury. What's even weirder is that both the Hurricanes and Checkers seem to use emergency back-up goalies way more than any other team as we've seen equipment manager Jorge Alves suit up for the Hurricanes and former Manitoba Bisons netminder Byron Spriggs don a Checkers uniform in the past!

Regardless of whatever is going on with the Hurricanes and their goaltending problems, the night ended up pretty well for Ayres as he not only got the win, but was paid $500 - standard for an emergency back-up goaltender - got to keep his #90 Carolina Hurricanes jersey, got a Hockey Night in Canada towel(!), and will likely be the standard that all future emergency back-up goalies will be compared to just as Scott Foster of the Chicago Blackhawks was the standard to which Ayres was being compared.

Honestly, enjoy the stardom, David. You certainly earned it with your performance against the Leafs on hockey's national stage where you can say you beat the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada. Like you hear any professional hockey player say in retirement, cherish every second you're on the radar because you never know when these opportunities may end. But whatever may happen in the coming days, weeks, and months for you, just keep that smile on your face because it might have been the biggest smile seen in some time once that final horn sounded tonight.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Value Of Grit

The Winnipeg Jets, in their annual trade deadline "grit" acquisition, made an unexpected move today by sending a 2021 conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Vegas Golden Knights for Winnipeg-born centerman Cody Eakin. While the Jets are seemingly always on the look for guys that are "good in the room" and can bring "sandpaper" to the lineup, I don't know if Cody Eakin was even on their radar before today. Nevertheless, the Jets get a third-line centerman to help their efforts in making the playoffs this season for a pick that has a low probability to turning into a bonafide NHL star.

Before I break down the trade, the conditions for the draft pick see the 2021 fourth-round pick upgraded to a 2021 third-round pick if Winnipeg makes the 2019-20 playoffs or if the Jets re-sign Eakin before July 5th, 2020. With the Jets currently sitting in the first wild card position, there's no guarantee they'll make the playoffs at this point, but it seems that general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn't worried about either pick in 2021 to make this deal. If the Jets were looking at making any other improvements, that 2021 third-round pick is now off the board being that it has to be available to fulfill the conditions of this trade.

I've seen some people on social media point to Eakin's 22 goals and 19 assists in 2018-19 as a reason for the Jets "fleecing" the Golden Knights on this deal, and I've got to throw up a stop sign there because there are a few significant details that one is overlooking in that season. The first would be some guy named Max Pacioretty and the second would be Alex Tuch. Those were his linemates for nearly 20% of the season in 2018-19, and he amassed a pile of points playing in between those two players. In saying that, those career-year numbers that Eakin put up are more aberrations than norms when it comes to Eakin's scoring prowess.

Can he score? Yes, as proven by the numbers. Can he drive a line on his own? That doesn't appear to be the case.

Instead, the Jets are looking at the underlying numbers as Eakin gives them a second Adam Lowry-like player in that Eakin wins face-offs, blocks shots, and can play physical. Since Lowry's injury, the Jets haven't had a guy that Paul Maurice can roll out to win a key defensive zone face-off like he did with Lowry, so it seems that Eakin will be given that role.

The problem, though, is that Eakin's 49.8% face-off win percentage is better than only Jack Roslovic's 45.0% as all of Nick Shore, Andrew Copp, and Mark Scheifele have better career percentages. In fact, Eakin's 47.4% face-off win percentage this season is the worst of his career, and a full 5% worse than his playoff win percentage totals. Maybe Eakin won't be taking important defensive zone draws unless something changes dramatically over the next couple of weeks?

Ok, so maybe he'll be used on the penalty-killing units where his work in blocking shots will come in handy. As it stands this season, Eakin has 14 blocked which seems to be slightly off his career average of 33 per season, but he trails Andrew Copp (26), Adam Lowry (22), Blake Wheeler (41), Mark Schiefele (44), Jack Roslovic (18), and Nick Shore (17) in blocked shots this season, so it might be hard to justify seeing Eakin on the ice killing penalties when he doesn't do a lot to prevent shots from getting to Hellebuyck compared to the other centermen the Jets have.

This could also be a systemic thing where Gallant wasn't using him in a spot to block shots this season, but that's hard to fathom after he blocked 45 and 35 shots in 2017-18 and 2018-19, respectively. It's fairly clear he has the ability to block shots, so Paul Maurice will be tasked to get Eakin into shooting lanes if this is a skill that the Jets want to exploit. As it stands, however, the rest of the Jets centermen seem to have better results in blocking opposition shots.

With the defensive theories somewhat wrecked, that leaves just physical play as Eakin's one potential quality the Jets may want in the lineup, but even that stretch to put Eakin into the everyday mix seems far-fetched. Eakin's 41 hits rank slightly less than Shore's 50 hits, way behind Gabriel Bourque's 113 hits, and slightly ahead of Logan Shaw's 23 hits. Eakin may be an upgrade over those three players' skill levels on the Jets' fourth line, but the fourth line isn't going out there to be relied upon for goal scoring.

Why would the Jets give up a pick and take another pick off the board for a guy who seemingly makes the Jets no better on the ice than they were before making the deal?

"Cody was someone who really intrigued the coaches from the moment I brought his name up the first time," Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told reporters. "Cody is the type of guy who just oozes character... tremendous character person, brings guys into the fight."

Where have we heard this before? It seems a player acquired at last year's deadline was one of those "character guys" who was more about experience than on-ice contributions, and would play more fourth-line minutes than anything else. That player was centerman Matt Hendricks. At the time, Maurice said the following about Hendricks: "Are you a person the organization wants other players to follow? Do you have the ability and the skillset that can identify a guy that needs help and reach out, and have the respect of that player? He has all those things here."

While the words used might be different, it seems those two statements made by Cheveldayoff and Maurice share a lot of the same underlying message: "brings guys into the fight", accountability, good in the room. While some will say these intangibles are vitally important to a team, it seems the Jets place an absurdly high value on these traits.

While it's unknown where Eakin will be slotted into the Jets lineup, it seems he may be destined for the same place Hendricks found himself more often than not in centering the fourth line. While Eakin does give the Jets a little flexibility in that he can play both center and on the wing, it might be that Eakin flanks Shore across from Bourque if the Jets want to play more physical, moving Shaw to the press box. Other than that, breaking up any of the top three lines seems unthinkable considering the last few results that the Jets posted, so I'm not sure this move to bring in Eakin adds any sort of tangible improvement overall to the lineup.

At the end of the day, a third-round pick - assuming the Jets hold onto their playoff spot - for a few extra hits out of a fourth-line winger seems like a steep and rather ridiculous price to pay. Welcome to the NHL city where grit is worth its weight in gold.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Hockey Show - Episode 387

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back with another jam-packed show full of hockey goodness! There are some guests stopping by, there were some trades made this week, there were some games won and lost this week, and there are some upcoming games for which I'm excited. It's going to be another busy show where we likely won't squeeze everything into the hour we get to chat, but we'll do out best tonight on The Hockey Show!

Jason Pchajek and I are proud to welcome a couple of these players to the studio tonight as a couple of the South Winnipeg Kings Gold Peewee A2 players will stop by for a chat about their efforts to win the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup! Jason and I will welcome Colton and Cole, two of the amazing players who have raised $8000 to help Reese Ketler who was paralyzed in a game earlier this year! Rich Roberts, the team's social media guru, and head coach Darren Pritchard will also join us as we meet these amazing young men and the parents behind these lads who are trying to bring home the final prize of $100,000 to help Reese! We'll find out of they're successful on February 29th live on Hockey Night in Canada!

Here's the video that the South Winnipeg Kings Gold Peewee A2 submitted as their entry into the mix for the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup!

Following our meeting with these upstanding young men, Jason and I will tear through the recent hockey trades seen in the NHL, last week's results and this week's match-ups in both Canada West men's and women's hockey, the Zack Kassian suspension, the Evander Kane suspension, and any other hockey stories we can wedge into the hour-long episode at 5:30pm CT!

Where's the best place can you hear the show if you're outside Winnipeg or not near a radio, you ask? The new UMFM website's online streaming player is pretty awesome if you want to listen online. If you're using an Apple device, the player doesn't seem to like Safari yet, but we highly recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or perhaps another browser. If you do use the TuneIn app, you won't be disappointed. It's a solid app.

If you have questions, you can email all show queries and comments to hockeyshow@umfm.com! Tweet me anytime with questions you may have by hitting me up at @TeebzHBIC on Twitter! I'm here to listen to you, so make your voice heard!

Tonight, Teebz and Jason meet Colton, Cole, Rich, and Darren from the South Winnipeg Kings Gold Peewee A2 as we hear about their efforts to win some big charity money for Reese Ketler before diving into trades, win, losses, suspensions, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: February 20, 2020: Episode 387
RESOURCES: South Winnipeg Kings Gold Peewee A2 Twitter account, Chevrolet Canada Twitter account, Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup website

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

New Kids On The Block

For those of you who are comic book fans, you probably recognize the guy in the image to the left as Lucas Bishop or, generally, as Bishop. Bishop's timelines seem to intersect with two other Marvel franchises in the X-Men and Spider-Man, but it seems there will be another Bishop whose timeline intersects with the RSEQ institutions next fall thanks to some generous donations by some rather well-known donors. Thanks to their ongoing contributions to Bishop's University in Sherbrooke, Quebec, we'll have a six-team RSEQ for the first time in recent memory! Starting in 2020-21, the Bishop's Gaiters will begin play against the likes of Concordia, Montreal, Ottawa, McGill, and Carleton as they join the RSEQ women's hockey conference!

I can hear some of you asking, "Teebz, what exactly is a 'Gaiter'?", and I'll answer that question below. Instead, let's focus on the U SPORTS women's hockey family growing by a third team after I missed this announcement way back on January 16! Bishop's, along with MacEwan and Trinity Western out in Canada West, make their conferences stronger with their additions, and it's exciting to see the sport grow at the university level!

It needs to be mentioned that without the generous donation from the Molson Family Foundation as well as support from Molson Coors moving forward, this announcement for Bishop's may not have been possible. For those that don't know, the Molsons have had a long and winding history with the university with several Molsons serving as trustees, a handful attending Bishop's University when it was still known as Bishops's College, and having the Fine Arts building named as the "Molson Fine Arts Building" in honour of the sixty years of support given to the institution after the Molson Family Foundation helped fund the construction of the building. Jane and Eric Molson also saw their names adorn the rink at Bishop's University after their contributions to the sports programs at the school.

"To this day the name of the Jane and Eric Molson Arena testifies to the Molson family's unwavering support for Bishop's. For all they have done – and continue to do – for Bishop's University, we owe them our most heartfelt thanks," Bishop's University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Michael Goldbloom, C.M., stated in January. Their donation to the university to get women's hockey back on the map for Bishop's would need a pretty good "thank you" considering that the school doesn't even have a men's team listed on their official athletics page, so this is a huge step for the Gaiters women's team as they become the lone U SPORTS hockey representative for the school!

"We wanted to make sure we had a viable long-term plan before committing," Bishop’s University Director of Athletics and Recreation Matt McBrine said at time. "Thanks to the Molson Family Foundation, that became possible. We will continue our fundraising efforts, but we can confidently say that we embark on this adventure knowing the program has what it needs to evolve and thrive."

I like that Matt McBrine stated the obvious: it takes some real financial backing to get long-term plans off the ground with scholarship monies, equipment costs, travel costs, and other incidental costs all factoring in at the U SPORTS level of hockey. With three teams in Montreal and two in Ottawa, it's not like they have several provinces of travel like they do in Canada West, but hotel costs and bus rides do add up quickly for a team that will travel to meet their opponents. However, as Mr. McBrine stated, it seems that the long-term plan will work with this endeavour that was funded by the Molson Family Foundation, and there's now another option for girls in and around the southern Ontario and Quebec regions if they want to play U SPORTS hockey.

"I think this is great news," said Gaiters hockey Head Coach Dominic Desmarais. "We have been looking forward to hearing this was going to be the next step and now can focus on the future. I think Bishop's is a great place to attract student-athletes from all over. There is also a lot of talent in the Sherbrooke area that will now have an option to stay closer to home while competing at the U SPORTS level."

As Coach Desmarais stated, this opportunity may entice girls to stay in Canada to play as there have been a handful of good players from Quebec who have crossed the border to the NCAA's Vermont Catamounts including Kristina Shanahan, Hailey Burns, Sara Levesque, Ève-Audrey Picard, and Catamounts' leading scorer Maude Poulin-Labelle. While the NCAA will always entice players who want to play at the highest level, the opportunity to play in a smaller conference at home with the chance to win better than in the NCAA might sell a few girls to remain in La Belle Province as opposed to seeking opportunity elsewhere.

Overall, I'm psyched that the RSEQ is growing because it was always argued that it was far too easy to advance to a national championship when you only had to be better than four other teams. Granted, three of the five RSEQ teams have had strong showing at recent U SPORTS National Championships - including a gold medal for Montreal in 2015-16, a silver medal for McGill last season, and a bronze medal for Montreal last season as well - but if two of the teams in the conference are also-rans, it makes winning one series against better competition that much easier. Adding in Bishop's won't change the dynamics in the conference next season as they break into U SPORTS play, but give them a few years to get in and start the recruiting process to see the conference get stronger.

If the BU Gaiters have one thing going for them already, it's their uniform choices. While purple isn't usually a colour I'd associate with hockey - yes, I know the LA Kings were purple - the Gaiters make it look good with their collegiate look. The name of the school across the stripe feels very university-like, and the BU on the sleeve is a nice addition. The purple-and-white mesh well together when seen on the ice, and I have to say that it's a very clean look with few issues about which one can complain. The team may opt for different uniforms next season to commemorate their first season in the RSEQ, but I'd say they have a pretty sharp wardrobe already.

Speaking of wardrobe, the "Gaiters" name doesn't have anything to do with alligators like the Florida Gators despite Bishop's using a purple alligator as their mascot as seen to the right. Instead, the name "Gaiters" comes from the leg coverings worn by Anglican bishops up until mid-20th century. Basically, they were long socks that stretched from the knee to the top of the foot, often covering the top of the shoe worn by the bishop who, historically, would ride from township to township on horseback. Being that Bishop's University was founded and took direction from the Anglican church until 1947 when it went non-denominational, the athletic teams were named for the gaiters they wore just as the Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, and Chicago White Sox were named for their choice of hosiery. Pretty cool, right?

It's an exciting time in U SPORTS women's hockey with the growth of the game in Langley, Edmonton, and Sherbrooke. While I still secretly wish for a second team in Manitoba or one in northern Ontario to give Manitoba a natural geographic rival, elevating women's hockey at these three academic institutions makes the game better across this nation. Welcome to U SPORTS women's hockey, Bishop's Gaiters, and we're happy to have you as part of the family!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

D-Day

While D-Day is normally observed on June 6 in memory of the Normandy landings in World War II, it seemed the NHL had its own d-day today as there were a pile of moves made that involved defencemen as the centerpieces of these deals. While I wrote about Trade Deadline Day being a slow day next Monday, I didn't think that it would be as slow as it appears to be with teams making all these moves prior to the big day. Let's go over who moved where in the flurry of deals that happened throughout Tuesday.

In the first deal of the day, the Carolina Hurricanes acquired defenceman Joey Keane from the New York Rangers in exchange for winger Julien Gauthier in a swap of AHL players. In 49 games with the Hartford Wolfpack this season, Keane has eight goals, 22 assists, and 32 PIMs.

As stated above, the New York Rangers acquired right-winger Julien Gauthier from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for defenceman Joey Keane. In 44 games with the Charlotte Checkers this season, Gauthier had 26 goals, 11 assists, and 34 PIMs.

ANALYSIS: I'm not sure why the Hurricanes dealt their leading goal scorer on their AHL club for a defenceman who seems like a handful of defencemen they already have in their lineup, but the Rangers acquire a player who very likely could be playing for them before this season ends.

The Winnipeg Jets acquired defenceman Dylan DeMelo from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for a 2020 third-round draft pick. In 49 games with the Senators this season, DeMelo had ten assists and 31 PIMs.

The Ottawa Senators acquired a 2020 third-round draft pick from the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for defenceman Dylan DeMelo.

ANALYSIS: I like this acquisition by the Jets as they didn't give up a lot to get a very good defender in his own zone with some offensive upside. I thought Ottawa might get more back for DeMelo, but adding another pick never hurts for a team in full rebuild mode. Winnipeg's third-round pick gives Ottawa seven picks in the first three rounds this summer, and 12 picks in total in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

The Washington Capitals acquired defenceman Brendan Dillon from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 third-round draft pick. In 59 games with the Sharks, Dillon had one goal, 13 assists, and 83 PIMs.

The San Jose Sharks acquired a 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 third-round draft pick from the Washington Capitals in exchange for defenceman Brendan Dillon. The 2020 second-round pick originally belonged to Colorado that was dealt to Washington in the Andre Burakovsky deal. The conditions for the 2021 third-round pick are that if the Capitals win the Stanley Cup this season, the pick becomes a 2020 third-round pick that was originally owned by Arizona, dealt to Colorado for Carl Soderberg, and dealt again from Colorado to Washington in the Andre Burakovsky deal.

ANALYSIS: Washington gets the big, solid defencemen they were looking for since Brooks Orpik retired with Dillon being more mobile and having better defensive awareness. San Jose did retain 50% of Dillon's salary, but they got themselves a second second-round pick after not having a first-round pick thanks to the Erik Karlsson deal.

The St. Louis Blues acquired defenceman Marco Scandella from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 fourth-round draft pick. In 51 combined games with Buffalo and Montreal, Scandella had four goals, eight assists, and 16 PIMs.

The Montreal Canadiens acquired a 2020 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2021 fourth-round draft pick from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenceman Marco Scandella. The conditions for the 2021 fourth-round pick are that if St. Louis re-signs Scandella before October 7, 2020 or if St. Louis wins two playoff rounds AND he plays in at least half of the games, the Canadiens will receive the additional pick. If the conditions are not met, the 2021 fourth-round pick remains the property of the St. Louis Blues.

ANALYSIS: After losing Jay Bouwmeester for an extended period of time, the Blues reacted quickly by acquiring Scandella who should be able to help the Blues in the defensive zone while chipping in a little offence. Despite retaining 50% of Scandella's salary, the acquisition of the second-round pick means that Montreal will have four picks in the first two rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry, including three in the second round, which will go a long way in helping the Canadiens move the rebuild forward.

And while we're here talking about defenders being traded, here's what is reportedly in play tonight between two teams who sound like they'll confirm the trade details tomorrow.

The Vegas Golden Knights are reportedly in the process of acquiring defenceman Alec Martinez from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for two of the five second-round draft picks they hold in 2020 and 2021. There may be more to this trade, but this sounds like the foundation to the deal being made tonight. In 41 games with the Kings this season, Martinez has one goal, seven assist, and 17 PIMs.

The Los Angeles Kings reportedly will acquire two of the five second-round draft picks in the 2020 and 2021 NHL Entry Drafts held by the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for defenceman Alec Martinez. There may be more to this trade, but this sounds like the foundation to the deal being made tonight.

ANALYSIS: With this deal sounding more and more likely as per the NHL Insider community, getting Martinez will really shore up a Vegas defence that has looked shaky at times this season as Martinez is great in his own zone. The Kings will likely retain part of Martinez's salary to make this trade work, and could have as many as nine picks in the first four rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft depending on what picks come back in the deal.

With all these deals going down with a week still to go before Trade Deadline Day, it might be time to cancel the TV extravaganzas being promoted on the sports networks about their hours and hours of coverage. There might be a half-hour of recap needed for those who missed some of the deals this week, but it seems there may be fewer teams in play on Monday when the deadline looms.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday, 17 February 2020

Don't Book The Day Off

Every year, there's a couple of people that I know who decide to book the day off for the NHL trade deadline extravaganzas on the networks that cover sports. Despite me telling them that there are no blockbusters to be had outside of the last hour when general managers get itchy trigger fingers on last-minute deals, they use a vacation day from work to watch the pundits on the panels discuss each team's needs over eight hours with very little trade movement between those teams. Based on the prices paid for the players acquired in the last week, I suspect this year's respective trade deadline shows will be worse than in previous years.

The acquisition of Jason Zucker by the Penguins will likely take them out of any trade scenarios they may have been in previously. Unless it's a money-for-money deal that comes out of the blue, I'm pretty certain the Penguins are happy with their roster at this time. Being tight against the salary cap ceiling will prevent the Penguins from taking on salary, so we can cross one team off the trade board.

Tampa Bay added a good piece in Blake Coleman, and it's likely that they aren't going to tinker much with the remainder of their roster. They may add a depth piece or two, but I suspect all the usual suspects will remain with an 813 area code phone number.

Toronto is still looking to shore up their blue line, but I doubt anyone is going to throw them a life preserver without some sort of significant return. Tyson Barrie may still get moved, but I imagine he'd have to be part of a package that includes picks and prospects with his impending free agency. With Toronto already having upgraded their goaltending, I expect they'll have to get creative if they want to bring in a Matt Dumba or a defender of his ability.

Finally, with their acquisition of Tyler Toffoli from the Los Angeles Kings today, Vancouver doesn't have a first-round or second-round pick in this summer's draft, so they're now trading players for players. The addition of Tyler Madden in the trade to the Kings takes one of their better prospects off the board as well, so Vancouver might very well be done this year if they hope to make a run in the playoffs.

Over the next week, expect another half-dozen teams to make their intention as either buyer or seller clear based on the results of their games. Teams like Winnipeg, Florida, and Nashville may go from buyers to sellers while teams such as the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, and the Buffalo Sabres will either be all-in on a playoff push or will look to add some picks and future assets by dealing their talent away.

As we've seen in the returns for players headed to playoff teams, it's a seller's market right now as the returns have been very good for those willing to move proven talent. Perhaps that alone will influence a handful of teams in foregoing a wild card position this year for what may be a better playoff spot next season depending on what they can move out and get back. There are teams looking to add for the right price, and there are certainly teams who have talent that can be had for the right price. Whether or not those prices align will be seen, but with some of the bigger trade pieces already off the board it might be a quiet Monday for most of the day.

Take the day off if you like. No one can tell you that taking the Monday off following a weekend is a bad idea. Just don't spend it all day in front of the television holding out hope for a blockbuster deal. You're better off spending the day at work than trading a vacation day for eight hours of inactivity by NHL GMs.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!