Wednesday 30 November 2022

Scoring In The Mountains

I had mentioned former Mount Royal Cougars forward Ryley Lindgren the other day when it came to him notching his first professional hockey goal with the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers. While that's big for the 26 year-old, consistent scoring and play is the way that one keeps a roster spot in the ECHL, so there was hope that we'd see Ryley score a few more goals with Tulsa to cement himself as part of the Oilers. It was well-known during his Canada West days that he was a streaky scorer where, once he got hot, pucks would bulge twine often, and that happened quite a bit at the Canadian university level whether he was the goal scorer or the setup man. Would that happen in Tulsa after he got his first?

I can tell you, though, that those hopes were fulfilled nicely as Lindgren's first week in Oklahoma went extremely well! Lindgren went on a bit of a streak after scoring against Wichita as he'll enter tomorrow's game on a three-game goal and point streak that has seen him score three goals and add an assist in helping Tulsa take five of six points from Wichita over those three games!

Perhaps more importantly to hockey fans in and around Tulsa, the Oilers are now tied for fourth-place in the ECHL's Mountain Division, and sit just two points back of second-place Wichita as they look to continue their winning ways against the Central Division-leading Indy Fire on Thursday. It'll be a tough three-game set against the Fire, but taking points of the 12-5-1 Fire would be indicative of a team coming together after a slow start. Earning points will also get them a little closer to Wichita, but the confidence earned in beating on the ECHL's top teams may prove handy for a mid-December matchup with the third-place Kansas City Mavericks who sit one point up on Tulsa.

The team that leads the ECHL's Mountain Division with a 13-2-1 record are the Idaho Steelheads, and you may recall that former Canada West player was traded there earlier this season. Former Saskatchewan Huskies forward Zane Franklin was dealt from Reading to Idaho, and it seems he's settling into his scoring ways once more as well after getting his bearings in Boise.

At the time of the trade, Franklin had a goal and four helpers in four games for Reading, but he's got his mojo going with the Steelheads as he's scored three goals and added three assists in 11 games with Idaho since the trade, and has helped Idaho to a 7-2-1 record over their last ten games including the game-winner over the Allen Americans, one of Franklin's former ECHL teams, in Friday's 5-1 victory. Idaho's acquisition for Franklin seems to be working out nicely for both player and team.

What makes this trade work well for both Idaho and Franklin is that Franklin is one of many scorers on the Steelheads' roster. He's tired for fifth in team scoring which is great, but it also illustrates how deep that Idaho is when it comes to the plethora of scoring they have. Make no mistakes that Franklin is a good offensive player with hustle on the defensive side of the puck, but his strength is his offensive ability. He didn't score for a week after arriving in Boise, but the last three weeks have seen him come alive again and that will benefit the Steelheads all season long.

Another player who is finding his stride in the ECHL's Mountain Division is Utah's Keaton Jameson. The former Manitoba Bisons forward started the season off slowly, but he's rounding into form that we saw at the Canada West level during his time there. He has a pair of goals and an assist in 15 games he's played, but he's found those points recently as he helped Utah break out of a five-game slide that saw them slide down the standings.

Jameson tied the game on Saturday night against the Trois-Rivieres Lions at 4-4 with his goal in the third period en route to a 5-4 comeback victory in the third period to snap the losing streak as he's skating in key situations for the Grizzlies. His other goal came a week earlier against Idaho to make it a 1-1 game in an evential 3-2 loss to the division's top team, but Jameson looked dangerous all night. His three shots tied for third-most on the team in that game.

Utah has seen some struggles finding the back of the net this season. Their leading goal-scorer has just five goals in 16 games and only one player has more than ten points. Utah has only scored four-or-more goals in a game five times this season, so they need to push the puck down the ice a little more and get shots. If Jameson's heating up, he certainly has that ability, and his scoring would be a big boost to a team that scores more by committee as opposed to great individual plays. Not surprisingly, Utah is one of the teams with whom Tulsa is tied with at fourth-place in the Mountain Division.

I'd like to add something into this article about Utah's James Shearer, but the former Calgary Dinos defender has been out most of the season with an injury. Getting him back would certainly help Utah's fortunes as well, but he's been limited to three games and has yet to record a point this season.

Another Dinos defenceman has been playing all season, though, but his team and his own personal success haven't been as exciting. Ryan Gagnon, who patroled the blue line for the University of Calgary, joined the Allen Americans this season on a deal, but the Americans have struggled to a 5-8-1 record which places them in seventh-place in the Mountain Division, five points back of the Oilers, Grizzlies, and Rapid City Rush. Like Utah, goal scoring seems to be the problem for Allen right now as they're dead-last in the division with just 39 goals in 14 games.

Gagnon has played in all 14 games thus far, but he has yet to record a point this season which seems hard to believe considering how proficient he was with the Dinos. It's also a bit eyebrow-raising to see Gagnon leading all Allen defenders with 25 PIMs, but you might start to see where Allen's weakness is as defensive scoring is rather low. Collectively, all of Allen's defenders have just four goals and 12 assists with Colton Saucerman and Dalton Skelly having 12 of the 16 points scored from the blue line. That's not good.

While there are other factors that have led to Allen's cellar dwelling in the Mountain Division, getting Ryan Gagnon involved in Allen's offence would be a good first step in possibly improving their outlook. He has decent vision, a good shot, and uses both to setup teammates for both good looks and rebounds depending on what he chooses to do with the puck. Having him with zero points through the first 14 games isn't what we had come to expect from the former captain of the Dinos.

No matter when you look in the ECHL's Mountain Division, it seems there's a former Canada West star playing for a team out there. Keep your eyes on these players as the ECHL playoffs near as they may play big roles in helping their teams make the playoffs, win rounds, and capture the elusive Kelly Cup that every ECHL teams wants.

Maybe one of them will be the hockey hero that makes that a reality!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Tempe: Where Money Burns Freely

If you missed the news - and you may have after the decision finally came down late in the evening - the Tempe city council has voted 7-0 in favour of the new Coyotes arena complex shown above. Stated over and over again in the meeting, the Coyotes stressed that the above complex will be built with private money to the tune of $2.1 billion (up from its original $1.3 billion price tag), and will feature the home rink for the Coyotes, shopping, entertainment, and housing. Sounds great, right? I mean, how could a jerk like me complain about this if it's all Alex Meruelo's money being sunk into the former landfill site in Tempe?

Let's start with the obvious: if you think Alex Meruelo has $2.1 billion at his disposal and requires no assistance from Tempe whatsoever when it comes to building this complex, we need to have a long talk about how these deals work. There is absolutely no way that Alex Meruelo isn't hanging costs around the necks of Tempe taxpayers, so we need to dig into the details of the deal that was voted on tonight. It shouldn't surprise you that the city of Tempe might be on the hook for up to one-quarter of the costs of this development.

According to documents published behind a paywall by Phoenix Business Journal, Tempe will sell $220 million in bonds for land prep and infrastructure. As you know, bonds mature and those who hold said bonds are paid out with interest at the maturity date. Reportedly, Tempe will collect the money to pay off the bond offering by charging 0.9% in city sales taxes on every dollar spent at the site, 3.75% in city hotel taxes, and 22.8% of future payments in lieu of property taxes collected by the city.

I italicized the "spent at the site" part, but this was a major point that the Coyotes continued to push at the meeting. In short, they made it clear that if people don't shop at the site, they aren't helping the development whatsoever as the sales tax dollars won't come from other revenue sources.

That's a fairly odd deal for a city to make when there's nothing built at the site currently, so is Meruelo building the shopping and entertainment complexes prior to building the arena? If the arena is built first - which would make the most sense - how long will it take to construct the shopping and entertainment complexes? Will they be done before the bonds mature?

Secondly, if I'm visiting Tempe for any other reason than hockey, why am I being charged a hotel tax to help build the development if I'm staying in a hotel? That seems rather deceitful based on the cost of hotel rooms as it is, but charging guests a 3.75% tax on top of all the other fees and taxes is ridiculous. I'll stay elsewhere where I can save a little money, thanks.

Third, what exactly is this "in lieu of property taxes" thing? Well, as per the document, the Arizona Coyotes would pay "government property lease excise taxes" which, as per the definition found here, is an Arizona idea that acts as a "redevelopment tool to initiate development by reducing a project's operating costs by replacing the real property tax with an excise tax." In short, the city of Tempe would collect 22.8% of the property taxes they could have collected from the Coyotes as "government property lease excise taxes" in order to service the bond debt.

As per the document, the total debt that Tempe will service is capped at $247 million. This hasn't factored in the remediation costs for the land that the Coyotes are devoting $50 million to, but that amount will fall significantly short of the proposed $70 million estimated in June 2022. Because no one has actually put a shovel into the ground to find out what's actually under the ground in the arena development location, that $70 million price tag will likely be significantly more than the estimate.

Based on what has been proposed over the entire arena proposal, it would appear that the total of the tax breaks sought by Alex Meruelo and the Coyotes clocks in around $500 million with the full debt that the city is assuming being half that total. All this for an arena that he'll primarily profit from entirely. The shopping, entertainment, and housing complexes are just ways for him to gain those tax breaks without looking like he's begging the city to pay for the rink.

It should be noted that the development proposal has nothing written into it about penalties if Meruelo doesn't actually finish building the shopping, entertainment, and housing complexes surrounding the new arena which seems insane considering that's how he proposed this massive investment that seemingly hinges on these tax breaks from Tempe.

Tonight, the Tempe city council voted 7-0 to send the vote to a public referendum, leaving the entire development in voters' hands on May 21, 2023. The $500 million of tax breaks will now be decided on by Coyotes fans, non-hockey fans, well-to-do people who have money to spend on hockey games, less affluent people who struggle to make ends meet, and everyone else who holds a vote in Tempe. I don't live there so I can't vote on this, but I really encourage everyone to think long and hard about giving away $500 million in tax breaks without forcing some sort of penalty upon the Coyotes and Alex Meruelo if they don't complete the project entirely.

If the city can't meet its financial requirements for the bond repayment, something's gotta give in that situation. In the vast majority of cases where cities are insolvent, services are put on hold or cancelled entirely. Public buildings are sold. Taxes are raised. And for all the times that the phrase "turn a landfill into a landmark" was used at the city council meeting tonight, I'd be seriously worried that Tempe might be selling an old landfill for a new money pit.

If the Coyotes wanted a new arena, that's something they should be able to pay for easily by themselves. But for them to file an entire arena and business district proposal just to qualify for tax breaks seems wrong. This would be like lighting $1000 on fire and huddling around it when you could simply buy a heater with that money. Unless, of course, you have lots of money to burn which seems to be the case for Tempe.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 28 November 2022

The IIHF Is A Comedy Troupe

At some point, the IIHF has to show some teeth if they're going to be considered anything more than a corrupt set of gatekeepers when it comes to the game of hockey at the international level. Their latest attempt at keeping Russia on the straight and narrow is nothing more than a ridiculous platitude for a country who cares not about rules or societal norms, and it's at this point where the big countries who make the IIHF a pile of money should step in and demand serious punitive measures for Russia's latest garbage.

You may have read or heard about stories from Russia where KHL teams and arenas have featured large banners supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine such as the one to the left. That sign reads, "For Russia! Nazism will not pass!" which is entirely from Putin's playbook when it came to his rationalization of sending Russian troops into Ukraine. As we know, Ukraine isn't under Nazi control by any means, but Putin has his people convinced, and that's being sold to them every time they attend a KHL game.

The IIHF Ethics Board opened an investigation after complaints were filed about the signs and banners seen at KHL games. We already know that the Russian Ice Hockey Federation is suspended from all IIHF-backed tournaments for at least another year, so it's not like they had much to lose if the IIHF were to demand the propaganda be taken down or prevented from being shown inside Russian arenas. After all, what else could they lose if they were already banned from playing internationally?

As stated in their report, "The IIHF Ethics Board had referred the case to the IIHF Disciplinary Board concerning the potential violation of the IIHF Ethics Code due to propaganda for the war in Ukraine by clubs and leagues under its jurisdiction that were brought to its attention in March 2022, and the failure of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation to take any action to stop or report such violations."

In short, the IIHF Ethics Board believed that Russia violated the ethics code and wanted the IIHF Disciplinary Board to follow-up with some sort of measure(s) after the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RIHF) did nothing to discourage the propaganda displays. Pretty simple, right? The broke the code, so they should be punished.

The Deciding Panel of the IIHF Disciplinary Board reviewed the evidence from the Ethics Board as well as input from the Russian Ice Hockey Federation along with the various exmaples of the propaganda seen at arenas, and found that the RIHF "took no action and did not advise any of the leagues or teams under its jurisdiction to ensure that any signs in the arenas or postings on team or league social media accounts did not promote or support the war". In response to this, the IIHF Disciplinary Board also found that "the images in this matter constitute a breach of Article 2.2.1 (Dignity) of the IIHF Ethics Code".

Pretty cut-and-dry case, I'd say. So what's the punishment?

"The Deciding Panel determined that the appropriate sanction in this matter is a reprimand to the Russian Ice Hockey Federation."

Excuse me? A reprimand is the appropriate sanction? How does that change anything when Putin and his hockey team-owning friends don't care about the IIHF's little slap on the wrist at all? I am baffled and astounded that the IIHF did nothing with the mountains of evidence they could and should have at their fingertips. This makes no sense.

If you want to hurt Putin and his desire to be the world's ultimate autocrat, the people have to turn against him. To do that, removing the chance of glory through sports is vital. In saying that, the international hockey ban for the RIHF should have been extended another year. On top of that, the RIHF would have a three-month deadline to not only get the KHL to comply, but for every other league within Russia's borders to comply with the IIHF Ethics Code as well. If they miss that deadline, everything up to and including the 2026 Winter Olympics would certainly be in jeopardy for Russia hockey teams with no chance for reversing the decision.

I get that the IIHF doesn't want to get involve in politics, but to simply stick their heads in the sand and ignore that they could play a significant role in pressuring Russia to end the invasion of Ukraine seems awfully irresponsible. The fact that Russia was using hockey in a political manner means that the IIHF's response is entirely hypocritical to the situation, but to simply "reprimand" Russia is nearly condoning the behaviour since they really have nothing to lose when it comes to international hockey. And if they have nothing to lose, why would the RIHF comply at all?

I'll be shocked if anything changes in Russia. If the IIHF isn't going to issue a stiff punishment after suspending Russia from all international events for at least another year, what's the point in having an Ethics Code to which countries are supposed adhere? Whatever reason there may be for having the Ethics Code seems pretty irrelevant if the IIHF isn't going to back it with serious punishment for breaking that code.

War is no joke as Ukraine will tell you. Issuing a stern warning to a country who has broken rules time and again is a joke of a punishment, and Russia is laughing at you, IIHF. Maybe stop being a joke of an organization?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 27 November 2022

The Rundown - Week 9

The ninth week of play in Canada West brought some intriguing matchups as the top-two teams in the conference faced off, there was a battle of Alberta, there was a Canada West quarterfinals rematch from last season, and there were a couple of must-win games for the final two teams in action. That left the MacEwan Griffins without a dance partner this week as they were on the bye week and figuring out what they needed to do to stay in the playoff race. It was another solid weekend of hockey, so let's get thing started on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: We start in Calgary where the first-place UBC Thunderbirds were visiting the second-place Mount Royal Cougars with just a point separating the two teams. Having two of the best offensive and defensive teams go head-to-head usually means we should expect a track meet or shutdown hockey, and Canada West usually opts for the latter. We'll see how this one plays out as Elise Hugens was, surprisingly, starting for UBC on a Friday while Kaitlyn Ross was between the pipes for the Cougars.

Pinpoint passes, end-to-end rushes, and great scoring chances is what we all may have been expecting, but both teams seemed a little off in the opening period. Passes went unconnected, shots were few, and the scoring chances fell to the wayside with passing and opportunities not being realized. A couple of power-plays for MRU and one for UBC went unfulfilled as we hit the break tied at 0-0 with Mount Royal up 5-4 in shots.

The second period saw a parade of Thunderbirds head to the penalty box as they were assessed four-straight minor penalties, but the UBC penalty kill was solid in holding Mount Royal off the board despite the Cougars having a few glorious chances. It felt like it was going to take something special to break the stalemate between these two squads, and we'd see that late in the period. Cassidy Rhodes turned on the afterburners and split the MRU defence before deking Ross and finding twine for a shorthanded goal at 16:29, and the Thunderbirds owned the 1-0 lead! Despite a couple of late penalties to the Cougars, there would be no other goals as we hit the break with UBC up a goal despite being outshot 22-8! Not a typo, folks!

The third period saw UBC double their lead just 4:36 into the frame when Grace Elliott teed up a puck and blasted it past Ross for the 2-0 lead. UBC would settle into defending a little more, but they also continued their rotating occupation of the sin bin as Mount Royal looked for the equalizer. Despite four power-plays in the final twelve minutes of the game, the Cougars were denied on every attempt on this night as UBC prevailed over Mount Royal by that 2-0 score! Elise Hugens was spectacular in making 32 saves for her sixth win and second shutout of the season while Kaitlyn Ross stopped 13 shots in the loss.

If we're playing games at Flames Community Arena, you know there will be no highlights. Mount Royal just doesn't do that. That does mean, however, that we get to post more funny hockey commercials!

SATURDAY: It was hard to argue that Mount Royal likely deserved a better fate on Friday, but they had a chance to erase that game with a win on Saturday. UBC was looking to open up a sizable lead over MRU in the standings with a second-straight win, so there was a lot to play for when these two teams met in the second-half of the two-game set. Elise Hugens, not Kate Stuart, was in the crease for UBC for her first back-to-back starts of the season while Kaitlyn Ross occupied the other net in a rematch from one night earlier.

Both teams brought the energy right out of the gates on this night as both squads seemed focused on the tasks they wanted to accomplish. UBC ran into some penalty problems early on, but they weathered that storm. The teams traded short power-plays late in the period, but the lack of goals may have both coaches setting aside some practice time this week. Either way, it was a perfect period from the goalies as the game hit the intermission tied 0-0 with Mount Royal leading 13-8 in shots.

There had been some physical play in the previous four period, but it seemed to boil over in the middle frame of Saturday's game. Nine minor penalties were assessed to the two teams, and UBC's Joelle Fiala was given a game misconduct at 16:10 after the UBC bench was given a penalty. That minor penalty proved costly as Aliya Johma spotted the puck in a goalmouth scramble and jammed it home as the power-play expired to put the Cougars up for the first time on the weekend at 18:10! The finla 1:50 would see no other goals scored, so Mount Royal was up 1-0 after 40 minutes while holding a 22-18 edge in shots.

The third period saw Mount Royal push for the insurance marker whil defending the lead as UBC ramped up their attack in hunting for the equalizer. The Cougars didn't do themselves any favours by taking a couple of minor penalties in the final frame, but Ross was stellar between the pipes on this night as she helped the Cougars out of a few jams. When the final horn sounded, the Mount Royal Cougars went home victorious by that 1-0 score over the UBC Thunderbirds! Kaitlyn Ross made 30 stops for her second clean sheet and ninth win of the season while Elise Hugens suffered her first regulation loss of the season despite making 29 saves.

Because the Sabres brought back the black-and-red Sabres jerseys, I had to post this one with Rob Ray in the original jersey when it was worn. And there's a Barry Melrose appearance in this one!

FRIDAY: Saskatchewan headed east to Winnipeg for a series with the Fluffy Cows where they could really help themselves with a couple of wins while hurting the Fluffy Cows' chances at hosting or even playing in the playoffs. Camryn Drever got the nod for the start on Friday for the Huskies.

Saskatchewan certainly didn't help themselves by coming out flat in the opening period, and they fell behind 1-0 late in the frame. That would become a two-goal deficit when they gave up a penalty shot goal, but Sophie Lalor got one back on the power-play with 55 seconds in the middle frame to make it 2-1 game heading into the third period.

The Huskies would fall behind by a pair of goals once again just 6:36 in, but Jasper Desmarais brought them back within a goal 30 seconds later to make it 3-2. Despite throwing everything they had at the Fluffy Cows' net, the Huskies could not find the equalizer before the horn as they fell 3-2 in this game. Camryn Drever stopped 21 shots in the setback.

The Huskies might be howling about how this one got away later in the season if they don't finish as a top-four team.

SATURDAY: One had to believe that the Huskies wouldn't let a second game slip away from them on this road trip. I would also have been expecting a better start to the game yesterday, so let's see what Saturday brings for Saskatchewan as they looked to split the series. Colby Wilson was in the Huskies' crease to start this game.

It wasn't hard to see that the Huskies made changes to come out better in this game, but the issue was that the FLuffy Cows did as well. The only problem was the Huskies had Wilson in net, and she got her mojo going early in the crease as she denied shot after shot in the opening frame. The Huskies gave her a little support as well when Sophie Lalor cashed in a goal from in tight at 5:56 to make it a 1-0 game. Despite being pinned in their zone for a lot of the period, the Huskies emerged with the one-goal lead at the break compliments of that goal after being outshot 20-9.

Saskatchewan took advantage of the Fluffy Cows' porous power-play defence early in the middle frame when Kennedy Brown knocked home a rebound for a shorthanded marker at 1:14 to make it 2-0. They'd increase the lead at 8:09 when Kelsey Hall fed Taylor Wilkinson for the easy tap-in to make it 3-0, prompting the Fluffy Cows to change goalies. It was a 3-1 game when Sophie Lalor added her second goal while on a power-play at 17:37, and the Huskies carried the 4-1 lead into the break despite being down 31-17 in shots.

Brown struck early in the third period as well as she notched her second goal just 32 seconds into the frame. The Huskies would surrender a goal with less than five minutes to play, but Sophie Lalor scored her hat trick goal with 3:46 to go as the Huskies responded in a big way with a 6-2 victory. Colby Wilson was incredible on this night in making 45 stops for her fourth win of the season.

As Rudyard Kipling wrote in The Jungle Book, "For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack." That was on display in this game as ten Huskies had points.

FRIDAY: The only home-and-home series between these two long-time rivals goes this weekend as the Dinos made their way to Edmonton for the first game of the two-game set. Alberta was looking to get back to their winning ways against Calgary while the Dinos were looking to climb the standings at the Pandas' expense. There's always a battle between these two teams, and it was Gabriella Durante defending the Dinos' net while Halle Oswald was backstopping the Pandas.

The Pandas are always tough at Clare Drake Arena, but it was the Dinos who showed they weren't going to let the Pandas dictate the pace of the game in the opening frame. Both teams had chances, but Calgary found more ways to get pucks to the net. A late penalty by the Dinos seemed to relieve some of the pressure on the Pandas, but the game remained tied 0-0 through 20 minutes despite Calgary leading 13-8 in shots.

The back-and-forth game continued in the second period. Calgary killed off an early power-play, and Alberta looked to do the same late in the period, but the Dinos would strike with their hottest scorer finding the puck. Elizabeth Lang's shot was redirected by Alli Borrow as it appeared to go off her leg, but the puck found the back of the net with 3:18 to play in the period as the power-play put Calgary up 1-0! That score would hold into the second break with Calgary leading in shots by a 22-17 count.

6:41 into the third period, Lang would strike against as the helper when she fed Jordyn Burgar who made no mistake in beating Oswald to make it 2-0. Cassidy Maplethorpe would get Alberta on the board with 3:58 to play, but time ran out on the comeback attempt as the Calgary Dinos emerged victorious with the 2-1 win over Alberta. Gabriella Durante was good on 25 shots for her fifth win of the season while Halle Oswald was on the wrong end of a 28-save night.

Alberta hasn't done a women's hockey highlight package since October 28. I'm not quite sure what's happening out in Edmonton, but this is very un-Alberta-like as they're always promoting their student-athletes. Because the Dinos won, though, they get the highlight spot.

SATURDAY: The series shifted south to Calgary for the second half of the weekend set. Alberta was looking to erase a three-game losing streak while the Dinos were hunting for more points in their quest for the playoffs. Halle Oswald was back in the Pandas' net while Gabriella Durante stood in the Dinos' crease in the rematch.

Alberta wasn't waiting around for anyone on this night as the pressure began early and continued throughout the opening frame. It paid off when Jadynn Morden's quick shot when far-side over the glove of Durante at 5:33 to put the Pandas up 1-0. A late bench minor to the Dinos was the catalyst for the second Alberta goal in the period when Madison Willan won the draw to the middle of the ice where Natalie Kieser one-timed the puck past Durante for the 2-0 lead with jkust six seconds left in the period. That score carried into the break as the Pandas held a 13-4 edge in shots to go along with their 2-0 advantage.

The second period saw penalties break up the momentum either team tried to build, but Calgary was sending the puck to the net more often. The goaltenders were sharp in this period and their defence swept away rebound chances when necessary as the 2-0 score remained intact at the end of 40 minutes with Alberta holding a 20-16 margin in shots.

A late second-period Calgary penalty hurt the Dinos once again as a loose puck came out to Taylor Kezama who teed it up and blasted it through traffic to the back of the net at 2:14 to make it a 3-0 game for the Pandas. Alberta did a good job from there in preventing scoring chances, but you could feel Calgary building some momentum which they'd make count late in the game. An Alberta infraction saw Alli Borrow strike on the power-play from the fight face-off dot with an excellent shot at 17:42 to make it 3-1. 1:12 later, Rebecca Clark's quick shot off a pass from Dana Wood in the corner brought the Dinos within one goal as Durante watched from the bench, but the late pressure would be repelled by the Pandas as Alberta captured the 3-2 victory over Calgary! Halle Oswald picked up her eighth win of the season with a 27-save night while Gabriella Durante took the loss after making 23 stops.

Calgary's Athletics Department is a beauty with their consistent highlight packages. Keep it up, Dinos. You're awesome!

FRIDAY: Rarely do I ever say that games in Week Nine are must-win, but the Regina Cougars went to Langley to play the Trinity Western Spartans in a case where every game and every point matters now. The Spartans, meanwhile, were looking for points as they're trying to make a case to host a playoff game this season. In other words, the points mattered this weekend for both teams as Arden Kliewer got the start for the Cougars while Kate Fawcett was in the net for the Spartans.

It wasn't hard to see that both teams were ready to defend as the action seemed to be kept to the outside in the offensive zone with a lot of blocks and checks. A couple of penalties by Regina allowed Trinity Western some offensive chances, but there wasn't much to write home about in the opening frame as the game remained 0-0 at the horn with the Spartans up 7-4 in shots.

Whatever was said in the rooms during the intermission seemed to change the entire nature of the game because the second period looked like a completely different game. Trinity Western certainly gave Regina numerous opportunities to capitalize thanks to the number of penalties they took, but game was played with more speed and passing, and the shots reflected that. The score didn't, though, as the 0-0 deadlock held through the middle frame despite the teams combining for 29 shots as Regina held a 21-19 edge.

The third period felt more like the first period once again as both teams were looking to hold the other at bay. Despite trading power-play opportunities, it appeared we may have been headed for overtime, but Olivia Leier dug a puck out from behind the net and centered to Brooklyn Anderson who went five-hole with the quick shot, and that would be your game-winner with 25 seconds remaining in regulation time as the Trinity Western Spartans outduelled the Regina Cougars by a 1-0 score! Kate Fawcett stopped all 27 shots she faced for her fourth win and first Canada West shutout in her career while Arden Kliewer stopped 29 shots in the setback.

This highlight package is longer than it should be, but when there's only one goal scored you make the highlight package count, I guess.

SATURDAY: Regina came into Saturday's game desperately needing a split for the weekend series while Trinity Western was joping to build on their win from one night earlier. Fans who were in attendance and who tuned in to the game were hoping for a little more offence than what was seen in Friday's contest. Arden Kliewer was back in the Regina net as she stood 200-feet from Kate Fawcett who started for the Spartans in a rematch of of the goalies from one night earlier.

The first period was played fairly evenly despite Trinity Western giving Regina an opportunity on the power-play. That power-play went for naught, though, as the teams looked for opportunities at both ends of the ice. The goaltenders were having none of that idea as they kept the goose eggs intact through 20 minutes with Trinity Western leading in shots by an 8-6 count.

The second period was a far different story. Chelsea Debusschere's rush down the right wing ended with her hitting the side of the net before Neisha Germann jumped on the rebound and put it home at 2:23 to give the Spartans the lead. They'd double that score when Amy Potomak's shot from the right circle found room through traffic to dent twine at 9:18, and it was a 2-0 game. Regina wasn't about to go away quietly, though, as Heather Fiske scored on the power-play when her initial shot was stopped in the slot, but she followed the puck and chipped the rebound home at 12:49 to make it 2-1. Minutes later, a goalmouth scramble saw Shaylee Scraba on one knee in the crease where she got a couple of whacks at the loose puck before it crossed the line at 15:03, tying the game up at 2-2! That score would carry into the break as these two teams looked for a winner in the third period again with Trinity Western holding a 17-15 edge in shots.

Regina brought everything they had in the third period as they threw a ton of pucks at Fawcett with no early success. Trinity Western would find some when they broke in 3-on-2, and Brooklyn Anderson hit a wide-open Potomak in the right circle. Potomak went top shelf on Kliewer as she got into her butterfly, and Spartans regained the lead at 8:46 on Potomak's 11th goal of the season. Regina continued to pepper the Spartans' net, but Fawcett stood tall as she stopped all 17 shots she faced in the third period to help Trinity Western to the 3-2 victory over Regina! Fawcett made 30 stops in total for her fifth win of the campaign while Arden Kliewer made 22 stops in the loss.

If you just want Spartans highlights, that's what Trinity Western delivers!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
26 49 25
vs REG
Mount Royal
25 43 23
21 40 27
vs MAC
20 32 23
Trinity Western
19 39 37
vs MRU
14 38 55
14 31 40
vs SAS
7 19 41
5 19 39

The Playoff Picture

Officially, there's one week left in the Canada West schedule before the December break before the teams resume games in January after exams and holidays. The Fluffy Cows hold the final playoff spot at this point due to tie-breaking rules over the Calgary Dinos, but the Dinos could pull ahead next week before the break while the Fluffy Cows sit idle. The schedule will even out, but it's the schedule that matters for these two teams moving forward.

Not counting Saskatchewan next weekend for the Dinos, Calgary's final ten games over six weeks look like this: home-and-home with MacEwan, bye, at home against Regina, home-and-home with Mount Royal, in Manitoba, and home-and-home with MacEwan. Calgary is 3-4-1 at home this season, but still have four games at Father David Bauer Arena against the bottom two teams. The scary part is that those games against MacEwan could make or break Calgary's season as they're 1-5 against the other three non-MacEwan teams.

Manitoba's final twelve games starting in January looks like this: in Regina, at home against Mount Royal, at home against UBC, in Langley against Trinity Western, at home against Calgary, in Edmonton against Alberta. The Fluffy Cows have back-to-back series against the top-two teams in the conference at home where they're 4-4-0 before they welcome Calgary to Wayne Fleming Arena. The problem is that Manitoba is a collective 3-7-0 against the final five teams this season.

I'm not saying that the Dinos have the easier path, but it would seem they have a much more favorable schedule down the stretch. That series in Manitoba in the second-last week could have huge playoff implications based on what these two teams do in January.

Shorthanded Excellence

I had mentioned all the shorthanded goals being scored this season, and we saw another couple of shorties scored this weekend. There have been 13 shorthanded goals scored so far, but seven of those have come from teams that call British Columbia home! That's a little crazy!

Brooklyn Anderson and Amy Potomak have two apiece for the Spartans which accounts for all four that they've scored while playing short, and UBC has seen Mia Bierd, Jacquelyn Fleming, and Cassidy Rhodes all score shorthanded markers. Two of those UBC players, it should be noted, are rookies who have earned the trust to be on the ice during shorthanded situations thanks to their play.

I've warned everyone about not giving Alberta power-plays because of their lethal efficiency, but it's pretty clear that taking risks on the power-play against both UBC and TWU could result in goals-against. My utter disbelief in seeing teams not working on their power-play formations at the Canada West level so that there aren't scoring chances against cannot be understated. If you win the special teams battle in Canada West, you're likely winning the game.

Top Ten Watch

UBC checked in at #3 on Tuesday. Mount Royal was #6. Alberta was #9. Things could move this week after all three teams split their weekend contests, but there likely won't be a ton of change because the ELO scoring system is as flawed as Elon Musk's deal to buy Twitter. What should be noted is that there are three Canada West teams in the Top Ten which shows the strength of the conference and its teams. The only other conference with three teams is the OUA, and I'm not sure all three of those teams belong in the Top Ten.

It's nice to be recognized as a good team, but the only rankings that matter are the final eight teams who play at Nationals. If you don't make Nationals, did it matter where you were ranked nine weeks into the season? 'Nuff said.

The Last Word

I think it's pretty clear that there are four distinct groups of teams in Canada West after nine weeks. UBC and Mount Royal are going to battle for the top-two playoff spots and both will have byes in the opening round of the playoffs. Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Trinity Western will make things interesting in terms of who gets to host a playoff quarterfinal game, and I don't think any of them want to travel in the opening round if they can prevent it. Manitoba and Calgary will likely battle for the final spot to determine the six teams who will play in late February.

It's hard to write two teams off at this point in the season, but neither MacEwan nor Regina have scored 20 goals this season - they both have 19 - while the teams competing for playoff spots have not scored less than 32 goals (Saskatchewan). Defence may win championships, but you have to score to win games to get there. That just hasn't happened for the Cougars and Griffins, so there's a better-than-good chance they'll play the roles of spoiler if they continue to score at the low rate they've shown thus far.

The two lowest scoring teams through 20 games last season were MacEwan (23) and Trinity Western (24). UBC made the playoffs in 2019-20 as the second-lowest scoring team in Canada with 41 goals, but they're the lone exception to the rule: since 2015-16, the two teams with the fewest goals scored have missed the playoffs every year. If their fates are going to change, they better fill nets in a hurry from this week moving forward.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 26 November 2022

Mixing While Mingling

If there's one thing that the holiday season brings, it's an annual event where a kitchen is transported to Northern Ireland and the process of making homemade Irish cream begins. It doesn't take long now that this has become an annual tradition, and the end result is bottles of the rich beverage ready for consumption after a quick chill. Being that there are few ingredients to mix along with the transfer to the bottle where it will be kept, I recommend working in a group on this project. I chose to work with my parents today as it was a good chance to catch up with them while my mom gets to make her favorite holiday beverage. Well, in her case, it's an any season beverage, but you know what I mean. Let's get mixing!

Thanks to Paul Lukas, who writes the Uni-Watch blog who turned me on to this recipe, I am a full-fledged member of the Irish Cream club. This beverage is a hit wherever it goes, and people are often surprised how easy it is to make. I don't know how many other people are making it in their own homes now, but there are a lot of websites with various versions of this Irish cream recipe on them. I've tried a few, but they aren't the same as they taste slightly different or miss out on the rich, creamy texture. Stick with this recipe, folks. You won't be disappointed.

Here is the legendary Paul Lukas' Irish Cream!


2 cups of Irish whiskey*
2 cups of heavy cream**
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp. of chocolate syrup
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 espresso shot***
1/4 tsp. of almond extract


Mix all ingredients in a large container and be sure to stir well. Refrigerate for a couple of hours, and enjoy over ice.


* - any mid-range Irish whiskey will do - Bushmills, Jameson, Tullamore Dew - so don't buy any high-end whiskey. You'll lose the nuances of the high-end whiskey, which is what you're paying more for, in the Irish cream mixture.
** - whipping cream at 35% works best for a thick, smooth Irish cream. At the very lowest, don't stray below 18% or you'll lose the creaminess of the beverage.
*** - an espresso shot is 1 tsp. of instant espresso in 2 tbsp. of hot water.

You'll be able to taste the blend of chocolate, espresso, and vanilla tones in the smooth, sweetened base mixture of whiskey, cream, and condensed milk. Served over ice, it's a delicious beverage that's worth the effort, specifically after coming in from the cold where the warmth from the alcohol concentration found in the Irish cream will provide an immediate temperature boost.

It should be noted that I have no idea what the alcohol content may be in this, so please enjoy responsibly if you do make it. It's easy to have two or three glasses because of how tasty it is, but please take care if you need to drive. Cabs, Ubers, calling for rides, and public transportation are all better options than being stopped by the police, so please be smart and get home safe. The last gift anyone wants is a ticket for driving under the influence, an impounded vehicle, a suspended license, or all three of those things. Be responsible so everyone can have a happy holiday!

It's always good seeing my folks, and I'm glad we had some laughs as we made beverages today. I didn't do any quality control before I left, so I made it home safely without any trouble. That's how I expect all of you who make this beverage to act as well. Be safe, friends, and enjoy making and drinking this great Irish cream. Leave your review of the recipe here if you like and we can discuss!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 25 November 2022

First For The New Oiler!

I have to admit that I did a bit of a double-take when the news crossed my desk on Tuesday that the Oilers had signed former Mount Royal Cougars sniper Ryley Lindgren. When you hear "Oilers" in terms of a hockey news story, you immediately think of Edmonton, Alberta and not Tulsa, Oklahoma. Of course, one could have made that mistake easily after he played a lot of his WHL career in Alberta and followed it up with a highly-successful Canadian university career at Mount Royal University where he was one of the most lethal players in Canada West. Edmonton almost makes too much sense, but it was, in fact, the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers who signed Lindgren on Tuesday.

Tha Manitoba-born Lindgren played five seasons for the Cougars in Calgary where he tallied 33 goals and 37 points in 80 games, so there wasn't much doubt that Lindgren could play the game well after a solid WHL career that saw him stop in Brandon, Lethbridge, and Swift Current. After leaving Mount Royal following the 2020-21 season, Lindgren joined the Norfolk Admirals in the ECHL on an amateur tryout contract where he appeared in just three games, finding no success on the scoresheet in his first taste of professional hockey.

As is the nature of the ECHL, Lindgren was not offered a contract for the start of this season by Norfolk, making him a free agent to pursue othr hockey opportunities or, potentially, opportunities away from the rink. Ryley, it seems, used his university education this summer to start a brand-new business in May called eHockey Inc. where the business is described as "the Digital Marketing and eCommerce solution focused on growing Hockey-related businesses and coaches. Strategic planning, valuable content creation, synchronous social media experience, website updates and maintenance, email marketing, online booking and appointment integration, and more".

It sounds like Ryley has himself something here, but one had to wonder if the door to the hockey career closed with this new business venture. Obviously, based on the opening paragraph above, it did not as the Tulsa Oilers signed Lindgren to a standard player's contract and added him to the roster on Tuesday as they prepared for their game on Wednesday against the Wichita Thunder!

Lindgren was in the lineup against the Thunder on Wednesday wearing #72 for the Oilers as he resumed his professional hockey career in his fourth ECHL game. He didn't score in the game, but he didn't look out of place despite jumping into Tulsa's lineup with barely a pregame skate to get him ready. Tulsa would win the game in Wichita by a 3-1 score which set the table for the rematch tonight in Tulsa between these two teams.

I don't know what happened between Wednesday night and tonight, but it seems a practice and getting settled into his surroundings benefitted Lindgren and the Tulsa Oilers nicely. Just 1:53 into game tonight, the Oilers had to break out the white tape for a puck that would be going home and destined for a mantle chez Lindgren.

You just witnessed Ryley Lindgren's first professional goal as he put the Tulsa Oilers up 1-0 on Tulsa's second shot of the game when he beat Wichita's Evan Buitenhuis with the wrister from the high slot after Eddie Matsushima won the face-off. Congratulations to Ryley on that moment - it's one he will surely never forget!

The best part of this? Lindgren wasn't done contributing on this night with that goal. He also picked up the primary assist on Dylan Sadowy's goal at 11:51 of the third period to make it a 5-3 game for Tulsa, and he picked up his first penalty a few minutes later when he was sent off for a couple of minutes for tripping. While it's not a Gordie Howe hat trick, Lindgren had himself a heckuva night with a goal, an assist, and a penalty in a 6-3 win for the Oilers!

Congrats on a big night, Ryley, and here's hoping there are many more in helping the Oilers capture the Kelly Cup!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 24 November 2022

The Hockey Show - Episode 531

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, hits the ground running tonight as we have a few big stories to work through and one deals entirely with the culture within hockey once more. If you believe our hosts have been spending a lot of time on the culture of hockey in the last few months, there's a purpose to it as they both want the game to be better. That starts with looking inward, and that's why they continue to focus on topics such as Hockey Canada's misuse of funds and their cover-ups of sexual assaults. Tonight, thought, they tackle another difficult subject that needs to be brought into the spotlight.

Teebz and Jason need to discuss the recent racism story from the NCAA involving Jagger Joshua because racism in hockey simply isn't going away. If you missed what happened, a player from Ohio State used a racial slur towards Joshua in a game, was tossed from said game, and the Big Ten Conference did nothing. Our hosts will discuss this and a few other incidents from this calendar year as they dig into hockey's culture once more. Beyond that, they'll discuss Cale Makar setting a new NHL record and what it could mean for his long-term development, the Seattle Kraken using a loophole to send Shane Wright to the AHL rather than the OHL for development, Eric Belanger's odd coaching decision, the TMU Bold hosting the 2024 U SPORTS Men's Hockey Championship, Concordia's women's athletics teams get a big boost, and we'll break from tradition and talk a little World Cup too! We'll attempt to squeeze all of this chatter into the hour tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT so join us on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via!

If you live outside Winnipeg and want to listen, we have options! 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, so if you want to stream the show I'd recommend Radio Garden to do that as it works nicely with Safari. If you're more of an app person, we recommend you use the TuneIn app found on the App Store or Google Play Store. 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! 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 talk racism, superstar development, coaching decisions, hosting decisions, money, footy, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: November 24, 2022: Episode 531

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Once An Astro

This may be new information to some while other hockey fans might have known this for longer than I've been walking the planet, but the man to the left in the Houston Astros uniform is none other than former New York Islanders power forward Clark Gillies! The man who skated alongside Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy for so many years in helping the Islanders capture four-straight Stanley Cups didn't start his professional sports career on the ice despite his skills on skates. Instead, he was a first baseman, a catcher, and an occasional outfielder for the Covington Astros in the Appalachian League where the Astros placed him in an effort to prepare him for Major League Baseball! Obviously, things worked out a little differently for Gillies, but let's take a look at his short baseball career!

At the age of 16 in 1970, Gillies landed in Covington, Virginia where the tyke suited up for the Astros' minor-league outfit for five games. Obviously, Gillies was far from being the physical presence he was on the ice at the age of 16, but the kid from Moose Jaw was still a man among boys at his age. Playing in the Appalachian League was a different story than senior men's baseball in Saskatchewan, though, and Gillies struggled in his three games as a positional player and one as a pitcher.

He had a solid showing in a pair of games at first base, committing just one error while recording 11 put-outs, two assists, and was part of one double-play. He played one game in the outfield where he made just one out without committing an error, and he also suited up as the Astros' pitcher for one game where he pitched six innings, giving up three hits and two runs while recording five strikeouts, three base-on-balls, and one hit-by-pitch. Defensively, the kid looked fine, but it was a different story at the plate as Gillies went 1-for-13 with a single while striking out ten times.

The Astros weren't willing to give up on Clark Gillies after he struggled in 1970 as they invited him back to Covington in 1971 after his hockey season ended. Gillies saw action in 35 games that season for a Covington team that ended up going 33-35 to finish 8.5 games back of the first-place Bluefield Orioles in the Appalachian League's North Division.

Gillies played 14 games at first base, and he looked the part as a 17 year-old. In 105 balls thrown his way, Gillies recorded 92 put-outs against eight errors while assisting on five outs and being part of seven double-plays. He also suited up for ten games as the Astros' catcher in 1971, and it was here that Gillies really excelled as he was part of 60 put-outs while committing no errors. He did give up 13 passed balls, but he also added three assists on outs from behind the plate. Defensively, Gillies was solid.

At the plate, Gillies was starting to find his groove as a pro ball player as well. In 92 at-bats, he recorded 22 hits and five walks while being hit-by-pitches three times and sacrificing twice. His .239 batting average doesn't look great, but he was playing against guys two years older than him in the Appalachian League so there may be a little slack given on this one. What should stand out is his 22 hits saw him hit five doubles, score eight runs, and drive in 11 more runs. Gillies was also caught stealing in his only attempt that season.

After heading home to join the WCHL's Regina Pats where he scored 31 goals and added 48 helpers in 68 games while posting 199 PIMs, Gillies began to look like a man carved out of the side of a mountain. He'd come back to Covington for the summer of 1972 where he played in 46 games with the Astros this summer as Covington finished in second-place in the one-division Appalachian League despite recording the most wins in the league with 41. The Bristol Tigers were 40-28 for a .588 win percentage while the Covington Astros were 41-29 for a .586 win percentage - a .002 difference in what has to be the slimmest of margins between the top-two teams in any league!

Gillies spent most of his 1972 season at first base where the big Saskatchewan kid showed an improvement over his previous season, recording 271 put-outs against just six errors made. His 29 assists matched the same number of double-plays he was involved in, and he looked like he may have a future at the corner for the Astros. It should be noted he played one game as catcher where an error and two passed balls overshadowed his two put-outs, and his four games as an outfielder saw him record six outs while making one error. He seemed to be destined to be a first baseman.

1972 also saw his work at the plate improve as well. In 156 at-bats, Gillies recorded 40 hits that included five doubles, two triples, and two balls that landed outside Casey Field. His average improved to .256 in this season, but he was still plagued by the whiff as he recorded 52 strikeouts against ten walks and two sacrifices. Gillies did score 23 runs that season while driving in 20 more, and he recorded his only stolen base of his professional career while being caught once.

Among Gillies' teammates with the Astros that year was another notable NHL star as Bob Bourne, a future teammate with the New York Islanders, was the other first baseman on the team! The 18 year-old Bourne played 33 games at first base in 1972, recording 250 put-outs against just four errors. He also assisted on 23 other outs and was part of 24 double-plays. At the plate, Bourne hit .257 with 28 hits in 109 at-bats. He had one double, one triple, scored 16 runs, and drove in 15 more. While he struck out 29 times, I'll also note he was hit by a pitch once, sacrificed four times, and stole six bases out of the seven times he tried to swipe a bag.

Gillies would head back to Regina for the 1972-73 hockey season where he'd once again find all sorts of success in scoring 40 goals and 52 assists in just 68 games as the Pats looked dangerous once again, but they were swept from the playoffs by the second-seeded Flin Flon Bombers in the opening round of the WCHL playoffs. Gillies made the decision to focus on hockey after being homesick every summer he was in Virginia, and that would put an end to his baseball career before it every truly got started.

It may have been for the best, though, because Gillies and the Pats went off in a big way in 1973-74. Gillies scored 46 goals and added 66 assists in 68 games to end up as the tenth-best scorer in the WCHL as he helped Regina to a 43-14-11 record as the top team in the WCHL. Regina downed Saskatoon in six games in the opening round of the playoffs, eliminated New Westminster in five games, and claimed the WCHL championship after sweeping the Calgary Centennials in the final. Gillies was named a WCHL all-star for his efforts, and the Pats would go on to play at the 1974 Memorial Cup tournament in Calgary.

The Pats defeated St. Catharines in their opening game by a 4-0 score after St. Catharines had defeated Quebec the day before. If the Pats defeated Quebec, they'd be the home team in the final against St. Catharines once more. Instead, the Remparts downed the Pats by a 5-3 score, and the two finalists were determined by goal differential. The 1-1 Regina Pats were the top team at +2, and they awaited the winner of the semifinal between Quebec and St. Catharines. Quebec downed St. Catharines in their rematch by an 11-3 drubbing, but they couldn't pull off a second win against Regina as the Pats claimed the Memorial Cup with a 7-4 victory over the Remparts!

The summer saw Clark Gillies' name become very popular as he was drafted in the WHA's secret draft for players younger than 20 at seventh-overall by the Edmonton Oilers before the New York Islanders called his name as the fourth-overall pick at the 1974 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. Gillies would sign with the Islanders that summer, make the 1974-75 team as a rookie, and would hoist the Stanley Cup for the first of four times six seasons later.

Playing on the LILCO line with Billy Harris and Bryan Trottier before landing on the famous Trio Grande line with Trottier and Mike Bossy, Clark Gillies was the epitome of toughness and skill for the Islanders - a guy who could finish off a passing play, set up a teammate, or battle the opposition's toughest hombres. After a Hall-of-Fame career in the NHL, it's hard to imagine Clark Gillies having the same impact on baseball as he did on hockey, but it almost happened 53 years ago when a 16 year-old kid from Moose Jaw arrived in Covington, Virginia.

He was once an Astro, but Clark Gillies was destined to be a star.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 22 November 2022

TMC: Hockeyland

Teebz's Movie Club makes a return on this Tuesday night as I wasn't feeling very motivated to get my butt outside to shovel the dusting the snow we received today. While I know better than to sit inside and let the snow accumulate, I decided to dig through the pile of movies and TV shows I have at my disposal thanks to my streaming options, and I stumbled across Hockeyland for which I had heard many positive reviews. Hockeyland, directed by Tommy Haines and produced by Northland Films, follows the stories of two historic high school hockey programs heading in opposite directions as we follow Eveleth and Hermantown in this Friday Night Lights-like documentary. We often hear about how hockey is life in Canada, but there's no doubt that hockey is life for these senior high school students in Minnesota who are dreaming of playing under bigger and brighter lights one day.

Having been to Minnesota a few times for hockey-related adventures and having seen teams come north across the border, I already had a deep appreciation for how important hockey is to families, programs, and players in Land of 10,000 Lakes. I'm not sure any of us know exactly how deep the passion runs, though, without being in the shoes of the players where we all can walk a mile or, in this case, skate a mile. Hockeyland brings that passion these kids and these towns have for the game to life and injects us directly into their perennial battle for hockey supremacy.

Hockeyland was filmed during the 2019-20 hockey season, but it doesn't exclusively look at life on the ice for the players the filmmakers follow. Aydyn and Indio Dowd play for Hermantown, and we learn that their mother, Lori, is battling cancer and multiple sclerosis while trying to be her sons' biggest fan. At one point, Indio talks about his back problems and how he should have had surgery to correct the problems, but he didn't want to miss the hockey season so he's forced to stretch his back often to prevent it from being acutely painful.

There's an interesting review of Blake Biondi choosing to stay in Hermantown to play high school hockey rather than moving on to play junior hockey at the USHL level. He was the eventual Mr. Hockey winner in the state of Minnesota, but it's clear that the ties to the town and the high school hockey program mean something to Biondi. While he certainly is one of the stars on the powerful Hawks team, his humbleness and team-first mentality are seen time and again in this documentary.

Pat Andrews, Hermantown's head coach, also plays a large role in the movie in terms of providing context to how deep the high school hockey roots run with a look back at his high school hockey playing days. Andrews' motivational speeches in the locker room for Hermantown are seen throughout the film, and it's clear he holds the program in extremely high regard which only serves to reinforce those roots. Andrews might be the coach in the film, but he's also a tie to the past hockey battles between Hermantown and Eveleth.

We also meet, in different capacities, Will Troutwine, Elliot Van Orsdel, and Eveleth coach Jeff Torrel whose stories have their own unique hockey paths. There are long, lingering shots of the two towns mixed with the intensity of locker room speeches, players driving to and from games and practices, players on the ice and on the bench, and the reactions of the crowds in response to the action on the ice. Haines does a good job in illustrating the challenges both teams face in chasing the dream of becoming Minnesota State Champions while keeping the human side of the story as the main focus.

There are some moments of pure emotion that may tug at the heart strings a little. Watching the tears flow after Eveleth's season comes to an end was particularly moving after we got to know a few of their players, but the sting that Hermantown's players show following their final game can't be ignored either. Hockeyland shows the highs and lows of being a player, but the heart-wrenching moments in listening to Lori's battles with cancer treatments and everything she's going through keeps things in perspective.

If you're thinking about sitting down with your kids to watch this, I should warn you there is some choice language in Hockeyland over its hour-and-48-minute runtime. This language shouldn't be unexpected as teenagers and adults alike show their frustrations through verbal outburts at times, but it may not be entirely suitable for younger children based on the words used. There's nothing overly offensive from my vantage point, though, so I'll leave this one up to the parents in giving it a PG-13 rating based upon my own assessment of the film.

Overall, I enjoyed Hockeyland for its in-depth look at hockey in Minnesota, the emotional and personal ties the people featured in the film have to the game, and overall arc of two teams moving in opposite directions when it comes to their high school hockey teams. I almost feel like each of the people introduced should have had their own episode in a mini-series only because I'm not sure how much of their stories were left on the editing room floor. I'd like to know more about Pat Andrews and Jeff Torrel and everything they go through as coaches. Nonetheless, Tommy Haines has put together a solid film that takes you from the start of the 2019-20 season right through to the state championship final while not glossing over the human side of the game which is what makes this game part of Minnesota's culture.

Teebz's Rating: ★★★★ out of five stars

There are all sorts of ways one can watch Hockeyland if one is wanting to see this picture. You can stream it on-demand via Vimeo ($6.95 to rent), via iTunes ($4.99 rental vs. $9.99 to buy), or via Amazon ($4.99 vs $9.99 again). If you want a physical copy, Blu-Ray copies are $19.99. If you're a sports fan, this isn't going to be a documentary that will present itself as heroes-vs-villains, but it may give you a new perspective about everything that happens under the surface of two seemingly quiet hockey towns in Minnesota whose high school programs have put them on the map. I do recommend it based on my rating, so give it a watch if you want to learn more about the high school hockey scene in Minnesota!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 21 November 2022

Where History Was Written

There are certain hallowed places in hockey that players of all ages would like to skate. Whether it be the Montreal Forum, Chicago Stadium, or Maple Leaf Gardens, there are or were decades of hockey history that turned those rinks into cathedrals where fans prayed for goals, saves, and wins. While both the Forum and Stadium are gone, Maple Leaf Gardens still exists today, albeit in not quite the same way it did when players like Keon, Armstrong, Gilmour, Salming, Meeker, and Bower walked the corridors. How cool would it be to skate in a big game and score a key goal in the same place as those hockey legends?

Teams in the OUA get that opportunity when the Toronto Metropolitan University Bold host games, but there haven't been many championship moments experienced for the former Ryerson Rams. They've gone to U SPORTS National Championships thanks to playing in the final, but the Rams have never won the OUA Championship nor hoisted the Queen's Cup. So while the TMU Bold get to skate in one of the coolest places in all of U SPORTS every season, what if there was an opportunity for a big moment, a clutch goal, or a game-saving stop on Canadian university sport's biggest stage?

According to Sportsnet's Jeff Marek, that will happen in 2024!
Just for clarification, he did correct his acronym in a subsequent tweet, but this is big news for the U SPORTS National Men's Hockey Championship as they'll play in a legendary arena that contains modern amenities in front of a crowd that could number 2638 fans at capacity. Yes, it's not a raucous crowd like the Leafs used to get in those tiny seats, but the Bold have a great rink with excellent sightlines that will make it easy to see every shot, stop, and goal.

I've played at the MTS Centre in a fun game after the Moose had played during a weekend afternoon. It was a game that meant more to us than anyone else, but the only thing I remember is scoring the game's first goal early on while wearing my Selanne all-star jersey and having four people in one of the private boxes who stuck around go absolutely wild because "Selanne scored". At the time, I'm sure those people in the suite were just having a good time with us, but it's funny how that sticks out yet I can't remember the final score in the game. I guess I know what was more important to me.

There's something about skating where legends wrote volumes of history that sticks with you, and eight of the best Canadian university men's hockey teams will get the opportunity to do that in 2024. One of those teams will be the TMU Bold, and there's hope they continue their winning ways after starting this season 8-3-1. Having the Bold playing at home in Mattamy Athletic Centre in March 2024 would be incredible for their players, fans, and the school, but there's a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Mark your calendars to be in Toronto for March of 2024 as the U SPORTS National Men's Hockey Championship. Eight teams will arrive to compete for the title of "National Champions", but only one will prevail in the same place where Dave Keon was made a legend, where George Armstrong captained the last Toronto-based Stanley Cup championship team, and where one U SPORTS team will write its own chapter in Maple Leaf Gardens' history.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 20 November 2022

The Rundown - Week 8

The eighth week of the Canada West season was more like a tale of two halves of the conference as the top-four teams squared off while four of the five teams below them played against one another. With only the Regina Cougars sitting idly through their bye week, there was a chance for significant movement in the conference thanks to the schedule, and the potential for some teams to fall entirely out of the playoff race was certainly a possibility as well. Half the season would be complete for eight teams following this weekend's games, so let's see who did what on this episode of The Rundown!

FRIDAY: The last time these two teams met, there was a berth in both the Canada West Final and the U SPORTS National Championship on the line. The stakes were a little lower this time, but the Cougars headed northeast to Saskatoon for a weekend with the Huskies. One could hope for a few more goals than what we saw in the semifinal last season, but let's not got ahead of ourselves. Kaitlyn Ross was in the blue paint for Mount Royal while Saskatchewan started Camryn Drever for this battle.

The opening frame was played fairly evenly with both sides getting looks, but neither finding the back of the net early. A couple of power-plays for the Huskies went unsuccessful in lighting the lamp, but an odd-player rush would change that fate. Sara Kendall fed Sophie Lalor on a 2-on-1, and Lalor made a nice move in close to deke Ross forehand-backhand and find the twine with 40 seconds left in the frame for the 1-0 Saskatchewan lead! That one-goal lead would stand through the break with the Huskies leading 9-8 in shots.

Saskatchewan killed off a power-play that carried into the second period before the Cougars killed a penalty of their own to keep things at a one-goal margin. A penalty in the latter portion of the period to the Huskies also saw Saskatchewan's penalty-killing units remain perfect on the night as we hit the second intermission with the 1-0 score intact for the Huskies despite being outshot 23-15.

The third period was all about defending a lead for the Huskies, but things were made a little easier on that front after Mount Royal was whistled for two penalties before the midway point of the frame. Saskatchewan wouldn't score on either opportunity, but time started to become Mount Royal's main enemy. Despite a push at the end, the Cougars couldn't get anything past the Huskies on this night as the 1-0 score was the final! Camryn Drever picked up her second shutout and fifth win of the season in stopping all 31 pucks sent her way while Kaitlyn Ross stopped 23 shots in the loss.

Since no one is doing highlights any longer, I'm just gonna start filling these spots with random GIFs and videos. If schools don't care about showing off the efforts of their athletes, neither do I. I can't understand this stance that Canada West schools have taken, but so be it. Don't blame me for not making highlight reels. I do the recaps.

SATURDAY: After what felt like a playoff game on Friday, the Cougars and Huskies met once again at Merlis Belsher Place to finish off the two-game set. If this is what playoff hockey is going to feel like in February, inject it into my veins immediately! Kaitlyn Ross was looking for revenge in the Cougars' net while Camryn Drever was looking to win her fourth-straight game over the Cougars.

This game started out like the previous night's game as the back-and-forth contest got underway. A power-play for the Huskies midway through the frame went unfulfilled while a power-play for the Cougars garnered no goals with five minutes to play in the stanza. After one period, we were still tied at 0-0 with Saskatchewan holding a 12-7 edge in shots.

Mount Royal was down a player twice before the second period was ten minutes old, but the Huskies were once again turned aside by the Cougars' penalty killers. Mount Royal did a very good job in locking down the defensive zone in this period, but they still could not find a crack in the wall that the Huskies had put up through five periods of hockey. After 40 minutes, this game remained tied at 0-0 with the teams registering 16 shots apiece.

Once again, Mount Royal tempted fate by taking two separate penalties in the opening half of the period, but their penalty killers were on their game. Saskatchewan erased the latter few seconds of the second power-play with the penalty of their own, but Mount Royal could not convert on that opportunity. Late in the third period, though, Kiana McNinch came through in a big way for the Cougars as the rookie notched her first Canada West goal with 2:58 to play, and it would stand as the game-winner as the Mount Royal Cougars returned the 1-0 favour on the Saskatchewan Huskies! Kaitlyn Ross stopped 24 shots for her second shutout and ninth win while Camryn Drever did everything she could except win on a 24-save night.

I'll have more about these two teams below the standings board, but let me preview that section by saying the following image is perfect for the topic of dogs, cats, their battles, and clean sheets. Get it?

FRIDAY: The other rematch from last year's semifinal series went this weekend in Vancouver as the Alberta Pandas landed on the left coast to play the UBC Thunderbirds. UBC won two-straight games over Alberta last year by 2-1 and 5-1 scores in March, so the Pandas were looking to erase those memories. Both teams needed points if they hoped to catch Mount Royal while making it harder for each other, so this series could prove interesting down the stretch. Halle Oswald was defending the Pandas' net while Elise Hugens was back in her crease for a Friday night contest.

The Pandas struck early in this one thanks to a solid forecheck by Madison Willan that forced a turnover. She fed Abbey Bourdeaud'hui with the pass, and the rookie winger found the back of the net with her shot for her Canada West goal at 3:54 to put Alberta up 1-0! Alberta's game plan seemed to be an opportunistic one as they looked to force the high-flying Thunderbirds into mistakes with UBC carrying most of the play in the first period. Both teams would trade unsuccessful power-plays in the period, but it was Alberta holding the one-goal lead when the horn sounded despite UBC outshooting Alberta by a 14-5 margin.

The Pandas seemed content in pressuring the Thunderbirds throughout the second period, but the T-Birds can play with speed. They continued to find chances while smothering the Alberta offence at every opportunity, but Alberta's defence would simply not give. But UBC would not relent and they'd find a score late in the period when Sophia Gaskell's shot from the point beat a screened Halle Oswald with 1:05 remaining in the frame to make it a 1-1 game. As people began stirring in anticipation of the second intermission, Gaskell struck again when her shot was redirected in front of the net as it went off an Alberta defender and past Oswald with one second to play, giving UBC the 2-1 lead through 40 minutes while outshooting the Pandas 25-8. Not a typo.

The third period started the same way that the other periods had gone with UBC dictating the pace, but they'd run into some trouble just past the midway point of the frame as they gave Alberta's power-play a chance to get on the ice. The Pandas didn't waste that chance as Danica Namaka was the finisher as she potted her goal off some great passing by the Pandas to make a 2-2 game at 11:55. The teasm would trade power-plays through the final ten minutes, but neither would light the lamp behind the opponent's goal so we'd get some free hockey in this one with the score tied 2-2 at the end of regulation time despite UBC holding a 36-17 margin in shots!

The first overtime period solved nothing as these two teams continued their chess match, but the game would be over quickly once the 3-on-3 period began. After Joelle Fiala won the faceoff, Rylind MacKinnon skated it into the Pandas' zone, dropped for Chanreet Bassi on the right half-boards where Bassi skated it into the corner and started to circle behind the net. Spotting Fiala out front, Bassi fed her the pass in the slot, and Fiala made no mistake as she one-timed it past Oswald for the 3-2 double-overtime UBC win! Elise Hugens stopped 16 shots in 65:12 of work for her fifth win of the season while Halle Oswald stopped 40 shots in the extra-time loss.

Since UBC won't post highlights, I'm just ripping the OT winner from their social media. Don't even think about complaining that I'm doing this. If you can isolate the clip from the feed for social, you can piece together a highlight reel. It's not hard to do and you know it, UBC.

SATURDAY: After a battle on Friday where both teams picked up points, the Pandas and Thunderbirds finished off the two-game set on Saturday. One had to expect the Pandas to come out with fire under their skates after only managing 18 shots the night before while UBC was looking to capture all four points with another solid game. Halle Oswald was back between the pipes for Alberta while Kate Stuart continued her routine of Saturday starts for the Thunderbirds.

Both teams looked focused as this game began with shots finding their targets on both sides. The goaltenders weren't letting anything touch twine, though, as the opening ten minutes featured no goals. A Pandas penalty would open the door for the Thunderbirds, though, as Hannah Koroll's long point shot was kicked aside by Oswald, but Cassidy Rhodes cleaned up the rebound with a couple of whacks to get it across the line at 13:38 to UBC ahead 1-0. Neither team changed strategy after that as they continued to get shots, but the horn would sound on the opening frame with UBC holding the one-goal lead and a 10-9 advantage in shots.

The second period saw the ice slant towards the Alberta zone once more as UBC found their skating legs during the break. Despite the teams trading power-play opportunities, no goals would be scored with the advantages. There would be one lamp lit, though, as Kallie Clouston dented twine for the Pandas when he shot beat Stuart at 13:30 to make it a 1-1 game! Beyond that, though, Halle Oswald had to be sharp in this period as we hit the break with the game tied 1-1, but UBC up 21-13 in the shot count.

Alberta had multiple opportunties to score early in the third period with two UBC penalties called five minutes apart, but UBC denied both power-play opportunities. That may have been a turning point as Alberta was called for a penalty moments after the second UBC penalty expired, and the Thunderbirds made them pay. Hannah Koroll's high shot from the point went off someone in the mass of humanity standing in front of Oswald and deflected downward past the surprised netminder for the power-play goal at 9:35 and the 2-1 UBC lead! Alberta turned up the heat in an effort to find an equalizer, but they could not solve Stuart over the final ten minutes as UBC earned the 2-1 victory. Kate Stuart made 22 stops for her sixth win of the season while Halle Oswald suffers her second-straight loss after a 21-save effort.

Again, I'll handle the work here, UBC, and post the game-winner scored by Hannah. Get your act together and post highlights.

FRIDAY: For the first time in their history, the Trinity Western Spartans travelled to Calgary to play the Dinos. While they have played before - Calgary was 2-0 in Langley last season - this would be the first time the Spartans suited up at Father David Bauer Arena. Both teams were hunting for points after splits last weekend, and it would be Kate Fawcett getting the nod for the Spartans while Gabriella Durante was in the Dinos' net once again.

Both sides were eager to get things rolling as they went north-south in the opening period, but the defences were solid in preventing good looks. That would change as the period went on with both sides finding ways to get shots. The opening goal would come off the stick of Michela Naccarato after a flurry of chances when she skated out of the corner untouched and sniped a snot past Durante at 13:36 for her first Canada West goal and the 1-0 TWU lead! Late in the period, Alli Borrow would strike when her long, high wrist shot was deflected en route to Fawcett, and the netminder could not find the puck before it was in the net behind her as Calgary tied this game with 34 seconds left in the frame. That 1-1 tie would hold into the break with the Spartans up 10-7 in shots.

Early in the second period, Reilly Kellner picked up a loose puck at the Calgary blue line after a turnover, and her wrist shot from the high slot area is likely one that Durante wants back as the Spartans jumped ahead 2-1 at 2:23. Before they could even regroup, a cross-ice pass between the Dinos defenders in their own zone rolled off the stick of the recipient, and Brooklyn Anderson was all over the puck and she deked around Durante and slid the puck into the net 12 seconds after the Kellner goal to make it 3-1! That seems to snap the Dinos out of whatever slumber they started the period in, and they roared back with some aggressive play. They wouldn't solve Fawcett, but they had their chances. After 40 minutes, though, Trinity Western held the 3-1 lead despite being outshot 20-16.

Calgary was still pressing for goals in the third period, but they'd find themselves deeper in the hole being dug when Anderson's backhand, cross-crease pass to a streaking Jordyn Matthews was converted by Matthews just 26 seconds into the period, and the Spartans were up 4-1. The Spartans played a fairly clean period without giving too many good looks to the Dinos, and they would ice this game with 54 seconds to play when Brooklyn Anderson fired a puck from her own blue line into the vacated Calgary net to give the Spartans the 5-1 victory! Kate Fawcett stopped 26 shots for her third win of the season while Gabriella Durante took the loss after stopping 17 shots.

Guess who's back! Back again! The Dinos are back with highlights again! I'm not sure what changed, but I'm not complaining!

SATURDAY: The Dinos came into this game looking for a split and to reduce the amount of unforced errors that hurt them on Friday. The Spartans were back to complete the sweep by playing smart, opportunitic hockey once again as they looked to widen the gap between themselves and the Dinos in the standings. Kate Fawcett was back between the pipes for Trinity Western while Amelia Awad got her first Canada West start for the Dinos.

It's always good to get a feel for the puck early if you're a rookie goaltender in your first game, and Awad certainly did as the two teams traded chances early in this one. Trinity Western would ruin Awad's potential shutout 11:00 in when Kailey Ledoux's shot from the high slot was tipped by Amay Potomak to get by Awad for the 1-0 lead! Calgary wouldn't capitalize on their power-play opportunities as they were defied by Fawcett once again as the Spartans held the one-goal lead into the intermission with Calgary up 13-10 in shots.

The second period saw the back-and-forth battle resume as both sides were angling for goals, but the goaltenders were just as good. Power-plays were awarded to both sides, but neither could cash in on those opportunities again. It wasn't until late in the period when a goal-mouth scramble off a Jessica Martens shot saw Jordyn Burgar with a couple of whacks at the loose puck before Annaliese Meier swooped in and chipped the puck past Fawcett and into the net to tie the game at 1-1 at 18:33! The final 1:27 ticked off the clock as we hit the intermission, so this game would be decided in the third period or beyond as we were tied up at 1-1 with Calgary up 21-16 on the shot count.

We wouldn't have to wait long for a team to take the lead in the third period. A low shot from Annaliese Meier was stopped by Fawcett behind traffic, but the rebound popped out to Jolie Nafziger on the backdoor where she popped it into the net for the 2-1 just 2:52 into the frame! Calgary kept the pressure on as they recognized Trinity Western's push to tie things up, but thhe Dinos weren't willing to give an inch. A late penalty to the Dinos tested their resolve, but they weathered the storm to allow Elizabeth Lang to chip one into an empty net with 46 seconds to play to secure the 3-1 victory for the Dinos over the Spartans! Amelia Awad gets the game puck for her first Canada West win after making 22 stops while Kate Fawcett was on the wrong end of a 28-save night.

More highlights from the Dinos! Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the University of Calgary? Well done, Dinos!

FRIDAY: Two teams who are pushing for a playoff spot met in Edmonton as the Manitoba Fluffy Cows went northwest to meet the MacEwan Griffins. The Griffins had a chance to really put the Fluffy Cows' chances of the playoffs in peril with a couple of wins, so there was motivation for the home side as they entered this weekend series. Brianna Sank was guarding the Griffins' net in this one.

The Griffins struck early in this one as Sydney Hughson found room from the side of the net to open the scoring just 2:45 into the game. MacEwan wuld surrender a goal early in the second period, but they'd find the lead late in the middle frame when Jayme Doyle one-timed a feed from Makenna Schuttler on a 5-on-3 power-play, and the Griffins would go to the second break up 2-1 with the shots being tied 17-17.

If there's one thing that both teams suffer from, it's penalties and the parade to the sin bins in this game was noticeable. It would come back to bite the Griffins, though, as they gave up an early power-play goal in the third period before surrendering another power-play goal while trying to kill off back-to-back 5-on-3 disadvantages. The lack of discipline hurt the Griffins in this one as they fell 3-2 on Friday. Brianna Sank likely deserved a better fate after she stopped 36 shots.

I never actually thought I'd ever have Gritty on The Rundown, but MacEwan's refusal to do highlights has made that dream happen!

SATURDAY: MacEwan needed a big response on Saturday if they were going to keep things close when it came to contending for playoff spots. It would be wise to stay out of the penalty box for the Griffins after penalties did them in on Friday, but we'd have to see where this game went against the Fluffy Cows. The one thing that was certain is that Lindsey Johnson was the starter for the Griffins in the back half of the series.

The two sqauds started the game off with good pace, but MacEwan fell behind just before the midway point. And that hope for less penalties? Yeah, that went out the window early in this game. The good news is that the Griffins responded on the power-play when Jenny Andrash went over the glove and under the bar with her shot at 16:32 to make it a 1-1 game. The jubilation lasted just 1:23, though, as the Griffins were down 2-1 after giving up a power-play goal, and that score would extend into the break with the Griffins trailing in shots 11-9.

The parade that MacEwan set up to the penalty box in the second period really did them in as they allowed three goals - one on the power-play - but they had absolutely no offensive chances thanks to the constant play in their defensive zone. Falling behind 5-1 meant the mountain to climb in getting out of that deficit would be huge, and the final score of 5-1 shows they didn't even make a dent in it. Discipline matters as MacEwan was whistled for 10 infractions on the day which didn't help rookie Lindsey Johnson as she took the loss despite making 32 saves.

The Griffins didn't run into any Canadan geese this weekend, but the end result feels the same after these games. Watch out for nickels.

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
24 47 24
Mount Royal
23 42 21
vs UBC
19 36 23
vs CAL
18 24 18
Trinity Western
15 35 35
vs REG
12 33 47
vs SAS
12 27 36
7 19 41
5 17 35

No Offence Or All Defence?

I mentioned up above that I'd speak a little further about the Mount Royal Cougars and Saskatchewan Huskies, so let's dig into it because the number of 1-0 victories seen between these two teams is starting to get ridiculous. Since 2017-18, these two teams have played 17 times, including playoff games, and we've seen a 1-0 decision eight times! Saskatchewan leads in those games by a 5-3 advantage, but defence is served whenever these two teams get together.

Beyond that stat, ten of those 17 games have seen one team record a shutout, 12 of the 17 games have been decided by a single goal, and only three of 17 games have seen a team win by three-or-more goals. In the last ten games between these two teams since the start of the 2019-20 season, Saskatchewan leads 6-4 in games won while Saskatchewan has outscored Mount Royal 11-8.

If you see these two teams going head-to-head, don't bet the over.

Power Outage

I don't know if the MacEwan Griffins have abandoned all hopes of having special teams this season, but this is a team that is a woeful 3-for-64 on the power-play (4.7%) while their penalty-killing has now surrendered 13 goals on 78 shorthanded situations (83.3%). With the Griffins being the lowest-scoring team in the conference with just 19 goals-for in 14 games (1.36 goals-per-game), not having a prayer with the special teams likely means disaster for the Griffins when it comes to making the playoffs.

I cannot stress this enough: special teams can win and lose you games in Canada West. Not improving those statistics throughout the year is bad news when it comes to success.

The Cutoff Point

A few weeks back I had estimated that it would take 22-24 points to make the playoffs. With half the season in the books for eight of the nine teams, the two teams tied for sixth-place right now - Calgary and the Fluffy Cows - sit with 12 points. There are 28 points left on the table for teams to get themselves ready for the playoffs, and it would appear that strength of schedule may come into play based on who is left for each team to play in this campaign.

The Fluffy Cows host Saskatchewan, go to Regina, host Mount Royal, host UBC, visit Trinity Western, host Calgary, and visit Alberta to finish off the season. They are currently 0-0, 2-0, 0-2, 0-2, 1-1, 1-1, and 0-2 against those teams for a combined 4-8 record against their remaining opponents.

The Dinos have a home-and-home with Alberta, host Saskatchewan, have a home-and-home with MacEwan, host Regina, have a home-and-home with Mount Royal, visit Manitoba, and finish with a home-and-home against MacEwan. The Dinos are currently 0-0, 1-1, 0-0, 1-1, 0-2, 1-1, and 0-0 against their opposition for a combined 3-5 record against their remaining opponents.

The catch? Calgary has six of their final 14 games against teams below them in the standings whereas the Fluffy Cows have just four games. That series in Winnipeg between the Dinos and Fluffy Cows could ultimately determine who grabs that final playoff spot in the conference assuming everything else stays the same, but don't dismiss that final weekend with Calgary playing MacEwan while the Fluffy Cows tangle with the Pandas.

The Last Word

It's Grey Cup Sunday, and there's only one team for whom everyone should be cheering. You can be against the Bombers all year because of rivalries and divisional matchups, but I think we all subscribe to the theory of "ABT" - Anybody But Toronto. The Regina Cougars had the weekend off for good reason as the craziness surrounding the Mosaic Stadium and its neighbours, which includes Co-Operators Centre, will likely be a zoo as we get closer to game time, but here's hoping that it's a highly-competitive, entertaining game between the two most-deserving teams in the CFL.

Or it's a blowout for the Bombers. I'd actually prefer that.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!