Tuesday 31 January 2023

The Gold Medal Game

I was working through some of the audio today after a request was made for some of it, and it dawned on me that there likely could have been a number of hockey fans who missed out on the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge gold medal game between the Calgary Fire and the South Alberta Hockey Academy. Being that I do enjoy a good hockey game, I thought it might be wise to clean up the audio of that game as UMFM had recorded it in its entirety and post it for those who want to hear it. I don't own the rights to the video as HockeyTV carried the game, but I would have synchronized the audio and video had that been available to me. Be it as it may, the audio is below and you can listen to the game from start to finish including overtime right here on HBIC!

I will say that, outside a couple of technical issues, we have 11 of the 13 games from the Subway Arena available if you would like to hear them. Simply send me an email indicating which game you'd like, and I'll send you the audio file of the game. It should be noted that the Lloydminster Steelers-Winnipeg Avros game to start the tournament and the Northern Capitals-Calgary Fire game to start Saturday's slate of games off are the two that somehow missed segments of the game, so the technical issues can't be fixed on those. Unfortunately, those games will not be available.

The technical issues also crept into the Northern Capitals-Interlake Lightning game early on Saturday morning, but the first period was all that was missed. Considering that it was a 0-0 game through 20 minutes, there were no significant moments missed so the final two periods will be available if anyone wants those. Again, an email indicating what game you'd like to hear is all that is needed for an audio file of that game.

Let's dive into this gold medal game by stating that the Calgary Fire had only surrendered three goals up until this point, and all three came in the semifinal against the Northern Alberta X-Treme. They had two goalies who had combined for three shutouts in the round-robin portion of the tournament, and they boasted a tournament all-star in winger Tyra Edl who had lit lamps regularly in the four games leading up to the final. Calgary had speed, depth, and scoring to match any team, and it seemed like they should be the favourite in this game.

However, standing before them was South Alberta Hockey Academy who boasted a tournament all-star in defender Kendal Davidson. Davidson's play had helped SAHA win two shootouts in the round-robin before they knocked off the Thunder Bay Queens in a one-goal victory in the semifinal. While there was nothing that stands out about any of SAHA's wins on their path to the gold medal final, the fact that they had faced some adversity in the tournament could prove useful if the final was to remain a tight-checking affair.

I will say, in defence of the guy calling the game, this was game #13 in a four-day span, and you can hear his voice crack a few times as he's calling the game. I won't lie: Gord Miller is a hero for the number of games he does at the World Junior Championships over two weeks, but 13-in-4-days tested my vocal cords. If you're gonna rip on the play-by-play guy as you listen to the audio, I probably deserve it, but my voice was as hoarse as it's ever been. I do deserve a bit of a beating for stating that Jolie Nafziger plays for Mount Royal when she actually plays for the Calgary Dinos! Sorry about that, Jolie!

Ok, here's the audio of the gold medal game. Enjoy the action!

If you'd like to download this game, click here to initiate the download!

I have said it a number of times since the final goal was scored on Sunday, but what a great game! Credit goes to both SAHA and to the Calgary Fire who brought their "A"-games and then some, but the winners do get the spoils as we had a golden goal scored on Sunday just past noon CT. There's nothing quite like an overtime goal to decide a championship, so make sure you listen to the end if you're clicking the play button above!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 30 January 2023

Tournament Of The Year (For Me)

The above image is certainly how one team will remember the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge as the AFHL's Calgary Fire emerged victorious over the CSSHL's South Alberta Hockey Academy in overtime by a 3-2 score. The gold medal game was an absolute treat for me to call alongside Jason Pchajek on the UMFM Second Stream, and seeing Tyra Edl roof the puck from a sharp angle to win the game in extra time is one of those goals I won't soon forget. Finishing the tournament with an amazing game between two very deserving teams is how every tournament should end.

If there's one thing that I've come to appreciate at the Female World Sport School Challenge every year, it's the atmosphere. From the sixteen teams who arrive with hopes and dreams of being the last one standing on Sunday to the parents who cheer on their kids and their teammates in their quest for gold to the staff and volunteers who make this tournament happen like a well-oiled machine, I am always impressed with how well everything goes and how the smiles radiate off the faces of everyone involved.

I mentioned her last year, but this tournament would be a shadow of itself if it weren't for Kathy who seemingly abandons sleep for four days as this tournament plays out, yet still greets every person through the door by name and with a smile. She runs this tournament like a professional, and I honestly believe she could coordinate a Super Bowl or a World Cup with her organization, professionalism, and abilities in making this tournament work. Kathy's fingerprints are all over this successful tournament once again, and I'll always maintain that she's a gem of a human being meaning I will always go out of my way for anything she asks. Kathy, thank you once again for another fun, memorable tournament!

There are multiple volunteers who do incredible work in keeping this tournament humming along, and I need to thank all the volunteers who commit their time and make the effort to make the Female World Sport School Challenge great. Most are parents of current or former players, but there are both current and retired staff from St. Mary's Academy who spend hours at the rink completing tasks and ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Everyone says hello, everyone asks how one is doing, most share a story or joke, and it's more than evident than everyone cares about everyone else. I am always blown away how everyone is excited to see me representing UMFM at this tournament and how quickly I'm welcomed into the group, and this warm welcome and constant support of one another among the volunteers and staff who work at this event over the four days of action is a very large factor in why the Female World Sport School Challenge succeeds every year.

I'd certainly be remiss if I didn't mention the tireless work put in by Larry Bumstead, head coach of the St. Mary's Academy Flames, in not only preparing his team for this tournament, but getting everything ready for when teams arrive and play their games. He'll be quick to deflect credit elsewhere, but Larry was the reason we were able to do intermission interviews with players this year as we elevated our coverage at this event. There isn't a detail that Larry doesn't have covered when it comes to how things will play out on the ice, and I am always privileged, honoured, and pleased to work alongside Larry in making this tournament sound as professional as we can. He's a beauty, and his passion for the game might be unmatched.

I had the pleasure of meeting some of the parents who are among the volunteers that work at this tournament. Whether it's the Chubacks, the Thomsons, the Dennehys, or the Schimnowskis, they have every reason to be proud of their daughters playing in this tournament while we provide the narration to the game. As great as their daughters are in playing hockey, they're better in the classroom and are absolute pleasures to chat with before and during games. Being able to see them wear that pride on their sleeves as their daughters play is something special, and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to describe their daughters' play on the ice. Without the parents, this game just isn't as good.

When everything comes together, it's easy to see why this tournament runs so well - it's the people who make the difference. Kathy ensures that all the volunteers can be successful, and all the volunteers take their roles seriously so that success is the only option. The staff and committee ensure that all the pieces of the tournament puzzle come together, and Kathy and Larry ensure that everyone will be successful in their assigned roles. The closeness among staff and volunteers in icing 34 games over four days means no games fall behind, everyone has fun, and all teams go home on Sunday while making plans to come back for the next iteration of the Female World Sport School Challenge because of how well they were treated.

I circle this weekend on the calendar every time the dates for the Female World Sport School Challenge are announced because everyone seems extremely grateful that we, at UMFM, are able to broadcast the tournament. From the parents who have seen us at the tournament before to the parents who are experiencing our broadcasting for the first time, I can honestly say that I heard "thank you" for broadcasting the tournament so often that I lost count - that was just the first day! When the parents, volunteers, and staff say "thank you", you can tell they mean it. I won't lie in saying that I love broadcasting this tournament, but feeling appreciated for doing so makes the effort in broadcasting the games that much easier.

The teams and fans who decided to make the trek to Winnipeg made the hockey incredible to watch as the fans cheered on their favorite teams while the players dazzled us with talent. There were no true blow-outs at the tournament this year, and every game was competitive despite the scores occasionally favouring one side over the other. I can honestly say that there was no game where we could circle the winning team's name prior to the game being played. That's how good this year's tournament was when it came to the teams that attended.

I am forever grateful for having a number of players talk to us during the intermissions including the likes of Kate Chuback, Letta Mattheos, Summer Fomradas, Trynity Turner, Rachel Loewen, Olivia Brassard, and Marlee Fong. These well-spoken, intelligent women are going to be the cornerstones for post-secondary programs in the future, and all of them showed incredible skill on the ice, gave great answers during our interviews, and were excellent ambassadors for their teams. I'm excited to see what the future holds for all the women to whom we spoke!

No matter which way you measure up, examine, or dissect the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge, it was an absolute honour to be involved with this tournament once again. I was witness to 13 games of incredible hockey played by the future of women's hockey across North America, and I got to speak to some of the best women who will move on to helping U SPORTS, ACAC, and NCAA teams reach new heights.

Off the ice, I am always in awe of the volunteers, the parents, and the staff who make sure the Female World Sport School Challenge goes off without so much as a hiccup, and I am forever grateful that they want UMFM broadcasting their games. To Kathy, Larry, the volunteers, the staff the parents, the fans, the players, the coaches, the teams, and all those who tuned into the games via UMFM's Second Stream internet stream, thank you for letting us get to know you, tell your stories, describe your talents, and keep you connected. It is truly an honour.

Mark your calendars, and we'll see you in Winnipeg in 2024!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 29 January 2023

The Rundown - Week 14

I cannot deny that I watched very little Canada West women's hockey this weekend thanks to my involvement at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge. While I got to see a number of players who will join U SPORTS, ACAC, and NCAA teams next season, twelve-hour days make me want to sleep more than watch hockey. I did make a couple of exceptions, though, as there were some interesting matchups, so I can't say I didn't see any Canada West hockey. With the results of this week factoring into playoffs races across the conference, let's jump into what happened in four Canada cities this past weekend on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: Let's start with the game being played in the biggest arena of the four series seen this weekend as the Calgary Dinos and Mount Royal Cougars met at the Calgary Saddledome as part of their annual Crowchild Classic series between the two Calgary-based institutions. The stakes were pretty clear for Mount Royal as one win would clinch a playoff spot for them while the Dinos were looking to possibly catch and pass the idle Saskatchewan Huskies for fourth-place in the conference. Gabriella Durante was in net for the visiting Dinos in this game while Kaitlyn Ross stood in the Mount Royal crease!

The two teams played the opening frame cautiously with neither seeing many good scoring opportunities. Both goalies were equal to any shots they faced as a relatively event-free period was played. A power-play near the midpoint of the period went unfulfilled for the Cougars while the teams traded penalties at the end of the frame. We hit the break still tied at 0-0, though, with MRU holding a 7-1 edge in shots.

The second period was more of the show everyone was expecting as both sides came out firing pucks and skating hard. Despite the renewed effort offensively, neither Durante nor Ross was interested in falling behind in this game. A pair of penalties on the Dinos in the second half of the period saw the Cougars come up with nothing to show for those four minutes, and we'd go to the second intermission deadlocked at 0-0 with Mount Royal holding a 14-6 shot advantage.

The third period blended the action of the first two periods with chances being found, but none of the "how did that not go in" variety. Mount Royal missed out on two more power-play opportunities, but they nearly ended the game late if it weren't for Gabriella Durante. Being that she denied the Cougars once again, we'd get some free hockey at the Saddledome with the game still tied at 0-0 through 60 minutes with the Cougars up 25-12 on the shot counter.

In the first period of free hockey, the Dinos controlled the play, but were unable to end the game. In the 3-on-3 period of double-overtime, a late Calgary power-play saw nothing get by Ross, so we'd need a skills competition to decide this game - the first time shootout had decided a Crowchild Classic game on Saddledome ice in the history of this annual series!

Aliya Jomha scored on the first shot while Rebecca Clarke was stopped, so the Cougars were up 1-0 in the shootout. Breanne Trotter and Alli Borrow were both stopped in Round Two. Courtney Kollman had a chance to end it, but was denied. That meant Josie McLeod had to score to keep this game going. She was denied by Ross, however, and the Mount Royal Cougars earned the 1-0 shootout win over the Calgary Dinos! Kaitlyn Ross stopped 18 shots in 70 minutes of work plus three more shots in the shootout for her 13th win of the season and fifth shutout while Gabriella Durante stopped 29 shots in 70 minutes for a shutout of her own, but fell in the shootout.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: After the incredible game the night before, the Cougars had officially punched their tickets to the Canada West playoffs, but needed to try and track down the two teams ahead of them. Calgary inched a little closer to Saskatchewan with one point, but they were looking for more as well. With this series shifting to the Dinos' home rink, Scout Anderson was in the Cougars' crease for her second career start while Gabriella Durante was back in front of the Dinos' cage.

Mount Royal came out of the gates hungry in this one as they took the game to Calgary. An early power-play wouldn't help the Cougars, but they'd strike minutes later when Kaia Borbandy took a pass as she split the defence, fended off a check, and beat Durante from the right side at the 8:23 mark to give Mount Royal the 1-0 lead. A second power-play would also generate no scores for the Cougars, but the damage had been done in the opening frame as Mount Royal took the one-goal lead into the break while leading 14-6 in shots.

Calgary came out with renewed vigor in the second period, but Mount Royal worked to swing the ice back in their favour by the end of the frame once again. MRU would be down a player before the midway point of the period, but the Dinos could not capitalize. The Cougars used that momentum to double their lead minutes later off a face-off that saw Tatum Amy miss the net, but the puck rebounded off the endboards directly to Aliya Johma who ripped the puck past Durante at 14:54 to put the Cougars up by a pair of goals. A second Calgary power-play brought them no closer, and we'd hit the intermission with Mount Royal leading 2-0 and holding an 18-10 shot advantage.

Mount Royal poured on the pressure once again in the third period thanks to a pair of power-plays, and the second one would see Athena Hauck dent twine at 9:45 to make it a 3-0 game for Mount Royal. Calgary had a few chances, but they were erased quickly by an efficient Cougars defence. When the final horn sounded, the Cougars had captured a 3-0 victory over the Dinos. Scout Anderson picked up her first Canada West win and her first Canada West shutout with an 18-save clean sheet while Gabrielle Durante suffered the regulation loss after stopping 29 shots.

No highlights were posted by the Dinos, so we'll give the Cougars their credit by having a cat replace a famous dinosaur in the movies!

FRIDAY: The series between the Fluffy Cows and the Spartans may very well determine the fates of both teams when it comes to the playoffs. If the Fluffy Cows were to sweep the Spartans, they'd move into sixth-place while the Spartans had just two games remaining. If the Spartans were to sweep the Fluffy Cows, they'd all but guarantee their inclusion in the playoffs. The stakes were high in Langley as Kate Fawcett looked to help the Spartans gain a playoff berth!

Despite falling behind 1-0 in the second period, the Spartans would get a big boost while shorthanded when Amy Potomak forced a turnover and fed Olivia Leier in the slot who made no mistake in burying the puck to tie the game at 1-1 at the 10:36 mark! We'd need overtime to determine this game, though, and it would be in the 3-on-3 period where we'd get a winner. On a 2-on-1 with time ticking down, Amy Potomak fed Kate Klassen on the left side who went inside the far post for the overtime winner with five seconds remaining as Trinity Western picked up the 2-1 double-overtime victory! Kate Fawcett stopped 26 shots for her seventh win of the season.

Some Spartans highlights are below!

SATURDAY: With both teams earning points on Friday, the stakes hadn't changed as both needed a regulation win to make things far more difficult on the other team. Points mattered on Saturday as Kate Fawcett got her second-straight start against the Fluffy Cows.

We wouldn't see scoring until the second period for the second consecutive night, but Amy Potomak's long shot appeared to deflect off someone in front while on the power-play at 15:13, and the Spartans had a 1-0 lead through 40 minutes. The Fluffy Cows would draw even before the midway point of the third period, but the Spartans went up by one again when Potomak fed Kate Klassen for an easy tap-in at 14:07. The only problem? The Spartans would surrender the tying goal at 18:17, and we'd need overtime once more to find a winner. In the first extra frame, the Spartans would give up the winner as they fell 3-2 in this game. Kate Fawcett suffered the overtime loss after making 17 stops.

The very TWU-centric highlight package is below!

FRIDAY: MacEwan's margin for error was zero as they needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Being in Vancouver to play the conference's top team didn't make things easier, but anything worth having usually comes with some sort of fight. The Griffins needed to play as well as they ever have while UBC was looking to lock up a first-round bye. Brianna Sank was in the Griffins' net while Elise Hugens stood in the UBC blue paint.

Both teams came to battle in the first period as neither team was willing to sit back in this game. UBC had a few additional chances in the frame, but they made good on the one power-play they earned. Rylind MacKinnon found the back of the net on the advantage at 15:23 to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead, and that lead would hold into the break with the T-Birds up 11-6 in shots.

MacKinnon would strike again at the 3:56 mark of the second period as the early UBC goal put them up 2-0. The game began to get more physical as the period wore on, and it would end with MacEwan's Rebecca Thiessen being dismissed from the game due to a cross-checking major. When the dust had settled on the frame, the 2-0 lead stood for UBC as they held a 25-13 margin in shots on net.

The Griffins were determined not to let this one get away as they started creating turnovers in the third period which would end up benefitting them when Rian Santos tipped in a Joie Simon shot following a turnover, and Santos' first Canada West goal cut the deficit to 2-1 at the 9:08 mark. The Griffins continued to press as they knew their fate if they lost, so they pulled the goalie with 1:45 to play. Unfortunately, Mackenzie Kordic would pot an empty-netter with 44 seconds to play.

The Griffins pulled Sank with 33 seconds to play in a last-ditch effort, but it would Rylind MacKinnon capping off her hat trick with an empty-net goal with 16 seconds to play as the UBC Thunderbirds claimed the 4-1 victory over the MacEwan Griffins when the horn sounded. Elise Hugens picked up her 11th win with a 20-save effort while Brianna Sank made 34 saves in a spirited effort.

UBC isn't doing highlights, but there is a thunderbird in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That'll do for tonight's highlight.

SATURDAY: The Griffins had the role of spoilers on this night as they looked to upend the Thunderbirds and their quest for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. I know it may be hard to get psyched for a game where a win or loss doesn't matter, but I know the Griffins have pride and they're gonna play hard. Brianna Sank got the nod for MacEwan while Kate Stuart was playing in her final regular-season home university game as a senior player.

UBC was looking to put this one away early as they overwhelmed the Griffins, but the MacEwan defence was in bend-not-break mode while Sank was playing without fear. Nearly the entire period was played in MacEwan's end of the ice, but the only thing UBC had to show for it was a Mackenzie Kordic goal from the right face-off dot that got under Sank at 18:08. Through 20 minutes of play, UBC held a 1-0 lead, but had outshot the Griffins 23-3 in the opening frame.

The T-Birds brought the fire once again in the second period only to run into a Griffins team that wasn't about to fold their tents and go quietly into the night. Two power-plays by the Griffins were opportunities missed, and Olivia Buckley's first Canada West goal at 12:52 put the Thunderbirds up by a pair of goals. However, that only seemed to reinforce the play of the Griffins as Joie Simon cut the deficit in half with 44 seconds left in the second period as the horn sounded on a 2-1 UBC lead with the T-Birds holding a 37-14 margin in shots.

Again, the Griffins showed all kinds of resiliancy, determination, and tenacity in the third period as Sydney Hughson tied the game at 2-2 with a power-play goal at the 4:10 mark. UBC would pull ahead again at 6:40 when Grace Elliott scored a power-play goal of her own, and Rylind MacKinnon would restore UBC's two-goal lead with another power-play goal at 14:06. With UBC killing a penalty late and Sank on the bench for a 6-on-4 advantage, Joelle Fiala would ice the game with 1:14 to play when she hit the empty net. When the final horn sounded, the UBC Thunderbirds claimed a hard-fought 5-2 win over the MacEwan Griffins! Kate Stuart won her ninth game of the season after stopping 19 shots while Brianna Sank likely deserved a better fate after a 43-save night.

No highlights, but I can deliver the 2019-20 UBC goal horn and song. Before you click play, let me just say that AC/DC's Thunderstruck might be the most obvious choice for a song for the Thunderbirds, but it's part of the reason I dislike its usage here. Go off-script and get something unique and funky! Anyway, here's the horn and song.

FRIDAY:With both teams already knowing where they stand - Regina out of the playoffs and Alberta in the playoffs - the only thing this series may determine is whether or not Alberta can overtake the UBC Thunderbirds. Regina's got spoiler duty in this one as Halle Oswald got the start for Alberta while Natalie Williamson was in net for the Cougars.

The first period saw the two teams battle for scoring opportunities as neither was willing to give up much in the defensive zone. Alberta did find a few more pucks to put on the Regina net, but there was no ink splashed across the scoresheet in the opening frame as no goals were scored nor were any penalties taken. It was a 0-0 game after one period with Alberta up 8-3 in shots.

The second period began as the first period had gone with both sides finding chances, but nothing was finding twine. However, Alberta would finally break the stalemate when Natalie Kieser set up Bree Kennedy, and Kennedy hammered the puck home on a one-timer at 10:22 to give Alberta the lead! That lead would last for just under six minutes, though, as Regina responded when Paige Hubbard found Jenna Merk below the goal line who centered to Ireland Sorestad for the one-timer that dented twine at 16:10 to make it a 1-1 game! That score would hold into the break despite Alberta doubling up Regina in shots at 20-10.

The third period saw the same script playing out as both Alberta and Regina pressed for chances as they traded power-plays, but could not score. Alberta, however, would get one on the power-play on their second opportunity of the period when Sara Kazeil teed up her first Canada West goal that found room through traffic in front of the Regina net, and the Pands held a 2-1 lead at the 11:45 mark. Regina would kill another penalty minutes later, and they'd use that momentum to press Alberta late in the game. With Williamson on the bench, the Cougars had chances, but they couldn't convert before the horn sounded on the Alberta 2-1 win! Halle Oswald made 15 saves for her 16th win of the season while Natalie Williamson was on the wrong side of a 29-save night.

No highlights from Regina, but we do have a happy panda!

SATURDAY: Nothing changed in the build-up to this game as the Pandas were still seeking points to keep pace with or surpass the UBC Thunderbirds while the Regina Cougars were trying to ruin that effort for the Pandas. Halle Oswald was sent to out to stop pucks for the Pandas while the Cougars had Arden Kliewer protecting their nets.

The tight-checking battle between Alberta and Regina continued on Saturday night in a period where both sides saw chances, but the goalies were just as good. The two teams traded power-plays in the opening frame, but there were no lamps lit behind the goals through 20 minutes to start this game. Alberta led 8-3 in shots in the 0-0 game.

The second period saw the two teams bring the same intensity as they showed in the first period as both upped the chances in the offensive zones. Both teams skated hard and looked for scoring opportunities, but the goaltenders were exceptional in the stanza. The 0-0 tie was still in place when the second intermission hit with Alberta up 21-13 in shots.

The deadlock in this game continued into the third period, but the penalties started to creep into the game. Alberta had three consecutive power-plays, and it would be the third time that was the charm as Hayleigh Craig deflected Brooklyn Tews shot past Kliewer at 16:20 for the power-play goal and the 1-0 lead. Regina responded on a power-play of their own, though, when Paige Hubbard fired a shot over Oswald's blocker from the right face-off dot at 17:51, and this game was tied up at 1-1. The horn sounded after the final two minutes saw no additional goals, and we'd go to overtime to find a winner!

We didn't have to wait long for a game-winning goal in this one as a turnover at the Regina blue line allowed Natalie Kieser to break in on Kliewer alone before she buried the winner just 45 seconds into overtime to give Alberta the 2-1 overtime win over Regina! Halle Oswald picked up her 17th win in the overtime victory after stopping 15 shots while Arden Kliewer stopped 29 shots in the overtime loss.

Don't look now, but the Alberta Pandas have won 11 games in a row. That's an incredible win streak that will pause for a week, but it's still an incredible achievement to celebrate!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
42 84 34
vs TWU
41 69 34
Mount Royal
35 61 41
vs MAC
27 41 42
vs REG
26 48 51
Trinity Western
26 52 61
23 59 74
vs CAL
13 33 69
8 31 72

Colour Coded

If your team appears in yellow, they've officially clinched a playoff spot. If your team appears in red, they've officially been eliminated. Three playoff spots remain up for grabs for the four teams who are mathematically still in the race. I'll keep colour-coding the standings as we get closer to the playoffs.

Running Out Of Road

Trinity Western has a weekend battle against top-seeded UBC this weekend, and they need points to fend off the Fluffy Cows while trying to overtake both Calgary and Saskatchewan. It's not going to be easy to take points of UBC who have yet to lose at home this season - they're 13-0 on home ice! - but the Spartans could make things very difficult on the Fluffy Cows by picking up a couple of points.

The problem, however, is that next weekend are Trinity Western's final games of the season thanks to them having the bye week in the final week of the regular season. If Trinity Western wants to make a statement about their desire to be in the playoffs, taking points off the Thunderbirds will make things very tough on the team trailing them.


The four teams competing for the remaining three playoff spots are so close to one another statistically that it may come down to head-to-head goal differential in breaking some of these ties. The only series that can be decided at this juncture by points earned in head-to-head matchups - the first tie-breaker - is Trinity Western-Saskatchewan as the Huskies hold that tie-breaker thanks to their 2-1-1-0 record against the Spartans. Every other tie-breaker is so close right now that this week's games will factor into the final standing in a big way if teams find themselves tied in the standings when the dust settles.

Here's what is certain right now:
  • Saskatchewan holds the tie-breaker against the other three teams in all situations.
  • If Saskatchewan sweeps Regina this weekend, they clinch a playoff spot thanks to them holding the tie-breaker over the Fluffy Cows.
  • If Calgary earns three points against the Fluffy Cows this weekend while holding the Fluffy Cows to two points or less, they clinch a playoff spot thanks to them holding the tie-breaker over the Fluffy Cows.
That leaves Trinity Western to determine their own fate against UBC, and they may need help if the Dinos can't fend off the Fluffy Cows. If playoff picture is determined in the final week of the season, all Trinity Western will be able to do is hope they get help from Alberta who hosts the Fluffy Cows that weekend. Aren't playoff races are fun?

Scoring Champs?

Barring a major explosion where Trinity Western's Amy Potomak puts up a dozen points against UBC, it would appear that Mount Royal's Tatum Amy will be the first Mount Royal Cougars player to win the Canada West scoring title. As a guy who has been a fan of the Cougars for years as I watched them grow and evolve into the force they are today, seeing Tatum win the scoring race is pretty awesome. The fact that she's a Manitoba-born-and-trained player is even better as I'm always here to promote local hockey programs and players, so having her win the scoring race is two kinds of awesome.

As it stands, the race for the top goal scorer in Canada West is still very much alive as the two best players in lighting the lamp will go head-to-head next weekend when Trinity Western's Amy Potomak meets UBC's Cassidy Rhodes. Both players have 13 goals this season, so we could see one or the other stake their claim for the title next weekend. UBC does have an extra week of hockey left, though, so nothing will be decided until the final games have been played. Keep an eye on Alli Borrow as well as she has 11 goals this season, and the Dinos are scheduled against the Fluffy Cows who have surrendered the most goals this season.

The Last Word

Clearly, nothing is settled in the playoff races yet. Saskatchewan could still miss the playoffs. The Fluffy Cows could end up hosting a game. Everything is still up in the air, but that's what one wants as a hockey fan. If you haven't been watching Canada West women's hockey, it's more than acceptable to jump onto a bandwagon at this point in the season as the playoffs loom on the horizon, but all I ask is that you jump into the action with both feet.

These are exceptional women who are excelling both on the ice and in the classroom, and they certainly deserve your attention before they go off to conquer the business world, play professional hockey, or do both because that's how awesome they are. The playoff picture should get a little clearer by this time next weekend, so make sure you drop by on Sunday as we break down what happened, what's coming up, who's in, and who may be out here on The Rundown!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Saturday 28 January 2023

Forever Matt Berlin

The Edmonton Oilers goaltender to the left has taken a long and winding road to getting into that Reverse Retro jersey, but he finally got that opportunity tonight as the Oilers had Matt Berlin as their backup netminder in their game against Chicago. Berlin has played for three WHL teams, two AJHL teams, and, most recently, one U SPORTS team as he was guarding the net for the Alberta Golden Bears in five games this season. Berlin has played well for the Golden Bears ove rthe last three seasons when, at times, used sparingly, but he's a very capable goaltender who has shown he can stop pucks at all levels. And that now includes the NHL level as well!

I can wax poetic about Matt Berlin's 2:26 of ice-time in the NHL, but I wouldn't do it justice. Being that this blog likes to celebrate the achievements of Canada West players and U SPORTS players in general, I thought I'd like the folks at Hockey Night in Canada describe Berlin's first NHL appearance and his first NHL save!
Honestly, that is so cool that Berlin, as the EBUG, got the nod from Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft. Woodcroft and Golden Bears head coach Ian Herbers have a solid professional relationship, but it was reported that it was Connor McDavid who suggested Woodcroft give Berlin the last two minutes with the Oilers leading 7-3! With Stuart Skinner ruled out with an illness, Berlin was texted on Saturday afternoon that the Oilers needed a goalie who could dress, so there would be no sitting in the stands for this EBUG!

With Berlin stopping a Caleb Jones shot with 49 seconds to play, he officially records a save in the NHL to become a goaltender of record in the NHL this season. His 2:26 of time would still qualify him as an NHL goaltender, of course, but Matt Berlin can put on his resumé that he holds a save percentage in the NHL of 1.000!

They say you haven't made it in the NHL until you get one of the Hockey Night in Canada towels during the interviews they do on their broadcasts. Well, Matt Berlin, you can officially say you made it!

Congratulations go out to Matt Berlin for his NHL debut! He is now the eighth Golden Bear to skate in the NHL, but he's the only player to have debuted in a Reverse Retro jersey! If you're looking for a cool jersey cameo that I'll give full marks and full credit for, a Matt Berlin #33 Oilers Reverse Retro jersey would be one of the coolest that could hang in your closet!

As a fan of U SPORTS hockey, seeing Matt Berlin suiting up for Oilers means that the path, while not entirely direct, can still lead to the NHL. I don't know if Berlin will have an NHL job in the future, but his 2:26 of action following Luke Philp's NHL debut with the Blackhawks on Tuesday proves that the dream doesn't have to die if one isn't drafted by an NHL team.

Talent gets you drafted, but hard work gets you to the show. It's a line heard over and over again in sports, and Matt Berlin is living proof of that as he continues to play at a high level with Alberta while putting in the work as a student. Sometimes, the path isn't a straight line, but Matt Berlin proved tonight that any path to the show is still better than giving up on the dream!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 27 January 2023

Content Rules, Not The Conglomerate

It's been a week since the announcement that Vox Media was shutting down most of the SBNation hockey sites after announcing they were laying off 7% of its workforce to the tune of 130 people. SBNation had a firm hold on the hockey world's attention with its 34 blogs dedicated to 32 NHL teams, women's hockey, and US college hockey, and I had been approached by at least two of the sites over its lifetime to see if I'd be interested in writing for those two sites. Hearing that a lot of people I enjoyed reading will be without a place to post their work is hard to understand when they weren't being paid very much (or at all) to begin with, but losing that content will ultimately hurt the sport's coverage in ways that have yet to be realized.

If there's one thing that I've learned in remaining independent, it's that one can pursue blogging and writing as a passion like I have or one can try and turn it into a profession by writing well, selling site ads, and finding sponsors. It's been hard to watch solid, well-written independent bloggers move into larger blog setups where there was promises of pay, but I don't fault anyone who has done that other than losing a good independent blog that was gaining momemtum. Some of those writers were affected by Vox's announcement last week, and they now find themselves searching for a new home.

On the flip side, I have been courted by a handful of larger organizations that wanted HBIC to join their writers, so I understand the promise of being compensated for one's work. Writing a blog, coding a blog, and doing research for blog entries all require time, and there is a value to that time if it takes away from other ventures. In short, if one was being paid to write for a larger organization, that correctly can be labeled as job and compensation should be made for that writer's time.

Vox Media has made it clear that their media coverage will contain less sports converage with this move, and that's completely within their right to decide how their company will move forward. No one is saying that it's a smart move, but that's the direction that Vox Media has set itself on. Yahoo did it, and it's less than what it was. Bleacher Report did the same, and it's a shadow if its former self. Now Vox Media is on that path, and we'll see what the future holds.

The constants in all of this upheaval and change, though, have always been the bloggers and podcasters who were doing their own thing independently long before Vox Media got involved. While I get that there's less money in working independently, that's precisely to where a lot of bloggers and podcasters should turn as the freedom to be creative and to push boundaries is once again part of their toolbox. That's not say they weren't creative before, but this is the moment where cities with multiple bloggers and podcasters unite together and really take things to a new level.

While the platform's carpet may have been yanked out from under the feet of a lot of talented people, the talent is still yours and there's all sorts of room to jump in with both feet to write a dynamic blog and/or create a popular podcast. When TSN radio closed locally, a lot of the talent on that radio station made the move to independent work and they've found that their fans followed them. I feel the SBNation bloggers and podcasters have that following, so moving to independent channels may ultimately prove to be more beneficial than it was in hitching one's wagon to the Vox Media horse.

Let me be clear: I don't generate any income from my blog. If I did, I'd be reaching out to a few key SBNation content creators to offer them an opportunity to join HBIC. That's not going to happen, though, because this blog is a labour of love and passion for the game more than it is a revenue driver for me. That love and passion for the game, though, is where all of these SBNation contributors and I are entirely equal, and it's that love and passion for the game that could be the foundation for them to start independently before they find sources of revenue to pay their staff once more.

We hear great leaders and thinkers who remind us to "never forget where one came from" in life. It's a reminder to remain humble as we all had humble beginnings in anything we've ever done, and I think that credenece applies to the SBNation situation in that a lot of bloggers should go back to being passionate, hockey-loving bloggers who found the joy and humanity in hockey stories rather than paid reporters simply covering a team. That latter part is still important, but it's the colourful history and stories of the game, not the boxscores and analytics, that make us love the game in the first place. That joy and passion for the game is how one got to the SBNation family, so my advice would be to go back to being that blogger whose passion for the game matters more than the pressbox pass assigned.

Vox Media's coverage may have been the reason for the pressbox pass, but the writing and content is what attracted SBNation to reach out in the first place. I don't care if you write for Yahoo, MSN, TSN, ESPN, or SBNation - if the content is good, people notice. And if people notice, larger outlets notice. Content leads to opportunity, so let's get back to making incredible hockey content so that the sport itself notices the great people who love this game more than the casual fan.

Not everyone will choose to blog independently, and I understand that. Some will simply move on to other projects or ventures while some will ride off into the sunset after this setback to become fans again. There are enough people who Vox Media jettisoned today, though, that could really elevate the independent hockey blogging community once again. My hope is that these people will turn there for their creative outlet so we can see some of the great writers continue their coverage of this game.

SBNation benefitted from the content produced by their membership more than the membership benefitted from the SBNation umbrella. We shouldn't forget that when 130 people are looking for places to continue to write. Content will always engage the market that the media conglomerate wants to claim it owns, so keep producing great content, former SBNation people. No matter where you land, content rules.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 26 January 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 540

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back tonight with a fun show as we meet two people who have worked together on something amazing! I will say that this show was recorded and produced yesterday with both Teebz and Jason working at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge tonight, but the recency of the episode means nothing is out of date when it comes to information. In saying that, let's get into this fun show as we meet two individuals who have come together to make something that everyone will enjoy!

These two men to the left are tonight's guests as Teebz welcomes former hockey player Ajay Baines and author Sean Campbell to the show! Together, they wrote Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines that deals with both Ajay's hockey career and his diabetes diagnosis at the age of 16. I reviewed the book one week ago, and it was an absolute pleasure to speak to these two gentlemen about how the idea for the book came about, some of the details in the book, Ajay's mindset when he was diagnosed with diabetes as he was becoming a WHL star, Sean's travel destinations, how Sean got into publishing, and a pile of other stuff that will prompt smiles and laughter as these two long-time friends really have created something amazing with Stand Out: The True Story of Hockey Hero Ajay Baines. I am truly grateful for the time these men gave me to discuss the book, and I hope you'll find the chat just as enjoyable as I did tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT on one of 101.5 FM, Channel 718 on MTS TV, or via UMFM.com!

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

Tonight, Teebz chats with Calder Cup winner Ajay Baines and children's book author Sean Campbell about hockey, life, writing books, publishing books, "the goal", and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the UMFM.com web stream!

PODCAST: January 26, 2023: Episode 540

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 25 January 2023

Tournament Eve

I respect people like Gord Miller who can call two weeks' worth of tournament games at the World Junior Championship. The above image is the thirteen games I'll be calling mostly by myself at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge over four days, and I'm not certain my voice will last that long. I'll give it the old "college try", though, as I do love this tournament.

Nine games on the first two days will mostly be my downfall, and working in a cold arena never helps when it comes to "ideal conditions" for calling a game. I am excited, though, to see a number of excellent AAA and prep teams from across western Canada and Ontario as the next wave of great university players descends upon Winnipeg for the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge!

Game One should be a beauty as the Lloydminster PWM Steelers meet the Winnipeg Avros. The Steelers always have a competitive team and they seem to do well at this tournament while the Avros have been one of Manitoba's best teams over the last few years and they narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at last year's tournament. Having these two meet in the first game of the tournament should have hockey fans excited as this tournament gets underway!

The Yellowhead Chiefs meet the St. Mary's Academy Flames in the second game I'll call, and these two teams should be competitive with one another. Yellowhead is always a tenacious team in the MFHL where they seem to be a "tough out" in the playoffs, and the St. Mary's Academy Flames are loaded with talent and come prepared as hosts of the tournament. I have yet to see Yellowhead play this season and I've seen St. Mary's play once, but this one will be fun as two great Manitoba teams do battle!

The Westman Wildcats meet the Northern Capitals in Game Three on Wednesday, and this one should be fun. Westman is a great team and are the reigning MFHL champions, so they'll likely be locked in for their first game. I have not seen the Northern Capitals in any form as this will be their first appearance at the tournament, but I do know they've sent a handful of players to U SPORTS teams in recent years. The Prince George, BC team will be welcomed by me, but I doubt the Wildcats will be as gracious as they battle the Capitals.

A mainstay at these tournaments, the Thunder Bay Queens return once again in 2023 as they hunt for a medal. They'll meet the Edmonton Junior Oilers in those teams' first games of the tournament, and this one should be fun. The Queens are an independent team in terms of league play, but they'll face all challengers who want a game. They've been extremely successful this season and have a well-rounded team, so they'll be good again at this year's tournament. The Edmonton Junior Oilers are making their first appearance at the tournament, and they bring some solid play with them to Winnipeg. Led by a number of coaches who played at the ACAC and U SPORTS levels, they're well-coached, will play hard, and should give the Queens all they can handle.

Beyond that, I'll get to see the AFHL's best team in the Calgary Fire, the Thompson-Okanagan Lakers from BC, and the Eastman Selects on Friday before the placement games and one of two semifinals on Saturday. The winner of that game will return to the Subway Arena on Sunday to compete for the gold medal, and I'll be there for all of them. Sixteen of the best teams from four provinces will meet face-to-face, toe-to-toe, and mano-a-mano for the right to hoist the trophy in four days' time.

The 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge starts tomorrow at noon. I'll see you at the Scotiabank Hockey For All Center for all the action, and you can listen on UMFM's Second Stream all weekend long!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 24 January 2023

An Unusual Tuesday Night

If there's one thing I hate when listening to the radio, it's advertisements. Commercial breaks on the radio often go far too long, and they break up the radio show to which one is listening in a way that doesn't make for good radio. That's why we load the start and end of The Hockey Show with ads - when we get rolling in a conversation, the last thing we need to do is break the momentum by throwing to a commercial. I brought that same belief to the hockey broadcasts I was involved with in the past, and it will be part of the broadcasts done from Thursday to Sunday at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge.

I'm not oblivious, though, to the importance of advertising dollars when it comes to helping out events. The 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge has sponsors, and I know they do an incredible job at providing support, monies, and products to help the tournament be more than just a few games on rinks. There are gifts with which the players go home, food and supplies for teams and volunteers, and general support given that simply escalates this tournament as an elite event, so sponsors play a vital a role in this annual tournament.

Because I recognize the importance of the sponsors for the 2023 FWSSC, I spent the night searching for commercials for the sponsors who have stepped up to sponsor the tournament this year. Being that I dislike running commercials, this effort to find ads was a foreign activity to me, but we'll be playing these during the intermissions as well before and after games in order to give the sponsors enough time on the broadcasts so they feel their investments in the tournament was worth it. Basically, we're helping the FWSSC give its sponsors some free publicity.

I didn't watch much of the Jets and Predators because I was listening to commercials, but a 2-1 setback to the Predators feels like a bit of a let-down. Whatever was plaguing the team on the 2-3-0 road trip needs to get fixed quickly as the Buffalo Sabres visit Winnipeg on Thursday. Laying a beating on the Sabres at home would be a good way to forget the loss tonight.

We're two days from action at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge. It feels closer thanks to still having a number of things to do, but the action starts at 12pm CT on Thursday with the Lloydminster PMW Steelers squaring off against the Winnipeg Avros! You can catch all of the action - and ads! - on UMFM's Second Stream at that time as we cover the tournament from start to finish!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 23 January 2023

Just Another Rutherford Victim

There's no doubt that the world feels that Bruce Boudreau deserved better than how he was treated by the Vancouver Canucks. Boudreau was doing his best with what he had to work with in a roster that was littered with contractual mistakes as much as it is solid talent. I'll be surprised if new head coach Rick Tocchet can get anything more out of a listless Canucks squad compared to what Boudreau was getting, but that will be the question time will answer as we move forward in yet another debacle that Jim Rutherford is overseeing. If we're being honest with ourselves, the crux of the problem wasn't Boudreau or the flawed roster, but it is the man who is overseeing the path on which the Canucks find themselves, and there are reasons to be worried that Jim Rutherford's guidance is and always will be the problem in this era of the Vancouver Canucks.

Jim Rutherford was hired by the Vancouver Canucks on December 9, 2021 as the president of hockey operations while also serving as the interim general manager as he was to eventually hire someone to fill that role as well. At the time of his hiring, people pointed to him guiding the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017 as positives while others had suggested his 20-year tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes that saw the North Carolina NHL franchise win the Stanley Cup in 2006 as evidence of his longevity in the league, thus giving him instant credibility.

While both of those facts are true - he was in charge of the Penguins for their back-to-back championships and he did oversee the Hurricane for 20 years including 2006 when they won a Stanley Cup - we might want to look deeper into Rutherford's history because there's a vast number of years where he didn't win, leading one to believe that his Stanley Cup victories may be less to do with his abilities as a roster architect and more to do with people succeeding in spite of Rutherford's decisions.

When one looks back at Rutherford's two decades with the Hurricanes, what stands out? The 2006 Stanley Cup is certainly a highlight, but there were a lot of misses to go along with that one major achievement. After all, Rutherford was the man in charge when the Whalers made the deal with St. Louis that resulted in the Brendan Shanahan situation, he was the guy who dealt away Chris Pronger to get an unhappy-to-be-there Shanahan, he was the guy who used the third-overall pick in 2005 on Jack Johnson only to pick eight more players in that draft who never played a game in the NHL, and he was the guy who hired and fired Paul Maurice TWICE.

I can't deny that there were some highlights as Rutherford had drafted key players of that 2006 team such as Cam Ward, Eric Staal, and Erik Cole, but he never was one to resist the big name in a trade as he swung deals for players like Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, Doug Weight, and Mark Recchi en route to that Stanley Cup. After winning the 2006 Cup, Rutherford's deals became increasingly questionable as he dealt Erik Cole to Edmonton on July 1, 2008 only to reacquire him on March 4, 2009 in exchange for Justin Williams. He traded Cory Stillman to Ottawa on February 11, 2008 only to reacquire Stillman from Florida on February 24, 2011. It was hard to understand the contract he gave to Tuomo Ruutu. It was insanity to overpay for Alexander Semin.

There's no arguing that the 2006 Stanley Cup was the pinnacle of Rutherford's tenure in Carolina, but his departure from the Hurricanes in 2014 had left the Hurricanes with a number of bad contracts connected to players past their primes, a farm system with few blue-chip prospects, and very few tradeable assets. Two general managers later, the Hurricanes are finally putting the Rutherford tenure behind them.

His departure from the NHL lasted just two months as Rutherford was back in the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins in May 2014, and he immediately began making deals as James Neal was the first player traded by Rutherford in his Pittsburgh era. And the questionable deals started that season as well as he dealth Philip Samuelsson to Arizona for Rob Klinkhammer on December 5, 2014 only to flip him and a first-round pick to Edmonton on January 2, 2015 for David Perron.

While that's actually a good trade in my books, I noted the first-round pick because in six years of running the Penguins, Rutherford managed to trade away ten picks in the first and second rounds of drafts. For all the work Ray Shero did to build up the prospect pool for the Penguins, Rutherford absolutely decimated it with his inclusion of draft picks in trades. While some were absolutely worth the price - bring Kessel to Pittsburgh cost the Penguins a first-round pick - one has to wonder how a second-round pick for Ron Hainsey was even close to "fair market value". Or sending two picks for Daniel Winnik was worth the value.

Of course, Rutherford also orchestrated the entire Marc-Andre Fleury debacle that saw the beloved netminder become a Vegas Golden Knight. He was the man who signed Jack Johnson to a ridiculous contract in Pittsburgh. He was the guy who traded for Erik Gudbranson. He was the guy who couldn't find someone to replace Nick Bonino to center the third line. Players who have shown talent in other cities - Perron, Tanner Pearson, Daniel Sprong, Jared McCann - all wore Penguins colours under Rutherford.

Just as he had done in Carolina, Rutherford made a few big splashes that paid off with Stanley Cup successes, but his tinkering and tweaking of the roster following the Stanley Cup wins resulted in the franchise being worse off than when he arrived. What he did in 20 years in Carolina, he managed to do in just six in Pittsburgh despite him having two franchise centerman and a likely Hall-of-Fame defender on his roster for those six years.

And that leads to Vancouver where Rutherford took over a franchise who was already in shambles, and has done nothing except leave those shambles tattered and torn through poor decisions, bad signings, questional personnel moves, and rather bizarre management since accepting the position of president of hockey operations.

Narrowing our focus to Bruce Boudreau, I'm not sure what the Canucks expected after the circuses surrounding Bo Horvat's contract negotiations, JT Miller's bizarre behaviour, the underperforming Conor Garland, and a defence that struggles to move the puck anywhere, but Rutherford's ongoing foreshadowing of a coaching change had to weigh heavily on Boudreau and it caught up to the Canucks three days ago as well based on comments after the game.

"The mindset and mood got to us tonight," Tyler Myers said to reporters following a 4-1 loss to the Avalanche. "The most noise I've experienced in my career."

That noise to which Myers referred was the ongoing saga of the Canucks letting Boudreau hang in the lurch after making it clear his days were numbered. That was also noticed by the entire hockey world with Colorado's Andrew Cogliano weighing in.
Cogliano's been around this league for a while and has had a number of different coaches, so seeing a player step up and defend a coach from the opposing team is a pretty big thing. I don't know if the Canucks or Rutherford took notice, but if the players are noticing that things in Vancouver are a debacle... good luck convincing players to re-sign or signing free agents this summer.

He wasn't the only one to speak up.
  • Former Hurricane Jeff O'Neill on TSN's Overdrive: "That's flat out disgusting, I can't believe that garbage."
  • Overdrive co-host Brian Hayes: "This is a complete embarrassment.... this is 10 times worse than the Gallant situation."
  • Former HNiC host Dave Hodge: "Obviously, the Vancouver Canucks know how bad their treatment of Bruce Boudreau makes them look. Just as obviously, they don't care."
  • Winnipeg Sun scribe Scott Billick: "The Canucks organization deserves every bit of criticism they've gotten and will get after the way they treated Boudreau."
  • NHL analytics guru Jeff Veillette: "What an embarrassment of an organization. Hope you're happy, Francesco."
  • Former NHL official Tim Peel: "This should not be happening to a man that has given everything he has to professional hockey for over 40 years."
It doesn't matter if you're a player, a radio host, a TV host, a reporter, a front office guy, or an official, everyone holds Bruce Boudreau in the highest respects, and his class and dignity is forever-endearing in the face of an NHL franchise and a president of hockey operations in Jim Rutherford who hung him out to dry on January 16 when Rutherford told reporters, "All I can say is that Bruce is our coach right now." That "now" lasted another full week.

Shifting our focus back to Rutherford, we shouldn't forget that he left the Carolina Hurricanes franchise in shambles, he walked away from the Pittsburgh Penguins after decimating that organization's depth, and his work with the Vancouver Canucks thus far has led to front office personnel suing the franchise, a beloved coach being canned for a man who has twice been charged with white-collar crimes, and players questioning all decisions made by the franchise on a number of fronts. While not all of those decisions have been directly made by Rutherford, the president of hockey operations likely has some say or input on a lot of those decisions.

I believe that Bruce Boudreau will land another NHL job when he's ready. We can debate when and where that may be, but Bruce Boudreau is one of those guys for whom franchises are always clamouring - a guy who cares about the players, makes them better through coaching, and a guy who instills a culture where players and coaches want to be. The fact that Vancouver had him under contract before dismissing him and he was doing that in their locker room might be enough evidence to prove the Canucks are the worst managed team in the NHL.

However, if we look back on the last 30 years of Jim Rutherford's work, it would seem this result was inevitable. The only question was how long it would take for the franchise to implode before he walked away from another team. Being that Vancouver was already in dire straits, that process to complete collapse seems to have sped up under Rutherford's watch.

In saying that, the hockey world is right: Bruce Boudreau deserves better. Not because of the treatment he received in the last month - albeit that's part of it - but because Boudreau shouldn't have to put up with Rutherford's ability to decimate a franchise. He's a free man now, and he'll be better off for it. Unfortunately, Canucks fans will be forced to watch the franchise burn for a while longer.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 22 January 2023

The Rundown - Week 13

The playoff picture for Canada West women's hockey is slowly coming into focus, but this week's set of games had all sorts of implications on where teams may finish based on wins and losses. There was also a great game being played for charity that needs to be mentioned, and there are three Canada West women who are returning to their two respective teams with some new hardware to show off after being away for two weeks. For three teams, playoff lives were in question while two teams had opportunities to strengthen their holds on having the quarterfinal round off when the playoffs start. Wins and losses would determine everything this week, so let's find out who did what on The Rundown!

FRIDAY: In a battle that could see teams move spots depending on wins and losses, the Alberta Pandas were in Saskatoon to play the Saskatchewan Huskies on Play For A Cure Night! More on this below, but the Pandas held a six-point lead over the Huskies in the standings and were looking to increase the gap between the two teams. Saskatchewan was looking to close that gap while overtaking the Mount Royal Cougars who sit four points ahead of them, so both teams were looking to pile up the points this weekend. Halle Oswald was in the Pandas net for this showdown while Colby Wilson got the nod for the Huskies!

The two squads were playing some solid defensive hockey while trying to find scoring chances in the opening period. A couple of penalties assessed to the Huskies in the opening frame yielded no goals as the Huskies were fired up on Play For A Cure Night. At the other end, Alberta was doing a good job in keeping Saskatchewan from getting anything by Oswald. Through one period, the 0-0 tie stood with Alberta holding a 7-6 edge in shots.

The second period saw more players sitting for two minutes as the number of penalties went from two to six in this period, and Alberta was the guilty party on four of them. Despite the advantages on both sides, the defences and goaltending were playing extremely well in denying all chances. With scoring at a premium on this night, the defensive struggle hit the second intermission with the 0-0 tie intact and Alberta having a 15-13 advantage in shots.

The battle continued through the first twelve minutes with no one gaining an upper hand until 12:36 when Cassidy Maplethorpe finally beat Colby Wilson to give the Pandas the 1-0 lead. Saskatchewan would push through the final seven minutes for an equalizer, but it was not to be on this night as the Pandas defence and Halle Oswald stood tall in securing the 1-0 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies. Halle Oswald stopped all 19 shots on this night for her 14th win and sixth shutout of the season while Colby Wilson likely deserved a better fate following her 20-save performance.

The only highlight that needs to be brought forward was the effort by the Huskies fans in supporting Pancreatic Cancer Canada through the raffle and jersey auction at the game. Pancreatic Cancer Canada was chosen as the charity for this game in honour of Colby Wilson's aunt, Trisha Larsen, who passed away on October 26, 2022 at the age of 57 from the disease. Larsen would often text Colby on gamedays, wishing her good luck, and would travel to be in the stands when she could. The jerseys worn by the Huskies on Friday, seen below, were auctioned off with proceeds going to Pancreatic Cancer Canada.
Full marks go to the fans, as I said, as the Huskies were able to raise a grand total of $8610 on this night - their best total ever in the 14 years they've held this game! That's a great chunk of money going to Pancreatic Cancer Canada, and kudos to the Huskies and their fans for making that happen!

And HBIC hopes you rest eternally in peace, Trish Larsen.

SATURDAY: The gap between these two teams got a little bigger after Alberta's win on Friday, but the Huskies had a chance to make the weekend a wash on Saturday. Alberta was looking to extend their winning streak to nine games, though, so they weren't about to go quietly back to Edmonton. Friday's goaltending matchup resumed on Saturday with Halle Oswald in net for the Pandas while Colby Wilson was in net for the Huskies.

Alberta wasn't interested in letting the game come to them on this night as they came out aggressively as they looked for opportunities. They'd find one just before the midpoint of the period when Abby Soyko converted a Cassidy Maplethorpe pass into a goal as she beat Wilson, and Alberta had the 1-0 lead. 2:36 later, Maplethorpe was playing playmaker once again as she set up Jadynn Morden for a tally to put the Pandas up by two goals. The teams would trade unsuccessful power-plays after that goal, and we'd hit the break with Alberta up 2-0 in goals and 11-6 in shots.

An early bench minor saw Saskatchewan take advantage of the mistake as Emily Holmes hammered home a power-play goal at 4:48 to cut the deficit in half as Alberta led 2-1. The Pandas resumed their aggressive play that helped them in the first period, and they'd be rewarded at 14:27 when Kallie Clouston dented twine to restore the Pandas' two-goal advantage. With no other scoresheet events to report in the final five minutes, Alberta led 3-1 after 40 minutes while holding a 22-13 margin in shots.

The third period was quieter than the previous two as Alberta put up a wall around their net, giving Saskatchewan virtually no clean looks at Oswald. The few shots that did get through were handled by the veteran netminder to eliminate the threat. With Alberta content to wait this one out, the clock stuck zeroes after 20 minutes as Alberta recorded the 3-1 win over Saskatchewan! Halle Oswald picked up her conference-leading 15th win of the season after stopping 16 shots while Colby Wilson made 22 stops in the loss.

I don't know tense the mood is, but I'm certainly watching the Pandas as they're now on a nine-game winning streak. If you're in Canada West, beware of the Pandas as their attack has been lethal!

FRIDAY:The UBC Thunderbirds were in Winnipeg to play the Fluffy Cows as they looked to put a stranglehold on first-place in Canada West. If they win both this weekend, they'd also make the playoff hopes of the Fluffy Cows a little harder to achieve. Having won four in a row coming into the weekend, Elise Hugens was in the UBC net looking to extend that winning streak!

A penalty-filled opening period was highlighted by two UBC goals as Mia Bierd got things started at 13:39 to put the T-Birds up 1-0 before Ireland Perrott hit the double-digit mark in goals with a power-play marker at 16:06 to make it 2-0. After the break, they'd make it a 3-0 game when Chanreet Bassi hit the back of the net with a shot at 3:39 before surrendering a goal five minutes later. UBC would give up one more goal in the latter half of the third period while killing a penalty, but the three goals was enough on this night as the UBC Thunderbirds captured the 3-2 victory. Elise Hugens earned her tenth win with a 19-save night on Friday.

The UBC Thunderbirds aren't the only blue Thunderbirds in the hockey world. The AHL introduced the world to the Springfield Thunderbirds back in 2016. Here's the video of that introduction.

SATURDAY: The T-Birds held on for a win after jumping out to a lead on night earlier, but they were looking to lock down their lead in Canada West with another win on Saturday. The win on Friday officially clinched a playoff spot for the Thunderbirds, so now it was all about locking in the bye for the quarterfinal round and locking up home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs by finishing atop the conference standings. Kate Stuart was in the UBC net to help them achieve that goal on Saturday!

A very defensive period was seen in the opening 20 minutes as both sides struggled to put shots on the opposition's net. The Fluffy Cows would score first just past the midway point of the period, and that score would hold into the break. However, UBC would figure things out early while on the power-play as Jacquelyn Fleming dented twine, and we'd play 40 minutes with both sides sitting in a 1-1 tie. Chanreet Bassi would strike 39 seconds into the third period to put UBC up 2-1, and Rylind MacKinnon made it a 3-1 game with her shot that found the back of the net 1:20 later. From there, it was all about protecting the lead as Kate Stuart and the T-Birds' defence held the fort to give UBC the 3-1 victory! Kate Stuart stopped 18 shots to pick up her eighth win of the season.

Every good team has a great mascot. The AHL's Springfield Falcons introduced Boomer in September 2016 as the team's mascot, and he seems to check all the boxes of what one needs in a mascot. That music in the background can go away, though. Yikes.

FRIDAY: The MacEwan Griffins headed to Langley, BC where they met the Trinity Western Spartans. With Trinity Western sitting in sixth-place, this was the team that MacEwan had to beat if they were going to make things interesting in the playoff races. The Spartans could really improve their own playoff standing with a pair of wins over the Griffins while virtually ending their playoff hopes. Brianna Sank was stopping pucks for the Griffins in this game while Kate Fawcett was between the pipes for the Spartans.

There was a good pace to the first period as both teams were looking for the early lead, but neither team could find space past the goaltenders. The teams would trade unsuccessful power-plays early in the game, but we'd see the stalemate broken late in the period. Off a rush, Olivia Leier brought the puck in across the line on the left wing before sending it to Chelsea Debusschere in the slot whose one-timer was stopped, but the rebound caromed out to Amy Potomak on the right side who buried the second chance at 18:22, and the Spartans grabbed the 1-0 lead! That score would hold into the break with TWU up 12-9 in shots.

The Spartans would keep the momentum rolling early in the second period. Ella Boon held the line and chipped the puck down to Ashlee Wolfe on the right boards who spotted Katherine Chadwick. Chadwick had a defender on her, though, so she chipped the puck to a wide-open Reilley Kellner in the slot who fired a shot under Sank's glove inside the right post for the 2-0 lead 2:55 into the second period. MacEwan would get one back when Rian Santos was set up for a shot after a turnover, and Shyla Kirwan got a stick on the puck to deflect it by Fawcett to cut the Spartans' lead to 2-1 at 10:54. The teams traded unsuccessful power-plays in the latter half of the frame once again, and we'd hit the second intermission with Trinity Western up 2-1 in goals, but MacEwan leading 24-21 in shots.

The third period saw both defences step up and lock down the defensive zones. Shots were few and chances were fewer to come by for both sides which played into TWU's favour since they had the lead. As time counted down through the final 20 minutes, the teams traded penalties once again, but no one would capitalize on the opportunties. When the final horn sounded, the Trinity Western Spartans claimed a 2-1 win over the MacEwan Griffins! Kate Fawcett stopped 29 shots for her sixth win of the season while Brianna Sank was on the losing end of a 23-save effort.

The very one-sided highlights produced by Trinity Western are below!

SATURDAY: MacEwan's need for points was never higher than it was on Saturday after having dropped the opening game of the two-game series with the Spartans. If they want to make the playoffs, they need to beat the teams ahead of them who hold those final playoff spots. The Spartans, meanwhile, could virtually end the Griffins' march towards the playoffs. It was a goaltending rematch from the night before as Brianna Sank stood in net for the Griffins while Kate Fawcett was in the Spartans' crease.

MacEwan got things going early in this one thanks to an unexpected gift as a turnover in the Spartans' end ended up on Joie Simon's stick, and that puck ended up behind Fawcett at 3:13 to give MacEwan the 1-0 lead. The Spartans would answer back four minutes later when Reilley Kellner put a shot on the net from the left circle that was kicked out by Sank, but the rebound was kicked into the slot where a driving Kyra McDonald got her stick on it to send it into the net at 7:32 to tie the game at 1-1! The final twelve minutes of the period was played relatively incident free with a few chances at either end, but we'd hit the break tied at 1-1 with TWU up 10-8 in shots.

The second period saw the pace continue as both sides pushed for the lead. MacEwan was slowed by a few penalties, but the Spartans couldn't take advantage. MacEwan used the momentum of killing back-to-back penalties to grab a lead when Makenna Schuttler teed up a puck from the point that got through traffic and dented twine at 15:06, and the Griffins held the one-goal lead. That late goal in the period held up into the break as the Griffins had the 2-1 lead despite being outshot 22-17 by Trinity Western.

MacEwan wasn't content just sitting on a lead in the third period. They killed off a penalty before getting a 5-on-4 power-play chance followed by a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity, but both went goalless on those chances. Trinity Western would press for a goal late in the game with Fawcett on the bench, but it would be Riley Thiessen who iced the game for MacEwan with an empty-netter with 12 seconds left. The MacEwan Griffins live to play another day with a 3-1 win over the Trinity Western Spartans! Brianna Sank stopped 29 shots to collect her sixth win of the season while Kate Fawcett stopped 26 shots in a losing effort.

Once again, a very TWU set of highlights is all I can provide.

FRIDAY: There's no hiding from the fact that this weekend's games between the Regina Cougars and Calgary Dinos could ultimately decide Regina's fate regarding the playoffs. A combination of three wins by the Dinos or losses by the Cougars would end Regina's chances at making the playoffs, and the would be a winner and loser in each of these two games. Needless to say, it was win-or-done for Regina. For Calgary, winning would help their playoff aspirations immensely, so they were looking to pull a double-play in strengthening their own playoff position while ending the Regina Cougars' run. Natalie Williamson was in the Regina net on Friday night while Gabriella Durante was guarding the Dinos' net.

An early Calgary penalty saw nothing happening on the Regina side of the scoreboard, but a miscue shortly after the penalty ended helped. Gabriella Durante got caught behind her net as Jenna Merk stripped her of the puck, and she centered it to Ireland Sorestad who hammered it into the yawning cage at 4:58 to put the Cougars up 1-0! A penalty later in the period saw Calgary find a few chances, but the Cougars withstood the pressure to make it to the break up 1-0 despite having Calgary holding a 9-6 edge in shots.

The middle period was more of a power-play exhibition as the first half of the period saw the Cougars whistled for three-straight penalties before the Dinos took the final two penalties of the period. The only problem is that the penalty-killing units came to ruin that party as all five power-plays were unsuccessful. With nothing to show for all the power-play time, we'd go into the second intermission with Regina still leading 1-0 and with Calgary leading 18-14 in shots.

The third period saw the Dinos step up their offensive attack as they weren't interested in a loss. A couple of good chances were turned aside by Williamson, but the Dinos would finally get to her when Annaliese Meier forced a turnover and threw the puck into the slot where it found Sydney Mercier who had just come off the bench, and Mercier buried it past Williamson at 8:14 to tie the game at 1-1! The tied game would last for just 2:12 as Alli Borrow took the stretch pass from Rebecca Clarke, outraced Kelsey Page down the ice, and went between the wickets on Williamson to put Calgary up 2-1! The final ten minutes saw Calgary lock down their defensive zone as Regina's chances were few and far between, and that led the final whistle being sounded on a 2-1 Calgary Dinos win over the Regina Cougars! Gabriella Durante stopped 18 shots for her ninth win of the season while Natalie Williamson probably deserved a better fate on a night where she stopped 25 shots.

Highlights of this game are below!

SATURDAY: The margin for error on Regina's side was sitting at win-or-done. Calgary's win bumped Regina's mathematical chances to "can't lose again" if they wanted to make the playoffs, so Saturday's game was huge for the Cougars. The Dinos, meanwhile, wanted to eliminate one of the teasm chasing them while also creeping up on the teams ahead of them with another two points. The stage was set as Arden Kliewer stood in front of the Regina cage while Gabriella Durante got the start for the Dinos.

This game saw Regina play with desperation as they were fast, aggressive, and looking for goals. The Dinos, though, would hit the scoreboard first as Emily Hill teed up a puck from the left point that was tipped in front by Sydney Mercier, and Calgary rookie put the Dinos up 1-0 at 13:49 with her deflection! That goal didn't deter the Cougars, though, as they spent more time in the Dinos' zone, but the horn would sound for the intermission with Calgary leading 1-0 despite being outshot 10-5 in the frame.

The second period saw the Cougars resume their aggressive attack, and it would pay off at 6:44 on the power-play when Shaylee Scraba's shot into a crowd pinballed around before Paige Hubbard found it and fired it home from the slot to tie the game at 1-1! The game would remain tied for 1:19 until Jenna Merk dropped a pass to Hubbard on the right side, and she wired home a high shot on Durante's stick side to make it 2-1! The teams would continue to press for scoring chances, but both goalies settled back into making saves. The two teams would trade unsuccessful power-plays in the back half of the period, and we'd enter the second intermission with Regina up 2-1 and outshooting the Dinos 24-15.

The third period was a lot like the first two periods as there chances at both ends. However, around the nine minute mark, the floodgates opened. Calgary's Sydney Mercier went for a skate, picking up the puck in the neutral zone, weaving into the slot area and heading to the right post before unleashing a wrister that found room between the post and Kliewer at 9:13 to make it a 2-2 game. Mercier would cap off the hat trick in this game on the power-play at 13:24 when she knocked the puck off a Cougars' stick on the left boards, skated inot the circle, and zipped a shot over Kliewer's glove to make it 3-2 for the Dinos! Late in the game, Alli Borrow went for a skate, circling the entire Cougars' zone before feeding a backdoor pass to Rebecca Clarke who tapped it in to make it 4-2 for Calgary with 1:45 to play.

The Cougars wouldn't give up, though, as Shaylee Scraba scored off a scramble in front of Durante with 18 seconds to play, but that's as close as Regina would get as the Calgary Dinos skated to a 4-3 victory! Gabriella Durante stopped 34 shots for her tenth win of the season while Arden Kliewer made 19 saves in a valiant effort.

Highlights of Saturday's game are below!

School Record Points GF GA Streak Next
38 75 31
vs MAC
37 65 32
Mount Royal
31 58 41
vs CAL
27 41 42
25 48 48
Trinity Western
23 48 57
vs MAN
20 55 70
13 30 60
7 29 68
vs ALB

Colour Coded

If your team appears in yellow, they've officially clinched a playoff spot. If your team appears in red, they've officially been eliminated. Mount Royal could clinch a spot next weekend with a win while any loss by MacEwan will end their playoff hopes. I'll keep colour-coding the standings as we get closer to the playoffs.

Adding Weapons

With the 2023 FISU World University Games having come to close today, the Alberta Pandas and Saskatchewan Huskies will add gold medalists to their rosters for the remainder of the season. Alberta's Madison Willan will be welcomed back in Edmonton where she'll find the Pandas currently challenging for top spot in the conference after posting a nine-games-and-counting winning streak. With the Regina Cougars next up on the schedule, that streak could hit double-digits.

Saskatchewan will welcome back defender Isabella Pozzi and goaltender Camryn Drever as they enter a bye week on a four-game slide. Saskatchewan hasn't played poorly while they were away, but a four-game losing streak in the conference could be the difference between a home playoff date and starting the playoffs on the road. Saskatchewan needs to break out of this funk following the bye, and it appears the Regina Cougars will be the first team to face all three gold medalists thanks to their scheduled games against the Huskies in two weeks. Good luck, Cougars!

Congratulations, Ladies!

Before we go on, let me congratulate all of Madison Willan, Isabella Pozzi, and Camryn Drever once again for their efforts in helping Canada win the gold medal at the 2023 FISU World University Games. All three were instrumental in the earning the medal, and it marked the first time since 2013 that Canada has captured the gold medal.

Excellent job in representing both Canada and Canada West, ladies, and here's hoping you can add a U SPORTS National Championship to the trophy case to go along with your FISU gold medal!

Math Problems

MacEwan's margin for error is one - as in one more loss will spell the end of their playoff run. They're going to have to come up with the biggest weekend of their short Canada West history next weekend if they want that playoff dream to continue as they'll have to beat UBC twice on Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Arena ice. I'm not saying it's impossible, but they're going to have to play like they don't know any better.

The Fluffy Cows have a little more room for error based on their remaining schedule that sees them play Trinity Western in Langley, Calgary at home, and Alberta in Edmonton. The playoffs might be possible, but they need a sweep next weekend against Trinity Western to go along with sweeping Calgary at home in order to make the playoffs.

The reason for two sweeps being necessary for the Fluffy Cows is because of the Spartans' bye week. The Spartans have the bye week in the final weeekend of the regular season, meaning they only have two weekend series remaining on their schedule. If the Spartans lose both to the Fluffy Cows, it would put the Fluffy Cows up by one point in the standings while holding the tiebreaker. The Fluffy Cows would have four games remaining to the Spartans' two games. Needless to say, the math gets very difficult for Trinity Western if they lose both next weekend.

The Last Word

Week 14 action will surely be intense, but I'll have my focus elsewhere as I'm scheduled to call 13 games at the 2023 Female World Sport School Challenge. 16 teams will compete for the right to hoist the trophy and hang the banner in their home rink, and the action is always incredible. We usually see a number of players recruited from their play at this tournament, and we know of at least a dozen schools who will be watching either live or via HockeyTV. The best part is that UMFM will be covering all the action from the Subway Arena on the UMFM Second Stream!

Because I'll be busy from Thursday until Sunday inclusive, The Rundown may get pushed back to Monday. I'll see how tired I am after calling 13 games including the gold medal game on Sunday, but this is your warning that The Rundown may be a day later than usual next week. Don't expect me to have much of a voice either.

For those that may be asking, there are at least 3-4 women from every Canada West team who has played at this tournament at one point or another. This tournament is literally where the next stars of Canada West play, so I highly recommend tuning in when you can. The schedule is here, and the UMFM Second Stream will have every game featured on the Subway Arena on its broadcasts. As a side note, most of those broadcasts will have me calling those games, so I apologize in advance for the terrible play-by-play guy.

It should be another exciting weekend of hockey in Canada West and at the Female World Sport School Challenge, and I hope you'll tune in through the various different mediums to catch the action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!