Sunday 31 December 2023

Closing Out 2023

It's New Year's Eve and there will be some communities who celebrate with fireworks while others will dance the past year away while welcoming a new year. Frankly, fireworks feel very old-school after some of the laser displays seen in the sky at various times, but it seems old habits die hard. One of my habits for this night is getting a good night's sleep since I'm not big on parties and I don't really care for a fireworks display. If there's one thing of which I have done more over the last week, it's heading to bed at times long before any ball drops in the Big Apple or fireworks displays can be seen.

My quiet life aside, 2023 was another fun year. I'm not doing any recaps here, but you can read through all the blog entries if you like. Normally, Sundays are for The Rundown, but I decided to take one Sunday off and get HBIC Headquarters in order by reorganizing and discarding some older stuff I no longer can use. Most of this stuff can be recycled so I was dropping off a pile of recycling at one of the city's depots today, but the end result is that things are neater and cleaner at HBIC HQ.

I am excited to see the PWHL get their season underway tomorrow after months of build-up, and this is the U SPORTS tie-in because I honestly hope that there's a significant effort made by U SPORTS and the four conferences to really start promoting women's hockey on this side of the border. While Kaitlin Willoughby will skate for Toronto and Sarah Bujold will suit up for Montreal, there simply aren't enough U SPORTS players suiting up in the professional league. That's not the PWHL's fault nor is it the players' faults.

Brigitte Laganière, Jade Downey-Landry, Alexandra Labelle, Lindsey Post, and Erica Howe make up the remainder of rostered players who have U SPORTS ties, and those women should be proud to have earned professional hockey contracts. However, there are a number of women who previously played U SPORTS hockey who could join the rosters of the six PWHL teams. On top of that, there's likely 15-20 more women who, off the top of my head, should be on the radars of those six teams once the school year ends. Of course, that takes marketing and establishing a relationship with the league, and who knows if U SPORTS has even attempted to do that.

What I do know is this: U SPORTS schools and the conferences should be pouring money into their women's hockey programs in order to establish the same sort of deal that developmental leagues have with the NHL. There's money to be had when it comes to this new professional league, and someone needs to sit down with the PWHL and hammer out a deal. The schools who spend their scholarship monies educating and training these women shouldn't be left out in the cold when it comes to helping the women have a future in professional hockey.

With the inaugural draft done and the league flush with players, the next wave of women drafted should mean there's some kickback to the schools who got them into a position to be drafted. After all, if the University of Montreal or Concordia or Alberta recruit, train, and help these women get to a professional team, what motivation will they have to continue to do that if they aren't being benefitted in some way from the PWHL?

However, I might be laughed at by the powers-that-be at the university level for this type of forward thinking, and I wouldn't be surprised if they see this and chuckle. After all, the U SPORTS Women's National Hockey Championship is coming up in two-and-a-half short months, and there's hardly been hype, advertising, chatter, or any other word-of-mouth promotion done by the very organization throwing the tournament - U SPORTS - and none of the conferences seem all that interested in hyping their teams and players either. In other words, it's completely status quo for the highest amateur level of hockey in Canada despite the history being made tomorrow.

Maybe all of what I wrote above has already happened. You would think there would be a news release regarding a deal like what I described if there was one struck, but we've seen U SPORTS operate in secrecy before. Whatever has or hasn't happened already, I'd be pushing hard for an agreement if I was an athletic director at one of the U SPORTS schools. Of course, I'd also be making every effort to connect with the three Canadian teams to start and speaking when possible with both Carla MacLeod and Howie Draper, but I seem to care more than others about seeing the women who play in U SPORTS getting a shot at the professional level.

I'm excited to see Kaitlin Willoughby skating with Toronto tomorrow, and I hope that Lindsey Post is dressed for New York. I just wish there were more players about whom I could say, "I had the privilege of watching her play". Maybe one day with a little effort, that will be a reality for U SPORTS women's hockey fans.

Until next time, Happy New Year, folks!

Saturday 30 December 2023

A Goalie Fight And First

We've seen a lot of things in hockey in 2023 including a handful of goalie goals, but it's been a while since we featured a goalie fight. Let me be clear in saying that goalie fights should never happen as the goalies are usually pretty important players, but goalies throwing punches at one another is something that rarely happens due to the rulebook and the distance between the two players. When it does happen, though, it's one of those hockey moments that doesn't go unnoticed by the hockey world.

Tonight saw the Fort Wayne Koments playing the Indy Fire in an ECHL contest that really didn't seem like it had playoff implications with Indy being seven points back of Fort Wayne in the ECHL Western Conference standings with two teams in their division sitting between them. There's a local rivalry built in as the two teams sit close to one another in Indiana, so perhaps that played a role in tonight's encounter, but the final score was decidely in one team's favour.

With Indy leading 3-1 in the second period, Justin A. Cohn of The Journal Gazette described what unfolded late in the frame. He writes, "Fort Wayne defenseman Jake Johnson was dumped in front of the Fort Wayne net by Andrew Bellant, setting off a fracas in which Brochu shoved Kyle Maksimovich, who then sent him to the ice."

Let's take a peek at the video evidence.
Since YouTube flags all hockey fights as inappropriate content, this is the GIF of Indy's Scott Driscoll, formerly of the NCAA's UND Fighting Hawks, and Brett Brochu, formerly of the OHL's London Knights, awkwardly exchanging punches that land primarily on shoulder pads and backs. Clearly, this "fight" was less of a fight and more of a dance between the two goalies, but the good news is that neither was injured in the scrap despite punching pads. Both men were assessed a five-minute major for fighting and an additional two-minute minor for leaving the crease.

If you're asking why both goalies weren't ejected after their tussle, the ECHL confirmed to Cohn that goalies only get ejected for fighting if their scrap is the secondary altercation, and that wasn’t the case between Brochu and Driscoll. That means both netminders would return for the third period!

With that skirmish cleared up, the Fire would go on to win 5-2 over the Komets with Driscoll stopping 21 shots for the win. Not that this played into anything that had to do with the game, but Brett Brochu, who lost this game, had been named Fort Wayne's starter earlier in the day after the Komets traded François Brassard, the ECHL's 2021-22 Goaltender of the Year, to Maine earlier in the day. With Tyler Parks skating with AHL Bakersfield, it seems Brochu will be putting up a fight for the starting netminder's position once Parks returns!

You might be asking, "What about the 'first' you teased, Teebz?" based on the title of the article. Check out the photo below of Shane Albahrani, who normally calls Fort Wayne Komets games, standing beside 19 year-old Indiana Tech freshman Fiona Quinn!
This is a pretty incredible photo because Quinn - a graduate of Wayne New Tech at Wayne High School who has worked for the Komets for four seasons, namely handling statistics and assisting Albahrani - stepped into the play-by-play chair after Albahrani's voice had been left hoarse after battling a recent illness! For the first time in Fort Wayne's 72-year history, Fiona Quinn became the first woman to do the play-by-play for the Komets as she called this game on the WOWO and FloHockey broadcasts!

How cool is that? Personally, seeing her make the jump into professional hockey broadcasting at 19 with little play-by-play experience before that is awesome, and I hope she continues. How did she feel about her first professional hockey broadcast?

"I feel pretty content," she told Cohn after the game. "Still buzzing from the game but I'm ready to go back at it. So, so grateful for the opportunity and I'll improve from here."

There's nothing wrong with being humble about one's effort, but I thought Quinn did remarkably well. Like any good broadcaster, she seems intent on improving, and that's the kind of effort one wants to see when it comes to calling games. She did have previous experience on-air as the Komets' colour commentator, and she has called high school hockey games prior to tonight's debut. However, the best person to ask about her first call may be Shane Albahrani as the veteran broadcaster has years of experience from which he can reflect on Quinn's call.

"Fiona did fantastic," Albahrani said. "So unbelievably proud of her. I'm amazed at her drive, energy and knowledge. It's a tough position for even a seasoned broadcaster to get the call with only a few hours notice, plus travel. But she handled it like a true pro. I was honored to be able to share the booth and her moment tonight."

That might be the biggest honour she can receive as it sounds like Albahrani was speaking about his own daughter with his glowing review. My hope is that Fiona Quinn continues to be a part of the Komets' broadcasts moving forward. There is no limit on where she can go from here with her abilities in calling games, doing stats, and her experience in being a colour commentator, but there's still that school path she may want to follow at Indiana Tech as well. In short, the world better keep an eye on Fiona Quinn!

While the loss doesn't help them in the standings, the Fort Wayne Komets found two memorable ways to cap off their 2023: a goalie fight, and a broadcast debut from a young woman who appears to be on the rise on their broadcasts!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 29 December 2023

Score Early, Score Often

The last time that Team Canada and KalPa Kuopio met at a Spengler Cup was in 2018. KalPa scored a victory that day, and it was a pretty big win as they captured the Spengler Cup in a shootout in the final. KalPa was looking to repeat that performance today in the Spengler Cup quarterfinal game between these two despite going 0-2 in round-robin play. Canada, meanwhile, looked to erase that memory with a strong game as they entered the contest as the second-place team from the Cattini Group with a 1-1 record. The medal round began today in Davos, and these two teams were looking to take another step forward in adding another Spengler Cup to their histories!

Canada decided not to sit back in this game, and it resulted in a 2-0 lead after five minutes of play. Jonathan Ang scored on a great feed from Derek Grant on the powerplay just 3:48 into the game, and John Quenneville doubled the lead at 5:08 when he tipped a shot by Joey Laleggia past goaltender Juha Jatkola. That forced KalPa head coach Petri Karjalainen to take his timeout as he refocused his club before things slipped away on them. That seemed to work as KalPa played with a renewed confidence through the end of the period, but that 2-0 score would hold for the Canadians.

The second period saw both sides looking for chances, but the goaltenders at each end of the ice were ready to play in this frame. Despite KalPa's opportunities, Canada seemed to carry more of the play as the period progressed, and they'd be rewarded with a power-play late in the frame. That was a regrettable move for the Finnish side as Chris DiDomenico found the back of the net to put Canada up 3-0, and things looked bleak for KalPa as the period came to an end.

The same problem that plagued KalPa in the first period returned in the third period as Jonathan Hazen and Guillaume Asselin scored 28 seconds apart, and Canada had a 5-0 lead by the 2:04 mark of the final frame, prompting KalPa to swap netminders. Throwing caution to the wind, KalPa brought everything they could to try and cut into the deficit. Colby Sissons made it 5-1 with his goal at 6:09, and Jaakko Rissanen made it a 5-2 game when he beat Aaron Dell at 12:53. Canada would put Belfast Giants netminder Tyler Beskorowany between the pipes for the final 4:15, and he'd be beaten Kaspar Simontaival at 17:34 to make it 5-3. Canada would let the nation breathe a sigh of relief, though, as Chris DiDomenico potted an empty-netter with 42 seconds to play, and Canada downed KalPa Kuopio 6-3 to advance to Saturday's semifinal game.

In the other quarterfinal, the 0-2 Frölunda HC squad met the defending champions in 1-1 Ambri-Piotta, and this game may have been a bit of a surprise considering how well Ambri-Piotta played in the group stage and how Frölunda struggled to score goals. After a goalless first period, Frölunda got second period goals from Linus Oberg and Max Friberg to go up 2-0 before adding three more goals - Filip Hasa, Jere Innala, and Noah Dower Nilsson with markers - in the third period to oust Ambri-Piotta by a 5-0 score.

That sets up the early Saturday semifinal game with the hosts, HC Davos, meeting Frölunda HC in a rematch from the group stage. HC Davos downed Frölunda HC by a 4-1 score on December 27, so Frölunda HC may be seeking some revenge after that loss. Frölunda HC may have to find a way to slow down Davos' Dennis Rasmussen as he enters the semifinal game with two goals - both scored against Frölunda - and two assists in two games played thus far.

The late semifinal game on Saturday will see Canada meeting HC Dynamo Pardubice, and this game may resemble more of a North American-style game as Pardubice plays fast and physical. Pardubice has won both games by a single goal with one going to overtime, so they aren't afraid of playing tight games. Thomas Zohorna is the player Canada will need to key on as he has two goals and an assist in the two games Pardubice has played. The winner will move on to Sunday's final where they will meet the winner of the Frölunda-Davos game. Spengler organizers are likely hoping for a Canada-Davos final!

The games start early tomorrow, but I'll be up watching as I'm excited to see Canada potentially advance to another Spengler Cup Final, and my hope is that they'll get one more shot at Davos who rallied back from a two-goal deficit to beat Canada in the group stage. Revenge is best served in the medal round, I'm told, and winning another Spengler Cup on New Year's Eve will be a fun end to 2023!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 28 December 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 588

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, is back for one final time in 2023 as the new calendar will be started next week and things get a lot busier for our hosts! Before we get into 2024, there's a pile of stuff happening in the hockey world this week that needs some examining, and we'll jump into a few topics that should resonate with hockey fans. Whether it be international tournaments, preparations for a new league starting, the NHL getting back into the swing of things, or general hockey craziness, we'll try to squeeze it in tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT!

Teebz and Jason will dive into the World Junior Championship by discussing Canada's 2-0 start at the event, Germany's upset of Finland and why that's good for the game, and why people need to stop complaining about blowouts at these events. They also look at Canada's progress at the Spengler Cup, some of the players who have stood out from that team, and some surprises from the other teams. They'll chat about developments in the PWHL with the season set to start for the first time ever on January 1, the ticket sales in the Canadian markets, and a new partner that may make eyebrows raise. They'll close the show with their weekly Melbourne Moment and announcements, and they'll bid adieu to 2023! It's all goes down on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT 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. We also recommend Radio Garden if you need an easy-to-use online stream. 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 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 chat about good starts, big wins, understanding scores, showing up, walking away, fan support, corporate support, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: December 28, 2023: Episode 588

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 27 December 2023

Magic On December 27

I'm hardly any kind of superstitious person when it comes to how I live my life. I do believe that coincidences happen, but it's not because I dressed in a certain order or ate the same foods for each meal that day. Hockey players certainly are different, and each has their own set of what they believe and what just happens via coincidence. When two historical things for one franchise happens on the same day, I sometimes wonder how things work out like that. If it's just coincidence that two historical moments happen on the same day years apart, why didn't it happen on that day in any of the previous years? For the Pittsburgh Penguins, December 27 might be a day that their fans want to circle on future calendars because of what happened on this day!

Out first instance comes 23 years ago when it was announced that Penguins legend and franchise hero Mario Lemieux would come out of retirement to rejoin the Penguins. Lemieux had retired in 1997 after a pile of injuries had somewhat slowed him, but the introduction of the trap combined with the clutching and grabbing to slow stars down in the 1990s took its toll on the Penguins' superstar.

In 1992, he called the NHL a "garage league" which earned him a $1000 fine, but he didn't mince words about the direction of the league's play, stating in a Sports Ilustrated article, "The advantage is to the marginal players now. They can hook and grab, and the good players can't do what they're supposed to do."

After battles with intense back pain, his non-Hodgkins lymphoma scare, and the premature birth of his son, Austin, Lemieux decided that the time had come where if he couldn't do what he loved doing - playing hockey unobstructed - he would retire. Knowing his plans, Penguins owner Howard Baldwin arranged a meeting with Brian Burke, the NHL director of operations, and commissioner Gary Bettman about his concerns over how the game was being called.

Lemieux told reporters,
"It's to the point where it's not hockey anymore. It's like football on skates. The best teams win in basketball because the players can run up the court without carrying two guys on their backs. Not so in hockey. That's why there are so many teams with mediocre records. [Opposing players] grab you whether you have the puck or not. It's the worst it's been since I've been in the league. [Burke and Bettman] agreed. They always agree when you're there. It's very, very aggravating. You keep getting promises, and they aren't kept."
With no changes on the horizon, 1996-97 would be Lemieux's last season skating in the NHL as he retired just as he had threatened, walking away from the game with a sour taste in his mouth despite being idolized by so many fans and players.

However, 44 months after he had left the game, Lemieux had a change of heart. Quietly, there had been rumblings that Lemieux had liked some changes implemented by the NHL to open up the game, and there were whispers around the Penguins' front office that the man who bought the Penguins in 1999 may suit up again for the very team that he owned. On December 7, he released a statement indicating his intent to return to the ice, and on December 11, 2000, he stood before reporters and said it out loud.

On December 27, 2000, #66 officially returned to the ice. As seen above, Lemieux's return saw him score a goal and add two helpers as the Penguins downed the Toronto Maple Leafs by a 5-0 score. While the Penguins still had problems off the ice financially as they tried to steady the ship from their 1998 bankruptcy filing, the fans flocked to Mellon Arena to see Super Mario once again as his comeback at age 35 started on this very day in 2000.

And that brings us to the other Penguins player who had himself a night this evening. There's no doubt that the Penguins have had incredible defenders suit up for them over the years - Larry Murphy, Ulf Samuelsson, Paul Coffey, Kevin Hatcher, Sergei Zubov, Erik Karlsson and Darius Kasparaitis to name a handful - but the name from this Penguins era that stands atop them all is Kris Letang.

We've seen Letang do incredible things for the Penguins over the years, but, like Lemieux, he's a dedicated family man who has a history of complicated medical issues that have limited his time on the ice at points. Letang has suffered at least two strokes in his hockey-playing career, and there's some fear that any further issues along those lines may derail his career entirely.

Letang has been playing as well as we've seen him play over the last few years, and that came to a head tonight as he set all sorts of records against a team that Mario Lemieux terrorized for years: the New York Islanders. With the game tied 0-0 early in the second period, the Penguins exploded for goals, scoring six in the period to take a 6-0 lead. Along the way, Letang had assists on the final five goals of the period, and that put him into the NHL record books!

With the offensive outburst that saw Letang pick up those five helpers, he became the first defenseman in NHL history to record five points in a single period, and just the second player to ever record five assists in a period! He also broke the Penguins' franchise record of most assists in a single period, one-upping the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Paul Coffey, Ron Stackhouse, and Syl Apps who had four assists in one period while wearing Penguins' colours!

Letang wasn't done there, though, as he'd add a sixth assist on the lone goal scored by the Penguins in the third period which tied a franchise record for most helpers in a single contest as he put his name alongside Greg Malone, Ron Stackhouse, and Mario Lemieux in the Penguins' record books. He also tied the NHL record for most assists by a defenseman in one game that's been done six times, most recently by Calgary's Gary Suter on April 4, 1986 against the Edmonton Oilers. That a 37-year gap between tonight's achievement and Suter's achievement!

I'm not here to predict that Kris Letang will be a Hockey Hall-of-Famer like Lemieux is, but it seems the offensive defenceman is on his way to being one of the best point producers from the blue line in modern hockey history. Add in his three Stanley Cup wins, his 2023 Masterton Award, his international awards, his incredible junior career, and his devotion to charitable organizations away from the rink, and it seems like December 27 was a big day for one current Hall-of-Fame Penguin and one future Hall-of-Fame Penguin.

Will we see some additional magic from a Penguins player next December 27? It's possible with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Karlsson, Guentzel, and others still lighting the lamp for the Penguins for the foreseeable future!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 26 December 2023

Winning In Davos

While everyone will be talking about Canada's win over Finland in Gothenburg, Sweden today at the 2024 World Junior Championship, I want to focus on the Spengler Cup. There's no doubt that Canada's 5-2 win over the Finns was impressive as the Canadians showed an aggressive forecheck and solid goaltending in helping them achieve victory, but the effort shown in Davos by several members of Team Canada was nothing short of impressive. An undrafted forward showed up in a big way, an offensive defenceman paced the team, and an unsigned goaltender who last played an NHL or AHL game in April 2023 came up big in Team Canada's first win at the Spengler Cup, setting them up for Thursday's game against Davos.

We'll start with Ty Smith, the 17th-overall pick in 2018, who now skates for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL. Smith was expected to push the pace and the puck up the ice to the forwards, but he often played as a fourth forward as he flew around the offensive zone while being solid in his own end. As stated a few days ago on this blog, "expect players like Ty Smith and Joey LaLeggia to push the play and be like a fourth forward," and that happened today as Smith had a goal and a pair of assists in helping Canada to the win.

Jonathan Hazen was the other major contributor for Canada today as the undrafted, high-scoring forward that came out of Val d'Or in the QMJHL showed why he's one of the top scorers in the Swiss National League. The 33 year-old who scored 106 goals in the QMJHL had a pair of goals today, played physical as he went to the net, and was solid on the defensive side of the puck. His first goal saw him shake a check to get loose to redirect a Dillon Heatherington pass into the Frölunda, and his second goal saw him take a pass in front of the net, make a move to the backhand, and slide home his second of the game. Scoring goals at the Spengler takes talent, and Hazen has it.

I know I was concerned about the goaltending when I spoke of Aaron Dell's NHL numbers that show a "2.92 GAA and a .905 save percentage," but Dell is still an NHL-calibre goaltender based on some of the saves he made today against Frölunda. I had lobbied for Thimas Milic getting the start, but Bruce Boudreau clearly went with the experienced guy, and it paid off as Dell was good on all 30 shots put up by Frölunda in posting a shutout. Dell's first showing this season for the majority of the planet was impressive, and he was a big part of why Canada is now 1-0 in the tournament.

Canada wins 4-0 today over Frölunda as Hazen had a pair of goals, Smith added single, and Corban Knight picked up the other goal. Hazen and Smith both finished with a three-point day, and I'll throw a little kudos out to Massimo Rizzo, the University of Denver forward, who picked up an assist on Smith's opening goal. Rizzo's inclusion is a nice touch to this lineup, and seeing him contribute early should have Carolina Hurricanes fans excited that he'll be a solid middle-six guy based on how he played.

Highlights of this game are below!

In the Torriani Division game, it looked like the defending champs in HC Ambri-Piotta might run away with their game after former Senators forward Alex Formenton scored two first-period goals to stake Ambri-Piotta to a 2-0 lead just eight minutes into the frame. HC Pardubice wasn't going away quietly, though, and the top team in the Czech Extraliga showed why they're a force this season as they began to dominate puck possession and offensive zone time. Matej Paulovic scored a goal in the second period to make it 2-1, Thomas Zohornas' long shot made it 2-2, and it could have been much worse had Janne Juhoven, Ambri-Piotta's netminder, not made a couple of massive saves in the final two periods.

These two teams would push into overtime, though, and the game wouldn't stretch long into the extra frame. Lukas Sedlak picked up a turnover, broke in on Juhoven with defenders desperately trying to catch him, and ended it with Sedlak tucking it between Juhoven's legs for the five-hole goal just 75 seconds after the puck was dropped, and the final score showed a 3-2 overtime victory for HC Pardubice!

Highlights of this game are below!

With Pardubice's and Canada's victories today, that means that Wednesday's games will see KalPa Kuopio meet HC Ambri-Piotta (9am ET on TSN2) while HC Davos will take on Frölunda HC (2pm ET on TSN2). Pardubice and Canada get the day to rest and watch their Thursday opponents - KalPa Kuopio and HC Davos, resepctively - as they look to wrap up the round-robin with 2-0 records in their respective divisions. After two incredible games of hockey today, it appears that the 2023 Spengler Cup is going to be another incredible tournament!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 25 December 2023

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, folks! HBIC is closed today with very little hockey outside of Russia being played. You might ask why the Russians are playing games, and it's because Orthodox Russians celebrate their Christmas Day on January 7. Being that my care for anything Russian is as low as it can be, they can have their hockey while I spend time with my family. I hope you'll be doing the same.

I'm looking forward to a beautiful day with great people, delicious food, fun gifts, and lots of smiles. I know some people will take to social media to post images of what they received, but let's not forget that some people may not receive gifts for a variety of reasons. Be mindful of the privilege it is to be able to exchange gifts with all that's happened in the world, and be grateful that you have the ability to be able to both give and receive.

May you and yours be safe and sound today, and here's hoping everyone having another healthy and happy holiday season whether you're celebrating today or not! I'll be back tomorrow with both the 2024 World Junior Championship and the 2023 Spengler Cup starting, so make sure you're ready for an avalanche of hockey tomorrow when teams get back at it!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 24 December 2023

The Day Before

I don't have a fireplace, so I can't spend the day sitting in front of it. I'm not sure it would even be worth it today with the temperatures hovering around the freezing point, so adding some warmth to the house probably wouldn't be the best of ideas I've had. I also admit that I'll be busy doing a pile of stuff today to prepare for tomorrow's festivities, so putting my feet up in front of a virtual fireplace won't be an option until later in the evening.

I do want wish all those celebrating Christmas a very merry day, and I hope you're safe, sound, happy, and healthy whether you do or don't celebrate the holiday. Make sure you call family today to wish them a Merry Christmas if you can't be with them, and reach out to friends and let them know how important they are to you. After all, friends and family make the days better throughout the rest of the year, so be sure to show your appreciation today and tomorrow!

HBIC is closed today so I can indulge in the holiday. I try not to take too many days off the hockey chatter here on HBIC, but spending time with family and making sure they have an incredible Christmas is important to me. Outside of the few things I need to do, one of the annual traditions in which I'll partake is watching the 1983 Disney film Mickey's Christmas Carol. I can't remember a Christmas where I didn't watch this movie at some point, but I've been making it a Christmas Eve tradition for some time now. For those unaware, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1984! Count me in for a good movie!

I'll likely watch it with Meg, my cat, sitting beside me, and I'm sure I'll have a glass of the homemade Irish Cream that I make every year on the coffee table in front of me. It's a good way to wind down in the evening before the big day, but the lessons shown in animation aren't lost on me when it comes to Dickens' 1843 story on which the movie is based. I'm the last person who should be makign rules for others to follow, but I believe that the Disney story should be shown on TV every year. But that's just my opinion.

In any case, enjoy the final day before the big day. HBIC will also be closed tomorrow, but we'll reconvene on Tuesday when the World Junior Championship gets underway bright and early as Canada and Finland tangle at 8:30am ET. Of course, the Spengler Cup kicks off at 9am ET with Canada playing at 2pm ET against Frölunda HC, so there's hockey legitimately on TV all day on Boxing Day!

Before I let you go, though, here's the rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas that always makes me chuckle no matter how many times I watch it. John Malkovich's delivery is so good!

And, of course, you can't go to bed without something sweet. This skit cracks me up no matter how many times I watch it!

We'll see you on the 26th for hockey with coffee and breakfast!

Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Saturday 23 December 2023

The Rundown - Christmas Wishes

Unofficially, today is just a Saturday which means The Rundown is a day early from it's normal Sunday spot. As you know, this isn't just some routine weekend, though, as Christmas Eve lands tomorrow and Christmas comes on Monday. If you're a Seinfeld fan, today is Festivus which should bring some chuckles for those who remember the episode known as "The Strike", but The Rundown on a Saturday is something rare because there are usually games being played on Saturday evening. We're going to have some fun on the lone Saturday edition of the weekly article as I sit down and take a look at the needs for each of the teams and figure what has to happen in the second-half for each to make the postseason or strengthen their position when it comes to postseason success. Today, we look at Christmas wishes for all nine Canada West teams on The Rundown!

Let's be clear in that whatever is written below means absolutely squat to anyone because the coaches, players, and staff of each team certainly know more than I do about what makes each team tick. I'm simply looking at numbers and trends when writing this Christmas wish list, and what I identify as a place for improvement might be completely opposite from how the teams feel. This is why I write a blog and haven't been hired by any teams - what I see could be significantly different than what the coaches see! In short, take all suggestions with a grain of salt, but know that I've done the reading and the math so there's some basis for these suggestions despite how wrong they may prove to be.

Here is one Christmas wish per team as identified by this writer.

It's hard to identify some necessity for a team that's riding six-straight shutouts, has the leading goal scorer, and has one of the better power-plays, but depth scoring can always be used by good teams. You might chuckle at that suggestion, but getting Madison Willan, Hayleigh Craig, and Bree Kennedy scoring more regularly at 5-on-5 will certainly make the Pandas more dangerous. Both Willan and Craig have been solid on the power-play and have been good defensively, but would anyone expect them to be seventh- and ninth-place in scoring on their own team? Depth scoring will help immensely in the playoffs as well, and the Pandas want to be in Saskatoon in March.

CHRISTMAS WISH: More depth scoring.

I feel like I write this every year for the Dinos, but the Dinos can score, they get great contributions from the kids, and their defenders jump into the play. The one thing they need to jump ahead of the teams surrounding them? Consistent goaltending. As it stands, six teams have statistically better goaltending than what the Dinos are boasting at the midway point, and that can't be their reality if they want to make some noise in the postseason. Gabriella Durante has played the most games of any netminder, but she ranks sixth in wins. We saw her drive the Dinos to the playoffs last season with an incredible second half, and it may have to be that way again. If you want play with the best, one of their traits is consistent goaltending. The Dinos need that if they want a shot at playing in Saskatoon in March.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Consistent goaltending consistently.

People might think I'm going to take another swipe at one person, but these wishes are for the team and throwing punches at someone won't put you on Santa's Nice List. In saying that, I get that the Griffins have gone through some trying times, so this wish is simple: belief. The Griffins have a virtually impossible climb if they want to make the playoffs, but it starts with believing that they can make that climb. From there, they need to believe in themselves in spite of what some have said or written. That belief in themselves needs to be carried into practice and into each shift of every game. Yes, there will be setbacks, but it starts with every player in that room looking around the room and believing in each other and believing they can win any game. I believe there's enough talent on their roster for them to make the playoffs, and they need to believe that as well.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Self-confidence and the belief in their abilities.

We've seen teams go through a number of changes in a season, but the first four games of the Bisons' season looks nothing like it does now outisde of one aspect. They're scoring goals, they're finding chemistry with good lines, they're seeing their coaching tandem gain valuable experience - things have improved outside of one thing. That one change they need? A power-play. There is no way a roster with the amount of offensive talent on it should only have four power-play goals, but that's the reality. If Manitoba could have scored a few more power-play goals, it may have had a positive change to where they sit in the standings. If they want that change to happen, it's gotta come in the second half of the season. Figuring out how to fill the net while on the advantage likely will change Manitoba's fortunes.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Make the power-play powerful.

Giving advice to the defending U SPORTS National Champions seems a little ignorant on my part, but improvements can always be found for even the best teams. Mount Royal does't have many problems, but the one thing they could do is tighten up defensively in the second half of the season. Of the top-four teams in the conference, they have surrendered the most goals despite scoring the second-most goals, so that differential needs to grow. We saw them lock down the defensive zone when they got to Montreal last season, and that's what the Cougars will need to do if they want to return to Saskatoon to defend that championship!

CHRISTMAS WISH: Tighter defensive play in their own zone.

The Regina Cougars have shown all sorts of spunk in getting back into the race this season, sitting a point back of fifth-place in the conference. Again, it's hard to tell a team who is charging up the standings on where they should improve, but Regina has to find more goal scorers on their roster. Paige Hubbard, Makena Kushniruk, and Kaitlyn Gilroy have scored half of Regina's goals this season despite the team having 12 players who have recorded a goal. Those three have been reliable, but the Cougars can help themselves in a quest for a postseason berth by having more players dent twine regularly at 5-on-5. Scoring more regularly would take some pressure off the defence as well.

CHRISTMAS WISH: More scoring from all positions.

The Huskies are already scheduled to play at Nationals in March thanks to them having the host duties, but the Huskies aren't interested in going in as also-rans. Dropping games to teams trailing them in the standings doesn't help their cause, and that can't happen if they're going to make a serious run at the Canada West banner. Saskatchewan lost games to Regina, Trinity Western, and Calgary this season despite beating Alberta, UBC, and Mount Royal. In other words, they split weekends where they should have won while beating the teams they're going to have to beat en route to a banner. The Huskies have to be ready to compete every weekend if they want to win the National Championship on home ice this year, and it starts by beating the teams you're supposed to beat in the second half of the schedule.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Be ready to compete against all teams.

The Spartans are an interesting case of feast or famine when one looks at their season so far. They're 3-3 in games decided by three-or-more goals and 2-2 in games decided by one goal. They've pitched one shutout where they won 3-0, but lost two games where the opposition recorded a shutout where the combined score was 3-0. In short, Trinity Western can score, but they score in inconsistent bunches. In the playoffs, that's a problem as a short three-game series can be over quickly if a team cannot score with some regular frequency. Giving up bunches of goals doesn't help either, but it seems like the Spartans can solve both problems by scoring more frequently.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Consistent scoring more often.

UBC is the defending Canada West champion, and they've had a solid hold on the top spot in the conference for some time. After a bit of a wake-up call against Alberta in Week One, the Thunderbirds went on a tear until they ran into Mount Royal at the start of November. Since the start of November, they're 4-1-1-2 including shootout losses to both Mount Royal and Saskatchewan and a regulation loss to Calgary. There's some complacency that creeps into how a team plays after winning so much, and it seems like UBC may be experiencing that. We've seen them enter Nationals in the past two seasons and only return home with a bronze medal, so UBC has to find a way to maintain their scoring ways even when teams lock down the defensive zone. Greasy goals look just as good as highlight-reel goals, so the Thunderbirds need to adapt to tighter defensive games.

CHRISTMAS WISH: Win ugly sometimes.

I fully admit that none of these suggestions will solve every team's problems and send them up the standings, but these are changes that likely will have big impacts on the overall successes of these teams. Of course, eight teams can't win every night they play in the second half, but making these suggestions into habit will help with long-term success. Bad habits are hard to break, good habits are hard to maintain, but making those good habits part of the routine will mean they become a normal part of the team culture.

Being that today is December 23, though, we still have two weeks before Canada West women's hockey returns. Until teams get back on the ice, forget about hockey, settle into the holiday spirit with family and friends, be kind to one another, and find the good in people and situations. Not everyone reading will celebrate Christmas which is totally fine, but there over 20 holidays celebrated in December. Everyone should be able to find something to celebrate within those holidays based on their backgrounds, so make it a point to bring people together.

There will be one more edition of The Rundown before we break open a new calendar, but the next two days will be quiet on HBIC as I put hockey on hold, gather with family and friends, and enjoy the Christmas season to its fullest extent. Merry Christmas to you and yours if you celebrate, Happy Holidays to those who do not, and all the best to you and yours during this time. Thanks for reading The Rundown to hear one idiot's views on the state of university hockey in Canada West, and my hope if that you and yours have a safe and sound holiday season!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Friday 22 December 2023

The Canadians In Switzerland

I won't hide my appreciation for the annual Spengler Cup tournament that takes place in Davos, Switzerland in the week that follows Christmas. There's something magical in Vaillant Arena and its gorgeous wooden interior that differentiates it from virtually every other arena on the planet, and the tournament that is played there often has moments of brilliance from both players and teams that deserve more respect in the hockey world. Whether it be European players who have gone home to play for teams they know intimately or Canadian players who have found a new home as they prolong their hockey careers, there are always a handful of players who elevate their games at the Spengler Cup tournament to make people take notice of their efforts.

For Team Canada, this can occasionally lead to a training camp invitation the following season or, potentially, a signing during free agency for those who stand out in the red-and-white, and, in some cases, an NHL opportunity after one may have passed by already. For the younger players who join Team Canada, it's a chance to showcase their skills for the teams who own their rights or, possibly, other teams who may be interested in acquiring those rights. In short, this tournament holds meaning for those who may be looking for a path to the NHL if they can seize the opportunity they've been given.

The 2023 version of Team Canada has a mix of grizzled veterans and upstart kids who should keep Canada competitive in every game. There are names you'll recognize, some you may have forgotten, and others that have never been heard. In all three cases, none of these players should be overlooked as being key members of this Canadian squad. If there's one thing I know from watching this tournament, any player can become a hero for Canada if given a chance.

So who is representing Canada in Davos? We'll start with the forwards.
  • #4 Jonathan Hazen (HC Ajoie) - 12G, 9A in 29 games.
  • #9 Michael Joly (HC Lugano) - 12G, 16A in 28 games.
  • #13 Massimo Rizzo (U of Denver) - 7G, 24A in 18 games.
  • #19 Corban Knight (SC Bern) - 8G, 11A in 26 games.
  • #21 Jonathan Ang (EHC Kloten) - 8G, 10A in 32 games.
  • #27 Derek Grant (ZSC Lions) - 11G, 12A in 30 games.
  • #38 Guillaume Asselin (HC Ajoie) - 3G, 5A in 18 games.
  • #71 John Quenneville (HC Lugano) - 0G, 0A in 2 games.
  • #77 Colton Sceviour (SC Bern) - 0G, 3A in 16 games.
  • #86 Josh Jooris (Genève-Servette) - 8G, 3A in 31 games.
  • #88 Chris DiDomenico (Fribourg-Gottéron) - 9G, 19A in 32gms.
  • #91 Tyler Morley (EHC Kloten) - 6G, 8A in 20 games.
  • #96 Daniel Audette (HC Ajoie) - 8G, 11A in 28 games.
Most of these names may not jump off the page at you, but there is some solid talent here. Chris DiDomenico and Corban Knight have represented Canada a number of times at the Spengler Cup and more recently at the Olympics in 2022. Colton Sceviour, Josh Jooris, and Derek Grant all have extensive NHL experience, and will likely be a large part of Bruce Boudreau's leadership group. Ang was drafted by the Florida Panthers 94th-overall in 2016; Quenneville was taken 30th-overall by New Jersey in 2014; and, Daniel Audette was selected 147th-overall by Montreal in 2014. Hazen, Joly, and Asselin were all high-scoring QMJHL stars while Morley was a solid player at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Massimo Rizzo is having an incredible season at Denver after being selected by the Carolina Hurricanes 216th-overall in 2019.

Canada's strength may lie in its ability to score on the big ice as shown by the scoring exploits of all of these Swiss-league players. A number of these players are solid power-play scorers as well, and that's vitally important in a short tournament. There are some players who may not fit the mold that Boudreau wants for this team exactly, but Boudreau showed in Vancouver that he isn't afraid to play the kids if they outscore the veterans. A good net-front presence combined with pucks on net will pay off for Canada in this tournament if scoring becomes paramount. Based on the roster above, this team has the personnel to control the offensive zone.

What about the blue line? Here are Canada's defenders.
  • #3 Dillon Heatherington (Belleville) - 2G, 2A in 24 games.
  • #8 Jordie Benn (Byrnäs IF) - 2G, 6A in 17 games.
  • #16 Joey LaLeggia (HC Lugano) - 8G, 11A in 29 games.
  • #24 Ty Smith (WBS Penguins) - 4G, 17A in 26 games.
  • #26 Thomas Schemitsch (FREE AGENT) - no statistics.
  • #28 Nathan Beaulieu (EHC Kloten) - 0G, 2A in 8 games.
  • #37 Zac Leslie (Rapperswil-Jona) - 1G, 3A in 4 games.
  • #75 Nicolas Beaudin (Laval) - 0G, 6A in 13 games.
  • #85 Éric Gélinas (HC Ajoie) - 5G, 5A in 19 games.
The amount of NHL and AHL talent on this Canadian blue line alone should make them a favorite in this tournament. Nathan Beaulieu and Jordie Benn might have the most NHL ice-time logged between two defenders in some time for Canada, but expect players like Ty Smith and Joey LaLeggia to push the play and be like a fourth forward. Éric Gélinas and Dillon Heathington use their 6'4" frames well at both ends, and Nicolas Beaudin is a slick-skating defender who, like Smith and Beaudin, can jump into a play. Add in the effective Zac Leslie and the underrated Thomas Schemitsch, and this Canadian blue line will skate, score, defend, get pucks up the ice, and possibly be the difference for Canada in the tournament.

Canada's last line of defence is in net. Here are the goalies.
  • #1 Thomas Milic (Norfolk) - 9-2-2, 2.44, .910 in 14 games.
  • #30 Aaron Dell (FREE AGENT) - no statistics.
  • #34 Tyler Beskorowany (Belfast) - 10-9-0, 2.65, .896 in 19gms.
In most cases, I'd be a little anxious over Canada inviting an ECHL goalie, an EIHL goalie, and a guy who isn't playing any meaningful hockey, but there's a lot to like here. Tyler Beskorowany has the Belfast Giants in a good position once again despite that save percentage being lower than usual. Aaron Dell's work with the Sharks and Barracuda last season shouldn't be forgotten, but his total NHL numbers see him with a 2.92 GAA and a .905 save percentage. While those two could have held the fort, Canada went and added a World Junior gold medalist who is taking the ECHL by storm. Thomas Milic's 9-2-2 record, 2.44 GAA, and .910 save percentage in Norfolk have him near the top of the stats for goalies, and he could be come the first netminder since Zach Fucale in 2016 to win both a World Junior gold medal and a Spengler Cup gold medal in the same calendar year. If you're asking me, Milic will be the starter when Canada opens the tournament on Tuesday.

The good news is that TSN is covering the entire tournament as part of its holdiay programming, so you'll get to see all the teams depending on when you tune in. What I like is being able to watch the other teams who may meet Canada in one of the quarterfinals or semifinals. The schedule for the broadcasts are as follows:
  • DEC 26 - HC Ambri-Piotta vs HC Pardubice - 8am ET on TSN5
  • DEC 26 - Frölunda HC vs Team Canada - 2pm ET on TSN5
  • DEC 27 - KalPa Kuopio vs loser of Game 1 - 9am ET on TSN2
  • DEC 27 - HC Davos vs loser of Game 2 - 2pm ET on TSN2
  • DEC 28 - winner of Game 1 vs KalPa Kuopio - 9am ET on TSN2
  • DEC 28 - winner of Game 1 vs HC Davos - 2pm ET on TSN2
  • DEC 29 - 2nd in Torriani vs 3rd in Cattini - 9am ET on TSN2*
  • DEC 29 - 2nd in Cattini vs 3rd in Torriani - 2pm ET on TSN5*
  • DEC 30 - 1st in Torriani vs QF2 winner - 9am ET on TSN2*
  • DEC 30 - 1st in Cattini vs QF1 winner - 2pm ET on TSN2*
  • DEC 31 - SF1 winner vs SF2 winner - 6am ET on TSN2
  • * denotes games may switch on those respective days based on scheduling
Canada appears to have another strong entry as they seek a 17th Spengler Cup title. HC Davos has won 15 Spengler Cups as hosts, and they're looking to equal Canada's record of 16 total. HC Ambrì-Piotta has one Spengler Cup to their name, and they're back to defend their 2022 title this season. KalPa Kuopio has one Spengler Cup to their name as they used the shootout to down Canada in the final in 2018 for their lone gold medal. Both Frölunda HC and HC Pardubice are seeking their first Spengler Cup titles this season.

Another exciting Spengler Cup tournament opens on Boxing Day, and I'll be watching the action whenever I can. Here's hoping Canada can come together quickly, pick up that all-important first win, and build on that as they aim for that 17th title. We'll see who emerges as the heroes for the Canadians, but there will be a nation cheering on Team Canada as they take the ice in Davos, Switzerland!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Thursday 21 December 2023

The Hockey Show - Episode 587

The Hockey Show, Canada's only campus-produced radio show that strictly talks hockey, returns for the final time before the big guy with the sleigh and the gifts stops by houses this holiday season. It's normally a jolly time of year, but our hosts have spent the last year diving into topics that may make people uncomfortable - sexual assault and misconduct in hockey, the lack of safety by the Department of Player of Safety, and the use of public funds to make billionaires richer - so it's time to have a show where we goof off a little. That's where our Show-Before-Christmas Episode comes in, so get ready for this one tonight on The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT!

Tonight on the program, Teebz and Jason will discuss the Spengler Cup entry that Canada will ice on Tuesday featuring Bruce Boudreau behind the bench as this is one of those tournaments that both hosts enjoy watching. Beyond that, Jaromir Jagr finally suits up for Kladno in his 37th professional hockey season, the Ottawa Senators replace DJ Smith, and the Winnipeg Jets might be the most fun team in the NHL. In the remaining time, our hosts will list the top-three side dishes they like for Christmas dinner, the top-three Christmas movies they enjoy watching, Jason fills us in on his elevator hijinks from last week, there's an interesting Melbourne Moment, and we'll finish off the show with our assorted announcements. With the Winter Solstice upon us, make sure you join us for another busy episode of The Hockey Show at 5:30pm CT 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. We also recommend Radio Garden if you need an easy-to-use online stream. 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 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 chat Spengler Cup, Jagr getting back on the ice, a new-but-old face in Ottawa, lots of smiles in Winnipeg, good side dishes, fun movies, being stuck in a box, and much more exclusively on 101.5 UMFM and on the web stream!

PODCAST: December 21, 2023: Episode 587

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Wednesday 20 December 2023

From The Deer To The Dogs

I don't write about U SPORTS men's hockey very often because I don't keep tabs on it as closely as I probably should, but I do check the transactions records for all leagues when I can and a name popped on it today that surprised me. The player pictured to the left is Landon Kosior with the ECHL's Iowa Heartlanders, and it should be noted that he was a high-scoring, solid defender with the Prince Albert Raiders. Those two facts are important because you'll be seeing Landon Kosior patrolling the Saskatchewan Huskies' blue line for the foreseeable future!

After having Connor Hobbs be the quarterback on the blue line for a few years, it's not like the Huskies could replace him, his shot, or his vision with the puck easily. However, landing Kosior is virtually like have Hobbs back in the lineup. From 2021-23 with the Raiders, including his final season where he was the captain, Kosior recorded 35 goals and 73 assists in 128 WHL games. After signing with the ECHL's Iowa Heartlanders, Kosior played 19 games where he added two goals and 11 helpers in his professional debut.

Where Kosior stands out, for me, is his work on the power-play as the man at the top controlling the entire zone. He simply doesn't panic with the puck at any point which seems rare for rookie defenders. After all, mistakes cost players shifts, but it seems Kosior looked very comfortable in the Heartlanders' lineup based on these highlights.

In both instances above, Kosior controlled the puck in a tight space, found some room, and made good plays for two Iowa goals. Again, zero panic, smart plays, and great results!

For whatever reason, though, Kosior has decided to leave the Heartlanders to join the Saskatchewan Huskies in Canada West, giving them a scoring threat from the blue line every time he has the puck on his stick. As per the Huskies' roster page, it appears that Kosior will wear #3 to start his U SPORTS career, but that could change moving forward. Regardless of what number he wears, I'm sure the Huskies are excited to have him skate in the green-and-white, and they'll only be looking for big numbers on the scoresheets when they return to the ice on the first weekend in January.

I'll keep an eye on eligibility for this season as I'm not sure if Landon Kosior is eligible to join the Huskies immediately based on the fact that he was playing as recently as December 3 for Iowa. The rules for joining a team seem to fluctuate based on who is asking, so Kosior may have to wait until next season to play based on his professional season bleeding into a potential university season.

Even if he doesn't play this season, Kosior solidifies a very good blue line for the Huskies next season. If he does play this season, teams are going to have to be ready for another dangerous weapon in that Huskies lineup. I'll give full credit to head coach Brandin Cote for adding another potential star to his team for the foreseeable future because good offensive defenders like Landon Kosior don't leave pro hockey that often.

How do you gameplan for a potential all-star defender? Eight teams are going to have to solve that problem as Saskatchewan gets deeper and better with the addition of Landon Kosior!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Tuesday 19 December 2023

At Least He Got The Puck

I've been patiently waiting for the MJHL's Selkirk Steelers to do right by one of their players and post a highlight. Normally, I'm not seeking out highlights from the MJHL because I don't want to single out provincial junior programs in any province, but when something as fantastic as a goalie scoring a goal happens, that's my cue to start looking for video anywhere and everywhere on the internet. With every team and league having websites where video can be posted, I normally don't have to dig too deeply to find the highlight I seek, but it seems the Steelers have failed their netminder in having video evidence of one of the coolest things in hockey. Let's dig into this.

I was notified by a friend that Saturday's game between the Selkirk Steelers and Niverville Nighthawks being played at the Selkirk Recreational Complex in Selkirk, Manitoba had an exciting moment in the final seconds of the game. It seems that Steelers netminder Noel Olsonawski had fired the puck down the ice and into the Niverville net to make the score 5-2 in favour of Selkirk late in the third period.

Sure enough, the boxscore shows that story to be fact.
Seeing as how Noel Olsonawski added his name to the fraternity of goal-scoring netminders, there had to be a highlight of his goal somewhere that I would proudly post here because goalie goals are awesome and Olsonawski deserves some spotlight for doing something not many goalies do. I waited for the Steelers to post something to their social media options - Twitter (no, I'm not calling it X), Instagram, Facebook, whatever - but no video of the actual puck being sent down the ice by Olsonawski emerged on any of the Steelers' social media.

Casually, I urged the Steelers via social media to get the video evidence of Olsonawski's goal posted because it's a big moment in his career. They responded to my urging in a rather odd way.
Camera issues? What exactly is happening out in Selkirk? FloHockey takes care of the video stream, so what happened during the stream? Did it just go off the air? Did it never make it to air?

It seems that the internet feed that comes in and out of the Selkirk Recreational Complex may be the culprit in denying us a look at Noel Olsonawski's goal as shown in the Twitter exchange below.
Why not just say that they had internet problems on Saturday night which affected the video? Why did they blame camera issues as the problem when it seems the entire feed for the game via FloHockey was affected based on the comment by "MB Hockey Watcher"?

Anyway, it's been three days and there has been video that has surfaced through the Selkirk Steelers or the MJHL, so I guess Noel Olsonawski's video proof of the goal has been lost to the gremlins that live inside the walls at the Selkirk Recreational Complex. For the reported 281 fans, in attendance at the game, they saw something no one else ever will when it comes to Noel Olsonawski scoring a goal, so kudos to them for being at the Selkirk Recreational Complex on Saturday night to witness one of the rarer plays in hockey!

If I'm searching for positives here, the image to the right is one of them as Olsonawski got the puck that ended up in the Niverville net after he had shot it. Seeing him with the big grin and holding that puck makes me happy. Selkirk Steelers fans were also a happy bunch on that night having witnessed the goal and seeing their team earn a 5-2 win over the Nighthawks. Selkirk was trailing the Nighthawks in the standings by a double-digit point total, but this closed the gap a little before the holiday break. They still have a ways to go, though, as the Steelers now sit in ninth-place out of 13 MJHL teams in the standings. Olsonawski, for the record, improved to 8-10-0 on the season with the win, and he now leads all MJHL goalies in goals which is a pretty awesome statistic to own! Will he add more this season? We'll find out!

We don't have video proof, but the boxscore and a picture of Noel Olsonawski holding the puck that he shot down the ice into the vacant net of the opposing team is enough proof for me that a goalie goal was scored. Congratulations, Noel, on that awesome achievement, and may it be the first of many in your career!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Monday 18 December 2023

There's A Spot In Hockey For Him

Say what you want about all the good, young talent that the Ottawa Senators have stockpiled, but the news that head coach DJ Smith and assistant coach Davis Payne being fired today should be a reminder that the NHL is still all about winning now. The Senators currently sit with an 11-15-0 record and comfortably out of a playoff spot, and it didn't help that they looked lost at times in their game against the Vegas Golden Knights which they lost 6-3. As well-liked as Smith was by both players and media, it may be true that nice guys finish last as the 46 year-old Smith will watch from home for the remainder of the season as the Senators try to get back on track and secure their first playoff berth since 2017. That doesn't seem like it will be easy.

It's no secret that Smith was dealt some bad hands during his time behind the bench in Ottawa. Shane Pinto's absence thanks to a contract hold-out combined with his gambling indiscretions kept one of Smith's best young forwards off the ice this season. The Senators haven't had a bonafide starting netminder for a few years, and the tandem of Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg have posted an .889 save percentage - 28th-best in the NHL. Ottawa scores 3.35 goals-per-game, but they surrender 3.42 goals which, if my math is correct, isn't good enough defensively to make up for the lack of goaltending. In short, Smith never really got the team he was promised by management due to injuries, suspensions, and poor signings.

That's not to say he didn't do his best to get the Senators to the playoffs. The team finished six points back of eighth-place Florida last season, and Smith looked to build on that 39-35-8 record with a number of key players returning. Things didn't quite pan out, though, and Smith was relieved of his duties while still standing up for the guys who may have ultimately cost him his job.

"As a coach, you take all the responsibility and I deserve that, my team's not winning," Smith told reporters in Tempe, Arizona where the Senators practiced on Monday. "I'm the one that's putting them on the ice, I'm the one making the decisions, so I'm my own biggest critic. But in saying that, I believe in this group and I believe in the leaders and the core guys that they're going to find a way."

Smith made it clear that it wasn't for a lack effort by the players, stating, "The one thing I know is these guys are trying. Part of the growing process is figuring out how to do it right for 60 minutes. Every first period we're coming out in the right way. And we've found ways in the second period maybe to not play the right way. That was the message today, but ultimately, it's more mental than it is physical or effort based. I know that the leadership group here is outstanding, and I know that these guys are doing everything in their power to get this thing turned around."

How many coaches are going to defend their players and assume all of the responsibility for how the team played after they've been fired? As I wrote above, this was a guy who legitimately cares for and gets to know his players, and he wants to see them succeed. However, when ownership and management changed, everyone had a sense that Smith's days may be numbered. Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun wrote,
"Smith was aware this decision was coming. He's in the final year of his contract, there has been no talk of an extension and all bets were off when Dorion was fired."
That dark cloud no longer has to hang over his head any longer as the Senators are moving on without Smith. I can't see DJ Smith being out of hockey for long, though, based on the relationships he establishes with players, and that's precisely the kind of forward thinking this game needs. Having coaches care about their players and getting to know players is a breath of fresh air when it comes to the old boys' club, so getting Smith back in the game sooner than later is better for everyone in and around the game.

The Senators didn't waste much time, though, as they replaced Smith and Payne with former head coach Jacques Martin and former captain Daniel Alfredsson. If you're asking why the Senators circled back to two guys they fired and traded, respectively, Ottawa president of hockey operations Steve Staios told reporters, "A lot of our issues in our team play are the strengths of Jacques Martin: detailed, structured, organized, disciplined. To me, in theory, he's the perfect fit for everything that we had been lacking in those areas."

We'll see if the 71 year-old Martin can change the fortunes for this team, but I have a feeling he may have a hard time relating to the young team Ottawa has aseembled. Having Alfredsson there as a buffer will help, though, and there's no shortage of respect that the players have for him and what he's done in the nation's capital. These two might be able to structure just enough defence to help out their struggling goalies, and there may be a way for Ottawa to score more goals than what they give up every night. As Smith said, though, the players are working, so I'd expect the Senators to be a better team when the calendar hits 2024.

Will that lead to a playoff spot? Sitting 12 points back of the final wild card spot doesn't leave a lot of room for hope, so we'll see how the Senators fare down the stretch. If they can somehow get all their talent on the ice together and figure out a way to improve in the defensive zone, there may just be a shot at seeing the Ottawa Senators in the postseason.

And maybe DJ Smith will land on a playoff-bound team as well. If he wants to take the rest of the season off, though, there likely will be people calling in the summer to find out if he's willing to join a staff or run a bench once again. After all, good things happen to good people, and DJ Smith seems like he's good people based on how everyone has described him.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

Sunday 17 December 2023

The Rundown - Primary Producers

As we cross into the latter half of December this weekend, The Rundown always likes to take a look at who has been producing goals either by scoring them or setting them up for others to score. Primary points is a key statistic for knowing who is most dangerous with the puck on her stick, and Canada West has seen a number of incredibly talented individuals light the lamp while setting others up for a goal celebration as well. Coaches will tell everyone that they don't specifically plan a strategy to shut down certain players, and I'll tell you that's a lie based on what we've seen in the past when it comes to dealing with high-scoring point producers. Today, we're dealing exclusively with primary-point scorers as The Rundown looks at who is putting in the work in the offensive zones in Canada West!

Primary points - goals plus primary assists - are pretty self-evident when it comes for teams to be successful because those teams that score a lot of goals win more often while those who setup goals often have the same success. Put those skills together, and teams become very hard to defeat. Goals are undoubtedly hard to score in any league, let alone Canada West where the parity among the teams means that players who score regularly become extremely valuable to their respective teams.

Primary assists are something that people take for granted, but there's a skill in being able to read defences to set other players up with scoring chances. As I've stated before, assists do not exist without goals, so you need goals to be scored. What becomes obvious, though is that the players who record primary assists more often are better at reading defences and making good passes more frequently than their colleagues. Being an elite passer is just as valuable as being a sniper as Connor McDavid, Adam Oates, and Wayne Gretzky will tell you (ironically, all Oilers).

That's not to say that secondary assists aren't important as effective breakouts from the defensive zone can result in a number of secondary assists being recorded by players. The difference, though is that primary assists are playmaking skills should persist from year to year for players if they are setting up goals directly. There could be some luck involved, but normally this playmaking skill sees a player recognizing an opportunity more than it is getting a lucky rebound to bounce to an open teammate.

Broad Street Hockey defined all this in a solid write-up with data where they stated, "Someone who sets up a lot of goals this year probably has vision and puck control skills that make him likely to do so again next year". I tend to agree with this assessment, so primary points - goals plus primary assists - give us a better idea of who is doing all the scoring in Canada West more accurately.

Let's see who is driving most of the scoring in the 2023 part of the 2023-24 Canada West season compared to the leaders.

Top Scorers
Name Team Points Name Team PrPoints
M. Kordic
M. Kordic UBC 22
C. Rhodes
C. Rhodes UBC 15
E. Bergesen
J. Morden ALB 14
N. Kieser
E. Bergesen MRU 13
A. Johma
E. Lang CAL 13
J. Morden
A. Gerrard MRU 12
S. Mercier
M. Wiebe UBC 12
S. Lalor
M. McCallum UBC 12
M. Wiebe
B. Anderson TWU 11
E. Lang
C. Kollman CAL 11

The total on the left is the current scoring race while the total on the right is the primary points scoring, and it's clear these women are driving the offence for their teams. Most of the top scorers are also the top primary point producers which shouldn't surprise anyone, but I should note the players who moved up and moved down. There are explanations for both, but these are the women who either setup goals or score goals with regularity in Canada West.

Some of the players on the right side of the list are there because they have shown elite goal-scoring this season. Alberta's Jadynn Morden has 12 of 14 primary points as goals this season; Mount Royal's Allee Gerrard has ten goals in her 12 primary points. Even Brooklyn Anderson's eight goals in her 11 points boosts her up the scoring ranks nicely. Goal-scoring, as stated, is vitally important, so let's carve out the goals and just focus on primary assists in first half of the season.

Top Playmakers
Name Team Assists Name Team PrAssists
M. Kordic
M. Kordic UBC 11
A. Jomha
T. Anker ALB 8
E. Bergesen
E. Lang CAL 7
S. Mercier
A. Jomha MRU 7
J. Morris
C. Rhodes UBC 6
B. Trotter
E. Bergesen MRU 6
K. Gregoire
M. McCallum UBC 6
T. Anker
C. Kollman CAL 6
C. Rhodes
K. Gregoire MAN 6

The total on the left is the current assists leaders while the total on the right is the primary assists scoring, and it shouldn't surprise anyont that these women are some of the elite playmakers in the game. As stated, taking the goal-scorers out will change the list significantly, but it's pretty clear that these women are dangerous when it comes to finding a finisher.

Some of you may be looking at these tables and think, "There's a lot of forwards on there," and you'd be right. In pointing that out, let's check out who the defenders are that have the ability to jump into the play and either finish or setup a finish!

The Defenders
Name Team Points Name Team PrPoints
E. Bergesen
E. Bergesen MRU 13
J. Morris
R. MacKinnon UBC 10
R. MacKinnon
T. Anker ALB 10
S. Gaskell
S. Gaskell UBC 9
T. Anker
I. Pozzi SAS 8

Again, the left is the defender points leaders from this season while the right is who leads in primary defender points. Is anyone surprised that the top-four teams in the conference have a defender who is an elite playmaker? UBC has two players in the top-four defender scorers, and that seems to justify their standing in the conference.

What about the kids? Rookies are the next wave of stars in Canada West, so let's check out how the rookies are doing. But before we get there, let me clarify that these are the players who have played their first season of university or college hockey this season and nowhere else. You don't get credit if you went somewhere else before landing in Canada West. With that said, here is rookie primary points scoring.

The Rookies
Name Team Points Name Team PrPoints
J. Morris
J. Morris UBC 7
J. Watteyne
J. Watteyne MRU 6
K. Mitenko
K. Mitenko CAL 6
B. Fry
B. Fry CAL 5
C. Perlinger
M. Ayre MAC 4

The left is the rookie points leaders from this season while the right is who leads in primary rookie points. While Jaylyn Morris has benefitted from a high-scoring UBC team with secondary assists, the race for primary points is far tighter. Mount Royal should try reporting their rookie scoring a little better because Jerzey Watteyne has a legitimate shot at being Rookie of the Year, Calgary has two fantastic rookies, and Maria Ayre is having a solid season for the MacEwan Griffins despite what her coach thinks.

What we do see in some cases is that power-plays have a significant effect on scoring thanks to specific systems being run where players are identified as playmakers and distributors as opposed to being finishers. The key, though, is that power-play points matter whether it's goals or primary assists because scoring on the power-play can win games in Canada West. Let's take a peek at who is crushing this season with the advantage.

Power Players
Name Team PP Points Name Team PPPrPoints
E. Bergesen
E. Bergesen MRU 10
B. Trotter
B. Trotter MRU 8
J. Morris
J. Morden ALB 8
J. Morden
A. Gerrard MRU 6
A. Gerrard
6 players TIED 5

That Mount Royal power-play should scare everyone when they come over the boards because it seems like Bergesen and Trotter have the options of shoot or pass while Allee Gerrard has been finishing off a pile of plays. Take nothing away from the finishing job done by Jadynn Morden in Alberta, though, as the conference's top goal-scorer has been lethal with the advantage as well.

The six players that are tied at five power-play primary points include Alberta's Madison Willan, Regina's Olivia Leggett, and UBC's Jacquelyn Fleming, Makenzie McCallum, Jaylyn Morris, and Rylind MacKinnon. Make no mistake that these players drive their power-play units when they're on the ice.

I'm also going to break this down by team to give you a more detailed look at who is scoring for each team. Players who are tied in points will be ranked according to the primary assists. I'll have some commentary after the team stats are posted.

Jadynn Morden - 14
Taylor Anker - 10
Izzy Lajoie - 10

Elizabeth Lang - 13
Courtney Kollman - 11
Sydney Mercier - 9

Jesse Jack - 8
Makenna Schuttler - 7
Sydney Hughson - 4

Kylie Lesuk - 9
Kate Gregoire - 8
Dana Goertzen - 7

Emma Bergesen - 13
Allee Gerrard - 12
Aliya Jomha - 10

Paige Hubbard - 10
Kaitlyn Gilroy - 6
Olivia Leggett - 5

Sophie Lalor - 10
Mallory Dyer - 9
Kara Kondrat - 8

Brooklyn Anderson - 11
Olivia Leier - 8
Kate Klassen - 6

Mackenzie Kordic - 22
Cassidy Rhodes - 15
Makenzie McCallum - 12

Teams with three players in double-digits are, unsurprisingly, first-place through third-place in the conference. We know Saskatchewan is more defensive than other teams, but they, Calgary, and Trinity Western are in the middle of the pack while having at least one player in double-digits for primary scoring. Manitoba, Regina, and MacEwan will need more from their more offensive players in the second half, but two of those teams are in a position to make a move in the standings.

Still Baffled By His Comments

Again, looking at the scoring totals, it's hard for me to accept Chris Leeming's asssessment that he has no elite offensive players when Jesse Jack and Makenna Schuttler are in the mix with some of the conference's better primary scorers, and Maria Ayre is having a solid rookie campaign when it comes to primary points. If the scoring totals above isn't enough proof, his comments about not having elite players is way off in another aspect as well.

MacEwan has 17 players who recorded a primary point. Alberta has 22, Calgary has 18, Manitoba has 17, Mount Royal has 20, Regina has 16, Saskatchewan has 19, Trinity Western has 19, and UBC has 19 primary points scorers. Clearly, there is enough depth on that roster to keep up with the other teams in the conference. 17 players is lower, but it's not like there's a huge discrepancy between UBC and MacEwan when it comes to players scoring primary points. It's the frequency in which those players record primary points that seems to be the larger problem with the Griffins.

That, again, points to systems. If 17 players have gone to the net or found ways to get pucks to the net at least once this season, saying your roster has no elite offensive players is a little hard to swallow when MacEwan has the same number of primary points producers as Manitoba and has one more than Regina. I'm not saying that they've had the same number of opportunities as I pointed out with the shot totals two weeks ago, but if they played a system where those players could go to places where they could be more successful, perhaps MacEwan would be in a better place in the standings.

Secondary Assists Still Count

As I stated above, secondary assists still count because breakout passes and other lead passes can result in goals. I never mentioned it above, but the leaders in secondary assists are Alberta's Natalie Kieser and UBC's Jaylyn Morris who have seven secondary assists apiece. Calgary's Sydney Mercier and Mount Royal's Aliya Jomha are right behind them with six secondary assists apiece.

Shorthanded Specialists

I didn't get into shorthanded primary points because they don't happen often, but be aware that Trinity Western's duo of Chloe Reid and Michela Naccarato lead the way in Canada West with two primary points each while shorthanded.

As a team, the Calgary Dinos are the most dangerous team when it comes to generating points while down a skater as they have eight primary points combined among eight skaters. Trinity Western is second in that regard as they have six total primary points while shorthanded, and three teams are tied for third at three primary shorthanded points - Mount Royal, Regina, and UBC.

The Last Word

Next Sunday is Christmas Eve, so I won't be posting The Rundown on that day. Instead, it will appear on Saturday, December 23 which is better known as Festivus thanks to Seinfeld. We'll break out the aluminum pole, gather for the feats of strengths, and I'll let everyone know all the ways they've disappointed me so far this season!

Ok, so I won't be listing off all the ways I'm disappointed, but I will post my Christmas Wish List for each team when it comes to seeing them compete for the one berth at the U SPORTS National Championship this season. As you know, the Huskies are already going as the hosts, but I'm pretty sure they'd rather go as the Canada West champions rather than just showing up as the host team. With each team still mathematically alive and in the running for postseason spots, there will be nine Christmas wishes made next Saturday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!