Thu Dec 12 01:55am EST
Since the Detroit Red Wings are playing at the Big House on New Year's Day, it's only fair that a Michigan Wolverines player borrow a move from Henrik Zetterberg to win a Top 5 NCAA matchup.
On Wednesday, No. 3-ranked Michigan and No. 4 Ferris State were in the seventh round of a shootout when UM freshman and Alex Kile, a graduate of the United States Hockey League's Green Bay Gamblers, was sent in to try to solve FSU goalie CJ Motte. The 19-year-old then replicated Zetterback's one-handed shootout move, getting Motte to slide right before reaching around him to one-hand the puck off the post and over the goal line. Going post and in was just for dramatic effect. That gave Michigan the 3-2 win, although the NCAA The NCAA formally considers the game a 2-2 tie with Michigan winning the shootout 2-1. Because, NCAA.
Thu Dec 12 01:09am EST
No. 1 Star - Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
On the eve of the Canada's national junior camp opening in Toronto, Anthony Mantha tried his best to cement his case. He's been projected up and down the lineup, clearly with the talent (and chemistry, with Jonathan Drouin and Charles Hudon) to play on the first line, but he was also brought up as candidate for the final forward cut on Toronto radio Wednesday afternoon by TSN's Bob McKenzie.
How could you not bring Mantha? He led the Foreurs to a 6-3 win over one of the top teams in the nation. The reeling Blainville-Boisbriand Armada may be without their entire top line, but their chief talent this season has been preventing goals and the Foreurs rattled off six goals against the Q's stingiest club.
That's eight straight for the Foreurs. Mantha, leading the Q in scoring by a wide margin, had two goals and two assists, scoring a minute into the game and again on the powerplay with 3:03 to go in the first period. Val-d'Or are still struggling at the gate, managing to attract just 1,652 fans to watch two of the top teams in the league collide. Despite the anonymity, the Red Wings prospect Mantha has been getting it done. He has 73 points in 35 games, and registered a point in 22 consecutive contests, shut out only once this year in Charlottetown on Oct. 17.
Wed Dec 11 05:00pm EST
Underpromise and overdeliver works in sports as well as business. Speculating where Connor McDavid fits in the grand design for Team Canada, whose first full practice is Friday, is putting the cart ahead of the horse.
In the here and now, McDavid, whose driver's licence states he was born in 1997 and is thus 16 years old, is doing the psych job of convincing himself the doubters are legion. Never mind the Sportsnet magazine "Better Than Crosby" cover or the fact that seven months ago, he was the MVP at the world under-18 championship.
"I'm going in as an underdog," McDavid said last weekend during Erie's Eastern Ontario sweep through Peterborough, Ottawa and Kingston. "I don't think a lot people think I'll make the team. We'll see how it goes.
"There was a TSN thing that basically said i wouldn't have a shot," added McDavid, whose 48 points over 30 games is good for seventh in OHL scoring. "I was watching it. Obviously it doesn't feel good. At the end of the day, they have their opinions. They're experts and they're good at what they do, but I'm going to try to prove them wrong."
Wed Dec 11 04:00pm EST
Brendan Gaunce has had a lot to process, so the the best tack is seeing the similarities rather than the changes in his hockey fortunes.
Such is life for a highly rated 19-year-old prospect whose original OHL team ends up being a seller. Gaunce, the Vancouver Canucks first-rounder, is adapting to life with the now contending Erie Otters after his trade two weeks ago. Concurrently, it comes while moving on from being omitted from Team Canada's national junior selection camp. It's a lot to grasp after 3½ seasons as a beacon for the Belleville Bulls — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 priority selection, sophomore with first-round NHL hype, then captain on a team that fell one win short of the OHL final.
"I didn't really know where anything was so I still use the GPS," Gaunce says. "But I know most of the main streets and main spots. I'm getting used to it.
"I've been doing the same things for four years," Gaunce says. "At the end of day it's still playing hockey with a bunch of guys your own age ... it's definitely different, but I don't know if it's much different from what we had last year in Belleville. They've had a good start to the year and we're hoping that success keeps coming."
Wed Dec 11 02:58pm EST
Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...
Hockey Canada will know by Tuesday whether the Toronto Maple Leafs will loan Morgan Rielly out for the world junior. Rielly isn't playing in Wednesday's Los Angeles Kings-Leafs game. (The Canadian Press)
The Regina Pats have managed decently amid an injury to their best player, Calgary Flames first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk, which was not always true of past Pats clubs. And what do they mean that Jordan Eberle didn't sell 50/50 tickets and drive the Zamboni when he played in Regina?! (Regina Leader-Post)
After Friday, Edmonton will be without its three aspirants for teams Canada and USA, so it's in their interest to make it count. Henrik Samuelsson had a sweet shorty on Tuesday vs. Saskatoon. (Edmonton Journal)
Today's should-read that is only tangentially about hockey: a captain in the Canadian army returned home from a tour in Afghanistan to surprise his 10-year-old girls. (Victoria Times-Colonist)
It got a little dusty while watching the Portland Winterhawks pass out gifts to children in the hospital. (FOX 12 Oregon)
What is the long tail of Tuesday's Matt Dumba trade? Meantime, Red Deer-bound Presten Kopeck, an Alberta native, will be playing in more familiar environs. (Oregon Live, The Hockey Writers, Medicine Hat News)
Playing on the Ottawa 67's first line in his first half of his 16-year-old season? Travis Konecny is doing something that past 67's luminaries such as Logan Couture and Sean Monahan did not pull off initially, writes Jean-François Plante. (Le Droit)
Wed Dec 11 01:23pm EST
The Buzzing The Net CHL Chatravaganza is back on Thursday at 12 noon ET/1 p.m. AT/9 a.m. PT.
Please join Cam Charron, Sunaya Sapurji, Neate Sager, Mike Sanderson and a cast of many for the blogetariat's most wide-ranging approximately one-hour-long weekly discussion dedicated to all things junior hockey. Canada begins its national junior team selection camp on Thursday, while Team USA and other rivals for the U20 hockey supremacy are also set to convene their camps. It's also not a bad time to take stock and reflect as the first half of the CHL regular season draws down.
The Chatravaganza is BYOP — bring your own peanuts.
Wed Dec 11 12:10pm EST
If major junior hockey automatically banished players for fighting, then neither Mason Geertsen nor Austin Carroll would have been involved in a checking-to-the-head incident on Tuesday.
It is facile to think that played into the check, though. Geertsen's headshot on Carroll during the waning moments of the second period in Tuesday's Vancouver Giants-Victoria Royals rivalry tilt takes in a lot of other elements of the debate about how to make hockey safer while retaining its speed, physicality and unpredictability. On the replay, it looked like Carroll took a glance down at the puck in front of him as he moved in on the Giants defence pair of Geertsen and Dalton Thrower. Geertsen, 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, lunged forward for the open-ice check on Carroll, who is the same dimensions at 6-3 and 214 but was hunched over. The result was head contact, a checking-to-the-head major/game misconduct for Geertsen and a match penalty to the Royals' Brandon Magee for tripping Geertsen to start an end-of-period melee.
Wed Dec 11 10:20am EST
The diehards who faithfully turn out for the Ottawa 67's during their displacement to the Canadian Tire Centre are used to seeing a 16-year-old standout from the London, Ont., area do unique things with the puck.
Tuesday was special, though, since there were two, Travis Konency and his good friend, the Oshawa Generals' Mitchell Vande Sompel. Konecny, as the OHL's No. 1 overall pick, has done almost without fail, furnished a wow moment that let those among the announced crowd of 1,634 feel smart for showing up. The Clachan Comet produced another piece of virtuosity, dangling and deking by defenceman Stephen Desrocher before roofing the puck by Carolina Hurricanes-drafted goalie Daniel Altshuller.
That was only a too little, too late response to the big night from Vande Sompel, the offensive defenceman whom the Generals took with their No. 14 overall choice in the OHL priority selection.
Wed Dec 11 12:11am EST
Well here's something you don't see every day. A night after Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins missed scoring a goal by inches, Austin Rediron, the goaltender of the Melfort Mustangs of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, shot a puck into the net with 9 seconds left for his first goal on the season against the Kindersley Klippers:
Better than the goal itself, you'd think, has to be Rediron's celebration. The Meadow Lake, SK, native dropped to one knee and fist pumped towards his team's bench. It was a pretty aggressive goalie pull from Klippers coach (and no, I am not making this name up) Rockie Zinger. There were just seconds left in the game and his team was down by two goals at the time, with no chance of a comeback.
Tue Dec 10 03:15pm EST
A week after Erie landed Brendan Gaunce, Guelph followed suit by exchanging a tidy ransom for Kerby Rychel and Nick Ebert. Prices are high for junior hockey players and while there's often a trade deadline arms race between contenders in the major junior system, it may be a little different this year, particularly in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League.
Last year, players were moved much closer to the deadline, including Joshua Leivo to Kitchener, Vincent Trocheck to Plymouth and Cody Ceci to Owen Sound. If the cost is going to be higher for the extra 10-15 games of acquiring a player before December rather than the early January deadline, what's the use? Almost every team that's a buyer at the trade deadline will make the playoffs and really, you're stocking up to give yourself a better chance in the postseason.
This year though, the field is different. The contending OHL teams are all based in the West: London, Erie and Guelph, and though the Knights have already secured their Memorial Cup berth, any other Western team that wants to play at the MasterCard Memorial Cup this season is going to probably have to go through London.
What more, if you parse down our own Dynamic Dozen rankings this week, you'll find that the teams after the 'Big 3' are concentrated in the West as well: Windsor is 14th and Sault Ste. Marie is 16th. The Oshawa Generals, at 21st, are the highest ranked OHL Eastern team in our national rankings.
So the balance of power is concentrated to one conference, and that means making moves early is a bit more important this season, to create some separation in the standings prior to the World Juniors and fight not just to prepare for the playoffs, but home ice advantage too. The advantage is difficult to quantify (not as easy as saying "13 of 15 series last year were determined by home ice!" since in almost every case, the team with home ice is the team with the higher point total in the regular season) but there may be some psychological attribute as well.
With Gaunce and Rychel moved, who will be the next domino to fall, and what number will he wear with the Knights?
1. London Knights, OHL (.607 RPI, +2.1 SRS, +1) — It was mentioned in this week's Hot & Cold, but the Knights have a .906 point percentage since Halloween, and leap ahead of Erie this week after going perfect in a week that included games against Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor, and Owen Sound.
Now, how much can you attribute the team being red hot to being a well-rounded team overall, and how much of it is thanks to the return of Nikita Zadorov from the Buffalo Sabres? The Knights are 7-1-0 and have given up just 15 goals in the eight games since his return.
2. Erie Otters, OHL (.598 RPI, +2.3 SRS, -1) — The Otters, like the Knights, are going to lose some key players for the World Juniors, a disease that often afflicts the top teams come December. They'll lose a player from each of their top two lines, their starting goaltender, and possibly their No. 1 defenceman. OHL leading scorer Connor Brown has been picking up points on a line with Dane Fox recently, so it won't be the first time he'll be tested playing without Andre Burakovsky.
Meanwhile, in Oscar Dansk's absence between the pipes, the team will have to count on sophomore Devin Williams. With a .907 save percentage, Williams is 10th in the OHL (Dansk is 4th). Williams is first-time eligible as a draft prospect this upcoming June in a fairly wide open goalie class, so he'll have a chance to impress some scouts that are sticking around in North America.