Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Once wasn't enough for two OHL rivals to let some latent hostility out on Tuesday.

    With 30 seconds left in the first Ontario Hockey League playoff game in Peterborough in four seasons, projected high NHL first-rounder Sam Bennett scored an empty-net goal that dashed the Petes' remaining hope of winning and assured the Kingston Frontenacs of taking a 3-0 series lead. Petes centre Michael Clarke (not shown on camera) cross-checked Kingston's Henri Ikonen after the puck went in the net and pretty much everyone on the ice, save Ikonen since he was the odd man out in a 6-on-5 situation, proceeded to grab a grappling partner.

    Once order was restored, both coaches put out their tougher players. Following a Kingston offside, some pushing and shoving escalated into everyone on the ice fighting again, and the ex-NHLers behind the benches, Petes coach Jody Hull and the Fronts' Todd Gill, traded accusations about who started it.

    Read More »from Kingston Frontenacs, Peterborough Petes have 2 line brawls in last minute of OHL playoff game (VIDEO)
  • Aaron Ekblad scored Tuesday to help Barrie go up 3-0 on Sudbury (OHL Images)

    A 42-save shutout by Niagara's Brent Moran, a 52-save effort by fellow sophomore stopper Alex Nedeljkovic, and a Sudbury Wolves club that loaded up for a playoff run is staring down the barrel of a 3-0 series deficit. Plus there was a double-overtime game and a line brawl in two other series that are now one game from being over.

    Pretty quiet Tuesday night, eh? On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from Guelph Storm lose for first time, Sudbury and Peterborough in 3-0 holes: OHL post-game questions
  • Stolarz missed 6 weeks of the OHL season due to a severe skate cut (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    Slashing an opponent whose back is turned in the head might play well with hardcore Philadelphia Flyers fans, but for civilized people, probably not as much.

    On Tuesday, Flyers prospect Anthony Stolarz, the 6-foot-6 goalie for the Memorial Cup host London Knights, covered up a puck to stop play and didn't much like the Windsor Spitfires' leading scorer Josh Ho-Sang getting an extra slash in with his stick. The referees caught the slash and gave Ho-Sang a penalty. The retaliation by Stolarz, a one-handed stick swing that connected with the back of Ho-Sang's head and neck area, was also deemed worthy of just a two-minute high-sticking minor, even though it was exponentially more emphatic and forceful:

    (Update, 3:25 p.m. Wednesday: Stolarz has received an eight-game suspension. If London sweeps Windsor, he would not be able to play in the next round of playoffs, where the Knights are likely to face top-seeded Guelph.)

    Read More »from Philadelphia Flyers goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz gets 8 games for slashing OHL opponent in head (VIDEO)
  • Kuchmey made the Spitfires this season as a 19-year-old rookie (OHL Images)

    One might say Dalen Kuchmey Spit the bit. Or that he pulled a Patrick Roy, only without having a couple Stanley Cup rings and Vezina Trophys to back it up.

    On Tuesday, the Windsor Spitfires goalie got his first Ontario Hockey League playoff start, and unless the team's management is incredibly forgiving, it might be his last. The London Knights routed Windsor easily, eventually winning 10-2. Kuchmey, who provided a feel-good story at the start of the season when he made the Spitfires as a 19-year-old rookie, was in net for the first eight Knights goal. After the eighth, he pulled himself from the game, and as Spitfires coach Bob Boughner confirmed afterward, left the WFCU Centre before the end of the second period.

    From TV Cogeco Ontario's Angelo Aversa (@AJaversa85):

    Read More »from Windsor Spitfires goalie Dalen Kuchmey leaves arena during OHL playoff game after allowing 8 goals
  • NHL draft tracker: Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers

    Nedeljkovic was 2nd in the OHL in saves and save percentage (OHL Images)

    All Alex Nedeljkovic did this season, on a team with 15 rookies, was post a better save percentage for the Plymouth Whalers than Malcolm Subban did in the OHL two seasons ago when he became a Boston Bruins first-round pick.

    While not a direct comparison per se, that might partially illustrate how far Nedeljkovic has come in two seasons as the Whalers' starting goaltender. The 18-year-old from Parma, Ohio managed to have the OHL's second-highest save percentage (.925) while facing the second-most shots (2,207). Nedeljkovic, who was NHL Central Scouting's fifth-ranked North American goaltender at midseason, led the Whalers to their 23rd consecutive playoff berth. Nedeljkovic has shown a prescience for tracking pucks that wasn't obvious two years ago, when Plymouth snapped him up in the seventh round of the priority selection draft.

    "I think my big advantage is how well I see the ice," Nedeljkovic said prior to the start of the OHL playoffs. "I can almost see what's going to happen. I think that's one the biggest things you need while playing hockey. It just makes the job easier.

    "What I want to work on, is being more aggressive," the 6-foot, 182-pounder added. "I don't like to play three feet outside my crease like some guys do, I like to kind of stay back, stay under control. But at the same time, it's something I need to learn to do."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth Whalers
  • Guelph Storm forward Robby Fabbri (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    Rathgeb's hit on Fabbri (Rogers Television image)With the Guelph Storm's No. 1 centre Robby Fabbri set to miss his second game since being checked in the head on Friday, Plymouth Whalers defenceman Yannick Rathgeb has learned his fate.

    The Ontario Hockey League has handed down a 10-game ban — pretty standard, really — to Rathgeb for the illegal check that occurred during the second period of Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series. After losing the puck on a drive to the net, Fabbri got entangled with goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and was balanced on one foot as he tried to retrieve the puck behind the Whalers net. Fabbri was bent over and appeared to be focused on regaining full control of the puck when Rathgeb, the backside defenceman, caught him with a blindside hit. It's impossible to know what Rathgeb's intent actually was, especially when it involves players and split-second decisions. On the slow-motion replay it looks like the classic hit on a vulnerable player, which is what the OHL frowns upon.

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Robby Fabbri remains out; 10-game headshot ban for Plymouth Whalers’ Yannick Rathgeb
  • NHL draft tracker: Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens

    Billia made strides this season in 41 games for a young Sags squad (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)

    Julio Billia has had ample opportunity this season to endear himself to those who pull for the underdog.

    It's rare for a goalie in his age-17 season to get the 30-40 games many experts believe is necessary for proper development. The soft-spoken St-Léonard, Que., native got that with a young Chicoutimi Saguenéens team that struggled in the second half after moving star Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon to contending Baie-Comeau for a package of draft picks. That led to Billia, who's on the small side at a listed 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, often dealing with a heavy shot volume.

    Billia, whose Saguenéens are presently down 2-0 to Rimouski in the first round of the playoffs, is well-aware of the NHL's preference for bigger goalies. He's determined to show there's no stigma on smaller masked men.

    "For sure the scouts and everybody they say, 'ah, your size' and everything," says Billia, who had a 3.52 average and .894 save percentage while averaging 33.3 shots per night across 41 regular-season games. "I don't think about that. In the NHL you see that there are still some goalies who are 5-foot-10, 5-11. There will always be those goalies. You just have to be better and work harder than everyone else.

    "The tall goalies have it easier because the puck can just hit them, almost. I have to be square and also I use my speed to my advantage. And also, I have a good play reading. I add that to my game."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Julio Billia, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
  • Desperate times for teams trailing 2-0: the coast-to-coast

    Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Will top NHL draft prospect Leon Draisaitl be able to get away from the Edmonton Oil Kings checkers now that Prince Albert has the last change for the next two games of its Eastern series? (Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun)

    Mock draft time: is Jake Virtanen ahead of Draisaitl in the pecking order? (NHL.com)

    The #FreeJaedon report: Jaedon Descheneau set Kootenay Ice club records for assists (5) and points (6) in a playoff game on Monday, even though the Calgary Hitmen won 7-6 for a 2-1 series lead. (Taking Note, Cranbrook Daily Townsman)

    Vancouver Giants coach Don Hay is trying to wave a wand to crack the labyrinth that is the Portland Winterhawks' defence. That is the nerdiest sentence ever written on BTN, sorry but not sorry. (The Oregonian)

    Payton Lee is showing the potential to be Vancouver's man in goal when (should we even write if) it hosts the 2016 Memorial Cup. (Vancouver Sun, Metro Vancouver)

    Up 2-0 on Regina, does Brandon have a taste for the jugular, especially with the Pats' Dyson Stevenson playing hurt? (Luber's Lounge)

    Whatever Lucas Punkari writes, you stop and read it. (Rocky View Weekly)

    OHL

    Cory Butzin and Ken Campbell have must-reads about how the Saginaw Spirit is processing its grief and guilt over the death of Terry Trafford. Cody Payne's OT winner cut Erie's series lead over Saginaw to 2-1. (The Hockey News, Saginaw News)

    Edmonton Oilers first-rounder Darnell Nurse practically teleported across two zones to finish off a 2-on-1 short-handed rush for the backbreaker goal in Sault Ste. Marie's Game 3 win at Owen Sound, and had this to say: "I had a chance to jump in and he [Tyler Gaudet] got it to me. I had a little bit of puck luck and it went in." (Owen Sound Sun Times, Sault Star)

    Read More »from Desperate times for teams trailing 2-0: the coast-to-coast
  • University of Alberta won its record 14th national title in Saskatoon on Sunday (Liam Richards, CP)

    A simpler format will not make more of the country care about the CIS University Cup, but it's on the way.

    Men's hockey has long resisted falling into step with the rest of Canadian Interuniversity Sport by having a single-elimination national championship, rather than the current setup where a team can split its round-robin games and make the final based on goal differential. However, with CIS now in partnership with Sportsnet, almost all team sports (save football) are set to switch to an eight-team, one-and-done format.

    So much of one of CIS hockey's charms. It will lose its safeguard against seeing a team's season-long dominance declared null and void due to one neutral-site loss à la the Wichita State basketball team, which was bounced from the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at around the same time on Sunday the Alberta Golden Bears won their record 14th University Cup with a 3-1 win over the host Saskatchewan Huskies. On Sunday, CIS men's hockey coaches association president Kevin Figsby told canadawest.tv it is a "done deal" that the tournament will expand from six to eight teams. Sources have confirmed that the change also extends to CIS women's hockey, where McGill won the national title on March 16 by defeating Montreal in overtime.

    Read More »from CIS University Cup switching to single-elimination, but case for its unique format remains strong
  • Plymouth Whalers averaged 2,478 in attendance this season (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    With baseball season right around the corner, there's a relocation rumour that seems directly out of left field.

    To Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, owning the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers has always been more of a side project than a licence to print money. The Whalers currently have the OHL's longest playoff appearance streak at 23 seasons and have an enviable roll call of alumni who are established in the NHL. Moreover, being located on the U.S. side of the Detroit river and in a major urban area makes the club more attractive to many American players who might not otherwise consider coming to the OHL and improving the quality of the league.

    The trade-off is that the Whalers, who averaged 2,478 in attendance this season, have to shout to be heard in a Detroit-area market that has teams in every major league and two nearby big-time NCAA programs in Michigan and Michigan State. Plymouth has long been willing to grind it out and be a model OHL franchise in many respects, which would tend to make one dubious of any talk of a change.

    Read More »from Plymouth Whalers stand for more than fans in stands, speculation about OHL team’s future just sounds off

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