Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Guelph Storm take OHL title on the wings of Kerby Rychel’s 2 late snipes

    Rychel (left) scored the winning goal with 26.3 seconds left in the game (OHL Images)

    Once the Guelph Storm got level, getting the winner was a matter of when, not if. Such was their irrefutable late-minute lightning in this OHL final, which the crimson tide put a bow with their third cliffhanger win over the North Bay Battalion.

    With 4:29 left in regulation, the Battalion had an odd-man rush and a chance to open a two-goal lead and force the series back to the raucous North Bay Memorial Gardens. Storm goalie Justin Nichols kicked a rebound out at a roughly 45-degree angle toward North Bay's second-leading playoff goal scorer, Nick Paul. The puck took a Storm bounce over Paul's stick, leading to a odd-man rush for the league's highest-scoring team. You just knew how that would play out, with Kerby Rychel, whom the Storm gave up eight players and picks to acquire from the Windsor Spitfires, burying a rebound. Then, with 26.3 seconds left, Rychel scored off a scramble to give the Storm a 4-3 win and the series in five games (fulfilling pre-series predictions).

    The Storm scored two last-minute wins in the series and an overtime triumph along with a 10-1 blowout. It was dominance mixed with drama brought out by the Battalion's dogged defensive work and the goaltending of Jake Smith.

    "It's crazy, unbelievable," Rychel told Sportsnet in an interview. "Everyone's bought in. We didn't have our best game tonight but we knew we just had to keep pushing and we would come out on top. We'll enjoy it for a few days and then we'll get ready for the Memorial Cup."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm take OHL title on the wings of Kerby Rychel’s 2 late snipes
  • Zack Mitchell (wearing 'A') leads the OHL with 31 post-season points (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    When the Guelph Storm have needed a lift, it's often come from either Robby Fabbri, Zack Mitchell or Kerby Rychel or some combination thereof.

    Picking a playoff MVP in the Ontario Hockey League ought to be clear-cut. The choice from the winning team should stand out from the pack, as Bo Horvat did during the London Knights' run to the 2013 J. Ross Robertson Cup. (Ours is no to wonder why that is not reflected in which NHL first-round pick from the Knights is featured in a Memorial Cup promo in rotation on Sportsnet, but that is neither here nor there.) The Storm, who can clinch the OHL title on Friday when they host a bruised but not beat yet North Bay Battalion club, presents a bit more of a challenge. The crimson crew boasts the top five playoff scorers, a monopolization of the leaderboard that hasn't been seen since the 2009 Windsor Spitfires (four of the top five, with Brampton's Cody Hodgson finishing third) and the '08 Kitchener Rangers (five of the top six).

    Should the Storm finish the job, though, the choice might come down to those three linemates. Mitchell is first with 31 playoff points over 19 games, followed by Rychel with 29. The 17-year-old Fabbri has 25 in 15 games and has been blanked only once in the post-season (and that was, not coincidentally, Guelph's worst home loss of the year).

    North Bay's Barclay Goodrow and Jake Smith have had MVP post-seasons already, and will have even stronger cases if the Battalion comes back from 3-1 again.

    Read More »from Zack Mitchell, Robby Fabbri present solid cases for OHL playoff MVP should Guelph Storm finish the job
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    New York Islanders first-rounder Griffin Reinhart has put a rather large stamp on this Ed Chynoweth Cup series, now even at 2-2 heading back to Portland. Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal: "You are seeing the type of defenceman that Griff is going to be in the NHL." That said, it is doubtful that the Portland Winterhawks could stay stone-cold for a third game in a row. (Edmonton Sun)

    The Oil Kings had turnouts of 6,799 and 7,859 for games 3 and 4. Is that their ceiling for attendance in a WHL fianl? (Edmonton Sun)

    Edmonton backup goalie Tyler Santos could make you believe you could run through a brick wall. (Edmonton Journal)

    Portland play-by-player Todd Vrooman believes the 'Hawks would stay in the top echelon even if coach-GM Mike Johnston got a NHL gig: "As far as coaches outside of the NHL, he's one of the very best, he deserves to go, but he has set up a system with a lot of smart people." (Portland Tribune)

    Medicine Hat goalie Marek Langhamer has signed with the Phoenix Coyotes organization. When do we make the switch to Arizona Coyotes? (Medicine Hat News)

    OHL

    Spare a warm thought of those close to Riley Dunda, the 18-year-old Sudbury Wolves priority selection pick who suffered a stroke on Saturday morning. (Hamilton Spectator)

    Jeff Simmons points out that winning OHL player of the year puts Erie captain and Toronto Maple Leafs signing Connor Brown in some rare company. The other three who have won the award and gone on to careers of notes with the Leafs are all in the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Sportsnet)

    Read More »from Reinhart helps Oil Kings lock down series tie, OHL prospect stricken after stroke: the coast-to-coast
  • Gregoire was chosen No. 186 overall by the Habs in 2013 (Ghyslain Bergeron, The Canadian Press)

    No. 1 star: Jérémy Grégoire, Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)

    Grégoire (1G-1A, +1), a sixth-round choice of the Montreal Canadiens, was one of several cogs that helped Baie-Comeau preempt the Anthony Mantha show with a had-to-have-it 4-3 overtime road win that knotted the QMJHL final 2-2. The Drakkar never led until the game's 75th minute, when the 18-year-old Grégoire set up captain Félix Girard for the overtime winner.

    Mantha (2G, for a QMJHL-leading 22) flicked in his own rebound for a short-handed goal that opened a 3-2 lead with 4:14 left in regulation time. Baie-Comeau, though, scarcely had to think about the prospect of going down 3-1 in the series. Just 39 seconds later, Alexandre Ranger got in rebounding position and got a classic garbage goal to re-tie the game.

    Grégoire delivered in similar fashion for the first Drakkar goal 13:34 into the first. All three of the Drakkar's regulation goals came within five minutes of Val-d'Or taking the lead. That's just how Éric Veilleux-coached teams roll.

    Read More »from Habs pick Jeremy Gregoire stars in Baie-Comeau’s series-tying win: Wednesday’s 3 Stars
  • Tyler Bertuzzi (left) jaws with North Bay's Alex Henriksson (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    NORTH BAY, Ont. — The sleeping giant rousted, with the Guelph Storm getting goals from eight players in a 10-1 Game 4 win that opened a 3-1 OHL final lead over the North Bay Battalion.

    Pius Suter (2G, +2) got the icebreaker and tallied a short-hander after a ghastly giveaway, which was sandwiched around Winnipeg Jets signing Scott Kosmachuk (1G-3A, +4) breaking a five-game goalless drought. The last 40 minutes were played pretty much for show and sending messages, with Guelph earning a chance to clinch on Friday.

    "I think it was about time," Kosmachuk, who led Guelph with 101 points in thev regular season, said. "We were eventually going to break through. We're a great team and they had shut us down. It was a matter of time before we broke loose.

    "It felt great to play well in both games here. One more win and we win the OHL championship."

    The Battalion crowd of 4,242 gave goalie Jake Smith a standing ovation when he was relieved after the Storm went ahead 7-0 in the second period. There was another ovation after time mercifully expired and the Battalion skated off the Memorial Gardens sheet for perhaps the final time in this storybook season.

    "We owe all the fans another game here," Battalion captain Barclay Goodrow said. "They've been great all playoffs and all seaon. When we were losing 9-1, they're still rooting for us and cheering us on. I think we owe it to them to bring it back here for Game 6."

    The result attested to the completeness of the Storm, which has now had at least one seven-goal game in all four rounds. On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from Guelph Storm need ‘one more win’ after 10-1 rout, Battalion ‘owe another game’ to fans: OHL post-game questions
  • Battalion fever ‘unprecedented’ for close-knit North Bay fans

    A North Bay fan bangs on the glass after Mathew Santos' opening goal on Tuesday (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    NORTH BAY, Ont. — Anyone who has seen any part of this North Bay Battalion run will have her or his cache of mental snapshots.

    A good one, not necessarily the one, was during the series’ first two games down in Guelph, before one of the overtimes.

    “We were over in the corner and the teams switched ends for the playoffs,” says Len Baker, a soon-to-be Nipissing University graduate who was at Game 4 on Wednesday having accessorized his jersey with camo face paint, a green wig, green St. Patrick’s Day headband — anything green or gold. “And [captain] Barclay Goodrow, he came down and circled behind the net that the Guelph goalie was already in and he smiled and skated by us.

    “That was a special moment,” says Baker, who was in the crowd 20 years ago when the North Bay Centennials won the the OHL title. “Stuff like that, it makes us feel appreciated.”

    The bond between a hockey town and its beloveds goes two ways. The Battalion players seldom fail to mention how much they fed off their home crowd in the Memorial Gardens, which might have seen in its final game of this season on Wednesday night with the Guelph Storm’s rout that opened a 3-1 series lead. But the energy has also flowed back into town, and judging from an unscientific parking-lot census — 20-somethings and retirees tailgating side by side while parents led school-aged girls and boys toward the doors — it's galvanized the city.

    Read More »from Battalion fever ‘unprecedented’ for close-knit North Bay fans
  • OUA using RPI to solve its ‘Ottawa problem’ in basketball

    Ottawa's Mike L'Africain drives against Carleton's Phil Scrubb in the CIS final in March (The Canadian Press)Well, it is university and everyone should be able to do math.

    Any basketball junkie needs little introduction to RPI, or Ratings Percentage Index, the sometimes controversial metric used to "aid in the selecting and seeding of teams appearing" in March Madness. Ontario University Athletics, of course, now has a math problem, since 17 teams leaves it with a prime number. as always with university sport in Canada, there's an economic problem: no money and seemingly no way to attract that casual sports fan dollar, even with six Sportsnet feeds and soon-to-be five TSNs. Thirdly, after a season where city rivals Carleton and Ottawa met in the CIS men's gold-medal game while their division rival from Ryerson stayed home even though it was a Top 5 team, it has the problem that its two-division alignment might have been keeping it from sending its best teams to the Final 8.

    Hence a move that probably seems convoluted in theory, to think nothing of application. The OUA, in addition to going to a four-division format in a cost-saving move, is also going to use a modified version of RPI to determine its playoff matchups.

    Read More »from OUA using RPI to solve its ‘Ottawa problem’ in basketball
  • NHL draft tracker: Travis Sanheim, Calgary Hitmen

    Sanheim benefited from an extra midget season with the Yellowhead Chiefs (Brad Watson, Calgary Hitmen photo)Travis Sanheim, over the past two years, has gone from being the quintessential kid who could use an extra year of minor hockey to helping Canada capture a medal at the world under-18 championship.

    The latter might not have happened without the former. The certitude that the 6-foot-3, 181-pound Sanheim exhibited last month at the U18s, where he was effective in all three zones, owed to spending that extra winter back home with the Yellowhead Chiefs. The Elkhorn, Man., native was do-it-all defenceman on a team that punched above its weight in the Manitoba AAA midget ranks.

    "The best thing for me was to go back and play lots and play in all situations," says Sanheim, who is No. 53 on NHL Central Scouting's final domestic rankings but is likely going to be a late first or second-round pick in June. "If I was playing for Calgary as a 16-year-old, they had a really good team last year, and I probably would have been in and out of the lineup. I used the time to get stronger and faster, to come back to Calgary and jump into a key role.

    "We had a bunch of returning guys and a bunch of guys from my community, two sets of twins on the team including me and my brother [Taylor Sanheim]," Travis Sanheim adds. "We finished second on our side and had a chance to win every game, never got blown out. To come back and be a leader on a team that contended was really good."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Travis Sanheim, Calgary Hitmen
  • Guelph Storm’s Nick Ebert provides critical ingredient in Game 3 comeback

    Ebert came to the Spitfires in a blockbuster December trade (OHL Images)

    NORTH BAY, Ont. — Without Nick Ebert, the Guelph Storm would have woken up on Wednesday down 2-1 in the OHL final, pure and simple.

    Guelph, which got two goals in the final 30 seconds to nip the North Bay Battalion 4-3, mounted an offensive in the third period thanks to a timely tweak from coach Scott Walker. The Storm skipper put Ebert up on his first pairing with Toronto Maple Leafs signing and captain Matt Finn in order to generate more offence. That all culminated during the cliffhanger climax, when Ebert delivered an open-ice check just inside the blueline to keep the play in North Bay's zone, then whipped a point shot that Zack Mitchell deflected in for the tying goal. Nineteen seconds later, the Storm got the win.

    "I think they wanted to play me a bit more, and it worked out to be very good for us," said Ebert, an unsigned Los Angeles Kings 2012 draft choice. "We worked well together. I don't know if we'll do it next game, but all of us can play with anyone.

    "I was feeling good," said Ebert, who came to Guelph in the December blockbuster trade that also involved Kerby Rychel."My legs felt great, I was jumping into the play and I had a good two-way game. Hopefully I can continue to do that."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm’s Nick Ebert provides critical ingredient in Game 3 comeback
  • ‘Oshawa trio’ relishing OHL championship series coaching matchup

    Goodwin returned to OHL coaching this year after a 13-year absence (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)NORTH BAY, Ont. — John Goodwin's return to coaching in major junior has fostered a fun fact in this OHL final — three coaches who presided over the Oshawa Generals during the 1990s, all involved in one series.

    North Bay assistant coach Goodwin, back after a 13-year hiatus away from working in major junior hockey, previously worked under Battalion bench boss Stan Butler with the Gens from 1994-96. The following season, with Goodwin on staff under present-day Guelph Storm assistant coach Bill Stewart, the Generals won the J. Ross Robertson Cup. When Stewart departed for an AHL post, Goodwin stepped into the Gens' top job for three seasons; the Whitby, Ont., native then opted to focus on his family of three children and career with Ontario Power Generation, which he retired from last year.

    The tie that binds is Goodwin, at age 52, getting a second wind as an OHL coach.

    "It's great — I love it," Goodwin said on Tuesday night, 17 years to the day of the '97 Generals' OHL championship-clinching Game 6 overtime win over the Ottawa 67's. "During the six years I was in Oshawa I never gave up my job at Ontario Power Generation — Ontario Hydro at the time — just due to the fact that as a player I played six years pro and you're always looking for that next contract. I had three young children at the time and both me and my wife [Joanne] worked for OPG, so I wasn't ready to move away from them.

    Read More »from ‘Oshawa trio’ relishing OHL championship series coaching matchup

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