Neate Sager

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Neate Sager is a blogger for Yahoo! Sports.

  • Guelph Storm fill pre-final layoff with bowling and baseball

    Kosmachuk and the Storm are 19-4 in the post-season (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — Too much downtime can be a drawback.

    The bye earner at the Memorial Cup, at minimum, has at least three days off before playing the last game of a 90-some-game season that began in August. There's no way to know for sure if it can affect how a team plays in the final, but inside the bubble of a big event, there potential for too much idle time to throw a team off. For the Guelph Storm, at least it's only three days and they're only one hour from their home base.

    "I think we have to almost take our mind off it for a day or two, just relax and have fun," goalie Justin Nichols said on Friday morning. "We'll really dial it in [Saturday] and focus on what we need to do. We have to make sure we're not too serious and burn ourselves out before Sunday.

    "Our families are around and we're familiar with London," the St. Catharines, Ont., native added. "Me and Finner [captain Matt Finn], we went downtown for sushi the other night. It's not as bad as if we were out in Saskatoon or something like that."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm fill pre-final layoff with bowling and baseball
  • Young London Knights fans partake in the Memorial Cup fanfest (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — The patches of empty seats that one might see for Edmonton and Val-d'Or in the Memorial Cup semifinal on Friday are all the proof the tournament format is not about to change.

    No amount of idealistic inveighing against the figurative 'going through the back door' host team berth to enter the Memorial Cup changes one obvious reality. Major junior hockey is a local game built on local following. Those who vote with their hearts, feet and disposable income do so out of love for their team. The Canadian Hockey League has the numbers that back it up; it knows, for instance, that traffic on league websites drops sharply during the playoffs as team by team is eliminated from the playoffs.

    Why that is the case is something for a greater mind than I to tackle. It's the entrenched reality, and one wishes it would be acknowledged before the next time someone panders to popular sentiment by saying, after the fact, the host team didn't belong.

    Read More »from London Knights ‘worst on-ice Memorial Cup host ever,’ but that is no reason to change the format
  • London Knights’ exit creates buyers’ market for Memorial Cup tickets

    London salutes fans after being ousted on Wednesday (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — Even before the London Knights' ouster became official, fans were trying to get rid of their tickets.

    The bottom tends to fall out of the secondary ticket market at the Memorial Cup once the host team exits. At the start of the tournament, there was a buzz around the potential for the Knights to try to win the title after coming up short in the previous two tournaments. Once London bowed out with a 7-2 loss to the Guelph Storm, ads started popping up on the resale site Kijiji, with some pretty favourable prices.

    Read More »from London Knights’ exit creates buyers’ market for Memorial Cup tickets
  • Storm captain Matt Finn (right) clears the crease in front of Justin Nichols (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — They talked a big game in a way that almost un-hockey-like, and then backed it up by playing one.

    All too often, the truth in sports is surrounded by a forcefield of 'they have a great team too' clichés. The Guelph Storm didn't bother with the latter, running with the storyline about consigning the London Knights to their fate as the most feeble Memorial Cup host team in a decade. (Coach Scott Walker apparently drew the "rivalry is for your media guys" straw.) It might have seemed shocking to someone who had bought the dream of the Guelph gang being humble heroes. Instead, they put themselves out there, knowing how it might look if they let London off the deck.

    "Being confident, you have to follow through with it, you can't blow smoke," said right wing Scott Kosmachuk, who had a hat trick, including a first-period pair during the 7-2 Storm rout at Budweiser Gardens. "We're not going to let up on anyone. We're going to keep playing Guelph Storm hockey throughout the tournament.

    "We have a great coaching staff, they're always lifting us up and giving us the tools to compete," the Winnipeg Jets signing added. "We had a great compete level throughout the room tonight."

    Read More »from Guelph Storm bounce London Knights, again: ‘I think we had a lot of teams pulling for us tonight’
  • Reinhart and the Oil Kings lost control of their playoff destiny with Tuesday's loss (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — The Tall Poppy Syndrome is strong with this one.

    Prior to Tuesday night, Edmonton Oil Kings star defenceman Griffin Reinhart had not tweeted since posting a photo of himself with the WHL championship trophy after the Game 7 win in Portland. As a likely future NHL defenceman with a strong sense of responsibility, though, Reinhart had to see what was out there after he was on the ice for tying and overtime goals during the Oil Kings' loss to Val-d'Or on Tuesday. Sure enough, a lot of people on the Oil Kings bandwagon were picking nits with the big man's game. Reinhart lost the puck to Anthony Mantha on the equalizer and was on the ice for the breakaway winner, two little data points on a night where he logged 40 minutes.

    "A lot of fans do know the game, but they say spur-of-the-moment things," Reinhart said. "I don't read too much into it. It's kind of entertaining to me. They can do what they want. It's their lives. It's their Twitter.

    "You can see a lot of it at world juniors, it even magnifies that much more. Athletes are used to it. Even the best player in the world will get criticized."

    Reinhart deemed it necessary to comment on the venting, but knew it was just that, emotions being released by people who can't affect the outcome. Mitch Moroz, his teammate for four seasons, also did a tongue-in-check pile-on.

    Read More »from Edmonton Oil Kings’ Griffin Reinhart responds to social media criticism after loss to Foreurs
  • Aube-Kubel is NHL Central Scouting's 40th-ranked domestic skater (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — Two seasons ago, Nicolas Aubé-Kubel watched a Memorial Cup in his home province of Quebec and rooted for a team from the rest of Canada.

    It turns out that for all the hockey bloodlines in this tournament, with all of its Reinharts and Rychels, one family tie went under the radar. Aubé-Kubel, a potential NHL second-round pick, is a first cousin of former Oil Kings forward T.J. Foster, who played several of the present-day Edmontons on a 2012 WHL title-winning team. That meant the 18-year-old, who was born in Slake Lake, Alta., but moved to Sorel, Que., at age two with his mother Annie, a school teacher. So he cheered for Edmonton in '12 instead of Shawinigan.

    "All my family from Quebec was there and they were cheering for the Oil Kings," the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Aubé-Kubel says. "I was cheering for the Oil Kings and now I’m here against them.

    "It was special seeing my parents cheer for me [Tuesday]," the right wing added. "My dad, Douglas, he was Oil King proud, now he's a Foreur proud."

    Read More »from Foreurs’ Nicolas Aube-Kubel goes from cheering for Edmonton, to beating them at Memorial Cup
  • Moroz and the Oil Kings lost in double OT on Tuesday (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — Pro tip: hold off running with that The Curse of Chris Bruton column until the Edmonton Oil Kings have their date with destiny.

    Rationality would agree with Billy Ray Cyrus character in Friday Night Lights — "ain't no curses" — but one has to wonder at how the Oil Kings ended up in their current fix. There was Mads Eller's clearing attempt last Saturday that ricocheted into the net off the leg of Guelph's Kerby Rychel; Edmonton never scored again. On Tuesday, there was a triptych of terrible puck luck. The pass that hit a broken stick and put Val-d'Or's Pierre-Maxime Poudrier off to the races for a second-period shorty. An apparent missed icing that could have halted the play for the tying Foreurs goal. Lastly, Brett Pollock hit the crossbar in the second minute of the first overtime, and a puck skipped by Griffin Reinhart in the second OT to put Anthony Richard on a breakaway for the winner.

    Since the Memorial Cup is all about opportunism, this is the point where one mentions no Western Hockey League team has won since this happened.

    Read More »from Oil Kings hope ‘gross’ goals are behind them, as WHL champs need more puck luck
  • Guelph’s Chadd Bauman suspended for Memorial Cup final

    Bauman will be replaced in Guelph's lineup by Marc Stevens (OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — It wasn't reckless or dangerous, but Chadd Bauman's knee-on-knee contact with Val-d'Or defenceman Guillaume Gélinas was caused by carelessness.

    While Gélinas is trying to heal in time to play in Friday's semifinal, Bauman has been suspended for Sunday's final. It's a pretty easy call for the Canadian Hockey League. The onus is on the forechecking player to adapt to the puck carrier's sudden movement, and as Guelph Mercury beat writer Tony Saxon pointed out: "The quick defenceman made an evasive move, Bauman couldn't adjust quickly enough."

    Read More »from Guelph’s Chadd Bauman suspended for Memorial Cup final
  • Anthony Richard’s OT winner caps a classic this Memorial Cup needed

    Anthony Richard celebrates his double-OT winner (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — When you the name Richard and wear No. 9 in Quebec, clearly you're meant to decide a game that affirmed what's great about the Memorial Cup.

    Truth be known, for nearly two periods Edmonton and Val-d'Or engaged in a protracted feeling-out process that only added to the vibe this tournament has been rather dry and bland, too corporate, too much gap between Guelph and everyone else. Then it picked up, with a disputed overtime-forcing goal, a pinged crossbar in the first breaths of bonus hockey, and finally, 5-foot-8, 168-pound Richard ending it 1:15 into double overtime. Lukewarm start, sizzling finish, one team getting the final bounce: that's major junior hockey.

    Read More »from Anthony Richard’s OT winner caps a classic this Memorial Cup needed
  • Val-d'Or celebrates its first goal of the night (Aaron Bell, OHL Images)

    LONDON, Ont. — Val-d'Or started the night with star defenceman Guillaume Gélinas in a suit. Then it gave up two quick goals to a foe with a reputation for shutdown hockey.

    Yet it beat the Edmonton Oil Kings 4-3 in double overtime, earning a spot in the Memorial Cup semifinal in front of 8,745 fans at Budweiser Gardens. More pertinently, it grants Val-d'Or an extra day for Gélinas to make it back from the contusion above his left knee that he sustained Monday.

    "It was a hard time for me because I wanted to play and I tried very hard to play," Gélinas, now off crutches, said after the game. "It was too hard on one leg.

    "I'm going to be fine for Friday; it's only pain," added Gélinas, who was kneed by Guelph's Chadd Bauman on Monday.

    Read More »from Val-d’Or Foreurs’ win grants Guillaume Gelinas time to heal: ‘I’m going to be fine for Friday; it’s only pain’

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