Category Archives: CHL

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Halifax Mooseheads’ Samuel Asselin Asserts Dominance at Memorial Cup

HALIFAX– Samuel Asselin loves to score. Particularly on stages where expectations and stakes are an all-time high. The Halifax Mooseheads forward, who generated 48 goals and 38 assists in the regular season, continued to impress on the Memorial Cup stage, tallying a goal and an assist in his team’s 4-1 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders.

Given the shortness of the tournament, Asselin knows the importance of winning the first game of the Memorial Cup.

“It’s huge,” said Asselin after the game. “The first win, get the monkey off your back and I think that’s what we did.”
Samuel Asselin Goal Scoring Ability an Asset in QMJHL
It was clear from early on that Samuel Asselin would be a stellar hockey player. A native of L’Assomption, Quebec, Asselin would be drafted to the Shawnigan Cataractes, after a promising Triple AAA career. In his early years with Shawnigan, the young forward possessed high hockey IQ, setting up his teammates with scoring opportunities.

But there was doubt whether Asselin, only 5’10, could become a prolific scorer. Prompting a trade from Shawnigan to Acadie-Bathurst Titan, halfway through the 2017-18 QMJHL season. It was his experience playing with the Titan where Asselin transformed from a role player into one of the best scorers in the QMJHL.

During Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s run to the QMJHL Championship, Asselin generated three goals and eight assists. This momentum translated to the Memorial Cup, where Asselin put together six points (five goals, one assist) including the game-winning goal to give the Titan its first Memorial Cup in franchise history. This performance, in front of a plethora of scouts and raucous junior hockey fans, caught the attention of Halifax Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell, who brought Asselin into his team at the start of this season.

“He’s such a complete player,” Russell noted. “He’s a competitor. He brings a level of skill that I think is underrated. He plays big in big games and provides great leadership. To add Samuel to the mix was important for us.”
Samuel Asselin’s Veteran Experience Will Help Halifax at Memorial Cup
Samuel Asselin is currently undrafted with the NHL. He was invited last year to the Columbus Blue Jackets training camp but failed to sign a contract. After leading the QMJHL scoring this season, Asselin hopes that a solid Memorial Cup performance will enable his career trajectory to the NHL.

Before being traded to Halifax, Asselin’s career high in goals was 17. But a switch in the lineup from Halifax Mooseheads’ head coach Eric Veilleux, moving Asselin to the first line, propelled the 20-year-old prospect to generate more offense.

“After Christmas, I had no choice but to move him to the first line,” said Veilleux. “A big addition for our team.”

The Mooseheads are the host team at this year’s Memorial Cup and are no stranger to success at this tournament. In 2013, led by Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, Halifax earned the holy grail of junior hockey. Now, Halifax is looking to continue the momentum, after beating the WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders, who advanced to the Memorial Cup with a Game 7 overtime victory.

“Confidence is key,” said Asselin. “I had my chances every year I just didn’t put the puck in. This year everything I touched went in.”

 

 The post Halifax Mooseheads’ Samuel Asselin Asserts Dominance at Memorial Cup appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Guelph Storm Complete Historical Comeback, Crowned OHL Champions

GUELPH– Not many thought it was possible. If a team was given what the Guelph Storm had to endure this OHL Playoffs, the odds were slim. But the 2018-19 Guelph Storm isn’t just any other team. They epitomize perseverance, determination and conquering adversity on another pedestal. In three consecutive series, they experienced deficits. Two of those were on the brink of elimination.

But this pesky Guelph team never gave up. The Storm surged when their backs were against the wall. And now, they are on top of the Ontario Hockey League, claiming the J. Ross Robertson Cup for the fourth time in their franchise history by dethroning the Ottawa 67’s in six games.

“I can’t put this into words,” said Isaac Ratcliffe, who had two goals and two assists in the 8-3 rout of the Ottawa 67’s in Game 6. “The resiliency from this team is unbelievable, none that I haven’t seen before. I’ve never played for a team with this much skill, class and character.”
Guelph Storm Battled Adversity All Playoffs, Including Game 6 Against Ottawa

Every OHL season has its ups and downs. Whether it’s a slump during the regular season or being down in a playoff series, the adversity that a junior hockey team faces is integral in building character and toughness.

This is the Guelph Storm mantra. Against the Western Conference leading London Knights they were down 3-0. In the Western Conference Final against the Saginaw Spirit they were down 3-1. Finally, the OHL Championship presented its own challenges, as the Ottawa 67’s took a 2-0 series lead.

But the experience of coming back to win against London and Saginaw proved to be vital for Guelph. In the final four games of the OHL Championship, the Storm would outscore the 67’s 23 to 13. The final two games saw the Ottawa 67’s have early leads.

On the brink of elimination, Ottawa scored two goals to open Game 6, putting doubt and silence throughout Sleeman Centre. But the Storm players never wavered. After being outshot in the first period 13 to 12, Guelph began to surge in the second period, winning the puck battles and creating scoring chances. After the 67’s missed on two wide open nets to put the game out of reach, Guelph would score five unanswered goals, two of which came from their captain Isaac Ratcliffe, and one from Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki.

It is this belief in each other and the veteran leadership that enables the Storm to have success coming back from any deficit.

“We had a nice response in the second period,” said Burnett. “Being behind in two series helped us when we were down tonight. We stayed patient and we were able to find the puck to generate offence.”
 
The Storm Surges to Halifax for the Memorial Cup

Not only was Isaac Ratcliffe a pillar for this Storm team, but also the players Guelph acquired at the trade deadline. Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, after acquiring him from the Owen Sound Attack, generated 42 points this postseason (16 goals, 26 assists). This earned the young forward the Wayne Gretzky Trophy for MVP of the OHL Playoffs.

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mackenzie Entwistle, after being traded from the Hamilton Bulldogs, used his veteran leadership to be a pivotal asset for the Guelph Storm. Playing alongside Ratcliffe and Suzuki in Game 6, Entwistle was a +2 with one assist, adding to his seven goals and 14 assists for the entire postseason.

With Guelph’s fourth OHL Championship in franchise history, the team now prepares for its next challenge. The Memorial Cup, the holy grail of junior hockey, is up for grabs and the Storm will look to continue its hot streak playing alongside the best junior hockey teams in Canada. For these youngsters, it’s an opportunity to showcase their gifted offensive abilities on an even bigger stage.

“For me to have another chance to play for a Memorial Cup, I am so excited,” says Entwistle.
 
Two years ago, a championship seemed like an unattainable concept. But through hard work and a devoted ambition to be better, the sunny skies turned to clouds. And the clouds turned into a Storm that has now surged to the top of the Ontario Hockey League.

This team isn’t ready to give that up just yet.
The post Guelph Storm Complete Historical Comeback, Crowned OHL Champions appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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St. Louis Blues Prospect Alexei Toropchenko Shines for Guelph Storm

Alexei Toropchenko has taken notice of his drafted NHL team. Early Wednesday morning, the St. Louis Blues would secure a dramatic Game 7 victory over the Dallas Stars in double overtime. The 31-year-old Patrick Maroon would instantly become a hockey hero in St. Louis, scoring the goal that would send the Blues to the Western Conference Final.

695 miles away, at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ontario, an investment into the St. Louis Blues future will be taking the ice. Blues prospect Alexei Toropchenko, has been the anchor for the Guelph Storm offence, scoring four goals the past two games in the OHL Championship Series. His two goals in Game 3 propelled the Guelph Storm to defeat the Ottawa 7-2, handing the 67’s their first loss of this OHL postseason.

And for Storm head coach George Burnett, it’s now a whole new series for his team, leading up to Game 4 at home.

“It was important for us to respond in Game 3,” said Storm coach George Burnett. “When we look at the tape from Games 1 and 2, particularly from Game 2 where we had a chance to win the hockey game, our energy was low. I thought our energy was high (Monday). We did get some bounces, but that comes with a lot of hard work.”
Alexei Toropchenko Keeps Legacy of Late Father Alive with Stellar Hockey
Before becoming a pivotal forward for the Guelph Storm, Alexei Toropchenko grew up in Russia. His Father, Leonid Toropchenko, played professional hockey in Russia and spent two seasons in Springfield and Cleveland, competing in the American Hockey League. Like his Dad, Alexei possessed deep aspirations of playing professional hockey. It is why he made the ultimate sacrifice to travel across the ocean to North America, when he got selected by the Guelph Storm, in order to make his hockey dreams become reality.

“I got a grasp of hockey in North America,” says Toropchenko. “Also, I have learned English, which is helpful. (Teammate and best friend Dimitri Samorukov) and I have English classes twice a week so now I understand more and can speak better.”

Life in North America was an adjustment for young Toropchenko. He had to adapt to the English language. Alexei was away from family, the people that provided him stability and support. The young forward’s ability to conquer personal adversity would be put to the test when Leonid passed away with a sudden heart attack. It was a loss that shook Alexei to the core, but it provided an opportunity for his Mom, Julia, to come be with him in Canada. Having his Mother close to Alexei was pivotal in his improved performance towards the end of last season. But as coach Burnett alludes, Toropchenko always exhibited sound hockey skills.

“His work and his compete and his hustle and willingness to block shots and cycle the puck and protect the puck, there are a lot of things that are good there,” affirms Burnett.  
Guelph Storm Offense Leading Comeback Charge in OHL Championship Series
With the win Monday night, the Guelph Storm are back in the OHL Championship Series. This pesky team has gelled with the offensive success of Alexei Toropchenko, along with Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe and Mackenzie Entwistle, who each got two goals in Game 3. Toropchenko’s ability to create havoc in front of the net, as well as using his length and speed to create matchup problems, makes him an offensive force on the ice.

It is these qualities that attracted the St. Louis Blues to draft Toropchenko in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. In late 2018, a few months removed from his Father’s passing, young Alexei would sign his first NHL contract.

While his NHL affiliate St. Louis Blues are looking to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1970, their young prospect Alexei Toropchenko is looking to tie the series in the OHL Championship. In back to back series, the Guelph Storm have come back from series deficits to win consecutive Game 7’s on the road. Their belief in themselves to have the ability to come back is felt throughout the locker room, particularly with Alexei Toropchenko.

With 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points during the regular season, count on Alexei Toropchenko to provide more postseason magic, for a Guelph Storm team looking to etch themselves into the annals of junior hockey history.The post St. Louis Blues Prospect Alexei Toropchenko Shines for Guelph Storm appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Ottawa 67’s Goalie Cedrick Andree Propels Team to OHL History

OTTAWA– For the Ottawa 67’s this postseason, their mantra has been “No Quit.” It’s not just a convenient hashtag. It’s a mindset that the Ottawa 67’s adapted in Game 2 in their OHL Championship Series against the Guelph Storm.

The Guelph Storm were pouncing on the league-leading 67’s early on. With two goals from Alexey Toropchenko and Keegan Stevenson in the span of a minute, the Storm was looking to surge their way to secure Game 2. To make matters worse for Ottawa, their starting goalie, Vancouver Canucks prospect Michael DiPietro, went down with a lower-body injury and was done for the game.

Enter 18-year-old Cedrick Andree. The Ottawa 67’s goalie who had 34 wins, a 2.48 goals-against average and a 0.91 save percentage this season, came in relief and stole the show. Generating 26 saves and surviving the onslaught of chances from Guelph in the third period, Andree would propel his team to history. With the Game 2 win Saturday afternoon, the Ottawa 67’s become the first team in OHL history to go 14-0 to start the playoffs.

A moment that young Cedric will never forget.

“I always say one thing in my head: watch the puck,” said Andree after the game. “While the fan support was awesome, I was tuning it out as best I can to watch the puck and make big saves for my team.”
Cedrick Andree Patiently Waited for His Moment And Got It
Getting over 8,000 fans to chant your name was not in the cards for Cedrick Andree. There was a moment, where he was considering leaving the game of hockey altogether.

Growing up as a Dutch Canadian in the town of Orleans, Andree dreamt of the opportunity to sport the red and white jersey of the Ottawa 67’s. But he did not grow up in a family that eats and breathes hockey. His father was a skier, and that influence to pursue competitive skiing weighed on young Cedrick. But when the goalie got selected to play for the Cumberland Jr. grads, he solely focused on the game of hockey. And the rest is history.

In 2016, Andree was a 12th round pick in the OHL Draft. He joined the Ottawa 67’s in the 2017-2018 season, only to finish the season with a 1-10 record as the backup goalie. This adversity did not hinder Cedrick. He invested tremendous time and energy to get better and to improve. This season, with being one of a handful of OHL goalies to get over 30 wins, Andree proved that not giving up was well worth the obstacle-ridden journey.

“I never thought I could play competitive hockey at this level,” stated Andree.
Cedrick Andree Shines in Relief for Ottawa 67’s
It’s never easy for a goalie of Cedrick Andree’s caliber to hear that they are going to be a backup. But Andree never complained or whined about his position. He was a teacher and a supportive teammate for DiPietro, allowing him to transition effortlessly into the Ottawa 67’s locker room. It is no wonder why Ottawa 67’s head coach Andre Tourigny is proud of his two stellar goalies.

“We have great depth in net. Two number one goalies,” said Tourigny after Game 2. “Cedrick is a top CHL goalie. He proved it again today the quality of goaltender he is.”

When Andree was substituted into the net, the Ottawa 67’s immediately galvanized. They started playing their physical brand of hockey. Four different 67’s scored goals today, including Dallas Stars prospect Tye Felhaber and San Jose Sharks prospect Sasha Chmelevski. Despite only registering nine shots on net in the second period, the Guelph Storm picked up their play in the third period. Their intensity and ability to win faceoffs meant that Cedrick Andree was facing more shots on goal.

In the dying minutes of the third, Andree made not one, but two, remarkable, championship worthy saves. Sending TD Place in Ottawa into a frenzy. It is the kind of saves in big games that a young kid would dream of. For Cedrick, he was able to make his dream become a reality.

“After the first save, I was shocked I got it,” said Andree. “There was puck luck on my side. I found a way to make those saves. It was pretty special to hear all the fans chanting my name and to have the support of my teammates.”

The 67’s, fresh off of making history, head to Guelph hoping to take a commanding 3-0 series lead. The Storm is looking to repeat the recent history of coming back from series deficits. For Cedrick Andree, his goal is to help his team win. And with the way he performed under tremendous pressure on Saturday afternoon, perhaps a Memorial Cup is in his sights in the not too distant future.The post Ottawa 67’s Goalie Cedrick Andree Propels Team to OHL History appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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San Jose Sharks Prospect Sasha Chmelevski Relishing in OHL Final

OTTAWA– The Ottawa 67’s and San Jose Sharks have been on similar paths. While one organization may be junior and the professional, they share the common joy of competing in their respective postseasons. And since 2017, the Sharks have invested into young forward Sasha Chmelevski, drafting him and watching him develop with the 67’s. In Game 1 of the OHL Championship Series, Chmelevski was a star on the ice. He got the scoring going for Ottawa in the first period. He would eventually generate two goals, propelling the 67’s to a 7-2 victory over the Guelph Storm. Despite taking nine penalties, Chmelevski was ecstatic with his team’s ability to handle the pressure of playing in a Championship series.

“The best thing about this team is we always live in the present,” said Chmelevski after the game. “We did a good job responding to adversity. You don’t just win 13 games by accident.”
Chmelevski Has Showcased Offensive Abilities Since OHL Draft
Sasha Chmelevski isn’t your ordinary hockey story. He didn’t grow up in the snowy hills or frozen ponds of Canada. Instead, he was born in Huntington Beach, California, a place marked by sunny skies and surfing.

Growing up in California could present an obstacle to breaking into hockey. But not for Chmelevski. From early on, Sasha demonstrated tremendous ability to break out into the offensive zone. His stick handling and ability to control the puck are second to none, and from an early age, he showed an affinity to score goals. This is what attracted the Sarnia Sting to initially draft the young forward in the 2015 OHL Draft. But 29 games played with the Sting, Chmelevski struggled to adjust to the pace and physicality of the OHL. Only generating nine goals and eight assists, the Sting traded Chemlevski to the Ottawa 67’s.

A move that according to Sasha’s Father, Tal, made all the difference for the forward to become a prolific scorer in the league.

“Ah, Ottawa has been very good to us,” Tal said. “Sasha is having a blast here.”
Chmelevski Relishing Opportunity to Help Ottawa 67’s Win OHL Championship
It appears that the choice to draft Sasha Chmelevski has paid off for the San Jose Sharks. Last season, Chmelevski has a career-high 76 points for the 67’s (35 goals, 41 assists), earning him a chance to play six games for the Sharks’ AHL affiliate squad. This season was a mirror to last year, generating 35 goals and 40 assists in 56 games. Despite a slower start to the season, Ottawa 67’s coach Andre Tourigny has been impressed with Chmelevski’s development offensively and defensively.

“He’s not a fast starter, but this year he took over a little bit earlier,” said Tourigny. “It was in late November when he started getting the points like he is now.

“The big thing about Sasha is his best asset can be the worst enemy as well. His best asset, for me, is his competitiveness. You play ping pong with Sasha, and if he loses, he will want to fight. At the start of the year, he was pushing a lot to get points.”

When it has mattered most, Chmelevski has risen to the expectations. This postseason, where the Ottawa 67’s have gone a perfect 13-0 thus far, Sasha has eight goals and 17 assists in 23 games played. In Game 1 of the OHL Championship Series against the Storm, Chmelevski scored the game’s first goal and was an anchor on an Ottawa 67’s powerplay that generated four goals.

With his stellar play in the OHL Playoffs, Chmelevski will likely have a full-time role for the San Jose Sharks AHL team, the San Jose Barracuda. The San Jose Sharks are currently in the heart of the NHL Playoffs, looking to advance to their second Western Conference Final in four years. For Sasha Chmelevski, his sole focus is helping the Ottawa 67’s qualify to the CHL Memorial Cup in Halifax. And to emulate the performance of his current NHL team in the playoffs.

 The post San Jose Sharks Prospect Sasha Chmelevski Relishing in OHL Final appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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Season-Long Domination vs. Come Back: An OHL Championship Preview

The 2019 OHL Championship Series is a battle of contrasts. A team marked by season-long domination taking on a team entrenched with the come back mantra. The Ottawa 67’s, a franchise who is undefeated this postseason, are taking on the Guelph Storm, an organization who has won back to back game 7’s on the road.

While both teams have taken starkly different journeys to get to the Final, it doesn’t diminish what’s at stake. For both Ottawa and Guelph, not only is it a spot in the annals of junior hockey history. But an opportunity to compete among the best junior teams in Canada at the Memorial Cup in Halifax.

After a long, grueling season that began in September, it’s time to drop the puck on what should be a thrilling OHL Championship Series.
Ottawa 67’s Relying on Consistent Dominance in OHL Championship
From early on in the season, the Ottawa 67’s were the best team in the OHL. Finishing the season with a league-leading 106 points, the 67’s were in a class of their own, led by forwards Tye Felhaber and Austen Keating, as well as Vancouver Canucks goalie prospect Michael DiPietro. Felhaber, who went from being undrafted to signing an NHL contract with the Stars, was third in the OHL in scoring with 109 points (59 goals, 50 assists). Keating would be the primary winger to set up Felhaber consistently throughout the season, racking up 22 goals and 67 assists.

But it was when the 67’s acquired goalie Mikey DiPietro in a trade with the Windsor Spitfires, when Ottawa became a legitimate championship contender. DiPietro led the season in goals against average (2.40) and was third in save percentage (0.911). Having these star players, as well as a deep roster, has allowed Ottawa 67’s coach Andre Tourigny to implement a strategy of physicality and speed on the ice.

“Our guys are hard-working guys,” Tourigny said. “They practiced hard every day during the season, and we didn’t change our approach in the playoffs. The biggest thing is to stay physical during practice. You don’t want bad habits.”
Ottawa 67’s Using Flooding Emergency as Unifying Moment
As the Ottawa 67’s embark on this championship series, they are looking to make OHL history. Currently 12-0, the 67’s have swept the Hamilton Bulldogs, Sudbury Wolves and Oshawa Generals en route to the Final, and are one win away from breaking the record for longest consecutive playoff winning streak.

But the city of Ottawa is currently dealing with severe flooding. People in the surrounding cities and towns have been forced to leave their homes. What may seem like adversity has provided a bonding opportunity for the 67’s players to help the community.

“We do a lot of community service,” stated Tourigny. “When I presented the idea to our leadership of helping the community they were happy for us to contribute.”

A couple days ago, several Ottawa 67’s players and coaching personnel were critical in providing support and help in the flooding recovery effort. From lifting sandbags to interacting with Ottawa citizens, this team is providing hope and optimism for a city ravaged with destruction and uncertainty.

“These players stay on the ball. Even if they have success, they have fun together,” says Tourigny. “Many of the players stayed around longer, helping with sandbags. Sure, we want to win a hockey game. But when you help the community and do good things, the impact goes much farther.”
The Storm of Guelph is Filled with Comebacks
When Isaac Ratcliffe was drafted to the Guelph Storm two years ago, he had high hopes that playing in the OHL would accelerate his hockey development. While Ratcliffe was improving his high hockey IQ and creating scoring opportunities, unfortunately the Storm did not make the playoffs in his first two seasons.

For Ratcliffe, the even-tempered Philadelphia Flyers prospect finally released his emotions, after the Storm captured their second consecutive Game 7 against the Saginaw Spirit. To make his first OHL Championship Series has made the journey even more special.

“Coming into the OHL I didn’t know what to expect,” said Ratcliffe. “We knew two years ago that this would be our year. To see us improve and to stick by this team all the way, it means a lot. We aren’t done yet.”

Guelph Storm Head Coach and General Manager George Burnett should be credited for bringing in the quality players that provided the impetus for this playoff run. Chicago Blackhawks prospect Mackenzie Entwistle has provided solid big-game experience for the Storm, generating 15 goals and 15 assists in 28 games played. Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, also acquired at the deadline, has been the anchor for Guelph’s offence in the postseason, leading the OHL with 31 points.

“It’s his IQ,” Tourigny affirmed. “If you give him something, he will make the right decision. For us, it will be important to play him right (and to) be on the right side of the puck against him. It will be a good challenge.”
Prediction: Expect a Highly Competitive Series
The Guelph Storm have already made history. No team has come back in back-to-back series, down 3-0 and 3-1 respectively, and win them both on the road. But their toughest test ahead is against the Ottawa 67’s, a team that is physically built and conditioned to endure a potentially long Championship series.

“Pretty crazy series to go down like we did and need Game 7 again,” said Ratcliffe, who has 21 points in 18 playoff games. “We hope we can bring that to the next series against a strong Ottawa team.”

Ottawa hasn’t faced a team that is deep in the forward position as Guelph. It will take a full team effort for the 67’s to slow down the offensive onslaught of Ratcliffe, Suzuki and Entwistle. But in junior hockey, solid goal-tending often is the difference in a short series. While DiPietro has been superb, Guelph needs a strong performance from goalie Anthony Popovich, who is ranked 7th in goals against average (2.87) and tenth in save percentage (0.902).

For both teams, they are looking to add another championship banner to their rafters. The 67’s haven’t won the J. Ross Robertson Trophy since 2001; for the Guelph Storm, it was 2014. The series will be highly competitive and feature high-quality, stellar junior hockey.

While the Storm’s postseason run has been nothing short of spectacular, the Ottawa 67’s have been on a whole other level this entire season. The Final will be close, but I see the 67’s clinching it and advancing to the franchise’s sixth Memorial Cup.

Prediction: Ottawa 67’s in six games.The post Season-Long Domination vs. Come Back: An OHL Championship Preview appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


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