Category Archives: Hockey

  • 0

Toronto Marlies Fall to Belleville Senators in Boxing Day Classic

Tags :

Category : AHL , Hockey , Toronto Marlies

TORONTO– The Toronto Marlies could not carry over the good tidings from Christmas into Boxing Day.

In the annual “Boxing Day Classic” at Scotiabank Arena, the Marlies would fall to their local rival Belleville Senators 3-2. This is the second win for the Senators against the Marlies this season, after losing to Toronto 7-3 last Saturday.

The Senators would start the scoring, with center Josh Norris recording his 14th goal of the season. The Marlies would deliver a comeback present for the 14,596 fans, scoring two unanswered goals. Kenny Agostino would score his 16th goal of the season from a Jeremy Bracco cross-ice pass. In the second period, Adam Brooks would capitalize on the power play with his eighth goal of the season, giving the Marlies their first lead of the game.

But the Senators weren’t interested in receiving “coal in their stocking” in the form of two consecutive losses. Captain Jordan Szwarz got a tip-in goal on the powerplay, followed up by a Jack Dougherty short-handed goal (his second of the season). Despite a plethora of Marlies scoring chances in the third, the Senators would hold on, securing the victory bow.
***
The Toronto Marlies fall to 18-8-2-1 on the season. Thursday’s Boxing Day contest was Marlies head coach Greg Moore’s second game behind the bench. The Marlies hired Moore from the Chicago Steel to replace Sheldon Keefe when he got the promotion to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Marlies have yet to win a game at Scotiabank Arena this season. Their first game at the home of the Maple Leafs was a 5-3 loss to the Utica Comets in support of “Hockey Fights Cancer.”

The Marlies’ contest against the Senators was their first of three straight games. They travel on the road to take on the Laval Rocket on Friday and Saturday.The post Toronto Marlies Fall to Belleville Senators in Boxing Day Classic appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

Dylan Holloway Looking to Excel with Wisconsin after World Junior Camp

OAKVILLE, Ont.– When Tony Granato first saw Dylan Holloway at the Chicago Steel camp two years ago, he was unequivocally astonished. 

“Holy cow,” said Granato, describing the first time he laid eyes on Holloway. “You watch him one shift and he’s special.” 

Granato is currently the head coach of the University of Wisconsin Badgers hockey team. Holloway, two years later after his astounding Steel camp, is now a rising star forward on the Badgers squad. With three goals and four assists in 17 games this season, Holloway earned a spot on Team Canada’s World Junior Selection Camp. The 18-year-old was one of nine draft-eligible prospects to attend the camp, demonstrating the profound depth of the 2020 class. 

“It’s such an honour to be selected for the Selection Camp,” said Holloway. “Growing up, the World Juniors was so important to me. Being around guys who have been drafted or will be selected this year, has allowed me to bounce questions off of them. It’s been a great experience.”
***
Seeing him at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex in Oakville, Ontario, Holloway possesses the power forward brand to his game. Playing alongside Anaheim Ducks prospect Benoit-Olivier Groulx and Edmonton Oilers draft pick Raphael Lavoie, Holloway showcased his nifty puck-handling skills and his ability to get to the front of the net with ease. But it is his speed that has impressed scouts and coaches alike, particularly his tendency to use cross-overs to fly past opposing defenders. 

“He’s impressed with his speed,” said Team Canada World Junior Head Coach Dale Hunter. “He’s skating well through the neutral zone and getting on the forecheck with his size. A combination of a good power forward.” 

In the overtime session during the first selection camp game against U Sports, Holloway used his hard wrist shot, which bounced through traffic into the back of the net. But when the time came to reduce the roster, Holloway would not be included in the final team. 

The young forward would be one of nine players cut from Canada’s World Junior team. It is unfortunate news that no player wants to hear, being stripped of a chance to wear the red and white jersey in representing Team Canada. For Holloway, he has fond memories growing up learning the game from his Dad and watching the World Juniors with his family. 

“There was an outdoor rink in the small town where I grew up,” said Holloway. “I would go out there all the time with my Dad, who taught me how to skate. He has been a big help for my hockey career thus far.” 
***
Holloway is a native of Bragg Creek, Alberta, just outside of Calgary. Son of former Vancouver Canucks player Bruce Holloway, Dylan credits his Dad for being an integral influence in him getting into hockey. 

The young prospect would get his first hockey experience playing for the Calgary Jr. Flames organization. It was there where Holloway played alongside future Ottawa Senators prospect Jonny Tychonick, providing a glimpse of the hard work needed to progress in his hockey career. 

After his time with the Jr. Flames, Holloway signed with the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL. This is where the Calgary native’s ceiling as a hockey player enhanced, highlighting his dual power forward and scoring abilities. In his final season with the Oilers, Holloway recorded 40 goals and 48 assists. Catching the attention of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL, who picked the forward in the 2016 WHL Draft.

While Holloway could have elected to stay in Canada and play junior hockey, he elected to go the NCAA route, committing to the University of Wisconsin. As a member of the Badgers, Holloway has been afforded the opportunity to play with highly touted NHL prospects such as Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) and Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings).

According to Coach Granato, it reflects highly on the character of Dylan and his family to “combine education with hockey.”

“Fortunately, we were able to talk with him early and show him our campus and program,” said Granato. “Dylan was one of those guys that when we saw him, we knew he could be a program changer, inspiring other kids from Alberta who has similar ideas to commit to the NCAA.” 
***
Granato describes a game earlier in the season where Holloway encompassed all of his intrinsic hockey qualities. Despite the Badgers losing 4-0 to the Clarkson Golden Knights on October 25th, Holloway had seven breakaway chances in the first period alone. Granato says that it was a game for Holloway to “gain the confidence that he can not just play at this level but also the NHL.” 

“He’s a competitor,” said Bruce Holloway, who accompanied Dylan to all of his World Junior Selection Camp practices. “If you ask him to be put in as a goalie, he would put on the pads and do it.” 

It is not the first time that Holloway has been left off of a major international team. In 2017, the youngster was left off of Canada’s national U-17 camp roster. While disappointment can quash a player’s confidence, Holloway used it as motivation to secure a spot on future Canadian teams. 

A year later, Holloway represented Team Canada at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, where he recorded one goal and two assists in three games. He was also selected to play for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge, where he posted two goals in the tournament, including one against Team USA that secured Canada’s gold medal victory. 


***
It is these challenges that Holloway relishes and as he heads back to the University of Wisconsin, the Badgers coaching staff is eager to watch him be a more motivated, complete player after the selection camp. 

“It will motivate him big time,” said Badgers Associate Head Coach Mark Strobel on Holloway not making the World Junior team. “He will look at it as an honour and people see him in a strong light. He’s going to come back even hungrier and more willing to prove the critics wrong.”

As Holloway prepares for the second half of the season with the Badgers, he is still ranked as a potential first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Emulating his performance at the Chicago Steel camp, expect Holloway to turn more heads as he skates his way to the professional hockey realm. 
The post Dylan Holloway Looking to Excel with Wisconsin after World Junior Camp appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

Alexis LaFreniere Preparing for Leadership Role on World Junior Team

OAKVILLE– Alexis LaFreniere is itching to get back on the ice.

While the rest of Canada’s World Junior hopefuls were taking part in practices, LaFreniere was putting in a ton of work on the bike. For the last few weeks, the Rimouski Oceanic forward has been nursing an ankle injury. It forced him to miss the QMJHL’s games against the Russians in the Canada/Russia series. And for the entirety of World Junior Selection Camp, including practices and games against U Sports, LaFreniere has been on the sidelines.

On Thursday morning, the 18-year-old met with the media for the first time during camp. When asked about his injury, LaFreniere was pleased with his recovery, saying that the ankle is getting better day by day.

“It’s gotten better over the last couple of days,” said LaFreniere. “They don’t want me to push too much on it. I am excited to be back on the ice soon.”
***
While LaFreniere has not been on the ice, he has been integral behind the scenes. With three 17-year-olds at camp, LaFreniere has served as a mentor, introducing them to one of the most celebrated traditions in hockey.

It was just one year ago where LaFreniere was that young, inexperienced future star playing in his inaugural World Juniors. While a quarterfinal exit on home soil in Vancouver was not what he had desired, the Saint-Eustache native inherited a wealth of knowledge that he can translate into veteran leadership on this year’s team.

“Big experience last year,” said LaFreniere. “I can take that to help me this year and to have a bigger role. It’s important for the younger guys to enjoy it, have fun and work hard.”

One of those young players who LaFreniere has interacted with is Sudbury Wolves forward Quinton Byfield. Similar to LaFreniere, Byfield has generated a lot of buzz with his high level of play, currently second in the OHL in scoring (57 points). While Byfield and LaFreniere will be compared and debated regarding who should be the number one pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the two have put that aside to focus on making an impact on the World Junior team. Despite the two playing in different leagues, LaFreniere and Byfield welcome the opportunity to be on the same team and to learn from each other.

“Quinton played great last game,” said LaFreniere. “He’s a big guy, who is exciting to watch. It is fun to have him here. To eventually being able to skate with him is going to be fun.”

“He’s a busy guy so it’s hard to talk to him,” said Byfield. “But we’ve said hi a couple of times and it is great to have him here.”
***
Even with a lingering ankle injury, LaFreniere has been dominant in the QMJHL. His 23 goals, 47 assists (70 points) lead not just the Quebec league but the entire Canadian Hockey League. When watching his performance with Rimouski, it is evident LaFreniere has progressed with his puck handling ability and tendency to get in front of the net to create traffic. While he is a pass-first forward, the youngster has improved his shot, making him a dynamic offensive talent that is NHL ready.

While the heightened attention regarding his NHL draft status will come in due time, LaFreniere has a huge opportunity in front of him. When the time comes for LaFreniere to hit the ice again, the highly touted prospect is ready to embrace a leadership role on this team.

Looking to bring Canada back to the golden promise land. The post Alexis LaFreniere Preparing for Leadership Role on World Junior Team appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

Injuries, Goalies, Team Identity: Day 2 World Junior Selection Camp Recap

OAKVILLE— Canada’s World Junior hopefuls reached another checkpoint in the Selection Camp process.

Now having completed the doubleheader of practices on Tuesday, the team is now ready to embark on actual games between U Sports on Wednesday and Thursday. A chance for the Canadian selectees to apply the skills and knowledge gained in practice into an actual contest.

Day 2 of the World Junior Selection Camp was filled with a lot of firsts. It was the first time highly touted Sudbury Wolves prospect Quinton Byfield took the ice, after surviving a seven-hour flight delay on Monday. It was the inaugural media availability for Hunter brothers, Mark and Dale, providing insight and perspective on the players on the ice and the character they want in the locker room.

Watching the practices, it is clear that a Dale Hunter-led junior team will be focused on puck possession, speed, and skill.

“We are a skilled team,” said Hunter after Tuesday’s evening practice. “But we need to be a hard-working team. We are going to need to play on top of the puck all the time.”
Team Canada’s Injury Concerns
On the first day of Selection Camp, Los Angeles Kings prospect Aidan Dudas briefly skated before leaving the ice. On Tuesday, Dudas did not participate in any of the two practices.

When asked about Dudas’ status, Mark Hunter reaffirmed what Brad McEwen (Head Scout, Hockey Canada) said on Monday, that they are taking his status “day by day.” Dudas not practicing in either of the two scheduled practices on Tuesday is a cause of concern, especially with the two U Sports games coming up.

Another player absent from the Tuesday practices is consensus No. 1 draft pick in the 2020 NHL Draft Alexis LaFreniere. LaFreniere, who also missed Monday’s practice due to a maintenance day. was seen working out on the bike while his teammates were on the ice.

Coming into the Selection Camp, the Rimouski Oceanic forward had played four games in five nights. While his spot on the junior roster is not in question, it appears unlikely that he will play in the U Sports games, in order to be healthy ahead of the start of the World Junior Hockey Championship on December 26th.

“He needs a few days off for maintenance time,” said Mark Hunter. “He has a few bumps and bruises that need to be cleared up.”

Second Consecutive Day Team Canada Goalies Shine

Goaltending is always a pillar that needs to be addressed for Canada’s World Junior teams. And this team is no different.

However, for the second straight day, the four goalies at the selection camp have remained poised and effective in between the pipes. Whether it is getting into positioning or dealing with the blazing shots from the Canadian forwards and defensemen, Joel Hofer, Hunter Jones, Nico Daws, and Olivier Rodrigue have each made their case to be one of the three goalie spots on this year’s team.

Unlike previous years, where the goalies coming to Selection Camp had international experience, the four goaltenders this year lack in this department. But what they fall short in terms of representing Canada, they make up for it in their stellar performances in the short-term.

Below are the stat lines for each of the goalies at this point in the season:

W
L
GAA
SV%

Joel Hofer
20
4
1.81
0.937

Olivier Rodrigue
15
6
2.79
0.907

Nico Daws
13
3
2.06
0.939

Hunter Jones
19
3
2.53
0.918

It is evident that the strategy of Canada’s coaching staff is to employ netminders who have the “hot hand” in the present. This means that the U Sports games will go a long way in determining the goalies who can raise their performance against tough competition. According to Dale Hunter, “all four goalies will play” in both games, giving them all ample time to showcase their skills.

Daws was one goalie that Coach Hunter had high praise for. The OHL’s leader in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage, Hunter from his experience coaching the London Knights the dominance Daws can bring in the crease.

“Nico didn’t get much of a chance to play last year, backing up an older goalie,” said Hunter. “But they come back with a younger team and Nico has stood tall for them. It is a credit to the team and especially him.”

Team Identity Rounding into Shape for Team Canada

The two practices on Tuesday provided an opportunity for the line combinations for the first day to take shape.

Below are the forward lines that were used:

Byfield-Cozens-Foote

Perfetti-Dellandrea-Foudy 

Holloway-Groulx-Newhook 

Krebs-Zary-Lavoie 

McMichael-Thomas-Mercer

The defensive pairings also remained consistent from Monday’s practice. Below are the pairings from Tuesday’s morning practice:

McIsaac-Byram

Smith-Schneider

Bahl-Bernard-Docker

Harley-Drysdale

Diliberatore-Addison 

Unlike Monday’s practice, the coaching staff spent Tuesday evening’s session focusing on special teams. With the offensive firepower Canada possesses, it is not surprising that their power play will make a resounding impact.

Below are the power play lines from Tuesday’s practice:

Byram
Perfetti – Foote – McMichael
Cozens

McIsaac
Lavoie – Thomas – Addison
Byfield

With the fast-paced nature this team possesses, it places great expectations on the 17-year-olds who are at the camp. Quinton Byfield, Cole Perfetti, and Jamie Drysdale have all shined on their respective OHL franchises.

But on the big ice and a grander stage at selection camp, every moment completing a drill in practice may end up determining their spot on the team. For Drysdale, he has become accustomed to blocking out the noise and focusing on the things that he can control.

“My confidence is high right now,” said Drysdale. “I just want to be able to show that I can play at both ends of the rink.”

Team Canada will take on U Sports on Wednesday at 5 pm EST.
The post Injuries, Goalies, Team Identity: Day 2 World Junior Selection Camp Recap appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

Dale Hunter Instills Winning Culture for Team Canada

OAKVILLE– Dale Hunter really does not like losing.

So much so that during the 2006 OHL Playoffs, the London Knights head coach was fined $5,000 for arguing with on-ice officials. Even though his team got swept, Hunter still stuck up for his players.

It is that fervent focus on winning and distaste for losing that has made Hunter the blueprint junior hockey coach in Canada. Under Hunter’s leadership, the London Knights have achieved nine division titles and won two Memorial Cups.

Flash forward to the present and Hunter is employing his winning background to Canada’s National U-20 Junior Team. With the selection camp on its second day, the Canadian players are getting a taste of the identity Hunter wants to develop for this team. 

“There is nothing more than Dale loves to do than to win hockey games,” said McMichael. “The biggest thing is to work your hardest. He likes guys that can compete, protect leads and stick to a system.” 
***

Connor McMichael plays for Hunter on this year’s London Knights squad. After getting drafted 25th in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft to the Washington Capitals, McMichael was sent back to London to improve his game. 

The decision would be the impetus for the Knights once again near the top of the standings. Under Hunter’s leadership, McMichael has become the OHL’s most dynamic scorer, leading the league in points with 59 (25 goals, 34 assists). But in addition to his offence, McMichael is focusing on other aspects of his game. 

Hunter prepares his players for a career in the NHL. And by doing so, he puts his players in situations where they may not be the most comfortable. For McMichael, this has allowed him to be more of a defensive force in his own zone. Tied atop the OHL in power-play goals, the Capitals prospect has also been seen killing penalties. It is this attention to detail in all aspects of a player’s development that has made Hunter so victorious. 

“Not every player comes into camp and can be a top-six scoring forward,” said McMichael. “Dale wants me to adapt to a different role and to embrace any role I’ve been given.” 
***
During selection camp practices, Hunter does not put himself into the center of attention. He is often in the background, discussing drills with a small group of players. When the players are completing their tasks, Hunter does not raise his voice or act in an aggressive manner. When he speaks, the players and personnel listen, as every word uttered is of great importance. 

Sudbury Wolves forward and top 2020 NHL Draft Prospect Quinton Byfield appreciates this quality about Hunter. Having worked with the Knights head coach at the Canada/Russia series, the 17-year-old is aware that Hunter expects a lot of effort and skill for a full 60 minutes. While Byfield may not be on one of the top two scoring lines for Team Canada, he believes that he can use his size and speed to make a noticeable impact in a Hunter system.

“They are really great coaches,” said Byfield after his first practice Tuesday morning. “It would be a great experience to play under them and to represent Hockey Canada.” 

The head coach position for Canada’s World Junior team is highly sought after but even harder to keep. In the last ten years, The Canadian team has only won two gold medals. While it speaks to an increased amount of parity amongst the participating countries, having a strong, experienced leader at the head coach position can inspire a team to greatness. 

While the Hockey Canada management group wants to shift the attention to this year, it is hard to ignore last year’s quarter-final exit. The worst result on home soil in this decade. Regardless of where Canada places in the Czech Republic, Hunter will put out a team that believes in each other and will work tirelessly to wear down their opponents with speed and skill. 

Winning the number of times Dale Hunter has done with the London Knights while producing a plethora of top-tier NHL talent, is not by accident. His formula has worked and will continue to shine on Canada’s brightest junior hockey stage. 

“Dale brings a lot of calmness,” said Head of the Management Group Mark Hunter. “The respect he holds behind the bench is something that not a lot of coaches have. He’s not an in your face kind of coach. He gets his point across through ice time and being in the dressing room.” 

 The post Dale Hunter Instills Winning Culture for Team Canada appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

Joe Veleno Joins Team Canada, World Junior Selection Camp Day 1 Notes

OAKVILLE— Joe Veleno will get his chance at World Junior redemption.

The Detroit Red Wings prospect was on the losing end being a part of Team Canada, losing to Finland in the quarterfinals at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver. The late goal that bounced and tipped into the net behind Michael DiPietro would send the Canadians home early and propel Finland to an eventual gold medal.

Veleno understands fully the weight of World Junior heartbreak. Now, he will get another opportunity to put on the red and white uniform, as Canada hits the ice the Czech Republic at the end of December to get back to World Junior glory.

“Joe has maturity in his game and brings experience and leadership playing against the older guys,” said Hockey Canada’s Head Scout Brad McEwen.

At 6’1, Veleno has great vision for the ice and likes to play the game at a high speed. Transitioning into the attacking zone from his own end is effortless for Veleno, who posted 104 points last season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
***
But as McEwen states, it is his defensive play that has really made Veleno into a complete player. Something that Team Canada coaches Dale and Mark Hunter are looking for in their players.

“He’s a complete guy, a 200-foot type player. He is so offensively important to his team and has rounded into a more complete player,” said McEwen.

With three goals and six assists through 25 games played this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins, Veleno provides a wealth of experience playing with bigger players in the AHL. This will translate to success in the World Junior tournament, making him stand out for Canada on both ends of the ice.

Veleno is the fourth returning player from last year’s World Junior team, joining Alexis LaFreniere, Jared McIssac and Ty Smith. While the disappointment from last year’s tournament was apparent in the short-term, McIssac, who is just getting back from a shoulder injury, has put in the rear-view mirror as he embarks on another training camp. He welcomes the opportunity to work with Veleno, LaFreniere and Smith to instill veteran leadership in the locker room.

“It’s a tough tournament to win,” said McIsaac. “All of us have been captains for Hockey Canada through the years. We are ready for this challenge.”
Early Defensive Pairings
Coming into training camp, Mark Hunter made it clear that he wants players “that can control the puck with skill and speed.” After the first practice of selection camp, it is evident that the Canadian selectees can glide on the ice and aren’t afraid to showcase their speed.

Below are defensive pairings that were seen in the first practice:

Harley-Drysdale

Bahl-Bernard-Docker

Smith-Schneider 

Diliberatore-Addison 

McIsaac-Byram 

Two pairings that stood out were Harley/Drysdale and Bahl/Bernard-Docker. Putting an already drafted player in Harley with a draft eligible 17-year-old in Drysdale was an interesting move for the coaches to explore. But both defensemen held their own, breaking into the zone with pace, making efficient passes to their forwards and showcasing their fast shots. More needs to be seen but early on, it appears that Harley and Drysdale complement each other nicely, particularly with Harley’s puck handling and Drysdale’s skill.

Bahl and Bernard-Docker were very at ease playing alongside each other. Bahl, the Arizona Coyotes prospect, is a 6’6, 229 pound defenseman who possesses the size and physicality to wear opponents down along the boards and in his own zone. This was complemented with Ottawa Senators prospect Bernard-Docker’s skill, ranging from his fast skating to his quick release shot from the point.

“Jacob plays a complete game,” said McEwen. “He’s a good complement to our puck movers, making sure things are kept clean in his own zone.”
Early Forward Considerations
Sudbury Wolves star forward Quinton Byfield was not at the first practice due to a travel issue. The same was said about Alexis LaFreniere, who missed practice because of his regularly scheduled maintenance day.

Los Angeles Kings prospect Aidan Dudas skated before practice began, as he has been recovering from an injury. According to McEwen, the coaching staff will take Dudas’ situation “day by day” to see if he will be ready enough to play on the team.

This left the following forward combinations to provide an initial jumpstart to their World Junior Selection Camp campaigns.

Krebs-Cozens-Foote 

Thomas-McMichael-Mercer

Newhook-Groulx-Holloway 

Perfetti-Dellandrea-Foudy 

Krebs-Zary-Lavoie

It is expected that Byfield will slot into the Cozens line, while LaFreniere will slot into the Dellandrea line.

The line combination that stood out the most was Akil Thomas, Connor McMichael and Dawson Mercer. A Washington Capitals prospect and the leading scorer in the OHL with 59 points, McMichael exemplifies offensive prowess with his quick shot and blazing speed. While he had not played with McMichael before, Akil Thomas embraced the opportunity, getting into open space for passes and finding the top shelf with his fast wrist shot.

“I want to be the guy that my coaches can depend on,” said Thomas. “Connor is a really great player and it would be awesome to play with him if given the opportunity.”

For McMichael, he hopes that he gets a chance to be one of the top six forwards on the Canadian team. But his stellar performance with the London Knights is thanks to McMichael’s ability to be multi-faceted as a player. Whether it is being tough on the defensive end or relentless on the penalty kill, Dale Hunter has employed McMichael to adjust to whatever role he gives him. The young forward has certainly succeeded thus far.
Goalie Performances
Olivier Rodrigue, Hunter Jones, Nico Daws and Joel Hofer took the ice to take some shots in between the pipes.

Coming into the camp, the front runners for the three goalie spots are Rodrigue, Jones and Daws. Rodrigue is currently fifth in the QMJHL in wins with 15. Jones for the Peterborough Petes is third in goals against average (2.53) and second in save percentage (.918) in the entire OHL. But leading the crop of goalies in the OHL has been Nico Daws, who is first in both goals-against-average (2.06) and save percentage (.939), after being the Guelph Storm back up goalie last season.

In the first practice, both Rodrigue and Daws looked extremely calm and poised in the crease, particularly in the shoot out where they were stopping some very fast shots. The depth in goaltending will certainly make for a competitive camp and a challenge for the coaching staff to select which goalies belong in the tournament.

“You need to take the body of work this past year,” said McEwen. “They all have great numbers since September and are on teams trending upward. They’ve put themselves in a good spot.”

Tuesday will see Team Canada practice twice before they compete against U Sports on Wednesday and Thursday.The post Joe Veleno Joins Team Canada, World Junior Selection Camp Day 1 Notes appeared first on Last Word on Sports.


  • 0

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.


  • 0

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.


  • 0

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.


  • 0

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.


Categories

w88