IHL Preview

By Andrew Bourgeois

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS:

Mike Crowley was an IHL all-star with the Long Beach Ice Dogs last year and runner-up to Manitoba’s Brett Hauer for top defenceman honours. The 25-year-old had nine goals and a team-high 39 assists for the Ice Dogs and will be counted on to quarterback the Griffins power play.

ORLANDO SOLAR BEARS:

Entering his ninth professional season, Mark Beaufait has become a fixture in Orlando where he has led the team in scoring over the past four seasons. Last season as he registered a team-high 28 goals and 49 assists for 77 points in 78 games. The 30-year-old needs only 34 points to reach the 600-point mark for his IHL career.

CINCINNATI CYCLONES:

Gilbert Dionne the former Montreal Canadiens sniper notched 34 goals and 83 points in 81 games a year ago — including 11 power-play markers. The scary thing is that the Cyclones captain could be set to increase his production this season.

CLEVELAND LUMBERJACKS:

Christian Matte led the AHL in scoring last season, posting 43 goals and 104 points in 73 games with the Hershey Bears, earning him a brief callup with the Colorado Avalanche. Matte, signed as a free agent during the summer by the Minnesota Wild, should provide scoring punch to the Jacks. He also won a Calder Cup championship with the Bears in 1996-97.

MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS:

Marian Cisar the Slovakian product was second in scoring with the Admirals last year, posting 20 goals and 52 points in 78 games.

Cisar was a high-scoring forward with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL and is poised for a breakout year in 2000-2001. The 22-year-old was the first player acquired by the Nashville Predators, coming over in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings — who had chosen him with their second pick in the 1996 NHL entry draft.

DETROIT VIPERS:

Jason Podollan the power forward was sent to Detroit last week after the Tampa Bay Lightning picked Podollan up in the waiver draft. A second round pick of the Florida Panthers back in 1994, the right winger has appeared in 40 NHL games with Florida, Toronto and Los Angeles. His WHL career with the Spokane Chiefs spanned four seasons and included 145 goals and 281 points in 271 games.

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS:

51-22-9, first in East Division, lost in Turner Cup finals

Coach: Bruce Cassidy

GM: Bob McNamara

Affiliation: Ottawa Senators.

Key players: C Todd White, C Viacheslav Butsayev, LW Derek King, C Ed Patterson, D Mike Crowley, G Mike Fountain.

Key losses: G Jani Hurme, LW Michel Picard, Yves Sarault, Andrei Sryubko.

Outlook: The Griffins should be one of the front-runners for the Turner Cup. The loss of Hurme — who has stuck with the Senators will sting but Fountain posted a solid record of 21-7-4 last year and is out to prove that he should still be with the Sens. Look for solid production from their veterans. Russian winger Petr Schastlivy (16 goals and 28 points) could be poised for a break-out season. Crowley will anchor the blueline with Joel Bouchard, Travis Richards and John Gruden.

ORLANDO SOLAR BEARS:

47-23-12, second in East Division.

Coach: Peter Horachek

Director of Hockey Operations: Hubie McDonough

Affiliation: Atlanta Thrashers

Key Players: C Mark Beaufait, C Herbert Vasiljevs, D Curtis Murphy, G Scott Fankhouser, D Brett Clark.

Key losses: Bob Lachance, Shawn Carter, Todd Krygier, Barry Dreger, Gary Shuchuk.

Outlook: The Bears return many of the main players who led them to a second place finish in the division. Look for more of the same from the team which netted 250 goals last season. Manitoban J.P. Vigier should have a chance to play a significant role on this team.

CINCINNATI CYCLONES:

44-30-8, third in East Division.

Coach and GM: Ron Smith

Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes

Key players: LW Gilbert Dionne, G Jean-Marc Pelletier, D Harlan Pratt, LW Brian Felsner, D Len Esau, C Byron Ritchie, C Stefan Ustorf, D Jon Rohloff.

Key losses: Shane Willis, Todd Simon, Randy Petruk, Pat MacLeod.

Outlook: The loss of Willis and Simon will hurt the Cyclones but Pelletier is rock-solid between the pipes. With some good fortune, Cincinnati should hit the 40-win plateau for the eighth consecutive season.

CLEVELAND LUMBERJACKS:

40-30-12, fourth in East Division.

Coach: Todd McClellan,

GM: Larry Gordon

Affiliation: Minnesota Wild

Key players: G Zac Bierk, RW Christian Matte, C Richard Park, LW Darryl Laplante, D Ian Herbers, D Nick Naumenko, D Mike Matteucci.

Key losses: Jock Callander, Jeff Christian, Brett Harkins, Chris Herperger, Marc Lamothe, Jim Paek.

Outlook: Much like their parent club, the Lumberjacks will face many challenges under first-year coach Todd McClellan. The goaltending should be solid with Zac Bierk and David Brumby. The club should boast a good collection of hard working forwards who can put the puck in the net like Laplante, Park and Matte.

MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS:

37-36-9, fifth in East Division.

Coach: Dave Allison,

GM: Phil Whitliff

Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Key players: LW Sean Haggerty, RW Marian Cisar, D Jayme Filipowicz, D John Namestnikov, LW David Gosselin, LW Mike Watt, G Jan Lasak.

Key losses: Eric Fenton, Fred Knipscheer, Paul Healey, Brent Peterson.

Outlook: Milwaukee’s strength lies in its wingers, but ultimately it will be the goaltending of Jan Lasak and Alex Westlund which could decide the fate of the Admirals squad.

DETROIT VIPERS:

22-52-8, sixth in East Division

Coach:Brad Shaw

GM:Grant Sonier

Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning

Key players: RW Jason Podollan, G Dieter Kochan, RW Dale Rominski, RW Matt Elich.

Key losses: Steve Walker, Peter Civaglia, Tim Thomas.

Outlook: The Vipers under new coach Brad Shaw should be better than their disastrous 22-52-8 record of a season ago but they will face an uphill battle to get out of the East Division cellar.

MANITOBA MOOSE:

37-31-14, fifth place in West Division.

Head coach and GM: Randy Carlyle.

Affiliation: Detroit Red Wings (partial).

Key players: C Doug Ast, C Sean Pronger, RW Dan Kesa, RW Scott Thomas, C Steve Brule, D Brett Hauer, D Bobby Dollas, D Brian Chapman, G Ken Wregget, G Johan Hedberg.

Key losses: Bill Bowler, Lonny Bohonos, Mike Prokopec, Michael Stewart.

TODAY IN HOCKEY:

October 9. 1990 Hartford Whaler defenceman Mark Howe becomes the first defenceman to score 2 shorthanded goals in one game.