Nigel Dawes is on his way to Piestany, Slovakia for the Under-18, Eight Nations tournament August 12-18. His teammate, Kootenay ICE goaltender Bryan Bridges, is not. Dawes, the diminutive forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba who surpassed all expectations as a rookie with the Memorial Cup – winning Kootenay ICE was among the list of 22, 1985-born players who made the grade. Bridges competed with Josh Lepp (Kelowna), Kevin Nastiuk (Medicine Hat) and Rejean Beauchemin (Winnipeg AAA -Bantam) for the two roster spots and was by some accounts the best goaltender during the squads first two scrimmages and won the skills competition but faltered somewhat in the third and final scrimmage.
The team, which is part of the Canadian Hockey Association’s Program of Excellence to develop the nation’s hockey players with international experience, is coached by Jim Hulton (OHL – Belleville Bulls) and assisted by Rick Allain (OHL – Peterborough Petes) and Dean Chynoweth (Seattle Thunderbirds – WHL). “After working with these guys for the past week, I am extremely excited to be heading to Slovakia with such an outstanding group,” Hulton said in a release. “The talent level of our players is very high and we are all ready for the challenge that awaits us. We look forward to representing our country in Slovakia.”
Other WHL notables that made the cut: Goalies Josh Lepp (Kelowna), Kevin Nastiuk (Medicine Hat). Defense – Shawn Belle (Tri-Cities), Braydon Coburn (Portland), Mike Green (Saskatoon), Dion Phaneuf (Red Deer), Brent Seabrook (Lethbridge). Forwards – Colin Fraser (Red Deer), Stephen Meyer (Medicine Hat).
WHL notables left off the roster; Ryan Stone (Brandon – injury), Jeremy Colliton (Prince Albert), Darryl Yacboski (Regina), Eric Fehr (Brandon) and Ryan Getzlaf (Calgary). Goaltender Rejean Beauchemin played Bantam last season with the Nigel Dawes alma matter, the Winnipeg AAA Warriors but is also a listed player with the Prince Albert Raiders . . . Hurricane D-man Brent Seabrook was named captain of the U-18 team . . . Piestany is the city that hosted the 1987 World Junior Tournament. Infamous for the brawl that erupted between the Canadian and the then Soviet squad that disqualified both teams . . . Unofficially the first deal of the 2002-03 season took place last Thursday as the Lethbridge Hurricanes sent overage goaltender Blake Ward to the Seattle Thunderbirds for seventeen-yr-old Josh Bishop and a conditional 4th Rd. 2003 Bantam pick. Bishop is a Lethbridge product and played Midget in the windy city last season. For Ward Seattle will be his third WHL club as the Lloydminster native started his junior career in Tri-Cities as a 16-yr-old. The deal leaves the Thunderbird’s with the unlikelihood of two overage goaltenders in Blake and Nick Pannoni. With backup Ryan Cyr in the mix and Red Deer Midget Brandon Heatherington ready to compete for a job, look for a deal of one of the overage goaltenders out of the T-Birds camp. Still with the T-Birds, the WHL announced that the lingering sale of the club has finally been resolved with Seattle G.M. Russ Farwell taking over as the head of a local ownership group. The sale now enables former owner Bill Yuill to move ahead on the establishment of his expansion franchise in Everett, Wash . . . Any lingering questions about Kootenay forward Adam Taylor’s health will soon be put to rest once training camp opens. Taylor, picked in the seventh round, 224th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in this year’s NHL Draft, is back skating after breaking his ankle in a collision with the end boards in game three of the WHL finals. Currently Taylor is one of the instructors at Scott and Rob Niedermayer’s Hockey school at the Rec./Plex . . . Former Kootenay ICE and current Tri-City American forward Tyler Dyck has accepted a tryout with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks . . . In Medicine Hat the Tigers have hired former Canuck D-man Doug Lidster as an assistant coach. Still with the Tigers, last year’s goal-scoring leader Joffrey Lupul will miss the World Junior summer evaluation camp held this week in Halifax due an unspecified back injury. Kootenay forward Duncan Milroy is attending the same camp . . . Brandon Wheat King graduated tough guy Randy Ponte has accepted a try out offer from the Calgary Flames . . . The Swift Current Broncos have dropped 16-yr-old Vitaly Anikeev, their first round (52nd overall) Import Draft pick in June from their list and added former Calgary Hitman Denis Sergeev, 19. The Broncos couldn’t secure Anikeev’s release and picked Sergeev for some European experience . . . Graduated goaltender B.J. Boxma will look to suit up for the L.A. Kings’ ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals in the upcoming season after attending a free-agent tryout camp with the Kings. Graduated Swift Current Bronco and former ICE captain Jason Jaffray has signed a pro contract with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Reuniting him with his former Kootenay teammate, Steve McCarthy . . . The dreaded ‘three games in three nights’ are once again featured eight times throughout Kootenay’s schedule. They might be hard on the players but they’re ultimately for their educational benefit. “We play eight ‘three in three’s, Kamloops plays ten,” said ICE G.M. Jeff Chynoweth recently. “We know that it’s important to play ‘three in three’s’ because of the education of the players. You’d rather have them because then the kids aren’t missing as much school. It’s not easy on the players all the time because of the travel involved but last year, and each year is different, we were 6-1-1 on the third game after playing three games in three nights.”… The ICE will raise three championship banners, the Western Conference, WHL and Memorial Cup to the rafters of the Cranbrook Rec./Plex before the home opener against the Swift Current Broncos Saturday, September 28.