Kootenay ICE News and Notes

By Jeff Bromley

Milroy begins where he left off – scoring goals

As recent history tells us, Duncan
Milroy can score goals.

Leading the 2002 WHL Playoff in
points, scoring perhaps the biggest goal
in club history with the overtime marker
that sent the Rebels packing and the ICE
to the Memorial Cup, there is no doubt
that goals are something that Milroy has
no trouble attaining.

That’s why when he’s says he wants the
WHL scoring title on his resume at the
end of the season you might not want to
bet against him.

Kicking off the regular season by
hunting down the Prince George
Cougars by scores of 4-2 and 4-1 last
weekend, potting three goals and two
assists in the process, Milroy’s role with
the Kootenay ICE this season is simple:
lead by doing what you do best, scoring.

“The coaching staff has looked at me to
be the main offensive guy this year and
that will be one of my goals,” said
Milroy. “I’m going to shoot for the
scoring race this year and I think I have
a legitimate shot at getting it. There’s
some great players in this league and it’s
going to be a great challenge for me but
that’s one of the goals that I set for
myself this year.”

A second round draft pick (37th overall)
of the Montreal Canadiens in 2001,
Milroy spent the better part of
September in the uniform of the bleu,
blanc et rouge at the club’s rookie camp
and later the main training camp,
meeting the Kootenay Ice in Prince
George in time to start the WHL season.

Not disappointed at all in being sent
back for another year of seasoning in
junior, Milroy at least had the chance to
show the Montreal brass what he can
do, which is better than his first pro
training camp last season.

“My first camp with the Canadiens last
year it was tough to judge because I got
hurt,” said Milroy. “I ended having
shoulder surgery my first camp, I don’t
know if too many people know about
that.”

“I learned a lot the year before just from
sitting there and watching but when you
go out there and play with the guys it’s
a big jump (from junior). I definitely
learned a lot more this year. I saw what
it takes to be an NHL pro hockey player
and I’ve still got a lot of room for
improvement but I’m confident I can be
there sometime.”

Sometimes seeing a letdown in a
player’s game after being sent down
from the NHL training camps, Kootenay
Coach Cory Clouston said that factor
never materialized with Milroy in Prince
George.

“Duncan had a very good weekend,”
said Clouston. “In past history often
players will come back from NHL
camps and there’s a bit of a letdown but
we didn’t see that at all in his game.
Duncan’s going to be a very key part of
our success and a leader both on and off
the ice.”
For what it’s worth, Milroy wasn’t
going to let any letdown enter his game.
“When I came back from pro camp I sat
down with the coaching staff,” said
Milroy.

“Personally, I have a bunch of
individual goals in mind as well as the
team goals and if I come back and have
a bad start to the season, some of those
goals of mine, I won’t be able to make
them.”

“The coaching staff is expecting me to
be a big leader on this team this year and
I also want to be a big leader. I don’t
have time to have that lull that some
people come back and do. I felt
confident going into the weekend games
and we have a good team back this
season, it’s going to be exciting hockey
all over again.”

Lofty team goals as well as certain
personal heights, Milroy pulls no
punches in his assessment of the
upcoming season.

“The hardest thing for
a team to do is repeat as Memorial Cup
champions but that’s still our final goal
this year.”

“I can honestly say right now that we’re
going to contend this year,” said Milroy
of any thoughts the club might not be as
good as they were last season. “We do
have a young team but I think we have
the personnel in the dressing room to do
it.”

“From the individual standpoint that
they (the coaching staff) have for me is
that I’ve just got to work hard and the
success will continue.”

Quick Hits – The club cut down its
roster by sending eighteen-yr-old Ryan
Morse to the Camrose Kodiaks of the
AJHL. Kootenay’s roster is set at 22.
The three overage spots were decided
this week when forwards Shaun Norrie
and Richard Hamula were dealt to
Vancouver for third and fifth round draft
picks in 2003. Defensemen Girard
Dicaire (5th Rd 2002 Tampa Bay),
Brennan Evans (free agent) and forward
Colin Sinclair (free agent) will make up
Kootenay’s three overagers . . .

Tomas Plihal has signed a professional contract
with the San Jose Sharks, the NHL club
announced Monday. Plihal, 19, met the
ICE on the road in Prince George in
time for the club’s Saturday night game.
Terms of the deal were not announced .
. .

Kootenay’s home-opener goes
Saturday night against the Swift Current
Broncos. Game time is 7:00 P.M..
Sunday night Kootenay entertains the
Lethbridge Hurricanes at the ‘Plex. Note
the 6:00 P.M. start time.

Armstrong adjusts to the new life of the WHL

It’s almost like trying to make the
transition from junior high to high
school. How tough are the big kids
going to be on you and in the end, will
you even be noticed?

Making the transition from major midget
or junior ‘B’ to the bright lights of the
WHL can be easily likened to the
chronicles of growing up. Luckily
you’ve got twenty other teammates who
are going through, or have gone
through, the same thing.

As one of the eight new faces donning
the uniform of the Memorial Cup
Champions, eighteen-yr-old forward
Riley Armstrong is about to embark on
such a trip.

He, along with back up goaltender Jeff Glass, 17, defensemen Jerris Paul, 16 and Derek Price, 17,
European freshman Michal Polak, 17
and fellow forwards Adam Cracknell,
17, Jeremy Schenderling, 16 and Bill
Vandermeer, 18, will all see the phrase
‘rookie’ in their profiles this season.

Armstrong, pumped for Saturday’s
home-opener against Swift Current
when Kootenay raises their three
championship banners to the Rec./Plex
rafters, knows there’ll be an adjustment
period to the advanced game of the
WHL.

“I think it’ll be pretty big,” said
Armstrong of the transition. “It’s a lot
quicker than Midget. They’re really
quick and the passes are always on the
tape. There’s more physical play and
some of the guys are bigger but from
‘AAA’ there to here it’s just that much
stronger. It’s more finesse, more skill,
more everything – it makes it a better
league, hopefully I’ll do all right.”

The Saskatoon product played for the
Saskatchewan ‘AAA’ Midget Yorkton
Terriers last season and was listed by the
ICE during the Mac’s Midget
Tournament in Calgary last December.

Posting heady numbers in Midget, 43
goals and 34 assists in 42 games last
season, Armstrong knows his role will
be different in his first kick at the WHL
can.

“Last year I played power-play,
penalty-kill, I double-shifted and got 43
goals. Obviously this year here, it’s
going to be an adjustment. I don’t even
know what line I’ll be playing on yet,”
said Armstrong.

“Coach Clouston rotates lines pretty good so I think I’ll get my fair share of ice-time as an
eighteen-yr-old and hopefully I can put
up the points and play pretty good.”

Along with teammate Bill Vandermeer,
who accompanied the club on its
Memorial Cup run last year as an
emergency call-up but didn’t see any
playing time, being eighteen will have its
advantages over their younger freshmen
teammates.

Being a little older and a little wiser also brings with it pressure to perform that the sixteen-yr-olds might not experience.

Couple that with every team in the
league gunning to knock off the
defending champs and Armstrong knows
the rookie treatment he’ll receive from
opposing clubs.

“I think it’s kind of difficult as a rookie in this league as teams are more pumped any ways,” said
Armstrong, who will have at least seven helpers when it comes time to load the bus for roads trips, an annual rite of passage for WHL rookies.

“There always trying to hit you more, punch
you in the face more and that kind of
stuff. If you’re focused every night,
game in and game out, I think I’ll get
through it.”

And then of course, there’s the name.

Armstrong, along with Vandermeer,
come from celebrated WHL bloodlines.
Vandermeer, who’s fourth in a line of
five brothers, Pete, Dan, Jim, himself
and fifteen-yr-old Ted who has his sights
on following the footsteps of brothers
Dan and Jim, is a bantam draft pick of
the Rebels, and Armstrong, the younger
brother to former Rebel Colby
Armstrong, who signed with the
Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this summer,
both have some famous, and sometimes
infamous, skates to fill.

Armstrong maintains there’s a big
difference between himself and his
firebrand brother, a first round NHL
Draft pick (21st overall) in 2001.

“Whenever people ask my mom about
the difference between Colby and
myself, she doesn’t ever say anything
about who’s better but we’re two totally
different players,” said Armstrong.

“He’s more of an agitator and in your
face, I’m not really like that. I just like
to score goals.”

“It’s going to be hard to follow in his
footsteps. He was a first round pick and
that’s difficult to do but it worked out
great for him and hopefully I can have
some success in the ‘dub too.”

His brother’s unpopularity in these parts
aside, the younger Armstrong thinks it’ll
be great to see another Armstrong in the
league and in another uniform.

“A lot of people have said things like
‘you’re better than your brother’ but I
think that’s just because they hated him
here so much last year.”

“I know most of the guys off the Rebels
because I hung out with my brother in
Red Deer this summer and I’m kind of
friends with all of them. It’ll be kind of
fun playing against them and (Red Deer
fans) seeing an Armstrong in a Kootenay
uniform.”

Of the course there are benefits to being
the younger brother of a player headed
to the ‘show’.

Such as tagging along with him to Pittsburgh and rubbing shoulders with a legend.

Riley received a playing undershirt from
Mario Lemieux while on a tour of
Pittsburgh with his brother and wore it
under his gear all through ICE training
camp.

“I have to wear the Kootenay shirt under there now,” said Armstrong.

The shirt was deemed lucky as
Armstrong started scoring in bunches in
the preseason. The new shirt isn’t doing
too bad either as Armstrong scored his
first WHL goal against Prince George in
the season-opener last week.

That said, when one of the greatest
players ever to lace up skates gives you
something, it doesn’t exactly get thrown
to the back of the closet.

“I still wear it everywhere else though.”