Regular season over, bring on the post season.
The Western Hockey League held a press conference on Wednesday morning to announce the awards for the regular season and to welcome the playoffs starting March 22nd.
The playoff matchups in the first round look great with many rivalries set to be stirred.
“One of the objectives we had in establishing four new divisions within the Western Hockey League was to create a greater level of rivalry and interest delivering what the fans are looking for. That is more intense games, more meaningful games with their closest rivals and I think when you look at the matchups in the playoffs this year these playoff rounds are going to be just outstanding,” said Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison.
The matchups in the B.C. divison are quite possibly the most heated with Kelowna taking on archrivals the Kamloops Blazers. Blazers have home ice advantage first.
Prince George is also on the road to face Kootenay in the B.C. division.
Brian Maxwell discussed next the Lethbridge Hurricanes series with Red Deer now that Calgary has taken over third in the division.
“Obviously taking on Red Deer again this year, we had real good success against them last year,” said Maxwell sarcastically. “We won the first one, all we did was delay it longer we had to play them five times.”
Head coach for the Hitmen, Richard Kromm, strictly stated at the conference he feels his team is ready for their matchup with Swift Current.
“Our guys have basically been in playoff mode for two to three months now, reall Read more »
Below is the transcript of my chat with 2001 Philadelphia Flyers draft pick , and Red Deer Rebels defenseman Jeff Woywitka.
Hockey’s Future : Red Deer finished the season as the top ranked junior team in Canada , what do you think contributed to you guys having such a great season?
Jeff Woywitka : Everyone on the team really stayed with the program during the course of the season. We had a goal at the begining of the season and that was to be number one at the end of the regular season , we accomplished that. Now it is time to focus on the playoffs.
HF : What were your feelings when you were drafted by the Flyers in the first round last summer? , Was there any one team you wanted to really be drafted by?
JW : I was happy to be picked by a first class team like the Flyers. They have a winning tradition , and I hope to be part of their plans in the near future. There wasn’t any one team I wanted to be drafted by , just to be selected was such an honor.
HF : Mikhail Yakubov , a rookie in the WHL was your leading goal scorer and point leader this season , how much did he contribute to your success’ this year?
JW : Mikhail was a huge part of our team and got better as the season wore on. His is a great leader in his own way.
HF : How is it playing in Red Deer? , So many NHL prospects come out of that program , does that really help your development playing up there?
JW : Red Deer is a terrific place to play. Brent Sutter , has taught me about what it takes to succeed on and off the ice. Playing here in Red Deer really does help Read more »
Kris Beech : Right at the start the pressure was on for the young Kris
Beech. He made the team after a strong camp, was put on a line with “Le
Magnifique” and was THE story in Pittsburgh. There was some Calder hope at
that point, but now that the season is coming to an end, it’s time to ask if
hopes were unrealistic for Kris Beech. When you think about it, Beech was
fresh from the Junior where he played only 40 games due to injury, he had
only 4 NHL games to his resume and he was already on a must-produce
situation. Yes, Beech’s expectations were too high for this season, but it
was part of his development. He learned a lot, played some good games
and showed that he has his place in this league. Here are his main skills : puck control, skating abilities, shot and play along the boards. On the
mental aspect you look at hard-working kid with good hockey sense and vision
of the ice. However, the British Colombia native will need to be more
consistent offensively and he needs to keep working on his game. Hopefully
Beech will come up faster, quicker and stronger for next year’s training
camp. If he does so, look up for him next year and forget about the second
Below is a table which shows the stats of this year’s NHL Rookies
coming from the CHL. These poor stats are encouraging for Beech’s future,
but it’s not a good sign for the Canadian Hockey League to have only 4
graduated in the top 30 rookie leading scorers.
Name Age Rank DraftedJunior League/TeamLast Year Stats
This Read more »
The Saskatoon are playoff bound for the first time in 2 years. They
will face the division champion Brandon Wheatkings in the first round of the
Eastern conference Playoffs begining Saturday night in Saskatoon. The
Blades will host the first pair of games at home due the Royal Manitoba
Winter Fair. Games three and four will be in Winnipeg, game five in
Saskatoon followed by games six and seven in Manitoba with game six in
Winnipeg and game seven in Brandon.
The series is likely to be a very low scoring series if regular season
head to head games are any indication. In nine meetings during the season
the Wheatkings outscored the Blades 28-19 or just over 5 goals being scored
per contest. The Blades were 3-6 vs Brandon this season including a 2-2-0-0
home road while only going 1-4 in the Keystone Centre. With the first pair
of games slated to take place at Sask Place, the Blades may have a better
opportunity to jump on the Wheatkings and perhaps win a couple if not
atleast split heading to Winnipeg. With the games likely to be very tight
checking and low scoring specialty teams could become a huge factor.
Blades were 9 for 53 vs the Wheatkings on the power play this season while
the Wheatkings were 8-45 vs the Blades on the power play. Although through
the course of the season the Wheatkings had a very successfull power play
finishing 4th in the league this season at 21.4 while the Blades opporated
at 18.3 which ranked them only 14th. Brandon also owns the leagues best
penalty kill unit at 85.0% Read more »
In what had become a cruel process, the Oilers have finally traded Tom Poti and Rem Murray to the NYR for Mike York and a 4th round pick in 2002. In an earlier deal, the Oilers also traded Sean Brown to Boston for prospect Bobby Allen. The Oilers have finally addressed their concerns at the center position, but in doing so have really weakened their blue line. Each deal on their own is a fine trade, but when you consider that the Oilers have given up two defencemen off their NHL roster, you have to wonder why the Brown deal was processed…
Sean Brown was originally a draft choice of the Boston Bruins and was traded to Edmonton with Mariusz Czerkawski and a first round pick for Bill Ranford in 1996. Since that time, Brown has been in and out of the line up and struggled with consistency and his confidence. What he has never had a problem with is racking up penalty minutes, and always sticking up for his teammates. In 269 career games with the Oilers, he has amassed 664 PIM. Brown started the year playing with Scott Ferguson and both were a steady pair on the blue line. Once Tom Poti was signed, both Brown and Ferguson were taking turns in the press box and it really affected Brown’s play.
Making his way to Edmonton is promising young D man, Bobby Allen. A second round pick in 1998, Allen is described as an exceptionally mobile defenceman with outstanding defensive skills. The Oilers feel he has a very bright future in the NHL, but will report to Hamilton for the time being.
Tom Poti saw his meteoric rise to stardom halt this season, mostly due to the fa Read more »
Jackets Deadline Deals
Columbus Blue Jacket General Manager Doug MacLean was a somewhat busy man Tuesday, trying to better his team for the 2002/2003 season. Although the deals he made were no Pavel Bure-New York Ranger type blockbusters, the Jackets made some payroll available by sending two players packing.
As expected and predicted, the Columbus Blue Jackets dealt the franchises first and only captain, Lyle Odelein. However, Odelein did not go to one of the teams I had predicted he would go. I counted on a trip to either Detroit or Colorado. Odelein, as we all know now, went to the Windy City, Chicago.
Odelein certainly brings a lot of characteristics to the Hawks, who were obviously happy to bring him in. Odelein has been to the big show before, winning the cup with the Montreal Canadiens. He’s obviously a strong role-model and leader in the dressing room, otherwise he wouldn’t have been named captain in Columbus. He’s a character player who plays solid defense and can play a rough game.
In exchange for Odelein, I feel the Jackets did rather well. They picked up Jaroslav Spacek, a defenseman with a lot more upside. Despite being 28, Spacek is only in his fourth NHL season. He has struggled this season, registering only 3 goals and 13 points in 60 games this season. He has a career high 10 goals and 36 points while with the Florida Panthers in his rookie season. Along with Spacek, the Jackets also picked up a 2nd Round Pick in 2003, a draft hat is said to be deeper than that o Read more »
Now that the regular season has wound up and the playoff match-ups set, from a Kootenay ICE perspective of the chase for the division pennant, you’d wonder what all the fuss was about.
Almost conceding the B.C. Division regular season crown to the Kamloops Blazers with only two weeks to go, the ICE decided to make a race out of it by clawing back from a nine-point deficit to a mere point differential with one game to go. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Then again, did it really matter whether the club finished first or second?
Yes, no and maybe. The club did secure home-ice advantage for at least the first round of the WHL playoffs and the second seed in the Western Conference. However, Kootenay G.M. Jeff Chynoweth wasn’t overly disappointed that the ICE didn’t catch Kamloops for pennant. “No disappointment at all,” said Chynoweth on the eve of the playoffs. “We had the second best record in the WHL from the trade deadline on (17-6-2), only Red Deer was better. We’re second in the league in goals-for during that time-frame and third-best in goals against average, so when you’re talking about rounding your game into shape, just like in the past two years when we finished the year strong, it’s a good thing heading into the post-season.
“Getting first or second really didn’t matter. We would’ve played Prince George or Kelowna anyway.”
The Prince George Cougars or Kelowna Rockets, two teams not exactly synonymous with the ICE in terms of rivalry. In fact, Prince George and Kootenay have never even met in the post-season. Historically in Cranbrook, Read more »
Team: Regina Pats (WHL)
Birthdate: May, 7th, 1982
Weight: 180 lbs.
Shoots: L Read more »
The Buffalo Sabres in recent years have built up solid depth at the right wing position via trades and good drafting. Some of this talent is already on the Buffalo roster, but there are still a couple of good prospects in the pipeline. One of those prospects, Norm Milley, is currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Norm was selected by Buffalo in the 2nd round of the 1998 NHL Draft, one of three 2nd round picks the Sabres made in that draft. The Toronto native starred for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, where he spent four seasons prior to turning pro in the summer of 2000. Milley set or tied several team records in Sudbury, and finished his junior career as the second-leading scorer in Wolves history. While the gentleman one point ahead of Norm on Sudbury’s scoring list (Jamie Matthews) may not be familiar to a lot of hockey fans, the two names directly after Milley’s, Ron Duguay and Mike Foligno, should be a little more recognizable to long-time NHL followers.
Milley turned in a solid first season in the AHL last year, earning Rochester’s Rookie of the Year award. His second season with the Amerks got off to a bit of a slow start, but Norm has come on in the season’s 2nd half to remind the organization why he was a high draft pick. Milley’s strong play recently earned him his first call-up to the NHL, where he picked up his first NHL point.
I had a chance to interview Norm following a recent Amerks practice. Below is a transcript of that conversation, with my questions bein Read more »
Norwegian hockey which has from time to time almost fallen off the earth finally has some positive news stemming from their younger players who are making a splash in the international scene. Among them are Per Åge Skroder who plays for semi-finalist HV71 in the Swedish Elite Series along with NHL prospects Johan Davidsson, Anders Huusko and Peter Ekelund. Skroder registered 20 goals and 33 points this season for HV71 and was the only 20 goal scorer on his club. Skroder a 5-10 185 pounder formerly of Sarpsborg, Norway is opening the eyes of NHL scouts with his quiet but steady play. A trip to a NHL camp just may be in the works.
Martin Knold also of Norway is playing defense for Linkøping of the Swedish Elite Series posting(1-9-10) but a poor -9 +/-.
Meanwhile in Germany, Norwegians Trond Magnussen, Tore Vikingstad (St.Louis Prospect) and Tommy Jakobsen are battling it out in the playoffs. Jakobsen`s club the Panthers of Augsburg are set for a position in the finals while Magnussen and Vikingstad were knocked out in the semi-finals. Both play for DEG Metro-Stars.
Back in Sweden the Trygg brothers Marius and Mats have improved their games greatly and look to be long time Swedish League Professionals and National Team stalwarts.
Over the border Frisk Asker led by youngesters Lars Nagel & Rene Sethereng are ready for Norwegian Final. Their opponent is to be decided between Storhamar and VIF Hockey.
Read more »