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Florida’s Little Big Man, Byron Ritchie

by Mark Fischel

It is widely recognized that when it comes to the issue of size for hockey players, the larger players seemingly get more consideration over the smaller players. For a time in the mid 90’s, large skilled players were in vogue as the “Legion of Doom” was carving their way through the Eastern Conference, and general managers were looking for the next “Big” player.

While a player of Eric Lindros’s size and skill are always coveted, sometimes it is the smaller guys who make just as much difference on their teams. Guys like Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya, Ray Whitney, Theo Fleury , and Sergei Samsonov all play big games in contrast to their smaller stature.

Another small player is starting to make his presence felt on the Florida Panthers is Byron Ritchie, and he too has never taken into consideration the negatives toward the small players.

“I never had a problem with size being an issue, and as long as a guy like me isn’t intimidated by the bigger players. I don’t even think the size is really an issue.” Ritchie said, “For instance, Doug Gilmour of Montreal. He isn’t a big player but he has had an awesome career and he is one of the feistiest players in the league”

On January 16th, the Panthers made a trade with the Hurricanes in acquiring defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh and center Byron Ritchie, giving Florida the puck-moving offensive defenseman they have been searching for since their inception. For a player originally drafted in the 7th round of the 1995 draft by the then Hartford Whalers, the first time being traded was a new exp Read more »

Rebels Take Strangle Hold

by Dustin Nielson

The nation’s top team is now one game away from a first round sweep of the
Lethbridge Hurricanes. Once again Mikhail Yakubov led the way for Red Deer who
came away with a 5-2 win over the Canes in game that surprised me in
several ways.

First surprise, the Hurricanes let the Rebels do exactly what they hoped they wouldn’t
do by hopping out to an early 2-0 lead. Koopmans looked shaky in the early going but settled
down as the game went on. The Canes were able to get their
composure back when Jeremy Jackson buried a powerplay goal before the period
ended. The Hurricanes held an edge in shots after one frame and looked to
be in all right shape entering the second period.

Second surprise, the ref in tonight’s game was absolutely brutal. I’m not sure if
that should be much of a surprise, from what I have been hearing officiating
all around the WHL playoffs has been questionable. Tonight’s ref, Agnew, missed
a couple of blatent high-sticking calls in the second. Within minutes of
eachother Jeremey Jackson and Ryley Layden both had to leave the ice with
cut faces from the sticks of Rebel players. On both plays the high-stick was
clearly seen by over 3000 pairs of eyes except for the two
that could do something about it. This led to the second period being completed
with constant booing from the fans and more physical play from the players.

Surprise number three, Tomas Kopecky can chuck the knuckles. With frustration
mounting on the Hurricanes side Detroit draft pick Tomas Kopecky dropped the
mittens with Colby Armstrong of the Rebels. Armstr Read more »

Farkas likely to be moved

by Stephen J. Holodinsky

It may well be the last time you see Jeff Farkas in a Toronto Maple Leaf uniform. He might get a call-up for the playoffs, but with what he’s shown this year on The Rock, coupled with his latest cup of coffee in the Big Smoke, there are better candidates. It seems the last remnant of the Cliff Fletcher regime has not only let the rest of the pack catch up to him, but he’s let some overtake him as well. Paul Healey has made the Leafs and from here, the choice would easily Alexei Ponikarovsky should a second forward be needed.

In his latest stint Farkas has shown that he is an unwilling warrior in the corners and in front of the net, much like another U.S. collegian the Leafs signed Mike Johnson. It might be prudent to notice that the aforementioned Paul Healey was skating with Mats Sundin while his St. John’s teammate was logging time further down the rotation. The difference here? Contrarily to Farkas, Healey will get his nose dirty and for that he has been rewarded. Despite two years of AHL hockey, Farkas hasn’t raised his game physically and at 24 has more or less run out of opportunities with this organization to do so. Look for the former Boston College forward to be moved soon while he still remains salvageable perhaps with another team.

Is this the end for Kootenay?

by Jeff Bromley

It’s the end of March and playoff fever taken hold around the Kootenay’s. Unfortunately, it’s become more of an illness rather than a euphoria to both the players and their fans.

Left untreated, this condition will prove fatal.

The Prince George Cougars shocked the Kootenay Ice, their fans and just about anybody but themselves after walking away from the Cranbrook Rec/Plex this past weekend with 4-1 and 3-1 wins respectively, and a 2-0 lead in their WHL Western Conference quarter-final. Facing the prospect of returning to the Prince George Multiplex for three consecutive games, the Cougars will be looking to wrap the series on home ice. Cougar head coach Ed Dempsey, who’s charges failed to win in either of the two occasions at the Rec/Plex during the regular season, including a lopsided 10-4 drubbing the last time the club visited the Key City, was more than satisfied at the two wins.

“We were looking for two solid efforts on the road and that’s what we got,” said Dempsey. “It was nice to win the first one and it gave us an opportunity for another strong effort in the second game.” Dempsey was guarded against overconfidence against the suddenly sputtering ICE and was quick to warn about complacency in the playoffs. “Let’s give some credit to our opponent, these guys have the most goals of any team in the WHL (second to the Medicine Hat tigers actually), you don’t do that without talent and they have some absolutely gifted forwards led by Jarrett Stoll. If we’re going to have any hope at all we better be able to look after our own end or you’re going to Read more »

Simon Gamache after one year pro

by Holly Gunning

Gamache was a star in the QMJHL. He finished as the top scorer of the in 2000-01 with 184 points in 72 games. He was named the 2001 Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year, as well as the 2000-01 QMJHL MVP and MVP of the 2001 QMJHL playoffs. He led his team to the Memorial Cup finals. And most impressively, he beat Mario Lemieux QMJHL’s playoff point record with an amazing 57 points.

Despite these very impressive numbers, Gamache was drafted in the 9th round in the 2000 Entry Draft. Thrashers GM Don Waddell said after the draft that the only reason he fell so far was because of his size, but it is hard to tell if this is the real reason, since Waddell speaks well of all his prospects, even the ones who are longshots. Even if Waddell saw something lacking in his game, he is unlikely to state that publicly.

The question on everyone’s mind is: will Simon Gamache make it to the NHL?

Gamache has good hands, vision, and passing skills. He’s high energy, and exciting to watch. His greatest gift is his ability to put the puck in the net. On the other hand, he’s small, listed at 5’10”, 180 pounds, which does not automatically preclude him from succeeding in the NHL, but unlike some other small players like Paul Kariya or Steve Sullivan, Gamache may lack the speed to compensate for his size.

First Pro Season
Like many players before him, Gamache’s success in juniors has not translated into immediate success in pro hockey.
Read more »

Haydar shines at UNH

by Brian Roe

The bigger prospects in the Nashville Predators system, Adam Hall (6’3″), Dan Hamhuis (6’1″), Brian Finley (6’4″) and Andrew Hutchinson (6’2″) are all prominent names in the Preds future. There is, however, a saying that good things come in small packages, an adage that is personified in the form of another Nashville prospect, and University of New Hampshire star, Darren Haydar.

The hockey gods have certainly smiled on the University of New Hampshire Wildcats this season. The #1 team in NCAA Division I hockey boasted an often times unstoppable offense, as well as two senior goaltenders that have played very well. Next week, UNH will make an appearance as one of the finalists in the NCAA’s Frozen Four hockey tournament, where they will open against the Maine Black Bears in a rematch of the Hockey East championship game. UNH won that previous confrontation, 3-1.

Perhaps the main reason for New Hampshire’s success this season is their leading scorer, vocal leader and captain, Darren Haydar. Haydar (22, 5’9″, 165 lbs.), who wears #20 for the Wildcats, is the leading scorer in the nation. In 39 games so far this season, the Milton, ON native has 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points, an offensive explosion that comes on the heels of back-to-back 41-point seasons. His breakout season has not gone unnoticed, as he is a finalist (and favorite) for the Hobey Baker Award, t Read more »

Oilers youngsters fill in

by Steve Morrow

When the Oilers traded both Tom Poti and Sean Brown at the deadline, the blueline had an opening, so the Oilers called up Sven Butenschon and Ales Pisa to fill the void.

Butenschon has been very steady in the three games, playing about eight minutes a night in the sixth defence spot. Pisa saw his first action against San Jose and definitely had his struggles. With the return of Steve Staios to the line-up, Pisa was pushed to the press box. This is a great time to be an Oiler prospect on defence, although Ferguson and Butenschon have laid claim for now.

The Bulldogs have won 3 in a row; they have a very similar record to the Oilers. Jason Chimera has scored 1g 5a 6pts during the streak. Ales Hemsky has scored 3 goals for Hull but they trail 2-1 to Montreal in the first round of QMJHL playoffs.

Top Czech Under-17 team players: Vojtech Polak

by Robert Neuhauser
It didn’t happen very often in the history of Czech hockey that a line would be so dominating
on the international junior stage like the Vojtech Polak-Petr Vrana-Ivo Kratena line. Young
guns of the late 80’s Jaromir Jagr, Bobby Holik and Robert Reichel also formed a great line
and the three 1985 born blue-chippers draw many comparisons to them when speaking about
their level of skill. The scorer of this line and the most offensive player is the right
winger Vojtech Polak, the current captain of the Czech Under-17 team.

Vojtech Polak had ‘hockey player’ written all over him since he was born. Just like many stars of the
past and future he was born in a hockey family. His dad, also of the name Vojtech Polak, is
a respected youth coach and the current coach of Karlovy Vary’s 5th grade team. Just as the
little Vojtech could walk, he also became his first pair of skates and his dad laced him the
tights up for the first time. So it came that already at the age of two years Vojtech Polak
took his first strides. He was born in the small city Ostrov nad Ohri, but lives his whole
life in the famous spa city Karlovy Vary and at the local rink he also learned how to keep
balance on his skates. The little kid was very talented, when he was four, Vojtech was already
a solid skater for his age, took the stick into his hands and touched the black piece of
rubber for the first time. His hockey career began very early, at the mere age of four Vojtech
Polak was admitted into the Karlovy Vary’s pre-novice cathegory and also played his first
game. From the very first gam Read more »

Wild news and notes

by Chris Kitching

As expected, the Minnesota Wild were very quiet last Tuesday, making only
one minor deal leading up to the much anticipated NHL trade deadline. Minnesota’s only move sent C Darryl Laplante to the Boston Bruins for LW Greg Crozier.

Crozier, a third round pick (73rd overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins in
1994, has played only one NHL game in his career. The 25 year old has spent
all season with the Providence Bruins (AHL) this season, tallying 11 points
in 54 games. He was assigned to the Houston Aeros following the trade.

Laplante, meanwhile, has played in the minors with Houston all season, with
17 points in 31 games, and never played a game in a Wild uniform.

Park shines

With Sergei Zholtok on the sidelines, C Richard Park has been given more
time on the power-play and more ice time, overall. Park took advantage of
the extra action to bang home two power-play goals in Monday’s 4-2 win,
including the game winner.

It was the first two-goal game of Park’s career, and extended the South
Korean’s season totals to eight goals and 12 assists in 51 games.

This is Park’s first season in the NHL since 1998-99 when he played seven
games with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Trainer’s Room

Minnesota was able to take two positives out of Saturday afternoon’s loss as
D Brad Bombardir and C Wes Walz returned to action. Bombardir missed four
games with a sore right ankle, while Walz had been on the shelf since the
Olympic break with injuries to his chest and left shoulder.

Read more »

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