Many surprises have taken place a little over a month into the 1999-2000 OHL season.
There are the usual surprise teams that have made early surges into the top of their division
and there have been the teams that were predicted to be strong contenders that slipped to the
basement. But the biggest surprise that has taken place that has fans around the province taking
note is the production of the league’s rookies early in the season.
Usually, teams this early in the season tend to lean on their older, more experienced
players to get the team on the right track and to help the younger players adjust to the league.
This OHL season has been somewhat of an exception as the rookies have stepped up and have become
the players that team relies on in the late stages of a close game. In most cases, these players
have delivered. Derek Roy, the 16 year old rookie for the Kitchener Rangers, is currently leading
the league in rookie scoring and is also leading his team. This is common in the league, where
the leading scorer for the team is a rookie. It represents a strong future for the league and
many great players on the horizon.
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The player referred to by some as simply “The Bear” played for the St.
Albert Saints from 1981 through to 1983 and judging by his stellar career
both on and off the ice it almost seems like the Alberta Junior Hockey
League mission statement was written for him.
It states in part, “Our League supports its players through assistance in
their academic, athletic and personal lives throughout their pursuit of
Berezan has certainly excelled both athletically and academically. He spent
parts of ten seasons in the NHL, appearing in two Stanley Cup Finals. He
also took advantage of the scholarship he achieved through hockey and is now
an accomplished financial advisor with Nesbitt-Burns in Calgary.
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After a month of nearly horrible hockey for the New York Rangers, it is grading time. Being the New York Rangers, this will be short as there are few rookies. So we will add grades to some other players as well, most of them 2nd year and those in the AHL, at Hartford.
Mike York 5.10 170 (USA)
York has taken full opportunity of being the No. 2 center by default. York possesses a nice touch, hard shot, and never say die work ethic. York has played well through the first month of the season, and is entrenched at No. 2 but receives No. 1 center minutes. York, now on a line with Adam Graves and Theo Fleury, has only helped bring up the play of the two struggling veterans. As of now, Mike York is the top center on this New York Rangers club.
Kim Johnsson 6.01 188 (SWE)
Johnsson came in to the camp as an unknown commodity. Being the last pick in the draft, Johnsson went out to prove something. He played as Sweden`s best defender at the World Championships in Norway catching the eye of General Manager Neil Smith. Johnsson still makes the rookie mistake, but has shown that he can hit, skate and pass. A solid team player, Johnsson has moved steadily up the depth chart and is more valuable than anyother Rangers defender this side of Brian Leetch. Johnsson plays like a seasoned veteran and if he is kept in New York through these worried times, he will be a top NHL defender. At this point, Johnsson is the best Rangers’ defenseman in my book. He needs about 15 pounds to his frame, but that will come.
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If the Saints are in the lead in the dying seconds of a hockey game, you can be assured that Kris Liber will be on the ice.
Liber, 19, is one of the top defensive forwards in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He is a premiere faceoff man, a tenacious penalty killer and an agitator. If the AJHL kept track of hits as a statistic like the NHL does, Liber would without a doubt be among the league leaders.
He stands at 5-foot-7 and weighs in at 170 pounds but plays six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier.
“I really enjoy my role. Give me penalties and I’ll kill them,” he said last season.
Liber became a fixture on the St. Albert Saints hockey club at the start of the 1997-98 AJHL playoffs and hasn’t looked back since. He played the majority of the 97-98 season with the Maple Leaf Athletic Club (Midget AAA) and had 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 32 games. When the AJHL playoffs started up the Saints took the opportunity to put Liber on the roster. It was invaluable experience for Liber as they went on to win the AJHL Championship and play in the Doyle Cup-the annual playoff between the best of the AJHL and BCHL-against the Surrey Eagles.
“It was a great experience when I got picked up by the Saints,” he said. “They treat you like gold. It was an unbelievable feeling to even go to the Doyle Cup.”
Liber lists the victory in seven games over the Fort Saskatchewan Traders in the AJHL championship as his favourite moment as a Saint to date.
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WHL Player of the Week:
Our very own, Jaroslav Svoboda, was named the Sprint Canada WHL Player of the Week after notching 2 goals and 6 assists in his last three games. This is the second time in his career and the sixth player in franchise history to achieve this honor.
First Time Ever:
For the first time in franchise history, the Kootenay Ice have won a regular season game against their arch nemesis, The Calgary Hitmen.
The line of Svoboda (2-6-8), Green (4-2-6) and Blatny (3-3-6) has combined for twenty points during the three game unbeaten streak.
Forward Tyler Beechey will be out of the lineup for two to three weeks with a shoulder injury. Graham Belak left after the first period in the game against Calgary yet there is no word on his injury. Dean Arsene returned to the lineup after missing three games with the flu.
Where We Stand:
The Kootenay Ice are tied for second place with Lethbridge for the second spot in the Central Division with 20 points. The Calgary Hitmen are still in first with 27 points. The Ice are 8-5-4-0 so far this year.
Ice vs. Lethbridge Hurricanes
October 29, 1999
Ice Win 5-2
Jaffray (Stoll, Lassu)
Beechey (Green, Svoboda)
Tutschek (McCarthy, Johnson)
Beechey (Svoboda, Fischer)
Dan Blackburn (18 saves, 2GA)
Ice @ Lethbridge
October 30, 1999
Ice Loss 4-0
B.J. Boxma (29 saves, 4GA)
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Entering the seventh week of the WHL West Division season things are beginning to take shape as the large descrepancy in games played amongst the teams is begining to dwindle. The Prince George Cougars currently lead the division with 22 points from eighteen games played while the second place Spokane Chiefs have twenty points from sixteen games to this point. The Tri-City Americans and Seattle Thunderbirds follow in third and fourth respectively, with the Ams having seventeen points from fourteen games played and the T-Birds with fifteen points from thirteen games. Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers have fifteen points as well, but Kelowna has played eighteen games while the Blazers lead the division with nineteen games under their belts and the Portland Winterhawks trail the field with seven points from sixteen games. My preseason picks now look dismal as the only team I’m even close to is the Portland Winterhawks in last, which I predicted but so did everyone else in the world.
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Player: Malcolm MacMillan
Born: February 8, 1982
Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ontario
Weight: 180 lbs
Pretty much every sports team has one player that the fans truly love. Some of these players include Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings, former Detroit Lion Barry Sanders and former Detroit Tiger great Lou Whitaker.
In junior hockey there is usually not one clear cut fan favorite, but there are many of them on each team. Every so often though, a player comes out of midget and really wins over the fans more than any other player. Soo Greyhound rookie centre Malcolm MacMillan is a fan favorite in every sense of the phrase.
MacMillan was the Greyhounds 1999 second round pick (31st overall). He came into camp and won over Greyhound management with his tireless work ethic and his combination of physical play and skill.
In the 15 games that MacMillan has played this season so far he has scored 2 goals and 9 points to complement his 56 penalty minutes. His 56 penalty minutes are the 5th highest total in the league thus far.
At 5’11” MacMillan is not the most physically intimidating player in the league. It’s surprising how tough he really is though. You wouldn’t expect a lot of toughness out of a player that is 5’11”. He has already gotten into a few really good fights this season.
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As the season continues to move on in New York with a few bright new faces, Mike York, Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac and now Jason Doig getting some ice time, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford continues to play well under coach John Paddock.
Rangers goaltending prospect and no.1 (AHL goalie) Jean-Francois Labbe stopped 26 shots in Quebec`s ice hockey return to Hartford. Quebec had not played in Hartford since 1995 when the Nordiques played the host Hartford Whalers. Center Derek Armstrong notched a goal and an assist to lead the Hartford Wolf Pack to their fourth straight victory, 3-1 over the Quebec Citadelles. Armstrong opened the scoring 6:50 into the opening session and helped set up Drew Bannister (ex-Tampa Bay defenseman), who gave Hartford a 2-0 lead with just under seven minutes left in the second. Stephane Roy scored 35 seconds after Bannister to cut the Wolf Pack lead to one, but Labbe, who improved to 4-1-3, protected the lead by turning away all 10 shots he faced in the final period. Daniel Goneau capped the scoring with just under five minutes to play. Dan Murphy stopped 30 shots for Quebec, which lost its third in a row after starting the season 9-2-2.
-Courtesy of the Hartford Courant and compiled reports.
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Andrew Ference, the feisty young defenseman from Edmonton, has found a home in the heart of Pittsburgh. Still just 20 years of age, Ference is discovering there is much to learn before he can become a key defenseman in the NHL; the defenseman Pittsburgh so desperately needs. Spunk and spirit in tact however, he appears to be up for the challenge. Despite a rash of injuries, Andrew is definitely earning his ice time. Twelve games into the new season, he’s already been made a marked man by the New York Rangers for a hit on Petr Nedved, which occurred October 14th at Madison Square Garden. It’s that attitude and fearless nature that have Penguins fans everywhere taking a second look. This past Sunday (November 7, 1999), Andrew added to his credits by winning the “Fastest Skater” event in the Penguins annual skills competition. It just goes to show you, it’s not always the size of the player that matters. In some cases, a 5’10″ defenseman can play like a giant.
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General Manager Jamie MacDonald of the Kitchener Rangers has been a busy man in 1999, recently making a number of trades, and before that, striking gold at the draft table. This years edition of the Rangers has seen 13 rookies lace up the skates, 9 from the 1999 Priority Draft and 2 from the European Import Draft.
Despite the large number of rookies on the roster, the Rangers are playing 500 hockey, averaging about 4 goals a game, and are right in the thick of things in the competitive and tight Western Conference. This bodes well for the future as many of these rookies are getting tons of ice time and will surely benefit from it.
Steve Emiger was their first round pick, 4th overall. This 185 pound defenceman stands 6 feet and 2 inches and has played a regular shift, first line power play, and killed penalties. He just turned 16 on Halloween, and the only thing scary about him is how good he could be. Due to his late birthday, he will not be drafted until the 2002 NHL entry draft, and from what I’ve seen of him so far he is first round material. He has great offensive instincts and reminds me a little of Phil Housley.
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