AHL’s Southern Division Report
By Al Alven
(Special note: Due to logistics, the AHL South Report
will be published on a bi-weekly basis from this point
on. Thank you to everyone who has supported the report
in its first few weeks of existence!)
Last night, the South Division’s own
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins helped the AHL kick off
its 66th season as the team squared off against the
St. John’s Maple Leafs in the league opener. It was an
emotional night at the First Union Arena in
Wilkes-Barre, as the Penguins raised their Western
Conference championship banner and honored the victims
of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with a moving
In the end, before a sell-out crowd of 8,143, the
Leafs wound up escaping with a 6-4 victory on the
road. The visitors displayed a very balanced team
effort, receiving goals from six different players:
Doug Doull, Petr Svoboda, Luca Cereda, Paul Healy,
Donald MacLean and Bobby House (empty net). The Pens
got a pair of goals from Billy Tibbetts and one each
from Alexander Zevakhin and Ross Lupaschuk.
Leafs goaltender Mike Minard was named the game’s
first star after stopping 28 of 32 shots, 14 of which
came in the third period. Veteran Robbie Tallas was
unspectacular for the Pens, allowing five goals on 29
Tonight, the Philadelphia Phantoms and Norfolk
Admirals will kick off their respective seasons as
well. The Hershey Bears are set to debut on Sunday
(see bottom of article for game listings). With this
is mind, the following is a brie Read more»
It was thought last season after Grant Ledyard was signed, Adrian Aucoin was acquired from Vancouver, and Paul Mara was dealt to Phoenix, Tampa GM Rick Dudley would let the defense rest. Not so. Aucoin was dealt with winger Alexander Kharitonov for a bigger, younger defenseman (Mathieu Biron) and a second round pick (Andreas Holmqvist).
Gone was the experience of Ledyard and Aucoin, and the Lightning was back to having a young, underdeveloped back line.
Help was again brought in, however, as Ledyard found his way back to the Bay and Nolan Pratt was acquired from Colorado. Instead of Zyuzin paired with another offense-first defenseman in Aucoin, Nolan Pratt will try to bring a defensive-first presence to the pair. Pavel Kubina, Zyuzin and forward Brad Richards look to lead the PP from the point in Aucoin’s absence.
Here’s a look at the Lightning’s organizational defensive corps. Size and speed are the main ingredients for a player with a Bolt on his uniform, and the list proves it. Fortunately, a secondary ingredient includes at least a little, albeit not much, NHL experience this year.
The future looks big and bright on the Tampa blue-line. The present is quite blurry.
Czech Republic Under-20 team at Five Nations Tournament
By Robert Neuhauser and Ivana Paulova
At the beginning of September, the Czech Under-20 team, defending World Champions, had one of the last chances to test their skills against all the top European Under-20 teams. Check out how the young Czechs were doing!
The 2001-2002 season is under way and the first meeting of the Under-20 teams was scheduled to take place in the Czech cities Prostejov and Olomouc. Besides the home Czechs, the squads of Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Finland also participated in this tourney. A look at the rosters, stocked with NHL draftees and possible future NHLers, promised that this will be a tournament to watch. The Czechs showed some new faces on the team, but basically it was the same team that was built after the successful 2001 WJC. Among the 1982 born players the only guy that left for North America was Jaroslav Sklenar, originally from HC Ytong Brno, who was assigned to the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL after the Leafs rookie camp in Kitchener. 1983 born players with chances on a roster spot in the Under-20 team who left for the CHL in the summer are former Sparta Praha winger Daniel Volrab, who is a Saskatoon Blade now and Martin Toms, a defenseman from Karlovy Vary who plays for the QMJHL’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
Spotlight is on now on ICE Goaltenders
Let’s face it. If you asked every Kootenay ICE fan, those in the administration and any local pundits and purveyors of comment, no one really had processed the realization that all-everything goalie Dan Blackburn wouldn’t be back between the pipes for the Kootenay ICE. ‘Oh he’ll impress them,’ said anyone and everyone. ‘But there’s no way that he’ll make the New York Rangers. Goalies don’t make the NHL at eighteen anymore.
Well, guess what? Someone forgot to relay that information to Dan Blackburn and the New York Rangers.
In the end, and for arguments sake we’ll assume that Blackburn is indeed not coming back anytime soon, it really didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Ranger’s goaltending situation wasn’t the deepest part of the organization. And if Blackburn played well enough in camp he would join the squad as the elder incumbents young apprentice. Ranger’s G.M. Glen Sather’s inability or unwillingness to address their depth at what most consider the most important position in the game all but assured Blackburn’s ascension into the NHL.
Needless to say it is all water under the proverbial bridge for the Kootenay ICE’ fortunes in the WHL and life must go on. But in their quest for their second WHL title in three years, it begs the obvious question. In Jeff Harvey and Bryan Bridges does Kootenay have the capability to compete with the big boys in their division in Kamloops and Kelowna? Never mind Red Deer, Portland, Spokane and Swift Current throughout the r Read more»