The Elitserien is at its halfway mark and three clubs have taken possession
of the top three spots, creating a gap to the fourth place in the league.
Perennial powerhouses Djurgården and Färjestad are hovering around the top
spot, as usual. They are joined by HV71, who made a splash in the transfer
market this past summer when they signed players like Finnnish forward Kalle
Sahlstedt and Johan Davidsson, who returns to the club after failing to
establish himself in the NHL.
Another big factor in HV71’s rise to the top has been young goaltender
Stefan Liv who is boasting a 2.17 goals against average and an impressive
92.1 save percentage. Liv, who is drafted by the Red Wings, has also starred
for the Swedish national team and could be named to the olympic team later
this month. He would suit up as the number three goalie in a ”see and
learn”-role behind Edmonton’s Tommy Salo and Pittsburgh’s Johan Hedberg.
Liv, who has grown up watching Dominik Hasek carry teams on his back, looks
like he has been influenced by the Czech star but plays a more conventional
Another revelation for the team has been norwegian forward Per-Åge Skröder
who was a fringe player in the Elitserien until he joined HV71. He is
leading the team with 21 points in 25 games.
Back-to-back champions Djurgården is again near the top of the league,
despite losing a dozen players over the summer, which usually means that the
new players with the team are doing quite well. Mikael Håkansson, who played
last year with the St.John’s Ma Read more»
Raffi Torres and Jason Krog were recently called up to the Islanders from the Bridgeport SoundTigers, which allowed HF to interview one of the best prospects in the Islanders system in Raffi Torres.
Hockey’s Future: When did you get the word you had been called up?
Raffi Torres: I got the word on the bus, I was pretty excited, it was right after the game last night.
HF: Does it help to come here and see guys like Krog and Kolnik in the lockerroom?
RT: Definitely, it helps to have guys I’ve been playing with in Bridgeport here on the Island with me.
HF: What are you going to be thinking when you are standing there and the anthem’s playing?
RT: It’s going to be unbelievable and so exciting. I can’t wait.
HF: Do you have any idea who Peter Laviolette (Islanders Head Coach) might put you on the ice with? Maybe someone like Dave Scatchard who plays a style similar to yours?
RT: I have no clue really, I just want to be ready to play with whomever they put me out there with.
HF: How’s Bridgeport been treating you?
RT: Its great. The team and the city have been great.
HF: Do they (the Isles and SoundTigers) use a similar coaching style?
RT: I’m not really sure yet. I haven’t really been able to find out how Laviolette is, but I know he expects the best out of us and I just want to play well (for the Isles).
HF: Well Raffi, congratulations on your call-up and good luck. Read more»
The one area that the Kootenay ICE have been so solid in this season. The one area that has bailed the club out from at times, indifferent play this season. The one area fans could point to in proof that the club indeed belonged in the upper echelon of the WHL – special teams. It is an area that has become a frozen wasteland of late and is a telltale sign of the club’s downward trend that has seen them lose two in a row and the last four of five at the Cranbrook Rec/Plex.
When you lose, you look for excuses. The first place the ICE could look is their special teams, with a rider attached to the word ‘special’, as in, not very.
In the last five games at the ‘Plex, the ICE are running a paltry pace of a 10% efficiency rate with the man-advantage, just about a full 20% off the 29.7% clip the club was enjoying before the home site slide of the last five games. On the other side of the sheet the kill rate while disadvantaged has plunged from a healthy 90.9% success rate to a questionable percentage of just over 79%.
If you consider the trend of games hovering around the one third mark with either a man up or a man down, the numbers begin to speak volumes. It’s a sound Coach Ryan McGill doesn’t like listening to. “Power-plays are a reflection of how hard your best players work, number one,” offered McGill in an attempt to explain his club’s demise in the specialty team department. “But it’s a double-edged sword. If they work hard but they’re not using all their talents as far as seeing lanes, seeing where guys are, basically losing the tunnel vision, then the Read more»
Goaltenders get their due
Goaltenders finally got some recognition this week for the Albany River Rats. Not that they have not played well to date, but the team’s record (one win in the first 17 games going into this week) overshadowed the performance between the pipes.
This past week, though, Devils’ prospects Ari Ahonen and Jean-Francois Damphousse both got some notice in the press. Ahonen got his first professional victory in the American Hockey League, as he stopped 38 of 39 shots on Saturday, November 24, 2001 as the River Rats beat the Rochester Americans, 3-1. It was only the second victory in the campaign through 20 games. Ahonen earned “third star” for his efforts.
J.F. Damphousse got his first start in the NHL. Though he took a loss, as the Devils were unable to score against Tampa Bay’s Khabibulin, Damphousse made 20 saves on 22 shots. One of the goals was a power play marker; the other was a rebound shot. Media reports gave Damphousse favorable grades for his NHL debut. He was credited with showing “poise”, a term that certainly reflected his AHL performance the past several seasons as he played in front of a weak Albany defense (judged historically).
Damphousse, the Devils’ 1st choice (24th overall) in the 1997 entry draft, hopes for a few more starts with the Devils, sandwiched in between Martin Brodeur’s assignments. If he does not get another start soon, he will probably be sent back to Albany, where he has split time with Ari Ahonen and Scott Clemmensen. All three are promising prospects, though Read more»