The platinum blonde hair is a dead giveaway. The hair may turn the
girl’s heads, but his speed down the wing is what’s turning the
scout’s heads. The white flash of uniform that flies around the ice,
wreaking havoc and bringing scoring chances with him, that’s the
Jozef Balej that has scouts looking.
Balej was found by the Winterhawks entirely by chance. GM Ken Hodge
was on a scouting trip in Minnesota, and needed to kill some time. He
took in a USHL game, and has been thankful ever since. Balej was
seeing limited ice time, but more than enough to catch Hodge’s eye.
As other European players on the Hawks draft list were selected by
other teams, Hodge remembered Balej, and took a chance.
Hodge’s chance is beginning to pay dividends. Balej came out hot in
preseason, but then most of the WHL’s older veteran players were at
NHL camps. When the regular season started, Balej had trouble finding
his scoring touch. But it was only a matter of time before his
talents took over. Through 12/11, Balej had yet to miss a game, and Read more»
After a disappointing four games to one defeat to the Calgary Hitmen in the last years Western Hockey League Final, the Blazers went to work to
re-tool a hockey club laden with nineteen year old players. Lost to the club this season through graduation or a jump to pro hockey were Kyle Calder
(Chicago), Mike Brown (Vancouver), Stephen Gainey (Dallas), Kenric Exner (St.Louis), Jordon Flodell (released, briefly in ECHL, now with Lethbridge
Hurricanes of WHL), David Haun (unknown), Ty Jones (Chicago), Robin Regehr (Calgary), Kyle Kos (Tampa Bay), Ajay Baines(ECHL), Donnie
Kinney (ECHL), and Chris St. Croix (Calgary). Eleven of the twelve players were vital cogs in the Blazers run to the League Final and if the Blazers
were to even be competitve this year would need to be replaced in one way or another. With a strong draft record most pundits knew the Blazers
would bring in some talented youngsters from the ’98 draft, get more production from some of last years role players and make a trade or two to
achieve this. So far so good! The Blazers have iced a line up that most agree is one of the fastest teams seen in a while. As a group this team was built
to play a high tempo, tenacious forechecking game and for the most part it has been a success. Even when losing the Blazers are more often than not
out chancing and outshooting their opponents.
The Kootenay Ice saw themselves move up to the number nine position in the
CHL Top Ten list last week after defeating both the Calgary Hitmen and the Seattle Thunderbirds
and tying the Portland Winterhawks in the last three games of their six-game road trip. The Ice play three games before the next list will be issued. This week sees the Ice match up against the Lethbridge Hurricanes before they meet up with the Red Deer Rebels for a home and home series.
Steve McCarthy will leave this Sunday (December 12th) for Kitchener to compete for a position on the Canadian World Junior Team roster. Jaroslav Svoboda has already been named to the Czech Republic National Junior Team and left earlier this week. Steve and Jaro are the first two Kootenay Ice players to be named or chosen to play in this tournament. Coming from someone who watches this tournament over the holidays every year, it will be great to finally watch a couple of your own play the game.
WHERE WE ARE AT:
The Ice are now 17-8-4-0 after finishing their six-game road trip. This puts the Ice in second place in the Central Division and 3rd overall in the WHL. The first half of the trip saw them go through Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Swift Current. This road trip saw the Ice play the top two ranked teams in the CHL. The Calgary Hitmen are ranked number one and the Swift Current Broncos are ranked number two (at the time this article is written.) The road trip seems to be where the Ice play their best game having only lost 3 of their road games so far this season. The Ice are 9-2-4 on the road. The 3 losses are to Lethbridge (2) and Swift Current. The second half of the road trip saw the Ice match up against the Calgary Hitmen, Seattle Thunderbirds and the Portland Winterhawks.
POWER PLAYS AND PENALTY KILLS:
The difference in play is strongly evident when you look at whether a team is at home or on the road, or if they are leading the game or playing catch up. When you look at the Ice’s power play percentages, you can see that the Ice are evidently stronger on the road than they are at home. The Ice are 5th in the league with their “on the road” power play, but are ranked number 12th for their power play on home ice. Their penalty kill is very similar. On home ice (9th in the league) and on the road (2nd in the league.) You can thank the excellent goaltending by Dan Blackburn for about 2/3 of the penalty killing.
NEWS & NOTES:
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST COME TO AN END:
The Kootenay Ice saw their 7 game undefeated and 6 game winning streak come to an end this past weekend when the Kelowna Rockets, Calgary Hitmen, and Regina Pats came to town. The Ice played three games in three nights and were defeated 3-2 by both the Rockets and the Hitmen before taking an 8-5 victory over the Regina Pats. The Ice are now 13-7-4-0 (8-5-1-0 at home and 5-2-3-0 on the road.) The Ice are still holding on to second place in the Central Division. The Ice take to the road this week for a 6-game road trip and are hoping to break the franchise record of five consecutive wins on the road, with which they are currently tied.
WHO’S DOING WHAT:
Mike Green is now only 7 points away from breaking the franchise record for career points.
Brad Tutschek has scored points in six of his last seven games (4-4-8).
Steve McCarthy recorded his 100th career WHL point on Wednesday, November 17th when he scored the first goal of the game (which turned out to be the game winner) versus Lethbridge.
Dan Blackburn bettered his average even after taking two losses this past weekend. Blackburn is now 7-3-0-0 in his last ten appearances with a 2.16 GAA and .920 save percentage with 12 shutout periods. Dan became the first 16 year old goaltender in the last 10 years to record a shut-out (vs. Lethbridge.) Kudos, Dan!
Graham Belak recorded his 700th career penalty minute in the Lethbridge game.