01/30/00 11:28 PM
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Harvard Gets Their Goalie of the Future
Will Crothers of the Aurora Tigers will be going to Harvard University this fall. A 6'2", 155 lb (!!) butterfly -type goalie, Crothers, though playing on a middle-of-the-pack team, leads the 37-team Ontario Provincial League with a 2.06 GAA.
Crothers, who got heavy interest from other Ivy schools, particularly Yale, was the 28th-ranked North American goalie in the NHL's Central Scouting list released earlier this month. He's a Feb. 10, 1980 birthdate, which means he turns 20 next week. His coach at Aurora is Brad Selwood, a defenseman with the New England Whalers (WHA) in the '70s who also played in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs and L.A. Kings.
Taft Still #1
The new U.S.Hockey Report prep poll was released tonight and Taft, though tied by Northfield-Mt. Hermon 2-2 this afternoon at home, is still undefeated and still #1. Heading into February, it looks like Taft, Deerfield, Hotchkiss, and Cushing are going to be very difficult to budge from the top four spots. Cushing, though back on a roll lately, is the only one of the above-mentioned four to lose to a team with a sub-.500 record (Holderness, Jan. 5).
USHL Draft List -- and a Few Thoughts
The USHL held its first-ever January draft of midget and high school/prep players on Tuesday before the league All-Star game in Rochester, Minnesota. Like prior USHL drafts, this was a clandestine affair. How clandestine? Before leaving the draft table, coaches/GM's were warned to keep the following list of drafted players away from the U.S. Hockey Report.
Well, we got it anyway. It took time. It involved patching together information from multiple sources. And it really shouldn't have to be this way.
In this typist's opinion, holding secret drafts is a mistake. The secrecy should come before the draft, when coaches/GM's and scouts are all tight-lipped, unwilling to tip their hand. But that has to end on draft day, which the USHL, if they so chose, could easily turn into a big-time promotional opportunity, perhaps the biggest one on their calendar. Instead, everything is hush-hush and people in those parts of the U.S. far removed from the Great Plains -- i.e. over 90% of the population -- sit around so confused by the USHL's byzantine system of protected teams, tenders, winter drafts, high school tenders, spring drafts, and tryout camps that they just tune it all out.
Who can blame them?
And why does the USHL do it this way? As best we can figure, there's one overriding reason. The teams in the league want to be able to recruit players before anyone else knows who they're recruiting -- specifically, they're attempting to get a jump on NAHL teams and lock up a player before teams in the rival league draft him. The NAHL, it should be pointed out, also holds a clandestine draft.
The bottom line, though, is this. Any minor recruiting edge USHL franchises gain by secret drafts is washed away by the uncertainty it creates in the families of recruits. Basically, it's not fair to kids or their parents -- that feeling comes across clearly in the e-mail I've received this week. Since the USHL falls under the purview of USA Hockey, players' needs should come before what, in the larger picture, is a rather minor, and definitely back-door, recruiting edge.
OK, on to Tuesday's draft. First off, the team with the lowest winning percentage had the #1 pick overall and the Cedar Rapids Roughriders used it to select Tim Pettit of Taft. The number next to a players' name indicates what round they were selected in. (There was one exception: Waterloo got two picks in a late round.)
There were 76 players selected, and they break down this way:
Because of the way our copy of this list was put together, there may be a few spelling mistakes, and a handful of players are missing positions. Any help making corrections or filling in the blanks would be appreciated. We want this list to be as accurate as possible. The e-mail address here is email@example.com. Thank you in advance.
Gorman Brightest Star in Rochester
At the USHL All-Star game in Rochester, Minn. earlier tonight, Team USA beat Team World, 6-3, in a rather one-side game.
Team USA was lead by 6'0" center Rick Gorman of Philadelphia, Pa. and the Sioux Falls Stampede. Gorman, who turns 21 in a week, had three goals and an assist and took home the Ron Woody game MVP award. Gopher-to-be Troy Riddle, a 5'10" RW from Minneapolis playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers, had a goal and three assists and also looked strong tonight. He was named Team USA's MVP (proving that an MVP is not always the MVP-- strange system, huh?) Others on Team USA who impressed us were 5'11" Green Bay forward Aaron Smith, who played LW on the line with Riddle and Gorman; Green Bay D Dan Boeser, Sioux City D David Hale, Rochester forward Aaron Gill (a native of Rochester, by the way), Twin Cities forward Matt Koalska, and Waterloo forward Luke Fulghum.
For Team World, Dwight Hirst (1g,1a), a Manitoba native playing for Fargo-Moorhead, was picked for his team's MVP award even though his line -- Hirst; league-leading scorer Peter Sejna of Des Moines; and Thunder Bay's Patrick Sharp -- certainly didn't jump out at us. Impressive for his raw skills was Green Bay forward John Eichelberger. Another forward who had a strong game for Team World was Colin Stuart, like Gill a Rochester native playing in front of the home folks. On defense, 6'3" Joey Martin of Rogers, Minn. and the Omaha Lancers was hard to miss.
Big Change for Select 15 Festival
The USA Hockey Select 15 Festival, which will be held in St. Cloud, Minn., from Aug. 4-11, will be undergoing a major change this summer.
Under a one-year pilot program agreed to at last week's USA Hockey winter meetings in Tampa, Fla., players chosen for the festival will no longer appear on district teams. Instead they'll be on mixed teams and identified solely by the color of their uniforms -- i.e. blue team, red team, green team, gold team, etc.
Before going any further, we should point out that this applies only to the Select 15's, and not the 16's and 17's.
Now, here's how it will work. Each of USA Hockey's ten districts will pick their coaches and top players and send their completed list to USA Hockey's main office in Colorado Springs. Goalies will be ranked 1-2, defenseman 1-6, and forwards 1-12. When it's all added up there will be 200 combined players from the ten districts being sent to the 15 Festival, just like before. The new wrinkle? Those 200 players are then drafted onto teams. How exactly that will be done is yet to be finalized. The end result, it's hoped, will be ten well-balanced (and geographically-mixed) teams.
This new setup, its proponents say, is an attempt to get rid of the emphasis on winning and replace it with a development-oriented approach. There's been unhappiness among USA Hockey higher-ups over coaches at the 15 Festival breaking an unwritten rule that prohibits playing one player more than another, and employing locks and traps -- in other word, going for the W's.
However, there's also an argument to be made that, because of the festival setup, it's been hard to blame coaches for succumbing to temptation. After all, a dismal showing at the Select 15 Festival results in player allocations being affected the following year. Last summer, for example, the Mass 15's went winless, and will likely have to pay for it at this year's Select 16's by having to give up roster spots to at least a couple of at-large players from districts that were more successful at last summer's 15 Festival. This typist believes the allocation system is good because it's a checks-and-balances approach toward ensuring that the 200 best players nationwide appear at the festival. However, the flip side is that it also creates an emphasis on winning that places coaches in a Catch-22 -- nobody wants to be thought of as the coach who "lost" roster spots for his district.
Speaking of coaches, they'll still be selected by their districts.
From a scouting standpoint, the new system should be fine. How about emotional involvement -- from both those in the stands and those on the ice? It'll almost certainly be reduced now that playing for regional bragging rights is removed. After all, there's a bit more romance to, say, New York vs. Michigan than there is to Blue vs. Green.
Another thing in the plans for the 15 Festival is making practices more skill-specific. One idea is to bring in NHL players who've come up through USA Hockey and have them available to help out at their position.
Notes: In other 15 Festival news, the Southeastern U.S. district will still hold their own camp, as always, but this year they'll combine with Mid-Am instead of the Atlantic district. The resulting team will be called Mid-Am/Southeast.... On the Rocky Mountain select team -- 15's, 16's and 17's -- North Dakota kids will be guaranteed six slots (three forwards, two defenseman, and a goalie) at each age group.
Taft Tops Prep Poll -- Again
For the third week in a row, Taft (12-0-1) holds down the top spot in the USHR Prep Poll.
NAHL All-Star Game Tonight
The North American Hockey League All-Star game is set for tonight at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, Ill., about a half hour west of Chicago. Game time is 7 pm.
The Texas Tornado lead the way with the number of players chosen, with seven (and Texas coach Tony Curtale will be behind the bench, too). Following Texas are the Cleveland Barons (6), Compuware Ambassadors and Danville Wings (5 each), Soo Indians (4), Springfield Jr. Blues and Chicago Freeze (3 each), the U.S. National Program Blue Team, Grand Rapids Rockets, St. Louis Sting (2 each) and the Rochester Jr. Americans (1).
Eastern Division (White)
Goaltenders: Craig Kowalski (Clinton Township, Mich./Compuware); Cam Ellsworth (Leamington, Ont./Soo Indians).
Defense: Andy Burnes (Battle Creek, Mich./Compuware); Jon Krall (Temperance, Mich./Cleveland); Justin Forrest (Auburn, N.Y./U.S. National Program); Eric Werner (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich./U.S. National Program); Ryan Branham (Eagle River, Wisc./Soo Indians); Trevor Wolfe (Toledo, Ohio/Cleveland).
Forwards: Michael Smith (Hamilton, Ont./Compuware); Adam Nightingale (Cheboygan, Mich./Soo Indians); Stephen Gionta (Rochester, N.Y./Rochester); Kelly Miller (Toledo, Ohio/Cleveland); Jim Slater (Detroit, Mich./Cleveland); Lucas Drake (Holt, Mich./Grand Rapids); Alex Sawruck (Sault Ste. Marie, Mich./Compuware); Steve Swistak (West Bloomfield, Mich./Compuware); Craig Bushey (Ignace, Ont./Cleveland); Colin Shields (Glasgow, Scotland/Cleveland); Nick Kormanyos (Massena, NY/ Grand Rapids); Bob Rangus (Laurium, Mich./Soo Indians).
Head Coach: Joe Shawhan (Soo Indians) Asst. Coach: Mike Vellucci (Compuware).
Western Division (Blue)
Goaltenders: Ron Vogel (London, Ont./Texas); Jason Bacashihua (Dearborn Heights./Mich.)
Defense: Matt Gossett (Lake Orion, Mich./Danville); Lance Holmes (East Lansing, Mich./Springfield); Brian Pasko (Lisle, Ill./Chicago); Jonathan Awe (Minneapolis, Minn./Texas); Tony Maci (Grosse Ile, Mich./Springfield); Brian Van Abel (Lino Lakes, Minn./Danville).
Forwards: Jason Guerriero (Manorville, NY/Texas); Yan Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis); Eric Ortlip (St. Louis, Mo./St. Louis); Eric Przepiorka (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich./Chicago); Peter Rynshoven (Fairbanks, Alaska/Texas); Lukas Dora (Lednice, Czech Republic/Danville); Chris Lieckfield (Brighton, Mich./Texas); Don Patrick (Fulton, NY/Texas); Frank Werner (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich./Springfield); Jason Deitsch (Indianapolis, Ind./Texas); Ambrose Tappe (Maple Grove, Minn./Danville); Shane Saum (Palmer, Alaska/Danville).
Head Coach: Tony Curtale (Texas). Asst. Coach: Josh Mervis (Danville).
Starting lineups: EAST: Shields, Slater, and Smith up front; Forrest and Burnes on D, Kowalski in the goal. WEST: Guerriero, Patrick, and Frank Werner up front; Gossett and Pasko on D, and Vogel in goal.
Eden Prairie #1 in Minnesota
Here's our up-to-the-minute Minnesota State High School poll, which we're picking up again now that we're approaching the stretch run of the season. Our poll is a little different than the state high school coaches' poll. For example, they don't have Rochester Mayo at all, whereas we have them at #8. They have Blaine at #5, which we think is too high. And as for our #1 ranked-team, Eden Prairie, we bucked the trend by picking them over Elk River in the pre-season polls. Right now, Eden Prairie, behind St. Cloud State-bound D Colin Peters and a flock of high-scoring forwards, are the only undefeated team in Class AA.
Click here for Jan. 21 Poll
By the way, the leading Class AA scorers are John Hart of Park Center (15-22-37) and Aaron Johnson of Armstrong (14-22-36). In Class A Darren Hafner of Park Rapids leads the way with a 17-25-42 line. Following him is Corey Carlson of Two Harbors (24-11-35).
More College Commitments
Left-shot D Matt Maglione of the U.S. National Team Development Program has committed to Princeton University. Maglione, a 6'1", 185 lb. native of Fayetteville, N.Y. has played in 26 USHL games and has a 1-4-5 scoring line with 19 penalty minutes. Before going to the National Program, Maglione played for the Syracuse Junior Crunch (OPJHL), where he was a teammate with fellow Princeton recruit Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer.
Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL) goaltender Darren Gastrock will be heading off to Dartmouth College in the fall. Gastrock, who's from Anchorage, Alaska, played for the South Surrey Eagles (BCHL) before going to the USHL, where he's now in his second season. Gastrock, who turns 20 in April, has a 3.23 gaa in 30 games this season.
David Lundbohm of the Fargo-Moorhead Ice Sharks will be headed to the University of North Dakota, where his older brother, Bryan, a sophomore with the Fighting Sioux, has already extended the family tradition at UND started by their father, Michael, a Fighting Sioux forward from '69-72.
Lundbohm, a right-shot forward, played for Roseau High School before going to Fargo-Moorhead in the fall of '98.
Brett Engelhardt, a 6'1", 195 lb. forward with the Green Bay Gamblers, will be playing for Michigan Tech in the fall. Engelhardt, a native of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, and a former member of the U.S. National Team Development Program, is one of eight Gamblers who'll be playing Div. I hockey this coming fall.
Justin Bittner, a 5'11", 160 lb. forward from Pittsburgh, Pa. and the Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL), has decided on Ohio State. Bittner, a high-skill forward with excellent playmaking and scoring skills, is an '82 birthdate. Before coming to Sioux Falls, Bittner played for coach Joe Gaul on the Pittsburgh Hornets Midgets.
EJHL All-Star Game Postponed
The all-star game for the Eastern Junior Hockey League, which was scheduled for 7 p.m tonight at the Valley Forum in Lawrence, Mass., has been postponed as a winter snowstorm is forecast to dump up to six inches of snow on the Boston area by midnight
A makeup date will be announced over the weekend and we'll have it for you here.
1999-200 EJHL All-Stars
Goaltenders: Mike Wolfe (SnowDevils); John Yaros (Applecore); Jeremy Redquest (Warriors).
Defensemen: Eero Vartiainen (SnowDevils); Kevin Kleespies (SnowDevils); Brian Escobedo (Applecore); Tony Johnson (Warriors); Jeff Mason (Coyotes); Achim Lootens (Breakers).
Forwards: Derek Seal (SnowDevils); Derek Damon (SnowDevils); Justin Postiglione (SnowDevils); Ryan Vesce (Applecore); Ken Turano (Applecore); Vincent Hellemeyer (Applecore); Gregg Johnson (Coyotes); John Luszcz (Coyotes); Peter Zingoni (Coyotes); Jeremy Garrison (Warriors); Shane Coleman (Harborwolves); Greg Horan (Harborwolves).
Goaltender: Robert Silvia (Stars).
Defensemen: Jeremy Cormier (Stars); Ryan Glenn (Stars); Bob Gillon (Bruins); Tim Songin (Huskies); Neil Dombrowski (Huskies); Peter Hams (Bandits).
Forwards: Matt Owens (Stars); Mike Mantenuto (Stars); Paul Falco (Stars); Greg Mauldin (Bruins); Chad Pillsbury (Bruins); Jaymie Harrington (Bruins); Mark Hathaway (Bruins); Mike Curtis (Huskies); Lars-Peder Nagel (Huskies); Zach Schwan (Cap District); Jay Latulippe (Cap District); Nate Gagnon (Cap District); Shane Relihan (Bandits); Joe Lovell (Breakers).
No Change at the Top
There's no change in the #1 slot in this week's USHR Prep Poll. However, there's plenty of change afterward, including three new teams.
USHL Stars Set to Shine
Here are the rosters for the USHL Prospects/All-Star Game, which will be held in Rochester, Minn. on Tues. Jan. 25.
There will be a new format this year, in that there will be two 17-man squads. One, Team USA, will consist of USHL all-stars as picked by the league coaches. The other, Team World, will feature the top import players and NHL prospects in the USHL as selected by the NHL's Central Scouting.
The all-star game this year will feature guest coaches. Team World will be headed up by Jack Barzee of Burnsville, Minn., who for the last 11 years has been with Central Scouting, but in the late '70s and early '80s coached at Waterloo and Dubuque, twice winning National Jr. A championships.
The guest coach of Team USA will be St. Louis Blues scout Mike Antonovich. An Iron Ranger from Calumet, Minn., Antonovich played for the Gophers from 1970-72 before embarking on an 11-year pro career in the WHA and NHL.
Goaltenders: Adam Coole (Duluth, MN/Rochester); Michael Ayers (Hingham, MA/ Dubuque). Alternate: David Bowen (Bloomfield Hills, MI/Sioux Falls).
Defensemen: David Hale (Colorado Springs, CO/Sioux City); Jason Platt (Portola Valley, CA/Omaha); Tom Galvin (Miller Place, NY/Waterloo); Dan Boeser (Savage, MN/Green Bay); Jeff Finger (Houghton, MI/Green Bay); Mike Lubesnick (Northbrook, IL/Sioux Falls). Alternate: Brett Davis (Battle Creek, MI/Omaha).
Forwards: Aaron Gill (Rochester, MN/Rochester); Matt Koalska (St. Paul, MN/Twin Cities); Troy Riddle (Minneapolis, MN/Des Moines); Tyler Palmiscno (East Grand Forks, MN/Sioux City); Rick Gorman (Philadelphia, PA/Sioux Falls); Jerrid Reinholz (Ramsey, MN/Des Moines); Luke Fulghum (Colorado Springs, CO/Waterloo); Aaron Smith (Madison, WI/Green Bay); Nick Anderson (Proctor, MN/Dubuque). Alternate: Jon Maruk (Eden Prarie, MN/Twin Cities).
Goaltenders: Adam Berkhoel (Woodbury, MN/Twin Cities); Dan Ellis (Orangeville, Ontario/Omaha). Alternate: Steve Jones (Everett, WA/Sioux City).
Defensemen: Joey Martin (Rogers, MN/Omaha); Andy Schneider (Grand Forks, ND/Lincoln); Dan Calzada (Chicago, IL/Green Bay); Ryan Caldwell (Deloraine, Manitoba/Thunder Bay); Georgijs Pujacs (Riga, Latvia/Rochester); Derrick Byfuglien (Roseau, MN/Fargo-Moorhead). Alternate: Lee Green (Soldotna, AK/Omaha).
Forwards: Colin Stuart (Rochester, MN/Lincoln); Michal Hudec (Bratislava, Slovakia/Waterloo); John Eichelberger (Glencoe, IL/Green Bay); Keith Dore (Regina, Saskatchewan/Lincoln); Patrick Sharp (Thunder Bay, Ontario/Thunder Bay); Josh Olson (Roseau, MN/Omaha); Peter Sejna (Mikulas, Slovakia/Des Moines); Dwight Hirst (Lac Du Bonnet, Manitoba/Fargo-Moorhead); Brian Canady (Kenai, AK/Waterloo). Alternate: Grant Potulny (Grand Forks, ND/Lincoln).
Here's something new for this year. On January 25th, the day of the Prospects/All-Star game, the USHL will be holding a draft of Midget AAA and high school/prep players.
Heretofore, the league has held just one draft, in the spring. Now, it will be a two-part process. The spring draft, scheduled for May 17th this year, will be for players currently playing in Jr. A or Jr. B leagues.
This is how the upcoming winter draft will work. On the 20th of January -- that's next Thursday -- each USHL team will submit a list of no more than four players from their chosen protected team. (See below for list of protected teams).
The number of draft picks a team will be allowed to make depends on how many players they will have chosen off their protected team. However, the sum of picks and players protected must not exceed nine. Thus, if a USHL team selects four players off its protected team, it would be allowed five draft picks. If it chooses three players off its protected team, it would be allowed six draft picks...if two, then seven...if one, then eight...if none, then nine.
In other words, a team can pick a dog of a protected team and not have to suffer much.
Here's a list of USHL teams and their protected team for this season.
This new draft setup gives USHL teams four more months to recruit a player to their program. As for the players, they'll know earlier what options are available to them. As a result of all of this, a team's nucleus will be largely set at the conclusion of the spring draft.
In addition to all of the above, each USHL team is allowed to sign up to four players -- from high school, juniors, midget, or whatever -- to a tender, which is an agreement to play for a particular team. Once a player signs a tender, he's bound to that particular USHL team (He can change his mind and play for a team in another league, but he cannot, say, sign with Des Moines and then decide to play for Omaha).
In the past, USHL teams were allowed to trade tenders, but no more. For this year, trade agreements made before the rule change are being honored, so some teams have fewer than four picks and others more.
Here then is the list of players who, as of this week, have signed tenders in the league:
There's also a category called high school tenders, which differs from regular tenders. First off, at the close of the high school schedule, the selected player must play at least five games with the USHL team that's selected him. If he does that, he automatically goes on to that team's protected list for next season. Each team is only allowed to sign one high school tender, and there has to be a roster spot available at the time of signing. If a player is selected but doesn't play the five games, he becomes available for the May draft.
Here have been five high school tenders signed so far. They are:
Central Scouting's Mid-term Rankings
The NHL's Central Scouting Service came out with its mid-season rankings yesterday, and we have it in its entirety. There are two lists, one for North Americans and one for Europeans. The links are below.
The highest-ranked North American player is 6'1" LW Dany Heatley, a Calgary native who, as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, already has 28 points, good for third overall in the WCHA. The highest ranked U.S. player is BC left-shot defenseman Brooks Orpik, who's in the #5 spot. American collegians Jeff Taffe (Minnesota, #9), Ron Hainsey (UMass-Lowell, #11) and Brett Nowak (Harvard, #15) follow him. The top-ranked U.S. kid yet to matriculate is center R.J. Umberger of the U.S. National Team Development Program. He's at #25. The top U.S. high schooler is #34-ranked LD Paul Martin of Elk River (Minn.) HS. Tops in the USHL is LD David Hale of the Sioux City Musketeers, ranked at #41. The top-ranked prep school player is RW Rob Fried of Deerfield, who's at #62.
For those of you into trendspotting, here are some numerical breakdowns:
NOTE #1: There have been reports of a virus in the link we had to the rankings, so we had to take it down. We'll have another one up later. It might not look as sharp, and it might not have heights/weights, etc. But it'll be clean.
NOTE #2: Here it is, ragged but right:
Pettinger Bids Denver Goodbye
Matt Pettinger left the University of Denver yesterday morning and signed with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL).
Pettinger, a 6'2", 203 lb. sophomore LW from Victoria, B.C., had just returned last week from playing for Canada at the World Junior Championship, scoring four goals in seven games. Dean Clark, Team Canada's assistant over there, is also the Hitmen head coach.
Pettinger, projected to go in the low first round of June's NHL draft, returned from Sweden Wednesday, and, after being rested for the first of a two-game weekend series against the University of Nebraska-Omaha, played on Saturday, registering an assist. The Denver coaching staff learned of Pettinger's decision around 8:30 a.m. Monday, and encouraged him to stay, but to no avail. Pettinger signed with Calgary before the WHL's noon deadline for trades and player movement.
In 19 games with Denver this season, Pettinger had two goals and six assists. In 38 games as a freshman, Pettinger had a 6-14-20 line. Before coming to Denver, Pettinger played in his hometown for the Victoria Salsa (BCHL).
Pettinger, who was one of two NCAA players on Canada's World Junior squad (Wisconsin's Dany Heatley was the other), will be reunited in Calgary with a couple of his teamates from Sweden. Defenseman Matt Kinch and center Chris Nielsen are both members of the Hitmen. Look for Pettinger to be in the lineup when Calgary hosts Kootenay Thursday night.
Boston College Lands Kobasew
Penticton Panthers forward Chuck Kobasew has made his choice -- it's Boston College. Kobasew, highly sought after, had also been recruited by North Dakota, Michigan, Ohio State, Bowling Green, Denver, and Minnesota. At Boston College, he'll join Ben Eaves, Tony Voce, Justin Dziama, J.D. Forrest, and Joey Schuman in the class of '04. So far this season for Penticton, Kobasew, a 5'10" center who'll turn 18 in April, has played 40 games and has a 38-41-79 line with 38 penalty minutes.
Russia's System too Much for Canada
In Canada, losses in the World Junior Championship quickly turn into a referendum on the state of hockey in Canada, and in the one week since Canada's semifinal loss to Russia there's been plenty of it north of the border. After taking five consecutive gold medals at the WJC, the Canadians have now gone three without recapturing the big prize.
This typist watched bits and pieces of the Russia-Canada semi on television between periods of the U.S. Under-17 team's semifinal loss to Pacific in New Liskeard, Ont. The Canadians didn't play poorly. They worked hard, hit hard, and played with emotion. In the end, though, it was the Russian system, built around an impeccable transition game, that trumped the Canadian system.
Those who followed the Russians throughout the tournament said their approach was unvarying, and similar to Russian teams of yore -- hang back, force a turnover, and then go on the attack instantly with a long pass to one their many small, speedy, skilled forwards.
In the second period of the semifinal game, Valeri Khlebnikov was the recipient of one of those transition passes. In short order, he was tucking the puck through the legs of Canadian defenseman Kyle Rossiter, picking it up on the other side, swooping in alone on goaltender Maxime Ouellet and turning him inside-out before putting the puck past him for a 1-0 Russia lead.
Five or so minutes later, Canadian D Steve McCarthy was caught pinching in on a power play, enabling a long pass to send Oleg Smirnov off on a breakaway. Smirnov faked left, then right before tucking the puck past Ouellet's left pad. "I'm not used to that," Ouelett said afterward. "It was a great deke, but in the Quebec League, you don't see that kind of deke. Usually, a guy makes one deke and then he shoots."
At any rate, that made it 2-0, Russia. Twice Canada fought back to make it one-goal game, but you got the sense -- even watching on TV -- that Canada wasn't going to get that tying goal.
Afterward, coach Claude Julien was criticized for rolling his lines right up until the last five minutes of a game the Russians were leading 3-1."Our game plan," Julien said, "was to wear them down. We needed all our players to do this."
After the game, Tom Renney, who's now the VP of the Canadian Hockey Association said Canadian players have to improve their play without the puck.
"Why does our game have to be always north? Why can't we generate speed behind the puck and move the puck back and then up? This is where we have to take a page out of the way the game is played in Europe," he said.
"We have to allow players to be more creative and imaginative. We can't stifle them."
Many observers felt that not taking the University of Michigan's Mike Comrie, who was excellent in training camp, was an example of passing over just such a creative player. The Russians, we suspect, would have taken Comrie.
But, hey, the Russians wound up settling for silver after a 1-0 shoout loss to the Czechs on Tuesday. Under coach Jaroslav Holik, the father of New Jersey Devils center Bobby Holik, the Czechs, playing without Patrik Stefan (Atlanta Thrashers) and Pavel Brendl (Calgary Hitmen), allowed 11 goals in seven games with a serious trap. That final must have been like watching chess. Nonetheless, hats off to the Czechs. In the 24 years of the WJC, they'd picked up five silver medals. Now they have their first gold.
Notes: The Directorate Award for top goaltender at the tournament went to the U.S.'s Rick DiPietro. Top D were a pair of Russians. Alexandre Riazantsev (who plays for Victoriaville in the QMJHL), and Alexander Ljubimov. Top forward was Milan Kraft of the Czech Republic.
The all-star team named by the media was G -- DiPietro. D -- Mathieu Biron (Canada) and Riazantsev. LW -- Evgeny Muratov (Russia). C -- Kraft. RW -- Alexei Tereschenko.
Kovalchuk on the Edge
In the finals of the World-Under 17 challenge, which was taking place in Ontario at the same time the WJC was taking place in Sweden, Russia took gold, beating Team Ontario, 2-0 in last Monday's final. This, of course, was a day after the U.S. lost in a shootout to Ontario in the semis, a heartbreaker, because a second shot at the Russians -- the U.S. kids tied them 4-4 in round-robin play -- would have been nice.
Anyway, while the Russians left Timmins with the gold, they also left behind a ton of controversy. On Sun. Dec. 26 -- Boxing Day -- the Russians were in Newmarket, Ont. for a pre-tournament exhibition game -- a 'friendly' -- with the Newmarket Hurricanes of the Ontario Provincial League. In the first period, Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk took a minor penalty and then, while skating toward the penalty box, threw an elbow at several players on the Newmarket bench. For good measure, he cross-checked Hurricanes goaltender Jason Hooper to the ice. Hoopers teammates retaliated, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued, with 11 Russians and seven Newmarket players getting ejected from the game.
In the second period, Russian goalie Andrei Medvedev, peeved that no penalty was being called against a Newmarket player who had hit him, went after referee Sean McQuigge, shoving him to the ice.
McQuigge ejected Medvedev. He also ejected head coach Vladimir Plyushehev, the latter for objecting to Medvedev's penalty.
Suddenly, with an international tournament a day away, the CHA was in a curious position, as they not only held the authority to suspend Canadian players but also foreign players competing in Canada.
But they passed on it, agreeing to let the Russian hockey federation handle it back home -- after the tournament, of course.
That was fine with this typist, who wanted to see Kovalchuk in action anyway. A right-shot playing left wing, Kovalchuk is as good a 16-year-old hockey player as this typist has had the pleasure of watching. He's an explosive offensive player and a fierce competitor who could play in the NHL by the time he's 20. He's also totally psychotic, as the bench incident in Newmarket indicates. Against the US four nights afterward, he was in form, giving the finger over his shoulder as he was being led to the penalty box, running players left and right, and taking some of the most theatrical dives around.
Self-control is not a part of Kovalchuk's game. It'll be interesting to see how his career plays out.
Other top Russians were Yuri Trubachev, a smallish, skilled left shot center who plays on a line with Kovalchuk; Alexander Poloushin, a big, explosive winger who goes to the net hard; Timofei Shishkanov, a right wing who can fly; Stanislav Tchistov, a RW who can handle the puck in a crowd and forecheck like crazy; and a pair of excellent D in Alexandre Frantsouzov and Artem Ternavski.
Head coach Plyushehev, by the way, said he'd been duped into believing the exhibition in Newmarket was against a team of 16-year-olds, when in fact the Hurricanes are a Tier II Canadian team with only a couple of 16-year-olds on the roster.
The controversy didn't end there, either. Pacific, which came out on the short end of a 7-5 semifinal against Russia, protested its loss, charging that Russia had used illegal sticks. The protest came to no avail -- nobody at the arena in New Liskeard had a stick measuring device.
Taft Moves Up to #1
Taft, the only unbeaten prep team, moves up to the top slot in the latest USHR Prep Poll, released tonight. Cushing, in the wake of a 6-2 loss at Holderness on Wednesday, drops down to #2.
Mandes MVP in Toronto
The Atlantic/S.E. 14's, paced by tournament MVP Steven Mandes, returned home late last week from the Toronto Marlies Tournament with the championship of the Minor Bantam division.
Mandes, a 5'10", 155 lb. center who'll likely be going to Hotchkiss, Deerfield, or Choate next year, had an 8-6-14 line in seven games. Tenacious and hard-working, Mandes is also extremely athletic, showing great acceleration and an explosiveness that sets him apart from his peers. He keeps his legs moving at all times, hits anything in his path, wins faceoffs, drives to the net hard, and battles along the wall and in the corners. John Riley, who coached him in Toronto last week and will be relying on him at the Select 15 Festival in the summer, believes Mandes to be the best Philly/Jersey player since John Sabo and Tyler Kolarik. "He's cut from the same cloth as those two," Riley said. "He's extremely instinctive. He does things you can't teach." On top of everything else, Mandes, who's from Bucks County, is a 4.0 student.
While Mandes is the go-to guy on the team, Riley will need a total team effort for Atlantic/S.E. to knock off the likes of Michigan or Minnesota at the Select Festival. His team prospect on defense last week was Thomas Maldonado, a smallish -- roughly 5'7", 140 lbs. -- but skilled and very savvy defenseman. Maldonado, who's from the Bronx (!!), sees the ice very well, makes all the right plays, and logs a ton of ice time. He goes to Iona Prep.
Goaltender Zane Kelemba, a Northern New Jersey native, came up very big, at one point stringing together a 130-plus minutes of shutout hockey. Kelemba, who was named top goalie at the tournament, is a hybrid-type goalie whose cool and poise recall Andy Moog.
Also coming up big was Sam Bowles, who played right wing on the top line with Mandes. Bowles, who plays JV hockey at Hotchkiss (he's a freshman) has size, good hands, and will be a big contributor at the Connecticut prep school before long. In Toronto, he started slowly, but came on strong in the playoffs, finishing with a 4-4-8 line. With his team down 2-1 in the title game, he forced a turnover in the neutral zone, beat two D, and went in alone for the tying goal. His team added two more goals to win it, 4-2.
We'll have more from the Marlies Tournament -- a look at some of the top players and teams in the Bantam Division -- in this space shortly.
Herneisen Goes Major Junior
Matt Herneisen, who was graduated from high school in Ann Arbor last Friday, has left the U.S. National Team Development Program to join the Peterborough Petes (OHL). Herneisen, a 5'11", 165 lb. winger from Gilbertsville, Pa., was going to go to the OHL anyway. He just moved the timetable up. Herneisen, who missed several weeks of games with a concussion this fall, is a hard-working up-and-down the wing type of player. He finished his abbreviated season with 1 goal, 2 assists in 13 games. Last year, in 56 games, Herneisen's line was 12-15-27 with 164 penalty minutes. Herneisen's decision is proof that the O still has a tremendous mystique for a lot of young players in the U.S. -- not to the same degree as in Canada, of course, but significant nonetheless.
Wings Send Two More to Div. I
Danville Wings (NAHL) defenseman Matt Gossett has committed to Ferris State and forward Lukas Dora has committed to the University of Denver.
This brings to five the number of current Danville Wings committed to Div. I schols for next season. In addition to Gossett and Dora, Derek Edwardson (Miami), Brian Van Abel (Dartmouth), and Andy Kranz (North Dakota) will also be playing D in the 2000-01 season.
Gossett is a 5'11", 165 lb. left-shot D from Lake Orion, Michigan. Dora is a 5'11", 180 lb. wing from Lidnice, Czech Republic
Both teams had endured grueling games yesterday, and there wasn't a lot of jump on either side.
Pacific scored first, as a power-play goal by Darren McLachan of the Seattle Thunderbirds put his team on the board at the 7:15 mark of the first period. At 11:42, U.S. forward Jason Ryznar, from behind the goal line, found Lee Falardeau out front, and Falardeau banged it home to tie the game at 1-1.
In the second period, Pacific took a 2-1 lead on the power play when Tyler Dyck of the Kootenay Ice fired a blast from the left point that chinked off the inside of the post and past Weber at the 7:07 mark.
At 3:40 of the third the U.S. tied it up when Brian McConnell converted a Gino Guyer pass from behind the net to tie the game at two.
The next goal was the game winner -- and it went to Pacific.
U.S. Loses a Heartbreaker
Timmins, Ont. -- This was one of those games you hated to see end, much less end in a shootout.
For 60 minutes of regulation and ten minutes of sudden-death overtime, Ontario's Under-17 team and the U.S. Under-17 Team battled it out in a wild one. It ended, though, in that least satisfactory of ways -- a shootout. Ontario advanced to a Monday gold-medal matchup with Russia when sharpshooter Stephen Weiss of the Plymouth Whalers came down, moved to his backhand, beat U.S. goaltender Travis Weber -- and was mobbed by his teammates as a packed house went crazy.
It was Weber who actually kept the U.S. in the game, especially in the early going. As the U.S. was forced to kill numerous penalties, including a lengthy 5-on-3, Weber made a number of sparkling saves. In the first period alone, the Hibbing, Minn. native kicked out 15 of 16 shots, at least half of which were tough chances. The only player to beat him was...guess who?...Weiss. Trailing the play, Weiss, a native of the Toronto suburb of Markham, got the puck all alone in the slot and roofed it at the 14:32 mark to give Ontario a 1-0 lead. It was Weiss' tournament-leading 9th goal.
In the second period, the momentum changed drastically as the U.S. took command, scoring three straight goals. Justin Maiser, an Edina, Minn. native, got things going when he banged home a Brian McConnell pass from behind the net at the 7:38 mark. At 13:56 Jake Riddle stepped out of the penalty box, picked up a pass from Lee Falardeau and went in alone on Ontario goaltender Andy Chiodo to make it 2-1. Riddle, who played at Benilde-St. Margaret's in Minneapolis before coming to the national program, then made it 3-1 when he converted a beauty of a cross-ice pass by Ryan Murphy at the 16:58 mark.
Things were looking good for the U.S., but not totally good -- North Bay's Chris Thorburn got Ontario back into the game when he scooped a puck sitting alone in the slot past Weber with 2:27 left in the period.
At 3:07 of the third period, Lee Falardeau went five-hole on Chiodo and put the U.S. up, 4-2.
Perhaps that was the wake-up call Ontario needed: In a single 24 second span, Trevor Daley and Craig Kennedy blitzed the U.S. with a pair of goals, tying the game at 4-4.
The U.S. came back first, as Gino Guyer scored his team-leading 5th goal of the tournament, taking a shot off the backboard and tucking it behind Chiodo at 5:08 for a 5-4 U.S.lead.
But Ontario came right back, tying it up at 5-5 when center Jay McClement of the Brampton Battalion nudged a loose puck in front of the U.S. net past Weber at the 11:42 mark.
From that point until the shootout nearly a full twenty minutes later, the game would remain at 5-5, settling into a gripping rhythm of up-and-down hockey that had the capacity crowd at the MacIntyre Arena, a small-scale replica of Maple Leaf Gardens built in 1938, on the edge of their seats.
The key to the shootout came when Soo Greyhounds defenseman -- and third shooter -- Trevor Daley, who was tremendous all afternoon, beat Weber high stick side. Ontario suddenly had two shots to nail one. Weiss, who's another player you'll be hearing from in the future, didn't let it go that far -- and Ontario moves on to the gold medal game.
Afterwards, U.S. Coach Bob Mancini was asked what he told his players afterward, "I told them I couldn't be more proud of them. Losing's hard, and losing in a shootout is even harder, but our guys competed."
Ontario, Mancini said, played a great game. "They show a desire, passion, a never-say-die attitude and an ability to compete. I admire that."
Team Ontario coach Steve Spott said his players were riding on a wave of emotion, particularly as they got deeper into the game. "Every time they fought their way back, they got more and more confident," he said.
The U.S. team, Spott said, was extremely tough. "With the system they use, they capitalize on mistakes. They sit back and wait so well. They're very, very well coached and very disciplined in systems. Tonight's game bodes well for the program. People question it, I know, but it must be working. The way they played tonight proved it."
An Ontario reporter asked Mancini if the strong U.S. showing in the tournament represented a validation for the Ann Arbor progam, "No, not necessarily," he said. "I'm proud that there are two tournaments going on right now -- one here and one in Sweden -- and we're in the final four of each. That's never before happened in the U.S. But validation? No, that comes on a more daily basis -- just watching the kids learn how to compete."
When the game ended, lines formed at the front of the arena as local fans rushed to grab remaining tickets for tomorrow's Ontario vs. Russia gold medal game. The U.S. will be heading back two hours south to New Liskeard to battle Team Pacific for the bronze medal at 1 p.m.
Timmins, Ont. -- This afternoon, in the semifinals of the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the U.S. will face off against Ontario at what will be a packed and highly-partisan crowd here in the land of Shania Twain and too much winter.
The U.S. will have to dig deep. Ontario, led by flashy Soo Greyhounds defenseman Trevor Daley, beat the Czech Republic, 5-4, here yesterday, thus finishing round-robin play with an undefeated record. The Ontario team, all but three of whom are from the OHL, has size -- 16 players are 6'0" or over. They probably have the strongest group of defensemen the province has produced in years. All but three players are from the OHL. And, so far anyway, they've gotten by without Jason Spezza, who's in Sweden with the Canadian National Junior Team, getting ready to face Russia tomorrow.
Yesterday, in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., the U.S. bowed to Quebec, 3-2. Going into the game, Quebec was out of playoff contention. The U.S. had already locked up a spot in the medal round and, to move up past the Russians and take the top seed in the division, would have had to win by four or more goals. By the end of the first period, with the score 0-0, and Quebec goaltender Jonathan Cayer looking strong, the chances of that happening were pretty slim. At that point U.S. coach Bob Mancini decided to rest four of his players -- defenseman Ryan Whitney, and centers Lee Falardeau, Dwight Helminen, and Brian McConnell -- and set his sights on today's semi in Timmins.
As for the game itself, Quebec star center Chris Montgomery, who's ill, packed it in before the game and returned home. Last June, Mongomery was the #1 overall draft pick of the Montreal Rockets, the QMJHL expansion franchise. His teammates, though, picked up the slack.
Left wing Jean Francois Soucy of Val d'Or (QMJHL) got Quebec on the board when he fired a shot that glanced off the blocker of U.S. goaltender Steven Belanger and into the net at 4:45 of the second period.
At the start of the third, the U.S. trailed 1-0. But 37 seconds in, Justin Maiser banged home his own rebound to tie the game at 1-1.
At the 3:52 mark, Ryan Hollweg scored an unassisted shorthanded goal to put the U.S. up, 2-1.
However, 31 seconds later, on the same penalty kill, defenseman Mathieu Dumas of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL) one-timed a pass from Nicolas Corbeil past Belanger to tie the game at 2-2.
At 6:55, Dumas scored again, picking up a loose puck in front of the crease and lifting it up under the crossbar to give Quebec a 3-2 lead. It was the second goal of the game and period for Dumas. Once again, an assist went to Corbeil, a 5'10" right-shot center from Sherbrooke (QMJHL) who was a threat all afternoon.
That was it. The U.S. was pressing to tie at the end, but Hollweg took an elbowing penalty with 32 seconds remaining, and the U.S. turned its sites to today's big one against Ontario.