Thursday, January 19, 2012

Catching up

On a sad day with the loss of Freestyle skier Sarah Burke who passed away today as a result of her injuries sustained a week ago in a training accident to the gruesome reality of a freak injury to Oiler forward Taylor Hall suffered in the pre-game warm-up, without a helmet, I try to catch up.

It's been an up and down week for the Ice as Saturday a great effort by goaltender Nathan Lieuwen ended with a 3-2 OT loss to the Oil Kings in Edmonton followed by a great show by the Reinharts in a OT win by the same score over the Pats last night in Regina.

Those games were sandwiched around a 10-hour visit to Sparwood due to the Hwy 3 closure through the Crowsnest pass earlier this week that turned into a 28-hour bus odyssey to Regina through Kootenay Park/Calgary.

The highlites are here while the Leader-Post has the gamer here.

The three helpers by Max pushed him into the WHL's Top 20 in scoring for the first time this season while the two goals and an assist by Sam ties the rookie for 5th in rookie scoring and tops among 16-year-olds. All five ahead of him are import players 2-3 years senior.

At 15 goals, 22 assist for 37 points Sam is three points from tying Steve McCarthy's team record of points by a rookie. McCarthy did when the club was still in Edmonton in 1997-98. The 15 goals ties Nigel Dawes team record of most goals by a rookie (16-year-old). Dawes notched 15 when the club won the Memorial Cup in 2002.

In the article you might notice LP writer Greg Harder makes note of Lieuwen's play and alludes to the 20-year-old being a WHL regular season MVP candidate. I'm sure players like Ty Rimmer and Adam Hughesman of the Tri-Cities Americans; Ty Rattie of the Winterhawks etc will also get consideration but the test is always this: take one of those players out of the line-up and how would that team do?

Take Lieuwen out of the line-up and what do you get?

Sam's draft day counterpart for the Pats - Morgan Klimchuk of Calgary taken 10 spots ahead of him - notched both goals for the Pats. When you see the 2013 NHL Draft rankings I'm thinking you'll see him mentioned in the first round. Sam isn't eligible until the 2014 Draft with the late November 6 birthdate. Klimchuk was Team Pacific's second leading scorer at the World U-17 tournament behind Sam.

With the win last night the Ice improve to 26-13-2-3 and 57 points, good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference, still 8 points behind the front-running and red-hot Oil-Kings (though they lost their last outing to the even hotter Calgary Hitmen) and two points up on the Moose Jaw Warriors who they'll face Friday night in the Jaw.

D Luke Paulsen remains out with a concussion indefinitely while LW Drew Czerwonka left the game Saturday just seconds into his first shift with what is being called an upper body injury but I suspect is a shoulder injury, one of at least a few for Czerwonka. He's out at least 3-4 weeks.

The game is on Shaw TV and the Warriors will be without D Dylan McIlrath (10th overall by the New York Rangers in 2010) who is awaiting the discipline to be doled out by the WHL after a check on Victoria forward Jesse Zgraggen. McIlrath is a repeat offender and it was definitely a high hit but by the same token, Taylor Crunk's blindside head-hit on the Warriors Andrew Johnson should suffer the same result.

With the resurgence of the Hitmen a scant six points seperate the 2nd-place Warriors from the 7th-place Hitmen so there'll be little room for error or slump going down the stretch. Curiously, every team in the East would make the playoffs in the West as all 12 teams from PA up are tied or better than the 8th-place Royals.

Last week the CHL's top ranked team in the Tri-City Americans announced that Cranbrook product Jim Hiller had his contract extended. Hiller is 123-54-3-4 with the Ams now into his 4th season with the club, sporting an impressive .688 winning percentage. After coaching stops in Alberni Valley with the BCHL's Bulldogs and the Chilliwack Bruins for that franchises first two seasons, Hiller has come into his own as a top WHL coach and, if things go as planned, a top contender for a pro job in the not-too-distance future. Hiller's name has been bandied about as moving onto the pro ranks and a championship for the number-one ranked Ams would all but salt that opportunity. Someone asked me why Scott Beattie left what could have been a good situation here - he was offered the assistant's job when Kris Knobluach took over - but turned it down instead to relocate to Tri-City to work with his very good friend and former college linemate Hiller as an assistant. Could it also have been a quicker line to a head coaching gig giving the likelihood of Hiller moving onto the pros? Hmmmm. Guess time will tell.

Have to apologize for the lack of posting as my working life and trying to get my Bantam squad prepared to battle for a spot in the T3 Provincials over the next couple of weeks has taken up most of my time.


Anonymous said...

Ice played very well in MJ should have got 2 pts. Like Grapes always says. Block the shot or get out of the way. Lu never saw 3 of the goals and was screened by Ice players.

Jeff said...

Yeah, that's a good analysis. Just as I get the MVP talk going Lu gets lit up for six but couldn't be faulted for four of them.

Was curious to see the ice-time of the Martin line. Coach K came back with that rookie line - who scored two goals - right after the go ahead power play goal by Montgomery. As good as the line was I would've went with the veteran line of McKinlay and Pearce but hey, hindsite is 20/20.

I know what it's like to be second-guessed behind the bench by 16 Bantam parents. Can't imagine what'd be like by 3000 or so coaches in the stands.

Anonymous said...

It's early still but the extra ice time the other Ice rookie forwards are getting has been paying off. Good for them! Not sure what it is but coming out of our own end sure looks better since the break.

Anonymous said...

Get your names right. It wasn't Crunk who hit Andrew Johnson. I just watch the replay.