Well, this being June, hockey news is expectedly slow at this time of the (non) season. Still, there are some stories being penned around the league.
In Medicine Hat, Tigers forward Emerson Etem was named to U.S.A. Hockey's evaluation roster. More on that here. Also getting a U.S.A. Hockey invite for a second straight year was Tyler Maxwell of the Everett Silvertips. Maxwell, 19, hails from Manhattan Beach, Calif., which is also the home of Kelowna Rockets forward Shane McColgan. The evaluation camp takes place July 30th to August 7th, in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Continuing on in Tiger-land, Sean Rooney of the Medicine Hat News talked to forward Matt MacKay on being recently traded to the Vancouver Giants. More on that here.
Further east, in Saskatchewan, John MacNeil of the Prince Albert Daily Herald talked to Tigers forward Linden Vey, who was named to Canada's world-junior summer evaluation camp. More on that here.
Even further east, in Brandon, James Shewaga of the Brandon Sun briefly chatted to the Wheat Kings last week about the very likely scenario of younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews playing for the black and gold this fall.
Here's what Shewaga -- a really great guy who knows his hockey -- penned:
David Toews is close to going from prospect to player for the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings.
The younger brother of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told the Brandon Sun last month that he intends to leave the University of North Dakota and wants to play for the Wheat Kings as a 20-year-old this fall. Wheat Kings head coach/ general manager Kelly McCrimmon hopes to sit down with the Winnipegger next week to firm up his commitment.
“I’ve had some discussions with David, I plan to see him next week and I will know more at that time,” McCrimmon said. “He’s a talented player and I think if he comes to the Western league he is going to be very motivated and I think he will make an impact.”
Toews, a gritty centreman who had four goals and 15 points in 32 games in his sophomore season at UND, is a third-round draft pick of the NHL’s New York Islanders and would give the Wheat Kings even more depth to work with in a forward group that could return as many as nine players from their Memorial Cup team. But McCrimmon will need to deal at least one of his top nine forwards in the off-season to plug one of the gaping holes on the depth chart on the blue-line.
For another Toews look, visit The Pipeline Show. That brief story is here.
BTW, have some time to kill? Visit The Pipeline Show for NHL draft preview material. More on that here.
WAY-BACK TIME MACHINE:
Ok, so it's a blatant headline rip-off from Rocky and Bullwinkle. But, hey, those two cats were cool, and history is all about repeating what's cool.
So, for today, here's a story I wrote five years ago, when the Kelowna Rockets and Kootenay Ice clashed in the 2005 Western Conference championship. Both teams finished regular-season play with 104 points; Kootenay, 47-15-7-3; Kelowna, 45-13-12-2. The Rockets had 215 goals for and 139 against; Kootenay, 218 and 137.
A lot of great players suited up in that series, which the Rockets won in six games, including Kootenay's Nigel Dawes and Kelowna's Shea Weber. To this day, I'm convinced that had Dawes played in a big media market like Vancouver or Calgary, he would have been the WHL's poster-boy for success, and his mug would have been splashed across Western Canada.
In that series, however, Weber hit Dawes with one of the hardest hits this scribe has ever seen, a check that, ultimately, resulted in a concussion and ended Nigel's junior days.
Midway through the third period, with Kelowna leading 4-2 in Game 4, Dawes was skating along the boards, and, Weber, from the far side, lined him up and made hard contact. The hit was so hard, so bone jarring, that Dawes' helmet popped off, going straight up. Weber was handed a major for boarding and was ejected -- and that was after he had scored twice earlier in the game. Kootenay then scored twice in its five-minute man advantage to force overtime, but the Rockets went on to win in the fourth period, with Tyler Spurgeon netting the winner at 3:52 to give Kelowna a 3-1 series lead. Dawes wound up missing Games 5 (Ice, 2-1 overtime victory) and 6 (Rockets, 2-1 overtime victory, with Weber netting the winner at 10:13), then moved on to professional hockey.
Now, here's that old story.
By Doyle Potenteau
Numbers of letters it takes to spell Nigel Dawes: 10. Number of letters it takes to spell world class: Also 10.
A coincidence? The Kootenay Ice don’t think so.
“He’s a special player, and every organization has them,” Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth said of Dawes, Kootenay’s star forward and 50-goal man. Since joining Kootenay’s ranks in 2001-02, the 20-year-old from Winnipeg has averaged a point a game with 159 goals and 113 assists over 245 regular-season games.
“They don’t come along very often, but look at the numbers he’s put up,” continued Chynoweth, whose team rolled into Kelowna late Monday. “He’s our franchise’s all-time leading goal scorer, he leads the franchise in power-play goals, career game-winning goals and, just as importantly, he scores big-time goals.
“He’s just a special player to watch. It’s been a great four seasons and they’ve gone by very quickly.”
Also going quickly: the Western Conference championship between Kelowna and Kootenay, which is tied at one game apiece and resumes tonight, seven o’clock, with Game 3 in Kelowna. And for Kelowna residents, Games 3 and 4, plus possibly Game 6 on Sunday, mark the last three times Dawes will play in Prospera Place. Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2003, 149th overall, the fifth-round pick will likely forego his overage season next year for a chance to play in the minors.
“He’s signed and this is probably his last kick at the cat in trying to win another Memorial Cup,” said Chynoweth. “Nigel is a tremendous leader, on and off the ice, and your team’s other players follow your best player on and off the ice.”
After Kelowna bounced Kootenay from post-season play in first-round action in 2004, the Rangers’ farm team, the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, called up Dawes for four games, where he registered no points — unlike Game 2 on Saturday, where he recorded the Gordie Howe hat trick with one goal, two assists and one fight.
“I’ve heard better nicknames before,” laughed Dawes of being teasingly called Sugar Ray by Chynoweth. In Kootenay’s 3-2 victory, a first-period line brawl erupted, and Dawes and Kelowna’s Troy Ofukany squared off.
“This is my fourth season in the league,” said Dawes, “and three of those four seasons, we’ve played Kelowna in the playoffs. Every year, (the rivalry), it’s getting bigger and bigger.
“It’s really becoming a good rivalry. We don’t get to play them much during the regular season, but it’s building. They’re a great team, a great organization and the rink is always packed. It’s a great place to play.”
On the flip side, Kelowna’s trio of Chris Ray, Lauris Darzins and Brent Howarth aren’t positive about being in the negative.
Through two games of the Western Conference championship, Kelowna’s touted third line is minus-one against the Kootenay Ice. Heading into the best-of-seven series that started Friday, the trio had accounted for 12 goals and 13 assists in Kelowna’s two previous playoff series against the Vancouver Giants and Seattle Thunderbirds.
Against Kootenay, their totals were one assist, a helper by Ray in the Rockets’ 4-2 victory in Game 1 on Friday.
“You always want to play better, and we can play better,” said Darzins. “(Coach Jeff Truitt) wants more from us, and so do we. We just have to be better.”
“We haven’t played as well as we can,” offered Ray. “It’s a seven-game series; we have time to come back and we’re looking to do that starting (tonight).”
Able to roll three lines like Kelowna, Kootenay is proving to be a deeper team than either the Giants or T-Birds. And that, say both the Rockets and Ice, makes for exciting playoff hockey.
“Vancouver and Seattle had strong lines, and they definitely played us well, but, definitely, Kootenay has more depth,” said Ray. “It’s a challenge for us, and maybe it caught us off-guard. But we’re definitely looking to improve.”
Said Chynoweth: “I’ve said all along they’re two evenly matched teams and they mirror each other in a lot of ways. Each team has its strengths in different areas, where they might be better than the other team, but there’s not a lot to choose from. I don’t take a lot of stats, or plus-minus or what-have-you, but I can tell you, it’s very, very close.”
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna defenceman Shea Weber was named the WHL’s player of the week. The six-foot-three reguard recorded three goals and five points in the first two games of the Western Conference championship. He scored twice, including the game winner, in Kelowna’s 4-2 victory in Game 1, then added his third of the playoffs in a 3-2 loss in Game 2 on Saturday. . . . A 19-year-old from Sicamous, Weber was drafted by Nashville in 2003, 49th overall. He is the second Rocket to receive the weekly playoff honour. Last week, Kelowna’s goaltender, Derek Yeomans took home the honour. . . . Dawes was just one of two players to hit the 50-goal plateau this season. The other was Eric Fehr of the Brandon Wheat Kings, the WHL’s regular-season scoring champion with 59 goals and 111 points. . . . The Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants are both looking for new athletic trainers.