A happy Thanksgiving today to those living south of the 49th parallel.
Yes, we in North America have lots to be thankful for, and I hope no one loses perspective of that.
Hockey-wise, I hope Canadians are giving our American cousins thanks. Because, frankly, thanks to the increased amount of Americans now playing in the WHL, the hockey wouldn't be as good. Roughly two-thirds of the league has at least one U.S. player, including the likes of Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Jonathan Parker of the Prince Albert Raiders (29 points in 26 games this season) or goalies Mac Carruth of the Portland Winterhawks and Brendan Jensen of the Vancouver Giants, which is a far cry from none just 10 years ago. By my count, there are 32 U.S. players.
In the case of the Kelowna Rockets, three of the top four players are from California: goalie Adam Brown plus forwards Shane McColgan and Mitchell Callahan.
With junior hockey on the rise in Canada and a demand for teams of all levels, the seemingly endless Canadian supply chain is quickly being stretched to its limits. But thanks to hockey's rapid growth in non-traditional areas, such as California, Arizona and Texas, resulting in Americans like Etem and McColgan trekking north to play in the world's best junior league, WHL fans are ultimately the ones who benefit from the NHL's decision to expand into those markets. And that is worth a lot of thanks.
The Kelowna Rockets are having a November to remember.
So is Geordie Wudrick.
The over-age forward netted a hat trick for Kelowna on Wednesday as the Rockets pounded the visiting Regina Pats 6-1 in WHL action before 6,038 fans at Prospera Place. The goals were Wudrick's eighth, ninth and 10th of the season — nine of which have come in November with Kelowna winning nine of 10 games this month, including five in a row at home.
Coincidence? Rockets head coach Ryan Huska thinks not.
"That's one of the bigger reasons why we're having more success over the last little while," Huska said of Wudrick's nine goals correlating with the Rockets' nine wins. "It looks like he's got his drive back again. That's something that was missing early in the year, so we're happy with the way he's playing, for sure.
"He's been very good lately, in practice even, too. You notice a different guy. He's feeling good about himself and hopefully that continues because he's done a great job over the last (month)."
Damon Severson, on a power play, Mitchell Callahan, into an empty net, and then Andreas Stene, with a late insurance goal, also scored for Kelowna (13-11), which started the season 4-10 and was last in league standings before Wudrick caught fire. Brandon Davidson replied for Regina (7-14-4-1), which also suffered a 4-3 overtime loss in Kamloops on Tuesday night, but had earned points in the first three stops on a five-game road trip through B.C.
The Pats, who previously lost 5-4 in overtime to Vancouver before beating Chilliwack 3-2 in a shootout last weekend, still have Prince George to visit on Friday, before returning to the Saskatchewan capital for a three-game homestand.
Kelowna, meanwhile, can end the month off in style on Saturday in Spokane — potentially reaching double digits in wins against the Chiefs (12-9-1-1) — before starting December at home to the Seattle Thunderbirds (10-5-3-4) next Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Against Regina, Wudrick scored first and last as a tightly contested affair turned into a rout after Kelowna led 1-0 and 3-1 at the period breaks.
Wudrick, who played his 300th career WHL game in Prince George last weekend, opened the scoring on a first-period power play, by spinning off a Pats defender in the corner and tucking a quick wraparound inside the far post past Pats goalie Damien
Ketlo. He tallied his second just 37 seconds into the second period, beating Ketlo with a deke to his forehand after taking a slick backhand feed from captain Tyson Barrie on a two-on-one rush. Then, with the score out of reach, Wudrick crashed the crease and jammed in his hat-trick goal with less than a second left in regulation.
"I would've stayed out there the whole last five minutes if I was allowed to," Wudrick said with a smile after scoring his second hat trick of November. "It's pretty exciting. Everyone's going right now. For me, when I got benched there (in late October). . . that really gave me a wake-up call. I just started working hard and playing with passion. The best thing is we won the game and we're still rolling here as a team."
Rockets netminder Adam Brown, the game's second star behind Wudrick, made 32 saves including 14 in the final frame to secure the two points.
"The other big reason (for Kelowna's success) is Adam's making a lot of good saves for us," Huska said. "There's times where we get running around in our own zone and our goaltender has been bailing us out, and that's hugely important."
Ketlo stopped 32 of 37 shots in defeat.
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna's scratches were D Colton Jobke (shoulder, 1 week), C Gal Koren (concussion, indefinite), RW Colton Sissons (concussion, indefinite) and RW Jesse Astles. Regina's scratches were LW Dane Muench and LW Dyson Stevenson (shoulder, day-to-day). . . . The Rockets will be well represented at next month's world junior tournaments. On Wednesday, the team announced import forwards Andreas Stene (Norway) and Gal Koren (Slovenia) will represent their countries internationally. Stene, a 19-year-old native of Oslo, has two goals, six points and nine penalty minutes in 18 games this season. Koren, an 18-year-old from Domzale, was pointless with four penalty minutes in nine games before suffering a concussion. Stene will suit up in Buffalo, N.Y., for the world junior tournament from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2011, while Koren will play for the host country in the Group B tournament being staged in Bled, Dec. 12 to 18. . . . Hockey Canada will announce its invites for its pre-Christmas evaluation camp on Monday. Barrie, a 19-year-old defenceman from Victoria, is among the hopefuls awaiting an invite. . . . Also representing the Rockets on the international stage will be 16-year-old players Colton Heffley and Damon Severson, who were selected to Team West for the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Manitoba next month. Heffley, a forward who was called up from the midget ranks earlier this season, has three points (one goal and two assists) in seven games since joining the Rockets. Severson, a defenceman, has also been a productive addition to Kelowna's lineup, registering three goals, eight points and 17 penalty minutes through 23 games. Severson has even been paired with Barrie on the Rockets' top power-play unit as of late. . . . The Pats wore throwback third jerseys for the first and only meeting between the two teams this season. . . . Wednesday was a homecoming for Pats defenceman Art Bidlevskii. The 19-year-old Kelowna native, who played the previous three seasons with the Prince George Cougars, has two assists and 36 penalty minutes in 15 games this season. A stay-at-home, feisty type, Bidlevskii has two goals, 28 points and 408 penalty minutes in 204 career regular-season games. He's also leaned on for leadership with the Pats icing a young roster featuring seven rookies. In contrast, Kelowna's roster included four rookies on Wednesday night, including Stene, a veteran by date-of-birth standards.
Ryan Huska can sense that winning vibe returning to the Kelowna Rockets‘ locker-room.
Winners of eight of their last nine games – including a two-game sweep in Prince George on the weekend – the Rockets (12-11-0-0) are slowly but surely hitting their stride again. Well, perhaps more slowly than surely.
“There‘s little things . . . I feel like they tease us at times, and then we‘ll see things like the second period (on Saturday) where we really had a tough time,” said Huska, Kelowna‘s coach, whose squad was outshot 14-3 in that frame and 39-28 overall, but still found a way to win 2-1, thanks in large part to Adam Brown‘s 38 saves.
“I still think there‘s a long ways to go. Until we get the consistency side of things – from game-to-game and period-to-period – I think once that starts, then we‘ll start really seeing them feel good about themselves.”
That could start tonight with another win, over the visiting Regina Pats (7-13-3-1), who lost 4-3 in overtime to Kamloops last night. Puck drop at Prospera Place is 7:05 p.m.
Tonight is the fourth stop on a five-game B.C. Division road trip for the Pats, which started successfully with three points in two games on the weekend.
Regina dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to the division-leading Vancouver Giants (13-8-1-2) on Friday night, then posted a 3-2 shoot-out win over the Chilliwack Bruins (11-8-2-1) on Saturday evening before visiting the Blazers (11-11-0-1). The final stop is Friday in Prince George against the Cougars (11-10-2-0).
For Kelowna, beating Prince George in Prince George, twice is as many nights, should go a long way in restoring that confidence. It‘s not the easiest place to play and sweeps are historically hard to come by in Cariboo country.
“They‘re not the same team up here and that‘s what makes this one a little more fulfilling,” Huska said of the Cougars. “They‘ve got a very good team this year that works very hard, so I‘m proud of the results and I liked the effort from the majority of our players this weekend.”
Sitting dead last in WHL standings with a 4-10-0-0 record not that long ago, the Rockets clearly aren‘t the same team today. Kelowna‘s recent turnaround goes against the grain, with the team sticking with the same lineup for the most part. Representing an organization that has been synonymous with winning this decade — capturing three league titles and hoisting the 2004 Memorial Cup on home ice – the current group appears to have turned the corner towards salvaging, and perhaps making some-thing special of, this season.
A victory tonight, potentially Kelowna‘s fifth in a row at home, would be another step in the right direction.
ICE CHIPS: Captain Tyson Barrie became the Rockets‘ all-time leading scorer among defencemen on the weekend. With two assists in Saturday‘s win, including a helper on Evan Bloo-doff‘s overtime winner, Barrie established a new team record with 188 points (44 goals, 144 assists) in 218 career regular-season games. The record formerly belonged to Burt Henderson, who tallied 186 points (37 goals, 149 assists) in 213 games during three seasons with the Rockets from 1993-96 – two in Tacoma and one in Kelowna after the franchise relocated in 1995. Barrie, a 19-year-old Victoria native and Colorado Avalanche prospect, is in his fourth full season with Kelowna, having also played seven games as an under-age rookie in 2006-07.
Sidelined with concussions for the better part of two seasons, Kyle St. Denis’s days with the Kelowna Rockets are over. His days with hockey, however, don’t appear over.
Last Thursday, the Rockets released the highly popular forward, who had played in just 48 regular-season games out of a possible 144 after suffering two separate concussions. In 2009-10, he missed the last half of the regular season and all of the ensuing playoffs due to post-concussion symptoms.
This season, the Rockets placed the Trail product on the injured reserve list and were to re-examine him at the Christmas break. At the time of placing the near-point-a-game player (44 points in those 48 games) on the injured list, Rockets president and general manager Bruce Hamilton said “Our biggest concern is for Kyle’s health. We want to get him back to being productive, whether it be in hockey or in school. Most importantly, his health is first and foremost.”
When the Rockets placed him on the injured list, St. Denis, 20, returned to Trail, home of the BCHL’s Smoke Eaters and a team featuring his younger brother, Travis, on the roster. Travis, 18, is third in team scoring with 19 goals and 40 points in 23 games.
Since his return to Trail, the Rockets say St. Denis wants to give playing another shot, and that he wants to play for the Smoke Eaters. The Vernon Vipers owned St. Denis’ rights, but immediately traded them to the Victoria Grizzlies.
According to the Trail Daily Times, Vernon’s trade set off a firestorm of talk, speculating that Victoria would send St. Denis to Trail or try to lure him to the B.C. capital to finish off his final year of junior hockey. However, St. Denis says his future isn’t any clearer than it was in September.
“I’m undecided,” he told the Trail Daily Times on Sunday, stopping short of ruling out any possibility of playing in Victoria.
While the perfect situation would have St. Denis playing at home, Victoria is making a pitch to entice him to the Island.
“They contacted me,” he told the Times, adding he’s discussing his options with his parents to determine what to do next. “All this time off is giving my head more of a rest, which is good for my health. I might just take the year off and focus on school for next year.”
St. Denis had been skating with the Smokies in practice, with Vernon’s approval, but the Vipers requested he stop that last week prior to the trade.
Although St. Denis had hoped the Vipers would have been more accommodating as far as trading him to Trail, he understands the nature of the business.
“It’s a business and they have to do what’s best for their team.”
Smokies head coach Jim Ingram tried to contain any frustration at how things have unfolded involving St. Denis.
“He’s Victoria’s property that’s where it sits right now,” he said, adding he hasn’t heard from the Grizzlies regarding any trade possibilities.
Neither the Grizzlies nor the Smoke Eaters returned calls on Tuesday regarding St. Denis.
“It was his wish to play at that level, and, from our standpoint, we just weren’t comfortable on whether he’d pass a physical here with the number of concussions he’s had,” said Hamilton. “This is his decision he’s made to go play. We wish him the best of luck in whatever he decides to do.”
Another great effort by Adam Brown, and another win for the Kelowna Rockets.
Brown made 38 saves and Evan Bloodoff scored the winning goal, in overtime, as the Rockets swept a pair of weekend games in Prince George, posting a 2-1 victory over the Cougars in WHL action on Saturday night. On Friday, Kelowna beat Prince George 4-2.
Traditionally, earning a sweep up north isn't easy, with splits being the norm. That Kelowna not only went two-for-two, but also jumped out of fifth-and-last place in B.C. Division standings, and, well, the team was stoked about the result.
As of today, Vancouver leads the five-team division with 29 points, while Chilliwack is second with 25, with Kelowna and Prince George tied for third at 24. Kamloops is in last at 23.
"With everything being so tight, it's nice to get ourselves in the direction we want to be going," said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. "But if you're standing and watching (the division race) right now, things are going to change a lot."
Andreas Stene, with his first goal of the season, tallied just 15 seconds into the contest, also scored for Kelowna (12-11-0-0), which has won eight of its last nine games. The Rockets also improved to 4-1 against Prince George this season, having beaten the Cougars for a fourth straight time. The Rockets opened their season with a 6-2 loss to the Cougars.
Brett Connolly, with his third goal in two games, replied for Prince George (11-10-2-0), which is 2-5 this month, including 0-3 against the Rockets. Connolly, with his 18th goal of the season, levelled the score late in the first period. James Priestner made 26 saves for the Cougars, who, according to Kelowna, had a tough time trying to beat Brown.
"Adam was pretty much the reason why we got points out of this game," said Huska. "Our first period was really good, but in the second and third, I thought Prince George kinda took over. But Adam made some very big saves to allow us to get into overtime."
In overtime, the Rockets cashed in on a two-on-one, with Bloodoff burying a Tyson Barrie rebound at 1:13. The shot squeaked through Priestner and Bloodoff charged to the net and jammed in his third goal of the season.
"It was nice to see Evan get rewarded," said Huska, "because he worked really hard in both games up here."
The Rockets' next game is Wednesday, at home to the visiting Regina Pats (7-13-3-1), who are on a five-game B.C. road trip.
Playing in his hometown, before family and friends, Brett Bulmer scored twice for Kelowna on Friday night as the Rockets beat the Prince George Cougars 4-2 in WHL action at the CN Centre.
Cody Chikie and Geordie Wudrick also scored Kelowna (11-11-0-0), which trailed 1-0 after the first but led 3-1 after 40 minutes. Bulmer's first goal of the night came at 6:12 of the second after Chikie levelled the score at 2:05. His second, an empty-net insurance goal at 19:15 of the third, tallied on the power play, closed out the scoring. Bulmer's goals were his seventh and eighth of the season.
"The game was OK," said Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska, whose team again plays in Prince George tonight at 7 p.m. "We started slow but got better as the game went on.
"And Brett had a big night, which was important. He's starting to contribute more regularly and we need more guys in our lineup doing that. It's nice to see him get going, but I thought we also had good efforts from Evan Bloodoff and (Wudrick), too. It's important for them to step their games up."
With the win, the Rockets, who have now won seven of their last eight games, are within two points of second place in B.C. Division standings. Kelowna is tied for last with 22 points with Chilliwack. Vancouver leads the way at 29, with Kamloops and Prince George tied for second with 23.
Huska said beating Prince George "was a big two points."
It was also a big night for Kelowna's bench boss after he suffered back-to-back losses as Team WHL's head coach in the Subway Super Series. Russia beat Team WHL 7-6 in a shootout on Wednesday in Kamloops, then 5-2 in Prince George on Thursday night.
"It was good. Tonight was nice. It's nice to get a win, to be honest," said Huska.
Brett Connolly, with two goals, replied for Prince George (11-10-1-0), which outshot the Rockets 36-29. Jordon Cooke made 34 saves for Kelowna, while Ty Rimmer made 25 saves for the Cougars.
Huska said the decision to use Cooke over starter Adam Brown was a call made by goalie coach Kim Dillabaugh.
"Adam is OK," said Huska, "and he's going to play (tonight), but I look to Kim a lot in regards to goaltending and he suggested that we start Jordon. So we took his suggestion and Jordon didn't disappoint."
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna's scratches were D Colton Jobke (shoulder), C Gal Koren (concussion) RW Colton Sissons (concussion) and C Max Adolph (concussion).
As I write this, it's snowing in the Okanagan. Which pretty much sums up what happened in Games 5 and 6 of the Subway Super Series between the WHL's all-stars and a touring Russian side.
Now, for those who've never been to this part of B.C. before, snow in early November isn't just uncommon; it's rare. And so are Russian victories against WHL teams over the eight years of this annual tournament. But these are strange times we live in, so, I guess, Russia's 7-6 overtime victory on Wednesday in Kamloops on 5-2 victory in Prince George on Thursday are the new norm. That, and what should be fun driving conditions on Friday for a lot of folks here who have a hard time with the white stuff.
Can you say insurance premium spike? (And don't flame this post with weather-related comments; I grew up with cold winters, so I'm used to them. Other people here, though....)
But seriously, the WHL and everyone involved will have a hard time stomaching the simple fact that the league's best players failed to win a game in two tries. Heading into the 2010 event, the WHL was almost perfect, with 13 wins in 14 games. The combined scores were 63 to 21.
2003: WHL 4, Russia 1 (Calgary); WHL 7, Russia 1 (Brandon).
2004: WHL 6, Russia 0 (Red Deer); WHL 5, Russia 2 (Lethbridge).
2005: WHL 9, Russia 2 (Saskatoon); WHL 3, Russia 1 (Regina).
2006: WHL 5, Russia 3 (Chilliwack); WHL 8, Russia 1 (Kamloops).
2007: Russia 5, WHL 1 (Cranbrook); WHL 2, Russia 1 (Medicine Hat).
2008: WHL 5, Russia 0 (Swift Current); WHL 2, Russia 1 (Prince Albert).
2009: WHL 2, Russia 1 (Victoria); WHL 4, Russia 2 (Kelowna).
Photo: Members of Team WHL line up on the blue-line during the national anthems prior to Game 5 of the Subway Super Series between Russia and the WHL all-stars in Kamloops, B.C., on Wednesday, November 17, 2010. Russia won 7-6 in a shootout.
Photo: Members of Team Russia line up on the blue-line during the national anthems prior to Game 5 of the Subway Super Series between Russia and the WHL all-stars in Kamloops, on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010.
What I saw live in Kamloops and televised in Prince George wasn't that the WHL was bad; rather, it was that Russia was good. As in Russia finally iced a good roster. As in paying-fans-got-their-money's-worth-good.
Fans also got to see a new side of Russian hockey, hopefully one that's here to stay.
In both games, the Russians weren't the first to initiate body contact, but they certainly didn't shy away from it, as in past series. In Kamloops, more than one net scrum was started by an eager Russian defenceman looking to push his WHL opponent out of the way. And, in fact, a few seemed eager to trade punches. Apart from the punch-up in Piestany in 1987, when was the last time you saw that?
With their speed and superb shootout results (scoring three times on four shots), the Russians were well-deserved victors. That's what'll be hard for the WHL to swallow.
Photo: Anton Burdasov of Russia celebrates his early third-period power-play goal against Team WHL during Subway Super Series action in Kamloops, B.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Burdasov's goal was the first of gour goals in the period, as the Russians rallied from a 4-2 deficit after 40 minutes to win 7-6 in a shootout. The WHL squandered leads of 3-0, 3-1, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 5-3 and 6-3 to lose. In the shootout, Russia was 3-for-4; the WHL was 1-for-4.
Further, I find Russia's victories were good for the Series, which had quickly staled into a predictable result. With Russia finally icing a good team, one capable of winning, it's the fans who were the real winners because they were treated to high-end hockey. Yes, it's nice to see the home team win, but it's a heck of a lot better when it's a close win or an even close loss.
Photo: Brandon Herrod of Team WHL (Prince Albert Raiders), middle, tries corralling a rebound in front of Russian goaltender Emil Garipov during Subway Super Series action in Kamloops, B.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. Closing in on Herrod is Russian defenceman Maxim Berezin, left, while fellow Russian blue-liner Yuri Urychev, bottom, looks on.
Had Russia followed suit and iced a B team as it had in years past, I'd be clamoring for the Series to be revamped. Yes, Canada-Russia has a lot of history, but it's nowhere near as exciting now as Canada-U.S.A.
Just imagine: U.S.A. Hockey icing a touring team instead of Russia, using players from the QMJHL, OHL, WHL and other leagues (like the USHL and NCAA), and, like Hockey Canada, also using the Series to help prep a team for the World Junior Hockey Championship. Now that would be a heck of a series.
For example, if such a series took place in Kelowna next month, my guess is that goalie Adam Brown plus forwards Mitchell Callahan and Shane McColgan (all from California) would be invited to participate. Who would the crowd cheer for? Canada, obviously, but would they celebrate a goal by McColgan or Callahan or a shutout by Brown?
The same could be said for Emerson Etem in Medicine Hat and many other WHL players with American roots who'd love to play for their home country. Tha, dear reader, is food for thought should Russia revert back to sending B teams to the Subway Super Series. Because while sending the national junior team to Europe for the WJHC is nice, I'd have no problem whatsoever if the tournament was held annually in Canada or the U.S., with both countries fielding strong teams.
In WHL-related news, the Kelowna Rockets traded defenceman Antoine Corbin to the Prince Albert Raiders on Thursday for a third-round draft selection in the WHL's 2012 bantam draft.
Corbin was in his second season with the Rockets. The trade wasn't surprising, as the 6-foot-2 blue-liner with a bullet shot hadn't played in some time. His last game was Saturday, Oct. 30 in a 6-1 road loss to the Portland Winterhawks. Corbin, who was a minus-one in that game, had two goals and four points with the Rockets. He also had 25 penalty minutes and was a minus-three on a team that, at that point, was completely struggling to score.
“Antoine was looking for more ice time than we were prepared to give him in light of the play of some of our younger players,” Rockets presiden and general manager Bruce Hamilton said of trading Corbin in a press release. “Prince Albert is excited to get him as they feel he will fit into their team very well.”
This Friday and Saturday, the Rockets (10-11-0-0) will take in a double dip in Prince George (11-9-1-0), while Corbin and Prince Albert (6-12-2-2) are on a three-game road trip, as they visit Lethbridge (10-7-1-3) on Friday, Kootenay (15-4-0-2) on Saturday and Medicine Hat (11-7-1-0) on Sunday.
The Rockets are 2-1 against the Cougars this season, with the last meeting being a 4-1 win over Prince George at Kelowna on Nov. 12. Over the past five years, the Rockets are 14-6-0-1 in Prince George, though those stats can be tossed out, as the Cougars are a much improved team compared to the rosters of the last three seasons. . . . Prince George is 5-5 in its past 10 games, while Kelowna is 6-4, including their last game, a 4-0 loss in Kamloops on Nov. 13. In their last game, the Cougars rallied for a 3-2 shootout road win over the Vancouver Giants on the same Saturday night. . . . The Cougars are 4-4 at home while the Rockets are 6-6 on the road. Top scorers for Kelowna: Callahan (11-14-25), McColgan (7-15-22), Barrie (4-12-16), Franko (4-11-15) and Bulmer (6-6-12). Prince George: Connolly (15-10-25), Marincin (8-15-23), Buonassissi (8-13-21), Acolatse (6-15-21) and Inglis (8-10-18).
Kelowna will be well represented at this week’s Subway Super Series in Kamloops and Prince George.
On Monday, the WHL announced the two captains and their assistants for the two-game series against a touring Russian side. Kelowna Rockets defenceman and captain Tyson Barrie will be an assistant captain for the Thursday game in Prince George, while Kelowna product and Saskatoon Blades forward Curtis Hamilton will also be an assistant, albeit Wednesday in Kamloops.
The WHL will field almost two completely different rosters for the two games. For more on the rosters, click here.
Spokane Chiefs blue-liner Jared Cowen was named the captain for Wednesday’s game. The 19-year-old from Allen, Sask., who is in his fourth season with Spokane, was a member of Team Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championship.
Selected in the first round, ninth overall by Ottawa in the NHL’s 2009 draft, Cowen is helping represent the WHL for a third straight year. His assistants will be Hamilton plus Matt MacKenzie of the Calgary Hitmen and Chase Schaber of the Kamloops Blazers. Hamilton, one of three assistants in Saskatoon, also played in last year’s Super Series. MacKenzie shares the captaincy in Calgary while Schaber is the Blazers’ captain. Both will be making their first Series appearances.
For Thursday’s game in Prince George, Swift Current forward Cody Eakin was named captain.
The 19-year-old from Winnipeg, who is in his fourth year with the Broncos, was selected in the third round by the Washington Capitals in the 2009 draft. Like Hamilton, he is also playing in his second Super Series. His assistants will be Barrie, Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars and Matt MacKenzie of the Calgary Hitmen.
Both Barrie and Connolly participated in last year’s Super Series as well.
The Super Series is now in its eighth year where CHL all-star teams compete against Russia in preparation for the World Junior Hockey Championship. Hockey Canada and the CHL say the Series is an integral part of the evaluation process prior to the final selection camp in December.
This year’s world junior tournament will take place in Buffalo, N.Y., and Canada will be competing for a 13th straight medal. Rockets head coach Ryan Huska will be an assistant for Canada. The head coach will be Dave Cameron of the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
Well, congratulations to Team U.S.A., which won gold at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge in Penticton on Sunday, beating Canada East 6-4 in the gold-medal game.
The win marked the third straight time that America won the annual six-team tournament. Other teams taking part were Switzerland, which won bronze, Canada West (which was drilled 8-3 by the Swiss in the third-place game on Sunday), Russia and Sweden.
PENTICTON, B.C. – Jimmy Mullin’s sixth goal of the tournament was the game-winner as the United States won gold at the World Junior A Challenge for the third year in a row with a 6-4 win over Canada East on Sunday afternoon.
Mullin – a member of the tournament all-star team – snuck a shot past Canada East golaie Jordan Ruby on the short side to stun the WJAC-record crowd of more than 3,400 that watched the Canadian side come within 4:33 of stunning the two-time defending champions. Matthew Peca’s goal five minutes into the second period had given Canada East a 4-1 advantage, and it looked to be on its way to its first-ever gold medal at the tournament.
For the rest of the story, written by Hockey Canada, click here.
The story mentions a WJAC record crowd of 3,400 — according to Hockey Canada's stats it was 3,627 — which says three things about the tournament:
1) The tournament is only held in Junior A small cities or towns, the end results being small venues and small crowds.
2) The hockey isn't that good, as some hockey insiders mentioned to me during a WHL game at Prospera Place between Kelowna and Prince George.
3) Penticton, with its area of 5,200, isn't that great of a junior hockey market.
Of those three, No. 1 hits the nail on the head and I'm not sure No. 2 applies, because, honestly, the tournament can't be that bad. But when it comes to No. 3, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and here's why.
The bronze-medal game on Sunday afternoon between Canada West and Switzerland attracted just 1,440 fans. And that's with three local players from the BCHL's Penticton Vees on Canada West's roster. Even worse, that drop-off came after 3,048 fans came out to watch Saturday night's semifinal between Canada West and the U.S., which the U.S. won 5-1.
So, in the matter of 6 p.m. on Saturday night to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Canada West went from 3,048 fans to 1,440. Ouch.
And while we're at it, how about the 407 fans who took in Friday's mean-nothing fifth-place game between Russia and Sweden, which the Swedes won 5-4? If it had been China playing Korea, I'd understand 407 . . . but Russia and Sweden and only 407 fans?
Terrible and soft market are the first words that come to mind.
Too bad, because strong attendances at the tournament surely would have given Penticton more attention when the WHL eventually either expands or relocates.
Sooner or later, all good things come to an end. For the Kelowna Rockets, the end came near the end of the second period, when the Kamloops Blazers scored three times in a span of two minutes in posting a 4-0 win over their visitors on Saturday night.
And just like that, the Rockets’ six-game winning streak was over.
“We didn’t have a lot of push-back at all tonight. It wasn’t a very good night for us at all,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska, whose team came up empty on a pair of five-on-three power plays to start the middle frame after a scoreless first period. Sure enough, those missed chances cost Kelowna, as the Blazers roared back in the frame.
“We’ve been playing a lot lately, but the tough part about tonight, even though you can be tired, is you can have some push-back,” said Huska. “And we didn’t have enough from most guys, to be honest.”
Brendan Ranford, with two goals, Colin Smith and Chase Schaber scored for Kamloops (10-9-0-1). Jordan DePape also had two assists for the winners. Ranford opened the scoring at 16:19, with Schaber making it 2-0 at 16:55 with a power-play goal and Smith, with his fourth of the season, making it 3-0 and all but icing the contest at 18:08. Ranford’s second goal, tallied on the power play, came at 5:52 of the third.
With the win, Kamloops leapt over Kelowna (10-11-0-0) for fourth place in B.C. Division standings. The Blazers have 21 points, one more than the fifth-place Rockets, who suffered their second shutout loss of the season. The first was a 1-0 loss in Tri-City on Oct. 1.
Jeff Bosch made 22 saves for the Blazers, while Adam Brown was handed the loss. Brown started and made 23 saves over two periods, but was pulled, with Jordon Cooke stopping 11 of 12 shots in relief.
ICE CHIPS: Kelowna’s scratches included D Colton Jobke (shoulder, 2 weeks), C Max Adolph (concussion), C Gal Koren (concussion) and C Colton Heffley. . . . Kelowna was 0-for-7 on the power play; Kamloops was 2-for-3. . . . The Rockets were outshot 13-3 in what was a fight-filled third period. Further, the Rockets may have lost rookie forward Colton Sissons to a possible concussion.