Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Spengler Cup Preview

Each Boxing Day for Canadian hockey fans marks three things: 1. The end of Christmas, 2. The start of the World Juniors, and 3. The Spengler Cup.

Of the two hockey tournaments, the Spengler is the least known out of the two, just by the fact it's not advertised for 3 months ahead of its opening, like the World Juniors are.

This tournament features five teams from around Europe, as well as the Canadian National Team. The Canadian team is combined of players in Europe, the AHL, or other pro leagues around the world besides the NHL.

This year, Canada will have a number of returning players, who will now play under ex-Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Craig MacTavish, who will manage two AHLers, one player in Austria, one player currently playing in Finland, as well as Yannick Tremblay in Germany, to go along with 18 Swiss players, taking part in this Swiss tournament.

Notable names include Serge Aubin, the captain, Mark Bell, Stacy Roest, Josh Holden, Alex Daigle, Ric Jackman and JP Vigier.

In net, Canada will have the 1-2 duo of David LeNeveu and Brent Krahn.

Canada opens the tournament with a game against Karlovy Vary, the reigning Czech Champions, who feature such players as Lukas Mensator and Ondrej Nemec.

On the 28th, after a day off, Canada squares off against host HC Davos, who are usually in contention at this tournament.

Marc Gianola, Mathias Joggi, the von Arx brothers and Sandro Rizzi make up the bigger part of the club.

Next for the Canadians is the Mannheim Eagles, who are from Germany. This team features 10 North Americans, including 9 Canadians. Fred Brathwaite of Canada mans the net, while players such as Sven Butenschon, of Canucks fame, Pascal Trepanier, Scott King, Colin Forbes and Justin Papineau will suit up for the dangerous Eagles.

Closing out the Round Robin for Canada is a date with Dynamo Minsk, the KHL club.

Minsk is a club that could really do some damage at the tournament, with Canadian Duvie Westcott, Byron Ritchie and Geoff Platt, not to mention Jussi Makkonen, Kaspars Sauletis, Alex Kulakov, Dmitri Korobov and Mikko Jokela who also play for the Belarusian Club.

The top two teams will then meet on New Years Eve, for a final that could feature another Canadian-Davos title fight, or one with perhaps underdogs (from this site at least) Mannheim and Vary.

Our predictions? Here they are, game-by-game:

Boxing Day will go down with Dynamo Minsk taking on HC Davos, in perhaps the biggest game of the Round Robin portion. Minsk features some offensive explosion in their repertoire, while the host Davos will have the better part of the arena on their side. This opening game will be a 5-3 win for Minsk in our mind.

The second game on this day pits Karlovy Vary against the Canadians, who will take this one 6-2.

With a 0-1 record to date, HC Davos will pound Karlovy Vary on the 27th, 7-1, before Mannheim loses a close one, 2-1 to Minsk.

Next, Mannheim will squeak out a win against Karlovy, 4-2, before the Canadians take on Davos, in another highly-anticipated match. Who will win? Canada 4-2.

The 29th will do much for Vary who don't play after their tilt with Minsk, but will lose, 5-2.

Canada will also beat Mannheim, 1-0.

On the final day of Round Robin play, the Canadians face Dynamo Minsk, and will lose 6-5. Then, HC Davos will come up with a clutch win, beating Mannheim 3-2.

This puts Karlovy Vary's record at 0-4, Mannheim at 1-3 as well, and that puts Minsk at 4-0, the Canadians at 3-1, and Davos at 2-2.

Final? Minsk and Canada which will go down to the last minute, 3-2 for the Canadians. Check back on December 26th for daily updates from this spectacular tournament.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

World Juniors One Month Away

Exactly one month from today, the World Junior Hockey Championships, also known as the U-20s, will open in Regina and Saskatoon.

The World Juniors start every Boxing Day, and the Round Robin normally concludes on New Years Eve, with the traditional battle of Canada vs USA.

This year is much of the same, with four games on Boxing Day, two in Regina, and two in Saskatoon, a theme that will continue for most of the tournament. On Opening Day, the Czech Republic battles Sweden in Regina, while Nikita Filatov's Russians tangle with Austria in the later match in the secondary host city.

Up in Saskatoon, the main stage for the event, Canada opens their tournament against Latvia, and the Slovaks take on the Americans.

The host Canadians are in a group with Latvia, Slovakia, Switzerland and the USA, playing all four teams over a course of 6 days.

As is customary, a number of exhibition games will be played in the host country prior to the tournament, with the most notable being Canada playing a pair of games in Regina, as well as another in Calgary. Their first tune-up will be on December 20th against the Swedes, before going to Calgary on the 22nd to battle Finland. The next day, they'll close out against the Czechs back in Regina.

The Division I Tournament, with teams in the lower-rankings will take place starting December 14th, and Road Kill Sports will have up-to-the-day coverage of said event, which takes place in France.

There are only six teams, the Danes, host France, Japan, Slovenia, Ukraine, and the favorite Germans. It is a perfect tune-up for hockey fans excited for the regular tournament, in Canada.

The Kazakh team from last year's tournament in Ottawa was relegated to Division IB, in Poland, while the Division III tournament, five levels below the one in Saskatoon, features teams competing in Turkey. There, it'll be the Turkish team, the Australians, Bulgarians, Iceland, New Zealand, Chinese Taipei and the DPR Korea.

Team Canada may have an interesting lineup, with as many as 9 returning Gold Medalists. A few, including Evander Kane and Tyler Myers are currently in the NHL so the chances of them making the team are very slim, but you never know.

From the host cities of Regina and Saskatoon, last year's hero Jordan Eberle plays for the Pats, and is expected to make the team, while teammate Colten Teubert has had a rough year, after playing on the team last year. Stefan Elliot wasn't at Development Camp, but the Saskatoon Blades D-Man is in the hunt for a position, while Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native Brayden Schenn, a first round LA pick, will likely make the team.

Taylor Hall, Nazem Kadri, potentially Cody Hodgson and Scott Glennie are four others who are close to locks to make the team.

More on this tournament, as the month unfolds...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Launch of Road Kill Sports with 85 days left!

Road Kill Sports has seen many formats over the years, but fan emails have been consistent - in wanting more IIHF coverage. Your wishes have been granted as we switch to a IIHF ONLY format.

This means World U-20s (this year in Saskatchewan), IIHF World Championships (in April/May of 2010), and the 2010 Winter Olympics, in Vancouver. During the Olympics, expect a twitter account with game by game hockey details live from Canada Hockey Place, for most hockey events.

Stay tuned, because there's no turning back.

85 days until Vancouver 2010, and many more posts to come. No more Giants. Only IIHF.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seattle Thunderbirds 2 - Vancouver Giants 4

A night after a brutal Home Opener, the Vancouver Giants looked to gain revenge with their first home victory of the year, hosting Prab Rai and the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Well, things went according to plan, here are the Starting Goalies:

Seattle: Calvin Pickard, 2nd WHL season
Vancouver: Brendan Jensen, 1st WHL game

Sitting out for Vancouver was James Wright, who is still with Tampa Bay, Evander Kane (Atlanta), and Todd Kennedy and Gary Nunn who were injured but in Vancouver.

Lane Scheidl, and Brandon Scholten sat out as healthy scratches.

Jensen was tested not so early and often like was the case Saturday night for Jamie Tucker, as Seattle had only 6 shots in the first period. One of which was a goal, Colin Jacobs' second of the season.

The Giants looked much more like themselves in the second, but not before Jonathan Parker netted a goal at 1:49 of the second to put Jensen in an early hole.

That's when the Giants began to shine, tying the game up before the period was over.

Sebastian Svendsen scored his first WHL goal since being chosen in the CHL import draft, from James Henry and Brendan Gallagher, and Lance Bouma's second of the year was set up by Neil Manning and Kevin Connauton on the PP.

Manning scored the eventual game winner at 1:37 of the 3rd, with Stefan Warg in the box for Seattle, before JT Barnett sealed the deal with his 3rd in 3 games, from Bouma and K-Con.

Giants win, 4-2.

Game Notes:

- Vancouver outshot Seattle 39-24, a stat that is phenomenal considering they were outshot by Everett one night prior.

- Jensen's 22 saves helped him to his first WHL career victory in front of 5517 at Pacific Coliseum.

- Canucks prospect Prab Rai was -2 on the night for Seattle. In fact, the 3 Assistant Captains, and Captain (Lindsay Nielsen) for Seattle were a combined 0 on the +/- stat, with 0 points, and 4 PIMs.

- Kevin Connauton has 4 points in 3 games since joining the WHL from NCAA hockey.

Road Kill Sports Three Stars:

1. Neil Manning, Vancouver: A helper on the game-tying goal, and the eventual game-winner was enough for Manning to be out #1.

2. Lance Bouma, Vancouver: The Captain had a goal and an assist, and was a force to be reckoned with.

3. Brendan Jensen, Vancouver: First WHL game. First WHL win. Nuff said.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everett Silvertips 4 - Vancouver Giants 2

Two nights removed from one of the most exciting Opening Nights in Giants history, Vancouver hit the ice at the Pacific Coliseum for the first time since being knocked out of the playoffs last season by the Kelowna Rockets in Game 6.

The Everett Silvertips and new coach Craig Hartsburg were in town, after a disappointing campaign last year.

Starting Goalies:

Everett: Thomas Heemskerk, 4th WHL season (0-0-0-0)

Vancouver: Jamie Tucker, 2nd WHL season (1-0-0-0)

Giants scratches:

Evander Kane (Atlanta Thrashers)
James Wright (Tampa Bay Lightning)
Garry Nunn (Broken Leg)
Todd Kennedy (Injury)
Greg Lamoureux (Healthy)
Zach Hodder (Injury)

After the OT thriller on Thursday night, it didn't take long for Craig Cunningham to make another mark on this club, after the penalty shot winner in Kelowna, as he opened the scoring at 8:11, with a powerplay goal, from Nolan Toigo and Lance Bouma, his second of the year. It was Cunner's 5th point.

Vancouver out-shot Everett 10-9 in the first, but Cunningham's marker was the only highlight of the first frame.

Mike Piluso, a familiar name to Giants fans, wanted to keep the excitement going for the hometown crowd, so he decided to put one past the local boy Heemskerk just over four minutes into the middle stanza, for his first WHL goal since February 8th, and his first goal at the Pacific Coliseum since December 29th.

The Everett Silvertips were probably getting screamed at by the vocal Hartsburg, because Shane Harper netted his first goal since March 13th in Vancouver. 2-1 G-Men.

That was all the scoring for the second, but there was some other highlights for Everett, in the fact that they outshot Vancouver in the second period, 8-6. This was the first time the Tips outshot Vancouver in a period at the Coliseum since the second period of a game on October 20th, 2007.

Radko Gudas, of the Czech Republic was in just his second WHL game last night, but scored 3:18 into the 3rd to tie things up, and again 12 minutes later to give his new club the outright lead. 3-2 Everett.

That's all she wrote, because with Jamie Tucker pulled, Tyler Maxwell netted an empty netter, to seal the deal on the Giants home opener.

Game Notes:

- Shane Harper had a goal and two assists for Everett, and was one of four Silvertips with a +3 or better rating.

- The first fight of the year for Vancouver was between Dillon Scholten and Cameron Abney, for the fact that Abney was chirping at the Giants netminder. With new fighting rules in place, expect to see less fights in the WHL this year.

- This was the second regulation loss in 20+ games that Tucker has appeared in for Vancouver between the pipes.

Road Kill Sports Three Stars:

1. Radko Gudas, Everett: For a d-man in his second WHL game to pick up a pair of goals isn't common, and the fact they were the tying and game-winning goals only makes a stronger case for Gudas to be the #1 star.

2. Shane Harper, Everett: Harper's three points, and +3 rating made him a strong case to be the #1 star.

3. Ryan Murray, Everett: Murray had a +4 rating and an assist, and was a key part of Everett's blueline all night.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Vancouver Giants 6 - Kelowna Rockets 5

The regular season couldn't have gotten off to a better start for the Vancouver Giants, who opened the new campaign with a OT victory in Kelowna, facing a Rockets club that was celebrating their 2009 WHL championship win.

This game wasn't headlined by the spectacular goaltending that could've been if Kelowna netminder Mark Guggenberger wasn't out injured, but the offensive battles more than made up for it.

Starting Goaltenders:

Vancouver: Jamie Tucker, 2nd WHL season

Kelowna: Adam Brown, 2nd WHL season

In front of the Prospera Place crowd, Stepan Novotny of Czech Republic fame scored the first WHL goal of the year on Jamie Tucker just :57 into the game. Mitchell Callahan and Shane McColgan assisted the marker, which was Novotny's 20th in his two-year WHL career.

Stepan was at it again 10 minutes later, this time with only Callahan picking up a helper. 2-0 Rockets midway through the first.

Highly regarded d-man Kevin Connauton, a pick of the Vancouver Canucks didn't wait long to leave an impression, scoring his first WHL goal on the Powerplay at 19:23, to put his team down one heading into the break.

The G-Men kept piling it on in the 2nd, scoring two quick goals just 4 minutes in, with JT Barnett and Lance Bouma each scoring their first of the season. Barnett's was on the powerplay, and was assisted by Connauton and Craig Cunningham, while Cunningham also assisted Bouma's at even strength.

With two points on the night, Mitchell Callahan tied the game with a goal of his own, this time assisted by Novotny at 5:32, knotting things up at 3.

Stepan Novotny was not done with his three points right there, scoring another one, this time a PP goal at 12:18 of the middle frame from Kyle St Denis and Tyson Barrie. 4-3 Rockets.

Sophomore Barnett of the Giants wanted to add to his goal earlier in the game, scoring the first goal in the 3rd, to tie things up for the second time, with his second of the game from Cunningham and Neil Manning at 3:00 on the PP again.

Barnett could be a threat on the man advantage if he keeps this up, with two goals on the night.

James Henry gave his club the lead with a goal 3 minutes later, from Brendan Gallagher and newcomer Ryan Funk. Vancouver takes the lead in the 3rd.

Novotny, searching for his 5th point, already with a hat-trick, netted one more on Jamie Tucker, scoring his 4th of the game, exactly 20:00 after his 3rd, at 12:18 of the final stanza.

OT, here we come.

Just 1:40 or so in, the G-Men had a rush up ice, and Craig Cunningham was tripped up, resulting in a penalty shot.

He took advantage, and scored for his first goal of the year, and his 4th point of the game. Giants won 6-5.

Game Notes:

- JT Barnett had a career night, more than doubling his career marks in goals (1 heading into the game, 3 at game's end), and he took part in his first career fight. The soph from Arizona will look for everyday minutes this year, as he is a 17-year old.

- This was Craig Cunningham's first time getting more than two points in a single game, picking up a goal and 3 assists on the road.

- Stepan Novotny's first multi-goal WHL game came in his second season, in the first game, with four on the night.

Road Kill Sports Three Stars:

1. Craig Cunningham, Vancouver Giants: Ritchie was a force on the ice, even if two of his four points were on the PP, and the goal came on a penalty shot in OT. Look for great things from the player who attended Rangers camp this fall.

2. Stepan Novotny, Kelowna Rockets: If this had gone to a shootout, Novotny would've been our first star hands down, but Cunningham did too much for Vancouver in this one. Four goals and one assist may be the best mark in the WHL all season to come.

3. JT Barnett, Vancouver Giants: Barnett's two goals really made the difference for Vancouver on the powerplay, and it was, like I said, a career night for the winger.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 17th: Vancouver Giants at Kelowna Rockets preview

As the puck is now just an hour or so away from dropping on the 2009-2010 WHL season, the Vancouver Giants are on the road in Kelowna to take on the defending WHL champion Kelowna Rockets.

Jamie Tucker is expected to start for Vancouver in net, facing off against Mark Guggenberger's Rockets, who will celebrate last year's achievements before the game.

Rocket to watch: Colin Long is coming off of a 91-point performance last season, almost as good as the 100 points he collected two seasons ago. Long is an Overager who will look to guide Kelowna to victory on Opening Night.

Giant to watch: Jamie Tucker takes over for Tyson Sexsmith who manned the pipes for many a season in Vancouver, before heading to the San Jose system this offseason. Tucker has some big shoes to fill, but he was 18-1-0-1 last year, so never fear. Tucker has 3 more years of eligibility and tonight kicks off his tenure as the starting netminder.

Prediction: Giants by 3.

2009 Vancouver Giants Season Preview

No more other commitments, it's Vancouver Giants/Abbotsford Heat only on this blog this year, plus the usual International Hockey pieces. I mean it, 100% hockey on blogs, so this is it and I'm excited to be back.

The Vancouver Giants kick off their 2009 season tonight on the road against the defending WHL champion Kelowna Rockets, who abruptly ended Vancouver's campaign last year in Game 6, when Mikael Backlund lead his Rockets to a comeback victory.

Backlund is gone (to the Abbotsford Heat no less), but the Rockets are still mostly in tact, with a lineup that will make tonight's tilt interesting.

Vancouver has lost their starting goalie, two defencemen and the number of forwards missing is yet to be determined.

Tyson Sexsmith is off to the Sharks system, Brent Regner to Columbus, Jon Blum to Nashville, and Evander Kane will probably crack the Atlanta Thrashers roster. What remains to be seen is if James Wright will head elsewhere this year, as the 19 year old can either go to the Lightnings where he is now, or come back to BC. My vote's on Vancouver.

On the back end, Nolan Toigo returns just days after being cut from the Vancouver Canucks, and returning is also Neil Manning who has been plagued with injuries in his two Giants seasons. Manning will man the point this year, and is expected to have a major impact.

20-year-olds Ryan Funk and Toigo are the only Overagers on the D, but up front Overager Garry Nunn is out for 6-8 weeks with a broken leg. Vancouver could bring in an extra overager but who knows as of yet.

The roster was not officially announced so there are still some question marks, but Funk, Kevin Connauton of Vancouver Canucks draftee fame, Manning, Toigo, Mitch Spooner and Dillon Scholten seem like locks for 6 spots. The others could go to Lane Scheidl or Luke Fenske, or even David Musil.

Forwards returning are Lance Bouma (Calgary), Brendan Gallagher, Todd Kennedy (out for a month), Craig Cunningham (NYR), Mike Piluso, JT Barnett, Nunn, James Henry, Import Andrej Kudrna and James Wright potentially. Out of the 7 in Kelowna tonight, there are still 5 spots that remain, and they could go to Brandon Scholten, Mikael Jung and Sebastian Svendsen who is a lock being the only other European. Greg Lamoureux who is 17, and Nathan Burns, a 16 year old will also see time this year.

In net, Jamie Tucker will man the ship, after being a key part to the G-Men last year, with Brendan Jensen, a 17 year old, serving as his backup.

This year will be interesting with all the young talent on the Giants, but whether Evander Kane returns or not will play a large role in the team's success.