Thursday, October 28, 2010

Klippers at Notre Dame; new goodies on the blog

The Klippers are in Wilcox tonight in the only game on the SJHL schedule. It's their first meeting against the Notre Dame Hounds since sweeping them in the first round of last year's playoffs. The Hounds (6-6-0-2) are treading water so far, and with the Klippers losing four of their last five, the two clubs are separated by one point in the Sherwood standings.

The green and blue need to get back on the right track at some point, and there's no better time than the present with games against the Hounds, Red Wings and Bruins. A lot of players have been battling the flu this week, so hopefully the bug is on the way out.

Back to tonight. Notre Dame looks very different up front after the departure of several 20-year-old forwards. Returnees Trevor Cameron, Patrick Thompson-Gale and Austin Lauder are among their top scorers so far. Rosetown's A-Jay Moore, in his last junior season, has seven points through 13 games.

On the back end, 19-year-old James Howden has been a huge contributor on the scoresheet with four goals and 13 points in 14 games. He's joined by Carson Grolla and Mitch Boucher as the key players on the blueline.

Russell Abbott has gotten much better results between the pipes than Matthew Smidt so far. Abbott is 5-2-1 with a 2.38 average and .923 save percentage.


I made a few changes to the blog today. Instead of a twitter link, you can now follow my posts right on the blog (so you can get game updates either here or at my twitter account). I've also added a SJHL twitter RSS feed as well as a feed from the NHL's Youtube channel.

And there's finally a new poll up too.

Flanagan gets the nod for WJAC

From Wednesday's Clarion:

Klippers defenceman Sean Flanagan was one of three SJHL players to be named to the Canada West entry at the World Junior A Challenge next month in Penticton, B.C.

The Kindersley native is one of seven blueliners on the roster, announced Monday by Hockey Canada. Four of those rearguards are from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks, who host the RBC Cup this season.

The other SJHL players to make the cut were forwards Clarke Breitkreuz of the Yorkton Terriers and Drew George of the Weyburn Red Wings. Breitkreuz returns for his second year at the event.

Flanagan got the good news on Sunday and said he felt honoured to be chosen for the squad.

“It was pretty exciting. It’s a pretty special feeling to be named to your country’s team,” he said.

“It’s definitely the most honourable thing I’ve ever been asked to be a part of.”

That is a hefty endorsement of the tournament, considering Flanagan played at the Baseball Canada Cup in Kindersley a year ago.

He said Larry Wintoneak, his head coach with the Klippers and now with Canada West, had not given him any indication of his chances throughout the process.

Wintoneak stressed that the decisions were made collectively by the coaches and scouts on staff, and that Flanagan wasn’t a homer pick.

“Just because I’m the head coach doesn’t mean I made that pick. Most of the other guys saw what I saw,” he said. “It’s well-deserved, and I really think he hasn’t played his A game yet.

“I’m really happy for him. I’m proud that he could do it,” Wintoneak added.

The 2010 event runs Nov. 8-14 in Penticton. The players and coaches will arrive on Monday; Flanagan and Wintoneak will miss at least six Klipper games, four of them at home.

Canada West will play in Group B, joined by Russia and Switzerland. Pool A features Canada East, Sweden and the defending champion United States.

Flanagan said playing against international teams will be something new for him.

“It’ll be the best Junior A players from across the world, so it’s pretty special,” he said. “It’ll be a cool experience.”

Canada West earned silver at last year’s tournament in Summerside, P.E.I., losing to the U.S. in the final.

Hellyer's departure highlights off-ice turmoil

From Wednesday's Clarion:

Last Thursday could be considered moving day for the Kindersley Klippers, and not in a good way.

In a period of less than 24 hours from Wednesday night to Thursday night, four players were trimmed from the roster, two of their own choosing and two as casualties of a forward logjam.

Goaltender Scott Hellyer and forward Brett Penner both quit the team; centre Beau Taylor and left winger Pearce Gourley became the odd men out and were told they would be traded to a team that could use them.

The departure of Hellyer, 20, was the most significant. The Brandon native apparently informed head coach Larry Wintoneak after Wednesday’s loss to Yorkton that he was no longer interested in playing hockey.

Rumours abounded that there had been a falling out between Hellyer and Wintoneak after the netminder allowed a pair of soft goals to the Terriers. The coach insisted that wasn’t the case.

“The rumours that fly around when something like that happens, sometimes you shake your head. What had happened was, even the week before, Scotty just wasn’t feeling up to par and he lost a little zip for the game of hockey,” Wintoneak charged.

“His words were, he just doesn’t have the passion anymore. You have to have the passion to play the game, to love the game, and he just felt that he had to move on in a different direction. Myself and Scotty get along really well. We’ve had a good relationship right from the get-go.

“The facts are the facts, and the facts are he left on good terms here and that was his choice, so we have to move on. He gave us what he could give us and in his heart, he didn’t want to play.”

Suddenly needing a goaltender, the Klippers dealt Hellyer’s rights on Friday to the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the BCHL in exchange for towering 20-year-old netminder Alexandre Peck.

The Kirkland, Que., native, who stands six-foot-three, was in his second season with the Capitals, one of the league’s basement dwellers in recent years.

He played in a platoon role with the RBC Cup host Victoria Grizzlies in 2008-09; he was the only BCHL puckstopper on the NHL draft watch list that season. He was also short-listed for the Canada West entry for the World Junior A Challenge last year.

“He’s a good goaltender. He’s a kid that I think was maybe in a bad situation in Cowichan, and now he’s got a new lease on life,” said Wintoneak. “He’s pretty excited and enthusiastic about it. We’ll give him an opportunity to take the reins here.

“He plays the puck real well. He’s pretty good laterally, he takes up a lot of the net. He’s got real good rebound control. I think he competes hard,” the coach said of Peck, who was expected to make his first Klipper start on Tuesday against La Ronge.

“The biggest thing is he makes the stop when need be. That’s the biggest thing, it’s the timely saves that you need in a goaltender.”

Hellyer has returned to Brandon and it is not clear if he will report to Cowichan Valley.

Meanwhile, Penner asked for a trade on Thursday night because he wants more ice time, according to Wintoneak. The Klippers’ depth meant Penner was in tough to secure a spot above the fourth line, but he has the skill to play more minutes on a less talented club.

Taylor and Gourley were essentially cut, with the promise of finding them new homes with other teams where they can play bigger roles.

Wintoneak was still trying to work out trades for both players on Monday, more than four days after the players got the bad news.

“They’re both real good kids. They were tough decisions to make, obviously. Not something that you enjoy as a coach, but it’s gotta be done,” he said. “They’re hard decisions because they want to be here.”

Taylor said he thought he was off to a good start, with four goals on the year, and didn’t understand why he was chosen. But he said he wanted to get back on the ice as soon as possible, wherever that may be.

The fact that his family is in Australia makes the situation even more difficult for the 19-year-old, who has only played ice hockey for five years.

“He played here for a whole year. That was a tougher one and there was a little more emotion involved,” Wintoneak said. “Beau was kind of flat-toning; that’s where we see that.”

Gourley was one of the more promising forwards added this season, but Wintoneak said he felt several players had moved ahead of him on the depth chart.

“I think if we weren’t as old up front, he’d be here,” he said of the Saskatoon product.

The coach said his team has moved on from the events of last week.

“We had a good meeting at the end of (Friday’s loss in Melfort) and ... everybody kind of aired out their laundry and got it over with.”

The Klippers did get some positive news last week. Wintoneak finally found an assistant coach, and he should be familiar to fans in the area.

Rocky Zinger is originally from Kindersley and played with the Sr. Klippers for a time.

He has coached in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, and most recently he spent time as an assistant with the Okotoks Oilers of the AJHL. He had been promoted to interim head coach there before joining the Klippers.

Zinger joined the team for the road trip to Melfort and Nipawin on the weekend, and he will man the fort when Wintoneak leaves for the World Junior A Challenge on Monday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Klippers "lay an egg" in another loss to La Ronge

You'd have to think that if there's one SJHL team the Klippers shouldn't have trouble getting up for, it would be the La Ronge Ice Wolves. With the hit on Andrew Dommett on opening weekend, a hit from behind on Sean Flanagan earlier this month and two straight losses to the defending champs, there should be no need for a pep talk going into a game like tonight.

All that, and the Klippers came out with a stinker in a 4-2 loss to the Wolves.

The Klips put on a little more pressure in the third period and finally started to make some things happen, but the first 40 minutes were tough to watch. Sloppy breakouts, bad decisions in the defensive zone, handling the puck like a hand grenade, missing empty nets, almost no physicality to speak of.

The shots were 40-23 for La Ronge. In the second period, the Klippers had just one shot through the first 17 minutes and only got more when they got a power play late in the frame.

Braeden Adamyk and Johnny Calkins both missed wide open nets in the first period - I'm still scratching my head at how Adamyk missed his - and the team got nothing going on a 55-second two-man advantage, although Jordon Hoffman scored just before the second penalty expired.

I talked to a few parents who made the trip to Kindersley from various areas (including Justin McDonald's dad, Blair, all the way from Turtleford) and it's too bad they didn't see a better game.

Alexandre Peck made his first start as a Klipper and he surrendered four goals in the first period, but he didn't have a smidgen of help from his defence. No man is an island and try as he might, Peck couldn't hold off the Wolves on his own.

The 6'3" netminder made a terrific stop during the first when he made a couple of saves, found himself slightly out of position and lunged across the crease to deny a sure goal. I got the impression that he's quite flexible and athletic for a puckstopper of his size.

That said, he did struggle with rebounds, especially on low shots off the pads. The fourth goal late in the first came after several players hacked and hacked at a loose puck when Peck couldn't cover it up. Of course, the defence was partly to blame on that one too. Peck had a couple other low, simple shots clatter off his pads and into the slot during the second period, including a couple of near-misses for La Ronge.

Skylar Hladun, Doug Lindensmith, Marc-Andre Carre and Graham Smerek scored for the Wolves. For the Klippers, Jordon Hoffman scored his fourth on the power play during the opening frame, and Taylor Wasden found a loose puck at his feet and slammed it five-hole midway through the third.

Here's what Larry Wintoneak had to say after a frustrating game. I also talked to assistant coach Rocky Zinger, but it's getting late so I think I'll save that one for tomorrow.

At the end of the interview, Wintoneak hints at a bag skate or two.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Klippers planning pre-game ceremony for Flanagan

Just a small note ahead of tonight's game against La Ronge. The Klippers will make a brief presentation to Sean Flanagan before puck drop to recognize his selection to the Canada West squad.

I'm still working and unfortunately I'm probably not going to have time to write a preview. Heck, with everything that's happened between the two clubs so far, you folks know a lot about La Ronge without me yammering on.

I will be tweeting from the game though. Maybe my phone battery will actually last the whole game for the first time!

If you haven't heard, the Klippers placed third in the weekly SJHL power rankings.

Kobras look ahead to Humboldt provincial match-up

If football isn't your thing, feel free to skip this post, but this is a terrific sports story in the community and I feel it should be shared with the Kindersley ex-pats as well.

"On to the next one" for provincials-bound Kobras
KCS squad dominates Meadow Lake, now faces Humboldt

It's hard to imagine anything being more impressive than the Kindersley Kobras' 42-6 playoff win in Meadow Lake on Saturday, but for head coach Al Neufeld, there was something.

"Any adversity, a call gone against us or they (messed up) a play, it was just, 'Okay, next, let's move on.' The best way to describe it was it was all business. Even after the game, we celebrated briefly and said, 'Okay, on to the next one.'"

Following the dominant win over the Spartans in North West Football League playoff action, the next one is no small task.

The Humboldt Mohawks have averaged only 14 points against per game en route to an undefeated season so far. And they are the team awaiting the Kobras this Saturday when provincials begin.

But the Kobras didn't get this far by listening to the oddsmakers. They may have won their first playoff game Saturday since the program relaunched a decade ago, but this is not a team just happy to be here.

These players have worked hard for the better part of four years and they want victory, not just the team jacket.

"The people that have been keeping track of what we've been doing, they say, 'We're not surprised.' We put in the effort, we've been working, it's exactly what we expected," Neufeld said of the run so far. "We've got a good core of guys and we felt very confident with what we were going to do. We didn't expect to have that big of a (margin of victory in Meadow Lake), but we felt we had a decent shot and we just walked in there and owned their house."

After the long four-hour trek north, it didn't take long to stretch the legs. Kindersley took a 14-0 lead five minutes in and kept the heat coming.

"We came out right from the gate, just slugging. It was awesome," said Neufeld.

"They sucked it up and got off the bus ready to play. On (the Spartans') home field, with all that entails, they responded very well."

It's believed that Saturday's game was the first home loss for Meadow Lake in three years.

Greg Gassner led the way with three touchdowns and Bobby Fries scored two. Mitch Borgal chipped in with a spectacular rushing major.

"Mitch's run was awesome. He started out to the right, weaved his way to the left and straight down the left sideline. It was fantastic," said Neufeld.

The Kobras did not allow a play over 20 yards on the day.

Neufeld said the turning point came late in the first half after the Spartans scored their only touchdown. Gassner ran for six on the very next play, carrying the ball about 70 yards.

"They scored and we came right back and scored on the first play afterward, and that killed them. They were done," said Neufeld.

Seven former Kobras made the long trip from Saskatoon, wearing their old jerseys, to cheer on the squad Saturday. About 40 supporters in all made the journey.

"I think that says a lot about what we're accomplishing for this program," said Neufeld. "That's a hell of a long trip."

In a touching gesture, the players packed Tim Quinney's gear for the bus ride. The starting quarterback has been out with a broken leg all year and got his walking boot off last week.

"The guys packed his equipment on the chance he may be able to dress and get into just one play. It speaks to the character of our guys," the coach replied.

The Kobras are now in full prep mode for their game in Humboldt on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Meadow Lake victory made the Kobras the runner-up in Conference 4, and that pits them against the Conference 1 champ i
in the provincial quarter-final.

Neufeld said the Mohawks are a very athletic team and one key will be keeping a pair of defensive ends at bay.

"They just fly around and make plays. They step up and make tackles. They're a disruptive force, so we've gotta account for those guys. If we don't, it's going to be a long day for us," he said of the linemen.

"On the offensive side of the ball, their backfield is pretty solid. They've got a couple of guys that can move the ball really quickly. They're shifty, they're elusive. Their quarterback's got a good arm; it looks like he can move around pretty well," Neufeld explained.

"I think we've got to contain their playmakers. They do some interesting things offensively. They're not flashy. They don't light it up like Delisle does, where they throw the ball all over the field. They don't pound (opponents) like Meadow Lake. They're just a good, solid, executing team."

There are some parallels to be made. The most interesting is that Neufeld and Mohawks head coach Shaun Gardiner played together at the University of Saskatchewan in the late 1980s. Neufeld said that the Mohawks being solid, not flashy, embodies the way Gardiner played.

And there are similarities in the playbook.

"We see a lot of what they do in what we do. So some of the stuff they do is familiar," said Neufeld. "I think the biggest thing will be how we match up their personnel. They've got some good athletes. They're undefeated for a reason. They've earned their spot there and you take nothing away from that.

I think we can match up with them in certain respects, so it'll be an interesting game. That's why we play the games. I think it's going to be a fun game to see."

The Kobras were looking into sending a fan bus to Humboldt as of Monday.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wintoneak comments on all kinds of stuff

Here is the interview I did with Larry Wintoneak this afternoon. I wanted to have it up much earlier tonight, but I worked until 9 or so, and a man's gotta eat.

The interview with Sean Flanagan was done via phone, and I did record it but the playback is staticky (is that a word?) at best. Rather than forcing you to relive the days of tuning your clock radio, I will post the quotes tomorrow.

Larry spoke about the departure of Hellyer (he obviously had heard the suggestions of a fight after the Yorkton game, and he was ready), Penner, the decisions to drop Taylor and Gourley, whether that stuff had an impact on the road games, the games themselves, the play of Patrick Johnson, the recent hot streak for Jordon Hoffman, Flanagan being named to Canada West, an update on Andrew Dommett and more. And we didn't even get around to discussing Rocky Zinger.

Long story short (no pun intended) it's a wee bit lengthy.

Flanagan makes Canada West roster

Great news for Sean Flanagan.

Hockey Canada announced the Team West roster this afternoon and the 18-year-old Klippers defenceman made the cut.

Yorkton's Clarke Breitkreuz and Weyburn's Drew George were the other SJHL players to crack the roster - although the roster on the HC website has Flanagan listed as playing for Kindersley (BCHL). That league has enough kids on the team without giving it credit for SJ kids, I think.

Four of the seven defencemen are from the Camrose Kodiaks, who host the RBC this year.

See the full roster here.

I talked to Sean a few minutes ago and he called it "definitely the most honourable thing I've ever been asked to be a part of."

I'll get the audio up after supper tonight.

Also, I'll be speaking with Larry Wintoneak in about an hour about the off-ice events that took place last week as well as the weekend split in Melfort and Nipawin. I'll try to get that up tonight as well.