Friday, March 4, 2011

Game 1 victory for Klippers


It didn't look good early on, but the Klippers scored three times in the second period to top the Weyburn Red Wings 4-2 tonight in the opener of their conference semifinal.

Sanfred King, Andrew Dommett, Jordon Hoffman and John Sonntag had the Klipper goals, with Brock Appleyard and Keegan Bruce replying for the Wings.

It was a hard-fought game with a good physical tempo and solid goaltending at both ends, although it didn't seem like a high-intensity game aside from a stretch late in the first period.

The Klippers got contributions from all four lines tonight, which is always a good thing with a forward corps this deep. Each of the three scoring lines produced a goal, and the line of Down, Elliot and Wasden had a high-energy game and played a couple of shifts that really stood out where they banged bodies on the forecheck and turned the momentum.

There was no question that the Wings outplayed the Klippers in the first period. It went beyond scoring the only goal of the period. Weyburn established a strong forecheck whereas Kindersley didn't. The Klippers were also mediocre on the backcheck. Although the Klippers carried the shots in the period, they didn't generate many scoring chances and when they came close, Mitch Kilgore shut the door.

Brock Appleyard opened the scoring for the Red Wings 45 seconds into the game after a bad change by the Klippers. The Wings' leading scorer took a pass from Drew George (I think it was) and had all day to rip a shot from the top of the right circle, beating Sean Cahill over the glove.

Things got testy in the second half of the period, beginning with a semi-fight between T.J. Wees and Sanfred King (they only got roughing). A few minutes later, the Klippers found themselves on a 3-on-5 when, already killing a penalty to Cody Lund, an incredibly bad tripping call was made on Braeden Adamyk when he simply went into the corner with a Weyburn player trying to win the puck. There certainly was no trip or any other infraction on the play. 

The Klippers killed it off. Not long after Adamyk got out of the box, Taylor Desserre instigated a fight with him, for no reason that I could see. Needless to say, Desserre was the clear winner.

Kindersley came out much better in the second period, doing a better job on the forecheck and backcheck and moving the puck more efficiently. Sanfred King had his shot blocked, but he collected the rebound near the right side boards and snapped it past a surprised Kilgore to tie the game midway through the frame.

Only 1:31 later, Johnny Calkins hit Andrew Dommett with a perfect centering pass and the captain made no mistake to put the Klippers ahead for good. Late in the period, Dommett took a needless slashing penalty. The Klippers not only killed it off but scored a shorty when Jordon Hoffman took a slapper that Kilgore couldn't find, and the Major native tapped in his own rebound.

There were only two penalties in the second period. The Klippers took a 3-1 lead to the dressing room and led the shots 27-19 after two.

Keegan Bruce made it a one-goal game five minutes into the third, beating Cahill from the right circle after the Wings got him moving side to side on a series of shots. Aside from that, it was a pretty mild third period. Both teams got a couple of power plays, but there was no more scoring until John Sonntag added some insurance on a wrister from the point with 5:40 to go.

The Hoffman line was rolling tonight, in no small part due to the return of Jesse Mysiorek, who was very solid and physically engaged. Hoffman works hard all the time, but he was especially good tonight and his determination on the penalty kill led to the game winner, and that was enough to earn him the first star. Taylor Duzan also had his chances and played a strong physical game.

On the back end, Kurt Leedahl and John Sonntag both brought their A game. Leedahl was his usual collected self in his own end, saving the Klippers' bacon on more than one occasion and handling the puck with poise. Sonntag was very strong positionally, logged a ton of minutes as usual and looked confident at both ends.

Sean Cahill made a lot of big saves, especially in the third period, to preserve the win for the Klippers. Mitch Kilgore was also tremendous for the Wings, especially early on, but as the game rolled along the Klipper attack was too much for him.

There was a pretty strong crowd tonight - definitely not as many as the official 1399 figure, but probably the best crowd of the year.

Interviews
Sean Cahill - 36 saves

video


Rockie Zinger - first SJHL playoff win

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Klippers-Red Wings series preview

It starts tonight!

There's no feeling like the first game of the playoffs. Here's the series preview that ran in the Clarion on Wednesday.

Klippers, Red Wings set to renew hostilities Friday

A long-standing rivalry will resume on Friday when the Kindersley Klippers and Weyburn Red Wings kick off the 2010-11 SJHL playoffs in Kindersley.

The two teams have had everything from spirited battles to blowouts this season and now lock horns for the right to play in the Sherwood Conference final.

Game 2 is Saturday, with both contests starting at 7:30 p.m.

The Klippers (35-20-3) finished second in the Sherwood, nine points ahead of the Red Wings (30-24-1-3). Both teams have had nearly two weeks off to rest up and heal the various bumps and bruises that come with the stretch run.

“We’ve been playing since Christmas with a lot of hard nicks and bangs on us and this was just the time we needed,” said Weyburn head coach Dwight McMillan.

The Klippers were given four days off before hitting the ice for practice on Sunday night.

Klippers’ coach Rockie Zinger said his team can’t put much stock in their hot play over the final two months now that the playoffs are here, aside from the fact that it gives them home-ice advantage.

“You can’t rest on that. You can’t be satisfied by the fact that we’re a dangerous team going in,” said Zinger. “You’re only as good as your last game. We’ve got a ticket to the dance and it’s time to show what moves we have.”

The Klippers’ depth and firepower up front will be a focal point in the series, McMillan acknowledged.

“Kindersley is very offensive and has a lot of depth. We’re coming in as the underdog. We have to work hard, do the best we can and see what happens,” said the veteran coach. “We know we can’t go nose to nose with them, so we have to try to win in different ways.”

Johnny Calkins finished fourth in league scoring this year with 25 goals and 93 points, including a league-leading 68 assists. The Red Wings’ focus will be on shutting down Calkins and his linemates, Braeden Adamyk (42-40-82) and Andrew Dommett (22-24-46), who missed 24 games with a jaw injury. Weyburn will also need to limit the production of the Klippers’ two other scoring lines, centred by Sanfred King and Jordon Hoffman.

Left winger Jesse Mysiorek, who has missed 12 games with a groin injury, is expected to return to the line-up on Friday. Right winger D. Jay McGrath, sidelined with a knee injury since Jan. 21, will miss the entire playoffs and will need surgery.

Zinger said his blueline sometimes doesn’t get the respect it deserves with so much focus on the power up front.

“Sometimes it gets overlooked that we’re a good defensive club. You gotta remember we’ve got some guys who can shut people down. It doesn’t matter if you win 2-1 or 7-1,” said Zinger.

“We feel our blueline has made great strides since October. They’ve really solidified where we’re at,” he added. “Our blueline is at its best when it keeps it simple, moving the puck up through the neutral zone for our forwards.”

Aside from the usual suspects in Kurt Leedahl, John Sonntag and Sean Flanagan, the coach said 20-year-old Cody Lund has “played some unbelievable hockey” in the last month of the season.

The Klippers’ penalty killing has been strong in recent weeks, ranking fourth in the league at a 80.5 per cent clip, and while the team’s eighth-ranked power play is an area to work on, Zinger credits it more to the strong penalty killing from other teams.

“Our penalty kill has gotten better and better as the year has gone on, so why are we taking anything away from other teams’ penalty killing? Is it that our power play is struggling or is it every team’s penalty killing getting a lot stronger?” he retorted.

Meanwhile, Weyburn owns the top penalty kill in the league at 84 per cent and the third-best power play at 24.4 per cent.

The Red Wings are not the powerhouse of years past, but they do present a challenge, particularly with one of the league’s top goalies in Mitch Kilgore, who was stuck behind two 20-year-olds last season but has blossomed as a SJHL rookie.

“We knew Kilgore was a great goaltender. We’ve had lots of confidence in him going into this year,” said McMillan.

The Outlook native was the difference the last time the two teams met on Feb. 4, stopping 55 shots en route to a 5-4 overtime win for the Wings.

“We have some big bodies up front. They just gotta go to the traffic areas and get him thinking about the big bodies in front of him instead of the little black biscuit he’s supposed to be stopping,” said Zinger.

The focus for the Klippers will be getting the puck deep behind a Red Wings blueline core perceived as slow by some.

“They‘ve got a big defence and if you don’t get pucks in behind them, you’ll make them look better than what they are,” said Zinger. “Our main focus is making their defence work, getting pucks behind them, getting opportunities off the cycle and forcing turnovers.

“They have forwards who work hard. From what we’ve seen of them, they’re a prototypical dump-and-chase team that tries to wear you down,” he added.

T.J. Wees is the main man on the Weyburn blueline, and he gets support from the likes of Tanner McCall - who has been playing forward lately due to injuries - Ryan Whitell, Eatonia native Brentt Becker and Taylor Desserre.

Up front, the player to watch is left winger Brock Appleyard (28-39-67), along with Drew George (21-36-57) and rookies Coltyn Sanderson and Keegan Bruce.

“We have to score by committee. We’re not going to have one guy score a bunch of goals. We have three lines that aren’t prolific scorers but can score,” McMillan said.

Many thought the Red Wings’ playoff hopes had taken a hit when forwards Shawn and Rodney Cowie left the team in late January, but the team played well down the stretch.

“It gives the other guys a chance to play. The attitude and character sometimes comes out. You never know how dressing rooms are going to go.”

Zinger said he looks forward to seeing how his players will respond at playoff time.

“Every playoff, there are always different guys who raise their game. It’ll be interesting to see who those guys are for our club. We’re hoping it’s a new one every night.”

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Here's a look at the two teams by the numbers.

Records
Kindersley: 35-20-3, 2nd in Sherwood
Weyburn: 30-24-1-3, 3rd in Sherwood

Goals For/Against
Kindersley: 240/194
Weyburn: 193/191

Special Teams
Kindersley: PP 19.4% (8th), PK 80.5% (4th)
Weyburn: PP 24.4% (3rd), PK 84% (1st)

Leading Scorers
Kindersley: Calkins (25-68-93), Adamyk (42-40-82), S. King (19-45-64)
Weyburn: Appleyard (28-39-67), George (21-36-57), Bruce (22-26-48)

Home
Kindersley: 21-5-3
Weyburn: 18-11-0-1

Away
Kindersley: 14-15
Weyburn: 12-13-1-2

Overtime/Shootout Record
Kindersley: 5-3
Weyburn: 5-4

Last 10 Games
Kindersley 7-2-1
Weyburn 5-4-1

Head-to-Head
Kindersley 3-2-1
Weyburn 3-3

Leading Scorers Head-to-Head
Kindersley: Adamyk (4-6-10), Calkins (3-5-8), S. King (4-3-7)
Weyburn: Ross (5-1-6), Appleyard (2-4-6), Bruce (4-1-5)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A look back at the season that was

After the craziness of last season, with the arena fire and the team being forced to Eston for the last three months of the season, you couldn't blame Klipper fans for wanting things to be a little more... well, normal this year.

But between losing their captain for two months and a coaching change, it was anything but. Here's a look back at the Klippers' regular season as we head into the playoffs.

It started with the team still not being able to get into their home. The West Central Events Centre didn't re-open until Oct. 1, resulting in training camp and exhibition play being held in Eston at the Complex. The team also had to play their first four games of the season on the road, but it could have been worse given the circumstances.

Speaking of training camp, it ended with the granddaddy of logjams up front. I remember that first road trip to North Battleford and La Ronge, with 16 forwards on the bus. It was a packed house for a while, and the decisions were anything but easy. It got even harder in October when D. Jay McGrath was re-assigned from Everett, but eventually the players who stuck were Justin Gerwing and Tanner Kissick, and both guys have played their roles well and made solid contributions.

The season opener was a wild one in North Battleford and the Klippers won 7-6 on Andrew Dommett's second goal of the night with 27 seconds left in the third period. Kurt Leedahl scored the team's first goal of the year late in the first period and added another one 98 seconds later. Nothing like a big win over a rival to start the season. It was all optimism on the ride up to La Ronge the next day.

At the Mel, the Klippers got off to a 2-0 lead in the first 11 minutes, including Dommett's third goal in less than four periods. The captain was rolling.

Exactly three and a half minutes after Dommett's goal, all hell broke loose. Just as Dommett was letting a shot go from the slot, La Ronge forward Justin Ducharme caught him with a blindside hit to the head. Johnny Calkins stood up for his linemate and best friend by going after Ducharme, and a donnybrook ensued in the corner and in front of the La Ronge bench.

While this was going on, the captain was on the ice, bleeding everywhere. I knew the news would be bad after the game, but it was worse than I expected: shattered jaw on both sides, several teeth lost. The mood on the bus that night was palpable. The players knew this injury would have a major impact on their season.

The Klippers floated around .500 for the next 10 weeks or so. They went a long time without winning back-to-back games, and couldn't separate themselves from the pack in the Sherwood Conference. Part of it was due to the absence of Dommett, with Calkins and Adamyk struggling with consistency while playing with different linemates all the time. Part of it, I believe, was a team trying to establish chemistry, with all the extra players who had been around for the first part of the season.

A big part of it, undeniably, was goaltending. After the departure of Scott Hellyer in October, the team went through a merry-go-round of goalies, with none of them able to get the job done until Sean Cahill was acquired for Brett Penner in late November. Cahill quickly proved he was able to make the big saves at crucial times and gave the team the confidence they needed playing in front of him.

On Nov. 19, two months to the day after his injury, Andrew Dommett made his return to the lineup two weeks ahead of schedule. It took him a few games to get back into the swing of it, but his return was a huge boost for the club and a sign of better days to come.

The SJHL Showcase was in Weyburn in early December, and almost to a man, the Klippers said their 2-1 OT win over Flin Flon on Dec. 4 could be a turning point in the season. That was one reason why it was such a surprise to a lot of people when head coach Larry Wintoneak was relieved of his duties on Dec. 13. The announcement came that assistant Rockie Zinger, who had been hired in October, would be taking over for Wintoneak on an interim basis. Some people were surprised by the axing; others weren't. In talking with several players after the fact, there was some hinting that everything wasn't rosy in the dressing room.

When the team embarked on an eight-game winning streak, six of them under Zinger, it became clear something in the off-ice dynamic had changed. The team had the talent all along; maybe they just needed a shake up to play to their potential. And it's hard to argue with the 19-5-1 record the team posted under Zinger. That includes a five-game winning streak to end the regular season that got lost in the shuffle of trying to catch Yorkton for first place.

The Klippers were fairly busy leading up to the Jan. 10 trade deadline. With Humboldt selling off their veterans, the Klippers scooped up forward Spencer Braaten for futures. Braaten didn't return from an ankle injury until Feb. 4, but he has looked right at home on a line with Sanfred King and brother Wheaton, who was re-assigned by the Brandon Wheat Kings at the deadline.

Braeden Johnson of the Saskatoon Blades was also re-assigned, and with no room to add another scoring forward, the team shipped him and 20-year-old defenceman Lance Tabin to Battlefords just before the midnight deadline for midget forward Justin Lund and Regina Pats forward Michael Sagen. Sagen was then flipped to Melville for a player to be named later. Suddenly needing another defenceman, the Klippers acquired 18-year-old Zane Morin from La Ronge for futures.

Over the final two months of the season, the Klippers focused their attention on tracking down the Yorkton Terriers for first place. Considering the gap had once been 15 points, the team did well to narrow it down to three, but it wasn't enough. Yorkton's comeback overtime win over Estevan on Feb. 15 sealed the deal.

The Klippers finished with a record of 35-20-3 for 73 points. That's four more wins and six more points than last season, when they finished third in the Sherwood and were eliminated in overtime of Game 7 of the conference final.

Calkins named to second all-star team

The SJHL announced its year-end awards and all-star teams this morning. You can have a look here.

The only Klipper to get some recognition was Johnny Calkins, who was named to the centre position on the second all-star team. Congrats to Johnny on a fantastic final season in junior hockey.

As for the rest of the awards, I was surprised that no one else got as much as an honourable mention, especially Kurt Leedahl and Braeden Adamyk. I don't think there are many people who wouldn't consider Leedahl one of the top four defencemen in the league, but he didn't make either all-star team or get a runner-up nod for defenceman of the year, which went to Yorkton's Blaine Tendler.

As for Adamyk, I'm not sure how a guy who finished sixth in league scoring doesn't at least get a nod on the second all-star team. No offence meant to Flin Flon's Andrew Johnston, who is a heck of a player in his own right, but how does the guy with 42 goals and 82 points get snubbed in favour of someone with 66 points? Of course, there's a lot more to the game than points, but that's usually what these things are based on.

The team's focus is on the playoffs right now, obviously, but I just felt these two guys deserved some recognition.

I promise I'll have the regular season recap up by the end of the day. I've been under the weather the last couple of days, but feeling better now and it will be up for sure, followed by the series preview from this week's Clarion.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mysiorek expected to return for Game 1

This will be a quick one as I still have some work to get to tonight.

I spoke to both Rockie Zinger and Dwight McMillan this afternoon for a series preview that will run in The Clarion on Wednesday. Both coaches had some interesting comments, some of which I posted on my twitter account.

Rockie said Jesse Mysiorek, who has missed 12 games with a groin injury, will "most likely" make his return to the line-up for Game 1 against Weyburn on Friday.

That's great news for the Klippers. The Hoffman line isn't the same without Mysiorek's physical play and drive to the net. Kissick, Elliot and Morin were all tried on that line and got decent results, but having Mysiorek on the left side will make that unit a lot more dangerous.

Rockie confirmed that D. Jay McGrath is indeed done for the season and waiting for knee surgery, as McGrath had said earlier in the week. That's a big loss, especially with the way he'd been playing since Christmas, but the Klippers still don't need to worry about their depth up front.

That's it for now, but check back over the next few days for more analysis heading into the series.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Leedahl named defenceman of the month

The SJHL released its players of the month for February today and Klipper rearguard Kurt Leedahl was named the defenceman of the month.

The 20-year-old Saskatoon native has been a rock for the Klippers all year long and posted seven assists in eight games in the final month of the regular season.

From the SJHL release:

"The 1990 born blueliner from Saskatoon helped the Klippers try to chase down the Yorkton Terriers for first place in the final month of the season. While the Klippers were unable to do so, Leedahl played perhaps his best hockey of the season. If Leedahl can continue playing at the level he did in February during the playoffs, he will make life miserable for many forwards across the league."

Former Klipper Travis Eggum is the player of the month while Humboldt's Andrew Bodnarchuk is the goalie of the month.

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Both survivor series got started this weekend and both are now tied following last night's action. Flin Flon blanked Battlefords 3-0 last night to even up that series and Melville edged Estevan 5-4 when Michael Owen scored the winner with 53 seconds left. 

My guess is the Stars and Bruins both advance, but it won't be a cakewalk for either of them. Both series resume Monday night.

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If you haven't checked out the SJHL broadcasters poll spearheaded by Craig Stein, you should. It was a great idea that yielded a lot of interesting responses. Unlike the NHL, it's hard to get a consensus on the top players in various areas due to less media saturation in the SJHL. 

Among the Klippers getting some recognition were Andrew Dommett, Johnny Calkins (named best playmaker), John Sonntag, Taylor Duzan (named toughest to play against and most underrated) and Braeden Adamyk.

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As for the blog, it's been a crazy week for me but I plan to put together a regular season recap, along with a Kindersley-Weyburn preview, in the coming week. I expect to talk to Dwight McMillan on Monday, so I'll post his thoughts on the series sometime early in the week.