Voice of the Notre Dame Hounds
Here are my 10 things for Week 8 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
1. Estevan’s Interesting Deal – Count it five teams, yes (5), around Canada that were involved in the deal that sent talented playmaker Will Koop from the Steinbach Pistons to the Estevan Bruins this past week. The exact details are not easy to figure out, but in the end B.C.’s Chilliwack Chiefs, and Penticton Vees, Alberta’s Okotoks Oilers, Saskatchewan’s Estevan Bruins, and Manitoba’s Steinbach Pistons were all involved in the deal that also included a defenceman, and two goalies (and probably cash in exchange for rights). Nobody left the Estevan roster, it should be said. Koop is going to be great for the Bruins though – a former Team Canada West World Junior ‘A’ challenge player, and Manitoba junior league champion.
2. Tough Times in Weyburn – October has been a bit of a nightmare for a Weyburn Red Wings team that had such a promising September. Head coach Wes Rudy’s men – beset with injuries and the lingering suspensions from the brawl at home vs. Flin Flon that I wrote about last week – beat Humboldt on Oct. 5, and then have not won since, earning only a single point from an overtime loss in Melville. No need for the now 5-7-1 Red Wings to panic though, as the addition of massive veteran winger Zac Gladhu from Drayton Valley in the Alberta Junior Hockey League should help, and the suspensions from the fight are up the night of this writing. The Red Wings are also still a super talented team, with a fantastic goaltender in Riley Lamb behind them, and it is still so early in the year. I think Weyburn will definitely be heard from in a big way before this year is done.
3. Bombs Away – Nobody in the league has scored more goals than the Flin Flon Bombers, and as dominant as the former Everett Silvertip Brandson Hein has been for them this year, they also really get the job done with a ton of forward depth. Head coach Mike Reagan has clearly gotten his men to buy in to a team ethos of suffocating pressure all over the ice – something they even accomplished superbly on the massive ice surface of Notre Dame back on Oct. 11 – and have forced turnovers galore. Can this style of play last all year? We will have to see, but it’s definitely working for the high-octane Bombers so far!
4. Reasonable Bill Chow – I know people love to bash league commissioners whenever they can, but I have to give SJHL boss Bill Chow a tip of my cap for the reasonable way I feel he has dealt with suspensions so far this year. Other leagues I’ve seen simply go by the coding of specific penalties that referees put on the game sheet, and all the commissioner will do is shrug and say “nothing I can do!”. But Bill and his office have proven to be committed to watching the tape of the incident, and have not been afraid at times to disagree with the referees’ call on the ice. It happened in favour of Notre Dame’s Noah Bankowski against Weyburn back on Oct. 16, as the second-year forward was given the boot for a major charging penalty, but the penalty, and resulting suspension, was rescinded by the league. If it happened to be a call against an ND player, like a pre-season hit from behind called against Jakob Breault for example, I would not change my tone.
5. Sneaky Urbanski – From the first time I saw Battlefords winger Matthias Urbanski last year, I was a huge fan. Hard-nosed, quick feet, and a nose for the net, the Prince George, B.C.- native scored 20 in his rookie campaign last year, so it’s good to see him break out with seven points over this past weekend. By the way, he already has 10 goals in 13 games this year, and while putting the onus on him and MacGregor Sinclair to replace the production of the departed Layne Young would be folly, Battlefords is still in good shape with Urbanski around the top of their forward corps.
6. Jared Legien – It should not come as too big of a surprise that Yorkton’s Jared Legien has scored almost at will this year – he’s at almost two points-per-game through 14 contests at the time of this writing. But while I do give the talented 20-year-old tons of credit for that, you also have to look at how the Terriers play. Legien has licence to roam, to pick his spots to bolt out of the defensive zone at will, and to use his best-in-the-league ability to make any pass a good pass. His shot is also showing to be very impressive, and his line mates Brenden Klatt and super rookie Aiden Bulych have been happy to do a lot of the heavy lifting in the defensive zone, to free Legien up to create the other way. Right now, it’s all working for the Viterra Division leaders!
7. ND’s Special Special Teams – Speaking of Yorkton, their four power-play goals over the last two games with Notre Dame in town have contributed to a rather odd stat for the youthful Hounds. Notre Dame’s penalty kill at home is a league-leading 90 per cent, as they have certainly harnessed the massive ice surface in Wilcox to an advantage in that regard. At the same time, killing penalties on the road have not come as easy, as ND’s PK away from the Duncan McNeill Arena is down at 68.4 per cent. Now this all being said, I’d be willing to wager a lot of money that the Hounds have been consistently far better at home than on the road overall for years. And it’s still early!
8. No Camrud, Big Problem? – Ever since Humboldt star Brayden Camrud took an awkward tumble at home against Notre Dame on Oct. 12, and has not hit the ice since, the Broncos have not looked the same, despite a recent 6-3 win over Melville. It’s hard to blame them though, as there is certainly an argument to say that Camrud is the most dynamic forward in the league without any Western Hockey League experience. Here’s hoping he is not out too much longer!
9. Shout Out to the Cougars! (bonus) – Well, how about that? The University of Regina Cougars men’s hockey team pulled out two road victories in a row, beating the University of Manitoba 3-1 and 6-3 this past weekend in Winnipeg. Long-time Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricane Zak Zborosky, a USports West All-Rookie team member from last year, scored his first three goals of the year in the latter triumph, while former Estevan Bruin and Swift Current Bronco Arthur Miller was the game-winning-goal hero the night before. The Cougars now have two wins through six games, after posting only four victories all of last year! Kudos to them!
10. But the Rams Are Done (bonus) – On the other end of the spectrum, the Rams are done and dusted. Regina got pounded 58-6 in Calgary last Friday night, ending their already slim playoff hopes in the wake of the forfeits the club had to endure, handed down by the league due to an ineligible player playing in the team’s first five contests. In their defence, starting quarterback Noah Picton AND backup Seb Britton were both out with injury, leaving true freshman Josh Donnelly to face Canada’s No. 3 team in the Calgary Dinos, in a must-win situation, on the road. It’s a sad end to a sad story, but it was unlikely the team could salvage the year anyway after the ruling. Time to retool for next year Rams fans!
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)