Voice of the N.D. Hounds
Here are my 10 things for Week 12 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League:
1. ND Makes A Few Deals – In the world of fantasy sports, where trades are simply a couple names on a screen being shuffled back and forth, it can be easy to forget that the players moved in real life deals are actual people. The Hounds made a few deals last week, sending defenceman Kurri Woodford to Yorkton, forward Noah Bankowski to Kindersley, and bringing in veteran Conor MacLean from Grand Falls in the Maritime Hockey League. Kurri and Noah are fantastic young men, from wonderful families, and for a guy like me who came into this daunting, historic world called Notre Dame at the beginning of last year, these two guys played huge roles in helping me feel at home, and part of the family. There was no animosity or anger in the trades, and they make sense for all involved, but still, it sucks to see two friends go! Conor he has a lot of ties to the ND and Wilcox communities, and so far he seems like an incredible young man, with a lot of character, and a lot of talent.
2. WJAC Camp Picks – The roster for Team Canada West’s selection camp ahead of the 2018 World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, AB is rumoured to be released pretty soon. The WJAC, which will run between Dec. 9 and 16, is the Junior A equivalent of the more famous World Junior Hockey Championships. It is made up of five teams, including two from Canada, with the country split from Ontario east and Manitoba west, as well as entries from the United States (a USHL all-star team, not including the US National Team Development program), Russia, and the Czech Republic. Last year’s Canada West squad including SJHLers Levi Kleiboer (then of Battlefords), and Flin Flon’s Chrystopher Collin, who is still on the Bombers, while a total of nine Sask leaguers were invited to the selection camp. So, who will get invited this year, with the camp likely to be in early December? Only five 1999 birth-years are allowed on the final team, so that might exclude Collin, but there are loads of intriguing young options in the league! Notre Dame’s Nolan Renwick, Yorkton’s Aiden Bulych, the NHL draft watch-listees Chase Felgueiras (Humboldt), and Vincent Nardone (Flin Flon), even Nipawin’s 2002-born winger Jaxsen Wiebe? Definitely interesting options, and I’ve left out a ton more.
3. Who Thought Humboldt Was Going to Build Slowly? – Did any of you out there think, “Humboldt will be young, and probably struggle?”. Well, if you did, you were really, very wrong. I honestly thought from the beginning that with the influx of cash (and I don’t mean the GoFundMe project for the families of the crash, I simply mean they clearly have some great community involvement), they would build as competitive a team as possible, and with the recent veteran additions up front like Drew Warkentine, and Logan Foster (who both have WHL experience), to go with a young-but-solid D-corps, and an elite goaltender in Dane Dow, they are, in my opinion, the most loaded team in the SJHL. Yes, they had to come together and buy-in to what head coach Nathan Oystrick was preaching, but with six wins in a row as of Nov. 17, look out for the Broncos. And I’m not just saying this because they hammered my Hounds 7-2 on Saturday…
4. SJHL Project To Be Revealed Soon! – The man running this website, Rod Pedersen, is also running the show on an awesome project that is expected to be revealed before the year-end concerning the 50th Anniversary of the league. A lot of talented people around the province were involved, but I don’t want to steal any thunder by saying what it is. I can assure you, it’s going to be very professional, and worth staying tuned for! Very excited for it.
5. Sho Heads For Poland – The World Juniors around Christmas are always a Canadian favourite, but did you know that more than 30 countries around the world are involved in a large ladder of qualification in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s umbrella to get to the top tournament? Notre Dame’s skilled right winger ShoTakai is going to represent Japan at one such qualification event, the Division IB World U20s in Tychy, Poland between Dec. 8 and 14. I am a huge international hockey fan, and so I find it extremely cool to see Sho around the rink with his Team Japan gear on, and as he is an excellent young man, I know he’ll rep ND and the SJHL well on the international stage! He’s scheduled to take off for Japan’s camp soon, and we’re all very proud of him.
6. Another Neutral Site Game! – Estevan and Yorkton did battle atop the Viterra Division at another neutral site game on Saturday, and by all accounts, the people in Canora, SK were rocking! Jared Legien got his 20th goal in the second period, and Tyson Janzen’s winner early in the third sealed the come-from-behind victory for the Terriers. Well done to all those who attended!
7. Who Wants The Viterra? – Speaking of the Viterra, Estevan and Yorkton have enough talent to sink a ship, yet neither appear interested in consistency. The Terriers are in second at time of writing, but have an incredible five games in hand on the Bruins, so if Ben Laidlaw can keep up the level he’s been reaching the last couple games in the Yorkton net, then the Terriers are in a good spot. I’m sure Estevan will keep adding players as they always do, will eventually come together, and make me eat my words, but either way, it’ll be an awesome fight to the finish in the southeast.
8. Oh, La Ronge… – Times are not awesome for La Ronge though…Nine losses in a row since stunning Estevan on Oct. 26 have the Wolves plummeting, though in their defence, they were facing every single hot team in the league over that span. Eight home games and a neutral site game are up next on the schedule, including four slightly more manageable match-ups at the Mel Hegland to end November; so this is the actual cross-roads for head coach Evan Vossen and company.
9. No Taming The Mustangs… – Melfort is for real folks. The league’s best power play is sizzling at 24.5 per cent, Justin Ball and Carson Albrecht are running roughshod over the league, and the Stangs have not given up more than two goals against in a game since Nov. 1 – a span of seven contests. Coach Trevor Blevins’ men are into 19th in the national rankings, and with five straight games at home at the Northern Lights Palace, which has been nothing short of a fortress this year, I expect that ranking to keep moving up. Earlier in the year, Blevins was on the hunt for D – now he five of the six D he dresses each game are 98s or 99s – so times are good for the veteran-laden Stangs.
10. Huskies Lose In Mitchell Bowl, But Got Like St. FX! (bonus) – Have to hand it to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football for even making the Mitchell Bowl (the national university football semi-finals), since Calgary were the heavy favourites to win it all out west. The Ontario champion Western Mustangs were even bigger favourites to take down UofS head coach Scott Flory’s men, and though the game was tied 17-17 at half, the Mustangs cruised to a 47-24 win in London, Ont. If that sounds harsh, check out the Uteck Bowl final: Laval 63, St. FX 0. I’ll just leave that there.
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)