Voice of the Notre Dame Hounds
Here are my 10 things for Week 13 in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League:
1. WJAC Selection Camp Picks – Hockey Canada officially released its selection camp rosters for Team Canada West and East ahead of the 2018 World Junior A Challenge on Monday, and four SJHLers made the list.
Biased as I am, I am extremely proud that two of the four are Notre Dame Hounds, as second-year 2000-born defender Tim Gould, and rookie 2001-born forward, and reigning Telus Cup champ Nolan Renwick have been named to try out for the event from Dec. 3 to 5 in Calgary. Timmy is the only returnee of the four from last year’s camp, and this is the second year in a row that ND has two guys at the selection camp, as current captain Jared Hamm joined him a year ago. The other two picks were also players I suggested as possibilities last week; as the two SJHLers on the National Hockey League’s draft-watch list, Flin Flon forward Vincent Nardone and Humboldt defenceman Chase Felgueiras, will also head to Calgary to try to make the squad. Good luck to all four!
2. WJAC Selection Camp Snubs? – I am not surprised that Canada West head coach Rick Swan (also the head coach of the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Bonnyville Pontiacs) took only these four, but certainly there were other options. Yorkton’s 2001-born winger Aiden Bulych tops my list of snubs, as the powerful hometown boy has been magnificent from the drop of the puck for the Terriers this year. Nipawin’s top-line centreman Jake Tremblay is also a 2000-born player who has enough tools in his toolkit, in my opinion, to make a difference up and down a roster, but there you have it. Some might be surprised that Weyburn star and Ferris State University commit Cade Kowalski did not make it, but the Wings’ captain is clearly a Top 6-type forward, and as Canada West is allowed only five 1999-born players, and will be loaded up front with the likes of projected NHL first-rounder Alex Newhook, and Team Canada U17 alums Harrison Blaisdell and Massimo Rizzo, it was a crowded list for Swan to populate in the first place. No knock on Kowalski though, he’s electric!
3. Shout Out Lewgood – One SJHLer who will definitely be present at the tournament is Estevan head coach Chris Lewgood. The Bruins’ sixth-year bench boss has been selected as one of Swan’s assistant coaches. Melville head coach Devin Windle will also be in Calgary in early Dec., working as a guest coach for the selection camp. Congrats to both!
4. Roster Cut-Down Date Looms! – In the midst of all the WJAC excitement is the looming first roster cut-down date, as all SJHL clubs will have to be down to 25 players on the roster by Dec. 1. To be at that number exactly, as the month dawns, is a bit of a handcuff, however, as coaches are allowed only 25 signed player cards for the rest of the year, allowing only like-for-like, or subtraction trades ahead of the Jan. 10 roster-freeze/official trade deadline. In simple terms: do not be surprised if your favourite team has fewer than 25 by Dec. 1, so that the GM can still do a two-for-one deal, or simply add a body for cash, before Jan. 10. I still expect moves to be made this week, so stay tuned for next week’s blog, where I’ll try to summarize!
5. No Stopping The Wil-Train – One guy who I know will not be going anywhere at the deadline is Notre Dame power forward Marshall Wilton! Not only does the 20-year-old from Emerald Park grow a sweet moustache, but there have been many times over the last few weeks where the SJHL has looked a little too easy for him. Marshall has learned to parlay his size, puck protection skills, and offensive instincts into a run of 12 points over the last eight games, and is literally taking over whole shifts when he’s fully engaged. He’s also a fierce competitor, and a great guy, so happy that he’s putting it all together.
6. Red Hot Melfort – Head coach Trevor Blevins just got a three-year extension from the Mustangs, and it isn’t a surprise, because his guys are cooking. It all starts with a veteran and balanced D-Corps, and, as I have mentioned before, a brilliant goaltending tandem between Hunter Arps and Shawn Parkinson (which one is 1A, and which is 1B? I have no idea…). From that platform the attack led by Tanner Ball, Carson Albrecht, and company have enough depth to cause problems for anyone.
7. Ball’s Streak – And speaking of Ball, how about the point-scoring streak the Saskatoon native is on? There has been only a single contest all year where he didn’t get at least one point, and he has a streak going of 24 games, amassing 39 points over that time. At time of writing, the 20-year-old left-winger is second in league scoring, and leads the league in goals with 25. I’ve talked about his one-timer from Kayle Tosh as the left-shot on the right of the Mustangs’ power play, but only six of his goals have come with the man advantage, so the former Saskatoon Contact can absolutely put the puck in the net any way you want. The interesting thing about him is that he did not dominate anywhere near this much in his last year in midget, so you have to credit Ball and Blevins (and his staff) a ton for his development, to the point of running roughshod over the league. By the way, Albrecht is only three points behind him…
8. Nardone Commits – Not only did Flin Flon forward Vincent Nardone learn of his inclusion in Team Canada West selection camp, but the Rosemere, QC native also received his NCAA Division I commitment last week, as he will be heading to the University of Nebraska at Omaha in the 2020-2021 campaign. Nardone’s teammate Chrystopher Collin is committed to Bowling Green State University for next year, making Flin Flon one of two SJHL teams with two DI commits in their roster. The other? Notre Dame…
9. Enemies to Friends, Jack and Loch – I run a Notre Dame Junior A team podcast/radio show where I interview present and past players and staff associated with the team (find it at ndhounds.podiant.co). I recently had a great chat with long-time ND and WHL forward Jack Flaman, who spent years facing defenceman Loch Morrison in the ‘dub’ and in the ‘SJ’, and as two fierce competitors, they never really liked each other…until now. Jack and Loch are teammates, and roommates, in Wolfville, NS with the Acadia University Axemen of USports. Love hearing stories like that.
10. Men’s Hockey Huskies Continue Epic Campaign – The University of Saskatchewan Men’s Hockey Huskies are a real force folks…13-1 on the year so far, a 12-game win streak in Canada West, and the best part of it is that Coach Dave Adolph is doing it with 24 Saskatchewan-born players on his roster! They are No. 3 in Canada, and have a real chance of getting over that national championship hump this year! Keep it going boys!
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)