Voice of the N.D. Hounds
This past week has been extremely busy around the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, with the Trade Deadline last Thursday, games on the weekend, and the Showcase in Regina Monday and Tuesday. That in mind, here are my 10 things from what was an exhausting last seven days!
1. The SJHL Shows Well Again! – Another SJHL/MJHL Showcase event is in the books, after six games over two days in Regina’s Co-operators Arena, and the quality on display was once again fantastic. The Sask boys won four of the six games, taking the series for the second year in a row (and the second in the event’s existence). I could not help but be impressed by the depth of talent and tactical awareness in the SJHLers, and at the same time, they did not back down from the hard-working Manitobans. I’ve talked a lot about Justin Ball of Melfort on here, and for good reason – he is so impressive–but I have not given enough credit to his line mate Carson Albrecht, who was probably the most dominant individual SJHL forward at the event. The pair combined for four goals and eight points over the two games at the showcase…so, right where they left off from the Mustangs. Notre Dame’s skaters, Jarrett Penner, Kyle Robinson, Marshall Wilton, Jared Hamm, and Charles Martin were solid, with the big 2000-born winger Penner,conscripted to play centre, something he does not do in his day job, probably turning the most heads. I’ll talk about how magnificent Riley Kohonick was in net later on.
2. Showcase Production Fantastic (mostly) – SaskTEL did an incredible job producing the television and Facebook Live broadcasts at the Showcase, and Munz Media, led by Tanner Goetz, did an awesome job creating content based off the event! They actually gave me a microphone, and let me be in the in-arena announcer, which was a blast! I wish there were not so many technical issues, and the difficulty of finding crucial information to keep everything running smoothly was a bit tough, but what can ya do! Live and learn for next time. The Manitoba league support staff are unbelievable though, such classy individuals!
3. The Koho Show – On the ice, the guy who stood out the most for me was Notre Dame goaltender Riley Kohonick. The 2000-born White City native, who was the starter for last year’s Telus Cup winning ND Hounds midget club, and was Saskatchewan’s midget goalie of the year a season ago as well, was outstanding while making 37 often difficult stops in a 4-2 win on Tuesday morning, in the second young guns game. As the Hounds broadcaster and media guy I know how good of a person and player Riley is, but it was so satisfying to see him show a packed house in Regina. The funny part of it is that his gift as SJHL Player of the Game was a pair of hockey player gloves, which he tells me, as a goalie, is an item he did not own previously…so there you go Riley! I have all the time in the world for him.
4. MJHL Class – Saw a ton of MJHLers I liked. Hulking Selkirk Steelers forward Nate Halvorson is a handful and plays like it, while Team Canada West World Junior A challenge forward Reilly Funk out of the Portage Terriers was extremely impressive as well. Great to see Isaac Labelle, the older brother of Humboldt Broncos crash survivor Xavier, play so well! Isaac, the No. 1 goaltender for the Wayway Wolverines, earned Player of the Game honours in making 30 stops, for the Showcase’s only shutout, for Team MJHL Belfour on Tuesday. I’m sure it felt good as a Sask boy to beat a lot of guys he knew personally!
5. Interesting, If Not Busy Trade Deadline – The biggest piece to move around deadline time came three days before it, with Weyburn moving super-skilled Ferris State University committed winger Cade Kowalski to the already offensively-loaded Flin Flon Bombers, so his impact will should not be a mystery to most folks. Former Regina Pat and Prince Albert Raider George King moved Melfort from the Dauphin Kings in the Manitoba League, and should provide the Mustangs with some much-needed secondary scoring behind the aforementioned Ball, Albrecht, and Tanner Zentner. Also of interest is that while Nipawin did not add a forward, they did move a defensive-minded defender in Andrew Smiley, to the big-time selling Lloydminster Bobcats in exchange for the offensive-minded blue liner Zachary Ziegler, who is a White City, SK kid that was an affiliate player with the Hawks in the 2016-17 season while a member of the Swift Current Legionnaires of Saskatchewan midget. I am personally thrilled with Notre Dame’s add of Cody Lehner, the diminutive-yet-rock-solid former captain of last year’s Hounds midget Telus Cup championship squad from the Alberta league’s Bonnyville Pontiacs. Sneaky good add by Phil Roy and the Hounds.
6. Flin Flon Pins Hopes on Waked – Perhaps the riskiest move made at the deadline was by the Flin Flon Bombers, who dealt starting goaltender Pierce Diamond to the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the British Columbia Hockey League (in a three-way deal with the Estevan Bruins), and in a separate move brought in Gabriel Waked from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. True it is that Waked has that Major Junior experience, but he only appeared in eight games this year, and was not even the undisputed starter in the Quebec Junior ‘AAA’ League for the GrandbyInouk last year. Diamond, soon to turn 21 years of age, played in 24 games, and was more than respectable with a goals-against average of 2.78 and a save percentage of .915, and a record of 14-7-2. So, a lot of pressure on Waked behind a Flin Flon team absolutely going for a championship this year.
7. Yorkton's and ND’s Goaltending Carousel – Speaking of goaltending, interesting time around the deadline in Yorkton. The Terriers had made a big splash on Jan. 2 to bring Western Hockey League veteran Riley Lamb from the Weyburn Red Wings, only to see him dash off for the Swift Current Broncos days later. This put Yorkton GM Matt Hehr in a clear bind, leading him to acquire Notre Dame’s big 20-year-old Andrew Henderson, who had lost the starting job in Wilcox to Kohonick (see Thought No. 3). In a separate move, Phil Roy and the Hounds brought in 20-year-old Matt Lukacs from Estevan, whom the Bruins had not played all year. It will be interesting to see how Henderson does behind a team as geared to hunt for offence first as the Terriers are, and how Kohonick does at ND with the pressure of being the undisputed No. 1 for an extended period of time!
8. Austin King-Cunningham – The Estevan Bruins have over 1,100 PIMs through 40 games, while nobody else has even over a 1,000. They also have the Top 3 penalty minute loggers, with the hulking Austin King-Cunningham way ahead on 172. The former Vancouver Giant and Tri-City Americans defender sucker punched Notre Dame’s skilled Quebec-born forward Jakob Breault late in the two clubs’ Saturday night brawl-filled affair in Estevan’s Affinity Place, and has been suspended for the action. Not to be outdone, former Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Jayden Davis was handed a three-game suspension for a late flying elbow from behind to the head of ND defender Charles Martin! I just have to think after watching Estevan two games in a row…they would be a heck of a hockey team if they toned the goonery down just a tad, and focussed on playing. I’m also not sure if goonery is a word, but it is now.
9. Yes…It Was Me – I was told I had to post about my emergency conscription as the anthem singer in the second game at the Showcase in Regina. The music guy’s computer froze at the exact minute O Canada was supposed to play, and then he refused to sing it, so after a brief period of awkward panic, I grabbed the microphone and belted it out as best I could. I was a little rattled, and extremely hungry for lunch, so I apologize to the fans out there who had to hear it. There you go Rod, I talked about ;) Now, how do I go about getting another shot at it?
10. Punch up at the Co-op(bonus) – How about that brawl between the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan men’s hockey clubs last Saturday in Regina? It all started with an extremely late hit by a UofR player, with the Cougars down 6-1 at the time, and then escalated. You don’t see a big row like that in USports very often, but I guess if it was going to happen, then UofR vs UofS isn’t a bad guess.
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)