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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

NEUGSIE'S AROUND THE SJHL

By: Jamie Neugebauer
Voice of the ND Hounds

The Anavet Cup is in full swing as the Manitoba Champ Portage Terriers are locked in a tough battle with the Battlefords North Stars.

Here are my 10 things!

1. ANAVET MIRROR IMAGES – Two games in Portage, two one-goal contests, and one win apiece for the SJ champion Battlefords North Stars, and the MJ champ Portage Terriers; so what do we know as the scene shifts to Saskatchewan? The sense I got watching the opening salvos of the Anavet is that these two teams go about winning in a very similar way – goals by committee, team defence by committee, don’t mind the rough stuff. There isn’t a guy on either team I’ve noticed that’s unwilling to put in a hard, competitive shift, and that is completely to their credit, and the credit of the two coaches: Battlefords’ Brayden Klimosko, and Portage’s Blake Spiller.  The Loon-Stewardsons, and Brayden Buziak line has been held pointless so far, but the line that might have been the pre-playoffs projected top unit has picked up that slack, as MacGregor Sinclair between Owen Lamb and Ryan Gil have three goals and five points through the two tight-checking contests. On the flip side, 16-year-old Portage defender Owen Murray (a Dec. 2002 birth year!) has been brilliant, moving the puck, starting Terriers’ rushes, and putting up three assists already. Very, very little to chose between these clubs.

2. SHOW UP BATTLEFORDS! – Saw a lot more empty seats in Portage for the Anavet so far than I did during their Turnbull Cup final series with Swan Valley, and it was disappointing, especially given the demise of the Winnipeg Jets. The hockey has been awesome, and intense, so make sure you come out to the NB Civic Centre like you did for the Canalta Cup!

3. CAMRUD COMMITS – Was thrilled to see that Humboldt Broncos over-ager Brayden Camrud committed to play NCAA Division I hockey next year for the University of Alaska-Anchorage in the WCHA. I love those college coaches that really do their homework, and pound the pavement, and former Toronto Maple Leafs video coach Mark Phalon absolutely is one of those good dudes. Phalon is an assistant at Alaska-Anchorage, and I saw him watching Camrud in person plenty of times; so kudos to him for pulling the trigger here! Despite the fact that the Broncos were eliminated in the first round by the Estevan Bruins this past post-season, it would not be a stretch to say that Camrud was the most dominant individual player in Round 1, and even if he did not have enormously difficult emotional and physical circumstances to overcome, his season would have had to be classified as remarkable. Huge congrats to Brayden! I have zero doubt that he’ll be able to step in right away next year.

4. WEYBURN GETS ITS GUY – The Weyburn Review put the number of applicants for the Wings vacant head coaching job into the 60s, so it’s no wonder GM Tanner McCall and company took their time. That being said, I was thrilled to see another high-profile signing joining a very classy group of SJHL coaches, as long-time NHLer and Saskatoon native Rich Pilon will be taking over on the Weyburn bench. Pilon, 51, has dabbled in coaching since his retirement back in 2002, but this will be his first gig as a regular head coach. He was quoted in saying he continues to receive mentorship from the likes of New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz, and with his NHL connections, I have no doubt he’ll have counsel and connections far and wide. With former NHLer Kevin Kaminski getting the job in La Ronge earlier this summer, the profile for head coaches in the league is further proof that the product is absolutely in a good place, and continues to head in the direct direction. I’m so excited to see where the SJHL is heading!

5. UNDERRATED RED WING FLYING OFF – Speaking of heading, I do have to give my best wishes to wildly underrated Weyburn defenceman/sometimes forward Garrett Szeremley, who I am hearing from a very reliable source will be heading off to the Minnesota Magicians of the North American Hockey League. The Manitoba native was one of the community engagement leaders in the SJHL these past two years as well, and continued to play his heart out through some pretty dark days for the Wings this last season. It’s a really solid pick-up for the Magicians, and a tough loss for Coach Pilon right off the bat.

6. KEELEY BOYS STICKING TOGETHER – Back to good news though as the Kindersley Klipper twins Clay and Nate Keeley both received offers, and committed to Aurora University in Division III NCAA hockey for next year! Clay was one of the real underappreciated star defenders in the SJHL this past season, mixing grit with six goals and 20 points, while the Klippers found they had depth up the middle when Nate, the winger-turned-centreman, proved to be a highly effective defensive pivot. They both add a ton of grit and character, and were a big part of Kindersley’s success after they were brought in from Drumheller of the Alberta Junior Hockey League last off-season. Congrats to the Keeley family!

7. TOP LA RONGE PROSPECT COMMITS ... ELSEWHERE  – As I wrote in a previous column, I felt that La Ronge’s returning corps is better than a lot of people think, but the recent news of Di Paolo’s departure will hurt. Now I have to add more bad news, as Wolves top prospect, and Saskatchewan midget’s fourth-leading scorer Nolan Doell has committed to Whitecourt of the AJHL. The long-time Beardy’s Blackhawk scored 29 goals and 60 points last year, and has featured in nine contests over the last two seasons for La Ronge. But anyways, he’s off to Alberta…

8. TROJANS AT TELUS – Congrats to coach Darrell Mann and his Tisdale Trojans for their bronze medal victory at the Telus Cup this past week in Thunder Bay. The Trojans, led by Telus Cup defenceman of the tournament Landon Kosior, whose ‘dub rights are owned by Prince Albert, as well as Saskatoon Blades prospect Jayden Wiens and his six goals in seven games at the event, beat the Calgary Buffaloes 3-2 on the afternoon of Apr. 28. Wiens had two goals in the game, including the winner, and Tanner Martin, who featured for the Melfort Mustangs as a call-up this past season, was excellent in making 34 stops. Martin’s situation will be one worth keeping an eye on, with Melfort able to return both of their goaltenders for next year. Either way, congrats to the Trojans! This is now the second year in a row that a Saskatchewan team has medalled at the National Midget Championships, with the Notre Dame Hounds taking the gold a year ago in Sudbury.

9. THE SCHWARTZ SHOW – You don’t have to be a proud Notre Dame employee like myself to take an enormous amount of pride in the job Jaden Schwartz is doing for, and with, his St. Louis Blues this post-season. The man from Melfort, who once put up 76 points in 46 SJHL games for the Hounds as a 16-year-old, is the leading playoff scorer of the team playing the best hockey in the NHL right now.  Now if only I could get John in Wilcox to answer my text messages to get me an interview with Jaden! Or maybe Alice Dumba? I don’t know, I wonder if I’m wearing out my welcome on campus :D (I’m kidding).

10. A PERSONAL POINT OF PRIDE (Bonus) – I know he never had anything to do with the SJ, but this is my column, and I have to mention a great pal of mine, and one of those kids that I measure every kid I come across against! When I saw that the San Jose Sharks called up UMass defenceman Mario Ferraro, I could not help but beam. Mario played two seasons for a Junior A team I used to work for in Toronto, and his dad would always stand beside me while I broadcasted. One year in the finals there were so many fans of the other team around, I felt really good to have big Rob Ferraro standing beside me. But I digress. Mario is an unreal talent, as electric a skater I’ve ever seen in person, has a massive heart, fantastic puck skills, and endless energy. He’s obviously developed a ton while in college, but I know his humble, incredible attitude has always stayed the same. If you’re a San Jose fan, get ready, he’s fantastic. It’ll be interesting to see if he bumps into his two-year teammates Cale Makar in the series…

(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)

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