December 3, 2011

Uk Hockey Round Up Saturday 3rd December -Steelers Keep Up the Chase as The Blaze Ease their Pressure

With all the personnel changes in sides up and down the UK this week this weekend was going to be key in the race for the title in both the Elite League and the EPL.

Belfast Giants 5 Hull Stingrays 1
Belfast faced their first game without highest point scorer Benoit Doucet and started their game in Hull in an uncharacteristically sluggish way. The irishmen fell behind to a Sylvian Cloutier goal but got their rhythm back almost immediately as McBride levelled the scores two minutes later. The Giants then took the lead themselves on the midway make as Rebek scored on the powerplay and the win was confirmed in the third as Clarke extended the lead and Roberts added the fifth. Belfast got through tonight's game despite the upheaval to their forward line but will need to show more prowess in front of goal in next weekend's big game with fellow title chasers Sheffield.

Cardiff Devils 2 Sheffield Steelers 4
The Sheffield Steelers had the most changed side following the weeks transfer chaos. Gone was Flath and with Rod Sarich out injured the Steelers reintroduced Great Britain international Jonathan Phillips to the side for the first time this season. The Steelers also welcomed former Coventry forward Luke Fulgham into the side. The changes seemed to be paying off as the Steelers took a 3 goal lead by the midway point in the second but almost as soon as that happened Scott Matzka fired the Devils back into the game and when Kenton Smith pulled the visitors back to within one it was game well and truly on in the third period. Despite the pressure that saw the Devils hit the 50 shot marker it was Sheffield forward Jeff Legue who hit the only goal of the game to extend the Steelers lead back to two goals. With a win tonight the Steelers despite the changes to their lines and another defensemen due to be added to the squad in time for the trip to Belfast on Friday the Steelers are showing they are still in this title hunt.

Dundee Stars 2 Coventry Blaze 7
Coventry had found themselves a man down after releasing Luke Fulgham on Thursday also found themselves a goal down early on as Dolan put the Stars ahead. That was a about as good as it got for the visitors as a quartet of goals by the Blaze before the first break left well behind. The goals didn't stop there as the Blaze added two more in the second effectively seal the victory and settle the nerves of the home side. With game all but sealed the third period was rather even affair as Park added Coventry's seventh before Turner added a late consolation for the Stars. It was a big win for the Blaze tonight will help to ease the pressure on the team and Paul Thompson from some sections of the Blaze fans but if Coventry are to turn things around they will need to put in performances like tonights against the top sides. Dundee meanwhile will be buoyed by the 25 shots they managed but after missing 7 powerplay chances it is the offense that will need to shape up if they are to make a push for the play offs.

Edinburgh Capitals 0 Braehead Clan 2
24 hours after taking sixth spot off the Clan the Capitals lost it. Last night's winning performance deserted the Capitals as the Clan dominated. The home team took the lead through Campbell in the first and kept the pressure there after but didn't find a way through until the third period when Jorgensen doubled the advantage. The highlight again for the Capitals was the goaltending performance of Nathan Craze who for the second night in a row gave the Capitals a chance of winning but ultimately they were let down by the attacking lines. The Clan on the other hand will look to this performance to press on into the second half of season and the play offs.

English Premier League

In the EPL title chase Guildford and Slough continued to their head to head as both picked up vital wins against potential banana sink teams. Whilst Telford produced a stunning come back against the Basingstoke Bison to take the two points on offer after penalties at the Basingstoke Ice Arena. The win was enough to lift the Tigers of the bottom as the Phantoms lost the extra point in their game on penalties to the Milton Keynes Lightning.

The EPL's final game was in Bracknell as Manchester paid visit to the John Nike Leisure Centre. Manchester where still missing player coach Tony Hand and centre Stephen Wallace but did produce a performance akin to their title winning form of last season. The win putting some daylight between the top 5 and the rest of the field.

Manchester Phoenix 6 Bracknell Bees 2
Telford Tigers 6 Basingstoke Bison 5 (APS)
Guildford Flames 5 Swindon Wildcats 3
Sheffield Steeldogs 3 Slough Jets 5
Peterborough Phantoms 2 Milton Keynes Lightning 3 (APS)

Neil Tucker

UK Hockey Round Up Friday 2nd December - Drama Off the Ice as Personnel Change

It was a dramatic end to the week in the EIHL as sudden personnel changes shocked the league. The saga started on Thursday night as Coventry Blaze announced that forward Luke Fulgham had left the side with immediate effect. No other details as to why the Canadian, who had been at the side for 2 ½ years since signing from Manchester, but less than 24 hours later on Friday morning Fulgham was in Sheffield signing for the Steelers. The Steelers had earlier announced that defenceman RG Flath had decided not to stay on with the club after his trial period but a replacement is on his way but will not be available until next weekends critical game with league leaders Belfast at the Odyssey. However long term injury hit Great Britain international Jonathan Phillips will return to side for the first time this season at the weekends games. Coventry meanwhile have not announced any new signings to replacement Fulgham but watch this space as Coach Thompson will not be spend long with a short bench.

Elite League
Edinburgh Capitals 2 Dundee Stars 1
The action continued on Friday as the ice as Edinburgh looked to continue their good run of form in Dundee. Against a Stars team that inflected the first defeat in 2 games on the Capitals last weekend in Murrayfield. The Stars took that game 6 – 0 in the Capitals back yard but it was the Capitals that returned the favour by returning to winning ways in Dundee. It was the visitors that took the 2 goal advantage before Dundee fought back late in the second with Lee Mitchell. The pressure continued in the third  from the home team but despite outshooting the Capitals 17 to 7 in the third period could not get past an inspired Nathan Craze as Edinburgh took the 2 points.

The Capitals are now up to sixth place in the league moving over their next opponents the Braehead Clan. The fourth straight home loss for the Stars though means they are 4 points of the playoffs now.
Neil Tucker

Resilient Isles earn point in shootout loss to Chicago: 5-4

Resiliency, heart and grit were all themes in the New York Islanders (7-11-5) one-goal shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks (14-8-3) in hockey action on Friday night.  The Isles battled all evening long against one of the Western Conference’s best teams, and earned a point in a rocking United Center.

Making his first appearance in an NHL uniform in his hometown of Chicago was Islanders keeper Al Montoya fought his way to making 32 saves, including the save of the game at the 7:50 mark of the first period.

Montoya was originally going to use his stick to stop an attempt by Chicago forward Dan Carcillo, instead abandoned his timber to use his glove to make the sensational grab.  In another first for the Isles was the play of Dylan Reese (plus-one rating and one hit), who was called up from Bridgeport to take the place of regular blueliner Andrew MacDonald.

Reese had a good game for the Isles, setting up several shots, along with taking a shot during the course of the game.  The night started off well for the Isles, as they cashed in on their first power play opportunity when Kyle Okposo (3) banged home a snap shot at the 4:07 mark of the first period.

Okposo was in a great position for the first Islanders goal, cashing in on a rebounded shot by young-blueliner Travis Hamonic (3). For Kyle the score was his third in the last five games. New York continued their fine play, until nice passing by the Hawks tied the game at the 10:27 mark.

Chicago cashed in on an odd-man rush as Sean O’Donnell (4) set-up Andrew Brunett (6), who wristed home the first Hawks goal of the game. Matt Moulson (9) helped the Isles regain the lead at the 14:27 mark on a one-timer, which was set-up by P.A. Parenteau (14).

For Moulson, this is his third goal on this road stretch, as the Isles skated away from the first with the momentum. In the second period, the Hawks completely took over outshooting New York by a tally of 15-2.

Ben Smith scored his first goal of the season for the Blackhawks, on a second-effort shot at the 6:41 mark of the second period. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews (14) scored a pickpocket shorthanded goal at the 18:41 mark to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.

New York came scoring back in the third period of play, coming three shots away from a franchise record in the frame. Starting the Isles comeback was P.A. Parenteau (4), who wristed home a puck on a great effort by his teammates.

The Isles stayed hungry on their third goal of the game, as Parenteau was able to pick up a bouncing puck and banged it home to tie the game up a three at the 0:46 mark. Chicago responded with 5:08 on the scoreboard on a power play goal of their own as Patrick Sharp (12) recorded a wicked wrister for the 4-3 lead.

The resilient Isles tied the game up one last time as Nino Niederreiter scored his first goal of the season at the 8:55 mark. El Nino hustled throughout the play, forcing a Hawks turnover, and cashing in on a sweet writer for the fourth New York goal.

The final frame featured plenty of action from both teams, as the action along with the shots was fast and furious for both squads. In the end though, it’d take a shootout to decide a victor.

In spite of many pretty attempts by both teams in the shootout frame, it’d be the Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who’s straight in shot that’d prove to be the game-winning goal. Sadly for the Isles the loss snapped a mini-winning streak had going, as the team has still been unable to find a victory in the extra session.

The Isles will have a quick turn-around as they head down to ‘the Big D’ to take on the Dallas Stars on Saturday. The game between New York and Dallas is scheduled to air on the MSG Plus Two network, while face-off is slated for 8:30 p.m.

Stacy Podelski

December 2, 2011

New York Rangers unveil Winter Classic jerseys’ and Alumni Roster

It has been a busy past couple of days for the New York Rangers, as the organization is getting ready to participate in their first ever Winter Classic. On Friday the Blueshirts unveiled their Alumni roster, while on Monday the club revealed the jerseys that will be worn.
Below is the roster for the Blueshirts for the Alumni Game, to be held at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark on Saturday, December 31:

Glenn Anderson
Dan Blackburn
Paul Broten
Ron Duguay
Nick Fotiu
Mike Gartner
Adam Graves
Ron Greschner
Darius Kasparaitis
Kris King
Nick Kypreos
Tom Laidlaw
Darren Langdon
Brian Leetch
Dave Maloney
Stephane Matteau
Brian Mullen
Dale Purinton
Mathieu Schneider
Darren Turcotte
John Vanbiesbrouck

Mike Keenan
Emile Francis
Colin Campbell

Rod Gilbert
Eddie Giacomin
Harry Howell
Stacy Podelski

New York Rangers on a Roll - Blueliner special as Rangers down Carolina 5-3

The red-hot New York Rangers (14-5-3) earned their fourth straight victory over the Carolina Hurricanes (8-15-4) by a final of 5-3 in hockey action on Thursday night. New York has been showing true grit in this winning stretch, as all aspects of the game have been clicking for the Blueshirts.

Using a two goal lead to gain their fourth, the Rangers skated away thanks to the extra effort by their defense. Thanks to their efforts, two members of the Rangers defense were rewarded with goals as Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer found the back of the cage.

Things didn’t start the way of the Blueshirts at first, as Carolina scored on a face-off 0:35 into the first period, as Jiri Tlusty (5) recorded a snap shot for a 1-0 lead. Captain Ryan Callahan (10), who has been the face of the Rangers blue collared effort, recorded a wrister at the 1:42 mark to tie things up a one.

Jeff Skinner (11) recorded a slap shot at the 19:51 mark, to give Carolina the 2-1 lead.  The Blueshirts regained momentum in the second period of play, with four goals in the frame. New York has liked the later part of the game, as it has been the trend for the Blueshirts barrage to open up the game scoring wise in the second and third periods.

McDonagh (4) started the Blueshirts barrage with a wrister at the 8:54 mark, before Marian Gaborik (12) gave New York a 3-2 lead with a wrister with 11:50 on the scoreboard.  ‘Gabby’ was set-up beautifully on the third goal, as Artem Anisimov (11) faked a shot and passed the puck to the Rangers sniper.

Hardworking Sean Avery (3) was rewarded for his efforts on the ice with a wicked snap shot goal at the 13:47 mark of the frame, to give New York a 4-2 lead.  Carolina made it a nail-biter at the 19:51 mark, cutting the Rangers lead to one on a Derek Joslin goal-his first in a hurricanes uniform.

The Rangers buckled down in what was a scary third period of play, finding the cushion necessary from a goal from Michael Sauer-who recorded his first goal of the season.  Three scary moments afterward occurred for the Blueshirts faithful, as injuries to Marty Biron, John Mitchell and Derek Stephan all happened-thanks to the gritty effort by the guys.

Biron (28 saves) and Stephan (one assist, plus one rating) returned to the ice, while Mitchell (plus one rating, two blocked shots) did not return. John who left the arena with blood falling from above his eye, as the rookie was making his second blocked shot of the game.

The good news for Rangers fan is that Mitchell left the ice on his own power, though it is not yet known if there are any other injuries thanks to the sacrifice that was made. In the other good news department is that Carl Hagelin aka the Energizer Bunny recoded his fourth point in four games with the club-helping to set-up the final goal of the game.

New York will end this road trip with a visit to Tampa Bay on Saturday to take on the Lightning.  The game between the Blueshirts and Bolts is scheduled to air on the MSG network, with the face-off slated for 7:00 p.m.

Stacy Podelski

December Means World Juniors

Well the calendar turned over to December and that means Santa Claus is putting the finishing touches on his preparations for the big day, so to are the 10 teams participating in this years World Under 20 Hockey Championships held in Edmonton and Calgary beginning on Boxing Day.

The 2 finalist from last year's event in Buffalo released their final selection camp rosters on Monday. Russia invited 28 players to their camp which runs December 7-18. Yevgeni Kuznetsov, from Traktor Chelyabinsk, headlines the players invited to the camp in Russia. Kuznetsov currently has 22 points in 28 games for his KHL club. Team Russia leaves for Canada on December 18th and will be joined by players, yet to be named, who are currently playing in the CHL. Of the expected players to be invited Sarnia Sting's (OHL) Nail Yakupov and Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) Mikhail Grigorenko, stand the best chance to make the squad. Both players are currently among the league leaders in points with 46 each.

Canada looks to avenge its gold medal loss to the Russians as they open their final selection camp on December 10th in Calgary. As always at this time of year it is not so much about who is in camp for team Canada but which players are not. There are several candidates who find themselves with full time employment in the NHL and will most likely not be released. Ryan Nugent Hopkins leads that list. The leading rookie scorer is cruising at a point a game pace for the Edmonton Oilers and will most definitely be staying put as are other rookies Sean Couturier of Philadelphia and Ryan Johansen of Columbus. Second year stars like Tyler Seguin (Boston) and Jeff Skinner (Carolina) are off to great starts this season and it would be a pipe dream to see them on the Canadian roster.

Of the eligible NHL players who might be released to Hockey Canada, Anaheim's Devante Smith Pelley and Montreal Canadiens Michael Bournival are the best bets. Brett Connolly (Tampa Bay) and Erik Gudbranson (Florida) are possibilities but their play to date says otherwise.

Of the 41 players who were invited to camp, 2 of them just hope to be healthy enough to participate in the 3 exhibition games beginning December 19th. Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs is as close to a guarantee as you can get to make the team, that is if his fractured foot heals in time. Huberdeau is still about 2 weeks away. Everett Silvertips defenceman Ryan Murray has been skating the last 10 days or so but is still recovering from a high ankle sprain. Murray is not expected to play before the evaluation camp.

Canada has 3 returning players from 2011. Mark Visentin is 1 of 4 goaltenders and the other 2 are forwards Jaden Schwartz and Quinton Howden. The defence will most likely feature all new players and look to Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats and Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers to be the front runners for spots. Some of the notable forwards that will take to the ice are Mark Schiefle of the Barrie Colts. Schiefle had an extended training camp with the Winnipeg Jets before being returned to the OHL. Another Barrie Colt, Tanner Pearson is tearing up the OHL this season and leading the league in scoring with 57 points in 26 games. Pearson is draft eligible in 2012. Another pair of Saint John Seadogs worth keeping and eye on are Zack Phillips and Nathan Beaulieu. Both are having good seasons for the defending Memorial Cup Champs. WHL scoring leader Mark Stone has been invited as well. Stone has 60 points in 29 games for his Brandon Wheat Kings.

The bronze medallist from 2011, USA, will release their preliminary roster on Monday Dec 5th at 5:30pm EST on the NHL Network.

- Mike Lord