Vancouver Province article (Giants need history to repeat itself)April 1 2012 at 4:32 PM
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|N. W. Bruin (Login NW_Bruin_GM)|
Giants need history to repeat itself
Vancouver hopes to emulate 2009 recovery against Chiefs after Spokane takes 3-2 series lead
By Steve Ewen, The Province
April 1, 2012
Vancouver Giants captain Brendan Gallagher gets a knee in the back from Spokane's Corbin Baldwin in Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG Files , The Province
Spokane Chiefs captain Darren Kramer won't be playing tonight against the Vancouver Giants, thanks to the WHL head office.
The powers that be in the league gave the Spokane tough guy a one game suspension for leaving the penalty box early to join a fracas at the final whistle in Game 5 Friday in Vancouver.
Kramer was assessed a roughing minor at 18: 02, but was on the ice for a scuffle just as the game ended. He's been one of the more productive players for the Chiefs in this series, with two goals, four points, a plus-two and 10 penalty minutes in five games. - Ewen
The Vancouver Giants are in harm's way. But at least they know of an escape route.
The Giants dropped a 5-1 decision Friday to the Spokane Chiefs at the Pacific Coliseum and now trail their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal 3-2.
Game 6 is tonight at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, and Game 7, if necessary, goes Wednesday at the Coliseum.
It was the third-straight loss to the Chiefs after the Giants won the opening two games in Vancouver. And it's exactly where the Giants were against the Chiefs in the second round in 2009, when they rallied from a Friday Game 5 loss at home with a Sunday Game 6 win in Spokane and then a Tuesday Game 7 victory back at the Coliseum.
The Giants have two players remaining from that series, right winger Brendan Gallagher and defenceman Neil Manning. Spokane can counter with forwards Blake Gal and Steve Kuhn and defencemen Tanner Mort and Corbin Baldwin.
"We're definitely going to talk about that experience," said Gallagher, the Montreal Canadiens prospect who is the Giants captain.
"Guys like myself and Neil have to let the group know that this is possible. It's something we can achieve. It's most of all a mental thing.
"Right now, we have to believe in our group that we can win a hockey game and then we come back here for Game 7, where anything can happen."
Manning maintains that the 2009 team may have been in an even more precarious state, since they lost Game 5 3-2 in quadruple overtime. They won Game 6 3-2 in double overtime and then Game 7 1-0 in single overtime.
"A little over a month ago we went to their barn right after we played Tri-City and had a good road win," said Manning, pointing to a 2-1 win on Feb. 15.
"We've beat them the first two games here. We've scored on this goalie. We know we can score on him. We just have to look at things we've done in the past that have been successful."
This goalie, Eric Williams, has been a major reason for the turnaround for the Chiefs, who gave up 14 goals in the first two games with Mac Engel getting the starts in the cage.
Vancouver, which was hamstrung by slow starts in Spokane, blasted out of the gate Friday, but Williams robbed Gallagher and then Tyler Vanscourt in the first minute. Spokane settled in, got the first goal and Williams finished with 23 stops. He has turned away 70 of 75 shots (.933 save percentage) in the three Spokane victories.
Williams, a Langley native, has been one of the three stars in each game, and he was also second star in his only regular season meeting against the Giants this year, a 4-3 Prince Albert Raiders victory on Nov. 25 in Prince Albert. He made 30 saves that night. He came to Spokane in a December trade and he and Engel split duties down the stretch.
"He's been good, but I think our D has also been better than they were in the first two games, too," said Spokane coach Don Nachbaur.
"I don't think we competed nearly hard enough to win a game here."
The Chiefs also lost their best player, defenceman Brenden Kichton (broken jaw) in Game 1, but their team play the past three games has been superb. Their puck support offensively has been textbook.
Vancouver was more dangerous offensively Friday than they had been in Spokane, which is something they can use as inspiration.
"I thought we changed a lot of things [Friday] and we got a lot more scoring opportunities," said Giants coach Don Hay. "When we got opportunities, we have to be able to finish."
© Copyright (c) The Province
|N. W. Bruin|
Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings' win streak on ice)No score for this post
|April 1 2012, 4:40 PM |
Oil Kings' win streak on ice
Team upbeat waiting for Brandon
By Chris O'Leary, Edmonton Journal
April 1, 2012
The Edmonton Oil Kings found themselves in a strange spot and it's not just because they're in playoff purgatory.
Owners of a 15-game win streak that includes their first-round sweep of the defending Western Hockey League champion Kootenay Ice, the Oil Kings are now in wait-mode, counting down the days until their second-round series starts Friday against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Forced to put their momentum on pause, the team had a lighthearted practice Saturday afternoon at NAIT. Head coach Derek Laxdal will take his foot off of the pedal for the weekend, giving the team Sunday off and using Monday as Day 1 for prep for the Wheat Kings.
"There'll be competitive practices here on Monday and Tuesday," Laxdal said after his team had finished some scrimmages. "We'll get ready and taper down as Wednesday and Thursday come, but for this group here they deserve the rest.
"It was pretty tough on me as a coach to go out and let them be loose, but I had to make sure I'm out there on the ice, make sure everything goes well. Monday will be a work day and we'll get ready for Friday."
Team captain Mark Pysyk kept the mood off the ice light, too. While his defensive partner Keegan Lowe was being interviewed by local media, Pysyk was doing his best to distract him. When the standard hopping and waving didn't work, he decided to ramp it up a notch. With this reporter's recorder in hand, he joined the media scrum and accused Lowe of cheating in the scrimmage to win.
"I don't remember doing it," Lowe maintained, citing a lack of video evidence. "Until I'm proven guilty, I'm innocent."
As Laxdal pointed out, the joking and playing around will come to an end when it has to. The Oil Kings won their season series against the Wheat Kings 3-1, with the one loss coming on Oct. 29, with a 3-2 Brandon win. The Oil Kings outscored the Wheat Kings 20-6 in their three subsequent wins.
"They've got a lot of offence," Laxdal said of Brandon. The Wheat Kings scored 273 goals this year - second along with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL's eastern conference to the Oil Kings' 310 - and were led by World Junior standout Mark Stone (41 goals, 82 assists for 123 points).
"They're a heck of a team. They were probably one of the hottest teams down the stretch, so I think it's going to be an incredible series," Laxdal continued. "They've got - Stone and they've got some other guys that can put the puck in the net and they've got a good back end. There's a lot of offence back there and they've got a great power play."
Pysyk, who got to know Stone well while playing for Team Canada over Christmas, said he's anticipating a big challenge from the sixthseeded Wheat Kings.
"Mark Stone is obviously a big goal scorer and a great player all-around and they're a great team," he said. "It's going to be a similar series (to Kootenay). I think we'll have to battle for every single win on the ice and we're going to have to squeak out those games."
"They're going to be relentless," said Oil Kings netminder Laurent Brossoit, who took a maintenance day on Saturday after a long series that saw him notch his first playoff shutout. "It's going to get tougher and tougher from here on in.
"We've had success against (Brandon) and I think we need to look at that and use it as a positive outlook going forward."
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
|N. W. Bruin|
Calgary Herald article (Until next year: Hitmen say their goodbyes)No score for this post
|April 1 2012, 4:44 PM |
Until next year: Hitmen say their goodbyes
club hangs hat on solid second half
By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald
April 1, 2012
The sun might have been shining Saturday morning outside the Scotiabank Saddledome.
But inside, there were a lot of sad faces as the Calgary Hitmen conducted their exit interviews and the players said their goodbyes.
"For sure, any time a season ends, you're disappointed," said graduating veteran Jimmy Bubnick, who won a 2010 WHL championship with the Hitmen. "(The toughest part) all the friends and the memories I had. I've had a great time here, I've loved playing for Calgary. But, it's time to move onto a new chapter of my life. I'm pretty excited for that and excited for the good things to come."
Ever since coming over from the Kamloops Blazers at the 2010 trade-deadline, Bubnick has been a big part of the Hitmen. This year, he finished as the club's leading scorer with 36 goals and 77 points in 72 games.
And, certainly, suffering a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Brandon Wheat Kings was definitely not the way he invisioned capping off his junior career.
However, like every year, the Hitmen send off three 20-yearolds.
The next chapter for Bubnick, who was also the team's the most-scholastic player, will include the pursuit of an engineering degree from the University of Saskatchewan.
Fellow overage defencemen Brock Sutherland is off to the University of Manitoba, while Collin Bowman is still mulling over his options.
"Coming down the wire, it gets stressful," said the Colorado native, who was the club's top defenceman after coming over from the Moose Jaw Warriors earlier this season. "Your future is kind of uncertain and when junior hockey is over, you've got to make some decisions - either progress in hockey or start school.
"Watching your junior career end is a little tough and stressful on the mind, but looking back, I've learned so much. There are really no regrets playing in the WHL."
Truth is, it's been a rough couple days for everyone.
Thursday, the Hitmen were shocked 3-2 in overtime as the sixth-seeded Brandon Wheat Kings captured the best-ofseven first-round series 4-1.
They boarded the bus immediately and drove in silence from Winnipeg to Calgary.
"(Friday) was pretty emotional," said defenceman Peter Kosterman. "It was kind of up and down. Initially, when we were eliminated in that game, I felt just numb. Like, you couldn't really believe it was going on. (Friday) was not fun. This one was disappointing because we thought we were capable of doing more."
After a strong push in the second half of the season, the Hitmen rallied to finish third in the Eastern Conference with a 44-25-2-1 record - a stark contrast from the 2010-11 regular campaign that saw them miss the playoffs and finish last in the WHL.
Looking at it that way, Kosterman chose the glass-half-full route.
"Absolutely," he said. "I think our regular season was a success. That second half? That was a lot of fun as a group. Those are things, even starting (Saturday) and in the next little while, we can look back on and, yes, it was a disappointing post-season, but we can see the positives.
"It was a lot of fun, we had a great group of guys. It was still a good year in many ways . . . but playoffs is what you play for."
Injuries also played a role.
Brooks Macek was dealing with back issues while Calder Brooks was out with a shoulder injury.
But their biggest blow was not having their top two centreman, including captain Cody Sylvester, who was out with a concussion, and Victor Rask, who injured his knee early in Calgary's regular season finale against the Kootenay Ice.
According to head coach Mike Williamson, it hurt them mentally more than anything.
"I don't want to use that as an excuse because I still thought physically we had the depth to get through it until those guys were to return to the team," he said. "I think if we were going to go deep in the playoffs, we needed them to be healthy."
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
|N. W. Bruin|
Calgary Herald article (Concussion kept Sylvester sidelined)No score for this post
|April 1 2012, 4:48 PM |
Concussion kept Sylvester sidelined
By Kristen Odland, Calgary Herald
April 1, 2012
Hitmen captain Cody Sylvester speaks to media on Saturday about the team not making this years playoffs.
Photograph by: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald , Calgary Herald
Understandably, the Calgary Hitmen revealed very little on the untimely injury of their captain Cody Sylvester at the end of the season and heading into the Western Hockey League playoffs.
But, finally, the news was let out.
"I talked to the trainer and he said I could tell you guys now, so . . .," started the softspoken 19-year-old on a grim Saturday morning at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "I did have a concussion. It's something you can't really play through . . . you have to take care of it."
The injury occurred during the second last regular season game against the Kootenay Ice, as Sylvester was the recipient of a check from behind. Because of it, the leader of this year's group was forced to sit out the regular season finale. Then, to his and the team's disappointment, he missed the first three games of their first-round Western Hockey League playoff series against the Brandon Wheat Kings.
"If it was any other injury, I'm sure I would have stepped on the ice the first game," he said. "But if it has something to do with the head, you can't really do much about it. It was a big bummer for me. I really didn't like sitting in the stands watching my team. I would have liked to have been on the ice with them, but those kind of things happen."
Throughout his four-year junior career with the Hitmen, Sylvester has been relatively lucky and, for the most part, has managed to stay healthy.
So, this one stung in more ways than one.
"I've had a couple of injuries here and there, but they didn't really hold me back from playing too much," he said. "This is the biggest one I've had. I got hit to the head pretty hard. I don't want to badmouth their guy, but I don't think it was that clean of a hit . . . I did feel (concussion symptoms) right away. But, it started getting better as the series went on, that's why I played those last two games."
In the first three, the Hitmen suffered without him.
A leader by example, Sylvester is the definition of a lunch bucket worker and - along with Victor Rask, who was also out with injury - was one of their top centremen. He was a solid plus-27 and finished second in team scoring behind Jimmy Bubnick with 68 points in 66 regular season games.
His character came through in last year's forgettable season, which saw the Hitmen finish last in the WHL. Night after night, loss after loss, he faced the media with his head held high and it was no surprise when Sylvester had the 'C' stitched onto his sweater at the start of this season.
Looking ahead, head coach Mike Williamson alluded to the possibility of him returning to lead the 2012-13 squad.
"If he doesn't get an opportunity to go play pro next year, I think
Cody would be a guy you'd definitely have back to lead your team," he said. "He brought everything we expected him to and asked him to."
Follow on Twitter/KristenOdlandCH
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
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