Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bentley are Alberta Champs

The Flyers are going to have to go through Bentley to get to the Allan Cup.

The Generals won game 7 tonight against Stony Plain to clinch their 3rd consecutive Alberta Championship meaning this will be the 3rd consecutive times these two teams will meet to see who represents the Pacific region at the Allan Cup. The Flyers will be looking for a 3rd time lucky as they have lost the previous two Mac Cups that they have played against the Generals.

Game 1 goes one week from tomorrow. Thursday April 2nd live on Moose FM. Game time will come in later posts as will a detailed breakdown of the Generals and the Flyers.

Flyers are Campbell Cup Champions

It's funny how a team can come together and win something, a trophy that maybe they view as a step in a process but far from the end goal, and when that trophy gets in their hands the accomplishment starts to sink in.

The Flyers are 2009 Campbell Cup Champions.

For the first time in their history the Flyers are NPHL champs. And no one can argue they don't deserve it. They only lost twice all year in the regular season. They only lost 3 in the playoffs. And they went through Spirit River and Grand Prairie, the two other top teams in the league, to win the Campbell Cup. The MacKenzie Cup and Allan Cup, and normally the Savage Cup although not this year, are the goals. They are what this team is built for and what they have their sights set on. But once that Campbell Cup got into the dressing room you could tell, and hear from the cheering, that the Flyers were proud of their win and excited to have won the NPHL title.

The final game turned into a blowout after Matt Shuya beat Dave Larson in the GP goal with a slapshot from outside the blueline. Suddenly all the good work the A's had done in the first period had gone out the window, it was 2-2, and the Flyers smelled blood in the water. Goals came from all over, Arlo Hadland, Ian Munro and Luke Middleton to name a few and it was 6-3 after 2. The Championship was there for the taking so the Flyers took it with 4 3rd period goals, 2 of them from Jeff Fast, for the 10-3 victory and a 4-2 series win. And there you have it. The Flyers are 2008-2009 NPHL Champions.

Anytime you win a trophy as a team there is a real sense of togetherness, of coming together to achieve a common goal, the bond that is created is strong and no matter how many times you win a trophy with that group, all of them are special. So in 8 days the Flyers will start the MacKenzie Cup with the knowledge that they have already, and therefore can again, come together to get their hands on a trophy.

Ian Munro was awarded the playoffs MVP trophy. Munro has been excellent all year and has raised his game since last season. He works hard and throws his body around and no one scored more game winning goals. Hence why from now on the GWG stat will be renamed as an Ian Munro. Munro also won the dice game we played on the bus ride home. It was a good day to be Muney.

There are more steps in the process to come though. So while the Flyers enjoyed winning their first ever Campbell Cup championship and they will continue to feel good about it for a while, they will know that the more important weeks are to come. It starts where? We will know tonight but one week from tomorrow the Flyers will be headed to Alberta with another trophy on their minds. The MacKenzie Cup. You can bet there will be some twists and turns to come but I can't wait for the ride.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flyers on brink of Campbell Cup

The Flyers are on the brink of the NPHL's Campbell Cup Championship. They won two games over the weekend. One in GP Saturday night and then back on home ice Sunday night. Tyler Brough was in the lineup and sometimes you forget how good of a hockey player this guy is. He missed a hat full of chances but that might be expected because he hasn't played a lot of hockey lately. He created a ton of chances as well and looked to be in pretty good shape. Ryan Carter looked like well Ryan Carter and Adam Loncan played very well over the weekend. Troy Hunt let in a couple of soft ones but also made a couple big saves in the third. It was a typical GP game. They didn't send anyone in to forecheck. They sat in the neutral zone waiting for the Flyers. GP also like to just throw pucks out of their zone and the Flyers would pick those pucks up and dump them right back in. But GP also takes advantage of mistakes as well as any team you will see and the Flyers made about 3 or 4 mistakes all game and GP scored 3 times. But in the third the Flyers pulled away with 2 goals from Todd Alexander and put themselves on the brink of glory.

This isn't the end goal though so while it will be nice to win the Campbell Cup I think you will see muted celebrations if they clinch it tomorrow night. You can hear that game live on Moose FM at 7:15.

Still no idea who the Flyers will play in the Mac Cup as the Alberta series is going to a game 7 after each team won a home game over the weekend. So far the home team has won every game so it seems like Bentley should take the series on Wednesday but you never know. We thought Stony would win on home ice in game 7 last year and look what happened.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flyers and GP right back at it

Game 4 was almost the exact opposite of game 3 for the Flyers. They were much more physical than GP, the Flyers special teams were excellent and the score reflected the Flyers domination. 8-2 was the final in GP with Ryan Carter contributing 3 goals and his line, Loncan Kersey and Carter combined for 11 points. Vizzutti was solid and made a couple of great saves and the Dmen for the Flyers were moving the puck a lot better. So game 3 was a blowout for the A's and game 4 was a blowout for the Flyers. What will happen tonight in game 5? Who knows?

It sounds like Tyler Brough will be in the lineup tonight so it should be interesting to see what the line combinations look like. Luke Middleton should be in the lineup tonight as I don't think he will take any time off despite losing some teeth last night.

GP played Scott Taje up front in game 4 which I thought was a mistake. Taje was outstanding in game 3 and is a very solid D man who can provide offense from the back end. He did score but didn't look overly comfortable as a forward. Mike Mohr wasn't very good either and I don't know if it was GP's game plan or if the Flyers were just doing a good job on the PK but Mohr saw very little of the puck with the man advantage. He scored twice with blasts from the point in game 3 so you would have though the A's would have done more to get him shots especially when up a man.

Game time tonight is in a little over an hour at 7:30 local time.

I am going to wear my new Nike's to the game that I bought in GP last night. I also got a new watch as well. And after the game Jon and I got some poker in as well. I flopped quad queens at one point and took a big pot off of none other than Spirit River forward Shane McCormick. Shane was a super nice guy and for some reason a couple people at our table were into senior hockey so we had a great conversation going for a long time. McCormick wears number 19 and will be playing during Senior Men's A and AA provincials in Spirit River coming up this week. If they make the finals and I am not busy I would think about going to check that out. It would be sweet if Spirit met GP in the AA final. What a game that would be. Plus anytime you can go see Mark Wallman and Donny Lloyd play it is worth the price of admission.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flyers in GP for game 4

So the Flyers look to bounce back today from their worst performance of the season in game 3. And don't get me wrong the GP Athletic's deserve a lot of the credit for the way they performed. They keep the Flyers to the outside and do a great job allowing their goalies to see shots. They also clog up the neutral zone well, their puck support is excellent and the capitalize on scoring chances. In their own building they are a little more adventurous as well and they were certainly the more aggressive team in game 3 and they out hit the Flyers. How often do the Flyers get out hit?

Ryan Carter is expected to be in the lineup and Chad Vizzutti should still be in town as well. Hopefully we will see the Shipton's, Bahm and Tyler Loney. Heck, with the Mac Cup less than 2 weeks away it would be nice to see Tyler Brough as well. It would also be nice to see the Flyers come out and pressure GP's defence and hit everything that moves. I wouldn't even mind seeing them take some penalties because they are being over aggressive. Over is better than not at all.

The game is at 7:30 local time here in Fort St John and you can catch it on Moose FM with the pregame at 7:15.

The crowd in GP was excellent on Thursday for game 3. Maybe not as loud as the crowd in FSJ but it was large and it is good to see people turning out to support what is a very good senior hockey team. And don't be surprised if GP does very well at Provincials next week. Especially if Larson is ready to go by then. Carriere is a good goalie but Larson is unreal. The guy makes saves that not a lot of other goalies could make.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flyers worst performance of season

Wow. The Flyers were very poor last night. I mean it was bad. The running line on the bus on the way home was basically "Well we can't get any worse."

Give GP credit because they have a system, it works, and they play it very well. They are disciplined, they support the puck incredibly well and they are very good in their own end. Their trapping style seems to be frustrating the Flyers as well. Mike Mohr had two bombs from the point on the power play to make the game 2 nothing after the first. 2 more in the second without reply and Chad Vizzutti's night was done. He wasn't playing badly but coach Brash wanted to try to spark his team. It didn't work though as GP scored twice more in the 3rd before a late consolation goal from Dave Alexander broke the shutout bid of Lincoln Carriere in the GP goal. Dave Larson seems to still be nursing a bad ankle but the back up was good when he had to be.

Special teams killed the Flyers. They were 0-8 on the PP and GP was 3-5. To make matters worse the Flyers had well over 3 minutes of 5-0n-3 in the second period with a chance to get back into the game but failed to even really test the GP goal.

So now the Flyers trail the series and have less than two weeks to get it going before the MacKenzie Cup starts. Ryan Carter should be in the lineup this weekend which will help. But the loss of Kip Noble is really being felt by the Flyers and especially on the PP.

Game 4 is Saturday in GP live on Moose FM at 7:15 with the pre-game, 7:30 the puck drops. Game 5 will be Sunday here in FSJ.

Huskies season wrap up

They exceeded expectations. It was supposed to be a bad year for the Fort St John Huskies. A rebuilding year even. They lost guys like Brett Loney and Jeff Shipton. They would be without Jack Christian and Bryce Novak. Brennan Billey didn't play this season and Jordan Shipton missed the second half as well. That's a lot of talent that left the Huskies so who would step up and fill those voids? Kole Norris came out of nowhere to become one of the top offensive players in the league. As did Steve Fast. Cody Kalb and his top line showed they were ready to carry the load as a top line and provided a ton of offense. And additions throughout the year like Cam McKinnon and Cody Hildebrand stepped in and contributed. Not to mention the stalwarts on defense in Captain Jon Spence, Payden Wongstedt and Linden Apsassin.

Luckily no one told the Huskies they weren't supposed to be any good. The year started out a little slow as the Huskies tried to find their identity. They were also trying to find a number 1 goalie. But by Christmas they were rolling and the North Peace Arena was a fortress where good teams not only lost but they got thumped. Zack Blain got better and better as the season went on and really took over the goaltending duties and matured into a very good goalie right in front of our eyes. The Huskies wound up clinching the number 2 overall spot in the league thanks to a great second half and an incredible home record.

In the playoffs they stumbled a little against Slave Lake but mostly thanks to the schedule maker and a bizarre 2 game start on the road despite the Pups having home ice. But they finished Slave Lake off in 4 games and got set for the North Peace Navigators. A team with some history against the Huskies. Again the Huskies struggled at times although in a series that went 7 games the Huskies were maybe the better team in 6 of them. But it took them all 7 games to finish off the Navs thanks to some good goaltending by Zack Blain and one of the best game 7 performances I have ever seen from Dylan Apsassin. That kid is a stud hockey player and his 4 goals and 1 assist in a game 7 was truly impressive.

It may have been this 7 game series that prevented the Huskies from really pushing Whitecourt in the finals. The Wolverines are a team that ditched good local kids in order to bring in studs like Jessie Synatinski, who will be playing Major Junior in Brandon next year, in order to win a championship. It worked, although I know it annoyed some of the local players and fans. The Huskies were maybe the only team in the league capable of pushing Whitecourt in a 7 game series but unfortunately they were never able to get over the hump. A team that had already played 5 games in the last 6 days went to Whitecourt and battled. They really did play their asses off in those two games. There were just times when they didn't seem to have the energy to keep up with the Wolverines. A couple of mistakes and some missed chances and the Huskies were down 2 games to none. They had already won the respect of the Whitecourt fans though for the way they had battled and given it their all. One Whitecourt fan even went out of his way to pop his head onto the bus and tell the guys who much he respected their effort level and determination. It was a pretty cool moment.

Back in FSJ the Huskies looked poor in game 3. All year in games that the Huskies HAD to win, they found a way to get it done. I just think the exertions of the last couple weeks had taken their toll on the Pups and they didn't have the legs. They were still in the game though and they had some chances late in the second to get back into the game with some PP time but couldn't find a way to get it done. An injury to Cody Kalb didn't help either. Cody played despite probably being injured to a point where most other players would have sat out. But that typifies the Huskies. Without such a big part of their offense being at 100 percent though, the Pups weren't able to get anything done on home ice.

Game 4 saw the Wolverines win the NWJHL title on FSJ's home ice. Something I know the Huskies didn't want to see. They didn't go down without a fight though and were right in the game until the 3rd period when Whitecourt pulled away a little. So the Huskies get swept in a series that they played well in but at the end of the day, despite being a great group of guys and giving it all they had, Whitecourt was just the better team. I can't wait til next year.

My playoff MVP's for the Huskies will take a 3 stars format.
This is tough because there are a lot of guys who played well. Zack Blain gets one of the starts for sure. He was excellent and played a ton of hockey. He played all but 1 of the Huskies 15 playoff games.

1st Star- Zack Blain
2nd Star- Cody Kalb
3rd Star- Cam McKinnon

Zack is an easy one. His numbers were excellent, he made some incredible saves and the way he bounced back after a bad overtime goal in game 5 against North Peace showed how much he has matured and what a good goalie he has become.
It was tough to leave Pappin and Dylan out, especially after how good Dylan was in that game 7 and how good Pap was in the first two games of the finals in Whitecourt. But Cody Kalb lead the league in playoff points and was dynamic all the way along. If he hadn't got hurt? Who knows what would have happened on home ice against Whitecourt?
Cam McKinnon stepped up and had a great playoff. He put up better numbers than he had in the regular season and his physical play and penalty killing got him this 3rd star.
Honourable mentions went to Spence (who logs a ton of ice time), Wongstedt (a stud D man who is a game changer), and Kole Norris (who continues to impress offensively).

It was a lot of fun covering this team all year and there are some players who I have come to know a little and I want to thank all of them. The whole team is a group of guys that FSJ can be proud of. And they never gave up. They showed that hard working never say die attitude that we are known for. Dan Pappin get special mention because he is a guy who works all the time. He gives it 100% at all times and does whatever the team asks of him. If he isn't the captain next year I would be surprised.

Also a big thanks to Coach Bob Kalb, Vince Pedersen and Bill Snow and all the staff behind the scenes for helping to make this a great season. It's amazing how much time these guys put in and they do it for the love of hockey and deserve a ton of respect.

Bring on the 09-10 season.