Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Notes, Quotes and Anecdotes

Jays 2nd baseball Damaso Garcia 
  • The biggest surprise in the young Western Hockey League season is the upstart Victoria Royals. With seven wins in eight games, the Royals are atop the standings by being opportunistic in the o-zone and playing solid defense. I asked Victoria head coach Dave Lowry about the so called experts, who predicted at the start of the season that his team would struggle. "I think it's a media driven story. A lot of teams do turn over 10 players every year in junior hockey.  If you surround the young players with good, quality veterans you are going to win your share of hockey games. We are not going to be as big as we were and maybe not as skilled, but the thing we can control is how hard we work and how hard we compete."  
  • It's official. Despite playing forward for a good portion of last season, it appears 19 year-old Riley Stadel will spend this season back on the blue line. "There has been a lot of discussion between the management and the coaches and we've finally decided it would be best for the team for me to play defence.  If they need me up front, I will play there. I had a lot of fun playing forward last year, especially with Nick Merkley and Leon Draisaitl," Stadel added.
  • The Lethbridge Hurricanes occasionally win a WHL trade. Oh ya, they've been taken behind the woodshed a few times in trades involving Wheat Kings GM Kelly McCrimmon, but a deal they made with the Red Deer Rebels last December for Brayden Burke is paying off. If you look at the top two scorers in the Western Hockey League, Burke is second with 14 points in six games. I saw Burke last Sunday in the Rockets 5-3 win in Lethbridge and left impressed with his two assist effort playing shotgun with 19 year-old Tyler Wong. Burke still has a lot of tread on his tires too. The Edmonton product, who was a 7th round pick of the Rebels in 2012, could play two more seasons in Lethbridge. If he scores like this though, his time spent in the WHL may be short lived as NHL scouts eye this apparent late bloomer.   
  • A rookie defenceman in the WHL has to be mentally strong. Some nights will go brilliantly while other nights you feel like an orange pillion that opposing forwards seem to skate around you with ease. The key for many young d-men is the ability to bounce back after you are on the ice picking the puck out from your own net. A good example last week was Kelowna Rockets Cal Foote. The 16 year was a -4 in a 7-4 loss last Saturday in Red Deer.  Instead of having his confidence shattered, Foote went out three night's later and put up a +4 rating in a 6-5 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Foote also had a huge pock check on Tigers forward Cole Sanford late in the game with Medicine Hat threatening to score with the goaltender pulled in a one goal game. You always hear coaches say 'you need a short memory'. Foote's bounce back game was impressive to watch.
  • You can count Victoria Royals head coach Dave Lowry as a huge fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. Growing up in Sudbury, Ontario, I had to ask him about his interest in the sport. "I have always been a Blue Jays fan. I had a Domaso Garcia jersey. That was my nickname growing up playing baseball with the guys from within the team. I have always been a huge baseball fan. No word of a lie, my boys are huge fans as well. Growing up, being on the West Coast, they used to come inside in time to watch the Jays game and then go out and play," Lowry added.
  • The schedule maker has a sense of humour. Starting Friday, the Rockets will play the Prince George Cougars in four of their next five games. 
  • The Rockets were shut-out at home Saturday night in a 3-0 loss to the Royals. It was the first time the team has failed to hit the score-sheet on home ice since the 2011-2012 season when the Seattle Thunderbirds and Calvin Pickard earned a 2-0 win. Between Pickard's shut-out and Coleman Vollrath's goose egg, the Rockets went 117 home games scoring at least one goal on home ice.    
  • Count Kelowna Rockets head coach Brad Ralph among those cheering on the Blue Jays in their quest for a World Series birth. "I was a big fan in the early 90's. I've jumped on the bandwagon since the trade deadline." Ralph was born in Richmond, Ontario, which is located 428 kilometres East of Toronto.  
  • It is nice to see former Kelowna Rockets Travis Moen and Vern Fiddler still earning paychecks in the NHL. Moen is now 33 and has played 726 NHL games. Fiddler is 35 and is a linemate of Moen's with the Dallas Stars and has 738 games of National Hockey League experience under his belt. 
  • The Prince Albert Raiders organization should be doing cartwheels after the NHL's Buffalo Sabres returned 18 year-old d-man Brendan Guhle back to the WHL team. The second round pick of the Sabres had an impressive camp and will only add to a Raiders team that looks built to be a significant force in the Eastern Conference this season. Guhle was hurt in Sabres camp when he was drilled by Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf in an NHL pre-season game.
  • The longer Connor McDavid fails to hit the score-sheet, the greater chance Leon Draisaitl's stay in the minors will be short lived. It is believed that McDavid showed the greatest chemistry with Draisaitl during training camp and pre-season. No question Draisaitl is more a passer than a shooter and the former Kelowna Rockets forward has hockey sense that is above average for a player that won't turn 20 for another two weeks.

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