Saturday, April 25, 2009

Catching Up: ECHL, WHL, AHL, NHL and some really cool Blogs

It’s been so busy at work; I haven’t had a chance to write all week! And there’s so much catching up to do!

First off, CONGRATULATIONS to the ONTARIO REIGN for making such an amazing run in its very first year!

The Reign took the STOCKTON THUNDER to 7 games in the first round of the ECHL playoffs. They lost Game 7, but really put themselves on the ECHL map! And one name kept cropping up in the game recaps: BUD HOLLOWAY.

Bud Holloway (#14)

I attended Game Two of the playoffs in Ontario. That night, Holloway scored the team’s first hat trick on home ice for the Reign. Looking back at his numbers, it’s easy to see that this former T-Bird's star is just rising. Regular season: GP: 21, G: 14, A: 7 for 21 points. Playoffs: GP: 7, G: 5, A: 9 for 14 points. The only question I have about Bud is whether he comes back for the Reign’s second season, moves back up to the MANCHESTER MONARCHS of the AHL, or gets called to the big club: LA KINGS.

I looked over the Reign’s roster and found some more WHL alumni among the ranks.

TIM KRAUS played for the Vancouver Giants from 2003 – 2007. He started the 2008 season with the Giants, but finished out the year with the Regina Pats.

BRAD MEHALKO has a long hockey career in a number of leagues with a number of teams. But one name stuck out. Seems, Mr. Mehalko played for the now-defunct Tacoma Sabrecats in 1998-1999. Small world.

Big D-Man COLTEN TEUBERT joined the Monarchs for the post season, after the Regina Pats failed to advance to the playoffs. I enjoyed seeing Teubert trying to use his size to help the Reign. I can see why the Kings placed him in Ontario. This is a great place for him to get his pro feet under him, with some good seasoned d-men to help him grow.
I thoroughly enjoyed the game I attended. The music rocked, the fans rocked and the arena rocked. I know that future trips to LA will include a drive to Ontario to watch more of this team.

Moving on to the WHL. I have sorely neglected this league since the TRI CITY AMERICANS and SPOKANE CHIEFS knocked the EVERETT SILVERTIPS and SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS out of the playoffs. I followed Tri City’s fight against the KELOWNA ROCKTS, until Kelowna dispatched the Americans in 6 games. Tri City fought hard and came out strong, but could not hold off a stronger Rockets team. Reigning Memorial Cup Champion Spokane took the division leading VANCOUVER GIANTS to 7 games, but in the end, didn’t have what it took for a 2nd consecutive run at the Cup. Still, D-man Jared Cowen is expected to go very high in the NHL Draft- the last prognostication has him going Top 5. Not bad for a guy who spent the post season nursing a knee injury.

I had great fun attending a number of regular season and playoff games for both the T-Birds and Silvertips. This has been such a wonderful learning experience. I am writing a separate blog recapping this amazing season and all the people who helped make it such an amazing time.

One person I have to recognize right now, though, is AMY VAN DALEN. We knew each other from posting on another blog site, but actually met each other at a Silvertips playoff game. She is funny, kind and extremely generous. When I had to take photos with no flash because my seat was so close to the Everett bench, I worried that my photos would not come out. She offered up a number of great photos, which I used in a game recap for the big KING 5 site. Since then, we have become great friends and I am a huge fan of her personal blog, “Chuck A Puck.”
Check it out for yourself here:

At the end of this season, we said good-bye to several T-Birds and Silvertips who graduated out of the WHL. Several went on to the AHL and seamlessly transitioned to their new teams.

Thomas Hickey

D-Man THOMAS HICKEY (T-Birds) scored 4 points in his first three games with the MANCHESTER MONARCHS, including his first AHL goal. I'm really happy for Thomas and know he will go far, but I will miss watching him at ShoWare Center. He is simply amazing.

Taylor Ellington

D-Man TAYLOR ELLINGTON (‘Tips) scored his first AHL goal within his first week with the MANITOBA MOOSE (Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate).

JIM O’BRIEN joined the BINGHAMTON SENATORS with much fanfare from this Ottawa affiliate.

GREG SCOTT (T-Birds) joined the TORONTO MARLIES (Maple Leafs affiliate). The Marlies are in a playoff battle with the Moose, but from what I can see, neither Scott nor Ellington are on their team’s rosters.

Kyle Beach

Former Silvertip standout KYLE BEACH, who was traded to the LETHBRIDGE HURRICANES at the beginning of the season, got called up to the ROCKFORD ICEHOGS (CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS’ AHL team), after Lethbridge fell in the first round of the WHL playoffs to the CALGARY HITMEN in 4 games.

Following players like Hickey, Ellington, Scott and O’Brien to the AHL opened my eyes to a league I had skimmed over for the past… oh, many years. I knew the AHL existed, but never really paid attention to it. I focused more on the NHL and in a smaller way, the WHL (mostly because we have 2 teams within driving distance to my home, and because I’ve sung at T-Birds games for the last 12 years). That changed this past season.

Mitch Love

One night at an Everett Silvertips game ended up introducing me to the AHL in a very jarring way. I was singing at my first ‘Tips game. What happened that night led to an interview with MITCH LOVE, former Everett D-man now playing LW with the HOUSTON AEROS (the MINNESOTA WILD’S AHL affiliate). As many of you know, he’s been writing a weekly blog about life as an AHL player. Mitch and the Aeros are in the thick of a first round battle against the PEORIA RIVERMEN. Houston scrabbled and fought to win Game 5 and keep the Aeros in the thick of things. They square off for Game 6 tonight. GO AEROS!!!

Riley Armstrong

I’ve also been learning about the WORCESTER SHARKS, thanks to my good friend JoJo, who has visited Worcester on a regular basis and written about San Jose’s AHL affiliate. Jojo’s blogs are as entertaining as they are informative and I’ve been happily cheering Worcester in their playoff battle. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that former Everett Silvertip RILEY ARMSTRONG (brother of former Pittsburgh Penguin /current Atlanta Thrasher COLBY) is a major force for the Sharks. Some of you may have read her blogs at the big KING 5 Hockey site, but if you want more, check out her personal blog, “10 Minute Miss Conduct (plus 2 more minutes for hitting like a girl!)”:

So… now we arrive at the NHL. I have been a hockey fan for years. I’ve liked the PITTSBURGH PENGUINS since they drafted MARIO, and was excited to see them make it to the Stanley Cup finals last year. This season has been a labor of love for Pens fans, as we watched the team struggle with injury (SERGEI GONCHAR for the first half of the season); off season moves (too many players to name here- went to other teams, most notably the TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING), and rumors of dissent within the ranks. Add to that a coach (MICHEL THERRIEN) who was rumored to have many problems with players, and by the halfway point, we fans were left wondering just what the heck was going on.

When the Pens traded RYAN WHITNEY to the DUCKS for CHRIS KUNITZ, my first reaction was, “WTF?” When they picked up BILL GUERIN from the ISLANDERS for a prospect, I scratched my head. My husband loved that move (picking up Guerin, not me scratching my head). He said, “You’ll see. Guerin is just what the team needs. You’ll like him more than you liked Gary Roberts.” That was a tall order, as I liked Gary Roberts quite A LOT.

Well, I have to admit here that hubby was right. DID YOU HEAR THAT, STU? YOU WERE RIGHT.

Kunitz, Guerin, Crosby line

Kunitz and Guerin have helped inject life into a team that frankly sat OUTSIDE the playoff race just a couple short months ago. The Pens took things a step further by cutting ties with THERRIEN (who for some reason wanted to be called “MIKE” or “MICHAEL” this season, instead of “MICHEL” <- as if he didn’t have more important things to worry about than what he wanted to be called!) and calling up DAN BYLSMA from the AHL Baby Penguins. You know the saying that “enthusiasm can eclipse experience” sometimes? (Don’t worry if you haven’t heard that- I think I just made it up). Well, the man affectionately known as “DISCO DAN” has proven that in spades. The Pens are now in the thick of a first round playoff battle against cross-state nemesis PHILADELPHIA FLYERS. Game 6 starts in just under 2 hours and this Pens fan is excited… and scared.

Speaking of the FLYERS, I’ve had a hard time cheering AGAINST them this season! There are several reasons for this.

Braydon Coburn

1. BRAYDON COBURN. I simply love this guy. He’s big, he’s tough and he’s a former WHL’er. Okay, so he played for the Portland Winter Hawks and as a T-Birds/Silvertips fan, I should hate the Winter Hawks. After all, they're the mortal enemy, and there's especially bad blood between the 'Hawks and T-Birds. But still... it's WHL. It’s kinda in the “family.”

Jared Ross

2. JARED ROSS. Okay, so the last memory I have of this kid is as an 8 year old playing in a pee wee (or whatever that league is called) tournament in Huntsville, Alabama at which I sang the national anthem. His dad, DOUG ROSS, was Stu’s hockey coach at the UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, HUNTSVILLE. Doug is a heckuva nice guy. He was extremely gracious and one of the best guests for the weekly UAH Coaches show that I produced for WAFF-TV, the NBC station there. Okay, so I got ribbed for being introduced as “Su Ring, English Major”, every time I sang at a Chargers hockey game (which was a lot- I was the school’s “official” anthem singer for 3 years). But Coach was a good guy. And I’m extremely proud to see that Jared is doing well, as a UAH’er and a hockey fan.

3. My friend CHRIS SHAFER. I met this guy at NHL Connect as was immediately impressed by his hockey acumen. He knows his stuff. His handle there is “22” and he writes for several blogs and websites. The one I like is one he just started with another one of our friends, Kate-the-Great. She’s a ‘CANES fan, but they get along like a house on fire. Check out their blog “The Hockey Writers” here:

Well, I’ve reached the end of this post, I think. If I write anymore it will take on epic proportions. Before I go, I want to recommend a few more blogs I am really loving right now:

1. “Concentrated Juice”: This is my friend Justine’s blog. She waxes poetic on all things hockey, but especially her beloved Red Wings. And this isn’t just a bunch of homeristic posturing, either. Before you read Juice, you’d better brace yourself for a lesson, because Juice is gonna SCHOOL ya.

2. “Damn, It’s Good to be a Red Wings Fan”: This is my friend Jessica’s blog. If you can’t tell by the title, yes, she IS a Red Wings fan. But like Justine, you read her blogs and come away richer for doing so. I highly encourage you to see Detroit through Jessa’s eyes.

3. “Raw Charge”, “One Timers and Deflections”: My friend Cassie helps run these two blogs. My other friend John Fontana also helps run “Raw Charge”. RC follows the TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, but again, transcends the team.

If I’ve missed anyone else’s blog, I’ll get it next time. But for now, I need to go get ready to watch a crucial GAME 6 for the Pens and buy a new coffee maker, not necessarily in that order.

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