Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Petes Gear

The Peterborough Petes will be wearing new uniforms next season, and this time, they will be adding black to their color scheme.  This will be the first time that the color will become a permanent part of the team's color scheme, as their first attempt at black came on the team's 50th anniversary in 2006, when they had special jerseys for that season.

As you can see, the current color jersey will now be the team's alternate jersey, which allows for the team to maintain their long standing identity as the maroon and white.  However, the color scheme is changing to include black, with the white turning into a vintage white that has become a trend for teams seeking a more retro look.  The latter is becoming the team's light colored jersey for beginning next season, and in the striping, there are instances of black inside the maroon.  The dark colored jerseys will be black, and with the team's logo still in maroon, it doesn't nearly look as good as the team's light jerseys.  The striping is only inverted in between the outer maroon stripes.  Numbering was not spotted on any of the jerseys in the photos taken, so that will have to wait for a while.  Overall, the team's shift from the Reebok Edge template is alright, although the black jersey could have been better, namely making the logo show better against the background.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: No Longer a Teen

The Portland Winterhawks are now closing in on the single-season record for most wins (22 by the Estevan Bruins in 1967) and the league record for most wins in a row (24 by the Victoria Cougars in the 1980-81 season, a streak that included the playoffs), as well as the Canadian Hockey League record for most wins in a row (Kitchener won 25 in a row in 1984).

Tuesday, they took care of the Prince George Cougars at home by a 5-1 score.  From there, they beat Kamloops 4-2 behind a strong second period and Prince Albert 6-3 on Saturday thanks to another strong effort in the second period.  However, win number 20 was the most difficult, as Everett wasn't about to give in on Sunday.  A scoreless game for most of the time, Everett got on the board early in the third period on an Ivan Nikolishin goal.  However, Portland would tie things up later in the period on an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal.  Regulation and overtime were not enough, and a shootout was needed, where Bjorkstrand would score the only goal in the shootout while Corbin Boes played well again in giving the Winterhawks a 2-1 win over the Silvertips.  Austin Lotz continues to show flashes of brilliance against the Winterhawks, as he was equal to the task despite a losing effort.

The Winterhawks will look to tie the single season record this weekend, as they hit the road to take on Spokane on Friday and Seattle on Saturday.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Olympic Final Four

The men's hockey season is hitting the home stretch, and there are four teams that will be gunning for a berth in the gold medal game.  Sweden and Finland will square off in one semi-final while Canada and the United States will renew acquaintances in the other semi-final.  So, what will each country need to do to ensure that they will be playing for gold on Sunday?

SWEDEN: The best team in the Olympics so far (their top seeding in the medal rounds is proof of that), the team is backstopped by Henrik Lundqvist, who is playing as well as Sweden has hoped.  He is undoubtedly the key to any success the team will have, but will need a more consistent push on offense, as they let Slovenia hang around for most of the game in the quarterfinals.  That is where Erik Karlsson figures into the equation, as he is the best at jump starting the offense.

FINLAND: Despite not having a great deal of depth at center, largely due to injuries, the Finns are in contention for a medal once again.  Like Sweden, they rely heavily on their goaltending, in this case, Tuukka Rask, and they are also the most cohesive team left in the games.  They will need to continue to outwork teams if they wish to be contending for gold because they have the least amount of talent of the remaining teams.

CANADA: Against teams like Norway, Finland, and Latvia, Canada has struggled to score goals at the rate they're used to, and now, they will have to play the rest of the Olympics without John Tavares (the Islanders will also be missing him, as he is done for the season).  Offense has been an issue, and certainly, they need to figure out how to get around how teams are game planning for them because their defensemen are carrying the yeoman's work when it comes to scoring.  The good news?  Carey Price has played well, giving Canada a peace of mind in goal.

UNITED STATES: A team that is firing on all cylinders on offense, their defense is an often overlooked part of the game, and much of that begins with Jonathan Quick.  He allows the team to play their game, and none more than Phil Kessel has benefited from this.  The offense has also seen more than one player contribute, and for the U.S. to make the gold medal game, everyone will need to continue to contribute.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: A New Record

The Portland Winterhawks have done it: they have set a new record for most consecutive wins in a season and will look to add to that record this week.  Monday, the Winterhawks beat the Prince George Cougars in the first of two games at the CN Centre 8-4 and on Wednesday, they won 6-4 for their 14th straight wins and in the process, became the second team to clinch a playoff spot.  Friday, they tied the then-record for most consecutive wins with a 7-4 win at Kamloops and on Saturday, a new record was set as they beat Vancouver 7-4.  16 wins in a row and 18 consecutive games with a point (17 of those came in wins), the Winterhawks are making their case to repeat as WHL champions, but they will need to go through Kelowna in all likelihood, as the Rockets still have the top spot in the Western Conference.

The Winterhawks will attempt to make it 17 wins in a row with a Tuesday game at home against Prince George.  Friday and Saturday will also be home games against Kamloops and Prince Albert, respectively, before they hit the road for a game at Everett on Sunday.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Needing a Flicker

Photo by Kelvin Harrison
Before I get to the topic of the day, Canada has looked good in their first two games, but will need to figure out who their starting goaltender moving forward, as Carey Price and Roberto Luongo have started a game each.  The U.S. (as of this writing) is in a deadlock with Russia entering the second period.

Now, on to the topic at hand, and the reason for the picture above.  I know what you're thinking, and no, I won't wax poetic about the Portland Winterhawks this time.  Rather, today is about the fall from grace that the Kamloops Blazers have endured this season.  As of this morning, the Blazers are waking up to a now 11-game losing streak and are currently dead last in the WHL standings.  Yes, that means Lethbridge is no longer the worst team in the WHL.  So, what went wrong for the Blazers, who were in the Conference Finals just last year and took Portland to seven games in the semis the year before that?  Prior to the season, Guy Charron stepped down as head coach and Dave Hunchak was named to take his spot.  Last month, Hunchak was exiled from the team and Charron stepped back in on an interim basis.  This would be an indication that the players on the team were clearly tuning out Hunchak, who simply seemed in over his head on a Blazers team that lost their top two scorers from last season in J.C. Lipon and Colin Smith, as well as Brendan Ranford to graduation and Cole Cheveldae in a trade.  Early in the season, Tim Bozon asked for and received a trade to Kootenay, further weakening a Blazers team that needed all the offense they could get.  Taran Kozun played pretty well despite the lack of offense, but now, he's putting up better numbers in Seattle.  As for the last time Kamloops won, it was January 22, when they beat Lethbridge (yes, the same team that was the worst for much of the season) 7-1.  The Blazers are currently the second worst offense in the league, with Lethbridge being worse, and are the fourth worst defensive team in the league.  Cole Ully is currently the only player who is above the 50 point mark and Chase Souto is the only other player besides Ully to have 20 goals or more.  Goaltending isn't as bad as people think, as no one on the current roster has a GAA above 4.00.  However, none of them have a GAA below the 3.50 mark.  Part of that can be attributed to a defense that simply hasn't been there, with Josh Connolly being a chief offender with a -30 rating despite being the team's second leading scorer.

It's been a bad season for the Kamloops Blazers, and certainly, they are in line for the first overall pick in the Bantam Draft.  Where the help will come from is anyone's guess, and figuring out who will coach the team next season is most likely a question they will need to answer, as Charron is likely finishing out the season for his handpicked successor that couldn't finish the season.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Olympic Men's Hockey: Day One

The first day of men's Olympic Hockey saw some exciting things happening.  Sweden jumped out to a 4-0 lead after a period and a half, but the Czech Republic would cut the lead to two after the second period.  However, the Czechs could muster no more, as Sweden held on for a 4-2 win, with Erik Karlsson providing two goals.  The Switzerland-Latvia game was way more exciting, with Simon Moser scoring the game winner for the Swiss side with 7.9 seconds left in regulation as Switzerland beat Latvia 1-0.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Life of Oharu

It's been forever since I've done a movie review on this blog you are reading.  So, while I wait for the men's Ice Hockey event to get underway (it begins tomorrow at noon), today is a good chance to get a movie in, and as you can see from the picture, today's selection is Life of Oharu.

The basic plot of the movie follows Oharu's descent from lady-in-waiting to streetwalker in 17th century Japan.  The movie begins with Oharu having an unsuccessful run as a streetwalker, and from there, the viewer is treated to a lengthy flashback that starts from the lady-in-waiting phase of her life.  It is there that things begin to go wrong for her and her family, as she is caught with a page, and in that time period, a higher up could not be seen mingling with a lower class.  Because of that, she gets banished with her family to another town while the page simply gets beheaded.  From there, Oharu has unsuccessful stints as a concubine to an Emperor, a courtesan, servant, nun, and streetwalker.  Even when she finds happiness, as she does when she marries a fan maker, that doesn't last, as he gets killed by a robber soon thereafter.

Life of Oharu is a thoroughly depressing movie that touches on class rigidity and gender issues.  Throughout the movie, the viewer sees Oharu having to be dependent on the male for any level of success and failure to do so only serves to complicate her living situation.  The movie paces itself fairly well, but provides little in the way of excitement (for those who only seek such things).  It is also a movie that provides a different view of Japan from the normal Samurai fare that dominated the Japanese movie scene in the 1950's.  Ultimately, Life of Oharu peels the curtain back on an era that is typically romanticized with acts of bravery and courage and does so in a manner that demystifies the era in ways similar to Seven Samurai.

Monday, February 10, 2014

WHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

The Eastern Conference has a slightly clearer idea of who's getting in, but where everyone will be remains to be solved.  So, here goes (standings accurate as of this morning and verified on the WHL website):

1. Edmonton Oil Kings: Riding an 11-game winning streak, and looking a lot like their former selves, the Oil Kings are riding Tristan Jarry's goaltending into a playoff run.  They are currently five points clear of Calgary in the Central Division and are the best defensive team in the league.  They are also the third best offensive team in the league, trailing only Portland and Kelowna.

2. Swift Current Broncos: At 64 points, they aren't too impressive, but someone has to be the East Division leader, and they are it after beating Brandon last night.  They aren't too impressive on either end, but they do have players to watch in Julius Honka and Brycen Martin.

3. Calgary Hitmen: Five points behind the Oil Kings, there is no question the Hitmen would love to surpass their provincial rival of the north.  Their momentary slip led to Edmonton taking the division lead from Calgary, but the Hitmen do have players that can give them another deep run, and it begins with goaltender Chris Driedger.  Jake Virtanen will need to step up if the Hitmen hope to make it to the finals.

4. Medicine Hat Tigers: Surprisingly the second best defensive team in the Conference, they've made a lot of their hay without Hunter Shinkaruk, who is currently out with an injury.  Marek Langhammer will need to continue his great play and players such as Curtis Valk and Trevor Cox will need to continue their great play if the Tigers hope for more than just a cup of coffee in the playoffs.

5. Kootenay Ice: The Ice is mostly Sam Reinhart, Jaedon Deschenau, and a bunch of question marks.  Tim Bozon and Zach Franko are nice secondary options, but after that, it's anyone's guess.  This is almost certainly going to have to be Reinhart's team to carry, and if he can't, the Ice won't be long for the playoffs.

6. Brandon Wheat Kings: No such hard luck on the injury front, and while it hasn't translated to a dominating performance, they do have a shot at the East Division title.  Jordan Papirny is the man in goal, and Jayce Hawryluk is the team's leading scorer.

7. Regina Pats: The trade for Boston Leier has energized the Pats and as a result, they are in playoff contention.  They still have questions to answer, such as whether Dawson McAuley can be the team's rock in goal and whether Leier and Morgan Klimchuk will get help on offense.

8. Red Deer Rebels: Widely thought to have been a seller at the trade deadline, they are currently five points ahead of Prince Albert for the last playoff spot.  They still don't score enough, and it is once again Patrik Bartosak that has to step up for the Rebels.

9. Prince Albert Raiders: Thought to have been a favorite to run away with the East Division, the Raiders are on the outside looking in and the only team in that category with any chance of making the playoffs.  Leon Draisaitl alone is not going to solve this team's offensive woes, and Cole Cheveldae is good, but not great in goal.

10-12. Moose Jaw Warriors, Saskatoon Blades, Lethbridge Hurricanes: Moose Jaw can't score, Saskatoon can't stop anyone, and Lethbridge is just flat out terrible.

WHL Western Conference Playoff Picture

It is a little more than a month before the WHL playoffs begin, and there are still some things that need to be decided before that begins, especially in the Western Conference.  With that in mind, here is how it stands as of this morning:

1. Kelowna Rockets:  They're the only team to clinch a playoff spot so far, and they hold a nine point lead over Portland for home ice advantage and a 12 point lead over Victoria in the B.C. Division.  Health will be a major concern moving forward, as it was what felled their playoff run last season.

2. Portland Winterhawks: They lead the Seattle Thunderbirds by six points in the U.S. Division, and they are riding a 12-game winning streak.  They are getting hot at the right time, and provided that Brendan Leipsic doesn't get suspended again, the Winterhawks could make it four Conference titles in a row.

3. Victoria Royals: Most likely headed for a third or fourth seed, they are far from flashy, as they don't score as much as the other teams in the Conference, but make up for it by being the best defensive team in the Conference.  Goaltending will be a critical element to how far they go, as Patrik Polivka (2.56 GAA) and Coleman Vollrath (2.17 GAA) have played well despite splitting time.

4. Seattle Thunderbirds: They went all in with trades for Sam McKechnie, Jaimen Yakubowski, Adam Henry, Russell Maxwell, and Taran Kozun.  The result is that they are currently six points behind Portland in the U.S. Division, and are playing some of their best hockey at the right time.  A dark horse to take it all, Kozun's play will determine if the Thunderbirds are for real come March.

5. Spokane Chiefs: They would be a great team right now, but they haven't been able to solve either Portland or Seattle this season.  Consistency is an issue, and that won't cut it against the better teams.

6. Vancouver Giants: Struggled mightily in the early going, but they have righted the ship enough to at least get into the playoffs.  Potentially a deep sleeper team, they still need another year to be serious contenders for the Western Conference crown.

7. Everett Silvertips: In November, they were leading the U.S. Division.  Now, they are a mere seven points ahead of Prince George, who themselves are only two points out of a playoff spot.  Their last 10 games haven't been kind to them, and the games against Portland in that stretch have been particularly brutal, with one of those games making national television...for the wrong reasons.  They still have a good defense, but will they score enough?

8. Tri-City Americans: The only reason they occupy a playoff spot is because of Eric Comrie's heroics in net.  They can't score (fourth worst team on offense in the league), and they gave up 17 goals in their last two games.  Comrie can't stop everything, and the offense will likely be the cause for the team missing the playoffs if it comes to that.

9. Prince George Cougars: Absolutely terrible on defense despite Ty Edmonds' presence in net, yet they're only two points out of a playoff spot thanks to an offense that only Kelowna and Portland top in the Conference.  They are currently on a six game winning streak, and games against Portland today and Wednesday will go a long way in determining if the Cougars will make some noise in the playoffs...if they get there, that is.

10. Kamloops Blazers:  They'd like to forget that this season ever happened.  Fighting with Lethbridge over who gets the first overall pick in the Bantam Draft was not what the Blazers had in mind, and that was even with the idea that they were rebuilding after two straight Conference Finals appearances.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Make it a Dozen

Snow could not stop the Portland Winterhawks from extending their winning streak, so what chance did Tri-City and Everett have this past weekend?

Friday, the Winterhawks made it to Kennewick, WA in one piece as they took on the Tri-City Americans.  An early Oliver Bjorkstrand goal made it 1-0 for most of the first period.  However, goals from Nic Petan, Alex Schoenborn, and Taylor Leier in the closing minutes of the first period would make it 4-0 after one period and would end Eric Comrie's night in goal for the Americans.  Evan Sarthou didn't have much better luck, as he would give up goals to Petan and Schoenborn in the second period.  Keegan Iverson would put the Winterhawks up seven with an early third period goal.  Tri-City tried to make it a game with goals from Jessey Astles, Michal Plutnar, and Parker Wotherspoon.  However, a 36 second time span saw Derrick Pouliot, Paul Bittner, and Ethan Price score as the Winterhawks pounded the Americans 10-3.  Brendan Burke played well in the win.

Saturday, the Winterhawks returned home, and undoubtedly due to the weather, the crowd wasn't quite as much as it would normally be on a weekend game.  Everett would strike first with Ben Betker getting the Silvertips on the board.  However, Layne Viveiros would send the game to a 1-1 tie going into the second period.  Taylor Leier and Brayden Low would exchange goals as the teams would be even at two after two periods.  Kohl Bauml would put Everett up 3-2 early in the third period, but a span of 2:30 would see Leier, Schoenborn, and Petan all score as the Winterhawks withstood an Everett team that was looking for some redemption after getting embarrassed by the Winterhawks in their last three meetings.  Corbin Boes got the win in a 5-2 win for the Winterhawks.

The Winterhawks will make a road trip through British Columbia as they travel to Prince George for games on Monday and Wednesday, Kamloops on Friday, and Vancouver on Saturday.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Rolling Thunder

Before I get to the Winterhawks Weekly report, I'd like to say congratulations to the Seattle Seahawks on winning the Super Bowl last night and becoming the champions in the NFL.

Now that's out of the way, the Winterhawks are just rolling and now, their defense is finally beginning to catch up to their offense.  Wednesday, the Winterhawks just stomped the Everett Silvertips.  Paul Bittner scored the first two Winterhawks goals in the first period, with Patrick Bajkov scoring for Everett in between the Bittner goals.  Chase De Leo closed out the scoring in the period to give the Winterhawks a 3-1 lead heading into the second.  Oliver Bjorkstrand made it 4-1, but the highlight goal came from Brendan Leipsic, which made the Sportscenter Top 10 at number three the following day.  That goal would make it 5-1 at the end of the second period.  The third period was more of the same, as Nic Petan and Ethan Price would make it 7-1 and ultimately chase Austin Lotz from the game.  Dominic Turgeon closed out the scoring to give Corbin Boes the win and the Winterhawks a convincing three game sweep of the Everett Silvertips.

The dominance of the Winterhawks continued on Friday, as they not only continued their season-long dominance of the Spokane Chiefs, but also shut them out for the second straight time.  Keegan Iverson scored in the first period, and Bittner would score in the second period, with Bjorkstrand scoring twice in the period to make it 4-0 heading into the final frame.  That was good enough to chase Eric Williams from the game.  Leipsic and Adam De Champlain would add goals to make it a 6-0 final for the Winterhawks.

Saturday, the Winterhawks faced their stiffest challenge to their winning streak, as the Seattle Thunderbirds came calling.  A scoreless first period would give way to a Petan goal that would make it 1-0 heading into the third period.  Adam Rossignol and Bjorkstrand would score in the third period to give the Winterhawks a 3-0 win, with Brendan Burke collecting shutouts in both games.

A road trip to Kennewick awaits the Winterhawks on Friday, as they will take on Tri-City and the Winterhawks will conclude the week with a home game against Everett on Saturday.