Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maineiacs On The Move and Trouble in Moose Jaw???

No comments:


The Pipeline Show has learned that the Lewiston Maineiacs have asked the QMJHL for permission to bolt Maine.

The club which finished 4th in the 2007 Memorial Cup sent a letter to the league today, hoping to move for next season.

The word is team Owner Mark Just would like to land in Boisbriand which is just outside of Montreal.

If the Maineiacs do leave Lewiston it would mean the Quebec league would be without an American squad. 6 Years ago the franchise relocated to Lewiston from Sherbrooke.

Another junior hockey note but out west now, Guy Flaming heard tonight at the Regina Pats/Oil Kings game that word is the city has turned down the request of the Moose Jaw Warriors to build a new arena, meaning the only thing the club can do is recycle the crushed can...again. Will it meet the WHL's standards or will it mean the Warriors are on the move. Can you say the Victoria Warriors?

One on One: Tyson Sexsmith

No comments:
The Vancouver Giants rolled through town to take on the Edmonton Oil Kings a couple weeks ago and I had the chance to talk with netminder Tyson Sexsmith.

The Giants feast on the Oil Kings and Sexsmith in particular; he's shut them out in both meetings this year, something we had a small chuckle about.

I wrote a story for Hockey's Future stemming from this interview and also spoke with San Jose Sharks WHL scout Brian Gross for some comments from the team that drafted him. Gross was a guest on The Pipeline Show last summer to talk about life as a scout for the Sharks and you can hear that interview here.

You can read that HF article here.

For those of you who would rather take a listen to the well spoken netminder instead, you can hear that interview on The Pipeline Show website in the media archives by clicking here.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Farm Report

No comments:

Well while the Oilers were taking it to the Minnesota Wild at Rexall place tonight, it was another poor outing for the Springfield Falcons as the Worcester Sharks took a big bite out of the birds in Worcester.

The Oilers farm hands dropped a 3-1 decision in a game that they never seemed to be in. The Sharks outshot the Falcons 14-4 in the first period 12-6 in the 2nd and 34-17 overall.

The Sharks did add an empty net goal to make it a 2 goal win after Guillaume Lefevbre's 3rd of the season brought Springfield within a goal, but the Falcons shot themselves in the foot by going 0-7 on the power play, including a 2 man advantage in the 2nd. There were 4 scraps in this one including Slava Trukhno throwing the skin hammers with Riley Armstrong. Gilbert Brule, Mathieu Roy and Lefevbre also dropped the gloves. Devan Dubnyk making his 9th straight start stopped 31 of 33 shots he faced in a losing cause. The Oilers first round pick from 2004 and the Falcons have just 3 wins over that span, and have lost 3 straight.

Springfield was playing without Taylor Chorney because of an undisclosed injury, and lost Tim Sestito to an upper body injury during this one. They did get Slava Trukhno back after 17 games, and Rob Schremp returned from a bout with the flu after missing a pair of games.

To make room for goaltender Danny Sabourin, Springfield has sent former Denver Pioneer pipeman Glenn Fisher to Las Vegas of the ECHL, oddly enough it's one of Calgary's farm teams. Also Derek Bekar and the team have mutually agreed to his release so he can head overseas and play.

After the all star break Springfield lost Liam Reddox to the parent club, and yesterday Ryan Poltuny was also recalled by the Oilers. Both were in the line up tonight as Edmonton bounced back after a 10-2 drubbing with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota. Reddox played almost 12 and a half minutes, while Potulny was on for just over 11 minutes, although saw limited action in the 3rd period.

Springfield will try and end their 3 game skid Saturday night against Binghamton.

Eberle and Jacques updates

No comments:

Team Canada hero and Oilers first rounder from last June met with the Edmonton media this morning, as his Pats are in town to face the Oil Kings Saturday night.

Eberle has been great since returning from Team Canada, with 11 points in 9 games, and seems to be one of the few Pats doing anything, as the team has dropped 8 of their last 12 games. The 22nd overall pick from last June is on the opposite track as fellow first rounder and Regina Teammate Colton Teubert.(pictured below) The Kings prospect was a healthy scratch recently and Los Angeles G.M. Dean Lombardi has spoken to the D-man about his play and behaviour off the ice recently. Teubert can be a great player if he doesn't let his reputation (and what some are telling him) trick him into thinking he's earned a spot with LA for next year.

As for Eberle, should Regina miss the playoffs (they're battling for 8th right now) or bow out early, the Oilers will ask him to finish the season with Springfield of the AHL. Colton Gillies did the same thing after Saskatoon's season last year when he reported to Houston and it should be a good indication of whether or not he might be ready to turn pro next year. Shameless plug time, I'll have a story on Eberle tonight (Friday) at 6 and 11 on Global.

I spotted J.F. Jacques skating out with Steve Serdachny this morning before the Oilers morning skate, and had a chance to chat with him afterwards. He's been skating for about 3 weeks now and says while his back is a little sore and will be for likely the next year, it's night and day compared to pre surgery. JFJ told me he expects to be in AHL game action by next Friday with Springfield.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fantasy Prospect Pick Up Of The Week

No comments:

On a team that’s last in the western conference and hoping it’s bingo ball comes up with the number one pick this June, there is a bright spot for St. Louis Blues fans, and fantasy owners.

Despite the Blues being 4 games under .500 and the fact they’ve given up the 2nd most goals Patrick Berglund has flourished under Head Coach Andy Murray.

Berglund is tied for 3rd in rookie scoring with 30 points. His 14 goals sits him 2nd. While his amazing plus 13 on a losing team is also 3rd among first year skaters and leads the team.

The Swede has tremendous size standing 6’4”, it took him just 3 games to score his first NHL goal and will go down in history as the man who notched goal number 10,000 in Blues history. It should be just the beginning of St. Louis milestones that the 25th overall pick from 2006 will be a part of.

Patrick Berglund is my fantasy hockey prospect pick up of the week.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hrabal Bound For Sweden

3 comments:
After refusing to report to Stockton when Springfield assigned him to the ECHL club, Josef Hrabal is heading to Sweden.

I spoke with Oilers Assistant G.M. Kevin Prendergast today and he confirmed that the Czech blueliner whom the Oilers drafted in the 8th round of 2003 will suit up the rest of the year with one of 3 Swedish Elite League teams that have offered contracts.

Prendergast assessed Hrabal as "not being patient enough with himself" adding he needed better work ethic. Hrabal was the 8th blueliner for the Falcons and with others returning from injury was not going to get enough playing time. He had registered just one point in 17 Falcon games, while picking up 4 assists in 8 games with Stockton earlier this season.

According the Oilers Assistant G.M. there were some bright spots from the D-man who was hurt during rookie camp in Camrose, and he is expected back at Oilers training camp next September.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bruins Fire GM

1 comment:
The Pipeline Show has learned that the Chilliwack Bruins have fired General Manager Darrel May.

The Bruins are currently in 9th place in the 10-team Western Conference, 6 points back of the 8th and final playoff spot.

Losing Mark Santorelli to the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL and Oscar Moller to the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL were huge blows to the Bruins early on. Evan Pighin's decision to bolt for the BCHL was another torpedo as was netmined Matt Esposito's choice to hold out from the team in the fall.
EDIT: Just before 5 PM the news hit the WHL website with this official statement.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Vicious NCAA Attack - 2 Suspended for Season

5 comments:
An ugly incident from Saturday's grudge match between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans has resulted in the season-ending suspensions of two Spartans.

A shout out to The Pipeline Show buddy Kevin Forbes from Hockey's Future on this one...

Instead of me trying to describe a scene that I didn't witness, here's the video evidence:



This release came earlier today...
"The CCHA, upon review of the on-ice incidents in the Jan. 24th game between Michigan and Michigan State, fully supports the decision of Michigan State’s athletic administration to suspend the playing privileges of players Corey Tropp and Andrew Conboy for the remainder of the season, including playoffs."

Just plain ugly. Reading various message boards that have threads on the incident, word is that Tropp (the player Kampfer laid out with a clean open ice hit) came in a club him a couple times like a baby seal. I haven't heard how seriously Kampfer is hurt this time so if anyone knows, please pass it on.

For the record, Conboy is a Montreal Canadiens 5th round pick from 2007, Tropp belongs to Buffalo (3rd, 2007) and Kampfer is an Anaheim prospect.

Off topic here but clearly stupid incidents like this happen in leagues with or without fighting... it doesn't really seem to matter does it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

School Wrap Sunday

No comments:
This was the NCAA top 20 heading into the weekend's action and the game results:

1 Notre Dame - Did Not Play
2 Boston University - 5-0 and 3-1 wins @ UNH
3 Cornell - 4-3 loss to Yale and 5-1 win vs Brown
4 Denver - 8-3 loss and 2-2 tie against North Dakota
5 Northeastern - 3-1 and 6-3 wins over the Friars
6 Minnesota - Din Not Play
7 Vermont - 2-1 win and 1-1 tie with Mass.
8 Michigan - 6-2 and 5-3 wins over rival Spartans
9 Princeton - Did Not Play, will play Monday
10 Miami - 6-2 win and then a tie with Nebraska-Omaha
11 New Hampshire - 2 losses to BU
12 Ohio State - split their series with Western Mich.
13 Colorado College - 4-4 tie followed by 6-1 loss to St. Cloud
14 Boston College - 6-3 and 4-1 wins over Maine
15 North Dakota - Huge 8-3 win then tie with Denver
16 Wisconsin - Did Not Play
17 Minnesota-Duluth - 4-0 and 7-4 wins over Mankato
18 Dartmouth - ties with Holy Cross and Harvard
19 Alaska - 2 losses to Northern Mich.
20 Air Force - A pair of wins over rival Army

The top seeded Irish of Notre Dame had the weekend off but I wonder if they could still slip to #2 because of the way Boston University demolished New Hampshire on Friday night. I'd be a little suprised if it happened, I still think the Irish will be #1, but you have to give it consideration because UNH was #11 so the fact that BU beat them by a combined 8-1 score this weekend, that's impressive to me. The Terriers are rolling as the annual Beanpot gets closer and closer (Feb 2nd start).

With Cornell and Denver both losing on the weekend, the Pionners actually going winless in 2 games against #15 North Dakota, there will be a new #3 ranked team. I expect that to be Northeastern who had little trouble with unranked Providence.

Cornell was beaten by their top rival, Yale, on Friday nght before rebounding with a solid 5-1 win over Brown. However, the loss to Yale will knock them down a bit. Thankfully for Big Red fans, the Pionners' are goingt o fall too. I wonder if the poll voters will consider Denver's 0-1-1 weekend against North Dakota to be worse than Cornell's 1-1 split with two un-ranked programs.

As of note from the series between Denver and the Sioux, Pionners head coach George Gwozdecky (a past guest on The Pipeline Show) was tossed from the Saturday game and starting netminder Marc Cheverie was yanked on friday after allowing 7 goals on 21 shots.

The Fighting Sioux continue their tradition of strong second half play and in my opinion should vault up the poll to around the #10 slot.

The #6 Golden Gophers didn't play but with #7 Vermont going 1-0-1 it wouldn't suprise me to see the Catamounts slip past Minnesota this week. The #8 Wolverines of Michigan pounded their arch-enemies from Michigan State in back-to-back games but will a pair of wins against the unranked Spartans move them past Minnesota? Not sure.

Princeton didn't play either so the Tigers might drop a spot to #10 Miami who had a win and tie against Nebraska-Omaha. However, Princeton does play on Monday so a win there might be enough for them to hold their position.

Certainly #11 New Hampshire will drop after getting spanked by Boston University but the question is how far. The Terriers are the #2 team in the nation after all so perhaps the argument can be made that the Wildcats shouldn't drop significantly. I'd have them behind North Dakota though.

#12 Ohio State squeeked out a split with Western Michigan while #13 Colorado College will fall after get destroyed by St. Cloud 6-1 on Saturday. #14 Boston College will move up a bit thanks to a 2-game sweep of the Maine Black Bears.

That brings us to North Dakota at #15 but as I said before, I expect their big win over Denver will be good enough to get them up to around tenth.

Duluth and Air Force should both move up a bit from their #17 and #20 spots while #19 Alaska will drop out of the top 20 thaks to a pair of losses. I think Yale and maybe St. Cloud could get serious top-20 consideration to replace the two or three teams that drop out of the mix.

Random NCAA Notes: Alaska-Anchorage and Michigan Tech had back-to-back 3-3 ties on Friday and Saturday. I wonder if those teams wished the WCHA used the shootout... St. Lawrence forward Mike McKenzie (son of TSN Analyst Bob McKenzie) had a 5-point night against R.P.I. on Friday. He's now leading his team in scoring with 25 points in 24 games. The former St. Mike's Buzzers teammate of Oiler Andrew Cogliano is currently undrafted... Minnesota-Duluth is basically a who's who of former AJHL standouts: leading scorer Justin Fontaine played for the Bonnyville Pontiacs while Mike Connolly, Evan Oberg and Macgregor Sharp are all alum of the Camrose Kodiaks. The four are in the top 6 scorers for Duluth and all are curretnly undrafted... The NCAA's leading scorer is now Bryan Leitch, a 6-3 190 lb forward who plays for Quinnipiac. He's a senior with the Bobcats and has point totals of 45, 32 and 33 over the last 3 years. He now leads the NCAA with 41 points (32 assists) and has a five-point cushion on Garret Roe of St. Cloud State...

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009 Update on Europe

8 comments:
It's been a while since I did some checking into the overseas situation so I recently made a couple calls, surfed a bunch of foreign team websites and put my translations skills to work. All in an effort to get an update on Europe... and I don't mean these gals... er, guys.

The Edmonton Oilers own the rights to 8 players who are currently skating in various European leagues. Four are barely a blip on the radar these days but the other half are very much on the minds of the organization’s hierarchy and could be factors in North America as soon as next year.

Linus Omark was a 4th round pick in 2007 as an overage player – the pint-sized forward was passed over in 2006 but had a terrific World Junior tournament and wouldn't get overlooked again. The season after Edmonton grabbed him 97th overall, Omark recorded 11 goals and 32 points in 55 Swedish Elite League games with Luleå. Those were considered very encouraging numbers and made him a player of note for Edmonton’s prospect camp held last June.

The camp took place in Sherwood Park and it was there that I had my first chance to watch Omark practice and to chat with him. I asked him about his North American interest level and in no uncertain terms he told me that it was his desire to play on this side of the Atlantic Ocean for the 2009-2010 season.

I asked him if he would feel that way if it meant playing in the American Hockey League and again he made it clear that his end goal is to play in the NHL even if it meant a season on the farm. Unlike former Oiler property Dragan Umicevic, Omark verbally confirmed that he would be willing to play in North America without a guarantee of a NHL job.

Considering the season he is currently having, it will be interesting to see if Omark feels the same way this summer as he did last June. Omark currently has 15 goals and 41 points in 43 games with Luleå and ranks second in the SEL’s scoring race. The Overtornea product will turn 22-years-old on February 5th but is clearly unaffected by his limited inexperience or his lack of size as he racks up the numbers in arguably the World’s best pro league outside of the NHL.

Oilers Assistant GM Kevin Prendergast, who oversees player development and scouting, will be overseas in February and has Luleå games high on his to-do list. I spoke with Prendergast yesterday from Shawinigan, PQ where he was set to watch the Cataractes in action on Friday.

“I’m actually heading over to Sweden in the first week of February to watch [Omark] play a couple of games and then hopefully he’s going to be on the Swedish National team for the 4-Nations tournament at home there,” he told me, “He’s taken himself from nowhere on the radar screen to being a pretty good hockey player.”

Prendergast admits that Omark’s productivity this year is a pleasant surprise and extremely impressive considering his age but he's also quick to point out that there is one major drawback to the player as well.

“The negative is that he’s 5’9 and we have a lot of small players as it is right now,” he said, “but when you’re able to score at that level… we have to do our darndest to get a deal done to get him over here and have a look at him in September.”

I’m not the only one who asked Omark last June about his North American plans.

“We never really got into [contract negotiations] but when I explained it to him [last June] I said to him ‘you might have to start in the AHL until you get used to the situation over here but that’s not for sure. If you win a job and the coaches like you then you obviously could start with the big team’ and he didn’t balk at that.” Said Prendergast.

With his offensive prowess going through the roof right now, you can bet Omark will be considering lucrative offers for next season but will that preclude a 2-way deal here?

“The AHL contract, once you throw in the signing bonus, it’s a pretty good contract anyways,” argued Prendergast, “He might be in the minors for a month or two months, if at all, we won’t know until he gets here and see how he adapts to the North American style.”

Edmonton has to have Omark under contract this off-season or else they will lose their exclusive rights to the talented Swede. Here’s a sample of Omark’s recent work for Lulea and when you're done that one look for the other clip called "Zorro vs Brynas" to get another glimpse at his offensive creativity:



Edmonton’s other Swedish pick from 2007 isn’t faring near as well as William Quist is quickly falling off the map for the Oilers.

“Yeah very quickly, unfortunately.” Prendergast stated. “He had a great camp a couple years ago but hasn’t taken one step forward since then so I think it’s fair to say that at this point he’s not longer of interest to us.”

Quist basically wrote himself out of the picture by shunning the CHL twice, an avenue that the Oilers really wanted the project prospect to have taken.

“Absolutely and I went over that again with him when I was over there last year and he turned me down again,” said Prendergast, “That was basically the final straw on whether he had any interest in wanting to play.”

Like with Omark, Quist will become a free agent this summer if not signed by Edmonton but there appears to be little to no chance of that happening.

If you’re part of The Pipeline Show’s listening audience or you’ve been by the blog in the past you may recall that we’ve brought up the name of Bjorn Bjurling a few times (like here or here). Last year it was hinted to me that the 9th round pick from 2004 might be playing his way into consideration for the 2008-09 season but that obviously didn’t come to fruition. With the recent trade of Mathieu Garon and the impending UFA status of starter Dwayne Rolson it is at least conceivable that the Oilers will either be hitting the free agent market this summer or gutting it out with a pair of rookies in net next year.

But that got me thinking about Bjurling again so I posed the question to Prendergast to make sure the team still owned his rights.

“We do, yes, and he’s another player I have to go and look at because every time we think he’s done and we put him in a grave he keeps crawling out again!” laughed the team exec. “He’s found ways to put his name on the map over there and I watched him play a couple of games last year for Södertälje and I was impressed with him; he was really good. They brought a high profile guy last year into Sodertalje (Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth) and Bjurling just took the job away from him.”

Sodertalje is the worst team in the SEL this year but some how Bjurling has been able to keep his stats looking pretty respectable. He's playing 3 of every 4 games and has managed a .916 sv% and a 2.76 GAA despite his club’s poor record.

“The down side is that he’s a little older but at the same time a lot of goalies don’t mature until later anyway,” Prendergast said as he weighed the pros and cons, “He’s one of the guys we’re going to look at while we’re over there and we’ll have a talk with him and see what his thought process is too at the same time.”

It would be anything but unprecedented if Bjurling were to make his North American debut next season. Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom arrived 3 years ago as a 28-year-old and has enjoyed huge success with the Wild. Bjurling is 29-years-old now and seems to be getting better as he nears 30 as opposed to slowing down.

“It’s obviously a scenario that we’re going to have to look at; he’s done nothing to warrant us not talking to him to see if he wants to come over,” Prendergast confirmed. “We have two blue-chippers in Deslauriers and Dubnyk and whether we resign ‘Roli’ at the end of the year or whatever happens, certainly [Bjurling’s] a guy that might come into play for us.”

If Edmonton fails to resign the almost 40-year-old Dwayne Roloson, or simply chooses not to, the team could potential replace him with someone who has been playing pro hockey for the last decade. At the start of the current season, most fans expected the 2009-2010 combination of Deslauriers and a veteran netminder although everyone assumed that would be 31-year-old Mathieu Garon. Would a Deslauriers/Bjurling tandem be that outrageous to consider?

John Motin was chosen by Edmonton in the 4th round of the 2008 draft in large part because of his strong résumé. He’s played parts of two seasons in the SEL and had made two appearances at the World Junior Championships for Sweden as well. However, Motin was a surprise omission from his country’s U20 entry at the 2009 tournament in Ottawa.

“A very big surprise to all of us to be honest with you because I thought he was in for sure,” admitted Prendergast. “I guess it came down to [Motin] and a player who plays for the coach’s club team and that’s who they took. Johan was pretty upset; he’s playing in the SEL and there was really no reason given to us why they didn’t take him, and now it’s just one of those things where he’ll have to take it as motivation for himself.”

“It doesn’t reflect the way we feel about him because we think he’s a hell of a prospect.”

Motin doesn't have an offensive bone in his body, one point in 40 games this year for Färjestad, and that may have played a role in why he was left off the U20 squad. It’s still somewhat surprising though as it would be almost unthinkable for Canada not to take a player who had 2 WJC tournaments under his belt simply for the leadership he could provide.

Perhaps the snub will be motivation for Motin to come to North America but with another year before their hand is forced, the Oilers might be content leaving him to develop in the SEL until the 2010-11 campaign.

Switching countries, the only Finn in the group is Teemu Hartikainen who was Edmonton’s 6th round pick at the 2008 draft. Hartikainen has overcome a slow start and is currently enjoying an extended streak of 7 games where he’s registered 8 points in that time span. The 18-year-old now has 13 goals and 3 helpers for a total of 16 points in his rookie pro season with KalPa of the Finnish Elite League.

Hartikainen, who wears the typical goalie sweater #35, is a power forward that led Finland’s U20 team in scoring during the 2009 WJC in Ottawa earlier this month. It was a disappointing tournament for the Finns in general but the Oilers were pleased as punch to see Hartikainen leading the pack with 9 points in 6 games. Overall, the Kuopio native placed 8th in tournament scoring yet was somehow forgotten by his coach when he was asked to name his team’s top 3 players. Oddly enough, Hartikainen also didn't get a single Player of the Game award during the event either.

“It was a surprise but he’s got excellent hands and that’s what I liked about him last year,” explained Prendergast, “His skating has to improve but he works like hell and can finish. Some of the goals that he scored at the WJC were goal scorer’s goals; they weren’t fluke goals. He knows what to do when he’s in close, he knows how to use his body to protect the puck really well and he’s big and he’s strong. The only thing he needs to get better at is his skating but he’s got the perfect mentality to be a NHL player.”

Asked about the slow start Hartikainen has overcome, Prendergast said he was getting the same reports including one from a former Oiler great.
“I talked to Jari Kurri about [Hartikainen] when he was here and Jari said the same thing – slow start but with more ice time he’s getting the more he’s producing,” Prendergast said. “[Kurri] says he’s got pretty good hands for a big guy so it all comes down to his skating.”

Other Oiler players have overcome average to below average skating in their youth like Jarret Stoll and Kyle Brodziak so the organization knows that it can be done. To do it though they want to get started ASAP.

“We hope to get him over here this June and get him working with Steve Serdachny,” Prendergast said in reference to the club’s power skating specialist, “I talked to Teemu over the summer and he was all for coming over as early as we wanted him to. I think we have a player there Guy, I really do, but there’s just a ways to go from the skating end.”

That just leaves the three Russians who most fans believe to be as good as done with the organization and nothing I’ve heard recently would counter that opinion. I asked Prendergast directly if any of the three were worthy of consideration anymore.

“Very low consideration,” He began, “We wanted Bumagin to come over last year but he hummed and hawed and then it got a little crazy as far as contract demands so we put him on the back burner. We’ll wait to hear from him, we’re not going to approach the subject again.”

Alexander Bumagin was a 6th round pick in 2006 after a sensational rookie season in the Russia Superleague with Lada Togliatti. However, his play dropped off significantly the following year for what was described to me as “extracurricular reasons”. I never got the specifics but someone else told me that Bumagin "liked to live the life of a rock star" so take from that what you will. This year Bumagin has all of 11 points after 37 games with Atlant in the KHL.

Of course there is always Alexei Mikhnov who had a thimble of coffee in the NHL a couple seasons ago before returning to Yaroslavl Lokomotiv where he still plays. Mikhnov has a tradition of hot starts preceding injury and/or prolonged slumps. This year he has 23 points in 41 games.

“Obviously Mikhnov is… he’s been a player that’s been on the radar since the day that we drafted him,” Prendergast offered, “I’ll hopefully get a chance to see him play in a couple of weeks at the Swedish Games and run it by him again and see what his interests are and then at the end of the day we’ll see where we stand as far as contracts are for the big team.”

Finally, in case you were the one person in the world looking for an update on Mikhail Zhukov (Misha Joukov when in Sweden)… you can forget about him.

“Zhukov is not [a consideration] at this point,” Prendergast confirmed. “I saw him in Kazan last year and he seemed pretty content playing in the Russian league. We don’t have any aspiration in chasing him at this point.”

Some fans have emailed me asking about two former Oiler properties in Freddie Pettersson and Dragan Umicevic. Pettersson was always a guy I personally liked because he came to Canada to play in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen and he was about as honest a player as you could find. He had a stellar game against the UofA Golden Bears the one fall and impressed Kevin Lowe so much that the former GM approached me about him at a practice one day .

“Keep an eye on #48,” Lowe advised with a wink, “he’s fun to watch.”

Of course I was watching him anyway but it was interesting to see Lowe so openly admiring a prospect like that. In my time around the team, admittedly shorter than most in town (2003), the organization doesn’t really show much excitement over unsung prospects. Patrick Thoresen was another exception the following year.

Anyway, Pettersson left the organization two years after he was drafted. The Oilers were against the 50-contract cap and after an internal debate, Pettersson was deemed expendable as a smaller energy player in a franchise loaded with smaller forwards. He was offered a minor league contract but knowing he could make more money in Sweden he returned home and turned pro.

Pettersson currently has 22 points for Frölunda in the SEL. Although he admitted to having a soft spot for Pettersson and his high tempo, all out style of game, Prendergast conceded that Edmonton was no longer in the Swede's future.

“At this point I would have to say no from an organizational standpoint because of how many players [contracts] we have in the organization right now,” he said. “Freddie’s always been interesting to [the organization] but he’s probably making too much money now for us to put him into the American League.”

Dragan Umicevic, A.K.A "Trogdor" to many in the Oiler-section of cyberspace, has 24 points this year with Södertälje (Bjurling’s team) but his departure from the NHL club seems to have been a little less amicable than Pettersson’s.

“Umicevic’s attitude… I just don’t think he really cares and that’s one of the things that’s always scared me about him,” Prendergast said. “He’s loaded with talent but he doesn’t have that instinct where it was important for him to come over so he shrugged it off every time I talked to him. I would be worried that he’d be one of those guys that would shut it down if he was in the AHL because it wasn’t the NHL.”

If you’re wondering why the Oilers have to sign guys like Omark 2 years after he was drafted and yet the Russians and Bjorn Bjurling are immune to the same rules, I asked Prendergast for the simple explanation.

“Bjurling was drafted in the old system [old CBA] so he’s been on ‘defected status’ but with the new system when Omark was drafted, we only have 2 years to get him signed,” the Assistant GM said.

Outside of Jussi Markkanen, it's been a while since the Oilers drafted a European who made a significant impact for the team at the NHL level. You could go back to 1993 and point out that the team did draft David Vyborny and Miro Satan but even those two blossomed elsewhere. Perhaps one of the four promising players listed above can change all that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top 5 Tuesdays: NCAA Goalies You Don't Know

9 comments:
It might be because they are as yet undrafted by a NHL team or perhaps they don't play for a NCAA program that gets a lot of recognition but there are a bunch of terrific goalies up for grabs playing south of the border. The NCAA hockey circuit doesn't get much attention here in Canada even though a large percentage of the players come from this country. Consider this a personal interest list - they might not be the "best" 5 goalies in the NCAA but these are the ones that are making me check in on them every weekend out of personal curiosity.

5. Andrew Volkening - Air Force

My man-crush on Andrew Volkening began last spring as I tuned into the ridiculously entertaining game between Air Force and Miami in the opening round of the National Tournament. The RedHawks went on to win that one in overtime but the fact that the upstart Eagles nearly bounced a true contender like Miami was remarkable and it was largely due to the stellar play of their netminder. Listening to the game online it sounded like Volkening was 'in the zone' but you be the judge:



Unfortunately the future for Volkening (and the rest of the Air Force squad) won't likely include hockey. I spoke with a pair of NHL scouts just a couple of days ago and asked about guys like Volkening and his teammate Jacques Lamoureux who has been near the top of NCAA scoring all year. The guys I talked to said there is no point scouting them because for them to get their release from the Air Force they have to prove how their playing pro hockey would better serve the military than their wearing the uniform in the field. It's only happened twice and never for a hockey player (David "The Admiral" Robinson left the Navy to play NBA and a football player did the same - someone else can remind me who).

4. Kieran Millan - Boston University Terriers

I'm not going to lie... I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I had no idea Kieran Millan was from Edmonton until I clicked on his bio. I found it really interesting that BU, a perennial force in Hockey East, was going with a pair of freshmen this year so I've been following their progress with interest. The Terriers are currently second in the HE standings right now but oddly enough are ranked #2 in the entire NCAA.

Millan is playing about two thirds of the games for BU and has a 1.63 GAA and .928 sv% in his 14 games and was named Goalie of the Month for the conference. Those are pretty strong numbers for a guy in his rookie collegiate year. Millan joined the Terriers after spending two seasons with the Spruce Grove Saints of the AJHL, further adding to my red-face considering I really should have clued in that they were the same guy. He was an AJHL All-Star and Rookie of the Year so it's not like he was going under the radar. Well, just mine apparently... but not anymore.

3. Jordan Pearce - Notre Dame Fighting Irish

He had to bide his time while David Brown played out his eligibility but once he got his chance to shine, Jordan Pearce has grabbed the reins and run with it. The native Alaskan has picked up a ton of awards and accolades during his tenure with the Irish but somehow has not gotten the attention of the NHL - yet. I find it pretty hard to believe that a second fantastic season won't end with him signing a pro contract with someone at the conclusion of the NCAA schedule this spring.

The Irish were runners up for the National Championship last season and are currently ranked #1 in the country so he's definitely not going under the radar this year. Still, Pearce has strung together a 18-3-3 record this year with a 1.55 GAA and .936 sv% all while playing in a very competitive CCHA conference. The Irish won't be the surprising underdogs this time around but they'll still be fighting for another shot at the National title.

2. Bryan Hogan - Michigan Wolverines

One thing I've learned since I got into the hockey prospects biz is that in college, politics are huge. The pecking order for ice time begins with the seniors and trickles down to the freshmen unless we're talking about standout players. You have to expect James vanRiemsdyk or Kyle Turris to get their fair share of shifts but if you're an incoming role player... don't expect to play much.

With that in mind, the fact that sophomore Bryan Hogan is the go-to guy now at Michigan is MASSIVE considering Billy Sauer, a drafted senior (COL), has been the starter for the last 3 years. Hogan is undrafted despite a decent USHL career with Lincoln but you have to think he's going to get some attention now. He just turned 20-years-old so he's not an aged collegian with inflated numbers playing against players mostly younger than he is. His 1.83 GAA and .920 sv% are main reasons for his 13-2 record not to mention Michigan's top 10 ranking in the polls.

1. Ben Scrivens - Cornell Big Red

Topping my personal interest list is a local product who is getting recognition from those who like to project Hobey Baker contenders. Scrivens hails from Spruce Grove and played a year in the AJHL for the Calgary Canucks before heading to Cornell and the Big Red. He only got into 12 games as a freshman in 2006-07 and had a losing record but last year Scrivens (and Cornell) bounced back in a big way. Scrivens had a .603 winning percentage and a 2.02 GAA as a starter with 35 games under his belt.

This year Scrivens has taken his game to another level. He leads the NCAA with a stellar 1.17 GAA, a .956 sv%, 5 shutouts and a 13-1-1 record. His only loss came against North Dakota and it's still the only game of the year where he hasn't held the opposition to 2 or fewer goals. Some will argue that Scrivens is a product of an uber-defensive system at Cornell who plays in a ECAC Conference that doesn't get as much respect as a hockey power as the CCHA, WCHA or HE. However, it's worth noting that Scrivens has face 25 or more shots in 10 of 17 games and more than 30 in 4 of those. It's also interesting to point our that Scrivens has shutouts against Princeton, who directed 43 shots at him, and Niagara who hit him 31 times.

I don't think Scrivens will get drafted this summer but that's only because I expect some NHL team out there that needs a goalie in their system will step up in April and sign him. I haven't talked to anyone in Cornell about it so this is just speculation on my part but I could see Scrivens (now 22-years-old) leaving Cornell at the end of the year and not returning for his senior season.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oilers Stone-d After Trade

2 comments:
The Edmonton Oilers and the Pittsburgh Penguins announced a deal on Saturday morning that sees veteran NHL netminder Mathieu Garon head East in exchange for minor league goalie Dany Sabourin, farmhand Ryan Stone as well as a 4th round pick.

Half of The Pipeline Show loved this deal as soon as it was announced for obvious reasons. Millard's man-crush on all things Wheat Kings has undoubtedly got my co-host giving a wobbly thumbs up this afternoon (house warming party last night).

I'm fairly underwhelmed by the deal. At least the Oilers finally took care of the 3-headed monster in net... but they did so by adding yet another netminder to the already full-to-capacity farm team. Would the big club decide to keep Sabourin in the NHL, he's been in Pittsburgh all year despite his losing record and sub-.900 save percentage?

I'm assuming that Sabourin heads to Springfield which would give the Falcons a pair of capable goalies. That would be unfortunate for Devan Dubnyk and his development who's stats are an improvement (slightly) over last year. But the team is mired in a pretty serious funk right now that prompted President Bruce Landon to post a State-of-the-Union letter to the fans on the team website.

Ryan Stone, the former Brandon Wheat Kings captain who notched 99 points in his final WHL campaign playing alongside 50-goal sniper Eric Fehr, will add to the toughness and depth departments of the Oiler franchise. He was taken 32nd overall in 2003 but in all the conversations I've had with Oiler scouts over the years about that particular draft, Stone's name has never come up. Does that mean they didn't like him back then? Not necessarily but I think it's fair to say he wasn't a major target for the club. (They would have seen him plenty though as Fehr was a definite player of interest for Edmonton).

Stone had a terrific AHL season in 2006-07, the same year that the Oilers and Penguins shared the Wilkes-Barre roster. The forward had 33 points in 41 AHL games that season and, if memory serves, was back and forth between the NHL a few times although he didn't dress for the big club that season.

He's got decent size at 6'2 and 200 lbs and by all reports, he isn't afraid to get his knuckles bruised if need be. This season Stone had 28 points in 38 games for Wilkes-Barre so he'll add some offence to a Falcons squad that is badly in need of just such an injection.

Here's a clip of a recent fight Stone got into but I have to say, after watching the few of his bouts that I could find, I'm not sure if Oiler fans should be expecting much more than a Mathieu Roy-level scrapper here.



The Oilers also pick up a 4th round pick for the 2011 draft which, as always, is simply another lottery ticket for the draw. By the time the 4th round rolls around it will be the area scouts who have an opportunity to shine.

For me, taking a goalie back in this trade is sensless unless it was the only way that Pittsburgh was willing to follow through. From the Penguins perspective, they're adding Garon and would have to push Sabourin through waivers to get him to the farm where they have two decent youngsters they're trying to groom in former Denver Pioneer standout Adam Berkoel and Boston University alum John Curry. So why would they want to clog up their development system? It doesn't make any sense to do that right??

So they lump Sabourin into the deal and make him Edmonton's problem. Good for Pittsburgh, bad for the Oilers. GM Steve Tambellini knows sabouring from their days in Vancouver where the Canucks brought in the keeper for a stretch of games before losing him back to the Penguins on waivers.

Considering the L.A. Kings only managed to get a 7th round pick for Jason Labarbera, admittedly not as experienced as Garon, I guess a 4th + farmhand + tweener goalie is decent enough return for Edmonton in this deal. I don't think it makes them any better though and it really hasn't addressed a need so it seems like a fairly... unspectacular swap.

Hopefully it's the first of a few moves the Oilers make in short order.

So the official grade from TPS has Millard giddy and giggling like a school girl to see a former Wheatie involved while Flaming decidedly gives this one an un-enthusiastic thumbs up, but just marginally.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fantasy Prospect Pick Up Of The Week

No comments:
This week I couldn't ignore one guy who you will likely have to trade for and wanted to give a heads up about someone who might be still available on the free agent market.

It seems that Bobby Ryan is finally starting to make the Anaheim Ducks look smart for drafting him 2nd overall, behind Sidney Crosby, in 2005.

Ryan is sizzling right now with 26 points in 26 games heading into action Tuesday, and 12 of those points are goals, including a wicked hatty last Friday.

But before you say it’s about time he made an impact, consider that he would have made the team out of training camp in Anaheim, if the Ducks weren’t in such cap hell to start the year.

Ryan has had 6 multi point games this year, including 3 - 3 point nights.

For those in leagues with in depth stats, Ryan is plus 11 with only 3 games where he’s registered a minus, has 5 ppg, and 2 game winners.

To be fair to Ryan, only 7 players after Crosby and Ryan from the first round in 2005 have played atleast 70 games, and the way the New Jersey native is tearing it up right now, it looks like that list will grow to 8.

Bobby Ryan is one of my fantasy hockey draft prospect pick up of the week.

Even though he's cooled off quite a bit lately with 0 points in 7 games, Matt Hunwick is a guy you should look at scooping up.

The Boston rookie blueliner has 15 points in 31 games and is plus 13 with 21 penalty minutes.

The 7th round pick from 2004 played at Michigan and has only played 55 games in the
minors.

His point streak from November 17-28 tied for the longest in team history for a rookie D-man, previously set by Ray Bourque in 1980.

So there you have it, 2 choices to help you now or in the future for your fantasy hockey team.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wednesday Reset

6 comments:
Well it was an interesting 2 plus hours on The TEAM 1260 last night. We took over from Corey Graham after the post game show and covered quite a bit of ground in the world of prospects on The Pipeline Show.

We kicked things off with Sam Cosentino from Rogers Sportsnet, breaking down the skills competition at the Top Prospects game and looking ahead to the game on Wednesday.

From there we spoke with Andy Baggot of the Wisconsin State Journal about the season so far for the NCAA Badgers and other contenders in the WCHA including a suddenly surging North Dakota, a slumping Minnesota and the perennial powerhouse Pioneers from Denver.

After playing Bad Ass trivia and giving away a Dean Youngblood T-shirt courtesy of Mad Brothers, we spoke with Oilers prospect Rob Schremp who was ripped by Craig MacTavish Sunday morning. Both Guy and I don't have a particular problem with what MacTavish said about Schremp, but mostly with who he said it to. What did Schremp think? Hear for yourself, and also check out Guy's theory about MacTavish at the end of the interview.

Also in the 2nd hour we spoke with Nathan White from the St. John Telegraph Journal about the mega trades in the QMJHL and who is challenging Rimouski to be at the Memorial Cup, and lastly we welcomed Louis Leblanc from the Omaha Lancers to the show as our 2009 draft prospect performer of the week. The Montreal product is heading to Harvard next year and is currently ranked 23rd by ISS.

If you missed it live you can 'click the archive' where you can hear all the interviews from last night's show as well as a complete library from every show we've done since we went on the air back in 2006!



Just a note that TPS won't be airing next Tuesday, the Oil Kings play and so do the Oilers so following the Kings game, Corey Graham will take over with the post game show. I'm going to take advantage of it and head out to Golden for a few days of skiing at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. I hear it's a great hill that gets tons of fresh snow regularly (100 cm last week) I can't wait to hit the powder. It's also the home of former TSN Edmonton reporter Ken Chilliback. He runs a bed and breakfast there, and I can tell you from experience it is a terrific place to stay. Thankfully we have satellite TV there so after I'm done with the powder on the hill, I can kick back and watch hockey.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

2009 Draft Performers of the Week - Jan 11/09

No comments:
Sports Management Worldwide (SMWW) / International Scouting Services (ISS) 2009 Draft Prospect Performers of the Week presented by The Pipeline Show & Hockey Now ending Sunday, January 11, 2009.

Each week, International Scouting Services (ISS), Sports Management Worldwide (SMWW), Hockey Now, and The Pipeline Show recognize the Top Draft Eligible player from each of the WHL, OHL, QMJHL, & USHL leagues for the upcoming 2009 NHL Entry Draft based on their play over the course of the week. Players are nominated and the selected by graduates of the SMWW Hockey GM & Scouting with each of the winners receiving a gift acknowledging their selection.

OHL – Nazem Kadri, London Knights

Nazem Kadri earns his third draft performer of the week award after posting a goal and 6 assists in 3 games for the Knights who currently sit first in their division and second in the OHL’s Western Conference. Kadri is amongst the top scorers in the OHL with 16 goals and 47 points in 30 games. Kadri is a London native and known for his creative playmaking and is currently ranked among the top ten draft prospects by ISS.

WHL – Evander Kane, Vancouver Giants

Evander Kane returned from the World Junior Hockey Championship with a bang recording 4 goals and adding 2 assists in 2 games and earning another draft performer of the week award. Kane, who is currently ranked 7th by ISS amongst NHL draft prospects has 26 goals, 54 points and a plus- 31 rating in 30 games for Vancouver. Kane is a player with great speed and who works hard despite his small stature.

QMJHL – Steven Anthony, Saint John Sea Dogs

Steven Anthony earns his first nomination as draft performer of the week after posting 3 goals and 5 assists in 2 games including a 6 point night in an 8-1 win over Gatineau. Anthony, a native of Halifax, NS and Saint John’s 1st Round pick in 2007 has 23 points in 37 games this season and is known for his smooth skating ability.

USHL – David Gerths, Lincoln Stars

David Gerths earns his first draft performer of the week nomination after posting 2 goals and 2 assists in two wins for the first place Stars. Gerths has 8 goals and 23 points in 26 games for Lincoln this season and was a member of Team USA at the World Jr A Challenge held in Camrose, AB this past November.

Monday, January 12, 2009

CSB Mid-Term Rankings (NA - skaters)

No comments:
There is lots of movement on the list of skaters in North America but there is no surprise at the top where John Tavares is ranked #1. Seen here as he joined the London Knights last week, Tavares had a terrific WJC that answered a lot of questions scouts had.

Matt Duchene is now #2 on the list which is a bit of a eyebrow-raiser for me. Despite not playing in the WJC he moves ahead of Jared Cowan (falls to #7) and is still above Evander Kane (#3) who has more points and did play for Canada in the WJC. Jordan Schroeder comes in at #4.

The top ranked defenceman in North America isn't Cowan or Ryan Ellis or even Russian Dmitri Kulikov... it's someone named Simon Despres! Despres plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs in the QMJHL and I know zippo about him but will get educated tomorrow night on The Pipeline Show as we are slated to welcome beat writer Nathan White to the program.

Speaking of Ellis, he's rated the 15th best skater in N.A. and that's behind Chicago Steel blueliner John Moore (8th).

A couple high school kids make a big impact on the list coming in at #14 and #16. Chris Kreider is a 6'2 forward and Zach Budish is an even bigger winger weighing in at 6.2" and 229 lbs.


The Brandon Wheat Kings are well represented at the top of the list with Brayden Schenn #5 and Scott Glennie #12. Glennie (pictured) is someone I think would be of interest to the Edmonton Oilers who I expect to be on the hunt for a scoring forward with above average size.

A few other guys fitting that category are Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Carter Ashton #10 (6'4, 210 lbs.), Zack Kassian #24 from Peterborough (6'2.5, 212 lbs.) and further down is Kamloops Blazers forward Jimmy Bubnick (6'1.5, 190 lbs.).

The top rated forward available in the USHL is Louis Leblanc, a Quebec-born product who plays for the Omaha Lancers this year and is committed to Harvard in the NCAA. He'll also join us tomorrow night on The Pipeline Show after recetnly being named a 2009 Draft Prospect Performer of the Week.

Some other local notables: Edmonton Oil Kings forward Tomas Vincour obviously didn't have a WJC that impressed the scouts as he's tumbled from 1st round consideration all the way down to #79 on the list... Edmonton products rate well with Dylan Olsen of the Camrose Kodiaks coming in at #23 and Levko Koper from Spokane at #44... The top ranked Oil Kings property is actually Philip Samuelsson of the Chicago Steel. The big blueliner is ranked #59 but has yet to officially committ to a NCAA program so a future with the Oil Kings (who drafted him back in 2007) is still possible...

Central Scouting Mid-Term Rankings (goalies-NA)

3 comments:
NHL Central Scouting has released their mid-term rankings today and as always, it's a ton o'fun to go over the list and take note of the glaring errors the pro scouts have made - yes, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Here's a look at the top 20 goalies from North America:

1 Edward PASQUALE - SAGINAW OHL
2 Scott STAJCER - OWEN SOUND OHL
3 Mike LEE - FARGO USHL
4 Olivier ROY - CAPE BRETON QMJHL
5 J.F. BERUBE - MONTREAL QMJHL
6 Darcy KUEMPER - RED DEER WHL
7 Cab MORRIS - HOTCHKISS SCHOOL HIGH-CT
8 Matt HACKETT - PLYMOUTH OHL
9 Alex VAZZANO - THE GUNNERY HIGH-CT
10 Michael ZADOR - OSHAWA OHL
11 Brandon MAXWELL - USA U-18 USDP
12 Nathan LIEUWEN - KOOTENAY WHL
13 Peter DI SALVO - BARRIE OHL
14 J.S. BOUCHER - VAL D'OR QMJHL
15 Jon GROENHEYDE - KAMLOOPS WHL
16 Chris PERUGINI - OTTAWA OHL
17 Michael CONDON - BELMONT HILL HIGH-MA
18 Jaroslav JANUS - ERIE OHL
19 Karel ST-LAURENT - SAINT JOHN QMJHL
20 Adam MURRAY - USA U-18

Notables WHLers outside the top 20 include #21 Steven Stanford of Prince Albert, #24 Regina's Damien Kelto (who would have been an Oil King this year if Robin Figren had approved the trade deadline deal last year with the Regina Pats) and #28 Jamie Tucker who is the heir apparent to Tyson Sexsmith in Vancouver.

The first thing I noticed when I looked at the new ranking was that Olivier Roy (left) was no longer the top rated goalie and in fact had dropped all the way to 4th. I'm not a scout and don't pretend to be one so I can't profess to say I know why he's fallen off but it is a bit of a surprise considering I hadn't heard anything to suggest that would happen.

Brandon Maxwell from the US Development Program has tumbled down the list as well falling all the way to 11th. His CHL rights were traded twice this season and he's now property of the Kitchener Rangers as Windsor included him in the deal last week to get Josh Unice and Ben Shutron.


I am a big fan of Mike Lee's after getting to watch him at the 2008 WJAC in Camrose last November. I Liked him on the ice and off of it as well when I had the chance to interview him. He's helped get expansion Fargo to 3rd place in their USHL conference and I'm hearing that they could be a real spoiler team for anyone who takes them on simply because of his stellar play between the pipes. I'm glad to see him ranked 3rd overall here.

Nathan Lieuwen in the #12th spot is a bit of a surprise. He gets a lot of hype out west and has a lot of potential despite a fairly average season so far. He's got great size though, I won't be surprised to see him higher than this at the end of the year.

The last one that jumps out at me is Jaroslav Janus all the way back at #18. By now everyone knows that he almost single handedly eliminated USA from the medal round at the 2009 WJC in Ottawa. I'll be stunned if Janus isn't one of the first ten goalies taken despite his age. He's now a proven performer in high pressure games and that will be something that sticks in the minds of the NHL teams on draft day. Clutch goaltending is worth its weight in gold and Janus checks in at just under 200 Lbs. (that's a lot of gold).

Back later to discuss the forwards and Euro goalies and skaters.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

School Wrap Sunday

No comments:
Here is what the USCHO.com/CBS Sports poll sat at heading into the weekend's games.

1 Notre Dame
2 Boston University
3 Minnesota
4 Northeastern
5 Denver
6 Miami
7 Princeton
8 Cornell
9 Boston College
10 Colorado College
10 Michigan
12 Vermont
13 New Hampshire
14 Air Force
15 Dartmouth
16 Ohio State
17 Wisconsin
18 Nebraska-Omaha
19 Alaska
20 Minnesota-Duluth

One key series featured #9 Boston College taking on #12 Vermont where the Catamounts came away with 3 of 4 possible points against their Hockey East rivals. They two teams skated to a 3-3 tie on Friday but Vermont came back from a two goal deficit to win 4-2.

Also in Hockey East, the #2 ranked Terriers of Boston University extended their unbeaten streak to 8 games with a 4-1 win over Maine. The Terriers will take on Providence on Tuesday night. BU has rattled off 5 consecutive wins including a big one on the road a week ago against the Denver Pioneers.

Unfortunatly for BU fans their hot streak won't push them to the #1 ranking because the Fighting Irish continue to play fantastic hockey. #1 ranked Notre Dame welcomed #19 Alaska (Fairbanks) to town and promptly shut them out in back-to-back games by 2-0 and 3-0 scores. Irish netminder Jordan Pearce stopped a combined 38 shots from the Nanooks.

In a series that was available for viewing in Canada, Michigan trounced the Miami Redhawks 5-1 on Saturday. Their Friday night tilt was postponed until Sunday due to "structural damage" at Yost but it didn't get any better for Miami as they were blanked 4-0.

The Wolverines story as of late is how sophomore Bryan Hogan has usurped senior Billy Sauer of the starting job for the Maize and Blue. Hogan is 13-1 this year with a .925 sv%, 1.75 GAA and now 3 shutouts. The undrafted Hogan just turned 20-years-old over the Christmas holidays.

In the biggest "upset" of the weekend, unranked North Dakota spanked the Golden Gophers of Minnesota by 6-3 and 6-1 scores. The fighting Sioux have been underachieving for much of the year but as we've seen from them over the last few years, they play much better in the second half of the schedule and seem to be repeating that again this season. Two reasons why UND is rolling is the improved production of freshmen Jason Gregoire and Brad Eidsness. Gregoire was a USHL standout and is enjoying a 4-game streak where he has 6 points. Eidsness has been victorious in 8 of his last 10 starts allowing more than 3 goals only once in that span. Expect the Sioux to get back into the top 20 when the new rankings come out on Tuesday.

The Wisconsin Badgers completed their season sweep of the Alaska-Anchorange Sea Wolves. Denver's 2-game sweep of Michigan Tech should be enough to bump them ahead of the Gophers in the ranking.

Another team who should be inching up the rankings is Cornell who swept Niagara in a non-conference series. The Big Red are getting stellar goaltending from Ben Scrivens, the 22-year-old who hails from Spruce Grove. He's also undrafted but has to be getting consideration with the way he's compiling impressive win, one after another. Some will argue that he's not seeing tough competition and there is some truth to that but consider this: he's allowed more than 2 goals only once this season yet has faced 25 or more shots nine times including a pair of +40 shot games early on.

Another reason that Cornell should move up is because of Princeton's shocking home losses to Union (3-2) and R.P.I. (5-1). The Tigers have dropped 3 of 4 in 2009 after going 14-2 from the start of the year to the Dec 30th. They are still in top spot in the ECAC standings but Cornell has 4 games in hand on the Tigers.