Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Lose in Overtime, 3-2

The Worcester Sharks, seemingly in control and possibly on their way to the franchises first shutout, were stunned by Gabe Gauthier's natural hat trick netting the Manchester Monarchs a 3-2 over time victory in front of 5,011 fans at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Saturday night.

The WorSharks got on the board first while on the power play when Dan Spang flipped a Kaspar pass on Monarchs netminder Erik Ersberg. Ersberg made the save, and a second save on Tomas Plihal, but Lukas Kaspar grabbed the lose puck and found the twine to give Worcester the lead at 7:10 of the first.

The game remained 1-0 through the end of the first and for most of the second period as end to end action with few whistles ruled the evening. The WorSharks would take a 2-0 lead on a goal that was generated entirely by hard work and crashing the net.

As Graham Mink's and Matt Moulson's matching roughing minors expired, Mink took off into the Manchester zone to challenge a Monarchs defender chasing a lose puck. Mink got their first, and tried a wrap around to Ersberg's right. Ersberg made the save easily, but the rebound went right to a streaking Josh Prudden. At this point Mink was in front of the net and tried to move out of Prudden's way, but Prudden instead five-holed Mink as he fired the puck over Ersberg and into the top corner with just 46 seconds remaining in period number two.

Manchester owned the third period, but Thomas Greiss was up to the challenge, making save after save. It looked like it would be Worcester night when Manchester's Troy Milam pushed a shot just wide of an open net after Greiss was down and out after making a great save.

Manchester would spoil the shutout bid with 3:11 remaining in the game when Gauthier would connect into a wide open net after a great cross slot pass by Milam. Manchester would continue to pressure, but when Brian Boyle was called for interference with just 89 seconds to go it appeared the WorSharks had weathered the storm.

The Monarchs, and referee Frederic L'Ecuyer, had something to say about that.

While the WorSharks were on the power play Manchester dumped the puck into the Worcester zone, and it was deflected into the netting with one minute remaining. After Manchester called its timeout, for no reason anyone can fathom, L'Ecuyer overruled the linesmen and moved the face-off into the Worcester zone from the neutral zone despite the puck being deflected out of play by a WorSharks defender while in the neutral zone.

After the face off the puck ended up in the corner to the left of Greiss. Manchester's Teddy Percell fired the puck across the slot where Gauthier picked it out of the air from above the crossbar and past Greiss. Greiss immediately jumped to his feet to protest, but L'Ecuyer continued to signal goal without conferring with either linesman or the goal judge.

Video reply shown on the DCU jumbotron appears to show Gauthier's stick above the crossbar and L'Ecuyer looking not at the net, but in the corner where the pass had come from.

In the overtime period Worcester survived a holding minor to Devin Setoguchi while he played defense. Setoguchi had been playing point on the power play and couldn't make a change before Boyle broke in on Greiss.

With under a minute to go Monarchs defender Jeff Likens flipped a shot on goal as Gauthier interfered with both defenseman Tom Walsh and Greiss. The puck his off of Gauthier and went past Greiss who was unable to get to the puck. Greiss again jumped to his feet to protest, but after a few second simply skated away from L'Ecuyer shaking his head.

The scratches for Worcester were Riley Armstrong (lower body injury), Marc Busenburg (healthy), Ashton Rome (healthy), Jonathan Tremblay (healthy), Craig Valette (healthy). Armstrong is not expected to miss much time.

Taylor Dakers didn't play but he was involved in the game, although not of his choosing. Brennan Evans checked Likens on to the dasher in front of the WorSharks bench and almost into Dakers' lap. Dakers put his arms up and pushed Likens back on to the ice. One wonders if he should be credited with a hit or a save.

The three stars of the game were:
Gauthier (Natural hat trick)
Kaspar (1g)
Josh Prudden (1g)
Considering that two of Gauthier's goals shouldn't have counted, my vote for the #1 star is Greiss with 42 saves.

Manchester outshot Worcester in the third period and overtime 28-5, including 10-0 in the overtime period. Those totals are the largest team differentials in the AHL this season.

Mike Morris looked like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as he jumped up to knock down a puck in front of the Manchester net. And just like Kareem, he got nothing but net and the "goal" was waived off.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) (unofficial)
Plihal 2-0/6-2/6-3 = 14-5
Morris 1-1/2-1/3-0 = 6-2
Raduns 1-1/2-3/4-2 = 7-6
Cavanagh 5-1/1-0/1-1 = 7-2
Prudden 1-1/1-0/0-1 = 2-2
Iggulden 1-0/0-0/0-0 = 1-0

Manchester 0 0 2 1--3
Worcester 1 1 0 0--2

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 8 (power play) (Plihal, Tomas 5; Spang, Dan 10) 7:10.
Penalties: MCH-Likens, Jeff (Hooking), 5:15. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Cross checking), 10:52. WOR-Plihal, Tomas (Hooking), 16:08.

2nd Period
Scoring: 2, Worcester-Prudden, Josh 3 (Mink, Graham 12; Spang, Dan 11) 19:13.
Penalties: MCH-Boyle, Brian (Hooking), 2:45. MCH-Purcell, Teddy (Slashing), 13:22. WOR-Mink, Graham (Obstr goalie interfe), 14:32. MCH-Moulson, Matt (Roughing), 16:55. WOR-Mink, Graham (Roughing), 16:55.

3rd Period
Scoring: 3, Manchester-Gauthier, Gabe 10 (Milam, Troy 7; Moulson, Matt 12) 16:49. 4, Manchester-Gauthier, Gabe 11 (Purcell, Teddy 30) 19:39.
Penalties: WOR-Iggulden, Mike (Hooking), 2:51. MCH-Boyle, Brian (Interference), 18:31.

Scoring: 5, Manchester-Gauthier, Gabe 12 (game winner) (Likens, Jeff 8; Milam, Troy 8) 4:19.
Penalties: WOR-Setoguchi, Devin (Holding), 0:46. MCH-Moulson, Matt (Roughing), 2:30. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Roughing), 2:30.

Shots On Goal
Manchester 10 7 18 10--45
Worcester 7 11 5 0--23

Power Play Conversions: Manchester - 0 of 5, Worcester - 1 of 4.
Goalies: Manchester-Ersberg, Erik (64:19, 23 shots, 21 saves; record: 8-4-3). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (64:19, 45 shots, 42 saves; record: 9-6-4).
A: 5011. Referee: Unknown. Linesmen: Boyle, Ed; Messier, Mark.


Max Giese: Sharks Prospect Update

Drafting and development continues to be the lifeblood that helps the San Jose Sharks organization maintain the position of a perennial Stanley Cup contender in the National Hockey League year in and year out. Max Giese evaluates the play of several Sharks prospects at the AHL affiliate in Worcester, and lists which players are lighting it up, and which players are stone cold.


LW Lukas Kaspar – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Lukas Kaspar has elevated his game to a new level this season, to become a bonafide dominant forward in the AHL. Kaspar's size, skating, and skill are all NHL caliber. Kaspar now needs to work on bringing those talents to the table every night to become a consistent offensive force. His two-way game is sound, and he can lift fans out of their seats with beautiful plays at times. The Sharks lack of depth on the left wing, and with Kaspar's rapid development it is more than curious that Kaspar has only seen 3 games this season.

D Dan Spang – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Similar in playing style to Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Spang loves to rush the puck up the ice and showcase his mobility and powerful shot. The trouble is that Spang has the tendency of coughing the puck up at the worse of times. Spang must refine his defensive game, and round out his skill set to have a shot at cracking the Sharks deep blueline in the next few years.

G Thomas Greiss – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Thomas Greiss combines superior leg strength, with powerful and fluid lateral movement. Athletically, Greiss has all the tools you look for in a future #1 netminder. Mentally tough, he can battle to win games or provide the big save when needed. Improving his rebound control and puck handling skills are at the top of his priority list right now.

C Ashton Rome – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Big and brash center that goes up and down the ice hard, finishing all of his checks with authority. The Sharks have to be encouraged with his physical play on the forecheck, and his willingness to play the body in the corners.

D Derek Joslin – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Defenseman Derek Joslin plays a mature puck moving game that has landed him on Worcester's top power play unit. Although, Joslin's skating is still a little raw, and he must continue to add strength, Joslin is a prized prospect in the organization. He plays an intelligentgame, similar to former Shark Tom Preissing.

C Mike Morris – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
San Jose's first round selection in the 2002 draft is now back on the ice, and receiving ample ice time centering the Worcester Sharks first line. Morris displays the talent and hockey sense that impressed the Sharks, although he still appears to be adjusting to the pro game. He appears to be a step late mentally, and is still looking to regain his past explosiveness with the puck. That is understandable, and it will take some time for him to get back into peak hockey shape after recovering from several multiple serious injuries in recent seasons. The Sharks have to be encouraged with his health and character. (A pre-season feature on Morris is available here).

LW Riley Armstrong – Worcester Sharks, AHL.
Riley Armstrong is a gritty 5-foot-11, 185 pound left wing that jumps out at you with his quickness and heavy shot. He is a fearless player with the puck, and one not shy to hit much larger opponents. In addition to registering career highs for games played (73), goals (19), power play goals (6), assists (17) and points (36) with the Worcester Sharks last season, Armstrong also lead all forwards in penalty minutes with 108. Armstrong has 6 goals, 6 assists, and 49 PIMs in 26 games played this season.

Other prospect related notables:


RW Nick Bonnino – Boston University Terriers, NCAA.
The Sharks selection of BU right wing Nick Bonnino apears to be turning into a late round gem. Coming out of Eastern Prep High School last season, the book on Bonnino was that he possessed all the hand skill and offensive instincts to be a scorer, if his skating and defensive play could catch up. That is exactly what has happened in his freshman season with Boston University as Bonnino is receiving accolades for his play. He is consistent on the power play, and has not left the Terrier's top two lines yet. Bonnino has a special offensive ability, and he very well could have been a first round selection based on pure skill alone. He has that sixth sense vision that all great play makers have, and he owns a fearsome wrist shot. His defensive game is vastly improved this year.

G Alex Stalock – Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, NCAA.
Stalock has always been regarded as an elite athlete in goal that needed to improve on his consistency and mechanics, both of which he has done this season. Alex Stalock has started every game this season for the Bull Dogs, and his striking play has catapulted Minnesota Duluth to multiple upsets early in the season. Stalock possesses all the athletic gifts to be a great goaltender, and he is starting to learn to use them consistently now. He is also like no other Sharks prospect before him, as his puck handling and puck movement skills are exemplary.

D Justin Braun – Massachusetts Minutemen, NCAA.
Now that Carle and Vlasic have graduated to the NHL, Justin Braun may be the Sharks best puck moving defenseman in the system. Neither the biggest nor fastest, Braun relies on his exceptional hockey sense and striking vision to emerge as an offensive threat from the blue line. In only his sophomore season, Braun has taken the reigns as the Minutemen's top power play quarterback, and he has consistently produced well on a week-to-week basis.

C Steven Zalewski – Clarkson Knights, NCAA.
The Sharks most NHL-ready prospect currently playing in the NCAA, Zalewski is a savvy two-way center with a mean streak. He has been Clarkson's most feared offensive force this season, without losing any of his defensive prowess. Selected in the fourth round along with Torrey Mitchell in the 2004 draft, Zalewski is following the same career trajectory and should turn pro immediately after this season.

D Nick Petrecki – Boston College, NCAA.
The second of the Sharks two 2007 first round selections, Petrecki has been impressive as a freshman for the Eagles, despite his modest offensive numbers. Petrecki is a plus player every night, and he has already established himself as a feared physical presence in Hockey East. With Boston College missing two veteran defenseman, Petrecki has inherited ample ice time immediately.


C P.J. Fenton – Massachusetts Minutemen, NCAA.
After displaying glimpses of Torrey Mitchell speed and tenacity in his game a year ago, Fenton has failed to build on the momentum he gained last year in the NCAA tournament. He has been slow to find his offensive touch this season. A spirited and fast two-way center, Fenton is a promising prospect that projects well as a third or fourth line center, capable of killing penalties and utilizing his speed to cause problems for the opposition.

RW Carter Lee – Lake Superior State, NCAA.
After losing his scholarship from the Northeastern Huskies for "Simply not being good enough", Carter Lee has struggled early with the Lake Superior State Lakers. He was academically ineligible to play earlier this season, and his lackadaisical work ethic off the ice should be a concern.

D James DeLory – Oshawa Generals, OHL.
The selection of James DeLory was a surprising one amongst the scouting community, and it continues to look suspect with DeLory's recent play. DeLory is a towering defenseman with great size and strength. An aggressive defender, DeLory has a mean streak and decent mobility, but questionable decision making has not improved. His stock as a prospect is so in doubt that the Sharks may elect not to sign him after this season and relinquish his rights. DeLory was suspended recently by the Ottawa coaching staff for unknown reasons, and he has yet to establish himself as a go-to defenseman for the Generals.

[Update] Western defenders highlight talent pool - Kyle Woodlief for Red Line Report.

[Update2] Sharks fall 2007 junior prospects update - Hockeys Future.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks reassign forward Devin Setoguchi to AHL Worcester - Worcester Sharks.

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has reassigned forward Devin Setoguchi to the Worcester Sharks, San Jose’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League.

Setoguchi was recalled from Worcester on Oct. 28 and made his NHL debut on Oct. 29 at Dallas, scoring two goals. In 24 games with San Jose, Setoguchi posted ten points (eight goals, two assists). The six-foot, 205-pound native of Taber, Alberta was originally selected by San Jose in the first round (8th overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.

The Sharks return to the DCU Center on Saturday, December 29th against the Monarchs, with the first 3,000 fans through the gates picking up a hand signed Mike Iggulden collector’s card. The evening will also feature post game fireworks as the Sharks celebrate the upcoming New Year. On Sunday, SpongBob SquarePants will join FINZ as the Sharks host the Lowell Devils at 4:05p.m.

For more information on these and other promotions, or to purchase tickets, call the Sharks offices at 508-929-0500 or check out the new www.sharksahl.com. All games can be heard live on 580 WTAG, as well as online through B2 Networks, by following the link on the Sharks website at www.sharksahl.com.


Fox Sports Net Bay Area's 2007-08 NHL Extra Schedule

Just finished watching the Washington Capitals late 3-2 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Fox Sports Net's NHL Extra. Former Shark Matt Bradley scored with less than three minutes remaining to give the Capitals their first win in 4 games.

Fox Sports Bay Area announced their NHL Extra schedule in early December. From December 8th, 2007 to April 3rd, 2008, FSNBA will air 30 "out-of-market" NHL games from Comcast affiliates SportsNet Chicago (Chicago Blackhawks), Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic (Washington Capitals) and Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (Philadelphia Flyers).

FSN Bay Area's 2007-08 NHL Extra broadcast schedule:
(Date/Day/Team/Opponent/PST Time)

Dec-8, Saturday, WAS vs ATL, 4:00PM
Dec-10, Monday, WAS vs NJ, 4:00PM
Dec-13, Thursday, PHI vs MTL, 4:00PM
Dec-18, Tuesday, PHI vs PHO, 4:00PM
Dec-20, Thursday, WAS vs MTL, 4:00PM
Dec-26, Wednesday, WAS vs TB, 4:00PM
Dec-27, Thursday, WAS vs PIT, 4:30PM
Dec-29, Saturday, PHI @ TB, 10:00AM

Jan-1, Tuesday, WAS vs OTT, 1:00PM
Jan-1, Tuesday, CHI @ LA, 7:30PM
Jan-3, Thursday, WAS @ BOS, 4:00PM
Jan-8, Tuesday, CHI @ MTL, 4:30PM
Jan-10, Thursday, PHI @ NYR, 4:00PM
Jan-17, Thursday, WAS vs EDM, 4:00PM
Jan-18, Friday, CHI @ COL, 6:00PM
Jan-22, Tuesday, PHI vs NJ, 4:00PM
Jan-24, Thursday, PHI vs PIT, 4:00PM
Jan-31, Thursday, PHI vs NYR, 4:00PM
Feb-6, Wednesday, WAS @ PHI, 4:00PM
Feb-8, Friday, WAS vs CAR, 4:00PM
Feb-10, Sunday, CHI @ VAN, 7:00PM
Feb-13, Wednesday, WAS @ ATL, 4:00PM
Feb-26, Tuesday, WAS vs MIN, 4:00PM
Feb-28, Thursday, CHI @ DAL, 5:30PM
Mar-6, Thursday, PHI vs TB 4:00PM
Mar-21, Friday, WAS @ ATL, 4:30PM
Mar-25, Tuesday, WAS @ CAR, 4:00PM
Mar-26, Wednesday, CHI @ CBJ, 4:00PM
Mar-27, Thursday, WAS @ TB, 4:30PM
Apr-3, Thursday, WAS vs TB, 4:00PM

* FSNBA's 2007-08 NHL EXTRA schedule is subject to change.

[Update] Tales from the Tank Vol IX 12/24 - John Shrader for Fox Sports Net Bay Area.

[Update2] Giants land cable giant, sides say deal benefits other area pro teams - SJ Mercury News.

The Giants, coming off a last-place finish, are moving into more rarefied air off the field. They have acquired a stake in FSN Bay Area as part of a deal that locks up their TV partnership for decades... The 25-year deal reportedly will give the Giants at least 20 percent of the station. Although terms weren't announced, that stake could be a $100 million asset; last year, Comcast bought 60 percent of FSN Bay Area and 50 percent of the similarly sized FSN New England for a total of $570 million...

Programming director Ted Griggs said the news operation will be harsh when needed and added that other franchises will benefit from the Giants' involvement. "A rising tide lifts all boats," he said. "This will positively affect Sharks coverage, A's coverage, Warriors coverage. We're upping the ante for everybody. We made promises to the Giants as part of this long-term deal. It's not in our DNA to do something for one team and not do it for the others."...

One other sign of Comcast's growing influence: FSN Bay Area announced "NHL Extra," a slate of 30 out-of-market games that will air here because they're produced by Comcast affiliates in Chicago, Washington and Philadelphia.

To say some of the recent broadcast developments have flown under the radar would be a gross understatement. Would a media conglomorate please buy out hockeywebcasts.com, add television and radio data, and offer a widget narrow enough to fit on the sidebar of any blog or website template (170-200 pixels)? The first step in getting fans to watch your broadcast is letting them know when and where the games are on.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sharkspage

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sharkspage

- Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Sharkspage.


Anaheim Ducks silence the Sharks 5-2, frustration mounts for San Jose

San Jose Sharks vs Anaheim Ducks
Craig Rivet Kent Huskins hockey hit
Evgeni Nabokov Todd Bertuzzi penalty shot

After being shutout 2-0 Tuesday in the second of three games this week against Anaheim, San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said the playoff-like intensity will help him learn about this team. "This gives me a chance to look right in everybody's eye and see who can play in this kind of atmosphere, this kind of mini playoffs, against the Stanley Cup defending champions. You have decisions to make after what you see." Wilson said.

The Sharks responded with a difficult 3-2 OT shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. Coyotes captain Shane Doan outmuscled two Sharks before scoring a game tying goal shorthanded with 42 seconds left in regulation. Phoenix prevailed in the shootout. The loss initiated a 2-hour team meeting Friday between the Sharks players, which was attended by general manager Doug Wilson. The players voiced their concerns, some of which were made public by veteran center Jeremy Roenick in an article by Mark Purdy of the Mercury News.

Saturday's matchup with Anaheim, the 3-games-in-one-week series finale, would be a benchmark game for the San Jose Sharks. What was learned after the Ducks 5-2 road win, was that the Sharks have some work ahead of them to address recent concerns. Problems on home ice, problems minimizing mistakes late in games, and problems being outworked on the power play will take weeks to solve, not a single game.

The Sharks came out with intensity Saturday night against Anaheim. The room to move in the neutral zone was minimal, a stick or a hard pass greeted players as they turned to receive the first pass up ice. San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov shut down a Todd Bertuzzi penalty shot attempt in the first period. Bertuzzi stalled with the puck on his backhand, and then tried a quick snap shot from his forehand that was unsuccessful. Kent Huskins intiated another Bertuzzi breakaway in the third period with a slick bank pass off of the right boards. Bertuzzi again pulled up with the puck on his backhand, and instead of moving it forehand he lifted it high over the glove of Nabokov (third photo above) for his 5th goal of the season.

Giguere remained stoic in net throughout the game. After a first period scramble in front with numerous players blocking his vision, a shot dribbled through traffic just wide of the right post. Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic checked Ryan Getzlaf off the puck at the blueline, breaking up an Anaheim rush on the play. Anaheim opened the scoring with a clean faceoff win by Samuel Pahlsson. Pahlsson drew the puck back to Chris Pronger, who unleashed a hard shot that beat Nabokov high glove-side. Score 1-0 Anaheim. San Jose responded with a quick scoring chance at the other end of the ice, but Anaheim would never relinquish the lead in this game. On the Ducks intermission report, Todd Bertuzzi discussed his promotion to a line with Getzlaf and Perry. "My role does not change on the top line" Bertuzzi said.

Milan Michalek cut around Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin to lift a puck off Giguere and over the crossbar to start the second period. Kyle McLaren followed a first period Jeremy Roenick hit against George Parros with a solid check of his own in the second period. Marc-Edouard Vlasic upended Parros at the end of the third period (first photo above), but the Anaheim enforcer finished a disciplined game without taking a penalty. Corey Perry scored on the power play with assists by Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Pronger. Anaheim and San Jose each finished 1-5 with the man advantage.

Anaheim created two scoring chances with a strong cycle behind the San Jose net, and then pressured defenseman Christian Ehrhoff as he was trying to clear the puck. Ehrhoff attempted to backhand it out of the zone down the middle of the ice, and it was intercepted by Scott Niedermayer. Niedermayer immediately let loose with a shot on net. Bobby Ryan and Chris Kunitz outnumbered Kyle McLaren in front of Nabokov. McLaren checked Ryan to the ice, Kunitz converted the rebound opportunity. Score 3-0 Anaheim.

A cross-ice pass by Patrick Marleau deflected by Giguere for the Sharks first goal of the game on the powerplay at 3:17 of the third. The crowd tried to briefly rally around the home team at HP Pavilion before an even strength goal by Todd Bertuzzi 44 seconds later sucked the life out of the building. Marcel Goc added an even strength goal on a wrap-around at 11:40 of the third period, his first goal of the season. Anaheim defenseman Sean O'Donnell added an empty net goal at 18:55 as the Sharks pulled off a 5-2 win, earning two dominant victories at HP Pavilion 5 days apart.

J.S. Giguere earned his 14th win of the season, making 27 saves on 29 shots. Evgeni Nabokov made 19 saves on 23 shots. Youtube Sharks-Ducks video highlights are available here. A photo gallery from the game is available here.

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

"It's in a bad place... some of it is lack of confidence. We talked about this. The same people aren't ready to compete when it mattered most. It's going to be an interesting practice tomorrow. We'll see if the players doing the talking are going to back up their words at tomorrow's practice. We don't get the pucks out. We see somebody coming hard and we pas that on to somebody else, and that is just not what you do."

"Somebody makes a mistake and you get ready, you block the shot and you get pucks out. For awhile we did that in the first, but then you lose a faceoff and the puck goes in the net. We took a bad penalty up the ice, but those are the ones that come back to haunt you."

Post-game comments by Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

"I think the one thing that we have been able to demonstrate in the last 5 or 6 games for ourselves is how hard we have to work to have success. I think that it's the commitment to the work ethic. When we talk about backside pressure, we talk about one on one battles. You start with the puck with faceoffs, you start with strong defensive zone coverage, and you talk about your penalty killing and all those things have got to be areas that you focus on to have improvement."

"This group has worked extremely hard here and hopefully it's a sign for us to continue on our way. But we are still in a huge battle and we know the Sharks, and with the rest of the teams in the Pacific division it is going to be a dog fight right to the end."

[Update] Sharks Can't Capitalize Following Meeting - SJsharks.com.

Pavelski The Sharks definitely didn’t get a quick fix from their two-hour meeting on Friday as they fell to the Ducks 5-2 Saturday night. The loss was the Sharks third in as many games (all at home) and the club held a brief gathering following the contest. "I don't think we were unprepared," said Joe Pavelski. "There was a big time lack of execution. We’ve got to get over the hump. We're not a bad hockey team. We have to keep going and keep believing. Maybe we have to take one step back to take one step forward."

"Obviously, this was not the outcome we were looking for," said Craig Rivet. "A lot of things were said that were heartfelt (on Friday). This team will not stay down. It is a great bunch. We’re not where we want to be, but we'll never quit."

Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson was clearly not accepting the results. "The same people were not ready to compete when it mattered the most," said Wilson. "You see someone coming hard and you pass the problem to someone else. You (have to) take a hit to make a play. If someone makes a mistake, you block a shot to help out."

[Update2] All talk, no action as Sharks lose again - SJ Mercury News.

Anyone who thought a two-hour, closed-door meeting would get the Sharks out of their current funk got a rude awakening Saturday night. The Sharks fell 5-2 to the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion, their fourth home game in a row without a victory and their second loss to their Southern California rivals over that stretch.

[Update3] Ducks maintain their reign, They hold off the Sharks, their sixth victory in a row in San Jose - OC Register.

The sixth in a row might as well have counted for two for the Ducks. The big question entering Saturday was whether the Ducks could extend their five-game winning streak on San Jose’s home ice in the finale of a three-game mini-series between the teams.

Not only did the Ducks come out with a 5-2 victory, they defused a San Jose team that was coming off perhaps its worst loss this season by withstanding a third-period rally in front of a boisterous crowd of 17,496 at HP Pavilion.


ECHL: Bakersfield survives six goal third period to earn a 6-4 win at Stockton

ECHL Bakersfield Condors Stockton Thunder
Bakersfield Condors goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji
Bakersfield Condors goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji

Bakersfield Condors goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji make 27 saves en route to a 6-4 win Friday night over the Stockton Thunder. Fukufuji outlasted former University of Denver goaltender Glenn Fisher in a game that saw 9 goals scored in the final 2 periods.

The Condors opened the scoring with two goals by captain Sean Venedam and left wing Brett Lutes in the first 25 minutes of play. The ebb and flow of this game definitely saw the action ebb early, but that changed after Lutes' goal 4:27 into the second period. Stockton agitator Adam Huxley, who appeared in a preseason game with the Edmonton Oilers, dropped the gloves with Condors right wing Jason Goulet for an extended bout at center ice. Goulet landed two hard shots and fell on top of Huxley to finish the fight, but the crowd roared its approval. It changed the complexion of the game and the momentum swung heavily in the Stockton Thunder's favor.

The Thunder scored 4 unanswered goals to run up a come-from-behind 4-2 lead. Left wing Jacob MicFlikier, who was named to the 2008 National Conference Allstar roster earlier in the day along with Stockton teammates Ryan O'Marra and captain Brad Farynuk, scored the first goal for Stockton off of a rebound in close. Stephane Goulet created a turnover in the offensive zone, before driving the net and firing a second shot off of the rebound. Fukufuji could not control the puck, and MicFlikier scored his 9th goal of the season to make the score 2-1. Six-foot-3, 225-pound Stockton defenseman Tim O'Connell came out of an 8-month retirement for the game with Bakersfield. O'Connell tied the game at 2-2 with a wrist shot from the blueline on the power play.

Stockton defenseman Mark Adamek and right wing Stephane Goulet (PP) added goals in the third period to increase the lead over Bakersfield to 4-2. Then things began to fall apart for the Thunder. With the crowd of 5466 fans still buzzing after two exuberant goal celebrations, Bakersfield's Mark Derlago converted from in close to make it a one goal game. The roaring crowd transformed into an anxious one, but they did not sit on the edge of their seat for long. Tim Konsorada scored two consecutive goals for the visiting Condors, one shorthanded, in a minute and 43 second span to give Bakersfield a 5-4 lead. The stunned crowd watched Stockton try to tie the game late, but an empty net goal by Sean Venedam, his second of the game, iced the 6-4 win for Bakersfield.

Notes: Yutaka Fukufuji (6-5-0) finished with 27 saves on 31 shots to earn his 6th win of the season. Glenn Fisher (6-5-0) made 26 saves on 32 shots. Three stars of the game: Ryan O'Marra, L.P. Lachance, Steven Later. The Stockton Thunder will host the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game and skills competition January 22-23. Center Ryan O'Marra was the NY Islanders first round selection in 2005, 15th overall. O'Marra, Robert Nilsson and a 2007 1st round pick were dealt to the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Smyth on February 27, 2007. The Stockton Thunder have won the ECHL attendance crown the last two regular seasons, drawing 244,085 total fans to Stockton Arena in 2006-07.

[Update] Thunder loses 3rd consecutive game to Condors - Stockton Record.

In the locker room after the game, the Stockton players tried to explain how an inspiring comeback which led to a 4-2 lead with 10 minutes left turned into a loss.

"I would say this is a perfect example of our inconsistency," said defenseman Mark Adamek, whose goal gave the Thunder the lead in the third period. "I think it's a loss of focus. Putting the final nail in the coffin is something a team has to learn, and we're not there yet."

[Update2] Thunder Rookie Fisher Reassigned To Springfield - ECHL.com.

The Stockton Thunder announced that rookie goaltender Glenn Fisher has been recalled to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League. The Thunder are the ECHL affiliate of the Falcons of the AHL and the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.

Selected in the fifth round (148th overall) by Edmonton in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, the 24 year old, who attended training camp with the Oilers, is 5-5-1 with two shutouts, a goals-against average of 3.51 and a save percentage of .893 in 13 games for Stockton.

[Update3] All-Star Bound: Micflikier, O'Marra, Farynuk, Three to represent Thunder on the ice for mid-season classic at Stockton Arena - Our Sports Central.

2007 NHL fan map for California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona

Common Census 2007 NHL fan map

Commoncensus.org is an open source mapping project using user input to generate interactive maps on a local, regional and national level. The reliability of the data hinges on the amount of participation from the public, but there are a few interesting "sphere of influence" trends that can be examined as the project builds a userbase.

The Common Census projects measures the sports sphere of influence with data from 25270 NFL fans, 25099 MLB fans, 19144 NBA fans, and 17412 NHL fans. Looking at the 2007 NHL Fan Map geographically, the Dallas Stars (1260) have the largest sphere of influence drawing fans from 9 states, with Colorado (886) and San Jose (622) coming in second and third. Numerically, the Detroit Red Wings (1491), Boston Bruins (1332), and Dallas Stars (1260) have the most data to draw from with this project.

With 622 entries from San Jose fans, 307 from Los Angeles, 229 from Anaheim, and 157 from Phoenix, it is possible to draw an early map of fan support for different NHL teams in the Southwest. The Sharks have large blobs of support in the SF Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, and northern Oregon regions. Allegiences are a little mixed between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings in southern California, Phoenix holds sway over Arizona, Las Vegas appears to be conflicted.

[Related Post] 2005 Sports Map of NHL fans in California - Sharkspage.


Phoenix Coyotes tie game with 42 seconds left, down San Jose Sharks 3-2 with OT shootout win

Nicholas Boynton hockey fight Douglas Murray
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Ilja Bryzgalov

The Phoenix Coyotes sent a shot across the bow of the Pacific Division with a 3-2 OT shootout win at HP Pavilion on Thursday night. From the drop of the puck it was evident that this is a different Coyotes club from one that has lost 8 straight regular season games to the San Jose Sharks, and one that has been outscored 15-1 in the last four.

The renewed confidence in Phoenix radiates from the goaltending crease out. Waiver pickup Ilja Bryzgalov anchors a roster with a competitive blend of speed and physical play from the blueline. Bryzgalov in net looks like a giant isosceles triangle. He blocks a significant amount of the crease down low, and is extremely quick returning to a set position after making a save. He also brings a little of the swagger over from a very successful Anaheim franchise. In the pre-game warmups, when many of the Coyotes were looking across the ice at one of the largest and fastest lineups in the NHL, one that has pasted Phoenix for the better part of two seasons, Bryzgalov was bouncing a little to the arena music while taking a few hot laps around the zone.

The action was intense early, with Bryzgalov sprawling across the crease to shut down Milan Michalek and Matt Carle on a scrambly play from in close. Evgeni Nabokov matched his fellow Russian save for save, including a dive to pull the puck off the goal line before Coyotes center Daniel Winnik could reach it. A late run on Nabokov lead to a fight between Douglas Murray and Nicholas Boynton (see photo above) at the end of the first.

Before the game, San Jose head coach Ron Wilson mentioned that the Sharks are in a better position at this point in the season than they were last year. A disappointing 2-0 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday raised some concerns about competitive effort and decision making, but it is far too early in the season for the "blow up the team" talk over problems that can be fixed. Last season the Sharks appeared confident, able to adapt on the fly and adjust their style of play to match an opponent and win at a healthy clip.

This season the Sharks have been lights out on the road (12-3-2, 1st), suffocating on the penalty kill (87.4%, 2nd), proficent at blocking shots and keeping down goals against (73GA, 1st), but home at HP Pavilion the San Jose Sharks have been one-dimensional. The oft-repeated quote that they are "trying to do too much" in front of their home fans, should more accurately read "playing not to lose". The Sharks adapt to a physical game, but can not minimize mistakes and turnovers. They match another team stride for stride early, but wilt once they are behind the 8-ball. San Jose can not score shootout goals, or to prevent them from being scored. The Sharks are finding ways to lose at HP Pavilion, and they would find another Thursday night against Phoenix.

Mike York scored a power play goal to open the third period. The goal broke Evgeni Nabokov's shutout streak against Phoenix at 271 minutes and 20 seconds, the 2nd longest shutout streak by any NHL goaltender against a single NHL team since the 1989-1990 season. Torrey Mitchell answered with his 6th goal of the season.

Jim Gintonio described the multiple player melee that took place in the third period for the Arizona Republic:

The Sharks went ahead 2-1 early in the third period when they went on a five-minute power play. After a melee in which seven penalties were called -- five against the Coyotes -- San Jose had a five-minute power play, and Jeremy Roenick scored with eight seconds left in the man advantage.

During the fights, the Coyotes' Daniel Carcillo suffered a knee injury and had to be escorted off the ice. There was no word as of Friday morning on his status.

More video is available here. The frustration mounted inside HP Pavilion and on the Sharks bench, as they could not generate quality scoring chances with the two man advantage. Jeremy Roenick converted with 10 seconds left in the penalty from a very sharp angle, and the entire Shark tank breathed a collective sigh of relief. But that was premature, short-handed with Bryzgalov pulled at 19:18 of the third period the Sharks won a faceoff, but Milan Michalek turned it over at the blueline. Coyotes captain Shane Doan not only threw two checks against seperate Sharks players, but he iced the game tying goal with 42 seconds remaining.

Scoreless after the overtime period, the game was decided by an overtime shootout. Joe Pavelski ringed the first attempt for San Jose off of the post. Peter Mueller wristed a shot passed Evgeni Nabokov for Phoenix. Patrick Marleau and Torrey Mitchell could not answer for San Jose. Sharks lose their first game of the season to Phoenix, 3-2.

[Update] Coyotes Comeback, Sharks fall 3-2 in a shootout - SJsharks.com.

Emotions were on the rise after the two goals. Following a Phoenix rush, Rivet stepped in front of Steven Reinprecht who kept pushing toward Nabokov and the shoving quickly resulted in a group brawl. Bernier was first on the scene in Rivet’s defense and took on Keith Yandle. David Carcillo jumped in as the third man with Bernier and Yandle and Roenick jumped to his aid. As the linesman attempted to separate most intense grapplers, Carcillo fell back over Roenick and had to be helped from the ice.

The sequence brought more than 35 minutes in penalties with Carcillo providing Team Teal a five-minute power play for being an extra man in a fight. The extended power play produced some up-beat play with rebound opportunities for Bernier and Grier.

Then David Ballard took a two minute penalty for roughing creating a five-on-three opportunity for San Jose. A play as easy as one, two, three from Thornton and Sandis Ozolinsh resulted in Roenick’s 502 goal of his career and seventh of the season. Thornton also reached a milestone as his assist on the goal was in 700th career point.

[Update2] Coyotes finally snap Sharks shutout streak - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] After the Sharks 1-0 win in Phoenix on December 7th, I asked PB of One Fan's Perspective about the impact Bryzgalov could make with the team, and about the Coyotes nascent youth movement:

In my view, Bryzgalov has been sensational, and he has to be. He will be tested as well playing for a growing team after coming here from winning the Stanley Cup. All reports are that he is excited for the chance and wants to be here. Clearly, he is the guy and I have been downright impressed. He has changed the complexion of the franchise literally overnight.

I think this particular youth movement is for real though. Don Maloney thinks Bryzgalov is the perfect age for the franchise and with Josh Tordjman in the AHL and possibly with David LeNeveu, they are set for goalies, provided they keep developing like they are.

The Coyotes felt that last year's development for Hanzal and Mueller in the WHL went as well as could be expected so they are also here for the long haul. The future is getting brighter, which can only help this market. There have been only three games (most recently against Chicago - ugh, that was ugly) where the Coyotes didn't compete hard. I think there won't be any other older veterans arriving here in the foreseeable future. (I've got to get up to see a Sundogs game as the Coyotes have a prospect in Tyler Reddenbach that has been playing extremely well.)

PB promises to have more from the game about Jeremy Roenick, the officials, and Daniel Carcillo on his blog tomorrow. Me? I am off to Stockton, for a Thunder-Bakersfield ECHL Battle of Central California throwdown. Puck drops at 7:30PM.


Max Giese: Interview with 2007 first round draft pick, Boston College defenseman Nick Petrecki

Sharkspage recently interviewed San Jose Sharks 2007 first round draft selection (28th overall) Nick Petrecki. The 6-foot-3, 213 pound Boston College freshman has 2 assists in 12 games played for the Eagles this season.

An imposing physical defenseman with exceptional skating ability, Petrecki shares his thoughts on his first collegiate season, how the NCAA game compares with the USHL, and discusses how hands-on the San Jose Sharks have been in his development.

[Q] What do pride yourself in being able to bring to Boston College this season?

[NP] What I bring to the table for my team this year I believe is my physical presence on the ice, I am a big guy and I take great pride in playing physical and separating the opposition from the puck. I play a simple game and make the first strong breakout pass to get the team out of the zone quickly, and getting my quick shot on net will hopefully create chances for our forwards. I bring a lot of energy and grit to the table, and compete every night.

[Q] What areas in your game do you feal still need work on?

[NP] As for what I need to improve on I believe I can always work on my skating, my position away from the puck while on defense, and creating offensive opportunities for our club.

[Q] What has your ice time been like?

[NP] As of right now my ice time has been outstanding, and I am very grateful for the opportunity I have form coach Jerry York and his staff.

[NP] Have you played with multiple defenseman or have you been part of a set pairing most of the season?

[NP] I have been paired up with our senior captain defenseman Mike Brennan, and I think we complement each other real well. He has taken me under his wing, and has showed my how to play the game of college hockey.

[Q] How big of a step was it for you going from the USHL to the NCAA?

[NP] As for the step from junior to the college game, I believe it has been great for me personally. I think playing in the USHL for the past two years really prepared me for Hockey East, and I have to thank the Omaha Lancers (USHL) organization, and head Coach Mike Hastings for that. The only real difference I have seen is the amount of skill the top three lines have. So many of the forwards in this league are so quick and so skilled, you have to be prepared at all times.

[Q] Have you been staying in touch with the San Jose Sharks this season?

[NP] I do stay in touch with the Sharks, and talk to them about once a month. They have seen me play a few times, starting in Minnesota for my first game, and they will continue to watch my progress over the year.

[Q] Have they given you anything particular to work on?

[NP] I check in with the strength coach to see what he wants me to focus on, especially in my leg strength and hips. As for on the ice they tell me to keep on working on being patient, and letting the game come to me and not forcing plays.

[Q] How was your experience at the Sharks Prospect Development Camp this summer?

[NP] My experience this summer at Sharks camp was great. I learned a lot from the older, wiser group of guys that were at the camp, such as Matt Carle. It was great to see the level those guys play at, and what it will have to take in order to get to that next level. The coaches worked with me a lot, and helped me with my skating and getting my shot off quick. Overall it was great to be able to be a part of it.

[Q] Do you have a timetable for when you would like to turn pro?

[NP] It's really tough to say when I will be able to play pro. Obviously that is my dream and I want to reach it at some point but I am in no rush. If it takes all four years of school to get me ready for pro hockey then that is what I will do. The NHL will always be there so there is no rush. I will take it year by year.

[Update] Nathan Gerbe Earns Hockey East Player Of The Week Honors, Junior forward registered five points - four goals and one assist - in win over Harvard - Boston College.

[Update2] Michigan teams tournament-bound - Michigan College Hockey.

Several Michigan-based college hockey teams will be competing in holiday tournaments in two weeks before the second half of the regular season kicks in. In arguably the most prestigious tournament of them all, Michigan, Michigan State, Michigan Tech and this year’s invited school, Providence, will take part in the Great Lakes Invitational Dec. 28-29 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit...

Northern Michigan will be in the Denver Cup with host Denver and Dartmouth and Sacred Heart from Dec. 28-29 in Colorado. NMU opens the tournament against Dartmouth. At the Catamount Cup Dec. 29-30 in Burlington, Vt., Western Michigan will do battle with host Vermont along with Quinnipiac and Holy Cross. The Broncos face Quinnipiac in their first game.

Ferris State, Brown (and ex-Wayne State assistant coach Danny Brooks), Army and Connecticut go after the UConn Hockey Classic title out east. FSU will tackle Brown on Dec. 28. The other Michigan schools – Lake Superior State and Wayne State – are idle until the first weekend in January.

17,197 San Jose Sharks fans the sing national anthem

17,197 San Jose Sharks fans in attendance at HP Pavilion sang the national anthem prior to a December 18th, 2008 National Hockey League game between the Anaheim Ducks and the San Jose Sharks. The Anaheim Ducks earned a 2-0 shutout.


Not enough battle for San Jose in Battle of California game with Anaheim, Ducks win 2-0

Doug Weight Douglas Murray hockey photo
Craig Rivet Ryan Carter hockey fight
Steve Bernier Jean-Sebastien Giguere San Jose Sharks Anaheim Ducks

The Sharks and Ducks faced off Tuesday night for the second of three games between the California franchises this week. After a strong showing in Anaheim resulted in a 2-1 overtime shootout win on Sunday, the Sharks were shutout for the first time this season in a 2-0 loss to the Ducks at HP Pavilion. San Jose head coach Ron Wilson had no answers for his team's flat performance in the final 40 minutes of play. The Sharks managed only 4 shots on goal in the second period, and could not generate any sustained offensive pressure in the third.

Similar to Sunday night, both team clogged up the middle of the ice and prevented the large wingers on either side from gathering speed in the neutral zone. The Sharks Rusanowsky-Baker radio broadcast team said in Anaheim that the matchup between these two teams would have to be won in the trenches. The same tight checking scenario applied in San Jose.

Right wing Mike Grier registered the two best scoring chances of the game for the Sharks in the first period. Grier intercepted a pass at the blueline for a short-handed breakaway, but J.S. Giguere closed down the five hole in time to make the save. Later Torrey Mitchell fought off a check along the half boards and backhanded a shot on Giguere which he could not see, or control. As the puck laid near the goal line, Grier could not punch it home. "We are past the point of morale victories. Every game we have played this team has taken a point off of us... We need to find a way to get pucks passed Giguere, and put more pressure on their defense." Grier said after the game.

The Kunitz-Perry-Getzlaf line for Anaheim beat the Sharks to the puck early in the second period. Kunitz carried the puck down the left wing and hit an unchecked Correy Perry with a cross ice pass to the top of the crease. Perry rifled a shot up high over the glove of Nabokov. Score 1-0 Anaheim. The physical intensity of the game picked up a couple of notches after a hit along the boards by Craig Rivet was answered with a big open ice check by Todd Bertuzzi on Sandis Ozolinsh. Shortly thereafter, Chris Pronger had his head down trying to gather a pass. Instead of laying a shoulder into the 6-foot-6 123 pound defenseman, Devin Setoguchi tried unsuccessfully to gain possession with his stick. Later in the shift Pronger crumpled Setoguchi against the end boards with a punishing check.

Defenseman Kyle McLarean answered the Pronger check by skating deep into the offensive zone to freight train Francois Beauchemin behind the Anaheim Ducks net. As the physical play was borderline getting out of hand, Anaheim Ducks heavyweight George Parros dropped the gloves with converted winger Rob Davison for a fight at 12:32. Parros landed several hard punches, but Davison finished the bout with a single leg takedown. Near the end of the second, Rob Niedermayer and Bobby Ryan broke in on a 2-on-1 against Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray. Niedermayer threaded the pass through two sticks, and Ryan scored the second goal of the game for the Anaheim Ducks.

The physical intensity continued after a scrum in the Sharks zone, early in the third period. Defenseman Craig Rivet dropped the gloves with rookie Ryan Carter and delivered several heavy punches before the referees broke up the fight. The remainder of the third period was notable for the stellar goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov, and a lack of crisp play and intensity from the San Jose Sharks. A turnover by Christian Ehrhoff at the blueline lead to a 2-on-0 breakaway for Bobby Ryan and Todd Bertuzzi. Ryan fed Bertuzzi, who one-timed it back to Ryan. Ryan shoveled the puck towards Nabokov, who extended his leg pad out at the last fraction of a second to make the save.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped all 20 shots he faced to register his 13th win of the season, and his first shutout. Evgeni Nabokov finished with 15 saves on 16 shots. The Sharks outshot the Anaheim Ducks 20-16, but finished 0-5 on the power play. Bobby Ryan's second period goal was the only power play conversion for Anaheim.

A photo gallery from the game is available here. Youtube Sharks-Ducks video highlights are available here.

Post-game quotes:

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

"We did not respond. In the second period we talked about it. The first period was ok, but we have to play better. We've shown second periods were we don't get the job done. We come out sloppy, and they took advantage of some poor plays. You turn the puck over, you have a shift where you are not concentrating, boom it is in the net. We have one line that was on the ice for all three goals that Anaheim scored in the series, without generating any offense. Not that we got that much offense from other people, but obviously it was pretty tight checking and we have to revamp a few things here. It was a big game, and you have to have people that get the job done in those big games."

"Inevitably you are going to get shutout at some point, but we shouldn't have played the way we did in a big game like this. We had an opportunity to put some distance between us and Anaheim. We let that slip. We did not build on how we performed the other night, which was the most disappointing part."

"Yes (I like 3 games against Anaheim in 1 week). This gives me a chance to look right in everybody's eye and see who can play in this kind of atmosphere, this kind of mini playoffs, against the Stanley Cup defending champions. You have decisions to make after what you see."

"The first period was fine, and then boom nothing in the second. I guess it is intensity, I don't really have the answer to that. They were more competitive tonight, we were more competitive in Anaheim. We were hungrier, and it is inexplicable to me to not have the extra passion for a game like tonight. To come out as flat as we were in the second period and let a game get away. We had some great chances in the first, but when you look back at it, it was Torrey Mitchell's line doing all the work, and the fourth line brought us some energy. But Joe's line and Patty's line, they did not have a very good night. It cost us."

Post-game comments from Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle:

"It was an evenly played hockey game and we were fortunate enough to get the first goal, then we got a big goal by the rookie Bobby Ryan. I don't know if we were the sharpest tonight, but we were effective in our checking game, and we did a good job of retreiving the puck and getting it out of the zone. I think that was the key to the game tonight. We grounded out a game here on the road, and those are not easy points for us in this building. I think we are two competitive hockey clubs evenly matched. That's what happens when you know one another, and we have played one another so many times."

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau:

"They won more battles than we did, all over the ice. The intensity was still there for us. They were finishing checks and we did at times. Huge thing by Davison to try to get things going. We had pretty good chances (after being down 2-0), we have to put more pressure on them. We shouldn't have to wait until the third period to try to come back. When you are down a couple goals, you have to do anything possible to try to get back into the game. There has to be something (between the road and home disparity), but we can't put our finger on it. I think if we play simple and play hard, and win more of the battles it will lead to us winning."

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks rookie center Torrey Mitchell:

"Me and Griersy have created a couple of short-handed opportunities, a couple of games on the penalty kill. Whenever we get a chance we will go. Close but no cigar this time. (Playing against the Ducks) seems almost like a playoff atmosphere everytime we play them because they are a really good team. We are battling for first place in the division, and we see them so many times a season, you build up a little rivalry... Anytime we play Anaheim it seems like a really tight game, 1 goal, 1 hit or bounce can win a game for you. That's how close the games are between them, and playing three times in one week, it is going to be intense."

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks defenseman/winger Rob Davison:

"I think overall we are a bit embarassed about how we played, we lost 2-0 at home. First period was a good period, second period we came out a little flat. In the third it was a pressure situation, and you put all your cards on the table. By then it is too late. The second period they came out harder, and we did not respond well. The intensity of the game (lead to the 2nd period fight with Anaheim heavyweight George Parros). When we get pushed as a team, we have to push back sometimes. That is all there is to it. Parros is a big boy, in that situation all you can try to do is get in close."

Post-game comments from San Jose Sharks right wing Mike Grier:

"We had a pretty decent start to the game. For myself, I would like to finish the breakaway. The second one was just unlucky, it sat on the goal line there and they knocked it away before I could reach it. I thought our line was skating well. You hope to get more chances and put one by him. Davi is a great teammate. He has a bad finger and probably should not be fighting, especially a guy like that, but he laid it on the line. He put his own house in jeapordy for the team, and tried to give us a little jump.

"I think we are past the point of morale victories, and every game we have played this team has taken a point off of us. We have to take it to the next step and find a way to get some pucks passed Giguere, and put more pressure on their defense and make them play in their end a little more. They tried to tone it down a little bit, and stay out of the box more. With their d, they are pretty patient guys. They kept making long breakout passes, and clearance plays and did not spend too much time in their own end. We had to be patient, and they did a great job clogging the neutral zone. When we turned pucks over, or did not get pucks deep, they had quick counter attacks and put a couple of them in."

[Update] Ducks blank Sharks 2-0 - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Sharks Roenick could be activated Thursday - SJ Mercury News.

Roenick could return to lineup Thursday Tuesday night's loss could mean that Sharks forward Jeremy Roenick will be back in the lineup Thursday against Phoenix. Roenick is healthy enough to come off the injured reserve list, but he knew he wouldn't be playing Tuesday because the Sharks had won Sunday night in Anaheim.

[Update3] Ducks bag a playoff-type victory, The Ducks first shutout is also San Jose's first shutout of the season - Dan Wood for the OC Register.

If the Ducks are going to climb their way back into the thick of the Stanley Cup playoff race in the NHL’s Western Conference, Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory over the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion would provide the perfect blueprint.

With Corey Perry and rookie Bobby Ryan providing timely goals and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere supplying a solid performance to back a stout defensive effort, the Ducks not only recorded their first shutout of the season, but handed San Jose its first shutout in 34 games this season.


Big Tuesday saw 30+ foot waves pummel Northern California coastline, 1 big wave surfer died near Pebble Beach

Big Tuesday, December 4th, was a day like few others had seen before in Northern California. Breathless television news reports predicted 18-23 foot swells up and down the coastline, and famed big wave surfing spots like Mavericks at Pillar Point near Half Moon Bay and Ghost Trees near Pebble Beach were set to receive historic conditions.

The youtube video above by Powerlines Productions documents the heavy surf from just outside of the lineup, and from the shore. It shows a gigantic wave ridden by Santa Cruz's Peter Mel, and one of the worst wipeouts you will ever see by fellow Santa Cruz native Flea. Flea's fall was documented with frame-by-frame photos on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle: Master surfer cheats death in biggest swell of season at Maverick's.

Through a blanket of fog, it was a vision of death. Darryl Virostko, the big-wave surfer known as Flea, was taking what witnesses described as the worst-looking wipeout they ever saw. It was a gloomy day at Maverick's last week, and a handful of riders were meeting the challenge of their lives.

The conditions were so large at both locations, that paddling into the waves was not really an option. Jet skis provided speed needed to catch the monster waves, and provided a valuable lifeline for those that did not make the drop. Towsurfer.com has many photographic entries from December 4th for the Billabong XXL year-long big wave surfing competition.

Big Tuesday also came with a significant loss. Monterey fisherman and big wave surfer Peter Davi died while trying to surf the 18 foot swell and near 30 foot wave faces at Ghost Trees near Pebble Beach. Davi was 45 years old. It was believed that Davi's leash broke as he was paddling out after a wave, and he disappeared in the giant surf for an unknown period of time. Scott Bass has more on Davi and Ghost Trees for Surfer Magazine.

The contest window opened a few days later for the annual Mavericks Big Wave surfing competition, one that will be held this year with a heavy heart. Surfers, photographers, and fans alike will be on 24-hour notice until March for a swell that fits the contest conditions.

This year organizers are recommending that not all fans come to attend the event in person. With waves breaking almost a half mile from shore, visibility over large sets near zero from the beach, and significant wear on the coastline from the tens of thousands of spectators, watching Mavericks from a live webcast online, or via a simulcast at AT&T Park in San Francisco, may be a better viewing option. For more information visit the official website at maverickssurf.com, or the excellent surf photography at mavsurfer.com.

This is one event where it is ok to root against the Sharks.

[Update] A note from Aquaholicstv mentions that two surfers from the video, Ion Banner and Tim West, are locals out of Half Moon Bay. AQTV also points to more photos at coastsidesurf.com.

Michigan Closes Out 2007 as No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

The latest college hockey poll from USAhockey.com:

Michigan Closes Out 2007 as No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The University of Michigan received 22-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 488 points to edge out Miami (Ohio) University (485) for the No. 1 spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll. Michigan, which was idle last weekend, is atop the poll for the second straight week. The University of Denver (447), which garnered the remaining two first-place votes, moved up one spot to No. 3, while Colorado College (394) and Michigan State University (376) rounded out the top five.

NOTES: The USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll will resume Jan. 7.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #12

(First-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1 U. of Michigan, 488 (22), 1, 16-2-0, 12
2 Miami (Ohio) U., 485 (10), 2, 16-2-0, 12
3 U. of Denver, 447 (2), 4, 14-4-0, 12
4 Colorado College, 394, 3, 11-5-0, 12
5 Michigan State U., 376, 5, 12-3-2, 12
6 U. of Notre Dame, 358, 6, 16-4-0, 12
7 U. of North Dakota, 285, 7, 8-6-1, 12
8 Clarkson U., 243, 8, 10-5-0, 12
T-9 U. of Massachusetts, 230, 9, 7-3-5, 7
T-9 U. of New Hampshire, 230, 10, 9-4-1, 12
11 Northeastern U., 180, 11, 7-4-2, 4
12 U. of Minnesota, 125, 13, 9-8-1, 10
13 U. of Wisconsin, 85, 14, 7-7-2, 12
14 Boston College, 69, 15, 6-4-5, 10
15 Harvard U., 38, 12, 6-4-2, 4

Others receiving votes: U.S. Air Force Academy, 9; University of Minnesota Duluth, 8; Niagara University, 8; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 8; St. Cloud State University, 8; University of Massachusetts Lowell, 6.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] New Hampshire Takes Back No. 1 Spot on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Women’s College Hockey Poll - USA Hockey.

[Update2] Is Beagle The Next Seawolf To Ascend? - Doyle Woody.

Not that their are many candidates, but center Jay Beagle might be the best bet as the next former UAA Seawolves skater to ascend to the NHL. Less than a year after leaving UAA following his sophomore season, Beagle already has won a Kelly Cup with the Idaho Steelheads in the ECHL. And now he's flourishing with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League, one step below the world's best league.

In Hershey, which is affiliated with the Washington Capitals, Beagle owns 8-5--13 totals and an even plus-minus rating in 20 games. He is tied for second on the team in goals and fourth in points. Not bad for a guy who only has 46 pro games under his belt, playoffs included.

Doyle Woody also lists the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolf alumni to make it to the National Hockey League: Mike Peluso, Rob Conn, Jeff Batters, Gregg Naumenko, Duvie Westcott and Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Curtis Glencross.

[Update3] University of Michigan vs Michigan State 'Cold War II' in works, Coaches confirm game planned for next year; Wings also could face Maple Leafs at event? - Detroit News.

Michigan and Michigan State could be taking the "Cold War" indoors. Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson and Michigan State coach Rick Comley confirmed a game was in the works for next December at Ford Field. And, Comley said, it could be part of a doubleheader with a Maple Leafs-Red Wings game.

"We've had preliminary, and I have to emphasize extremely preliminary, discussions regarding the possibility of holding a game at Ford Field in the future," said Jimmy Devellano, senior vice president and alternate governor for the Red Wings. "It's been very, very light discussions."


California Cup Report: Joe Thornton scores OT Shootout winner over Anaheim in 2-1 win, defenseman Scott Niedermayer un-retires for Anaheim

The San Jose Sharks marketed games earlier this season with the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings as "California Cup" games. With two Ducks-Sharks games sandwiched between a game with Phoenix this week, and a San Jose road trip to Los Angeles the day after Christmas, here are the early California Cup standings a third of the way into the 2007-08 NHL season.

The latest intra-state numbers through Sunday:

- Anaheim Ducks 6-1-1, 8GP
- Los Angeles Kings 4-4-1, 9GP
- San Jose Sharks 2-2-3, 7GP

- Cammalleri, D. Brown, Getzlaf 5
- Thornton, Perry, Kunitz 4
- Mitchell, Kopitar 3

- Cammalleri 10
- D. Brown, Kopitar 8
- Frolov, Getzlaf, Perry 7
- J. Thornton, Kunitz, McDonald 6
- Beauchemin, Visnovsky, Preissing 5
- Roenick, Pronger, Armstrong, O'Sullivan 4

- J.S. Giguere 5
- E. Nabokov 2
- J. LaBarbera 2
- Aubin, Bernier, Hiller 1

- Dustin Brown 31
- Ryan Getzlaf 19
- Patrick O'Sullivan 17
- John Zeiler 16
- J. Johnson, K. McLaren 15
- T. Mitchell, T. Moen, C. Kunitz 14
- M. Grier, C. Perry 13

- Parros, S. Thornton, Handzus, Pronger 1

- Brian Burke (+Weight, +Niedermayer, -McDonald, -Bryzgalov)
- Doug Wilson (+Ozolinsh, +Setoguchi)
- Dean Lombardi (+Klemm, +no re-entry waiver for LaBarbera, -Cloutier)

The San Jose Sharks 2-1 OT shootout win in Anaheim on Sunday was repleat with possible storylines. The return of Anaheim team leader Scott Niedermayer, who remarkably logged 23:52 minutes of ice time (8 shots, +1, 2PIM) in his first game of the season, a hard fought slugfest between two Western Conference powerhouses on the upswing, or a goaltender duel between two of the top netminders in the league; both in their prime, playing their first entire season without a potential #1 on the bench, and facing a hated California rival.

The story of this game could not be written in a regulation 60 minutes, as has been the case all season between Anaheim and San Jose. Andy McDonald and Corey Perry iced the Sharks with two overtime shootout goals in their first two meetings, it would take a third overtime shootout to decide this game.

Anaheim goaltender J.S. Giguere was a rock early, smothering three point blank scoring chances by Joe Thornton in the first period. New addition Doug Weight, who was acquired from St Louis December 14th in a trade along with Michal Birner, and a 7th round draft pick for forward Andy McDonald, paid immediate dividends. Weight pulled up on the right wing and fed a long cross-ice pass to rookie Bobby Ryan. Ryan lasered a wrist shot from 25+ feet out to open the scoring for the Anaheim Ducks.

Later in the first, defenseman Chris Pronger chopped Milan Michalek to the ice as he was skating in on a breakaway with 26 seconds left in the period. Michalek was awarded a penalty shot, but he did not do much with the opportunity. No speed, no deke, routine save by Giguere. In the second period, San Jose rookie center Torrey Mitchell continued his strong play against Californian opponents. Mitchell poked the puck from Mathieu Schneider at the blueline, and skated through his stick check to generate a clean breakaway. Schneider pulled Mitchell down, and Pronger offered a weak backcheck, but Mitchell got back on his feet and answered with a shorthanded goal for the San Jose Sharks, tying the game at 1-1. Mitchell pulled the puck from backhand and forehand and caught Giguere moving in the wrong direction.

San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stood his ground against late flurries by the Anaheim Ducks at the end of the third and overtime periods. After making a a save on a Doug Weight power play shot with Chris Kunitz unchecked in front, Nabokov made a strong push to his right to stop a Scott Niedermayer's backhand on the doorstep. Niedermayer beat Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the loose puck. As the seconds ticked down in overtime, Sammy Pahlsson cut into the slot and snapped a shot on Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov made a dynamic pad save, before diving to his right to challenge a Rob Niedermayer rebound attempt. Vlasic was there to block the puck and send the game to an OT shootout.

Shootouts and the San Jose Sharks have gone together like fire and water, not just this season, but since the dawn of time. A shootout win at Dallas in November kept the Sharks off the bagel, but at 1-4 the Sharks were battling the Columbus Blue Jackets for overall NHL shootout futility.

A play-by-play recap of the OT shootout:

ROUND 1: Todd Bertuzzi was an interesting first choice to take a shot for the Anaheim Ducks. Bertuzzi took a quick stride straight down the pipe. Bertuzzi moved the puck from backhand to forehand before pulling it to his backhand and lifting it high over Nabokov. 1-0 Anaheim. Giguere save on Torrey Mitchell.

ROUND 2: Nabokov save on a Doug Weight snap shot from 20 feet out. San Jose's shootout specialist Joe Pavelski came in with a quick pace on the left side. Pavelski beat Giguere with a quick release shot 5-hole. Shootout tied 1-1.

ROUND 3: Ryan Getzlaf came in very slowly, looking for Nabokov to make the first move. Getzlaf moved the puck from backhand to forehand before ringing a shot off of the post. Sharks rookie Devin Setoguchi came flying in with the puck, but Giguere was square to the shooter, and his glove tight to his body snuffed Setoguchi's attempt.

ROUND 4: Correy Perry skates in from a sharp angle, beats Nabokov short side. 2-1 Anaheim. San Jose captain Patrick Marleau answered for San Jose with a wrist shot from 18 feet out. Tied 2-2.

ROUND 5: Bobby Ryan comes down the middle for Anaheim, moving the puck from forehand to backhand several times before shooting it wide right. Patrick Rissmiller tried to beat J.S. Giguere 5-hole, but Giguere closed the space down quickly, and Rissmiller was off by several inches on the shot.

ROUND 6: Chris Kunitz bears down on Nabokov with a quick pace, but Kunitz fires the puck wide right from very far out. The puck is on Joe Thornton's stick with the game on the line. Thornton has provided scoring, setup scoring chances for teammates, hits, takeaways, faceoffs, a point person for local and national media. Now the Sharks need him to score goals on the shootout. Joe Thornton took the puck in full stride, and snapped a shot that beat Giguere high on the blocker side, from the center of the slot. Sharks win the shootout 3-2, and the game 2-1.

Evgeni Nabokov (18-10-4, .918SV%, 1.99GAA, 4SO) finished with 30 saves on 31 shots to earn his 18th win of the season. Nabokov has started all 32 games for the San Jose Sharks this season. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (12-10-3, .906SV%, 2.61GAA) made 36 saves on 37 shots, and was named first star of the game by the NHL. Torrey Mitchell's unassisted shorthanded goal in the second period accounted for the only point by the San Jose Sharks. With the shootout win, the Sharks regained first place in the Pacific Division, and second place overall in the Western Conference.

Youtube video highlights from the Sharks 2-1 OT shootout win are available here.

According to David Pollak of the SJ Mercury News, the NHL Christmas trade freeze begins Wednesday and 14 teams were at the Honda Center Monday night taking a look at the Battle of California action (PIT, FLA, OTT, COL, TOR, DET, DAL, BOS, VAN, CHI, LA, STL, NYI, NYR). The Sharks have upcoming road games against St Louis and Los Angeles, and face Columbus, Vancouver and Toronto at home the first two weeks of January. But the list is interesing for one team that was absent, Montreal.

[Update] Sharks Top Ducks 2-1 In Shootout - SJsharks.com.

San Jose evened the score on a phenomenal shorthanded tally by Torrey Mitchell in the middle stanza. While killing off a power play, Mitchell took the puck on a breakaway, was knocked down by a tripping penalty, got back on his feet, put a deke on Giguere and deposited the puck in the back of the net at 5:13 of the period. It was one of the most impressive shorthanded goals in Sharks history.

"When I fell down, the D-man fell down too," said Mitchell. "I looked up and the puck was still in front of me. I went in alone and had time to make a move." Mitchell had scored his first career goal earlier this season against the Ducks and it marked the third game the rookie had scored against the division rivals. "I guess I've got their number," said Mitchell. "The first couple I got were just deflections, so I not going to start bragging."

[Update2] Thornton rides to the rescue - SJ Mercury News.

[Update3] Eric Stephens writes for the LA Times that the Sharks shootout win spoiled the return of all-world defenseman Scott Niedermayer, and the accompanying photo by Gary A. Vasquez could be the poster for the Sharks-Ducks series over the last season and a half. Stephens also writes about Doug Weight's instant assimilation into the Anaheim Ducks fold.

Dan Wood provides some background on the return of defenseman Scott Niedermayer for his O.C. Register Ducks blog, and recaps the painful 2-1 OT shootout loss for Anaheim here. Official Ducks blogger Adam Brady provides another perspective on the return of Scott Niedermayer here, and notes that he was equally impressed with the effort by Doug Weight and Bobby Ryan.

[Update4] A look at hockey coverage on California blogs:

- Sharkspage
- Inside the Kings, Dan Wood, Ducks Blog, LetsgoKings, Sharks Broadcaster blog, Working the Corners, Ryan Garner
- Battle of California


Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Beat Penguins To Snap Winless Skid

The Worcester Sharks broke a five game winless streak with a 2-1 shootout victory against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday night at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of 3,054. And despite only two goals being scored in regulation, a "shootout" is certainly what this game was.

WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss entered the game mired in the worst slump of his professional career, going 0-4-1 in his last five starts, made 41 saves in the game and stopped all five shootout attempts to backbone the WorSharks victory.

Not to be out done, Penguins rookie netminder and Boston University product John Curry stopped all but one of the 28 shots he faced in regulation and overtime, many of which were incredible saves.

The first period was full of end to end action, with both sides getting odd man rushes only to be broken up by outstanding defensive plays or great saves. What appeared to the the highlight break-up of the night ended up starting the "low-light" night for referee Frederic L'Ecuyer.

Just after the 17 minute mark while the WorSharks were on the power play, Penguins center Connor James went in alone on Thomas Greiss, only to be broken up on a great diving sweep-check by defenseman Dan Spang. Or, so it seemed. What the replay on the scoreboard showed was Spang actually throwing hit stick at the puck, which should have resulted in a penalty shot.

Once the replay was shown Wilkes-Barre head coach Todd Richards and the Penguins bench went ballistic looking for a call. Another L'Ecuyer error would soon follow.

With play continuing after a face-off in the WorSharks end the chirping continued from the Penguins bench. With the puck in the Wilkes-Barre end and in clear possession of a Penguins defender, L'Ecuyer's arm shot up to call a delayed penalty. Seeing the referee's arm up and his teammates with the puck, Curry headed to the bench for the extra attacker.

The problem was L'Ecuyer was calling an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a Penguins player on the bench and should have blown the whistle.

The WorSharks, also thinking the penalty was on them, just flipped the puck into the Penguins end from the neutral zone believing the whistle was going to blow. It didn't. It took a few moments for the players to realize the puck was still live, and while the WorSharks did beat the now onrushing Penguins defenders to the puck they couldn't capitalize.

Penguins' captain Nathan Smith charged on to the ice once the whistle was blown, and despite L'Ecuyer indicating it was his fault Smith gave him more than the standard earful.

The WorSharks got all three of their power play chances in that first period, but could not convert of any of them as Curry made several great saves to keep the game scoreless.

The second period saw more highlight end to end action, with each team being robbed of great scoring chances by the opposition's goaltender. Although the highlight save of the period didn't belong to a netminder, and it wasn't from a shot on goal.

With Crag Valette off for a questionable cross checking minor, the Penguins peppered Greiss with several shots from the outside. To relive the pressure a WorSharks defender blasted the puck from the slot to clear it out of the zone. Wilkes-Barre center Ryan Stone made a skate save of the blast just inside of the blue line that would have made either goaltender jealous.

The WorSharks, for just the sixth time in 22 games, would get on the board first. With Valette off again, this time for boarding, defenseman Brennan Evans would send Tom Cavanagh and Tomas Plihal on a two on one break. Penguins defender Mark Ardelan played it by the book, splaying out along the ice to prevent the pass from Cavanagh to Plihal as they approached the net. Cavanagh showed incredible patience with the puck and held it until the very last second, flipping it over Ardelan and on to the stick of Plihal. Plihal redirected the pass into the net past a diving Curry for the period's lone goal.

It was Worcester's first shorthanded goal of the season.

Derek Joslin helped keep the score 1-0 by intercepting a pass at center ice that would have send a streaking Wilkes-Barre forward in alone on Greiss in the waining seconds of the second period.

The third period was nearly all Wilkes-Barre's, with the Penguins outshooting the WorSharks 20-6. But those six were all great scoring chances for the hometown team. Curry robbed Plihal on a break-away by just getting a skate on Plihal's five-hole attempt, and made great gloves saves on Lukas Kaspar, Graham Mink, and Marc Busenburg shots.

Wilkes-Barre would tie the game on what may have been the only shot Greiss was screened on all night. Defenseman Alain Nasreddine beat Greiss to the top glove corner on a 45' laser that seemed to pass through about five different players.

The Penguins would beat Greiss again late in the third, but the shot found the iron to the right of Greiss and bounced harmlessly away.

Being the home team Worcester elected to shoot first in the shootout, and that strategy worked as Mike Morris was the only player to score the WorSharks won the shootout and the extra point.

Worcester scratches were Dennis Packard (healthy), Josh Prudden (healthy), Brad Staubitz (healthy), and Jonathan Tremblay (healthy)

Greiss' tripping minor in the third period was the first penalty against a WorSharks goaltender this season. Greiss and Dimitri Patzold were each called for one minor penalty last season.

Unofficially, the WorSharks did not win a faceoff in the overtime period. It did not hurt them however as they outshot the Penguins 3-0.

They don't keep statistics for the number of times a player gets waved out of a face-off, but if they did Nate Raduns could have been making a run at the record. He was waved out of at least five during the game.

The three stars of the game were:
Greiss (41 saves)
Curry (27 saves)
Plihal (shorthanded goal)
Hard to argue with those choices.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Booster Club made the trip from Pennsylvania. They were spending the night in Worcester before heading to Glens Falls to see the Penguins take on the Albany River Rats.

The WorSharks wives and girlfriends are selling team signed Christmas ornaments and selling raffle tickets to win other ornaments created by the players next to the WorShark's Booster Club table. Proceeds are benefiting Abby's House. Ornaments and raffle tickets will also be available at tonight's game vs Houston. Booster Club President Rich Lundin announced the proceeds from the club's 50/50 raffle last night and tonight would also be donated to Abby's House.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Penalty Kill Lines


Face-offs (offense/neutral/defense = total) unofficial
Morris 1-0/3-3/0-1 = 4-4
Raduns 0-0/2-1/4-0 = 6-1
Plihal 3-2/2-1/5-4 = 10-7
Armstrong 0-3/1-0/3-1 = 4-4
Cavanagh 3-1/0-1/1-2 = 4-4
Fox 2-1/0-2/0-0 = 2-3
Rome 0-3/0-1/0-0 = 0-4
Kaspar 0-0/0-1/0-0 = 0-1

W: Iggulden: deke low glove, SAVE!
P: Taffe: shoot low stick, post
W: Mink: shoot glove, save
P: Letestu: lost puck, save
W: Morris: shoot high glove, GOAL
P: McLean: deke 5-hole, save
W: Kaspar: shoot stick, post
P: Stone: deke low stick, save
W: Raduns: shoot 5-hole, save
P: Brent: deke 5-hole, save

Wilkes-Barre 0 0 1 0--1
Worcester 0 1 0 1--2

1st Period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: WIL-Lovejoy, Ben (Interference), 10:29. WIL-Taffe, Jeff (Roughing), 15:52. WIL-Stone, Ryan (Unsportsmanlike Cond), 18:20.

2nd Period
Scoring: 1, Worcester-Plihal, Tomas 1 (short handed) (Cavanagh, Tom 8; Evans, Brennan 2) 16:46.
Penalties: WOR-Valette, Craig (Cross checking), 10:26. WOR-Valette, Craig (Board check), 16:11.

3rd Period
Scoring: 2, Wilkes-Barre-Nasreddine, Alain 3 (Taffe, Jeff 7; Stone, Ryan 8) 10:45.
Penalties: WOR-Greiss, Thomas (Tripping, served my Mink), 16:32.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Shots on Goal
Wilkes-Barre 13 9 20 0--42
Worcester 9 10 6 3--28

Power Play Conversions: Wilkes-Barre - 0 of 3, Worcester - 0 of 3.
Goalies: Wilkes-Barre-Curry, John (65:00, 28 shots, 27 saves; record: 1-3-1). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (65:00, 42 shots, 41 saves; record: 7-5-2).
A: 3054. Referee: Frederic L'Ecuyer. Linesmen: Paquette, Bob; Messier, Mark.

Max Giese: Hockey Notes - December 15th

- Poor Drafting and Development Hindering Tampa Bay, Not Lack of Trade

Mike Brophy of The Hockey New reports that the Tampa Bay Lightning need to trade one of their three All-Star forwards, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richardson, or Martin St. Louis. It would be a hard pill to swallow to deal any of them, but moving Lecavalier should not even be a consideration. He is definitely one of the NHL's top three players at just 27 years of age. Reasons given for the necessity of block-buster trade are the Lightning's lack of talent on defense, and the fact that the Lightning invested a bulk of their cap room in just three forwards.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have other problems, but trading one of the top three players they have signed to a long term is not the answer. What the Lightning need to accomplish is to improve their drafting and development progam, and begin to develop more players from within. The current situation is more a result of poor scouting and not due to general manager Jay Feester's lack of trades.

In Feester's defense, he has put an emphasis on improving the Lightning's defense. Feester used 4 out of his last 5 first round selections to select high end defensive prospects. In 2003, the Lightning drafted big, stay-at-home Mike Egener. In 2004 it was the towering, mobile project that is Andy Rogers. In 2005 they drafted the colossal Slovak Vladimir Mihalek, and they traded their first round pick in 2007 to the Anaheim Ducks for Shane O'Brien. Not one of those three draft selections has turned out as planned. All of them remain a work in progress, a considerable distance from becoming a contributing NHL defenseman.

Feester put his best foot forward trying to address these defensive issues by drafting heavy at that position. The problem in Tampa is that their scouting department was not able to select the best player at their respective positions. Take a look at the players they could have drafted. In 2003, Tampa should have selected Matt Carle or Shea Weber instead of Egener. In 2004, Tampa should have taken Alexander Edler or Andrej Sekera (Don't know them yet? you will), and in 2005 they could have selected Marc-Edoard Vlasic instead of Mihalek. Crucial draft errors like this has handcuffed Feester, and trading one of their key players is not going to solve this ongoing problem.

Tampa Bay must become more astute at the draft table, and begin to develop their prospects correctly. They can not afford to continue this run on first round busts, players such as Alexander Svitov, 3rd overall in 2001, and Nikita Alexeev 8th overall in 2000. They must make their first round selections count and begin to develop home grown talent with more consistency to solve their defensive problems.

- 2004 Draft Slow to Produce NHL Talent

Every draft is met with a certain level of optimism as teams covet talented teens with unrealized potential every year. The 2004 draft was no different. It was believed to be a top heavy draft with a great one-two punch at the top, and a solid group of second tier prospects throughout the first round. Unfortunately the 2004 draft has not quite lived up to its billing, several first round picks are still struggling to make an impact in the NHL.

San Jose Shark's 2004 first round selection Lukas Kaspar made his NHL debut this season with a three game cup of tea in November. While he has yet to make San Jose his permanent place of residence, Sharks fans should keep an open mind about his development. He has grown into a mature two-way winger. One with good size, speed, and skill that could be in the NHL right now if the Sharks were not so deep up front. Many other 2004 first round selections have seen their development flat line, and are still trying to make a name for themselves in the AHL.

The Chicago Blackhawks had the misfortune of picking third overall, after Alexander Ovechkin and Evegni Malkin went first and second respectively. The Blackhawks selected Cam Barker, a puck moving defenseman with good size from the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL. Much like Kaspar, Barker has not made the immediate NHL impact as once hoped. Barker is toiling in the AHL this season while playing for the Rockford Ice Hogs. Barker has been their top offensive defenseman. He is quarterbacking their power play, but he still has a lot of room to develop. Chicago must see a notable improvement in his play around his own net before they can comfortably play say he is an NHL caliber defenseman.

Other Top 10 selections who have struggled to make the NHL are also trying to make names for themselves in the AHL. The Columbus Blue Jacket's selected left winger Alexandre Picard eigth overall in 2004. He has yet to show the goal scoring touch and power away from the puck that the pre-draft hype said he would have. Picard has the look of a solid checking line winger, definitely a let down for a top ten selection.

Another Top 10 selection from 2004 is the Chicago Wolves colossal defenseman Boris Valabik, who the Atlanta Thrashers selected tenth overall. While it is unfair to catagorize Valabik as a struggling prospect, because he is actually developing quite well, the fact remains that he was not the proper selection with the 10th overall draft pick. This is an "old NHL" type of defenseman that relies on his size and a healthy mean streak to physically wear down the opposition's top offensive players. Valabik has improved his mobility and decision making over the last two years, but still has yet to make his NHL debut.

The list goes on and on as very few players from the 2004 draft have yet to make a permanent home in the NHL. This puts the selection of Lukas Kaspar with 22nd overall pick into perspective. It was not a great draft year by any means. The fact that Lukas is a key player in Worcester, the fact that at 22 he still has plenty of time to mature, and the fact that he could hold his own in the NHL when called upon should have Sharks fans optimistic that he will be a fixture in San Jose's line-up in the years to come.

- Team Canada's World Junior Championship Roster full of Draft Eligible Talent

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft is going to have the deepest and most talented group of Canadian born prospects since the fabulous crop of 2003. Evidence of this is the number of draft eligible players that have made Team Canada's World Junior Championship team. Canada always boasts the deepest and arguably the most talented team every year, and it is quite an accomplishment for a draft eligible prospect to make the team.

Team Canada is going to have an interesting intra-team competition take place between defenseman Drew Doughty and center Steven Stamkos for the honor of being selected first overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The situation is very similar to the 2006 tournament where American-born center Phil Kessel entered the WJC's as the odds on favorite to be the first overall selection in the 2006 Entry Draft. But while Kessel struggled to score, teammate Erik Johnson dominated from the back end and wound up being the first overall pick in the 2006 draft. The situation is eerily similar for the two Canadian prospects, as Stamkos enters the tournament as the odds on favorite to go first overall. Doughty has the talent to surpass him with a dominant showing.

C Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting OHL -
Projected to go first overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Stamkos is similar in style to Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano. He is blessed with elite speed and the dynamic ability to execute at full speed. Stamkos is a game breaking center, with a universal two-way game, and the ability to go coast-to-coast. Scouts know how well rounded of a player Stamkos is, and will be looking to see him become a take charge offensive force in this tournament.

D Drew Doughty, Guelph Storm OHL -
The best defensive prospect to come along in over a decade, Drew Doughty is one of those rare defenseman that can control the pace of a game with and without the puck. Much like Anaheim's Scott Niedermayer, Doughty is an effortless skater with an abundance of skill and passing ability. Unlike Niedermayer, Doughty is also a feared hitter with impressive strength. Doughty will be partnered with Karl Alzner as Team Canada's number one defensive pairing. Scouts will be looking for more urgency in his game, as he has looked a bit bored so far in the OHL this season. Defenseman this good are rare. If I was the lucky general manager to have the first overall selection in this year's draft, this would be my selection.

D Luke Schenn, Kelowna Rockets WHL -
This defenseman wowed scouts with a jaw dropping display of brute strength and physicality this summer during the Russia-Canada Super Series. He is your prototypical shut down defender with great strength, a nasty streak, and exceptional defensive awareness. He is limited but smart with the puck, and will win a lot of people over with his ability to shut down the oppositions top offensive threats five-on-five, and on the penalty kill.

C Zach Boychuk, Lethbridge Hurricanes WHL -
Bit of a surprising selection to make the team, Boychuk is a diminutive center with great hands and offensive instincts. Boychuk is not an elite offensive player, but he is an instinctive center, with dynamic quick strike abilities. He is a lock to go in the first round, as the new officiating standards have made players with his kind of skill, quickness, and creativity a coveted commodity.


NHL rumor mill targets San Jose, Patrick Marleau, Steve Bernier, Saku Koivu and Bob McKenzie

Several times a year, when a team north of the border is struggling in the standings trade winds blow down from Canada and create a flurry of media attention. Repeatedly, sources in Montreal have set their sights on San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau. In past seasons, Marleau's name was seemingly picked out of a hat, little in the form of substantiation was offered.

This week trade rumors between Montreal and San Jose took a turn for the unseemly. TSN host Bob McKenzie appeared on Montreal sports radio station Team 990 and mentioned three teams that might be in the NHL trade market for different circumstances. The Anaheim Ducks need to make room for all-world defenseman Scott Niedermayer to return to the roster, the San Jose Sharks need scoring help for Joe Thornton, and the Montreal Canadiens need to make an adjustment after dropping 4 of 6 games to start the month of December.

McKenzie detailed the comments he made to Team 990 on the Sharks and Canadiens, and denied making a connection between the two teams in a post on his TSN blog, For Clarification.

I noted that Sharks' GM Doug Wilson probably isn't sure what to make of his team – win almost all the time on the road; lose most of the time at home – but that he would be constantly evaluating it and if the Sharks continue to lay eggs like they did against Buffalo, it would only be a matter of time until we hear the next round of Patrick Marleau rumors.

I also noted that Canadiens' GM Bob Gainey is less likely to stand pat this season if the team continues to swoon than he was last season after Christmas when they hit the skids.

I never stated for a fact that the Sharks and Canadiens are talking trade with each other because I had no knowledge that they were in discussions.

It seems to be a pretty straightforward statement. Not sure of the machinations in the Montreal front office, but San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson has a reputation for being patient and cunning on the trade front. The blockbuster 3-player deal to acquire Joe Thornton was followed a season later by deadline trades to bring in veterans Craig Rivet and Bill Guerin. With no first round draft picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Wilson parlayed Vesa Toskala and a collection of draft picks to nab talented forward Logan Couture and menacing defenseman Nick Petrecki. Doug Wilson has shown that he is capable of pulling the trigger on a big trade, but also that he has confidence in this team to work out its problems on the ice and regain its pre-season stature as a Stanley Cup favorite.

Besides the play of the Canadiens, there were reasons why the trade rumors involving San Jose's Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier had legs. Both power forwards were underperforming offensively, and the Sharks were struggling at home in October and November with a 4-6-1 record at HP Pavilion. San Jose's NBC 11 sports broadcaster Raj Mathai reported a week before the trade rumors blew up that players and front office officials were unhappy with the recent play of the Sharks captain.

All of that set the stage for juicy trade rumors that might appear to have some substance behind them. Radio stations and blogs jumped on a trade rumor allegedly from Bob McKenzie that Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier would be packaged for Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu and right wing Michael Ryder. Fanatique.ca reported a possible Koivu/Ryder/Bouillon and Jaroslav Halak monster trade for Steve Bernier and defenseman Kyle McLaren. Of course the most controversial source was hockey rumormonger extraordinaire Eklund. His post on Hockeybuzz.com cited a Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski deal for Ryder, Halak and a "major prospect", with Higgins or Koivu also listed as possibilities.

Francois Gagnon downplayed the rumors on his La Presse blog, and said that he remains as far away from the rumors as possible. Scott Cullen for TSN notes that the Montreal Canadiens would love to get their hands on Patrick Marleau, but Michael Ryder and Jaroslav Halak are is no where near what it would take to pry him from the Sharks. Cullen speculates that it might take one of Andrei Kostitsyn, Guillaume Latendresse, or Cristobal Huet to bring a big name to Montreal via a trade.

As with many other fans and members of the media, I followed the news via Lyle Richardson's trade rumors blog at spectorshockey.net. I asked Lyle about the SJ-MON rumors, where he thinks trade rumors fit with regards to media coverage of the NHL, which team might pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade this season, and whether San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson would give his team time to work out its problems or whether he would make a deal short term.

- Those rumors originated out of Montreal (with undoubtedly some help from internet rumor sites) based on the Canadiens going into yet another mid-season nosedive in the standings. It obviously reached a fever pitch when TSN's respected pundit Bob McKenzie had general comments he made about struggling teams on a recent radio show twisted into the false claim he reported the Sharks and Habs were talking trade.

What's also stoking the rumor mill this season is the lack of trade activity so far this season, and given little to talk about some folks in the media, who really should know better, are starting to listen to baseless gossip and claim it as fact. A perfect case in point is the Tampa Bay Lightning, where several pundits are claiming Lightning GM Jay Feaster will have no choice but to trade either Lecavalier, St. Louis or Richards because either the current or new ownership will force him to slash payroll when that simply isn't so. But the media leapt on a mild threat Feaster made a couple of weeks ago that changes would have to be made if his team didn't improve soon and now even some respectable pundits are taking it as gospel.

Part of that too might also be to stir up some attention, to help sell papers or keep radio and TV ratings going, but mainly it's the lack of trade activity driving these flights of fancy.

There's really nothing the general managers can do to change this right now. The standings in both conference are very tight, with 10-12 points separating first from 14th in the East and 10 points separating second from 15th in the West. Lots of teams have available cap space to make moves but with the races so tight they're not keen to move that money now, preferring to wait until January-February when the salaries become more affordable and when the contenders separate from the pretenders, forcing the latter to dump salary.

- Honestly, I don't foresee any significant "blockbuster" trades this season. Oh, there'll be a few "name" players shopped, specifically impending UFA players on non-playoff teams by the February trade deadline, but again, the salary cap has made the blockbuster deal all but impossible to achieve during the season. The Joe Thornton trade back in November 2005 was an anomaly, coming fresh off the lockout when some GMs had considerably more cap space than they do now and were still adjusting to the new CBA. The most significant blockbuster deals since occur in June (the Luongo trade in 2006, the Preds shipping Timonen and Hartnell to Philadelphia in 2007) when teams have more available cap space heading into July and the start of the UFA market.

- Regarding the Sharks, I think Wilson is content to stand pat for now and see how things work out, mainly because the team has improved in recent weeks and are currently riding high in the West standings. They went 6-3-3 in November and as of this writing lost only once in December.

That's not to suggest the Sharks don't need help, and that secondary scoring remains a serious issue. But there's enough time for things to turn around, and enough talent on this team to accomplish it. I'm of the opinion actually that the problem might be coaching, but I don't think Doug is going to fire Ron anytime soon.

If things haven't improved, however, Wilson could maybe shop a young forward or defenceman in hopes of bringing in experienced depth, but again, cap issues come into play here. And I don't see Marleau getting traded, if for no other reason than his new two-year, $12.6 million contract with a no-trade clause starting next season could be too much for most rival GMs to absorb, and perhaps could be a big gamble if Marleau's struggles this season are a sign of things to come.

Lyle Richardson also reports online for thehockeynews.com and foxsports.com.

Patrick Marleau (30GP, 6G, 9A, 15PTS, -1) has struggled to maintain a consistent scoring pace this season. In his two previous post-lockout campaigns Marleau averaged over a point a game scoring 34 goals and 86 points in 82 regular season games in 2005-06, and scoring 32 goals and 78 points in 77 regular season games in 2005-06. As Hockeybuzz.com columnist Ryan Garner recently mentioned, if Patrick Marleau maintained a goal a game pace this season the Sharks would be battling the Detroit Red Wings for the best record in the National Hockey League. Instead, the Sharks have leaned heavily on stellar goaltending by Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Thornton, and a solid defensive core to ice the best road record in the NHL at 11-3-2. A win over the Vancouver Canucks also gave the San Jose Sharks the second best overall record (17-9-4) in the Western Conference.

San Jose Mercury News beat writer David Pollak followed the ongoing trade saga with an excellent post on his blog, Sacre bleu! More Montreal-Sharks trade rumors; and a followup article in the paper, No, Canada: Don't count on Canadiens getting Marleau, this trade rumor has a little bit of humor.

Pollak mentioned on his blog that he is a fan of trade rumors, as are a huge cross section of San Jose Sharks fans, but a standard response from Doug Wilson is that he will not speculate on rumors or discuss another team's players. In the newspaper article, Pollak talked to Montreal Canadiens defenseman Craig Rivet about the media fishbowl in Montreal.

David Pollak also went to the Shark at the center of the rumors, Patrick Marleau, and asked him for his thoughts about being the focus of the Motreal rumormill while playing 2500 miles away. "I have a job to do on the ice and that's all I can worry about and take care of. It's a hockey country, a hockey hotbed, so there's always talk up there. There's always rumors." Marleau told Pollak.

Left out of all of the trade discussion are several of the contributions Patrick Marleau makes locally that do not receive very much media attention. As spokesman for the GOALS Foundation Marleau helped raise over $500,000 last year for the Sharks Foundation's group of charities, he worked with the Sharks and San Jose's Leland High School to support the "Pat Tillman Charity Run", he has met with local terminally ill children, he is a participant in the "Reading is Cool" program that regularly visits my local Barnes and Noble, he works with Trent McCleary for the mcclearymarleaufoundation.com's support of youth athletics, in addition to being involved in several other local charities.

Patrick Marleau has had a rough start to the season, but rough starts happen. He needs to impose himself more around the net, contribute an all around game night in and night out, and punish opponents who travel to HP Pavilion. The tank needs to become a hated place to play for visitors, and a motivated 220-pound Patrick Marleau can make that happen. Doug Wilson has plenty of time to evaluate his roster, and he has shown that he will make the moves neccessary in time for this team to be a Stanley Cup favorite this season.

[Update] Wilson dismisses rumors, believes Sharks on right course - Scott Burnside November 30th column for ESPN.

[Update2] Rookie O'Byrne learns blue-line lesson - Pat Hickey for the Montreal Gazette.

TSN's Bob McKenzie was upset to hear his name linked to a rumour that Saku Koivu and Michael Ryder would go to San Jose in exchange for Patrick Marleau and Steve Bernier.

And a rumour out of San Jose has Marleau and Joe Pavelski heading to Montreal in exchange for Jaroslav Halak, Steve Bégin and one of the Habs' top young prospects. This one would indicate someone has been drinking too much Napa Valley wine.

"I don't listen to that stuff ... the only thing that concerns me is trying to score goals," Ryder said. A 30-goal scorer in each of the past two seasons, Ryder hasn't scored since Nov. 16, and has only three goals for the season.

[Update3] Canadiens getting their Bell rung - Toronto Sun.

Having gone 12 games without a goal, Canadiens captain Saku Koivu has had plenty on his plate to deal with recently, not the least of which being a rumour insinuating the Habs and San Jose Sharks might be discussing a deal that would ship Koivu and underachieving winger Michael Ryder to the left coast for Patrick Marleau and one of Steve Bernier or Joe Pavelski.

The report erroneously was attributed to TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, who immediately denied making any such statement. McKenzie, one of the most respected hockey journalists in this country, is not in the habit of being a rumour monger, but that did not stop the scuttlebutt from allegedly fuelling chatter on local talk radio. Yet another aspect of life when you are a Montreal Canadien -- or, for that matter, a Toronto Maple Leaf.

"Guys in the hockey world know these things happen in Toronto or Montreal," Koivu said yesterday. "Most players (in those cities) are used to it. It can be a distraction if it keeps going on and on. Then again, if teams are actually calling about you, maybe it's a good thing because it means you must be playing well."

Dennis Miller debate: Which sport has the toughest athletes boxing, hockey, MMA or football?

Dennis Miller Sports Unfiltered Jeremey Roenick Versus

San Jose Sharks center Jeremy Roenick was on the new Sports Unfiltered talk show with Dennis Miller Wednesday night to debate which professional sport has the toughest athletes. Roenick, UFC Light Heavyweight contender Forrest Griffin, former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes, and 4-time Superbowl Champion Bill Romanowski all discussed which aspects of their sport were the most violent and which had the toughest competitors.

A few quotes from the show:

"Playing linebacker in the NFL, you get into 20-30 car crashes every weekend. You have to do that 16 weeks in a row, not counting the playoffs, and then in training camp you do that for 30 straight days... The nutrition started about halfway through my career, and really got more and more intense as my career went on. It got to one point where I tried live cell therapy from Scottish black sheep." - Bill Romanowski

"Our sport is pretty tough. There is a high attrition rate in the beginning. If you make it you make it, if you don't you don't. But the thing I would post about our sport being tough, is look at the what you guys are all wearing. Look what I am wearing. I don't get paid a lot for the ass whoopings I take. So I am just stupid. I am not getting that much out of it. And if you want to be really good at MMA, you only take like 2 weeks off after a fight. You fight 3-4 times a year, and it takes 12 weeks to get ready for a fight. If you want to practice fighting, you have to fight people." - Forrest Griffin.

"I find that the ability to exist of a prolonged period of time in any of these sports involves some smarts, quite frankly. You can be the most primal neanderthal creature in the world, if you don't use your head your done. I remember Larry Brown, used to play for the Washington Redskins. My man never went out of bounds. He was one of the baddest asses I ever saw. I remember thinking he has only got 4-6 years to play because of that." - Dennis Miller.

"(being hit by an Al MacInnis slapshot) hurt. It hurt a lot. First of all, no sheep in hockey. Our sport is a lot like football, we get into car accidents every day. We do it four or five days a week. We have fighting, like Larry, we get punched in the face just as many times maybe, but one thing that hockey has that none of the other sports have is monsters chasing you with weapons. I have guys that are 250 pounds that are chasing me with hockey sticks trying to chop my legs off, and I am trying to score goals going 30 miles and hour into the boards. Like you said, I have pucks hitting me in the face, stitches left and right. Our sport is pretty tough. I have been hit by (Scott Stevens), and it is worse than being hit by a Mac truck." - Jeremy Roenick.

"What made boxing tough for me during the span of going 48-0, was that everyone was out there gunning for me. Once you are on the top, everybody guns for you. I feel sorry for those hockey players, and those football players, because they are underpaid. Because man those hockey players are crazy. They hit you sometimes with that stick when they get mad at you." - Larry Holmes.

"I think when you get out there (on NHL ice), the fake fearlessness is rampant. We are acting like we are really tough, and not afraid of anything. But then we get hit in the mouth, or hit in the head, or whacked around the ankles and we get pissed off and really want to kick some ass. Then the fearlessness goes away, and you just want to play harder with more intensity, and thats when the fights start. Thats when guys get hurt. That's when the real warrior in a hockey player comes out, when the pain starts coming out. But when you first come out, you talk a big game but don't want to get hurt." - Jeremy Roenick

"I have to agree with Larry that boxing is the toughest sport. Not the actual boxing itself, but trying to get the paycheck away from the promoter" - Forrest Griffin.

"Guys like Bob Probert were a madman to play against. He was one of the toughest guys to fight. One of the toughest guys to play against because of his competitiveness, but he was also a good hockey player. And that was a tribute to him because he had his tough years, but during his years in Detroit there was no meaner man to go up against. I fought him two times and he kicked the crap out of me twice. He was a fearless guy. And you have to give a guy props who everybody was out to get, and he was bringing it every night." - Jeremy Roenick

Sports Unfiltered with Dennis Miller airs every Tuesday night on Versus after NHL coverage.

Split Decision win for mixed martial arts, although bringing up Ronnie Lott and having Jeremy Roenick discuss two of his bouts with Bob Probert made the decision a lot closer. Taking a high kick to the head in MMA feels like someone taking a swing with a baseball bat. An armbar or joint lock also stresses many ligaments and tendons beyond the point of failure, which is the reason many tap out very quickly when they are sunk in correctly. After a recent MMA event, I asked an undercard competitor if it was worse to lose by an armbar or a rear naked choke. He said matter-of-factly that he would rather be choked out, because he would not feel it anyway and injuries sustained from an armbar could set him back from 6-12 months of training.


WEC December 12th finale the strongest mixed martial arts card to date on Versus

WEC mixed martial arts Versus Channel Urijah Faber Jeff Curran
WEC MMA Paulo Filho Chael Sonnen

The WEC's 2007 finale December 12th live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas was one of the strongest fight cards top to bottom in the promotion's history. Three WEC title holders, Middleweight Champion and former Pride FC pound-for-pound star Paulo Filho, Feathwerweight Champion Urijah Faber, and Light Heavyweight champion Doug Marshall retained their belts in an event that aired live on the Versus Channel.

Former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver stopped Cub Swanson early with a modified guillotine choke, and Charlie Valencia turned in an impressive submission win against Ian McCall after launching McCall with a devestating suplex. Valencia previously KO'd Chuck Liddell stablemate Antonio Banuelos, which aired on an episode of the TapOut MMA reality show. The WEC card will be replayed on Versus Sunday, December 16th at 6PM PT (9PM ET).

[Update] WEC Live Play-by-Play - Sherdog.com.

[Update2] Controversy follows Filho's title defense - Kevin Iole for Yahoo.com.

(WEC Middleweight Champion Paulo) Filho retained his crown in less-than-impressive fashion, winning on a controversial arm bar submission over Chael Sonnen with five seconds remaining in the second round of their scheduled five-round bout. Sonnen says he didn't submit and insisted he said, "No," to referee Josh Rosenthal...

Until the point of the stoppage, Sonnen was in control of the bout and appeared on the way to a huge upset. Filho is regarded by some as one of the top 10 fighters in the world and there are many who believe it is he, and not his friend, UFC champion Anderson Silva, who is the world's best middleweight.


Steve Bernier and Mike Grier lead the way in Sharks 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild

Kyle McLaren hockey fight with Aaron Voros
San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov
Nicklas Backstrom Joe Pavelski photo

The Sharks rebounded from the worst home loss of the season against Buffalo to ice one of their stronger defensive performances against the Minnesota Wild en route to a 4-1 win on Tuesday night. The style matchup between the quick transition Sabres to grind it out Minnesota is about as different as it gets in the National Hockey League, but a strong San Jose penalty kill and imposing defense would be a large hurdle for the Minnesota Wild to overcome. Right wing Jonathan Cheechoo and center Jeremy Roenick were placed on injured reserve earlier in the day, moving Devin Setoguchi to the Thornton-Michalek line, and giving Curtis Brown and Marcel Goc an opportunity.

A determined forecheck by Mike Grier and physical play by Steve Bernier set the tone for the Sharks in the first period. On one sequence Mike Grier kept the puck in at the blueline with his teammates on a line change. Grier kept possession and carried it deep past two opponents. On his way back to the bench the play came to him again, and again Grier kept the puck from crossing over the blueline. Dumping it in 15-20 feet gave him enough time to complete the line change, and it stalled any chance for the Minnesota Wild to initiate offense out of their own zone. Joe Pavelski scored the first goal of the game at 2:39 for the San Jose Sharks. Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom came out to challenge Craig Rivet breaking in on the right wing, but Rivet slid the puck passed an over-extended Backstrom to find an open Pavelski at the top of the crease. Pavelski hammered home his sixth goal of the season out of mid-air, with assists by Rivet and Thornton. On an interview with the Minnesota television broadcast at intermission, Pavelski mentioned that the Sharks were trying to do too much at home. Pavekski said they need to shorten their shifts, simplify their game, and bring their road effort night in and night out when playing at HP Pavilion.

Also of note in the first was strong play by Marcel Goc, who looked like he hit the post with one shot on the power play, drove the net through Wild defenseman Martin Skoula on another, followed up later in the period by a strong wraparound attempt that just missed Patrick Marleau's stick on the doorstep. Goc finished his first start since November 14th against Dallas with an assist, 17:37 minutes of ice time, and 5 shots on goal.

The second period was the story of early catalysts bearing fruit. Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom stoned Sandis Ozolinsh by stacking the pads to stop a 15-foot wrist shot, but the ice was tilted very much against Backstrom the rest of the game. Long breakout passes by Christian Ehrhoff and Mike Grier lead to the second Sharks goal. Mike Grier broke Patrick Rissmiller into the offensive zone with a nice feed, and then found an open space high in the slot. Torrey Mitchell picked up a loose puck and hit Grier for a one timer that beat Backstrom low.

In the previous 7-1 Minnesota Wild blowout, San Jose right wing Steve Bernier was one few players in Teal who started throwing his body around and imposing himself in front of the crease. It continued Tuesday night as the 6-foot-2 225-pound Bernier was credited with 3 hits, and plenty of time planted firmly in front of Niklas Backstrom. Bernier took a pass from Marcel Goc behind the Wild net, and reversed direction leaving two Minnesota players out of position. He tried a centering pass which was blocked, and then snapped home a wrist shot for his first goal of the game.

San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson rewards performance with ice time, and Steve Bernier found himself on the power play with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton later in the period (Alexei Semenov and Joe Pavelski on the point). Patrick Marleau threaded a pass between Backstrom and veteran defenseman Keith Carney to find Joe Pavelski on the opposite side of the Minnesota net. Backstrom made a solid save, sliding across the crease and planting his leg pad up against the post. Steve Bernier beat Wild captain Mark Parrish to the puck, as well as defenseman Kim Johnsson who was preoccupied with outpositioning Pavelski for the rebound. Bernier poked the puck passed three Wild players including Backstrom for his second goal of the game, assists by Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau.

Branko Radivojevic tipped in a Pavol Demitra pass for the first Minnesota Wild goal of the game on a power play at 10:58 in the third period. The score was 4-1 San Jose, but the play started to get a little chippy at the end of the third period. Players were getting their sticks up, hitting after the play, running the goaltender. The Minnesota Wild were not going to go quietly. Kyle McLaren playing in his first game in December dropped the gloves with Minnesota Wild fan favorite Aaron Voros. The McLaren-Voros bout is up on hockeyfights.com here. 6-foot-6 235-pound defenseman Alexei Semenov dropped the gloves with the Refrigerator Todd Fedoruk less than a minute later. Actually the Minnesota Wild left wing and former Anaheim Duck's nickname is "the Fridge", and he has racked up 846 penalty minutes in under 7 NHL seasons. The Semenov-Fedoruk fight is up on hockeyfights.com here.

Evgeni Nabokov (16-9-4) finished with 36 saves on 37 shots to earn his 16th win of the season. Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom (13-6-1) finished with 26 saves on 30 shots. The Wild outshot the Sharks 37-30, but both teams were 1-3 with the man advantage. Minnesota right wing Marion Gaborik finished with nearly 20 minutes in ice time, an assist, and 6 shots on goal.

A photo gallery from the game is available here, Youtube video highlights are available here. Sharkspage three stars of the game: 1 - Steve Bernier, 2 - Mike Grier, 3 - Marcel Goc. Honorable mention to Joe Pavelski, Evgeni Nabokov and Branko Radivojevic.

Post-game comments by San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson:

"I expected us to bounce back, that was just a set up game last week. We were at the end of a trip to a team that was waiting for us and rested, coming off two bad losses. We didn't even talk about the game, we focused on the things we needed to do and we did them."

"(Marcel) Goc played with a little bit of urgency. We have some injuries, when we are healthy you have to compete hard to stay in the lineup. I have healthy bodies and some guys took advantage."

Post-game comments by Minnesota Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire:

"We played a good team that got beat bad in their previous game. They were ready to perform as good as they could and they did. I felt that the first period, they came out one nothing. We didn't really give them great chances but they found ways to score."

"We had to get it out of our end better and we didn't. They took advantage of that and got a few goals. I thought we played well in the third. I thought they worked really hard. They just played a safe game, I mean they were up by four goals."

[Update] Bernier and Sharks roll, stomp Minnesota Wild 4-1 - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] Flyers and Pens Ring the Bell - Hockeyfights.com.

[Update3] Sharks tame the Wild 4-1, Cheechoo Roenick sidelined - SJ Mercury News.

It had been a bad 72 hours for the Sharks.

There was that embarrassing 7-1 loss to Buffalo on Saturday night that everyone was trying to forget. Then early Tuesday came word that forwards Jonathan Cheechoo and Jeremy Roenick were going on the injured reserve list and would miss this week's games at the very least.

Tuesday night, things got a lot better.


Team USA 2007-08 World Junior Championships early report card

After the Miracle on Ice part II win over Team Canada in the 2003 WJC gold medal game, Team USA. has struggled to duplicate that success icing several underachieving teams in the following years. The American's enter the 2008 WJC Tournament (Dec 26-Jan 5, Liberec and Pardubice, Czech Republic) with a number of fresh faces, and others looking to build off of last year's Bronze Medal performance.

Viewers in the U.S. should be able to follow the tournament on the NHL Center Ice Package as well on Fox Sports Net in select markets. There are no San Jose Sharks prospects on the team this year, but there are a number of promising young NHL prospects on the team, including a player the Sharks may have their eyes on for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.


Goaltending: B
+ very athletic in goal
- zero WJC experience

Team USA has been blessed with stability in goal for the better part of a decade with Al Montoya, Jimmy Howard, and Jeff Frazee providing a long stretch of spectacular goaltending. This year it will be a different story as the American's will be ushering in two young goaltenders with no experience at this level of international play.

Plymouth Whalers goaltender Jeremy Smith is the odds on favorite starter. Smith is a Nashville Predators second round selection in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He is a big and athletic goaltender, capable of making the highlight reel save, but is also prone to letting in the occasional weak goal. His challenger for playing time will be the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Joe Palmer from Ohio State. A small hybrid goaltender with elite-level athletic ability, Palmer struggles at times controlling his rebounds.

Expect Jeremy Smith to carry the load for this team. He has performed well on the international stage, and he is off to a great start this season in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers. He has the highest upside of the two goaltenders, and has displayed the capability to steal games on his own. Joe Palmer brings a lot of talent to the table, and if Smith falters early Team USA will not hesitate to put the former USNTDP grad in the net.

Forwards: A-
+ High end skilled guys with experience
- USA always struggles with incontinency and lack of chemistry

As is the custom of late, Team USA boasts the most impressive group of forwards out of any nation besides the Canadians. This is a big, skilled, and versatile group of talented young players that should be able to score and hold their own against anyone. The trouble has been in years past that the talent does not always translate into wins. Team USA will need to prove they can outwork the opposition, and develop the chemistry within the lockerroom that has been lacking in past years.

The two stars upfront that carry with them all the pre-tournament hype are Kyle Okposo and James Van Riemsdyk. Minnesota Gophers forward Kyle Okposo is the more dynamic player of the two. He is a powerful winger with a bone rattling shot. The New York Islander's prized prospect is a comparable package of skill and power to Calgary Flames forward Jarome Iginla. New Hampshire freshman Van Riemsdyk was selected 2nd overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2007 for his combination of colossal size and magical hands. He is a well rounded two-way player in the Keith Primeau mold, and while he may have played under the radar last year this tournament this year he should assume more of an offensive role.

A couple of other forwards to watch for Team USA are Tyler Ruegsegger, Max Pacioretty, and Rhett Rakhshani. This is a talented group capable of taking Team USA all the way to a gold medal, however they will need to buck the trend of years past and play a hard working more complete team game to succeed.

Defenseman: B+
+ Great group of mobile, puck moving defenseman.
- Lack of size and a true shut down defenseman.

With only one defenseman returning from last year, and only one defenseman listed at over 6-foot-2, the American defense looks less intimidating on paper. This is a group that could thrive on the larger international ice surface, as this blueline is built around mobility and puck movement.

Team USA lost three impact defenseman from last year's WJC team, including former top 10 picks Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, and Brian Lee. Team USA boasts impressive prospects highlighted by New York Rangers first rounder Bob Sanguinetti. A highly skilled offensive defenseman with amazing speed and a sick dangle, Sanguinetti is a pure game breaker from the back end that can go coast-to-coast.

The main concern for Team USA's defense is the lack of a defenseman in the true shut down mould. With the larger ice surface to work with, and facing the top player's in the world in this age group, you need a go-to defensive pair that can line up against the opposition's top line and hold them at bay. Team USA lacks this coming into the tournament, but Phoenix Coyotes first rounder Chris Summers will be the best option. Summers is a gritty defenseman with a quick stride, but at this point he is an unproven commodity.

Overall the Team USA defense should bolster an effective puck possession game, punctuated by a dangerous power play. If the opposition can establish their forecheck and cycle the puck down low, Team USA will struggle.


Colin Wilson, C, 2008 Eligible – Currently playing for the Boston University Terriers, Wilson is a mature two-way center with great hockey sense and leadership qualities. He is a big forward, with a hard shot and above average skill. He lacks the explosiveness in his skating, which is the area in his game scouts will be monitoring closely at the World Junior Championships. Wilson's average skating and less than dynamic offensive skill set will keep him outside of the top ten on draft day. He should be a safe pick in the mid-first round.

Jordan Schroeder, RW, 2009 Eligible – This Minnesota Gopher's recruit is tabbed to be as dynamic an offensive threat as Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane. Those are lofty shoes to fill. Schroeder's a natural goal scorer, with a dynamic shot and great hands. He is currently the top U.S. born player eligible for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The fact that he made this WJC team two years ahead of his draft day will certainly be noticed by NHL scouts.

[Update] - USA Today.

USA Hockey's impressive talent production over the last couple of years seems to be hurting the Americans as much as it is helping them as they prepare for this month's world junior championships.

Although Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues) and Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks) were the NHL's No. 1 draft picks over the last two seasons, neither will be available because they will be with their NHL teams when the world's best under-20 hockey talent gathers in the Czech Republic starting Dec. 26. That means instead of relying on two of the world's most gifted teenagers, the Americans will be relying more on their depth.

[Update2] USA Hockey will be offering an All Access Pass during the 2008 World Junior Championship Tournament in the Czech Republic. The pass will offer fans access to exclusive video, a look behind the scenes, game highlights, articles, and interviews with players and coaches. Visit USAhockey.com for more information.


Shooting the Game: Interview with Norwegian hockey photographer Espen Hildrup

Norwegian Valerenga hockey photographer Espen Hildrup
2006-07 Norwegian Valerenga team hockey photo

Norwegian photographer Espen Hildrup was kind enough to answer a few questions about hockey photography, the Norwegian Hockey League champion Valerenga team, former NHL Allstar Espen Knutsen, and ice hockey in the small country of Norway.

Espen's latest collection of 2007-08 Valerenga hockey photos are available here, and photos from the 2006-07 Valerenga season are available here. The official GET-Ligaen league website is available at hockey.no, and the official Valerenga Ishockey team website is available at vif.no.

[Q] How long have you been photographing sports, and how long have you been shooting ice hockey in Norway?

[EH] I started shooting ice hockey - and sports - in february this year. I picked up photography as a hobby 3 years ago, with a Casio compact. Got my first dSLR 2 years ago; an Olympus e300. Since then I've been doing work for Corinthia International, SAS Radisson, several advertising agencies, magazines and newpapers.

Last winter the weather was really bad here in Oslo, Norway; no snow, only rain and fog, so I didn't get to use my camera at all. Then I called Valerenga Ice Hockey and asked if they could use someone to photograph them. They said yes - and since then I have been to all of their games. Valerenga is by far Norway's #1 ice hockey club, with 25 Norwegian Championships. The ex-NHL All Star player Espen "Shampoo" Knutsen is their head coach.

[Q] What camera do you use when you shoot a game, and which lenses do you use most often for hockey?

[EH] I'm using a Canon 5D. Not a typical sports camera, with full frame and 3 fps; but 13mp and very clean high ISO images helps.

In the beginning I brought all sorts of lenses to the games, but the 70-200mm f/2.8 soon became my favorite. I also bring the 1.4x teleconverter, for extra reach - but that gives an f/4, which is a little on slow side. Also the 85mm f/1.8 is a good lens.

[Q] There is a tremendous amount of action and detail in your photos. What do you look to capture when you shoot a hockey game, and what is it like shooting at some of the ice hockey rinks in Norway?

[EH] Having played ice hockey for several years, when I was younger, I try to anticipate the action. Often I just keep the focus at the keeper and zoom in/out as the players move around him. I also try to keep both eyes open; one in the camera, with the other I try to "scan" what goes on outside the viewfinder... When you follow the same team you learn their typical tactics and moves, so you can locate yourself accordingly.

[Q] You have a large collection of photos online, many are of the Valerenga club who have won three straight Norwegian titles. How would you compare the Norwegian league to other leagues? How does Valerenga look so far this season?

[EH] I haven't seen any other leagues except for watching the NHL on ESPN360.com. And comparing the norwegian GET League to NHL is like comparing a Skoda to a Ferrari...

As mentioned, I started shooting ice hockey less than a year ago. Before that I was only into landscapes and travel photography - which got a little boring. Valerenga is also #1 again this year; but the competition is getting tougher. Valerenga lost 3 major players last season; 2 Americans went back to the US, and 1 native Valerenga-player went to play professionally in Germany. So after not really having found new players, combined with teams like Storhamar Dragons, Stavanger Oilers and Sparta Warriors who are working seriously to be the best, this season looks more uncertain the last year.

[Q] Hockey is very popular among the youth in Finland and Sweden, and interest is growing in Denmark and Germany, are more young kids in Norway starting to gain interest in the sport?

[EH] Ice hockey is a small sport in Norway, and I have often wondered why. I just do not understand it; why norwegians do not give this sport a chance. In Sweden Ice Hockey is a major sport. Likewise in Finland. One explaination could be, that people has some kind of mental connetion between ice hockey and fighting. Maybe media in Norway has focused too much on the fights, and too little on the game itself. I don't know...

On Valerenga's Hockey School, this year there were almost twice as many participants as last year. And on average, there are 10% more people coming to see the games in Norway this winter. So it looks like ice hockey is picking up in popularity. It also helps that a TV channel broadcasts a match every Thursday night.

There's a lot of talk about the climate change here in Norway; the winters getting warmer, with less snow and ice. So I think more people will look for indoor sports for the winter seasons. This could give ice hockey a boost in the years to come...

[Q] With Norway's Patrick Thoresen playing for the Edmonton Oiler's AHL affiliate in Springfield, and fellow Norwegian Ole-Kristian Tollefsen racking up 47 penalty minutes already for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL, which Norwegians are having the most success playing outside of Norway? And is there a Norwegian player or prospect that fans should keep an eye on?

[EH] Besides Patrick Thoresen and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, I do know the name Mathis Olimb, an ex-Valerenga player who now plays for the Augsburg Panthers in Germany. There's talk he will be playing in the NHL next year.

Right now I heard Mathis Olimb's litte brother, Ken Andre Olimb, who scored Norway's 1-0 goal against Ukraine in the Junior World Championships in Germany, is a player to watch. Also Ken Andre will become one of Norway's top international players. Last night, Patrick Thoresen's little brother Steffen Thoresen signed a contract with Valerenga. He arrives from Allsvenskan in Sweden. So things are looking good right now!

[Q] Espen Knutsen played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in 1997, but he also received a second shot at the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets on the recommendation of former San Jose Sharks/Norwegian national team head coach George Kingston. Knutsen was the only Norwegian to play in an NHL allstar game, the Swedish Elite League team Djurgarden called him one of the best players in the teams history after he retired, and he captured a Norwegian championship in his first year as the head coach of Valerenga, What has been Espen Knutsen's impact on hockey in Norway?

[EH] Espen "Shampoo" Knutsen's impact on norwegian ice hockey is tremendous! He's an icon in Norway, even though I don't think the average Norwegian actually realizes how big being an allstar in the NHL really is. This combined with his sympathetic and nice way of being, makes him a very popular person in Norway. He earned the championship in his first season as head coach for Vålerenga last season. Now there's people who wants him as coach for Norway's National Team.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer a few questions, and for telling us a little about hockey in Norway. A handful of photographers have contributed to the Shooting the Game series, including Grega Juvancic from Slovenia, Jenik Bohac from Latvia, Laurent Lardiere from France, and several others.

[Update] 2006-2007 in review: Norway, Valerenga Norwegian champions for the 25th time - Eurohockey.net.


Seven unanswered goals in final two periods leads to 7-1 Buffalo Sabres win in San Jose

Patrick Marleau Steve Bernier NHL photo
San Jose Sharks vs Buffalo Sabres ice hockey
Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller

If the Buffalo Sabres 7-1 win at HP Pavilion on Friday night appeared on the big screen, the second and third periods would have been the horror double feature Attack of the 50 Foot Slug and Night of the Living Ryan Miller. Defensive lapses by the Sharks tumbled into odd-man breakaways which manifested into 7 unanswered Buffalo goals and the worst home loss of the season for the San Jose Sharks. The carnage in Teal engulfed 2 goaltenders as Evgeni Nabokov was chased after a 4-goal second period, only to see Dimitri Patzold give up 3 goals on 9 shots in his longest outing of the season (20 minutes).

The Buffalo Sabres were coming off two losses in Southern California, a physical 1-4 beating against Anaheim, and a demoralizing 2-8 loss to the last placed Los Angeles Kings. They were going to come out hard and take it to the Sharks early with speed and a quick transition game. The first period started out innocently enough for the Sharks on the strength of a first period goal by Sandis Ozolinsh, but there were warning signs. Ozolinsh's goal deflected off of two Sabres players, Jochen Hecht and Nolan Pratt, before finding the back of the net. Right wing Maxim Afinogenov was blowing by the Sharks defense with regularity, Derek Roy was passing to himself off the boards, center Paul Gaustad was able to set up in front of Nabokov without paying any price.

The Sharks escaped the first period with a one-goal lead after being outshot 10-6, but San Jose could not help but enter the dark, ominous, isolated wooden cottage in the second period. Don't open the closet, DON'T OPEN THE CLOSET! Alex Kotalik snuck out of the penalty box to join Derek Roy on a 2-on-0 breakaway, which lead to the Sabres first goal of the game at 4:06. Ryan Miller shut down Jeremy Roenick and Patrick Marleau on an ensuing 2-on-0 breakaway for the Sharks, but the game slipped out of San Jose's control after that.

Sandis Ozolinsh ran into a stationary Devin Setoguchi trying to skate the puck up ice. Ozolinsh fell to the ice, and Tim Connolly scooped up the puck, broke his wrists to fake a forehand shot, and tucked a backhand passed Nabokov for the second Sabres goal of the game. The Sharks looked lifeless for long stretches of the second and third period, a possible result of playing their 4th game in 6 nights.

Adam Mair slashed his way through the Sharks defensive zone with a menacing stride. Without defenseman moving their legs and putting a body on the fleet of foot Sabres center, Mair was able to pull up and feed an open Mike Ryan at the top of the crease. Ryan stabbed home the third Sabres goal of the game. Evgeni Nabokov robbed a point blank Thomas Vanek rebound attempt with a diving outstretched glove. A hooking penalty on Jeremy Roenick led to a late second period Sabres power play. Two point shots by captain Brian Campbell and center Tim Connolly lead to rebound scoring chances, and the Sharks could not clear the puck out of the zone. The third point shot by Brian Campbell was deflected low passed Nabokov by Paul Gaustad, who was able to get his stick on the ice despite being checked by Douglas Murray and Craig Rivet. Score 4-1 Buffalo Sabres.

San Jose Sharks back-up goaltender Dimitri Patzold entered the game at the start of the third period. Patzold (6-0, 195) plays the angles well and covers a lot of the net down low, but behind Evgeni Nabokov he has been relatively untested up until now at the NHL level. He would face a churning buzz saw in the third period as the Buffalo Sabres attack showed no signs of slowing down.

A defensive turnover at the Sharks blueline led to another 2-on-1, which Derek Roy converted for the 5th Buffalo goal of the game. No chance for Patzold to get over on the play. The crowd starting thinning a little in the lower bowl towards the middle of the third period, and it was filled in by Sabres fans who have not seen their team visit San Jose in almost 4 years. Patrick Marleau crashed the crease for a shot on goal, taking defenseman Nathan Paetsch and goaltender Ryan Miller to the ice in the process. Marleau got off a second shot on net from a prone position, which was also smothered by Miller. Maxim Afinogenov put on a skating clinic, walking the puck in from his own blueline late in the third period. Afinogenov pulled up and fed Paul Gaustad in front the crease for his second goal of the game. Nathan Paetsch capped off the Buffalo Sabres offensive outburst by driving in from the left point and finding Thomas Vanek for another defelection in front of a Sharks goaltender. After 60 minutes, the Sabres earned a 7-1 road win against a weary Sharks squad.

Ryan Miller finished with 21 saves on 22 shots to pick up the win. The Sabres finished 1-3 on the power play, with Paul Gaustad scoring a power play goal and Tom Connolly scoring a short handed goal, both in the second period. Evgeni Nabokov made 21 saves on 25 shots, and was pulled after the end of the second period. Dimitri Patzold made 6 saves on 9 shots, and the Sharks finished 0-6 with the man advantage. With the loss the San Jose Sharks are 15-9-4 after 28 games, and 4-6-2 at home.

A photo gallery from the game is available here, youtube video highlights are also available here.

[Update] Sharks Still Struggling At Home - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] It's still not safe at home for Sharks: Buffalo rolls 7-1 - SJ Mercury News.

[Update] Miller 'helped' Sharks’ birth - John Vogl for the Buffalo News.

Ryan Miller skated to his crease Saturday night in HP Pavilion, shortly after the hometown San Jose Sharks were introduced. The crowd was still screaming for its team.

If Miller didn't have to concentrate on playing goal for the Buffalo Sabres, he could have taken a moment to look around and see what he helped bring to Northern California. The Miller family moved to San Jose when Ryan was 6, and they left when he was about 8. It was the late 1980's, and there was a push to bring NHL hockey back to the area. The youngster grabbed some paper and started walking door-to-door so people could sign a petition.

"We wanted to see an NHL team here," Miller said. "I don't know if we helped all that much. I think it was already in the works by the time we got it. But we were part of that group that was trying to get them here."

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Embarrassed in 7-1 Home Loss

The Worcester Sharks continued their winless streak of five games after a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of the Hartford Wolf Pack at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 4,101, most of which were long gone by the time the final horn sounded.

How can a team give up seven goals on home ice? Simply put, Hartford scored seven goals because the game was only 60 minutes long. And Hartford controlled nearly all of them.

The beginning of the game actually saw some decent hockey, where both teams played relatively evenly. WorSharks netminder Taylor Dakers made a couple nice saves, but even his nice start was overshadowed as Hartford goaltender Al Montoya made two incredible saves.

The first was on Craig Valette on a break-away as Valette took a nice pass from Riley Armstrong and broke in past the Hartford defense. The second was on Mike Morris who had the whole top of the net to shoot at after Montoya was down and out after a save of a Mike Iggulden shot. Montoya shot the glove up and snagged the puck backhanded.

As has been the case nearly all season, Hartford got on the board first when WorSharks defender Tom Walsh turned the puck over in the slot and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau flipped it past Dakers at the 15 minute mark.

Just when it looked like Worcester would escape the period down just 1-0, the WorSharks committed the hockey sin of allowing a goal in the last minute of a period. And then they did it again.

Both goals were scored by Gregg Moore, the first with 30 seconds remaining in the period after a Brad Staubitz turnover deep in his own zone. The second came after a Patrick Traverse hooking call as Moore pushed a rolling puck into a wide open net with just 1.8 seconds remaining in the first period.

Hartford would make it 4-0 on a Nigel Dawes power play tally at the 6:15 mark of the second period. Worcester would score its lone goal next, when Valette found himself all alone about 15 feet in front of Montoya and beat him low with a wobbly wrist shot.

The third period would begin 4-1, and while killing an Armstrong slashing minor, Staubitz hit Wolf Pack forward Dane Byers with an elbow. Byers took exception to the hit and dropped them to engage with Staubitz. Staubitz, undoubtedly frustrated from the WorSharks poor play, took the chance to release his frustration on Byers. Staubitz landed unanswered shot after unanswered shot until the linesmen jumped in to stop the beating.

While that fight was going on Wolf Pack winger Hugh Jessiman hit Brennan Evans with a high stick--a stick that actually remained between the players as they fought--leading to Evans dropping them with Jessiman. The fight was a closer battle than the Staubitz-Byers bout, but Evans was clear winner landing multiple shots with both hands. Evans and Jessiman were given the rest of the night off.

Referee Brian Pochmara did not call any additional penalty on Jessiman for the high stick.

Hartford would tack on three more goals in the third period; Artem Anisimov at 5:41 while the WorSharks were shorthanded killing Staubitz's elbowing minor, Dawes second of the game at 11:25 while the teams were at even strength, and Moore's hat trick clincher at 13:10 on the power play.

Worcester scratches were Marc Busenburg (healthy), T.J. Fox (upper body injury), Graham Mink (leg), and Jonathan Tremblay (healthy).

Last night's game was the 2nd annual "Teddy Bear Toss", where fans throw stuffed animals on the ice to be donated to charity. After Valette's goal they rained down on the ice, with the WorSharks and a few Wolf Pack players pushing them into small piles to be picked up.

The three starts of the game were
Nigel Dawes (2g,3a)
Greg Moore (hat trick)
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (1g,2a)
No arguments from this writer on those choices.

WorSharks Vice President and Assistant General Manager Mike Mudd spoke in front of season ticket holders before the game in the second of such meetings between the front office staff and season ticket holders. There was no ground-breaking news--nor was any expected--just some All Star talk about how the bid was made, some possible plans, etc.

Dave Daniels, the WorSharks Chief Operating Officer, confirmed to me that there is no planned logo change for next season. He does expect there will be some small changes to the jerseys once Reebok gets all the kinks out and their options increase, but he pretty much ruled out any big changes.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play


Short Handed


Hartford 3 1 3--7
Worcester 0 1 0--1

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Hartford-Parenteau, Pierre 13 (Pyatt, Tommy 5; Ouellette, Mike 4) 15:00. 2, Hartford-Moore, Greg 12 (game winner) (Dawes, Nigel 12; Bourret, Alex 9) 19:30. 3, Hartford-Moore, Greg 13 (power play) (Parenteau, Pierre 14; Dawes, Nigel 13) 19:58.
Penalties: HFD-Hutchinson, Andrew (Hooking), 7:26. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Hooking), 11:03. WOR-Traverse, Patrick (Hooking), 19:44.

2nd Period
Scoring: 4, Hartford-Dawes, Nigel 8 (power play) (Hutchinson, Andrew 15) 6:15. 5, Worcester-Valette, Craig 2 (unassisted) 12:09.
Penalties: WOR-Iggulden, Mike (Hooking), 4:55. WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Slashing), 5:40. WOR-Evans, Brennan (High sticking), 8:11. WOR-Morris, Mike (High sticking), 14:44.

3rd Period
Scoring: 6, Hartford-Anisimov, Artem 5 (power play) (Parenteau, Pierre 15; Dawes, Nigel 14) 5:41. 7, Hartford-Dawes, Nigel 9 (Moore, Greg 13) 11:25. 8, Hartford-Moore, Greg 14 (power play) (Bourret, Alex 10; Baranka, Ivan 9) 13:10.
Penalties: WOR-Armstrong, Riley (Slashing), 2:21. HFD-Byers, Dane (Fighting, Major), 4:12. HFD-Jessiman, Hugh (Fighting, Major, Game misc.), 4:12. WOR-Evans, Brennan (Fighting, Major, Game misc.), 4:12. WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Elbowing, Fighting, Major), 4:12. HFD-Taylor, Jake (Holding), 6:26. WOR-Traverse, Patrick (Hooking), 12:38. HFD- Hutchinson, Andrew (Holding), 19:02.

Shots On Goal
Hartford 11 13 11--35
Worcester 7 6 10--23

Power Play Conversions: Hartford - 4 of 9, Worcester - 0 of 3.
Goalies: Hartford-Montoya, Al (59:47, 23 shots, 22 saves; record: 7-4-2). Worcester-Dakers, Taylor (59:39, 35 shots, 28 saves; record: 1-4-0).
A: 4101. Referee: Pochmara, Brian. Linesmen: Costello, John; MacDonald, Brian.


Book Review - Off the Post, hockey stories from across the world by Risto Pakarinen

Off the Post book hockey stories from across the world by Risto Pakarinen

Hockey journalist and NHL.com blogger Risto Pakarinen released a collection of short stories that appeared on his blog for the new book, Off the Post: Hockey Stories from Across the World. Risto is an evocative writer, one whose enthusiasm and unique Finnish perspective bleed through in several dozen of the short hockey vignettes included. Pakarinen offers a window into the myriad of leagues, tournaments and international rivalries throughout Europe, and offers an amusing look back at the National Hockey League from across the pond.

Here is a representative short story on the legacy of Finnish goaltenders in Europe and the NHL, and there are many more where this came from:

December 5, 2006 - Finnomenal Goalies

Happened to scroll down the nhl.com home page – obviously to see if my blog was featured at the Blog Central spot, it wasn't – when I saw the goalie stats, especially the goals-against average. Maybe it's the layout, maybe the fact that I have for two years now predicted that Vesa Toskala is going to rock the League, but for some reason, my eye caught his name on the list.

First, let me just go on record and say: TOLD YOU SO! Second, and this isn't really breaking news anymore: there are three Finnish goalies in the Top 5. There’s Toskala at #2, Niklas Backstrom at #3, and Miikka Kiprusoff at #4.

In the last year or two, there have been dozens and dozens of articles in hockey magazines all over the place about this phenomenon. Why are the Finnish goalies dominating the NHL now? And while some say it's the goalie coaches in Finland, I don't think it's the whole story. The coaches are surely excellent. I just think there's something else that runs a little deeper than that. Finnish goalies have always been great. As far as I can remember, goalie has always been the most important player on Team Finland. And even longer than that.

In 1967, Finland beat Czechoslovakia for the first time in the World Championships, and the hero of the game was goalie Urpo Ylonen. Finland won the game, 3-1. It was the first time Finland beat any of the "big nations." Three years later, in the 1970 World Championships, Ylonen won the best goalie award. Since then, there have been other greats, such as Jorma Valtonen, Hannu Kamppuri, Kari Takko, Jarmo Myllys, Markus Mattsson and Markus Ketterer.

Valtonen was a member of the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic team and if you remember, Team USA still needed to beat Finland to clinch the goal medal. Valtonen stopped 14 shots as the Finns were fighting for the country’s first Olympic medal. That's 14 shots in the first period, naturally. These days, Valtonen would have had his agent talking with NHL GMs, but in 1980, the 34-year-old Valtonen returned to Europe. Mind you, he had been elected Best Goalkeeper in the 1972 World Championships already.

Markus Mattsson was the first Finnish goalie drafted to the NHL when the New York Islanders used their fifth-round pick on the left-handed Finn. After 92 games in the NHL (and 62 in the WHA), he was the pioneer for Finnish goalies. He is also the answer to this trivia question: "Who was the goalie for the Los Angeles Kings that stopped Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 51-game point-scoring streak on January 28, 1984." Markus Ketterer was elected Best Goalkeeper at the 1991 World Championships, and named to the World Championship All-Star Team in 1992. And so on.

Finland has always had great goalies, and probably always will. Being goalie suits Finns well. Infamous for being quiet, stoic, and not very social, it's like Finns were born goalies. (Ville Nieminen being the exception to the rule). What better position for a Finn than goalie, where he can stand alone in front of the net, covered by a mask, and fight alone against the world? Yes, the pucks hurt, but so what? It only makes the Finns grit their teeth and say: Bring it on. Bring. It. On. You say that goalies are a little crazy? Well, Finns are born a little crazy!

Oh. Jani Hurme, Miikka Kiprusoff, Antero Niittymaki, Fredrik Norrena have one thing in common, though. They've all been coached by Urpo Ylonen. Maybe it's the coaching after all.

Risto's blog on NHL.com is available here and via the sidebar on the right under media blogs. His official website can be found at ristopakarinen.com, and Off the Post is available for purchase here. Risto Pakarinen also contributes an Eye on Europe article weekly for The Hockey News, blogs about the SM-liiga for the official SM-liiga website, and covers Finland and Sweden for IIHF.com.

[Update] In addition to a recommendation from the Hockey Hall of Fame keeper of the Cup Philip Pritchard on the rear cover, Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke also offered his thoughts about Off the Post:

"This is a must-read for the hockey fan, whether hard-core or casual. The tales are well-told, whimsical and thoughtful all at the same time."
Brian Burke, Anaheim Ducks General Manager

Darryl Hunt: WorSharks Lose Shootout Thriller, 4-3

The Worcester Sharks couldn't solve Manchester Monarchs netminder Daniel Taylor, and dropped a 4-3 shootout thriller Friday night at the DCU Center in snowy Worcester, Massachusetts in front of an announced crowd of just 3,113. While it was the cold and icy conditions that held down the crowd, it was Taylor that held down the WorSharks. Taylor, making his AHL debut, saved 37 of 40 shots, many of them being of the "high quality" variety.

For the 15th time in 20 games the opponent struck first when Petr Kanko hit Jeff Giuliano in the slot with a pass from behind the goal line, with WorSharks goaltender Thomas Greiss being unable to get across the net in time to make any sort of attempt at a save.

Sixty-six seconds later the WorSharks tied it on a great individual effort by Lukas Kaspar, who picked up a loose puck to the left of Taylor and fired a hard wrister that Taylor just got a piece of, but not enough to stop it from reaching the back of the net.

Just over a minute after the Kaspar goal Manchester would take the lead again as Jeff Likens attempted dump in from the blue line hit Monarchs center Patrick Jarrett in the foot and caromed twenty feet into the WorSharks net beyond a diving Greiss.

Manchester would take the 2-1 lead into the second stanza, but not before the game's only fight took place. Kevin Westgarth, possibly seeking revenge for Staubitz's beat-down of Vladimir Dravecky after Dravecky crosschecked Staubitz from behind in a previous game in Manchester, went after Staubitz well behind the play. Both squared up and landed some tremendous shots, with Staubitz pulling down Westgarth after slipping to end the fight.

Local television reportedly gave the clear decision to Staubitz. Manchester radio gave the clear edge to Westgarth. This writer, along with the fans of both teams I spoke to, called it a draw.

The game's biggest hit would happen about eight minutes into the second period when Worcester's Craig Valette absolutely obliterated Manchester left wing Paul Crosty with a huge shoulder to the chest as Crosty was breaking out of the Monarchs zone. Crosty got up slowly, and as the play went back into the Manchester zone he attacked Staubitz. The linesmen stepped in stopping Staubitz from retaliating, and the WorSharks would take advantage of the double minor to Crosty.

Worcester would tie it one minute into the power play, with Derek Joslin jumping on a loose puck in the shot and blasting it through the crowd and past a screened Taylor to knot the game at 2-2. Forty seconds later Patrick Traverse would give the WorSharks the lead on a blast that deflected off of Monarchs defender Peter Harrold.

Manchester would tie the game while the teams were both skating a man down. After Riley Armstrong was waived out of a face off Kaspar was forced to take the draw, a draw he made very little attempt on resulting in a clean win by Manchester center Trevor Lewis. Brian Boyle, who scored the goal in double overtime to eliminate Worcester from last season's Calder Cup playoffs, blasted the puck passed Greiss to tie the game at 3-3.

Neither team would score in the 3rd period or overtime, but while the 25 minutes lacked scoring it didn't lack great hockey. Huge hits, end to end action, and great saves dominated the third period. Despite the small crowed both teams' fans represented themselves well, with loud cheers filling the rafters many times during the period.

Manchester would get the better in the shootout, with Matt Moulson and David Meckler connecting on their attempts. Mike Iggulden got the lone shootout tally for Worcester.

Worcester's scratches: Marc Busenburg (healthy), TJ Fox (the dreaded "upper body" injury), Graham Mink (leg), Jonathan Tremblay (healthy).

With Mink out all of Worcester went with all three of their alternates: Brennan Evans, Traverse, and Valette.

Craig Valette was the only WorSharks skater to not register a shot on goal.

Mike Morris played his first game of the season after recovering from a sports hernia, and assisted on Joslin's power play goal. Tomas Plihal also played in his first game of the season after spending time in the NHL on the injured list, and assisted on Traverse's power play tally. He was also on the ice for Kaspar's unassisted goal to finish the game at +1.

Last night was "Karaoke Night" at the DCU Center, and it started off with WorSharks broadcaster Eric Lindquist running from from the broadcast booth to the Charter Zone to kick off the festivities between the first and second periods with a spirited rendition of Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild. Let's just say when it comes to Karaoke, Lindquist is a great broadcaster.

Tonight is "Teddy Bear Toss" night at the DCU Center vs Hartford. It's always funny to see goaltenders--and occasionally other players--hiding in the nets as hundreds of stuff animals rain onto the ice.

Even Strength Lines


Power Play Lines


Shorthanded Lines


FACE-OFFS (offensive/neutral/defensive = total) (unofficial)
Morris 2-3/4-5/0-1 = 6-9
Plihal 5-3/2-1/1-2 = 8-6
Armstrong 1-1/2-2/1-2 = 4-5
Raduns 1-1/1-0/0-0 = 2-1
Valette 3-1/1-0/0-0 = 4-1
Prudden 1-1/2-0/0-1 = 3-2
Cavanagh 2-0/1-0/1-0 = 4-0
Kaspar 0-0/0-0/0-1 = 0-1
Rome 0-1/0-0/1-0 = 1-1

M: Moulson: deke stick GOAL
W: Iggulden: deke glove GOAL
M: Lewis: shoot low glove save
W: Morris: lost puck
M: Purcell: lost puck
W: Armstrong: shoot 5-hole save
M: Meckler: shoot glove GOAL
W: Raduns: shoot 5-hole save
M: Harrold: shoot 5-hole save
W: Rome: backhand over net

Manchester 2 1 0 1--4
Worcester 1 2 0 0--3

1st Period
Scoring: 1, Manchester-Giuliano, Jeff 3 (Kanko, Petr 3; Crosty, Paul 1) 11:25. 2, Worcester-Kaspar, Lukas 3 (unassisted) 12:31. 3, Manchester-Jarrett, Patrick 2 (Likens, Jeff 5; Piskula, Joe 2) 13:40.
Penalties: MCH-Westgarth, Kevin (Fighting, Major), 14:06. WOR-Staubitz, Brad (Fighting, Major), 14:06. MCH-Crosty, Paul (Roughing), 14:44.

2nd period
Scoring: 4, Worcester-Joslin, Derek 2 (power play) (Morris, Mike 1; Iggulden, Mike 12) 9:12. 5, Worcester-Traverse, Patrick 3 (power play) (Plihal, Tomas 1; Spang, Dan 5) 9:52. 6, Manchester-Boyle, Brian 9 (Lewis, Trevor 5) 14:37.
Penalties: MCH-Crosty, Paul (Roughing, Unsportsmanlike Cond, Double minor), 8:10. WOR-Valette, Craig (Hooking), 10:45. MCH-Purcell, Teddy (Hooking), 12:03. MCH-Milam, Troy (Hooking), 12:49. WOR-Plihal, Tomas (Holding), 14:34.

3rd period
Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Scoring: None.
Penalties: None.

Manchester 6 7 8 2--23
Worcester 10 16 13 1--40

Power Play Conversions: Manchester - 0 of 2, Worcester - 2 of 5.
Goalies: Manchester-Taylor, Daniel (65:00, 40 shots, 37 saves; record: 1-0-0). Worcester-Greiss, Thomas (64:56, 23 shots, 20 saves; record: 6-5-2).
A: 3113. Referee: Smith, Jeff. Linesmen: Low, Tim; Low, Chris.


The Pass heard round Texas, Joe Thornton leads San Jose Sharks in 3-2 win over Dallas

The Sharks were facing a tough test against the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday night. Dallas had been lights out on the PK, killing 42 of 44 power plays in an 11-game span (95.5%), solid 5-on-5 with a balanced offensive attack, and with the fifth ranked PP in the league they were looking for success at home after a lengthy six game roadtrip.

What happened in the next 60 minutes was possibly the best player in the game taking apart one of the top teams in the NHL piece by piece, and carrying the Sharks on his back in the process. Joe Thornton amassed a goal and 2 assists in the 3-2 win over Dallas, which included a beautiful backhand feed from the boards to a solitary Patrick Marleau in front of the crease.

A first period Thornton pass defelected off of the skate of Stars defenseman Nicklas Grossman directly to Jonathan Cheechoo, who scored his first goal after and 11 game drought. In the second period, Thornton's highlight assist of the month lead to a point-blank conversion from captain Patrick Marleau. It was Marleau's first point in 5 games, and his first assist in 6 games. San Jose stumbled a little late in the game, but Joe Thornton scored his team leading 12th goal of the season and the Sharks killed off a 5-on-3 to earn a decisive road win against a first place team.

Evgeni Nabokov (14-8-4, .915SV%, 2.01GAA, 3SO) made 33 saves to earn his 14th win of the season. Nabokov remains the only goaltender to start all of his team's games this season (26).

Video of the aforementioned 20-foot backhand assist by Thornton is available here. Youtube game highlights are available here. Kyle McLaren, Rob Davison and Curtis Brown were scratches for San Jose. Antti Miettinen, Kris Barch, and Joel Lundqvist were scratches for Dallas. The Stars 2nd best points leader on defense, Philippe Boucher, had shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will miss 4 weeks. Former Los Angeles Kings captain Mattias Norstrom rejoined the Stars after missing 13 games with a fractured orbital bone suffered November 7th in San Jose.

Dallas forward Stu Barnes said of Joe Thornton, "He's one of the best in the league every year for a reason. He’s a rare combination of big, unbelievable skill, great hands, great shot and he plays with an edge, too. He's got great vision, he's a great passer, and he's quick, too. Great player and he had a great game tonight."

Sharks 3, Stars 2 - Dallas Stars.

San Jose then grabbed back the advantage when captain Patrick Marleau registered his first point in six games by scoring off a nice feed from Thornton at 6:02. Thornton picked up his second assist of the night by threading a pass from the right side boards through about three players to a wide open Marleau in the slot, and Marleau’s one-timer beat Turco over the blocker for the 2-1 lead.

"We know what kind of player that he is and the second goal was a prime example," Turco said of Thornton. "Two guys go to him and leave (Marleau) in front. It was still a great shot, actually, on Patty’s off-wing. It happened so fast, I was anticipating he would pass it back, but one guy alone in front, it went through a bunch of guys. That is why (Thornton) gets the recognition he does, just headsy plays. You don't try to stop him, you just try to contain him as best you can."

Early in the season San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson mentioned that a team's best chance to shut down Joe Thornton was to maintain puck possession and keep pressure up in the offensive zone. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Sharks outshot the Stars 28-19, and never trailed in the game. He also quoted former captain Mike Modano, "Our ability to make plays and pass and skate with the puck was really ineffective tonight and below average. We just didn't have much puck possession."

David Pollak's Mercury News recap focused on the eye popping Thornton assist, but John Ryan of the Morning Buzz notes that the daily NHL video roundup overlooked the play in its highlight reel. Tracey Meyers of the Dallas Stars Telegram writes that the Stars did not have an answer for Joe Thornton, but it was not a no-look pass as described, Thornton stole a look before changing direction along the boards.

Stars-Sharks - Andrews Starspage.

Don't look now, but the Sharks are on kind of a nice little roll. They've won three in a row and are 7-1-2 i their last ten games. With last night's win over the Stars they took over first place in the Pacific if you go by winning percentage (It's .615 for San Jose to .586 for the Stars). Throw in the fact that Scott Niedermayer is coming back for the Ducks and the division gets a little more interesting.

The Stars didn't play all that well Wednesday night and they weren't bad either. There was probably some fatigue, even if Dave Tippett wants to discount that factor. They've played seven games in 11 days and are coming off a road trip. That's going to take a toll. You add all that up, throw in the fact that San Jose played a solid game and still the Stars were in a position to get perhaps a point or maybe even two out of this game. They just couldn't take advantage of those late power plays and that was that. That's hockey.

The discrepancy in penalty calls was a little disconcerting, but not unwarranted. It's not like the Stars were doing a lot of stuff to draw penalties. I saw maybe one or two that could have been called that weren't. I see that in a lot of games though, so I don't consider it a big deal. San Jose doesn't take a lot of penalties and the Stars don't seem to draw a lot, so that's another reason I wasn't totally surprised that the Stars ended up with only two chances. That said, to have no power plays 55 minutes into the game is strange.

[Update] Joe Thornton zajistil Žralokům vítězství - Dallas Stars CZ. The Dallas Stars have one of the few active Czech blogs covering the team. There is a San Jose Sharks blog in Czech as well. Not sure if it is still active but there were a few notes on Milan Michalek and Lukas Kaspar.

[Update2] Pass Of The Year - Kuklas Korner.

[Update3] A Night To Remember - Ryan Garner.

Joe Thornton was the catalyst tonight, producing another three-point effort and helping Marleau and Cheechoo find the back of the net. His pass to Marleau was absolutely world class, a play you'll be seeing on highlight reels for years to come. The pass on its own was incredible, but Thornton's vision and anticipation made the play spectacular, making a little glance over his shoulder and delivering a perfect feed.


Notes on Sharks prospects Ty Wishart and Tyson Sexsmith's selection to the Team Canada WJC tryout roster, and Logan Couture's omission

Hockey Canada released their selection camp invitation list this week for the upcoming 2008 World Junior Championship tournament in the Czech Republic. The defending gold medal Canadian team will once again ice the deepest roster of any nation, a roster that could potentially include some of the top talent in the San Jose Sharks development system.

Defenseman Ty Wishart (drafted 16th overall, 2006) and goalie Tyson Sexsmith (drafted 91st overall, 2007) where named to the selection camp roster, while in a shocking move center Logan Couture (drafted 9th overall, 2007) was left off the camp invite list. For anyone new to the Canadian WJC selection process be warned, it is a highly political process, where many skilled players are left off of the roster in favor of a coach's personal selections.

This will be Prince George Cougars defenseman Ty Wishart's (38GP, 8G, 21A, 29PTS) second consecutive selection camp, although it may possibly be the second straight year he will be left off the final roster. There is stiff competition on the blueline, and unless Wishart puts forth a dominant effort at the selection camp it will be a tough proposition for him to be selected. Wishart did not perform well in his limited role against Russia in the Super Series this past summer, and he will be competing against younger defenseman that could also play on for Canada next year as well.

Vancouver Giants goatender Tyson Sexsmith (19-5-4, .905SV%, 1.99GAA, 5SO) received a significant amount of interest this season from Team Canada scouts, and he should be given a fair look by Team Canada head coach Craig Hartsburg and the rest of the staff. Still, out of the four goalies invited to the selection camp (Jonathan Bernier, Leland Irving, Steve Mason, Tyson Sexsmith), Sexsmith has the most difficult hill to climb to make the team. Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier is a lock to be the starter, and both Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Steve Mason, and Calgary Flames first rounder Leland Irving boast higher credentials.

It was an honor for Ty Wishart and Tyson Sexsmith just to be invited to the selection camp, and the competition will be a good experience for both. Like Devin Setoguchi and Steve Bernier before them, the Sharks prospects will have a difficult time making Team Canada's roster despite having solid a NHL future ahead of them.

[Update] Team Canada's 2008 World Junior Championships selection roster - Hockey Canada.

[Update2] Olympiques' Giroux ready to make grade, Forward good bet to survive cutdowns for world tourney - Ottawa Citizen.

Logan Couture and Jamie McGinn of the Ontario Hockey League's Ottawa 67's weren't on the list after having participated with the national team at the under-18 level in the past.

The last time Couture, who has 38 points in 27 games, was on the national team radar, at training camp for the U-18 team in the summer of 2006, he suffered a deep gash on his leg and was forced to withdraw. This year, 18-year-old Couture hasn't had the hottest start to the season, although he has warmed up recently with 17 points in his past nine games. He also represented the OHL at the recent ADT CHL Canada/Russia Challenge.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," he said yesterday afternoon. "Any time you have the opportunity to try out for the national team and don't get the invite, it's disappointing. (But) there's always next year."

Miami (Ohio) Still No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

A press release from USA Hockey:

Miami (Ohio) Still No. 1 on USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Miami (Ohio) University received 33-of-34 first-place votes and a total of 509 points to retain the top spot on the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll. The Red Hawks, which were idle last week, are atop the poll for the third consecutive week.

This Week's Top-15 Match-ups

Friday, December 7
No. 5 Denver @ No. 14 St. Cloud State

Saturday, December 8
No. 7 New Hampshire @ No. 10 Massachusetts
No. 5 Denver @ No. 14 St. Cloud State

The University of Michigan (453), which picked up the remaining first-place vote, stayed at No. 2, while Colorado College (444) jumped up one spot to No. 3. Michigan State University (402) climbed one spot to No. 4, while the University of Denver (388) fell from No. 3 to No. 5. No. 11 University of Wisconsin and No. 12 Harvard University made the biggest jumps this week, each moving up three spots.

USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men's College Hockey Poll - #10

(First-place votes in parenthesis, Last Week's Ranking, 2007-08 Record, Weeks In Top 15)

1 Miami (Ohio) University, 509 (33), 1, 13-1-0, 10
2 University of Michigan, 453 (1), 2, 14-2-0, 10
3 Colorado College, 444, 4, 10-4-0, 10
4 Michigan State University, 402, 5, 10-3-2, 10
5 University of Denver, 388, 3, 10-4-0, 10
6 University of Notre Dame, 346, 7, 14-4-0, 10
7 University of New Hampshire, 292, 6, 8-3-1, 10
8 University of North Dakota, 281, 8, 7-5-1, 10
9 Clarkson University, 199, 9, 10-5-0, 10
10 University of Massachusetts, 171, 11, 6-3-5, 5
11 University of Wisconsin, 164, 14, 7-6-1, 10
12 Harvard University, 133, 15, 6-2-1, 2
13 Northeastern University, 126, 12, 7-4-1, 2
14 St. Cloud State University, 74, 10, 7-5-2, 4
15 University of Minnesota Duluth, 49, 13, 6-5-3, 6

Others receiving votes: Boston College, 25; University of Minnesota, 21; U.S. Air Force Academy, 4; Niagara University, 2; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2; Bowling Green State University, 1.

ABOUT THE POLL: The 13th annual USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll is conducted each week in conjunction with the American Hockey Coaches Association. The poll includes input from coaches and journalists representing each of the six NCAA Division I ice hockey conferences, as well as composite votes from officers of the American Hockey Coaches Association and USA Hockey Magazine, the most widely distributed hockey magazine in the world.

[Update] Inside College Hockey's Hobey Tracker taps Univeristy of Michigan senior forward Kevin Porter (16g, 8A, 24PTs), St. Cloud State sophmore forward Ryan Lasch (10G, 10A, 20PTS), and Michigan State junior forward Tim Kennedy (11G, 5A, 16PTS) as the top three candidates for the top individual collegiate hockey award at this point in the season.

[Update2] November 24th :: Michigan Over Minnesota, 5-1: College Hockey Showcase - Allen Clark for Offwing.com.

[Update3] Back For More - United States College Hockey Online.

Coming into the 2007-2008 season, North Dakota junior forward Ryan Duncan faced a lot of expectations. Duncan, winner of the 2007 Hobey Baker Memorial Award, could have parlayed his success last year into a chance to play in the NHL, much as one of his linemates, Jonathan Toews, did. Instead, Duncan, along with T.J. Oshie, the other key player of the feared “DOT line,” returned, in part to try to help the Fighting Sioux capture that elusive national championship.


Hockey Night in Canada discovers hockey blogs

More soon.


Recent China Sharks coverage sets up unrealistic expectations, and then knocks them down

San Jose China Sharks

There was a brief flurry of headlines about the China Sharks following two reports from Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper. The first article by Geoffrey York profiled 26-year-old Saskatoon native Keegan McAvoy. The current China Sharks right wing with Canadian University, WHL, and ECHL hockey experience on his resume mentioned some of the obstacles for foreign athletes living and competing in China.

Language issues, on-ice communication, and cultural differences are reminiscent of problems many other Canadians and Americans have faced when playing hockey in Russia, Germany, Sweden, or other foreign professional leagues.

One amusing video report about Fred Braithwaite's experience in Russia during the lockout was filed by TSN's Ellen Pinchuk (including a clip of him staring out of his hotel window at a McDonalds). It is par for the course when playing abroad, and players usually enjoy themselves in the process. At the end of York's profile he quoted China Sharks forward Kevin Korol describing his time in China as a "really cool experience".

The second Globe and Mail article, also by Geoffrey York, took the hint of skepticism in the first article and ran with it; STRUGGLING TO MAKE INROADS IN THE WORLD'S MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY; NHL has visions of glory in lucrative China, The Chinese market has become the Holy Grail for sports promoters, but hockey is tumbling into obscurity.

York operates under the premise that hockey was at one time an established sport in China, and offers an incomplete view of the decline it faces today. The 20 team domestic league dating back to 1945 has fallen to 3 teams, and women's hockey in China that achieved some international and regional success has fallen on hard times with reduced funding, but in a county of 1.3 billion people (40+ times the size of Canada) hockey has never achieved a footprint large enough to afford any "tumbling into obscurity". Although I have to add that there are several photos available on the web of simply breathtaking outdoor rinks in the Heilongjiang province and nearby Mongolia. And wherever there are hockey rinks, Canadians will follow (see My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places by Dave Bidini, Hockey Night in Mongolia, etc).

The problem is not pie in the sky hopes by NHL owners, or any modern shift in the entertainment choices of Chinese youth or the sports watching public, the problem is very similar to what hockey faces in many Western countries, including Canada and America. The cost of the sport in many cases is prohibitive, especially for cash starved youth organizations. Without a system in place to develop young talent, professional teams and international squads are eventually going to dry up. Sports Darwinism 101.

That is why an article Bill Metzer wrote for NHL.com on New York Islanders owner Charles Wang's efforts to build an infrastructure for hockey in 2006 captures a more robust view of the situation the sport faces in China. Unfortunately, reports on the recent struggles facing hockey in China by the Chinese media strike a similar panic bell tone as Geoffrey York. An article by the official Xinhua News Agency in April after China was relegated ran with the headline, Chinese Ice Hockey Plunged into Crisis.

Chinese national team head coach Xiang Shuqing said there are three problems facing the country's ice hockey. "Firstly, China can not get sustainable supply of backup players; Secondly, few teenagers like to be a professional player for the lack of financial guarantee after retirement; Thirdly, professional players can not earn enough money to maintain a decent life, so the sport is losing its appeal among youngsters."

Chinese ice hockey enjoyed its best time in the 1980s but it lasted only a very short time. Jilin province, where ice hockey used to be one of the most popular sports, disbanded its provincial team in 1997. The same thing is true for the neighbouring Heilongjiang province. During its heyday, there were ten men's and women's ice hockey teams. Now only one left for women and three for men.

"In China, football is the No. sport. It takes away everything, money and fans, although Chinese football failed to achieve any good results. But no one spares any care on ice hockey," a journalist commented at the tournament. "China is the most populous country, but there are only 200 professional players in total. How could you count on such a small number of people to achieve good results?" said Xiang.

In his article, York mentioned that attendance was small for the China Sharks and that he could not find any commercial sponsors or television cameras at a game. Based on that, he comments "It's an inauspicious start for the NHL's first venture into the Middle Kingdom". Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison recently mentioned on a KNBR radio interview that the team entered into an agreement to run the ALIH franchise a few weeks before the start of the season, and that it would take time to get things up and running. The Sharks have a significant presence with youth hockey in Northern California, and they can use that experience to help build leagues, teams, and support for a professional franchise in China. Expecting the Sharks to build fan, media, and corporate support in a manner of weeks is unrealistic.

The "optimists" in San Jose have a reason for their enthusiastic outlook. Soccer is exploding in the country, and basketball has made solid gains in fan support in record time. A recent mixed martial arts promotion in China was streamed online with a competitive and very professional production. It mirrored many of the events streamed online here in the U.S. With a booming economy in China, which has seen near double digit expansion in the last 4 years and the first quarter of 2007, it is not a stretch to target even a small percentage of that burgeoning discretionary income.

Geoffrey York quoted the new China Sharks GM Chris Collins, who should be familiar to San Jose fans as a former broadcaster, about the prospects for success in China. "Is it going to be easy? Certainly not. But we're helping them to build from the ground floor up. If we do this right, it will be a path for the rest of the NHL to come to China" Collins said.

The Sharks also have a leg up given the fact they are located in the hub of technological innovation. Several Chinese entrepreneurs, engineers and technology companies have their ear to the ground for the latest trends and products coming out of Silicon Valley. With a little creative marketing, it would not be impossible to export some of the passion for hockey back to China.

In other China Sharks news, goaltender Zach Sikich applied to leave the Sharks and he was replaced on the roster by former WHL/AHL goaltender Kelly Guard on November 22nd. The China Sharks are currently in last place (2-16-1) in the ALIH, and have been outscored 31-84 after 19 games played. Forward Jason Beeman leads the Sharks in scoring with 7 goals, 6 assists, and 75 penalty minutes.

The official China Sharks website, still under development, is available at chinasharks.com. In the Globe and Mail article by Geoffrey York above, he mentioned he could not find China Sharks merchandise available on-site. There is a selection of China Sharks jerseys, hats, and t-shirts available online here.

[Update] Here is a recent youtube handheld video of the Nikko Icebucks vs Nippon Paper Cranes from kow1968. Fans sound pretty lively for that ALIH game, with a running drum section and an organist.

[Update2] Ice Hockey Talent Scouting in China Gets Serious - China.org.cn.

"Our goal is to find a 'Yao Ming' for China's ice hockey team," said Angela Ruggiero, director of Project Hope, initiated by Charles B. Wang, owner of National Hockey League (NHL) team New York Islanders.

The project was launched in August last year, and over the next five years it will aim to establish a China Ice Hockey Training Centre, three Women's Ice Hockey Training Bases, and bring 30 primary and 10 middle schools under Ice Hockey Project Hope. So far, the project has involved eight schools in Harbin, Qiqihar and Jiamusi, three major cities in northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

[Related Post] Introducing your China Sharks - Sharkspage.

[Update3] San Jose Sharks lend helping hand to Chinese namesakes - NHL.com.

[Update4] More photos from Dave Bidini on Hockey in Mongolia are up on his official website here. Bidini also wrote a best selling book Tropic of Hockey, on which the documentary I Am a Hockey Nomad was based.


South Bay Hockey triple header --- Sharks, Cal-Stanford, Santa Clara all active on a busy Friday night

Stanford Cal Big Freeze hockey
Big Freeze Stanford Cal Berkeley hockey

After running up a 3-0 lead Thursday night in Oakland, Berkeley gave up 6 unanswered goals to drop the initial Big Freeze game of the season to Stanford 6-3. In the second game of the home-at-home series Friday night in Redwood City, Cal powered to an 8-4 road win in front of a hostile crowd.

The entire game a small contingent of vocal Stanford fans led chants against Cal goaltender #35 Marc Barker. Unfortunately, Barker was seated on the bench. Starting goatender #33 Brian Yates forgot his jersey and had to use Barker's. Several Cal players derisively applauded Barker after several saves by Yates in the second and third periods.

Pushing and shoving resulted in one Stanford player being tossed from the game, but the Cardinals kept the pressure on late in the third period. Stanford did not capitalize on two quality scoring chances as the clock ticked down. A clear 2-on-1 resulted in a point blank shot wristed wide of the net, and another slap shot pinged off of the post.

Visit calicehockey.com or stanford.edu for more information on each team. A Cal-Stanford photo gallery is available here.

San Jose Sharks flickr hockey photo

The San Jose Sharks broke out of a three game home losing streak with a dominant 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche Friday at HP Pavilion. Joe Thornton scored two power play goals, and contributed an assist on an even strength goal by Mike Grier in the second period. Both of Thornton's goals came from within 10 feet of the net, and he leads the Sharks this season in goals (11), assists (18), and points (29). Milan Hejduk (SH) and Andrew Brunette (PP) scored second period goals for Colorado.

Evgeni Nabokov made 18 saves on 20 shots to boost his record to 12-8-4 (.914SV%, 2.01GAA, 3SO). Nabokov is the only remaining goaltender in the NHL to start every game for his team (24). Peter Budaj stopped 26 of 29 shots. With the win, the San Jose Sharks trail the Pacific Division leading Dallas Stars (13-9-4) by 2 points. Former Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan played his first game in San Jose since signing with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent July 1st. Rookie center T.J. Hensick made his NHL debut for the Avalanche.

Friday marked the 2nd anniversary of the blockbuster Joe Thornton trade with Boston (heretofore to be referred to on this blog as "The Trade"). Sharks GM Doug Wilson traded Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau to the Boston Bruins for Joe Thornton on November 30, 2005. "It feels like 20 years, I'm so comfortable here... This is home to me and I want to be here the rest of my career." Thorton said after his 3 point performance against Colorado.

Prior to the game, the Sharks held the first Ice Insights question and answer session with San Jose season ticket holders. Television broadcasters Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda, and radio announcers Dan Rusanowsky and Jamie Baker were the featured guests. On the radio broadcast, they mentioned the issue of team confidence was raised numerous times. The NHL's Board of Governors meeting was held in Pebble Beach on Thursday and Friday. Yahoo NHL editor Ross McKeon previewed the BOG meetings here, and published recaps after the first and second days. The BOG approved a change in the NHL schedule format, and approved the sale of the Nashville Predators to a local business group.

The Sharks game report with photos and video is available on the official website here, post-game quotes are available here.

Santa Clara University ice hockey

Santa Clara built on a road win against UC Davis with another 5-3 win at home against a depleted College Of The Canyons squad. Santa Clara forward Ian Gonnella and COTC goaltender Kamron Javaherpour turned in impressive performances.

The Broncos rained point shots on Javaherpour early, but it was a misplay of the puck by Christopher McNamara that lead to a Canyon goal. Instead of moving the puck up ice to a teammate, McNamara left it inside his own blueline for an opponent. A College Of The Canyons forward tried to stuff the puck five hole, before hammering home the rebound.

An excellent play by Santa Clara defenseman Alex Nelson lead to a second period goal for the Broncos. Nelson snapped a shot off the leg pads of Javaherpour, and then jabbed the puck 5-hole for a goal. Tempers boiled over after some rough play to start the third. Two players were sent off the ice for each team including standout goaltender Javaherpour. Unfortunately for an already shorthanded College Of The Canyons team, they had to skate with 7 players for the remainder of the game. A COTC assisant coach said the longest shift of the period was 12 minutes for forward T.W. Flinders.

With one player on the ice with an injured hand after a huge hit at center ice, and another injured player on the bench, the Canyons team scored a late third period goal on the power play to close the score to 5-3.

Visit scuhockey.net or canyonshockey.com for more information on each team. A small photo gallery is available here.

[Note] Start time Cal-Stanford at the Ice Oasis in Redwood City 4:40PM, start time for Sharks-Colorado 7:38PM at HP Pavilion in San Jose, start time for Santa Clara vs College Of The Canyons at Sharks Ice in San Jose 9:15PM.

[Update] Sharks finally enjoy comforts of home, San Jose holds off Colorado and critics - San Jose Mercury News.