Prince George Cougars coach Dean Clark has often referenced Marc McNulty as the "Most Improved Player at Camp" and now, he's officially signed.
The Prince George Cougars have signed 16-year-old defenceman Marc McNulty (Medicine Hat, AB) to a standard Western Hockey League Contract.
McNulty, born in 1995, stands 6’5” and checks in at 181 pounds. Last season he played his Midget hockey with the Medicine Hat Tigers (Alberta Midget Hockey League).
McNulty joins a long list of defencemen fighting for spots on the 2011-2012 Prince George Cougars roster.
“He might be the most improved player in our entire camp,” said Prince George Cougars Assistant General Manager Wade Klippenstein. “Initially he was a 10th round draft-pick. If the Bantam Draft was held again tomorrow I guarantee you he wouldn’t be a 10th round pick.” Klippenstein adds, “We feel to have a successful team in this league, we need to build from the back moving forward.”
When he was drafted, McNulty was originally billed as a “shut-down guy” who made a strong first-pass. The management and scouting staff are pleased with the development of his offensive game.
McNulty will be dressing for the Prince George Cougars during their games in St. Albert this weekend.
Cody Carlson (91)
Martin Marincin (92)
Dan Gibb (92)
Jesse Forsberg (93)
Shane Pilling (93)
Josh Smith (94)
Linden Springer (94)
Dane Phaneuf (94)
Michael Mylchreest (95)
Marc McNulty (95)
Joseph Carvahlo (95)
Raymond Grewal (95)
Jordan Harris (96)
Spencer Asuchak (91)
Brett Connolly (92)
Charles Inglis (92)
Greg Fraser (92)
Nick Buonassisi (92)
Brock Hirsche (92)
Taylor Makin (92)
Wilson Dumais (93)
John Odgers (93)
Tayler Thompson (93)
Caleb Belter (93)
Troy Bourke (94)
Alex Forsberg (95)
Chase Witala (95)
Jake Mykitiuk (95)
Jordan Tkatch (95)
Jarrett Fontaine (95)
The Cougars are off to St. Albert this weekend for their first two pre-season tilts of the season.
What a great weekend both personally and professionally.
I can proudly say that I have survived my first Western Hockey League Training Camp, and now the fun really begins.
For the players, they get to learn systems and come together as a team.
For the coaching staff, they get evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the squad and address them before September 24th.
For the management team and scouts, some difficult decisions must still be made.
For the broadcaster, a truly enjoyable weekend spent with a truly classy organization.
I can't thank the management team, coaches, and the scouting staff for treating me as an equal this weekend. I got to know a lot of great people, hear a lot of great stories and watch a lot of great hockey this weekend. And this is before any 'REAL' games.
Before I share some personal thoughts on the hockey-side of things, I also want to thank the fans. I appreciate the fact that you paid your $2 to come out on a Monday night and support the Prince George Cougars. This season is an important one in many respects, and you all deserve a pat on the back for showing your Cougar Pride tonight. I appreciate all of my new Twitter followers, and I sincerely look forward to interacting with you all this season and beyond.
Now to the hockey stuff:
- While Drew Owsley is the undisputed number one goaltender with the Cougars, the battle for backup is just getting started. Tyler Santos, Brett Zarowny and Devon Fordyce (in my opinion) have an equal shot at making this hockey team. One of the more interesting storylines for the pre-season will be seeing which of these three netminders can rise to the occasion and earn their spot. Either way you slice it, the Cougars will have a solid backup option for Owsley.
- The management is thrilled with the crop of young players that were in attendance this weekend, and rightfully so. Offensively the likes of Alex Forsberg, Chase Witala, Jarett Fontaine, and Jordan Tkatch gave fans a great glimpse of the offensive future of this hockey-team. Defensively Jordan Harris, Marc McNulty, Raymond Grewal and Joseph Carvahlo did not look out of place at all. That's not all. I'm sure I could single out every single player that played in tonight's Intra-Squad game and rave about a certain part of their game. For time's sake I'm not going to. The future of the Cougars is brighter than ever.
- Defensive depth is going to be a real strength for Prince George this season. Martin Marincin and Cody Carlson will eat up minutes while Dan Gibb, Shane Pilling, Josh Smith and Jesse Forsberg (when healthy) give this team ample depth. Lets not forget players like Dane Phaneuf, Linden Springer, and Marc McNulty who Coach Dean Clark called "The Most Improved Player" at camp. Jordan Harris, Joseph Carvahlo and Raymond Grewal and Michael Mylchreest show strong promise as well.
- Up front this team has a ton of offensive potential. With Brett Connolly off to Tampa Bay Lightning camp sooner than later, it's up to the likes of Charles Inglis, Spencer Asuchak, Nick Buonassisi and Troy Bourke to carry the load offensively. Brock Hirsche, Taylor Makin, Taler Thompson and John Odgers all showed glimpses of offense this weekend, and that will need to continue during the pre-season. Add the likes of Alex Forsberg to the mix, and you've got a team that can not only handle itself in the tough areas, but you've got enough talent and poise to score some goals. The real key for this team will be to establish an identity without Brett Connolly and if they do get him back, it's an added bonus.
I'm excited, the staff is excited, and the fans should be REALLY excited about what lies ahead for the Prince George Cougars in 2011-2012 and beyond.
I'm off to bed. But please feel free to leave your comments! Your readership and support of this hockey team is greatly appreciated.
The Prince George Cougars wrapped up Training Camp with an exciting Captain’s Intra-Squad game at C.N. Center. Over 600 Cougars fans showed up for an exciting 4-3 shootout victory for Team Hunter over Team Drazenovic. 16-year-old forward Chase Watala had two points for Team Hunter in the victory while Troy Bourke and Nick Buonassisi scored in the shootout.
Taylor Makin opened the scoring at 13:40 of the first period, but Team Hunter quickly countered with a goal from Jake Mykitiuk. Team Drazenovic ended the first stanza with a nice goal from Tayler Thompson. Thompson grabbed the pick in the high-slot and flipped a wrist shot underneath the glove of goaltender Devon Fordyce.
The second period provided little offense, but plenty of chances and saves. Drew Owsley and Brett Zarowny played sharply for Drazenovic while Devon Fordyce and Tyler Santos were equally effective for Team Hunter. The shots were dead-even after 40 minutes at 13-13.
The third period was easily the most exciting as both teams picked up their intensity. Charles Inglis found the back of the net just two minutes into the third period, but Chase Witala put Team Hunter back within one at the 4:03 mark.
Then at 6:30 of the third period, Dan Gibb fired a wrister from the left-point that fooled Zarowny, and the score was tied 3-3.
Team Drazenovic got into penalty-trouble towards the end of the game. Both Josh Smith and Shane Pilling went into the box, but Team Hunter was unable to capitalize. 60 minutes solved nothing, and overtime was needed.
In overtime, Team Hunter thought they had won it when Troy Bourke put the puck in the net in the final minute. Problem was, that he used his hand to do so. The referee signalled no goal, and a shootout was required.
Bourke redeemed himself in the shootout, scoring on the very first shot.
After Carson Bolduc scored for Drazenovic, Nick Buonassisi made a nifty move and beat the goaltender to give Hunter the 2-1 lead in the shootout, and that’s the way it would stay.
The fans were loud and the intensity was exactly what the coaches had hoped it would be.
Now the tough part. More cuts will be made in the upcoming days before the Cougars head to Alberta for their first pre-season games this weekend. Make sure you check back here daily for the latest news and notes involving the Prince George Cougars.
The Cougars next home pre-season game is on September 9th at 7:00. The Cougars will welcome the Edmonton Oil Kings. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Some more cuts have been made, and those who survived will get another chance to showcase their abilities tonight.
Fans will get a first-hand glimpse of the present and the future of the Prince George Cougars during tonight's CAPTAINS Intra-Squad Game at C.N. Center. Charles Inglis will lead Team Drazenovic into battle against Troy Bourke and Team Hunter. The rosters for tonight's game is posted below:
30 Drew Owsley
35 Brett Zarowny
2 Dane Phaneuf
3 Josh Smith
4 Jordan Harris
5 Marc McNulty
21 Shane Pilling
28 Martin Marincin
9 Mattia Bortolotto
10 Brock Hirsche
11 Anthony Conti
12 Nick Buonassisi
15 Charles Inglis
17 Jarrett Fontaine
18 Patrick D’amico
20 Carson Bolduc
22 Taylor Makin
22 Jordan Tkatch
25 Tayler Thompson
30 Tyler Santos
35 Devon Fordyce
2 Dan Gibb
3 Raymond Grewal
4 Linden Springer
5 Cody Carlson
6 Michael Mylchreest
8 Joseph Carvalho
9 Greg Fraser
10 John Odgers
11 Henry Hardarson
12 Alex Forsberg
14 Jake Mykitiuk
15 Hayden Dawes
17 Caleb Belter
18 Chase Witala
20 Troy Bourke
21 Nick Anderson
16 Spencer Asuchak
Cost for tonight's game is $2 for anybody over the age of 12. Those 12-and-under get in for free. Game time is 7:00 from C.N. Center.
Jordan Tkatch chose the perfect game to break out.
Tkatch added to his strong Training Camp by scoring three goals and adding an assist en route to Team Tyrell's 6-4 victory over team Brewer. The trio of Tkatch, John Odgers and Jarrett Fontaine played a remarkably consistent game. Fontaine had three helpers and Odgers chipped in with a goal and an assist in the victory.
Alex Forsberg got into the act as well. He scored the game-winner for Tyrell. The other goal for Tyrell came courtesy of Matthew Woodley.
It was 4-0 after one period of play and Team Brewer seemed down for the count. Their resiliency in the second and third period needs to be credited.
Braydon Delorme led the way with two goals while Hayden Dawes and Wyatt Noskey had singles.
Now the roster will be trimmed further before tomorrow night's Black and White game at C.N. Center.
The Prince George Cougars started Training Camp with 77 bodies. They have now cut that number down to 58. The younger players who survived the first-round of cuts will display their skills in tonight's YOUNG STARS game from C.N. Center. The game starts at 7:00 and admission is free.
Here are the rosters for tonight's game:
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING YOUNG GUNS GAME ROSTER:
BLACK – Team Tyrell
30 Devon Fordyce
35 Ty Edmonds
2 Raymond Grewal
3 Marc McNulty
4 Nicholas Schneider
5 Jordan Harris
6 Shane Kumar
8 Joseph Carvalho
9 Francis Bamford
10 Patrick D’amico
11 Tyler Busch
12 Thomas Webster
14 Duncan Campbell
15 Nick Anderson
16 Alex Forsberg
17 Logan Styler
18 John Odgers
20 Jarrett Fontaine
21 Matthew Woodley
22 Jordan Tkatch
WHITE – Team Brewer
30 Tyler Santos
35 Brett Zarowny
2 Linden Springer
3 Sam Ruopp
4 Jeff Harrison
5 Dane Phaneuf
6 Colten Laroque
8 Michael Mylchreest
Martin Marincin and Taylor Thompson each scored twice as Team Hamhuis defeated Team Byfuglien 5-4. Team Byfuglien at one point had a 3-1 lead, due in large part to the stellar goaltending of Tyler Santos, who at one point made 23 consecutive saves.
Taylor Thompson showed some nice hands with two goals, and Charles Inglis bounced back from illness and played well in the victory.
For Team Black, it was good to see john Odgers and Taylor Makin get on the score sheet while Brock Hirsche and Josh Smith continued their solid play.
The goal scorers:
Hamhuis: Thompson (2), Marincin (2), Inglis
Black: Odgers, Makin, Hirsche, and Josh Smith.
Back tonight with the Young Stars Game. Team Brewer will face Team Tyrell.
Team Setoguchi took the rubber-match of their three-game series with Team Chara.
Team Setoguchi was led by Liam Blackburn who tallied a goal and two assists. Once again Chase Witala showed some strong poise with the puck, and defensively Shane Kumar chipped in with a goal and a helper.
On the other side, Alex Forsberg contributed a goal and an assist and Matthew Woodley scored the first penalty-shot goal of the weekend.
It's also worth mentioning that the Hit of the Weekend took place in this game. Shane Kumar planted Tyson Glass open-ice.
Now the tough part. The 95's and 96's will be cut-down and placed into teams for tonight's YOUNG STARS game at C.N. Center. Fans are encouraged to attend tonight's game which starts at 7:00. It's free.
A nice piece of redemption for Team Setoguchi at Prince George Cougars Training Camp. Team Setoguchi defeated Team Chara 6-3. Anthony Conti led the way with two goals, and defensively they managed to hold Alex Forsberg in check.
Forsberg did respond with a goal for Team Chara, but it was a far cry from his six-point outing earlier this morning. Forsberg did set up some nice plays, but there was no finish.
Chase Witala was another stand-out player for Team Setoguchi. He skated very well, made some nice plays and was a step ahead of almost everybody on the ice.
Team Setoguchi Goals: Anthony Conti (2) Shane Kumar, Jake Mykitiuk, Mitchell Lipon and Jordan Tkatch.
Team Chara Goals: Alex Forsberg, Joseph Carvalho and Jarrett Fontaine.
I'm simply going to list some of my observations below:
- First thing I notice about Martin Marincin is his poise. That and he's got a quick release on his shot. I always like defencemen who can wrist a puck as well as clap one. Defensively he's sound as well. You can tell that some of the younger players are overwhelmed when they're matched up against him. Marincin will be an exciting player to watch this season provided he's not playing in Edmonton or Oklahoma.
-Spencer Asuchak sticks out for his obvious size and strength. A good nose for the net, and as a 20-year-old he'll need to bring it offensively. I suspect he's up for the challenge.
- Drew Owsley may lack size, but he certainly lives up to his billing as a "Goalie that doesn't quit." Early on i think it's safe to say that he's going to be a HUGE X-Factor this team.
- I like what I've seen from 17-year-old defencemen Linden Springer and Josh Smith. Both have looked strong in one-on-ones; Smith especially.
The scrimmaging begins tomorrow. I'm sure the players are excited to strut their stuff in a game-type situation. I'll be blogging a ton tomorrow, so make sure you stop by perodically throughout the day.
77 players are present and accounted for at Prince George Cougars Training Camp. They were expecting 77 and they got 77. Already a good start compared to the past few years.
As I type this, Team Byfuglien is on the ice practicing with Assistant Coach Jason Becker leading the practice.
Already a physical tone has been set. Lots of one-on-one battles for pucks, and so far I applaud the players for their efforts. The tempo is naturally a little choppy, but that's to be expected on the first day of camp.
Keep in mind that I'm not a G.M., Coach, or a Scout, but the following players have stood out to me in a positive way:
Troy Bourke - He's patient, and skates very swiftly. You can tell that he's got confidence, and it shows during Day One of Camp.
Brock Hirsche - Has shown a strong nose for the net. He handles the puck well, and has shown that he's not afraid to battle.
Brennan Tutt - For a player who's 6'5 He's got good hands, and his skating does not seem to be a liability.
Cody Carlson - Makes a strong first pass, skates well, and battles hard. As the lone 20-year-old rear-guard on the Cougars he'll need to continue this type of intensity.
Mattia Bortolotto - Defensively he's not afraid to muck it up. Even though he's undersized, he's shown that he's not going to back away from physicality.
A couple of quick hits before I shut it down for the night:
- Tomorrow there will be three Cougars Training Camp Reports that will run on 93.3 The Drive. The reports run at 8 AM, Noon and 5 PM. The reports feature audio from Cougars Head Coach Dean Clark, and forwards Troy Bourke and Spencer Asuchak. My reports will run tomorrow through Monday.
- I will be putting a lot of hours this weekend. I plan to do a ton of tweeting and live blogging from camp, moreso on Saturday, Sunday and Monday when scrimmaging and games take place.
- Sunday night at 7:00 there will be a Young Stars Game featuring 1995 and 1996 born players.
- Monday night at 7:00 there is the annual Black and White game which is free for kids under the age of 12. Anybody older than that pays $2.
- Three members of the Prince George Cougars are attending NHL Training Camps: Brett Connolly (Tampa Bay), Martin Marincin (Edmonton) and Charles Inglis (San Jose). I will be posting as many updates as possible regarding those three when they're away.
I'll be roaming around the rink all weekend. Please feel free to say hi and introduce yourself. Rest well Cougar Town, because business is about to pick up tomorrow, and hopefully it won't stop until late May.
20-year-old Goaltender Drew Owsley will have a familiar face coaching him during the 2011-2012 season. Owsley's long-time goaltending coach Phil Guenter has offically been hired by the Prince George Cougars for the upcoming season.
Guenter, 31, is from Lethbridge and has been coaching goaltenders for the past 12 years, 10 of which have been spent with Owsley.
Guenter has also coached goaltenders at the University of Lethbridge.
Make no mistake, Guenter was not brought on simply for Owsley. G.M. Dallas Thompson and Head Coach Dean Clark have done their homework, and they know full-well that Guenter will help mentor the younger net-minders in the Cougars system.
Guenter's primary principle is "Never give up on the puck,"
He will be on hand during the Prince George Cougars training camp which kicks off tomorrow at 2:00 at C.N. Center.
The Prince George Cougars are pleased to announce their Training Camp Schedule for Friday, August 26 through Monday, August 29th.
All players will register between 2:00 and 3:00 P.M. on Friday, August 26th and will then be split into four teams all named after Prince George Cougars alumni. Players born in 1995 or 1996 will play for either Team Chara or Team Setoguchi, while the older players will suit up for either Team Byfuglien or Team Hamhuis.
Headlining the list of 1996-born players will be the Cougars first-round draft pick in 2011, Jordan Harris.
Each team gets a full hour of practice time on Friday beginning at 4:00 P.M. before the scrimmaging begins Saturday morning at 9:00 A.M. Scrimmage sessions last 90 minutes each, and run until 7:30 P.M. Saturday night.
All four teams will play once more on Sunday morning between 9:00 A.M. and 12:30 P.M. and the Young Guns Game will take place at 7:00 P.M.
Camp concludes with an Intra-squad game at 7:00 P.M. Monday evening at C.N. Center. Admission is $2 for adults and no charge for children under 12.
Prince George Cougars 2011 Training Camp - Ice Schedule
Friday, August 26th
Registration --- 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Team Chara --- 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Team Setoguchi --- 5:15 pm - 6:15 pm
Team Byfuglien --- 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Team Hamhuis --- 7:45 pm - 8:45 pm
Saturday, August 27th
Game Schedule Chara vs. Setoguchi --- 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Byfuglien vs. Hamhuis --- 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Chara vs. Setoguchi --- 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Byfuglien vs. Hamhuis --- 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Sunday, August 28th
Game Schedule Chara vs. Setoguchi --- 9:00 am - 10:30 am
Byfuglien vs. Hamhuis --- 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
Young Guns Game --- 7:00 pm
Monday, August 29th
Intra-Squad Game --- 7:00 pm
Fans are reminded that Prince George Cougars season tickets are available through Ticketmaster at 250-564-5585.
This will be my final post as 'Voice of the Battlefords North Stars.' Come August 26th, this will now be a Prince George Cougar's blog and the Western Hockey League will then become the primary focus of my writing. That means new colors, and a new title to this blog.
Before I leave for B.C. I wanted to write one last post and put my thanks into writing. The past four years have enabled me to meet some unforgettable people, to whom I am extremely thankful for.
I want to start with my immediate friends and family. Without your support, encouragement and trust, this move would not have been possible. To Julie for believing in me and trusting me enough to make this move too - I won't disappoint you, and I can't wait to start our new adventure together. To my Dad who has provided me with so much help, support and friendship. You are my hero, and I look forward to our many more visits thanks to this move. To Curt, Rachel, Robert and the rest of Julie's family: Thanks for trusting me, and for encouraging us to follow our dreams. Julie is in good hands, I promise.
Once more to my family at Rawlco Radio in North Battleford. I can't thank you enough for the oppurtunity to hone my craft and live my dream at the Junior A. Level. David and Harry Dekker are two of the wisest, kindest, encouraging people I've ever met. It was a privilege working with you and for you, and I look forward to our many future years of laughter and friendship. To Doug Harrison for kicking my ass when it needed kicking, and for his help and guidance. It meant a lot to me, and you helped me become better. To Betty Speed and the CJNB sales team for going to bat for me, and helping me get Sports Fix on the air. Betty is the reason why we have 40 games instead of 30 (my first year). It was a pleasure working with you all.
To the Battlefords North Stars hockey club: You provided me with four of the most enjoyable years of my life. Thank you for funding my travel with the team, and encouraging me as a broadcaster. So many friendships were forged because of the North Stars and I will forever call myself a North Star's fan. I want to thank the Board Of Directors for all of their tireless work behind the scenes to ensure the success of the club. To the many volunteers and fans, it was truly a joy to interact with you at the rink, and I wish you all the best down the road. My early dealings with Kevin Hasselberg were extremely pleasant, and I want to wish Kevin and his family all the best as they get settled into the Battlefords. I want to thank Blair Atcheynum for his friendship, guidance and help. Blair's passion for the Stars and the Battlefords as a whole is obvious, and the Stars have a real keeper with Atch. To my roommate for four years, Dale Jackson: Thanks for the memories. You and Debbie have been so good to me, and I wish you nothing but success and happiness down the road. Your devotion and passion knows no bounds.
To my colleagues in the SJ both past and present: A huge thank you to all of you for helping my broadcasts and allowing me to feel more at ease on the road. I got to work often alongaide Craig Stein, Darryl Skender, Rob Hart, Daniel Fink, Gino De Paoli, Dallas Hicks, Bill Burfoot, Kevin Smith, Brenden Ullrich, Ryan Tunall, Darren Dupont, Blaine Weyland, Josh Lewis, Fraser Rodgers, Kenny Trenton, Mike Stackhouse, Laury Ryan and Mitchell Biair. You have all contributed greatly to the legacy of the SJHL, and I enjoyed dealing with all of you. Trips to Yorkton, Flin Flon, La Ronge and Weyburn will be missed most of all.
To the coaching staffs of all 12 teams, thank you. It was a sincere pleasure dealing with all of you, and thanks for providing me with great interviews and great conversation. To those who went out of their way to congratulate me, it means more to me than you even know.
I also want to recognize the North Saskatchewan River Hockey League for their help in my development as a broadcaster. Some of my greatest broadcasting memories have come from the likes of Turtleford, Edam, Paradise Hill, St. Walburg, Wilkie, Spiritwood, Cut Knife, Meadow Lake, Maymont and Neilberg. To the many volunteers who help make that league tick - Keep up the good work. You are the bread and butter of that league's success.
Locally there were so many other figures in the sporting scene who continually rose to the occasion and helped me out. Dana Johnson (North Battleford Golf and Country Club), Kyle Hellgren (Jackfish Lodge) and Kyle Duffin (Meadow Lake) were all so easy to work with and alongside. Thanks guys! To the personalities in the NSRBL and high-school football and basketball - It was truly a pleasure getting a chance to meet and speak with you guys. I'll never forget my trips to the COMP for High School Football awards, and I had such a tremendous time in Unity hosting the Comp Warrior Football Banquet in 2007. These are the types of things that truly define Saskatchewan Hospitality and the way of life.
Lastly I want to thank my friends. It goes without saying that you helped make my transition to Saskatchewan so easy. I'm not going to name names for fear of leaving somebody out, but surely as you're reading this, you know who you are. You all mean so much to me, and I am truly blessed to have met you all. Here's to the many good times we've had, and will continue to have as time marches on.
As this new journey awaits, I confess that it's still a little overwhelming and scary. But I plan on making the absolute most out of this opportunity, and I won't let you down.
To the Prince George Cougars, once again THANK YOU for this opportunity. I can't wait to get going and create beautiful memories together.
Looking back at the blog, I found a very accurate summary of the 2009-2010 season that I think is appropriate to re-post as PART 3 of my North Star Reflections.
Expectations were high for the Battlefords North Stars when they started training-camp in late August 2009. Five months prior, the Stars had experienced some playoff success and made a statement to the rest of the league suggesting, "Our rebuild is over."
Some of the main questions heading into training camp were as follows:
- Who was going to score goals for this team?
- Would last year's MVP Dane Muench be back, or would he start the season in the WHL?
- What about Kyle Birch, Dominic Perrault, Woody Klassen, Jordan Lane, and Brett Miller who were also attending WHL camps?
The answers to those questions would begin to reveal themselves almost from the get-go of camp.
Newcomers Josh Daley, Ward Szucki and Blake Tatchell showed early on that they would provide offensive depth to the club. Good thing too, because Dane Muench signed with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos on September 1.
The Stars enjoyed a solid exhibition season, finishing with a record of 6-1.
Pre-season highlights included:
- The departure of Alex Leclerc (Nipawin), Colton Graf (Dauphin), Dusty Iron (Nipawin), and Skyler Dunser (Nipawin) out and in return the Stars acquired defenceman Cody Folstad (Nipawin), forward Shay Neufeld (From Camrose) and the rights to defenceman Koltyn Miller (Dauphin).
- Solid offensive contributions from the likes of: Blake Peake, Josh Daley, Ward Szucki, Blake Tatchell.
- Back-to-back preseason shutouts from Graham Hildebrand against Nipawin and Humboldt.
Right as the preseason was winding down, the Stars found out that Kyle Birch would be returning from Medicine Hat and a 6'7 bruising forward named Jordan Lane would be joining their team after failing to make the Prince George Cougars of the WHL.
The Stars had shown in the preseason that they could score goals, and goaltending was not going to be an issue with both Hildebrand and Birch back in the fold. Defensively the Stars were 'thin' when the regular season started, but that would soon change when Coleman Brodbin and Brody Malek finished their suspensions.
REGULAR SEASON - September
After a promising pre-season, the Stars got off to a rather mediocre start to the regular season. They fell in Kindersley 5-3 before beating them the next night 9-5 at home.
The Stars would beat La Ronge at home before falling to both Yorkton and Melville down south. The Stars climbed back to .500 with an impressive 5-4 victory in Humboldt on September 30th. It was the first time the Stars had won a regular season game at the Elgar Petersen arena since 2006-2007.
The Humboldt game also marked the return of defencemen Woody Klassen (Saskatoon Blades) and Dominic Perrault (Regina Pats) and forward Brett Miller (Everett Silvertips) had returned two games earlier in Melville.
September Play of the Month: Ryan Andersen.
The Battlefords North Stars made an early season statement in October. They had a record of 8-2-1-0 and went the entire month without losing at home.
The line of Blake Peake, Josh Daley and Shay Neufeld seemed to be scoring at will, while Brett Miller, Mitch Wall and Ryan Andersen were prooving to be just as reliable offensively.
Early in October, the Melville Millionaires came back to the Civic Center for a re-match with the Stars, and after building up a 4-0 lead, the Stars found themselves tied 5-5.
A year ago, the Stars would have folded and found a way to lose. But not this season. The Stars weathered the storm, and earned a 9-5 victory.
Other October highlights included:
- Three consecutive shootout victories at home (Oct. 16, 23, and 24) with Brett Miller scoring the winner in all three.
- A win in Weyburn on October 8th on a night where the first five inductees were enshrined into the SJHL Hall of Fame. The Stars scored three times in the first 6:57 of that game, and Kyle Birch was rock-solid.
- Brett Miller establishing himself as one of the premier power-forwards in the league.
- The Star's acquiring Kory Kimpinski and Kyle Hamm from Nipawin, only to ship them off to the MJHL days later for future considerations.
- Dane Muench returns to the Battlefords on October 30th after a stint with the Swift Current Broncos.
October Player of the Month: Brett Miller
November started with two close road losses (La Ronge and Nipawin), a home-win against Kindersley and a 5-2 home-ice loss to the Melfort Mustangs. The loss to Melfort haulted a lengthy nine-game winning streak at home for the Stars.
Attitudes got worse after another road loss in Nipawin. Trips to Tim Horton's in the morning would often feel like a post-game press conference for yours truely.
How did the Star's respond? How about an O-T victory against Bob Beatty's La Ronge Ice Wolves on November 13th. Tony Oak's first goal of the season was the Overtime winner, and in the process, the Star's got some of their hunger back.
The next night, the Stars looked outsanding in a 5-2 victory in Melfort.
The real highlight of November though was the Strike Energy SJHL Showcase tournament which took place November 26 - 28th in North Battleford.
After a frustrating 2-1 loss to Humboldt on the 27th, the Stars and Klippers provided fans with a 'classic' on the 28th.
After jumping out to a 3-0 lead, the Klippers came back and made it 3-3. Blake Peake and Andrew Dommett trade goals, and it's 4-4. Neufeld makes it 5-4 for the Stars, then Kevin Clark ties it short-handed. Brett Miller makes it 6-5 in a brilliant give-and-go with Blake Peake, but Andrew Dommett scores his fourth of the game to tie the game at six. Taylor Duzan hits the goal-post in the final minute, otherwise Kindersley wins the game in regulation.
Earlier in the game, Ryan Andersen was benched by Ken Pearson. It wasn't out of angst, but more for tutorial purposes. How does 'Andy' respond? He scores the overtime winner by following up a Mitch Wall breakaway and knocks home the rebound.
November Player of the Month: Blake Peake
December 1st yielded some changes.
Leading scorer Brett Miller signed with the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL and the Stars subsequently went out and acquired forward David Lawrence from the Dauphin Kings for future considerations.
December 5th in Melville the Stars won 7-3, but the win came with a steep price, as forward Mitch Wall left the game with a broken jaw after a fight with Tyler Howe.
Two nights later, the Stars beat Humboldt 5-4 in a shootout, and were bracing themselves for two games against Flin Flon at the Civic Center.
Heading into the December 8th matchup, the Stars trailed the Bombers by just two points for first in the Bauer Conference. The Bombers beat the Stars 1-0 in a shootout.
Four days later the Stars lost in another shootout. This time it was a 3-2 setback courtesy of the Weyburn Red Wings.
The Stars split their final two games of the season and ended the month of December eight points back of first-place Flin Flon in the Bauer Conference.
- A come from behind 'shootout' victory on December 6th in Humboldt.
- Dane Muench scoring the OT winner against Nipawin on December 13th.
- Graham Hildebrand was named Goaltender of the Month after posting super-human numbers. Unfortunately he didn't any offensive help.
- Stars acquire Grant Fahnhorst on December 17th.
December Player of the Month: Graham Hildebrand.
January was turn-around month of sorts for the Stars. Some of their most impressive victories came in January, and in my opinion it was during this month that the Stars officially became a contender for a league championship.
2010 started with a 3-1 loss in Kindersley, and things weren't neccessarily looking too bright as the Stars headed North for their first match-up with the Flin Flon Bombers. However once the puck dropped, the Stars had full control. Blake Peake had a three-point night, and the Stars won 4-2 at the Whitney Forum.
That win became the first of six straight victories for the Stars. They handled Estevan, Yorkton, Melfort and La Ronge at home, and then went on the road and beat the Ice Wolves again 5-4. The winning streak came to an end on January 24th in Air Ronge, but the Stars regrouped and won their next three games at home.
The Stars went 9-2 in January and drew themselves back to within striking distance of the Flin Flon Bombers.
January 9th saw the North Star's land one of the biggest available names at the trade-deadline in Chad Filteau.
Two days later, forward David Lawrence announced that he was leaving the team for personal reasons.
January Highlights Included:
- Acquiring Chad Filteau from the Estevan Bruins in exchange for Justin Waskewitch, Ryan Andersen, The rights to Koltyn Miller and future considerations.
- A dramatic come from behind victory at home against La Ronge on January 16th. Shay Neufeld scores the winner in the sixth round of the shootout.
- Mitch Wall returns from injury.
- A 7-1 win at home against the Melfort Mustangs. Blake Peake had three goals, and an assist.
- Jesse Lebreton named SJHL Defenceman of the Month for January after achieving 12 points in 11 games.
January Player of the Month: Jesse Lebreton
It was in early February that the Stars achieved their greatest feat during the regular season - Three wins, in three nights down south.
In the past three years, the Stars had only won once in Weyburn (Oct. 8 2009) and no times in either Estevan or Wilcox. Friday the 5th, the Stars clumsily defeated Estevan 7-5. In all honesty, they probably should have lost the game, but somehow they snuck out a win.
The next night, the Stars came back from a 2-0 defecit to defeat Weyburn 4-2 and then wrapped up their road trip with another comeback victory against the Notre Dame Hounds.
The bus-ride home that night was unforgettable. Watching Dale Jackson singing Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" was the icing on the cake!
The Stars stumbled three days later when they dropped an 8-7 shootout decision to the Melfort Mustangs. Though they lost, the Stars did climb their way back from a 6-1 defecit to earn a single point.
The next weekend was a humbling one, as the Stars dropped two consecutive decisions to the Flin Flon Bombers at the Whitney Forum. The Friday game on Feb. 12th was close, but the game on the 13th was a little more one-sided.
However it's strange how the most awkward circumstances can help unite a team together. After the game on the 13th, the Star players got into an altercation with Flin Flon Bomber fans. The ensuing altercation would prompt a five-game suspension for Tony Oak, yet I feel as if the entire team left Flin Flon a little more inspired and a lot more united.
The Stars clinched second place in the Bauer Conference on February 17th after a 3-1 victory over the Melville Millionaires. That same night, the Melfort Mustangs fell to the Notre Dame Hounds allowing the Stars to clinch home ice advantage in round one of the playoffs.
The Stars won two of their three remaining games, and finished the regular season with a great record of 35-19-1-3.
February Highlights Included:
- Brett Miller's OT winner in Wilcox on February 7th.
My second season with the Battlefords North Stars essentially started in mid-April of 2008 when (then President) Greg Gryba called me at work and told me that the Battlefords North Stars had found their new head-coach and G.M. to replace Gary Clark. The man they chose was Ken Pearson and immediately Pearson was tasked with turning around the fortunes of a five-win hockey team from 2007-2008.
The Pearson era started with a deal that sent defenceman Kirk Moore to the Notre Dame Hounds in exchange for the rights of forward Jordan Peddle, defenceman Logan Wert and future considerations. This deal would prove to be major move for the Stars. I'll explain later. Pearson also acquired 20-year-old forward Josh Clare from the BCHL in exchange for future considerations.
When training camp started, it was clear that there was a different vibe in the North Star locker-room. The returning veterans were determined to redeem themselves after last season, but Ken Pearson made it clear that the veterans wouldn't be given a free-ride. He wasn't kidding.
The Stars got off to an 0-3 start in 2008-2009 and many of the same problems that plagued the Stars in 07-08 remained. They struggled to score, their defense was sketchy, and neither Ryan Kerpan or Adrian Lemay provided Pearson with reliable goaltending. But fortunes would start to turn around after a trade, and the arrival of a new goaltender.
Ken Pearson sent 20-year-old forward Nick Kalnicki to the Humboldt Broncos in exchange for defenceman Woody Klassen and 20-year-old forward Josh Garneau. Garneau chose not to report, and was promptly traded to Drayton Valley in exchange for defenceman Martin Cole.
Klassen and Cole made an immediate impact with the team. Klassen and Cole added a much-needed spark to the blue-line, and 17-year-old Graham Hildebrand provided some solid goaltending for the Stars once he was dropped by the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The Stars beat the Yorkton Terriers and Melfort Mustangs in consecutive home-games, and ended the month of September with a 2-3-1 record.
The trades continued. Gone were the likes of Rick Cey, Shawn McNulty, Ryan Kerpan, Adrian Lemay, Joel Budd, Richard Cameron and Ryan Scheafer. In came Chris Jung, Troy Watt, Kyle Birch, while more ice-time was also given to the likes of Brett Miller, and Ryan Andersen.
In early October the Stars named 19-year-old forward Mitch Wall captain, and under Wall's leadership the Stars quickly forged a gritty, tough style. Even when the wins were hard to come by, the Stars made sure to leave an impression with their opponents.
16-year-old forward Dane Muench was providing the Stars with legitimate offense. Alex Leclerc, Colten Graf, Chris Jung and Mitch Wall showed that they could help offensively when needed. Jesse Lebreton, Coleman Brodbin and Brody Malek were showing clear improvements from 07-08, and in goal the tandem of Kyle Birch and Graham Hildebrand showed lots of promise.
The Stars got a real boost in November with the arrival of forward Blake Peake. Peake was the future considerations in the Peddle/Wert for Moore trade that I mentioned earlier in this post. Peake arrived with little fanfare or expectations, but immediately showed the Star's coaching staff and fans that he could play. Peake joined Chris Jung and Dane Muench on the team's top line, while Mitch Wall, Colten Graf and Alex Leclerc provided the Stars with a reliable second-line. Josh Clare, Troy Watt and Tony Oak provided a line with exceptional grit and sand-paper, leaving Brett Miller, Ryan Andersen and Ryan Toporowski to provide a little bit of everything on the third line.
Pearson took a chance on an American defenceman named Tom Kleidon, and after he acquired 20-year-old defenceman Nick Martin the 2008-2009 North Stars had officially taken shape.
Wins were still tough to come by, but thanks to some timely victories and the struggles of the La Ronge Ice Wolves - The Stars ended up as the number-five seed in the (then) Itech Conference, and would up facing Colin O'Hara's Nipawin Hawks in the Survivor Series playoff.
On paper it didn't look good for the Stars. They finished 23 points back of Nipawin in the standings, and Nipawin's lineup featured the offensive tandem of Torey Dyck and Brent Ottman along with Shawn McNulty, Kenton Miller and Shael Hechter. Defensively the Hawks were led by 19-year-old all-star Taylor Thiessen. Add the fact that the Stars hadn't beaten Nipawin at the Cage in over two years, and it was quite clear that EVERYBODY was favoring Nipawin in the series.
Well, almost everybody.
Before Game One of the Survivor Series, the Stars seemed relaxed and ready. It showed on the ice.
The Star's power-play continued to be the team's strength. They scored four times in a 7-4 win over Nipawin in Game One. Even though the Stars surrendered four goals against, Kyle Birch was phenomenal in net. Another sign of things to come for the Stars.
Two nights later, the Stars took the ice at home and received a boisterous welcome from the home-crowd. Blake Peake scored early in the first period, and the Stars never looked back. They beat the Hawk's 4-1 in Game Two, and went to Nipawin on Monday night needing one more victory to sweep the series.
I'll never forget how quiet and focused the guys were on the bus before Game 3. It's as if every single person on that bus knew that Game Three was going to be a special game.
It didn't start well for the Stars. They trailed 2-0 quickly, and The Cage in Nipawin was hopping with excitement. Dane Muench made it 2-1 Nipawin, and Josh Clare scored early in the second to tie the game at two. Star's captain Mitch Wall made it 3-2, and Jesse Lebreton added a goal and after 40 minutes the Stars led 4-2 in Game Three.
The Hawks did not go quietly. They scored twice in the third to tie the score, and then went to a power-play shortly thereafter. Kyle Birch managed to settle down and made some big saves, and then back the other way came the Stars. Mitch Wall was sprung on a breakaway, but was hauled down by a back-checking Taylor Thiessen.
The first-year captain of the Stars made no mistake on Mark Currie. He slipped a back-hand shot over his left pad, and gave the Stars an improbable 5-4 lead on a penalty-shot. Kyle Birch continued to shut the door, and Brett Miller sealed the deal with an empty-netter.
After the game, Ken Pearson called it, "One of the Most Satisfying Wins in my Career."
Up next, the defending National Champion Humboldt Broncos. Dean Brockman's team had 61 more points in the regular season, and were almost pre-destined for another birth in the Royal Bank Cup. The Broncos had a formidable offense featuring: Scott and Steven Schroeder, Torey Allen, Matt Kirzinger, Nick Kalnicki, and Spencer Braaten. Their defense was led by the tandem of Brady Wacker and Tanner Vandesype, and Andrew Bodnarchuk and Matt Larochelle provided an exceptional goaltending duo for Humboldt.
Game one went to Humboldt by a 5-2 score. But the plucky North Stars returned home and offered up one of the most exciting games that (to this day) I have ever called in my life.
** In Mid-October, Ken Pearson acquired Troy Watt from the Drayton Valley Thunder for future considerations. Watt was known for his aggressive, if not reckless style of hockey. Very little natural skill, but he played with the heart of a lion, and always went to war for his teammates. That being said, in nearly two full years of Junior A Hockey, Watt had scored ZERO goals. **
Game Two of the series was a see-saw battle between two hot goalies. Everytime Matt Larochelle would make a big save, Kyle Birch would make a bigger one. Neither team could solve the other netminder, and mid-way through the game the score was still 0-0.
The only goal of the game started on a rather innocent clear by Tony Oak. Oak (at the end of a shift) lifted the puck lazily off the glass in his own zone. The puck squeezed through the Humboldt defenceman onto the stick of Josh Clare. Clare found himself on a two-on-one with none other than Troy Watt. Clare patiently waited for the defenceman to make his move before sending a pass cross-ice to the wide-open Watt. Watt received the pass and one-timed it by the sprawling Larochelle, and from there? COMPLETE BEDLAM at the Civic Center.
The fans roared with appreciation as Troy Watt had scored his first ever Junior A. Goal giving the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Kyle Birch did the rest making a flurry of incredible saves in the third to solidify the shutout, and more importantly the victory for the North Stars.
The teams would split the next two games, setting up a Saturday night game five showdown in Humboldt.
The Elgar Petersen Arena was filled for Game Five. The City of Humboldt was on edge due to the fact that they were soon about to find out whether they would be named Hockeyville for 2009. The rowdy atmosphere was something to behold, and it set the tone for another epic hockey game between these new rivals.
The Stars and Broncos swapped goals in the second period, and headed into the late stages of the third period tied 1-1.
The Stars had the most chances in the third period. They continued to pepper Andrew Bodnarchuk with shots, but were simply unable to score and the game appeared to be destined for overtime.
What happened next still stings many to this day.
Chris Jung had possession of the puck just outside of Humboldt's blueline and appeared to be killing some seconds off the clock before dumping it back in. Jung lost his footing and the puck came free to the speedy Spencer Braaten. Braaten was off to the races, and while Jung did everything in his power to stop Braaten, he was simply too fast. Braaten raced in on Kyle Birch, faked forehand, deked backhand and JUST shoveled the puck by Birch on his glove-side to give Humboldt the 2-1 victory, and the 3-2 series lead.
The next night the Stars lost 7-2 at home, and the season came to a saddening end.
But the Stars held their heads high. They swept a good Nipawin team, and then took the defending National Champs to the brink of overtime in Game Five with the series tied 2-2. Ken Pearson spoke very proudly about the efforts from his team, and the playoff experience from 2008-2009 would prove to be extremely valuable for the team moving forward.
After three-and-a-half years, and approxomitely 190 episodes - I will no longer be hosting the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix after tonight. After I leave the Battlefords, the show will be taking a temporary hiadus, where it is my sincere hope that my relacement at CJNB/CJNS will continue the show once they get up to speed on their other duties at CJNB/CJNS.
The Sports Fix was born on April 4, 2008, but the idea of the Sports Fix was born long before that. In February of 2008 I wrote a letter to my superiors asking for their blessing to start the show. After a few meetings, they agreed to let me start the show, provided that we find an appropriate sponsor.
It didn't take long for David Bartko and Leisure Time Sports to hop on board, and after a month of planning, the first episode aired on the 4th of April. My first two guests on the Sports Fix were hockey hall-of-famers Gordie Howe and Marcel Dionne. Darryl Sittler became the third Hall-Of-Famer to join the program in August of 2008.
From there, the show continued a strong mix of both local and national content. Local coaches like: Ken Pearson, Blair Atcheynum, Martin Smith, Brian Cottini, Jamie Sommerfeld, Roger Blacquiere, Pete Clayton, Dallan Schwab, Bruce Yockey, Craig Paylor, Trent Cey, Regan Beck and Pat Orobko all very kindly made themselves available to the program.
I find it fitting that the new North Star's coach and G.M. Kevin Hasselberg will be a guest on tonight's final show.
During hockey season the SJHL coaches were incredibly dependable and I can't thank all of them enough for making the time. It was such a thrill to speak with the likes of: Darrell Mann, Larry Wintoneak, Karry Biette, Bob Beatty, Mike Reagan, Dean Brockman, Jamie Fiesel, Trent Cassan, Kevin White, Gavin Holcumb, Keith Cassidy, Doug Johnson, Marlin Murray and Colin O'Hara. I also want to thank Laury Ryan and Bill Chow for making themselves available to the program as well. Your contributions to the show were tremendous, and I think we all managed to promote the SJHL very well together.
To the many North Star players who have appeared on the program over the years. I loved getting the chance to with you guys on a personal and in-depth level. I'd rather not name all of you for fear of forgetting somebody, but you have all made a great impact on me, and the program was richer for having you.
To my Junior A. Hockey broadcasting colleagues. You have been my saving grace for so many of these shows thanks to your incredible insight and contributions to the show. Craig Stein, Daniel Fink, Gino De Paoli, Darryl Skender, Kevin Smith, Blaine Weyland, Josh Lewis, Brenden Ullrich, Rob Hart, Dallas Hicks, Bill Burfoot, Darren Dupont, Fraser Rodgers, Kenny Trenton, Robb Hunter, and Kevin Jeffery were all fantastic contributors.
As the show gained steam, more and more personalities from the WHL made themselves available for the show. I want to recognize Drew Wilson, Bruce Leubke, Jeff Hollick and Lorne Molleken for their help. Jack Brodsky was also a two-time guest on the program. I was so grateful for the WHL insight courtesy of Cody Nickolet and Kelly Friesen. Brian Munz with the Manitoba Moose was also a great friend of the program.
One of the things that I was most proud of was the in depth CFL coverage that the show was able to provide. None of that would have been possible had it not been for the likes of: Jamie Nye, Wray Morrison, Mitchell Blair, Sean Campbell, Giullio Caravatta, Mike Hogan, Dave Campbell, and Dave Rowe.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders were very helpful as well. The definitely understood the fact that Rider Pride extends well beyond Regina and Saskatoon. Ken Miller, Brendan Taman, Greg Marshall, Gene Makowsky, Rob Bagg, Neil Hughes, Andy Fantuz, Barrin Simpson, and Scott Schultz were all great guests. I would be remissed if I also didn't extend a HUGE thanks to both Ryan Whippler and Sheri Trapp for their continued help. If not for those two, none of the previously mentioned players and coaches would have appeared on the program.
One final CFL note. I want to thank Commissioner Mark Cohon for making an appearance on the show in 2009. I love how popular the CFL has become in recent years, and I truly believe that Cohon and his team deserve a ton of credit for helping the league earn it's way back into the hearts of the casual fan.
The Toronto Blue Jays have also been very good to me over the past three-and-a-half years. They always stepped up and helped me lock down guests for my anniversary shows. David Eckstein, John McDonald, Travis Snider and Cito Gaston were all memorable guests. The Blue Jays will always be my favourite baseball team, and they have always treated me with the utmost class and dignity. I wish them nothing but the best moving forward.
I also want to thank both the Colorado Rockies, Minnesota Twins and Cincinnatti Reds for opening up their organization to the Sports Fix as well. Jeff Francis, Joey Votto and of course North Battleford's own Andrew Albers were guests. Speaking with all three of those men was a huge thrill for me.
I also had the tremendous fortune of interviewing several NHLers on the show. I have great memories of speaking with: Wade Belak, Curtis Brown, Jordan Eberle, Scott Hartnell, Kyle Brodziak, Blake Comeau, Boyd Gordon, and Jordan Hendry. All of those men were very candid and took plenty of time to answer all questions. I am so humbled and grateful to have spoken to such classy players. I also want to thank Todd MacLellan, Scott Arniel and Dave Tippett for making time for the program as well. None of these interviews would have been possible if not for several Media Relations Directions from around the NHL who very kindly accepted my interview requests. Add the likes of Bob Nicholson, and Al Murray from Hockey Canada along with Cassie Campbell from CBC - And I feel like the Sports Fix audience got some excellent NHL perspective.
Lastly I want to recognize three guests who defy any type of specific description. Three of my favourite sports-radio hosts who have made a lasting impression on me: Dan Russell, Jim Robson and Tomm Looney. I've long looked up to all three of these men both as professionals and as people. I am so grateful for getting the chance to hear your stories and pick your brain about sports. Thank you.
When I think back to all of these interviews, and all of the hours of laughter, happiness, stress, frustration, and pride that this show encompassed, it leaves me feeling very humbled and blessed to have been able to steer this program for the past three-and-a-half years.
To each and every listener who went out of their way to tune into the program, I thank you most of all. You were the reason why I kept putting the show together. Your feedback, e-mails, guest requests and support made all of the difficult days worth it. I love sports so much, and I love the fact that I got to share my passion with such an accepting, loyal audience. Thank you for being great fans, and for being such an accepting, welcoming community of people.
I hope that down the road I will again get the opportunity to host sports-radio in some capacity. I grew up listening to sports radio, dreaming of the day that I would get to have a show of my own. And thanks to a trusting company, a great sponsor, helpful Media Relations staff, and great fans, I got my wish. By listening to the program, or by appearing on the show as a guest, you helped me live my dream and that is something that I will never forget.
Less than two weeks after Ken Pearson's resignation, the Battlefords North Stars have found their man.
Stew Demmans with the Board of Directors announced this morning that Kevin Hasselberg is the new head-coach and G.M. of the Battlefords North Stars.
Hasselberg spent last season with the BCHL's Alberni Valley Bulldogs as an assistant coach, but previous served 10 years with the Olds Grizzlies of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Hasselberg was the head-coach in Olds from 2004 to 2010.
"I can't express how enthusiastic our family is right now about making the trip out to North Battleford," said Hasselberg this morning. "Our daily activities are going to be all about preparation. We will be proud of what we represent."
Hasselberg is married with two children, and hopes to be settled in the Battlefords with his family by the middle of next week.
Stew Demmans with the Board of Directors hopes that Hasselberg can provide some continuity with the position. Demmans says, "One of the keys for us here was trying to get some continuity at the coaching level. We've had some turnover here in the past couple of years which isn't the best for the franchise."
Hasselberg will be a guest on Monday's edition of the Co-Op Leisure Time Sports Fix.
I personally want to welcome Hasselberg to the Battlefords! I really enjoyed our talk earlier this morning, and he seems genuinely excited to get going.
The reality of my move to Prince George is starting to take effect. I gave my one-month notice for my apartment on Sunday, and now I get to start costing out U-Hauls, and figuring out the logistics of a move to B.C. between now and the 12th of August (my last day at CJNB).
For those curious about the future of this blog, let me address that situation right now.
The Prince George Cougars have very kindly given me the 'green light' to continue this blog. Naturally my writing focus will soon shift to the Prince George Cougars and the Western Hockey League, but I will certainly be following the SJHL from B.C. and will happily throw in some thoughts and opinions when necessary. The site's address will not change, but the colors, the title and the focus will all be different by August 14th. I encourage everybody who's become a loyal reader over the past three years to continue to follow the blog. I also want to take this time to welcome any new readers.
The cool thing about my four years in the Battlefords is that all four years were profoundly different. I wanted to se my final days in the Battlefords to reflect on those years, and help provide some insight into what each of those four years meant to me on a personal level. I can't help but look at the growth of the North Stars over the past four years, and feel like I've grown up right along with them.
I arrived in the Battlefords on July 23, 2007 after a year in Chetwynd/Dawson Creek B.C. The first time I had ever visited Saskatchewan was for my interview at CJNB//CJNS. I was a B.C. boy with no real Saskatchewan connections, and I quickly learned what it took to survive in this province: A warm jacket, and a lot of green t-shirts. (Yes, I am a Rider's fan, and that won't change when I move back to B.C.)
The 2006-2007 Battlefords North Stars had been bounced in the first-round by the Nipawin Hawks, and the 2007-2008 group was hungry for a better result. Head-Coach Gary Clark was bringing back some impressive veterans like: Nick Kalnicki, Jason Walker, Barrett Penner, and Rick Cey up front. The defense looked promising with Corey Demko, Jesse Lebreton, Ryan Scheafer and Brody Malek in the fold, and Clark had two promising 18-year-old goaltenders (Adrian Lemay and Ryan Kerpan) who would battle for playing time.
It was relatively clear from the start that the 07-08 North Stars would be in tough. They started with a 3-2 overtime loss to Kindersley at home, and then followed that up with a 12-3 loss on the road the next night. At the end of September, the team had only won twice, and it seemed like the only solution was to start rebuilding.
In early October Gary Clark traded Barrett Penner, Scott Day, Corey Demko and Trent Lizzee away in separate deals, and while the losses kept mounting - The team remained as positive as possible. Players like Jesse Lebreton, Mitch Wall, Tony Oak, Coleman Brodbin, and Brody Malek were getting valuable ice-time which would prove to be key for their long-term development. In December the Star's traded Nick Kalnicki and Jason Walker to Melfort, which signaled that the Stars were in a full rebuild mode, and a month later Gary Clark was relieved of his duties as Coach and G.M.
Still to this day I have nothing but kind things to say about Gary Clark. He made every effort to make me feel welcome in a new city, and even when the losses kept mouthing, he never quit on his team. The popular consensus was that Clark was a great coach but simply didn't have the greatest grasp of being a team's General Manager. I'm not defending or rebuking him, but the Star's list wasn't exactly in the greatest shape to begin with.
The Stars finished the season with only five wins, but again the thing that truly sticks out for me was the fact that the guys never quit. They always battled, kept a great attitude, and it was almost like they knew that better days were ahead for them.
Jesse Lebreton even went so far as refusing a trade to a Sherwood Conference team simply because he enjoyed the Battlefords so much.
Thinking back, my first season in the broadcast booth for the Battlefords North Stars was likely choppy, inconsistent and 'all over the place!' But by the end of Year One, I felt like I was beginning to gain a stronger understanding of the league, the players and the way that everything was setup.
Some personal highlights from Year One included:
- Calling a game on a cell-phone at the Showcase in Saskatoon. - Getting introduced to the likes of: Rob Hart, Craig Stein, Darryl Skender, Kenny Trenton, Dallas Hicks, Darren Dupont, Blaine Weyland and Kevin Smith. - Getting to know the parents, fans and players on a friendly level.
I can proudly say that after one full season in the Battlefords I was more comfortable and better acquainted with the goings on of the SJHL. Year Two would provide a series of new challenges and excitement. I'll hit on those reflections this weekend at some point.