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18 posts categorized "Pro Hockey"

October 13, 2011

Pro Hockey | Good start for Stuarts

Posted by: Feldman

Some NHL teams have already played four or five games.

The Winnipeg Jets have played one.

Come on, NHL! Fans in The Peg have been dying to have NHL hockey of their own for a decade and a half and they get just four of their first 15 games at home?! Ah well, I think Jets fans are OK with that, or, at least they will be when they have a stretch of 13 out of 15 games at home between Nov. 29-Dec. 31.

Plus, they opened their inaugural (can we call it that? I'm going to) season at home on Sunday, and Rochester native Mark Stuart, a d-man for the Jets, became a part of history/answer to a trivia question. Stuart assisted on the Jets' first goal, their only goal of the game, in a 5-1 loss to Montreal.

Stuart's point shot was stopped by Carey Price, but Nik Antropov buried the rebound. (By the way, if you're looking ahead, Stuart and the Jets make their only trip to the Xcel Center on Thursday, Feb. 16, to face the Wild in a 7 p.m. game).

The Jets play their second game of the season tonight at Chicago at 7:30 p.m. It will be the first time that Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a Winnipeg native, gets to play against the Jets. It will also mark a return to Chicago for Roseau native Dustin Byfuglien, a key member of the Blackhawks' run to the Stanley Cup two years ago. Byfuglien participated in Shjon Podein's charity golf tournament at Somerby in Byron this past summer. He's a very laid-back guy off the ice, great to talk to and spent seemingly more time posing for pictures and signing autographs than he did playing golf.

• Another Stuart, Mark's brother, Colin, had a good start to his season with the Rochester (N.Y.) Americans, the AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. Colin scored one of the Americans' two goals in a 5-2 season-opening loss to Hamilton on Saturday. He also led the team with eight shots on goal, so clearly he's being looked at by the coaches as a guy they need to count on for scoring.

Also, if you click on the link I provided in the previous paragraph, it takes you to the box score of the Rochester-Hamilton game. Notice who the backup goalie is for the Americans? Former Mayo standout Jeff Jakaitis.

It actually looked late last week like Jakaitis might start the Americans' opener. He didn't, but the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle did a short piece on his hockey travels, and briefly mentions that he and Stuart are both from another Rochester.

Rochester plays its second game of the season, its home opener, at 6:05 p.m. Central Time tonight, against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.

October 06, 2011

NHL | Happy Hockey Season, everyone

FELDY: Since the NFL season is over, Phersy and I couldn't be happier that the NHL begins its for-real games tonight. And, even though Phersy said he was done with college hockey after the breakup of the current WCHA was announced, I think he's pumped that the college season begins this weekend. I'll be in NoDak watching the Sioux (yes, I can still call them that ... for now) play in the Ice Breaker against Michigan State, B.C. and Air Force (with Austin's Tim Kirby). We'll try to get our WCHA predictions up later today, but I thought I'd start with my NHL predictions for the season and Phersy can add his if he can get his lazy butt around to it.

The good news is, by next June, most of you, as well as me and Phersy, will forget about these. So, if you want to know which teams not put money on, read on:

15. Florida: Can Theodore handle being the No. 1 goalie for 82 games?
14. Ottawa: Sens were second-to-last in scoring in NHL last season.
13. N.Y. Islanders: Questions in goal: Can Al Montoya continue to play like he did late last year? Will Rick DiPietro fulfill the expectations of his lengthy contract?
12. Winnipeg: The team's re-location from Atlanta doesn't change the fact that, for years, they traded or allowed many of their star players to leave as free agents.
11. Toronto: James Reimer could be a franchise goalie. J-M Liles a nice addition, still need help at center.
10. Carolina: Need more than just Eric Staal and Cam Ward. Can Jeff Skinner elevate his game even more?
9. New Jersey: Best second-half team in NHL last year. A better start to this season could make Devils a playoff contender.
8. N.Y. Rangers: Have an elite goalie (Lundqvist), an up-and-coming blue line and added a dynamic center (Brad Richards).
7. Montreal: Canadiens keep finding ways to make playoffs without a ton of star power.
6. Philadelphia: I only have Flyers this low because of offseason losses (Mike Richards, Jeff Carter). Will be fun to see how Jaromir Jagr does in his return to NHL.
5. Tampa Bay: Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier are nice players to build around, but how long will 42-year-old Dwayne Roloson hold up?
4. Buffalo: When you have Ryan Miller in goal, you should always be in the postseason.
3. Pittsburgh: Even with Sid the Kid out, the Penguins are extremely talented.
2. Boston: Cup champs didn't change much.
1. Washington: Caps are kings of the regular season.
15. Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, so are Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall. This season is a big test for coach Dave Tippett.
14. Dallas: Stars didn't adequately replace Brad Richards, who bolted when free agency opened.
13. Edmonton: Some young, extremely talented players should help keep the Oilers out of the basement.
12. Columbus: Jackets made a couple of nice off-season additions, but G Steve Mason has had two consecutive sub-par years.
11. Calgary: Flames could be a playoff team if Miikka Kiprusoff exceeds expectations.
10. Colorado: Avs losses were greater than their gains in the offseason.
9. Minnesota: Wild are on the verge of something good, but the West is stacked.
8. St. Louis: Blues were hit hard by injuries last season. That can't happen again.
7. Nashville: Coach Barry Trotz always seems to get best out of his team, and G Pekka Rinne was sensational at times in the playoffs last season.
6. Anaheim: The Getzlaf-Perry-Ryan trio is one that fans of every other team should be jealous of. Or maybe I'm just saying that 'cuz I'm a Wild fan. And jealous.
5. Los Angeles: G Jonathan Quick could be a Vezina contender, and Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are a heck of duo to build a defensive corps around.
4. Detroit: Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Lidstrom are still game-changers.
3. San Jose: Sharks are counting on Havlat being the dynamic player he was in Chicago, not the player he was in Minnesota.
2. Chicago: How's this for a core group of five: Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook. G Corey Crawford will be the key to Blackhawks success/failure.
1. Vancouver: Despite the loss in the Stanley Cup finals, Canucks still have too much fire power for the rest of the West. Battle between Luongo and Schneider in goal will be one to watch.
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS: Chicago over Vancouver.
STANLEY CUP FINALS: Chicago over Boston.

August 18, 2011

Hockey | Playing catch-up, part I

Posted by: Feldman

Amazing what can pile up when you're on vacation for a bit (Phersy should know what this feels like, since he's always on a vacation).

Here are a few notes to toss out there for now, and I'll have a post on the Lourdes boys hockey team's summer practices a little later tonight. I went over and talked to coach Josh Spaniol during their final week of summer workouts in late July. I didn't get around to posting anything, as I was waiting to hear how a couple of their players did in Junior tryout camps (not that any of them anticipated leaving high school, but I was waiting to see how they fared at those camps).

So, for some notes:

• Former Rochester Century standout d-man Connor Faupel will play for Neepawa of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League this coming season. It's a nice move for Faupel, who passed up his senior season at Century to play for the Russell Stover midget program in Kansas City. I'll put in a call to Faupel tonight and hopefully find out more about his decision.

From what I'm told, he had the chance to go to three or four other places, including another team in the MJHL (which is a Tier II league in Canada), and to Helena, which won the USA Hockey Junior A, Tier III, national championship here in Rochester back in April. Faupel leaves for Neepawa on Tuesday. Neepawa is about 45 miles northeast of Brandon, Manitoba, or about 130 miles west of Winnipeg.

• Former Rochester Mayo forward Charlie Thauwald has become the most recent Rochester native to commit to a Division I hockey program. Thauwald made it official with Minnesota State, Mankato, last week. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Thauwald could make an immediate physical impact for the Mavericks. He'll be the biggest player on the team (along with LaCrescent's Eriah Hayes, who goes 6-4, 210) and the second member of his family to play D-I hockey (his brother, Scott, played at Colorado College and now plays professionally in Australia).

Charlie left Mayo before his senior season to play with Chicago of the USHL. After suffering an injury there, he played part of the 2009-10 season with Owatonna of the NAHL. Last season, he was a key member of the Fairbanks Ice Dogs' run to the NAHL (Robertson Cup) championship, along with Lourdes grads Tyler Voigt and Pete Spratte.

• The University of Maine has posted its men's hockey roster, and former Mayo defenseman Bill Norman will wear No. 12 for the Black Bears. Norman is listed at 5-feet-9, 160 pounds, so he'll have to use his speed and hockey sense — like he did at Mayo last season — to have an impact in Hockey East this year. The closest Maine comes to Minnesota this season is a two-game series at North Dakota, Oct. 14 and 15.

• Another former Century standout, goalie Alex Kangas, is officially a free agent. He wasn't signed by the team that drafted him — Winnipeg (actually drafted by Atlanta, of course, in 2006) — by Monday, so he's free to sign with another NHL team, or go overseas, if he chooses.

• Rochester native Colin Stuart re-signed with the Buffalo Sabres organization last month. Stuart reportedly signed a one-year, two-way deal, which will pay him $525,000 if he sticks in the NHL, or less if he plays with Buffalo's AHL affiliate in Portland, Maine. Stuart had 16 goals and 28 assists in 72 regular season games with Portland last season. He added three goals and four assists in 12 playoff games. He also played in three games for the Sabres, with no points and two penalty minutes.

• As Phersy noted in a previous post, the Rochester Ice Hawks are holding their final tryout camp this weekend, beginning tomorrow (Friday) and running through Sunday. They jump right into training camp on Monday.

July 03, 2011

NHL | Wild wise to stay out of free agent frenzy

FELDY: It's amazing what honesty from a general manager can do for a fan base.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher hasn't attempted to deny that the Wild are in all-out rebuild mode. Or, as Fletcher calls it, "building, not rebuilding." He's right; how can we call this rebuilding? There's nothing to re-build from.

Maybe it's that Wild fans have simply become apathetic. They've watched this team try to do two things at once — stockpile young talent through the draft while signing overpriced veterans in free agency to attempt to keep the team competitive — for too long now. Finally, Fletcher has realized (or admitted) that philosophy won't work.

In fact, I (like many Wild fans, apparently) was surprised at how open and honest Fletcher was about wanting to take this team in a new direction. At the draft on June 24, I had about five paragraphs of a story written about how Fletcher is turning the Wild into a young, young team, even if he won't admit it. I had to highlight-delete those grafs when Fletcher talked openly about it at his press conference that night.

So, here comes the full-blown youth movement. And most fans seem fine with it, though, what other choice do they have? These fans have been paying good money for the past four or five years to watch a medicore-at-best product. They've been beaten into near-submission with lost season after lost season.

And, now that Fletcher has finally decided to move this franchise in a completely different direction than it's ever been taken, fans seem willing to accept another couple of years of building.

As it is, the 2011-12 Wild just might be a better team than the 2010-11 Wild. Certainly, they will not replace Brent Burns' offensive production on the blueline. But, that's the one position where they actually have some depth in the organization, and there is some young talent waiting, such as Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and Justin Falk (as well as this year's first-round pick, Jonas Brodin, who might not be ready until three years down the road, but he's already an elite skater).

The addition of Devin Setoguchi can only help this lineup. Putting him on one side of Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the other will give the Wild a top line that's fun to watch, if nothing else. Forward Darroll Powe was a nice acquisiton, too, as the Wild had to give up just a third-round pick in 2013 for the 26-year-old. He's a physical player who could challenge Cal Clutterbuck for the team lead in hits.

While we can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as defense is concerned (the team's best blue-line prospects are about ready to take their shots at playing with the big boys), it'll be a few years yet before the team's best forward prospects are in the same position. Three guys from last year's draft — Mikael Granlund, Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson — are all at least a year, if not two, away from competing for a spot on the NHL club. And guys they acquired during last week's draft — Charlie Coyle, Zack Phillips and Mario Lucia — could be three or four (or more) years out.

I think Wild fans truly believed that Fletcher is committed to this youth movement on Friday, when he refused to jump into the free-agent frenzy that swept the league. Teams were overpaying for players seemingly every minute (six years, $33 mil for James Wisniewski? Really, Columbus? And trading away a first- and a second-round pick for Semyon Varlamov? Really, Colorado? Yikes.).

Sure, Fletcher made some calls, but we're used to seeing Minnesota chase down a handful of free agents and throw $3-4 million per year at them. Friday was one of those days where it felt like the Wild were a winner on the first day of free agency, even though they made no moves.

That's not to say they won't add a veteran defenseman or another forward, but it looks like they'll let the market settle, and go after a second- or third-tier guy to plug a hole for a year or two.

Bottom line: It's about time that Wild fans get to be excited about their team in October, December and March, instead of in June and July.

June 26, 2011

NHL Draft | Jonas Brodin interview

Posted by: Feldman


Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin met the media after being selected No. 10 overall by the Wild on Friday night. His answers are brief and his English is broken, but he seemed very excited to be drafted by Minnesota. Brodin talks about what he needs to get better at and his experience of playing in the Swedish Elite League as a 17-year-old.

Here's the link to his interview: Brodin0624 

June 23, 2011

Hockey | NHL Draft notes, Aikens settling in Omaha (UPDATED — up to 19)

FELDY: Any of our Faceoff Faithful headed up to The X for the NHL Draft this weekend? If so, you're probably as excited as me. This will be my first NHL Draft to attend and/or cover for the paper, so I'm looking forward to seeing all of that NHL brainpower in one facility.

I'll have a bunch of NHL Draft preview stuff in Friday's Post-Bulletin, so check that out (please, please, please), and I'll be up in St. Paul Friday and Saturday to cover the draft, so check out Saturday and Monday's print editions, too, for that coverage.

I'll also be posting here on the blog throughout the weekend, hopefully live from The X both days. I don't know exactly what the setup is going to be like for media or where I'll be stationed, but I'll do my best to get on here and/or Twitter (@PBFeldy).

The draft begins at 6 p.m. Friday (on Versus), for Round 1, and 10:30 a.m. Saturday (NHL Network), for Rounds 2-7.

As I was doing some research for my draft preview stuff, I found some facts that I thought Rochester hockey fans might be interested in.

(Update: I had forgotten that Scott Schneider was drafted, as well as goalie Jeff Kruesel, so my total of 14 goes up to 16. Much thanks to former JM star/coach Scott Lecy for reminding me that Schneider was drafted, as well as to Jeff Kruesel's parents for notifying me he was not on the list.)

(Update #2: So, of course, an hour after our print edition goes to press today (Friday, June 24), I get a complete list of all the Minnesotans who have ever been drafted. Turns out, there are 19 from Rochester, so I missed three in today's print edition. My apologies to those guys -- Ethan Philpott, Ross Johnson of Mayo and Doug Wieck of Mayo; I'll try to run their short bios, like I did for the other 16, in Saturday's paper).

I attempted to compile a list of every Rochester player ever drafted by an NHL team. I came up with 19(including Johnny Pohl, who, I know, is iffy at best, but he was born in Roch, so we'll add him in).

Of the 19 Rochester players who have been drafted, seven were drafted by franchises that no longer exist (two by the Atlanta Thrashers, two by the first incarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, and one each by the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies and Minnesota North Stars). 

Two -- Doug Zmolek and Mark Stuart -- were drafted in Round 1. None of the remaining 12 was drafted earlier than Round 4.

Two others -- Colin Stuart and Alex Kangas -- were drafted in the exact same draft position (Round 5, No. 135 overall) by the same team (Atlanta). And, yet, two more -- Guy Gosselin and Scott Schneider -- were drafted by the old Winnipeg Jets franchise.

Finally, five of the 19 wouldn't have been drafted if, in their draft years, the draft was formatted like it is now. Currently, the draft is just seven rounds. Eric Strobel, Shjon Podein and Gosselin were all drafted in Round 8, Pohl went in Round 9 and John Johannson in Round 10.

Here's my list, please tell me if I'm missing anyone:

Guy Gosselin
Jim Johannson
John Johannson
Ross Johnson

Alex Kangas
Jeff Kruesel
Bryce Lampman
Ethan Philpott

Shjon Podein
Johnny Pohl
Scott Schneider
Eric Strobel

Colin Stuart
* Mark Stuart
Mike Stuart
Jake Taylor
Jeff Teal
Doug Wieck

* Doug Zmolek

* -- first round pick

I'll have more information about each of those 15 guys in Friday's paper, as well as a look at some of the players the Wild are likely targeting with the 10th overall pick. I'll also have a look at some of the top Minnesotans available in this draft, and a story on New Prague native and former Section 1A standout Seth Ambroz.

He left the Trojans after his freshman year, when he piled up 69 points and led them to the Section 1A semifinals, where they lost to Lourdes in OT. He has played for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL the past three seasons. He is expected to be a low first-round or high second-round pick this weekend. 

For the story on Ambroz, I talked to 1989 Rochester John Marshall graduate Mike Aikens, who was an assistant with the Lancers this year. He had lots of good things to say about Ambroz, particularly his work ethic, which was questioned by some hockey bloggers throughout the season.

The 6-feet-3, 203-pound Ambroz -- who is headed to the U of M this fall -- has been criticized by some for not having a more productive season (he had 46 points in 2010-11, after a 49-point season in 2009-10). 

But, Aikens said, Ambroz was productive in areas other than the scoresheet early in the season. He said Ambroz's physical play was a huge boost for the Lancers early on, when he wasn't scoring. Aikens said Ambroz would often have as many as 15 hits in a game (approaching Cal Clutterbuck territory) and that he didn't receive enough credit for the dirty work he did.

"He was phenomenal on the forecheck and willing to take a beating," Aikens said.

Aikens added that Ambroz does have some things to work on, that he's not NHL-ready right now. The biggest thing Ambroz needs to work on, Aikens said, is his skating. But, it's something Ambroz is aware of and "has worked really, really hard to get better at."

As for Aikens, he thoroughly enjoyed his first season back in Omaha (he spent three seasons there at the start of his coaching career) and is ready to settle there. He and his wife bought a house there and are moving their daughters (ages 5 and 7) down in about two weeks. They kept their house here in Rochester during this past season and waited to move until the school year was finished.

Aikens said he enjoys working for the Lancers organization and head coach Bliss Littler, a successful long-time junior hockey coach. Aikens moved to Omaha after coaching in the Russell Stover Midget Major program near Kansas City. He worked with fellow Rochester native Pat Ferschweiler there. Ferschweiler left prior to last season to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Western Michigan University.

"We have two young daughters," said Aikens, whose brother, Bruce, played on the 1977 JM state championship team, "so we were looking for a place to settle down. When Omaha called, it was a no-brainer.

"The organization in Omaha is so good, from the owners on down. They treat everyone so well. We like to call it the Yankees of junior hockey, because everyone is treated so well. I feel like I can really be choosy and pick my next move. If I'm here for 10 years, or more, that would be great."

June 01, 2011

Pro Hockey | Stuart bros. speak on Thrashers' move; Colin a free agent again

Posted by: Feldman

The announcement on Tuesday that the Atlanta Thrashers have been sold and are relocating to Winnipeg, was just another twist in an odd three months for Rochester native Mark Stuart.

On Feb. 18, he was traded from the Boston Bruins, the team that drafted him in the first round in 2003, and for whom he played 283 games over six season. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers and 10 days later, he signed a three-year, $5.1 million contract extension. He became an instant hit with the Thrashers players and fans, even wearing the "A" as the team's alternate captain for a handful of games late in the season.

Last month, Stuart, a former Lourdes player, wore another letter -- this time the "C" -- as captain of the U.S. team at the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Slovakia, where the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Since coming back to his offseason home in Minneapolis, he has seen his former team, the Bruins, advance to the Stanley Cup Finals (they play Game 1 tonight at Vancouver) and has current team, Atlanta, get sold to a group that will move it to Winnipeg.

Stuart couldn't be reached Tuesday, when the announcement was made. I put in a call to Rob Tillotson with the Thrashers media relations department, and Rob called me back this morning. He said some players are hesitant to comment on the move right now because they don't want their emotions to speak for them. So, I may hear from Mark today, or may not. It's understandable if he doesn't want to speak emotionally right now; he obviously really enjoyed his short time in Atlanta.

I did reach Mark's brother, Colin Stuart, who was a 5th round draft pick of the Thrashers in 2001, and played 51 games for them from 2007-09. He also helped the Thrashers' AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, win the Calder Cup in 2008.

Colin said he had talked briefly with Mark on Tuesday when the announcement was made in Winnipeg by True North Sports and Entertainment, the group that purchased the Thrashers and will move them to the MTS Centre in Winnipeg.

"I think Mark's disappointed they couldn't make it work in Atlanta; he liked it there," Colin said. "It's confusing anytime something like this happens. But he's excited to play in Canada, in front of some of the most die-hard hockey fanatics."

Mark Stuart did speak to the Globe and Mail, one of Canada's two or three biggest newspapers, yesterday. Here's some of what he had to say:

“I saw it coming. After Phoenix went through and they were going to stay, we became the topic of conversation. So I expected it, but there was kind of just a waiting period until it became official. It doesn’t really come as that big of a surprise.”

“I’m excited to go (to Winnipeg), I’m excited for the fans there. Everyone can see how excited they are to have an NHL team back and they’re very deserving of that.”

“(Bruins defenceman) Shane Hnidy texted me today saying I’ll really enjoy it there. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve heard stories about Winnipeg from guys that had a chance to play there and really enjoyed it. About the support and the fans. That’s very exciting for a player.”

C. Stuart enters free agency ... again

For a second consecutive summer, Colin Stuart will enter unrestricted free agency, on July 1. A year ago, he signed with the Buffalo Sabres organization and was a key player all season for their AHL affiliate, the Portland (Maine) Pirates.

He played three games for the Sabres, bringing his career total to 54 NHL games (he has 8 goals and 5 assists in those games).

In Portland, he played 72 regular season games and was the seventh-leading scorer for the Pirates (16-28--44). He also had 3-4--7 in 12 playoff games for the Pirates, who lost to the Binghamton Senators in six games in the AHL Atlantic Division Finals. Binghamton went on to sweep Charlotte in the Eastern Conference Finals and the B-Sens are now playing the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate, the Houston Aeros, in the Calder Cup Finals (that series is tied 1-1, with Game 3 coming up tonight at Binghamton.

Colin isn't ruling out a return to Portland/Buffalo. He said, in a way, it's nice to be an unrestricted free agent and be able to choose where you want to play. But, he said, it's also stressful to not know if what teams, if any, will be interested in him.

"I would have obviously liked to have spent more time in the NHL," he said. "Buffalo is a great system to be in. I was fortunate to play under a couple of great coaches in Portland (Kevin Dineen and Eric Weinrich). They respect their players and make it a joy to come to the rink every day. And Portland was a great city for me and my wife."

Now, Stuart will wait and see which teams show interest in him on July 1. He's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and is a left-handed shot. And, at just 29 years old, he'll surely help a team, either in the AHL or NHL, next season.

"We'll wait and see what happens on July 1," he said. "It's exciting, but a little nerve-wracking to be looking for work. You just hope your reputation is good and your play speaks for itself."

May 19, 2011

Hockey | Was the NHL's southern invasion worth it?

FELDY: It's looking more and more each day like Rochester native Mark Stuart and the Atlanta Thrashers will make their home in Winnipeg next season (or, possibly the following season, depending upon if, and how soon, a sale of the Thrashers can get done).

Another southern NHL team, the Coyotes, are safe in Phoenix for at least another season, thanks to the city of Glendale covering some of the NHL's big-time financial losses there. That leaves the Thrashers as the team targeted by Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment to move into the seven-year-old MTS Centre (the name alone sounds like a hockey building, with the "re" on Centre).

With all of that in mind, an interesting topic has bounced around on Twitter over the past couple of days, primed by former USA Hockey P.R. guy Chris Peters (who happens to operate the kick-#!@ hockey blog, the United States of Hockey) and Fargo Fourm hockey writer Ryan S. Clark. (by the way, if you're a hockey fan at all, follow those guys on Twitter -- @chrismpeters and @ryan_s_clark)

The debate: Has the NHL's entry into southern markets been worthwhile?

With the financial troubles that the Coyotes and Thrashers have had, it's easy to say that the NHL's invasion of the non-traditional markets in the U.S. has been a bust. But that's really not fair, not looking at the big picture.

I won't quote all of Peters' research here; he did a lot of work on this, so go to his site to check it out. He looked at the increase in hockey players of all ages in the NHL's southeastern markets (Atlanta, Nashville, Raleigh, Miami, Tampa Bay, and he included Dallas).

Here's a link to Peters' statistical spreadsheet, which looks at the number of registered players in those southern states with NHL teams. Note that, over the past decade, the number of registered players in those states has either come close to doubling, or it has more than doubled. That's a pretty big impact on areas not previously known for hockey. In Georgia, nearly 85 percent of new players over the past 10 years are 18 years old or younger. Now, that is how the game grows, by getting kids involved and active.

Also, look at the number of players from Texas, California and the Carolinas now making their way into junior hockey, college hockey and the pros. It's obviously not as many as come from Canada and the northern U.S., but my hometown college hockey team (University of North Dakota) will have as many players on its roster next season from Arizona and California as it will from North Dakota.

More examples: Check out last year's NHL Draft: Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem, both California-born, were selected in the first round. Bennett's Denver University teammate, Jason Zucker, from Las Vegas, was a second-round pick of the Minnesota Wild.

The NHL may not have succeeded in Phoenix or Atlanta, but it's worked well in Dallas, San Jose, L.A., Nashville, Tampa Bay and Carolina.

It's difficult to watch NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman do all he can to keep a team (Phoenix) in a market that hasn't supported it. And, Atlanta looks like it will be NHL-less in a matter of months. But, two bad apples shouldn't ruin the bunch. The NHL's presence in the south has done much more good than bad.

May 04, 2011

AHL | Stuart helps Portland stay alive

FELDY: Colin Stuart still has a chance to win a Calder Cup for the second time in four seasons.

Stuart had a goal and an assist on Tuesday as the Portland (Maine) Pirates beat the Binghamton Senators, 6-2, at Binghamtom in Game 5 of their AHL Atlantic Division Finals series.

Portland — CLICHE ALERT! — had its backs against the wall on Tuesday (and still does). The Pirates trail the best-of-7 series, 3-2, after their Game 5 victory. Game 6 is set for Friday night at Portland.

Stuart, the Rochester native who played on the 2008 Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves (Atlanta Thrashers affiliate), has had a very good season for the Pirates, the top minor league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. He put up 44 points in 72 regular-season games, and has excelled in the playoffs, with seven points in 11 games.

Here's an audio clip of Stuart's goal from the Pirates' radio network. Broadcaster sounds like he has a helium tank hooked up to his mic or something. Then again, that's why I work in newspapers. :)

Don't discount Portland in this series, even though it was in a 3-1 hole. The Pirates have young goaltending phenom Jhonas Enroth back in net after he spent time with the Sabres late in the regular season. Enroth was 9-2-2 in 15 games with the Sabres, posting a .907 save percentage. He made 35 saves in Tuesday's game.

May 03, 2011

Pro Hockey | Playing catch-up

Posted by: Feldman

Time to catch up on some hockey news involving former area players...

We're into May and a handful of former Rochester-area hockey players are still chasing championships.

Three former Rochester high school standouts -- Tyler Voigt and Pete Spratte of Lourdes, and Charlie Thauwald of Mayo -- are playing together for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the NAHL. The Ice Dogs open play in the Robertson Cup Final Four tonight, but we'll get into that in a subsequent post.

Two Rochester natives are still chasing championships at a higher level -- brothers Mark and Colin Stuart. While both would much rather be playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they have to be happy to be still playing at this time of year.

* Mark Stuart, a defenseman for the Atlanta Thrashers, is the captain of Team USA at the IIHF World Men's Championships in Slovakia. The U.S. opened play on Saturday with a 5-1 win against Austria and followed that with a 4-2 victory against Norway on Monday, to secure a spot in the qualification round.

The U.S. plays its final pool play game of the tournament against Sweden on Wednesday. That game will be televised on Versus (channel 35, Charter Cable, Rochester; or channel 761 in HD). The qualification round is scheduled to begin Thursday.

* Colin Stuart and the Portland (Maine) Pirates are on the verge of elimination from the AHL playoffs. Portland, the top minor-league affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, trails the Binghamton Senators, 3-1, in the best-of-7 Atlantic Division finals. Stuart, who has played 54 games at the NHL level in his career (including three this season), played in 72 games for Portland in the regular season, putting up 44 points (16 goals, 28 assists). He has two goals and three assists in 10 playoff games.

Stuart and the Pirates have a big hole to dig out of, needing three consecutive victories to advance in the Calder Cup playoffs. He's no stranger to postseason success. Stuart was on the Chicago Wolves 2008 Calder Cup championship team.

* Rochester native and former University of Minnesota defenseman Jake Taylor's season is over, but the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder had another solid season in the AHL. Taylor played in 65 games, accumulating five assists, a plus-14 rating and 135 penalty minutes for the Oklahoma City Barons, an Edmonton Oilers affiliate. Taylor also had one assist in six playoff games for the Barons, who

* Rochester's Bryce Lampman played 24 games with Ingolstadt ERC of the German Elite League at the end of the season. After playing in five games with the Houston Aeros of the AHL, Lampman, 28, had two goals and five assists for Ingolstadt ERC. He also had one assist in four postseason games.

* Red Wing's Reid Cashman had 25 points and 72 penalty minutes in 54 games this season for Linz EHC in Austria. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman also had a goal and two assists in five playoff games. Cashman split time last season between Cincinnati of the ECHL and Milwaukee of the AHL.