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Monday, January 2, 2012

Top 10 Highlights of the First Half of Bantam Hockey

With the un-official first half of the season now complete, I thought it would be interesting to take a bit of a look back at some of the top occurrences so far this season.  Here are the top 10 as we view them in terms of stories or happenings.  (No Specific Order).

10.   Spruce Grove hosting the WCBHC - When Spruce Grove was awarded the right to host the WCBHC, it caught some off guard due to the fact they really weren't returning a large number of 2nd year players and the fact they weren't projected as a top team.  However with a record of just 5-17-1, with 10 games to go, I don't think anybody saw them struggle to make the playoffs.  They currently hold on to the final playoff spot with that record due to the fact Grand Prairie and Fort. Saskatchewan are in similar re-building phases.  A bright spot though is their recent win over Leduc at the Edmonton Invitational Tournament this past week.

9.   GSHL decided against joining the new SBAAHL - Saskatchewan, in an attempt to become more of a "AAA" type league decided to form a new league of North and South teams.  Saskatoon was invited to have all 6 teams participate in the "North Division" of the league but decided against it for whatever reason.

8.   Winnipeg Sharks demise - The Winnipeg Sharks were expected by many to be a power house team in the Winnipeg "AAA" bantam league this season.  After all, they were returning Dallas Miller who was one of the top players as an under-age in the league the previous season.  Also perhaps the provinces top defender - Ryan Gardiner was joining the team after a strong showing at westerns last year filling in for the injured Reid Zalitach.  Braden Purtill was returning along with top rear-guard Dexter Kuczek and Julien Uhryniak.  A very surprising occurrence to be sure.

7.   POE inability to win a tournament - There is no doubt that POE has the most talented defence core in western Canada.  With as many as 5 players who could be drafted in the top 2 rounds of the bantam draft, many thought (including myself), that they could roll through the tournaments.  However, semi-final losses in Medicine Hat, Chilliwack and Los Angeles have been the teams bug-a-boo so far.  They will look to right that ship in St. Albert at the John Reid Memorial Tournament.  The final chance for this talented laden squad to win a major tournament this year!

6.   Balgonie Prairie Storm/Jayden Halbgewachs - One of the top stories in Saskatchewan this year has to be the showing of the Prairie Storm who have gone a perfect 14-0-0 in league play so far this season.  They have also won the Prince Albert Bantam Tournament.  The only loss they have this whole season is to 2nd ranked North East Wolfpack 2-1 in the Regina Tournament.  Jayden Halbgewachs has been the catalyst for the provinces top team with a staggering 37-20-57 points in just 14 games.  A pace equal to or better than anyone in recent memory at the bantam level in Saskatchewan.  The captain has also won both MVP awards at the two major Saskatchewan tournaments this year.

5.   Calgary Royals Defensive Dominance - It has been a while since we have seen a team at the bantam level win solely on defensive play and goaltending.  The Royals who are currently 16-2-3, have allowed just 41 goals in 21 games this year backed by the stellar goal-tending of Zach Sawchenko and Jake Morrissey.  Sawchenko is sporting a jaw-dropping 1.50 GAA and a .945 save percentage so far.  His GAA is a full .50 better than any other goalie in the league.  The team has bought in to a defensive first style and have no true stars amongst its skaters.  A true "team" in every sence of the word!

4.   Bisons Stars, Merkley/Shmyr - Perhaps the top 1-2 punch in all of western Canada, Merkley and Shmyr have been very fun to watch so far this season.  After a red hot start, they have cooled a bit but still have scored 47% of the teams goals this season.  It will be interesting to watch this dynamic duo for the rest of the season to see how far they can carry the Bisons in the playoffs.   Look for both to be first rounders as the long history of Bisons duo's continue.

3.   BWC Dominance - Having been ranked #1 overall in western Canada nearly all season playing under a pretty high powered microscope, BWC have not disappointed.   There only blemish so far this season came in the final of the Chilliwack Tournament in a 2-0 loss to the rival NSWC.  However, they have won every other tournament they have entered, including a recent tournament win at the Los Angeles Holiday Tournament.  They have battled some injuries to key people such as Matt Barzal and Adam Musil as well.  The star studded squad has as many as 9 players who will be fairly high picks in the bantam draft this season, so they have been heavily scouted all year long.  A true elite team in western Canada this year.

2.   Hockey Manitoba Does it Right! - For years now, rural Manitoba has been one of the least scouted area's in western Canada.  The rural area of Manitoba though has produced some of the biggest stars as of late and now those star bantam players will get more attention thanks to the new Manitoba Bantam Showcase incorporated this season.  There are three separate showcases in various parts of the province involving primarily the rural teams with a some Winnipeg "AA" teams also taking part.  It has been a huge success thus far and should get a few more rural kids noticed by all WHL teams come draft day.

1.   Coaches, Managers, Players, Parents, Scouts etc - It has been a true pleasure once again to work with all of you in the first half of the season.  Each year, it is a different group of people I get the pleasure to meet and work with and discuss hockey with and each year so far it has been a wonderful experience.  I hope everyone has a great second half of hockey as we get near to the bantam draft and the all important provincial camps prior to the draft.  A heart filled Thank You!!!


Anonymous said...

With Balgonie playing in St. Albert in a couple weeks, we will all see the difference between AAA and AA hockey. And that difference is huge. I wish them all the best, but think they will get pounded.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Prairie Storm is not the best team in Saskatchewan. Halbgewachs is just a great player who simply cannot be contained at the AA level. He is that good and that smart. Outside of him, the team is just okay. Take Halb off Prairie Storm, take Nagy off Weyburn and take Seaman off North East, and you have North East still at the top of the pack, Weyburn next and Prairie Storm out of the playoffs. Northeast and Weyburn are the deepest teams in the province. That will tell you how good Halbgewachs is.

Anonymous said...

Ambhl second half will be very interesting. Any thoughts. ?

Anonymous said...

The AMBHL does it right with the playoff system and the full 3 20 minute periods.

Up north going to be a a dog fight to get out.

Anonymous said...

Actually, two top Alberta AA teams attended the Saskatoon tournament over the weekend and the top Saskatchewan teams were not there! They finished 11 and 12 out of 12 and got beat badly! Saskatchewan AA may be a bit weaker because of the smaller populations to draw from. But the stong Saskatchewan teams can beat lower AAA teams and the Storm will not get pounded, but should compete.

Anonymous said...

Prairie Storm will do alright at the John Reid tournament as they do have depth. Riddle is the top ranked dman out of Sk and then they have Murray, Faith and Lugt. This a top four better than any team in Sk, closest team with this depth in Sk would be Weyburn. North East's D just does not compare.

Finding 9 forwards for any Sk team is tough to do, but again Prairie Storms is as good as any. Perkins, Beaudry and Wass have been surprises all season. Weyburn does drop off after Nagy but they have hard workers and play a defensive style that works. While North East may have more depth it is very slight as they have a below average third line and are hampered by carrying an even weaker tenth forward. The biggest thing North East lacks is a difference maker, Seaman is their top forward and he is lazy 50% of the time. Halbgewachs is a difference maker and he is what puts Prairie Storm at the top of the list for Saskatchewan teams, until he gets hurt and can not play teams need to deal with him.

Anonymous said...

Lets play sort of nice. Weyburn has the best coach, no on will argue that, he gets the most out of average players. The other hand not sure about PS. Perkins is averaging .5 goals a game with Halgewachs not solid.?? Storm have 5-6 98,s?? I think Weyburn has 3? Both nice teams. 98 Ross is on holidays by the looks of it as he hasnt played the last 4 games and Reid is top 3 def in prov for 98,s. PS has slight advantage in net with Roh being a suprise. Leslie is always strong for Weyburn easily best player besides Nagy. Melville and Yorkton will be there in end too. Melville has way too much depth Nuels, Roberts, Krekelwich, Cole, Taypotoat, crane etc not sure why they struggle not be 1-2, and Yorkton works hard like weyburn

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying I completely agree with the GSHL in abstaining from the new SBAAHL, but exactly what incentive do they have to join? Since they brought in their citywide format, they've consistently drafted more players to the WHL and developed more midget AAA hockey players per capita than any other area of the province (and arguably at a higher rate than the other western provinces). SHA asked them to enter the league with 6 teams, which would guarantee they'd never compete for the championship. To top it off, they'd go from having to drive a significantly longer distance to play road games.

The upside is for SHA and the rural Sask teams - a better league with more competition. But what is the upside for Saskatoon players and families?

Anonymous said...

Prairie Storm has 5 98s; Weyburn 2 98s; North East 3 98s; Melville 2 98s; Yorkton 5 98s.

Prairie Storm beats you on high end talent; Weyburn outcoaches the other team to get wins; North East outworks other teams to win; Melville (when they show up to play) beats you with a tenacious forecheck; Yorkton tries to bully themselves wins.

Anonymous said...

Strength of BC PCAHA in particular.
BWC,NSWC,SEMI and CLOV are all top 10 teams in western Canada. Add in SEAFAIR that beat the Royals in Victoria and POE. The dominance of BC hockey this year is the biggest surprise..

Anonymous said...

I think it's the dominance of 98s

Anonymous said...

Nobody truely cares if Saskatoon enters the SBAAHL or not so stop whining here. For arguement sake lets put some of them to bed:

Saskatoon population of 202 340 still has a higher drawing base than any other area in Saskatchewan so why would they not compete with 6 teams in the new league. Your arguement says what is important is winning, what about player development.

The longest road trip would be to Melfort or Tisdale or Kindersley 1 hour and 20-30 minutes away, that is a long ways (thats 2 road games other road games are all closer).

Ice time. Cost of ice would go up for the longer ice slots and ice would be taken away from other teams within SMHA. This myth has taken on a life of its own. Let me put this simply, each team would have 12 home games which is a total of 72 Bantam AA home games as compared to the current 156 games under the current schedule being played in the GSHL. Boy that extra 15-30 minutes of ice time is going to destroy minor hockey in Saskatoon.

Cost. Cost is only as high as you make it, if you want to travel by bus to all your road games the initial cost will be higher than planning to drive to games on the road.

Producing a high number of WHL draft picks means nothing if they are the first players to head for home because they are homesick.

The biggest problem for Saskatoon is their ego. If they were to enter the SBAAHL they can't say that their league is the best anymore and their feeling of superiority over the rest of the province would be gone.

Anonymous said...

If I am not mistaken, Yorkton has beaten Weyburn 3 times this year. Why all the talk about Weyburn and very little about Yorkton. Take Nagy off of Weyburn, and everybody beats them. None of these teams has much for depth. Sask. AA hockey will really get a boost in terms of credibility if Prairie Storm competes in nSt. Albert. And will get a kick in the teeth if they dont compete at all. In 2 weeks or so, it will all become clear.

Anonymous said...

Melville should be the second best team. With there depth they have 3 of the 6 top scoters in sask and them 3 will go in the top 5 rounds of the bantam draft. Nuels, boutin, and Cole. And also one of the best 98 defenseman in sask. When they come to play they could beat prarie storm. I guess we will see this weekend when them two teams face off!!

Anonymous said...

Take Sewchuk and Patterson off of Yorkton and they won't win a game. If Prairie Storm does well people will take notice if they don't no one will notice because they are not supposed to do well (no kick in the teeth).

Weyburn has the best Defense in the Province. The 98 dman on Melville is very skilled and smart, but if he doesn't grow (and soon) he his days as a scared, little dman are done.

Boutin and Cole will probably go in the 1st few rounds but that is it Nuels will be a late pick at best.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention POE's semi final loss to Seafair in Victoria

Anonymous said...

Why would you say that Prairie Storm arent supposed to do well. They are rated at #13 by WEHP. Higher than some of the teams in St. Albert. The dads are out if full force again. Or at least it sure sounds like it based on some of the dillusional comments.

Anonymous said...

POE seems to strugle with goals against. I've read on W.E.H.P web page that POE has a great chance to have a number of D-men drafted. Prehaps goaltending is the issue?
Back in the summer I saw an interview W.E.H.P did with a goalie from Abbotsford (can't remeber his name.#35). At the same time it was rummered that he was going to POE. Wonder how good POE could of been with him there?

Anonymous said...

Lets face it boring dump and chase hockey is no longer development at the AA Bantam level. Just look at how the game at the junior, NCAA, NHL,and World Junior level has changed the past 36 months. The players that give up the puck and possession 90-100% or can not handle the puck at top speed will likely not be able to make it to the next level period. Many whatever system works but robotic dump and chase structure was always boring but now has come to end for recruiters to watch. Scouts want to see play-making, puck-movement, defenceman that have the ability to jump into the play. The players that have the opportunity to advance level by level have common elements speed and quickness in the 3 zones with the ability to make plays as units!

Anonymous said...

I believe POE can't finish off tournaments because the team gets tired towards the end of tournaments. Why does the team get tired? They are overtraining with the 5 ice times+drylands each week+games. Young atheletes need time to recover and unfortuneately they aren't getting enough.

Anonymous said...

Dump and chase is not gone in higher levels of hockey it is just dine at the right times. On odd man rushes where the offensive team is out manned dump and chase will still be seen. This is how hockey has been and how it will continue to be played.

The most annoying thing about the new hockey is when the weakside winger stays up ice just so that his team can make a long dump up to him, which he simply deflects into the offensive zone and then changes, while his teammates (who have already changed) go in on the forecheck. Talk about losing creativity.

Anonymous said...

Thought I would address the issue of over training as said by the last blog, it can be true if your player is not training to there ability, possibly POE troubles start with the approach to there training, training is what you put into it, seems that the OHA squad from top to bottom get better as the tournamets go on, the only time it is apparent that the OHA squad is tired is when they are not training, there is a point in each players ability to realize what they need to maintain there strength and development, it is likely, if this is the case why you would think POE cant win in the finals, POE has a good hockey team, likely not as great as everyone thought at the begining because they were already good and now teams are starting to catch them, it will be interesting to see who goes were in the draft, its such a realistic way of analizing the development of a 14 year old hockey player

Anonymous said...

It's about development , I do believe they get most Mondays off ,

Anonymous said...

POE has lost 2 times to BWC , one time to LA selects and one time to Seafair in semi finals of tournaments .

Anonymous said...

OHA only gets mondays off if they have a tournament the weekend prior, and practicing and dryland 5 days a week plus games should make teams be more fit for the end of the tournaments don't you think?

Anonymous said...

I'm just saying, I think the surprise dominance of NSWC should be on that list. Specially with their horrible season last year.