Sabres 'Fab Four' makes Canadian Selection Camp roster

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, November 29, 2010 | 11/29/2010

Congrats to OHL forwards Zack Kassian (WSR) and Marcus Foligno (SBY), and WHL defensemen Brayden McNabb (KTN) and Mark Pysyk (EDM) for being named to Hockey Canada's U20 Selection Camp roster.

The quartet will leave their teams late next week to skate at Team Canada's Selection Camp being held December 12-15 at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto. The 2011 World Junior Championships will be held in Buffalo beginning December 26.

Please read my post from yesterday detailing why I felt each player was deserving of an invite.

More details to come, but this should be taken as great news to Sabres fans.
11/29/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

11/28 Recap: Kassian cranking as deadline comes creeping

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, November 28, 2010 | 11/28/2010

Zack Kassian scored his 12th goal of the year and added three assists Sunday as Windsor smoked Peterborough, 7-2. The Spitfires (15-10-0-1) trailed 2-0 after the first period before exploding for seven unanswered goals including six in the final twenty minutes to cruise to the victory. Alan Quine ('11) scored a goal and Matt Puempel ('11) added a pair of assists for the losing Petes.

Kassian has been on a tear since reports surfaced that Windsor may make him available for trade. With three goals and 10 assists in his last fives games, Kassian now has 39 points through 21 games since being returned from the Sabres. By comparison, the burly forward posted just 12-19-21 in the 38 games he played in last year.

Elsewhere, Marcus Foligno (+1) recorded an assist as Sudbury disposed of London, 4-1. The power forward has slowed a bit, going eight games without a goal after lighting the lamp twelve times in his first 16 games back from Buffalo. The Wolves (8-17-1-0) will travel to Barrie on Thursday for a meeting with the last-place Colts.

Gregg Sutch (+1) did not register a point as Mississauga defeated Owen Sound, 6-3. The physical wing was called for a kneeing penalty in the second period, and because I'm filled with useless prospect information, I can tell you that's the fourth kneeing penalty taken this season by a Sabres draft pick. The Majors (22-2-0-1) will next take on Brampton on Thursday.

Steven Shipley did not factor into the scoring as Niagara defeated Belleville, 4-1. Shipley, who was the IceDogs only minus player in the win, has gone five consecutive games without scoring a point. The 6'3 forward will look for a turnaround Thursday when Niagara (15-7-2-1) takes the 401 into Windsor to face Kassian and the Spits.

In the QMJHL, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc (+2) gathered a power play assist as Rimouski shot past Quebec, 5-1. The win ends a two-game skid for the Oceanic (15-15), who will get a day off before hosting Victoriaville on Tuesday.

In the WHL, Riley Boychuk was -1 as Portland lost in the shootout to Medicine Hat, 3-2. The 6'5 wing added an elbowing minor to his portfolio, and continues to lead all Sabres prospects with 55 PIM. The Winterhawks (21-5-0-3) will host Kootenay on Wednesday.

In the lone Sunday college game, Drew MacKenzie finished -3 as Vermont got blown out by #7 Boston College, 6-0. The struggling Catamounts (1-6-4) are off until next Sunday when they travel to UNH.
11/28/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Sabres Canadian hopefuls wait for phone to ring

Hockey Canada will release their Selection Camp roster for the 2011 World Junior Championships on Monday, and the Sabres look to have some skin in the game when the tournament commences the day after Christmas. Last season, Luke Adam was the only Sabres prospect named to the 36-man camp roster. The Cape Breton scorer went on to make the team as a fourth liner, collecting eight points in Canada's silver medal performance.

The Sabres had four CHLers, a forward and three blueliners, skate in Canada's summer evaluation camp this August in Newfoundland. One of them appears to be a lock to make the club, while a recent high profile injury could create a lower barrier to entry for an experienced defenseman. In addition, there is another forward who should make some noise depending on how Canada wants to construct their entry.

With NHL pre-season experience and a contract already signed, the inclusion of Zack Kassian on the camp roster seems like a done deal. The 6'3 wing has been a lot to handle throughout his OHL career, but he's really taken it up a level this season with increased production (through 20 games Kassian has already equaled his offensive output from all of 2009-10) and better overall discipline. His play was rewarded with an "A" for Team OHL for game #4 of the Canada/Russia Super Series.

A more mature Kassian better understands his value to the team, but it has been a process. Even as recently as this summer, the bullish forward was drawing negative attention from the Team Canada staff after being perhaps a little too nasty during one of the camp scrimmages. Then again, some of that may have been mitigated by Kassian's arrest a couple months before but that's now over and done with.

If Canada is looking to bring some do-it-all beef in their quest to regain gold, it makes perfect sense to bring an edgy forward who'll be looking to mark his territory on HSBC Arena ice before trading the Canadian leaf sweater for a blue and gold one next fall.  It's up to Kassian to arrive in camp ready to earn his spot.

Things are a little different on the blueline, where there aren't any "guarantees" among the Sabres main batch of hopefuls. With names like Erik Gudbranson, Simon Despres, Ryan Ellis, and Jared Cowen looking charged to go, it's easy to see how spots are going to be tough to come by. The landscape may have changed some over the weekend though, as another of those "locks", Brandon Gormley of the Moncton Wildcats, suffered a dislocated kneecap that will likely cause him to miss the tournament.

So is there a Sabres prospect that could skate into the radar?

Kootenay captain Brayden McNabb should be one of the greatest benefactors of Gormley's misfortune. At 6'4, 225-pounds, the Saskatchewan native has the stay-at-home posture, physical edge, and base offensive skills to stabilize the bottom pairs a la Keith Aulie in 2009 (when Aulie was paired with Tyler Myers). He's strong enough to handle the speed and power game of the rival Americans, and in a pinch could contribute on the power play. After taking an eight-game rest due to a shoulder injury, McNabb stepped back in to the Ice lineup with dominant all-around play including a point-per-game offensive pace.

I'd pitch McNabb to Canadian coach Dave Cameron as a player with U18 experience who could be effective with a very simple game. If Canada is looking for a guy who can make good keeps at the blueline and spark his team with a hit, then he'll make it to final cuts. The second-tier competition is sharp with names like Dylan Olsen (Duluth), Calvin De Haan (Oshawa), Tyson Barrie (Kelowna), and Brett Ponich (Portland) just to name a few, so playing turnover free hockey at the Selection Camp will make or break McNabb's chances.

Edmonton Oil Kings captain Mark Pysyk is another summer camp invite that has a legit chance of making the cutdown list. He's definitely a bubble guy at this point, but it's fair to think he'll be one of the expected 13 rearguards called to go state their case.

The 6'1 righty is an effortless skater who stays out of trouble, but there's still room for him to be a more assertive presence. Another season with Edmonton should breed the confidence and conditioning to execute to expectations, and given the year's talented pool of Canadian blueline prospects, I think Pysyk is one year away from making Team Canada.

The key for Pysyk is to stay healthy. The OK's all-situations player, who is logging loads of ice time but has yet to record a goal, is not known for his offensive ability but rather as a safe, high aptitude player. More body work and a more engaging physical style should be the trick to developing a blend that will place him in the thick of Canada's list for 2012.

Rimouski's Jerome Gauthier-Leduc earned a summer camp ticket as well, but really hasn't elevated his game to a level worthy of national team consideration. In short, the 18-year old is a savvy puck mover who needs to show the willingness to pay the price in his own zone on a more regular basis.

In an interview early this season, Gauthier-Leduc remarked how the freewheeling strategy employed in Rimouski was more suitable to his game. However, the entire club has just looked too casual in their own end as if the talented players were waiting for others to do the work. Not helping was an injury that caused him to miss the Canada/Russia Challenge and show what he could do outside of the Nics system. He has that Kris Letang package, but this season he's just not there yet so I don't expect him to get an invite on Monday.

If I had to send a third defenseman to camp, I'd opt for Matt MacKenzie ahead of Gauthier-Leduc. The fourth-year member of the Hitmen has been a steady, two-way presence on the league's worst team, but I'm not sure he has the juice to get a look from Hockey Canada.

If there was one Sabres prospect that stands out as a darkhorse to make the Selection Camp roster though, it would be Sudbury captain Marcus Foligno. Sure, it'd be quite the story book "new beginning" of sorts for he and new pal Kassian to team up in Buffalo, but how far of a longshot is it?

I mean, Clarke MacArthur squeezed his way onto Team Canada as a bottom-line player after not getting a summer invite, so why not a big kid who got an extra look in NHL training camp because he deserved it?

Canada will need an aggressive leadership element that can score ugly goals down low. Here is a guy that can do it. Kyle Clifford is in the NHL, and Brayden Schenn's immediate future with the Kings is a little muddy at the moment (after Oscar Moller was injured a couple seasons back on loan from the NHL, would the Kings want Schenn to play if he's still on their roster?). Maybe Portland's Brad Ross helps satisfy that agitation gap while adding some offensive spice, but Foligno is bigger, stronger, and has out-produced the WHL pest on a much-lesser squad.

Many have knocked Foligno's skating ability, but his legs are stronger and his feet have improved enough to make a difference down the wing. Good routes, good energy, good results. Winning teams need what he brings. If Hockey Canada sees his work ethic valuable, don't be surprised if the Buffalo-born dual citizen gets the well-earned look. I think he's at camp, but we'll see.

Good things happen when you're a Sabres prospect skating in the World Juniors. Upon return to the QMHL last season, Adam went on a scoring tear that almost saw him hit the 50-goal mark in the shortened schedule. Tyler Ennis closed strong after winning gold two years ago, while teammate Myers went back to become the most dominant junior player in all of Canada as the Kelowna Rockets surged to the Memorial Cup final.
11/28/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

11/27 Recap: Knapp shuts door; Foligno cooling?

Connor Knapp made a season-high 26 saves Saturday as #5 Miami avenged their previous night's loss with a 5-1 win over #19 Western Michigan. The Jr. netminder was beaten glove-side from the dot for a short-handed goal at the 9:00 mark of the opening period, then shut the door the rest of the way to elevate his season line to 3-2-3 with a 1.79 GAA and .915 save percentage. Knapp will take a two-game winning streak into next weekend's set with Notre Dame.

In other college action, Justin Jokinen contributed four shots on goal as Minnesota State earned the weekend sweep of Lowell with a 3-2 win. The hot-and-cold junior, who powered the Mavs with a Friday hat trick, has six goals and eight points through 14 season. The club will head home to Mankato next weekend  for the first time since October to host Minnesota.

Mark Adams punched four shots on goal as Providence edged Holy Cross, 2-1. The true freshman and only prospect yet to register a point this season was whistled for his fifth minor penalty of the season in the first period when he was called for boarding.

Brad Eidsness served as backup for the third straight game and sixth of the Sioux's last seven as #9 North Dakota played to a  2-2 tie with #11 Notre Dame. Sophomore Aaron Dell had another strong weekend in the Sioux crease, but there is a chance that Eidsness gets a look when they host unranked St. Cloud on Friday/Saturday.

Nick Eno served in his usual Saturday backup role as Bowling Green dropped a 3-2 decision to Rensselaer. Eno is the likely starter when the Falcons travel to Lake Superior on Friday.

In the OHL, Zack Kassian (-2) was held without a point as Windsor saw their three-game winning streak come to an end with a 5-2 loss to Saginaw. Despite the blanking, the 6'3 right wing remains the leading scorer for the Spits (14-10-0-1) while ranking 12th in the league with 35 points. Josh Shalla, who went undrafted last June after posting a 33-goal season, had four goals to pace the Spirit while Pittsburgh, PA native Vincent Trocheck ('11) collected four assists.

Marcus Foligno failed to hit the scoresheet as Sudbury got pounded by Owen Sound, 6-0. The Wolves (7-17-1-0) were outshot 48-25 in the loss. Going hard to the final horn, the 6'3 captain took a roughing penalty late in the third period to create a 5-3 disadvantage and the Attack's sixth goal. Quiet for the past two weeks, Foligno will carry a seven-game goalless streak into Sunday's match-up with London.

In the WHL, Mark Pysyk (+1) earned an assist as Edmonton handled Calgary, 3-1. Fellow 2011 draftee Matt MacKenzie (-1) picked up a power play assist for the Hitmen, who have now lost three straight. Oil Kings leading scorer Michael St. Croix ('11) tallied his 14th goal of the season unassisted in the opening frame to help the club to their third consecutive win. The WHL game drew 9.760 fans to the Saddledome. In Phoenix, the Yotes/Ducks contest was announced at 12,708...

Brayden McNabb notched an assist as Kootenay clobbered Seattle, 6-2. Despite only playing 16 games this season, the 6'4 Saskatchewan native still ranks 10th among league defenders with 15 assists.

Riley Boychuk picked up an assist as Portland stumbled to their second straight loss, 3-2 to Tri-City in a shootout. The Abbotsford, BC native has six goals and three assists this season while ranking third on the team in PIM with 53.

Corey Fienhage (-2) earned a power play assist as Kamloops was defeated by Prince George, 7-5. The game featured a wild middle period that saw five goals scored in the final seven minutes.

In the USHL, Christian Isackson (-1) recorded a hooking minor as Sioux Falls ended a three-games-in-three-nights run with a 3-2 shootout loss to Tri-City. Isackson, who was stopped in his shootout attempt, ends the weekend with one assist and seven shots on goal and has scored just one point in his last five games.
11/28/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

11/26 Recap: Jokinen first plays trick; Sundher torches 'Hawks

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, November 27, 2010 | 11/27/2010

Welcome back.

Justin Jokinen scored his first career hat trick Friday as Minnesota State dumped Lowell, 8-3. Jokinen, who entered the game with three goals in 12 games, broke the seal with two goals in a span of 2:17 in the middle frame before later completing the trick before the period closed to give the Mavericks (3-6-4) a 6-2 lead heading into the final twenty. The junior raises his season goal total to six after posting three in each of his first two seasons in Mankato.

Drew MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season and added an assist as Vermont played to a 2-2 tie with Northeastern. The 6'2 defenseman scored the only goal of the first period when he snuck down for a back-door tip-in after the cycle Catamount forwards wore down the Huskies in their own end. An offensive minded rearguard, MacKenzie didn't score his first goal of last season until late January.

Nick Eno made 19 saves to earn his fourth win of the year as Bowling Green defeated Alabama-Huntsville, 5-1. The win was the 21st of Eno's four-year career and 800th in the history of the BGSU men's hockey program. The 6'3 netminder, who will likely sit take Saturday off when the Falcons play #17 RPI, will carry a 4-4 record and 2.90 GAA into next weekend's match-up with Lake Superior.

Brad Eidsness did not get the start as #9 North Dakota doubled up #11 Notre Dame, 6-3. Eidsness has started just one of the past six Sioux contests. That came last weekend when he was chased after allowing four goals through two periods in a 6-5 loss to UNO. There's no question the junior is mired in the deepest slump of his studded career with a 4.12 GAA and .805 save percentage while deferring to undrafted AJHL product Aaron Dell since Halloween.

Connor Knapp took his usual Friday backup spot as #5 Miami was defeated by #19 Western Michigan, 5-2. The 6'5 junior will step in fresh off last week's 35-save shutout of Bowling Green when the RedHawks look to earn the split on Saturday.

In the OHL, Zack Kassian (+2) scored a pair of second period goals helping Windsor to a 5-2 win over Oshawa. Kassian's markers, scored just 2:26 apart, give the signed prospect a season line of 11-24-35 in just 19 games thus far. Last season, Kassian scored 12-19-31 in 38 regular season games between Peterborough and Windsor. Niklas Jensen, a 6'3 wing eligible in 2011, picked up an assist for the Gens in the loss.

Gregg Sutch scored his fourth goal of the year as the CHL's #1 ranked Mississauga Majors defeated Barrie, 7-4. The goal gives the tough forward 15 points on the year, equal to his previous career best set in 2008-09.

Marcus Foligno assist on the lone Wolves goal as Sudbury came up short against Sault Ste. Marie, 3-1. Foligno nearly tied the game in final minute of play when he clanged a shot the pipe. After 22 games, the 6'3 captain has 12-14-26 to co-lead the Wolves (7-16-1-0) in scoring.

Steven Shipley did not factor as Niagara dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Ottawa. The 6'3 center has gone four consecutive games without a point to keep his season numbers at 7-11-18 through 22 games.

In the WHL, Kevin Sundher had two goals including the game winner and two assists as Chilliwack defeated the CHL's #2 ranked Portland Winterhawks, 7-2. With five goals and five assists in his last five games, Sundher now has 26 points (9+17) in 22 season contests. Riley Boychuk finished -2 for Portland while continuing to stock pile rugged minors with the addition of a high sticking and roughing calls to his season resume. The 6'4 forward leads all Sabres prospects this season with 53 PIM.

Mark Pysyk (+2) hit for two assists as Edmonton downed Vancouver, 6-4. The smooth-skating defender has seven assists on the year but is still looking for his first goal. Last season, Pysyk amassed a line of 7-17-24 in 48 games before suffering a season ending foot injury.

Matt MacKenzie posted two assists as Calgary lost to Red Deer, 4-3. The lowly Hitmen sit with a 6-18-0-1 record after 25 games, worst in the WHL and fourth from the bottom of the entire CHL ahead of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL and the OHL's Barrie Colts.

Brayden McNabb finished -1 as #9 ranked Kootenay was shut out by Tri-City, 4-0. The 6'4 rearguard has two goals and 14 assists in 15 games this year despite missing eight games with a shoulder injury.

Corey Fienhage skated -1 as Kamloops earned a 4-3 shootout win over Spokane.The Blazers are currently tied with Sundher's Bruins for third place in the B.C. Division with 27 points.

In the USHL, Christian Isackson (-2) did not register a point as Sioux Falls was defeated by Green Bay, 4-3. On Thursday night, Isackson contributed an assist and six shots on goal as the Stampede rolled past Omaha, 3-1. Through 16 games, the budding Gopher commit and USHL rookie has four goals and 13 points for the second place Stampede (10-6).

Also from Thursday, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc rolled zeros as Rimouski was downed by Quebec, 5-2. The Oceanic mustered just 13 shots on goal in the game, with a whopping zero in the third period. Heading into to the game, JGL had one goal and two assists in his three games since returning from a three-game injury absence.
11/27/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

11/15 Recap: Foligno's shootout winner ices OHL win

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, November 16, 2010 | 11/16/2010

Sudbury’s Marcus Foligno scored the game-winning shootout goal Monday as Team OHL defeated Russia in Game #4 of the Subway Super Series, 2-1. Like Foligno, Windsor forward Zack Kassian was held without a point in regulation. Unlike Foligno, he missed his shootout attempt prior to the winner being cashed.

Foligno’s deke-to-backhand roofer brought the house down in front of his hometown Sudbury crowd. With the victory, the OHL tied the series 2-2, after Russia swept the first two against the QMJHL.

In the WHL, Riley Boychuk sat out Portland’s 6-3 win over Moose Jaw with the flu.
11/16/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

11/14 Recap: McNabb dominant; Foligno, Kassian to team-up on Russians

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, November 15, 2010 | 11/15/2010

Brayden McNabb was a force on Sunday, uncorking three assists and a controlling +5 rating as Kootenay dumped Calgary, 6-2. The 6’4 defenseman now has a goal and 11 assists through eleven WHL contests and looks to be in prime position for an invite to Team Canada’s Selection Camp for the U20 World Juniors. Matt MacKenzie (-3) posted an assist for the Hitmen, who saw their winless skid hit a franchise record twelve games. Entering the game, MacKenzie was one of just two Calgary skaters rated even or better in the +/- column. They are now down to one.

Also from the Dub, Corey Fienhage skated even as Kamloops downed Everett, 3-1. The Blazers will take a two-game winning streak into Friday’s game at Everett.

In the OHL, Marcus Foligno continued his strong play of late, garnering two assists in Sudbury’s 5-2 loss at Guelph. Foligno’s helpers escalate his point total to 24 (12+12) through 18 games for the lowly Wolves (5-14-1-0). Last season, the grinding captain totaled 14 goals and 39 points in 67 OHL games.

Foligno and OHL mate Zack Kassian will team-up on Monday for Game #4 of the Canada/Russia Super Series in Sudbury. It is expected that Kassian will be an assistant captain for Team OHL when they take the ice for a 7:00 start.
11/15/2010 | 2 comments | Read More

11/13 Recap: Sutch serves apples as Majors roll

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, November 14, 2010 | 11/14/2010

Gregg Sutch (+3) dished three assists Saturday as first-place Mississauga bested last-place Barrie, 6-4. With helpers on all three goals by Rob Flick, Sutch now has five points in his last two games and a total of 14 points (3+11) on the season. The Majors (17-2-0-1) are unbeaten in their last eleven games.

In the WHL, Kevin Sundher finished +2 as Chilliwack overcame a two-goal deficit but lost in overtime to Everett, 3-2. Sundher, who earlier took a high-sticking penalty resulting in a Tips power play goal, showed a good burst through the majority of the OT until Ryan Murray ('11) ended it when his shot changed direction with :23 to go. Sundher and the Bruins (10-8-2-0) will return to action on Friday against Tri-City.

Corey Fienhage put forth another steady effort as Kamloops rode a strong second period to a 4-0 shutout win over Kelowna. The Blazer victory halts the Rockets six-game winning streak. The physical Fienhage has clearly benefited from the increased ice-time that the WHL offers. A quarter of the way through his first junior season, the 20-year old rearguard. He's calmer than ever with the puck and looks in control in terms of the pace of the game. Fienhage and the Blazers will play again on Sunday versus Everett.

Brayden McNabb and the rest of his blueline mates were solid all night as Kootenay shut out Edmonton, 1-0. Mark Pysyk saw his minutes increase as the game wore on for the Oil Kings, who fired just twelve shots on goals as they wrapped up a six-game road trip. McNabb and the Ice (14-4-0-2) will continue their road trip Sunday in Calgary, while Pysyk's Oil Kings (7-13-0-1) are off until Saturday when they host Red Deer.

Riley Boychuk registered four penalty minutes as Portland drilled Prince Albert, 8-2. Sven Bartschi ('11) scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season to pace the surging Winterhawks (17-3-0-2). Portland wil continue their road swing Monday in Moose Jaw.

Elsewhere in the OHL, Steven Shipley was even with a hooking minor as Niagara shut out Sudbury, 2-0. Marcus Foligno had the rare quiet night for the Wolves with no points or PIM. The Ice Dogs (13-6-1-1), who were led by a goal and assist from rising talent Ryan Strome ('11), are off until next Friday when they take on the Majors. Foligno and the Wolves (5-13-1-0) will square off with Guelph on Sunday.

Zack Kassian finished -1 as Windsor lost to Owen Sound, 4-3. Kassian again logged big minutes but was unable to muster offense down the stretch for the Spits (11-9-0-1). Windsor returns to the ice on Friday in London.

In a QMJHL note, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc missed his third straight game due to injury as Rimouski lost to Cape Breton, 6-5.

In NCAA action, Drew MacKeznie (+3) was on the ice for four Catamount goals as Vermont upset #7 Boston College, 5-3. The Catamounts (1-4-3) will have extra time to savor their first win of the year, taking next weekend off before re-grouping for a mid-week meeting with Massachusetts the night before Thanksgiving.

Mark Adams skated even with a shot on goal and an interference minor as Providence earned the weekend sweep with a 4-2 win over Alabama-Huntsville. The Friars (5-4-2) will resume their Hockey East schedule with a home-and-home next weekend with Northeastern.

Justin Jokinen (-1) recorded a shot on goal as Minneosta State was blown out at Denver, 6-1. The Mavericks (2-6-4) may have the worst power play in the NCAA after going 0/14 in their two weekend losses. They'll have two weeks to correct it before traveling to Lowell on the 26th.

Connor Knapp made 24 saves as #4 Miami lost to #13 Alaska, 3-2. After stopping 12 of 13 shots through the opening forty minutes, Knapp faced 13 more in a busy third period. They game was tied until a puck tipped past the 6'5 netminder with :30 left in regulation to give the Nooks their fourth straight split in Oxford. The loss sets the RedHawks back to a 6-3-3 on the year.

Brad Eidsness rode the pine for a fourth straight game as North Dakota took the broom to Wisconsin, 4-2. This is new territory for the junior netminder after playing at least one game per weekend since arriving in Grand Forks three seasons ago. North Dakota (7-4-1) will travel to Nebraska-Omaha next weekend.

Nick Eno served as backup in Bowling Green's 5-1 loss Northern Michigan. The Falcons (5-7-0) will host a CCHA set with Miami next weekend.

In the USHL, Christian Isackson earned an even-strength assist as Sioux Falls dropped a 4-3 decision to Lincoln. The Herd held a 3-1 leading after two period before surrendering three goals in the first half of the third period. Sioux Falls (8-3) is off until Friday when they tangle with Fargo.
11/14/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

11/10-12 Recap: Eno re-emerging; Boychuk getting warm

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, November 13, 2010 | 11/13/2010

Nick Eno continued his excellent play in the Bowling Green crease Friday, stopping 26 of 27 shots en route to a 2-1 road win win at Northern Michigan. The 6'3 junior has now won his last two starts to up his season mark to 3-3 with a 3.01 goals against average and .891 save percentage. Even with consecutive strong showings by Eno and Andrew Hammond's not-so-hot appearance last weekend, the Falcons goaltending rotation may continue on Saturday as Chris Bergeron prefers the continuity of the status quo.

Elsewhere in NCAA play, Drew MacKenzie posted a pair of assists as Vermont remained winless with a 3-2 loss to #7 Boston College. The multi-point outing was the fourth of MacKenzie's career and first since last February against BU. The two clubs will go at ti again on Saturday at Gutterson.

Justin Jokinen scored his third goal of the season as Minnesota State hung tough in a 3-2 loss at #15 Denver. The junior forward's 15-foot wrister evened the game at a goal apiece before the end of the opening twenty. The goal was Jokinen's first since October 9th, snapping an eight-game drought. The Mavs and Pios will play it back on Saturday.

Freshman Mark Adams was even as Providence's 3-1 handling of Alabama-Huntsville. The 6'3 defenseman is -2 with three minor penalties through his first ten NCAA contests, and will look for his first point when the teams rematch on Saturday.

"Mr. Saturday Night" Connor Knapp served as backup as Cody Reichard pitched a shutout in #4 Miami's 4-0 win over #14 Alaska. Knapp will ready to go on Saturday.

Brad Eidsness watched for the third straight game as Aaron Dell posted a 16-save shutout in #10 North Dakota's 1-0 win over #13 Wisconsin. There is still a chance that Sioux bench boss Dave Hakstol goes with Eidness on Saturday. Stay tuned.

In the WHL, Riley Boychuk scored his sixth goal of the year as Portland saw their ten-game winning streak come to an end in a 4-3 loss to Saskatoon. The hulking forward also received a ten-minute misconduct for his participation in a first-period line brawl sparked by a big Nino Niederreiter hit. Boychuk now has three goals in his last two contests and is playing his best hockey right now for a well-oiled Winterhawks club.

Kevin Sundher went without a point for the second straight game as Chilliwack lost to Red Deer, 4-3. Consensus top-3 pick for next June, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, finished -1 for the Rebels.

Mark Pysyk (+1) had a power play assist as Edmonton lost to Spokane, 4-3. Michael St. Croix ('11) also had an assist for the Oil Kings.

In the OHL, Gregg Sutch (+3) had a goal and an assist as Mississauga cruised past Sudbury, 8-4. Marcus Foligno matched Sutch with a goal and an assist of his own for the losing Wolves to up his season total to 22 points (12+10) through 16 games. Sudbury forward John McMarland went down with an ankle injury in the third period and looks to miss a fair amount of time as the OHL trade activity starts to heat up.

Zack Kassian had an assist as Windsor lost to defensive-minded Plymouth, 2-1. The Spits' co-leader with 26 points, Kassian found himself blanketed by the Whalers top pairing of Austin Levi and Beau Schmitz for most of the game.

Jerome Gauthier-Leduc remained out of the lineup with an unspecified injury as Rimouski edged Chicoutimi, 5-4. Gauthier-Leduc, who missed both games of this week's QMJHL's CAN/RUS Super Series leg, is getting closer to returning after skating in non-contact drills at the 'Nics Thursday practice.

The Sabres other QMJHL prospect, Cedrick Henley, has been out of the Val-d'Or lineup since October 23rd after having surgery to repair a genetic wrist issue. I've yet to hear of a timetable on his return, but expect him to remain out for some time. The surgery was the same one that he had on his opposite wrist as midget.

In the USHL, Christian Isackson had a secondary assist on the game-winner as Sioux Falls defeated Omaha, 2-1. The Stampede return to action Saturday night versus Lincoln.


In Thursday action, Boychuk had his best game of the year for Portland, scoring in the first period and then tying the game on a deflection with three minutes remaining to force overtime as Portland extended their winning streak to ten games with a 5-4 win over Regina.

Brayden McNabb had an assist and was +3 as Kootenay doubled Calgary, 4-2. McNabb now points in three straight games. Matt MacKenzie (-1) posted an assist for the Hitmen, who are winless in their last 11 games.

Sundher saw his six-game point streak snapped as Chilliwack was handed a 5-1 loss by Vancouver. The 6'0 center had 11 points over the productive span to get move him up the Bruins scoring list after a slow start through his first couple of weeks.

Steven Shipley had a goal and an assist as Niagara pulled out a 5-4 win over Saginaw. The multi-point effort elevates Ship to a point-per-game player with 18 points (7+11) in as many games for the second-place IceDogs.

On Wednesday, Shipley (-1) and Mississauga banger Sutch (even) failed to register points in the Majors 3-1 win over the IceDogs.

Also from Wednesday OHL action, Kassian had a big night with two goals and an assist as Windsor took a 5-4 OT decision over London. With London a possible suitor for his services, Kassian was engaged throughout with cuts through the D and good possession plays down low to help the Spits to a big victory over their rival.

My apologies for mid-week lag...
11/13/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

11/9 Recap: Sundher streaks to six; Pysyk returns

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 | 11/10/2010

Kevin Sundher extended his point streak to six games with an assist Tuesday as Chilliwack was nipped by Edmonton, 4-3 in OT. Sundher has scored 11 points during the streak to up his season production to a point-per-game through 15 contests. Mark Pysyk (-1) returned to the Oil Kings lineup after a two-game absence, earning a coincidental roughing minor with Sundher as time expired in the second period.

Riley Boychuk finished even as Portland defeated Swift Current, 4-2. The Winterhawks, who have been on cruise control of since the return of top-5 picks Ryan Johansen and Nino Niederreiter, have won their last nine games.
11/10/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Kassian on the move?

Written By Kris Baker on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 | 11/09/2010

Windsor Spitfires General Manager Warren Rychel has announced that he will likely deal two of his star players now that Taylor Hall (EDM) and Cam Folwler (ANA) will not be coming back to the OHL. Among the players likely on the move before the January 10th trade dealine is Buffalo's 2009 first-round pick, Zack Kassian.

Rychel believes both (Ryan) Ellis and Kassian can be game changers on whatever roster either lands.

"They are big guys," Rychel said. "NHL guys."

Neither players has asked for a trade, but in recent weeks both have talked about the possibility of being traded and understand it's part of junior hockey.

I think there are three likely destinations for the bruising winger: Mississauga, Saginaw, and Kitchener. With the Majors hosting the 2011 Memorial Cup, it would seem that they'd be interesting in adding another big forward to blend into their talented crop that already includes the Sabres' 2010 fifth-round pick, Gregg Sutch. The Spirit and Rangers also make sense to have an interest in Kassian and perhaps even another Sabres prospect, Sudbury captain Marcus Foligno (more of a longshot), based on their loaded rosters and ability to make a run. This particular hockey watcher wouldn't mind if the Niagara IceDogs tossed their hat into the ring as well.

At six-foot-three and 225 pounds, Kassian combines both size and skill that few power forwards in the league possess.

"Kassian has the best combination of skill and toughness in the CHL and you need that to win in the playoffs," Rychel said.

"At the Memorial Cup (in Brandon), neither one of the western teams wanted any part of him. They wouldn't look him in the eyes.

I want everyone to take a minute and appreciate that quote....

Keep it here as Rychel is expected to act sooner rather than later.
11/09/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

11/6 Recap: High five for Isackson in fight-filled Saturday

Written By Kris Baker on Sunday, November 7, 2010 | 11/07/2010

Christian Isackson poured five points Saturday with a goal and four assists to lead Sioux Falls to an 8-4 thrashing of Youngstown. After the Phantoms took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, Isackson popped the cork on the Herd's offense with an unassisted power play tally at 11:46 of the middle frame. It was all Sioux Falls from there, as the Stampede gathered a three-goal lead before riding out an eight-goal third period to the big victory. Buffalo native and Yale commit Anthony Day had a power play goal for the Stampede.

In the OHL, Marcus Foligno was at it again physically as Sudbury lost to Oshawa, 2-1. The Wolves' leader didn't carve up the scoresheet like he has of late, but he instead made noise with a one-punch KO of Gennies 6'3 defenseman Anton Zupancic in the third period. The jab comes one night after delivering a healthy pounding of Plymouth forward R.J. Mahalak in a Sudbury win.

And....boom goes the dynamite.

Foligno and the Wolves are now off until Saturday when they meet up with Mississauga.

In other OHL action, Zack Kassian assisted on the game winning goal with just :12 to play in regulation as Windsor edged Saginaw, 3-2. Skating on the right wing with Stephen Johnston and Michael MacIntyre, the assist was Kassian's second spark offered in the contest after earlier watching his mates respond with a goal less than minute after his second period bout with Anthony Camara.

It looked like Kassian may have been bleeding in the box after eating one near the end of the fight. Either way, he returned to generate a play when his team needed it most, and that's what we're looking for right now. Windsor will host London on Thursday.

Steven Shipley scored his sixth goal of the year as Niagara dumped Peterborough, 4-2. The goal snaps a four-game goalless streak for the 6'3 forward. The IceDogs will next head to Mississauga on Wednesday for 11:00 AM meeting with the Majors.

In the WHL, Kevin Sundher continued his productive ways with a goal and an assist as Chilliwack got wacked by Kelowna, 9-3. The 6'0 center now has a five consecutive multi-point games for the Bruins after a relatively slow start that saw him net a goal and three assists through his first eight games.

Elsewhere in the Dub, Brayden McNabb didn't factor into the scoring but did throw his first fists of the year as Kootenay bested Calgary, 5-2. Matt MacKenzie finished -2 for the Hitmen, who have now lost nine games in row.

The ICE got out to 3-0 lead after one before a McNabb turnover just inside his blueline led to a short breakaway goal against. Rather ornery while receiving several challenges throughout, the 6'4 rearguard engaged rugged 6'6 Cody Beach midway through the third period.

The two teams will reconvene Thursday in Calgary.

Riley Boychuk sprayed bagels across the board as Portland doubled up Everett, 4-2. The league-leading Winterhawks will travel to Swift Current on Tuesday.

Mark Pysyk missed his second straight game as Edmonton defeated Prince George, 7-3. The OK's victory, their first since October 11th, snaps a nine-game stretch over which they finished 0-8-0-1.

In the NCAA, "Mr. Saturday Night" Connor Knapp made 18 saves as #1 Miami played to a 1-1 tie with Ferris State. Knapp now has three ties in five starts this season for the RedHawks, who failed to nab the extra shootout point.

Brad Eidsness failed to get the nod from Sioux bench boss Dave Hakstol as #9 North Dakota lost to #2 Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2 in OT. The idle weekend was the first of Eidsness' three-year career after getting at least one start in every Sioux set since arriving in Grand Forks.

Drew MacKenzie recorded a shot on goal as Vermont played to a 3-3 tie with Providence. Friars freshman defenseman Roo Adams finished the game -1.

Justin Jokinen finished -2 as Minnesota State lost to #8 Nebraska-Omaha, 5-2. The junior now sinks to a -7 rating on the season which currently ranks at the bottom of the Sabres list of 2010-11 prospects.

Nick Eno served as back-up as Bowling Green got dumped by #11 Notre Dame, 6-3.

In the QMJHL, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc and Cedrick Henely both their their respective games due to injury. Time tables on each are not yet available, but it is believed that JGL could miss the Canada/Russia SuperSeries next week with an undisclosed ding while Henley's recent wrist surgery should see him miss at least one more week.
11/07/2010 | 1 comments | Read More

11/5 Recap: Foligno runs with "C"; Eno spectacular as Falcons soar

Written By Kris Baker on Saturday, November 6, 2010 | 11/06/2010

In his first game as captain of the Sudbury Wolves, Marcus Foligno had a short-handed goal, an assist, and a Friday night fight as Sudbury downed Plymouth, 6-4. Skating on a line with John McFarland and Mike Lomas, the aggressive forward set an example from start-to-finish despite spending a chunk of time in the box to help the Wolves to their fifth win of the year.

Foligno's hard work paid off when he was sprung by Lomas to bury a short-handed breakaway to give the Wolves a 5-2 lead in the third period. A crisp highlight came as the buzzer sounded to end the first period when the newly appointed leader finished a check and proceeded to deliver a highlight reel pounding to the Whalers' R.J. Mahalak. He received two, five, and ten on the play, but the message was sent and his teammates responded.

I played this video on my phone last night to a bunch of dejected Sabres fans ranting about the team's shortcomings. It drew quite a response, including a 'Mike Tyson's Punch Out' style "body blow!" comment from one riled up spectator.

Foligno, who now has 20 points (11+9) in 14 games this season, will again lead the pack when his Wolves (5-10-1-0) host Oshawa on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the OHL, Zack Kassian was -3 with an assist as Windsor lost to Guelph, 5-3. The Spits cut the Storm's lead to 4-3 when Kassian entered the zone down the wing and made a drop-pass to Tom Kuhnhackl, who fed Alex Khokhlachev for a power play tally. The Spits (9-2-0-1) will travel to division-leading Saginaw on Saturday.

Gregg Sutch was held off the scoresheet as Mississauga defeated Brampton, 3-1. The hard-driving forward continued his energy-laced effort with a checking from behind penalty in the third period. The first place Majors (14-2-0-0) will host Erie on Sunday.

In the WHL, Kevin Sundher had two assists as Chilliwack lost to Everett, 4-3. Continuing to get it clicking after a slow start, the 6'0 center will head into next week with a streak of four consecutive multi-point efforts. Sundher will look to keep it going Tuesday when the Bruins (9-6-0-0) battle the Oil Kings.

Brayden McNabb posted a pair assists and a +3 rating as Kootenay lost in the shootout to Lethbridge, 4-3. Despite projecting to be a sturdy stay-at-homer as pro, McNabb now has eight points in seven games this season since being returned to juniors. The Ice (11-4-0-2) move on to face the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.

Riley Boychuk picked up an assist as Portland needed overtime to defeat Red Deer, 4-3. The assist was Boychuk's first of the season to go along with three goals through the season's first 25-game block. The Winterhawks (13-2-0-1) will take a seven-game winning streak into Saturday night's match-up with Everett.

Corey Fienhage finished +2 with an assist as Kamloops downed Calgary, 5-4. The helper was Fienhage's third WHL point after spending two WCHA seasons in North Dakota. Fellow third-round pick Matt MacKenzie (-1) earned a power-play helper just 2:37 in for the Hitmen, who have now lost eight straight games. Fienhage and the Blazers square off with Lethbridge on Saturday.

Mark Pysyk was scratched as Edmonton got doubled-up by Prince George, 6-3. More to follow on Pysyk's absence. The OK's (5-10-0-1) and Cougars will play it back on Saturday.

In the Q, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc recorded a shot on goal as Rimouski ended a seven-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over his former club, Rouyn-Noranda. The Nics (10-12-0-0) will look to keep their momentum going when they play a rematch with the Huskies on Saturday. EDIT: Gauthier-Leduc was injured in the game, and will miss Saturday's rematch and likely the QMJHL leg of the CAN/RUS Challenge. (tap on the pads to Jerome from for the heads up).

In NCAA action, Nick Eno made 30 saves, including a spectacular diving stop that drew a standing ovation, as Bowling Green defeated #11 Notre Dame, 3-2. After stopping all 18 shots faced through two periods, Eno made the save of the season when he sprawled right-to-left to block an Anders Lee shot after a rebound left the Irish forward with a wide open net. With a goaltending rotation in place for the Falcons (4-5-0), it's hard to say if Eno will return to the pipes for Saturday's rematch. You can watch his postgame interview here.

Justin Jokinen (-2) earned an assist as Minnesota State lost at #8 Nebraska-Omaha, 5-1. The helper ends a six-game point drought for the junior forward. The Mavericks (2-3-4) will look to get to .500 mark when the clubs close their weekend set on Saturday.

Drew MacKenzie skated even as Vermont lost to Lowell, 3-1. The Catamounts held a 1-0 lead before surrendering three unanswered goals in the third period to move to 0-3-2 on the year.

Also from Hockey East, Mark Adams was +1 was Providence shut out Merrimack, 2-0. The Friars (3-4-1) will look to keep MacKenzie and UVM among the winless when they host the Cats on Saturday.

Connor Knapp took his usual Friday post on the bench as #1 Miami suffered their first CCHA defeat of the season, 3-2 to Ferris State. The 6'5 netminder will be in net when the RedHawks (5-2-2) look to gain the split on Saturday.

Brad Eidsness did not play as Aaron Dell backstopped #9 North Dakota to a 4-2 win over #2 Minnesota-Duluth. The junior stopper is expected to get the nod when the Sioux (5-3-1) look for the sweep on Saturday.

In the USHL, Christian Isackson (-1) posted two shots on goal as Sioux Falls fell to Lincoln, 3-1. The Stampede (9-6-3-0) will host Youngstown on Saturday.


On Thursday, Sutch did not record a point as the Majors blanked Niagara, 3-0. Steven Shipley failed to hit the scoresheet for the IceDogs, who will suit up on Saturday against Peterborough.

In the lone humpday affair on the Sabres prospect slate, Corey Fienhage was even with a holding minor as Kamloops lost to Kelowna, 5-3.

In other news, Val-d'Or forward Cedrick Henley has continued to miss time after having surgery to repair a genetic wrist defect. He's expected to make a 100% recovery, but could still miss a total of eight weeks of action while on the mend.
11/06/2010 | 4 comments | Read More

11/2 Recap: Sundher rolls and the right wing strikes

Written By Kris Baker on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | 11/03/2010

Kevin Sundher (+1) collected two assists Tuesday as Chilliwack continued their strong start with a 6-2 trouncing of Central Division-leading Kootenay. The second-line center has now produced three straight multi-point games to up his total to 10 (3+7) through 12 games for the Bruins (9-5-0-0). Kootenay dman Brayden McNabb (-2) went without a point for the first time this season, ending a five-game streak that began before his October 9th shoulder injury. The Ice (11-4-0-0) move on to face Lethbridge on Friday, while Sundher will look to extend his point streak to four games on Friday when Chilliwack hosts Everett.

Elsewhere in the WHL, Matt MacKenzie skated even as Calgary was nipped by Medicine Hat, 2-1. The loss was the seventh straight for the last-place Hitmen (4-11). The "all-situations" MacKenzie, while not being known as a prime offensive option, has gone without a point throughout the skid after earning three (1+2) through in his first six games. Calgary will look to end the slump Friday against Corey Fienhage and the Kamloops Blazers.

In OHL play, Gregg Sutch saw his four-game point streak come to end as OHL top dog Mississauga scrapped past Oshawa, 4-1. Despite being held without a point, the Majors' right wing made his presence felt with several hard hits in the game, including a booming open-ice take-out of 16-year old Cody Payne in the early second period that teed up his part in the game's fifth of six fights against 6'0 defenseman, Nick Quinn.

A couple decent shots tossed by Sutch, followed of course by the obligatory mention of his hearing impairment...

On Thursday, the Majors will carry their sparkling 12-2-0-0 record into key Central Division match-up with Steven Shipley and the second place Niagara Ice Dogs.
11/03/2010 | 4 comments | Read More

Sabres sign Kassian

Written By Kris Baker on Monday, November 1, 2010 | 11/01/2010

The Buffalo Sabres have announced the signing of 2009 first-round pick Zack Kassian to a three-year entry level contract. The deal, which comes on the heels of the bruising forward being cleared of any criminal charges stemming from an off-season bar fight, will kick-in next fall.

From the Sabres:

Now in his fourth year of junior hockey, the 19-year-old Kassian (1/24/1991, 6’3”, 226 lbs.) currently leads the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires in scoring with 20 points (7+13) through 11 games. Kassian, who missed the start of the OHL season after an extended stay at Sabres training camp, is among the league leaders in scoring and has already posted a pair of four-point games this season.

The Windsor, Ont.-native has 135 points (52+83) in 168 career OHL games with Windsor and Peterborough. Kassian was traded to Windsor last season, and played a key role in the team’s Memorial Cup championship run. He finished with 16 points (7+9) in 19 playoff games, and added another five points (2+3) during the Memorial Cup tournament. The hard-hitting winger has also amassed 365 PIM’s during his four years in junior.

My take? This was expected and I'm glad it's done.

I won't be a revisionist and suggest that the team should have gotten things done in the offseason to offer the big boy a clean shot at sticking. There is no question the could Sabres have an immediate use for his bullish presence, but as a business they acted properly by deferring to the legal process. In the end, it's good to see quick action by both parties to close the sale.

Kassian will remain in the OHL but may still skate on HSBC Arena ice this winter as the banger's hot start has made him a virtual lock to wear a Canadian sweater when Buffalo hosts the 2011 World Junior Championships.
11/01/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

Adam tabbed for AHL honor

The American Hockey League announced today that Portland Pirates center Luke Adam has been named the Reebok/AHL Rookie of the Month for October. In nine games, Adam tallied six goals, seven assists and a plus-6 rating to help the Pirates to the top of the Atlantic Division standings.

Adam’s professional career began on Oct. 9 with a four-point performance, including two third-period goals, in a 6-5 win over Manchester. He had a second four-point effort a week later, scoring one goal and assisting on three others in a 4-2 victory over Springfield on Oct. 16. Adam ran his goal-scoring streak to three games with markers at Bridgeport on Oct. 17 and vs. Manchester on Oct. 19, and had a goal and two assists as part of a 6-5 win at Norfolk on Oct. 29. Adam also earned two recalls to Buffalo during the month, making his NHL debut with the Sabres at Philadelphia on Oct. 26.

Please visit for the complete story.
11/01/2010 | 0 comments | Read More

10/31 Recap: Foligno trick fails to treat

Marcus Foligno notched a hat trick and an assist Sunday, but Sudbury could not make it hold up in a 7-5 loss to Mississauga. The 6’3 grinder, who capped the hatty with a pair of goals just 2:41 apart in the second period, now has 10 goals and 18 points through the first 13 games of the season. Sudbury would surrender the lead when Gregg Sutch tied it up for the Majors at 8:55 of the third period. The goal was Sutch’s second of the season, giving him a four-game point streak heading into Tuesday’s game at Oshawa. Sudbury will look to end a four-game losing streak Friday against Plymouth.

Worth noting about Foligno's upward trend is that at this point last season, he was mired in the middle of a 22-game goal scoring slump that stretched from September 26th to November 24th. For him to get off to a hot start on one of the league's weaker teams is the most encouraging early development of the prospect season.

In the Q, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc finished even as Rimouski lost to Drummondville, 5-1. Losers of six straight, the stumbling Oceanic will continue to search for a victory Friday at Rouyn-Noranda.

In WHL play, Matt MacKenzie finished even as Calgary lost to Saskatoon, 5-3. The Hitmen will look to erase their own six-game losing skid on Tuesday versus Medicine Hat.
11/01/2010 | 0 comments | Read More