Although the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has been playing for weeks, this past weekend was the real start of the junior hockey season in Canada.
The Ontario Hockey League had two games on Thursday night and then nine games Friday, with every team playing by Saturday. The Western Hockey League started with a full slate on Friday.
In short, business picked up. That also means, of course, that it's time for the triumphant return of My Weekend in Junior Hockey.
To keep things interesting for my readers I tried to avoid some of the clichés of the first weekend of a sports season. Phrases like “home opener”, “kicked off” and “young season” were routinely eliminated.
Instead there was a variety of stories that looked at the struggles of Canadian Hockey League rosters as they try to fill the gaps left by players departing for the National Hockey League, or the epic amount of travel time when prospects are sent back to junior from pro training camps.
I also took a look the hottest start of the QMJHL season and the emergence of a new star in the East.
All in all, I’m pretty proud of these stories. They’re tight and have a a fairly wide range of topics beyond the final score. Hopefully every weekend this season goes so well.
Friday, Sept. 24 2010
QMJHL - Audy-Marchessault scores six points in Remparts’ rout
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault's coming out party isn't over just yet.
Audy-Marchessault had a hat trick and a six-point night as the Quebec Remparts trounced the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 12-2 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night.
OHL – Jared Knight the hero as Knights top Whalers in shootout
Jared Knight had to take the long way to get to the game, but he still wound up the hero Friday night.
The aptly-named Knight had the shootout winner as the London Knights scratched out a 3-2 win over the Plymouth Whalers in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL – Gallagher’s five-point night lifts Giants over Bruins
Brendan Gallagher scored twice and had three assists as the Vancouver Giants posted a 9-4 win over the Chilliwack Bruins in Western Hockey League play Friday night.
Jordan Martinook's first of the season came with less than three minutes remaining in the second. The 18-year-old forward tipped Neil Manning's point shot past Bruins starter Lucas Gore at the 17:41 mark of the second period.
Saturday, Sept. 25 2010
QMJHL – Voltigeurs outlast Sea Dogs to remain undefeated
The Drummondville Voltigeurs needed extra time to hold onto their perfect record.
Ondrej Palat and Alexandre Comtois scored in the shootout as Drummondville rallied to a 7-6 win over the Saint John Sea Dogs in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night.
OHL – Grubauer shuts out former team as Kingston tops Bulls
Philip Grubauer made an impression on his current and former team Saturday night.
Grubauer had a successful return to Belleville as the Kingston Frontenacs blanked the Bulls 3-0 in Ontario Hockey League action.
WHL – T’Birds take advantage of Winterhawks’ depleted roster
The first month of junior hockey is always rough on rosters as many players are trying out with NHL clubs, and the Portland Winterhawks are no different.
Burke Gallimore scored twice to help the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win over the Winterhawks in Western Hockey League play Saturday night.
Sunday, Sept. 26 2010
QMJHL – Lefrancois strong as Oceanic earn win over Mooseheads
Skill met savagery as the Rimouski Oceanic won a physical game Sunday afternoon.
Felix Lefrancois scored twice and added an assist as the Oceanic cruised to a 9-2 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
OHL – Spitfires soar in rematch of final, beat Barrie Colts
The Windsor Spitfires soared in a rematch of last season's Ontario Hockey League final.
Alexander Khokhlachev and Stephen Johnson both scored twice to pace the Windsor Spitfires to a 7-5 win over the Barrie Colts on Sunday afternoon.
WHL – Wheat Kings take down Pats, Americans beat Thunderbirds
REGINA -- Mark Stone and Brenden Walker both scored and had an assist to lead the Brandon Wheat Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League Sunday afternoon.
Paul Ciarelli also scored for the Brandon (2-0-0) with his first of the year.
The Canadian Hockey League’s post-season continues to roll along, with many first round match-ups being settled in the past couple of days.
There are now six series waiting to be resolved in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League.
The QMJHL’s two remaining series will be wrapped up Tuesday night as the Rimouski Oceanic host the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Gatineau Olympiques visit the Montreal Junior’s home ice in Verdun, Que.
Quebecois junior hockey fans should expect Montreal and Rimouski to prevail and move on to the next round.
The OHL’s quarter-finals are just waiting on the Tuesday night finale of the Frontenacs – Brampton Battalion series in Kingston.
Ethan Werek’s devastating knee injury on Sunday coupled with the triumphant return of the Battalion’s Cody Hodgson spells out defeat for the Frontenacs. Expect Brampton to meet the Barrie Colts on Thursday night.
There are three series still on the go in the WHL. I’m sticking to my earlier prediction that the Calgary Hitmen will be able to beat the surprising Moose Jaw Warriors.
The Silvertips should still be favoured to snuff out the Kelowna Rockets in Everett on Monday night and the Portland Winterhawks should be able to eke out one more win over the Spokane Chiefs.
Friday, March 26th 2010
QMJHL – Saint John moves on to QMJHL quarter-finals
The Saint John Sea Dogs advanced to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League quarter-finals with a decisive victory Friday night.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored in each period and added two assists as the Sea Dogs thumped the P.E.I. Rocket 7-2 in QMJHL playoff action. (See more...)
OHL – Spirit edges Rangers in physical playoff match-up
The Saginaw Spirit held on to beat the Kitchener Rangers 4-3 in a physical Ontario Hockey League playoff game Friday night.
The Spirit were up 4-0 when, at the 13:49 mark of the third period, a scrum broke out. When the dust settled, Saginaw's Tyler Murovich, Michael Kantor and Garret Ross had all earned game misconducts, while Kitchener's Micky Sartoretto and Andrew Crescenzi were also booted. (See more...)
WHL – Tigers top Ice, take 3-2 playoff series lead
Tyler Bunz came up big as the Medicine Hat Tigers took the lead in their Western Hockey League playoff series.
Bunz made 31 saves, including 17 in the second period, as Medicine Hat earned a 5-2 win over the Kootenay Ice in WHL post-season action Friday night. (See more...)
Saturday, March 27th 2010
QMJHL – Wildcats squash Cape Breton; advance to second round
Goaltender Nicola Riopel's stellar play is putting the Montcon Wildcats further into the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs and his name into the record books.
Riopel made 30 saves as the Wildcats mauled the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4-0 in QMJHL post-season action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen hold off Moose Jaw Warriors for win; force Game 7
The Calgary Hitmen survived a rally by the Moose Jaw Warriors to post a 7-3 win and even their Western Hockey League playoff series Saturday night.
The Hitmen trailed the series 3-1 before winning Thursday and Saturday. The deciding seventh game will be Monday night in Calgary. (See more...)
Sunday, March 28th 2010
QMJHL- Tigres slip by Shawinigan 2-1 in OT; win series
Philip-Michael Devos was the overtime hero Sunday for the Victoriaville Tigres.
Devos scored on the power play 13:04 into the extra period to lift Victoriaville to a 2-1 victory over the Shawinigan Cataractes, helping the Tigres clinch their first-round Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff series. (See more...)
OHL – Frontenacs beat Battalion to force Game 7
The Kingston Frontenacs tied their Ontario Hockey League playoff series 3-3, but lost captain Ethan Werek in the process.
Kingston scored twice in the second period to rally to a 2-1 win over the Brampton Battalion on Sunday afternoon, forcing a decisive seventh game in their OHL playoff series. (See more...)
The Western Hockey League is the very picture of dichotomy. Its Eastern Conference is locked in a struggle for dominance, while the West’s playoff picture is quickly coming into focus.
In the Prairies the Saskatoon Blades and Brandon Wheat Kings both have 84 points, with Saskatoon given the advantage with two games in hand.
The Blades edge might be short lived as Brandon is rolling, earning points in the last 11 games.
The Calgary Hitmen are in charge of the Central Division with 82 points and are white hot with eight straight wins.
The Hitmen and Wheat Kings are hitting their stride at the right time of year, climbing the standings and taking momentum into hockey’s second season. They will decide who is the hottest team in the league Monday night as Brandon will visit Calgary.
The Wheat Kings will have to keep a close eye on Brandon Kozun, whose 29 goals and 54 assists has the most points in the WHL. Brandon will also have to watch out for Tyler Fiddler who had two goals Friday night against the Prince Albert Raiders.
Despite the success of the Blades, Hitmen and Wheat Kings, no team in the East has booked tickets to hockey’s second season just yet.
Compare that knot to the WHL’s Western Conference where the playoff picture is almost completely sorted out.
The Tri-City Americans, Vancouver Giants, Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs have all clinched postseason spots.
Further, on Saturday night Portland beat Prince George 3-1, eliminating the Cougars from contention. This means that of the 12 teams in the West, half already know how they’ll be spending the playoffs.
The Seattle Thunderbirds will probably join Prince George soon, as they haven’t won a game since Jan. 9 when they, of course, earned a 3-1win over the Cougars. Since then it’s been 10 regulation losses and three in overtime.
That leaves it up to the Kelowna Rockets, Kamloops Blazers and Chilliwack Bruins to claim the final three postseason berths.
Friday, Feb. 12 2010
QMJHL – Quesnel leads Val-d’Or to win over Montreal
Alexandre Quesnel put the Val-d'Or Foreurs on his shoulders Friday night.
He scored back-to-back goals to lift the Foreurs to a 3-2 win over the Montreal Junior in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Generals get pounded by Majors as Brace scores twice
Riley Brace and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors were happy to take advantage of the slumping Oshawa Generals.
Brace scored a pair of goals and added an assist to lift Mississauga to a 6-0 win over Oshawa in the Ontario Hockey League Friday night. (See more...)
WHL – Hitmen run streak to seven straight with win over Raiders
Tyler Fiddler and the Calgary Hitmen continue to roll.
Fiddler scored twice, including the winner, to lead Calgary to a 3-1 win over the Prince Albert Raiders in Western Hockey League action on Friday night. (See more...)
Lefrancois scored four times and had two assists to lead the Rimouski Oceanic to a 9-6 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
OHL – Whalers’ Seguin scores OT winner to beat Sting
When the Plymouth Whalers are in a tight game they know they can rely on Tyler Seguin.
Seguin scored twice, including the overtime winner, as the Plymouth Whalers topped the Sarnia Sting 5-4 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Cougars eliminated from playoffs with loss to Winterhawks
It's no surprise to Western Hockey League fans: the Prince George Cougars won't be making the playoffs.
With a 3-1 effort the Portland Winterhawks officially knocked Prince George out of the WHL post-season Saturday night. (See more...)
QMJHL – Tigres drop Chicoutimi as Pulin earns 75th careers win
Kevin Poulin made history as the Victoriaville Tigres rolled to a win Sunday afternoon.
Poulin made 17 saves as Victoriaville dumped the Chicoutimi Sagueneens 7-1 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action. (See more...)
OHL – Hodgson scores first two if season as Battalion down Petes
Cody Hodgson is getting back into the swing of things.
The Vancouver Canucks draft pick scored his first two goals of the season as the Brampton Battalion shut down the Peterborough Petes 4-0 on Sunday afternoon in Ontario Hockey League play. (See more...)
Please note there are a few clips on this video of Durette’s face after it’s been stitched up that are a little unsettling.
Scandella, a defenceman with the 2009 edition of the Canadian World Junior team, was suspended on Tuesday for 15 games by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Although the video hasn’t garnered nearly as much attention as the Patrice Cormier debacle, the suspension is in some ways more significant.
It marks a shift in QMJHL policy, and hopefully a shift in Canadian Hockey League policy. In the past the intent of the offending player was strongly considered when handing down a suspension, but now it seems that any headshot is punishable regardless of the level of malice.
Try comparing the Scandella incident to Cormier’s elbow-first hit of Mikael Tam and the suspension that followed.
When Scandella hit Durette it was in an honest attempt to gain control of the puck. In fact, it was because Durette was reaching for the puck, exposing his head to the check, that the blow was possible.
Also, had Durette stayed upright instead of leaning forward, it would’ve simply been a regular body check. Instead, his head was at the same level as Scandella’s shoulder.
By comparison, the video replay clearly shows that Cormier lifted his elbow up to hit Tam in the face. Also, Cormier hit Tam seconds after Tam had made a long pass into the offensive zone.
Even worse, Durette’s injuries were exasperated by his visor shattering and lacerating his face. That equipment malfunction isn’t Scandella’s fault.
Long story short: Scandella intended to hit Durette cleanly and gain control of the puck. Cormier targeted Tam’s head after he had released the puck.
However, compared to Cormier, Scandella has drawn a relatively stiff punishment. Previously, a malicious play like Cormier’s was an offence that would earn a suspension while an incidental hit with no intent to injure like Scandella’s, would be ignored or maybe result in a shorter suspension.
It now seems that intent carries less weight then it used to, and I’m alright with that.
Dangerous head shots (clean and dirty) have kept hockey in the headlines for all the wrong reasons and QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau has to do whatever he can to protect the players in his league and maintain the game’s profile.
"We will continue to be very stern regarding hits to the head as well as towards any gestures which could compromise the well-being of our players," said Courteau in a statement regarding the suspension.
I think that a 15-game suspension is fair given the off-ice situation in Quebec. Scandella will be able to return to the Foreurs in time for the playoffs (should they make it) and resume his career. As long as Scandella learns from Cormier’s mistakes and meekly accepts his forced vacation this should be just a minor note on his resume.
Defenceman Marco Scandella of the Val-d’Or Foreurs hits Rimouski’s Alexandre Durette Wednesday night
Just a head's up - there is a close-up of the stitches required after this hit. Might not be for the squeamish.
I'm interested to see what kind of reaction this gets from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's disciplinary committee. It looks marginally cleaner then Patrice Cormier's, but they'll want to crack down on this sort of thing.
I will, of course, have commentary on events as they unfold.
Patrice Cormier has had a change of heart, and all it’s going to cost him is what little credibility he has left.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Cormier announced yesterday that they would be appealing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s season-long suspension of the 19-year-old forward.
“He could serve up to 48 games, that's too much,” said Huskies coach and general manager Andre Tourigny.
“I respect the decision of the QMJHL even if I find it too severe. I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and I wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery. Thanks for your attention,” said Cormier in a short statement read to the Canadian Press by telephone.
This is a departure from his statement Tuesday morning: “I fully respect the Quebec Major Junior League's decision regarding the Mikael Tam incident.”
Earlier this week I had criticized that particular statement by Cormier because there was no actual apology to Tam. He still hasn’t apologized and this appeal is much worse, adding insult to injury.
Cormier could have continued his career in, as Tourigny said, just 48 games. If he had accepted his punishment, acted contrite whenever asked about the incident and worked hard on the ice to develop as a player, he’d likely make the NHL within two years.
But now he’s rubbing some salt in the wound, and not winning over any supporters.
Although I felt that the suspension was a fair punishment for what was clearly a malicious hit, other corners were calling for a lifetime ban. I can only imagine the ink that will be spilled if Cormier’s suspension is shortened.
That said, I do understand the team’s motivation behind the appeal. Rouyn-Noranda paid a hefty price to acquire Cormier. Specifically, they sent two promising players in Michael Beaudry and Alexandre Mallet (both just 18 years old) as well as three first round draft picks and one second round draft pick to the Rimouski Oceanic for Cormier and Jordan Caron.
To lose one of those players to suspension for the rest of the season – and possibly for the rest of his junior career if he moves on to the NHL or AHL next year – cripples the Huskies playoff chances. Rouyn-Noranda’s playoff window is closing, and Tourigny knows that he gave up the team’s future is bleak without those four picks.
The problem is, of course, that although Cormier might not play again this season, he’ll definitely be playing somewhere next year. The same can’t be said for his victim, Mikael Tam.
Although Cormier’s suspension is a bitter pill to swallow, it did give him the opportunity to move on. The same can’t be said for Tam. Cormier should be counting his blessings, not the number of games he’ll be missing.