mardi 27 décembre 2011

Cumberland Grads at Christmas time

As the colour commentator for the Grads, I get to see all of the Grads home games in Navan. Though the team has yet to find the kind of consistency necessary to make a push for the playoffs, certain players have stood out.

Fabian and Daniel Walsh have been bright spots for the team. The elder Fabian, an All-Star, leads the team in PTS with 37. The younger Daniel, in his second season, trails only by 4 pts having already eclipsed his totals from last year. He is quick to come to his brother’s or anyone else’s defense and doesn’t hesitate to fight when needed. However, he would be even more useful by punishing other teams with higher point production (he’s on a four game point streak right now).

After the departure of Kevin Tansey for college, Cumberland has relied heavily on future Colgate star Kevin Lough on the backend. His participation in the Junior A challenge in B.C. gave a national audience the chance to see his skills and the All-Star Challenge in Smiths Falls will reassure Colgate of their selection of Lough who is never out of position and always making a play.

The second overall pick in the summer’s draft, Marc Beckstead, was expected to shoulder a big part of the load when it came to the offensive side of things. Despite his 21 PTS (7G, 14A), he’s had a tough time finding real chemistry with his teammates and even sat in the press box for a game. Despite that, Beckstead, who had a strong showing for the Frontenacs during their camp, has been growing this season.

Second year defenseman Philippe Drouin has stepped up his play as the likely replacement for Lough as the team’s go-to guy. Unafraid of moving the puck forward, he is also solid on the backend where he will give a big check when possible. Lately, his pinching helped him pick up a nice goal in a 6-2 win over Ottawa. He has 5G and 19A this year to lead the D-core.

The Grads have certainly not been afraid of sticking up from each other, even with the early season departure of Jacob Lewis for his native Newfoundland. Racking up the second most PIM in the league, it’s a good thing the penalty kill has been good. The habit of taking penalties on the powerplay, which apexed with it occurring 3 times against Brockville one Sunday afternoon, didn’t help their PP% which is at 15.57% and gets the most opportunities in the league.

The team has to be pleased with goaltender Pat Martin who took the number one job from Robin Billingham early in the year. He’s kept the team in a lot of games, has a stellar .914 SV% and was named the CCHL goalie of the month in November.

As it stands, the Grads are 5 pts out of a playoff spot trailing both Kanata and Smiths Falls. Although they have managed to string a 4 and 3 game win streak together earlier in the year, they will have to put together consistently good efforts to move into the picture. Home games are always good fun, and there is always a chance that Sean Bamford scores twice – something he’s done on 3 separate Sunday afternoons.

Gloucester Rangers at Christmas time

As the main writer for the Gloucester Rangers website, I’ve had the chance to see the team play on a number of occasions so far this year (although I must admit I haven’t been going as often as I’d like). The season has surely not been unfolding the way the team would have thought while in training camp.

Back then, it was hoped that the loss of three players to the OHL and more to college and age would simply mean others would need to step up. After a couple weeks of decent play, the team began a winless streak that lasted for over a month. At one point, the team had 9 regulars out with injury or suspension. Each game saw different aspects improve, but a sustained 60 minute effort bringing it altogether was missing.

Then, a few players came back from injury, and things really started to come together. They started winning again and beating some of the big teams, like Carleton Place and Ottawa. All of a sudden, there were mentions of the playoff picture and catching up. The powerplay, which at one point was almost letting in more shorthanded goals than it was scoring, started to improve as did the penalty kill.

But a poorly planned party took attention - and a couple of players - away from the ice. Since then the team has yet to regain the form it had though certain players have made very positive impacts.

The team has essentially two types of players – veterans and rookies. While the veterans may be few in number, they have provided the bulk of the scoring with McMurtry, Cobbold and Verrin showing the best offensive numbers on the team. McMurtry, the team’s lone representative at this week’s All-Star Challenge, is on pace to shatter the 54 pts he got last year as he has 41 through the team’s first 40 games.

The rookies have been impressive and the team should hope to have some around for the coming years. Chad Millett, Daniele Disipio, Jacob Jammes and John Owen Stewart have created roles for themselves on the team. Alexandre Boivin has been the most impressive using his hands and wheels to put up 11G and 18 A for 29 PTS so far and was named the CCHL rookie of the month for November.

Thirty-nine players have donned a Ranger uniform so far this year. But it’s beginning to look like the team is coming together. The remaining 22 games should see improved results over the first half of the year as the rookies continue to gain confidence in their play. If Mathieu White plays all 22 games, he would pass Andrew Creppin for most games played for the Rangers. He’s currently at 155 and Creppin finished with 172. Then his younger brother, who the Rangers protected at this past summer’s draft, should step in and provide some help upfront in the coming years as his brother moves on.