The Hunt is On! Sharks vs Penguins- Stanley Cup Final

The San Jose Sharks have been a franchise for 25 years and until Monday, when the Stanley Cup Final starts, have never made it to the final. Prior to this season six teams have never made it to the end of the play offs (Phoenix, Nashville, San Jose, Winnipeg, Minnesota, Columbus).Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Thornton have never played in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Marleau has been with the Sharks since he was drafted by them in 1997. This season he became one of five players to play over 1,400 career games with only one team. As well as being the youngest player to reach 1,300 and 1,400 career games played. Marleau won two gold medals for Canada. For the season. his stats are 29 goals, 38 assists.

Pavelski has been with the Sharks since 2006 and was named captain this year.  During his first season he was given the nickname “Little Joe” during a hot streak before a leg injury that radically decreased his playing time in his rookie season.  He played in two Olympics (2010 and 2014) coming home with a sliver in 2010. So far this season, Pavelski has 51 goals and 49 assists. The Captain has come a long way from his humble start with the Sharks as a seventh round pick in 2003.

Thornton started playing for the Sharks in 2006, coming from the Bruins. He was given the nickname “Jumbo Joe”. He also played in two Olympic games in 2006 and 2010, bringing home the gold with teammate Marleau for Canada in 2010.  This season Joe Thornton has been on fire with 32 goals and 72 assists. He leads the team in assists. Thornton was stripped of his captaincy but stuck around to help this squad make its first ever Stanley Cup Final.

The San Jose Sharks take on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday at CONSOL Energy Center, puck drop is slated for 8:05 PM

 

Photo credits: https://fansided.com/2016/04/13/nhl-playoffs-5-reasons-san-jose-sharks-can-win-stanley-cup/2/

Nick Mattson Interview

HOGS
Recently, we had a chance to catch up with UND alum Nick Mattson about his first year in professional hockey. The Chaska,MN native played for Blackhawks affiliates this year. Mattson started the season with the ECHL Indy Fuel and earned a chance to play with the AHL Rockford IceHogs. Mattson accumulated 22 points in 65 games this regular season across both levels.Before UND Mattson finished his junior career with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. Below are our questions,and his answers.
• How has your first year playing pro hockey gone?
“It was an amazing experience. At the very start it was pretty intimidating. Everything was completely new, and it took awhile to get used to the new people and new lifestyle. Over time I got more and more comfortable and was really able to start to enjoy things. On the ice things went well. I started of the season with the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League and spent the majority of the first half of the year there minus a few short call ups. In the second half I had longer call-ups to Rockford, and finally got a chance to play significant minutes the last chunk of the year and playoffs with Rockford. Once I got an opportunity I felt I played well and was able to contribute.”
• What are some high points for this season?
“The highest point would just be getting the opportunity to play in Rockford and seizing that opportunity. It was a long tough road this year just to get into the position to play in the AHL, so to play well once I finally got a chance felt great. “
• What did you take away from your summer with the Blackhawks last year?
“The biggest takeaway was the realization of how good professional players really are, and the small margin that separates guys from league to league. There were plenty of players I played against this year that I felt were more than good enough to be playing at a higher level, but for whatever reason never got a shot. The difference for a lot of guys really is razor thin in terms of talent level. “
• How have you improved your game in Rockford and Indy this year?
“Without a doubt it would be the mental side of the game. In college you are only playing 2 games per week and around 40 per year. You focus all week on one opponent, so by the time you get to the games it has been hyped up so much that it can sometimes be hard to just relax and play. In pro you have to learn quickly how to play your best in non-ideal situations such as when you have 3 games in 3 days, a 10 am game, are playing hurt, etc. These situations happen so much that I learned quickly how to faze them out and just go out and play, because if I let these things rattle me it would be a very long year. Once you clear all the outside distractions from your mind and play with a clear head, it’s much easier to be consistent and have fun. “
• Once done with playing hockey what do you want to do with your degree?
“Like the majority of hockey players, I’m not 100% on my plans after playing. Ideally I would go to law school and pursue a career in sports management. Another dream would be to start a business with one of my good friends. For now I am just enjoying playing while continuing to think up future plans. “
• What are your thoughts on UND’s recent national championship victory?
“It was absolutely incredible to watch. Going to school at UND, there is such an overwhelming sense of tradition that you want nothing more than to leave your mark and add to that. To be able to win for the town, the school, the fans, and all the alumni is something that is on the players minds everyday. The success of the team just means so much to anyone even remotely connected to the program. To be able to watch some of my best friends accomplish that dream was almost surreal and I was just so happy for all of them. “
• How important was winning the two Elite 89 awards during your time at UND?
“It’s something I’m very proud of. As anyone whose gone to college as a student-athlete can attest, the time demands are often so extreme that many people choose to focus the majority of their time on either strictly school or athletics. It can be really hard to find that balance where you can do well in both areas. Being successful in school and on the ice took a lot of sacrifices and a ton of hard work, so to be recognized for that was pretty cool.”
• Name something Coach Brad Berry taught you that you’re still using (could be on or off ice)
“On the ice, he always was extremely adamant on defenseman getting involved and adding to the teams offense. The way the game is going now, most successful teams have more of a 5 man attack and having defenseman that can contribute offensively is huge. He taught me a ton on the offensive side. Off the ice, he would always go out of his way to spread positive vibes and make people feel appreciated. It may be a little thing, but guys loved playing him for that. He treats people the right way. “
• What was it like scoring your first AHL goal?
“It felt great. As I said before, it was a hard road to even get into the position to be playing. There were plenty of times where I felt like I’d never get a chance, but unlike years previous where I’d get discouraged in these types of situations I was able to press forward and keep fighting. So to be rewarded after going through all that adversity was great. “
• What was it like playing on the same sheet of ice you did when you played for the Indiana Ice?
“It was nice just because it added an immediate level of comfort. Rookie season can be pretty crazy and there were many times I felt way in over my head with so many new things to adjust to. Being able to start the season in a town and arena that I was familiar with was a huge advantage and helped ease the transition. “

Second Day Gems-San Jose Sharks

 

The 2016 NHL Draft is being held at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo about one month from now. As of today, five teams do not have first round picks due to previous trades.While these teams are missing out on players that could play in the NHL as early as this upcoming season, they are not missing out on potential and talent. Here is a brief look at a team’s organizational need and a potential pick that meets that need. The selected player would be the team’s first pick but not a first rounder.

San Jose Sharks

The Sharks have a goalie of the future in Martin Jones. The former King has backstopped them to the Western Conference Finals. The Sharks youngest goalie prospect is Mantas Armalis who is under contract with the Sharks for next season. Another two players to keep an eye on are Aaron Dell who will be 27 next year and Troy Grosenick. The former Union goalie has one year left on his entry level contract while Dell is an unrestricted free agent. If the Sharks bring back Dell they will sign one more goalie to compete with the backup job with Grosenick and others competing for time in the minors. Since their youngest prospect is 23, the Sharks need a developmental goalie whom they can work with and still has time left to play for his junior team.

Pick-G Evan Fitzpatrick

The Sherbrooke Phoenix netminder is the number one ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. He helped Canada get to the bronze medal game and vastly outplayed his goalie partner Stuart Skinner in the tournament. Fitzpatrick is calm in the next and has outstanding rebound control. Throughout the U18 World Championships the netminder impressed with his calm demeanor, strong tracking skills, and ability to redirect the puck be it on superb toe saves, or through making a strong outlet pass. Fitzpatrick will take a few years to develop,and will have to earn a contract from the Sharks. He will. After two more years with the Phoenix the netminder will end up in San Jose, as a Barracuda in the AHL. In four years,given the right circumstances, Evan Fitzpatrick could find himself in the NHL.

If Fitzpatrick is taken,then the Sharks could take another goalie like Tyler Parsons of the London Knights or USA goalie Joseph Woll later in the draft and pick a defenseman with this late second round selection.

References:http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftprospectbrowse.htm?cat=3&sort=finalRank&year=2016

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=15753

http://www.generalfanager.com/teams/san-jose-sharks

http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=216160

 

Season Review/look ahead-Austin Poganski

Austin Poganski is a St. Cloud native and was selected 110th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. As a freshman he was named to NCHC academic all- conference team as well most improved player and was ranked 3rd  among UND freshman with 14 points in 38 games. Poganski is a forward who plays a strong game in all three zones. He likes to drive the net and is not afraid of getting hit. He is a smart player and very rarely makes the wrong decision on the ice.This season “Pogo” had 10 goals with 15 assists. He was the only Fighting Hawk to take a penalty shot attempt. He converted it and sent the crowd of Ralph Englestad Arena in to an absolute frenzy as the Fighting Hawks defeated the Bulldogs of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Poganski looks to see increased power play time to cement his role as UND’s most important special teams player. His net front presence on the power play challenges goalies to look around him and avoid detection.Pogo does not get boxed out of the net front very often.Saint Louis has a few of these players on their team including versatile forward Troy Brouwer. Poganski plays a similar game to Brouwer and is a top six jack of all trades player that will be ready for the AHL after one more year at UND.

Grade-9/10

Poganski had a great year playing in the top six and came into his own as part of the “Heavy Line” that UND deployed to shut down the best scoring line on the other team.Look for Pogo to play more minutes next year,and for his goals total to jump to 20.

Stats: http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=231724

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Camper Stakes Bears to 2-0 Series Lead

On May 21, 2016 at the Giant Center in front of a crowd of 8,879 the Toronto Marlies took on the Hershey Bears in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs.

In the first period both teams had their share of the chances with Hershey controlling the flow of the game in its early minutes.Midway through the first period, Connor Brown scored on a perfect one-timer from the low slot to give the Marlies the early lead.

A theme of the first was the Marlies getting chance after chance with Justin Peters bailing his team out constantly. Peters made two goal line saves that had to be reviewed. The reviews did not change the call on the ice. Late in the first period,Chandler Stephenson got a nice pass from Erik Burgdorfer in the neutral zone and proceeded to accelerate by everyone including Marlies’ goalie Garret Sparks. Stephenson shot the puck parallel to the goal and went far side to give himself his first goal of these playoffs,and the Bears a 1-1 tie.

After one period the game was tied 1-1, but the Bears were bailed out constantly by their defense and goalie Justin Peters. The Bears could only muster two shots while Peters had to face 15 Toronto salvos.

In the second period,the game went at a back and forth pace with the Marlies not seeing a lot of shots getting to their net. The Bears did not need many chances as Jakub Vrana potted his fifth playoff goal on the power play. The Czech Winger shot the puck to the net which then went off of Marlies defenseman Andrew Campbell’s skate and into the back of the net. Justin Peters made great save after great save to keep the Bears staked to the lead.

Later in the second, the Bears had countless chances on multiple power plays. The Bears could not find an insurance marker in the second and the Marlies would make them pay. Mark Arcobello tied the game with his second playoff marker 2-2 late in the second off a nice pass from Josh Leivo. That goal was reviewed for the third time in the evening but to no avail.The Marlies peppered the Bears with shots that period as Peters had to face 12 more shots. Garret Sparks only had to face 5 shots during the second.

The third period was a seesaw affair with no side able to take the lead. Both sides had a decent amount of chances.No one could capitalize on anything.

In overtime, the game went back and forth with each side getting its fair share of chances.Carter Camper sent the Bears up 2-0 in this best of seven with a rocket past Garret Sparks 9:09 into the overtime period.Justin Peters was phenomenal tonight as he finished with second star honors making 38 saves. Camper took home first star honors for his superb play all night. Game three takes place Wednesday at 7:05 PM at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto.

Links

Hershey Bears Youtube channel: (Higlights will be posted later) https://www.youtube.com/user/TheHersheyBears

Game Stats: http://theahl.com/stats/game-summary.php?game_id=1015889

 

 

AHL Eastern Conference Final Game One Recap

 

In front of a crowd of 6300 assembled at Giant Center, the Hershey Bears outworked and outplayed the Toronto Marlies. The Bears won 3-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final of the AHL.

Early on in the game both teams traded chances but few shots as the first one came nearly halfway through the first period. Jakub Vrana nearly gave the Bears something to cheer about as he missed a back door wrap around shot. Soon after the initial rush, talented winger Kasperi Kapanen made a nice pass to set up William Nylander who made a nice move to put the puck past Bears goaltender Justin Peters.

Afterwords the game became a back-and-forth affair seeing both teams earning a lot of chances in the first period where each team had some odd man chances.Although the Bears had only five shots on net, they had a lot of odd-man rushes leading to wide shot attempts in the first period.

In the second period the Bears came out strong. Ryan Borque  had a nice chance but Antoine Bibeau bailed the Marlies out again. The Marlies luck soon ran out, as Carter Camper got a nice feed from defenseman Aaron Ness that set the forward up to blast a wrist shot past Bibeau going top-shelf to tie the game.

The Bears play improved into the second period as they were quicker on their skates and constantly looking to cycle the puck. Since the second goal the game returned to its even pace with both sides getting chances in the period. Jakub Vrana throughout this period was an absolute force generating chance after chance and causing the Marlies to turn the puck over. The lone Marlies power play generated more chances for the Bears as the Bears had multiple offensive zone trips.

Controversy marked the end of the second period as Ryan Stanton put the puck into the net with what appeared to be time remaining,the referees had another feed. This period belonged to the Bears but remained tied.

In the third period, Liam O’Brien went short side to give the Bears their first lead of the night. The Bears then had a strong power play but nothing came of it. The period continued on with the Bears controlling play. With 11:48 left Zach Sill added an insurance marker on the power play to put the Bears up two goals. That would be all the scoring needed,as Toronto pushed the pace with an empty net for the last four minutes of the gam to no avail.

The same two teams play at the same 7:05 PM time tomorrow night at Giant Center. The Bears will look to take a 2-0 series lead since the next three games of the series after game two are in Toronto at Ricoh Coliseum.

Stats: http://theahl.com/stats/game-summary.php?game_id=1015888

Bears Youtube Channel Link (Look for highlights/Troy Mann’s post game comments soon): https://www.youtube.com/user/TheHersheyBears

 

 

 

 

Look Back/Ahead-Shane Gersich

Forward Shane Gersich just finished his freshman season at UND. The Fighting Hawk is a high energy winger that will score a lot of goals when left in space, and uses his high motor to get to the puck to set his line mates up throughout the season. Gersich did get muscled off the puck a few times during the season and sat a few games when UND needed more physicality in its forward ranks or for injury.

The Capitals prospect played 37 games during the season and scored 11 points (9 G,2A) most of Gersich’s goals were high motor ones where he used his speed and skill to set himself up to contribute.

As the season went on Gersich’s scoring per game decreased, and he was getting muscled off the puck more and more. By season’s end however, Gersich had improved his game and set himself up to be in he right place at the right time to score the first goal of the National Championship vs. Quinnipiac.

Gersich has more room to grow as he will increase his strength in the off-season. Increased strength will help him maintain the cycle and keep plays alive longer. He has two more years to sign a pro deal with the Capitals exclusively before he can opt for the free agency route. If he comes back for his senior season he can be a free agent,and sign with an NHL club.

Grade:7/10

Gersich will improve his physical skills with time which will cause his goal totals to increase and allow  him to compete as an every day top six forward. We expect Gersich to play at least one more season with the Fighting Hawks. Gersich seems to do better the second year at wherever he ends up,as evidenced by his strong play with the Omaha Lancers of the USHL in the year following his draft selection. Gersich had a 17 point improvement in his second full year in the USHL with the Lancers. Look for him to have at least a ten point improvement with the Fighting Hawks this season.

Reference Page:http://www.eliteprospects.com/player.php?player=168706

Gage Ausmus-A Review/Look Ahead

Coming into the season, San Jose Sharks Prospect Gage Ausmus was named captain of the Fighting Hawks. Having this honor as a junior is rare, but as his team described on Through These Doors, Ausmus is a strong vocal leader that demands accountability from everyone. He is a natural fit to be a two-year captain. Throughout the season Ausmus typically played the role as UND’s most defensive defenseman and did an excellent job allowing his defensive partner to jump up into the play and generate offense. Gage was a mainstay on the Penalty Kill as his good stick work and strong hockey IQ helped UND maintain a strong box and limit chances for opponents on the power play.

Season Grade:9/10 only because we think Gage can show an offensive side to his game next year. He has not had the chance to due to some of the skilled offensive defenseman like Troy Stecher that UND has had playing for them.Now Ausmus will be relied on to generate these chances now.

Can he? We think Ausmus can generate these chances as an effective two-way defenseman with a strong hockey IQ. We believe that if Ausmus has a decent season, San Jose will do everything they can to sign him, because if they don’t, one of the 29 other NHL teams will. Ausmus projects as a top six defenseman thanks to his strong penalty kill and positioning skills. With time and development he could be a second pair defenseman who sees time on the power play and penalty kill.

Sharks Fans, we think Ausmus or “Goose” will be flying your way after this upcoming season.

Here is a look at the Through These Doors episode where Gage’s team talks about his skills and his selection as captain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Crai-kMFZ5Y

 

Seamore Sports on AIH201416 Again

Last night, I had the distinct honor of being invited back to talk about the Capitals’ unfortunate end to their season as well as some other NHL draft notes with the awesome folks who run the AIH201416 podcast. The whole episode itself is worth a listen as they discussed everything from ham to the Western Conference Finals and just how good Victor Headman(Did someone say team MVP?) is. Listen to this podcast on Itunes and give it a good rating, Philip and Alan are two of the most down-to-earth hockey analysts I have talked to

While they are proud Jets fans, they talk hockey on both podcasts objectively and without bias. Give these guys a listen… your hockey mind will thank you.

Here is the link: Seamore sports is on last but the whole podcast is worth a listen:

http://cyberears.com/index.php/Browse/playaudio/29615

Also here is the Arctic Ice Hockey Post regarding this podcast:

http://www.arcticicehockey.com/2016/5/16/11683478/aih-20416-episode-36-san-jose-sharks-st-louis-blues-tampa-bay-lightning-washington-capitals

Final PS: Congrats to Philip Iver for being named managing editor of Arctic Ice Hockey. Fans of all 30 NHL teams, and hockey fans in general should give it a read.

UND Season Review-Matt Shaw

With Dave Hakstol leaving for the bench boss position with the Philadelphia Flyers, UND needed a new assistant coach to take over Dane Jackson’s assistant coach role with Brad Berry’s promotion to head coach and Jackson’s promotion to associate coach. The Fighting Hawks looked for someone with NHL experience, a strong defenseman mentor like Berry, and someone who could run the power play with the top talent UND had. How did Matt Shaw do?

The former Devils,Sharks,and Wild assistant had a track record of producing top-flight power play units especially with the Sharks.

Shaw used that experience along with his time at the USHL level as the Head Coach and GM for the Dubuque Fighting Saints to help North Dakota develop a power play plan that will serve it well in the future. This year, the Fighting Hawks, thanks partly to Shaw had a combined Special Teams rank of fifteenth in the nation. That rank is impressive given the caliber of opponents that UND faces in the NCHC every single weekend. While UND’s power play was similar to last season in terms of output, it generated chances and often times the ability to generate those power plays turned the tide of the game for UND during this season.

With UND set to return key players like forward Austin Poganski, look for Shaw to use him in a role similar to former UND captain Stephane Pattyn. Poganski excels at screening goalies and redirecting the puck in to the back of the net, or allowing a strong point shot to get through. With Tyson Jost coming to campus, look for UND’s power play to improve considerably from a pretty good set up,as Jost will force teams to change how they defend UND. No longer can teams key on top-line forwards or defenseman at the point since Jost’s quick wit will ensure he earns time quarterbacking a power play unit for the Fighting Hawks akin to what Nick Backstrom provides for the Caps. The sauce passes and short side goals for UND will go up as Jost will be able to set up both Poganski in the slot and defensemen with strong point shots like Gage Ausmus to blast shots to the net.

The main take away from this review is that Matt Shaw is an outstanding assistant coach UND fans, enjoy his artwork crafting these power plays,because he will end up as an NHL head coach somewhere some season soon.

Assistant Coach Grade- 8/10 as the power play improved towards the end of the season but did not surpass the 2014-2015 squad in terms of percentage of chances converted. Next year when Shaw has had a full off season to work within the program look for the power play to improve and this grade to improve as well. UND’s defense also played well throughout the season partly thanks to input from Shaw.

Stats obtained from: http://collegehockeystats.net/