It does not matter who you root for New York Ranger or New York Islander but it is safe to say that we all needed real live hockey to end what has been an off-season of tragedy.
The WHL started their exhibition season on Friday night starting with the annual Everett Silvertip Pre-Season Classic. And we are sorry to say but in the very first game, the need for cracking down on cheap shots as well as fighting was made crystal clear.
5 WHL games and 5 games with at least a fight or a checking to the head major is not the way to get your season off to a good start.
We had been hoping to see Islander prospect Brendan Kichton (2011 5th) but he was held out as his Spokane Chiefs took on the Seattle Thunderbirds in afternoon action. Spokane at one point led 3-1 but Seattle rallied to tie the game before Spokane scored a late 3rd period power play goal for the game winner.
What bothered us was the play of Spokane's Darren Kramer and Mike Aviani as the duo combined for 41 PIMs. Kramer took 2 minor penalties before getting ejected in the 3rd period for fighting while Aviani caused a 2nd fight 8 seconds after Kramer's fight when he was called for a checking to the head major.
This is the area where hockey needs to crack down as 2 plays 8 seconds apart mar what was a pretty good game where the Chiefs used 10 first year players. The first game of the Classic and already a total of 19 penalties leading to 105 PIMs is not the right message to send to WHL fans.
Aviani should consider his preseason over if the WHL means what it says about a crackdown on hits to the head. If not then the WHL is opening the door for some serious criticism. It seems that automatic game misconducts are not enough to deter fights in the preseason; maybe automatic 2-3 game suspensions would.
The Mike Stothers era in Moose Jaw got off to a very bad start as the Warriors were outplayed in every area of the game losing on the road to the Regina Pats 5-3. The score is not even close to how bad the Warriors played as the biggest problem was the 3 players wearing letters for the Warriors.
Between the captain and the 2 assistants, the Warrior player leadership combined for 5 minors, a major and a game misconduct totalling 25 PIMs. This was not the way to start a new coaching era and the Warriors looked very bad
Traverse City Invitee Colin Bowman took back to back penalties (0:16 and 4:02) while wearing the "C" to start the game. Then Dallas Ehrhardt who was wearing "A" took an elbowing major to give the Rebels a 7 minute power play that they scored on.
Bowman took a 3rd penalty right after Ehrhardt's penalties ended which Red Deer scored on to take a 2-0 first period lead. This one was over in the first period as the Rebels out everything the Warriors including a 21-3 advantage in shots.
Dylan McIlrath did not dress for this one but it is very doubtful he would have made much of a difference. The 2 teams will travel to Moose Jaw to play in Moose Jaw's new arena hopefully with a much better effort if not outcome.
Shane McColgan (NYR 2011 5th) did not dress as his Kelowna Rockets hosted the Vancouver Giants in their exhibition opener but at least they sent their fans home happy with a 4-3 overtime win. It was a pretty good back and forth event with both teams giving up leads.
Saturday is expected to be a very busy day but if you are looking for some hockey we do expect prospects of both Rangers and Islanders in action. Several of the games will have radio coverage and we are awaiting word as to whether or not games will be webcast.
We will pass the word on webcasts on the FB and twitter feeds.
Saturday will also mark the expected debut of NYR 2011 1st round pick JT Miller as well as NYI 2011 1st round pick Ryan Strome. No word yet if either game will be available for webcast.
(Colin Bowman courtesy of the Moose Jaw Warriors)
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