|Chilliwack Bruins forward Oscar Moller
racked up ten points in three games to help the team reach second place.
For a team that entered the Western Hockey League only a season ago, the Chilliwack Bruins are well on their way to beating the learning curve for a second-year expansion team.
The Bruins’ two super-sophomores, Oscar Moller and Mark Santorelli, aren’t so much beating that learning curve, as they are obliterating it.
In three games this past week, Moller scored seven goals and had 10 points. Santolleri put up six assists (four of them on Moller goals), as the Bruins took five of the six available points in games against Seattle, Tri-City and Portland. They now sit one point behind the Vancouver Giants in one of the WHL’s most exciting rivalries. More on that later.
Wednesday, the Bruins hosted the Seattle Thunderbirds, a team that earned 31 more points than the Bruins did a year ago. Moller had a hat trick, Santorelli had two assists, and the Bruins out-shot the Thunderbirds 50-15 en route to a 6-1 win.
In that game, over-age forward Brandon Campos scored and added an assist. Earlier this season, Campos was released from the Everett Silvertips as that club attempted to pare down its over-age players to the league-maximum three. He was then picked up on waivers by the Bruins.
Campos, a top scorer in Tier II junior hockey -- to the tune of 36 goals and 111 points in 105 games with the Merritt Centennials of the BCHL in two seasons -- was never able to find his touch with the Silvertips. He scored 10 goals and had only 24 points in 67 games with the ‘Tips a year ago, but already has seven goals and 12 points in only seven games with the Bruins since coming over.
Chalk his play up as another member of the Bruins who seems to have learned a lot in the off-season.
Friday, Moller scored his second hat trick in as many games and assisted on two others, factoring in on every Bruin score in the game. Campos scored twice and added two assists, and Santorelli put up three helpers. The trio combined for the first three Bruin goals.
Perhaps most telling, however, was that the Bruins scored two goals in the final three minutes to force overtime. A season ago, the game would’ve likely resulted in a Bruin defeat. But with the maturation of their players has come a better team atmosphere, one in which both individual player and team effort are bolstered from within.
Last season, the Bruins placed three of their players in the top 100 WHL scorers: rookies Santorelli, a fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2007, Moller, a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2007, and over-age forward Josh Aspenlind, who now plays professional hockey with the Port Huron Icehawks in the IHL.
Early in the 2007-08 season, however, the Bruins have three players in the top 10 WHL scorers, and seven in the top 100. Top scorers Santorelli (first in the WHL with 17 assists and 21 points in 13 games), Moller (tied for third with 10 goals and 19 points in 13 games), and Campos (tied for eighth with eight goals and 16 points in only 10 games) lead the way.
To wrap up the week, the Bruins earned a 4-3 win against the Portland Winter Hawks, giving the team a 9-3 record and an unbeaten streak of three straight.
The Bruins hope that the development of their organization will lead to a different result from a year ago. The 2006-07 Bruins ended their first WHL season at the hands of the eventual WHL runners-up, the Vancouver Giants in the playoffs. The Giants, Memorial Cup champions in addition to WHL league runners-up, simply overwhelmed the younger and inexperienced Bruins team in five games in the first round.
The series will likely be remembered for a full-ice, full-team brawl that broke out just as the final buzzer rang. In all, 72 minutes in penalties were assessed and the teams did not participate in the customary series-ending handshake.
The results from their development and perhaps, even that show of solidarity late in the season, is already paying dividends. In three games this season against Vancouver, Chilliwack has earned four of a possible six points. The Bruins defeated the Giants in a shootout and in overtime, but were defeated, 4-0, in Chilliwack the last time the teams met.
You can bet each member of either team will have Nov. 14 circled on the calendar. On that date, the Giants will once again travel to Chilliwack for another chapter in the rivalry.
Regardless, the Bruins are grown up, and people are taking notice. In a poll on WHL.ca posted from Oct. 9-15 that asked “Who will win the B.C. Division?” Vancouver received 50 percent of the 3,477 votes. The Bruins sat second with 27 percent. None of the remaining three teams were able to garner more than 11 percent of the vote.
Cubs no more, these Bruins have bite.
Around the WHL -- The East Division just might be the best of the WHL. Four teams: Regina, Swift Current, Moose Jaw and Brandon all have winning percentages better than .630, and all four sit in the top six in the Eastern Conference. The Moose Jaw Warriors, in addition, are the league’s hottest team, with a 6-0-0-1 record in their past seven games. … Riku Helenius, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-round pick in 2006, has not disappointed in his first season in North America. The 19-year-old Finn has posted a 4-2-0-1 record with a 2.20 GAA and .925 save percentage in seven starts with the Seattle Thunderbirds. He leads the league in save percentage and leads the 2007-08 rookie class in goals-against average. … The Regina Pats’ Jordan Eberle, who is eligible for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa, is making a name for himself among NHL scouts as he has posted 13 goals and 20 points in only 12 games to start the season. … Giants goaltender and San Jose Sharks prospect Tyson Sexsmith finds himself in familiar territory in this early season, leading the WHL with a 1.79 GAA in 11 starts. A year ago, he led the WHL with a 1.78 GAA in 51 starts. … Luca Sbisa, a rookie defenseman for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, leads all rookie defensemen in scoring with 12 assists through 14 games. … Matchup to watch: This Wednesday, the Swift Current Broncos travel to Regina to play the Pats in a matchup of the top two teams in the East Division. The Broncos currently sit two points back of the Pats within the division with two games in hand.
United States Hockey League
How do you rocket out to the league lead in the USHL standings after three weekends, maintain a perfect record and dominate the game in all areas of the ice?
Simply ask the Omaha Lancers, who are looking every bit as dangerous as the team that finished 2006-07 only one win and one point off of the league lead.
After three weeks of the USHL schedule, the Lancers are among the league leaders in every statistical category. They have the most wins (five), points (10), second-most goals for (26), fewest goals against (10), second-most PIMs (178), and boast the league’s best road record (3-0-0).
In addition, after five games played, none of the skaters who have played in all five games has more than nine points or fewer than two.
Goal scoring, balance, defense, physicality and mental toughness: it might be safe to say that these Lancers look sharp.
Around the USHL -- With two wins in two games against Cedar Rapids and Chicago during the weekend, the Indiana Ice have rocketed from fifth to second in the East Division standings. The Ice, who have 11 players committed to D-1 schools, were led by forwards Paul Carrey (3-0-3), John Kemp (2-1-3), Greg Squires (1-2-3), and T.J. Snyder (2-1-3), and defenseman John Carlson (0-4-4). Of the five skaters, only Carlson, who is NHL Entry Draft-eligible in 2008, has yet to commit to a school. Carrey (Boston College), Kemp (University of Nebraska-Omaha), Squires (Western Michigan) and Snyder (University of Massachusetts) are all committed for 2008-09. … If the early USHL season has been any indication, the scoring lead could be a two-horse race between Chicago Steel teammates. Brian O’Neill and Andy Miele, who sit 1-2 atop the league with 13 and 12 points, respectively. O’Neill has committed to Yale for next season and Miele will be suiting up for Miami (Ohio) in 2008-09. But hard-charging Cedar Rapids RoughRiders forward Tyler Thompson is refusing to be left in the dust, with two goals and five points in two games during the weekend, in which the RoughRiders went 1-1. … The USHL can be tough on goaltenders. Only Omaha Lancer netminder Drew Palmisano has a sub-2.00 GAA, and two others - Brady Hjelle and Palmisano’s teammate Shane Madolora have a GAA under 3.0. The rest of the league is averaging more than three goals a game. In addition, only Palmisano, Hjelle and Madolora boast save percentages better than .900. … Hjelle, the Stauber’s Goalcrease Goalie of the Week for the first two weeks of the season, leads the USHL in most goaltending categories, including saves (156), wins (four), save percentage (.934) and shutouts (one). He sits second in GAA (2.20) and tied for first in starts (five). Hjelle has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for 2008-09, and is NHL Draft-eligible in 2008.
Ontario Hockey League
One wonders just how the London Knights are able to do it.
Last season, rookie sensation Patrick Kane, with 62 goals and 145 points in 58 games, led both the OHL rookie and overall scoring race. Linemate Sam Gagner finished fifth in overall league scoring and second to Kane in the rookie race with 35 goals and 118 points. The duo was a devastating force, leading the Knights to a 50-14 record and a semifinal appearance in the 2007 playoffs.
Both skaters earned a spot on their respective NHL club for the 2007-08 season, leaving gaping holes in the Knights’ attack. And it showed, with the Knights stumbling out of the blocks to the tune of a 0-6 record. They scored only 10 goals total in those six games.
Then, Knights GM Mark Hunter acquired over-age forward Jadran Beljo from the Niagara IceDogs for a conditional sixth-round pick in 2009. Beljo and teammate Patrick Maroon, a former Tier II player and 2006 sixth-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers from St. Louis, Mo., found a little karma.
Since the trade, the Knights are 5-0, and have outscored their opponents by a 27-8 margin. The team has done a complete 180, with Beljo and Maroon stepping up to fill the void – and the net – vacated by the departures of Kane and Gagner.
Beljo has four goals and 11 points in five games with London and Maroon has nine goals and 15 points – rocketing him up the OHL scoring race to a tie for fourth in the league – in that same stretch. Outside of the red-hot Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (12-0-1-0), the Knights are now the OHL’s hottest team.
Around the OHL -- Center Shawn Matthias, who currently sits second in the OHL scoring race behind Oshawa Generals’ center John Tavares, led the Belleville Bulls to a 2-1 record in the past week, posting four goals and seven points in the three games. The Bulls’ only loss was to the CHL’s hottest team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who have yet to be defeated in regulation this season. … In addition to the red-hot play of Beljo and Maroon, Knights goaltender Steve Mason has had a lot to say about the Knights’ recent success. Mason has won all five of the games in which he has played, posting a 1.60 GAA and .955 save percentage. In his most recent start, a 3-0 win against Tavares and the Oshawa Generals, Mason made 40 saves. … You have to hand it to the Windsor Spitfires. Behind the solid offensive play of Bradley Snetsinger and Joshua Bailey, who sit amongst the league leaders in the OHL scoring race, and solid goaltending from Andrew Engelage, the Spits have not let the 12-0-1-0 Greyhounds out of their sights. The Greyhounds sit atop the league and the West Division with 25 points, but the Spitfires are right behind them with 22 points in the same amount of games. The teams have yet to play one another, but will face off five times in the final four months of the season.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
The P.E.I. Rocket have embarked on a new direction, dismissing their coach Yanick Jean Monday morning.
The move comes after three-straight wins by the Rocket, and a 6-2 defeat of the QMJHL-leading Cape Breton Screaming Eagles Sunday. The Rocket was out-shot by a 56-22 margin during the game, but was able to come up with the win.
The victory puts the Rocket at .500 on the year, with a 7-7-1 record.
Around the QMJHL -- Jakub Voracek continued his hot hand this week, netting a goal and six assists in only three games. During that stretch, the Halifax Mooseheads won two of three games and sit second in the East Division behind only the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. For his efforts, Voracek was awarded the TELUS offensive player of the week. Voracek now has 22 points in only eight games played this season. … For the second time this season, Quebec Remparts goaltender Kevin Desfosses has won the TELUS defensive player of the week. Desfosses registered two wins in two road games, with a 1.44 GAA, and 65 saves to the tune of a .956 save percentage. The two wins bring the Remparts back to .500 hockey, and the sixth-overall position in the TELUS Division.
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