There’s no CBA. The situation sucks, but fear not. There is still hockey to enjoy. All but two Flames prospects are in action this weekend, with Matthew Deblouw’s Michigan State Spartans and Coda Gordon’s Swift Current Broncos getting a break.
As for everyone else? Here’s the weekly rundown.
HEAT AND GRIZZLIES
The Abbotsford Heat are deep down in the heart of Texas for three games in three nights and are looking to bounce back from a disappointing effort against Toronto last time out. Despite this loss, the Heat are second in the entire AHL (and have games in hand on Charlotte, the #1 team) with a 10-2-1-2 record. Sven Baertschi (14 points), Ben Walter and Ben Street (13 points) lead the offensive pack for Abbotsford, while Barry Brust and Danny Taylor each have 4 wins and are excellent goalies.
They play in Cedar Park against the Texas Stars (Dallas’ farm team) on Friday night at 6:30pm MT. The Stars are 6-7-0-1, twelfth in the AHL’s Western Conference. Cody Eakin leads Texas in scoring with 11 points, while Cristopher Nilstorp has emerged as the club’s starting netminder.
On Saturday, they shuffle on over to San Antonio to play the Rampage (Florida’s affiliate) at 6pm MT. San Antonio boasts a 4-8-0-2 record and have the worst record in the league. Drew Shore (11 points) and former Heat standout Jon Rheault (10 points) lead the Rampage in scoring, while Dov Grumet-Morris and Jacob Markstrom have tandemed in net so far.
And the weekend finishes off on Sunday when they head to Houston to take on the Aeros (the Baby Wild) at 4:05pm MT. Houston is 7-6-1-2 and are basically in the middle of the AHL pack. Jason Zucker and Justin Fontaine each have 13 points for Houston, while Matt Hackett (4-5-2, 3.14 GAA) has played in 12 of Houston’s 16 games to-date.
Deep down in the ECHL, the Utah Grizzlies host the Alaska Aces on Friday and Saturday.
Ryan Culkin (20 points in 22 games) and the Quebec Remparts (18-5-0-0, third in the Q) play twice this weekend. They host the Sherbrooke Phoenix on Friday and then visit the Chicoutimi Sagueneens on Sunday.
In the OHL, Patrick Sieloff (9 points in 24 games) and the 9-10-1-4 Windsor Sptifres also play twice, but they don’t have to do any travelling. They welcome the Saginaw Spirit on Friday and the Kingston Frontenacs on Sunday. Both of these clubs have similar records as the Spits, and similarly boring team nicknames. Seriously, “the Spirit”?
Back west in the Dub, there is a lot of hockey. Laurent Brossoit continues his quest to impress Hockey Canada as his 14-5-2-2 Edmonton Oil Kings host Moose Jaw on Friday and Medicine Hat (sans Hunter Shinkaruk) on Saturday.
The Portland Winterhawks (18-4-1-0) are excellent. It happened quietly, but Tyler Wotherspoon became a very capable defender as part of that Portland team. He has 18 points and a WHL-leading plus-27 rating this year. That said, the Winterhawks have 10 guys that are plus-10 or better. They score a lot. Portland hosts the lowly Kootenay Ice on Friday, then visits Seattle on Saturday.
Red Deer (13-11-1-1) is on a roll since Brent Sutter returned as coach, winning three straight. Captain (and Flames signee) Turner Elson is now also the team’s leading scorer (with 16 points in 19 contests). The Rebels face Lethbridge on Friday and Moose Jaw on Saturday.
Vancouver (7-16-0-0) is bad, or at least under-performing. Brett Kulak has 14 points in 23 games and is somehow fourth in team scoring, but is also a horrible minus-13. The Giants battle the very-good Kamloops Blazers on Saturday and will likely be demolished.
Boston College (9-1-0) gets into non-conference action against those jerks from Dartmouth College on Saturday in Boston. Dartmouth’s teams are called the Big Green, which I find hilarious. Anyhoo, Johnny Gaudreau is tied for the conference lead in scoring with 14 points, and is a serious Hobey Baker contender and a fine, fine young man. Bill Arnold is older than Gaudreau, but still also a fine young man and a good hockey player. For all the Gaudreau talk, Arnold has 11 points and is tied for fifth in conference scoring.
Providence College (5-5-1) is also in non-conference play, visiting those Ivy League stuffed-shirts at Brown University on Saturday to play the Bears. Yes, the Brown Bears. Hilarious. Mark Jankowski had a big game last weekend, busting out three points, and now he has 7 points and is fourth in conference freshman scoring. Jon Gillies remains the Friars’ main man in the nets, and he’s among the goaltending leaders.
Continuing the non-conference trend, Notre Dame (8-3-0) visits North Dakota to play the team formerly known as the Fighting Sioux on Friday and Saturday. Nick Larson has 2 points in 11 games this year and is a dude on this team.
Finally, big-time college team captain John Ramage (0 points) leads Wisconsin (1-5-2) into battle against Minnesota State, one of a handful of teams that actually have a worse conference record than the Badgers. Seriously, I’m amazed that a team with a single win has more points than anybody, but there are four of them. Go Badgers!
Karri Ramo and Avangard Omsk (19-6-2-1) have a busy weekend. First, they play their conference’s worst team, Avtomobilist, who have won four games, on Friday night. Yes, Avangard has won 19 games (between regulation, shootouts and overtime) and Avtomobilist has won four. On Sunday, Avangard plays Traktor, who are tied with them in points but have played fewer games. Clash of the titans!
Roman Cervenka hopes to get HC Lev Praha (11-13-1-2) rolling. They play the resilient Yaroslavl Lokomotiv on Friday night. Lokomotiv is very good.
In SM-Liiga, HIFK Helsinki (9-8-1-3) tangles with KalPa on Saturday. Joni Ortio remains a very good goalie, but Markus Granlund has 12 points this year and generally seems like he misses his big brother. Then again, he’s still only 19 and will get better.
Finally, Mikael Backlund has 24 points in 14 games in Sweden’s secondary league. His club, VIK Vasteras plays Tingsryds AIF on Saturday. Vasteras has a 9-5-0-1 record so far.