The holiday season is both a quiet and busy time for hockey.
On one hand, most junior, college and pro teams get time off from regular play for the holidays. On the other hand, there are a lot of international and other tournaments that take place over the holiday break.
HEAT LACK SPARK
The Heat went 3-7-3 in December, all of which was spent without Sven Baertschi in the line-up. Overall, the Swiss sniper has missed every game since leaving the November 30 tilt with Hamilton after taking an awkward crash into the boards.
The club hasn’t been overly “bad” during Sven’s 13-game absence, but they’ve lacked a bit of jump and dynamism. Collectively, they lost December’s games by a score of 19-35, or basically 1.5 goals for per game versus 2.7 goals against. And the team’s secondary scoring has dried up considerably – Krys Kolanos lead the club with 5 goals in the month, while Paul Byron and Roman Horak each had 3. Nobody else had more than 2 goals during that stretch.
In a search for a spark, the club recalled defender Nick Tuzzolino from Utah. Tuzzolino was up with the club late last season and was a strong offensive presence – not quite at T.J. Brodie’s level, but definitely strong for an AHL blueliner. Heat beat writer Dan Kinvig tweeted that both Baertschi and Ryan Howse practised with the team this week, so they both may be close to returning. Howse was injured in his only game with Abbotsford.
WORLD JUNIORS UPDATE
(Note – this was written prior tot he Canada/US tilt)
Five Flames are in action at the World Juniors. Up to four of them have a shot at medals.
Team USA has three Flames. Jon Gillies has played a period for the team as a back-up and allowed zero goals. Patrick Sieloff was added to the club as an extra defender after the first game and has impressed with his physicality and positioning, although he has yet to take a penalty (surprisingly). Johnny Gaudreau has caught fire since late in the round robin stage, scoring five goals and adding an assist in five games total (although all his points came in a pair of games).
Team Canada has Tyler Wotherspoon, who has a goal and an assist in four games. He was instrumental in Canada’s win over Russia, getting hammered into the boards to draw a five-minute power-play for Canada (in which they scored two goals) and he even got seven stitches when he was clipped in the cheek.
Team Finland is in the relegation round after some poor performances against some tougher teams, but Markus Granlund has nine points over five games. He’s doing quite well, even without his brother. As of writing he was second in tournament scoring.
BITS AND BITES
Without Johnny Gaudreau, Boston College split their games at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis. Bill Arnold had a goal over the weekend.
Michael Ferland returned to the Brandon Wheat Kings following the holidays and scored his first goal of the year, a game-winner, in the Wheaties’ 6-5 win over Red Deer on December 30. Since getting cut by Team Canada, Laurent Brossoit has gone 4-0-0 and allowed five goals total for the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Oil Kings are in first place in the WHL’s Eastern Conference. Swift Current’s Coda Gordon had five points (two goals, three assists) in his team’s first game back after the holidays. In three games since Christmas, he’s got five goals and three assists.
Avangard Omsk’s Karri Ramo was named the KHL’s top goaltender for the month of December. He had a 4-3-0 record with three shutouts. He has now played 31 games with 21 wins and a .926 save percentage.