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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Guest scouting report: Ads v Bears

Matt moderates the excellent discussion board MooseHockey.com. Here he previews the Milwaukee Admirals versus Hershey Bears Calder Cup Finals. Thanks Matt!

Milwaukee Admirals: 49-21-6-4 (4th overall, 1st in West)


Hershey Bears: 44-21-5-10 (7th overall, 2nd in East)

Season Series: 0-0-0-0

All-Time Series: 1-0-1-0 (Milwaukee)

Playoffs: 12-3 (Milwaukee) - 12-3 (Hershey)

Milwaukee Affiliation: Nashville Predators

Hershey Affiliation: Washington Capitals

All-Time Recaps:

Nov 23rd 2002: Milwaukee 3 Hershey 3 (@ Hershey)
Mar 26th 2003: Milwaukee 4 Hershey 1 (@ Milwaukee)

Milwaukee veterans: Simon Gamache, Greg Classen, Sheldon Brookbank, Steve Lingren & Rick Berry

Hershey veterans: Kris Beech, Boyd Kane, Mark Wotton, Colin Forbes & Lawrence Nycholat

Milwaukee Admirals playoff history:

The Milwaukee Admirals have qualified for the post season for the 4th time in their 5 year AHL history

Number of individual series won: 8 Number of individual series lost: 2

Games won: 31 Games lost: 19

Calder Cups: 1 (2004) Losing finalist: 0

Overtime games: 4-1

Hershey Bears playoff history:

The Hershey Bears have qualified for the post season for the 57th time in their 68 year history

Number of individual series won: 54 Number of individual series lost: 48

Games won: 256 Games lost: 233

Calder Cups: 8 (Most recent-1997) Losing finalists: 10 (Most recent-1986)

Overtime games: 44-43


Milwaukee and Hershey meet for the first time in the playoffs; previously the two teams have only met twice. That was during the 02-03 season. The teams have changed considerably since then, only current Admirals players to play against Hershey during 02-03 was Darren Haydar and Greg Classen. This is Milwaukee's second trip to the Calder Cup Finals in three seasons, having swept Wilkes-Barre four games to none in the championship series in 2004. Current Admirals Haydar, Classen, Scottie Upshall, Simon Gamache, Brian Finley, Nathan Lutz, Greg Zanon, Brandon Segal and Libor Pivko including head coach Claude Noel (03-04 coach of the year) were part of the 2004 championship team. Hershey's last trip to the Calder Cup came back in 1997 where they defeated the Hamilton Bulldogs four games to one to win there 8th Calder Cup title. Included in that team is current Admiral defenseman Steve Lingren, although he only played 12 games. Milwaukee has defeated Iowa (4-3), Houston (4-0) & Grand Rapids (4-0) to get to the Finals. Hershey swept Norfolk (4-0), Wilkes-Barre (4-0) before downing the Portland Pirates (4-3). Hershey became only the second team in AHL history to start the Calder Cup playoffs a perfect 10-0. This marks the Bears 19th trip to the finals. Milwaukee claimed the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as the Western Conference Champions while Hershey claimed the Richard F. Canning Trophy as the Eastern Conference Champions. Milwaukee is 4-0 all-time in Calder Cup finals games while Hershey is 52-48. The last two Calder Cup finals have resulted in sweeps (Milwaukee over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4-0 in 2004 and Philadelphia over Chicago 4-0 in 2005). Milwaukee is coming off a 5-4 win over Grand Rapids and will have had a nine day break in between games.

Upfront Milwaukee is led by Darren Haydar and Simon Gamache. Gamache finished second to Haydar in playoff scoring in 2004. Haydar is 20th overall in Calder Cup playoff scoring history with 66 points in 50 games (29+37) while Gamache is not far behind ranking 21st on the all-time list with 65 points (29+36) in 53 games. Haydar and Gamache have combined for 50 points this post season. The other 25 players to appear in at least one playoff game have combined for 90 points. Greg Classen is third on the team in scoring, after winning the cup in 2004 he played a season in Finland before returning to Milwaukee. Scottie Upshall (48th overall, THN Future Watch) and Jordin Tootoo have been big contributors since coming down from Nashville. Libor Pivko had a career year but is currently injured. 2005-2006 CHL MVP Alexander Radulov is expected to be signed to an ATO after leading his Quebec team to the Memorial Cup. Milwaukee’s top line consists of Greg Classen centering Darren Haydar and Simon Gamache. Hershey is led upfront by former Admiral Kris Beech who played for Milwaukee earlier in the season. Former Moose Jaw Warrior Tomas Fleischmann leads the team in playoff scoring; coming off a tough rookie campaign in Portland in 04-05 he produced 30 goals this season. He even played 14 games with Washington. Veteran winger Boyd Kane won a Calder Cup with Philadelphia last season, he was captain. Centre Brook Laich played 73 games with Washington this season and is having an impressive post season. Fifth year pro Graham Mink is playing in the post season for only the second time in his career and is making the most of it. AHL All-Star and former Brandon Wheat King Eric Fehr (30th overall, THN Future Watch) had a strong regular season but is a streaky player and is finding it tough to draw into the line-up in the post season but scored two big goals in there game seven win over Portland. Graham Mink and Tomas Fleischmann recorded at least a point in all seven games.

Defensively Milwaukee is led by Kevin Klein who has proved his worth to the Nashville organisation having a great sophomore season. His play has continued into the post season. Klein helped lead the Guelph Storm to the Memorial Cup in 2004, although did not win the tournament. Greg Zanon has provided great leadership in just his third pro season out of Nebraska-Omaha. He had a career year offensively while improving his all around defensive game. Steve Lingren was signed towards the end of the season to help fill out the defense, he spent most of the season with Victoria (ECHL) and has put up good numbers. Ryan Parent (67th overall, THN Future Watch) was signed to an ATO a few weeks ago but has just recently been drawing into the line-up and is proving his worth. Shea Weber (4th overall, THN Future Watch) has been Milwaukee's top d-man this post season, the offensively gifted blueliner spent 28 games with Nashville and even potting a pair of goals in in four playoff games with the Preds. Hershey are led by AHL all rookie team Mike Green, who is the leading scorer amongst Bears blueliners. The former Saskatoon Blade has spent 22 games with Washington this season. Veterans Lawrence Nycholat and Mark Wotton both have plenty of playoff experience. Former Moose Tyler Sloan was recently signed to a PTO. Former Caps first round pick Jeff Schultz has made a smooth transition to the pro game since signing an ATO. He signed the ATO when the Calgary Hitmen was eliminated from the playoffs.

In goal, Milwaukee is led by North American pro rookie Pekka Rinne. Rinne is 8-0 since coming down from Nashville and is a major reason why Milwaukee is in the Calder Cup Finals. This is the second straight season a team with a Finnish goalie is in the finals and third in the past five. During his time in Nashville he played two regular season games, mainly serving as Chris Mason's back-up. Rinne has a good chance to win the back-up job in Nashville next season. Rinne was taken 258th overall in 2004 out of Karpat in Finland where he played three seasons including 77 games. During the regular season with Milwaukee he went 30-18-2. Rinne's back-up is former first round pick Brian Finley, Finley started as the number one goalie in the first round against Iowa while Rinne was up with the Preds. Finley then injured his groin forcing ECHL call-up Jake Moreland to play two games including the decisive game seven. Finley was current Moose goalie Wade Flaherty’s back-up when Milwaukee won the cup in 2004. In goal for Hershey is Frederic Cassivi. Cassivi led the AHL in wins during the regular season and has had a superb post season including four shutouts. Cassivi was part of the 2002 Chicago Wolves team which won the Calder Cup. He split time with Pasi Nurminen and Norm Maracle. He played in one NHL game this season with Washington, a 4-3 loss to New Jersey on November 11th 2005. Cassivi was named the top goaltender for the month of February 2005, while he was a member of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks last season and led all goalies with 10 shutouts. His back-up is Kirk Daubenspeck, a seventh round draft pick (151st overall) by Philadelphia in 1992. He has spent the majority of his career in the ECHL. He has just one AHL playoff game to his credit back in 2000 with Rochester.

Notes: Hershey has eight former first round draft picks in their line-up: Kris Beech (7th overall 1999), Dave Steckel (30th overall 2001), Boyd Gordon (17th overall 2002), Mike Green (29th overall 2004), Eric Fehr (18th overall 2003), Jeff Schultz (27th overall 2003), Jakub Klepis (16th overall 2002) and Jonas Johansson (28th overall 2002). Milwaukee has three; Scottie Upshall (6th overall 2002), Brian Finley (6th overall 1999) and Ryan Parent (18th overall 2005). Milwaukee d-man and Manitoba native Rick Berry is a former Hershey Bear, playing parts of three seasons from 1998-2001. Milwaukee d-man Steve Lingren is a former Bear 1996-1998. Current Bear Kris Beech played 48 games with Milwaukee this season, putting up 50 points, before Nashville traded him to Washington. Beech played for Wilkes-Barre in 03-04 and against the same Milwaukee team in the Calder Cup finals before going down 4-0. The past four playoff MVP’s have been goaltenders; Nurminen-02, Holmqvist-03, Flaherty-04 and Niittymaki-05.

A shrinking UHL

The Championship season for hockey is drawing to a close. First, congratulations to the Alaska Aces, winner of the Kelly Cup in a 4-1 series victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators. It is hard to argue with sold-out crowds and an outstanding series victory.

The series in Toledo, which was the outstanding roadtrip of the season, allowed me to see several future Wolves on the ice. I’m primed for next season. Congratulations too, then to the Gladiators, who reached the finals for the first time.

Other notes, the UHL Colonial Cup goes to a local team: the Kalamazoo K-Wings in a 4-1 series victory over the Danbury Trashers. Sadly the UHL is undergoing a shattering number of teams leaving the league.

This is all being prettied up by the UHL as a retrenching of the league into the Midwest. The Richmond River Dogs moving to Hoffman Estates to become the Chicago Hounds; the Fraser City, Mich. Motor City Mechanics closing for a year, the (Glen Falls, NY) Adirondack Frostbite in danger of folding, which in turn threatens the second-place Danbury, Conn. Trashers and the Elmira, NY Jackals, as the travel budgets could not take trips to the next closest teams, about 400 miles west.

The St. Charles, Missouri River Otters are shopping for “investors” or will also pull out of the next season. The Moline, Ill. Quad City Mallards underwent a bruising front office battle that is discussed HERE. Plus, the website ArenaDigest.com noted that the Rockford Ice Hogs are unprofitable. The only bright spots are the new Bloomington, Ill. Prairie Thunder, the outstanding attendance at Fort Wayne, Ind. Komets games and the new Sears Center built for the Chicago Hounds.

While a retrench of the team makes sense, there is a nice tight geographic group in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, it is not encouraging that so many UHL teams have such a short life.

Other notes: The NBA Cleveland Cavs purchased the rights to the AHL Utah Grizzlies and will move the franchise, pending approval, to Cleveland. After all the Cleveland fans went through, it is great that a local group is taking control. AHL hockey is back in Cleveland in the 2007-8 season.

The World Cup of Hockey finished several weeks ago. It goes almost unnoticed in North America, but is the BIG hockey tournament in the rest of civilization. The top teams: GOLD Sweden, SILVER Czech Republic, BRONZE Finland. Here are the rest of the standings: 4th Canada, 5th Russia, 6th Belarus and
7th United States. In total 16 teams were ranked. And the North American game continues to battle for the dominance it once had.

Another key championship is the juniors Memorial Cup, held each year on the Queen’s Birthday. This year saw Moncton, New Brunswick, the home team, battle in the final with the Quebec Remparts. Congratulations to the Remparts for winning. Congratulations too to Moncton. It’s a long way to the Atlantic, but I heard they threw a heck of a party in Moncton.

A key player may come out of the Memorial Cup: Alexander Radulov was named CHL Player of the year. He may join Milwaukee in the Calder Cup Final, filling in one of the lines! There's a good discussion of him HERE.

Before we take a side trip to Milwaukee, however, there is a report on the Wolfkeeper site, citing the Hockey News, that Harry Dumas is not being given a contract for the next season. We’ll miss Harry and his immaturity… No, we actually won’t. See ya’ later Harry. I’m sure you’ll get references from the teams. Harry was written about HERE.

Radulov will be the last player to join the Calder Cup race. The Portland Pirates gave the Hershey Bears a scare when they brought three NHL players from the completed Anaheim Mighty Ducks season to Hershey, Penn. for the game seven conclusion of the Eastern Conference. Center Ryan Getzlaf, left wing Dustin Penner and right wing Corey Perry joined for eight points in the playoffs. A good effort, but not enough to upset the Hershey Bears win.

So, it comes down to the Bears versus the Admirals. The Ads of course have been amazing: nine games in a row, just slaying their opponents. As I said in the previous post, they have surprised me. But here is a wonderful note about the Bears run: the first opponent was the Norfolk Admirals. How many teams have met teams with the same name twice in a league championship? What happened? I wish Bob Howard was around to tell us!

Second, opponent, Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins and the third opponent was the Portland Pirates. How many teams have met this many nautically themed teams? There are only four other teams like this in the AHL, the Peoria Rivermen, the Lowell Lock Monsters, the Albany River Rats and the Cleveland Barons (associated with the San Jose Sharks and they use a shark in their logo.).

I’m giving my nod to the Hershey Bears in six. Not only have they done well for me in the post-season pickem’s, I sense they want it more and have had a harder schedule to the top. But the Ads have surprised me and surprised me again, and then, again… We go to the game tonight at the Bradley Center. Go Bears.