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Monday, March 31, 2008

Wrigley is Wonderland!

It is chilly outside, with a light drizzle. Yet the fans of the game are gathering at the local watering holes to celebrate the start of the summer game. It has been 99 years since the local team has won the championship, the greatest championship. I know this because it is called the World Series.

As I cross the nation, Canada and overseas, I find it much easier to identify myself as living “about two miles from Wrigley Field” than in the city that the team is named for. Then there is no confusion with people in Schaumburg (home of the Flyers), Rockford (home of the Riverhawks) or Gary (home of the Steelheads) that I live in the greatest neighborhood in the world.

Like many holidays, say St. Patrick’s Day, the purpose of the day is lost. Game? What game? We are gathered to celebrate the public urination, clogged streets and drunken tourists who make my neighborhood the greatest neighborhood in the world.

That my dear wife, Jane, whose injury about ten days ago has prevented my from keeping up with my blogs in a push to do the laundry, clean-up after her cats and generally take care of her, is a hated New York Yankees fan is clearly remembered today. As she irons her perfect pinstriped jersey to wear about the house and flaunt in the windows to the tearful eyes of the children of fans whose parents’ parents’ do not remember the team’s last championship ring.

Ronnie Woo Woo is outside, his jersey freshly laundered, his arm pumping against the morning rain, cheering on the fans, who at this hour, are headed to the many well-proportioned bars lining Clark Street.

It is a day of hope and dreams in the greatest neighborhood on the planet. As the song says, Wrigley is Wonderland. Let’s Go Cubs!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Esposito scores in QJMHL series

There was a line brawl in the QMJHL game, Saturday between the Quebec Remparts and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Perhaps you saw it on NHL On the Fly. Jonathan Roy, the son of Coach Patrick Roy, left the crease to start a goalie fight with Sagueneens goalie Bobbie Nadeau. Nadeau just stood there as Roy skated up to him and started slugging away.

Then Nadeau just turtled.

The game was a route, 10-1 Sagueneens. I looked for anything that Atlanta Thrashers prospect Angelo Esposito might have added, he had scored shorthanded in the previous game, but he wasn’t a factor, although he had four shots on goal and apparently wasn’t on the ice for the brawl. The series is tied 1-1 and is sure to be reviewed by the league commissioner due to the widely reported fight in the second period.

Aliu loses 6 teeth, sends game to OT in OHL action

Chicago Blackhawks prospect Akim Aliu of the London Knights tied an Ontario Hockey League playoff game Friday with less than 27 seconds remaining. Aliu was playing through the loss of several teeth in a first period high sticking, according to a London Free Press report by Ryan Pyette, “I think it was (Drew) Doughty’s stick that came up and Akim Akiu loses six teeth,” London assistant coach Pat Curcio told the Free Press. The Guelph Storm went on to win the game in overtime.

Gophers ride Kangas into playoffs

Atlanta Thrasher’s prospect Alex Kangas is gaining major media attention for his performance in net for the Golden Gophers. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune he is in the zone and “hot.”

Tom Powers at TwinCities.com (Pioneer Press) says the only reason the Gophers have made it as far as they have is the freshman goalie. “The exhausted Gophers, playing their sixth game in nine nights, lost to Denver 2-1. The score was close… because Kangas again was sharp, stopping 32 shots,” Powers writes. “He has given up just 15 goals in his past 10 games.”

Preds recall Rinne

The Nashville Predators have recalled Pekka Rinne from the Milwaukee Admirals Sunday. The Predators list three goalies on their line-up, Dan Ellis, Chris Mason and Rinne. The loss of Rinne for any games is likely to hurt the Milwaukee Admirals, as they are currently in fifth place in the West Division, with just three points between them and the sixth-place Peoria Rivermen.

Both teams have a substantial lead on the fourth-place North Division team, the Hamilton Bulldogs and one would be able to move to the North Division for the playoffs if the season ended today.

Predators Coach Barry Trotz was quoted on the Admirals Crew discussion board as saying, “our decision now is to keep three goaltenders here.” Since losing Rinne, the MAds have been 1-1.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Crawford gets shutdown by Canes

Corey Crawford experienced another shutout Wednesday, but on the wrong side as the Chicago Blackhawks went down 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes. Crawford is expected to be assigned, again, to the Rockford IceHogs when Nikolai Khabibulin returns to the line-up or the Blackhawks end their season. However there is no sign of when Khabibulin will return. The Hawks final game of the year will probably be April 6th against the Detroit Red Wings. The IceHogs have four games to play, not including likely playoff action, after April 6.

Crawford shutout the Anaheim Ducks in his first NHL start, and stopped 44 shots on goal in a 3-1 loss against the Detroit Red Wings. The IceHogs are 4-4 since the Blackhawks recalled Crawford February 27.

IceHogs shut out Aeros 4-0

The Rockford IceHogs shutout the Houston Aeros in a game at the Toyota Center tonight. Wade Flaherty turned aside 23 shots. Four Rockford players had goals. Martin St. Pierre, Troy Brouwer and Jim Fahey each had two point nights.

The IceHogs have 80 points, tied with the San Antonio Rampage. However, the Rampage have three games in hand on the IceHogs. The Aeros loss is a cloud in a surge by the Texan team. The two teams play again on Friday.

IceHogs to fine players for minor penalties

The Rockford IceHogs lead the American Hockey League in minor penalties, according to an article by Reed Schreck in the Rockford Register Star. Mike Haviland, coach of the IceHogs, has decided that preaching to the team about not taking penalties isn’t working.

“Our stick penalties have to go down. We’ve got to get it nipped in the bud now,” Haviland said. “There’s no reason to have stick penalties in March. (Players have) got to be more disciplined; they’ve got to be smarter.” Haviland has said the team will pay unspecified fines for minor penalties.

Crombeen's hat trick, 1st Iowa home win since Feb 9

B J Crombeen is typically a physical player. Not so on Tuesday, when the Iowa Stars crushed the Lake Erie Monsters (Cleveland) 7-3, assisted by a hat trick from Crombeen. It was Crombeen’s first professional hat trick and the first home game victory by the Stars since February 9th.

MLN says Atlanta farm system is tops

The Atlanta Thrashers farm system, particularly the Chicago Wolves, were named the FAB50 farm team of the year by the Minor League News. Player development, dedicated minor league fans and a deep list of quality players were among the factors in determining that the Atlanta system is set to feed Atlanta's NHL team.

Rivermen hurt by 2-1 loss Sunday v Wolves

The Chicago Wolves defeated the Peoria Rivermen 2-1, Sunday, in a contest at the Carver Arena. It was the first time the two American Hockey League West Division foes had met since December 19th and marked the seventh game this season between the two teams.

The Rivermen, in sixth place in the West Division, were dealt a blow, today, when the St. Louis Blues assigned goalie Chris Beckford-Tseu to the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. The hopes of the team now rest with a rookie, up from the University of Maine, Ben Bishop and also Marek Schwarz.

Bishop had a 13-18 record with the Black Bears this season, with a 92.3 save percentage, which was the third best in a season for the team. His 819 season saves were fifth in Maine’s history.

Schwarz has a save percentage of 89.5, and a record of 12-11-2.

The two teams meet three more times in the next month. The Rivermen have edged the Quad City Flames for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, probably a North Division spot due to weakness in that division. Although the Rivermen lead the fourth place North Division Hamilton Bulldogs by three points with a game in hand, two surging teams are ahead of the Rivermen.

The Milwaukee Admirals, with a 7-3 record in the last ten games, have 75 points, or a three point lead, with the Rivermen having a game in hand. While the Houston Aeros, technically in fifth place, have a one-point lead and three games in hand over the Rivermen. The Aeros are also 7-3 in their last ten games.

The Rivermen play the Admirals twice in the next week, the Aeros three games in the next three weeks.

Wolves win, .1 second left, 3-2 over Bulldogs

Time expired as a puck slipped past Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Yann Danis, putting the Chicago Wolves ahead 3-2 in a contest at the Allstate Arena Wednesday. The power play goal, off the stick of Darren Haydar, marked the Wolves’ 45th win of the season, putting them in first place in the American Hockey League.

The fourth game in the current win streak, the Wolves have won 16 points in their last ten contests, which is the best current record in the Western Conference. Ondrej Pavelec goes from strength to strength. His last regulation loss was February 1 against the Milwaukee Admirals, 5-4. Pavelec who took a shot to the mask, blocked another shot with an unusual jump, and nabbed a third shot while airborne Wednesday, has shown a masterful streak and new confidence in the past month. His puck handling is in the zone.

At his back is Boris Valabik. Valabik single-handedly ate a large part of a power play against the Wolves by freezing the puck against the boards behind the opposing net for upwards of 20 seconds in a recent contest against the Iowa Stars. Two, then three opposition players ganged up on the tall 6’7” Slovakian. But Valabik was able to hold the puck against their efforts. He is having the best month since November, with +4 and a goal.

His fight with Greg Stewart, Wednesday, arranged during the intermission as Stewart and Valabik skated to their bench, showed that although he is physical, he is not a player who will depend only on his physical menace. Don’t get me wrong. Valabik held his own against Stewart. But Stewart, who is smaller and lighter than Valabik, was able to get under the big mans arms and within reach very fast. It made for a great fight. Valabik eventually was able to get a handle on Stewart, but ended up beneath him at the end.

The Wolves, with 17 games remaining in the season, need to come out strong. They need to scare every other team off the ice when the season ends in a month. And, the teams they will face in the playoffs are eager to knock them from their perch atop the standings now. Every remaining game in the Western Conference seems to hold importance to at least one team. Hamilton, for example, is in fourth place of the North Division. With an eight-point lead against the Grand Rapids Griffins and 15 games to go, that would seem to be relatively safe.

However a West Division team can take the last playoff spot provided it has more points than the fourth place North Division team at the end of the season. So, Hamilton is actually in a run against the fifth place West Division team, currently the Houston Aeros. The Aeros have 73 points and four games in hand over the Bulldogs. So, the Aeros are in a comfortable lead over the Bulldogs and may even take the fourth or third place West Division spot by the end of the season.

300th professional wins for Haviland

The 4-3 win, by the IceHogs over the Iowa Stars marked the 300th professional career win by Rockford Coach Mike Haviland.

Haviland received the 2007 Pieri Award (Outstanding AHL Coach) while coaching the Norfolk Admirals. Besides the two Chicago Blackhawks AHL affiliates, he coached the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies, which captured the Kelly Cup in his second season and the Trenton Titans which captured the Kelly Cup in the 2005 campaign. He has been coaching since the 2000 campaign.

Skille's OT hat trick beats Iowa 4-3

Jack Skille’s overtime goal, a hat trick, Sunday only gave the Rockford IceHogs a 4-3 win over the Iowa Stars. The IceHogs drilled Iowa goalie Tobias Stephan from the net, scoring two unanswered goals in the first period and change. He was replaced by Steve Silverthorn. Skille’s overtime hat trick was the first professional hat trick for the club this season and also for Skille.

The Rockford club seemed to find its feet, winning three of the last five games, although it is five in the last ten. A key game for the IceHogs is scheduled tonight when they face the surging Houston Aeros, 7-3 in the last ten games. Although the Aeros trail the third place IceHogs by seven points, the Texans have five games in hand.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Crombeen gets hat trick, Rinne gets a shut out

B J Crombeen got a hat trick and an assist in a 7-3 drubbing of the Lake Erie Monsters by the Iowa Stars in Iowa action tonight. Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, the Hamilton Bulldogs were shut out by Pekka Rinne and the Milwaukee Admirals, 3-0.

The red-hot MAds are now 7-3 in their last ten games. They lead the Houston Aeros by two points, but the Aeros have 4 games in hand on the Admirals. The Aeros are also 7-3 in their last 10 contests.

The Quad City Flames, meanwhile, are flaming out of the competition for the final playoff spots in the West Division, trailing the Peoria Rivermen by five points with a game in hand.

Skille gets 1st pro hat trick

Jack Skille earned his first professional hat trick in a 4-3 Overtime win by the Rockford IceHogs over the Iowa Stars Sunday. He also earned an assist for a four point night.

Bishop expected to start against MAds Friday

Ben Bishop has been assigned to the Peoria Rivermen and is expected to start in net against the Milwaukee Admirals Friday, according to the Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian. The 6’7”, 210 pound goalie from the University of Maine recorded 92.3 save percentage and a GAA of 2.14 last season. He is 4-7-2 in Hockey East action this season, 8-10-2 overall.

Kerr fired from Generals

The Flint Generals have fired Coach Kevin Kerr, according to a report from the Flint Journal by Brendan Savage. Kerr, the report says, lost six of the last seven games. He is one of just five Generals to have had his number retired. His overall record, Savage reports, is 60-54-20 in Flint.

Peter South, Steve Pronger and Jason Muzzatti will run the show for the remaining 18 games this season, the article says.

Atlanta Season Ticket Holders in revolt

Smirkin' Chicken, in a discussion board review of a “town hall” meeting between Atlanta Thrashers management and Season Ticket Holders, said Don Waddell was hoping to add two “top defensemen” and a top forward next season. Atlanta has suffered under a poor defense and STHs were upset not only with the Hossa trade but also a plan that offered lower priced seats for individual games under some promotions.

Waddell explained that although the team was in the hunt, at trade deadline, for a blueliner, there weren’t many offered, noting only one trade involved defensemen. Bruce Levenson apologized for not having brought a new coach in already, noting Waddell has been overworked this season. He said good coaches were not available after the season starts, as most teams do not allow their staff to talk to other teams. Waddell guaranteed a new coach next season and said it wouldn’t be him, according to the report.

A separate Atlanta Journal Constitution story quotes Levenson as saying Waddell's job is secure for the next season.

Pavelec named AHL goalie of month

Lindsay Kramer prepared a detailed profile of Chicago Wolves net minder Ondrej Pavelec for the American Hockey League website. “He's been our best player in the past month,” Kramer quotes Wolves Assistant Coach Wendell Young. “We’re a log more offensive because we have a good goalie.”

Turple assigned, again, to Griffins by Thrashers

Dan Turple has been assigned, again, by the Atlanta Thrashers to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Turple, a goalie, played for the Gwinnett Gladiators. He was assigned to the Griffins, an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, earlier in the season.

[Edit: A little more research here and we find a Holly Gunning blog entry showing a pouting Dan Turple. Gunning says, in her blog, posted on the 9th, that Turple was no longer wearing Gwinnett colors. Photos she posted show Turple in an apparently disinterested manner, contemplating the game. "I asked Jeff Pyle what all was up with Turple. He said Turps had come into his office to complain about not playing -- saying he had played only four of the last 19. Jeff reminded him that months ago he told the two goalies that whoever was winning they would run with it. Jeff said he thinks Turps is bitter..." Gunning says in her blog.]

Belfast Giants to play in Dundalk

The Belfast Giants are playing their only home game qualifier of the playoffs in Dundalk, Republic of Ireland. The blog, Giants-history.com doesn’t spell out all of the problems with this setup, one of them is that many of the supporters of the hockey club are Orange and won’t travel 60 miles into the Republic of Ireland for any reason.

“The Giants are not all to blame here. The league has refused to budge to accommodate one of its ‘arena’ teams that the league should fully understand is always battling to gain availability. I think the league has realized the Giants had an out with Dundalk and therefore refused to meet them halfway like they have done in previous years,” the blog says, “only this morning were we made aware that this was to be our final… night watching the Giants in the Odyssey... And I’m not even thinking about the possibility that we could end up moving down there.”

Ice Girls

“Vote early, vote often,” Elliott Harris of the Quick Hits column of the Chicago Sun-Times advises saying an Internet site, www.puckthathit.com is holding a poll for the best ice girls. The Blackhawks Ice Crew, shown in a Sun-Times photo HERE, are currently in second place in the online poll, according to the column.

Here’s my vote to write in the Rockford IceHogs Ice Crew, a picture of which you can find HERE.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Iowa blows by Wolves, win shootout 4-3

White hot hockey for 20 minutes. Ice cold hockey for 20 minutes and what have you got? One lousy point.

The Chicago Wolves played some of their best hockey of the year for 20 minutes, dominating the Iowa Stars for the first period of play. The power play worked, the penalty kill worked. Goalie Ondrej Pavelec snared pucks and was masterful in handling them. Then the period ended, the Wolves were up. Their foot came off the gas. The Stars blew by them. The game became tied with less than two minutes remaining. And the Wolves lost in a shoot out.

"We brought mediocrity tonight, and that is what did us in," said Wolves Head Coach John Anderson. "It doesn't matter who you play, you cannot let anyone off the hook. Our intensity level was off."

Iowa 0 1 2 0 (1) -- 4 Shootout
Chicago 1 1 1 0 (0) -- 3

First Period---1, Chicago, Motzko 22 (Schultz, Martins), 12:50 pp. Penalties---Byrne, Iowa (interference), 2:56; Vas, Iowa (slashing), 6:41; Conner, Iowa (high-sticking major), 11:31 Stuart, Chicago (interference), 16:41.

Second Period---2, Iowa, Wandell 4 (Lee, Wathier), 4:24 pp; 3, Chicago, Sterling 32 (Oystrick, Stuart), 12:00 pp. Penalties---Stuart, Chicago (slashing), 4:09; Byrne, Iowa (cross-checking), 10:28; Valabik, Chicago (roughing), 12:49; Sipotz, Chicago (tripping), 17:37.

Third Period---4, Chicago, Valabik 1 (Haydar, Krog), 0:55; 5, Iowa, Neal 12 (Lindgren, Byrne), 12:19 pp; 6, Crombeen 9 (Lindgren, Pushkarev), 18:45. Penalties---Jancevski, Iowa (roughing), 1:52; Sterling, Chicago (slashing), 1:52; Doell, Chicago (interference), 4:53; Pushkarev, Iowa (hooking), 6:48; Doell, Chicago (cross-checking), 10:31.

Overtime---None. Penalties---Graham, Iowa (cross-checking), 2:57.

Shootout---Iowa 1 (Sertich, NG; Lindgren, G; Neal, NG; Vas, NG). Chicago 0 (Krog, NG; Haydar, NG; Schultz, NG; Motzko, NG; Sterling, NG).

Shots on goal---Iowa: 8-13-15-0-1--37. Chicago: 12-8-7-2-0--29. Power plays---Iowa: 2-6. Chicago: 2-7. Goalies---Iowa, Stephan (26-29). Chicago, Pavelec (33-36). A---6,131. Referee---Kyle Rehman. Linesmen---Roger Behling and Peter Cichy.

Pollard: Wolves hurt Atlanta

Dan Pollard attacks the Atlanta Thrasher’s relationship with the Chicago Wolves in a TSN column Friday. “The Chicago Wolves hockey team is an independently owned organization. It doesn't have to worry about playing Atlanta systems. It's not Thrasher development first. They play Wolves hockey. They don't have to be on the same page,” Pollard starts off.

“Head coach John Anderson isn't an employee of the Thrashers. That too is unique.” Pollard states, “his agenda is different. He's got to win for his bosses who aren't a parent NHL club. It's not that he looks to derail Atlanta's development plans. It's just that the best guy gets the ice time and the Wolves won't eat their own. That's the structure.”

QC Flames look to the future and see Mallards

The Quad City Flames are looking to the future. They think they see more Mallards according to the story in QCOnline by Jeff Wendland. A new CEO is taking charge of the club, Neil Bossola. Bossola is quoted as saying he believes in using the past as part of the future success.

Bossola predicted the staff of the hockey club would double to twelve or even more, “we need to look at 15 to 20 full-time staff members.”

Aliu suspended for fight in Sudbury

The Ontario Hockey League suspended Akim Aliu, the Chicago Blackhawks prospect, this week for his attack on Sudbury Wolves blue liner Chris VanLaren late in the third period of play last Friday.

The action, which was described previously in the blog, received new attention in the London Free Press and the Sudbury Star when the league gave Aliu an indefinite suspension. Aliu, currently with the London Knights, could be lost for 20 games, according to the reports. That would significantly effect the Knights chances of winning the OHL title. Aliu is ranked second on the Knights in terms of points, with 26 goals and 32 assists in 58 games.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Akim Alou returns to Sudbury

This was great sports writing in the Sudbury Star, allowing us a peak into the personality of Akim Aliu, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect who has been troubled by allegations of temper control:

“Akim Aliu responded to two third period cross-checks (typical stick action in the corner of a close game that did get penalized) by Wolves d-man Chris VanLaren by whipping around and smoking VanLaren with one of the most eye-popping right hands I’ve every seen in a hockey game. That first, completely unexpected punch under the visor started VanLaren on his fall to the ice and Aliu followed it with a few more on the way down and jumped on VanLaren in attempt to finish the job before he was hauled off by officials.”

Monday, March 03, 2008

How much for Angelo?

The deal that sent Marrian Hossa to Pittsburgh and prospect Angelo Esposito into the Atlanta Thrashers camp is being debated everywhere. It was the big deal of the trade day. Since being traded, Esposito, who had his best year in juniors the first year, has had three goals and seven assists in three games, his best week of the season. According to the Blueland Blog, if he doesn't make the Thrashers out of camp, he'll be back in the Q for another season.

SI vid of newest Hanson

Baumgartner in Moose for playoff run

Teebz and his blog Hockey Blog in Canada have appeared here before. He has a long piece on the return of Nolan Baumgartner to the Manitoba Moose. It's the type of piece that defines the AAAA (four A) player.

Flames win shootout in Winnipeg. 17th SO this year for team

The Quad City Flames split a two-game series in Manitoba over the weekend, including taking a shootout on Saturday. The shootout was the 17th in the season for the Flames, an American Hockey League record. The Flames are 10-7 in the shootout. It was the second shootout against the Moose this season, the team has had three shootouts against the San Antonio Rampage and the Peoria Rivermen, going 1-2 in each.

Bruins Western road trip brings new element to race

The first-place Providence Bruins invaded the West Division over the weekend. Friday, the Bruins visited the Milwaukee Admirals. The Admirals dropped the game 3-1 on a faltering offense. Outshot by a ratio of more than 3:2, only a power play goal by Alexander Sulzer was able to keep the MAds from being shutout.

The next team to come under the Bruins guns was the Rockford IceHogs. The Hogs, who have been under playing lately, won a very rough game 5-1. 213 penalty minutes were awarded in this game, generating 9 different power plays. Rockford was able to convert two of the six power plays for goals, while the Bruins were unable to convert any of their advantages to goals.

In fact, the Bruins were almost shutout by the Hogs, scoring with just 14 seconds remaining. The list of penalties given out at the 4:56 mark of the third period is astounding. This was basically a line brawl, with a goalie getting involved: 125 minutes for ten players, creating, sadly, not one, not even one Gordie Howe hat trick. Howe sad.
And, where was the fifth Bruin player in this mayhem? What happened to Mike Brodeur that he didn’t step out to tell Jordan Sigalet to sit down and shut up? Does anyone there want to comment on this?

According to the IceHogs, the 213 penalty minutes is a franchise record for the season. Congratulations!

From Rockford, the beat-up Bruins made their way to Chicago for the showdown with the second-place Chicago Wolves. The Wolves took the Bruins 4-1, with an empty net, power play goal capping the loss for the Bruins.

All three West Division teams are looking at the Bruins as a possible opponent in post-season play. The loss by the MAds was disheartening. This was a game against a fresh Bruins, and the MAds fans got to see the Bruins in a condition as close to what we’ll see in post-season as any team.

For the Hogs and the Wolves, it was an opportunity to dominate an Atlantic division team in a tired state. Particularly for the Wolves, this was a must win game. If the result had been different, serious questions would arise about the post-season Wolves.

At the end of the weekend, Chicago ended tied in points with the Bruins. However an earlier point from a visit to Providence and the dominating game in Chicago should put the Wolves in the lead. In the West Division, the Hogs have sometimes been in first place and sometimes in second. They are now 3-6-1 in their previous ten games. Still effected by call-ups to the Chicago Blackhawks, the best hope for the Hogs is the promise of another early end to the Blackhawks season.

Two points back lie the San Antonio Rampage. The SAR have made a great run for second place in the last few weeks. They are 4-3-3 in the last ten games. A visit from the Wolves last week ended in a split and the Rampage haven’t played since. Their next game is against the Bruins, later this week.

The Milwaukee Admirals took advantage of a Chicago Wolves effort to give Ondrej Pavelec a rest in anticipation of the Bruins game, picking up two points and embarrassing the Wolves at home. However they’ve fallen behind the Peoria Rivermen in points, and the Rivermen, who took four points over the weekend, have a game in hand.

Riverman Martin Kariya, BTW, scored three points in the 4-3 win on Sunday over the IceHogs.

Houston hasn’t played since February 27th. The next game for them is against Providence on Tuesday. They have a nine game home stand, which ends with a trip to SAR, then two more games at home. Almost the entire month of March, in other words, is played at home. The Aeros have 67 points, tied for sixth place and just three points behind the fourth place Rivermen, with three games in hand.

No discussion of the West would be complete with a look at the fourth-place North Division team. As noted before, the fifth-place West Division team may move to the North Division in the playoffs, if the West Division team has more points at the end of the regular season. The Syracuse Crunch are on a three game roll. As a result, the Crunch have made it more difficult for the West Division team to move over. Still, the advantage is with the West. The fifth-place Milwaukee Admirals have two points and a game in hand over the Crunch. The sixth-place Aeros are two points behind the Crunch with five games in hand over the Crunch. Likewise, the seventh-place Flames are two points behind the Crunch with two games in hand.

Predictions are always dicey and interesting. Given the current status, the next few weeks should see the Aeros and the Rampage making a run. The Wolves should solidify their first place position.

In the West, we’ve never seen much of the Atlantic Division teams. They like to stay close to home. The road trips this week of the Hartford Wolf Pack to Texas and the Providence Bruins to the Midwest and Texas will demonstrate their ability to play in the post season.

Nystrom strip tease captures the spirit of the thing

Ned Bradon’s strip-tease was recreated by Quad City Flames Eric Nystrom during a fund raiser for children’s vaccines. “We’ve got the jersey-off-our-back night the end of March, so he’s set the bar high,” Robyn Regehr told Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun.

According to the story, Nystron started replicated the start of the infamous scene from the movie Slap Shot, taking off everything by his shirt, shorts, skates and socks. The website You Tube has the result here. Nystrom told the Calgary Sun he saw the result once and is proud of the result, “it was for a good cause, so I’ll do something stupid for that.”

Here are two You Tube posting of the act.