Social Icons

twitterfacebookgoogle pluslinkedinrss feedemail


Hockey Challenge 2014

Recent Articles


8th Round

Seattle selects their first goaltender of the Bantam draft... getting Goalie Jared D'Amico of Calgary, AB. Listed at 5'6" and 130 lbs. That is a small goaltender... but nobody ever said he couldn't grow a little or a lot between now and 2 or 3 years from now.

D'Amico played for the Okotoks Oilers of the AMBHL. He was not among the leaders in goaltending for the South Division (looks like the Oilers weren't very good so it may not have been his fault) so his stats are not listed. I'm sure the Tbirds will have them available in just a moment.

7th Round

Seattle selected defensemen John Dora from Erie, CO., listed at 6'2" and 175 lbs.

Dora played last season for the Colorado Thunderbirds Bantam AAA team, playing 59 games and scoring 4 goals with 16 assists to go with 52 PIMs and a +48 rating.

Good size... little bit of scoring... don't know much about him after that.

6th Round

Seattle finally selects a defensemen with their pick here in the 6th round and it is Evan Wardley of Vulcan, AB who goes 6'3", 186 lbs. Playing for the Lethbridge Bantam AAA Val Matteotti Golden Hawks (cut and paste is a beautiful thing).

Big D-men are never a bad idea... especially if they have an ounce of skating ability.

Wardley was selected to play in the Alberta Cup with the South Senators.

5th Round

Seattle selects another forward... this time it is Jayson Ness from Drayton Valley, AB

Took me a while but I found him....

Jayson played last season for the Leduc Bantam AAA Oil Kings. He is listed at 5'9", 165 lbs. and plays Right Wing. His stats are not listed as he was not in the leaders for the North division of the AMBHL which means he had less than 25 points.

Edit: Tbirds just posted his stats, 29 games, 5 goals, 17 assists, 123 PIMs

Looks like he probably has a brother named Jordan Ness.

Ness has also competed in competition "steer riding" in the past... I'm going to guess he's a pretty tough kid.

Now they have a short break between the 5th and 6th Rounds.

4th Round

Tbirds don't have a 4th round pick... it was traded to Prince Albert....

I "think" this was in the trade for Devon LeBlanc last year... someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

3rd Round

Seattle selects Jetlan Houcher (sweet name) - Left Wing - 5'11", 164 lbs.

Houcher played for the Lloydminster Universal Heat Bantam AAA team this season and has some really, really good stats.

In 33 games played he scored 50 times to go with 19 assists and only 28 PIMs. On some message boards I see people saying some really nice things about this kid being a tremendous athlete and student with some really nice potential.

Tbirds stay offensive with a kid who looks like a pure goal scorer. Makes me wonder if the hockey staff thinks they their current defensemen can get the job done in the next couple of years.

Draft Day coverage...

Welcome to draft day.... always an exciting day for any hockey fan but probably not as exciting as other drafts as I'm sure 99% of us have never seen any of these kids play, including myself. Credit Alan Caldwell with the stats.

1st Round - Brandon Troock - Right Wing, 6'0" 160 lbs

Troock is from Edmonton and has been playing for the Bantam AAA Edmonton CAC (Canadian Athletic Club) team.

In 44 total games with CAC this season, Troock tallied 29 goals, 30 assists and exactly 100 PIMs.

2nd Round - Justin Hickman - Center, 6'0", no weight

Hickman (whoa I almost just typed Hickey... we wish) played for the Kelowna Jr. Rockets this past season and the only stats Caldwell has show him with 13 games played, 5 goals, 2 assists and 20 PIMs.

So at this point Seattle is going offensive heavy with their first two picks.


Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner - Part 4

Last installment of my Q and A with Coach Sumner. I've been following the playoffs and it seems that we are on course for a Vancouver-Calgary finals. I think Kelowna has been impressive but I also think their road to the Western Finals has not been nearly as tough as Vancouver after Spokane gave the Giants all they could handle in Round 2.

I'll be taking a break for a while after today... I will post if anything good comes up but otherwise I need a bit of a break to recharge the writing batteries.

Hope you guys enjoy....

Hunnex - All teams go through injuries throughout the course of the season... but the injuries to Nielsen, Rai and Richard late in the season seemed to have a big impact on the team. How much do you think that affected the team at the end of the season?

Sumner - Nielsen directly affected us because we never got him back. With Rai and Richard it’s a little tougher to measure the toll we paid. Rai had a high ankle sprain and showed a lot of character by being ready to go by playoff time. He played well for us in playoffs but I don’t believe that he was healthy enough to be at his absolute best. Richard had finger surgery and played through much discomfort. Off the ice he wore a brace on his hand to straighten his finger right through playoffs. Similar to Rai, I don’t believe David was healthy enough to play at his highest level and this led to a disappointing season for him in the end.

We had four 19 –year-old forwards and with these three all out at the same time it gave a number of younger guys an opportunity to play. This gives us a much more experienced group leading into this season than might have been the case and this could prove to be the “silver lining” in those injuries.

Hunnex - You have some veteran, experienced, former NHL players in Turner Stevenson and Jim McTaggart behind the bench with you. Talk about the experience and wisdom that each one brings to the table for your coaching staff.

Sumner - Turner and Jim are both a pleasure to work with and have many great qualities that give us a balanced coaching staff. We all share the same philosophy of how the game should be played and that all involved must learn to put the team first. I encourage input and gather ideas from both on a regular basis as we prepare game to game throughout the season.

Turner played many years in the NHL and knows first hand what it takes to get there and then stay there. Even today he is an example for our players from a physical fitness standpoint. He demands a lot out of our players with conditioning and he’s usually right along side of them doing the hard work himself. He has instant credibility as a Stanley Cup winner and has much to offer our guys as hockey players trying to earn a chance at a pro career. He makes it very clear that there is no substitution for hard work.

Jim is a great communicator. He is very good at captivating our players as his audience while telling stories that seem to be going down one path only to nail you between the eyes with the point he was trying to make right at the end. He gives complicated issues clarity, and the players always feel that he is on their side. Jim demands a tough brand of hockey because it’s the only way to play the game in his mind. It’s what he grew up with, and what got him to the NHL.

Hunnex - Any lead on your Captain for next season?

Sumner - I won’t announce my decision quite this early because we don’t have a finalized picture as to what our team will even look like at this point. We know we had a tremendous leadership group that graduated and there will be some huge opportunities for a new group to move into these roles.

I have a good idea who will be captain but the supporting cast of assistant captains will be very important to this year’s team. We will start the season and see who all did the hard work to prepare and then select our assistants from the guys that distinguish themselves from the start of the season.


Many thanks again to Coach Sumner and Ian Henry with the Thunderbirds for making this happen.

I hope everyone enjoyed reading this year and I sincerely thank everyone for reading. Enjoy the summer...


Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner - Part 3

Here is Part 3 of my Q and A with Coach Sumner. I have one more installment that I will post tomorrow.

Hunnex - The team seemed to be most successful at home when they were able to get their checking game going and that seemed to be a difficult thing to replicate in the two playoff games at home. Is that more of a credit to Spokane for being a tough team to hit? or might fatigue have been a factor?

Sumner - I agree that we were most effective when we were able to use our speed to play physical. There are several factors as to why it was hard to accomplish against Spokane in games three and four.

Physical play on the forecheck generally stems from decisions made with the puck in the neutral zone. In Spokane for games one and two we were automatic in the neutral zone with our puck decisions. If we outnumbered them (which isn’t often against Spokane) we would carry the puck in, use our speed off the rush, and try to generate an attack to the net. If we didn’t outnumber them, the puck would not only be dumped in but it would be placed with purpose where we could get to it first or where we could be physical and win the puck.

We were very much on task on the road and weren’t nearly as good with this at home. We tried to stretch the boundaries with carrying the puck in and that is playing with fire against a good team. It led to preventable turnovers, which leads to less possession time in the offensive zone, which leads to a shift in or lack of momentum. Combine this with less opportunity to make their defence pay a price physically and it leaves us with less edge to our game. I don’t think fatigue was a factor, yes it’s hard work and demanding physically but I believe this to be more of a mental test than a physical one.

Hunnex - Talk a little bit about Calvin Pickard. I think most fans don't truly and fully understand and appreciate how impressive his play was this season as a 16 year old. Very few 16 year old players make a big impact in this league and even fewer 16 year old goaltenders wind up being #1 goaltenders and leading a team into the playoffs.

Sumner - Calvin earned and achieved all of his successes all season long. He’s a great goalie and teammate and he has a tremendous future in the game. I could write all day about him because I have a well earned admiration for him as a person and a goalie. He has the perfect mind set for a goaltender. He is very focused on playing yet he remains calm and on task.

He had a few tough experiences this year that weren’t even his fault that would have been too much to handle for many other young players. He always followed those tough nights up with efforts that were truly inspiring for our team. Keep in mind he also plays the most unforgiving position. As a coach I always felt very confident with Calvin in our net. He puts the team first and is loved by his teammates.

Our conference had exceptional goaltending this year and with Calvin I always felt that we were as good as or better than anyone we were up against. That’s quite a compliment for a 16-year-old considering both gold medal winning World Junior goalies came from our division.


One last installment tomorrow from Coach Sumner about injuries, coaches and captains for next season.


Quick Update...

Coach Sumner has not yet completed the rest of my questions so I don't have anything for you guys quite yet.

I'm still expected to hear back from him later this week and should be able to get Part 3 out.


Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner - Part 2

Here comes Part 2 for you guys. I will have Parts 3 and 4 next week.

Hunnex - An observation that will lead into a question. It's no secret that statistically your teams have struggled on the Power Play since you took over as Head Coach in 2002. The team has finished 16th, 19th, 19th, 20th and 18th in the WHL in Power Play conversion over your 5 seasons. It appeared to my amateur eyes that this year's team had a hard time sticking with the system of getting bodies in front of the net, getting a shot through to the net and then having multiple players crash the net hard for a rebound. Would you associate the struggles to the players not sticking to the system enough? Or might you look to tweak your Power Play strategy going forward?

Sumner - I looked at answering this question a number of times and nothing I wrote was satisfactory to me. Examining statistics when you are in the bottom half is of little use. I was not satisfied and it will be a priority for us next season. Special teams have evolved to be a very significant part of the game now with the renewed emphasis on restraining infractions and taking less penalties and scoring on PP chances are key to being successful in the league today.

The majority of Power Play goals are scored close to the net. It may be a screen or a tip. It may be a rebound but most goals are achieved through traffic at the net. We had a hard time doing that on a regular basis which in the end makes it easier to defend against.

We plan to make this a priority going into next season.

Hunnex - Sena Acolatse... Is he going to stay as a forward or are there plans to move him back to the blue line?

Sumner - Sena is a really special talent. He combines high end skill with high end toughness, a rare combination in a hockey player. I think he took big steps as a player when he moved up front to play. I see him as a forward that will be able to impact games consistently. This is a huge off-season for Sena.

He has a history of showing up to camp short on conditioning. That has to stop and I think it will. He has a better understanding about preparation as he has gained experience and his overall maturity level has also taken a step. Besides, it’s not fun for him to ‘waste’ the first couple months of the season getting in good shape and its certainly not beneficial for our team, on several levels.

That time at the beginning should be invested into earning prime ice-time, and I believe he realizes that now. He’s not a young kid at this level any more. Much is expected and many eyes will be on him and as a hockey player going places, that’s a good thing.

Hunnex - Colin Jacobs played 2 games with you guys back in December... so let's call those 4 playoff games his coming out party. What are your thoughts on Jacobs and how do you see him for next season?

Sumner - Colin Jacobs has incredible focus on where he is going and what it will take to get there. I was very pleased with his two games in December. He had to adjust to a new style compared to the level he had been playing and those adjustments were seamless. Those games set the table for him joining us in playoffs. He didn’t have to go through a feeling out time frame and was very comfortable from his first shift and never looked back. He has smarts, grit, and talent.

He fit in very well here and earned plenty of respect from players and coaches alike. Let’s face it, for stretches in that series he was our best forward. He never backed down, he went to the tough areas of the ice, he wasn’t the least bit intimidated, and he made as much happen offensively as any player we had.

Next year we are obviously excited about having Colin with us full-time. The only thing we will ask of him is to bring the same focus and passion to being a hockey player that we have seen so far, the rest will fall in place for him, he’s a great young player.


That is all for this week. Stay tuned next week as Coach Sumner will answer questions about next Calvin Pickard, Coaches, Captains and more.


Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner - Part 1

This interview was conducted by email and I want to again thank Coach Sumner and Ian Henry at the Tbirds for giving me... and you guys... the time to sit down and chat about the season. Without further delay, let's jump right into this thing.

Hunnex - After the final game was played Saturday, what kind of things are you doing to wrap up the season? and what are your plans for this off-season?

Sumner - It all happens pretty quickly when the season ends. We have to get high school players home quickly because of school enrollment back home. They can’t afford to miss many days during the transfer time because it’s already fairly late in the school year. So the school guys are a priority to meet with and get going because of that reason. We had a few guys that were under contract with NHL teams and those guys were called up to NHL affiliates in the American Hockey League. - Hickey to Manchester, O’Brien to Binghamton, and Scott to Toronto. We had one on one meetings with all players which took place over Sunday and Monday.

My plans for this off-season include hopefully getting moved closer to the new rink. We all know that the market is very slow which is why I throw in the hopefully. I have been trying to sell my house in Woodinville for about a year already with no success. I spend a lot of time at the rink and I have a wife and 2 young sons at home. Time has become so valuable for me, my family already pays a huge price with the nature of my work and I can’t afford to spend what can often add up to being multiple hours a day commuting. I’m away often and it’s not unusual to work seven days a week throughout hockey season so my need to be closer is a necessity. It will allow me to be a better dad and husband at home and a better coach at the rink.

The immediate future involves scouting. Russ and I will be away the better part of April to see the year end tournaments in preparation for the upcoming Bantam Draft. It starts this Thursday. We will meet up with our Director of Player Personnel, Colin Alexander this weekend in Kamloops for the annual Bantam Tournament up there. From there the rest of the month is packed with similar weekends. Colin has seen these players all year and runs our draft but I think it’s valuable to have a good handle on the player pool.

It’s kind of late in the game but I would like to get a hockey school up and running this summer. Depending on ice availability, it could run at some point in July. It’s a little bit early in the summer to run a hockey camp but that’s when the ice may be and I would like to do my part at growing hockey in the area and I think this would be a good way to do so. I know I can put on a quality camp.

The remainder of the off-season will be filled with player meetings, recruiting and planning.

H - What kind of goals had you set for the team that you either did or did not achieve this season? Was the season an overall disappointment with the 1st round playoff exit? Obviously you can't be satisfied by losing in the 1st round, but are there things you can take away from the season that you can be pretty happy and/or proud about?

S - We always have goals going into the season but this season was highly unusual because of the new arena and the schedule that we had because of that. So I had adjusted goals in my mind. We were on the road for all but 8 games in the first half. I wanted to play .500 or better on the road in the first half and a minimal .750 at home for those 8 games.

We didn’t reach those road goals which made for huge ground to make up in the second half. We had a poor start to our season. I believe we had 2 wins in our first 10 or 12 games. We had key players who weren’t at their best in the first half and we needed to be at our best to succeed with the many challenges the first half presented. We were in a situation where all was new – city, school, billets, teammates, practice rink with no dressing room or training facility, and an unprecedented road schedule.

Looking back at it now, we had players that were new to our team that I really couldn’t get to know well enough until we got into the new rink. That’s when access to the players changed drastically. We had meeting rooms, training rooms, lounge areas, a weight room, and the players generally loved being there so they were always around. I could have made and did make meetings in the first half but overall we didn’t have a place to be so the guys didn’t hang around at the rink much so access to the players was about a two hour time frame per day.

A first round exit is always disappointing, any exit comes with disappointment. The season had its share of disappointments including our first half and losing in the first round but there were also positives that helped balance out some of the negatives. Our second half was good for the most part and many players developed into what we had envisioned. It all balances out to being a little above average which our record reflected. Looking ahead, we all want to be better than that.

H - I tend to think that you are a pretty even-keeled coach, never allowing yourself or the players to get too high with the highs or too low with the lows. Can you talk a little bit about the situation at the end of Game 5 that made you upset? (without getting fined by the league?)

S - There were mistakes made by many, myself included. I’ll keep it brief. It was a non-judgment call yet judgment was factored into the explanation. As a coach you are always looking to gain your team an advantage, I was looking to do that. The only way to compound the situation was to penalize our team which is what ended up happening. I was told later that it was assessed when I hit my hand on the boards. We were behind at the time and I ended up making it even tougher on our team. I always want to help my team win not hinder our chances. Overall it was a regrettable situation that I will learn from and move on.


Part 2 coming on Friday... As I ask Coach about the much talked about Power Play unit. Stay tuned.


Post Season Q and A with Coach Sumner

I will be posting Part 1 of my Q and A with Coach Rob Sumner tomorrow morning. Rob was generous to really take some time on these questions and in some cases his answers are long so I might break it down into several parts.

I'll give you guys the first 3 questions and answers tomorrow.


Oops... my mistake

The Vancouver-Spokane game is not on Comcast here in Seattle. I guess they are carrying the game for the people of Spokane but not here in Seattle. Oh well...

While I'm here... I think Calgary has made a statement tonight already by smacking Lethbridge 7-1 at home in Game 1 of that series. I will say again... I will be shocked if Calgary doesn't at least make it to the WHL Finals.

Good news, Bad news

Ok bad news first... Honestly I'm just too dang burned out to do a big article on handing out letter grades for the team. I could just throw some letters out there but I wanted to actually sit down with the stats and spend some time putting some legitimate thought into it and I just can't find the time to do it.

But here is the good news... The team has granted me another Q and A with Coach Rob Sumner for some post season wrap questions so I'm spending my time working on some good questions and I should have that up at some point next week.

As for begrudgingly watching some additional hockey... the Vancouver-Spokane series will be shown on Comcast in the US here on channel 79 (I think) and that should be a heck of a series.

WHL Scoreboard