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Salem, Parry Sound, Delta Lead the Charge at the Halfway Mark

In News, BAL, SAL, DEL on December 20, 2018 at 10:01 am

The 2018-19 season is half over, and with 40 games in the bag, defending champ Salem sits atop the league standings with a scintillating 29-8-3 record. On their heels: Parry Sound (26-8-6) and Delta (27-10-3). Salem’s success comes at the expense of its division rivals, all of whom are in the bottom 10.

In the Plante Conference
After a disappoint start, the Baltimore Crab scrabbled back into the race on the back of a stellar 9-1-0 home record in Q2. Salem, Parry Sound, and El Dorado may all be out of reach at this point, but the Crab seem poised for a postseason berth barring a major bounceback from a sub-.500 team.

In the Sawchuck Conference
Delta has the conference all but sewn up, but there the second half should see a lot of jockeying further down the standings, as Boston and Ice Harbor continue to play well, and Farmington (who faded in Q2, going 7-11-2), Adirondack, and West Virginia are all in striking distance for the fourth or even third seed. Hamilton bounced back from a weak Q1 with 11 wins in Q2 so they could be in the mix as well.

The Leaders
Salem’s Anze Kopitar, acquired just before the season, leads all scorers with 59 points (and 24 goals, two behind leader Patrik Laine).

Parry Sound’s Pekka Rinne boasts the league’s best numbers among starting goaltenders (2.08 and .940) but has played just 20 games so far. His GP totals will pick up in the back half of the season as his Orrsmen look to take some momentum into the playoffs.

Farmington’s John Carlson has a healthy lead for points by defensemen, scoring at nearly a point-per-game pace with 39 in 40.

Vancouver’s Mat Barzal still leads all freshmen with 40 points (17 goals, 23 assists), just 3 ahead of unheralded Salem rookie Yanni Gourde (8 goals, 29 assists).

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Season Preview: Plante East

In DEN, PIT, SAL, Special Features, SSR, WIN on October 7, 2018 at 11:08 am

Welcome to the first of our 2018-19 season previews: brief overviews of what’s new, what’s old, and what’s expected as 20 GWMHL clubs prepare for a new year.

We start our tour of the league in the Plante East, home of the defending Gump Cup Champs.


Denver Spurs
Last Season’s Finish: 45-29-8 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Martin Frk, F Carl Soderberg, F Stefan Noesen, F Brian Gibbons, F Noel Acciari, G Anton Khudobin.
Notable Departures: F Riley Nash, F Marian Hossa, F Jaromir Jagr, F Lance Bouma, F Derek MacKenzie, D Thomas Hickey

The Spurs headed into last season having acquired Brayden Holtby, Marian Hossa, Mike Fisher, Erik Karlsson, and Jaromir Jagr, and the spending spree paid immediate dividends, vaulting Denver into playoff position and helping them take a high-powered Parry Sound to 6 games. Now, with Jagr and Hossa out, Fisher unlikely to play much, a quiet offseason, and no 2018 draft picks until the fourth round, expectations are lower — a lot lower. The Spurs still have Karlsson to lead a solid defense alongside Keith Yandle, but the forward ranks are paper-thin after Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard, even after the signing of Carl Soderberg. Spurs fans will likely need to be patient until the 2019 draft when they can start replenishing with top-end talent.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Pittsburgh Hornets
Last Season’s Finish: 32-39-11 (7th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Evan Rodrigues
Notable Departures: F Joel Ward, F Matt Martin, D Dmitry Kulikov

After limping along to a 7th place finish in ’17-’18, the Hornets might seem to be stuck in neutral — they didn’t make a single trade during or after the season and most of its top prospects need another year. What the Pittsburgh front office seems to be banking on is the continued growth of a fine core to finally give stars Evgeni Malkin and Victor Hedman the supporting cast they deserve. Bigger contributions from Ivan Provorov and Noah Hanifin on the back end, plus Timo Meier, Anthony Beauvillier, and unheralded Danton Heinen up front should put the Hornets firmly in the playoff race if they can get a strong performance in goal from Ben Bishop.

Verdict: Playoffs


Salem Sabercats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-27-8 (2nd in conference); won Gump Cup
Notable Arrivals: F Anze Kopitar, F Vladimir Sobotka, D Brandon Montour, D Samuel Girard, G Marc-Andre Fleury
Notable Departures: F Mattias Janmark, F Patrick Sharp, F Sonny Milano, F Ondrej Kase, F Brendan Perlini, G Craig Anderson, G Steve Darling

It shocked many observers that Salem, widely seen as a team on the decline, managed to capture yet another championship. But smart drafting has kept the Sabercats competitive even as key vets have retired. A drop-off seemed inevitable, despite the emergence of young forwards Yanni Gourde, Bo Horvat, and Travis Konecny, plus the addition of Brandon MontourSamuel Girard, and Travis Dermott to a very deep blueline, keeping them in the mix. Above all, the acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury from South Side will have the biggest impact, allowing the Cats to trim some fat in goal. At the end of the day, Salem’s best veterans — Alex Pietrangelo, Nicklas Backstrom — can still produce with the best of them, and the late-preseason pickup of Anze Kopitar will be crucial in keeping up with other contenders’ top-line talent.

Verdict: Contender


South Side Renegades
Last Season’s Finish: 17-60-5 (10th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Nico Hischier, F Teuvo Teravainen, F Artem Anisimov, F Sonny Milano, D Cody Ceci, D Deryk Engelland, D Jake Dotchin, D Dylan DeMelo, G Tristan Jarry
Notable Departures: F Ryan O’Reilly, F Micheal Ferland, F Nikolai Kulemin, F Lee Stempniak, D Jake Muzzin, D Jonas Brodin, D Cody Franson

Renegades fans survived a terrible season with the best kind of silver lining: the first overall pick. With it, South Side gained centre Nico Hischier and a fresh new outlook. With four first round picks in 2018, plus the acquisition of young forward Teuvo Teravainen, the rebuild is off to a good start — but it’s not over yet. Although Hischier joins a nice group up the middle, alongside Dylan Larkin and Mika Zibanejad, there isn’t much talent on the wings yet. And the once-strong South Side defense corps is looking pretty shaky after Seth Jones, Colin Miller, and Cody Ceci. Connor Hellebuyck will probably steal them some games and it would be surprising if they plumbed the same depths as last season, but it’s looking like another rebuilding year for the Renegades.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Winnipeg Falcons
Last Season’s Finish: 44-32-6 (5th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Chandler Stephenson, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Kyle Brodziak, D Will Butcher, D Trevor Daley, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Darcy Kuemper
Notable Departures: D Andrei Markov, D Fedor Tyutin

The Falcons missed the playoffs by a mere four points last season, and they remain a bubble team this year. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Mike Hoffman will still lead things up front, and the addition of rookie Will Butcher will be a boon to Winnipeg’s defense. But there are many question marks: Can Ryan Suter lead a blueline comprised of mostly 4-5-6th defensemen? (His partner may well be someone like Trevor Daley, a late free agent pick.) Can netminder Jake Allen rise to the challenge as starter? Will the real Corey Perry please stand up? The Falcons are a team that can surprise opponents, especially if they get favourable line matchups, but they’ll need some luck to break into the conference’s top four for a playoff berth.

Verdict: Bubble

Salem Loads Up to Defend Title, Acquires Kopitar

In CHA, SAL, Transactions on September 30, 2018 at 9:34 am

Defending Gump Cup champions, the Salem Sabercats, went into the offseason as a team likely in decline. But the offseason acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury was a statement that they wouldn’t be fading quietly. That was underscored today when the Sabercats acquired veteran two-way centre Anze Kopitar from the Charleston Chiefs, along with a second round pick in 2019, for young wingers Brendan Perlini and Ondrej Kase.

The Chiefs still have a healthy Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point down the middle. Nevertheless, it’s a clear signal of a rebuild in progress. In 11 GWMHL seasons with Kenora/Baltimore and then Charleston, Kopitar has 665 points in 837 games, good for 12th all time for the Charleston franchise.

Salem Acquires Fleury

In SAL, SSR, Transactions on May 9, 2018 at 9:31 am

The Salem Sabercats, 2018 Gump Cup Champions, have acquired a potential new starter in veteran netminder Marc-Andre Fleury. In exchange, Fleury’s former club, the South Side Renegades, receive young winger Sonny Milano.

The move signals the rebuilding Renegades’ desire to move forward with goaltender Connor Hellebuyck as its starter. On the Sabercats’ end, it seems likely that the defending champs will let Fleury battle with Frederik Andersen for the starter job. That means veteran Craig Anderson could be on the outside looking in.

Fleury joins his third franchise after 12 seasons with South Carolina (now Parry Sound) and then South Side. He played 35 games in 2017-18, struggling to a 3.65 GAA and .901 save percentage, with one shutout, on a last-place South Side team. Milano did not suit up for the Sabercats.

Salem Wannabees Win 2013 Gump Cup!

In NAS, News, SAL on September 4, 2013 at 10:23 am

They’re ‘Wannabees’ no more. In their third finals appearance in four years, the Salem Wannabees are finally bringing the coveted Gump Cup to the Willamette Valley with a 4-3 win in game 6 over the Cinderella Nashville Knights.

Salem, a perennial regular season powerhouse, overcame shaky netminding from Craig Anderson – and outstanding work by Mike Smith at the other end – to sew up the championship. The turning point in the series came one game earlier, when Salem snapped Nashville’s home playoff winning streak in game 5. Nashville kept game 6 close but couldn’t claw back from a second-period deficit.

Salem’s Patrick Sharp led all skaters with 12 goals and 22 points. Nashville’s Claude Giroux was surprisingly quiet, but the Knights got clutch postseason work from Henrik Zetterberg (18 points and 3 game-winning goals) and Smith.

2012-2013 Award Winners

In BOS, NAS, SAL, SFS, Special Features, STL on August 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

In a season notable for a lack of headline-making offensive performances, many players still shone in the 2012-13 GWMHL regular season. As a few select teams battle it out in the playoffs, we take a (totally biased and absolutely unscientific) look at the players who made the biggest mark on the year.

Scoring Champ

Claude Giroux, Nashville Knights
Giroux won his first-ever — and not likely his last — scoring title in style. With 108 points, he was the only player to surpass 100 and was 11 points up on his nearest competition. Most remarkably, and we’ll circle back to this, is that Giroux finished the year with 42 points more than his nearest teammate, Patrick Kane. Where would the Knights have gotten without him? Not very far.
Honourable Mentions: Erik Cole, Saint Louis Blues (97 points), Patrik Elias, Boston Banshees (96 points)

Sniper Award

Erik Cole, Saint Louis Blues
Erik Cole was lighting it up even before Saint Louis started acquiring a deep supporting cast at the trade deadline.  We didn’t see many stratospheric point totals this season, but Cole had some close competition in the goals race, but the winger — who had 32 goals last season and just 16 the season before — just kept ticking en route to his league-leading 54.
Honourable Mentions: Steven Stamkos, Charleston Chiefs (51 goals), Milan Lucic, Boston Banshees (47 goals)
Read the rest of this entry »

Playoff Preview: Conference Semis

In EDH, NAS, News, PWH, SAL, SCA, Special Features, STE, VAN, WVR on May 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Plante Conference Semifinals

#1 Salem Wannabees (54-16-12) vs. #4 South Carolina Fire Ants (34-40-8)

Another year, another Salem powerhouse. Once again, no team was better in the regular season – or even really very close. The Wannabees have it all: scoring, defense, goaltending. That’ll make for a tough slog for a plucky, often-undermanned South Carolina, whose sub-.500 record was still enough to snag the last playoff spot.

Season Series: Salem won 4-1-1

#2 Sterling Eagles (44-24-14) vs. #3 El Dorado Lynx (43-27-12)

This is the Eagles’ first playoff appearance since 2006-2007 and they have goaltending to thank for it. Tim Thomas will lead the way for a team that allowed just 157 goals during the regular season (no other team had fewer than 200). The Lynx, meanwhile, finished just four points back of Sterling, so it’ll be tight — especially if the ageless Teemu Selanne plays the way he did all year. Of note: both teams averaged under 2 goals per game against each other during the regular season, and they even played to a 0-0 tie.

Season Series: Tied 2-2-2

Sawchuk Conference Semifinals

#1 Vancouver Night Train (49-26-7) vs. #4 Nashville Knights (39-32-11)

After finishing with just 72 points last season, the Night Train bounced back and captured the conference crown, narrowly avoiding a first-round series against Portland. The Night Train weren’t exactly dominant all year but found a way to win, largely thanks to Jonathan Toews and a cast of clutch scorers. The question is, can Pekka Rinne get his act together? And will Nashville be able to overcome their paper-thin D, as they did for much of the season?

Season Series: Vancouver won 6-1-1

#2 West Virginia River Rats (46-27-9) vs. #3 Portland Winterhawks (45-29-8)

The two highest-scoring teams of the regular season [check Salem] go head-to-head in the opening round. Can the Winterhawks get their dynasty back on track against the reigning Gump Cup champs? Crosby, Thornton. Staal, Spezza. Perry, Iginla. Vanek, Kovalchuk. This should be fun for everyone but the goaltenders.

Season Series: West Virginia won 4-1-1

Playoff Picture Sharpens as Q3 Ends

In EDH, News, PWH, SAL, STE, VAN, WVR on March 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The third quarter is the books. Just 18 games remain in the regular season. The once-blurry playoff picture is starting to come into focus — and the big races have emerged.

Wannabees or the Real Thing?

The Salem Wannabees — last year’s Gump Cup also-rans — continued their ass-kicking play, going 16-2-6 for a healthy lead atop the standings. It’s a good thing, too, because they’re playing in what might be the GWMHL’s toughest divisions. The Sterling Eagles, for example, allowed just 43 goals this quarter, or 1.79 per game.

Lynx Vault into Contention

The El Dorado Lynx’s stellar 16-3-5 quarter separated them from the Pilots and Chiefs in the Plante West for second overall in the entire league.

Crosby Makes a Splash

Sidney Crosby finally saw his season debut for the defending champ West Virginia, and made a huge impression. With 46 points in 24 games, he led all scorers league-wide and propelled the River Rats to a great 15-5-4 record on the quarter.

Can Portland Get Its Groove Back?

Portland struggled on the quarter (10-12-2), giving the Vancouver Night Train an opening to pull away atop the Sawchuk West. In fact, if the playoffs started today, the Winterhawks would be on the outside looking in — they’re a point back of Saint Louis and just two ahead of Nashville.

Patrick Marleau is Your Q2 MVP

In News, SAL on February 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

It was close – the difference was just one vote – but Patrick Marleau has been voted the Most Valuable Player of 2011-2012’s second quarter.

Marleau, who led the GWMHL last season with an astounding 77 goals, put up 15 in just 20 games in Q2. He’s one of the offensive movers behind the powerhouse Salem Wannabees, and once again leads all Gumpers in goals on the season with 32.

Marleau edged Nashville Knights center Claude Giroux for MVP honors. Giroux’s 27 points led all players for the quarter.

Surprises Abound After Q1

In BOS, DEL, DEN, News, PWH, SAL, STE, WVR on December 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

The first quarter of 2011-2012 is in the books, and what a wild one it was. Consensus contenders Salem and Portland had strong starts (13-5-2 and 10-7-3 respectively) but they’ve both been overshadowed in the early-going by some surprising competition.

Banshees, Eagles Fly

The Sterling Eagles and Boston Banshees, neither of whom managed to top .500 last season, share the lead in the standings with 14-5-1 records. The secret? Goaltending. Boston’s tandem of Henrik Lundqvist and newly-acquired Michal Neuvirth and Sterling’s Tim Thomas and Johan Hedberg are simply getting the job done.

Wannabees Can Still Score at Will

The Wannabees (13-5-2) are just a point off the pace and, incredibly, are averaging a whopping 4.5 goals per game and outshooting their opponents by 15. Last year’s Gump Cup runners-up might be ready to take another shot.

River Rats Tread Water

But maybe the biggest surprise is the poor record of Crosby-less defending champs West Virginia (9-8-3), putting them fourth in the Sawchuk East. With the offensive depth on this team, it’s a dismal start. Will Crosby’s eventual return get the Rats back in the running?

Power Outage in Denver

The Denver Spurs wrapped a disastrous 7-12-1 quarter, and it’s easy to see why: Matt Duchene leads the team in scoring with just 13 points in 20 games. Vincent Lecavalier has just 3 points in 10 and Mike Richards just 11 in 20.

Advantage… Sturgeon?

The Delta Sturgeon are off to a league-worst start (5-15-0), but would anyone have guessed this team would start the season with the league’s second-best powerplay? The unit, featuring the likes of Jarret Stoll and Andrew Ladd, is clicking at 27.1%, just .2% behind first-place Portland.