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Patrick Kane Traded to Salem

In HAM, SAL, Transactions on September 21, 2019 at 8:54 am

For the second season in a row, the Salem Sabercats have pulled off a major post-draft trade. Last year, it was the acquisition of Anze Kopitar, who went on to be a major part of its cup run. Now the Sabercats have taken an even bigger swing, acquiring star winger Patrick Kane and a third round pick from the Hamilton Ti-Cats for young winger Travis Konecny and Salem’s first and second round picks in 2020.

In 11 seasons with the Hamilton franchise, Kane has scored 30 goals five times, 40 goals once, and put together a monster 70-goal year in ’16-’17. He had a relatively down season by his standards in ’18-’19, with 33 goals and 69 points in 82 games. Salem hopes he’ll bounce back to point-per-game form. Konecny, entering his third GWMHL year, had 14 goals and 38 points in 57 contests last season.

Kane was a first overall pick for a then-Sacramento team that was on the cusp of moving to Nashville. The second pick that year? His new team- and (probably) linemate Nicklas Backstrom. There’s no question that the acquisition changes Salem’s outlook for the year: it addresses its biggest weakness (top-6 wingers) and puts one of the world’s best players in a position that otherwise might have been occupied by Gustav Nyquist. Whether this signals a rebuild or retool for Hamilton is another question. With Claude Giroux, Jeff Skinner, and Jakub Voracek, the team still has veteran star power up front. But the loss of Kane, who twice led the league in scoring, will be felt keenly.

The Salem Sabercats Win the Gump Cup!

In SAL on May 5, 2019 at 7:48 pm

The Salem Sabercats have won the 2019 Gump Cup!

In a tight game 6 that saw Delta scramble back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it in the third period, Josh Manson found grinder Vladimir Sobotka in front of John Gibson, and Sobotka’s shot trickled by the Sturgeon netminder with 2:30 left. Delta pressed for another equalizer but were stoned by Frederik Andersen, who made 38 saves in a clutch performance after Marc-Andre Fleury stumbled earlier in the series.

Amazingly, this is Salem’s sixth championship in seven seasons, and third straight. Many have predicted this team’s decline, but it hasn’t happened yet. Congratulations to John Pyar for leading his club to victory!

Gump Cup Final: Salem Leads 3-2

In DEL, SAL on May 3, 2019 at 10:03 am

The Salem Sabercats now lead the Delta Sturgeon three games to two in their best-of-seven championship series.

Riding high back on home ice, the Sturgeon won both games 3 and 4 7-3. In game 3, after Salem had pulled to within a goal early in the third, Delta pulled away and made it a rout. Nikita Kucherov finished with a pair of goals, including the game-winner, and three assists. Game 4 saw the Sturgeon once again mount a stellar third, breaking a 3-3 tie in style largely on the backs of Eric Staal and Aaron Ekblad.

With the series now tied 2-2, the Sturgeon and Sabercats skated to a tight scoreless tie after one period in game 5. But early in the second, Logan Couture sprung Anze Kopitar on a breakaway to make it 1-0. Kopitar would later tally again on an odd-man rush, faking a pass on a two-on-one and rifling the 2-0 goal past John Gibson.

But it wasn’t over. Late in the third, with Delta pressing hard, Nathan MacKinnon fed the puck back to Ekblad at the point, and the defender blasted one past Freddy Andersen. Then, a mere 21 seconds later, MacKinnon bumped Salem’s Brandon Montour off the puck in the corner and fed Kucherov in front for the tying goal.

In extra time, Salem killed a minor penalty and, feeding off the momentum, started pushing for the winner. The pressure yielded yet another odd-man rush, as Travis Konecny and Patrick Marleau skated in on a lone defenseman. Konecny faked pass and shot, beating Gibson and giving his team a huge 3-2 OT win to take the lead in the series. Salem now has the chance to close out the series at home in game 6.

Gump Cup Final: Salem Takes 2-0 Series Lead

In DEL, SAL on April 27, 2019 at 11:15 am

The Salem Sabercats, defending Gump Cup champs, have taken a 2-0 series lead in their best-of-seven against challenger Delta, but they needed extra time in both games to do it. In game 1, a costly Nathan MacKinnon tripping penalty in overtime led to the 4-3 game-winner by Salem’s Anze Kopitar. In game 2, with the score tied 2-2 thanks to an early third period Zach Hyman marker, Sabercat winger Paul Byron bumped Zdeno Chara off the puck in the corner, skated in uncontested on John Gibson, and beat the Sturgeon starter for the deciding goal.

The series now shifts to Delta for games 3, 4, and possibly 5 if home ice advantage tilts things the Sturgeon’s way.

Playoff Preview: Gump Cup Final

In DEL, SAL on April 25, 2019 at 11:32 am

The Series: Delta Sturgeon vs. Salem Sabercats

Here it is! The championship matchup many were waiting for — Delta vs. Salem, the upstart vs. the dynasty. Two teams with depth to burn and few weaknesses to exploit.

The Delta Sturgeon’s return to the postseason after 10 years of futility has been one for the history books, as the team trounced Farmington and Boston on the way to a berth in the final. The Salem Sabercats, meanwhile, have defied all expectations of a decline and found themselves within four wins of the promised land yet again. It hardly seems like the Gump Cup without Salem in the mix.

Led by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nathan MacKinnon, and Nikita Kucherov, the Sturgeon are an incredibly dangerous team. Nugent-Hopkins has 14 points in 10 games, plus 3 game-winning goals, while Kucherov leads all postseason skaters in shots by a healthy margin. Delta’s powerplay made short work of its earlier opponents, ticking along at a fine 33.3%.

But if Delta has questions, Salem has answers. It’s penalty kill is tops in the league at a lofty 96.6% and its PP is no slouch either at 17.4%. Most of all, its edge may come in goal — Marc-Andre Fleury has excellent numbers (2.58 and .926 in 8 starts) plus the ‘Cats have a secret weapon up its sleeve in Frederik Anderson, who’s gone 3-0 with a .938 save percentage in 3 starts. If Fleury stumbles even slightly, Andersen should get the call. Delta’s John Gibson has been good in the first two rounds, but he’ll need to be near-perfect now.

Season Series: Tied 1-1

These two teams haven’t played each other in half a season. When they did, they each eked out one-goal wins on the road. If that doesn’t demonstrate how hard it is to predict the outcome of this series, nothing will. It should be a doozy.

2019 Conference Final Previews

In BOS, DEL, PAR, SAL, Special Features on April 14, 2019 at 11:19 am

After one round of play and no upsets, the matchups are set for the conference finals en route to the Gump Cup! The first and second seed in the Plante and Sawchuk conferences will face off against each other. Here’s what those series might hold.

Plante Conference Final
The series: (1) Salem (56-20-6) vs. (2) Parry Sound (52-18-12)

Season scoring leaders:
Salem: Kopitar (82, 46-60-106), Couture (78, 42-34-76), Gourde (82, 17-56-73), Backstrom (81, 21-43-64), Pietrangelo (78, 11-53-64)
Parry Sound: Pastrnak (82, 38-65-103), McDavid (82, 42-54-96), Dadonov (74, 35-51-86), Kuznetsov (79, 30-44-74), Rakell (77, 30-34-64)

Season goalie stats:
Salem: Fleury (44gp, 28-12-3, 2.68, .917, 4so), Andersen (38gp, 28-8-2, 2.09, .925, 4so)
Parry Sound: Rinne (57gp, 39-12-6, 2.38, .928, 6so)

Players to watch:
Salem: With 9 points in 6 games, Alex Pietrangelo leads Salem in points — and is a two-way force who’ll be a big part in trying to contain Parry Sound’s big guns.
Parry Sound: McDavid’s 6 goals and 7 assists in 5 game is huge, but it’s the way he stepped it up on the road — scoring the overtime winner in game 4, then setting up the double-OT series clincher in game 5 — that make him a force to be reckoned with.

This is it. The grudge match we were waiting for. After getting stomped in 5 games by eventual champs Salem last year, the Parry Sound Orrsmen are looking for revenge. They’ve ousted El Dorado in 5 and look to be in true playoff form. Unfortunately for them, Salem is a more than worthy opponent, as shown by Salem’s dominance in the regular season series between these two clubs. The Sabercats got some big performances from Pietrangelo and Anze Kopitar in their first-round victory over Baltimore, although, and all due respect to El Dorado, they haven’t faced anything as potent as the Orrsmen’s top line of McDavid with Evgeni Dadonov and David Pastrnak.

On the other hand, Parry Sound’s offense hasn’t been met with goaltending as strong as Salem’s either. After having its way with Tuukka Rask, the Orrsmen will be in tough against the tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury (4 games, .924) and Frederik Andersen (2 games, .939). It’s a huge question which goalie Salem will run with, but it’s clear that team defense is a big factor, too. Salem didn’t give up a single powerplay goal to Baltimore in its opening series. If any team can slow down Parry Sound’s big line, it’s probably this one.

Head-to-head regular season record:
Salem won 4-1-1, and went undefeated on Parry Sound’s home ice.

Sawchuk Conference Final
The series: (1) Delta (51-23-8) vs. (2) Boston (48-27-7)

Season scoring leaders:
Delta: Kucherov (80, 41-62-103), MacKinnon (74, 42-44-86), Hall (76, 33-47-80), Nugent-Hopkins (62, 29-33-62), Staal (82, 31-28-59)
Boston: Zucker (82, 40-39-79), Couturier (82, 27-47-74), Boeser (62, 35-33-68), Pavelski (82, 15-43-58), Giordano (82, 11-34-45)

Season goalie stats:
Delta: Gibson (43gp, 28-10-4, 2.82, .918, 1so), Raanta (39gp, 22-13-4, 3.12, .907, 2so)
Boston: Murray (23gp, 14-7-2, 3.31, .891, 0so), Miller (25gp, 16-6-3, 2.50, .919, 4so)

Players to watch:
Delta: Nikita Kucherov has 4 goals in 6 games but the scoring winger is also second in playoff shots so far — he has another offensive gear.
Boston: Matt Murray’s playoff save percentage is solid (.915) and a lot better than his regular season stats. But Boston management only trusted him to play 4 of 7 games in round 1. Will he be able to take the job and run with it?

A year ago, the Boston Banshees thought they might be heading for a retool, but here they are in the final four — facing off against the league’s newest powerhouse in Delta. The Farmington Fighting Saints gave the Sturgeon some trouble before falling in 6 — but Boston really got taken to the wire by the Ice Harbor Storm, who pushed their opening series to a seventh game, which Boston narrowly won despite carrying the play.

A huge factor once again for Boston will be goaltending. As mentioned, Murray was pretty good in 4 starts, but Boston management still went with vet Ryan Miller in 3. Teams have been sunk by playing the goalie platoon game in postseasons past, and Delta’s lofty 41.2% PP percentage puts even more pressure on the guy between the pipes. The Sturgeon are built for a run. The Banshees can’t afford any mistakes.

Head-to-head regular season record:
Boston won 3-2-1. Interestingly, neither team managed a home win against the other — all the wins came on the road, making this one especially tough to call.

Plante Playoff Preview: Salem vs. Baltimore

In BAL, SAL, Special Features on April 2, 2019 at 10:47 am

The series: (1) Salem (56-20-6) vs. (4) Baltimore (37-33-12)

Scoring leaders:
Salem: Kopitar (82, 46-60-106), Couture (78, 42-34-76), Gourde (82, 17-56-73), Backstrom (81, 21-43-64), Pietrangelo (78, 11-53-64)
Baltimore: Crosby (82, 40-59-99), Tarasenko (79, 24-45-69), Forsberg (67, 25-40-65), Schwartz (64, 28-36-64), Burns (82, 11-48-59)

Goalies:
Salem: Fleury (44gp, 28-12-3, 2.68, .917, 4so), Andersen (38gp, 28-8-2, 2.09, .925, 4so)
Baltimore: Luongo (36gp, 21-13-1, 2.67, .912, 3so), Grubauer (28gp, 10-13-5, 3.03, .900, 1so)

Players to watch:
Salem: Logan Couture led the league with 12 game-winning goals. His clutch play could be a series-decider.
Baltimore: It’s fair to say that Vladimir Tarasenko’s 24 regular season goals were a disappointment. Can he hit the reset button in time for the playoffs?

It’s seemed like consensus for years now — the Salem Sabercats were due for a regression. But it hasn’t happened yet. The winners of 5 of the last 6 championships skated to the best record in the league this season, scored more goals than any team other than Delta, and allowed the fewest goals against.

But wait! Lest we call this series before it starts, let’s remember that the only other team with a Gump Cup during Salem’s dynasty years is their opponent, Baltimore — a team whose disappointing fourth-place finish likely belies its true ability to compete. The Crab ran into major injury trouble late in the season, but word is its core is mostly healthy now. The only remaining question mark is in net — rumour has it that the team may platoon Roberto Luongo and Philipp Grubauer, but that yielded less-than-stellar results during the regular season.

Head-to-head regular season record:
Tied 3-3-0. In all 6 games, the home team won, but, notably, Baltimore soundly outscored Salem 24-15.

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

In BAL, DEL, News, SAL 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).

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.