Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets acquired the rights to Michigan’s
Jeff Tambellini from the Spokane Chiefs Thursday in a trade deadline
really a flyer on our part,” Rockets president and general
manager Bruce Hamilton told me shortly after the deal had been
completed. “We host the [Canadian Hockey League] Memorial
Cup this year, so a guy knows if he’s coming here he’ll
be playing until the end of May.”
In order for Tambellini to be eligible to suit up for Kelowna
this season, Hamilton says he can’t play for Michigan after
Jan. 10 (better known as Saturday). The Wolverines host Ohio State
in a key CCHA series this weekend and Tambellini is expected to
be in the lineup for Michigan both nights.
“The timeline is in his hands,” Hamilton said, noting
that Tambellini, who turns 20 in April, could play for the Rockets
as an overager next season.
WHL's Kelowna Rockets now own Jeff Tambellini's major junior
rights after a trade-deadline maneuver.
a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in last year’s
NHL Entry Draft, has scored nine goals and three assists in 16
games for the Wolverines this season after picking up a team-high
26 goals and 45 points in 2002-03. The Port Moody, B.C., native
is back in Ann Arbor after spending more than three weeks with
Canada’s national junior team, where he recorded two goals
and three assists at the World Junior Championships in Finland
as Canada finished second to the United States.
Kelowna has had recent success in luring college players to the
major junior ranks. Defenseman Duncan Keith left Michigan State
to join the Rockets in December 2002, while former Boston College
forward Chuck Kobasew jumped to Kelowna after winning an NCAA
championship with the Eagles in 2001.
Michigan, meanwhile, is no stranger to losing players to the Canadian
Hockey League dating back to 1999, when defenseman Mike Van Ryn
bolted for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting. This
summer, blueliner Danny Richmond passed up his final three seasons
of college eligibility to play for the OHL’s London Knights.
SEEN AND HEARD IN THE CCHA
JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT – No more than six weeks
ago, Michigan State coach Rick Comley said his team’s inconsistencies
were partially due to uneven play from the large junior class.
Outside of leading scorers Jim Slater and Mike Lalonde, none of
the third-year players had lived up to expectations. And while
it’s too early to state Comley’s problem is solved,
there are signs that it could be quickly resolved.
The all-junior line of center Ash Goldie and wings Kevin Estrada
and Brock Radunske has provided MSU with an offensive spark in
the team’s last four games, scoring a combined 18 points
and recording more than a third of the Spartans’ goals (eight
of 21) since the holiday break.
“Things are going good right now,” said Goldie, who
snapped a nine-game goal drought with a pair of markers in a loss
to Northern Michigan Saturday and narrowly missed a hat trick
when a shot clanged off the crossbar. “We just click on
and off the ice. It’s a good thing.”
Over the past four games, the three have taken turns in the spotlight
starting with Radunske, who scored two goals and two assists in
an opening-round win against Michigan Tech at the Great Lakes
Invitational last month. Last Friday belonged to Estrada, as the
Chilliwack, B.C., product – who had scored one point in
his first 11 games – notched the first hat trick of his
MSU career in a 7-2 rout of NMU with Goldie taking center stage
in the series finale.
“I think Ash has played real well all year. He just hasn’t
scored,” Comley said Saturday. “Kevin Estrada has
come alive. When we get everybody back, we’ll have three
lines that can be productive.”
Estrada’s spike in productivity is particularly heartening.
A third-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2001 NHL
Entry Draft, he led the British Columbia Hockey League in scoring
in 2000-01 with 118 points in 59 regular season games. In his
first two years at Michigan State, however, he managed just 11
goals and 11 assists.
“When we knew we were playing together, we just said, ‘Let’s
go have fun out there’ and we did,” Estrada said.
“Brock had that unbelievable weekend [at the GLI] and it’s
exciting to play with guys that…have a chemistry with you.”
Estrada and Goldie have played on the same line frequently in
the past, and Goldie and Radunske have been linemates on occasion.
But the two wingers have rarely been paired together.
“Whenever Brock and I played together, we’ve actually
done pretty well,” Estrada said. “We did well last
year at the GLI and different shifts here and there. Brock and
I have that chemistry and where we know where we’re going
and he can find me. With Ash, it’s been like that all the
Continued contributions from MSU’s all-junior line –
coupled with consistent scoring from Lalonde and Slater and sophomore
forward David Booth’s return from the World Junior Championships
– will make the Spartans a harder team to defend. If nothing
else, the Estrada-Goldie-Radunske line can provide the lift the
team needs as it embarks on the remainder of its schedule.
“It gives you confidence when you do get a couple goals
and it gets your team rolling,” said Goldie. “That’s
the main thing…to get the team rolling.”
OLVER! – While you may not have seen or
heard much about him so far this season, Northern Michigan freshman
forward Darin Olver has certainly generated a buzz amongst Upper
Peninsula hockey fans and professional scouts.
winger from Burnaby, B.C., leads the Wildcats with 16 points (eight
goals, eight assists) in 18 games and Olver, who is eligible for
this year’s NHL Entry Draft, is a fast-rising prospect according
to Red Line Report, an independent scouting newsletter.
has a gift you can’t teach,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said
of the six-foot, 175-pound rookie. “He’s got great
speed, great vision and presence and poise with the puck. He’s
most successful when he competes hard on the puck…and he’s
really taken steps defensively.”
and Olver’s father, John – a former player at Michigan
and current coach of the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads –
are good friends. Still, the younger Olver had to earn Kyle’s
confidence…and did so quickly.
just given me all the chances I’ve needed to succeed,”
Olver said of his coach. ” Playing in the big situations
– 5-on-4, 5-on-3, with the goalie pulled.”
that confidence and his linemates – he’s been on center
Dirk Southern’s unit most of the season – Olver has
been the team’s most consistent scoring threat. He burst
out of the gate with two goals against Bowling Green in his first
game and added a goal and three assists against Michigan Tech
a week later. Olver has played in 16 of NMU’s 18 games this
season and has scored at least one point in 10 of them.
of it is a result of my linemates getting me the puck,”
Olver said. “You don’t score when you try to put points
on the board. If you’re playing every shift hard and forechecking
hard, that’s when the points will come.”
to see Olver’s role expand during the second half of the
season. He’s proven he can score in the defensive-minded
CCHA – seven of his eight goals have come in league player
– and will have to maintain his productivity as the Wildcats
jockey for playoff position.
probably the one freshman in the league that is the go-to guy
on his team,” Kyle said. “That’s a lot of responsibility
and he’s responded well and he’s going to continue
to grow in that role.”
Great Weekend Getaway
State at Michigan (Fri.-Sat.): Coach Red Berenson
regains the services of three World Junior Championships
medal-winners including Al Montoya, who should be brimming
with confidence after being named the tournament’s
top goaltender. Of course, no one would be surprised if
Montoya experiences a post-WJC hangover, given his workload
and travel schedule over the past two weeks. Ohio State
goalie Mike Betz is fresh – he sat out Tuesday against
Quinnipiac in favor of Dave Caruso. By playing the Bobcats
this week, coach John Markell has just two days to prepare
for the Wolverines and Yost Ice Arena, a place the Buckeyes
haven’t won in nearly five years.
While you're there: If you’re a outdoors enthusiast
or just a fan of capitalism run amok, make the short drive
south on U.S. 23 to Dundee, Mich., and the Cabela’s
retail store, which offers the finest camouflage for both
social and formal occasions anywhere in the United States.
Seriously, the store boasts an overwhelming taxidermy display,
an incredible aquarium featuring various species of fish
and a free-standing, indoor rock formation complete with
mountain streams stocked with monster rainbow trout.
After getting the chance
to see Northern Michigan for the first time this season,
memories of Scott Beattie, Brad Werenka and Billy Pye came
rushing back as the Wildcats skated out of the tunnel wearing
their vintage white sweaters with “Wildcats”
spelled out diagonally across the front and “NMU”
tucked at the bottom right. In a nod to old school minimalism,
the jerseys had no names on back. Then again, maybe it’s
just a ploy to spark program sales.
my beef with composite sticks – they
break way too easy. At Saturday’s Northern Michigan-Michigan
State game, I saw the sticks of three players shatter for
no apparent reason. For example, Wildcat defenseman Geoff
Waugh tried to hold a puck in the MSU zone during a power
play and his stick snapped right in the middle of the shaft.
No other skater was within two strides. And at a Plattsburg
State-Oswego State game last month, I watched the branch of
an Oswego player fall apart in two on a breakaway before
he had taken a shot. There’s something to be said
for a trusty Paul Coffey-model Sher-wood.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Three departures from CCHA schools to
report. In Omaha, coach Mike Kemp’s young team got a little
younger as senior goaltender Brian Haaland and senior forward
Scotty Turner left the Mavericks for the professional ranks. Turner,
who had 1-4—5 in 17 games this season, signed with the ECHL’s
Peoria Rivermen prior to Christmas. Haaland, meanwhile, earned
his bachelor’s degree last month and decided to sign with
the Muskegon Fury of the United Hockey League. Haaland played
in seven games for UNO this year and posted a 1-3-1 record, a
3.07 GAA and .899 save percentage.
Michigan State sophomore forward Nenad Gajic has returned to his
junior team, Alberni Valley in the British Columbia Junior Hockey
League. Gajic, the brother of Michigan junior forward Milan Gajic,
was held scoreless in four appearances this season.
Mononucleosis rears its ugly head once again,
this time knocking Michigan State freshman Tom Goebel to the sidelines
for the time being. The time table for his return hasn’t
been set, but the freshman from Parma, Ohio – who ranks
fourth among the nation’s rookies in scoring with 19 points
– isn’t expected to return to the lineup until later
in the month. Among the CCHA players who’ve been sidelined
by mono in the past few years are Michigan State’s Colton
Fretter, Michigan’s Andy Burnes and former Wolverine Mike
Changing gears to talk about guys who are back in the lineup,
Alaska-Fairbanks welcomed co-captain Jared Sylvestre back
into the fold for last weekend’s series at Ferris
State. The junior forward broke his ankle in the Nanooks’
first game of the year against in-state rival Alaska Anchorage.
Sylvestre picked up an assist in UAF’s 4-0 win Saturday.
The win, the Nanooks’ first at Ewigleben Ice Arena, snapped
FSU’s eight-game unbeaten streak.
Hockey isn’t usually a game of buzzer beaters, which makes
Tuesday’s Ohio State-Quinnipiac contest
at Value City Arena unique. Despite outshooting the Bobcats 50-14
– including a 24-6 disparity in the third period –
the Buckeyes needed a goal from freshman Andrew Schembri with
one second left in regulation to send Quinnipiac packing with
a 1-0 loss.
up, saw the net and fired,” Schembri said after the game.
“I wanted to get as close as I could to the net and if it
goes in, it goes in. It was lucky."
Dame senior forward Rob Globke scored the lone
goal in his team’s 1-0 win against Findlay Saturday for
his fourth game-winning goal of the season and the 12th of his
career. With his next game-winner, he’ll pull into a tie
atop the school’s all-time list with Brian Urick and –
surprise! – Dave Poulin.
This week’s Obscure Bowling Green Note of the Week
– and it’s not a pretty one – comes from last
weekend’s sweep at the hands of Minnesota-Duluth. The Falcons,
who entered the series ranked third nationally in penalty killing,
saw their PK success rate plummet from 89.4 percent to 85.0 percent
after the Bulldogs converted on six of its 13 man-advantage opportunities.
A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this
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