Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Legionnaires Wrap

It's that time of year again. The Legionnaires wrapped up their season on Sunday, and the end of it usually brings about some final thoughts, thank you's and such.

From a win/loss standpoint, there is little to say. It was an extremely tough season. Out of their 9-25-7-2 record, the Legionnaires lost 14 games by two goals or less, two of those in overtime. In addition, they finished with a league-leading seven ties. That means that out of 44 games, only 14 were one-sided losses for a team that finished second-last in the league standings. Combined with a look at their roster, that should give you an idea of how taxing the season was, both emotionally, and very much so physically. They didn't start with nearly the scoring power of last year and carried over only six players; it was a tough go. Arguably, the Legionnaires had one player in Jordan Wittman whose scoring talent was comparable to that of three guys on last year's front end. A little success at the beginning was great but scheduling caught up to them a little bit later. When the score got ran up, it was usually bad. But more often, when they were in all those games and missed by inches, it was equally tough to swallow.

I think there were bigger and more positive developments off the ice. Head coach Dale Vossen and assistant coach Larry Empey inherited the mess from last year and did an admirable job. Vossen, who was courageous to take it over in the first place, didn't promise the world when he came in. He had little time, but used his scouting experience and some connections to quickly put together a modest group of kids and promised they would work very hard. They did. He said that under him and coach Empey, they would be a respectable bunch around the community. They were. And most importantly, he said things would change with regards to parent involvement and the general stability of the program, which has lacked grossly in years past. They did. There were no mid-season implosions, no handfuls of kids quitting, and no doubts whatsoever as to what the rules were and how the team would be operated. In my seven years of working for/with the Legionnaires, these things have never truthfully been said of the team. Given the team's situation, these achievements are greater than a playoff spot. (have a look at last year) Success doesn't necessarily start with wins. Despite the troubles in the win column, it was an enjoyable experience. With the help of manager Kim Bachek, who got little recognition for countless hours in the office and taking care of everything short of driving the bus on the road, and Steph Sinclair, the Legionnaires trainer, things ran smoothly. This move worked for Swift Current Minor Hockey. They were quick to pull the trigger following the 2011-12 season and in my opinion, brought the right person on board. As for wether or not Dale Vossen returns next year, I don't know what his feelings or the board's feelings are on that. I do think that it should be up to him.

Now for the players. They were a great bunch of kids, most of them strangers at first but pretty close friends as the year wore on. They worked hard and the vibe on the bus was good. I don't think anyone was willing to accept the fact that the team was challenged offensively or in any other areas, and excuses were not often a part of the equation. Three guys who were here last year come to mind, and I'll always have a special place for them. Luke Grassl, Edwin Hookenson and Blake Fournier. Those kids know what it feels like to be let down ferociously and then be tough enough to come charging back. They know what it's like to face 50 shots a game, to be in the middle of five 2-on-1's in a period, and to block a slap shot in the groin with the game out of reach. Looking back at the experience in the coming years, they'll have fond memories.

Last but not least, thank you to a whole bunch of people.

The Legionnaires organization, coaches and Kim Bachek: Thanks for the repeated opportunity to cover the team and do something I love. I truly savour every moment of it.

The players: You guys are great kids - proud of you and wish you all the best.

The parents: Thanks for all the comments, gifts, encouragement and for listening in and watching game after game. I hope by doing what we do, we've brought you much more than a refresh button and an online scoresheet. Thanks also for the lasting friendships.

The volunteers: The team obviously could not run without you. Especially Evan Powell and family, Steve the admission guy, my colour man for the year Perry Andrusiak, Pastor Rob Winslow, our video volunteer Keith Waker and PR guy Brad Woods. Everything is much appreciated.

The sponsors: Especially Perry and the Evans family at Home Hardware. Thanks so much for your continued support.

And finally, clarification on my future with the team, but here's a little tidbit of info first regarding webcasting. When I started broadcasting the road games five years ago, the hope was that eventually, every team would stream online video of its home games, thereby creating a situation where no announcer or video person would have to go on the road and every SMAAAHL game could be viewed online. Today, that has not happened. Only the Legionnaires stream home games and broadcast road games. It's not hard to do, either. Almost all teams now have a camera and computer, are recording the game for review purposes and would only need to open a browser on their computers to make this happen. It's easier now than ever and it's completely free with USTREAM. But alas, no other team has done it. So it's a little disheartening at this point. Ultimately, my future with the organization is not up to me, but I'll ask to remain as PA announcer and music host for next year barring any unforeseen circumstances. We'll also continue webcasting home games through this website and sclegionnaires.com. As for the road broadcasts, I will not be able to dedicate the time and commitment any longer due to recent career developments and the actual time required to get my work done. Perhaps I'll make the trip for a big game here and there. Again, thanks to the team for this opportunity. It has been one of the most fun things I've ever had the chance to do.

Have a great summer everyone!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Legionnaires Hand Out Awards

The Home Hardware Legionnaires handed out the year end awards at the team banquet today. 

1. Barret and Wiskar Top Rookie - #17 Evan Patrick

2. Most Improved Player Award - #2 Carter Doerksen

3. Scholastic Player Award - #2 Carter Doerksen

4. Dick McCarthy Memorial Top Defenseman - #5 Edwin Hookenson

5. Murray McGillivray Memorial Top Scorer - #27 Jordan Wittman

6. Coache's Award - #7 Reid Fritzke

7. Players' Choice Unsung Hero Award - #18 Connor Odelein

8. Shannon Reinhart Memorial MVP - #35 Luke Grassl

9. Game Star Award - #35 Luke Grassl

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hounds 2 Legionnaires 6

A full lineup and a six-goal outburst by the Swift Current Home Hardware Legionnaires on home ice tonight was enough to get the team its first win since early January.

Morgan Greve started the parade at 11:37 of the first period with his third goal in two games. That was followed up by Graham Gove with his first of two on the night and Swift Current held the 2-0 lead after 20. Leading scorer Jordan Wittman capitalized on the power play early in the second to make it 3-0 before the Hounds added one of their own from Italian import Hanspeter Sononer. The teams traded one more in the second period as Austin LaRochelle made it 4-1 and Lane Olson struck for the Hounds  to bring the game back within reach. The goal was a biggy for LaRochelle, his first of the year. As he scored, the Legionnaires' bench erupted in cheers. Swift Current added two more in the third as Devin Deck made it 5-2 and then late on the power play, Graham Gove sniped for a second time, sealing the deal at 6-2.

"It was really good to finally hit the back of the net again," said Gove. "It was my first two-goal game this year too, so it was nice. I think we were just making the right play today." Gove mentioned his linemates, Evan Patrick and Dylan Lamontagne: "It's easy to play with Evan Patrick - he's always making offensive plays and Lamo works really hard and creates space."

Luke Grassl stopped 40 shots for the win, the Legionnaires' first since January 13 in North Battleford. Eric Williams took the loss for Notre Dame, turning aside 30 of 36.

The Legionnaires also iced a full roster today for the first time since late October, as Evan Patrick returned to the ice.

Assistant coach Larry Empey had fun with it in the post-game interview. "I'll tell you what, it's different. We had guys getting claustrophobic on the bench," he laughed. "It was a fun game to be a part of. The guys were excited and we were getting some bounces for a change. Seeing LaRochelle score a goal, I mean our bench just erupted. It was pretty exciting. Even to lead 2-0 after one - our trainer was doing a happy dance in the medical room. We got a little flat in the second again just like the other night but the guys responded after that."

Swift Current went 2/7 on the power play and 4/5 killing penalties.

The Legionnaires will host the Yorkton Harvest this Saturday and Sunday for the final two games of the season.

INNOVATIVE FINANCIAL STRATEGIES Player of the Game:  #15 - Graham Gove

Click here for the official scoresheet.

Hounds @ Legionnaires LIVE

The Home Hardware Legionnaires host the Notre Dame Hounds tonight for an 8 o'clock faceoff at Credit Union iPlex. Both teams are out of playoff contention, so with nothing to lose, we should see an interesting game. The Hounds are ahead of the Legionnaires by three points in the standings.

With the return of F Evan Patrick, Swift Current will ice a full lineup tonight for the first time since late October.

If you can't make the game, watch live below. Please note, ads will run periodically.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

No Broadcast Tonight

Just a quick reminder, due to past technical difficulties at Schroh Arena, tonight's Legionnaires / Contacts game will not be broadcast live. I did make the trip to Saskatoon and we'll have tomorrow's game from Harold Latrace Arena, the Legionnaires' last on the road and our last play-by-play call of the season.

Have a great Saturday night!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Legionnaires 2 Hounds 2

Luke Grassl made 43 saves as the Swift Current Legionnaires tied the Notre Dame Hounds 2-2 on the road tonight.

Connor Odelein with his third of the year, and Reid Fritzke scored for the Legionnaires, who allowed early goals in both the first and second periods but battled back from the 2-0 deficit to salvage a point, their first in six games. Edwin Hookenson, Carter Forsyth and Dylan Lamontagne picked up assists. The Legionnaires were this close to scoring the go-ahead goal late, but couldn't get it to go.

For Swift Current, playoff hopes were dim entering the game, and with the Saskatoon Blazers' win tonight, the mathematics of playoffs became all but impossible for the Legionnaires, who are 14 points behind the league's final playoff spot with seven games to play. But that didn't prevent them from putting the pedal to the metal, at least in the final 40 minutes of tonight's game.

"It felt pretty good," stated Legionnaires goalie Luke Grassl. "Everyone was having a lot of fun tonight. Even if playoffs are out of reach, everyone wants to come out and give it their all. We have some 17-year-olds that wanna get to the next level and young guys gotta prove they deserve a spot next year, so everyone is battling. We're trying to show the guys how fun this can be." 

Legionnaires assistant coach Larry Empey also commented on the game: "Our first period or so we weren't ready to play but the guys rebounded in the latter half and carried it through the third. We had so many chances in the third, just couldn't seal it. With two minutes left I really thought we were gonna pull it out but you know, that's been the story of our year around the net. We have been playing without some key players as well in (Evan) Patrick and (Jordan) Wittman, our two leading scorers. But if you look through the last ten games, I think it hasn't been due to a lacklustre effort - we have battled."

Daniel Wanner and Alex Farquhar Tallied for the Hounds, and young goaltender Dylan Ferguson stopped 23 of 25 shots for the tie.

The Legionnaires will play two more games on the road - this Saturday and Sunday against the Saskatoon Contacts and Blazers respectively, and then finish with five consecutive home games.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Legionnaires Swept by Blazers

The Swift Current Home Hardware Legionnaires' two-game set versus the Saskatoon Blazers this weekend had the potential to get them very well within reach of an SMAAAHL playoff spot, or deal a nearly fatal blow to the their postseason aspirations. Unfortunately, it did the latter.

The Blazers won both games, Friday's by a 4-0 score, and today's contest by a count of 4-2. In doing so, they moved eight points clear of the Notre Dame Argos for the SMAAAHL's eighth and final playoff spot, while leaving the Legionnaires 13 points in the arrears with eight games to play.

The Legionnaires didn't generate much in terms of offense Friday and when they did, were unable to solve young goaltender Evan Weninger. Considering it was their biggest game of the year to date, the Legionnaires didn't really bring their best team effort. There were a handful of great individual rushes up-ice but Weninger ultimately stood his ground to earn the shutout.

It was a different story for the Saturday matchup. The Legionnaires fought really hard to balance the books today, but fell 4-2. All the scoring went down in the second period. With the Blazers up 3-0, Graham Gove poked one past Brett Lewchuk to give his side some hope, only to have the Blazers burn up-ice seconds later and pad their lead again. Swift Current though kept coming, as Edwin Hookenson notched his seventh of the year to make it 4-2. Unfortunately for the Legionnaires, who have been without leading scorer Jordan Wittman for three games, that was all they could muster today in terms of offense.

Luke Grassl stopped 28 shots for the Legionnaires in yesterday's loss, while Kyle Zinger turned aside 26 for game two.

Team captain and third-year Legionnaire Edwin Hookenson: "It's really disappointing. We battled hard for the second part of yesterday's game and then today especially we had a good effort - all kinds of shots on goal and it just didn't wanna go. We let them (Blazers) get out in front of us for both games and we can't be doing that. They took advantage of a couple turnovers. We had the effort but couldn't finish."

Legionnaires goalie Kyle Zinger also spoke after today's loss: "I feel like I played pretty well and it was good to get back into it. But one of our biggest downfalls of the year has been that we can't capitalize on good scoring chances. We've had the work ethic, but it's been really tough to get these results. We're having some trouble getting the work ethic up early in games and I think if that wasn't the case, we would be in a different spot right now. It will be good to play lots of home games down the stretch here and pick up some energy from playing at home." 

The Legionnaires will play their next three games on the road before finishing the regular season schedule with five consecutive games at home. Their next opponent will be the Notre Dame Hounds this Tuesday in Wilcox. The live play-by-play broadcast will commence at 7:45 PM from Duncan McNeill Arena.