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Hockey (45)

Trio to lead men's hockey team

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Published in Hockey
Thursday, 25 May 2017 13:18

George Pinner, Phil Roper and Ian Sloan have been announced as Great Britain and England Hockey's new three-man captaincy group.

The new captaincy structure for the men's international teams Great Britain and England Hockey was announced on Wednesday after all-time leading cap holder Barry Middleton made the personal decision to step aside from captaincy.

After the best part of a decade at the helm, Middleton relinquishes the role that will now be filled by the three-man group of Pinner, Roper and Sloan who were voted in by their fellow internationals

Head Coach Bobby Crutchley is evolving the performance environment with a completely revised leadership and captaincy structure, and there was a strong desire across the players and staff to have greater levels of player accountability, responsibility and shared ownership.

"We have named a captaincy group that represents the shared responsibility, accountability and ownership of the full squad," said Crutchley.

"These three players were voted in as a result of their different qualities and have the full backing of the squad, the staff and myself. Irrespective of the captaincy group, we share common goals and accountability, and everyone will play their part.

"I would like to wish George, Phil and Ian the very best of luck and of course I would also like to thank Barry Middleton for his leadership and captaincy over the years. We are very fortunate to have him with us as one of the best players in the world, and I know his leadership qualities will be as prevalent as ever."

The new structure has already been successful when put in place for the Sultan Azlan Shah Trophy in Malaysia, when Crutchley's GB team became the first British side to win the trophy in 23 years, defeating Australia in the final.

Goalkeeper Pinner hails from Ipswich and has 118 caps to his name for both England and Great Britain. He was a reserve for the 2012 Olympic games in London and then played in every fixture in last year's Rio games.

Chester-born Roper, 25, is widely regarded as one of England and GB's most skilful players, and he has 59 caps to his name, with 12 goals. He helped Wimbledon to national league titles in both 2015 and 2016, and has played for England in both World League Finals and Commonwealth Games, winning bronze in Glasgow in 2014.

At 23, Sloan is the youngest of the captaincy group but has great experience for his age. A native of Northern Ireland, he is part of a huge hockey family, with his mother and father both playing for Ireland. He was the youngest player in the GB squad in Rio, and he has three goals for the nation from his 36 caps. Has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport, and has played in the World League Final, Champions Trophy as well as Olympic Games.

With the Men's Hockey World League Semi Final in London next month (June 15-25), the first challenge is a significant one - to qualify for the World Cup.

The tournament features England, Scotland, Olympic champions Argentina, Holland, India & Pakistan among the field and World Cup qualification is a key target.

"We are constantly looking to evolve, and with more than 30 players in our central programme, we believe there is huge value in thinking creatively about how we maximise the strengths that lie within the squad," said Performance Director Ed Barney.

"The concept of a single figurehead who takes responsibility for everything is hugely dated in this day and age - this revised model will allow us to maximise and leverage the shared strengths across the squad.

"This structure will see us through the rest of our major events in 2017 and we will look to keep evolving it beyond then. It underpins what we are trying to achieve as a squad, and the culture we are looking to engender.

"So far in 2017 England have performed well in South Africa, and Great Britain were successful in Malaysia, so there are positive signs and we now look to build upon those."

Hedman collected a pair of assists and skated to a team-high 26:15 of ice time in Friday's 4-3 win over the Penguins in Game 4.
The beat goes on for the big Swedish defender, who has been all kinds of hot with a whopping 12 points in his last nine games. That gives him a total of 13 points in 14 contests this postseason which equates to 0.93 points per game -- making him certifiably elite by any standard, and even more impressive given his position. At 25 years old, Hedman is in the prime of his career and is illustrating -- as a franchise cornerstone defenseman capable of significantly impacting the outcome of a game -- why he was selected as the second-overall pick in 2009.

Penguins' Evgeni Malkin: Snaps eight-game goal drought Friday

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Published in Hockey
Saturday, 21 May 2016 12:07

Malkin found twine in Friday's Game 4 loss to the Lightning. He also fired six shots on goal.
The goal snaps an eight-game goalless skid for Malkin, who is now up to 11 points in 14 games this postseason. His even-strength tally was the second of three consecutive Penguins goals in the third period, but it wouldn't be enough as the Lightning eventually held on to win 4-3. Look for Geno and the Pens to carry some of their late-game momentum into a pivotal Game 5 back in Pennsylvania on Sunday.

Devils' Kyle Palmieri: GM looking to keep him in New Jersey

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Published in Hockey
Thursday, 28 April 2016 17:00

Devils general manager Ray Shero intends to sign Palmieri, a pending restricted free agent, to a long-term deal, Steve Politi of The Record reports.

"I look forward to signing him to a longer term contract, if that's possible, and if that's not possible he has arbitration rights. We're going to get a contract one way or another."
Palmieri banked $1.46 million in 2015-16, the last of a three-year deal originally procured by the Ducks. As noted in the report, Palmieri broke out in a major way this season, reaching the 30-goal mark to complement 27 helpers. The Devils are one of the oldest teams in the league, but Palmieri, who played in all 82 games, is just 25 years old and is an ideal player to build the team around. Even with Palmieri this season, the Devils were dead last in scoring, so it's no wonder that Shero's priority is re-signing the talented winger.

Flyers' Simmonds won't be suspended for punching McDonagh

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Published in Hockey
Sunday, 07 February 2016 19:30

Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds won't face supplemental discipline for punching New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh on Saturday, reports Dave Isaac of Courier-Post.

Simmonds was assessed a match penalty for intent to injure and a game misconduct for the incident. McDonagh left the contest and didn't return.

Related: Flyers' Simmonds ejected for punching Rangers' McDonagh

The 27-year-old will be in the Flyers' lineup against the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon. Although he avoided suspension, Isaac adds he won't be as fortunate next time.

He has 18 goals and 16 assists to go along with 110 penalty minutes in 50 games this season.

Do you know what your team plans to do on Leap Day 2016—the NHL's trade deadline day? Will they be buying or selling? Perhaps dabbling in a bit of both?

That's a question some of the teams' general managers are asking themselves with a few weeks to go.

Where they sit in the standings in the days leading up to the final hours, whether they risk losing players for nothing at the end of the season and realistic assessments of their chances in the postseason will all play into their decisions.

Click ahead for a look at where each team stands and a prediction for what they might land before the trade deadline. It should be quite a ride.

Streaking Penguins lose Malkin for the weekend, Fehr long-term

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 05 February 2016 17:42

The Penguins have won four straight and are only two points back of overtaking both the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders for a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division, but if Pittsburgh wants to move past the Devils and Islanders this weekend, they’ll have to do so without the services of two centers.
It was announced Wednesday that both Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr would miss Pittsburgh’s back-to-back games against Tampa Bay and Florida. Malkin, who suffered a lower-body injury, will have to be reevaluated following the weekend, but the outlook for Fehr isn’t nearly as good — it’s expected he’ll be out at least a month.
“(Malkin) is not going to be on the weekend with us,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told Michelle Crechiolo. “He’s got a lower-body injury. He’s going to rehab it over the weekend. We’re going to evaluate him when we get back and go from there.”
Losing Malkin for a few games isn’t a death knell for the Penguins, but it’ll be worrisome if his injury keeps him out of the lineup for longer than the weekend. Malkin has a long history of lower-body injuries. Since the 2010-11 season, Malkin has missed 84 games due to lower-body and knee ailments, including 36 games due to right knee surgery in April 2011.
Without Malkin, the Penguins second line also takes a knock as Sullivan will need to find someone to slot in between Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel. In practice, that duty fell to Matt Cullen, but it’ll be near impossible for the 39-year-old to replace Malkin’s production. Over the past five games, Malkin has four goals and six points skating between Hagelin and Kessel.
As for Fehr, Sullivan called the pivots injury “significant,” but it’s not bad enough that Fehr will be out for the remainder of the regular season.
“It’s going to be longer-term,” Sullivan told Crechiolo. “It’s not season-ending. It’s nothing that severe. But it’s significant enough that it’s going to be longer-term.”
While Fehr’s absence may not be as glaring on the score sheet, it’s going to seriously impact the Penguins’ depth. At this point, Pittsburgh is already without Beau Bennett and Nick Bonino — who Fehr was replacing as the third-line center — and Fehr’s injury only means more stress will be put on the bottom-six of the Penguins to step up and chew big defensive minutes.
According to Crechiolo, Sullivan said Kevin Porter, Bryan Rust and Tom Kuhnhackl will be among those relied upon to help fill Fehr’s spot during his absence. Bonino isn’t expected back in the lineup for at least another week, possibly two, which means the trio of Porter, Rust and Kuhnhackl will also be counted upon to play an important role on the penalty kill.

Everyone would have understood if Doug Caliendo didn’t suit up for his high school game Wednesday afternoon. Caliendo, 17, had lost his father, Lou, to cancer hours before the game. But instead of sitting out the game, Caliendo threw on his equipment and took the ice with his Notre Dame West Haven Green Knights teammates.
“Knowing my father for so long, he really loved the sport and always wanted me to play,” Caliendo told GametimeCT’s Joe Morelli. “He would have said, ‘Just get out there and do what I do best.’”

Through two periods, the game wasn’t going in Notre Dame’s favor. They were trailing the Northwest Catholic Lions 2-0 in the third, but Caliendo’s Green Knights were able to get back into the game thanks to two goals in the final frame, the first of which Caliendo assisted on. With regulation over, the tilt went to overtime, and even Disney would have a hard time writing this ending.
In the extra frame, a loose puck found its way to Caliendo, who stepped into it and unloaded an absolute bomb from the blueline:

“I came out to the point, stepped into it and let it go and it hit the net. I was happy,” Caliendo told Morelli. “My father was the first thing that came to my mind. He was the one who got me into this sport.”
The cheer from the crowd, the mobbing from his teammates, the point to the sky — everything about the post-game celebration from Caliendo and the Green Knights makes for a storybook ending.
Following the game, Caliendo said his dad would have loved the goal, but not for the reason you might think.
“He probably would have said, ‘At least you hit the net finally,’” Caliendo told Morelli.

World Junior Championship preview: Czech Republic

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Published in Hockey
Friday, 25 December 2015 14:59

It was always going to be a big ask for Michael Spacek, 18, to transplant himself from his native Czech Republic to the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and be an instant hit. He’d never lived away from home. His command of English was minimal. The dynamic of smaller North American rinks is not processed in a week or two.
Spacek, though, has made a fine start to this major career move, and Brent Sutter, his coach in Red Deer, thinks he knows why. This was a voluntary move, and Spacek is invested in the result.
“He just had to suck it up,” Sutter said. “He’s 18 years of age, and he wanted to come over here to play, and this is what he chose. We wanted him here, and there’s work involved in it, making the adjustments on and off the ice…everything, the language, culture.”
Spacek was running near the top of the WHL’s rookie scoring chart in the season’s first half, making him a prime candidate as a centerpiece for the Czech Republic team at the 2016 World Junior Championship.
It will be the gifted center’s second go at the tournament, having posted one assist in five games at last year’s event.
In 2014-15, Spacek also played against men in the Czech League, recording a modest 12 points in 40 games, but enough to catch the eyes of the Winnipeg Jets, who called his name in the fourth round of the NHL draft, and the Rebels, who selected him in the first round of the CHL’s 2015 import draft.
Along with Sutter, the Jets are intrigued and encouraged. “I feel for Michael,” said Jimmy Roy, the Jets’ director of player development. “I had that experience when I went to Germany to play. I know what it’s like for a person to go to a different country and not know what the coach is saying and what players are saying and trying to fit in.
“He’s maybe had some homesickness, but he’s a really good kid, and Brent is one of my favorite coaches because he’s so good with those guys, makes them feel good and helps them learn the North American game and what it takes to be a pro.”
Spacek is lucky to have Adam Musil, the Ottawa-born son of Czech Republic native and former NHL defenseman Frank Musil, as a teammate in Red Deer.
Adjustments, like adapting to tighter checking after a quick start with 18 points in his first 12 WHL games, are going to be Spacek’s story for the foreseeable future.
And Sutter hopes they’ll continue after the world juniors. “He’ll go back to the tournament, and things change again,” Sutter said. “But he has to make the adjustments. That’s part of his responsibility. When he comes back to us, it can’t take him a month or six weeks to get going again. He’ll have to be coming back in the right frame of mind and with the right attitude, and if he does that, everything’s going to be fine.”

The leg was shaking now, faster and faster, the heart thumping so swiftly it seemed his chest could no longer hold it inside. Mitch Marner couldn’t think, his mind unable to focus or settle. He turned to his father, Paul, who looked back at his son. “Relax,” Dad said, reaching out for his boy. “It’s going to be OK.”
It was June 26, inside the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla. For Marner, it was some distance away from home, near Toronto, which happened to be the city playing into all this anxiety to begin with. At 18, Marner was one of the finest hockey prospects in the world, but suddenly, as the 2015 draft sped along, there was Marner left on the board at pick No. 4. Next on the clock: the Maple Leafs.
It had been some years since Marner was a tyke flying about those rinks across the GTA. He rooted for the Leafs, idolized captain Mats Sundin, even professed his admiration for the Swede on City TV, when, at age four, Marner was featured as the network’s Athlete of the Week.
But in Sunrise, Marner’s thoughts raced. Could he really be joining the team of his youth?
Just then, he heard his name. Marner, in a blue suit and brown shoes, rose to the stage to meet Gary Bettman, to hold a new Toronto jersey with his name on the back. For those seeking a play-by-play of what happened next, consider another source. “I don’t really remember what anyone said to me,” Marner said. “I don’t remember much. But it was the greatest moment of my life.”
That was the scene upon Marner’s selection to the NHL earlier this year, though many months have passed since, and it has become easy for the teen to be lost in the shuffle. Unlike other top rookies from his class, including Buffalo’s Jack Eichel and, before he was injured, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid, Marner is still a footnote to this NHL season, having been shipped off to play another year for the OHL’s London Knights.
But Marner may not have to wait until 2016 for his breakout moment. He figures to hold a major role on Canada’s world junior team in Helsinki. An appointment to the team will have been a long time coming. As a boy, Marner seemed a generational talent, skating at two-and-a-half, able to flip a puck over the net at just four. He was so good, so advanced over other kids, he often played up an age group or two to find a skill level that matched his.
At home, it was clear to Paul, his wife, Bonnie, and Mitch’s brother, Christopher, that Marner existed on a different plane. At seven years old, he was perched in front of the TV breaking down NHL games, lecturing about which guy was out of position and why. By AAA, Marner was critiquing film of his own games with the same comprehension.
Paul sometimes had to shake his head. “How are you even thinking about that stuff?” he wondered.
What prevented Marner from becoming the next McDavid, a young star hyped and celebrated without mercy, were concerns over his size. As his peers grew, Marner lagged behind, and though he has bloomed now to a size better suited for the NHL, for a long time he was greatly underdeveloped. Many evaluators saw a stunted kid whose capacity for stardom was not worth their waiting.
He fell to the bottom of the first round of the 2013 OHL draft, where the Knights grabbed him at No. 19. In London, Marner has excelled – last season, he had 126 points, second-most in the league – and his measurables off the ice have improved, too. When he was picked by the Knights two years ago, he was just 5-foot-7 and 125 pounds. Now, Marner stands nearly six feet tall, lists at 160 pounds and, by his dad’s estimation, may soon grow to 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds.
Where Marner’s size once dogged him, he can only hope now, as he nears a height and weight more appropriate for the pros, it can be his asset. Marner has proven an incredibly elusive player (“He’s like trying to grab a fish in the water,” said one NHL scout), and comparisons to Patrick Kane and Claude Giroux aren’t difficult to find.
Before he tests his professional chops in 2016, Marner will debut to a wider audience in Finland. For Team Canada, and for the Leafs when he reaches Toronto, what was once a big worry over his size may prove to have been a small matter all along. “I can’t say enough good about him,” said the NHL scout. “I go to games, and you just kind of throw your arms in the air. You’re like, ‘Holy s—, all he does is make plays.’ ”

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