Western States Hockey League

Western States Hockey League: Second half propels Ontario Avalanche uphill in Western Division

Western States Hockey League: Second half propels Ontario Avalanche uphill in Western Division

By Brian Lester

The Ontario Avalanche were a much better hockey team in the second half of the Western States Hockey League season. They stormed through the month of January, winning 10 of 12 games to get themselves back on track. Western States Hockey League,WSHL,Ontario Avalanche,USA Junior Hockey

While that momentum slowed a bit in February, head coach Chris Shaw was pleased with where his team stood going into the postseason. Ontario finished 22-15-4-2 and in fourth place in the Western Division. That put the team at home for the division quarterfinals. They won Game 1, 4-0, over the Las Vegas Storm.

“We’ve managed to turn it around over the last month and a half or so,” Shaw said. “But the adversity we have gone through has been a good thing. I think we have handled it well.”

Antoine Maillard was the regular season leader in points for the Avalanche. He came through with 31 goals and 36 assists for 67 points. Mailliard had a goal and an assist in the first playoff game. He was one point ahead of Michael Thomas, who tallied 28 goals and dished out 38 assists for 66 points. Thomas scored a goal in Game 1 against the Storm.

During the regular season, Zechariah Roberts had 22 goals and 38 assists (60 points). Nick Anderson also shined, racking up 19 goals and 32 assists for 51 regular season points.

“It took us time to gel as a team because we do have a lot of older players and some of those guys weren’t getting as many minutes as they were used to,” Shaw said. “But they’ve really come together as a team. They understand it’s important to have four good lines if you want to win games.”

Ontario is hoping to play at a high level in the postseason after making a run to the conference finals last year.

“I’d like to think we can be one of the better teams in the playoffs,” Shaw said. “We have good depth and this is probably the best roster I’ve had in my time here. We have the talent to make noise in the playoffs. It’s just a matter of playing our best.”

Watch the Avalanche and all of the WSHL playoff action live online at www.FastHockey.com (subscription fees apply).

 

Read past Western States Hockey League articles in our archives:

Casper Coyotes fight to maintain first in division

Deep Long Beach Bombers squad moves up in division

Our December 2014 cover feature: An Old West Shootout

Western States Hockey League: Casper Coyotes fight to maintain first in division

Western States Hockey League: Casper Coyotes fight to maintain first in division

By Brian Lester

The Casper Coyotes are in a great position in the Western States Hockey League standings.

Through 36 games, the Coyotes were 26-8-2, good enough for first place in the Mountain Division.

Coyotes head coach John Ambrefe said the success is attributed to the work the team put in during the off-season to put the roster together.

“We did a great job of recruiting,” Ambrefe said. “We were able to find great players and, while it can take time for a team to mesh, we were able to make strides right away and have had a lot of players step up.”

Casper has been sharp offensively, scoring 139 goals in its first 36 games.

Viktor Thim has paved the way, racking up 25 goals and dishing out 30 assists in 34 games. Kasper Elo has come up big as well, tallying 19 goals and 33 assists in 31 games.

Erik Stenbacka has been instrumental to the Coyotes’ success as well. He has come through with 20 goals and 29 assists in 36 games.

“At one point, we had three of the top five scorers in the league,” Ambrefe said. “We’ve done a good job of moving the puck and guys are stepping up and making plays.”

Casper’s goaltending situation is solid as well. Rikard Mutschin has played in 17 games and owned a goals against average of 2.03. Alexandre Lussier has played in 19 games and has fashioned a 2.68 GAA.

“Rikard is a very good goaltender. He’s very smooth and moves well from side to side,” Ambrefe said. “Alexandre has really stepped up too and has played very well.”

Ambrefe is looking forward to seeing the Coyotes continue to build momentum and be ready for a postseason run.

“We just have to continue to do what we have done and not let the pressure get to us,” Ambrefe said. “I want the players to have fun and be ready to compete every night.”

 

Read past Western States Hockey League articles in our archives:

Deep Long Beach Bombers squad moves up in division

Ogden Mustangs deep in experience for 2013-14

Expectations high for Colorado Evolution in first year

Colorado Evolution announce dates, times for junior prospect camps, summer skills sessions

Colorado Evolution announce dates, times for junior prospect camps, summer skills sessions

The Colorado Evolution, of the Western States Hockey League, have announced the dates and times of their Junior Prospects Camps. Online registration will be announced at a later date at coloradoevolution.com.

The camps will be open to players in birth years 1995 to 2000. The location for all of the camps is the Big Bear Ice Arena (8580 Lowry Boulevard, Denver). The fee is $350 per camp. Coaches are Evolution GM/Head Coach John Kopperud, and assistant coaches Daniel Davies and former NHL player Sergei Bautin.

Camp 1

June 12: 9-10:30 a.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.

June 13: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 1:15-2:45 p.m.; 4:45-6:15 p.m.

June 14: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

 

Camp 2

July 10: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; 2:45-4:15 p.m.

July 11: 9-10:30 a.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.

July 12: 9-10:30 a.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.

 

Camp 3

July 31: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 3:15-4:45 p.m.

Aug. 1: 9-10:30 a.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.

Aug. 2: 9-10:30 a.m.; 12:30-2 p.m.

 

Camp 4 

Aug. 21: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 4:15-5:45 p.m.

Aug. 22: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 4:15-5:45 p.m.

Aug. 23: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; 4:15-5:45 p.m.

 

SUMMER SKILLS SESSIONS

The Evolution will also offer 18 separate summer skills sessions. Registration at coloradoevolution.com will be available at a later date.

The skills sessions are also offered to players in birth years 1995 to 2000, and will all take place at Big Bear Ice Arena in Denver. Players can either attend all 18 sessions for $250, or pay $40 per drop-in session.

Coaches at the skills sessions will be Evolution GM/Head Coach John Kopperud, and assistants Daniel Davies and Sergei Bautin.

Summer Skills Sessions schedule:

June 9: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

June 11: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

June 16: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

June 18: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

June 23: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

June 25: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 7: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 9: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 14: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 16: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 21: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 23: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

July 28: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

July 30: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 4: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 6: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 11: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

Aug. 13: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.

 

Western States Hockey League: Deep Long Beach Bombers squad moves up in division

Western States Hockey League: Deep Long Beach Bombers squad moves up in division

By Brian Lester

The Long Beach Bombers has been one of the better teams in the Western Division of the Western States Hockey League this season.

Through 29 games, the Bombers were 19-10, good enough for second place.

“We’re pretty pleased with how we have played so far,” said Bombers head coach Chris White. “We’ve beaten [first place] Fresno a couple of times, once at home and once on the road, and we know that if we play a full 60 minutes of hockey, we are capable of beating anyone.”

The good news for the Bombers as they went into the WSHL Showcase in Las Vegas was that they were finally back at full strength. But even if issues do arise again down the road, Long Beach has the depth to overcome the adversity.

“The big difference for us this year is that we have a lot more depth,” White said. “We have a lot of versatile players that we can put in at different spots, and over the course of a season where you have injuries or suspensions, that depth makes a difference.”

Goaltending has also been huge for the Bombers during the first half of the year. Dennis Tschudi has played in 21 games and is 13-8. He has a 2.19 goals against average and a .919 save percentage.

“It has really been one of our biggest strengths,” White said. “Our goaltending has been even better than expected. Dennis has had some stellar performances.”

Long Beach expects to continue to improve as the season rolls on, and it hopes to be a contender in the playoffs. White said playing a defensive-type of game will be key to success.

“We know that if we want to make a playoff run, we’ll probably have to go through [division leader] Fresno at some point,” White said. “You aren’t going to win a 7-5 game against them. You have to limit them to three goals or less. We feel like we have the team that can play that type of game. If we continue to get better, we’ll be ready come playoff time to be at our best.”

 

Read past Western States Hockey League articles in our archives:

Our December 2014 cover story, “An Old West Shootout”

Ogden Mustangs deep in experience for 2013-14

Expectations high for Colorado Evolution in first year

Cheyenne Stampede: Impressive showing put forth at Western States Shootout

Cheyenne Stampede: Impressive showing put forth at Western States Shootout

By Brian Lester 

The Cheyenne Stampede went through a difficult stretch at the beginning of the Western States Hockey League season, losing its first five games.

Even before the season began, first-year head coach Eric Ballard talked about how young his team was going to be and that there were going to be some growing pains along the way.

Still, even during the tough stretches early on, Ballard was confident it would all work out. He knew it was only a matter of time before Cheyenne began heading in the right direction.

The Stampede have certainly been building momentum lately and were 11-13-2 after going 3-1 at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas.

“We knew it was going to take time to get going because we knew coming in that we had a young team,” Ballard said. “The thing that has made a difference is guys are buying into the system and they have experience. Players are doing what they are supposed to do and they understand their roles on the team.”

The Stampede have been paced by Branko Okatavec, who has tallied 16 goals and 18 assists in 24 games. Heath Lantz has come through with 15 goals and 18 assists while Cody Key has racked up eight goals and 20 assists, including eight points in his last five games.

Nolan Kinney has stepped up as well, scoring 10 goals and dishing out 13 assists.

Corey Foster has seen the majority of time in goal, playing in 15 games, and he had wins in his last four starts, including two at the very well-scouted showcase in Las Vegas.

Egor Riabchikov has given up 25 goals and tallied 224 saves in seven games.

“We are right where we need to be as a team right now,” Ballard said. “Those early games were tough, but the guys kept their noses to the grindstone and kept playing hard. It’s paying off now.”

The Stampede defeated San Diego, Ontario and Seattle consecutively, but ran out of steam in Game 4 of the Shootout in Las Vegas, falling to the Whitefish Wolverines.

“We went into the showcase playing well, and wanted to keep that momentum going,” Ballard said. “Once we get into January, we want to compete as hard as we can and continue to improve. If we play up to our potential, we have a chance to be one of the top teams in the league come playoff time.”

 

Read past Cheyenne Stampede articles in our archives: 

Team coming together well as tryout camp, season approaches

Ballard excited about new coaching opportunity

Eight nominated for Western States Hockey League all-star teams