Western States Hockey League

Cheyenne Stampede: Organization happy to send Baggen, Carroll to college hockey

Cheyenne Stampede: Organization happy to send Baggen, Carroll to college hockey

Success on the ice is a big deal to the Cheyenne Stampede.

But so is moving players on to the next level of hockey, and the Stampede have two players headed up the ranks.

Forwards Ryan Carroll and Drew Baggen have both signed with the Colorado State Rams of the American College Hockey Association.

Carroll is from Colorado Springs and played in 89 games in two seasons for Cheyenne, which competes in the Western States Hockey League. He racked up 33 goals and 43 assists during that stretch.

“Ryan is a very hard worker who can contribute offensively to our team,” stated Colorado State head coach Kelly Newton in a press release on the Cheyenne web site, www.cheyennestampede.com. “We look forward to the energy that he brings every night.”

Baggen is from Alaska and appeared in 92 games for the Stampede. He scored 11 goals and tallied 16 assists in two seasons. He was a captain on the team this past season.

“Drew is a good pickup for us,” Newton said. “He will provide a lot of the grit and toughness that we were missing last season.”

Cheyenne head coach Marty Quarters is pleased that both players found a home at the college level and expects a few more to sign with a college team down the road.

“Our goal is obviously to be one of the best teams in the league, but we also want to move players on to a higher level,” Quarters said. “We want this to be a place where players want to play because they know they will get a chance to move on.”

One of the main focuses of the Stampede going forward into the offseason is to put a team together that will be poised to contend for a league title during the 2013-14 WSHL campaign.

“We are going to be hitting the recruiting trail hard, checking out a couple of showcases, and looking for the best players to upgrade our team,” Quarters said. “We have an entire summer to find players and we’re confident we will do a good job.”

Quarters noted that it often feels as if the team works harder in the offseason than it does when the season is in full swing.

As for the type of players the Stampede are looking for, Quarters gave a simple description.

“We want players who want to move up and who have the ability, the drive and the dedication to be successful,” Quarters said. “We also want them to have good character.”

By Brian Lester

 

Read a past Stampede story from our archives

Wyoming squad tears up Western States Hockey League

 

Western States Hockey League: Idaho Steelheads coach reflects on Thorne Cup threepeat

Western States Hockey League: Idaho Steelheads coach reflects on Thorne Cup threepeat

Idaho has established itself as the marquee franchise in the Western States Hockey League.

That reputation was solidified Sunday night on the home ice of the Steelheads, who clinched their third consecutive Thorne Cup with a 4-2 win over the Bay Area Seals in front of a sell-out crowd.

Winning one title is tough enough. Winning three is remarkable. Yet, the shock factor isn’t too high as far as Idaho head coach John Olver is concerned.

“The first one surprised me, but we’ve been able to sustain success by recruiting great players,” Olver said. “We had tremendous leadership this year, too, and the character and work ethic of our team is tremendous. It doesn’t surprise me that we’ve been able to stay on a roll.”

The third title didn’t come easy.

The Steelheads led the Seals 3-1 after one period but were only up 3-2 heading into the third period.

Idaho held a 46-29 edge in shots and scored two of its goals on power plays, including one by Filip Kasaly.

Kasaly, the Thorne Cup MVP, finished with two goals and Kirk Van Arkel and Stefan Brucato scored the other goals for Idaho while goalie Blake Mendenhall racked up 27 saves.

The Steelheads opened the Thorne Cup championship weekend by beating Fresno and then beat Southern Oregon twice to punch a ticket to the title game.

Bay Area came into that title game as one of the hottest teams in the league, and the fact that Idaho was able to hold on against the Seals made the championship that much more special.

“It was very gratifying,” Olver said. “It was a very difficult game and Bay Area is a very good hockey team. We have a lot of respect for them. They have been playing really well and it was a victory we had to earn. We had a great crowd and the fans helped provided us with the energy to come out on top.”

Idaho was challenged throughout the game and often found itself trying to kill off power-play opportunities for the Seals.

“It was a real struggle because we played shorthanded for a good part of the night,” Olver said. “It was difficult for us to get into a rhythm after the great start to the game, but we found a way to step up and get the win.”

Of course, Idaho did find a way to make plays when it mattered and was sharp enough offensively to pull away for the victory.

“We showed a lot of determination,” Olver said. “We had some chances and were very opportunistic.”

The Steelheads weren’t bad on defense either, especially with Mendenhall in goal. He played all 60 minutes and turned in one of his best efforts of the season.

“Blake was on top of his game,” Olver said. “He was extra sharp and made some big saves. I thought our goaltending was good all year from Blake and Daniel Selby. Both of those guys have played well. There is no doubt our goaltending is one of the main reasons we were able to be in a position to play for the championship again.”

With the WSHL championship tourney in the books, the Steelheads shifted their attention to the United Hockey Union national tourney in Las Vegas. Olver said he liked the way his team was playing heading into the tourney.

“We are playing our best hockey right now,” Olver said. “To win a league championship is not easy, and we have been able to keep things going in the right direction. The good thing is we’ve stayed healthy for the most part all year and we are excited about the way things have gone for us this year. We are definitely motivated.”

Update: Since this story was printed in the USA Junior Hockey Magazine, the Steelheads have gone 3-0 at the United Hockey Union AAU Hockey Nationals in Las Vegas, Nev. Follow the action here.

 

Read past Western States Hockey League stories in our archives:

San Diego Gulls enjoy rejuvenation after slow start

Fresno Monsters scare league with 12 straight wins

Idaho Jr. Steelheads out to defend title, nothing less

Southern Oregon Spartans: Coach hopes for advancement all around

Southern Oregon Spartans: Coach hopes for advancement all around

At the end of a season, there’s always time for reflection, introspection and optimism for a bright future.

In terms of reflection and introspection, the Southern Oregon Spartans reached the quarterfinals of the Western States League. In losing two shutout games to the Idaho Jr. Steelheads, they didn’t seem to have anything left after three tough games against the Ogden Mustangs.

“The boys really came together as a group, it’s been a very pleasurable experience coaching these kids,” said head coach Joe Grimaldi. “The team played very disciplined, they were very coachable, they played the systems to the best of their abilities, played them to a ‘T.’

“We don’t play to other teams’ levels, we make other teams play up to us,” said Grimaldi. “They’re winners. They come through in the clutch and I wish that I had that whole team for another year.”

The future is entirely uncertain for the Shamrocks players – and even their coach.

Grimaldi said he may be looking to move up the coaching ranks, just as his players push to play at the next level.

“I’m looking at some North American League and United States League teams myself, if an opportunity presents itself,” said Grimaldi. “This [Spartans] organization has been very good to me. They have a great group of owners who have treated me very well. It’s a first class operation.”

M.J. Melanson, a ’93 forward, led the team with 10 points in five playoff games (all 10 points came in three games). He is one of the group of older players that Grimaldi can certainly see moving on to a college team.

The Montreal native scored 14 points in 12 games after joining the team in early February.

Avik Bordak (47 points in 32 regular season games) and his brother Joe Bordak (29 points in 27 games) should have bright futures. Joe had seven points in four playoff games, while Avik didn’t play in the playoffs due to a late-season injury.

The ’92-born Orland Park, Ill., resident Dan Doyle impressed with 26 points in 38 games. Another ’92, Kevin Edwards, was close behind with 25 points in 24 games.

Forwards Sebastian Romeo (22 points in 12 games) and Taylor McConnell and defenseman Tommy Bennett joined the above-mentioned players and goalie Sean Buckley as “older guys who really brought it on the ice.”

 

Read past stories about the Spartans:Â

First signs of potential shown in new Western States League team

New energy powering defense, forward ranks

WSHL squad can see definitive defensive improvements

Cheyenne Stampede: Wyoming squad tears up Western States Hockey League

Cheyenne Stampede: Wyoming squad tears up Western States Hockey League

Through 21 games, the Cheyenne Stampede marched to a 14-6-1 record in the Western States Hockey League.

Head coach Marty Quarters was pleased with the progress the team has made heading into the 2013 portion of its season.

“We are satisfied with where we are at,” Quarters said. “We had a couple of losses we wished we had back, but we have done a good job of establishing our identity. We want to be a team that plays with speed and attacks while being a tenacious team on defense.”

Offensively, Kevin Rossett scored 16 goals and dished out 12 assists while Noah Eckebrecht and Ryan Demyen came through with 14 goals apiece. The Stampede racked up 110 assists in 21 games and 10 players scored three or more goals.

“Our top two lines are very good and we have pretty good scoring across the board,” Quarters said. “To be successful in this league, you need to be able to roll out four lines, especially against the top teams, and we’re striving to get to that point. I feel like we have a lot of depth and it’s something we want to take advantage of the rest of the season.”

Quarters has liked what he has seen from his defense as well, including the play of goalies Daniel Cepila (21 goals allowed, 295 saves) and Sam Mallory (30 goals allowed, 294 saves).

“Our goaltending has been very good and we are confident having either one out there on the ice,” Quarters said. “Both goalies give us a chance to win and our defense as a whole has improved tremendously. We have been physical and have done a good job killing penalties.”

But like all teams, the Stampede has room for improvement and one area of the game jumps out.

“It’s important for us to get better on the power-play,” Quarters said. “We know how important success on the power play becomes in the playoffs and it’s something we have worked to get a lot better at.”

Cheyenne has confidence heading into the second half of the season

“We want to be more consistent and focus on one shift at a time,” Quarters said. “As long as we continue to play hard and make plays on both ends of the ice, we’re going to have a chance to compete for a playoff spot and a championship.”

New Mexico Renegades: Western States League team stays strong after topsy-turvy November

New Mexico Renegades: Western States League team stays strong after topsy-turvy November

A four-game losing streak. A five-game winning streak. Another three-game losing streak. Two players out, two players in.

What a November it was for the New Mexico Renegades, but they’re still staying competitive in the Western States Hockey League at 9-8-0-1.

“We played some of our best and, at the same time, some of our worst hockey during the winning streak,” said co-coach Cliff Cook.

Over the Nov. 2-4 weekend, the Renegades lost three straight to the Cheyenne Stampede and then lost their first of three games against the Phoenix Knights. The Renegades bounced back to win the next two against the Knights and all three of their games against the Dallas Snipers. Even in the wins against the Snipers, he said the Renegades “backtracked a bit.”

“We carried over our poor play from Dallas and did not play well in Cheyenne, and the results showed,” as the Stampede swept the Renegades again, said Cook.

Player movement was rather helter-skelter as well.

One of the team’s top scorers, Luc Fournier “had to go back to California,” said Cook, and goaltender Joey MacConnell moved up to the Osoyoos Coyotes, out of British Columbia, who play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

MacConnell played 10 games for the Renegades, posting a .921 save percentage, good for fifth in the league at the time of his signing up north.

Talk about consistency – MacConnell, in his first three games with Osoyoos, had a .922 save percentage, along with a 2-1 record. The KIJHL is a regular feeder for the British Columbia Hockey League and other Canadian Jr. A leagues and the major junior Western Hockey League.

While those two players exited the Renegades’ locker room, two others came in. Josh Burger has been with the team from the beginning, but missed nearly all of November’s games. He was due back in action for the team’s Nov. 30 through Dec. 2 series against the Boulder Bison.

He had six points in his first seven games and hopes to continue that pace.

Additionally, the team also brought in Tucker Gilliland, a ’95-born Michigan native who came in to challenge Tyler George.

The Renegades have some big league action coming up, including the Dec. 18-21 WSHL Shootout. Their seven games in December could help them move up in the Mountain Conference.

“We have said all along we have the toughest division in the WSHL and I think that is playing out as expected with the top four teams right there together,” Cook said.

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