Western States Hockey League

Western States Hockey League: Idaho Jr. Steelheads out to defend title, nothing less

Western States Hockey League: Idaho Jr. Steelheads out to defend title, nothing less

The Idaho Junior Steelheads have won the last two Thorne Cup championships in the Western States Hockey League.

This past season, the Steelheads knocked off the Dallas Ice Jets for the championship. They earned a 3-2 win in the first game and grinded out a 6-5 overtime victory in the finale.

Building on that kind of success is not easy and head coach John Olver is doing what he can to put his team in position to contend for another title. The Jr. Steelheads begin their 2012-13 regular season with a two-game stand against the Seattle Jr. Totems on Sept. 28-29 at their home Manchester Ice and Events Centre in McCall, Idaho.

“We only return seven players, so we had to do a lot of recruiting in the offseason,” Olver said. “It’s been a very busy summer. We have been to a lot of camps and we feel like we were successful with the recruiting process. Only time will tell.”

What Olver does know is that when a franchise has success, players want to be a part of it and are willing to embrace the high expectations that come with it.

“Players want to be on successful teams and have a chance to win a championship,” Olver said. “They want to follow in the tradition of past teams. It gets tougher to do each year because every team wants to knock you off. We have to be ready to go every time we step out on the ice.”

The key to maintaining the success is linked to bringing in the right players. Olver said he has about seven or eight players from Europe that have the potential to make an impact this season.

“They could be our X-factor players,” Olver said. “They have the skills to be very good players. It’s just a matter of doing it in this league. Our goal is to bring in players who have the talent to play at this level and the work ethic to succeed here. If players work hard, good things will happen.”

Brian Lester

Southern Oregon Spartans: New energy powering defense, forward ranks

Southern Oregon Spartans: New energy powering defense, forward ranks

Head coach Mike Stanaway could hardly wait for the Southern Oregon Spartans’ first big test – their first as new members of the Western States Hockey League – against the league’s defending champion Idaho Jr. Steelheads on Sept. 7 and 8.

“That’ll be a good measuring stick for us. We’ve improved defensively and we’ve got an arsenal of firepower on the offensive side,” he said, in late August. “It’ll be the WSHL champs, a very well-coached and good, solid Idaho program, taking on the Spartans, last year’s Northern Pacific League champs.”

The Steelheads pulled off a come-from-behind win in the first game (3-2, after the Spartans held a 2-0 lead) and won 5-2 the second night.

Regardless of those preseason results, Stanaway believes this year’s Spartans are certainly upgraded from the 2011-12 edition.

“We just finished camp and things are looking good. We had a pretty deep team last year, but we’ve got a little more improvement at each position,” said Stanaway. “We want to get better every year and be able to upgrade. Hopefully, that will show.”

Along with the key veteran triumvirate of Connor Quinn, Nick DeSimone and Alex O’Leary, the defensive corps gets even deeper with the newcomers the Spartans have brought in.

Billy Vita is coming to the Spartans from the Alberta Junior Hockey League as a “big, physical defenseman.”

“I happened to see him skate in Madison (Wis.) at a showcase,” said Stanaway. “For how big he is, he skates tremendously well.”

Mike Kowicki is a northern Michigan product who played a regular shift for the Marquette Electricians Midget AAA team in the Northern Lakes Hockey League last year.

“He plays just like Luke Nickels, the NORPAC Defensive MVP last year,” said Stanaway. “Offensively, he’s gifted, and he has the speed to get back without missing a beat.”

Up front, the Spartans are expecting some rousing encores from Tim Talty, Nick Stirmel and Anthony Golio.

Talty, a ’92 from Tinley Park, Ill., announced in late August he’ll be returning to the Spartans after scoring a combined 99 points in 45 regular season and playoff games in the NORPAC last year.

“[Talty’s return] will obviously bring a boost of energy right into the lineup,” said Stanaway. “Stirmel is a speedy winger who does a good job bringing the puck to the net, and Anthony was great for us last year. He really put his time and effort in this summer.”

New recruits up front include some “terrific offensive players” such as Dan Doyle, Bobby Gervino and Pete Jorgensen (all formerly of the Chicago Bulldogs), Andrew Jarvis (St. Louis Frontenacs) and Max Rasmussen (Lake Erie Warriors Midget AAA).

Western States Hockey League: Moose ready to impress new Salt Lake City fans

Western States Hockey League: Moose ready to impress new Salt Lake City fans

The Salt Lake City Moose have settled into their new home after the move from Park City and head coach Aaron Kinslow is looking forward to seeing what the team can accomplish during the 2012-13 Western States Hockey League campaign.

“Things have gone well over the summer,” Kinslow said. “We have done a good job of recruiting and we are excited about the potential we have as a team.”

The Moose will have its only camp of the offseason Sept. 7-9 and Kinslow is expecting a good turnout for it.

“We should have a good number of players coming in for it,” Kinslow said. “It will be competitive and we’re looking forward to filling out our roster and getting ready for the upcoming season.”

Kinslow said it can be a challenge to put a team together but he is confident the Moose will be ready to roll once the season gets started.

“It’s like trying to put a puzzle together. You have to find the pieces that fit,” Kinslow said. “We want players who have good hockey skills but we also want players with good character. Everyone has to play a role on the team in order to be successful.”Kinslow is aware of the fact that the Moose will be competing in one of the toughest conferences in the country, which is why being in shape is crucial.

“We have to be in the best physical shape possible,” Kinslow said. “We also have to be mentally tough because it’s a long season.”

As for expectations for the season ahead, Kinslow said he wants to see his team put forth its best effort each night.

“We are going to be up against very good teams. We have the defending league champion [Idaho] in our conference. There are no easy games and we have to be ready to compete hard every night,” he added.


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Western States Hockey League: Seals look to bring glory to name in Bay Area

Western States Hockey League: Seals look to bring glory to name in Bay Area

Steve McKenna is pleased with the progress the Bay Area Seals have made as they prepare for their first season in the Western States Hockey League.junior hockey, usa junior hockey, hockey magazine, western states hockey league

The general manager of one of the league’s latest expansion teams believes things are right on track, not only behind the scenes but in building the team as well.

“It’s been an exciting time for everyone,” McKenna said. “We have made great connections with a lot of hockey contacts and coach Zac Lytle has done a good job of finding players who are looking forward to having an opportunity to play hockey. Our main goal is to run this team in a professional way and make the experience a good one for the players.”


Southern Oregon Spartans: WSHL squad can see definitive defensive improvements

Southern Oregon Spartans: WSHL squad can see definitive defensive improvements

With the Southern Oregon Spartans main tryout camp coming up on Aug. 17-19, the team is already thrilled with the players they have seen and signed for 2012-13.junior hockey, usa junior hockey, jr hockey, hockey magazine, Spartans, wshl

Spartans co-owner and director of hockey operations Troy Irving was especially happy with what the team had seen along the blue line.

“In our first camp there was a lot of strength and depth on defense,” said Irving.

One of those players was with the team last year, but Connor Quinn has improved quite a bit from his play last year for the Spartans.

“I thought he was tremendous,” said Irving. “He’s in great condition and playing with a lot of confidence. He played really well in front of the crease.”

Quinn is a ’92 from Yorkville, Ill., and previously played in both the Great Lakes Junior League and the North American 3 Hockey League (NA3HL). More