A busy week in the Canadian Hockey League generated plenty of headlines. Here’s the latest from around the circuit:
The Sherbrooke Phoenix entered the QMJHL in 2012-13. In the ensuing years, a number of franchise records have been established, including the most points in one game. Entering Sunday’s contest versus the Shawinigan Cataractes, the record sat at six points in a three-way tie between Daniel Audette, Marek Zachar, and Samuel Poulin.
Naturally, the record was broken not once but twice Sunday, as Poulin and fellow forward Felix Robert racked up the points in a 9-4 final that saw Robert finish with seven while Poulin topped the charts with eight. Poulin initially took hold of the new record at the 5:05 mark of the third period when he netted his first goal and seventh point of the night on a tally assisted by Robert. The two then reconnected just over 10 minutes later on another goal by Poulin that marked his eighth point and the seventh for Robert. The contest was one of many across the league from Sunday to Thursday as part of the QMJHL’s Rivalry Weekend.
Big day for Dach
A week after appearing in a three-game conditioning stint with the Rockford IceHogs, Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, seeing more than 13 minutes of ice time in a hard-battled showdown with the Washington Capitals.
Dach, who impressed at Chicago’s summer prospect camp before being forced to the sidelines due to injury, hopes to hold his place with the Blackhawks following a successful 2018-19 campaign with the Blades in which he finished third in team scoring with 73 points counting 25 goals and 48 assists in 62 games.
Selected third overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Dach was the first CHL player to hear his name called, while he also becomes the first CHLer from his draft class to make his NHL debut.
Sting starting to buzz
After dropping their first seven contests of 2019-20, the Sarnia Sting are heating up after posting three consecutive victories, including a 9-5 win that handed the Generals their first loss this season. Making that evening even more impressive for the Sting was that it was the first appearance for 16-year-old rookie netminder Benjamin Gaudreau, a 2021 NHL Draft hopeful who was originally chosen seventh overall in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
Book ending the victory over the Generals were wins versus the Barrie Colts and Kingston Frontenacs. The buzzing Sting are benefiting from the return of Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Jamieson Rees, who made his season debut versus Barrie and has recorded seven points counting three goals and four assists since entering the lineup.
Pink in the Rink
Breast cancer awareness initiatives continued across the league as teams like the Mooseheads, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Kamloops Blazers, Saint John Sea Dogs, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Spitfires dressed for the occasion.
An annual fundraiser in association with the Canadian Cancer Society and Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Pink in the Rink brings awareness to the cause and helps raise funds for women’s cancer research. The special games often see teams suit up in unique pink-coloured jerseys while attending fans are also encouraged to wear pink.
For the Prince George Cougars, Saturday’s contest versus the Spokane Chiefs marked Oktoberfest theme night, a German celebration best known for its carnival and beer festival.
The Cougars marked the occasion with a special lederhosen-themed jersey with creative inclusions that paid tribute to the local Fraser and Nechako Rivers. Fans also had a chance to bid on the unique jerseys.
The stars aligned in a weekend schedule that saw three sets of brothers face off, beginning in the WHL where Dru Krebs (Medicine Hat Tigers) and Dakota Krebs (Calgary Hitmen) went head to head. The Krebs brothers are also the siblings of Winnipeg ICE forward and Vegas Golden Knights first-round pick Peyton Krebs.
The WHL also saw two brothers go head to head Saturday in a showdown between Swift Current Broncos rookie forward Aiden Bulych and Vancouver Giants defenceman Kaleb Bulych.
Across the circuit, Sunday’s contest between the Bulldogs and Ottawa 67’s also featured a unique affair as it saw Hamilton netminder Marco Costantini face off against twin brother Anthony Costantini of the 67’s.
Marking the occasion
As part of the Hindu celebration of Diwali, Sunday’s contest between the Tigers and hosting Calgary Hitmen featured a Punjabi broadcast.
Joining the broadcast booth to cover the game was Harnarayan Singh of Hockey Night in Canada alongside Jagpreet Shergill and Gurneet Marwaha.
Petes’ memorable home opener
The Peterborough Petes played in their long-awaited home opener Thursday, coming away with a thrilling 4-3 victory versus the Hamilton Bulldogs.
After beginning the season with a CHL high nine straight road games, the Petes finally got to play before their home fans following extensive offseason renovations to the Peterborough Memorial Centre that included lowering the ice surface and replacing the boards and glass. The renovation allows for improved sight lines for fans taking in a game from the home rink.
Inking a deal
A pair of CHL talents are the latest to sign their entry-level contracts as the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues agreed to terms with Cape Breton Eagles forward and 2018 draft pick Mathias Laferriere, while the Nashville Predators inked first-year Windsor Spitfires forward Egor Afanasyev to a three-year pact.
Selected 45th overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Afanasyev becomes the 20th CHL player drafted this summer to have since signed his entry-level contract.
Follow the leader
Three more clubs have named a new captain, beginning with the 2020 Memorial Cup Presented by Kia host Kelowna Rockets, who presented Tampa Bay Lightning first-round pick Nolan Foote with the distinction. After finishing second in team scoring last season with 63 points, Foote has had a strong start this fall as he has already notched six goals and seven assists in 10 games.
Also earning the ‘C’ is Halifax Mooseheads veteran forward Benoit-Olivier Groulx, who was an alternate captain with the club last season, while he previously sported the captaincy on the national stage with Team Canada Red at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The captaincy announcement is the latest happening for Groulx who earlier this month signed his entry-level agreement with the Anaheim Ducks.
In the WHL, the Prince Albert Raiders named defenceman Zack Hayes as the franchise’s 43rd captain. The fourth-year blue-liner headlines a four-man leadership group that also includes fellow rearguard Jeremy Masella as well as forwards Aliaksei Protas and Brayden Watts.
Meanwhile, in London, the Knights saw the return of co-captain and Columbus Blue Jackets first-round pick Liam Foudy, who had been sidelined with an upper-body injury. Foudy scored in his season debut Friday against the Spitfires before adding another tally the next night against the Frontenacs.
In all, Foote, Groulx, Hayes, and Foudy are among a group of 38 new captains across the CHL this season.
Finding the win column
A trio of first-year pros and CHL graduates made their mark in the American Hockey League over the past week as goaltenders Michael DiPietro, Kyle Keyser, and Ivan Prosvetov each picked up their first career win.
Beginning with DiPietro, who from 2015-19 split his junior career with the Windsor Spitfires and Ottawa 67’s, his first career appearance Wednesday doubled as his first victory as he turned aside 16 shots against the Syracuse Crunch. There was little time for celebration however as DiPietro was back between the pipes two nights later when he once again found the win column thanks to a 24-save performance versus the defending Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers. DiPietro was selected 64th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2017.
Elsewhere, Keyser made the most of his first appearance as he pieced together 26 saves to guide the Providence Bruins to a 7-4 victory against the Belleville Senators. An Oshawa Generals graduate, Keyser inked an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins in 2017.
Prosvetov rounds out the list of impressive debuts in the blue paint as the Saginaw Spirit graduate came up with a 29-save victory in his first appearance with the Tucson Roadrunners, the top minor-league affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Prosvetov shifted to the AHL this season after spending one year with the Spirit in which he won 36 of 53 games to earn a spot on the OHL Third All-Star Team.
Happy Birthday Killer
Brian Kilrea, one of the CHL’s most iconic figures, celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday. His good friend Don Cherry and fellow Coach’s Corner host Ron MacLean provided a nice video tribute to the milestone:
Kilrea is an honoured member of the Hockey Hall of Fame spending 35 seasons with the Ottawa 67’s where he holds the CHL record with 2,156 games behind the bench including 1,193 wins.