Category Archives: European Update

BLUEGER’S LATVIA LEADS GROUP A AT WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Blueger, Teddy (Latvia)Nobody saw this coming.

With this afternoon’s triumph over Italy, Teodors Bļugers (Teddy Blueger) and the Latvian national team have rattled off three-straight wins to start the 2017 IIHF World Championship. Latvia’s perfect record has it atop Group A’s standings, just ahead of perennial hockey powerhouse Russia.

Former Calgary Flames bench boss Bob Hartley has the Latvians rolling and their crazy fans rollicking through their first three games, boasting the tournament’s second-best power play (50.0%) and second-best penalty kill (88.9%). Latvia has surrendered just two goals in the tournament, fewest of all 16 participating teams.
In their first contest, the Latvians edged Denmark, 3-0, on a 27-save shutout pitched by Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Elvis Merzļikins. Latvia’s second game saw multi-point performances from the Springfield Thunderbirds’ Rihards Bukarts (0G-2A) and Buffalo Sabres star Zemgus Girgensons (1G-1A) in a 3-1 defeat of Slovakia.

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Growing List of Great “Lacrosse Goals”

If there are three certainties in life, they are death, taxes, and dirty dangles at European All-Star events.

The Kontinental Hockey League All-Star Game and Skills Competition took place this past weekend, and it lived up to European hockey’s reputation of producing jaw-dropping YouTube fodder once the game gets relaxed. This year, it was 23-year-old Vladimir Tkachyov blowing minds and popping eyes with this little ditty:


Well, then…

Tkachyov’s spinning-top showcase came on the heels of Kalle Kossila of the San Diego Gulls scoring a lacrosse-style goal in the middle of an AHL regular season game.

This got us thinking, what are some of the best “lacrosse” goals we’ve seen in hockey? Lately, it’s seemed as if the list has grown year after year, but with Kossila and Tkachyov in mind, let’s look back at some of the best puck-cradling punch-ins we’ve ever seen.

“THE MICHIGAN” – March 24, 1996

While Bill Armstrong had been pulling off this move in the minor leagues for some time before this, most of the hockey world’s first exposure to these lacrosse goals in hockey was due to Mike Legg pulling it off in the 1996 NCAA National Tournament. Legg’s goal tied the game for his University of Michigan Wolverines, who not only went on the win the regional semifinal game they were in against the University of Minnesota, but also capture that National Championship later in the tournament.

The goal’s legend grew and grew so much that any goal thereafter scored in that fashion is often referred to as “The Michigan” or “A Michigan”. In fact, many people erroneously remember that the goal took place in the national championship game or even in overtime to win the game. However, there’s no one mistaking it for anything less than one of the most iconic goals in hockey history.

(Major bonus points awarded for the announcers clearly having no idea what happened other than that the puck was in and Legg had scored. Somehow.)

ROB SCHREMP’S JUGGLING ACT – W-B/S Penguins Skills Competition, 2007

Back in the late 2000’s, the Penguins hosted their own skills competition separate from any festivities at the AHL All-Star Classic. The event featured the Penguins split into two teams for separate events, pitting then-assistant coach Dan Bylsma against head coach Todd Richards.

Coach Richards made the call to send out Robbie Schremp in the shootout portion of the skills competition. It turned out to be a very, very wise decision.

Schremp ended up replicating this move last year at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition in Syracuse, N.Y. while representing the Atlantic Division as a member of the Portland Pirates.

(SO MANY bonus points awarded for Creed being payed faintly in the background.)

MIKAEL GRANLUND “MAILS” ONE IN – May 13, 2011

Finland and Russia met in a semifinal game at the 2011 IIHF World Championship. Russia had reached the final three years in a row, and Finland had only won the whole thing once in the tournament’s near 90-year history. The Finns are no slouch, of course, but a victory for them would be quite an upset.

Mikael Granlund shocked the hockey world not only by scoring the game-winning goal for Finland to take down the Russians, but by doing so in dramatic, “Michigan-style” fashion.

Finland eventually went on to win gold, but Granlund’s phenomenal goal is remembered more than the medal ceremony or even the final (against rival Sweden, for that matter).

Granlund’s goal gained such notoriety, that the Finnish government put a perfectly captured photograph of the moment on a postage stamp. The stamp was so popular, that all prints were SOLD OUT before the end of the month. Now that’s special.

(There’s something about hearing shock and awe expressed in another language that makes it so much more thrilling. Bonus points.)

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NIKITA GUSEV PUTS A TWIST ON AN OLD CLASSIC – Jan. 25, 2015

The lacrosse goal has become a staple at skills competitions these days. What makes them stand out from the rest putting your own unique flair on your attempt. That’s why Tkachov’s bid this year grabbed so much attention, as well as Robbie Schremp’s display with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 10 years ago.

At the 2015 KHL All-Star Skills Competition, Nikita Gusev tried his hand at making the move his own.

The full 360 and pulling the puck out from between the legs is a nice touch, and clearly left the crowd happy. Now if the Tampa Bay Lightning can get their 2012 draft pick to leave the motherland and join the NHL or AHL, they’d be even happier.

(You’ve got to award bonus points for picking the top corner, too. That’s the type of precision that often goes ignored in these type of events where the goalies are chastised for sneezing at puck to try and make a save.)

KAEL MOUILLIERAT STUNS HERSHEY – Mar. 20, 2016

This is likely the goal that remains most fresh in the minds of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans. With the Penguins headed into the weekend trailing the Hershey Bears by three points in the division standings, they rolled to a win in the first half of a home-and-home series and went into Giant Center the next day looking to reclaim first place.

Kael Mouillierat got Wilkes-Barre/Scranton off to a hot start by fooling Justin Peters with a behind-the-net lacrosse goal in the first two minutes of the game.

The thing is, it wasn’t the first time Mouillierat had done this, either. He had pulled it off the year prior while playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and even before that when he was in the ECHL with the Idaho Steelheads.

There’s no evidence of Mouillierat nailing the move for a fourth time now that he’s playing with Luleå in the Swedish Hockey League… at least not yet. (And if he ever does, that would earn him an undeniable amount of bonus points).

 

Surely there are plenty more goals like this scattered across the internet, these are just a collection of our favorites. But did we miss one of yours? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!

GOLD MEDAL GAME UP NEXT FOR DONATELLI AND USA AT HLINKA TOURNAMENT

blog_USA Hlinka bench

While most eyes have been glued to the Summer Olympic games in Rio, the United States now has a chance to win gold overseas at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament.

With Friday’s thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over Russia, the U.S. squad led by Penguins coach Clark Donatelli will play in the prestigious under-18 event’s final on Saturday.

“These guys are pretty resilient and throughout the tournament they´ve learned not to panic and run around,” Donatelli told USA Hockey’s Derek O’Brien after the game. “Our special teams were really good – our penalty killing came through, our power play scored a couple goals, and then we got our legs and had a really good third period.”

After a scoreless first period, Russia and the U.S. traded goals back-and-forth for the rest of the game. The Russians scored first, only to see the U.S. answer a mere 1:36 later. When Russia took a 2-1 lead, the Americans found another quick equalizer in 2:05. Another lead was taken by Russia, but a power play goal by Sasha Chmelevski tied it up, 3-3.

With the score tied at the end of regulation, the semifinal game went to sudden death OT. University of Michigan-commit (and son of a Russian immigrant) Michael Pastujov blog_Primeaucapitalized on a loose puck blunder in front of the Russians’ net and buried the game-winning goal 4:42 into the extra fame.

Though Pastujov’s had his moment in the spotlight as Team USA’s hero while tying Chmelevski for the team lead with nine points on the game-winner, the honor of player of the game went to goalie Cayden Primeau, son of long-time NHL forward Keith.

Donatelli and Team USA have little time to prepare for the final, which takes place in less than 24 hours on Saturday, Aug. 13 against the host country, Czech Republic. The Czechs also went to overtime in their semifinal match-up with Sweden, eventually winning, 2-1. The U.S. downed the Czechs, 4-2, in a previous meeting earlier in the tournament.

Game time for the gold medal game is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET.

DONATELLI AND TEAM USA HEADING TO HLINKA SEMIFINALS

blog_USA Hlinka

Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli has kept himself busy this past week by taking the reins of Team USA at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. The under-18 event is always a premier pre-season destination for scouts and top prospects, and the talent for the red, white, and blue has yet to disappoint.

Donatelli’s squad is 3-0 and secured itself a spot in the semifinals by taking down Finland, Switzerland and the host country, the Czech Republic.

The U.S. had a tough task right out of the gate against a Finnish program that has risen to the peak of international junior hockey at multiple levels over the past few years. The two teams tussled to a 3-3 draw at the end of regulation and went to sudden death overtime. blog_PoehlingSt. Cloud State commit Ryan Poehling found the back of the net 4:36 into overtime for the deciding goal, the first of many big contributions from Poehling in the tournament.

Sasha Chmelevski proved to be the x-factor against Switzerland in Team USA’s second game, scoring twice– including the game-winner–  and added one assist. Team USA went on to win, 4-3, once again.

In game three, Poehling stepped up in a big way once again and recorded a hat trick within 11 minutes of the second period as the U.S. went on to defeat the Czechs, 4-2. Although Poeling’s individual effort stole the headlines, Donatelli believes his team team has gotten stronger with every game and their victory over the hosts was their finest effort yet.

“I thought we played exceptional tonight,” Donatelli told USA Hockey reporters after the win against the Czech Republic. “We really elevated our game and executed the game plan. It was one of our best games of the tournament so far.”

Next up for Donatelli and the rest of Team USA is Russia in the semifinals. Russia is also undefeated in the tournament so far, and even knocked off Canada, 2-1, in their second game. Russia’s defeat of Canada guaranteed that the reigning Hlinka Tournament champs of the past eight years would not even medal this year.

On the opposite side of the bracket, the Czech Republic takes on Sweden.
Hlinka logo
The U.S. has medaled at the Hlinka Tournament 12 times since its inception in 1991, but has only captured gold once (2003). Donatelli’s team looks to take another step closer to adding gold medal No. 2 to the United States’ trophy case Friday, Aug. 11 in its game against Russia, scheduled for a 11:30 ET start time.

EUROPEAN UPDATE: Omark’s stick as hot as Laine’s play

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January 23, 2016

When Alex Ovechkin pantomimed lighting his stick on fire after scoring his 50th goal of the 2008-09 season, a large and loud contingent of the “old school” hockey brigade denounced his unique celebration. It was a sort of faux outrage that seems silly in retrospect, but the controversy at the time was very real.

However, even those who were upset with Ovechkin’s celly at the time have to respect Linus Omark for going the extra mile at the KHL All-Star Skills Competition this weekend.

Omark actually lit his stick on fire. Literally.

While his shot didn’t go in, Omark’s flare for the dramatic still scored him enough points to walk away from the shootout competition as champion.

Omark, a former AHLer, has pulled off some masterful shootout moves before (see 1, see 2,) but this is by far his most daring attempt.

For what it’s worth, the Calgary Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau wanted to pull off something similar at the NHL’s All-Star Skills Competition in Columbus, Ohio last year, but had the idea rejected by the league for player safety concerns.

LAINE ERUPTS FOR HAT TRICK

While Linus Omark’s stick was about as hot as one can get, 2016 draft prospect Patrik Laine is as hot as someone can be in the figurative sense.

After a jaw-dropping performance at the World Juniors that saw his Finnish team capture gold, the 17-year-old hasn’t slowed down the scoring since rejoining Tappara in the Liiga (Finnish Elite League).

Laine has racked up five points in his five games with Tappara since returning from the World Junior tournament, including his first pro hat trick on Saturday.

It’s hard to believe the 6-foot-4, blog_Laine200-plus lbs. Laine isn’t even 18 yet, and when you factor in the way he’s been scoring at the professional level (11G-10A in 29 games), it becomes even more unfathomable.

Still, Laine is far from a lock to go as the top forward pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft this summer. In fact, he may not even be the highest pick from his own country.

Scouts have been just as impressed with Jesse Puljujärvi, who actually led the World Juniors with 17 points (5G-12A) in seven games, and Arizona-born forward Auston Matthews.

Matthews went into the season as the favorite to go No. 1 overall, and based on his play with the ZSC Lions in the Swiss National League, he still holds that top spot in many pundits eyes. Matthews has a staggering 21 goals and 14 assists for 35 points in 28 NLA games.