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VHL Weekly Review - S73 Week 2


Laine
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Welcome to the second edition of VSN’s S73 Weekly recap (Games 127-235).  We’ll cover a host of things in this recap each week including highlights of important VSN happenings, three stars of the week, power rankings, rookie profiles, and anything else of importance.

 

Speaking of other VSN content, make sure to check out the other great work from the greater VSN family! Here are a few handy links to check out, from our weekly podcasts to in-depth history articles, scouting reports, and more!

 S73 Season Preview | VHL Awards | VHLM Awards

 

Recap

In the second week of S73, games began to pick up the pace. Almost every game was faster and more physical than the first week. Goalies were very good this week, recording 8 shutouts across the second week, up one from 7 shutouts last week. Hat Tricks took a slight fall, dropping from 19  last week to 17 this week. Not a steep fall, but the goaltenders are beginning to settle in this season. We saw our first brawl of the year earlier this week. Numerous fights occurred and the physical play rose in intensity as the teams began to settle in and push for those top spots.

 

3-Stars

 

First Star

Rayz Funk (SEA) - 1.92 GAA, 0.940 SV%, 2 Shutouts
Second Star

Benny Graves (DCD) - 10 G, 18 A, 37 Hits

Third Star

Luciano Valentino (DCD) - 4 G, 19 A, 36 Shots Blocked

 

Power Rankings

Featured on this week’s graphic are Scott Greene of the Seattle Bears, Joakim Bruden from HC Davos and Alex Letang playing for the Moscow Menace.

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Shoutout to @Pengu for the sig!

 

Another week in the books and we have a huge shake-up at the top of our power rankings. Last week’s top team the New York Americans have completely fallen out of the rankings after struggling, and we have some brand new teams that have earned a spot in our Top 8 after some stellar play. Coming in at #1, and rightfully so, we have the Seattle Bears. The Bears went on an absolute tear this week, with a 10-2-2 record after some magnificent performances from star netminder Rayz Funk. They are currently hot on the heels of their conference rivals, the New York Americans, and are now just 2 points shy of the top seed. Our #2 ranking goes to none other than HC Davos who continue their great start to the season and are currently holding the top spot in the European Conference. A great 10-4-0 record this week has ensured that they lock down their place in the VHL standings, and gain 3 spots in our Power Rankings.

 

 Next up, a newcomer to the rankings this week, we have the Moscow Menace. This young team put together a solid week of performances and relied heavily on their star rookies, Alex Letang and Lucas Brandt, and they now find themselves holding a playoff spot after a not so great start to the season. At #4, we have another newcomer to the rankings and that is the D.C. Dragons. The Dragons had a horrible start to the season, with only 5 wins in their first 16 games, but they have stormed back this week and added themselves to the playoff mix. This week’s 1st Star, Benny Graves, was the standout performer, racking up an impressive 28 points in 14 games. They are currently on the outside of the playoff picture right now, but are keeping touch with the teams around them and will be looking to carry on from there.

 

 The Helsinki Titans are the first fallers of this week, dropping from #2 down to #5. That’s not to say they had a bad week, 8 wins from 14 is no easy task, but the performance of the teams above them were just that good. They are only 2 points behind the conference leaders, Davos, and if they continue winning games at the rate they are, we’re gonna have an extremely interesting race for 1st. Another faller this week is the Riga Reign, who are perhaps the victim of playing one less game than everybody else, but nonetheless couldn’t quite keep up the same level of play like last week. The European Conference is extremely tight this season, with just 10 points separating 1st and 6th. The defending champs find themselves right in the middle of it and will no doubt be looking at a run for 1st, rather than a battle to make the playoffs.

 

 Our 2nd biggest faller of the week, going from #3 all the way down to #7 is the Calgary Wranglers. They just about evenly split their 14 games, going 7-6-1, but after a 10-5-1 start, last year’s finalists will probably be disappointed. They have fallen 4 points back of Seattle, but are keeping pace and will be hoping to find their groove again and push for that top spot. The 8th and final spot is held by the first expansion team to feature in this season’s Power Rankings, the Los Angeles Stars! It’s basically a two-man showdown in Hollywood this season. Sigard Gunnar and Tyler Barabash Jr are absolutely tearing it up, and are #1 and #2 in the league for scoring, respectively. Will they be able to pull the Stars to a shock playoff appearance? They are only 3 points out as of now, and who knows, crazier things have happened. That wraps up this week’s Power Rankings. An amazing week all around, and a few surprises as is often the case. Join us next week to see who will take our top spot.

 

Notable Games

 

Game 131 - Riga Reign vs New York Americans

In this marquee matchup between the defending champions and the hottest club in the VHL, the results did not disappoint. It didn’t take long for the Americans to get started as just 16 seconds in, Owen Nolan would open the scoring on the power-play. New York would add to their lead midway through the first as Jerry Wang would score on a breakaway to make it 2-0. It would remain 2-0 through the first period, leading us to period number two. Both teams came out firing in this period, as Riga outshot New York 22-14 in the second period. We would see our first goal of the second halfway through as Hugh Jass would get one of the power-play to make it 3-0. Micheal Gary Scott would make it 4-0 with just 1:18 to go in the middle frame. The third period was the story of one man, A Red Guy. He stopped 24 shots in the third and 63 shots across the entire game to record a shutout. Bjorn Scoringsonn would tack on one more halfway through the third to conclude the game, which ends in a 5-0 win for New York.

 

Game 160 - Calgary Wranglers vs Malmo Nighthawks 

This was the game this week that had everything in it. Malmo has just come off of a good performance last week and hoped to continue this streak against Calgary, who began surging at the end of last week. Calgary came out getting the puck on net, as they outshot Malmo 20-8 in the opening frame. However, Malmo would strike first on a goal from Ray Sheilds to make it 1-0. Calgary wasn’t happy about this goal and just 17 seconds later, Mickey Dickson would drop the gloves with Kris Rice. Rice would end up winning this fight with some right-hand punches and Dickson would be ejected from the game. The fight win brought some energy to that Calgary bench and just 8 minutes after the fight, Calgary would tie it up off of an even-strength goal from ACL TEAR. We would end the first period with a 1-1 tie. Malmo was very undisciplined in the second frame, taking 3 penalties to Calgary’s 0. Calgary would make them pay and on the power-play, Mikko Lahtinen would feed a one-timer to RJ Jubis to put Calgary on top 2-1. It would stay like this heading into the 3rd period. Malmo was really pushing in that third and about midway through, we saw that emotion start to boil over with some undisciplined penalties. One thing leads to another and at the 14:22 mark of the 3rd, we saw our first line brawl of the season. ACL TEAR and Chris Hylands duked it out first, but there was no true winner as the fight ended in a draw. Second to drop the gloves were Willie Dredge and Zyrok12, but they also ended in a draw. The final fight and probably the most interesting one was Latrell Mitchell and Ray Sheilds. This fight also ended in a draw but the energy on both benches was flowing after that. After all the penalties were sorted out, Malmo would have two minutes for a 4 on 3 power-play and after that 2 minutes of a 5 on 4 power play. They didn’t waste their chance as late in the 5 on 4, Tyler Walker gave Lewis Dawson a pass on a tee and he makes no mistake to tie the game up 2-2 with just 2:22 to go in the 3rd. The rest of the third would be quiet and we would head to overtime. Overtime was an absolute thriller, as both teams would go up and down the ice. Both teams hit posts and crossbars multiple times, but the score would remain 2-2 as the game needed a shootout to decide the winner. Malmo would shoot first, sending Lewis Dawson. Dawson would make a great backhand to forehand move, but he would be stopped by Jacques LaFontaine. Mikko Lahtinen would be the first shooter for the Wranglers and he made no mistake. He walked in and slapped and absolutely bullet top cheese to put Calgary up 1-0 in the shootout. Condor Adrienne would be up next to shoot for the Nighthawks. He made a fantastic move to get the puck through the five-hole of LaFontaine, but the puck would amazingly stop on the goal line to keep Calgary’s lead. RJ Jubis could end the game on Calgary’s second shot. Jubis walked in, pulled the puck between his legs and then pulled off the one-handed tuck to seal a 3-2 shootout victory for the Calgary Wranglers.

 

Game 206 - Chicago Phoenix vs Calgary Wranglers 

Another one of the week’s interesting matchups involved the Calgary Wranglers. This time, facing the expansion Chicago Phoenix. The first couple minutes of the first were back and forth down the ice and Chicago’s persistence would pay off as they would draw a holding call on General Zod at the 5:03 mark. On the ensuing power-play, Milos Slavik would rip a perfect wrister above Calgary’s backup. No chance on that play, 1-0 Chicago early. However, it didn’t take long for Calgary to respond and just 6 minutes later, RJ Jubis would bury his 16th of the season to tie the game up. Calgary would keep coming and just 2:57 later, Jubis would net his second of the period to make it 2-1. As the first period was winding down, Willie Dredge would find the back of the net to expand the lead to 3-1 Calgary. It would stay 3-1 heading into the intermission. Calgary came out in the second with great defensive sticks which gave them more puck possession and they would make it count as around 12 minutes in, Jubis would complete the hat trick to put Calgary up by 3. Chicago wouldn’t stop though and just 41 seconds later, Squirrely dan would rip one into the back of the net to cut the Calgary lead to 4-2. Chicago was getting undisciplined near the end of the second and it would cost them. Milos Slavik would take a hooking penalty and on that power-play, Willie Dredge would pot his second of the game on a booming slapshot from the point to expand the lead to 5-2. The second period would come to a quiet end with a 5-2 Calgary lead. Calgary would come out flying early in the 3rd and just 3:18 into the final frame, Willie Dredge would pot his hat trick goal, making it 2 Calgary hat tricks in this game and a 6-2 lead. Calgary absolutely dominated the rest of the 3rd, outshooting Chicago 19-5 in the final frame. The game would end with a 6-2 Calgary win.

 

Events of the Week

 

Fights

 

  • Game 130 - Mikko Aaltonen vs Jet Jaguar
    • Aaltonen and Jaguar would drop the gloves midway through the second period in a game between D.C. and Davos. Jaguar would get some good right hands in but Aaltonen would stand his ground and even push back. The linesmen eventually would break these two up and the fight would end in a draw. 

 

  • Game 148 - Thomas Landry II vs Randy Marsh
    • Trying to set a tone for the last two minutes after a late Prague goal gave them the lead, Randy Marsh would challenge Thomas Landry II. Landry would come out aiming for the face and Marsh would be leaking a little bit after the fight, but Marsh would hit Landry in the jaw, enough to stun him for a minute. As he went in to try and get another hit, Landry would block the punch and the linemen would eventually come in to pull the two combatants apart, with the fight ending in a draw.

    •  

  • Game 155 - Luciano Valentino vs SS Hornet
    • The second fight in a game between D.C. and Davos this week, Luciano Valentino would drop the gloves with SS Hornet. Hornet would do a good job with some blocks and punches, but Valentino would get some solid right hands in. I think the linesmen broke this fight up too soon and I thought there was going to be a winner here, but it ends in a draw.

 

  • Game 160 - BRAWL! 
    • Emotions began to boil over in a highly contested game between Calgary and Malmo. There were 3 fights at the 14:22 mark of the 3rd period. We saw ACL TEAR and Chris Hylands fight to a draw, Willie Dredge and Zyrok12 fight to a draw and lastly Latrell Mitchell and Ray Sheilds fight to a draw. I wanted to see someone win a fight, but the linesmen did a good job breaking the fights up before it got out of hand.

 

  • Game 169 - Hiroshi Okada vs Andrew Su 
    • Okada and Su would drop the gloves in the first period in a game between Helsinki and Vancouver. Okada would land some right hands and Su just didn’t have enough power. Okada would end up winning the fight. Helsinki would ride that energy to win the game after that. 

 

  • Game 221 - Scott Greene vs Jay Jones
    • Greene and Jones would drop the mitts just 17 seconds into the third period. Both players would dish out punches and blocks but no one had the upper hand and eventually, the linesmen would separate the two combatants.

 

  • Game 223 - Brock Louth vs Richard Penisson
    • Our last fight of week two takes us to Vancouver to see Brock Louth fight Richard Penisson. Louth did a great job evading the punches from Penisson and when Louth saw an opening, he hit Penisson right in the jaw and down to the mat he went. Louth won this fight, and they had to take Penisson off for some repairs but he was okay.

       

 

Hat-Tricks

 

  • Game 133 - Kefka Palazzo
    • Our first hat trick of the week would come from Kefka Palazzo, who potted 3 goals against the Los Angeles Stars. All 3 of his goals were even-strength tallies. Unfortunately, LA would win the game 4-3. It doesn’t take away the hat trick from Palazzo, who certainly had a night to remember.

 

  • Game 136 - Willie Dredge
    • Willie Dredge would record a hat trick against the Malmo Nighthawks. His first two goals came within the first 2:05 of the game and his 3rd goal would come with 41 seconds remaining in the second period. An impressive performance for Dredge.

 

  • Game 140 - Scott Greene
    • Continuing on the theme of a great week for Seattle, Scott Greene would record a hat trick, scoring 3 goals in a 4-0 beatdown of the expansion LA Stars. This is sure to be a confidence booster for Greene.

 

  • Game 142 - Dagmar Halvova
    • In an absolutely dominating performance by the Prague Phantoms, Dagmar Halvova would record a hat trick. He potted 3 goals to go along with an assist in a 7-1 win for the Phantoms against their conference rival, the London United.

 

  • Game 144 - Lucas Brandt
    • In a statement win for the Moscow Menace, Lucas Brandt would record a hat trick. He scored the first goal in the second period which ended up being the game-winner and tacked on 2 at the end of the third to seal a 5-1 statement win over the red-hot HC Davos Dynamo.

 

  • Game 149 - Mat Tocco
    • Mat Tocco would score all 3 goals in a gutsy win for the Vancouver Wolves. They would end up beating the D.C. Dragons 3-0. Tocco would score in all 3 periods of the game and this performance is certainly a confidence booster for him. 

 

  • Game 150 - Sigard Gunnar
    • Sigard Gunnar would continue a streak of dominate games for him, recording a hat trick during a 5-2 win over the Chicago Phoenix. He certainly has been a catalyst for the Stars so far this season.

 

  • Game 151 - Henrik Zoiderberg
    • Another hat trick for the Moscow Menace this week. This time, it would be Henrik Zoiderberg getting the hats. He scored 3 goals in an interesting 5-3 win over the London United. He has been playing very good this season.

 

  • Game 167 - Lewis Dawson
    • Yet another hat trick recorded against the London United. This time, coming from rookie Lewis Dawson and the Malmo Nighthawks. Dawson recorded the hat trick to go along with 1 assist in a 5-2 win for the Nighthawks.

 

  • Game 193 - Jungkok
    • Jungkok would record a hat trick for the Vancouver Wolves. He had 3 goals to go along with 3 hits in a 5-3 win over the Moscow Menace.

 

  • Game 206 - RJ Jubis and Willie Dredge
    • When is the last time you saw 2 hat tricks in one game, let alone 2 hat tricks for a pair of teammates? Both RJ Jubis and Willie Dredge would record 3 goals each in a dominate 6-2 win for the Calgary Wranglers over the Chicago Phoenix.

 

  • Game 207 - Dagmar Halvova
    • Dagmar Halvova would record his second hat trick of the week. This time, against the Seattle Bears. The hat trick would not be enough though, as the Phantoms would fall 4-3 to Seattle.

 

  • Game 213 - Sigard Gunnar
    • In a high scoring game that had 7 first period goals between the two teams, Sigard Gunnar would record his second hat trick of the week. He scored 2 in the first and 1 in the second in an impressive 6-3 win for the Los Angeles Stars.

 

  • Game 216 - Lewis Dawson
    • Lewis Dawson would also record his second hat trick of the week. He would pot all 3 goals for the Nighthawks, including the OT winner in a key 3-2 overtime victory for Malmo over the Prague Phantoms.

 

  • Game 228 - Groovy Dood
    • D.C. Dragons rookie Groovy Dood would record his first career hat trick. This would come during a team-building 7-1 win for the Dragons over the Chicago Phoenix. Certainly a confidence booster for Dood and the Dragons who have had a slow start to the season.

 

  • Game 232 - Gary Tarantino
    • Our last hat trick of the week comes from Gary Tarantino of the Prague Phantoms. He had 3 goals including the game-winner in a wild 6-4 victory for the Phantoms over the Moscow Menace.

 

Shutouts

 

  • Game 129 - Helsinki Titans vs Chicago Phoenix
    • This week’s first shutout is earned by Jean Pierre Camus. He stopped 23 shots against a very hot Helsinki Titans team to earn a win for the Phoenix and his first VHL shutout. Chicago ended up winning by a final score of 3-0. This has to be a building block for Chicago who has been off to a terrible start so far this season.

 

  • Game 131 - Riga Reign vs New York Americans
    • Arguably the best goaltending performance of the entire season, the tremendous play of A Red Guy continued as he recorded his 2nd shutout this season. The score won’t tell the entire story with this one. New York beat Riga by a score of 5-0, but the shots were 63-34 in favour of Riga. Red Guy made 63 saves to preserve the win and the shutout for the Americans. 

 

  • Game 140 - Seattle Bears vs Los Angeles Stars
    • Another shutout for the Seattle Bears, coming from Rayz Funk. In a dominating performance from the Bears, Funk made 20 saves to help Seattle beat Los Angeles 4-0. Not exactly a performance for the ages, but it is a good little confidence booster for Seattle.

 

  • Game 149 - D.C. Dragons vs Vancouver Wolves
    • In a matchup between two of the top picks in last year’s draft, Jimmy Spyro stole the show. He would record his 2nd shutout of the season. He would stop all 23 shots from the D.C. Dragons to record a shutout and steal 2 points for the Wolves.

 

  • Game 173 - Moscow Menace vs London United
    • In a battle between close rivals in the European Conference, Thorvald Gunnarsson would record his first shutout of the season. He would make 26 saves including 15 in the 3rd period to preserve a 3-0 shutout win for Moscow.

 

  • Game 183 - HC Davos Dynamo vs Malmo Nighthawks
    • In a close game between the two surprising teams of the European Conference, Joakim Bruden would record his first career shutout. He shut down the early surge from the Malmo Nighthawks, making 20 saves including 13 of those coming in the first period.

 

  • Game 184 - Toronto Legion vs Vancouver Wolves
    • In a clash between Canadian rivals, Jaxx Hextall would record his 3rd shutout of the season, tied for the league lead in that department. He stopped 37 out of 37 against the Wolves, including a 3rd-period surge from Vancouver in which he stopped 15 shots.

 

  • Game 218 - Seattle Bears vs Calgary Wranglers
    • The last shutout this week was earned by Rayz Funk. This would be his 3rd shutout of the season, against a weakened but still effective Calgary Wranglers team. Funk would stop 21 shots across the entire game to preserve a win for Seattle.

 

Rookie Spotlight

Lucas Brandt

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Thanks @Zetterberg for the sig!

 

Lucas Brandt has already made quite the splash in his short time in the VHL. He first joined the league as a free agent, signing for the Halifax 21st where he enjoyed an incredible rookie season with 87 points in 72 games, with 41 of them being goals. He quickly established himself as an elite prospect with amazing scoring ability. His sophomore season was even better if you can believe it. He was drafted 4th overall by the Saskatoon Wild after some turbulence leading up to the draft, before which he was an almost guaranteed 1st overall pick. Brandt used that as fuel for his fire as he went on and racked up an incredible 133 points, with 57 goals and 76 assists, while also helping lead his team to a Founder’s Cup. I can’t think of a better way to cap off your minor’s career than that.

 

Brandt was selected 9th overall by the Moscow Menace in Season 72. Looking back at the draft he was selected quite a few spots ahead of his projected position, when asked if he feels any pressure to perform because of that, he said, “Both yes and no. I don't think TPE means everything in the major league drafts, so I think where I was selected was fine. However, I do have a chip on my shoulder to always go out on the ice every night and prove that I deserve to be a top 10 pick.” It’s pretty obvious that Brandt will be a star for Moscow for years to come, and with that attitude, they have unearthed an absolute gem.

 

His rookie season started off a bit slower than he would have liked, but after finding his feet, he has stormed up the rookie scoring race and finds himself just 2 points back of his Moscow teammate, Alex Letang. “I started off a little slow, but I guess that's normal when you transition to the big leagues. I've finally found my groove with my great teammates in Moscow and I'm having a blast. I would love to try and keep up a point per game pace, but I'm not sure that's likely. Either way, I'm pretty happy with my results thus far.” There’s been some talk as of late as to who has the best prospect pool in the VHL, and you will see the Moscow Menace pop up in those discussions, and rightfully so. They have amassed a highly talented crop of young stars, and things are looking up for the Russian club. “It's incredibly exciting. I love seeing our prospect pool grow especially since a lot of them were drafted in the same draft as me. Spartan (Alex Letang) and I will hopefully be competing for rookie of the year. The locker room is even more revitalized with the new group of us.” 

 

The sky certainly seems to be the limit for this current generation of Moscow stars. However, Brandt is keeping his expectations reasonable. While playoffs may very well be in the picture this season, a cup run isn’t really on his mind, “I'd always like to think we're a dark horse when we are still developing our talent/prospects. The unfortunate reality is that there are teams just much more established than us and our window isn't quite here yet.” Brandt isn’t getting too far ahead of himself and is taking things one step at a time. As this Moscow team continues to develop they will most certainly be a favourite, but for now, Lucas is taking everything he can from each game and will continue to jump from strength to strength.

 

One of those strengths may be his giant duck fighting ability. Now, I know what you’re thinking, this sounds absolutely insane, but hear me out. We presented Brandt with two hypothetical choices, he had to choose between fighting 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses. After quite some time weighing up the options, and even going as far as to write down a pro’s and con’s list for each, he elected to go for 1 horse-sized duck. “Definitely a horse-sized duck. Ducks aren't really aggressive so I think I could escape pretty easily as it tries to waddle towards me.” He actually went with the strategy of not fighting the horse-sized duck at all and just walking away, which to be fair, we never told him he couldn’t. We were outsmarted this week, but we won’t let that happen again. 

 

This concludes our rookie spotlight on the wonderful, Lucas Brandt! Just another great prospect from the Season 72 draft class. He has already established himself as one of the top players of the class and will undoubtedly have his eyes set on some silverware in the very near future. If you haven’t already gotten used to hearing his name, you better get on it. He is a star in the making and it’s only a matter of time before he earns the spotlight of the rest of the league.

 

 

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3 hours ago, PatrikLaine said:

Game 206 - RJ Jubis and Willie Dredge

  • When is the last time you saw 2 hat tricks in one game, let alone 2 hat tricks for a pair of teammates? Both RJ Jubis and Willie Dredge would record 3 goals each in a dominate 6-2 win for the Calgary Wranglers over the Chicago Phoenix.

Oh yes 

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