Thursday, June 30, 2011

Former Ice assistant Troy Ward named to AHL job

Troy Ward, who was Bob Ferguson's assistant with the Indianapolis Ice from 1995-97, has been named the head coach of the AHL Abbotsford Heat.

Ward was part of a successful era with the Ice, who went 87-62-16 in his two years on the bench, winning an IHL division title in 1997. He went from there to a three-year stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins as an assistant coach. He also has been head coach of ECHL Trenton and Victoria in two different stints, leading Trenton to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001. He also has served as an assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin. From 2007-10, he was an assistant with the AHL Houston Aeros before becoming Abbotsford's assistant with ex-Ice player Jim Playfair last year. Playfair recently took a job as the Phoenix Coyotes' associate head coach. Ward is also a former USHL head coach, leading the Dubuque Fighting Saints from 1993-95 before getting the call to Indianapolis with Ferguson.

Calgary Flames story

Today in history: June 30

We close out the month with a quartet of birthdays

Ron Harris: Defenseman who played with the Capitols in their short-lived eight-game run in 1963. He played several seasons in the minors before becoming an NHL fixture after the 1967 expansion, when he played with the Oakland Seals, four years with the Red Wings, and four more years spent with the Flames and Rangers. All in all, he had 20 goals and 91 assists in 476 NHL games. He retired during the 1975-76 season after a knee injury ended his career and later spent several years in coaching, matriculating to associate coach with the Quebec Nordiques in the mid-1980s.  A native of Verdun, Quebec, he is 69.

Ron Sanko: Right wing who played nine games for the Checkers in their final 1986-87 season. He had two goals and one assist. They would be the only nine games of his North American pro career. He was signed after four years in the OHL, the last with the Kitchener Rangers. A native of Windsor, Ontario, he is 46.

Jamie Wansbrough: Right wing who played 10 games for the Checkers in their final 1986-87 season, tallying three goals and three assists. He also played 23 games in Germany that year, his only professional season after four high-scoring years at Bowling Green. He had three straight 30-goal seasons at BGSU before graduating in 1986. A native of Toronto, he is 48.

Craig Fisher: Ice center who had a huge scoring year in his one season in Indianapolis. He tallied 53 goals and 40 assists in 1994-95, leading the Ice in scoring by more than 20 points that year. Fisher's 53 goals were the most scored in a season by an IHL Ice player, and one of seven 50-goal seasons that have been tallied by any hockey player in Indianapolis in the city's history. The next year, he would play for the Orlando Solar Bears and have an even bigger season, scoring a whopping 74 goals and 56 assists. He was drafted in the third round by the Flyers in 1988 and played 12 NHL games with Philadelphia, Winnipeg and Florida between 1989-97. He played nine seasons in the minors and one in Europe between 1990-99, scoring 20 goals eight times and 30+ goals six times. He retired after suffering a concussion in 1999 while playing for the AHL Rochester Americans. Fisher also scored 59 goals in two years with Miami University in college before finishing in 1989. A native of Oshawa, Ontario, he is 41.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Greatest playoff games #1: Racers 4, Cincinnati Stingers 3 (1977)

(Listen to Bob Lamey's call of Gene Peacosh's game-winning goal)

We have come to the last installment of the Greatest Playoff Games segment. A lot of pretty good games just missed the cut -- including a couple in the Ice's 2000 championship run, and some of the Racers' eight postseason victories.

But #1 was a no-brainer from the start.

It was 1977. The Indianapolis Racers had won the WHA's East Division with a losing record and an incredible late-season flurry the year before, but eventually lost to the New England Whalers in an epic seven-game series. But that run captivated the city, and the Racers were among the WHA's top teams in attendance in 1976-77.

The WHA was as slimmer league in 1976-77, cutting down to 12 teams to start the year -- it had started the previous year with 14, finished with 12 The Toronto Toros has become the Birmingham Bulls, the Cleveland Crusaders moved to Minnesota to replace the Fighting Saints franchise that folded mid-season the year before (the new Saints franchise would also fold mid-season in 1976-77), but for the most part, the league was as stable as it had been in its short run.

The teams to beat remained the Houston Aeros, Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques and New England Whalers. But a new player emerged in the Cincinnati Stingers. They also became a very quick bitter rival for the Racers. Less than 120 miles of I-74 separated the two towns, and the hockey animosities were never greater than in 1976-77.

The Racers had made the postseason the year before with a hard-work, lunchpail attitude, good defense and a lot of balance. It carried them again in 1977, as they finished with a 36-37-8 record -- their best in franchise history -- but finished third in the East, behind Quebec and Cincinnati.

The Racers' leading scorer was a defenseman -- Darryl Maggs had just 16 goals, but 55 assists. There was but one 30-goal scorer -- Blair MacDonald. But a ton of 20-goal scorers provided depth. Gene Peacocsh came over from Edmonton early in the year and tallied 22. Rene LeClerc and Reggie Thomas both scored 25. Fan favorite Hugh Harris was a 21-goal scorer. And Rosie Paiment, who had come over from New England early in the year, tallied 23 between the two teams. There was a good mix of balance and veteran leadership, with guys like Al Karlander, Bryon Baltimore, Pat Stapleton and Ken Block holding things down. And the goaltending trio of Jim Park, Andy Brown and Michel Dion -- a group bolstered by the mid-season acquisition of Paul Hoganson -- had been the WHA's best the year before. Dion and Park shared most of the work this season.

And, as fortune would have it, the Racers met the Cincinnati Stingers in the opening round. Cincinnati had finished just four points ahead of the Racers in the standings, but the Stingers were supposed to be the much stronger team. Their roster featured two 50-goal scorers -- Rich Leduc and Blaine Stoughton -- and 40-goal scorers Dennis Sobchuk and Rick Dudley. They were the second-highest scoring team in the WHA, and the Racers weren't supposed to be able to hang with them.

There's a belief that a series is rarely won in Game 1.

Just ask the Boston Bruins after Petr Klima stunned them in triple OT in 1990. Or the Oakland A's after they gave up game-winning homers to Kirk Gibson and Eric Davis in Game 1s to set the tone for back-to-back World Series defeats.

And just like the Bruins and A's in those later series, the Stingers would be favorites in 1977.

Racers coach Jacques Demers called for good goaltending and a tight-checking game. The Stingers had won four of five games in Riverfront Coliseum, nearly all by lopsided scorers.

But while the Stingers had a ton of talent, the Racers had some veteran guile.

Saturday night, April 9, 1977, the series began. 12,429 filed into Riverfront Coliseum not realizing they were about to witness WHA history.

Paul Hoganson took the net for the Racers against his old team -- Demers had determined he'd play both of his top goalies, and give Michel Dion the start in Game 2. Normand LaPointe tended net for the Stingers. The puck dropped at 8:05 p.m. in Cincinnati. Demers had decided to go with Brian McDonald-Gene Peacosh-Rene LeClerc to provide a two-way game against Cincinnati's top line centered by Leduc.

Yet, Leduc scored the game's first goal, assisted by Dudley and Stoughton on the power play, just 4:58 in. Mark Lomenda answered for the Racers at 11:05, a rebound goal on a power play. After 20 minutes, it was 1-1.

Second verse? Same as the first. Leduc made it 2-1, Lomenda tied it half a period later, converting a pass from Brian McDonald. Both goals were at even strength this time.

Just a typical close-checking playoff hockey game. Animosities broke out five minutes into the third when Bryon Baltimore and Bryan Maxwell dropped the gloves. Lomenda and Leduc -- the two goal scorers to that point -- both got misconducts in the altercation.

They'd both be out of the box by the time anything happened, but they wouldn't be in on the plays.

The Stingers sent the Riverfront Coliseum crowd into delirium with just 2:39 left in the game, when Pierre Roy fired from the point. Claude Larose tipped it over Hoganson and gave the Stingers a 3-2 edge. The Stingers had been swarming -- doubling up the Racers in shots in the period -- and the fans were expecting to go home happy.

But things changed quickly. Protecting a lead, the Stingers' youth showed. They got caught up-ice. Michel Parizeau and Reggie Thomas broke out of the zone with a 2-on-1. Parizeau fed Thomas in the right circle, who fired a shot that tied the game with just 1:04 left.

The celebrating Cincinnati fans were suddenly stunned -- and settling in for overtime.

Little did they know how much overtime.

The first sudden death period came and went with no scoring. Each team had a power play, but couldn't take advantage. Each team got eight shots, nothing. At that point, it became the longest game in WHA history -- none had gone to a second overtime before.

As the game went deeper, things looked more in the Stingers' favor since they had younger legs. Or so was the conventional wisdom.

Both teams got more shots on net, but Hoganson and Lapointe stopped them all. Cincinnati had a great chance late in the second OT when Hoganson's glove snared a close-in shot by Larose.

100 minutes of hockey. 40 minutes of scoreless OT. No decision yet.

On into the night they went. It was past 1 a.m. as the puck dropped for the sixth period of the night. Few fans were left in the house.

With the goaltenders dominating and both teams playing a tight-checking game, there had to be a fortunate bounce, a good carom, something.

Something. Gene Peacosh got the puck out of his zone and started the breakout by getting the puck ahead to linemate Brian McDonald, who broke into the zone and left a drop pass for Mark Lomenda left of the slot.

Lomenda -- seeking a hat trick -- fired a shot at LaPointe. He missed the net. But it hit the back boards and came off at a weird angle. LaPointe -- who was  tried to get the puck out of harm's way and pushed it to his left -- the opposite side of where he was squared up to cut down Lomenda's angle.

The puck went right to Gene Peacosh with lots of open twine to shoot at.

He didn't miss.

Suddenly, with one great bounce and a great finish, Gene Peacosh had cemented himself in WHA and Racers lore by ending the longest hockey game in WHA history. After 108 minutes and 40 seconds, the Racers had a 4-3 victory.

The game finished at 1:16 a.m. -- more than five hours after the puck dropped. 

Peacosh called it his biggest thrill in hockey. Demers called it the best WHA game he'd ever seen. Brian McDonald, who had the second assist on Peacosh's goal, said "the old men outlasted the young lions."

Hoganson had stopped 56 shots in the win -- 22 in overtime. LaPointe turned aside 48 of the 52 shots he faced.

The atmosphere on the bus was one of confidence -- the Racers headed home knowing they had the series in hand. They took a commanding lead two nights later, beating the Stingers 7-2, scoring the first five goals of the night. Game 3 was another 5-3 victory, and in Game 4, Michel Dion made 25 saves in front of a raucous sellout crowd at Market Square Arena in the high point for the Racers franchise. Reggie Thomas, Brian McDonald and Al Karlander scored goals and the Racers never trailed in a brilliant victory.

The Racers advanced to the WHA Eastern Division final series against Quebec, where they would fall in five games. They lost Game 3 in OT, and Paul Hoganson gave the local fans a thrill by shutting out the Nordiques in Game 4 in what would become the Racers' last playoff game at MSA. But Quebec won two of the three games in Le Colise by 8-3 scores, and the Nordiques would go on to beat the Winnipeg Jets to win their only AVCO Cup in history.

It would be a last hurrah for the Racers. That off-season, the team was sold to Canadian businessman Nelson Skalbania, they lost a lot of key players -- many of them to Cincinnati, where Demers also headed down I-74 to coach the Stingers. Pat Stapleton, Hugh Harris, Bryan Coates, Bryon Baltimore, Darryl Maggs, Reggie Thomas, Paul Hoganson and Michel Dion would all suit up for the Stingers the next season. The Racers would finish last in an eight-team league, and then Skalbania folded the team after 25 games the next fall.

But the glory days of the Racers -- the two-year run from 1975-77 when they had a core Indianapolis embraced and packed Market Square Arena -- is still the most fondly-remembered era of hockey in Indianapolis, and many of those players are well-remembered for their exploits as Racers.

Game boxscore
Game 1: April 9, 1977 at Riverfront Coliseum

Indianapolis Racers    1   1   1   0   0   1  -- 4
Cincinnati Stingers      1   1   1   0   0   0  -- 3
*-longest game in WHA history
First period
CIN-Leduc 1 (Dudley, Stoughton), 4:58 (pp)
IND-Lomenda 1 (Rochon, Paiement), 11:05 (pp)
Penalties: McDonald (I) high-sticking, fighting 2:44; Roy (C) high-sticking, fighting, 2:44; Sicinski (I) hooking 4:03; Stoughton (C) tripping 9:07; Hughes (C) holding 14:52
Second period
CIN-Abgrall 1 (Leduc, Larose), 9:48
IND-Lomenda 2 (McDonald, Peacosh), 18:23
Penalties: none
Third period
CIN-Larose 1 (Roy, Carroll), 17:21
IND-Thomas 1 (McDonald, Parizeau), 18:56.
Penalties: McDonald (I) high-sticking 5:00; Maxwell (C) high-sticking, fighting 5:00; Baltimore (I) fighting 5:00; Lomenda (I) misconduct 5:00; Leduc (C) misconduct 5:00.
First overtime
No scoring
Penalties: Leduc (C) hooking 3:09; MacDonald (I) tripping 4:07
Second overtime 
No scoring
Penalties: none
Third overtime
IND-Peacosh 1 (Lomenda, McDonald), 8:40
Penalties: none
Shots on goal: IND 12-10-5-8-12-5—52 (LaPointe 48 saves). CIN 9-15-13-8-11-3—59 (Hoganson 55 saves).
Power play: IND 1-3, CIN 1-2.
Att: 12,429.
Officials: R: Ron Ego. L-Alan Glaspell, Ron Asseltine.

Previous entries

United States of Hockey gives Ice some kudos

in its draft review, the United States of Hockey blog gives the Ice some props, while mostly talking about the benefit the USNTDP has for the USHL (even though there has been some controversy, especially today with one of Dubuque's top players going to the national team next year).

Says USoH's Chris Peters about the Ice and Green Bay Gamblers: "Both have proven to be among the top developmental teams in the league, while also building winning teams."

Brian Ferlin is on the roster for the Bruins' developmental camp July 7-10 in Wilmington, Mass. The Devils  (Blake Coleman) and Sharks (Sean Kuraly) will hold theirs in July.

Also, read the Indiana review of the draft.

Today in history: June 29

June 29
1981: Fred Creighton is named head coach and GM of the Indianapolis Checkers. Creighton had previously coached the Atlanta Flames and Boston Bruins in the NHL between 1975-80. He was replacing Bert Marshall as coach and future Hall of Famer Jim Devellano as GM, both of whom moved up to the NHL that year. Creighton would lead the team to two CHL Adams Cup championships and three Adams Cup Finals series in his three years as the team’s head coach. In 1984-85, the Checkers moved to the IHL after the CHL disbanded. Creighton remained as general manager for that season before leaving Indianapolis for a stint in the American Hockey League as a coach. 


Alec Richards: Goaltender who played four games for the Ice at the end of his high school career in 2004-05. He also played in one postseason game. He had a 1-2-1 mark and a 3.47 GAA in those four games. Richards then went on to Yale University, where he played four years and helped lead the Bulldogs to unprecedented heights. In 2009, he had a 19-5-1 mark and a miniscule 2.06 GAA. His six shutouts are a school record. He is second in school history in wins and GAA and third in number of career saves. He made the ECAC All-Tournament Team as a senior. At Yale, he played for current Ice coach Kyle Wallack, who was an assistant with the team. Richards began playing professionally in the ECHL in 2009, and spent the last year with the AHL Rockford IceHogs, the Chicago Blackhawks' top affiliate. He had a 2.89 GAA this past season and set Rockford rookie records for games (44), wins (17), GAA, save percentage and shutouts. He had two shutouts this year.  A native of Robbinsdale, Minnesota, he is 24. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Today in history: June 28

A huge birthday post today.

Bill Jennings: A right wing who played parts of four seasons for the Capitals from 1940-43, and again in the fall of 44. He split the first three years between Indianapolis and Detroit, got called up to the Red Wings during the height of WWII in 1943-44, and after playing three games with the Caps early in the 1944-45 season, he was traded to the Boston Bruins, where he would become a 20-goal scorer. He played 106 games for the Caps, totaling 49 goals and 76 assists. He was known as a good two-way skater. His best year in Indy was the 1942-43 season, where he totaled 23 goals and 33 assists. He also had six goals and five assists in 17 playoff games in Indy. In 1942, he scored four goals to help lead the Caps to their first Calder Cup championship. He also played 108 NHL games, totaling 32 goals and 33 assists between 1940-45. Upon the end of WWII, he played one more AHL season in Hershey and St. Louis before retiring as a player. A native of Toronto, he was born in 1917. He passed away in 1999.

Norm McAtee: Interestingly, a player who was traded for Bill Jennings in a 1946 deal between Chicago and Boston. Norm played 30 games for the Capitals in 1945-46, totaling five goals and eight assists. He'd be traded twice that year -- first to Chicago, and then to Boston -- but play the entire year for the teams' AHL affiliates in Indianapolis, St. Louis and Hershey. In 1946-47, he played 13 games for the Bruins, tallying one assist. He spent his prime years in the Canadian Air Force in WWII. A two-way player who was seen as a strong playmaker and a pretty solid checker, Norm and his brother Judd played together with the Caps. He continued to play in the minors until 1954, playing his last three years with the IHL Troy Bruins. He settled in Troy, where he was a hockey official and radio broadcaster after his retirement from playing. He also worked for Sherwin-Williams and was a legendary local golfer. A native of Stratford, Ontario, he was born in 1921. He passed away on Aug. 25, 2010.

Jim Watson: A defenseman who played for the short-lived Capitols team in the CHL in 1963. The team only played nine games as a representative of Indianapolis before the Coliseum explosion forced them to move to Cincinnati for the balance of the year. Watson broke into pro hockey that year, and made his NHL debut in a single game with the Red Wings. He would matriculate to the NHL full-time in 1967-68, although he would split time between the NHL and the minors until being claimed by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1970 NHL Expansion Draft. He wasn't a prolific scorer, but he tallied the first goal in the team's history. He played the next six years in either the NHL or WHA with the Sabres, Los Angeles Sharks, Chicago Cougars and Quebec Nordiques. All told, he had 11 goals and 52 assists in 452 NHL/WHA games. A native of Malartic, Quebec, he is 68.

Murray Kennett: Defenseman who played 28 games for the Racers in their inaugural 1974-75 year. He had a goal, three assists and eight PIMs in that stretch. He also played 50 games with the Edmonton Oilers that year, and 28 games the next. All told, he played 106 WHA games in two seasons. He retired from hockey after the 1976-77 season. A native of Kamloops, British Columbia, he is 59.

Gary Inness: Goaltender for the Racers from 1977 until the team folded in December 1978. He played 63 games for the Racers, posting a 17-36-4 record and a 4.35 GAA during a time of roster instability. After the Racers folded, he finished the year with the Washington Capitals, and would play one more full season and a partial season with the Caps. Prior to joining the Racers, he played four NHL seasons with the Penguins and Flyers. He was called "The Man With The Golden Glove" in his stint in Washington, where he had a 3.16 GAA in his first 19 games. He went straight from Canadian university hockey to the pros, a rarity in the 1970s. Upon retirement as a player, he became a teacher, guidance counselor and coach at a school in Barrie, Ontario, and recently retired from that position. A native of Toronto, he is 62.

Roland Melanson: "Rollie the Goalie" backstopped the Checkers in 1980-81, and had a tremendous first pro season. In 52 games with the Checkers, he posted a 31-16-3 record and a 2.57 GAA in a high-scoring era of hockey. He also had two shutouts and was named the CHL's Rookie of the Year. He earned a callup to the New York Islanders that year and played in 11 regular season and three playoff games. The Islanders' third-round pick in 1979, he got the permanent call to the NHL the following year, joining Billy Smith for a formidable goaltending tandem. They shared the William Jennings Trophy for fewest goals against in 1982-83.  He won three Stanley Cups with the Islanders. He also played with the Minnesota North Stars, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens in an NHL career that lasted until 1992. He also had a handful of minor-league stints. In 1992-93, he backstopped the Brantford Smoke in the upstart Colonial (later United) Hockey League and was named the league's Playoff MVP that year. He retired from playing in the 1993-94 season and entered coaching. He had a long stint with the Montreal Canadiens from 1997-2009, and is now the goaltending coach for the Western Conference champion Vancouver Canucks. He is a native of Moncton, New Brunswick, and is the first New Brunswick-born player to play in the NHL. He is 51 today.

Paul Skjodt:  Member of the Checkers from 1985-87, where he played 43 games, tallying 13 goals and 18 assists. Since 2004, he has been the principal owner of the USHL Indiana Ice, leading the team to the Clark Cup championship in 2009 and a division title in 2008. He remained active on the local hockey scene after his playing days, owning youth travel teams before bringing a USHL team to Indianapolis in 2004. He also owns the Junior Ice U16 and U18 teams. He has had several family members as a part of the team. His brother Charlie played for the Checkers, coached the Ice during two stints and currently serves as the team's president. His nephew Jake played for the Ice. A native of Toronto, he is 53.

Doug Moffatt: Center for the Checkers in the 1985-86 season, playing 27 games and tallying three goals and seven assists. He also played nine games for Salt Lake that year, and then embarked on a long career in Europe, where he played through 2004 in Germany. He had 40 goals in 37 games in his first year across the pond. A native of Calgary, he is 47.

Don Herczeg: Defenseman who played 15 games for the Ice in their inaugural 1988-89 season in the IHL. He tallied three assists in those games. All in all, he played five pro seasons from 1985-90, spending the most time with the Colorado/Denver Rangers of the IHL from 1987-89. A native of Edmonton, he is 47.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sean Kuraly interview

There were three Ice players drafted last Saturday. has an interview with the third Ice player to be picked, Sean Kuraly. Watch it here.

Brian Ferlin interview

Indiana Ice player Brian Ferlin chatted with the USHL's Jim Olander after being drafted by the Boston Bruins.

Watch the interview here.

Blake Coleman interview

Blake Coleman chats with the USHL's Dan Fermuth at the Xcel Energy Center after being drafted by the Devils. Click below to watch.

Today in history: June 27

Lou Jankowski: Right wing who played for the Capitals in their final season -- 1951-52. It was the first of 18 professional seasons for the Saskatchewan native. He was considered one of the fastest skaters in the world. Jankowski was a prolific scorer in junior, setting an Ontario Hockey Association record with 124 points in a season, including 65 goals. He was paired with Alex Delvecchio on the same line in Oshawa, and they were teammates in Indianapolis for only six games before Delvecchio got the permanent callup to the NHL. Jankowski actually played his first pro (and NHL) game in 1950-51, got back to Detroit in 1952-53 for 22 games, and in all played 130 NHL games for the Red Wings and Blackhawks prior to the 1954-55 season. He had 15 goals and 13 assists for Chicago in 1953-54, his best NHL season. He became a fixture in the AHL and later, the Western Hockey League. He had a 21-26-47 season with the AHL Buffalo Bisons in 1957-58, then became a prolific scorer in the WHL, putting in 45 goals the next year for Calgary, the first of four straight 40-goal seasons. In 1960-61, he scored 57 goals and totaled 99 points and was the WHL's MVP. He was the league's Most Gentlemanly Player in 1964. After retiring from playing in 1969, he became a scout for the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, NHL Central Scouting Bureau and New York Rangers from 1972-93. A native of Regina, Saskatchewan, he was born in 1931, and passed away in 2010.
Red Laurence: A prolific scorer for the Checkers from 1981-84. In those three seasons, he played in 228 games, scored 127 goals and added 147 assists. He ranks 10th all-time among Indianapolis pro hockey players in goals scored and 12th in both assists and points. In addition, he scored 30 goals and 20 assists in 33 playoff games as a Checker, leading the team to the Adams Cup in 1982 and 1983 and the Adams Cup Finals in 1984. He won the Adams Cup four straight years -- also winning it with Salt Lake in 1980 and 1981, scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 in 1980. Laurence played two seasons in the NHL, totaling 15 goals and 22 assists in 79 games with the Atlanta Flames and St. Louis Blues between 1978-80. In Atlanta, he was coached by Fred Creighton, with whom he would be reunited in Indianapolis. He was the 28th overall selection in the 1977 NHL Draft by Atlanta, and was also the Winnipeg Jets' fourth-round pick in the WHA Draft the same year. He won the CHL's Ironman Award and was a Second Team All-Star in 1983. In 1982 and 1983, he led the Checkers with identical 43-55-98 seasons, and was also the leading scorer the following year with 41 goals and 37 assists. He also was the CHL's leading playoff scorer in 1983 and 1984, with 22 and 13 points, respectively. After his stint in Indianapolis, he played in Europe for several more seasons. A native of Galt, Ontario, he is 54.
Sean Toomey: Center who broke into pro hockey with the Checkers in 1986-87, playing 13 games at the end of the year after finishing his collegiate career at Minnesota-Duluth that spring. He had three goals and three assists -- as well as two goals and two assists in the five-game playoff loss to Fort Wayne. Toomey also earned a callup to the Minnesota North Stars that spring, when he played his only NHL game. Toomey would play one more year in the minors -- splitting the next season between AHL Baltimore and IHL Milwaukee, as Indianapolis was in-between the Checkers and Ice at the time -- and one year in Europe. A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, he is 46.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday news roundup

More media reports from Saturday's draft, in addition to the ones posted yesterday: 
Blake Coleman to New Jersey
New York Post: Devils make Coleman their center of attention
The Newark Star-Ledger has a roundup of the day, including a lot of quotes from/about Coleman
The Dallas Morning News (via the SacBee) notes that three Plano players were picked in the draft, and spotlights the suburban Dallas community. Says Stars GM Joe Niewendyk: "When the Stars came, it was just a novelty, and now we've got legitimate kids who will be NHLers coming out of our own backyard."

Brian Ferlin to Boston
Boston Globe: Roundup of the day's Bruins picks, mostly focusing on their second-round selection. However, there is a note about Ferlin.
The Boston Herald's notes has a quote by Ferlin 
Brian Ferlin interview (from

Sean Kuraly to San Jose
The San Jose Mercury-News draft roundup. Kuraly says he sees himself as "a solid two-way centerman."   

Former IHL Ice player/coach Bruce Cassidy to coach AHL Providence
The Providence Journal has the story with several quotes from Cassidy, as he looks back on his past experiences and looking forward. Says Cassidy: "My last few years as an assistant (in Providence), I think there were some good positives to learn from. Hopefully, it allows me to be a better coach. It should. If you don’t learn year to year, you’re not going to be a better coach.”
The Boston Globe leads its Sunday notes off with the story. Says Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney: "He’s done a really good job of developing players at all levels. He’s worked with forwards and defense. The last couple years, we’ve seen a nice impact he’s had on our players.’’
The Boston Herald's notes leads off with the Cassidy story.

Zionsville native John-Michael Liles traded to Maple Leafs
Toronto Sun: Former Avs coach Tony Granato loves the Hoosier defenseman.

Today in history: June 26

Just one birthday today
Jean Therrien: The Chiefs' third-leading scorer in their final 1961-62 season, totaling 31 goals and 40 assists. He had begun playing senior hockey in Ontario in 1958, and then joined the IHL's Milwaukee Falcons the following season. He would play five seasons in the IHL with the Falcons, Fort Wayne Komets, Chiefs, St. Paul Saints and Port Huron Flags. He finished his career in 1970-71. A native of Quebec City, Quebec, he was born in 1937.

Ice draftees in the media

Blake Coleman to the New Jersey Devils in the 3rd round
In the Newark Star-Ledger, Coleman says "I'm kind of an all-around player, tough to play against. I can also put it in the other team's net."
New Jersey's "In Lou We Trust" blog has a very in-depth look at Coleman's game, with lots of embedded video.

Coleman is one of several Ice players to play for Miami University next year. 

Brian Ferlin to the Boston Bruins in the 4th round
Lots of media cover the Bruins, so a few perspectives
NESN points out that Ferlin, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., isn't from a hockey haven, but has a style Bruins fans should be familiar with. Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning said Ferlin is a power forward who does the things the Bruins covet -- "he's strong along the wall. He's strong protecting the puck. He takes pucks to the net." Bruins president Cam Neely might be the first player to be given the "power forward" moniker, and Milan Lucic carries that mantel today.

His draft was also covered in Naples, Fla., where he played before he came to the Ice. Says Ferlin: "There's a couple of organizations I think anyone would want to go to and Boston is one of them. It's special because they've done a really good job drafting in the past."

Draft guru Kirk Luedeke summed up the Bruins' second day in the New England Hockey Journal.

Ferlin will play at Cornell University next year. 

Sean Kuraly to the San Jose Sharks in the 5th round.
We couldn't find much media coverage yet -- but the Bay Area papers haven't hit their deadlines and begun posting online by midnight EDT. Here is the Sharks' press release on their day.

Kuraly plans to return to the Ice next year. 

Congratulations to the three Ice players selected in the draft.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

News roundup

Just in case it got buried with all of the draft coverage, make sure you scroll down for:
Bruce Cassidy hired as AHL Providence Bruins' head coach
John-Michael Liles traded to Toronto

Ice player quotes

Blake Coleman (via Eric Martin of the New Jersey Devils): ""I'm just ecstatic," Coleman said of becoming a Devil. "I just can't even describe it right now."
New Jersey Devils

From John Bishop of the Boston Bruins on Twitter, Brian Ferlin on being a Bruin: "Absolutely unbelievable... coming off winning the Cup, I don’t think I could be in a better situation." 

Three Ice players picked

Three Indiana Ice players found new homes in this year's draft, including two-thirds of the USHL's highest-scoring line this year.

USHL Player of the Year and USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year Blake Coleman was the first Ice player selected, picked 75th by the New Jersey Devils.

Linemate Brian Ferlin went next, at the end of the fourth round, going 121st to the Boston Bruins.

Then, Sean Kuraly went in the fifth round to the San Jose Sharks. Kuraly plans to be with the Ice again next year, while Coleman (Miami) and Ferlin (Cornell) will play collegiately.

This matches the Ice's 2010 draft haul, when Stanislav Galiev (Washington), Anthony Bitetto (Nashville) and Nick Mattson (Chicago) were all selected. In addition, defenseman R.J. Boyd (Florida) was traded to the Ice this past off-season and gave the team a fourth player with ties to the NHL Draft.

The biggest draft year was 2007, when Brett Bruneteau (Washington), Ben Blood (Ottawa), Paul Carey (Colorado) and Scott Darling (Phoenix) were all selected. The 2006 (Brett Bennett-PHX, Alex Kangas-ATL, Brent Gwidt-WSH) and 2008 (John Carlson-WSH, Corey Fienhage-BUF, Garrett Roe-LA) classes also included three players each who either played for or would eventually play for the Ice.

The Ice have now had 20 players drafted since joining the USHL in 2004. Of those, 18 have come in the last six drafts.

They were among 43 players with USHL ties picked among the 210 players selected in this year's draft.

Next year's Ice squad figures to have draftees Kuraly and Boyd on the roster, plus a handful of potential draftees, including Daniil Tarasov, the USHL's leading goal scorer this past season and -- should he choose to play in Indiana -- Quebec star Jeremy Gregoire. Adam Erne, considered one of the top American prospects in his age group, won't be draft-eligible until 2013.

NHL: Draftees from non-traditional places

Over the last 20 years, NHL, junior minor-league teams have sprung up in just about every hamlet in America. The AHL stretches from coast-to-coast after absorbing the old IHL. When the Ice played in the CHL, much of the league was based in the South and Southwest. And of course, the NHL has franchises in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, North Carolina and has had two attempts in Georgia.

That is paying off in bringing hockey to somewhat non-traditional places. Blake Coleman, the top Ice player selected in the draft, is from Plano, Texas. The second Ice player picked, Brian Ferlin, hails from Jacksonville, Florida. A couple of Ohioans -- including Sean Kuraly and USNDTP player Tyler Biggs -- have been picked out of a state better known for its football prowess. The Ice's R.J. Boyd -- a 2010 NHL draftee -- is from Florida. As this year's draft haul attests, the Ice have had great success getting players from "non-traditional" markets including the Deep South and West Coast, in addition to the hockey-centric areas of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New England. Hockey continues to grow in the United States, and a lot of the Americans drafted have ties to the USHL. noticed the trend, and noticed that the first Minnesotan drafted came at the end of the second round. 

Kuraly to Sharks

The third Indiana Ice player has been picked by an NHL team -- Sean Kuraly was picked in the fifth round by the San Jose Sharks with the 133rd pick.

Kuraly, a 6-2, 190-pound center, totaled eight goals and 21 assists last year for the Ice. He was ranked 50th among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Bureau.

Kuraly will play the 2011-12 season with the Ice before heading to Miami University.

He joins teammates Blake Coleman (75th pick, third round, New Jersey) and Brian Ferlin (121st pick, fourth round, Boston) as Ice draftees.

Kuraly is also the 20th player to have played for the Ice to be drafted since the team entered the USHL in 2004.

Ferlin going to Bruins

Two-thirds of the Ice's top line now has been picked by the NHL. Brian Ferlin was taken by the Boston Bruins with the final pick in the fourth round -- the 121st pick overall. 

Ferlin scored 25 goals and added 48 assists this year in the USHL, playing with linemates Blake Coleman (3rd round, New Jersey) and Daniil Tarasov. Ferlin also had a 6-10-16 line last year for the Ice. 

Ferlin is committed to play collegiately at Cornell. 

The Stanley Cup champs have made some Indianapolis-related waves today, not just selecting Ferlin but also in elevating ex-IHL Indianapolis Ice player and coach Bruce Cassidy to head coach of the AHL Providence Bruins. 

Fourth round & beyond: USHL watch

In all, 43 players with USHL ties were picked. The top non-USNDTP teams were Green Bay (four) and Indiana (three). Here's the list.

Fourth round
95. NYI: Robbie Russo (USNDTP). Defenseman committed to Notre Dame.
97. Montreal: Josiah Didier (Cedar Rapids). Big 6-2, 199-pound defenseman committed to the University of Denver.
98. Columbus: Mike Reilly (Sioux Falls - affiliate list). Defenseman who played at Shattuck St. Mary's last year. Committed to University of Minnesota. Not certain if he'll play in the USHL or not next year. His twin brothers played for Sioux Falls before heading to Minnesota.
99. New Jersey: Reid Boucher (USNDTP). Center committed to Michigan State.
104. Calgary: John Gaudreau (Dubuque). The highest-scoring non-Ice player in the USHL, he finished fourth in the league in scoring and second to Daniil Tarasov in goals scored. Led the Fighting Saints to the Clark Cup this year. Committed to Northeastern.
110. Los Angeles: Michael Mersch (USNDTP 09-10). Left wing playing at Wisconsin.
121. Boston: Brian Ferlin (Indiana Ice). Forward who is committed to Cornell. 25-48-73 line for the Ice this year.
That's 7 third-rounders, 25 overall.

Fifth round
128. Columbus: Seth Ambroz (Omaha). Lots of natural talent. 20-goal scorer each of the last two years with the Lancers. Committed to Minnesota.
129. New Jersey: Blake Pietila (USNDTP). Left wing, committed to Michigan Tech.
130. Toronto: Tony Camaranesi (Waterloo 2011-12). High school center from Wayzata, MN. Committed to Minnesota-Duluth, but appears likely to spend a year in Waterloo.
131. Minnesota: Nick Seeler (Muskegon 2011-12). High school defenseman from Eden Prairie, MN. Committed to Nebraska-Omaha, but will play next year in Muskegon.
133. San Jose: Sean Kuraly (Indiana Ice). Center ranked 50th by the CSB. Committed to Miami, will play for the Ice in 2011-12.
Five more USHL players, 30 overall in 151 picks.

Sixth round
154. Florida: Ed Witchow (Waterloo 2011-12). Was the fourth overall pick in this year's USHL Entry Draft. Big defenseman from Burnsville, MN.
163. Carolina: Matt Mahalak (Youngstown 2009-10). Goaltender played this past season for OHL London.
170. Nashville: Chase Balisy (USNDTP 2009-10). Center who played for former Ice coach Jeff Blashill at Western Michigan this past season.
171. Ottawa: Max McCormick (Sioux City). Left wing who is headed to Ohio State.
177. Washington: Travis Boyd (USNDTP). Center committed to Minnesota.
178. Tampa Bay: Adam Wilcox (Green Bay). Second Gambler selected in the draft. Also headed to Minnesota.
Six more USHL players picked. 36 total through 181 selections.

Seventh round
187. Winnipeg: Aaron Harstad (Green Bay). Gives the Gamblers three picks, joining the Ice as the most-drafted non-USNDTP team. One would expect it from a squad that has been in the Clark Cup Finals two years in a row. Defenseman helped the Gamblers post the lowest GAA in the league this season. Headed to Colorado College.
196. Phoenix: Zac Larraza (USNTDP). Left wing committed to University of Denver.
199. Chicago: Alex Broadhurst (Green Bay). Fourth Gambler to go, including the third in a span of 22 picks. Will play at Nebraska-Omaha.
203. Toronto: Max Everson (USNTDP). Defenseman who also played at Edina (MN) high school this season.
204. Ottawa: Ryan Dzingel (Lincoln). A center who was the first Star to be selected. He'll play collegiately at Ohio State.
207. Washington: Garrett Haar (Fargo). Defenseman headed to play at Northeastern University.
Six more players picked. 43 in all.

Coleman picked by Devils

Blake Coleman is the first Ice player to be picked in the NHL Entry Draft.

Coleman, the 5-10, 198-pound center, was chosen by the New Jersey Devils with the 75th pick. Coleman was the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year (as well as the USHL Player of the Year and Forward of the Year), leading the USHL with 34 goals and 58 assists this past season. He and linemates Brian Ferlin and Daniil Tarasov were the top three scorers in the USHL.

Second/third rounds: More USHL picks

Seven USHL players in the second and seven in the third -- 18 overall drafted in the first 91 picks (actually, the first 90 as New Jersey had to forfeit a pick due to the Kovalchuk mess last summer).

Among them:
33. Florida: Rocco Grimaldi (USNDTP). Committed to play for ex-Ice player Dave Hakstol at North Dakota this fall. 5-6 forward with a lot of skill.
34. NYI: Scott Mayfield (Youngstown). Committed to the University of Denver. Twitter buzz is that the Isles got a steal in the defenseman.
36. Chicago: Adam Clendening (USNDTP 09-10, Boston University).
39. Anaheim: John Gibson (USNDTP). Committed to Michigan. First goalie taken in the draft.
43. Chicago: Brandon Saad (USNDTP 09-10, OHL Saginaw).
47. San Jose: Matt Nieto (USNDTP 09-10, Boston University).
60. Minnesota: Mario Lucia (USNDTP/High school - Wayzata, MN. USHL rights held by Des Moines).

Third round
66. Columbus: T.J. Tynan (Des Moines 09-10). Forward currently playing for Notre Dame
70. Chicago: Michael Paliotta (USNDTP). Defenseman committed to Vermont.
72. NYR: Steven Fogarty (Minnesota high school). USHL rights held by Des Moines. Has yet to decide whether he'll play the 2011-12 season in the USHL or in Canada.
75. New Jersey: Blake Coleman (Indiana). Forward committed to Miami. USHL leading scorer and USA Hockey National Player of the Year.
82. Los Angeles: Nick Shore (USNDTP 09-10). Center currently playing at the University of Denver.
83. Anaheim: Andy Welinski (Green Bay). Solid defenseman who helped lead the Gamblers to the Clark Cup Finals this year. Committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
91. Florida: Kyle Rau (Sioux Falls). Played most of this past season in high school, but did suit up for a couple of games with the Stampede. Was Mr. Hockey in Minnesota this past season. Committed to the University of Minnesota.

Cassidy to coach Bruins' AHL affiliate

Former Indianapolis Ice player and coach Bruce Cassidy has been elevated to the head coach of the AHL Providence Bruins, the top affiliate of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

Cassidy has agreed to a three-year contract with the team.

Cassidy coached the Ice to a 33-37-12 record in 1998-99, despite dealing with a number of major roster changes. He led the team to its first playoff series victory since the team won the IHL's Turner Cup in 1990, a team on which Cassidy was a key defenseman. He also played parts of three seasons for the Ice from 1994-97 before retiring mid-season to become the head coach of the ECHL Jacksonville Lizard Kings in 1996-97. After his stint with the Ice, he coached the ECHL Trenton Titans for one year, the IHL/AHL Grand Rapids Griffins for two -- posting a record of 95-49-18 in those two seasons -- and earning the head coaching job with the NHL Washington Capitals in 2002. He was 47-45-9 in one and a half years in Washington. After that, he assisted the AHL Norfolk Admirals in 2004-05, assisted the Chicago Blackhawks in 2005-06, coached the OHL Kingston Frontenacs the next two years and has spent the last three seasons as Rob Murray's assistant in Providence.

Cassidy was the AHL's Coach of the Year in 2001-02 with Grand Rapids. He worked out the Bruins' "Black Aces" -- the minor-league callups who serve as a taxi squad for the NHL club -- during this past postseason.

Boston Globe
Providence Journal

Liles dealt to Toronto

Zionsville native John-Michael Liles is on the move. He was traded from the Colorado Avalanche to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2012 second-round draft pick. He had six goals and 40 assists last season, the latter a career-high. Leafs GM Brian Burke sees Liles taking Tomas Kaberle's spot as the power-play quarterback that was vacated when he traded Kaberle to Boston, where he was part of a Stanley Cup winner.

Toronto Sun

Ice draft history

The Ice have been represented at every NHL Entry Draft but one since their inception, and have (so far) had two players matriculate to the NHL. Seventeen Ice players have been selected, a number that will grow today.

Ice draft picks
2004: Brian Gifford (Pittsburgh, 3rd round, #85, played at University of Denver). Played with Ice 2004-06.
2004: Sergei Kukushkin (Dallas, 7th round, #218, played in Russia). Played with Ice 2004-05.
2006: Brett Bennett (Phoenix, 5th round, #130, playing at Wisconsin). Played with Ice 2008-09.
2006: Alex Kangas (Atlanta, 5th round, #135, playing at Minnesota). Played for Ice 2006-07.
2006: Brent Gwidt (Washington, 6th round, #157, playing at Nebraska-Omaha). Played with Ice 2006-09.
2007: Brett Bruneteau (Washington, 4th round, #108, playing at North Dakota). Played with Ice 2007-08
2007: Ben Blood (Ottawa, 4th round, #120, playing at North Dakota). Played with Ice 2007-08
2007: Paul Carey (Colorado, 5th round, #135, playing at Boston College). Played with Ice 2007-08
2007: Scott Darling (Phoenix, 6th round, #153, playing at SPHL Louisiana). Played with Ice 2007-08.
2008: John Carlson (Washington, 1st round, #27, playing for Capitals). Played with Ice 2007-08.
2008: Corey Fienhage (Buffalo, 3rd round, #81, playing for AHL Portland). Played with Ice 2007-08.
2008: Garrett Roe (Los Angeles, 7th round, #183, playing for St. Cloud State). Played with Ice 2004-07.
2009: Mike Cichy (Montreal, 7th round, #199, playing for North Dakota). Played with Ice 2008-09.
2010: Stanislav Galiev (Washington, 3rd round, #86, playing for QMJHL Saint John). Played with Ice 2008-09.
2010: Anthony Bitetto (Nashville, 6th round, #168, playing at Northeastern). Played with Ice 2008-10.
2010: Nick Mattson (Chicago, 6th round, #180, finished career with Ice). Played with Ice 2009-11.
2010: R.J. Boyd (Florida, 7th round, #183, playing for Ice). Will play with Ice 2011-12.

Note: 2005-06 Ice player Joel Rehlicz was undrafted, but has played in the NHL with the New York Islanders

First round redux

The first round of the NHL Entry Draft is in the books. The Ice's Sean Kuraly is expected to be chosen Saturday when rounds 2-7 commence. Kuraly is ranked 50th among North American skaters. Brian Ferlin, Blake Coleman, Daniil Tarasov and others are among players who could hear their names Saturday. The draft resumes at 11 a.m. and will be televised by NHL Network.

One Ice player has already heard his name at the NHL Draft. Defenseman R.J. Boyd was the Florida Panthers' seventh-round pick last year.

A handful of players with USHL ties were picked in the first round:
14: Jamie Oklesak (Chicago Steel/Sioux Falls Stampede/Northeastern U.), Dallas. Was also the only college player selected in the first round.
15: J.T. Miller (USNTDP), New York Rangers. Will play for ex-Ice player Dave Hakstol at North Dakota next year.
20: Connor Murphy (USNTDP), Phoenix (son of ex-NHLer Gord Murphy)
22: Tyler Biggs (USNTDP), Toronto (son of ex-Cincinnati Cyclone Don Biggs).

Both Biggs and Murphy are headed to Miami to play with several Ice players, including Blake Coleman, Alex Wideman and Sean Kuraly.

Today in history: June 24 & 25

Birthday post today:

June 24
Jean-Yves Leroux: Left wing who was the Chicago Blackhawks' second-round pick in 1994 and broke into pro hockey with the Ice in 1996-97, playing 69 games and totaling a 14-17-31 line with 112 PIMs, helping lead the Ice to a division title that season. He also had a goal in the four-game postseason loss to Cleveland. He played his first NHL game with Chicago that season, and would go on to play parts of four more seasons with the Blackhawks, totaling 16 goals and 22 assists in 220 games through 2001. He played the 2001-02 season for AHL Norfolk, and then played several years of hockey in his native Quebec. His teams won the Quebec LNAH -- a low-level minor pro circuit -- in 2005 and 2009. A native of Montreal, he is 35.

June 25
Dick Proceviat: A defenseman who played 180 games for the Racers between 1974-77. He was part of the 1975-76 division championship team, playing in 73 games and scoring seven goals. He had 10 goals and 53 assists over his career in Indy -- including 28 helpers in 1974-75. He broke into pro hockey in 1967, but played six WHA seasons from 1971-77 with the Denver Spurs, Chicago Cougars and the Racers. He had 16 goals and 90 assists in 321 WHA games. A native of Whitemouth, Manitoba, he is 65.
Dino Grossi: Forward who played 58 games for the Ice in 1993-94, his first season of pro hockey. He was the Blackhawks' 12th-round pick in 1990, and played four years collegiately at Northeastern. He had six goals and one assist in his Ice tenure. A season later, he embarked on a long European career that took him to teams in France and Italy, and he played through 2010. A native of Toronto, he is 41.

Bill Armstrong: Left wing who played 12 games for the Ice in 1995-96, totaling four goals and five assists. He also played for AHL Albany and IHL Detroit that season, finishing the year with the Detroit Vipers and finishing with 41 goals and 35 assists overall on the year, his best pro season. Armstrong is notable for having played one NHL game, for Philadelphia in 1990-91. He retired after the 1997-98 season when he was diagnosed with a career-ending brain tumor. A native of London, Ontario, he is 45.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kuraly draft video

The USHL has released highlight reels of some of its top players in preparation for tomorrow night's NHL Entry Draft. Here is the one involving the Ice's Sean Kuraly. Enjoy!

Today in history: June 23

Just one birthday today
Larry "Sam" Kennedy: A right wing who played 27 games for the Capitals in 1946-47, totaling three goals and three assists. He split that season -- his first full pro season -- with the Caps and the Omaha Knights of the USHL, the team that was essentially the Red Wings' "AA" farm team. He would play three more years in the USHL and Pacific Coast Hockey Leagues, and then play a couple more years of senior hockey. A native of Brantford, Ontario, he was born in 1921.

Kuraly featured in Columbus Dispatch

Ice forward Sean Kuraly and the USNTDP's Connor Murphy -- a couple of Columbus, Ohio natives -- are featured in today's Columbus Dispatch NHL Draft preview.

Link to the story

The draft is at 7 p.m. Friday, and will be televised by Versus.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Greatest playoff games #2: Checkers 5, Birmingham South Stars 4 (1983)

If we were putting together a list of the greatest teams to grace the ice in Indianapolis, the early-1980s Checkers would be at the top of the list. It was rare to see a minor-league team keep its core together for two or three consecutive years, but the Checkers had most of its core players together for several years -- including some who were here for all five years the franchise was owned by the New York Islanders and operated in the then-"Triple A" level CHL. They were one of the CHL's premier franchises during that entire five-year run, winning two championships, making three appearances in the Adams Cup Finals and carrying a boatload of hardware year-in and year-out.

The 1982-83 season saw the Chex trying to repeat after they beat the Dallas Black Hawks to win the Adams Cup the previous year. They easily won the regular-season title with a 50-28-2 mark. Their 102 points were 17 more than second-place Colorado. The Checkers dispatched the Salt Lake Golden Eagles in a tough six-game series, while the third-place Birmingham South Stars -- an affiliate of the Minnesota North Stars -- knocked off the Colorado Flames in the other.

That set up a final where there was certainly no love lost. The Checkers had a veteran team led by Red Laurence, who had 43 goals and just missed a 100-point season, 40-goal scorer Steve Stoyanovich, Scott Howson and Garth MacGuigan -- who both had 30-goal years -- a veteran presence in captain Kevin Devine and a cadre of strong defensemen led by Bruce Affleck, Darcy Regier and Tim Lockridge and a future NHL mainstay in 19-year-old Gord Dineen. In goal, Kelly Hrudey -- on his way to a long NHL career -- and Checkers mainstay Rob Holland formed a potent 1-2 punch.

Needless to say, this was as well-stocked as a minor-league team could be. But championships are not given, and the South Stars were a strong foe. Led by 108-point scorer Wes Jarvis and goaltender Warren Skoerdinski -- another future NHL regular -- the South Stars were upset-minded. The CHL -- which had constricted to six teams that off-season and chopped a round out of the playoffs as a result -- had an unusual best-of-9 format for the finals. It would last only one year, but it would give the Checkers some legs. Early on, Birmingham had the upper hand. The Checkers won Game 1, but the South Stars stole Game 2 on Jim Dobson's hat-trick goal nine seconds into OT. Back at home, Birmingham won Game 3, and was set to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series in Game 4.

That leads us to No. 2 on our list of greatest hockey games in Indianapolis hockey history -- the pivotal moment on the way to a championship, complete with a dramatic comeback and capped by a dramatic goal.

The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center saw 4,133 fans file through the gates on April 29, 1983, hoping to see their team take a big lead in the series. Mario Lessard -- who had replaced Skoerdinski in Game 1 -- took the nets for the Stars. Kelly Hrudey had played every minute of the series for the Checkers, but Rob Holland took his place in net for the Checkers.

But through two periods, Lessard's net had been untouched. Meanwhile, ex-Checker Frank Beaton scored on a deflection just 152 seconds into the game, and then Jim Dobson scored a close-in goal in the second to give the Stars a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Headed into the second intermission, Birmingham defenseman Dave Richter had 1:10 to serve on an elbowing minor. The Checkers -- whose potent power play had been 0-for-3 so far -- would only need 17 of those 70 seconds to get back in the game, and would only need 44 seconds to tie the game. Bruce Affleck shot, Lessard made the save and then Scott Howson banged home the rebound to make it a 2-1 game. That opened the floodgates for the Checkers. Just 27 seconds later, Dave Simpson tied the game on assists from the young pups -- teenagers Gord Dineen and Ron Handy.

Dobson took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Checkers' Glen Duncan to temporarily give Birmingham a lead at 6:49, but the floodgates had been opened for Indianapolis. With Richter in the box again, Kevin Devine tied the game on a backhander with 7:24 left. When Devine fed Dineen inside the point for the go-ahead goal with 3:07 showing on the clock, the Checkers looked on their way.

Briefly. With a minute left, Birmingham pulled Lessard for the extra attacker, desperately trying to tie the game. Holland stopped Dan McCarthy's shot, but looked unsure of whether or not to cover it up or clear it. He tried to clear, but Dave DeBol intercepted and buried the puck into the net.

With 25 seconds left, the Checkers' four-goal third period comeback appeared for naught. The game was headed for overtime, and the home team had all the momentum.

The Checkers were OT veterans -- this would be their fourth in 10 playoff games, including their second in the series. The overtime was evenly-played. Holland stopped seven Birmingham shots, Lessard had six saves. Neither team had a power play, and the goaltenders kept every chance at bay.

The game appeared to be headed long into the night. The Checkers had an offensive-zone faceoff to Lessard's right with three seconds left in OT. There's not much time for anything except a draw back and a quick shot -- if there's a clean face-off win, which is difficult in such situations.

But that's exactly what happened. Center Garth MacGuigan leaned in to take the draw. Red Laurence -- the team's leading scorer all season -- set up beyond the top of the circle at the point.

MacGuigan won it cleanly. Laurence whizzed one toward the net.


The Checkers poured off the bench in pandemonium. There was brief confusion on the ice, as referee Don Koharski emphatically signaled it a good goal, before the horn sounded to end the period. The linesmen -- Jim Kehm and Mark Khedouri -- weren't as sure. They conferenced, but allowed the goal and a dramatic Checkers overtime victory.

Typical of the Checkers, they spread it around. Of their five goals in the 5-4 victory, they came from five different players. Gord Dineen (G, 2A), Bruce Affleck (2A) and Kevin Devine (G, A) each had multi-point nights. Eleven different players registered a point. Meanwhile, Holland stopped 27 shots. Lessard stopped 41 of the 46 shots that came his way.

Propelled by their dramatic OT victory, the Checkers wouldn't lose a game the rest of the series. Returning home to Indianapolis, they won Game 5 by a 5-2 score and Game 6 on Scott Howson's OT power-play tally. By the time the series returned to Birmingham, the Checkers had a commanding 4-2 lead in the best-of-9, and finished it off with an emphatic 7-2 victory, keyed by Glen Duncan's hat trick and finished off by Howson's 12th playoff goal with 11 seconds left.

The Checkers would clean up when it came to postseason awards and honors. Regier, Hrudey, Stoyanovich, Dineen, Laurence and Holland would be named to either the CHL First or Second All-Star Teams, noting they were the best or second-best at their positions. Hrudey was league MVP. Affleck was Playoff MVP -- which he would win again the following year in a losing effort. Dineen was named the top defenseman and most improved defenseman, while Laurence won the Ironman Award. For the second straight year, Hrudey and Holland shared the Terry Sawchuk Trophy for fewest goals allowed. For the second straight year, coach Fred Creighton would be named the CHL's Coach of the Year.

But the most dramatic moment -- Laurence's OT goal with just one second showing on the clock -- propelled the Checkers to a championship, to date the only back-to-back titles ever won by Indianapolis hockey teams. It was the fifth of what are now eight championship teams to play in Indianapolis.

Game boxscore
Game 4: April 29, 1983 at Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center


First period
BIR-Beaton 4 (Bergloff, Martinson), 2:32
Penalties: Handy (I) misconduct, 8:20; Martinson (B) misconduct, 8:20; Simpson (I) holding, 15:05; DeBol (B) holding, 18:06
Second period
BIR-Dobson 6 (Homola), 2:22
Penalties: K. Hanson (B) interference, 4:50; Homola (B) tripping, 10:38; Richter (B) elbowing, 19:10
Third period
IND-Howson 9 (Affleck, Stoyanovich), :17 (pp)
IND-Simpson 5 (Dineen, Handy), :44
BIR-Dobson 7 (McCarthy, Jarvis), 6:49 (pp)
IND-Devine 2 (Regier, Dineen), 12:36 (pp)
IND-Dineen 2 (Devine, Affleck), 16:53
BIR-DeBol 4 (McCarthy), 19:35
Penalties: Duncan (I) unsportsmanlike conduct, fighting, 5:51; Hicks (B) fighting, 5:51; Richter (B) hooking, 10:50
IND-Laurence 10 (MacGuigan), 19:59
Shots on goal: IND 13-12-14-7-46 (Lessard 41 saves), BIR 9-7-8-7-31 (Holland 27 saves)
Power play: IND 2-5, BIR 1-2
Att: 4,133
Officials: R-Don Koharski, L-Jim Kehm, Mark Khedouri

Previous entries