All Forums > SimLeague Hockey > Theme Leagues > Pontiac Firebirds MLD Team Thread
10/5/2007 8:03 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 4/07 - Firebirds trade Lintala to Okanagan for Chancellor
In what is believed to be the first-ever trade in franchise history, the Pontiac Firebirds today traded center Henrik Lintala to the Okanagan Ogopogoes for center Willie Chancellor.
"I've been looking to solidify the fourth line all season long", said Coach damag. "Willie gives us yet another veteran presence in the lineup; he's got tons of playoff experience; and he's won an MLD Cup."
Lintala, despite possessing an exciting skill set, never was able to secure a place in the Bruins/Firebirds starting lineup over his four seasons. But the addition of Chancellor gives the Firebirds yet another sixth-season player, staring retirement squarely in the face. Coach damag is entirely pragmatic about the matter.
"In case you didn't realize it before, we're all in."
10/6/2007 9:30 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 6/07 - BREAKING NEWS!
Karel Blomm first inductee to MLD Hall of Fame
It's official. The former captain and franchise player of the New West Bruins has been recognized in unanimous fashion for his outstanding MLD career. It was announced today that Karel Blomm received 16 out of 16 votes, achieving the singular honour of becoming the first inductee to the MLD Hall of Fame. Reached by telephone at his residence in Lausanne, Blomm could only reply, "Magnificent. This is the greatest honor a player can accomplish, and I am proud to share it with my teammates and family."
"The team is overjoyed for Karel", says Firebirds captain Jeremy Tuurela. "He helped every fella in this room grow up as a player, and a man. We can't wait to get him back here to celebrate this."
This will add an even more festive atmosphere to the team's long-planned Karel Blomm Night, October 21st against longtime division rivals the Hernando Hit Men. Stay tuned for further details.
10/22/2007 12:18 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 22/07 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Seven Recap
Regular Season Record - 43-23-15-1 (5th POW Conference; 2nd Patrick Division)
Playoffs Round 1 - Defeated Yorba Linda Yowlers 4-2
Playoffs Round 2 - Defeated Valhalla Vikings 4-3
Conference Finals - Lost to Gotham City Knights 1-4
Season Seven Leaders:
Goals - Jim Rockford (27 - T2nd in MLD)
Assists - Ty Rehonen (42 - 1st in MLD)
Points - Rehonen (45)
+/- - Jeremy Tuurela (+31)
PP Goals - Rockford (5 - 2nd in MLD)
SH Goals - Leroy Copekinus, Max Unger (1)
PIM - Bingo Jumpanen, Karlis Ottavainen (20)
Shots on Goal - Rob Sack (307 - 2nd in MLD)
Shooting % - Tuurela (13.5%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Vlastimil Morton (73)
Shutouts - Morton (11 - T3rd in MLD)
Wins - Morton (36 - 2nd in MLD)
GAA - John Thatcher (1.52 - 4th in MLD
Sv% - Thatcher (95.18 - 2nd in MLD)
Awards
MVP + Top Forward - Jeremy Tuurela
"Mr. Perfect" became only the second MLD skater to attain maximum performance levels, leading the Firebirds as first-line center and playing PP and PK. Tuurela led the team in +/- playing against the opposition's top center every game, while also ranking third in goals and a close second in scoring to Ty Rehonen.
Top Defenceman - Ty Rehonen
A close vote between Rehonen and Firebirds franchise player Ilya Moltsi, but Rehonen takes it while anchoring the second defence pairing. Rehonen's steady play allowed him to overtake the more offensive-minded Moltsi and Leroy Copekinus, and to somewhat surprisingly lead the MLD in assists.
Top Goalie - Vlastimil Morton
In his retirement season, Morton became the first MLD goaltender to attain maximum performance levels.
Top Rookie - Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
He cooled off after a hot start, but Apu was on the rookie leaderboards for most of this MLD season. An unheralded rookie who stepped into the only open spot in the Firebirds' veteran lineup, Apu's season compares to the earlier ones of Rob Sack. Hopefully he may mature into a goal scorer.
10/27/2007 11:25 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 27/07 - Firebirds defeat Yowlers in OT to advance
The roof nearly blew off Le Centre Guy Lafleur last night, as Michael Knight converted a cross-crease pass from Max Ruoho at 16:05 of overtime to defeat the Yorba Linda Yowlers 2-1. The win capped a stunning four-game comeback in their first-round MLD playoff series, as the Firebirds rebounded from a two-game deficit to eliminate the Yowlers from this postseason.
"The guys just kept grinding away, hanging in there, and eventually someone made a play. We just had to keep believing, and everyone stepped up", said Firebirds captain Jeremy Tuurela. Indeed, this series was all about outlasting the powerful Yowlers lineup, as all three Firebirds wins on home ice came in overtime.
Uncharacteristic defensive breakdowns seemed to plague the Yowlers by series' end. In game three, with the Firebirds staring a three-game deficit in the face in double overtime, Max Unger got behind the Yowler blueliners to score the most critical goal of the series. In game four's overtime, the dynamic duo of Leroy Copekinus and Ilya Moltsi created havoc by jumping deep into the Yowlers' end, with Moltsi evening the series. Then shockingly, stalwart Yowlers 'keeper Anton Boucher was beaten for four goals in game five at Yorba Linda, setting the stage for last night's heroics.
But the key to outlasting the Yowlers was ultimately the responsibility of ironman Firebirds goalie Vlastimil Morton. "Three OT wins... what more can you ask from a goalie?" said coach damag. "We saw the very best of Stimi in this series."
A brutal opening round series, and more to come as the Firebirds now travel to Valhalla, hoping to even the score for last season's second-round playoff ouster. Round Two playoff tickets go on sale this Monday.
10/31/2007 3:44 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 31/07 - Firebirds come back to eliminate Vikings 4-3
Facing elimination two games in a row, the Firebirds have rebounded to deliver a pair of convincing victories, avenging their Season Six playoff ouster at the hands of the Valhalla Vikings. After surprisingly taking the first two games of the series in Valhalla, Pontiac lost the next three games in a row at the hands of the supremely deep Vikings lineup.
The low point of the series came in a game four home loss which saw Vlastimil Morton chased from the Pontiac net. After game five, Coach damag had seen enough to engineer a subtle yet effective lineup shakeup.
"Sometimes sh*t works", said Coach damag. "Who knows why?" The revitalized Firebirds defenders recovered their scoring touch, counting four in the deciding 5-2 win in Valhalla. And ironman Morton was back in stellar form, stopping 55 of 58 shots in the final two games.
The Firebirds again take to the road for round three of the Season Seven MLD playoffs, against Patrick Division champions the Gotham City Knights. This season, Pontiac held a 5-3-1 edge in the series. Home playoff tickets are sold out!
11/5/2007 3:40 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
November 5/07 - Firebirds bounced by Knights 4-1
An era came to an end this past Saturday, as the Gotham City Knights advanced to the MLD Cup Finals. The well-rested Knights eliminated their Patrick division mates the Pontiac Firebirds, who once again appeared to lack a finishing touch that seemed to be missing all season.
"We were looking up at the Knights all season long", said Coach damag, "And it's evident why. A very strong team; very strong in all areas of the game."
This playoff ouster brings to an end the MLD careers of no less than eight Firebirds. Next season's squad promises to be a very different group. "Well, that's life in the MLD, isn't it?" damag is nevertheless, cautiously optimistic. "Now our challenge is to bring in some new blood, and unearth fresh talent. We'll still be plenty strong on the back end, but we'll see where that gets us next season."
Retiring Firebirds after Season 7
C Jeremy Tuurela (100/100/100/1/100)
511 games played... 108-133-241... +145 career... 760 SOG, 14.2%... franchise's number one centre for most of his MLD career... second MLD skater to achieve maximum performance ratings.
C Max Unger (100/100/100/1/94)
504 games played... 117-124-241... +144 career... 856 SOG, 13.7%... might have been a number one centre on any other MLD team... defensive specialist who became a playmaker paired with Rob Sack.
C Max Ruoho (89/91/68/34/65)
506 games played... 95-88-183... +22 career... led the team in goals in Season Five.
D Ty Rehonen (74/79/79/1/100)
386 games played... 38-184-222... +43 career... defensive blueliner who led the league in assists in Season Seven.
RW Terry Robertson (89/79/67/13/64)
510 games played... 122-86-208... +58 career... 912 SOG, 13.4%... second-line RW behind Karel Blomm most of his career... a dependable complementary scorer.
RW Bubba Haapakangas (78/75/80/1/60)
372 games played... 58-67-125... solid cornerman who could play on all four lines.
C Willie Chancellor (76/64/65/21/68)
374 games played... 77-71-148... +62 career... acquired late in Season Seven from the Okanagan Ogopogoes, this veteran solidified the Firebirds' third and fourth lines.
G Vlastimil Morton (100/100)
395 games played... 384 hrs. TOI... 187-153-45... 2.80 GAA... 37 shutouts... 90.4 save %... 69 playoff games... 30-35 in playoffs with 2.42 GAA, 3 shutouts, 91.6 save %... holds every significant franchise goaltending record... first MLD goalie to achieve maximum performance ratings... retires as the all-time MLD leader in games and minutes played for a goalie.
11/19/2007 11:28 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
November 19/07 - MLD Season Eight Preview
"Use the R word all you want", says Coach damag with a chuckle. "Retired. They all retired." So does that mean a rebuilding year for the Pontiac Firebirds in Season Eight? "Damned if I know. Aren't we all always rebuilding? But yeah, we may have a few more new faces in the lineup than the other teams."
Six starting forwards from last year's team are gone, and now comes word that mainstays Rob "Shotgun" Sack and Lonny "Skates" Smith are taking a leave of absence. "I've only got so many positions, and for the sake of this team's future, I've got to see if these guys can play. That means at least eight new regulars in the lineup every night. And we'll have a lot more grit on the team, so we'll see how that plays out."
But there is still plenty of optimism in the Firebirds camp. A full complement of veteran defensemen makes the team strong on the back end. "Ilya and Leroy didn't have to put up goals last season. We had enough forwards to take care of that. This year the focus will be on our d-men, while the kids try to develop their shooting touch. It could actually make us a more conventional MLD team in that regard."
In nets, Slava Leru is now the clear #1 man. His backup to start will be Bo "The Bandit" Darville, with John Thatcher once again on tour with his band. This lineup will be full of question marks, but if the Firebirds can put up any scoring, they could be a tough team to play against this season.
Firebirds draftees:
(1) - RW Phil Lynott - strong power-forward type with a big shot.
(2) - C Brian Downey - stocky playmaker, an agitator type.
(3) - LW Scott Gorham - all-round skater, will rotate in on the fourth line.
(4) - RW Brian Robertson - gritty scrapper, assigned to Cornwall.
(5) - D Gary Moore - potential PP quarterback, starts in Cornwall.
(6) - D John Sykes - tough stay-at-home type, Cornwall bound.
12/11/2007 6:13 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
December 11/07 - MLD S.8 Midseason Report
If the Firebirds can put up any scoring, they could be a tough team to play against this season.
That's where we you before the season and that's where we still are at the All-Star break. The lights are low in Coach damag's office and the incense is burning, as he spends another late night wondering how to kickstart one of the MLD's most woeful offenses.
"Actually, I've given up. There's only so fast these guys can grow. I've seen enough to believe the light might go on at some point. But we're in games, we're playing hard, that's all I can ask."
The Firebirds still possess a top-ten defense corps, which helped them off to a decent start to the season. But a first quarter slump actually dropped them into the Patrick Division basement at one point. A recent hot streak during their swing through the Campbell Conference has the Birds back close to .500, however. Goalies Vitezslav Leru and Bo "Bandit" Darville have done the heavy lifting, and as they go so goes this team. "Yep, one of those guys has a bad night and it's over. We can't come from behind, so we just have to keep it tight and make it tough on the other guys."
The only Firebirds representative at the All-Star game is wing Jim Rockford, now in his third season. Some say Rockford has the look of a future franchise player. "He puts up goals, which is the rarest skill of all in this league. Obviously we'd love to see him keep doing that", says damag. Is there any help for Rockford on the horizon via trade? The Birds would seem to have a surfeit of defense from which to deal. "Yeah, but again you're talking about the future. I just want this team to stay competitive now... but I'm also trying to see this roster two, three seasons down the road."
Trust in the team, believe in the future, and keep burning that incense, Coach.
Saturday against Yorba Linda, it's Two Dollar Poutine Day, and the first 1000 kids get a limited edition "Bandit" replica goalie mask! For tickets, call 1-888-SCREECH!
12/21/2007 11:00 AM
firebirdshockey.ca -
December 21/07 - Mama, I'm Coming Home
They're playing their best hockey of the season, and the Pontiac Firebirds' lineup is about to be bolstered by the addition of some returning veterans. Lonny "Skates" Smith and Rob "Shotgun" Sack are back in town, coming off of their season-long leave of absence mandated by coach damag. "The guys worked so hard last season, I felt they needed some time away from the game" says the coach, "And now hopefully they'll come back with some fresh legs."
Fresh legs have certainly been to the advantage of Sack, as he returns from his championship run on the Canadian edition of "Dancing With The Stars". "Never worked that hard on anything in my life" says Sack with a wink, "coach can tell you all about that. But I'm back and it's gonna feel good to start firing away again."
Smith is likewise refreshed, after a few months on the beach in Maui. "Honestly, I've done absolutely nothing but bodysurf and drink Mai Tais." Indeed, Smith looks a good 15 pounds overweight, but then, he's never been needed in Pontiac for his physique. "I'm a veteran, and I can score a little bit, and that's what this team needs" says Smith, shooting straight as always.
And what of the team's last original veteran, goalie John "The Beast" Thatcher? With Seven Deadly's world tour on hiatus while lead singer Magnus Castrato has checked into rehab, Thatcher has assured coach damag that he'll be on call if necessary, even as he enjoys the success of his new dance-thrash studio project, Liquorboxx. "We're riding the wave, we've got a huge smash in the clubs" says The Beast. "Like the song says, if you want to make your woman crazy, Liquorboxx!"
This Saturday when the Winnipeg Jets come to town, it's Karlis Ottavainen Bobblehead Day! For tickets, call 1-888-SCREECH!
12/29/2007 2:52 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
December 29/07 - Lost: The Untold Final Days of the New West Bruins
As the former New West Bruins gathered in Gatineau last week for the number retirements of Vlastimil Morton, Jeremy Tuurela and Max Unger, we sat down with them to settle a few mysteries once and for all... what exactly happened during that time that the New West Bruins existed as essentially a vagabond franchise? Pontiac Firebirds coach damag and MLD Hall of Famer Karel Blomm joined us in telling the tale.
It begins of course with the founder of the New West Bruins, ldj_1. An old-school owner from the go, ldj_1 was a tough but fair coach of his players, commanding respect while keeping them at arm's length. "ldj was a good guy, but he kind of kept to himself" says Jeremy Tuurela. "We knew he liked to travel, and he would spend a lot of time on his yacht, Windstorm." In the MLD's inaugural season, the Bruins were a prolific bunch, one of the league's top scoring teams... but their defensive weaknesses were evident as they barely squeaked into the playoffs. Today's Pontiac Firebirds were shaped in large part by ldj's commitment to drafting for defense over the ensuing seasons. In Season Two, the New West Bruins won their first and only Patrick Division championship, and advanced to the MLD semifinals.
Season Three was a bit of a step back for the Bruins as new defenders were drafted and inserted into the lineup, and in Season Four, the team looked to finally be gelling by midseason... then the twist of fate that would change the course of the franchise. "One day after practice, coach just called us together" says Max Unger, "and he just told us he had to leave. He couldn't tell us why. We all had suspicions, but..." Says Vlastimil Morton, "We knew this team was good. We wanted to stay together, and we weren't sure what the MLD would think if they knew we had no coach. So we all took a vow of silence on the matter."
The Bruins remained competetive that season under player-coach Karel Blomm, unknown to MLD Headquarters. But the real tragedy lay ahead. To keep the ruse in effect, Blomm attended the Season Five MLD Draft as the Bruins' representative. "Everyone thought it was a symbolic gesture, sending the franchise player to represent the team" says Blomm, "but the problem was, I had no budget. I had no authorization. I had no actual control over the roster." Amazingly, the Bruins drafted six players at that selection meeting who were never signed to MLD contracts. Their names have been utterly forgotten. "Who knows what those kids could have done for us? We'll never know" sighs Unger.
In Season Five the veteran Bruins fought their way to fourth in the Prince of Wales Conference as the defensive corps gelled, while the toll of leading the team in every way burned holes in Blomm's game. It was near the end of this season that MLD Headquarters got wind of what had happened in New West. The decision to bring in coach damag was made, and he would take control at the end of the Season Five playoffs.
"Now you know why I've made some of the decisions I've made with this team" says coach damag. "When I got here my first decision was to make Ilya Moltsi the franchise player. But it wasn't my decision. It was Karel's. We sat down for our first meeting, and he told me point blank, Ilya's the guy. You need Ilya more than you need me." Avers Blomm, "I had become a defensive specialist. A franchise player can't be a defensive specialist. And truthfully, I felt older than my years." This also explains the decision to roll out an all-veteran lineup in Season Seven. "It was really the last ride of the New West Bruins" says coach damag. "Those guys had been through so much together. I told 'em, go play, have fun, give it one last shot."
An extraordinary story, which explains why the New West Bruins' history is so relevant in the legacy to the Pontiac Firebirds.
1/1/2008 9:21 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
January 1/08 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Eight Recap
Regular Season Record - 32-28-17-5 (5th POW Conference; 2nd Patrick Division)
Playoffs Round 1 - Lost to Wyandotte Hurons 1 - 4
Season Seven Leaders:
Goals - Jim Rockford (24 - T3rd in MLD)
Assists - Ilya Moltsi (27)
Points - Moltsi (37)
+/- - Rockford (+19)
PP Goals - Phil Lynott (3 - T6th in MLD)
SH Goals - Guy Monto (1 - T2nd in MLD)
PIM - Bingo Jumpanen (20)
Shots on Goal - Rockford (256 - 6th in MLD)
Shooting % - Michael Knight (13.4%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Bo Darville (48)
Shutouts - Darville (7)
Wins - Darville (20)
GAA - Darville (1.58 - 5th in MLD)
Sv% - Darville (94.55 - 4th in MLD)
Awards
MVP + Top Forward - Jim Rockford
Rockford was clearly the offensive centerpiece of the Firebirds this season, tallying twice as many goals as the next highest player. He was also one of only two Firebirds forwards to score over ten goals, and led the team in plus/minus rating.
Top Defenceman - Ilya Moltsi
The Firebirds' stellar back six were the strength of the team this season, and no one logs more ice time than franchise player Moltsi. Even while sharing his offensive responsibilities with younger teammates, Moltsi once again led the team in scoring while playing first pair in every situation. The ironman has, amazingly, never missed a single New West Bruins or Pontiac Firebirds game.
Top Goalie + Top Rookie - Bo Darville
"The Bandit" took over the number one spot at midseason and shot to near the top of the MLD rookie leaderboards. His amazing 303:52 shutout streak keyed a run that launched the Firebirds from the bottom of the conference into playoff position, which they held till season's end.
1/5/2008 10:23 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
January 5/07 - Hurons close out Firebirds 4-1
An upstart season came to an end yesterday for the Pontiac Firebirds' MLD Season Eight, as the Wyandotte Hurons eliminated them rather easily in their first-round playoff matchup. Quite simply, the Firebirds' lack of scoring was evident as the team tallied only five goals in five games; a mere one in the final three.
"It was bound to happen sooner or later", said Coach damag. Those five goals came on 159 shots; the Firebirds shot 3.1 % for the series. And star forward Jim Rockford was shut out completely despite leading the team in shots on goal.
Still, it was a remarkable showing this season for a decidedly offensively-challenged squad which competed night after night with one of the league's best defense corps. The rebuilding effort will continue next season as Coach damag brings in new blood via the draft. The Firebirds will in fact possess their highest draft slot yet under damag's watch. And next season should also see some turnover in the D corps, as franchise player Ilya Moltsi enters what should be his final MLD season.
Retiring Firebirds after Season 8
C Manny Nissas (83/54/55/11/49)
448 games played... 92-57-149... -34 career... second- and third-line forward... led New West Bruins in goals (28) in Season Four... Nissas entered the MLD as an older player, which limited his ceiling... never took a single penalty in six seasons.
LW Guy Monto (67/57/65/15/54)
332 games played... 57-67-124... -22 career... played only two full seasons as a starter... an original New West Bruin, but a career-long end-of-bench player.
RW Karlis Ottavainen (79/75/77/43/56)
425 games played... 46-115-161... -19 career... an unusual career, despite his evident skills... an original New West Bruin, Ottavainen was fourth on the team in goals in Season One... after a few seasons in the minors, re-made his career as a defensive forward... notably, failed to score a single goal in 51 games in Season Six... tremendous character player, well-known for his charitable works with the team's young fans... no player better understands Coach damag's system; Ottavainen moves behind the bench immediately as damag's assistant for Season Nine.
1/22/2008 10:01 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
January 22/08 - MLD Season Nine Preview and Draft Recap
"We got him."
This Season Nine draft was a success from the start, as top-rated skater Andreas Manna fell to the Pontiac Firebirds in the eleventh spot. "We all know that in the MLD you draft for need, but Holy Cow, to have the top center fall to us when we needed a center so badly..." Coach damag shakes his head.
"We didn't even interview Andreas before the draft. No point. But Karel Blomm gave us his highest recommendation... this is a kid who loves to play the game." Still, leading up to draft day, Manna, who some say can be a natural scorer, saw his skating skills and penchant for rough play called into question. "When I met him up on the podium, all he said was 'Coach, let's go.' He was ******. Andreas is not going to let anyone forget that they passed him over. He's been here every morning; gets to the complex to work out before the trainers do."
It got better. Teams continued to draft for need, leaving centers on the board for the Firebirds to draft center again in the second round. Coach damag did not hesitate to pick local Quebecois star Maxime Gagnon. "Ridiculous. Max was one of the kids we were looking at in the first round. To get him in the second was a huge bonus." The third round pick was spent on huge Croatian defenceman Ante Krkac. "Big, strong, raw, Ante is a kid I'm really looking forward to developing into a top-four player."
So why draft a goalie in the fourth round? "Value, plain and simple. There had been a run on defencemen and wingers. Leo Xavier was still there; Central Scouting had him rated second but he was tops on our board. I'm going to give him a shot to back up The Bandit to start off, but Leo can put up the minutes if needed." In the fifth round the Firebirds locked up some much-needed muscle in center Ulrich Haessler. "Uli can play the wing too, and he's strong defensively. I'd like to find a spot for him in the lineup." With the draft already a huge success, the Birds used their sixth pick to upgrade goaltending depth, with Jeremy Ronald. "He's big... real big. Not pretty to look at. But he fills up the hole pretty good."
With so much youth and potential on the roster, is this a breakthrough year for the Firebirds? "Not so fast", says coach damag, sipping his cognac. "I have young defencemen to develop. You won't see the same six horses back there this season; I can't afford to have them all retire at once. So our forwards will have to pick it up and play more of a team game... and I honestly can't tell you they'll be ready for it. We could be giving up a few more goals... but hopefully Andreas and Max will help us score a few more too."
Firebirds draftees:
(1) - C Andreas Manna
(2) - C Maxime Gagnon
(3) - D Ante Krkac
(4) - G Leo Xavier
(5) - C Ulrich Haessler
(6) - G Jeremy Ronald
1/29/2008 3:14 PM
- firebirdshockey.ca - Player Profiles
January 29/08 - Iron Man
Consistency. Dependability. Excellence. One can think of many words to describe Pontiac Firebirds franchise player Ilya Moltsi, but the words are not wasted... and certainly, too few have been wasted in praise of the man who is simply, the best player in franchise history. From the very first game of the very first MLD season, the rugged Russian has manned the top defence pairing for this team... and he has never missed a single shift of his MLD career.
"He's my security blanket" says Coach damag. "It's been said many times, but when your best player is the hardest worker on the team, it sets the tone for every single person in the organization. Ilya is the heartbeat." A quiet, steady heartbeat, as Moltsi has never been one to call attention to himself.
But over the course of his eight MLD seasons, Moltsi has become the Firebirds' all-time leading scorer. He has never finished a season lower than 6th in team scoring, or 9th in plus-minus... all while leading the team in ice time (TOI) in all seasons but two. Moltsi plays on the first pair, the first powerplay, and the first penalty kill. Everything he's achieved has come while defending against the finest forwards in MLD history.
How does he do it? "Extraordinary fitness", says Coach damag. "I see the rookies stopping to watch him work out. He's a machine." His on-ice vision is uncanny. "One touch, one pass, the puck is gone, it's out of danger" chimes in associate coach Karlis Ottavainen. "He makes us all better." Indeed, with Moltsi the bedrock of the Bruins/Firebirds defence, every defence partner he's ever had has posted career-best numbers while playing next to Number Eight. And there's sufficient grit to his game, as Moltsi put up notable penalty minutes over the first half of his career. Never the biggest hitter on the ice, his remarkable strength on his skates has made him a feisty force in the corners, and he's never backed down from the rough stuff.
On this, the eve of Moltsi's final MLD season, how does Coach damag see life in the MLD without "The Franchise" on the blue line? "I don't, yet" he says, "because day in and day out, this lineup begins with Ilya. Replacing him will be impossible. Maybe some day we'll have another player who does what he does, but not for a long time." As usual, when it comes to Ilya Moltsi, what may yet come is not pertinent to today. Right now, there's a game to play.
2/1/2008 9:07 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
February 1/08 - Firebirds get Punch; Sykes to Halifax
In a surprising early-season trade, the Pontiac Firebirds today shipped first-year defenceman John Sykes to the Halifax Mooseheads in exchange for up-and-coming LW Punch Urpalainen.
"Yeah, this came out of nowhere" says Coach damag. "We weren't really looking to do anything right now, but Coach slorhav has a real need for defencemen out there. John's a good kid but he was 12th on our depth chart... I had told him I'd see if I could find a place for him to play. The sky's the limit for him, so we wish him all the best."
And what do the Firebirds get in return? damag is optimistic. "It looks like Punch got caught in the numbers game in Halifax. He's still got years of MLD eligibility. He gives us another LW, which we couldn't address in the past draft. Sack and Smith will retire in the next couple of seasons, and as much as I like Frank Ricard's game, I'll probably never get a full season out of him. But the most promising thing I see is that Punch has a skating dimension to his game that we are sorely lacking. We're still one of the lowest-scoring teams in the MLD, you know."
"If Punch can be a playmaker for us, I'll be buying drinks for slorhav at the GM meetings. Several."
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