The ECHL Maine Mariners have re-signed former Vernon Vipers forward Michael McNicholas.
Former Vernon Vipers defenceman Johnny Coughlin is also a member of the Mariners. Coughlin played with the 2014-15 Vernon Vipers.
McNicholas started last season with the Manglerud Star, commonly known as Manglerud Star and abbreviated as MS, is a Norwegian ice hockey team based in Oslo, Norway. They currently play in the GET-ligaen. The Star signed McNicholas February 6 2018 was terminated October 26 2018. In 15 games with the Star McNicholas collected (2-goals-7-assists-9-points). The Mariners signed McNicholas November 1st 2018. In 65 games last season with Maine, McNicholas collected (13-goals-40-assists-53-points).
McNicholas spent four seasons at the University of New Hampshire before signing his first professional contract with the ECHL Indy Fuel March 6th 2018.
McNicholas played one season in Vernon (2013-14). The Vipers traded Aaron Hadley to Nanaimo for future considerations (Michael McNicholas & Jordan Klimek) on January 10th 2013. In 56 games with the Vipers McNicholas collected (23-goals-46-assists-69-points) scored one of the biggest goals in recent Vipers history, scored the overtime winner in Game 7 of the Interior Division Finals vs Penticton in 2014.
PORTLAND, ME – June 17, 2019 – The Maine Mariners announced the re-signing of five players to standard players contracts (SPC) on Monday, officially marking the beginning of the 2019-20 roster. Forwards Terrence Wallin, Michael McNicholas, and Dillan Fox, along with defensemen Derek Pratt and Josh Couturier, have all agreed to deals for 2019-20.
Wallin, a 27-year-old forward, was an Alternate Captain in 2018-19 but found himself getting significant time in the AHL. The Yardley, PA native with Maine ties by way of Kennebunk, played 23 AHL games with the Hartford Wolf Pack in addition to his 41 with Maine. As a Mariner, Wallin put up 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists), finishing fourth on the team in scoring. The Mariners acquired Wallin in their first ever trade last September, when they sent defenseman Matias Cleland to the Adirondack Thunder. Wallin has been a pro since 2015-16 when he played for the SPHL’s Peoria Rivermen. He played his college hockey in New England at UMass-Lowell.
McNicholas is a 25-year-old forward from Reno, NV. After starting his 2018-19 season in Norway with Manglerud, he returned to the U.S. and signed with the Mariners on October 31st, 2018. The former University of New Hampshire Wildcat led the team in assists (40) and points in a Mariners uniform (53), finishing second only to Taylor Cammarata in overall point scoring. His 40 assists were also good for fourth among all ECHL rookies. McNicholas scored his first ECHL goal on November 10th, 2018, the game-winner in a 3-1 home victory over Worcester. He also finished tied for the team lead in shootout goals, with three. The Mariners coaching staff named McNicholas the team’s Rookie of the Year.
Dillan Fox was an unexpected key piece to the 2018-19 team. Signed to an SPC in January while playing for the SPHL’s Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, Fox was out to prove he deserved to stick in the ECHL. In just 37 games, Fox scored 16 goals, good for the third most on the team. As the Mariners dealt with injuries and call ups through February and March in particular, Fox became one of the primary scoring options on the roster. He produced three multi-goal performances along the way, and was ultimately named “unsung hero” by the coaching staff. Fox played NCAA DIII hockey at SUNY Plattsburgh and had been almost exclusively in the SPHL since 2016, besides a 10-game stint with Reading in 2017-18, near his hometown of Hummelstown, PA. He just celebrated his 28th birthday last Thursday.
On the Mariners blue line, few defensemen provided a more steady presence than Derek Pratt. The rookie D-man suited up in 63 games, leading all Mariners D. The Mount Hermon, MA native is known much more for his stay-at-home play than point production, but he put up a respectable two goals and 16 assists from the Mariners blue line. Included, was a goal in his professional debut on October 19th, 2018 against Reading at the Cross Insurance Arena. A former Captain at the University of Connecticut, Pratt wore an “A” on his sweater amidst call ups to the original Mariners captains in 2018-19. He earned a look with both Hartford and the Utica Comets, with which he made his AHL debut in April.
Josh Couturier didn’t join the Mariners until mid-February, but he had a significant impact after the trade that saw him shipped over from Wheeling. Just two days after playing at the Cross Insurance Arena as a visitor with the Nailers on February 10th, he quickly turned around and headed back to Portland to join the Maine lineup. Couturier scored a goal in his team debut on February 13th and finished with 10 points (2 goals, 8 assists) in 19 games as a Mariner after posting just two points 32 contests with Wheeling. The 24-year-old blue-liner hails from Newbury, MA and played collegiately for both Boston College and UMass-Amherst.
ECHL teams can sign players on their season-ending roster to SPCs up through June 30th, after which eight players per team can be issued qualified offers to extend the retention of their rights. Free agency begins on July 1st.
Fans are invited to meet the players, plus coaches and staff at a meet and greet at Binga’s Stadium on Tuesday, June 18th from 7-8:30. Fans can also enter to win a Mariners prize pack at the event.
The second ECHL season of Maine Mariners hockey kicks off October 11th at home when the Adirondack Thunder visit the Cross Insurance Arena for a 7:15 PM faceoff. Full and half season plans along with 12-game mini plans and group tickets are on sale now by calling 833-GO-MAINE or visiting the Mariners front office at 94 Free St. in Portland. Single game tickets will go on sale September 16th.
The American Hockey League Stockton Heat have released former Vernon Vipers forward Adam Tambellini.
Tambellini landed a tryout with the Heat in late September. Tambellini attended the Heat's training camp, also played in both Heat preseason games, collecting one goal and one assist was -2 was released prior to the start of the regular season.
Tambellini played last season with the Ottawa Senators affiliate American Hockey League Belleville Senators. In 72 games last season with Belleville Tambellini collected (13-goals-19-assists-32-points).
The Ottawa Senators made qualifying offers to all restricted free agents on their roster June 17th 2019 except Tambellini.
The Ottawa Senators signed Tambellini to a two-way, one-year contract July 25th 2018. Tambellini never played a game in Ottawa, was placed on waivers September 23rd 2018 played last season with the Senators affiliate American Hockey League Belleville Senators . Prior to joining the Senators Tambellini spent the previous three seasons with the American Hockey League Hartford Wolf Pack.
Tambellini left the University of North Dakota in January 2014 for the Western Hockey League joining the Calgary Hitmen January 8th 2014 after being acquired in a trade with the Portland Winterhawks.
Tambellini played a season and a half in Vernon (2011-13) before being traded to Surrey on January 10th 2013 along with future considerations (Michael Roberts) for Mason Blacklock & future considerations (Jordan Klimek and Demico Hannoun). In 91 regular season games with the Vipers Tambellini collected (49-goals-46-assists-95-points). Tambellini was drafted 64th overall in the 3rd Round by the New York Rangers at the 2013 NHL Draft. Tambellini attended the New York Rangers 2014 Prospect Development Camp.
The American Hockey League Providence Bruins have released former Vernon Vipers "AP" affiliated player-forward Dante Hannoun.
No official press release by the Bruins, but Hannoun is no longer on the Bruins roster.
Hannoun was invited to the Boston Bruins training camp in September, before being released/sent to the Boston Bruins Prospect Challenge in late September. A round-robin tournament featuring rookies from various teams. Hannoun would be released/sent to the American Hockey League Boston Bruins farm club Providence Bruins training camp, before being released.
Hannoun has reported to the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. Hannoun recently signed his first professional contract with the Gladiators September 19th 2019. In four games with the Gladiators Hannoun has (1-goal-6-assists-7-points).
Hannoun spent the past five seasons with the Western Hockey League Victoria Royals & Prince Albert Raiders. Hannoun was traded to Prince Albert January 3rd 2019. In 56 games last year with the Royals & Raiders Hannoun collected (29-goals-38-assists-67-points).
Hannoun is the younger brother to former Vernon Vipers forward Demico Hannoun (2013-14).
Hannoun played one game as an "AP" (affiliated player) with the Vernon Vipers during the 2013-14 season.
I found these press releases off team websites, twitter accounts, blogs or online. All Vipers news-trades are posted on this blog as soon as released-announced.
BCHL News & Trades:
Prince George-Drayton Valley Trade:
The Prince George Spruce Kings have acquired forward Jaxon Steele (’00) from the Drayton Valley Thunder of the AJHL in exchange for forward Henry Wagner and future considerations. Steele, a Calgary Alberta product, spent last season with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL, where he played in 48 games, and having 5 points. “We’re excited to add Jaxon to our lineup. Jaxon will add some size up front and give us a boost offensively. He makes us much deeper and gives the coaches more options with the forward group” says GM Mike Hawes. “Henry is a 10 out of 10 person and it’s always tough to part with kids like that. However, he is going to get more opportunity in Drayton Valley than we can give him. We wish him all the best.”
Express Name Rizzo & Trotman Alternate Captains:
Coming off the best September in Express franchise history, the Express have *officially* strengthened the leadership group of the team, naming Massimo Rizzo and Adam Trotman as alternate captains. They join Connor Gregga and Joshua Wildauer with As and Drew Cooper with the C. “This was group decision by players and staff. Adam’s demeanor and professionalism are very impressive. Players look up to the way he takes care of himself. Massimo is a former captain in the league, and leads by example. His path to get healthy and make it back to the lineup is definitely an inspiration to our group,” – HC Jason Fortier Rizzo served as captain of the Penticton Vees last season, leading them to a first place finish in the Interior Division. Trotman wore an A last season in the OJHL with the Newmarket Hurricanes. The Express currently sit atop the Mainland Division with an 8-2 record.
Kings Sign Euerby:
The Powell River Kings are pleased to announce the signing of 2002-born goaltender Braedy Euerby. Euerby, 17, was selected by the Vancouver Giants in the fifth round (103rd overall) in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, and attended their pre-season camp, making two appearances (1-1, 3.50 GAA / .885 SV%). The Delta, BC native played for Delta Hockey Academy Prep last season, going 16-8 with a 3.12 GAA and .893 SV%. The Vancouver Giants have two NHL prospect goaltenders in David Tendeck (ARZ – Rd: 6) and Trent Miner (COL – Rd: 7), leaving Euerby without any playing time, resulting in this move to further his development. “For the Giants, it’s a great spot to be in because they have two drafted goalies that are unreal kids and great goalies,” said Kings Head Coach Tyler Kuntz. “It’s tough for Braedy (Euerby) because he’s behind those two guys, but he’s young and he’s going to come here to get some experience and play.” Kings overage goaltender Matteo Paler-Chow has had to make 11-straight starts, and nine consecutive starts since the injury to backup goalie Alex Rolfe on September 15th. During that time, the Kings have used five different backup options. “He’s (Braedy Euerby) going to add a support system for Matteo Paler-Chow,” added Kuntz on his new tandem. “They’re going to be a tandem because he (Paler-Chow) has been alone for too long. Goalies need support, so he’s going to bring that, and he’s a young hard working goalie with a lot of potential.” Euerby said he’s excited to get started with the Kings after gaining valuable experience with the Giants. “I’ve worked with both of them (David Tendeck & Trent Miner) for the last couple years, and I learned a lot about how they play the game, how they think and what they do before and after the game,” said Euerby on working with two NHL prospect goaltenders. Euerby had previously played with Nic Porchetta, Nolan Krogfoss and Jacob Slipec at Delta, and said that he knows most of the Kings roster. “As soon as I stepped in the dressing room, I knew I was at home,” smiled Euerby. “I know half of the team just through playing against them, playing with them, or just from another academy.”
On The Bench With Trevor Miller:
Time for another episode of On The Bench presented by @TheBenchMarket! This week's guest is Vees forward Vincent Nardone
The Salmon Arm Silverbacks have traded 2001-born defenceman Ben Hamilton to the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations. The 6-foot-4 blueliner played in six games this season for the Backs, recording one assist. “First off, we’d like to thank Ben for all his effort and hard work. We just thought it was a move that would be best for him and his career,” Silverbacks assistant coach and assistant general manager Tanner Cochrane said. “They’re very excited to have him and for us, he wasn’t going to get the ice time he needed to be able to showcase his talents to the best of his ability,” The Silverbacks would like to thank Hamilton for his dedication to the Silverbacks and wish him well with his new organization.
Cenntenials Name Van Unen Captain:
The Merritt Centennials are proud to announce their leadership group for the 2019-20 season. Fourth year Centennials forward Rylan Van Unen has been named Captain while the team will split assistant roles for home and away games. All told there will be 6 assistants and they will include: 3rd year Cent Joey Berkopec, 2nd year forward Brett Roloson, 2nd year centre Payton Matsui, and newcomers Olson Werenka, Matt Osadick, and Troy Quinn. Werenka, Roloson, and Osadick will serve as alternates when the Cents sport their Whites, while Berkopec, Matsui, and Quinn will be a part of the leadership group when the Cents wear their traditional reds. Van Unen says that it’s very special to serve as Captain for his final year. “It’s and honour to be named Captain of the Centennials and to be a part of the great history here. Some amazing people have been Captain during my time in Merritt and it’s a privilege to be a part of that same group now. I look forward to leading this talented group of guys both on and off the ice.”
Salmon Arm’s Bid To Host Junior A Hockey Championships Proves Unsuccessful:
Despite support from local businesses, various community organizations, Salmon Arm council and hockey enthusiasts, Salmon Arm’s bid to host the Junior A Hockey Championships in 2021 has fallen short. The process of creating the bid began in February 2019. By the following month, the newly formed Shuswap Sports Society presented plans to submit a bid to Salmon Arm council, which gave the bid their unanimous support. If successful in securing the 10-day event, visitor spending and extensive media coverage was projected to generate more than $2 million for the Shuswap. Out of eight other communities that submitted their bids to host the event, Salmon Arm made it to the top three, which qualified Shuswap Sports Society to present their bid to Hockey Canada in Calgary in mid-May. “I thought we were the best represented community out of the final three that actually got to present,” said Ian Gray, chairperson for the Shuswap Sports Society. “Nobody else had a mayor there which I think really spoke loudly to the city commitment.” While the Shuswap Sports Society does not plan on making another bid, Gray believes there is hope for another Salmon Arm organization to make a bid to host the championships in 2023 or 2024. The 127-page bid included $500,000 put forward by businesses and local groups. Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison said he didn’t think there was anything more that could have been put into the bid. “Our facility is a perfect size for a Junior A hockey championship and of course our location, you can’t beat it,” he said. “I would say perhaps that the timing perhaps just wasn’t quite right from Hockey Canada’s perspective to come this way this time.” Harrison said he believes that if and when Hockey Canada looks to host the championships again in B.C., Salmon Arm would be high on their radar as a potential host. Hockey Canada has not released the official winner of the bid yet.
The Nanaimo Clippers announced today that they have traded 1999 born Thomas Samuelsen to the Victoria Grizzlies in exchange for future considerations. “This was one of the hardest moves I have had to make since joining the Clippers’ organization.” commented Darren Naylor, General Manager and Head Coach of the Nanaimo Clippers “Thomas is an incredible young man with a work ethic like none other. Unfortunately, with Hansen-Bukata coming off the IR, we had too many 20 year old players and we had to make a move.” Samuelsen was entering his second season with the Clippers as a key part of the team and was also an Assistant Captain. His defensive plays ranks near the top of the BCHL where he was a key part of the top ranked Penalty Killing unit in the league. The Nanaimo Clippers Organization would like to thank Thomas Samuelsen and wish him the very best in the future.
On The Bench With Trevor Miller:
Time for another episode of On The Bench, presented by @TheBenchMarket! This week, our guest is Vees forward, Alex DiPaolo!
The Prince George Spruce Kings have hired Colin Minardi has the team’s new Associate Coach. Minardi replaces now former Associate Coach Jessie Leung. Leung has stepped down due to personal reasons. “It’s not the ideal situation when you have to make a coaching change part way through the season but that being said there are things in life much more important than the game of hockey. Jessie is leaving for personal reasons and we wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors”, says GM Mike Hawes. Minardi, 28, played at several different levels including Finlandia University (NCAA), Selkirk College, and Concordia University. Minardi has been coaching through the midget ranks in the Okanagan before taking the job here in Prince George. “This opportunity does open the door for another good young coach and we are excited to add Colin to our program” says Hawes. “Colin has a lot of playing experience including a stint under Alex with Selkirk College. They are very familiar with each other and that was a great selling point for me. I think Colin will transition quickly into what we’re doing here and I’m excited to see him working with our coaches to make our players better”.
BCHL Board Of Govenors Approve Sale Of Express:
The BCHL has announced that its Board of Governors have approved the sale of the Coquitlam Express to local businessman Fayaz Manji. Manji will serve as the team’s Governor and the team has announced that Ron Veit will serve as Alternate Governor and special advisor to ownership. “I look forward to helping Junior A hockey prosper in Coquitlam,” said Manji. “Our commitment to the community, sponsors and fans will remain as strong as ever. The organization will endeavour to produce future community leaders by providing players an opportunity to fulfill their dream playing in the top league, while opening doors to higher education.” Manji has also appointed Dave McLellan as President of Hockey Operations, Mark Pettie as Vice President and Alannah Kedra as Manager of Business Operations. “Junior Hockey is an important part of the fabric of Canada,” said McLellan. “We have made a commitment to provide the city of Coquitlam with a highly-competitive and exciting brand of Junior A Hockey. The players proudly represent the community and we encourage the Tri-City community and the rest of the Lower Mainland to come out and support the team.” Manji expressed gratitude to the previous ownership group and will continue to build on the established foundation with plans to elevate the team to the next level. “My passion for hockey from a young age will drive our vision and, with the players determination, excellent coaching staff and community support, we will reach new heights in Junior A Hockey in Canada,” he said. The Express joined the BCHL for the 2001-02 season and played in Coquitlam for four years before moving to Burnaby. In 2010-11 the Express returned to their original home and have been there ever since. “The BCHL is pleased to have Fayaz Manji come on board as the Owner of the Coquitlam Express,” said league Commissioner Chris Hebb. “This news, combined with a great start by the team on the ice, is sure to drive renewed interest and ensure stability for the franchise going forward.” The team has enjoyed significant success on the ice in years past as they captured the Fred Page Cup as BCHL champions in both 2005-06 and 2013-14 and also won a National Championship in the same 2005-06 season. The franchise has served as the starting point for the careers of many future NHLers, including Milan Lucic, Kyle Turris, and Alexander Kerfoot.
Barrett Announces Retirement:
The Merritt Centennials are announcing that longtime Governor and Director of Hockey Operations Brian Barrett is retiring from his position within the team citing personal reasons. For parts of 47 years, Brian Barrett has been integral to the success and longevity of the Centennials franchise. As a Player, Coach, General Manager, BCHL Governor, Director of Hockey Operations, and even Owner Barrett has done whatever was required of him to keep the team thriving. For his commitment to the game of hockey, Barrett was inducted into the BC Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016. President of the Centennials Neil Menard says that there is nothing but thanks from him and the Board of Directors for Barrett’s many years of service. “Brian has been so integral to this hockey team for so many years. He’s affected the lives of players on the team, helped them reach the next level, sometimes professionally, and sometimes beyond the realm of hockey. His commitment and dedication to the team cannot be questioned, and we’d like to thank him sincerely for all the time and effort he put into the club and wish him the best in his next chapter.” Barrett will continue to be a fan, and get more time to devote to his family.
Chilliwack-Salmon Arm Trade:
The Chilliwack Chiefs are proud to announce the acquisition of 2001 born forward Connor Milburn from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in exchange for future considerations. Milburn, a 6’3” forward from Kamloops, BC played last season for the Thompson Blazers Major Midget Program where he tallied 14 goals and 15 assists in 25 games. Milburn is a player the Chiefs are quite familiar with as he attended last season’s annual Spring Camp in May. “We are very happy to add Connor to our mix today,” said Chiefs Associate Coach and Assistant GM Brad Rihela. “Connor had an excellent showing in our spring camp last season, and is a player we recruited heavily during the 2018-19 season. He is a high character individual that will fit in nicely with our program.” With the Chiefs currently having a spot available at the forward position, Head Coach and General Manager Brian Maloney felt like this was the right move at the right time for the Chiefs. “We are very happy with the direction of our young group and the progress we have made at this point in the season. We feel that the acquisition of Connor allows us to create some more internal competition within our group which is healthy for us going forward,” said Maloney.
West Kelowna Warriors And Former Coach Try To Settle Lawsuit:
The owner of the West Kelowna Warriors and the club's former head coach are scheduled to face off in court Tuesday. Kim Dobranski and Geoff Grimwood are expected to take part in a settlement conference of the lawsuit brought down by the Warriors former coach. Grimwood filed suit in June, claiming Dobranski breached his contract when the coach was fired in January. He claims the contract signed in September of 2018 provides for an immediate lump sum payment of an amount necessary to ensure his salary met the BCHL's minimum standard of $50,000 if he were terminated. He said the team failed to, or refused to make the payment. Grimwood is suing for $30,000 including interest and filing fees. Dobranski has denied the claims, stating the entity Grimwood sued never employed his services. "The West Kelowna Warriors Hockey Club (Society #S0064872) is a non-profit booster club for the Warriors franchise operated by KD Sports Ltd. We operate spring hockey programs and provide gaming for our youth programs. Contrary to his claim, Mr. Grimwood has never been employed by our organization," stated Dobranski in his response to the court at the time. As such, Dobranski disagrees with the breach of contract claim, "as we didn't have a contract with him." This is the first of two lawsuits facing Dobranski. The second involved his former business partner Xiaorong Liang. Liang is asking that a $300,000 investment in the team, plus other payments, be returned because of breach of contract. Dobranski claims that lawsuit is "frivolous, unfounded" and a tactic to try and bully him. He says that lawsuit was filed because of his refusal to roster her 15-year-old son, and play him in the fall. That suit was filed in Vancouver.
2001 born forward Logan Kurki has been traded to the Humboldt Broncos of the SJHL in exchange for future considerations. Kurki appeared in 6 games this season. Last season as an AP with the Express, Kurki scored a goal and added an assist in 2 games. The Maple Ridge native joins former Vancouver NE Chiefs teammates and former Express APs Cody Hough and Michael Harroch with the Broncos. We wish Logan the best in Humboldt.
Centennials Part Ways With Wolff:
The Merritt Centennials announced today that they are parting ways with Head Coach and General Manager Barry Wolff. The Centennials Board of Directors elected by a majority vote to terminate Head Coach Barry Wolff and promote Assistant Coach Derek-Sweet Coulter to Interim Head Coach. President Neil Menard says that the Centennials had to address some of the unrest within the team. “It comes down to some philosophical differences. It wasn’t solely the wins and losses, you expect that early on in a season. The Board has taken action to address some of the issues brought to them from others close to the team.” The move will be effective immediately, and Derek Sweet-Coulter will assume Interim Head Coach and General Manager duties as of today. He says the move isn’t how he envisioned, but is excited for the future. “I want to thank Barry for everything he did for me and bringing me here, he will always be a mentor and friend to me. Obviously this isn’t the way you want to receive a job but the business side of the game is out of our control. I am excited to lead this group into the future developing young adults who will be great leaders that have a positive impact on the community of Merritt.”
The Nanaimo Clippers have traded 2002 born forward Connor Wetsch to the Langley Rivermen in exchange for future considerations. Wetsch, who hails from North Vancouver, played in 47 games for the Nanaimo Clippers over the last two years contributing to the team with a physical presence. “It’s not easy to trade a young skilled forward with a ton of grit but Connor wanted to return to high school in North Vancouver to graduate” commented Darren Naylor, General Manager and Head Coach of the Nanaimo Clippers. “Connor has a physical presence like no one else his age in this league. He is tough as nails, which is my style of player. I had to honour his wishes but will be sad to see him leave the team.” The Nanaimo Clippers organization would like to wish Connor Wetsch the best in the future.
Former Vernon Vipers tryout forward Matt Moulson is ready for revival in Hershey.
Moulson is in his first season with the American Hockey League Hershey Bears. The Bears signed Moulson July 24, 2019. In 8 games with the Bears this season, Moulson has (2-goals-4-assists-6-points).
Moulson spent last season with the American Hockey League Ontario Reign.
Moulson played eleven seasons in the NHL with four different teams (Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Minnesota and Buffalo. Moulson was drafted 263rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 9th round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Moulson last played in the NHL with Buffalo during the 2017-18 season before being assigned to the American Hockey League.
Moulson attended the Vernon Vipers training camp in 2001, was released during camp.
Matt Moulson ready for revival in Hershey: 'Doesn't matter how old you are, you still need that confidence to do well'
Written By Sammi Silber
WASHINGTON — As players took part in the famously grueling skate test on the first day of Washington Capitals training camp, Matt Moulson could be seen really digging into the ice, giving a full effort as he tried to keep up with the NHLers he used to fit in so well with.
After his on-ice session, he emerged from the locker room wearing a smile, standing by the bench after his session at Medstar Capitals Iceplex, his eyes reminiscent and reflective of a wild career — but focused, of course, on the positives.
"You know, there's a lot of ups and downs in pro sports," the 35-year-old told Sporting News.
Heading to the AHL's Hershey Bears on a one-year deal, Moulson looked back at those ups and downs — the ones he'd become all too familiar with over the years.
The "ups" date back to high school, where Moulson hit his growth spurt around the age of 14. Not only was he a talented hockey player, but he was a promising lacrosse player as well, excelling in both sports while finding a middle ground between the two.
"I had some tough years in hockey when I was younger ... lacrosse is kind of a sport I always fell back on. You know, if I had a tough time in hockey, I could do well in lacrosse," Moulson explained, adding, "I didn't realize it at the time, but I think it kind of helped me with in-front-of-the-net situations when you're being pressured, you got to make plays in tight areas."
His play led him to Cornell, where he played four years with the Big Red. He was eventually drafted by teams in both the NHL and the National Lacrosse League, actually going earlier in the NLL draft (37th overall) than he did in the NHL (263rd overall to Pittsburgh). He stayed at Cornell, though, dropping lacrosse after his freshman year to focus on hockey. He led the team in scoring three times and ultimately ended up signing as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006.
His career took off, though, when he joined the New York Islanders in 2009. He posted three consecutive 30-goal seasons in his first three years with the team and became one of the top names in the Eastern Conference. Equipped with an accurate and lethal shot, good hands, excellent hockey IQ and a strong work ethic, Moulson was as good as they get, the kind of player that posted nearly one point-per-game as a reliable, consistent forward.
He was the kind of player teams needed in order to win.
"He's the guy who's been the league for a long time, someone who's done it for a long time," Capitals center Travis Boyd said of Moulson. "Just like anyone else. You kind of learn to respect those guys quickly — he's put together a career that I'd be happy to have."
Starting in October 2013, things got shaky; Moulson was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Thomas Vanek, where he registered 11 goals and 29 points in 44 games before again being traded to the Minnesota Wild just months later at the deadline. He had 13 points in 20 games with the Wild before ultimately returning to the Sabres in 2014, signing a five-year, $25 million deal.
That's when things started to go downhill for the 6-foot-1, 203-pound winger.
After posting 13 goals and 41 points in 77 games in 2014-15, Moulson saw a dip in his play as Dan Bylsma took over as the Sabres' bench boss ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, registering a career-worst eight goals and 21 points. He appeared to bounce back the following year with 32 points despite being a rumored buyout candidate. After going 14 games without a point in 2017-18, the relationship between Buffalo and Moulson became tense, and he was placed on waivers for the purpose of assignment. Buffalo wouldn't give him a roster spot with their AHL-affiliate Rochester Americans, ultimately loaning him to the Ontario Reign.
"It was obviously some tough years for whatever reason," Moulson said. "You know, doesn't matter how old you are. You still need that confidence to do well, and I think going to play in Ontario was very fortunate."
The other Ontario of course — Ontario, California. When Moulson was shipped out to the West Coast, he wasn't at a high point in his career, having been traded, waived and in the throes of "the darkest time" in his career. That all changed quickly with the Reign.
He thrived during his two-year tenure, posting 18 goals and 46 points in 49 games in 2017-18 before becoming an alternate captain last season and registering 62 points in 68 games.
Not only did his on-ice play improve, but his passion for hockey — one that had been missing back in Buffalo — was back.
"The L.A. organization gave me that chance and under Mike Stothers, it kind of rekindled my love for the game and the confidence," Moulson said. "It was a great two years and I still love the game."
Building a strong relationship with Stothers, Moulson was also able to find his game in the minors. He quickly found his step again and also formed great chemistry with his linemates, while also leading by example and being a positive veteran presence in the locker room.
"He helped me a lot in the past two years in Ontario ... obviously, he's a great player. He had a great career and he makes things a lot easier for his linemates," Philippe Maillet, his former linemate said, adding, "He's 35 and he still works hard every day. That's something that I watch him do and try to mimic a little bit. He's had a great career and there's a reason why. He works hard every day, so there's no reason why I can't go out there and just do my hundred percent every day."
As he continues his journey — and AHL success — he's still missing one thing on the road to redemption: a championship.
Through his career, he has yet to capture a title, from the NCAA to the Stanley Cup, and even meeting him for the first time, it's easy to see that his will to win is unshakable.
But with the Bears, where his family's nearby and he's back in the Eastern Conference, Moulson is confident that a Calder Cup is well within reach.
"I definitely want one of those in Hershey," Moulson said. "I think that was a big reason why I ended up signing there was just the chance to go win."
The Les Ducs d'Angers have signed former Vernon Vipers defenceman/captain Riley Guenther.
The Association des Sports de Glisse d'Angers is a French ice hockey team based in Angers playing in the Ligue Magnus.
The team currently use the name of "Les Ducs d'Angers". The team was founded in 1982 and plays home games at the Patinoire du Haras.
Guenther played the past four seasons at the University of British Columbia. Guenther played parts of two seasons in Vernon (2013-2015) was signed in late September 2013 after playing the two previous seasons in the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans and Prince Albert Raiders.
Riley Guenther inks pro deal in France’s top league
Men's Hockey 6/14/2019 Jeff Sargeant (UBC Communications)
VANCOUVER – Another Thunderbirds alumnus is joining the pro ranks as recently graduated defenceman Riley Guenther has signed a contract with Les Ducs d'Angers of Ligue Magnus, the top division in France.
The Calgary native joins another former T-Bird in Angers as former teammate and fellow blue liner Neil Manning has also signed with les Ducs.
"It feels incredible to be starting my professional career," said Guenther who will move to France this summer ahead of the start of training camp in August. "This has always been a dream of mine from the very beginning and to have it come true is just a great feeling. All the hard work has paid off and I can't wait to get started."
A graduate of the Sauder School of Business this spring, Guenther played a total of 107 regular season games with the blue and gold while putting up seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points and 72 penalty minutes. Guenther added another four points in eight career playoff games with the 'Birds.
"Every year here he progressed and trended in the right direction, he's prepared himself both physically and mentally for the pro game," said UBC head coach Sven Butenschon. "We all knew he would sign somewhere because he was so hungry to take that next step. He's very athletic, he's a great player, he's well rounded so I think the team is lucky to have him."
Prior to arriving at UBC, Guenther played two seasons in the WHL, split between the Tri-City Americans and the Prince Albert Raiders. He then shifted to the BCHL where he played his final two years of junior hockey for the Vernon Vipers, the last of which he served as captain.
Manning is getting set for his first season in France after stints in the American Hockey League, ECHL, and the second German division last year. The Nanaimo, BC product amassed 17 points in 30 ECHL games with the Indy Fuel while being named a league All-Star.
"We're super excited for both these guys to continue their hockey journey on the same team," added Butenschon. "They already have chemistry, they know each other, I think it's a really neat story."
The Thunderbird link in Angers runs deep as the team's head coach is another UBC alumnus in Brennan Sonne who donned the blue and gold from 2008 to 2011.
"After speaking with Brennan a few times, I was lucky enough to fit the mold of the type of player he was looking for and things moved pretty quickly after that," added Guenther. "My four years at UBC honestly taught me so much and made me such a better hockey player and person. Being a full time student-athlete forces you to be so committed and disciplined which are lessons I will carry with me over to Europe and for the rest of my life. I can't thank my coaching staff, teammates, classmates and professors enough for my time at UBC."