Sunaya Sapurji

  • 'Minny Boy' Oliver Bjorkstrand becomes leading man in the WHL

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 19 days ago

    Oliver Bjorkstrand’s home in Herning, Demark is a long way from Minnesota. Despite that fact, the Portland Winterhawks star has found himself in an elite group among his teammates. There are four players on the Western Hockey League club who call the state of Minnesota home.

    Somehow, Bjorkstrand has managed to join the group as an honourary Minny Boy .

    “We let him in the group,” said teammate Paul Bittner, who hails from the small-town of Crookston, Minn. “He’s our fifth member for sure; he calls himself a Minny Boy.”

    There are other ties to be sure. Bjorkstrand’s father, Todd, is a former pro player who left home in Minneapolis to play in the top Danish league with Herning before retiring and becoming a hockey coach.

    Bjorkstrand says his favourite team growing up was the Minnesota Wild, because he really liked watching Marian Gaborik. A childhood in Denmark, however, meant his NHL viewings were limited to what he could find on YouTube and on the league’s website.

    “There was a big wow factor when he came back because you could tell he just wanted it.”

    “But Oliver never gets down on himself so he never thinks of himself as out of the fight.”

  • Charlottetown's MacCallum helps rescue Islanders in QMJHL playoffs

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 26 days ago

    Mason McDonald was injured on what looked like an innocuous pad save. There was no big collision, no contact and no writhing in pain when the goaltender left some five minutes into Game 3 of the Charlottetown Islanders’ QMJHL first-round playoff game against the Sherbrooke Phoenix.

    On the bench, coach Gordie Dwyer had no idea how bad the injury was though he was concerned since McDonald – one of the top young goalies in the league – was a huge part of Charlottetown’s regular-season success.

    Further down the bench, backup goalie Daryl MacCallum was quickly coming to the realization that he’d have to protect the Islanders’ fragile two-goal lead with almost a full game to go.

    MacCallum, a rookie, came into the game with a goals against average of 4.65 and a save percentage of .859 – not exactly all-star stats.

    “When I found out (McDonald) was injured, I was nervous,” said the 19-year-old, who played in 23 regular season games. “When I entered the net I had butterflies, but after the first couple shots I felt pretty comfortable.”

    “Daryl played big for us and was a big factor in the series win.”

    So what changed?

    “It was a special moment for me. I’m very proud.”

  • Team Canada turns to Lowry for 2016 world juniors in Helsinki

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 1 mth ago

    When Canada tries to recreate their golden moment from world junior championships in December, they’ll have a familiar face behind the bench.

    On Monday, Dave Lowry, an assistant coach from the gold-medal winning 2015, was chosen to lead the 2016 squad in Helsinki. The 50-year-old, was in charge of the defence last year when Canada won its first gold since 2009.

    “It’s simple,” said Lowry in a conference call. “We’re going to continue to build on the momentum that we generated in 2015 and my mandate moving forward will be that we will, once again, look to take the best players and we’re going to make the players buy into playing the game a certain way and that’ll be our way.”

    Lowry, who is head coach of the Western Hockey League’s Victoria Royals, will be joined on the bench by assistants Dominique Ducharme, head coach of the Halifax Mooseheads, and D.J. Smith, head coach of the Oshawa Generals.

    Drummondville Voltigeurs coach Martin Raymond, Canada’s “eye-in-the-sky” at last year’s tournament in Toronto and Montreal is the only other returnee on the coaching staff.

  • Departure of Bulls from Belleville sparks memories for alumni

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 1 mth ago

    It is a rivalry that started long before there was major junior hockey in either city.  The dislike – fans might use a stronger word – between the sporting cities of Kingston and Belleville has been raging for years.

    It goes back to the old senior hockey days, and the big Junior B battles that spilled over into baseball as well. 

    “There were some pretty intense games back then,” said Larry Mavety.

    No one is probably as well versed in the hockey rivalry between the two cities as Mavety, now 72, who served as general manager and head coach for both the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs and Belleville Bulls at various times during the course of his legendary hockey career. He was there for the early days of the Belleville Bulls, back in 1979, as head coach of the Tier II junior club before the team joined the OHL.

    The Bulls spent 34 years in the OHL before owner Gord Simmonds, a businessman from Uxbridge, Ont., announced he had sold the team and it was moving to Hamilton. There was no attempt made to keep the team in Belleville though a local sale, meaning the news came as a shock to many long-time supporters and Bulls alumni.

  • Jake Paterson's trade to Kitchener has put the Rangers back into the game

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 2 mths ago

    Jake Paterson is reticent to take any credit for the recent success of the Kitchener Rangers. He'd rather credit the defence playing in front of him or his relatively new teammates for changing the group dynamic.

    There is, however, no humility in the facts. Prior to the Rangers acquiring the 20-year-old goaltender, the team was mired at the bottom of the Western Conference standings battling with his former team - the Saginaw Spirit - for the last playoff spot. The Rangers weren't expected to be a powerhouse and they stayed true to form.

    The first game in a Rangers uniform, Paterson stopped 29 shots for his first shutout of the season, a 5-0 victory over the Belleville Bulls. Since the trade, Paterson is 9-3-1.

    "Whenever you get traded to a new team there's new scenery and personally I just wanted to get off on the right foot," said Paterson. "The first few games went well and for the most part I think most of that's because of the team, the guys have been playing well since I got here."

    He's a perfect 7-0 at home and the Rangers haven't lost a game at the Kitchener Auditorium since he arrived.

    So have the fans come around on the deal?

  • Sarnia's Josh Chapman suspended 12 games for dangerous head hit

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 3 mths ago

    Sarnia defenceman Josh Chapman will have a long time to think about his actions. The Ontario Hockey League suspended the 20-year-old for 12 games for his hit to the head of Ottawa 67's winger Ben Fanjoy.

    Chapman's elbow makes clear contact with Fanjoy's head and there is no attempt to avoid the collision whatsoever. According to the league, Chapman is a repeat offender and Fanjoy was injured on the play.

    The incident occurred during a game in Ottawa on Jan. 30. After Ottawa's 5-0 victory over the Sting, 67's head coach Jeff Brown told reporters these types of hits are ones that need to be removed from the game at all costs.

    "That's the stuff that I talk about all the time ... I'm so passionate about it because I lost my career because of it," Brown told reporters. "It's got to get out of the game. Good strong hard battling is fine but ... the gutless stuff to the head has got to get out of the game.

  • OHL approves sale, move of Plymouth Whalers to Flint

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 3 mths ago

    The Ontario Hockey League's 25-year run in the Metro Detroit area came to a close on Monday as the league's board of governors approved the sale of the Plymouth Whalers.

    The team's new owner, Rolf Nilsen , who purchased the team from long-time owner Peter Karmanos, will move the team to Flint, Mich., for the 2015-16 season. The team will play out of Perani Arena, which OHL commissioner David Branch said will need some minor renovations to things like dressing rooms and board and glass systems in order to be suitable for major junior team.

    Branch said the league was impressed by the amenities the city of just under 100,000 had to offer prospective players, though they'll be staying in the suburb of Grand Blanc, Mich.

    "We're really excited because we understand first and foremost the responsibility we have for our players and their families to make sure that this is going to be a great place for them to grow and develop," said Branch on a conference call. "It's an exciting time for us and we're really looking forward to having Flint as part of our family."

    Papista was asked what would be different about the market in Flint.

  • Kelowna's Nick Merkley proves cream rises to the top for NHL draft

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 3 mths ago

    ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — At the hotel for the 2015 Top Prospects Game, Nick Merkley went on a scouting mission. He wasn’t looking to gain insights into Thursday night’s opposition – Team Cherry in this case – or for anything that would give him an on ice advantage playing in the showcase featuring the best young NHL draft prospects in the Canadian Hockey League.

    No.

    What he was desperate to find was something far sweeter: An ice cream sandwich.

    This season those cold treats have become an integral part of his pre-game ritual prior to home games with his Kelowna Rockets. Merkley said he once forgot to eat one and had a rough game, so he wanted to make sure he had one at the ready for the big game.

    These are the capricious thoughts of teenage hockey stars.

    “It’s probably not the best thing to have,” said Merkley with a smile, noting the Oreo are his favourite among ice cream sandwiches. “It’s working so far.”

    Only recently, the Rockets made a pair of blockbuster deals to bring in star defenceman Josh Morrissey, who won gold with Team Canada, and standout forward Leon Draisaitl, who had been with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.

    “To be able to see how they train off the ice is huge,” he said.

  • Canada bent but wouldn't break in reclaiming the world junior hockey championship

    Sunaya Sapurji at Yahoo Sports 4 mths ago

    Long before the game started fans were outside the Air Canada Centre in eager anticipation. It was a night that Canada had been dreaming about since last winning gold in 2009. It was the night their world junior championship drought ended.

    It was a tense 5-4 victory over Russia which saw Canada take a four-goal lead only to watch it slowly evaporate. Many still remembered the collapse of 2011 in Buffalo when the Russians came back from a three-goal deficit to steal the gold in front of many Canadian fans that had made the trek across the border. But as the seconds dwindled and final buzzer went Monday night there was nothing left for the Russians to do except accept defeat amid the chaos on the ice. Sticks and gloves littered the ice as players took turns jumping into each other’s arms.

    The crowd of 19,014 at the Air Canada Centre, who had been raucous all game, went absolutely wild.

    “My ears are still ringing a little bit from it,” said Team Canada captain Curtis Lazar. “It was awesome. They love their hockey and so do we. Knowing that we had their support throughout the good and the bad was incredible.”

    “It’s the best moment right now.”

    “But for tonight, let’s just enjoy this.”

  • World Junior 2015: Fans looking for golden ticket will have to pay small fortune

    Sunaya Sapurji at Buzzing The Net 4 mths ago

    Monday night's gold medal game between Canada and Russia has all the makings of another world junior classic. And, as a result, people are looking to cash in on the hype.

    The final game of the 2015 world junior championship in Toronto has become a hot ticket as Canada looks to claim gold for the first time since 2009. Fans are also eager to witness their two-year medal drought end, so they're willing to pay for prime seats.

    Outside the Air Canada Centre on Monday afternoon after Benoit Groulx had announced Zach Fucale would start for the Canadian side, scalpers were already out looking for buyers.

    How much are tickets going for?

    "From $500 to $1,000," said one scalper.

    For one ticket? Or a pair?

    He laughed. "One ticket."

    Prices weren't much better on secondary ticket sites like StubHub. Early Monday afternoon, for the gold medal game, tickets on the site ranged from $318 for a standing room only (no alcohol section) ticket to $1,900 for a lower bowl seat - Row 10 - in the corner behind the net.

    “I was really surprised,” Fasel said, of ticket costs. “If you would have done this pricing in Europe, you would have nobody in the arena.”