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Gulls’ Schultz, Heat’s Goloubef named to Team Canada roster for Spengler Cup

 

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San Diego Gulls defenseman Jeff Schultz and Stockton Heat defenseman Cody Goloubef are among four current American Hockey League (AHL) players who have been named to Team Canada’s 20-man roster that will compete in the 91st annual Spengler Cup tournament Dec. 26-31 in Davos, Switzerland.

The Spengler Cup is the oldest club tournament in the world and the final evaluation tournament prior to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

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Six teams will participate in the upcoming event. Team Canada will participate as the defending champion while HC Davis will participate as the host team.

Other teams include Dinamo Riga from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), HPK Hämeenlinna from Finland, Mountfield HK from the Czech Republic and the Swiss national team.

Team Canada has won three consecutive tournament titles and 14 Spengler Cup championships overall in the history of the international event.

Schultz, 31, a native of Calgary, Alberta, has represented Canada on one other occasion at the 2004 U-18 World Junior Championship in Minsk, Belarus, going scoreless in seven games. Selected by Washington in the first round (27th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft, Schultz has earned four points (one goal, three assists) with six penalty minutes in 19 games with San Diego this season.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound defenseman has recorded 76 points (11 goals, 65 assists) with a +78 rating and 137 penalty minutes in 409 career NHL regular season games with Washington (2006-13) and Los Angeles (2013-16). He has also made six trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Capitals and Kings, earning one assist and 14 penalty minutes in 36 games. He won the Stanley Cup championship with Los Angeles in 2014.

Goloubef, 28, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, has collected five goals and eight assists in 24 games with Stockton this season while accumulating 34 penalty minutes.

He becomes the second Heat player to participate in the Spengler Cup after Aaron Johnson suited up for Team Canada in the 2015 Spengler Cup victory.

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Goloubef, a second-round pick (37th overall) by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2008 NHL Draft, joins a pair of 2015-16 Stockton alums on this year’s Team Canada roster: goaltender Kevin Poulin, who went 14-11-3 in 29 games, and forward Mason Raymond, who scored six goals and added nine assists in 15 games. Raymond represented Canada at the 2016 Spengler Cup.

Other AHL players named to Team Canada’s 2017 Spengler Cup roster include forward Chris Kelly from the Belleville Senators and forward Christian Thomas from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Kelly, 37, a third-round pick (94th overall) by the Ottawa Senators in the 1999 NHL Draft, is a veteran of 833 NHL regular-season and 92 playoff games with Ottawa and Boston.

Thomas, 25, a second-round pick (40th overall) pick by the New York Rangers in the 2010 NHL Draft, has appeared in 27 regular season NHL games. In 20 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season, he has six goals and 13 points to his credit.

Both Kelly and Thomas are Toronto natives.

This year’s tournament is being used by Hockey Canada as one of the last opportunities to evaluate players within a short-term competition setting before selecting the group that will represent Canada at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

“The Spengler Cup allows us an opportunity to take another look at some players who’ve been part of earlier teams, as well as work with some new faces, just given how it aligns with other league schedules,” said Sean Burke, who is serving as general manager of Canada’s national men’s team. “Our goal remains to put together the best possible team to compete in PyeongChang in February. We’re looking forward to this opportunity to work with new players, and take part in this historic event.”

Canada’s first contest at the Spengler Cup is scheduled for Dec. 26, against Mountfield HK at Valliant Arena (11 a.m. PST).

Add Schultz

Schultz appeared in seven second-round playoff games for the Kings during the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, and received a championship ring.

“It’s every kid’s dream,” the San Diego blue-liner explained. “It seems every round you go in the playoffs the intensity and the competitiveness just goes up that much more. As people often say, it’s the hardest trophy to win in hockey.”

Schultz has made three trips to the Calder Cup Finals – winning the AHL championship playoff trophy in 2006 with the Hershey Bears and in 2015 with the Manchester Monarchs (the forerunner of the current AHL Ontario Reign). Schultz finished runner-up in the Calder Cup Finals in 2007, also with Hershey.

He’s played in a total of 65 Calder Cup playoff games during his career, including 10 last season with the Gulls.

His first taste of a pro hockey championship came by being in the right place at the right time. He appeared in seven games with the Bears during the 2006 Calder Cup playoffs, recording one goal and three assists, after completing four years with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League (WHL).

“It was my last year of junior and I came up and joined Hershey in the playoffs,” Schultz recalled. “We wound up winning. It was something I didn’t expect to happen my first year. But it’s something I’ll always cherish down the road.”

Schultz said winning the Calder Cup nine years later with Manchester was unique in its own way. He appeared in 14 playoff games with the Monarchs, registering three assists.

“It was a little bit different because I had some experience with it,” he said. “I was in the role of helping these young players appreciate it because there are players who go throughout their whole career and never have that opportunity, so I wanted to make sure they appreciated it and cherished that moment.”

Schultz made the move from Manchester to Ontario during the relocation of the franchise to help form the AHL’s Pacific Division in 2015-16. He played one season with the Reign before joining the Gulls last season. He signed a one-year contract to remain in San Diego this season.

He said he likes his current digs.

“We have a great fan base that comes out and supports us every night,” the two-time Calder Cup champion said. “We have a great team, great coaches and we expect a lot out of ourselves. I think there’s a lot of potential in this group.

“I take it year by year. Every season I want to do all I can to help these guys make it up to the NHL.”

Turning up the Heat

Stockton swept its two-game series in Tucson Dec. 22-23 to solidify its hold on first place in the AHL’s Pacific Division standings.

The Heat topped the host Roadrunners, 4-1, on Dec. 22 as Stockton goaltender Jon Gillies earned first star honors by stopping 33 of 34 shots. The Heat edged the Roadrunners, 2-1, on goals by Marek Hrivik and Brett Findlay in the Dec. 23 contest.

The Heat — 6-2-1-1 in its last 10 games – improved to 16-8-1-2 on the season (.648 winning percentage). The Roadrunners – 3-7-0-0 in their last 10 games – dropped into third place in the division standings with a 13-9-2-1 record (.580 winning percentage).

The Texas Stars moved into second place in the division standings following a 4-3 overtime win in Bakersfield on Dec. 23. The Stars – 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games – improved to 18-11-1-1 (.613 winning percentage).

The 2018 portion of the 2017-18 schedule looks to be especially competitive. The top three teams in the division are separated by 0.068 percentage points while the next four teams in the division are separated by just 0.048 percentage points.

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Seven of the eight teams in the Pacific Division have winning records entering the AHL Christmas Break.

The Heat is finding success despite playing in the middle of a seven-game road swing.

“Obviously, it is the first half mark and it says a lot about our team,” Hrivik said. “This was another tight game for us and it is good when the team learns when to win those and it is a big plus moving forward.

“It has really been a tough month. We have had a lot of travel under our legs and those are the tough games where you learn to win and those are playoff type games for both teams and they are one of the top teams and we passed them last night with the win and it was a big challenge for us and we come away with two wins and now we have a Christmas break.”

“It is nice to go into the break on the winning note,” Heat head coach Ryan Huska said. “That is the important thing that guys can enjoy their family now and that is a real big thing for them to kind of re-energize as they come back and get to spend some time with some people they haven’t seen for a while.”

Rivalry weekend

San Diego swept its two-game weekend series against Southern California arch rival Ontario Dec. 22-23 to claim sole possession of fifth place in the Pacific Division standings.

The Gulls rallied from a 3-1 deficit early in the third period to shock the visiting Reign, 4-3, in overtime in the opener of the weekend set. The Gulls continued their flair for dramatics as forward Kalle Kossila scored with just 38 seconds remaining in regulation to hand visiting San Diego a 4-3 victory in the return leg matchup.

The Gulls, winners of five consecutive games (all in comeback fashion) and seventh of their last eight outings overall, improved to 14-11-1-0 (.558 winning percentage) to move just .009 percentage points behind the fourth place San Antonio Rampage in the division standings.

The back-to-back losses dropped the Reign to seventh place in the division standings with a 13-12-1-1 record (.519 winning percentage).

Both the Gulls and Reign continue to count the precious standings points as they attempt to make a climb from the bottom tier of the division standings.

“Those are the kind of games against Ontario,” San Diego head coach Dallas Eakins explained. “They are always one-goal games, they are always very close. It doesn’t matter if we have a full lineup or not a full lineup. The same goes with them. It’s always a highly-competitive game and I think that really builds confidence in that togetherness with your team when you are able to put up wins like that.”

The Gulls resided in the division basement before embarking on their recent winning streak.

“It means a lot,” San Diego veteran Steven Oleksy said in regard to the team’s recent climb up the division standings. “We went through a lot of ups and downs early on this season. To get the results that we have lately I think each and every one of those wins is a character win and we continue to build off that.”

All-Star Classic

Former Tucson captain Craig Cunningham, whose pro hockey career ended with a life-threatening health issue last season, has been named one of two honorary captains for the upcoming 2018 AHL All-Star Classic slated Jan. 28-29 in Utica, N.Y.

Cunningham, who is in his first year as a pro scout with the NHL Arizona Coyotes organization, has become an inspiration to the entire hockey community since making what many might consider a miraculous recovery after suffering a heart attack on the ice following warmups in a Nov. 2016 game at the Tucson Arena. The Roadrunners’ inaugural captain underwent a partial amputation of his left leg on Christmas Eve 2016 that ended his playing career.

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It took months of rehabilitation, drawing on the emotional support from family, teammates and fans, before he could make a full recovery. This past Oct. 27, the Tucson AHL franchise formally retired Cunningham’s No. 14 jersey.

Roadrunners head coach Mike Van Ryn said everyone in the building that night was touched by the jersey retirement ceremony.

“It was great,” Van Ryn said. “It was wonderful. They did a great job for a wonderful human being. We’re thankful he’s still in the organization and doing a great job. He’s done a lot. He’s a wonderful story. For our guys, you know what a true battle in life is when you watch someone handle all that adversity with grace and perseverance. He’s a wonderful human being still today. It was great to see his number retired. I thought the team did a good job with the ceremony.”

Drawing a crowd

The Bakersfield Condors set a franchise record by drawing 8,990 fans to their 14th annual Field Trip Day on Nov. 29. The 10:30 a.m. face-off featured the second-largest crowd in Condors history and the second consecutive sellout for the AHL team following the team’s 19th annual Teddy Bear Toss Night on Nov. 25. The team attracted 17,852 fans in the back-to-back games.

Students from all areas of Kern County, Tulare and Fresno counties attended the field trip day that was packed with games, videos, a nutritious lunch and educational booklet to take home with them. Stockton spoiled the fun, however, by grabbing a 3-1 win in the Field Trip Day contest.

Bakersfield defeated visiting San Antonio, 7-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 8,862 on Teddy Bear Toss Night. The stuffed bears came raining down on the Rabobank Arena ice following Brad Malone‘s shorthanded goal at 2:15 of the second period. It was the 19th Teddy Bear Toss goal in the history of the event.

The attendance was the fifth largest in Condors history and the third largest Teddy Bear Toss crowd.

The Condors tweeted that they received 10,549 bears to set a new record for stuffed animals collected in the event. The previous single-game record was 8,075 in 2009.

All time, the team has collected 121,395 teddy bears. The stuffed animals will be donated to the United Way of Kern County, which will distribute the bears to dozens of local non-profit organizations.

“We are fortunate to be able to play a game for a living and to see the impact that goal had is pretty incredible,” Malone said. “It goes to show you the support of this community and the city of Bakersfield for giving back. Thank you to everyone involved and this will definitely be a memory I’ll have the rest of my life.”

To watch Malone’s Teddy Bear Toss goal, click here.

Making the save

San Diego native Thatcher Demko stopped 23 of 24 shots to lift the visiting Utica Comets past the Syracuse Crunch in an AHL North Division game on Dec. 23.

Demko stopped 32 of 34 shots he faced to help Utica defeat the visiting Toronto Marlies 5-2 on Dec. 20 in another AHL North Division contest.

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With his latest win, Demko, a second-round pick (36th overall) by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft, improved to 11-6-3 on the season with a 2.37 GAA and .923 save percentage. He has one shutout in 20 appearances for the Comets.

Utica improved to 13-12-4-1 (.517 winning percentage) and is in fourth place in the division. Toronto leads the division (and all 15 Eastern Conference teams) with a 22-8-0-0 record (.733 winning percentage).

First star

Rossmoor’s Rocco Grimaldi scored two goals to lead San Antonio to a 4-1 win over the visiting Rockford IceHogs in an AHL game on Dec. 17 to earn first star of the game honors.

Currently under contract to the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, Grimaldi has appeared in six games with the Avs in 2017-18 with one goal and two assists and in 21 AHL games with the Rampage with 10 goals and 16 points (to rank in a tie for third in team scoring). He’s appeared in 39 NHL games since starting his pro career in 2014-15.

Ups and downs

The NHL San Jose Sharks recalled defenseman Joakim Ryan from the San Jose Barracuda, their top developmental affiliate in the AHL, on Dec. 22. Ryan, 24, has recorded three points (all assists) and a plus-three rating in 25 games played with the Sharks this season.

Ryan’s first stint in the NHL was highlighted by his performance on Nov.1 against the Nashville Predators in which he set a franchise record and NHL rookie record for most blocked shots in a single game with nine.

The Sharks also announced on Dec. 22 that the NHL team had assigned forward Daniel O’Regan to the Barracuda.

In 10 games with the Sharks, O’Regan posted four assists and five shots on goal. His time with the Sharks was highlighted by a two assist night against Tampa Bay on Dec. 2.

O’Regan is tied for most goals on the Barracuda with six and is fourth overall with 13 points in 14 games.

Rookie Rudolfs Balcers leads the Cuda in season scoring with six goals and 20 points in 26 games.

The Coyotes re-assigned center Dylan Strome to Tucson, the club’s AHL affiliate, on Dec. 19 after an initial recall to the NHL on Nov. 25.

The 20-year-old Strome has played in 11 games with the Coyotes this season, scoring one goal. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound native of Mississauga, Ontario, has recorded nine goals and collected 27 points with 12 penalty minutes in 17 games with Tucson this season. He ranks third among AHL rookies in point-scoring.

Strome was originally drafted by the Coyotes in the first round (third overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Moose crossing

The Manitoba Moose extended its current point streak to 16 games (15-0-0-1) after sweeping visiting San Antonio by scores of 7-2 on Dec. 21 and 3-1 on Dec. 22. The Moose, the AHL affiliate of the NHL Winnipeg Jets, owns the best record in the 30-team AHL at 23-5-1-2 (.790 winning percentage) and is 9-0-0-1 in its last 10 games.

Manitoba has two Californians on its roster: goaltender Eric Comrie (Newport Beach) and forward Chase De Leo (La Mirada). Comrie is 9-4-1 with a 2.35 GAA and .925 save percentage; De Leo has collected 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 31 games.

Comrie received a call-up to the Jets on Nov. 27 and started the team’s Dec. 8 game against the Florida Panthers, making 30 saves on 35 shots in as 6-4 loss. Winnipeg reassigned Comrie to the Moose on Dec. 11.

By the numbers

The Gulls continue to lead the 30-team AHL with an average attendance of 9,213. The Reign is next among Pacific Division teams with a 6,996 attendance average, followed by San Antonio (5,565), Texas (4,987), Bakersfield (4,901), Tucson (3,742), San Jose (3,661) and Stockton (3,266).

Demko photo/Utica Comets
Cunningham photo/Tucson Roadrunners
Additional photos/Phillip Brents

— Phillip Brents

(Dec. 26, 2017)