Kalamazoo had a 3-game road series in Elmira, NY with games on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Kalamazoo lost 4-1 on Wednesday. I was not at this game but from what I heard it was a throwback to old time hockey with a total of 96 minutes of penalties dished out to the teams (44 PIMs to Kzoo). Of the Canucks prospects, only Cederholm had any penalties as he was called for a 2-minute cross-checking minor. Blomstrand scored his 3rd goal of the season Wednesday night.
I was in Elmira for the games on Friday and Saturday. Kzoo won 3-2 on Friday but lost on Saturday by a score of 3-1 (3rd Elmira goal being an ENG). Witt prefers to not sit on the bench when he isn’t playing (even when there is room for the backup goalie). Friday night Witt sat in the corner by the glass where Kzoo took the ice. In Elmira this meant that Witt had the pleasure of sitting next to me the entire game – watching me take pictures and write down notes.
Fox remained on the first line with Mallet over the weekend and was in the starting lineup on Friday. Blomstrand remained on the second line. Blomstrand and Cederholm were in the starting lineup on Saturday. Cederholm appears to get the most ice time of all Kzoo defensemen.
The first half of the game Friday was very boring with nothing good of note. With four minutes left in the 2nd period, Blomstrand fed Justin Taylor with a great pass sending Taylor on a breakaway. Taylor scored to tie the game but for some odd reason Blomstrand was not given an assist. Elmira players were chirping Fox all night Friday trying to throw him off his game. Fox kept smart and stayed out of the penalty box the whole weekend.
Cederholm had two very consistent and strong games over the weekend and threw several great hits – one of which sent the glass shaking next to me for some time. Cederholm was showing some good speed this weekend – faster than I’ve seen with him the rest of the season. Cederholm was on the 1st PK unit and 2nd PP unit over the weekend. Cederholm has a rocket of a slap shot.
Fox was on the 1st PP unit over the weekend. Early in the 3rd period on Friday Fox scored a PP goal off a nice pass from a d-man. Fox shot through traffic with the puck hitting the crossbar before going into the net. Earlier in the same shift Fox had several shots on goal – one of those times where you could feel the goal coming.
Blomstrand was on the 2nd PP unit over the weekend. Blomstrand was on the ice when Elmira scored short-handed 6 minutes into the 3rd period on Friday.
Blomstrand looked off Friday night – just not up to his usual standard of play. He wasn’t skating as hard and fast he normally does. Blomstrand did take a bad hit and crashed into the boards Friday night so unsure if that had something to do with it. Blomstrand started the game slow again on Saturday. When Blomstrand came out for the 2nd period Saturday he had a fire under his belt and from that point on was back to his normal high level of play and fast skating.
Fox showed a lot of great hustle throughout the weekend games. Fox took more faceoffs this weekend, even though he remained on the wing of the 1st line. Fox was taking faceoffs right off the bat and not just after his center was thrown out of the circle. He took about half the faceoffs for his line and fared very well (though I didn’t keep stats on faceoff wins).
Blomstrand continues to jump back on defense to help out when needed and looks comfortable in that role. Nice to know that the team can rely on Blomstrand to help them out on the back end when a defenseman gets caught out of position. Blomstrand looked very good with his defensive plays over the weekend.
Cederholm again impressed me with some of his smart plays over the weekend. My favourite moment being Cederholm jumping up at the blue line to keep the puck on-side (it hit him square in the chest) and once the puck dropped to the ice he made a great pass to a winger to get a shot on goal. Just wish I got a picture of it…
Fox was the fastest Kzoo skater over the weekend. I also noticed Fox’s slick stick handling (mostly evident Saturday night). With his increased speed Fox was easily weaving in and out of Elmira players.
Witt got the start on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised with how well Witt played. This was my first time seeing Witt play since Penticton. The Kzoo loss on Saturday was certainly not Witt’s fault. Witt was peppered with 36 shots on goal and made some great saves. Witt was very quick in lateral movements and getting back up on his feet. 14 minutes into the 2nd period Witt had an amazing sequence of great saves while on the PK. On this same PK Blomstrand had a breakaway but was hauled down by an Elmira player. Nothing was called and Elmira turned right around to rush and score on Witt. The puck sneaked in under his blocker. Elmira dominated the 2nd period on Saturday with 18 shots on goal while Kzoo only had 4. Total shots on goal for the night was 37 Elmira and 23 Kzoo.
Blomstrand had several scoring chances on the first PP of the 3rd period on Saturday. I cannot seem to figure out why Blomstrand is struggling with scoring this season. In the games I have attended he always had multiple quality scoring chances. I hope puck luck changes in his favor soon.
Pat Conacher, Utica Director of Hockey Ops, was in Elmira for the games on Friday and Saturday to check on the prospects.
- During the summer ECHL meetings, it was determined that each ECHL team could only have one NHL affiliate. Kalamazoo signed a deal to be the ECHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. NHL teams have the option to send their contract players to any ECHL team. Vancouver does not have an official ECHL affiliate but has only sent players down to Kalamazoo. Columbus has not sent any players to Kalamazoo. All non-Vancouver players in Kalamazoo are on ECHL contracts. Alex Mallet is only on an ECHL contract this season.
- Curtis Valk was officially assigned from Utica to Kalamazoo on 3 December. Valk was then put on 21-day IR for Kalamazoo. I have not heard if Valk has arrived in Kalamazoo yet. Last report I heard had Valk expecting to be ready to play by the first of the year.
- On 1 December Mackenze Stewart was recalled to Utica. For a bit of time Utica only had 6 healthy defensemen on the roster. My best guess is that Stewart got the recall over Fox because he is a natural defenseman. Even though Vancouver had Stewart moved to wing this summer he could help out Utica on defense if needed. Stewart has not dressed in a game for Utica since his recall.
- Evan McEneny is still on 21-day IR in Kalamazoo with an upper body injury. I have not heard a timeline for when to expect him back in the lineup.