Pontiac Firebirds MLD Team Thread Topic

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February 10/08 - Jeremy Plugs Hole for Anoka
The Anoka Tornados, looking to add a reserve backstopper, today acquired rookie Jeremy Ronald from the Pontiac Firebirds for a conditional pick in next season's draft. The pick will be a 6th, 5th or possibly even a 4th-rounder, depending on how much playing time Ronald receives in Anoka.
With the emergence of fellow rookie and leading Calder candidate Leo Xavier in the Firebirds' net, Ronald was not going to see any playing time in the Pontiac. "Jer's a great kid; big, funny and talented... but he fills up the net with stamina and length too", says Coach damag. "Anoka inquired about him and I saw this as a win-win for everyone."
So many young players are contributing so well in the Firebirds' lineup these days... and the acquisition of an extra pick gives the team added flexibility in next season's draft. "Heck, I'd even be interested in adding more", says Coach damag with a wink. "We're still rebuilding, you know. Where am I gonna put 'em all? That's something to worry about later."
2/10/2008 8:35 AM
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February 19/08 - Firebirds in Battle for Patrick - the Midseason Report
At the All-Star Break in Season Nine, the Pontiac Firebirds find themselves in a heated fight for first place in the MLD's Patrick Division. The allegory brings a smile to Coach damag's face, as he knows he's the one bringing a popgun into the fray. Once again, the Firebirds have found a way to remain competitive in the airtight Prince of Wales Conference while sporting one of the league's most ineffective offenses. We sat down with the coach over lattes.
damag: Well, it gives me a little more faith in the system. Coach K has done a great job getting the fellas to buy into it. We take care of our own end, we take care of our goalies, and we get the results.
firebirdshockey.ca: And you've done it with three new defencemen in the lineup.
damag: Five, actually. With the injuries to Pohjo and Ante, we've been shuffling a little bit. But Ante has been a monster when he's in there, and Ilya has done everything for us, as usual. I'm very satisfied that he received the All-Star Game nod.
firebirdshockey.ca: I guess we start with the rookie class, coach. What a bunch of kids to build around!
damag: The fans love Max and Leo. Nice to have a couple of Quebec kids in the lineup, and the girls go nuts for them. Andreas has done a great job, too. We gave him a ton of responsibility. Sure, the goals aren't there yet, but he's one of our best defensive forwards already and I'm looking forward to putting his name in the lineup for many seasons. And Ante's meshed with Ilya perfectly.
firebirdshockey.ca: Leo is leading the Calder voting for goalies. You mentioned taking care of the goalies, and that helps them take care of their end of the business.
damag: Leo and Bo are both saving right around 95 percent. They know the pressure's on them, but we give them the freedom to be aggressive in the net. Maybe the wins aren't always there, but it's not their fault. Leo's been one of the game's three stars in most of the losses he's taken. We just remind him not to let it get him down, and take things as they come. The wins will come.
firebirdshockey.ca: Honestly, the scoring is not where it should be yet.
damag: Well, if there's one big disappointment, it's in the season Jimmy Rockford's having. We're getting him his shots, he's playing with his favorite center, B.D., but they're just not going in for him. And Lonny Smith's playing on his off wing, having a poor season too. These guys have played on the top line before, I just don't know why the puck's not going in for them this season.
firebirdshockey.ca: You guys are fighting for the division lead. Did you expect to be in this position?
damag: I expected nothing. You see the season Gotham's having? You put the lineup you want to out there, and sometimes you realize early on that things may not go your way at all. Man, that could have been us. It's really unusual to see Gotham where they are. But at the same time, if we want this division, we've got to find a way to beat Maricopa, and they've had our number all season. A great job those guys are doing over there. All the same... we drop a couple of games and we've got Encinitas and Indianapolis waiting to kick us under the line. You can't have two off games in a row. We're in the more competitive conference this season, I think.
firebirdshockey.ca: What can we expect to see in the second half?
damag: I like where we're at. The bottom line is, this team is producing, and continuing to improve. I'm even looking ahead to draft day next season, when I can put even more of the pieces I want to in place.
Of course, if you ask me again ten games from now, I might say blow it up and start all over again.
2/19/2008 2:57 PM
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February 28/08 - Knights ride into The Pontiac
Two veteran Gotham City Knights are coming to Le Centre Guy Lafleur with good intentions, for once, as the Pontiac Firebirds today acquired LW Russ Harri and RW Dane Nokko only days before the trade deadline. In return Pontiac surrenders surprisingly little, a conditional 3rd-or-4th round pick in the Season 11 Draft, plus prospect C Rocky Balboa, to the Knights.
"These guys should bring us some sorely needed veteran presence up front", said Coach damag. "They're both original Knights; they've been through the playoffs; they've won a Cup." Indeed, Harri was a mainstay on the Knights' Season 4 championship team, while Nokko had a stellar playoff run in their Season 7 trip to the Finals.
"Russ gives us more of a defensive presence; Dane maybe a bit more firepower. Sure, they might not be here for a long time, but Gotham City appears resigned to missing the playoffs and Coach jayden wanted to get some kind of return on them. As everyone knows, we may have the thinnest forward lines in the league... these guys have a chance to fill some holes for us."
Going to the Knights along with the draft pick is C Rocky Balboa, a former third-round pick who unfortunately now must be considered the biggest draft bust of damag's MLD career. "We were trying a different strategy in the Season 7 Draft... Rock was a huge reach, a swing and a miss." Balboa came in with a reputation as a big-bodied tough guy, but played only 19 games in a Firebirds uniform, failing to record a single meaningful statistic. Even on the talent-starved Firebirds, his lack of skill rendered him invisible. "Stallion became the 36th guy on a 35-man roster. But he's a great kid, got the biggest heart in the world... this way maybe there'll be a place for him in the MLD someday."
The Firebirds, loading up for the playoffs up front for cheap, as has been suggested? "Hold on now", avers damag, "Some team has to win this division. It might as well be us. And we should as least try to do it with a winning record, don'tcha think? Hey, who knows, this might even help us beat the Hernando Hit Men for once."
2/28/2008 1:21 PM
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March 11/08 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Nine Recap
Regular Season Record - 35-35-11-1 (3rd POW Conference; 1st Patrick Division)
Playoffs Round 1 - Defeated Wyandotte Hurons 4 - 3
Divisional Final - Defeated NY Pussycats 4 - 0
Conference Final - Lost to Yorba Linda Yowlers 2 - 4
Season Nine Leaders:
Goals - Maxime Gagnon (15)
Assists - Troy Honka (34 - 3rd MLD)
Points - Honka (44 - 7th MLD)
+/- - Andreas Manna (+15)
PP Goals - Gagnon (3 - T7th in MLD)
SH Goals - Michael Knight / Lonny Smith (1)
PIM - Tony Montana (22)
Shots on Goal - Rockford (240)
Shooting % - Ilya Moltsi (9.2%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Leo Xavier (60)
Shutouts - Xavier (8 - 10th MLD)
Wins - Xavier (24)
GAA - Bo Darville (1.62 - 5th MLD)
Sv% - Darville (94.51 - 2nd MLD)
MVP - Ilya Moltsi
Second in scoring and assists, +7, leading the Firebirds in TOI for the eighth of his nine MLD seasons, The Franchise was the Firebirds' lone representative at the All-Star Game.
Top Defenceman - Ilya Moltsi and Troy Honka (tie)
Moltsi and Honka put up essentially identical statistics as the cornerstone defencemen of the Firebirds. Either one of them scored or assisted on over half of the Firebirds' goals in Season Nine, while paired with rookie defenceman Ante Krkac and second-year man Frank Poncherello respectively.
Top Forward + Top Rookie - Maxime Gagnon
Local Pontiac son Gagnon was among the MLD leaders in rookie scoring till his numbers took a dip at the end of the season. He led the Firebirds in goals and was second in plus-minus rating while playing over half the season at right wing. Gagnon finished 6th in MLD Calder voting.
Top Goalie - Leo Xavier
The new workhorse in the Pontiac net, rookie Xavier had a tremendous first half to the season. Late-season struggles and a lack of goal support him second in MLD Calder voting, but he and Bo Darville appear to be the Firebirds' netminding tandem for seasons to come.
3/11/2008 12:40 PM
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March 24/08 - Upset run ends for Firebirds
The improbable playoff run came to a close at 5:46 of the second overtime period last night, as Sparky Clemons scored to eliminate the Pontiac Firebirds from the MLD Season Nine playoffs, and send the Yorba Linda Yowlers back to the Finals. Every game in the series was decided by one goal.
"The guys gave it everything", said Coach damag. "I couldn't be more proud of the way this team competed, and came together. We definitely had a shot at the Final; they just had too much experience." This playoff run had been a magical one for the Birds, as they first prevailed in Game Seven overtime against the Wyandotte Hurons, then accomplished a shocking sweep of the NY Pussycats in the second round. But the overtime magic ran out.
This series brings to a close the MLD careers of original New West Bruin LW Lonny Smith, trade deadline acquisitions LW Russ Harri and RW Dane Nokko... and the illustrious run of Franchise Player D Ilya Moltsi, simply the greatest player in franchise history. D Troy Honka, the Firebirds' leading scorer in both this past regular season and playoff season, will become the Franchise Player next season.
Retiring Firebirds after Season 9
LW Lonny Smith (90/63/74/40/61)
507 games played... 118-147-265... +120 career rating... an outstanding secondary scorer in the early days of the MLD, "Skates" transitioned into the role of defensive minded playmaker in later seasons.
LW Russ Harri (86/84/67/23/80)
504 games played... 93-89-182... -108 career rating... an original Gotham City Knight... won MLD Cup with Knights in Season Four... acquired just before trade deadline this season, Harri scored 10 goals and 4 assists in 23 games to help Firebirds win Patrick Division championship.
RW Dane Nokko (81/58/63/55/71)
439 games played... 79-68-147... -117 career rating... an original Gotham City Knight... scored 8 goals in 22 playoff games during the Knights' Finals playoff run in Season 7... a gritty agitator with a scoring touch, Nokko finishes with 265 PIMs in his MLD career.
D Ilya Moltsi (100/77/100/1/100)
738 games played... 133-271-404... +171 career rating... Moltsi has played in every single MLD game in franchise history... franchise all time leading scorer in regular season and playoffs... first-pair defenceman in all situations... led team in ice time seven of nine seasons... logged an amazing 40:41:03 of ice time in Season Five... scored 20 or more goals three times; ten or more goals eight times... scored over 40 points in eight of nine MLD seasons... career 8.8 shooting percentage.
3/24/2008 11:44 AM
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April 2/08 - MLD Season Ten Preview
It's still very early in Firebirds training camp, so why the season preview now? "Almost no changes" says Coach damag. "For the first time since I've been here, we're going with almost no changes this season." Indeed, with last season's rookie-laden roster paying strong dividends, the hope is that the youngsters will continue the maturation process.
"We'll be looking for a few more goals, of course" says damag... which begs the question... who'll step up? One surprising change this season will be a step back for scoring wingers Jim Rockford and Rob Sack. "I've got faith in Shotgun... he can fall out of bed and fire a one-timer. Last season showed how much the pressure of being the team's big gun was getting to Rocko. It was his worst regular season yet, a real step back, and even though we had a nice playoff run he still barely found the net. So we'll be giving them some time off this season to recharge, and looking for others to pick up the slack."
There are still choice opportunities for rookies. With the retirement of Ilya Moltsi, a spot has opened up on the blue line... one hopefully filled by this season's top draft pick Marc Tiala. The top-rated defenceman on the draft board, Tiala fell to the Firebirds picking at 10. "Marc's a strong, solid defender with maybe limited offensive upside. Sounds like a perfect Firebird" chuckles damag. "He won't pick up Ilya's points but should definitely pick up most of his minutes which will help immensely."
Second rounder Kris Demidoff steps into the LW spot vacated by Rockford. "Other guys were rated higher in some respects, but Kris gives us a solid all-rounder to fill out the lineup. Third round LW Keith Alkio also joins the lineup as a developmental prospect with room to grow. Sixth rounder G Ike Turner is ticketed for Cornwall, where he'll apprentice veteran Vitezslav Leru in the Gunners' net.
With the roster virtually set, this marks the first time in damag's tenure that the 'Birds will be cutting two draft choices. "Well... at least they weren't hard choices to make" says damag. "Andre Kivikoski, we took a shot at adding muscle and ended up with that knucklehead. As you all saw, he took that run at Bingo Jumpanen during the intrasquad game... no one runs Bingo... and it turns out the one-punch knockout was his fifth concussion in the past year. Our medical staff recommended he retire immediately." And as for fifth-rounder C Emory Ylomaki, "Sorry, but I can't have a player that defensively inept wearing our jersey. He was gone after the second practice."
Firebirds draftees:
(1) - D Marc Tiala
(2) - LW Kris Demidoff
(3) - LW Keith Alkio
(4) - RW Andre Kivikoski
(5) - C Emory Ylomaki
(6) - G Ike Turner
4/2/2008 4:35 PM
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April 15/08 - Firebirds and Millers shake rosters up
Season 10 has begun somewhat poorly for the Firebirds, with the team struggling defensively in the absence of retired rearguard Ilya Moltsi. Perhaps a trade of potential for skill will help the club.
In a six-player deal, the Firebirds today sent developmental players D Gary Moore, RW Brian Robertson and C Ulrich Haessler to the Yorkton Millers in exchange for veteran D Paul Seppola, and rookies C Floyd Siniketo and RW Benoit Torni. "We're giving up a little of the future" says Coach damag. "Those kids are guys I was looking forward to developing, but the reality was that I hadn't found icetime for them so far. drg330 could have one or two real steals a few seasons down the road."
D Paul Seppola returns to the POW Conference, having begun his MLD career with the Helsinki Lions before moving on to Yorkton. Seppola possesses Moltsi-like talent, but his effort and output have been criticized during his stay in Yorkton. "Sepp was buried a little, behind guys like Rogan and Saraoja. No one's fault. We're not going to bring him in here to be a savior, but we'll see where he fits in" says damag.
Rookie C Siniketo moves into the Firebirds' starting lineup immediately. "Yes, this was a relativelty mediocre draft class that Floyd has come out of" says damag, "but he was still a second-round choice and ranked fourth overall of the centers. He reminds me a little of Max Gagnon coming out; and he'll allow us to move Max back to right wing where he was most successful last season."
RW Torni is as raw as they come, and ticketed for fourth-line duty in Cornwall. "Benoit, he's a funny kid" says damag. "We all got to know him before the draft... he told our scouts he was a big Karlis Ottavainen fan when he was growing up. So you can imagine the fun we've been having with that. I don't see him in our lineup for now, but who knows, the way this season has gone so far?"
Indeed, not much is stable in Pontiac this season as damag continues to search for a productive starting lineup. Stay tuned.
4/15/2008 1:58 PM
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May 7/08 - Firebirds Slugging Through a Joyless Season - The Mid(?)Season Report
Almost three-quarters of the way through MLD Season 10, we finally caught up with Coach damag on a patio in Ottawa's Byward Market. damag, criticized heavily for his handling of the team in this, the franchise's worst season yet, has been shuttling between the team's home base and its Cornwall affiliate, overseeing the training and development of his veteran players. While the results have been poor on ice for the Firebirds in Season 10, damag insists this is all just a dress rehearsal for Season 11.
"We started off badly. I knew Ilya's retirement would hit us hard, but this was unimaginable." Indeed, in the absence of former All-Star Ilya Moltsi and warehoused winger Jim Rockford, the Firebirds plummeted to the bottom of the league in shots allowed... a far cry from the style of play Pontiac fans had become used to. An early-season trade for veteran defender Paul Seppola looked promising, but...
"Paul played great", says Coach damag, "but the team's performance remained the same." As his veteran players neared the 20-game mark to accrue a year of MLD service, damag made a critical decision. "I sat 'em down. With the team performing nowhere near its usual level, I've decided to keep our veterans from counting this season of MLD service. There'll be no Firebirds retiring afterward."
With an unbelievably green roster in place, the Firebirds surprisingly put up a decent fight over the season's second quarter, but for damag's controversial insistence on playing rookie Ike Turner in goal. "Just another way to gauge the team's performance and how much the goalie adds to it. The difference between Ike and Slava (Leru) in goal has been obvious."
So while the team's fans get a break from the usual faces, damag tinkers and plots. "Evidently, unless we go on some kind of insane run, at the close of this season we will lose the distinction of being the only MLD team to never have missed the playoffs. And I'm fine with that. The price of success is often missing out on the elite talent in next season's draft. I'm banking on our sacrifices this time round making us a better team in Season 11."
5/7/2008 3:25 PM
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May 20/08 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Ten Post-Mortem
Regular Season Record - 20-52-9-1 (12th POW Conference; 4th Patrick Division)
With one final, brutal loss to the new Patrick Division Champion Maricopa Wildcats, the Pontiac Firebirds ended a desultory MLD Season Ten in possession of a dubious prize... first pick overall in the upcoming MLD Draft. For the first time in MLD history, this franchise will not be part of the playoffs.
Ranked either last or second-last in nearly every team statistic, the Firebirds sacrificed this entire season at the altar of player development. Is there a silver lining? Well, with no retirements at hand this offseason, the veteran Firebirds will return to the lineup... on a roster hopefully upgraded through the draft process. Coach damag had one final statement for the team's fans and shareholders.
"What we did this season, we did so that we will never again have to."
Season Ten Leaders:
Goals - Melvin Smiley / Maxime Gagnon / Ante Krkac (11)
Assists - Troy Honka (31 - 10th in MLD)
Points - Honka (35)
+/- - Smiley (-10)
PP Goals - Smiley / Gagnon / Krkac (2)
SH Goals - None
PIM - Benoit Torni (18)
Shots on Goal - Krkac (167)
Shooting % - Brian Downey (9.1%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Ike Turner (34)
Shutouts - Vitezslav Leru (2)
Wins - Leo Xavier (9)
GAA - Leru (2.31)
Sv% - Xavier (92.54)
MVP + Top Defenceman - Troy Honka
Honka's first season as the Firebirds' Franchise Player was a statistical success, as the veteran playmaker provided stability for this undermanned team and led the defence corps in plus-minus.
Top Forward - Melvin Smiley
Smiley took a big step forward as the team's first-line wing this season, maturing into a scoring role.
Top Rookie - Floyd Siniketo
Acquired in trade from the Yorkton Millers, Siniketo moved into the starting lineup as a checking centre and flashed some scoring ability. A fixture in coming seasons.
Top Goalie - Vitezslav Leru
The forgotten man in the Firebirds' net, Leru shared time with rookie Ike Turner after front-line tenders Leo Xavier and Bo Darville were shut down for the season, and showed the form that made him a number one goalie in the past... perhaps yet again in the future.
5/20/2008 1:57 PM
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June 10/08 - Riskala is Firebirds' Number One
"We went for need, we got talent." Coach damag sums up the Pontiac Firebirds' recent Season Eleven draft. Picking in the number one slot for the first time in franchise history, the Firebirds wasted no time in making RW Darryl Riskala the team's brightest young component. "This team hasn't had an elite right wing since Karel Blomm's best days", says damag, "We certainly feel that Darryl has the all-around skills to deliver in that fashion."
As happened in the Season Eight draft, the Firebirds got extremely lucky in the next two rounds. With most MLD teams loading up on defencemen, LW Scot Borenius and C Howie Hamayomama were for the taking in Rounds Two and Three. "Amazing", says damag, "Scotty was our top rated wing; Howie the only center we really liked. We actually considered all three of these guys for the number one pick, now they'll all wear Firebirds uniforms." Brand new uniforms, too, as the Firebirds unveiled the team's new colour scheme at the draft.
In the later rounds, the Firebirds chose to fortify the Cornwall roster with developmental prospects LW Lowell McDaniel, and Ds Duke Snyder and Art Tarkkala (pick acquired from the Anoka Tornados). Notably, to accomodate them on the roster several veterans have been released, including fan favourite Frank "The Tank" Ricard and original New West Bruin Matt Tervamaa.
"We've been a fairly predictable team the past few seasons" says damag. "We've finally been able to focus on players who can skate a little more, bring a little more playmaking to our lineup." With several core veterans returning to the starting lineup for Season Eleven, the Firebirds appear intent on assuring that last season's poor results will fade quickly into memory.
Firebirds draftees:
(1) - RW Darryl Riskala - all-around skills make him a solid addition.
(2) - LW Scot Borenius - contributes in all phases of the game.
(3) - C Howie Hamayomama - best playmaking center available.
(4) - traded to Gotham City Knights.
(5) - LW Lowell McDaniel - young prospect will require lots of development.
(6a) - D Duke Snyder - puck-moving type, needs work on defensive play.
(6b) - D Art Tarkkala - adds mobility and depth to the organization's defensive corps.
6/10/2008 12:14 PM
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July 30/08 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Eleven Recap
Regular Season Record - 34-32-12-4 (7th POW Conference; 3rd Patrick Division)
Playoffs Round 1 - Lost to Encinitas Blades 1 - 4
Toward the end of a disappointing MLD Season Eleven rife with underachieving performances and myriad lineup shuffles... with results so desultory that Coach damag neglected to have his customary mid-season sitdown with us... the Pontiac Firebirds' dormant offense finally caught fire in the final quarter, catapulting the team surprisingly into the playoffs. The Firebirds went 11-1-3 in their final 15 games, vaulting to midpack of the league standings in almost every category.
Season Eleven Leaders:
Goals - Melvin Smiley (17)
Assists - Paul Seppola (39 - 2nd in MLD)
Points - Seppola (43 - T11 in MLD)
+/- - Frank Poncherello (+21)
PP Goals - Andreas Manna (3 - T5 in MLD)
SH Goals - None
PIM - Punch Urpalainen (16)
Shots on Goal - Melvin Smiley & Ante Krkac (197)
Shooting % - Punch Urpalainen (11.0%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Leo Xavier (64)
Shutouts - Xavier (13 - 2nd in MLD)
Wins - Xavier (25 - 10th in MLD)
GAA - Xavier (1.90) - min. 20 games
Sv% - Xavier (93.16) - min. 20 games
MVP & Top Goalie - Leo Xavier
Now the undisputed #1 Firebirds netminder, Xavier almost singlehandedly kept the team within striking distance of the playoffs for the majority of the season. Over half of his wins were by shutout. Xavier finished 7th in league voting for Top Goalie.
Top Defenceman
- Paul Seppola
Seppola's playmaking proved invaluable to the Firebirds this season. Despite missing ten games due to injury, he finished second in the MLD in assists, and just outside of the top ten in points scored. His +10 rating was second among the team's defencemen.
Top Forward - Melvin Smiley
Smiley repeats as the Firebirds' top forward, leading the team in goals scored and shots taken, and ranking second among the forwards in +/- rating.
Top Rookie - Darryl Riskala
The only rookie to play all 82 games for the Firebirds this season, Riskala's consistent play made him the team's most solid RW by season's end. He finished 8th in Top Rookie voting in the MLD.
7/30/2008 4:37 PM
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August 4/08 - No Room For Error: Blades Bounce Birds 4 - 1
After a miracle run to make the playoffs, facing a superior opponent, the Pontiac Firebirds streak of surprises ended after Game 1, as the Encinitas Blades won four straight to dash the Firebirds' playoff hopes in Season 11. "Really, the guys were gassed... their goalie got red hot, which is what experienced goalies do... and the veteran team won," said Coach damag.
"Their goalie", Bret Kamari, indeed carried Encinitas to victory, first shutting out Pontiac after the Firebirds startling Game 1 overtime win, then dominating the two games in Gatineau, and holding strong through a final Pontiac assault in Game 5's come-from-behind win. Kamari saved an outstanding 96.08% for the series, with Pontiac tallying only six goals in five games.
"One long season, two weeks of glory," said Coach damag. "Yes, there will be changes by training camp... but hopefully we have an indication that we can be a more competitive team next season."
Among those changes, the impending retirements of original New West Bruin D Jerred Tyyni, D Bingo Jumpanen, and LW Rob "Shotgun" Sack.
Retiring Firebirds after Season 11
LW Rob Sack (100/54/80/1/51)
525 games played... 111-79-190... +29 career rating... an unconscionable gunner earlier in his career, "Shotgun" had seasons of 24 and 25 goals to his credit... inconsistent scoring touch deserted him in his disappointing final season.
D Jerred Tyyni (75/40/58/8/78)
366 games played... 35-124-159... -27 career rating... the last original New West Bruin skater in the Pontiac lineup... Tyyni looked like a future star in MLD Season One, but defensive shortcomings in his game made him a part-time player for the remainder of his MLD career.
D Bingo Jumpanen (79/69/67/38/100)
456 games played... 39-100-139... +51 career rating... former enforcer became a stay-at-home stalwart... an all-round defender with a big shot, who remains the franchise leader in career penalty minutes.
8/4/2008 7:51 PM
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August 27/08 - Season 12 Preview
"No expectations." That's Coach damag's summary of his feelings on the eve of MLD Season 12. While the Pontiac Firebirds have looked good in preseason, damag is wary. "Let's face it", he says, "out of the past season and a half we've had two good weeks. The record looks good, but this team hasn't really proven anything. And it's a brand new season."
A season that got off to a less-than-rousing start in the most recent draft, the most controversial one in MLD history. "Well, we didn't get caught in the administrative backwash", says damag, "but the roulette-ish nature of MLD drafting caught up with us this time." This season, the Firebirds had to stand by while other teams snapped up damag's most coveted prospects in every round.
Round One was not a waste, as tough D Rem Luuri joins the team. "A perfect replacement for Bingo Jumpanen" says damag. The second round netted RW Danny Majakangas, a small but skilled winger much like the retired Rob Sack. And rounds three and four delivered roster depth in D Dana Telkka and D Patsy Dus, but perhaps not much more. "They might be good players someday", says damag, "but right now we're not expecting much from them."
With the roster at full capacity, D Larry Ettanen and C Scott Gronros were cut in training camp. For the first time in a few seasons, the Firebirds now have the look of a veteran team. And damag promises to manage with a different attitude. "I've been guilty of overthinking in the past, and not adjusting to the reality of the situation soon enough. I was playing players who I thought should be in the lineup. This season, the guys in the lineup will have to earn it. With Ws."
Firebirds draftees:
(1) - D Rem Luuri
(2) - RW Danny Majakangas
(3) - D Dana Telkka
(4) - D Patsy Dus
(5) - D Larry Ettanen
(6) - C Scott Gronros
8/27/2008 7:42 PM
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September 22/07 - MLD S.11 Midseason Report
"Everything works, if you let it."
For the first time in several seasons the Pontiac Firebirds have been icing a veteran lineup this season, and the results have borne fruit. After last season's blistering final quarter, and a dominant preseason showing, the Season 11 edition of the Firebirds find themselves solidly in playoff contention at the midway point. The Firebirds have actually surrendered the fewest losses in the league at this point, and lead the league in games tied.
"I hoped to just let the guys go out and play this time around, and they've definitely earned the right" says Coach damag. Indeed, the Firebirds have only recently cooled after a blazing start to the season. Uncharacteristically, the team flirted with top-ten status in scoring for the first quarter, but has since reverted to classic Firebirds form. "That's right, we can't score worth a damn" Coach damag confirms. "I wish there were some way to check, but over his career I swear Leo Xavier's probably been given the worst goal support of any MLD goalie."
Indeed, goalies "X-Man" and Bo "Bandit" Darville have been the stalwarts of the team, leading the MLD at the halfway point in GAA, shutouts, and save percentage.
Remarkably, the goalies aren't the only players doing well. The Firebirds are sending three players to the MLD All-Star game, for the first time since the franchise relocated to Gatineau. LW Melvin Smiley is among the league leaders in goal scoring; C Howie Hamayomama is fourth on the team in scoring and second in plus-minus rating in only his second MLD season; and veteran D Shaone Jaatinen leads the team in scoring in his final campaign. "These guys have put in the time, it's great to see them finally getting some results" says damag.
Even this season's rookies are faring well, with strong showings coming from young D Duke Snyder and LW Lowell McDaniel. The only disappointment, perhaps in the entire lineup, has been rookie RW Danny Majakangas, currently out due to injury. "Danny's had a hard go of it, but he's just too talented. I've put him out there with Rocko and Rider (Jim Rockford and Michael Knight), and they've just started to get it going lately, so I'll stick with it for the future." damag sounds like a man content with his lineup. "Yeah, it's nice to not have to rebuild right now, finally. The best thing is, I can roll almost the same lineup out next season. Stability is good."
And a winning record is the best result of all.
Wednesday night against Gotham City, it's Tony Montana Bobblehead Night! Bring all your "leetle friends" - kids get in for only two dollars! For tickets, call 1-888-SCREECH!
9/22/2008 10:28 AM
- firebirdshockey.ca -
October 20/08 - Pontiac Firebirds Season Twelve Recap
Regular Season Record - 39-27-15-1 (4th POW Conference; 2nd Patrick Division)
Playoffs Round 1 - Lost to Maricopa Wildcats 1 - 4
A very strong bounce-back Season 12 ended suddenly for the Pontiac Firebirds at the hands of division rivals the Maricopa Wildcats. The Firebirds had a very strong third quarter of the season, at one point having registered the fewest losses of any MLD team. But an injury to top-line center Howie Hamayomama put the brakes on all momentum, including the goalscoring surge of linemate Melvin Smiley. Ultimately, the team never recovered fully. After a heady Game 1 playoff victory over Maricopa, Wildcats goalie Tod Hintsanen shut down the Pontiac shooters in the next four consecutive games... a familiar end to a Firebirds season rife with promise.
Season Twelve Leaders:
Goals - Melvin Smiley (28 - 2nd MLD)
Assists - Shaone Jaatinen / Troy Honka (33 - T7 MLD)
Points - Jaatinen (40)
+/- - Duke Snyder (+19)
PP Goals - Smiley (2)
SH Goals - Brian Downey (1)
PIM - Tony Montana / Duke Snyder (14)
Shots on Goal - Smiley (262 - 8th MLD)
Shooting % - Scot Borenius (10.9%) - min. 50 shots
Games, Goalie - Leo Xavier (60)
Shutouts - Xavier (7 - T6 MLD)
Wins - Xavier (25)
GAA - Bo Darville (1.65 - 1st MLD) - min. 20 games
Sv% - Darville (94.10 - 2nd MLD) - min. 20 games
MVP & Top Forward - Melvin Smiley
For the third season in a row, Smiley takes home the Firebirds' Top Forward award. And with a somewhat rare output of 28 MLD goals, his selection as team MVP is a formality.
Top Defenceman
- Ante Krkac
Among the team's strong defense corps, Krkac's status as a top three player in most stats nets him this award.
Top Goalie - Leo Xavier
Ever consistent, sometimes spectacular, the X-Man handled the majority of the workload between the pipes this season, and his steady showing ranked him 8th in MLD Vezina Trophy voting.
Top Rookie - Duke Snyder
A puck mover with occasional flash, Snyder's pairing with Krkac paid off in a ranking of 9th in MLD Calder voting.
Retiring Firebirds after Season 12
D Shaone Jaatinen (81/65/75/45/100)
480 games played... 50-184-234... +101 career rating... a tough guy with a flair for the setup, Jaatinen amassed 144 PIMs in his MLD career, ranking second all time for the franchise. His skill and grit will be missed.
D Troy Honka (89/77/100/1/100)
631 games played... 43-247-290... +19 career rating... the third Franchise Player in Bruins/Firebirds history. A very consistent assist man, tallying a minimum of 24 assists in 8 different MLD seasons. Second all time in assists in franchise history.
10/20/2008 1:31 PM
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