The Will Sports Group

The RIG 28 for November

Nov 1

Tyler Seguin goal vs Blue Jackets

Matt Irwin goal vs Avalanche

Nov 3

Irwin goal vs Coyotes

Seguin has 4 assists, Jamie Benn 3 as Stars beat Blues 6-2

Tyler Seguin was the consummate setup man Thursday night.

Seguin matched his career high with four assists — on Dallas’ first four goals — to help the Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 6-2 in a rematch of their playoff series last season.

John Klingberg had two goals for the Stars, including an empty-netter. Patrick Eaves, Stephen Johns, Jason Spezza and Jordie Benn also scored for Dallas. Jamie Benn had three assists.

Though Seguin and Jamie Benn combined for seven assists, their line had only one goal, by Eaves to open the scoring at 6:35 of the second period.

“Probably their best game of the year,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “Moved the puck well. Obviously, Tyler played a heck of a game with four assists, Jamie right behind him. Our best players were at the forefront tonight, which was great to see.”

To Seguin, the victory was especially significant because it was a Central Division game against the team that eliminated the Stars from the 2016 playoffs.

Seguin had scored three of Dallas’ six goals in the previous five games. The Stars matched that total Thursday to end an 0-2-1 skid.

Eaves deflected a shot by Seguin for the first goal.

Seguin set up Jamie Benn for a breakaway, then gathered the rebound after Allen’s save and passed out to Klingberg at the right faceoff dot for his first goal this season and a 2-1 lead.

“There’s been a couple of chances,” Klingberg said, “and it’s nice to see it finally go in there.”

Seguin passed to Stephen Johns for the first of four Dallas goals in the third period. The fourth assist came when Seguin’s shot went in off teammate Jason Spezza.

“We’re getting opportunities,” Seguin said. “They’re going to go in. Eventually that’s going to land in the right area, or it’s going to go off a body.”


Nov 4

Savard goal vs Canadiens

Irwin goal vs Hurricanes

Nov 6

Cammalleri Hat Trick vs Hurricanes

Seguin goal vs Blackhawks

Nov 8

Predators defenseman Matt Irwin riding hot streak
Adam Vingan
The Tennessean

The Predators’ best defenseman is living in a hotel.

OK, that might be a stretch, but Matt Irwin has been the team’s most productive defenseman since his Oct. 24 recall.

He has scored in three consecutive games, tying former captain Shea Weber’s team record for the longest single-season goal-scoring streak by a defenseman and becoming the first NHL defenseman this season to have that long of a streak. In those three games, Irwin has four points, as many as the other five Predators defensemen combined within that span.

Irwin, 28, has started to feel more comfortable among his teammates and in his role, but he’s still approaching his time in Nashville with a day-to-day mindset.

“I think it’s a little easier as an older player because you’ve been around for a bit and you understand the process and what it takes to stay,” Irwin said of that uncertainty. “You just kind of do your best every day to come to the rink prepared to have good practices, have good games and just control what you can control. The rest is not really up to me.”

Irwin already has played more NHL games than he did last season, when the Bruins waived him after he struggled in their first two games. He spent the remainder of the season in the American Hockey League before signing with the Predators as a free agent in July.

Although Irwin originally didn’t make the Predators’ roster, he’s making a case to remain on it.

“I’ve been very thankful for the opportunity,” Irwin said. “After what my year was last year, it was nothing short of frustrating, that’s for sure. It wasn’t what I set out for it to be. It was what it was. … I knew I could still play in this league. I was confident in my ability, and when the Predators came calling, I was so excited for another chance.”


Seguin goal vs Jets

Nov 9

Saginaw Spirit forward Mitchell Stephens to captain Team OHL
Hugh Bernreuter

Saginaw Spirit forward Mitchell Stephens was named the captain of Team OHL in the CIBC Canada-Russia Series, starting Thursday.

Stephens, a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect, will lead the OHL team against Russia National Junior Team in North Bay on Thursday and in Hamilton on Monday.

Stephens, 19, was a member of Canada’s National Junior Team in the 2016 World Junior Championships. This season, Stephens has 11 points in 12 games for the Saginaw Spirit.

Altenrate captains for Thursday’s game are Anthony Cirelli of the Oshawa Generals and Matthew Spencer of the Peterborough Petes. In the game at Hamilton, Graham Knott of the Niagara IceDogs and Nathan Bastian of the Mississauga Steelheads will be the alternates.

The CHL leads the 2016 Canada Russia Series, 4-2, in points after a pair of games in the Western Hockey League. In 13 years of the series against Team Russia, the OHL is 22-3-1.

The Thursday and Monday games begin at 7 p.m..


Nov 10

Team OHL captain Mitchell Stephens on leadership and being ‘the guy’
Donnovan Bennett

The 2016-17 season is a big one for Saginaw Spirit captain Mitchell Stephens. The Peterborough native will captain Team OHL Thursday and Monday nights in the CIBC Canada Russia Series and, as a returning player, is expected to be in the running to wear the ‘C’ for the Canadian world junior team, as he did for the under-18 squad in 2015. The Tampa Bay Lightning second-rounder (33rd in 2015) is hoping to win gold in Montreal early in the new year and put himself in position to head south and live out his dream as a NHLer.

Going through a tough, full-body circuit workout with him, I got an idea of the sweat equity it takes to become a pro. Then I remembered that, although he has a chiseled physique and barely breaks a sweat, he’s training at 9 a.m. the day after a game. Plus, Stephens is still 19—he can’t even order a beer in Michigan. When my misery and his maintenance had ended, I caught up with Stephens to fully understand what it’s like preparing to make the leap to the NHL while watching some of his peers already excelling in the best league in the world.

Sportsnet What are you actively thinking about to motivate yourself while training?
Mitchell Stephens You want to be one of the best players on the ice every night and you put yourself in that position in the gym. I know for an athlete that if I don’t do that someone else will. I’ve been able to adapt that in to my training style. I’ve learned that as I competed against better players.

SN What are you striving for when you train?
MS My five-year goal. I want to be a sustainable player in the National Hockey League. I want to be a full-time pro. With my training in the summer that’s in mind. In Saginaw I play close to 25 minutes. Its hard to adapt to that, but a goal of mine is to be consistent every night. Whether it’s going in early or staying after practice, you have to use that stuff to find that inner drive.

SN You’re currently training to improve, but you are also in season. How do you manage your training?
MS More power based. A lot more maintenance things in season. You just want to keep that power and explosiveness in your stride as opposed to in the off-season where you’re trying to get bigger, stronger, faster and do a lot more cardio.

SN What does a week of training consist of?
MS Back in Peterborough with (Mike) Spike McCormick [who owns Top Performance Training], we start Monday with a circuit where we do a lot of low weights, high reps. Tuesdays are usually track days or hill runs—the occasional beach day. Wednesdays we do a lot of Olympic lifts, cleans, squats—mostly lower body. Thursday we are outside working on quick feet doing a track day. Friday we finish off with an upper-body day.

SN What workout do you absolutely dread doing?
MS Hill runs (laughs). We have a hill in Peterborough called Armour Hill. You look at it and have no desire to get up it. It’s just one of those things you have to do.

SN You’ve been a captain or assistant at every level. How do your approach leadership?
MS For me, my leadership is by an example. Those are the intangibles I bring. The off-ice portion of standing up in the room and talking comes in moderation. You get to know the way you talk to some people. Some teammates, if you are hard on them they’ll collapse. For me it’s doing the little things on the ice to make my teammates better. That’s been the key to my success here in Saginaw and it’s just an ongoing process.

SN Connor McDavid was given the ‘C’ in just his second season with the Oilers. Is becoming an NHL Captain a goal this early on in your career?
MS That’s what you play the game for. Everyone wants to be the guy who can be depended on in the last five minutes. If you don’t want that there is no reason to be playing. For me, it’s just making sure my game is well rounded to play at the next level so I can be a dependable and consistent player.

SN The Toronto Marlies have made an immediate impact in the AHL. You’re close to a few of those guys. What’s it like for you to watch how they’ve assimilated to the league?
MS They’re unbelievable, talented players. They are playing fast with high skill. To play in the National Hockey League you have to have that confidence. That’s one thing I’m trying to incorporate into my game—confidence with the puck. You see [Auston] Matthews in his first game [with the Maple Leafs], he scores four goals. I don’t think he would have done that if he was timid.

SN When you see Matthews score three goals on his first three shots with his parents celebrating in the stands, does that make you dream of what your debut might be like?
MS Obviously you want that, but wants and realities are a little bit different (laughs). He’s a treat to watch. I got the chance to play against him last year at the world juniors in Finland. He’s 6-2, 6-3 and skates like the wind.

SN Has being in the same organization as Steven Stamkos had an impact on you?
MS I think with him, he’s a professional. He does everything right. He does everything to a ‘T.’ He is one of those guys who wants to be one of the best players in the league and he is. Tampa is a better team with him in the lineup. Just the little habits that I’ve picked up from him watching from a distance have helped.

SN I know the world junior boys have a group chat. What’s the mood of the messages as you get closer to camp?
MS Everyone is anxious and excited to get the opportunity to make that team again. You have guys who are making it in the National Hockey League this year and going on in their careers and that’s awesome for them, but it gives the chance for guys to come in and earn a spot. I’m excited for the opportunity to represent my country again and hopefully get a better result. We’re playing on home Canadian soil so we know we have the home crowd with us and it’s going to be awesome.


Nov 23

Blue Jackets notebook | David Savard alters role to help the team
Tom Reed
Columbus Dispatch

David Savard has not shaved in seven years.

The Blue Jackets defenseman has trimmed his facial forest often and gussied up when the occasion called for it. But lately he’s allowed the whiskers to roam unfettered.

Savard is not going full-blown Brent Burns, yet if the winning continues he’s willing to sacrifice looks for the team.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” he said of the beard. “We’ll see how it goes. It’s been going for a while now. I will let it go if we’re playing well all year.”

The 26-year-old has undergone a more substantive change on the ice. Two seasons removed from scoring 11 goals, Savard has altered his game to play a more defensive role, one that includes a bit of a nasty streak in front of his net.

He has settled into a decent second-pair defenseman, one who can occasionally play up as he did in recent weeks with the injury to Seth Jones. Savard entered Wednesday night’s game against Calgary with one goal, three assists and a plus-five rating.

The Jackets (10-4-3) rank eighth in goals-against average at 2.33.

“He doesn’t get a lot of attention at that position, and at that position that’s a good thing,” coach John Tortorella said. “He’s a foundation guy. You can’t win without a guy like that, and he’s served that role very well.”

The Blue Jackets selected Savard in the fourth round in 2009 and he entered the system touted for his offensive prowess. Conditioning and commitment issues, however, nearly derailed his time with the franchise in 2013. With his career at a crossroads, Savard exhibited more dedication and won the respect of Tortorella for playing hurt down the stretch last season.

“He’s ugly as sin sometimes going back after pucks,” the coach said in regard to Savard’s mobility. “I’m not sure if he’s going to get there, but he does. He’s big and he’s strong and he thinks the game.”

Savard has welcomed the additions of Jones and high-scoring rookie Zach Werenski even at the expense of his power-play opportunities. His average ice time (21:09) is down by two minutes from last season, but it’s increased his desire to hone his defensive-zone coverage. The result is a 6-foot-2, 227-pound blueliner comfortable in his new role.

“We’re winning, it’s fun,” Savard said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing more or less, it’s about the team.”


Nov 28


Mike Cammalleri had missed six games from the New Jersey Devils lineup for personal reasons.

It wasn’t revealed that his daughter was actually suffering from pneumonia and required surgery, until he returned last Wednesday to face the Toronto Maple Leafs, with what some were calling ‘Dad Strength’.

It was all systems go for Cammalleri, who led his team out of the gate with 23:03 of ice time, and had a hand in every regulation goal for the Devils that night. He tallied a goal and two assists in the second period, and also notched a helper on Yohann Auvitu’s third period goal which forced overtime. The devils held on to win it all 5-4 in a shootout.

The winger kept on rolling through a Friday matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, picking up a goal and an assist, and again notching over 23 minutes of ice time.

He put a bow on the week with Saturday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cammalleri opened the scoring and netted another one to make it a 3-2 game for the Devils off of just four shots on net. Sidney Crosby would force overtime for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who would eventually win in a shootout.

The Devils earned four of a possible six points with Cammalleri back in their lineup.

Prior to his return, the alternate captain had scored three goals for six points. He’s now matched seven goals with seven assists for a plus-four rating in 15 games.


Nov 29

Ouellet Interview

Saginaw Spirit

TORONTO, On and MONTREAL, Que. – (FROM HOCKEY CANADA RELEASE) In less than 30 days, the puck will officially drop on the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, and 32 players are now one step closer to being part of this Canadian holiday tradition as a member of Canada’s National Junior Team. Hockey Canada unveiled the list of invitees who will report to Canada’s National Junior Team Sport Chek Selection Camp in Blainville, Que., Dec. 10-14, during coinciding news conferences in Montreal and Toronto on Tuesday. The cities will co-host the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship when it returns to Canadian ice next month.

Amongst the 32 players named to the camp is Saginaw Spirit Captain and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mitchell Stephens. The Peterborough, Ontario Native leads the Spirit with 25 points in 20 games this season. Stephens is one of five players to return from last year’s National Junior Team roster.

The selection camp will be held at the home of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau, and features three games: two against the USport All-Stars on Dec. 12 and 13, and a final game against the Czech Republic on Dec. 14.

Following the four-day camp, 22 players will be selected to represent Canada and don the Maple Leaf on home ice for the first time since 2015 when Canada won gold in front of a sold-out crowd of over 19,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre.