Super Rat is now a super Cap

Say what you will, but you can’t complain that the Whitecaps have been idle this off-season. After acquiring Japanese striker Masato Kudo and Costa Rican midfielder Christian Bolaños, the Caps went out and landed… Blas Pérez?!?!?

The man people love to hate is on his way to Tuscon to suit up for the blue and white in some early pre-season matches. In case you don’t remember, this is the guy who elbowed Jordan Harvey in the head, drew fouls on Kendall Waston with blatant dives, and got under the skin of Pa Madou Kah. Still not convinced? His twitter handle is @superraton7, for crying out loud — that’s just Spanish for, you guessed it, Super Rat 7.

Blas Perez, now a member of Whitecaps FC, fires a left footer past Steven Beitashour, who is not. Outdated photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Blas Pérez, now a member of Whitecaps FC, fires a left footer past Steven Beitashour, who is not. Outdated photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Pérez inspires, shall we say, extreme reactions:

For

Against

The fact is, Blas Pérez has scored at a respectable clip during his MLS tenure, netting 37 goals in 103 appearances for FC Dallas. Yes, he is renowned for diving, and for no shortage of dirty play in tight against defenders, but advantages threefold exist in having him in Whitecaps colours:

1) If he’s not scoring against the Whitecaps, which he has been known to do, maybe, just maybe he’ll be scoring for them. David Ousted, for one, will be mighty happy to hear that.

2) Carl Robinson doesn’t go in for simulation, and no doubt will do his best to limit the bullshit.

3) Who’s to say the Whitecaps might just need a little side of nasty on the roster now and again. Waston can’t get all the yellow cards, can he?

Love him or hate him — and there are plenty of people who do the latter round these parts — the addition of Blas Pérez makes the Whitecaps a better team. Who knows, if we see the goat horns ten or fifteen times this season, maybe even the Southsiders might come around and like Super Rat.

In closing, let me quote soccer poet Russell Arbuthnot:

“If nothing else, [the addition of] Pérez signifies the end of the Darren Mattocks experiment, which is a good enough return for me.”

Ronning & Laberge level up

Ty Ronning was a last-minute addition to the CHL Top Prospects Game — Giants teammate Tyler Benson was unable to go due to injury — but the diminutive winger proved he could run with the big boys on Thursday night at the Pacific Coliseum in front of more than 10,000 fans, media and hockey brass.

Pierre-Luc Dubois stopped by Evan Fitzpatrick
Pierre-Luc Dubois is stopped by Evan Fitzpatrick during second period action in the CHL Top Prospects Game. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The annual junior hockey showcase started 14 years ago as a friendly $100 wager between Don Cherry and Bobby Orr, but has since grown into one of the premier hockey events in the country. Every NHL team sends a team of scouts and management, and a horde of media representing outlets from across the hockey world descend upon the host venue for three days of testing, promotion and draft day speculation.

Ty Ronning
Ty Ronning did not look out of place, even with Luke Green watching closely on ice and Bobby Orr doing so from the bench. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

With all that high-level talent in the room, pro teams use this event as a sketchpad for future planning. This year’s class of athlete was no exception, with several players shining big time in the spotlight. Pascal Laberge of the Victoriaville Tigers had his stock go way, way up after netting two goals and setting up the game-winner for Team Orr. Ronning, for his part, skated well and opened the scoring early in the first period. “It was maybe the loudest cheer I’ve ever had,” said Ronning after the game. “It was a real thrill, for sure.”

Dylan Wells in net for Team Orr.
All that talent; you can’t stop ’em all. Dylan Wells allowed this shot past him, high blocker. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Perhaps the most common refrain of the night: “Good lord, Logan Stanley is a large man.” The 17-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario plays defense for the Windsor Spitfires. He’s listed at 6’7.25″, 225lbs. Put him next to Ty Ronning (5’8.75″, 163lbs),  and you’re not even sure if they’re the same species.

Logan Stanley is a large man.
Logan Stanley is a large man. Team Orr took a 3-2 decision over Team Cherry at the Pacific Coliseum. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Of course, for old time hockey fans, the figureheads of Don Cherry and Bobby Orr are irresistible. They’re great spokesmen for the game, and especially for the junior game on display here. “I thought every kid here tonight played wonderful hockey. These players, many of them, will be on Hockey Night in Canada for years to come,” said Orr after the game (and after signing countless autographs for excited fans and collectors). “They’re just so well prepared, so well coached, so well conditioned these days.”

Number Four Bobby Orr
Bobby Orr wades through dozens of autograph seekers just to get from the bench to the tunnel to the dressing room. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

When asked what he thinks about the state of the game today, he said there’s a lot to like: “I don’t mind the 3-on-3 overtime. I think that’s exciting. I don’t want to see 3-on-3 games, mind you, but it’s going to be a lot of fun at the All-Star Game. There’s going to be lots of goals scored, I’m sure lots of 3-on-nothings. For an All-Star Game, a special occasion like this, it’s fun.”

What about the Legends? “For the old guys we’d better put more bodies out there. Maybe like rugby, you know, sevens.”

The Top 5 of 2015 – The Galaxy Over

Whitecaps Wednesday

After getting entries four and five out of the way, we’ve officially reached the podium positions in our Top 5 of 2015 game review series. It only seems fitting as anticipation for the 2016 season mounts with the Caps having arrived back in town for training camp. And what better way to celebrate than by sitting down with a frosty brew (might I suggest a Four Winds Pale Ale?*), taking a load off and wasting some time reading Pucked in the Head while those players bust their asses running laps and submitting themselves to arduous fitness testing? In case you need some more time to finish your drink, catch up on our previous installments – you can find entry 5 here, and entry 4 here.

Now, without further ado, in the Bronze medal spot we take a peek back to the happenings at BC place on April 4, 2015 – just the fifth game of the young season for the Whitecaps. The match was a significant one for the team because of the opponent, because of the result and because of the method in which they delivered that result.

Continue reading The Top 5 of 2015 – The Galaxy Over

Mariners FanFest January 30/31

Pitchers and catchers report next month, and baseball’s winter is quickly drawing to a close (regardless of what the weather may be saying). Spring training is coming!

To that end, and to get fans a chance to meet some of the new players and hang out in the friendly confines of Safeco Field, the Mariners do FanFest each year. This year’s edition runs from 11A-4P both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, kids 14 and under are free.

There are so many things going on this weekend that I can’t list them all here, but highlights include:

* The perennial favorite, Run Around the Bases
* A zip line across the outfield
* Clubhouse tours
* Pitch in the bullpen
* Appearances from, and interviews with, various Mariner players
* See Nelson Cruz’ Silver Slugger award from 2015

and much, much more!

Your faithful baseball scribe is dusting off the keyboard; look for more soon on the Mariners’ many moves this offseason, how the rest of the AL West is stacking up, and more.

The Top 5 of 2015 – Kansas City Rollercoaster

Whitecaps Wednesday

As we creep ever closer to the opening of the 2016 MLS season (you can take a look at the Whitecaps full schedule here), PITHites are being subjected to a peek back at what I deem to be the top five Caps games of 2015.  It’s kind of like one of those cobbled-together “Year in Review” we see frequently and repeatedly throughout the holiday season, except this isn’t nearly as long and contains less upper-management-sanctioned “witty banter.”  This is week two of our little experiment here so, naturally, that means that up for review this week is entry number four on our list of five.

I should clarify that the criterion for games being on this list extends beyond good feels and positivity, as evidenced by this selection.  We’re going to travel back to August 15, 2015 and look at a game that, to me, imitated the Whitecaps’ entire season in a thorough 90-minute display of hope, potential, success, decline and ultimately, failure.

Continue reading The Top 5 of 2015 – Kansas City Rollercoaster

Silvertips waltz away with two points

The Vancouver Giants relied on hustle, muscle, and a little luck on Friday night. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a fast, skilled Everett Silvertips team at the Pacific Coliseum. The Giants got two goals in quick succession in the first period to briefly hold a 2-1 lead, but let Everett slip away with the two points.

Let’s be honest: the Silvertips should win this game. They’re first in the US Division, and came into the night on a seven-game unbeaten streak. This is a good hockey team.

The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Sixteen-year-old Riley Sutter hits defenseman Brennan Menell during second period action at the Pacific Coliseum. You read that right: ANOTHER SUTTER. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ryan Kubic might want the winning goal back, but he can’t be blamed for the loss. He allowed three pucks by him on 22 shots, but good gravy the Tips looked dangerous on just about every rush up the ice.

For his part, Silvertips goalie Carter Hart spent long stretches of the game idle, but made the stops necessary to win the game. The Giants pushed and prodded late, swarming the net and crashing the boards. They even drew a penalty late, and spent the final minute of the game with a 6-on-4 man advantage. It was tense, with most of the 4,000+ fans in the building screaming “SHOOOOOOT” — it was shades of Thomas Gradin here at the Coliseum for a while there — but in the end, the Tips held out for their 25th win of the year.

Ty Ronning nearly potted one in the second period, but he was held to just one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Silvertips. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ty Ronning nearly potted one in the second period, but he was held to just one assist in a 3-2 loss to the Silvertips. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Want some clichés? The best players on the Tips roster were their best players tonight. Remi Laurencelle got on the board early with a deft redirect from the slot, and had two assists. For the Giants, Chase Lang and Ty Ronning were held goalless — although Lang did hit one hell of a post with 90 seconds left in regulation, and Ronning nearly potted one in the second period — and secondary scoring just didn’t pick up the slack.

The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Silvertips leading scorer Remi Laurencelle skates away from Giants best point-per-game guy Trevor Cox. The Vancouver Giants dropped an entertaining 3-2 decision to the Everett Silvertips in the first home game of 2016. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The Giants applied a disciplined, physical game, especially in the third period. It’s a good plan when they stick to it, because quick teams like Everett have a hard time adjusting. For the plan to work, however, they need to take advantage of the chances they manage to create. Several Giants had pucks in prime scoring positions, but either had shots blocked or put it right in Hart’s bread basket.

The next Giants game comes tomorrow night against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Prince George Cougars. Get your tickets here.

Giants offering more these days

It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Vancouver Giants. Between September 28 and December 6, the team won just six times in 28 tries. Since then, they’ve earned two points in 9 of the last 13 games. This last week alone, the G-men brought home a remarkable ten of twelve available points on a tricky road trip that saw them play five games in four different cities in just eight nights.

Whew. Numbers, right?

The changes started at the top. GM Scott Bonner announced that he would move on at the end of this season, then proceeded to make a schwack of moves to alter the chemistry in the locker room.  And while no one will give up the name(s) of the player(s) who were poison in the room, the team has been playing much better since the moves started.

Ty Ronning has been anything but ugly this season. His 25 goals leads the team. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Ty Ronning has been anything but ugly this season. His 25 goals leads the team. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Ty Ronning has been the very picture of consistency through all the turmoil; his 25 goals sees him among the league’s best snipers. Defenseman Brennan Menell has upped his game in his sophomore season, already eclipsing last year’s offensive output. Netminder Ryan Kubic has been a revelation in the second half, posting three consecutive shutouts at one point.

The much-heralded Tyler Benson has been a point-a-game guy when he’s in the lineup. Sadly, he’s yet to play at 100% this season — management hopes he’ll be back to form by the time the Top Prospects game rolls around later this month.

Tyler Benson has been a force when he's been in the lineup, despite playing at less than 100%. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Tyler Benson has been a force when he’s been in the lineup, despite playing at less than 100%. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

The fact is, the G-Men are far more successful, and infinitely more entertaining to watch, when they crash and bang as a team.  They’re doing that right now. As they threaten to make the playoff race interesting, that makes the Coliseuma mighty fine place to be.

The next Giants home game is Friday at 7:30 against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Everett Silvertips. Get your tickets here.

The Top 5 of 2015 – Muting Seattle

Whitecaps Wednesday

There’s nothing like an extended break to emphasize just how vital our journalisming is to people the World over. Countless emails, telegrams and letters flooded the PITH offices, pleading for our glorificous return to the keyboards and demanding more content. I replied to a couple of them, asking them to remain patient while I worked on developing a whole new lexicon of words like “journalisming” and “glorificous” and only upon its completion would we be able to rebegin to unleash our brand of ridiculous bullshit in written form to the masses.

I’m pleased to report that that time has arrived. The first (soccer-related) post of 2016 belongs to me and, although it be brief, it is time to take a look at the Whitecaps’ top 5 games (as decided by me) from the 2015 season. We’ll kick off this new endeavour by rehashing the happenings of August 1, 2015 when the Whitecaps dispatched the ol’ Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in dominating fashion thanks to an unlikely hero.

Continue reading The Top 5 of 2015 – Muting Seattle

Jacob Markstrom and the hooded fang

Jacob Markstrom is a large man.
Jacob Markstrom has found a groove since taking over the reins during the Christmas break. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

If you’re one of the fifteen people who regularly attended Abbotsford Heat games, you’re not surprised to learn that this Jacob Markstrom kid can tend goal. See, before he took the Utica Comets to the AHL championship series last season, Markstrom played three full seasons in the Florida Panthers system (with the Rochester Americans and San Antonio Rampage). Despite lacking a nickname of any sort, Jacob Markstrom seemed to have the local boys’ number.

Here is where a thoughtful writer would put in some research to get actual statistics, but I’m going to eschew that process in favour of made-up stuff. And I’ll also throw random nicknames at the wall in hopes something sticks. Jacob took two-two points out of the Valley like no hooded fang’s business. The Man They Call Mister Marley beat the Heat no fewer than 157 out of 158 games at the Abbotsford Sport and Entertainment Centre over a three-year period, and earned no fewer than seven thousand shutouts.

Okay, so numbers aren’t my strong suit. Suffice to say, the boy can play.

Continue reading Jacob Markstrom and the hooded fang

Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish

The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see.  Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish