Welcome once again to Whitecaps Wednesday – and the 3rd installment of Pucked in the Head’s “March to March” series. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that the Whitecaps have managed to pull five victories from their first nine games.
Now mired in their busiest stretch of games (but not the most frenzied – we’ll see that in Part 4), we take a look into the third month of the season and forecast the results of their five May matches.
Buckle up quick, as their month kicks off with an away fixture in Portland, the first of two Cascadia matches in a three-week stretch.
I know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for today. Can you believe it’s finally here? I know I can’t. And I bet you missed me. But don’t fret, I’ve missed you too.
And now with formalities aside, part two of Pucked In The Head’s March to March series sees the Whitecaps enter the second month of the 2015 MLS season with a 2-1-1 record. April starts off with a tough contest for the boys in the blue and white, followed by two more games within a week.
What will be the result, you ask? Read on, find out and curse my divinations in the comment section.
In the 2015 MLS SUUUUUUUPERDraft, the Vancouver Whitecaps selected, I kid you not, a guy from Hicksville and a Banjo for him to play with. The Caps came into the draft looking to shore up their depth in a couple of key areas, and appear to have ticked all their boxes by selecting Tim Parker from Hicksville, NY via St John’s University, and Kay Banjo from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
First off, welcome to the first Whitecaps Wednesday of 2015, and the first in a weekly series leading up to first kick in which I will delicately prognosticate what results Caps fans can expect this upcoming season.
Why delicately, you ask? Well, for one, rosters have yet to be finalized. For two, injuries are inevitable throughout the course of a season and can certainly affect outcomes. For three, “delicately” is a qualifier Jason forced upon me as he was reticent about the whole thing from the get-go. He muttered something about his bookie getting upset. I, on the other hand, fully encourage you to take all of my predictions straight to the bank.
And one last thing before we get started: the historical results used in this article are strictly from within Whitecaps FC’s MLS era, that is, from 2011 until present.
Matt Ustaski, pinball wizard
Matt Ustaski of the Wisconsin Badgers scored what is likely the strangest goal of his collegiate career on Friday, potting one from 190 feet. Sure, teams score empty netters all the time, but the Matt O’Connor was still on the ice for the Boston Terriers at the time. The BU keeper skated out to start a counter-attack as the Badgers made a defensive change, but his pass careened off of defenseman Brien Diffley and into his own net.
It was very nearly UW’s biggest win of the year — they’ve only won twice in fourteen games — as Ustaski’s goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead with less than three minutes to play against the #2 ranked Terriers. It wasn’t to be, however. BU would score twice with O’Connor on the bench, including the tying goal with 2.2 seconds left, and would eventually win via the dreaded shootout.
Vancouver sports fans have a few things to unwrap under the tree this year, indeed. The Vancouver Whitecaps, Canucks and Giants are all giving in the spirit of the season. To start, this is for you, ladies…
From Mason Geertsen’s third goal of the season late in the first to Tyler Benson’s third period shorty, the Giants played a solid 60 minutes and were full marks for the 6-3 win. Six different G-Men scored, and Payton Lee made 26 saves in the win.
Look for some colourful Christmas wear on Saturday night, as these same two teams do the second half of the home-and-home on Ugly Sweater Night at the Coliseum. We at Pucked in the Head dare you to have as much fun as these five beauties:
Or even these folks:
It’s a bit of an ironic time for the Giants to go on a tear, as their crosstown NHL brethren in blue and green are in the middle of their longest losing streak of the season. The Canucks still sit high in the standings, however, based upon a strong first quarter. The Giants, on the other hand, languish at the bottom of the Western Conference despite garnering a full ten points in the last five games.
Still, it’s probably not a coincidence that the run comes with a new coach behind the bench. It’ll be interesting to hear at the end of the season just what Claude Noel brought to the room that Troy G Ward didn’t:
Claude Noel about to go 4-0 as @whlgiants head coach. That's one more win than team had in its previous 15 games. Been a good week.
Jackson Houck scored the shootout winner for the Vancouver Giants on Saturday night, but it was his period goal a full period earlier that made the fur fly. His one-timer from just left of Saskatoon goaltender Nik Amundrud gave more than 8,000 fans reason to rain down teddy bears for the Vancouver Christmas Bureau, and inspired a record thirty-seven and a half alliterative phrases from play-by-play man Brendan Batchelor. In addition to the toy collection for underprivileged children, proceeds from in-rink fundraising also benefitted the CKNW Orphans Fund and The Province Empty Stocking Fund.
The Blades can thank their goaltender for the point they earned this night; the Giants dominated possession for the first 40 minutes, but were unable to ripple the mesh behind Amundrud until Houck bobbled a one-timer into the back of the net at 2:18 of the third period.
Despite being badly outplayed, the Blades never trailed in the game. Amundrud made 38 saves in the loss, plus two of three shootout attempts. For his part, Payton Lee saw very little action in the first half of the game, but came through when it mattered; he made two point-blank stops on Soshnin, and another late in regulation on Blades top scorer Alex Forsberg. He also stymied all three Saskatoon shooters in the skills competition.
Also scoring for the Giants was Jakob Stukel; defenseman Arvin Atwal had two assists in the win. Scoring for the Blades were Nikita Soshnin on a power play and Josh Uhrich off a Giants defensive miscue.
The Giants next home game is Wednesday, December 10th against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Prince Albert Raiders; Saturday the 13th is — besides a horrible idea for a sequel— Ugly Sweater Night against the utterly revolting Victoria Royals.
As Benito Floro begins the onerous task of hauling the Canadian Men’s National Team — kicking and flailing like Doneil Henry playing fullback — out of the year-long nadir that began with 8-1 and saw Les Rouges fail to score even once in 2013, there is a feeling of wrongness about even trying to hold this discussion. “A World Cup qualification,” we all cry, channeling the timeless incredulity of Jim Mora, “I just hope we can win a game!” But time marches on, and the abysmal 2013 plunged Canada far enough down the CONCACAF rankings that we find ourselves just half a year away from participating in the minnow round of yet another World Cup qualifying cycle. Is there hope this time?
Pat Quinn was an intimidating presence in just about any room that he entered, but he was kind and generous to players, media and fans, and he was humble and thankful for the successes that he had on and off the ice.
I was lucky enough to speak with the man twice. He was genuinely honoured to be on people’s radar after a lifetime in hockey. He was respectful, thoughtful, well-dressed and well-spoken, and he always stressed to his players that they should be, too.
There are many memorial pieces in today’s media, both traditional and social. I’m unlikely to cover new ground here at PITH. Suffice to say, this isn’t about a player, coach or GM; we’ve lost a good man. He wouldn’t have wanted all the attention when there are many others in the world struggling, wounded, oppressed and ill — give to, or volunteer for your charity of choice today in Pat Quinn’s honour.
Here are links to a few of the articles about the big man: