A schedule has been released for next week’s Canadian International Hockey League showcase tournament that is slated for Kalkaska…A member of the CIHL’s Batchewana Attack is skating with the Soo Eagles of the North American Hockey League…It’s been a season to forget thus far for the Blind River Beavers of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League…
GOOD TO GO IN KALKASKA
Tournament organizer Krzysztof Oliwa — who also coaches and manages the Kalkaska Rhinos of the CIHL — has confirmed next week’s showcase schedule.
Oliwa said the first-ever showcase, to be held in the northern Michigan town of Kalkaska, will feature five teams and begin with two games on Thursday, January 8. Five more games are slated for Friday, January 9.
In addition to Kalkaska, the tournament will feature Batchewana Attack and Espanola Rivermen of the CIHL, Detroit Fighting Irish of the Midwest Jr. Hockey League and Central Michigan University Chippewas of the Division 2, American Collegiate Hockey Association.
At least three Division 3, National Collegiate Athletic Association schools will have scouts in attendance.
The NAHL’s Soo Eagles are taking advantage of a break in the CIHL schedule to take a close-up look at Batchewana Attack centre Jacob Palmerio.
Palmerio, who is a 1997 birth-year skater, headed across the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie to skate with the Eagles on Monday — and has been invited to return by coach-general manager Bruno Bragagnolo.
In 17 games with Batchewana thus far this CIHL season, Palmerio has 11 goals, 5 assists, 16 points.
BAD NEWS BEAVERS
In this, their 14th season as members of the NOJHL, the Blind River Beavers have fallen on tough times.
Through 31 games to date, the Beavers have a record of 0-30-1. They have scored only 54 goals and allowed 215.
While never an NOJHL powerhouse as a small-market program — the Beavers have won only one playoff series in 13 previous seasons — Blind River has nonetheless been competitive more often than not over the years.
But the 2014-2015 campaign has been a disaster. Attendance has dipped to an average of less than 200 per game — it used to range in the area of about 350 — corporate sponsorship is down and there have been departures from the team’s board of directors.
Ironically, the Beavers do have solid, experienced men involved in hockey operations led by head coach Don Gagnon and goalie coach Frank Arcangeletti.
To be sure, the 60-year old Gagnon has his detractors — there are those who say he is too old school, aloof and abrasive.
And while Gagnon is not one who coddles his players, he is respected for being a thorough student of the game who understands it as well as anyone at the Junior A level.
So let’s say that Gagnon is not at the root of what is ailing the Beavers.
What’s next in Blind River?
There are those who feel the Beavers should fold the tent and re-group for next season while getting their financial house in order.
It’s also been suggested that Blind River might be better suited for the lower-cost CIHL, the fledgling league that right now consists of nearby teams in Sudbury, Espanola, Batchewana (Sault Ste. Marie) and Kalkaska.
Whatever the outcome or future direction, here’s hoping that this season does not mark the end of Junior A hockey in Blind River.
Somehow, I just can’t picture winter in Blind River without the Beavers.