The Carleton Ravens men’s hockey team and the locked out NHL players still in Ottawa have a lot in common these days: neither one is going to be playing hockey games for awhile.
Just the same, there’s a mutual benefit for them in practicing with each other this month.
For the NHLers on the ice at the Carleton Ice House Tuesday – a group which included Ottawa Senators’ Chris Neil, Chris Phillips, Peter Regin, Grant Clitsome of the Winnipeg Jets and former Senator Brendan Bell – it’s a chance to take part in a high-tempo competitive practice. Due to the low numbers of players who have remained here and not left to play in Europe, that’s impossible to do on their own.
For the Ravens, having NHL players around is adding to the pace of workouts and keeping them motivated during the exam season and Christmas break. The sizzling-hot Ravens, who own a 10-4-2 record, next take the ice Dec. 29 for an exhibition game against Queen’s. The Ravens next league game is Jan. 4 versus McGill.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Joey Manley, now only a few months shy of his communications degree. “It helps keep the tempo up and we do look up to these guys. They talk to us, they’re involved in everything, they give us some tips. It’s definitely motivating us through this month here. It kind of inspires you.”
Senators tough guy Chris Neil says it’s a huge benefit having the university open its doors to the NHL players.
“It’s keeping our endurance up, it’s hard to do that with only five or six guys,” he said. “It’s a good fit for both of us and the atmosphere has been great.”
Coincidence or not, the Ravens have lost only once since the Senators began dropping in for workouts a few weeks back.
Ravens assistant coach Shaun Van Allen, a former Senators centre himself, says there’s an extra energy around the ice and in the dressing room during what is typically a tough month of the university season.
“Usually, at this time of year, when we have almost a month off (between games), and it’s tough to keep the focus up,” said Van Allen. “With such a long break, it’s tough to get good practices in. The exams are also starting this week, so we don’t have everybody out for practice and if (the NHLers) keep coming out, it keeps the numbers up.”
IS THIS THE NEW MATH? The Binghamton Senators are looking to tie a franchise-record with their ninth straight victory Friday against Portland. In the past three victories, they’ve outscored opponents 18-7. Stephane Da Costa scored his first three goals of the season (and an assist) in Sunday’s 5-2 win. For all that though, team leading scorer Jakob Silfverberg (five goals, seven assists in 18 games) is tied for 102nd in the American Hockey League scoring race. The flip side to that is the stingy defence. Goaltender Robin Lehner boasts an 8-2-1 record, a goals against average of 1.63 (second in the AHL behind former Binghamton netminder Barry Brust) and owns a .950 save percentage. Lehner sat out last weekend, suffering a throat infection after having four wisdom teeth pulled. He’s back working out off-ice.
NOESEN ON U.S. WORLD JUNIOR ROSTER: A few weeks back, Senators assistant GM Tim Murray said it would take “a bolt of lightning” to keep Plymouth’s Stefan Noesen off the U.S. World junior team. He was right. Noesen, a right winger selected by the Senators 21st overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft, was named to the American squad Tuesday. Noesen has 16 goals and eight assists in 23 games with Plymouth this season. It’s a bright light in a week of world junior controversy for the Senators. The organization’s decision to not send Mika Zibanejad back to Sweden from Binghamton for the tournament drew harsh words in Sweden and fellow Senators prospects Cody Ceci and Matt Puempel were left off the Canadian roster.