Mills crawl closer to playoffs
By Doyle Potenteau
February 3, 1999
In Martial Arts balance is everything. For the Quesnel Millionaires, struggling to stay aloft on the BC Hockey League's playoff highwire, it's a matter of second season life or death.
In a pair of weekend homestands, the Mills resembled the Yin and Yang, in that they won, then lost. Friday night against Trail, the M's needed overtime, then a shootout to defeat the BCHL's worst team 6-5. Saturday night action was much different, as Penticton blanked Quesnel 4-0.
With two points pocketed, the fifth-place M's now trail fourth-place Merritt by one (2) in Interior Division Standings.
The two homestands reflected Quesnel's style of play over January - a month in which the M's posted a four win, nine loss tally - in that they clicked one game, then didn't in their next.
But with a new month comes a new attitude, says defenceman Craig Tresierra, who missed most of January with a knee injury and watched most of Quesnel's games from the bleachers, which allowed him a long term unique view of the Millionaires.
"I think we've turned the corner, as I could see them starting to click," said the 6'2", 210 lb. blueliner, expecting to suit up for a pair of road games in Vernon and Penticton this weekend.
"How we'll do in Prince George (tonight) will be a good idea of what we'll do for the weekend," he added.
Against Trail, Quesnel overcame an early 2-0 first period deficit and went ahead 3-2 before the opening frame ended. Second period action saw Quesnel go up 4-2 when team captain Gerald Overton scored 1:38 into the period.
That was it for Quesnel for most of the remaining minutes, as Trail came on like gangbusters and scored three times to go ahead 5-4 midway through the final period.
But with 6:06 left, Overton came through, scoring a powerplay goal off a great cross-crease pass from Jesse Martini.
Overtime solved nothing, and the two went to a shoot-out, where Quesnel prevailed thanks to some hot saves by goalie Seth Stetson. The rookie from Alaska stopped four of five shooters, with one Smokie, Caey Ernewein, misfiring his shot.
Stetson's counterpart, Chris Hutchinson, was almost equally hot, stopping four of five Millionaires. The only one to beat him was Quesnel's last shooter, Nick Udovicic, who scored with a nifty deke.
Road to BCHL playoffs not easy
By Doyle Potenteau
February 3, 1999
A Very tough row to hoe. That's what the Quesnel Millionaires are facing if they want to end a two-year BC Hockey League playoff drought.
With only 12 games remaining in the 1998-99 regular season, including tonight's road tilt in Prince George, the currently fifth place Millionaires are running out of time and contests if they want to catch up and overtake the fourth-place Merritt Centennials for the Interior Division's final playoff spot.
At first, casual fans will notice the obvous: Quesnel is only two points back of Merritt with one game in hand. What isn't obvious is that the Millionaires have a slightly tougher February schedule than the Cents.
Of the Millionaires' remaining 12 games, eight are against opponents Quesnel has had a hard time beating. In 18 combined games against Vernon (two games) plus Prince George and Penticton (3 games each), the M's have a lousy 3-14-1 record.
Quesnel's remaining four games are against Trail and Merritt, whom they play twice each.
Now it's a given that if the M's want a hope to play postseason hockey, then they must beat Trail and Merritt.
Here's why. Merritt plays each of their division rivals twice, then a gimme against Langley. When, not if, they beat the Hornets this Friday, the Cents will be four points up on Quesnel.
It's also a gimme that Merritt will beat Trail in their two encounters - a home-at-home series to end the year Feb 26th and 27th. But so should Quesnel - although Friday's 6-5 shootout win over the Smokies wasn't exactly a confidence builder against the worst team in the league.
In their remaining schedules against Prince George, Penticton, and Vernon, I don't think either team will manage to come up with a victory - although I'd love to eat those words if the M's proved me wrong. (He is presently munching on a mouthful of newspaper!)
At the same time though, I wouldn't be too surprised if either Merritt or Quesnel does pull off an upset against Vernon. The first place Vipers, with a whopping 27-point lead over second place Prince George know they're headed into the playoffs. With that in mind, coach Troy Mick plans on calling up scores of Jr B players to rest his stars.
"We've already started on our process of rest," said Mick. "There's nothing really left for us to play for, as we know we're going to finish in first."
"This way," added Mick, "our main players will be well-rested when it comes time for the playoffs."
You'd think Prince George would think the same way despite being embroiled in a tight scrap with Penticton for second. But with four main players out due to injuries (Noel Burkitt, Ryan Thies, Kam Kryzanowski, Paul Fisher), King GM Len McNamara is thinking differently.
"With our roster the way it is, we can't afford to rest guys," said McNamara. "It's going to be a battle for second and third, and although we're five points up, we still have 11 games left to go. And that's a lot of points which could turn around quite quickly."
However, McNamara added if his team ever had a full roster sometime this month, then there would be games here and there where he'd rest his top guns.
McNamara also went on record saying he'd rather see Quesnel take fourth for two reasons: "We'd like to see them in the second round, and I also think it'd be good for them to make the playoffs this year."
After Wednesday, the next time Quesnel and PG meet will be in late February (16th and 23rd.) It's quite possible the Kings may soften their lineup to help Quesnel out if the M's haven't solidified their playoff chances by then.
But asking help from Prince George is like pulling teeth - painful.
If Ken Gassoff's boys want to reach the playoffs without any assistance, then they're going to have to do it the hard way: through 60 minutes of hard hockey.
BCHL February schedule for Quesnel & Merritt
Feb 2 Vernon @ Merritt
Feb 3 Quesnel @ Prince George
Feb 5 Merritt @ Langley, Quesnel @ Vernon
Feb 6 Merritt @ Vernon, Quesnel @ Penticton
Feb 10 Penticton @ Merritt
Feb 12 Merritt @ Prince George, Trail @ Quesnel
Feb 13 Merritt @ Quesnel
Feb 16 Prince George @ Quesnel
Feb 18 Quesnel @ Penticton
Feb 19 Quesnel @ Merritt
Feb 20 Prince George @ Merritt, Quesnel @ Trail
Feb 23 Quesnel @ Prince George
Feb 24 Merritt @ Penticton
Feb 26 Vernon @ Quesnel, Trail @ Merritt
Feb 27 Penticton @ Quesnel, Merritt @ Trail
Mills, Maxwell hot in PG
By Doyle Potenteau
February 7, 1999
Quesnel Millionaires defenceman Craig Tresierra should open his own psychic hotline.
Earlier this week, the 6'2", 205lb blueliner predicted his club would beat Prince George in their Wednesday night meeting, stating, "Quesnel had turned the corner after a bad January," a month where the Mills posted a brutal four win, nine loss record.
And as it turned out, Tresierra was right. The M's earned a hard-fought 4-1 road victory over a short-staffed Prince George squad, who were only able to dress 15 players thanks to injuries to four key players.
Jason Maxwell paced Quesnel to victory, notching two goals, one on the powerplay, the other an empty-netter, and one assist. Rounding out Quesnel's scorers were Gerald Overton and Rob Simnor.
The story of Wednesday's game was the play of M's netminder Seth Stetson (It was actually Mark Trussler playing), who kicked aside 49 of 50 shots, including 21 in the third period, to pick up his 17th win of the season.
For Prince George, Brad Fast, who opened the game's scoring six minutes into the first, recorded the Spruce Kings lone marker.
Kings sniper Richard Cihak, who potted 73 points (38g, 35a) in 32 games, was expected to make his return after a Decemeber injury, but did not dress. Starting goalie Tyler Euverman was pulled in favour of backup Lyman Miller earlier in the third when Simnor scored his team's third marker.
For Quesnel, the win looks to have marked a turning point, as the last time the locals defeated their Spruce Capital opponents was a 4-2 decision way back on Decmeber 12th.
In the three contests since then, the Kings have owned Quesnel, outscoring them 22-4, a tally that included a 9-1 road win for PG in their last contest Jan 26th.
With the win, Quesnel is currently tied with Merritt for the final playoff spot, as both now have 30 (39) points, although the Mills do have one game in hand.
As for the weekend action, the M's are on the road for a pair of weekend games, visiting Vernon (Friday) and Penticton (Saturday).
Of note, Quesnel's leading scorer, Casey Bartzen, looks to have secured himself a scholarship, as the University of Alaska - Fairbanks has offered the shifty centre a full, four year ride. Two years ago (actually three), UAF signed up former Millionaire Jamie Coady to the same deal.
Playoff picture looking dim for Millionaires
By Doyle Potenteau
February 10, 1999
The Quesnel Millionaires are close to making an unwanted three-peat.
Since joining the BC Hockey League in 1996-97, the Millionaires have failed to make the second season for two consecutive years. Over the weekend, Quesnel took a closer step to making it three years in a row.
Tied with Merritt for the Interior Division's fourth and final playoff spot heading into weekend play, the Millionaires slipped into fifth place and four points behind the Centennials after losing twice while Merritt skated to victory twice.
The M's were dumped 8-2 Friday night in Vernon, then blanked 5-0 in Penticton Saturday. Merritt, on the other hand, enjoyed some quiet road success, downing Langley 4-1 Friday, then upsetting Vernon 4-2 Saturday, snapping the Vipers' 24-home game winning streak.
"We worked hard at times," said Quesnel forward Nick Udovicic on his team's recent roadswing. "But it seemed as soon as we got scored on we collapsed. And that pretty much knocked the wind out of our sails."
What might drydock Quesnel for good would be a pair of poor homestands this weekend against Trail and Merritt this coming Friday and Saturday.
"These are must win games for us," said Udovicic, noting the fact Quesnel only has nine regular season games left to catch and overtake Merritt. "If we come out with that winning attitude we had before Christmas break and really want it, then we should be able to win both games."
If they do skate to victory, both times, he added, "then it should be our turning point and get us into the playoffs."
Neither Udovicic or his teammates are expecting and easy game versus sixth-and-last-place Trail Friday night, as the Smoke Eaters battled both third-place Penticton and second-place Prince George to overtime - albeit in a losing cause - Friday and Saturday.
Against Merritt Saturday evening, the M's are expecting a playoff-type atmosphere, with tons of stickwork, hard hits, and cheap shots.
Both contests are slated for 7:30 pm starts.
Mills need your help
By Doyle Potenteau
February 10, 1999
Having covered the Millionaires the past four seasons, I can honestly say this: they haven't deserved a sell-out since making the playoffs back in March of '96.
Backing my point is the fact that they haven't had one since then.
However, I'm getting sick and tired of writing "Mills lose yet again." I desperately want them to make the playoffs. But as fat would have it, they don't seem capable of doing it themselves.
And this is where the fans come in. I think sell outs this Friday and Saturday against Trail and Merritt would give the blue and black the extra edge.
And as far as my headlines are concerned, any edge is welcomed.
Playoff song remaining the same - M's unable to make ground on Merritt after weekend split
By Doyle Potenteau
February 17, 1999
Stuck with the wheels spinning is a good analogy of the Quesnel Millionaires' current status.
Heading into a pair of weekend homestands, the blue black and gold were four points behind the Merritt Centennials, holders of the fourth and final playoff spot.
Come Monday morning, Quesnel - despite wanting to gain ground - remained four points behind Merritt, as the Mills split their two home games.
Quesnel first beat Trail 5-4 in overtime Friday, gaining some ground as Merritt lost 3-1 in Prince George. But then the locals quickly lost what they had, as the Centennials doubled up Quesnel 4-2 Saturday.
With only six games left for Quesnel, including Tuesday night's home tilt against Prince George (results will be in the Sunday Edition of the Observer), the win looked to have seasled Merritt solidly in fourth.
But Cents coach Brian Barrett disagreed, saying his club's 4-2 victory wasn't the final nail in Quesnel's regular season coffin.
"There's still a lot of hockey to be played," stated Barrett. "Every game from here on in is important for us, and we're not going to take anything for granted until we know for sure they aren't in the playoffs."
As for how Quesnel played over the weekend, assistant coach Brad Gassoff was pleased with the overall performance.
"That's probably the most consistent hockey we've seen in the last seven or eight games," said Gassoff.
"We played really well Saturday night," added Gassoff. "But it was one of those nights where you get the shots, but they just don't go in."
The main reason why Merritt stole two points despite getting outshot 44-36 was the play of netminder Lance Mayes, who stoned Quesnel cold.
"Mayes played unbelievably well," said Barrett. "He kept us in the game and our guys rallied around him. Thats why we won."
Against Trail, it was a different matter. Quesnel dominated early, taking a 3-0 lead, then collapsed and allowed Trail back into it. The Smokies tied the match late in the second, then swapped goals in the fourth (third), Roman Sykora scoring at 8:02 to force overtime.
In the extra frame, Nick Udovicic scored from close in at 3:25 to give Quesnel victory.
Over the weekend, centre Casey Bartzen padded his point total, notching one goal and three helpers Friday plus two points (1g,1a) Saturday. Paul Kelley was also on fire, as the Grand Forks native potted a pair and three helpers against Trail.
As for the future, Quesnel's going to need at least four wins out of their next six games to ensure themselves a playoff spot, as Merritt has a great chance to add to their four-point lead when they battle Trail in a home-at-home series to close out the regular season.
Fans won't have to wait long to see if Quesnel will make the second season, as the M's embark on a three game road trip into Penticton, Merritt and Trail this Thursday through Saturday.
Mills kept busy off-ice
With a tough 60-game schedule to contend with, along with daily practices and gym sessions, you might think the Quesnel Millionaires have time for nothing but hockey.
But, this year's team has proven that theory incorrect over and over. The Quesnel Millionaires are proud to announce that they have reached their goal of providing at least 1000 hours of community service to the Quesnel and area during the hockey season.
Early on in the season, the Millionaires organization set their goal at 1000 hours of community service, and set out to find opportunities for their players to earn these hours. Millionaire players were involved in many activities throughout Quesnel. A sampling of these activities includes: the Terry Fox Run, the RCMP Torch Run, handing out tickets at RCMP Roadblocks, working at Subway's Day for Child, hosting their own Fishing Derby, joining the Special Olympians in a Baseball Game, participating in 5 "Skate with the Mills" events hosted by the Quesnel Twin Arenas, had a "Breakfast with the Mills" event at McDonalds, helped out with classes on a regular basis at Bouchie Lake Elementary School, bagged purchases at Zellers, helped out at the Pee Wee Tournament, volunteered at Bingo once a week, and the list goes on.
The Millionaires recently finished off their 1000 hours of service hosting their Annual Spaghetti Dinner which honors the teams Major Sponsors.
As well as the players though, their billet parents will need to get a pat on the back. This year's billet parents formed together to provide Millionaire Fans with a Beverage Garden at nearly each home game. The profits of this Garden have been added to the Millionaires' Players' Fund, and has allowed the players to partake in some extra activities such as bowling, movie nights, and team lunches etc.
As well, the team enjoys access to both Pro Body Gym via a contra deal, and the Quesnel Arts and Recreation Centre to both work out and relax during their off-time.
It should also be noted that several players ran a successful "Firewood" campaign this season, and managed to provide firewood for many people, while earning themselves some side money in an area where unemployment levels are at a whopping 16%.
It is plain to see that the Quesnel Millionaires have been almost as busy off of the ice as they are on the ice.
Mills stick it to Spruce Kings
By Doyle Potenteau
February 21, 1999
Prince George ........5
Dale Marquette didn't mince his words after watching Prince George fall to Quesnel Tuesday night.
"We were sleeping the whole game," said the Spruce Kings coach. "Our leaders didn't lead, our goaltenders couldn't stop a beachball. In our biggest game of the year we had nobody show up."
One person who did show up, unfortunately for Marquette's stress levels, was Quesnel's captain Gerald Overton who notched six points (three goals, three assists) in the back and forth goal-fest.
Blueliner Craig Tresierra had a solid night out, collecting three points (one goal, two assists).
The win, Quesnel's 21st of the season, gives the Millionaires 43 points, two behind Merritt for fourth and final Interior Division's playoff position. Of note, the blue, black and gold also have one game in hand over the Centennials.
Results from Quesnel's three-game weekend road swing through Penticton, Merritt and Trail will be seen in Wednesday's edition of the Observer.
After the weekend, Quesnel travels to Prince George for a Tuesday night bout in Prince George with the Spruce Kings.
Province-wide Junior 'A' league nixed by BCHL
By Doyle Potenteau
February 21, 1999
When it comes to Junior 'A' hockey in BC, east is east, and west is west and never the twain shall meet.
At least according to the Lower Mainland based BCHL on the possibility of merging with the Kootenay-based Rocky Mountain League.
A Feb 12th letter from the RMJHL to the BCHL on absorbing Creston Valley, Fernie, Kimberley, and Nelson "for a truly. well-rounded provincial-wide BC Hockey League" was quickly round-filed by league Governors last week.
"We rejected the idea for a number of reasons," said BCHL president Ron Boileau, the first of which was distance. Fernie, for example, is roughly 1,100 kn east of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, where 8 of the BCHL's 14 teams reside.
"You have to look at the view from the Coastal teams," said Boileau. "One (away) interlock with that division and you'd be looking at travel costs of $7000 to $10000 per team."
And then on top of that, " he stated, "they'd have to take four of their home games against area rivals and replace them with those four teams."
Which, he added, probably wouldn't draw well.
In the letter, RMJHL commissioner Bronco Horvath penned eight ideas as to why merging would be a good idea. Three - having two Interior Conference divisions (Central, Kootenay), much like the Coastal Conference's current set-up; no need for a Mowat cup (provincial) championship; and the control the BCHL would enjoy on controlling items that pertained to junior 'A' hockey - made solid sense to Boileau.
"There were some positives there, especially the fact we'd gain a week by not having to play for the Mowat Cup. But those were about it."
Another item that made BCHL governors reject the idea outright were the franchise fees Horvath proposed - $25000 per team, stating "we feel we are not new franchises, we are existing junior franchises of a league."
By contrast, the expansion Burnaby Bulldogs just forked over $100000 for their entry fee.
"You can't see a franchise for $100000 and then let somebody in for cheaper," said Boileau, stating it would be unfair to Burnaby.
As for possible expansion though, one site did make sense - Nelson. "But their arena is old and awful," said Boileau.
With only four teams, the RMJHL is a far cry from the 10 team league it was three seasons ago.
When fromer clubs Trail, Quesnel, and Prince George bolted to the BCHL and Grande Prairie to the AJHL two years ago, the league began to unravel. Then adding salt to the wound was the relocation of the WHL's Edmonton Ice to Cranbrook (side of the RMJHL's head office) this past summer, which forced the Cranbrook Colts - the RMJHL's strongest organization - to fold.
Mills' playoff hopes take beating
By Doyle Potenteau
February 24, 1999
Okay sports fans, it's pop quiz time: When was the last time Trail beat Quesnel in BC Hockey League play? A) Oct 25 B) Nov 13 C) Feb 20?
If you guessed D, all of the above, you answered correctly.
Okay, so D wasn't an available answer. Neither was the fact that Quesnel lost to the BCHL's worst team Saturday, a 7-3 drubbing that put serious doubts in the Millionaires playoff hopes.
Results from a three game road swing through Penticton, Merritt and Trail over the weekend didn't pan out for Quesnel, who only garnered two out of a possible six points - a far cry from what was needed to catch Merritt for the final Interior Division playoff position.
The trip started off on a sour note, as Penticton pummelled Quesnel 10-1. The Mills bounced back with a 7-6 shootout win over Merritt, but then collapsed in Trail.
The Panthers, now a perfect 7-0 versus Quesnel, jumped all over the Mills in the second period, scoring six times to erase a 1-0 deficit. Ex-Mill Glendon Cominetti notched one goal and three assists.
In Merritt, Quesnel blew a late two-goal lead in the third, allowing the Cents to tie it up and earn a valuable point after a scoreless overtime period. Jason Maxwell was credited with scoring the game winner in the shoot-out.
In Trail, the host Smoke Eaters, after trailing 1-0, notched six unanswered goals to snap a 15-game losing streak.
A major reason why Quesnel fared poorly was a freak knee injury defenceman Craig Tresierra suffered while turning around early on in the first period against Penticton.
With Tresierra gone for the weekend, the Mills were forced to call up three midgets (Adam Walton, Chad Ingram, Kyle Leblanc) and juggle some forwards to help shore up their sagging defence corps.
"(Tresierra's injury) really set us back," said M's assistant coach Brad Gassoff. "We struggled from there on in to try to piece it together."
The Mills were so banged up, utility player Rob Simnor, suffering from concussion symptoms, suited up to help the team out.
"We had guys playing who weren't close to 100%," said Gassoff, noting d-man Jesse Martini didn't make the trip because of sickness.
"Had we been 100% healthy, we would have beaten Merritt by more and we wouldn't have lost to Trail."
With the regular season rapidly coming to a close, Gassoff said it was imperitive for his team to win at least two of their final three games.
"We definately need one for sure," said Gassoff Tuesday afternoon. "But the way we look at it, we'll need two, more than likely."
The M's, after playing in Prince George last night, host Vernon Friday and Penticton Saturday. Both home games start at 7:30 pm. (Saturday's game will start at 8:00pm due to the local Senior Mens Team - The Kangaroos - playoff game which is scheduled for 4:30pm.)
Loss all but nails coffin shut
By Doyle Potenteau
February 28, 1999
The fat lady warmed up her voice Tuesday night, then stepped out on stage to sing Wednesday.
Trailing Merritt by two points for the Interior Division's final playoff spot with three games remaining, the Quesnel Millionaires' chances of making the second season were all but flattened after losing to Prince George Tuesday night.
Twenty-four hours later, Merritt looked to have sealed it's playoff chances by upsetting Penticton 5-4.
With only two games remaining and four points out, the 1998-99 BC Hockey League season should come to an end Saturday night for the Mills barring two miracles, as the locals host Vernon (Friday) and Penticton (Saturday - 8pm start) - two teams Quesnel has to beat, but have only done so once in 14 combined tries (1-12-1).