M's split weekend homestands
'Dogs, BOMbed by Mills
December 2, 1998
With a losing record of eight wins and 20 losses, the Quesnel Millionaires are not a .500 hockey team. But action the past two weekends has seen the local Junior A Hockey Club play exactly that.
The M's followed up a weekend home split against Trail and Penticton two weekends ago with yet another win and loss. At the Civic Arena Friday, the M's dropped a narrow 5-4 contest to the Merritt Centennials, then followed that up with a dramatic 6-5 come-from-behind win over the expansion Burnabu Bulldogs Saturday.
In Friday's contest, a back and forth game neither team seemed to get the upper-hand in, Quesnel played catch up from the get-go until Dustin Frame knotted the score at four-apiece with three minutes to go. But with just 38 seconds left, Shawn King potted the winner to give Merritt a hard-fought 5-4 win.
Casey Bartzen netted a pair in the loss, including a highlight reel marker late with time winding down in the second. The quick centre skated in a one-on-three from centre, avoided a check, split the D, then buried a low backhander between the five hole of netminder Pat Best to make it 3-2.
Jason Maxwell rounded out the Quesnel's scoring with his 12th of the season.
Saturday's game looked like a one-sided affair, as Burnaby built up a commanding 5-2 lead at the midway point that looked to be insurmountable until linemates Bartzen, Gerlad Overton, and Maxwell put their show in high gear.
The BOMb line was pretty much responsible for Quesnel's comeback, and almost all of the M's offence, as the trio either scored or set up four unanswered markers and accounted for 15 of Quesnel's 18 total points.
Notching the winner was Rob Simnor after Bartzen, who scored once, and Overton, who notched a hattrick, set him up at 16:51.
David Ficenec, also set up by Bartzen and Overton, was Quesnel's other goal scorer. For Burnaby, Rob Rishaug paced the 'dogs as the forward scored a natural hattrick in the second (Really first), two of which were shorthanded counters on a poor and mismanaged Mills powerplay. Ex-Millionaire Scott Ganes accounted for an assist in his first game in Quesnelwhile wearing a different uniform.
Quesnel's victory should be a sign of things to come, said Quesnel coach Ken Gassoff. "We're starting to slowly come around. We've still got some things to work on, but for the most part we've been in our games."
One of the items Gassoff would like to see improvement on is defence, as Quesnel has allowed a league-high 169 goals against. On the opposite side of the coin lies Vernon, who has an incredibly low 69 goals against - exactly 100 goals less than the Millionaires.
With only 5 defenceman, Gassoff says his team has been hard-pressed ont he blueline. That, however, is expected to change soon as the BC Hockey League played Santa Claus Monday by giving each of its 14 teams two more player cards.
The M's who were in player signing trouble - along with three other BCHL clubs - as they were down to just one card before Monday's welcomed announcement, say they'll now shop around for a solid blueliner to help them out.
Gassoff says hopefully they'll be able to sign one before their upcoming three game road trip through the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island this weekend.
Results against Cowichan Valley Friday, Victoria Saturday, and South Surrey Sunday aren't expected to be positive, as each team is well above the .500 mark. "It's going to be tough," said Gassoff. "Victoria's first in their division and Cowichan's right behind them while Surrey is first in theirs. But, we've been playing really well lately, so I don't see why we can't come home with at least some points.
Millionaires tip hat to play of goalie Stetson
By Andrew Duffy
December 6, 1998
If the Quesnel Millionaires are a team in turmoil, they sure didn't show it Saturday night.
Playing their second game on the road in as many nights, the Mills never allowed Victoria to take a lead, and eventually garnered two points with a 6-5 shoot-out win at Archie Browning Sports Centre.
Quesnel, sitting fifth in the BC Hockey League's Interior Division, showed no signs of coming apart at the seams as they rode the strong goaltending of Seth Stetson (39 saves and four more in the shoot-out) to their second win in two nights.
"We were (in trouble) when we took over as coaches," admitted head coach Ken Gassoff, who along with brother Brad replaced fired head coach and General Manager Barry Wolff and assistant Al Novakowski earlier this year. "We were down to 13 skaters."
There was a heavy fallout after the well-liked coaches were fired. Players wanted out, some quit, and others were dealt throughout the BCHL.
But Gassoff says what you see on the ice now is a group of players who want to be there and are willing to pay the price for a win. "I always say I'd much rather be going out there with 13 guys who want to play, and the difference has been hard work," he says. "The team is happier, everyone that's left wants to be here, wants to play, and is sticking together."
It shows. The Salsa (23-9) looked like a team struggling early in the game with little pressure in the Quesnel (10-20) zone and only nine shots on goal in the first period.
And though the Millionaires, coming off a big 5-3 win over Cowichan Valley on Friday night, had just five on Salsa netminder Travis Harrington, they made them count.
Jason Maxwell and Casey Bartzen scored for Quesnel in the first to open up a 2-0 lead. Maxwell scored from the side of the crease on the powerplay by one-timing a pass from Bartzen to the top of the net.
Bartzen was credited with the second goal which was a pass from behind the net that hit a leg in front and dribbled through Harrington's legs.
The Salsa got one back with just over a minute left in the first, Martin Kariya getting credit for deflecting a Greg Barber shot through Mills goalie Stetson.
The goal may have been the spark Victoria needed, as it was a very different Salsa squad that started the second period, 20 minutes in which the home team outshot its opponent 22-8.
Barber tied the game at 2-2 with a wicked shot from the high slot that found the top corner of the net at 6:37 of the period. But, despite planty of pressure, the Salsa weren't getting to Stetson.
Barber's goal was answered by Bartzen's second of the night, taking advantage of poor clearing by the Victoria defence.
But, Kelly Hughes, who has thankfully stopped making the Jagresque salute after goals, tied the game at 3-3 on the powerplay late in the second.
The jump Victoria had in the second was non-existent in the third, and it was Quesnel reestablishing the lead with Gerald Overton's goal three minutes in.
But Carey Ernewein, on fire since returning to the lineup, scored twice in the third - both on the powerplay - to keep Victoria in it. His second goal, after Bartzen's hattrick marker at 7:41 of the third, tied the score at 5-5 and sent it to overtime and ultimately the shootout.
Jason Maxwell and David Ficenec scored for the Mills in the shootout, while Kelly Hughes was the lone Salsa scorer.
Moser Keeping up His Spirits
By Dan Olson
December 3, 1998
Those who were in attendance Oct 24 in Powell River probably haven't looked at a hockey game in the same way.
Those who have looked into the eyes of Nanaimo Clippers' Aaron Moser since that day have seen courage in a new light.
The 18-year-old has demonstrated a mountain of bravery since the club's 16th game of the season in Powell River, and will surprise no one who knows him by continuing to do so in the future. Despite the cards that have been dealt, Moser has been a steadying force to his shaken teammates, friends and fans all across the BC Hockey League.
Paralyzed from the chest down with minimal use of his arms, Moser works daily to win small battles, putting behind him the sport that meant so much while using its lessons to overcome his injury. A gritty, clever left winger with immense pluck, he's now taken those characteristics to new levels from his vantage point at Vancouver Hospital.
In a fraction of a shift, lives were changed early in the second period more than a month ago. The Edmonton native, in what was a legal open-ice bump with a Powell River player, fell, hit the boards, and suffered serious spinal cord damage.
Time froze while doctors and paramedics worked on the injured Clipper, both benches and the crowd anxiously waiting for a positive sign. After Moser was lifted off the ice, both teams agreed to postpone the contest. The game was quickly put into context while everyone held their breath and prayed for the best.
Today, Nanaimo coach Kent Lewis says those moments of unforgettable fear for Moser's safety are still raw in his memory. "I don't consider myself old, I guess on our team I'm old, but it's an experience that I never want tosee, I hope no one has to go through," Lewis says.
There was fear and frustration of being unable to help, and immediate concern. It's the kind of accident that creates a unified front, as well as a sense of shock among the witnesses. But Lewis says the players were able to receive some relief from all that last week when they ventured to the hospital to visit their teammate.
"I think what really helped was the guys went in to see him, that was a real lift. I do think they were in a fog for a while. We've rebounded somewhat and I'm very proud with how the kids have handled this, but it's been tough...Some kids still struggled with it. When we had a chance to see Aaron, they realized he hadn't changed - despite everything he was still Aaron. It was amaazing to see, he was talking and joking and everyone was really proud."
He's quick to put it all into perspective, that the indelible fear for a fallen friend is almost invisible and mends slowly over time. The very popular Moser faces the challenge of possibly a lifetime of painful physiotherapy, using inner strength and faith to guide him.
"I don't think anybody can imagine what he's going through. Right since the time of the accident, and he was out maybe three seconds, he never got angry or bitter. He was Aaron," Lewis says.
Locked into a large wheelchair, Moser joked with his teammates, showing the spirit which on the ice made him a formidable foe. His eyes sparkled as he spoke to the crowd of teenagers-turned men, enjoying their company again. Although his spinal cord was no longer allowing him to shake their hands and give them a brotherly hug, his mind was up to the task. Time and personal diligence will hopefully permit him to put his limbs to the test later.
Reaction anround the league was immediate, as players from both teams received counselling. The player who applied the harmless looking check near the Clippers' blueline happened to be an off-ice friend also from Edmonton. He was given emotional support to help cope with the incident. The league reached into its modest emergency fund and provided $2400 to assist in accomodation expenses for Peter and Darlene Moser as they stay with their son.
Last week the Vancouver Canucks opened up their dressing room to Moser, spending time with the teenager and avid Edmonton Oilers fan. The town where he cut his Junior A rookie teeth last year, Trail, plopped $5000 into the Aaron Moser trust Fund, which is being collected to help cover expenses of caring and rehabilitating the Alberta native.
Every BCHL organization has contributed something, and Nanaimo and Powell River have rescheduled the make up game for Dec. 3rd, where the receipts after overhead will go into the fund. (Internet Editor: the game raised close to $4200 for the fund.) Many people have donated all around the province, as all Royal Banks in BC are accepting contributions for the Aaron Moser Trust Fund.
"He's got a lot of friends all around the league," notes BCHL president Ron Bioleau. "Every team has got someone who has played with him or against him somewhere. His spirits are unbelievable. His mother said that if it wasn't for Aaron's good spirits, they'd be down."
In that two-hour visit, the Nanaimo players got a chance to see exactly what that kind of accident can do to a person. The injury has put limitations on his physical abilities, but it didn't damage his spirit. Injured and paralyzed, Moser showed that heart and determination can live through anything. It was an inspirational moment, but one that Lewis wouldn't want to contain to a mere hockey arena.
"We've just got to get through each day together. The kids have been incredible, they've stuck together and remained strong for Aaron's sake. We just hope each day is a good day for Aaron."
Harding-less Mills two-for-three on road trip
By Doyle Potenteau
December 9, 1998
Having won only three of their last ten games, taking on three of the BCHL's top four teams in weekend action wasn't something the sub .500 Quesnel Millionaires looked forward to.
Heading into their three-game coastal conference swing, Quesnel coach Ken Gassoff said his club would be tackling some very stiff competition, as Cowichan Valley, Victoria and South Surrey each posted records well above the .500 mark.
But, as it turned out, facing off against the Capitals, Salsa and Eagles was just what the doctor ordered, as the slumping Mills returned home with four out of a possible six points and, more importantly, look to be over their recent losing streak.
Quesnel beat Cowichan Valley 5-3 Friday Night, then Victoria 6-5 in a shoot-out thriller Saturday before getting thumped 9-3 by South Surrey, defending national champions.
"The team has been coming around as of late, so it really didn't surprise me that we managed to win twice," said Gassoff. "The players we have here now are dedicated to the team and to winning. And how they performed on the weekend," he added, "more than proved that."
In Friday's game, Quesnel overcame an early 2-1 deficit to defeat the Capitals 5-3. Team captain Gerald Overton sparked the M's with a shorthanded goal late in the first period that tied the game at two.
In the second, Quesnel put the game away, as Ross Crawford with a pair, including one on the powerplay, and Adrian Paolinelli picked up his second of the night.
Quesnel, outshot 39-27, got some big goaltending by Seth Stetson, as the Anchorage Alaska native kicked out 18 shots in the first period. Ex-Quesnel D-man Aaron Plumb opened the game's scoring.
Against Victoria, the Mills jumped out to an early lead only to have the Salsa play catch-up.
Up 2-0, Quesnel and Victoria literally traded goals after the Salsa knotted the game at two apiece early in the second. Tying the game at 13:02 on the third was Tyler Gow, who scored on the powerplay.
After an unsolved overtime period, the two went to shootout where Quesnel outscored Victoria 2-1. Potting Quesnel's sixth goal, and the winner, was blueliner David Ficenec.
Quesnel's leading scorer, Casey Bartzen, pointless Friday, had a hot game, recording three goals and one assist.
In South Surrey, the Eagles proved to have too much firepower for Quesnel. The Millionaires, zero for six against South Surrey the past three years, were scored upon four times in the first and five more in the third.
Pacing South Surrey to victory was John McNabb, the BCHL's leading pointgetter, as the 20-year-old scored twice and added two helpers. Former disgruntled Millionaire Tyler Mounsey also figured in the scoring, notching one goal and one assist.
"The score wasn't a great indicator of how well we played in that game," said Gassoff. "we skated right with them, it's just that they scored on their chances, and we didn't."
Quesnel's 6-5 win over Burnaby November 28th was James Harding's last as a Millionaire. (Internet Editor's note: Harding actually did not play in the win against Burnaby. Harding's last game dressed with the Mills was the November 27th loss to the Merritt Centennials.)
Gassoff, saying the 6'3" 215 lb. blueliner did not want to play for Quesnel anymore, is shopping the enforcer around for a replacement D-Man.
"He said he'd like to play withint the league," said Gassoff of Harding who did not make the trip South. "So we're looking to trade him within the league."
"Hopefully we'll be making a deal this week with somebody."
Thanks a million, Merritt: Maxwell
By Doyle Potenteau
December 13, 1998
Regular Thursday night Must-See-TV-Fans missed one great episode of Millionaire hockey.
The local Junior A hockey club, sparked by high-flying forward Jason Maxwell, dumped the visiting Merritt Centennials 7-3 in front of a small, but very appreciative crowd Thursday evening.
Maxwell carried much of his team's offensive weight, scoring not only a natural hat trick, but his team's first four markers.
The six-foot, 180 lb. winger from North Vancouver said it was one of those nights when every time he touched the puck, it seemed to go in.
Personal play aside, the 20-year-old - who also chipped in with one helper - noted his team's recent success has much to do with the powerplay. "We've been really burying our chances with the extra man the past seven games," said Maxwell. "We've been scoring at least two goals a game that way, and any time you score that many, you're going to come out on top."
Also having a five-point night was Casey Bartzen, as the 19-year-old from Saskatoon, Sask. notched five assists. Rounding out Quesnel's goalscorers were Adrian Paolinelli and David Ficenec with a pair.
With Vernon leading the Interior Division by a literal country mile, taking top spot is out of the question for fifth-place Quesnel. But catching fourth-place Merritt, only seven points up after Thursday's contest isn't.
With the win, coach Ken Gassoff's boys seemed to have turned the corner after a very rough and rocky start. Quesnel, now 10-21-1 before Saturday's tilt in Prince George, have won four of their last five games.
Good to his word, Gassoff traded disgruntled veteran James Harding, sending the 6-foot-3, 215 lb. blueliner to Langley in a three way trade. The Hornets are to ship a player (Clint Orr) to Fort McMurray, who then in turn sent defenceman Jason Randle to Quesnel. Randle joined the team immediately and suited up in Thursday's contest.
Time to fish or cut bait in the BCHL
By Dan Olson
December 4-10, 1998
While Vancouver Canucks fans sweat over the slow, agonizing waltz known as the Brian Burke Shopping Channel, around the BC Hockey League teenagers are wondering where they will be bunking next month.
For coaches in each of the loops' 14 cities, it is time to play "It's nearing midseason, do you know where your coveted physical defenceman is?"
Teams have just had their annual December 1st declaration clearance, where they've had to say "Yes, he's my player and I'll keep him (for now)" or start the dominoes of deals that click on until the January 10th trading deadline. For the contenders, they look to add that elusive piece, a slick-stick scorer who won't upset the chemistry cart, or one of those rare mobile blueliner-types with hands of corduroy. Those coaches already facing lots of skiing time come March, its time to clear the decks, sell off a few assets and photocopy a few resumes.
For a guy like Mark Holick, this is the time to tinker and add that extra element to a solid yet inconsistent lineup.
Just a month ago, the South Surrey Eagles were maintaining a princely pace in their flight to defend their Subway -er Fred Page Cup title. November, however, wasn't a kind month for the birds, as they went from a 13-4-1 record to 17-9-1 in the pluck of a few feathers.
Another loss to the Burnaby Bulldogs, their second in shiny Bill Copeland Sports Complex, was enough to add a near twitch to the intense stare of the South Surrey coach. Was there something that his team could learn from the upstart expansion team, which has done surprisingly well against the the Eagles in four meetings?
"Yeah, work ethic," spat Holick. "Our guys are not paying the price, not doing what it takes to win, not making the simple plays, and just refusing to do it. It's going to be time for drastic measures."
The meaning was clear, concise and un-Clinton like. Changes were in store. Pronto.
Heated words fuelled by poor performance, and emotions which every other bench boss has probably churned out at one time in their pacing career. It's the kind of honest rancor which could initiate a good swap, but which more often is followed by that bane to rumour mongers everywhere - sober second thought.
As of this writing, days before the Dec. 1st deadline, the Eagles were still intact. They also had turned a corner of sorts, looking ready and willing to hold off a charge by Harvey Smyl's Chilliwack Chiefs. But by the time you read this, there will have been changes somewhere - as predicted in the '98-99 Farmers Almanac.
Big deals are no oddity in the BCHL, where players are out on the ice daily performing for the love of it, a shot at a scholarship, or pro tryout, and to impress a girl. Comparisons to the bandit Bure, who can deke out the media with a shrug and decide eight million reasons why he'll chose Manhattan over Orca Bay, are ridiculous.
Sure, most moves are purely strategical in nature and often have a charitable side. But some Junior 'A' trades are begun by similar undetermined circumstances - a philosophical disagreement, teenage wistfulness, or a baptismal toss of hot chocolate. Every town has seen a mercurial star outlast his welcome, a young recruit in need of a change of scenery, the predictable "We liked him so much, we just couldn't hold him back' press release.
Recently, struggling Powell River and Quesnel found themselves in the thick of player transactions when they swapped Casey Bartzen and Dustin Frame for Tyler Mounsey and Kyle Hickey. Bartzen, a quick-shooting 19-year-old with impressive stats, stood on the inactive list for nearly two weeks while his fate was sealed to the Millionaires. The hold-up was Mounsey's reluctance to hang a shingle in the Kings' postal code, preferring to go where a playoff position was remotely posible. He obvioulsy forgot that this was the BCHL, where even the lame, sick and huddled masses make the post-season.
When the dust settled, the Chetwynd product got his wish - landing in the lap of a pleased Holick, with Brian Herbert deposited in Powell River. It was just one of the moves that the South Surrey skipper had threatened to make.
"It's not time to push the panic button. We've lost four of five now and every game we've been in it. It's just the way we've been losing these games. Today we throw 42 shots at (Burnaby goalie Grayson) Serfas and he's unconscious. We hit a couple of posts, and if they go in it's a different game," Holick said.
The trading clock gets especially loud for the next month, although a brief moratorium is held during the holidays. But its the time of year where a team in drastic straits, as the Merritt Centennials were in 1993-94 when they sold off snipers Joe Rybar and Bill Muckalt to Kelowna, can rationalize anything.
Not to pick on South Surrey again, because under Holick you never want to underestimate his ability to motivate his lineup with fire and brimstone. But three years ago coach Pat Smith had a team that was coasting over .500 yet were obviously on a fading trajectory. With the final deadline looming, he made a huge pitch to the Royal City Outlaws for all-star goaltender Jason Cugnet. The package, which was rumoured to include some handy cash for the leaking New West operation, was enticing.
But Royal City chose to stay the course, having made a miraculous resurrection from their inaugural nightmare only a season before. Both teams were bumped out of the playoffs in the first round. Not pulling the pin onthe swap may have saved South Surrey some cash, but it deprived the fans of a little excitement with the arrival of the new, departure of the old.
In hockey, thats what trades are all about. Never mind the irreconcilable differences - that's for Bruce and Demi - or passing on one problem child for another. Shuffling the decks is nature at work. Young teenagers get a chance to feel like Pavel Bure or Petr Nedved for a day.
M's double-up banged-up Kings
By Doyle Potenteau
December 16, 1998
Having now won five of their last six games, struggling can no longer be used when describing the Quesnel Millionaires.
Quesnel, a sad 10-21-1 before the weekend, picked up its 12th win of the BC Hockey League season Saturday night with a convincing 4-2 win over Prince George. The win snapped a seven home game winning streak held by the Spruce Kings and also earned revenge for a 5-2 loss way back on November 10th when the arch-rivals last met.
The Millionaires received goalscoring from four different players, as Gerald Overton, Nick Udovicic, Casey Bartzen, and Adrian Paolinelli all found the net for Quesnel.
Bartzen, with his 18th of the year, scored the game winner, banging in his own rebound on a two-on-one with Gerald Overton with 7:15 left in the third.
The big story of the game was Quesnel netminder Seth Stetson who kicked out 43 of 45 shots. Prince George coach Dale Marquette said the 18 year-old from Anchorage Alaska was the difference, stating Stetson's play was red-hot.
Noticeably absent was Kings leading sniper and BCHL's top goalscorer Richard Cihak, who sat out Saturday's game because of a concussion he suffered in Prince's Friday night match against Merritt, a contest that featured several fights and a whopping 400 penalty minutes.
In fact, so many players hit the showers early for chucking the knuckles that Prince George finished the last few minutes with just eight players, while Merritt had to play Ironman with only five.
"We knew they'd be beat up and hurting," said M's forward Rob Simnor, "so we took it to them hard."
The win moved Quesnel, currently fifth in Interior Division standings, to within five points of fourth-place Merritt.
Two weeks ago, with Quesnel way back in sixth-place and 12 points out of fourth, a playoff spot looked out of the question.
That's no longer the case, said Simnor, noting the team's goal is to make the playoffs.
"We're really a good club now. All of our lines can produce, even our defence, so its not going to be a problem catching (Merritt) for fourth. We're a better team than they are now."
Also figuring in on the playoff equation is Merritt's current goaltending problems. Coach Ed Beers traded David Spence to Alberta in early December, then watched starter Pat Best injure a knee, tearing both his ACL and MCL, when Prince's Chris Rowland crashed the net December 6th, an item that sparked fisticuffs in their return matchup Friday night.
Up next for Quesnel is front-running Vernon, who post not only the BCHL's best record of 31-1-2, but the nation's as well.
To date, Quesnel has yet to beat Vernon this year, winless in three meetings.
"We're actually looking forward to playing Vernon," said Simnor. "They have good forwards and good goaltending, but they're beatable like any other team is."
Up front, the Vipers possess several weapons, like Lanny Gare (30G, 42A), Tyler Knight (21G, 33A), and Ryan Bayda (17G, 33A); all the while getting backstopped by the league's best goalie, 20-year-old derek Gustafson.
Quesnel hosts Vernon Thursday night at the Vault. Game time is 7:30 pm.
M's find venom to Vipers' bite
By Doyle Potenteau
December 20, 1998
Former Quesnel Millionaire Lenny Rampone said it best Thursday night: "It's amazing what a little bit of confidence can do for a team."
The 20-year-old, traded to Vernon in 1997, knows what he's talking about , having been dealt from an organization that hasn't finished above .500 since 1987-88 to a perennial contender.
The much-maligned defenceman was referring to Quesnel's game-long inspired play, a key item in Quesnel's 5-3 upset of Vernon.
Up 2-0 early on thanks to a Gerald Overton powerplay slapshot goal, and a Paul Kelley backhander from in close, a pumped-up Quesnel team took most of the game to Vernon, outskating and outmuscling their North Okanagan opponents in the process.
"I really have to hand it to Quesnel," said Vipers captain Lanny Gare, currently second in the BCHL scoring race with 75 points in 37 games. "They were simply the better team tonight as they simply outworked us."
Gare also pointed out his team's inability to get players out in front of Quesnel netminder Seth Stetson and screen the 18-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska. "We definitely didn't get enough traffic out front," said Gare, whose team outshot Quesnel 43-30. "(Stetson) saw a lot of those shots and that made a big difference tonight."
Quesnel coach Ken Gassoff agreed. "The team just did an excellent job clearing out, allowing Seth to see."
The win, Quesnel's 14th of the season, not only ended the Vipers 21-game winning streak and 34 game unbeaten streak, but also snapped a 10-game losing skid against Vernon which dated back to October 3rd, 1997, when the M's last beat their Okanagan opponents 5-4.
Gare said despite losing, his team wouldn't suffer any serious setbacks. "It's only our second loss of the year. If someone had told us at the beginning of the season that by late Decemebr we'd only have two losses, we'd be pretty optomistic."
Rounding out Quesnel's scorers were Adrian Paolinelli with two consecutive markers and Ross Crawford, who iced the game with a breakaway empty-netter. Gare, Tyler Knight and Joel Bresciani replied for Vernon.
Another difference in the tightly-checked game was goaltending, as Seth Stetson had a hot hand in net for Quesnel. Stetson kicked out 43 shots and picked up his 12th win of the season.
Paolinelli, back after seperating his shoulder when he landed on it during a fight earlier this season, said beating Vernon should go a long ways. "We just beat the best team in Canada. It should say a lot for us, and we should be able to build off of that."
Quesnel opened the scoring early on, as Overton one-timed a clean Casey Bartzen face-off draw at 6:52. Then, two minutes later, Kelley broke down the wing and scored a five-hole backhander.
Before the period ended though, Vernon drew closer, as Knight, parked out front, redirected a behind the net pass from Kelly Sickavish.
Forty-five seconds into the second, Vernon drew even when Gare converted on a 2-0 with Spence Gilchrist and scored into a wide-open net.
That's as close as Vernon would come though, as the M's started fore-checking hard, resulting in several turnovers and eventually two goals within a matter of minutes, both scored by Adrian Paolinelli.
The 19-year old from Red Deer first scored on a goal-mouth scramble, knocking in a loose puck at 6:54, then fired a low snapper from the top hashmarks that beat Chris King at 10:52.
In the third, with King pulled for the extra attacker on a Vernon powerplay, Bresciani made it 4-3 with 4:50 to go. Crawford sealed Quesnel's victory at 19:53 with an empty-netter.
Turning around bad fortunes
By Doyle Potenteau
December 20, 1998
I find it hard to believe the Quesnel Millionaires 1998-99 season is already half-over.
To be precise, 58.3 percent of the season has already passed, meaning there's only 25 games (or 41.7 percent for those keeping score at home) left - of which 13 are home dates.
That aside, the hard fact is that Quesnel curently sports a losing record. Will this change? I don't know, but the way Ken Gassoff has his boys playing lately, I'd bet the bank on it.
Although winning may come naturally for some teams, that is not the case here. Since joining the BC Hockey League two seasons ago, success has not been an easy find. In fact, Quesnel's current winning streak, a figure that's seen them win 6 of their last 7 games (not counting Friday's game against Powell River), is the hottest streak in recent memory.
Proof of that is below, a breakdown of wins-losses the past two seasons:
96-97 Sept (1-7) Oct (2-11) Nov (0-12) Dec (1-5) Jan (0-11) Feb (1-9)
97-98 Sept (3-5) Oct (5-5) Nov (5-5) Dec (2-6) Jan (5-9) Feb (1-9)
98-99 Sept (3-4) Oct (2-9) Nov (3-7) Dec ???
Since this column is being written Friday morning, I can't tell you whether Quesnel will either be 6-1 or 5-2 this month, as deadline for this weekend's edition takes place before their game against Powell River. Note, the Mills defeated Powell River 7-6, making their record for the month of December 6-1.
Nonetheless, Millionaires management should be happy, as this is their first winning month stats-wise since going 6-5 way back in October of 1995-96.
I think Quesnel's newfound winning trend, if consistently backed by their hard work ethic, should continue well into the New Year and translate into a playoff position.
And when that happens, good luck trying to buy a ticket.
The last time Quesnel made playoffs, against Grande Prairie in the spring of '97, the barn on Barlow was consistently sold out. Fans bought tickets well in advance to see them upset Grande Prairie in the first round, then Prince George in the second before getting eliminated by the Spruce Kings.
So if you want to see some great hockey, take in a game before the Spring rush hits. Because the way Quesnel is playing lately, it's only a matter of time before we see some long overdue Canadian-style March Madness.
Udovicic goal in Nick of time
By Doyle Potenteau
December 23, 1998
A win, whether ugly or good, is still a win. Just ask the Quesnel Millionaires, who collected two points in an error-filled victory over Powell River Friday Night.
Down 4-2 courtesy of three consecutive giveaways after 20 minutes, the M's battled back and scored four consecutive goals to take a 6-4 lead. That lead was short-lived however, as Quesnel allowed Powell River to climb back into the match via two more giveaways that led to a pair of Kings goals which knotted the game at six apiece.
The game looked to be headed for overtime until Nick Udovicic, parked out front, banged home a loose puck on a failed wrap around attempt with just 1:22 remaining to lift his team to victory.
The sloppily-played contest was a far cry from Thursday's 5-3 win over Vernon, a match that saw Quesnel perform like a well-oiled machine with crisp passing, hard forechecking, even harder hitting, and more importantly, almost no errors.
After upsetting Vernon, the nation's number one ranked junior 'A' team, Quesnel coach Ken Gassoff knew it would be tough to try and raise his team's level of play against the sub-.500 Kings.
"That was a concern of mine," said Gassoff, whose club improves to 14-21 and is now just three points behind fourth place Merritt with one game in hand. "But I was pleased with the team's overall effort as Powell River really came to play and really tried to take it to us."
Having a big night for Quesnel on the scoresheet and body checking count was Udovicic, as the 19-year-old from Burnaby laid out several solid hits and collected two goals, including the winner at 18:38.
Centre Casey Bartzen, traded from Powell River to Quesnel earlier this season, also had a big night, scoring twice and collecting two helpers. Linemates Gerald Overton (1g, 2a) and Jason Maxwell (1g, 1a) also had solid offensive evenings.
For Powell River, JP Chaput notched two goals, while Brian Herbert snared three points (1g, 2a).
Quesnel netminder Seth Stetson, after letting in three weak goals, woke up in the second and third periods, stopping 15 shots in the middle frame, and 11 more in the third.
"We're receiving strong play on the whole team, from our net right on out," said Gassoff.
Quesnel's next game won't be for two weeks, when they host the Penticton Panthers January 2nd.
Three Millionaires will be competing in the BC Hockey League's annual All-Star Game in Powell River January 13th.
Named to the Interior Division squad were forwards Casey Bartzen and Gerald Overton, plus defenceman David Ficenec.
Others named to the squad include Vernon's Lanny Gare, Tyler Knight, Ryan Bayda, Josh Reed, and Derek Gustafson; Prince George's Richard Cihak, Mike Stutzel, Noel Burkitt, Brad Fast, and David Keough; Penticton's Rob Petrie, Jay Morency, Clay Simmons, and Jamie McCaig; Merritt's Mike Thompson and Jordan Canuel; and Trail's Craig Clare and Wade Dubielewicz.