Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cunningham, Wilkins and Mellor interviews, KIJHL playoff results

Trail's Craig Cunningham had a weekend to remember in the WHL playoffs. The former Beaver Valley Nitehawk scored 4 goals and had 3 helpers in 2 games as Vancouver took a 2-0 series lead over the Kamloops Blazers. That's impressive stuff. Cunningham won the Giants MVP award this season and was named to the Western Conference first all star team. He has really found that extra gear this season.

Other local products didn't have quite as much success this weekend. Former Smoke Eater Lucas Bloodoff (and his brother Evan) found himself on the losing end as Kelowna dropped a couple of games in Everett. Lucas did have a goal and 2 assists in a losing cause. Castlegar's Luke Walker (Eric's cousin) and the Portland Winterhawks are going to have a big hill to climb as well after Spokane beat them twice in Portland this weekend.

As for Cunningham, it'll be hard for NHL scouts to ignore what he's done this season. Stuck behind a ton of talent on a deep Giants club over his WHL career, he nearly doubled his point total from 50 last year to 97 this year. He got a look in the NHL rookies tournament this past summer. I suspect he'll be a hard free agent to pass up this summer.

I had a chance to catch up with Cunningham on Overtime before the start of the first round...

Vancouver Giants MVP Craig Cunningham

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After chatting with Scott Jacklin during game 2 of the KIJHL semi-finals in Fernie I then caught up with the other two members of Trail's Kimberley Konnection during game 5. Matt Wilkins and Sam Mellor joined me during the overtime intermission. I have a pretty good feeling the trio will re-unite as a line next season. Certainly it's something Coach Ingram has to be considering. Wilkins really showed what he can do during the playoffs. If he has a good summer I could see him hitting the same point levels Mellor and Jacklin have been hovering at.

Smokies forwards Sam Mellor and Matt Wilkins

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Chris Cucullu scored 3:53 into the second overtime to give Nelson a 3-2 win in game 1 of the KIJHL finals against Revelstoke. It was as even a game as you're likely to see. Both teams hit posts, both teams had strong goaltending, both teams struggled on the man advantage, both teams played solid D... and in the end it took a second extra fame to find a winner.

It's a very unique situation in the KIJHL finals because the only time they two clubs met was in the third game of the regular season. There was really no telling what to expect out there. What we saw was a couple of deep and talented teams that are going to challenge each other in a big way. If you're in the Kootenays do yourself a favour and catch game 2 on Monday night in Nelson.

I had a chat tonight with Billy Faust (who returned from injury to get the win), Cucullu and Simon Wheeldon.

Leafs goaltender Billy Faust

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Leafs fowrard Chris Cucullu

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Leafs Coach Simon Wheeldon

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I told you yesterday there was a new Smoke Eater to talk about. Dylan Tappe is his name and his name is listed over at -- but I haven't done the usual profile here yet. I'm still waiting to talk to Dylan before I do too much of a write up. I may do one tomorrow (with a Jim Ingram interview) even if I don't talk to him quite yet. I think this is a player Smokies fans should be excited about. I've had several people say positive things to me about the addition over the last couple of days.

More to come!

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