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Season of Opportunity

by WCHL Press Release
October 11, 2001 - West Coast Hockey League (WCHL)

2001-02: A SEASON OF OPPORTUNITIES

WCHL Press Release

BOISE, Idaho-The West Coast Hockey League enters the 2001-02 season on firm footing with new guidelines in place to build the WCHL into the premier minor professional hockey league on the West Coast. Changes made in the league this season will bring in a younger mix of players to help further develop relationships with the American Hockey League (AHL) and National Hockey League (NHL).

In 2000-01, the WCHL was host to several players with NHL potential. This year, the WCHL foresees even more opportunities for NHL relationships to develop as the WCHL Board of Governors put new roster guidelines in place. During the June meetings, the WCHL Board of Governors voted to revamp the salary and roster guidelines. This season, each WCHL team will have no more than nine veteran players (who have played 280 or more professional games) and at least eight developmental players (who have played in 140 or fewer professional games). In addition, three of the developmental players must be rookies (who have played in 25 or fewer professional games). The number of veterans permitted on a team will drop to eight in 2002-03, allowing even more young players to begin moving up the ranks to possibly earn a shot at hockey's highest level.

Last season, San Jose Sharks draftee Terry Friesen was sent to the Fresno Falcons to hone his goaltending skills, along with Rejean Stringer who was also sent to Fresno by the Sharks. Friesen was one of two WCHL goalies to receive an NHL opportunity last season; the other was Idaho Steelhead goaltender Chad Alban. Alban not only appeared for Idaho in the WCHL, and Utah in the IHL, but also for the Dallas Stars of the NHL all in the same season. Although Alban was called up for just one game in Dallas, he was signed by the Stars this season and will most likely either play for Dallas or for their AHL affiliate the Utah Grizzlies.

WCHL fans won't get to see Cory Morgan in a Tacoma Sabercats uniform this season, but may be able to catch him on network television. He left Tacoma to attend the training camp for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL and will most likely be selected to play for their AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.

While the WCHL graduated some of its players to higher levels, WCHL coaches spent the offseason canvassing the nation for more of the best players in minor hockey. With the merger of the Central Hockey League and Western Professional Hockey League, and the dissolve of the International Hockey League, WCHL coaches had a panoply of minor league players from which to choose.

The WCHL Board of Governors made another change to help coaches make the offer more appealing to keep the elite players in the league and lure more of the top players in minor professional hockey to the West Coast. WCHL owners voted to change the league salary guideline to $12,000 per week from $10,500 in 2000-01. As a result, all eight WCHL teams have revamped their rosters with a number of new players mixed in with the proven veterans and fan favorites.

SAN DIEGO PREPARED TO DEFEND CUP

BOISE, Idaho-As the San Diego Gulls are well aware, the only thing more difficult than winning the WCHL Taylor Cup Championship Trophy is winning it twice in a row.

However, the Gulls managed to drink from the cup not twice, but three consecutive times from 1995-96 to 1997-98. Head Coach and General Manager Steve Martinson hopes to repeat that run as he prepares his team for the 2001-02 season. In another attempt at the championship title, Martinson has brought back a number of players from last season including WCHL All-Star MVP and Outstanding Goaltender Trevor Koenig, All-Star forward Mark Woolf, Mark Stitt, Dan Gravelle, Petr Marek, Claude Jutras, Ashlee Langdone, and defensemen Samy Nasreddine and Serge Crochetiere.

His core returning players were part of the first ever seven-game final series in WCHL history. The Taylor Cup Championship Finals between the San Diego Gulls and the Idaho Steelheads drew an average 6,548 fans per game. In Game 7, more than 9,100 fans at the San Diego Sports Arena witnessed the Founders Cup champion San Diego Gulls beat the Idaho Steelheads 4-1 to win the Taylor Cup Trophy for the fourth time in six years.

The Gulls dedicated their championship win to team captain B.J. MacPherson, who suffered a career-ending neck injury in Game 4 of the final series in Boise. MacPherson will continue to be involved with the Gulls organization as a game-day color commentator, and has even been asked to be the hockey expert for a local TV station.

The Gulls were familiar with the feeling of hoisting the previous Taylor Cup Trophy, but the 2001 Championship Gulls became the first team to hoist the WCHL's new three-tiered trophy. San Diego veterans plan to get that new trophy back again with the help of some new recruits. Martinson's lineup in 2001-02 include new defenseman Trevor Sherban, formerly of the Missouri River Otters of the United Hockey League, and rookie forward Shawn Mansoff and rookie goaltender Boyd Ballard.

WCHL TEAMS SUPPORT AMERICAN RELIEF EFFORTS:

All WCHL teams will wear American Flag decals on their helmets in support of the families of the victims in the recent terrorist attacks.

Bakersfield Condors-The Condors came up with a plan to help raise money for the American Red Cross and the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and rural Pennsylvania attacks. Throughout September, 10 percent of all mini-season ticket plan purchases went directly toward the relief effort. The Condors will honor the national unity of the United States this season by adorning American flag patches on their jerseys and stickers on their helmets. They will also display the initials WTC on their helmets in honor of the World Trade Center.

Colorado Gold Kings- A portion of all of Colorado's ticket sales will be donated to the American Red Cross in support of the Disaster Relief Fund. The Gold Kings initially donated a percentage of every full season ticket (36 games, plus playoffs) sold from this day forward at the regular price of $395 directly to the American Red Cross, then decided they would continue giving a portion of all ticket sales throughout the season to support the ongoing efforts.

Idaho Steelheads-The Idaho Steelheads raised more than $2,000 dollars for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund with a special Chuck-A-Puck promotion during their preseason games.

Long Beach Ice Dogs-The Long Beach Ice Dogs are providing two complimentary tickets to individuals who donate blood at the Greater Long Beach Chapter American Red Cross in the wake of the September 11, 2001 disaster.

Tacoma Sabercats- On September 13, Tacoma Sabercats Alex Alexeev, Marty Flichel and Trever Fraser made appearances at a local blood blank, where they signed autographs and gave away coupons for game tickets to fans who donated blood for the rescue effort in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

2001-02 At a Glance ...

BOISE, Idaho-The 2001-02 season of WCHL is gearing up to be the best of the league's seven-year existence. Last season ended with the most exciting and competitive Taylor Cup Championship Finals yet, as the San Diego Gulls and Idaho Steelheads faced off in the first playoff final series to go the distance! With new head coaches in place in three cities and a variety of top-notch returning and new players filling the rosters, the San Diego Gulls will now have to work harder than ever to defend their title.

An unexpected contender will emerge in Alaska as the new-look Anchorage Aces come into the season with new head coach and former National Hockey League coach/player Butch Goring. Goring was most recently the bench boss for the NHL's New York Islanders in 2000-01. In addition to Goring, the Anchorage organization beefed up its front office staff with the hiring of Vice President of Hockey Operations Stirling Wright and V.P. of Business Operations Lou Corletto.

The Aces quickly began acquiring NHL experience for its on-ice product. Scott Bailey recorded ice time with the Boston Bruins in 1995-96 and 1996-97. Clayton Beddoes was a teammate of Bailey's for the Bruins and now joins him on the Aces' roster. Defenseman Jim Paek, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound native of Seoul, South Korea, spent five seasons in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators, L.A. Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins - where he was part of two Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992. The Anchorage offense will feature another former NHLer, Daniel Goneau. Aces' management will combine these NHL-experienced players with WCHL veterans Chris Newans and Jeff Petruic. Petruic was acquired from the Bakersfield Condors.

The Bakersfield Condors have new top-scoring players up their sleeves in addition to a new coach of their own. Paul Kelly joined the Bakersfield organization from the Topeka ScareCrows of the Central Hockey League. With Kelly at the helm, the Condors hope to improve upon their fourth place finish in their division last season. While the new coach has brought in a few of his proven players from his former team, he has re-inked several of the Condors' top players to another season. Key returning players for Bakersfield include fan favorites Jamie Cooke and Paul Rosebush, and defenseman Glen Mears. Cooke had the most productive season of his career in 2000-01, scoring 33 goals and recording 42 assists for 75 points. Kelly's players from Topeka include Ryan Hartung, Jeff Goldie, John Vary, Peter Brearley and Lucianno Caravaggio.

The Colorado Gold Kings were among the teams who had their most successful season in 2000-01. The Gold Kings set a franchise-best record of 42-21-9, with 93 points for a win percentage of 64.6 percent. Craig Lyons was named 2000-01 WCHL Most Valuable Player after he netted 41 goals and 76 assists for a league-topping 117 points. Last season also marked the season for the franchise's most shootout points (9), most goals for (311), fewest goals against (250), longest home winning streak (seven games from January 19 to February 9, 2001), and longest road winning streak (five games from March 20 to March 30, 2001).

With new head coach Al Pedersen behind the bench, the Colorado organization intends to take its team even farther on the ice this season. In addition to Lyons, Pedersen has brought back proven stars R.J. Enga, Zac Boyer, Brian LaFleur and Tom Perry, and signed local Colorado College star Cam Kryway for another run at the Taylor Cup.

Speaking of records, the Fresno Falcons organization surpassed numerous franchise and league records last year with their fierce turnaround from 1999-2000. The Falcons were named the 2000-01 WCHL Organization of the Year, with several staff members also earning WCHL recognition. General Manager John Tull was honored as Executive of the Year, Director of Broadcasting Brian Clark and Director of Public Relations Jennifer Gaebe were distinguished as Communications Directors of the Year, and Falcons Head Coach Blaine Moore was named Co-Coach of the Year for leading the team to 44-22-6, the best on-ice record in team history.

In addition, the Falcons had the largest turnaround in WCHL history with 44 victories. Their 17-game improvement over last season's 27 victories is the largest improvement of any team in the history of the league. Falcon's coach Blaine Moore looks to do it again, but even better, as he adds to his already proven nucleus of talented players. In addition to bringing back WCHL Rookie of the Year David Mitchell, WCHL 1st Teamer Mike McCourt and Greg Spenrath, and new faces like Jason Weaver and Dale Junkin.

The only finish more shocking than Fresno's turnaround is when the Idaho Steelheads made it to Game 7 of the Taylor Cup Championships. Having never made it past the first round of the playoffs in previous years, Steelheads' then new head coach John Olver decided all that would have to change. Olver reconstructed the team, sparing only fan favorite Cal Ingraham, Roy Mitchell, Darcy Loewen and Rob Hartnell from previous years. The Steelheads finished the regular season with a 47-21-4 record, winning 68.1 of their games and totaling 98 points and their first Northern Division title. Idaho then rallied to the history-making Game 7 of the Taylor Cup Finals, where they fell to the San Diego Gulls.

The Idaho team heads into 2001-02 with its core nucleus of top players intact. Olver has re-signed 2000-01 WCHL Outstanding Defenseman and 1st Team All-WCHL selection Jeremy Mylymok, All-Star and 2nd Team All-WCHLer Cal Ingraham, and All-Stars Dan Shermerhorn and Jeff Shevalier. In addition, Olver has signed newcomers Scott Swanson, Adam Copeland and Colorado refugee Terry Ryan.

The Long Beach Ice Dogs proved the move from the International Hockey League to the West Coast Hockey League was a smart move as they enjoyed success both on the ice and at the box office. The Ice Dogs finished just one point behind 2nd-place Fresno in Southern Division standings in the regular season and faced off against the San Diego Gulls in the battle for the division title. The team also saw an impressive 5,029 attendance average during the last 14 games of the season.

Head Coach Darryl Williams is back to train the dogs for another shot at the Taylor Cup Trophy. With Williams, Ice Dogs fans will see the return of All-WCHL first team selection and WCHL All-Star Kelly Askew, defenseman David Kudelka, team captain Tomas Kapusta and netminders Martin Engren and Mike Buzak. New players to watch for include Trevor Demmans and Lloyd Shaw.

The 2000-01 Taylor Cup Champion San Diego Gulls may have the toughest challenge yet as they fight to defend their title for the fourth time in seven years. After a long battle against the Idaho Steelheads in the final series of the Taylor Cup Finals, the Gulls won 4-1 in Game 7 to claim the new WCHL Taylor Cup trophy. Defending their title isn't anything new to the Gulls, who won the trophy three consecutive times from 1995-1998.

Gulls boss Steve Martinson has negotiated the return of WCHL All-Star MVP and Outstanding Goaltender Trevor Koenig, All-Star forward Mark Woolf, Mark Stitt, Jamie Black and defensemen Samy Nasreddine and Serge Crochetiere to help defend the championship title once more. His new recruits include Trevor Sherban, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound defenseman who split his time last year between the Missouri River Otters of the UHL and Kansas City Blades of the IHL, rookie forward Shawn Mansoff, rookie goaltender Boyd Ballard, and CHL Rookie of the Year Derek Reynolds.

The Tacoma Sabercats have also experienced the joy of drinking from the Taylor Cup Trophy, and will attempt to take back the Northern Division and upset the Gulls for another sip in 2001-02.

Tacoma finished third in the division last season after struggling through the year with an injury-plagued roster. The Sabercats brought in head coach Robert Dirk, who in his second year with the 'Cats has re-enlisted the help of top defensemen Scott Drevitch and Alex Alexeev, WCHL All-Star Dampy Brar, left wing Trever Fraser, Jarret Whidden and netminder David Goverde. It's been two years since their 1998-99 Taylor Cup Championship and the 'Cats are hungry for another piece of the action. In addition to his well-known veterans, Dirk's roster has been reshaped with the names Marty Flichel, Matt Hoffman, rookie Martin Lamich, Matt Loen, David Neilson (previously of the Fresno Falcons in 1999-2000), Brian Stacey and Jeff Winter.

The excitement of 2000-01 will soon be eclipsed as WCHL teams face off with even more competitive rosters on October 12.

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