Showing posts with label Doug O´Brien. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Doug O´Brien. Show all posts

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goon Verot tries out in Třinec, draws Jágr's wrath

A pair of Canadians made their first appearances at the morning practice of defending national champion Oceláři Třinec, and a few eyebrows were raised over one of them.

Defenceman Rob Davison of St. Catherine's, Ontario and left winger Darcy Verot of Radville, Saskatchewan were both on the ice. Though the league isn't overwhelmed with Canadians, their appearances are no longer novel. Bryan McGregor of Niagra Falls, Ontario is returning to the team for a third season, and Davison's presence attracted little attention. Verot, however, was a different story.

Darcy Verot (left) and Jaromír Jágr have a history. Photo:
Verot, 35, has made his life in hockey with his fists, starting with the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior League. He's played professionally in the now-defunct Western Professional League, the ECHL and parts of eight campaigns in the AHL. He also had a 37-game stint with the NHL's Washington Capitals in the 2003-04 season, where he recorded 0 goals, 2 assists and 135 penalty minutes.

In 2007, Verot went to Russia and joined Vityaz Chekhov. With the club over the past four seasons, the left winger has scored a mere 6 goals but has amassed an amazing total of 1,235 penalty minutes in 125 games. An average of 10 minutes per game, this would be the equivalent of getting 820 minutes in an NHL season; the record is Dave Schultz with 472 in 1974-75. Perhaps his most notorious incident in the KHL occurred on January 9, 2000 when his club hosted Avangard Omsk. The game degenerated into a bench-clearing brawl, which was allegedly triggered when Verot intentionally shot the puck at Omsk's Lasse Kukkonen.

"I doubt that Třinec really knows what kind of person he is," said former Omsk player and, briefly, Washington teammate Jaromír Jágr. "I know what this guy is capable of. Forgive me, but he's an asshole."

During the infamous brawl game, Jágr and Verot had a couple of bouts with each other, the second one coming when both players left the penalty box as both benches cleared.

The next time the teams met, Verot squared off with Omsk's Joshua Gratton after only six seconds of play, which started another brawl. Both players were questioned by police afterward.

Of course, even players who drop the gloves from time to time have been accepted in the Czech Extraliga over the past few seasons. Nobody made much of a fuss in 2009 when Doug O'Brien arrived in Plzeň and Adam Pineault in Pardubice. Both players even became popular in their respective adoptive cities for their toughness, which included squaring off against each other.

But compared to Verot, they are both choir boys. Over two seasons in Pardubice, right winger Pineault has recorded 34 points and 127 penalty minutes in 79 games. He is returning to the club for a third season. O'Brien, a defenceman, played one year in Plzeň and another for Sparta Praha, recording 15 points and 169 minutes in 94 games. Tough players, to be sure, but more than just fighters and useful to their teams while the puck is moving.

A player with Verot's reputation has never played in the Extraliga before and Jágr expressed concern over what it could mean to the league. "I'm worried that the Extraliga won't react until the moment something happens," he said. "We had a chance to deal with it before something happens." Owner of the newly-renamed Rytíři Kladno, Jágr emphasised that he has no intention of signing a goon to play for his team.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Verot or Davison will play in the league this season. Třinec spokesman Ivo Pullman stated, "The Extraliga starts on Sunday, and it will be decided before then whether or not they remain."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sparta releases O'Brien, Výborný and 7 others

After the disastrous season that HC Sparta Praha had, it was inevitable that big changes would be in the works and that several members of this year's club would not be back next year.

Doug O'Brien (left) and Tomáš Kůrka will need to find
new teams for 2011-12. Photo:
On Thursday, the club's new sports manager, Otto Sykora, made good on that by releasing seven players from the 2010-11 roster. St. John's, NL's Doug O'Brien is on his way out, as are fellow defencemen Michal Gulaši and Petr Macholda. Also leaving are forwards Marek Bartánus, Karel Hromas, Ondřej Kratěna, Tomáš Kůrka, Radek Smoleňák and, surprisingly, team captain David Výborný.

Sparta finished the season with a record of 16-7-3-32 on the 3-2-1-0 point scale to finish twelfth in the 14-team Extraliga. For the proud team whose history dates back to 1903 when it was founded by Canadian expatriate Lyle P. O'Connor, it was their lowest placement ever.

"The core of Sparta must change," Sykora said in a press conference on Thursday.

O'Brien started the season on fire, recording 6 points in the first 9 games. In the third game of the season, he scored the overtime winner against his ex-team, Plzeň 1929. After that, however, he recorded only 6 more points the remainder of the season. He remained a strong physical presence on the Sparta blueline as the team fell onto hard times. A junior with the Hull Olympiques, O'Brien was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003 and played 5 games for them in 2005-06.

Gulaši, one of the team's highest scoring defenceman and hardest hitters, is also leaving, though apparently by his own choosing. "Michal, we offered a new contract. We were interested in him and offered a new contract with a raise. But he declined the club's offer and therefore will play elsewhere," said Sykora.

Výborný is probably the best-known player of the group. The 36-year-old team captain was third in team scoring this year with 20 points in 51 games; a figure that is a reflection the team's offensive woes this season. Výborný is a product of Sparta's youth program and first appeared on the A-team as a 16 year old in a three-game stint in 1991.

He was drafted in 1993 by the Edmonton Oilers and played for a year with the club's AHL affiliate in Cape Breton. After returning to Sparta and also playing for a year with Swedish club MoDo Örnsköldsvik, he made his NHL debut with the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets in 2000. Výborný played seven NHL seasons, all with Columbus. His best was 2005-06, when he recorded 65 points in 80 games. Internationally, he won five World Championships with the Czech Republic between 1996 and 2005.

It appears that the team will try to build around an offense led by the French brothers Yorick and Sacha Treille. Yorick just finished his first season with Sparta and, in a season shortened by injuries, recorded 18 points in 29 games. Younger brother Sacha was acquired in a late-season trade with Vagnerplast Kladno.

"We want Sparta to play fast, very fast and high-pressure hockey. New players must meet that criteria, along with enormous enthusiasm. During games, the team must play with emotion," Sykora explained, when asked about who will play for the team next season. "Please be patient while players still have valid contracts with other clubs. Gradually, we will build a lineup and a lot of work is ahead of us."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sparta wins last game before Spengler Cup

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Tipsport Extraliga played its lone round of game sandwiched between the breaks for the Channel One Cup and Christmas.

Yorick Treille (7) and David Vyborný (9)
congratulate goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle after
Sparta's win over Kometa Brno. Photo: Jan
One game went Tuesday, with Sparta Praha winning 3-2 on home ice against Kometa Brno. They were aided by two assists from defenceman Doug O'Brien of St. John's, NL. In the first period, he set up Yorick Treille, who fired a rocket over Kometa goaltender Sasu Hovi's right shoulder to give Sparta a 1-0 lead. Treille, who was born in France, played for the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior League and then in the NCAA with U.Mass-Lowell. He recently signed a contract extension to remain with Sparta through the 2012-13 season.

In the third period, after the team killed off a two-man disadvantage lasting nearly a minute, O'Brien assisted on the eventual winning goal when he found Michal Broš at the side of the net on a power play to give Sparta a 3-1 lead. Roman Erat cut the lead to 3-2 in the late going, but it wasn't enough.

For Sparta, it was their final game before going to the Spengler Cup, which begins December 26 in Davos, Switzerland. They will play in a group with Genf Servette of Switzerland and SKA St. Petersburg of Russia, whose lineup includes Alexei Yashin and Maxim Afinogenov.

"The Spengler Cup's broadcast on Canadian TV, so friends will get a chance to watch it," commented O'Brien. "That's the closest I'll get to being home (for Christmas)."

Unfortunately for O'Brien, neither of Sparta's round-robin games on December 27 and 28 will be televised in Canada, but all teams advance to the quarter-finals, at which point all games will be on either TSN or TSN2. The first place team in each group advances directly to the semi-finals.

In the Czech Republic, all tournament games can be seen in Czech on Eurosport 2.

On Wednesday, the other 12 Extraliga teams were in action.

St. John's NL's other Extraliga player, John Slaney, picked up a goal and two assists but it wasn't enough as Plzeň 1929 fell 6-4 on the road against Vítkovice Steel. Plzeň now trails Benzina Litvínov by 11 points for the 10th and final playoff spot. The win gives Vítkovice sole possession of first place in the league, as Oceláři Třinec fell 3-2 at PSG Zlín.

Most Extraliga teams return to the ice for the next round of games on Sunday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Newfoundland's Slaney and O'Brien face off in Prague

What difference does five and a half weeks make?

The last time Plzeň 1929 visited Sparta Praha, back on October 29, Sparta won 3-0 to leap over Plzeň in the standings. On Tuesday night, Sparta prevailed 4-3 and they again jumped ahead of their West Bohemian opponents in the standings. That doesn't seem odd until you consider that Plzeň was stripped of 19 points in the interim.

After that October 29 game, Sparta went 1-1-0-10 (on the 3-2-1-0 points scale) in its next 12 games to plunge into 12th place in the 14-team league. Since then, they've won two in a row, including Tuesday's game, to climb back up one notch to 11th. The team's struggles reflected in the crowd, with only 3,318 in attendance.

On the other side was Plzeň 1929. Between the October 29 and December 7 games at Sparta, they posted a record of 8-1-1-2, and would now find themselves in sixth place, if not for the 19 points they were penalized for dressing improperly-registered players. A serious blow, to be sure, but it hasn't seemed to have negatively affected their play.

"We get told a little bit about it," said John Lammers of Langley, BC. "All we know is we lost 19 points and we've just got to forget about it and play hard."

Plzeň was led offensively by the line of Nick Johnson, Radek Duda, and Martin Straka, which scored all three of the team's goals. Straka scored twice in the first period, including a power-play marker on a slapshot with four seconds left in the period to send the visitors to the room with a 2-1 lead.

Straka also showed he still has wheels at age 38 when he beat Petr Ton in a race for the puck in the second period to prevent Ton from getting a breakaway. Moments later, Sparta's Yorick Treille (a Frenchman who played Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan for the Notre Dame Hounds and NCAA hockey for UMass-Lowell) did get a breakaway and was hauled down by Jaroslav Modrý, resulting in a penalty shot. Treille made good on the attempt to tie the score.

Nick Johnson ties the score in the third period. Photo
courtesy Jan Beneš,
With Sparta leading 3-2 with under 8:00 to play in the game, Windsor, CT's Johnson bunted home an airborne puck on a wild scramble to tie the score, but just 31 seconds later, Tomáš Kůrka scored the winning goal for Sparta on a stoppable-looking shot that goaltender Petr Přikryl was visibly upset with. It spoiled an otherwise fine performance by Přikryl, who made the save of the night in the second period when he stoned Radek Smoleňak with a toe save from point-blank range.

Karel Hromas and Marek Bartánus also scored for Sparta on the night. The last time these teams met, Tomáš Pöpperle recorded a shutout against his former team. Despite allowing 3 goals this time, he picked up the win, thanks to some rare goal support from his team.

Doug O'Brien and game-winning-goal scorer Tomáš Kůrka.
Photo courtesy Ladislav Adámek,
"Scoring a few goals, which is a good thing," said St. John's, NL's Doug O'Brien, explaining the biggest reason why the team's managed to win two in a row. "We've had trouble scoring goals lately. But two wins, that's the main thing. We want to get some wins under our belt and start climbing in the standings. We're working hard. In practice we've been working hard and it's shown the last two games."

John Slaney (left) trying to keep Petr Kafka in check.
Photo courtesy Jan Beneš,
O'Brien wasn't the only Newfoundlander in the game. On Plzeň's blueline was John Slaney, also from St. John's. Slaney was immortalized in Canadian hockey history when he scored the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union to clinch the gold medal for Canada at the 1991 World Junior Championships. For O'Brien, who is 12 years Slaney's junior, he is definitely somebody to look up to.

"He's a legend, I think. Everybody looks up to him. He's played, what, about 20 years? Everybody knows him, for sure."

Slaney played the game with a low shield to protect the recently healed broken jaw that kept him out of the lineup for 11 games, though surprisingly not longer.

"(I returned) about three weeks early," he said after the game, "It's nice to get back and help the team. Tough loss tonight but lately things have gone better."

Sparta is now in 11th place with 33 points, 7 behind Benzina Litvínov, who currently occupy the 10th and final playoff position. Plzeň is three points behind Sparta, but have two games in hand.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Extraliga schedule reaches mid point

Vítkovice goalie Roman Málek raises his arms in celebration
as time expires against Třinec, lifting his team into first place.
The Tipsport Extraliga schedule reached its halfway point on Tuesday, with round 26 of 52 taking place. Actually, five of the 14 teams had already reached the halfway mark in games, including one that is fighting for top spot overall.

HC Vítkovice Steel and HC Ocelaří Třinec have been neck-and-neck for top spot for some time now, and on Tuesday they went head-to-head at ČEZ Arena in Ostrava (Vítkovice's home rink) in a first-place showdown. Both teams entered the game tied in points with 50, with Třinec holding a game in hand. 9,002, Vítkovice's largest home crowd of the season, turned out to watch their team win the game 3-2 and take over top spot in the Extraliga standings. After the teams swapped goals in the first eight minutes of the game, the home side struck twice in the second period, and then survived a late Třinec attack, in which they narrowed the lead late, but were unable to equalise.

Sparta's David Vyborný scores the shootout winner against Karlovy
Vary goaltender Lukáš Mensator. Photo courtesy Marek Mikeš.
In Karlovy Vary, HC Sparta Praha ended its six-game losing streak with a shootout victory. Energie was ahead 2-1 as the game approached its midway point, when Radek Smoleňák scored twice in under a minute, the second goal assisted by St. John's, NL's Doug O'Brien, to give Sparta a 3-2 lead. However, Ján Mucha tied the game with under nine minutes to play. After a scoreless overtime, David Vyborný netted the shootout winner, and the streak was over.

Radek Dlouhý scoring the OT winner, as Kometa fans behind
the goal get ready to celebrate. Photo courtesy Pavel Vrtiška.
In the nation's capital, HC Slavia Praha hosted HC Kometa Brno at O2 Arena. The game attracted a gate of 12,251, the largest crowd in the Extraliga so far this season, thanks to several thousand Brno fans who showed up to support the visitors. They witnessed Brno taking an early 2-0 advantage, only to have the home team storm back and take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Slavia almost held on for the victory, but Radim Hruška tied the game with less than two minutes remaining. Then, Radek Dlouhý scored in overtime to vault Brno into a third-place tie with Liberec, holding a game in hand.

Other scores:

HC Plzeň 1929 4-1 PSG Zlín
BK Mladá Boleslav 2-4 HC Eaton Pardubice
HC Vagnerplast Kladno 1-5 HC Benzina Litvínov
Bílí Tigři Liberec 3-1 HC Mountfield České Budějovice

Standings at the season's halfway point:

1 HC Vítkovice Steel 27 162
2 HC Ocelaří Třinec 26 13 3
5 5
3 HC Kometa Brno 26 14 219 47
4 Bílí Tigři Liberec 27 13 2
4 8
5 HC Eaton Pardubice 26 13 1
5 7
6 HC Energie Karlovy Vary 26 9 4
5 8
7 PSG Zlín27 10 3
4 10
8 HC Mountfield České Budějovice  26104
9 HC Benzina Litvínov26 111
2 12
10 HC Slavia Praha 26 8 5
1 12
11 HC Sparta Praha 28 5 5
2 16
12 HC Plzeň 1929 26 132
1 10
13 HC Vagnerplast Kladno 26 6 0
1 19
14 BK Mladá Boleslav 27 8 2
3 14

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday's action sees movement in the standings

As the Tipsport Extraliga approaches the halfway point of its schedule, the standings remain compact. Every round of games shuffles the deck a little bit, and Sunday was no different. All 14 teams were in action on the same day for round 25 of the league's 52-game schedule.

At the top of the table, HC Olelaří Třinec and HC Vítkovice Steel both managed to win and remain tied for first place. Vítkovice routed a floundering Sparta Praha club 4-1 in Prague, while Třínec shut out a Plzeň squad that had been resurgent as of late.  

Doug O'Brien's return to Sparta's blueline, after sitting out one game with an injured shoulder, was unable to help his team break a losing streak that has now reached six games.

Meanwhile, in Třinec, Peter Hamerlík made 31 saves for his third shutout of the season, frustrating Plzeň attackers all night. In an attempt to shake things up, coach Marian Jelínek split up the duo of John Lammers and Nick Johnson, who normally play together. Johnson saw action with Radek Duda and Martin Straka, while Lammers ended up with Michal Dvořák and Martin Heřman. For Třinec, who won 4-0, Bryan McGregor of Niagra Falls, ON played on a line with Jan Peterek and Jakub Osrava.

In his second game with BK Mladá Boleslav, Oshawa, ON's Scott Barney recorded his second point. Barney played on Boleslav's top line with Daniel Boháč and Tomáš Divíšek, and trio struck twice to give Boleslav an early lead in a game they desperately needed to try to get themselves back into the playoff race. However, HC Slavia Praha were just as desperate and stormed back to win the game, 3-2 on the road. Jiří Doležal scored the winning goal early in the third period, as Slavia moved into a ninth-place tie with HC Benzina Litvínov.

And in a battle for fifth place, HC Eaton Pardubice won on the road against PSG Zlín, 4-3. Pardubice's two Americans, defenceman Jeff Jillson and left-winger Adam Pineault were both pointless, with Jillson picking up a tripping minor in the third period.

Other results:

HC Kometa Brno 3-0 HC Vagnerplast Kladno
HC Mountfield České Budějovice 3-2 HC Energie Karlovy Vary (OT)
HC Benzina Litvínov 0-1 Bílí Tigři Liberec

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Barney scores in Boleslav debut

Scott Barney (#36) celebrates his first goal in his first game
for Boleslav. Photo courtesy Jan Pavlíček,
In his first game as a member of BK Mladá Boleslav, Scott Barney scored his team's lone goal in a 4-1 loss to HC Vítkovice Steel. After last-place Boleslav quickly fell behind 2-0 against first-place Vítkovice, Barney cut the lead in half on a set-up by Lukáš Pabiška and Darrell Hay. But the overall strength of the Vítkovice team prevailed on the strength of 2 goals and an assist from Jan Kaňa.

High-flying HC Kometa Brno got off to a quick start against HC Plzeň 1929, building up a 3-0 lead. But despite the deficit on the scoreboard and in the standings, the scrappy club from West Bohemia scored four times in the second period and eventually won the game 5-4. Once again, the duo of John Lammers and Nick Johnson teamed up with captain Martin Straka to form a line that gave their opposition fits all night. Lammers assisted on the first of two goals by Radek Duda to increase his season total to 14 points; tops among North Americans in the Tipsport Extraliga. Tomáš Vlasák's 3 points gives him a league-leading 36 for the season. And Plzeň continues to battle its way back toward a playoff spot after being penalised 19 points by the league. With 22 points, they now trail 10th-place HC Slavia Praha by 9, with still more than half a season to go.

On the day that ex-NHLer Jiří Šlegr took over as the team's General Manager, HC Benzina Litvínov topped HC Mountfield České Budějovice 6-4.

And in its first game after the release of defenceman Brian Salcido, HC Sparta Praha lost 4-1 in Liberec. Also missing from the lineup was defenceman Doug O'Brien, who sat out the game with an injured shoulder. His status for Sunday is unknown. The White Tigers (Bílí Tigři) were led by a goal and an assist from Petr Nedvěd.

Rounding out the night's action, HC Eaton Pardubice won 5-2 on home ice against HC Vagnerplast Kladno.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A tough week for Plzeň

Last season, with the help of a few imports from North America, HC Plzeň 1929 finished first place in the Tipsport Extraliga before bowing out in the quarter-finals. This season, things haven't gone quite as well. Still, with four North Americans on their roster, the "Indians", as they are known colloquially, are likely to command more attention in North America than any other team in the league.

They currently have defensemen John Slaney from St. John's, NL and Nick St. Pierre from St-Étienne, QC and forwards John Lammers from Langley, BC and Nick Johnson from Windsor, CT. To Canadians, Slaney is by far the most noteworthy name, by virtue of his winning goal at the 1991 IIHF U20 World Championships followed by his lengthy career in the NHL and AHL. Currently, however, Slaney is on the sideline. He broke his jaw October 12 against Mladá Boleslav and is due back in mid-December.

Last Friday night, the rest of the Plzeň team paid a visit to Prague's TESLA Arena to take on HC Sparta Praha. Sparta had a pair of North American defensemen in their lineup, Brian Salcido from Los Angeles, CA and Doug O'Brien who, like Slaney, hails from St. John's.

It was Salcido who broke the goose-egg in the first period with a shot from the high slot that beat goaltender Marek Mazanec inside the post. For Salcido, who was known as an offensive defenseman in the AHL, it was his second goal of the season.

Minutes later, it appeared that the Plzeň duo of Lammers and Johnson may have tied the game, but referee Milan Minař blew the whistle first, claiming that Sparta goaltender Tomáš Pöpperle had covered the puck. Lammers explained, "I took a shot and there was a rebound lying in the crease. Johnson whacked it in but unfortunately there was a quick whistle."

After that, Pöpperle was perfect the rest of the way, posting 21 saves and earning his second straight shutout.

Like Pöpperle, O'Brien played for Plzeň last season, which made the win feel even better. "Yeah, defintely. It feels great to beat 'em. Lot of old buddies so it feels good to beat them. They beat us last time in a close game and tonight was a pretty close game."

For the past few games, O'Brien has been paired on the blueline with Michal Gulaší, who is one of Sparta's harder hitters.Though it wasn't an overly rough contest, Gulaší was a noted physical presence on the back end. "He throws the body around a lot. It's a big part of his game. He loves to do it. I love watching him."

After Salcido's first period tally, Karel Hromas scored late in the second and again midway through the third period to give Sparta a 3-0 victory. The win gave Sparta 22 points on the season and moved them one ahead of Plzeň into the tenth place in a tight race for playoff spots. O'Brien added, "It's a big win for us. With the new coach (Miloš Holaň) that's two in a row for us. The guys are excited. Back to back shoutouts; Pöpperle's played great for us."
As far as Plzeň is concerned, they were last season's regular season champions and their record to this point is certainly a disappointment. Unfortunately, an even bigger disappointment would be in store a few days later.

On Tuesday, Czech Ice Hockey Association Competition Director Stanislav Šulc dropped a bomb, stating that three teams, Kladno, Mladá Boleslav and Plzeň, had played games with improperly registered players and would likely be forced to forfeit points accumulated in games where the ineligible players participated.

The players reported were Kladno's Jindřich Kotrla, Mladá Boleslav's Tomáš Divíšek, Jiří Marušák and Peter Fabuš, and Plzeň's Tomáš Frolo and Petr Přikryl.

As Kotrla played only eight games and Kladno was almost certain to finish in last place anyway, they are least affected by this ruling. However, for Mladá Boleslav and Plzeň, the results could be disastrous. Mladá Boleslav would lose 22 points and Plzeň 19, making the playoffs a virtual impossibility. What's more,  Boleslav would drop below Kladno into last place, meaning they might end up having to play a series to avoid relegation to the First National League.