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Ontario, CA – After falling in the championship game last season, forward Brett Sutter and the Viking Ribstones look to return to the title match in the 2017 Brettzky’s Hockey Challenge.
Over the offseason, General Manager Kevin “Weasel” Square was promoted from assistant coach to front office and quickly made bold changes that give "the Stones" a chance to win in the near future also generate long-term success.
He quickly signed legendary coach Mick Hafso to a contract extension and assured the fan base that Mick was the right man to propel this team forward. Known as a “player’s coach,” Hafso earns players’ respect and work ethic while walking the fine line between “old school” coaching and a new developmental mentality.
After solidifying the coaching position, Weasel went out and re-signed a couple of old, yet wise, unrestricted free agents to shore up his young roster. Though the experienced Ken Manson might not be as quick on as his feet as previous tournaments, the 59-year-old’s offensive prowess will help a power play that sat near the bottom of the tournament last season. Forward Steve Starling, who was added for his grit and leadership, will be mostly used as an enforcer and shootout specialist. Returning team captain and four-time Stanley Cup champion Duane Sutter has received heavy media criticism after sustaining an “off-ice injury” and may miss the start of the tournament. This comes at a horrific time for Duane as he enters the final year of his contract.
Also feeling the scrutiny is the always-questionable Skippy Andrukow after threatening to leave the team mid-tournament for personal reasons. Only two short seasons ago, the stay-at-home defenseman missed half the tournament and put the Stones in a bind and this year may be deja vu. How long will Weasel will put up with his daytime Emmy-nominated act? A script only fit for Hollywood continues to be written.
Despite the off-ice distractions, the Stones generated many positives. A trio of dynamic scoring forwards will lead the charge and showcase their elusive skills in Brett Sutter, Preston Amundson and veteran Dean Antos. John Madden’s telecaster along with opposing defenses will not keep up with the “Three Amigos.” Defenseman Craig Square who is a “good locker room guy” and the “glue” will be used mostly in shot-blocking roles but remains a strong faceoff option and penalty killer.
Rob and Tyler “One Way” Amundson will also need to be major minute munchers for coach Hafso on the blue line and will be relied up in the crucial seconds, but provide little in transition, thus the “One Way” moniker, and moving the puck up the ice. Utility man Travis Mitchell has made the jump to forward to recent years and is extremely versatile and has been compared to San Jose’s Brent Burns with experience playing both ends of the ice.
Standing tall between the goal posts, Travis Childs signed a one-year "show me what your made of" contract to backstop the Stones and is expected to be a star goaltender for years. Lastly, the true X-factor for the Stones in the tournament is Eric Hafso, who in his third year will need to control play up the ice offensively and be the top defenseman the Stones selected out of Junior D in the 2007 Entry Draft.
Brettzky’s Hockey Challenge one again takes the ice to raise awareness of the game of hockey and bring families who are unable to enroll and enjoy organized sports. Coupled with the charity hockey tournament, the online donation aims to change the lives of kids across Canada. Click here to learn more about the tournament.
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