CHL Update: Oshawa’s “Trash Pile” Players Start Undefeated

When the Hamilton Pistols were building the team to defend their title, they knew that the salary cap would be a challenge.  In the eyes of most observers, they did a good job putting together a strong squad while remaining under the cap.  But the savings had to come somewhere, and the Pistols chose to skimp a bit on their minor-league roster.  To fill the vacancies with their CHL affiliate, the Oshawa Drive, Hamilton signed a number of minimum-salary journeymen, players that no other team wanted.

It was widely assumed that Oshawa would spend the season in the basement.  Not ideal, but a small price to pay if the Pistols could defend their title.  Well, Hamilton’s title defense is off to a fine start, but the Drive aren’t sticking to the script.  Instead of collapsing, they’ve become one of the CHL’s two undefeated teams (the Milwaukee Hogs are the other).

Harvey Williams

How did they do it?  According to Oshawa’s players, it’s coach Harvey Williams that deserves the credit.  Williams, one of the league’s most colorful characters, has never been one for beating around the bush.  So when his players showed up for their first practice, the coach didn’t mince words, and addressed the preseason predictions about his club head on.

“I’ve been reading about you guys,” Williams told his players.  “Seems like everyone thinks you’re a bunch of scrubs and rejects they pulled off the trash pile.  Seems like the only reason you’re here is because no one else would have you.  Seems like everyone thinks you’re the worst piece-of-[expletive] team in the league.”

After a pause, Williams grinned.  “Which sounds perfect to me.  ‘Cause you know who else they say [expletive] like that about?  Me.  I’m a sloppy old drunk with a bad ticker who probably oughta be in jail or dead.  The only reason I’m here is because they can’t afford anybody better, or so they think.”

“Well, guess what?” the coach added.  “[Expletive] ’em all.  They can all go straight to hell.  While you’re getting ready for this season, I want you thinking about one thing and one thing only: the look on the faces of all those bastards when we go out and kick the [expletive] out of ’em.  It’s gonna be mighty sweet.”

Williams’ players eagerly took his message to heart, and they’ve been making the so-called “experts” eat their words ever since.  Leading the cahrge are a pair of players who believe they shouldn’t be in the CHL at all.

Twenty-year-old center Hilliard Macy expected to be up with the Pistols this season.  Hamilton had multiple openings in the middle, as both Eddie Costello and J.C. Marais were on expiring contracts.  The front office assured Macy he would be a Pistol in 2020.  But his rookie season was underwhelming, and the team decided he wasn’t ready.  They re-signed Marais, added veteran Marco Venezio, and sentenced Macy to another year in Oshawa.

For Macy, this was a crushing disappointment.  But Williams encouraged him to think of it as an opportunity.  “They want you to prove them wrong,” the coach told Macy.  “They want you to get pissed off and play so well that they have to bring you up.  I know it hurts now, but this could be the best thing that ever happened to you.”

Thus inspired, Macy is off to a red-hot start.  He’s tied for second in the CHL with five goals, including a hat trick that fueled Friday’s 4-3 win over Baltimore.  His game has also acquired a physical edge that was lacking before.

“Coach Williams told me to play mad, and that’s what I’m doing,” said Macy.  “He didn’t let me get down on myself, and that’s made a real difference for me.”

Goalie Hector Orinoco, 24, signed a two-year extension in the offseason went to training camp with the Pistols and played several preseason games.  He played brilliantly – in fact, he handily outplayed both starter Lasse Koskinen and incumbent backup Ron Mason.  But both Koskinen and Mason were too expensive to demote, so it was Orinoco who wound up in Oshawa yet again.

Williams reminded Orinoco that Mason’s contract is up at the end of the season.  “They want you to be Lasse’s backup next season,” the coach said.  “You’re younger and cheaper.  As long as you play good, they won’t go looking around for someone else.  So don’t give ’em a reason to look.”

Thus far, Orinoco’s been just as brilliant as he was in the preseason, going 3-0-0 with a league-leading 0.98 GAA and a .949 save percentage.  “The way I see it, this is my audition,” Orinoco told reporters.  “Hopefully that’s for the Pistols, but if not, then someone else will notice and pick me up,  If I keep playing like this, they won’t be able to ignore me.”

There’s a long way to go, and it’s anybody’s guess whether the Drive can keep up their pace.  But there’s no doubt that Williams has his team thnking and playing like champions, instead of the “trash pile” that the experts expected.

CHL Update: Garcia’s Time in Oshawa Comes to Ugly End

Diego Garcia has a well-earned reputation as a malcontent.  The 26-year-old has played in several SHL organizations since the league’s inception, but he’s never seemed happy with his role wherever he’s been.

Diego Garcia

He started on the third line in Dakota, but quickly lost his starting spot, and complained about it until he was traded to Hamilton.  With the Pistols, his lackadaisical work habits and indifferent focus wore out the patience of coaches, and they dealt him to New York the following season.

He played regularly in New York for the rest of the 2016 season, but then Night coach Preston Rivers was fired, and new head man Nick Foster benched Garcia due to his poor defensive work.  Garcia griped to the press about the benching, implying that racial discrimination was a factor in the decision.  Shortly thereafter, the Night demoted him to their farm team in Utah.

Garcia played well in Utah over the next season and a half, but failed to earn a call-up.  This led him to once again demand a trade.  The Night accommodated him at last year’s deadline, shipping him up to Boston.  He played in the bigs for the final 20-odd games of the season, but the Badgers weren’t impressed enough to re-sign him this season.

Failing to land any major-level offers, Garcia signed with the Oshawa Drive.  But his usual issues – lack of hustle and his penchant for bellyaching – landed him in hot water with coach Harvey Williams.  The simmering tension between the two boiled over this week, when Williams benched the winger and Garcia responded by leaving the team.

According to team sources, Garcia’s latest frustrations began when he was passed over for the CHL All-Star Game.  He made the team last season, and felt that he deserved a return trip.  He became even more upset when the Pistols, Oshawa’s parent club, traded for F Cary Estabrook from Boston.  In Garcia’s opinion, he is a superior player to Estabrook, and deserved to be called up instead.

“I knew [Estabrook] from Boston,” Garcia fumed to reporters.  “They say I don’t hustle?  He hustles way less than I do.  They say I’m bad at defense?  He’s worse.  They say I don’t show up for practice?  He cares more about what time the bar closes than what time practice is.  But he’s the golden boy, the great white hope, so he gets a second chance.  And the lazy brown guy rots in the minors.  I wish I was surprised.”

Harvey Williams

Garcia’s rant rubbed Williams the wrong way.  The coach told reporters that Garcia “has been a pain in my [butt] all season.  He’s always in my office whining about how he ‘deserves’ to be in the majors.  And I always tell him the same thing: If you want to make it to the next level, go out there and show me something special.  Make it so they can’t deny you a shot.  And he doesn’t want to do it.  He’s been fine, but nothing special.  He’s had five years to make it in the majors, and he hasn’t stuck.  He’s got talent, but he doesn’t want to put in the work.  So I don’t want to hear about it.”

When informed of his coach’s comments, Garcia shot back: “Oh, so now I’m lazy and uppity, huh?  I wonder why I haven’t gotten a fair shake in this organization.  All my life, I’ve had to work twice as hard to get half as far.  It’s the same old crap.”  He then said that – yet again – he wants to be traded.

Williams reacted to the trade demand with derision.  “Oh, here we go again: ‘Trade me, trade me.’  Every time someone calls him out on his [crap], he demands a trade.  Anything to avoid taking a hard look in the mirror.  Well fine, then.  I’ll do it for him.”

The coach announced that he would bench Garcia indefinitely.  “Everywhere else, people got sick of him and they punted so they don’t have to deal with him.  Well, I’m gonna deal with him.”  Williams said he would play Garcia again “when he finally owns up that he has no one to blame but himself.  Given his track record, he might be sitting awhile.”

Garcia responded by leaving the team and returning to his offseason home in Vancouver.  He said he would not return to the ice until the Drive traded him.  “Obviously, I’m never going to get a fair shot with this organization, so let’s move on.”

Three days later, the Drive terminated his contract.  “If Diego is not going to provide his services to our team, then he is in breach of contract,” said Pistols GM Marcel LaClaire.  “He said that he wants a fresh start; he is now free to pursue that with any team he wishes.”

This may be the end of the line for Garcia in the SHL; he has worn out his welcome with multiple organizations, and he does not put up the kind of numbers that would compel a team to sign him in spite of the headaches.

“If some desperate team takes a chance on him, I wish ‘em the best of luck,” said Williams.  “He’s a legend in his own mind, and guys like that – there’s just no reasoning with ‘em.”

CHL Update: Wild Third Period Leads to OT Thriller in Oshawa

Fans who showed up at Oshawa’s General Motors Arena on Sunday for a CHL interdivision clash between the Oshawa Drive and the Idaho Spuds probably weren’t expecting anything noteworthy.  The Drive and Spuds have no rivalry to speak of, and on paper, the matchup between Western-division-leading Idaho (14-7-3 coming into the game) and third-place Oshawa (9-12-3 coming in) seemed like mismatch.

Surprisingly, the fans were treated to a thrilling contest, highlighted by a crazy third period in which the home town built a three-goal lead, lost it, and had to head to overtime before finally claiming a 4-3 win.

“That game was just plain bat-[guano] insane,” said Oshawa coach Harvey Williams.  “No other way to put it.’”

Going into the third, it looked like things were going to end well for the home team, despite being outplayed.  Although Idaho outshot Oshawa 23-14 through two, Drive goalie Hector Orinoco was in top form, turning aside every shot and staking his team to a 2-0 lead.

When LW Troy Blackwood went top-shelf on Spuds goalie Guy Laroche to put Oshawa up 3-0 a mere 96 seconds into the third, the crowd was ready to start celebrating its victory.  They began chanting “Start the bus!  Start the bus!” at the dejected Idaho bench.

Spuds coach Gilbert McCoyne saw the crowd’s taunting chant as an opportunity.  “You hear that?  Hear it?” McCoyne barked at his players.  “The folks up in the stands seem to think the game’s over already.  Are you gonna let ‘em get away with that?”

“Hell no!” responded Spuds F Trace Walker.  “Time for us to turn the bus around!”  His teammates thumped their sticks on the ground in approval.

Just over three minutes later, Walker found D Gray Torian with a laser-beam pass in the slot.  Torian tipped the puck past Orinoco’s catching glove to break the shutout.

Unfortunately for the Spuds, they struggled to generate another goal as the minutes ticked off the clock.  With just under six minutes to go and the Drive still up 3-1, the fans began the “Start the bus!” chant again.

“They’re really trying that again?” hollered Walker.  “Time to really make ‘em pay.”

A few seconds later, Walker ripped a shot over Orinoco’s left shoulder to make it 3-2.  Walker skated around with his hand cupped over his ear, but the crowd had fallen quiet.

Just over a minute later, Drive C Albert North tried to draw a penalty, snapping his head back as though Torian had hit him with a high stick.  But eagle-eyed referee Alan Cole wasn’t fooled, and he sent North to the box for embellishment.  Oshawa managed to kill off the penalty, barely, but were unable to get the puck out of their own end.  Idaho kept up the pressure after the penalty expired, as the exhausted Drive desperately tried to hold off the vistors.

Finally, with 15 seconds left, the puck got lost in a scrum in front of the Oshawa net.  It seemed to bounce off a forest of sticks and bodies before winding up on the blade of Spuds D Rodney Black, who jammed it home to tie the game and stun the crowd.

Orinoco slumped on the ice and several Oshawa players slammed down their sticks and looked at the ceiling in frustration.  Williams argued vigorously for a goaltender interference call, to no avail.

The Spuds turned the heckling back on the fans, chanting “Stop the bus!  Stop the bus!” before launching into a round of the nursery rhyme “The Wheels on the Bus” as the fans sat in disconsolate silence.

“I was really proud of the way the boys didn’t give up when it looked bad,” said McCoyne.  “Especially on a long road trip like this, it can be hard to find the energy.  But they found it – thanks to the fans.  Appreciate it!”

At the end of regulation, the Drive filed quietly into their locker room, unsure what had happened.  “It’s like [the Spuds] drove the bus right over us,” said C Pat Collistone.

But with a pep talk from Williams and a crucial opportunity to catch their breath, Oshawa pulled themselves together, and D Elvis Bodett banged home the winning goal 24 seconds into overtime.

“I don’t know if they were trying to give me another heart attack or what,” quipped Williams, who only recently returned to the bench after collapsing on the bench due to cardiac trouble.  “I told ‘em after the game, ‘Don’t do that to an old fart with a bad ticker like me!’”

CHL Update: Oshawa Coach Williams Suffers Health Scare

In an era when hockey coaches are increasingly allergic to controversy and colorful quotes, Harvey Williams – in his first season behind the bench for the Oshawa Drive – stands out.

The 63-year-old Williams cheerfully admits that his nickname was “Hangover” during his playing days, and boasts that he can still drink his players under the table.  He motivates his players with saying such as, “Go out there and work your [expletive] off, because hard work makes you thirsty.  And the thirstier you are, the more beer you can drink after the game.”

Harvey Williams

Williams shuns the usual postgame clichés that other coaches rely on, saying: “Look, nobody here’s an idiot. If we got our [expletive] kicked, we all know it.  So I’m gonna come out and say we got our [expletive] kicked.  If I mumbled something about it being a ‘learning experience’ and we’re ‘focused on the next one,’ we all know that’s a bunch of crap.  So why bother?  I’d rather tell the ugly truth.”  If the Drive ever get in a line brawl, Williams says that he’ll join his players in the fray: “I know they’ve got my back, and I’ve got their back.  Anybody messes with my boys, they gotta answer to me.”

In short, Williams is a throwback to an earlier era, and his players enjoy it.  “He’s definitely not like any coach I’ve played for before,” said Drive C Pat Collistone.  “He’s serious about winning and working hard, but he keeps things fun and loose.”

Things took an unfortunate turn this week when Williams collapsed during Thursday’s game against the Virginia Rhinos.  The coach began feeling ill during the first period, complaining to assistant Rob Mancini that he was feeling dizzy and short of breath.  This did not stop the coach from getting into a shouting match with referee Doug Mollis over a disputed goal early in the second period.  About fifteen minutes later, Williams collapsed.

Mancini quickly drew the attention of the officials, who stopped play while both teams’ trainers rushed to Williams’ assistance. He was taken out of the arena on a stretcher as a hush fell over the crowd and the Oshawa players kneeled in a prayer circle.

“It was really a shock to all of us,” said RW Anders Pedersen.  “One minute, he was clapping and barking out shifts.  The next minute, he’s laying on the floor.”

Williams was rushed to the hospital, where it was determined that he had suffered a mild heart attack.  He was discharged the next morning.  “It’s revenge from my old man for all the heart attacks I caused him raising hell as a teenager,” he quipped after his release.

The coach wanted to get back to his duties right away, but the Drive, on the advice of team doctors, announced that Mancini will coach the team for the next week while Williams recuperates.

“I’ll be a good boy and sit in my rocking chair and take it easy for a week,” the coach told reporters.  “But I’ll be back out bending the elbow before you know it.  Save a barstool for ol’ Harvey!”

CHL Update: Rhinos, Freeze Advance to Finals

The first round of the CHL playoffs mirrored the first round of the SHL playoffs in a number of ways.  One series ended in a sweep, with the victor headed to the finals for the second straight season, trying to avenge last year’s shocking loss.  The other series went the distance, with both teams holding serve on home ice; the winner is making their first-ever trip to the championship round.

In the East, the Virginia Rhinos felt as though they should have won the title last season, even though they were upended by Utah in 5 games in last season’s final.  “I think we all had the belief that the better team lost last time,” said C Cyril Perignon.  “We are on a mission of revenge.”

The Rhinos played with purpose and passion in the division playoff, dispatching the Oshawa Drive in three straight.  Despite the fact that Virginia thrived on scoring this season, they relied on stout defense to succeed in this playoff; they shut out the Drive in each of the first two games. They won Game 1 by a 4-0 margin, with C Tanner Brooks getting a short-handed goal to open the scoring and LW Yuri Laronov recording a power-play tally to end it.  The Rhinos eked out a 1-0 victory in Game 2, with RW “Real” Hank Diehl scoring the lone goal on a deflection early in the second period.  Goalie Gus Parrish was at the top of his game, turning aside 22 shots in the first game and 19 shots in the second.  In Game 3, with the series moving north of the border, Virginia opened up a 3-0 lead before D Ingolf Gudmundsen finally recorded the Drive’s first goal of the series late in the second period.  Oshawa LW Norris “Beaver” Young struck on the power play two minutes into the third period to close the gap to one, but they couldn’t muster the tying tally as the Rhinos completed the clean sweep.

“Everyone in this locker room is focused on one thing: winning the Howard Trophy,” said Rhinos coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh.  “If we have to go over, under, around, or through our opponents to make it happen, that’s what we’re going to do.  We’re like Andy Dufresne in ‘Shawshank Redemption,’ climbing through that sewer pipe on our way to freedom.”

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Freeze had a bumpier road than the Rhinos did, as the Colorado Springs Zoomies pushed the series to the limit.  But like their parent club, the Anchorage Igloos, the Freeze survived and will advance to the Finals.

Game 1 was a back-and-forth affair, with the Freeze and Zoomies trading goals, and it ultimately went into overtime.  D Julian Staples ultimately nailed the game-winner six minutes into the extra session to give Minnesota a 4-3 win.  Game 2 was another close contest; Zoomies RW Joel Hagendosh got a short-handed goal midway through the third, and the game wound up in overtime once again.  One extra period wasn’t enough this time, but C Mason Alpine ended it a minute into the second OT with a slapper from the point that lifted Minnesota to a 3-2 victory.  Back home for Game 3, Colorado Springs kicked their offense into high-gear, rallying from a two-goal deficit to snatch a 6-4 win that staved off elimination.  In Game 4, the Zoomies made the most of the man advantage, scoring all three of their goals on the power play.  Even though the Freeze outshot them 39-23, Colorado Springs goalie Sonny Kashiuk stood on his head, making 38 saves in a 3-1 win.  In the winner-take-all Game 5, Minnesota again dominated on offense, outshooting the Zoomies 35-17.  But even though the Freeze scored four goals in a wide-open second period, the Zoomies hung tough, ultimately coming up short by a 5-4 score.

The Igloos sent their minor-league club a congratulatory video, with Anchorage players calling on their minor-league counterparts to help the organization capture both championship.  “We’re going to prove that we’re the best team right now,” said Igloos C Jake Frost.  “We’re hoping you guys can go out and prove that we’re going to win the future too.”

Although Minnesota finished the regular season 11 points ahead of Virginia, most observers expect a closely-fought battle in the Finals.  The Rhinos will be looking to win the title they felt they were robbed of last year, while the Freeze will be looking to make their parent club proud.  The series begins Sunday at Northwoods Auditorium in Duluth.

CHL Update: Teams Punch Postseason Tickets

The Continental Hockey League, the SHL’s junior circuit, also ended its regular season this week, and their playoff field is now set.  Like the SHL, the CHL’s playoff field features a pair of returning postseason combatants as well as two new faces.  Just like season, the division playoffs will be best-of-five, with the victors meeting in a seven-game series for the league title.  Here’s a preview of the first-round matchups:

Eastern Division

The Virginia Rhinos captured the division title for the second straight year, despite losing a couple of key contributors from last year – G Shawn Stickel and RW Colton Jabril – to their parent club in Saskatchewan.  Just like last season, the Rhinos have thrived on fast-paced, high-scoring hockey; the led the league with 224 goals.  Their offense was driven by Ds Rennie Cox and Blake Blacklett, the CHL’s highest-scoring blueliners (with 33 and 31 goals, respectively).  Netminder Gus Parrish made the playoffs last year with Omaha; he signed as a free agent with Virginia this offseason and turned in another solid campaign, going 24-13-2 with a 2.48 GAA.  In addition to their potent offense and solid goaltending (as well as a league-best 88.4% penalty kill), the Rhinos bring a big chip on their shoulder and a fierce desire to claim the title that eluded them last season.  “We’re just the right amount of crazy to win this thing,” said coach Jeffrey “Swampy” Marsh.  “Not, like, underpants-on-your-head crazy.  Just hockey crazy.  Crazy enough to be dangerous.”

The Oshawa Drive were not expected to make much noise this season.  They came off an underwhelming 2017 season where they finished last in their division, then saw the parent Hamilton Pistols call up several of their top players, such as LW Jamie Campbell, RW Michael Jennings, and D Buster Kratz.  So how did they turn things around to clinch their first-ever playoff spot?  They got strong seasons from players who washed out with the big club: LW Norris “Beaver” Young led the team with 72 points, and RW Jean-Michel Pireau put up a dozen goals and two dozen assists.  And several of their returning players stepped their game up a notch, including RW Anders Pedersen (64 points, 17 more than last season), D Elvis Bodett (29 goals, nearly double last year’s total), and G Hector Orinoco (whose GAA went down by three-fifths of a goal, and save percentage went up by 14 points).  Oshawa has developed a healthy dislike of the Rhinos, which should make for a hard-fought series.  If it turns chippy, keep an eye on Drive coach Peter James.  Several of their returning When these two clubs clashed early in the season, the normally mild-mannered James manhandled a Virginia defenseman who scrapped with the Oshawa bench.  Will the coach go into bouncer mode again if the Rhinos act up?  “I wouldn’t count on it,” James says.

Western Division

The Minnesota Freeze came a long way in order to win the division.  They executed a worst-to-first turnaround after a dismal 2017 campaign, and they soared in the second half, going 22-7-3 to erase a 12-point deficit in the standings.  Their turnaround was sparked by a potent offense, led by LW Jean Pierre Fleury; he topped the CHL with 42 goals, nearly one-fifth of Minnesota’s total output.  And while the Freeze’s defense was so-so, they got considerable help from their goaltending tandem of Curt Freeze (27-10-4, 2.27 GAA, .920 sv%) and Darren Lovelette (14-7-2, 2.71, .899).  One potential X-factor: the Freeze were terrific on the road, posting a league-best 20-9-3 mark away from home, including a 12-3-1 mark during their second-half surge.  “When you’ve had to deal with a winter as long and cold as ours,” said Freeze coach Patrick Chillingham, “it makes you tough.  So a hostile crowd in a road barn isn’t going to rattle us.”

Although the Colorado Springs Zoomies are making their first trip to the postseason, the same group of players (more or less) made the playoffs last season as the Omaha Ashcats.  The Zoomies are still smarting from last season’s upset loss to the eventual champion Utah Owls in four games in the Western playoff.  They’ve got a couple factors working in their favor this time.  Last year, Utah’s Sherman Carter was the league’s best netminder; this year, the Zoomies’ Sonny Kashiuk laid claim to that title, going 29-16-3 with a 2.03 GAA and a .925 save percentage.  Colorado Springs also got an unexpected breakout season from RW Philippe Durien, who surprised everyone by finishing among the league’s top 5 goal scorers with 34.  The Zoomies also led the league on the power play, converting 23.8% of their opportunities.  On the downside, the Zoomies have cooled off considerably since their hot start, going a mere 15-15-2 in the second half, including a stretch shortly after the All-Star break when they lost 10 out of 13 games.  Coach Artie Gambisch is confident that his team is ready for the postseason.  “We’ve had our highs and lows this season, but the tough times have only made us stronger,” he said.

CHL Update: Oshawa’s James Mixes It Up

Oshawa Drive coach Peter James is well-known as a mild-mannered man.  He never yells at referees or makes theatrical displays of displeasure when a call or a game doesn’t go his way.  He has never been ejected from a game.  His idea of a colorful post-game quote is “It was a pretty tough one out there, but we’re looking past it and we’re focused on tomorrow.”

As Drive C Pat Collistone puts it, “Coach James is the most even-keel guy I’ve ever met.  Nothing shakes him.  If you set his tie on fire, he’d just say, ‘Huh, my tie’s on fire.  I oughta do something about that,’ and then go find some water and put it out.  He’s got milk running through his veins.”

Peter James

So when a skirmish broke out between the Drive and the Virginia Rhinos during Wednesday’s game, the last thing anyone expected was for James to get involved.  But when Virginia D Roscoe “Ruckus” Corbetta began throwing punches at the Oshawa bench, James took matters into his own hands, grabbing Corbetta and flinging him back onto the ice.

“It was awesome, like a WWE move almost,” said Collistone.  “I think Coach is my new hero.”

The incident occurred in the third period of the game, when Corbetta laid a hard check on Collistone that sent him tumbling into the boards.  The Drive felt that the hit was dirty, and D Colt Mayhem quickly skated over to Corbetta and challenged him to a fight.  It was the second tilt of the day between the two heavy hitters, and it got ugly in a hurry.  The skirmish quickly spread, as players from both teams began shoving and tussling as a knot began to form in front of the drive’s bench.

As the donnybrook continued, Corbetta and Mayhem wound up moving close to the Oshawa bench.  LW Troy Blackwood, who was sitting on that end, took the opportunity to squirt a water bottle at Corbetta.  The angry Rhinos blueliner whirled around, fired a couple of wild haymakers, and tried to climb onto the bench to scuffle with Collistone and others.  His advance, however was stopped cold by James.  The Oshawa coach grabbed Corbetta by the jersey and shoved him down onto the ice.  Fortunately, the officials were able to calm things down before the got worse.  Mayhem, Corbetta, and Collistone were all ejected.  James was not.

After the game, the coach explained that his actions were a reflex to defend his players.  “The situation started to spiral a bit when Stoner squirted water on the guy, and then he came at our bench,” said James.  “I don’t take kindly to someone coming after my guys, and especially not coming on our bench to do it.  So I put a stop to it.”

Other coaches might have been reluctant to confront an angry opponent, but the 6’5” James said he didn’t hesitate.  “I’m a pretty big guy, so I’m not worried about getting hurt,” the coach said.  “My first priority is keeping it from getting out of hand.”

After the game, a 6-4 Oshawa win, the Drive thumped their sticks on the locker-room floor in salute of their coach.  “If I ever get caught down a dark alley, I hope I have Coach James with me,” said Collistone.  “Him and Colt could bust some guys up.”