After a brutal season last year, the Long Beach Ice Dogs looked to make major changes as they brought in all new players and a new coach to try and turn the program around. They also added their first NHL affiliate since the club’s IHL days when they signed an agreement with the Montreal Canadiens. Last season saw the Ice Dogs finish 27th overall in the league, but this year was a totally different story as the team finished 3rd overall a remarkable turnaround in such a short time and with an entirely new team as every single player from last years team was replaced.
This year the Canadiens sent second year goaltender Olivier Michaud, second year left wing Christian Larrivee and after a one game stint with the Hamilton Bulldogs young center Cory Urquhart was also sent down. A few weeks later defensemen Matt Shasby joined the team but injury troubles kept him out of the lineup for parts of the season. Towards the end of the year rookie Michael Lambert also joined the team to get a lot more playing time.
Cory Urquhart- C, drafted 40th overall, 2003. Grade B+
Urquhart did see a lot of ice time on the second line as well as a regular shift on the power play, as he ended up fifth on the team in goals scored and sixth on the team in points, despite being the youngest player on the team. Urquhart clearly showed his offensive skills this year, but struggled with the physical aspect of the game, especially in the corners and along the boards as well as being out muscled at times.
Christian Larivee-LW, drafted 114th overall, 2000. Grade A-
The second year pro had trouble producing offensively, but was a solid all round player, as he was used by coach Cameron in all kinds of situations as he saw ice time on the second line at times and was on the top PK unit as well as seeing PP time as well. While Larrivee was tied for seventh in goals and was also seventh in points, it was his all round play that stuck out, as he consistently worked hard, doing all the little things needed to win on a nightly basis. Expect Larrivee to compete for a roster spot with Hamilton next year, as he has enjoyed a decent amount of success in his two stints with Hamilton in the past, recording two goals in eleven games.
Matt Shasby- D, drafted 150th overall, 1999. Grade A
Shasby led the team in scoring for defensemen despite playing in only forty games as he had some minor injuries throughout the season and did play eleven games with Hamilton. Shasby was likely the Ice Dogs top defensemen, as he saw a large amount of ice time and played in all situations as he likes to join the rush and usually has a good sense of when to pinch and went to hold back. Still has trouble in the crease as he can be physically out muscled.
Olivier Michaud- G, Free agent signee 2001. Grade C
Michaud had the difficulty of playing behind the leagues top goaltender in Chris Madden, who had an outstanding year this season. When Michaud did play, it wasn’t the same as most of the teams losses were with Michaud in nets. Once Madden was recalled to the AHL, Michaud did take over as the teams number one, and he played a lot of minutes, but coach Cameron felt he needed to bring in some help for Michaud, as Sebastien Centomo was brought in to take over the starting job. As Michaud enters his final contract year next season, he will likely compete for the backup job in Hamilton but he will have some tough competition in Jaroslav Halak.
Michael Lambert- LW, drafted 99th overall, 2002. Grade B+
Lambert only played in eighteen games during the season plus all seven playoff games, so it’s hard to say what kind of impact he had on the team but he did have nine points in those eighteen games as well as leading the team in goals with five during the playoffs. Lambert had difficulty producing much offense while with Hamilton, but the rookie showed some flashes of his skills while with Long Beach, as he showed good wheels, skating and a excellent slapshot as well. Next year he should play for Hamilton full time, and hopefully can have more success putting the puck in the back of the net.