January 26, 2011
Kuemper king of the cage
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Darcy Kuemper simply owns the Tribe.
The Red Deer Rebels goalie has faced the Moose Jaw Warriors three times this season.
He’s won all three games — and hasn’t allowed a goal.
Blanking the WHL Eastern Conference’s second-highest scoring team three times in a row is no small feat.
Warriors bench boss Dave Hunchak said his team will need to keep shooting when the two teams meet one last time a week from Friday in Red Deer.
“We just have to find a way to get one greasy one to break that goose-egg,” Hunchak told the Moose Jaw Times-Herald.
“We fired a ton of pucks at him (in Saturday’s 3-0 loss). We had a couple of really good scoring chances late. We just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Rebels blueliner Alex Petrovic feels the Warriors’ pain.
“I’m sure the guys over there (in the Warriors’ room) are a little mad, as they battled hard,” Petrovic told the Red Deer Advocate.
“But Kuemps battled hard for us, as well — something he’s been doing all season.
“He’s won us several games this season. He’s a real force.”
Yes, Hunchak and the Warriors have plenty of company in trying to figure out a way to beat Kuemper.
The Minnesota Wild prospect leads the league in wins (31), goals-against average (1.84), save percentage (.932) and shutouts (9).
Say hello to the WHL’s goaltender of the year.
Rebels play-by-play voice Cam Moon, a former WHL goalie himself, said Kuemper’s rise to stardom has been a steady climb.
“He’s taken major steps forward each year he’s been here,” Moon said.
“I think one of the biggest areas of improvement is his ability to better handle the highs and lows.
“He’s really matured as a netminder.”
Kuemper’s nine goose-eggs this season and 15 in his career are both franchise records.
Not bad, considering a guy named Cam Ward spent a lot of time between the pipes in Red Deer.
Moon, who said Kuemper is the best goalie to come through the central Alberta city since Ward, believes the overage puck-stopper has improved in other areas, too.
“His positional play is an economy of movement,” Moon said. “He’s in the right spot more often, so he doesn’t have to rely on acrobatic heroics as often as before.
“And his puckhandling? He’s probably one of the best puck-moving netminders in the league.”
Of course, Kuemper’s not a one-man show in Red Deer.
Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is among the top-10 in league scoring and is expected to be a top-three pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
The Rebels are riding a season-high eight-game winning streak, which included a tough three-games-in-three nights — and three different cities — stretch last weekend.
After finishing the weekend with a big 6-4 win in Cranbrook, the Rebels have built a six-point cushion over the second-place Kootenay Ice in the Central Division.
They’ve also moved to within a point of the Saskatoon Blades for first overall.
Second chance with Silvertips
Kieran Friesen and Brett Favre have at least one thing in common.
The word ‘retirement’ is never a certainty.
After playing a half-season as a 16-year-old rookie with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the 6-foot-1, 190-lb. defenceman walked away from the sport.
Instead of heading back to Edmonton, Friesen finished up high school and then got a job at a sawmill near his hometown of Vanderhoof, B.C.
“It was always my dream to come and play in this league, and it was good to finally get here (with Edmonton), but I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Friesen told the Everett Herald. “I wanted to do so many other things in my life still, besides the big commitment to hockey.”
Last fall, he was asked if he wanted to play with the Princeton Posse of the junior B Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
Then, with the Everett Silvertips suffering injuries on the back end, he got a call to join the WHL team.
The call-up was expected to last a couple of games. Eleven games later, he’s still there.