Mississippi Sea Wolves
It's been a day since the Norfolk Admirals hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time. The amazing thing about championships is that they're a shared milestone in the lives of, really, thousands, between the players, coaches, staff, and fans. Those journeys often contain compelling stories that make the triumph worth that journey. For Jon Cooper, it was about closing down his law practice to coach his way from Michigan high school hockey, to the USHL to working with Hockey USA, to a 2 season sprint to glory in the AHL. For Cory Conacher, it was about not being drafted and playing hockey at off-the-beaten path Canisius, dealing with diabetes, and earning an NHL contract in March of an MVP season before posting 4 assists in the championship clinching Calder Cup Finals game.
The stories of the players and the coaches are the ones we'll read about in the coming months and years, and they should be. When the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004 and were playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, John Tortorella refused to fire back at Ken Hithcock's remarks about "Italians from Boston," because Torts rightfully understood, "It's about the athletes." Ultimately, they're the ones who score the goals and make the saves. They sacrifice their bodies and take the stitches and they take the slings and arrows if they lose. Ultimately, it's their moment, and to a lesser extent the moments of their families who supported them in the journey up to those moments. The hockey moms and dads who woke up at 6:00 am to drive their kids to games. Scratching together money for skates and ridiculously expensive composite sticks. The wives and significant others who live with the players and coaches through the disappointments and the frustrations, and live in fear of moments when things can go wrong, like when slap shots can hit a man in the ear at 90 miles an hour, similar to what happened to Scott Jackson.
Less compelling, perhaps, is the story of an organization, but, these are stories can be worth telling, too... especially in this case. We started beta testing Bolt Prospects in 2004-2005, one year after the Lightning's Cup win, in the heart of the NHL lockout. That year was also the first year since the Detroit Vipers of the IHL folded after the 2000-2001 season that the Lightning had a full-time minor league affiliate: the Springfield Falcons. Absent a full-time affiliate, it became clear the Lightning would struggle to maintain their spot on top of the hockey mountain, because split affiliates would not give prime ice time and coaching help to another organization's players. That problem prompted the start of an 8 year process for the Lightning that ended in building what must be considered the sport's preeminent developmental apparatus with the Norfolk Admirals' Calder Cup championship and the Florida Everblades' Kelly Cup Championship.
The Mississippi Sea Wolves returned to action this weekend after a brief pause for last Wednesday night's ECHL All-Star game. Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius was reassigned to the Gulf Coast from Norfolk on Friday and was on the bench backing up former Bolt prospect Ryan Munce against the visiting Charlotte Checkers. Helenius again backed up Munce Sunday afternoon at home against the South Carolina Stingrays. The Sea Wolves split the weekend games against division rivals, with Helenius seeing no game action.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Charlotte 6 @ Mississippi 5 OT
G Riku Helenius: did not play
Sunday, January 25, 2009
South Carolina 2 @ Mississippi 4
G Riku Helenius: did not play
The road ahead this week for the Sea Wolves include stops in Johnstown Wednesday and Friday, followed by a tilt against Wheeling on Saturday.
As the NHL All-Star Break begins, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned prospects Steve Downie and Ty Wishart to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton announced today. Admirals General Manager Mike Butters also announced today that prospect goaltender Riku Helenius has been reassigned from the Admirals to the ECHL's Mississippi Sea Wolves.
Scott Jackson rang up his first professional goal, a game winning power play tally, with less than 4 minutes remaining in regulation to propel Mississippi past Gwinnett 4-3. Jackson earned First Star honors, while Chris Lawrence set up the Wolves' first goal for his first point since joining Mississippi two nights ago.
Mississippi 4 @ Gwinnett 3
D Scott Jackson: 1-0-1 (PP); -1; 0 PIM; 2 SOG; *FIRST STAR*
F Chris Lawrence: 0-1-1; E; 0 PIM; 4 SOG
Mississippi travels back to Charleston, SC to take on the Stingrays in a New Years Eve tilt Wednesday night.
Chris Lawrence and Scott Jackson turned in a repeat performance Sunday night in the rematch with the South Carolina, both turning in -2 efforts as the Stingrays defeated the Sea Wolves behind Michael Dubuc's 4 goals. Lawrence also tangled with the Stingrays' Viktor Dovgan.
Mississippi 3 @ South Carolina 6
D Scott Jackson: 0-0-0; -2; 9 PIM; 2 SOG
F Chris Lawrence: 0-0-0; -2; 5 PIM (fighting major); 0 SOG
Mississippi plays their third road game in as many nights against the Gwinnett Gladiators as the ECHL's only Monday night tilt.
Chris Lawrence and Scott Jackson joined the Sea Wolves squad in Charleston, SC tonight after being reassigned from Norfolk earlier today. Not the best of debuts, Lawrence and Jackson on the same 5-on-5 squad were on the ice for the Stingray's first and third goals.
Mississippi 2 @ South Carolina 3
D Scott Jackson: 0-0-0; -2; 2 PIM; 1 SOG
F Chris Lawrence: 0-0-0; -2; 0 PIM; 1 SOG
Riku Helenius stopped 39 shots through regulation and overtime, but could get no help from his offense, as the Mississippi Sea Wolves fell to the visiting Florida Everblades 2-1 in OT. Helenius surrendered the shutout with less than 4 minutes left in regulation, and then gave up the one-timer blast from Kevin Baker with 30 seconds remaining in OT. Helenius earned second star honors for his effort. The Blades completed a two-night sweep of the Wolves with Mississippi goaltender Jeremy Duschesne allowing 9 Everblades goals on Tuesday night.
Former Lightning prospect Ryan Munce was released from his PTO with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL) on Wednesday, and was back on the bench for the Sea Wolves backing up Helenius.
Florida 2 @ Mississippi 1
G Riku Helenius: 2 GA; 64:31 MIN; 41 SH; 39 SV; *SECOND STAR*
The Sea Wolves engage the Blades in a two-game rematch in Estero this Friday and Saturday night.
Riku Helenius gave up the game winning goal with 3 minutes remaining as the Gwinnett Gladiators defeated the Mississippi Sea Wolves 3-2 at the Gulf Coast Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Helenius stopped 31 shots in his second straight start for the Wolves.
Gwinnett 3 @ Mississippi 2
G Riku Helenius: 3 GA; 59:33 MIN; 34 SH; 31 SV
Riku Helenius made 49 saves in his debut with the Mississippi backstopping the Sea Wolves to a 4-2 victory over the Gwinnett Gladiators and earning Second Star honors. Helenius joined the team on Wednesday after being assigned by Tampa after former Bolt goaltending prospect Ryan Munce was recalled to Syracuse.
Mississippi 4 @ Gwinnett 2
G Riku Helenius: 2 GA; 60:00 MIN; 51 SH; 49 SV; *SECOND STAR*
The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the assignment of veteran center Chris Gratton to Norfolk of the AHL. Gratton cleared waivers today after being put on the wire to make roster room to allow the Lightning to retain recent callups like Paul Szczechura and Radek Smolenak and to make room for veteran center Jeff Halpern, who is set to return from IR soon.
In addition, the Lightning have assigned goaltending prospect Riku Helenius to Mississippi of the ECHL. Helenius was recalled to Norfolk after the Augusta Lynx ECHL franchise folded earlier this month. Mississippi was the Lightning's ECHL affliate last season. There is no word as yet if additional players will be headed to Biloxi as well.
Norfolk's press release on Helenius' reassignment after the jump: