Record: 14-10-2-3 (33 points, .569%) T-2nd in Sherwood
On Pace: 28-20-10 (66 points)
A slow start. The Millionaires were rarely in their new rink early in the season, and they managed just one win in their first 6 games. In early November, Jamie Fiesel wasn't happy with a team that had high expectations, and just flirted with .500. So, he shook up the room, moving veterans Mark Owen and Zach Rakochy to Steinbach, and Roger Tagoona to Battleford. The return paid off immediately, with Russell Trudeau scoring over a goal a game, and roughly 2 points per game, while Blake Voth won his first five starts. After the deals, the Millionaires went through a stretch of 9 games where they went 8-0-1. Then, they lost to the Yorkton Terriers on back-to-back nights, and as I type this, that streak is now 4, as they just finished losing in Notre Dame, in Game #29 of the season, the halfway point. In stretches, they've shown glimpes of a team that could come out of the Sherwood and contend for their first ever championship, but they've been average at times too.
What they have left: 29 Games
Sherwood Conference: 13 Games (7H, 6A)
Yorkton: 4 (2H, 2A)
Weyburn: 3 (1H, 2A)
Notre Dame: 3 (2H, 1A)
Kindersley: 2 (1H, 1A)
Estevan: 1 (1H)
Bauer Conference: 16 Games (10H, 6A)
La Ronge: 4 (2H, 2A)
Melfort: 3 (2H, 1A)
Nipawin: 3 (2H, 1A)
Flin Flon: 2 (2H)
Battlefords: 2 (1H, 1A)
Humboldt: 2 (1H, 1A)
The Millionaires played 20 divisional games in the first half, compared to just 9 out-of-conference. In the second half, they actually play Bauer teams MORE than familiar Sherwood opponents (16-13).
What to Expect?
I believe the Mils want to win now. Although they've got just two 20-year-old forwards, they've got four on the backend, and one in goal. Their roster is set up to challenge for a championship this season, and, maybe next, but expectations are high this year, after back-to-back Survivor Series losses the last two seasons. Jamie Fiesel's teams aren't accustomed to that, and I think there's urgency to get back to the top of the heap. For that reason, I get the sense the Mils would like to add at least one more piece up front. They've relied a little too much on the Mireau-McNulty-Trudeau trio, and could use some help behind them. That said, maybe Alex Elliot can be that guy. They acquired the former Saskatoon Blade from Brooks on December 1st. It was all but certain they'd be getting Sean Aschim back from the Western League, but that chance looks slim to none now. Rarely does a guy who played Junior 'A' at 18 stick in the 'Dub at 19. But he's doing it, and give him credit. So if they don't get at least one WHLer back upfront, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Mils active on January 10th. Chances are, a good team with an above-.500 record is going to finish 4th and have to play in the Survivor Series. The Millionaires don't want to be in it for a third straight year, and they've got the talent that they really shouldn't be.
Most Valuable Player / Most Improved
Ian McNulty, F
Leads the Mils in goals, assists, points, powerplay goals... anything else? The guy's on pace for 100 points (exactly, he's got 50 now), which is pretty remarkable after he put up 19 as a rookie last season. With the possibility of Sean Aschim joining the team after training camp, and a third year guy in Mike Desjarlais coming back, McNulty wasn't likely penciled in as the #1 centre, but he took that role immediately, with Jesse Mireau and Mark Owen off the start, and now Mireau and Russell Trudeau. He's also money at the face-off dot.
Runners-Up: Alex Wakaluk, G; Tyson Newell, D; Russell Trudeau, F
Alex Wakaluk, G
It took the Mils a little while to iron out their goaltending, but when Alex Wakaluk arrived from Alberta, they suddenly had consistent goaltending night in, night out. If Wakaluk didn't win, he gave the Millionaires a chance to. I don't recall seeing a 'bad goal', or a 'back-breaker' on Wakaluk, and for a rookie, he seems so calm and unphased, not unlike Travis Bosch, the Mils' goalie who took them to their last league final appearance back in 2008-09. While 20-year-old Blake Voth has been brought in, and been fantastic, Wakaluk hasn't simply handed over the reigns, and gives the Mils two solid options between the pipes.
Runners-Up: T.J. Reeve, F; Allen Kilback, F; John Stechyshyn, D
Connor Lowe-Wylde, F
I'm noticing a real Alberta trend with these awards! The second year forward finds himself in a depth role, but during the Mils' 9 game unbeaten stretch, Lowe-Wylde was scoring some timely goals. He kills penalties, blocks shots, and does a lot of little things that the average fan might not appreciate, but his coach and teammates sure do.
Runners-Up: Dustin Eberle, F; Adam Dibella, D; Bob Pond, D