Friday, December 28, 2007

Official: Okposo Signed

It's official, Kyle Okposo is a member of the New York Islanders organization. He had an assist in today's 4-2 win over Switzerland at the World Juniors. The full coverage, direct from the Islanders, is all here.

The news is somewhat anticlimactic after the events of last week, but if something more develops we'll have it for you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day Bonus, Continued

We're just back to the keyboard after witnessing a thrilling overtime victory at Nassau Coliseum. Also, as promised, an update on today's late games from the World Juniors in the Czech Republic. So here we go...

Wednesday night's game had been highly anticipated for quite a while in Islanderland because of the return of former star Jason Blake (now with the Toronto Maple Leafs). The Islanders, who celebrate their history and always treat their alumni well, went out of their way to play a short pre-game video tribute to Blake. It was basically a montage of his play on both blue lines and his nonstop hustle. In fact, the video closed with the words, "Jason, thanks for the hustle."

When the game began, the crowd was not as appreciative. While the video did get applause (and many in the crowd sported Blake sweaters), the man himself was booed each and every time he touched the puck. Frankly, this reaction was a bit baffling. Blake was a free agent at the end of the season and at his age the Islanders wanted to commit neither the years and/or money to keep him. He left for a team that was willing to bend to his demands; that's just how professional sports works these days. Sadly, I suppose some will always view him as some sort of "traitor," which is simply not the truth.

The first period featured a wide-open style that we haven't seen much of from the Isles this year. Alexander Steen made the Leafs fans who made the trip happy at 6:13, rifling a shot above DiPietro's shoulder to give the Leafs the lead. Andy Hilbert allowed the Islander fans to shout down the few "Go Leafs Go" chants just 49 seconds later, notching his fourth goal of the year. The way things have gone so far for the Isles' offense to this point in the season, we expected 1-1 to be the score at the break, but we were very wrong.

Mark Bell gave Toronto a temporary 2-1 lead with just under 7 minutes to play in the opening period. However, an inspired Mike Comrie netted his 10th goal of the season and then assisted on Bill Guerin's 9th shortly after. After 1, we stood at 3-2 in favor of the Islanders.

The most noteworthy event of the second period took place before it even started, as the public address announcer let the crowd know that Wade Dubielewicz was now in goal for the Isles. After some scrambling, those of us in the Blog Box found out that Rick DiPietro injured his knee prior to the game, couldn't continue, and will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Islanders will call up goalie Joey MacDonald to backup Dubie for that day's tilt in Ottawa.

Fast forward to the third, where Steen struck again for the Leafs, tying the game on a shorthanded blast. Both teams had great chances to win it in regulation (Sean Bergenheim rang the post loudly) but the goaltending was up to snuff, and we went to overtime.

After a miraculous overtime penalty kill (with Wade Dubielewicz standing on his head and Brendan Witt blocking shots with his body), the Isles were able to slip the game winner past Andrew Raycroft. Richard Park, whose game most resembles the style Blake featured during his Islander tenure, stripped said former-hero of the puck and tore down the ice for a shot. Comrie cleaned up Park's rebound chance and earned the game's first star, scoring just 9.6 seconds before a shootout would have taken place. Most of the 15,301 in attendance went absolutely nuts, still standing from the amazing 4-on-3 penalty kill they had just witnessed.

With the two points the Islanders temporarily vaulted into playoff positioning, although, as mentioned, Ottawa is on the docket for Thursday night. Hold on to your hats!

And now, as promised, some World Juniors notes:

* When we last left you, we stated that Islanders prospects had tallied 4 goals and an assist on the day. Well, Lew Serviss, a New York Times editor, left us a very nice note detailing our omission of Tomas Marcinko's goal for Slovakia, making it 5 goals and 1 helper! Thank you very much, Mr. Serviss.

* Team Canada's wunderkinds John Tavares and Steven Stamkos (affectionately called "Wonderboy" and "Young Nasty Man" by us, in case you missed it in an earlier post) are off to a roaring start. Canada defeated the host Czech Republic team 3-0, with Tavares scoring twice and Stamkos assisting on all 3 goals. If your favorite NHL team is at the bottom of the standings, you may want to hope these two stay healthy. Tavares is 2009 draft-eligible while Stamkos will likely go first overall in '08.

* Russia defeated Finland 7-4 in the final game of the day. Russia appears to have a very strong team and may challenge Canada for the gold.

* Okposo and Team USA will be off Thursday, but hit the ice on Friday at noon (EST) to take on Switzerland.

Boxing Day Bonus

We lied. We're back early with some results from the just-completed games at the World Juniors. First off, if you're looking for information on a specific team or player, you may wish to check with the IIHF's official site.

Two games have been completed, and two will follow this afternoon (for those of you in US/Canadian time zones). Again, please view the above site for specific times in your region.

Now, Borat jokes aside, the United States team officially opened its tournament against Kazakhstan. While the Kazakhs did hold an early 1-0 lead, it appears this game became very one-sided quickly (we apologize, as there is no video to link to). The US team equalized with 3 seconds remaining in the first period, and then the Islanders' prospects got going soon after.

University of Denver product (and Islanders prospect) Rhett Rakhshani gave the US the lead 4:58 into the 2nd period and the Americans never looked back. Kyle Okposo had one of the assists on that goal, then netted a goal of his own just before the book was closed on a 5-1 United States win. Okposo tallied the 2 points (1G, 1A) on 5 shots and left the ice with a +2. Not a bad day for the US team overall, as there were many solid contributions; you can see the full boxscore here [PDF].

While that was taking place in Liberec, Sweden was taking on Slovakia down in Pardubice. In that game, Swedish forward (and you guessed it, Islanders prospect) Robin Figren was helping his team to a 4-3 victory. Figren contributed 2 goals, raising the overall combined Islanders-prospect total on the day to a hefty 5 points (4 G, 1 A). Not bad if you ask us.

We'll close our abbreviated coverage here, but we'll be back in short order with the rest of the news from what promises to be a busy day of hockey. We'll be checking in to see how Wonderboy and Young Nasty Man performed for Team Canada, and then we'll give you our impressions of Jason Blake's return to Long Island (Leafs at Isles, 7 PM EST). It's a lot for one day, but you already know we don't sleep at Okposo Net.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random News and Notes

Fans, this will be our last update until at least December 27th, when we'll return with updates on Kyle Okposo's performance in the World Juniors and the return of Jason Blake to Long Island. Until then, here's wishing you and yours the best of holiday seasons, whatever holiday you may celebrate.

Now some random tidbits we've recently cobbled together:

* With a 3-2 overtime win versus Washington on Saturday night, the Isles won back-to-back games for the first time since November 16/19th. The Isles led 2-1 with just under one minute remaining, but Alexander Ovechkin whipped a shot past Rick DiPietro to tie it. New first-liner Richard Park provided the game winner in OT as his defender was clipped by a teammate's stick, leaving Park wide open to net the winner.

* With the win, Rick DiPietro tied Kelly Hrudey with 106 franchise wins, good enough for 3rd place all-time. Rick said he was not aware of the milestone, but was honored since he grew up watching Hrudey. Next up for Rick is Glenn 'Chico' Resch with 157 wins.

* Before the game, Chris Botta (a.k.a. 'The Blogfather') was honored by the team for his 20 years of service. He was presented with a #20 jersey and a Rolex watch. His family was with him on-ice as he received the gifts. Well done, Mr. Botta. The only problem is that Sean Bergenheim wants his number back.

* Congratulations are also in order for Ted Nolan, whose son Brandon made his NHL debut on Saturday night with the Carolina Hurricanes. The younger Nolan wasted no time in making an impact, assisting on a first period goal in Carolina's 4-1 win at Tampa Bay.

* On a related note, it seems that in order to get a question in during Nolan's press conferences you've gotta just jump in and throw caution to the wind. While the rest of our fellow Blog Boxers may think we're big liars, we were about to ask the coach about his son's debut when a traditional media-type beat us to the punch and asked the question practically verbatim. That's at least the second, if not third time this has happened. It looks like we'll have to follow The Outsider's lead during the post game debrief, since he has no problem jumping into the fray.

* For those of you wondering, apparently there is no word in the Czech language for "takeaway." But we overheard Josef Vasicek and Miroslav Satan chatting outside the locker room, and 'Joe' seemed to be proud of his 3 takeaways in the game. As for what else was discussed, we have no idea.

And on that note, we'll catch you later...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Introducing: Blake Comeau

While most of our attention at Okposo Net is aimed this blog's namesake, from time to time we like to say a few words about the other up-and-coming young stars that the Islanders feature.

After Friday night's win in Pittsburgh, perhaps more than just a few words are needed to laud Blake Comeau.

While Comeau wasn't making his NHL debut on Friday (he had 3 appearances with the Isles in '06-'07), he is new to the squad this year. Called up in the wake of the Chris Simon suspension (a topic we have purposefully avoided discussing), the 2004 2nd round draft pick provided 8:10 of energetic 4th line play during Wednesday's loss. On Friday, we were treated to what will hopefully become the norm for the 21-year old.

After falling behind 2-1 thanks to another Andy Sutton/Rick DiPietro mishap, Comeau assisted on a nice goal that featured handsome teamwork with his linemates Tim Jackman and Andy Hilbert, the latter netting the goal (yes, Andy Hilbert can score!). For Comeau, it was his first NHL point, and surely that puck is a keeper for the trophy case.

Midway through the 3rd period, Hilbert and Comeau struck again and put the Isles in front to stay; this time Hibert assisting on Comeau's first NHL goal. Just 37 seconds later Trent Hunter beat Dany Sabourin for his 6th goal of the year, and the Isles were looking good. They killed off the remaining 8:55 and earned a 4-2 win on the road.

While Comeau probably isn't going to become Marian Gaborik, he has the ability and potential to be a Richard Park-type for the Isles, adding hustle, smarts, and a bit of a scoring touch to a team that sorely lacks it right now.

Congratulations to the Isles for having a rare 4-goal night, and to Blake Comeau on his first 2 NHL points and being voted the first star of the game.

Comeau and the Isles will be right back at it on Saturday night, a home affair against the Washington Capitals. See you there!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Okpoetry

In honor of native Long Islander Walt Whitman, we begin a new feature called Okpoetry. If you've got an original work you'd like to submit, drop us a line in the comments section. Here are the first two submissions:

Thunder Storm

That distant clap
The "go pro" slap
We hail to you
Young, yet true
We see in your eyes
A shining surprise
Goals to reverse demise
This island franchise

We bow to the thunderclap
Rainy days, the basement bottom trap
Revive with your hands
Your stick it commands
Assist us oh youthful one
Bring us some new fun
The contract will be done
To your arms we do run

(by Brett Schmitt)


The Dream

Selling the dream
Future becomes present
Oxygen for the dyspneic
Nutrition for the starved
Failure not an option
Women dancing in jubilation
Rhythmic clapping
Marriage proposals?
Silver chalice hoisted
Welcome back, friend

(by Ken Dick)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Okposo Net the Influence?

One question exists about Kyle Okposo's decision to join the Islanders at the pro level as soon as possible: Was Okposo Net somehow inspiration, or perhaps, the influence that pushed Kyle to this decision? Following the "Light Fuse and Get Away" article on December 16, it was only a matter of days until the Isles and Okposo began negotiating terms to bring the prospect to the bigs following the World Junior Championship.

Let us look at the argument:

Okposo plays RW and Center. The Isles have been bouncing around RWs (Jackman, Bootland, now Comeau) while Satan and Hunter could easily bail following this season. If you picture Okposo as a center a future exists there too. Comrie, Vasicek and Hilbert could all be exiles following the season.

Now, if Okposo knows about this humble blog, which a quick browse of Wikipedia would bring him to, or for that matter word from the organization could have led him here, he could very easily have read said diatribe against the Islanders' current course of action. I am inclined to believe that Okposo sees no better time than now to make that jump to the NHL. With so many spots opening up in the near future why not? It seems to be nothing but a win-win situation for Kyle.

Why the inspiration, you ask? Thanks to NYI Blog Box this site has a nice following and Kyle must know about this blog, it is his namesake for goodness sake. Anyway, those deftly chosen words and a little holiday wishing might just have landed Okposo in the bigs which is then a win-win for everyone, from top to bottom.

Jumping the Gun

Kyle Okposo has left the University of Minnesota, that much is for sure. As for having actually signed with the New York Islanders, it seems as if the sides are close, but nothing official has come out yet.

The Islanders' homepage is currently featuring a "COMING SOON: Kyle Okposo" item which says the team is negotiating with Kyle.

Barring anything concrete, it is our sense that Kyle and the Islanders have agreed verbally to terms or are at least very, very close. It seems unlikely that Kyle would announce his leaving the UM squad, travel for two weeks overseas with the USA U-20 team, and return to the States without a solid commitment from the Isles.

Our guess is that sometime after the new year (depending on team USA's performance) Kyle will be officially announced as a New York Islander. He will likely be assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

As of this posting, the Isles trail Buffalo 1-0 in the first period. And Okposo is on the screen right now on the home broadcast! Blake Comeau is playing tonight, so if nothing else, at least the Islanders are getting younger. But with the current scoring doldrums, Kyle can't get here soon enough!

Breaking News: Okposo signs with Isles

There has been a 5 PM press conference called regarding Kyle Okposo's decision to leave the University of Minnesota. He will become a New York Islander before he leaves for the World Juniors in the Czech Republic this evening.

We will bring you full coverage of the details as they unfold.

(Picture courtesy of University of Minnesota)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Light Fuse and Get Away

After the 21st straight game (21 freakin' games!) of three goals or less, I think it's time to discuss the long-term plans of the Islanders - namely, do they continue with their mix of mostly veterans with a little youth sprinkled in (after all, a hot streak puts them right back in the playoff mix), or is it time to cut bait and completely retool?

As it stands right now, I do not see this team grabbing anything more than a 6-7 seed, and that's if they get hot. While the Eastern Conference remains thoroughly mediocre this year, without a large infusion of offense soon, it's going to be up to DiPietro every night to keep the Isles in games. And as much as DiPietro continues to play well, you can't ask him to carry the team constantly, especially if he's going to have to face 35-40 shots a night. Unfortunately, as the team is presently constituted, I don't see from where the instant offense is going to come.

Could the Isles pull off a Ryan Smyth-like trade this year to get things on track? Not going to happen - the farm system is barren. Mad Mike's Reign of Terror continues to have a terrible impact on the Isles, and while GM Snow is giving it a decent run, he has little with which to work.

In my opinion, this team cannot contend for a Cup. So unless the Isles can pull it together very quickly, it's time to scrap everything and start over. As any Isles fan from the 90s can tell you, that's not a good thing.

But it is the right thing. The Islanders need to have a 3-5 year plan in place instead of signing unrestricted free agents to short-term deals. And in order to have this plan in place, the Isles need to stockpile draft picks, draft wisely, and let the prospects develop (what a concept, eh Mike?). Okposo is a good start, but there needs to be a lot more along those lines.

Now the problem with this plan - once it happens, attendance will drop like a rock at the Coliseum. This is not what the team needs while the Lighthouse project is being debated. If the Lighthouse fails to gain approval in Nassau, and if Pilgrim State is not a possibility, you could not blame Charles Wang for selling the team to an outside ownership group in Hamilton, Kansas City, Yellowknife, or wherever (OK, maybe not Yellowknife). With Nassau taking its time, the team really is in a bit of limbo - if the Isles knew a new/remodeled arena was on the way (or if Pilgrim State became a viable alternative), it could start the youth plan right away. Further, as a first-class arena comes close to completion, the Island may finally once again be a destination for free agents, which could perfectly coincide with a youth influx. So do you keep a borderline playoff team together for the next couple of years trying to keep attendance up for the Lighthouse to hopefully be approved (with little to no shot at a Cup)?

No. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd like to see a Cup contending team sometime in the near future. Right now, I don't see it, nor do I see it happening anytime soon.

I'd rather take the pain for the next couple of years with a chance to watch a Cup winner down the road than have to watch the NHL's version of the L.A. Clippers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Isles and Okposo Agree: Scoring Is Boring

Another quick update this time around because, frankly, what can be said here that isn't being said elsewhere? The scoring totals for both Kyle and his future team continue to be anemic.

Last weekend Minnesota split a weekend series with North Dakota, and Kyle continues to be consistent, delivering his standard 1 point for the pair of games. He is still up among the scoring leaders on the UM squad, but that isn't carrying the weight it may have in years past. If you don't know by know, Minnesota is having a thoroughly mediocre season, currently at 5-7 in the conference and 9-8-1 overall.

However, misery loves company, and the Isles are providing their fans with plenty. As the schedule seemed to ease up a bit for December, the team's effort did also. Before the current road trip began, we here at O.N. (as the kids call it) predicted amongst ourselves a 6 point (of 8 total) road trip.

And the grand total: 3.

I guess getting out on the road and re-bonding didn't help? Nor did having the dads on the Florida portion of the trip either. Oh well.

With the Isles sinking like a stone in the Eastern Conference (now 11th) we offer some hope. If any coach is going to make this team's non-functioning parts (and there are a few -- more on that another day) function, it's Ted Nolan.

If you haven't read Roy MacGregor's wonderful piece on Ted Nolan yet, stop reading this and click over to it NOW. It kinda puts things in perspective.

On the docket, things stay quiet for Okposo as UM isn't scheduled to play again until the Holiday Classic on December 29th. Maybe some downtime away from hockey and celebrating (Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/other) with friends and family will re-energize him. We know, we're grasping at straws. Allow us that much, please.

No rest for the weary as the Isles make the short 1-hour flight back from Buffalo and take on Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes on Long Island Thursday night. It's not a must-win, but at this point we consider it a "should win," but who knows.

What we do know is that the Isles will get hot again, Okposo will turn it on, and all will be great in the world. And we know this because, dammit, we are not gonna let Scott Burnside be right about something.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Okposo Not For Sale

With the Islanders in a bit of a downcycle and fans looking for quick-fix answers to the team's scoring woes, the Islander hype machine has turned its focus towards Kyle Okposo. And while he's nowhere near ready to play with the big club, it is nice to see some attention from the parent team going his way.

An added bonus is that we don't have to do our jobs today; you can read all of the press directly from the source(s):

First off, Newsday's Greg Logan captured GM Garth Snow's thoughts on Kyle here. The part about Kyle is toward the end of the column, and I think Snow gives an honest assessment of KO's season so far.

If that doesn't whet your appetite for Kyle media coverage, Dee Karl (the 7th Woman) alerted us to a new video clip recently posted on Islanders TV. From the Islanders homepage you'll want to select Multimedia on the top tool bar, click on Islanders TV from the drop-down menu just below, and proceed to Islanders Insider on the right and then finally Isles Files. You should see a video entitled "I on the Future - Kyle Okposo," and it's an interview with the man himself. It runs about 4 minutes.

Speaking of the man, he and his Gophers will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota to take on University of North Dakota Friday and Saturday nights. They should be two highly competitive contests.

As always, check back with us for the results of Kyle's weekend.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

World Juniors Time

Some of the team rosters for the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships have been announced, and we're pleased to report that Kyle Okposo has been selected to the U.S. team.

This year's tournament takes place in the Czech Republic and begins on Boxing Day (December 26th for non-Commonwealth readers). This is the second consecutive World Juniors team that Kyle has been named to. Astute readers will remember Kyle's dismal single point performance last year in Sweden. Here's hoping that 2008 treats him better. If experience is the best teacher, he has hopefully learned from it and will exhibit improvement this time.

Now some of you read this blog for many different reasons. We get not only Kyle's fans, but Islanders fans, Gophers fans, general hockey fans, and everything else. So here are, broken down by affiliation, those who will be playing in the 2008 World Juniors:

(as of December 26th, 2007)

Islanders' draft picks:
Kyle Okposo (US team)
Rhett Rakhshani (US team)
Rob Figren (SWE team)
Stefan Ridderwall (SWE team)
Tomas Marcinko (SVK team)

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers:
Kyle Okposo (US team)
Cade Fairchild (US team)
Mike Carman (US team)
Ryan Flynn (US team)
Jordan Schroeder (2008 UM letter of intent) (US team)

Canada's squad will be announced after their selection camp on December 10th-14th. While no future Islanders or current Gophers are eligible, it will be noteworthy to see if John Tavares (a.k.a. "The Next One") is selected.

If we've missed anyone please let us know by dropping a line in the 'Comments' section below.

Climate Change

At Okposo Net, we don't sleep. And we're information junkies. So when trawling the major Internet news outlets for fresh tidings late, late last night (or more accurately early, early this morning), we were a bit taken aback when we saw the following on CNN's main page:



"Ho, what's this?" our sleep-deprived mind wondered. An Islanders story? On the main page? And why would they go to a climate meeting?

But before even clicking on the link, we knew that this had nothing to do with our New York Islanders. As the eyes scanned the headline again, we could already tell it was just a tale of Papua New Guineans seeking relief from the adverse effects of global warming.

However, and of more relevance to us, is the lack of change in the climate currently surrounding the Islanders hockey club. Still no offense. Still no media coverage.

The latter is a constant, so let's deal with the former. After the latest whipping at the hands of Boston (a team that hadn't won on Long Island in 10 previous tries, mind you), the Isles were still searching for answers.

Despite shuffling lines and calling up Jeff Tambellini, coach Nolan still hadn't brewed a magic elixir potent enough to wake up the sticks. He could only offer hope that things would turn positive once the team got out on the road for the upcoming contests. He reflected on missed chances in the just-completed game (3-1 Bruins, by the way) and believed that things would start clicking sooner rather than later.

More of the same was echoed by captain Bill Guerin, who opined that getting the team back on a winning track isn't like splitting the atom. That said, his recent on-ice production during the current drought has been equal to that of Enrico Fermi or Robert Oppenheimer. In other words, zilch.

But there's plenty of blame to go around, and it's unfair to lay it at the feet of the always-quotable Guerin. It's a team-wide slumber. Passes that were hitting sticks a month ago have inexplicably missed their marks. Potential goals have slid past empty nets. And right now as fans we just feel like griping about it. Throughout the final period boos were heard and an unflattering chant reared its head.

But we want to add that from what we observed in the crowd, the fans are still behind this squad. We know everyone at Okposo Net is. So let's hope that as the Isles embark on a southern swing this week (the first three are at Atlanta, Florida, and Tampa) the offense will thaw and the seasonal outlook will again brighten.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend Update (without Tina Fey)

Quick and random thoughts after a busy weekend:

- Kyle Okposo scored a goal and an assist on Saturday night for the Gophers. After being held pointless on Friday in a loss to Michigan Tech, he contributed nicely and salvaged the split for UM. Kyle's season line stands at 6-4-10 through 16 games. We're still waiting for KO to have that huge breakout game (hat trick?) which really gets his season into gear.

- The Isles did not even show up on Saturday night versus Atlanta. Wade Dubielewicz finally got a start in goal but the team was unprepared for the Thrashers. The Isles allowed a goal in the first minute of play and sleepwalked to a 4-0 drubbing.

- As first noted by The Outsider, the New York Times has jumped on the hockey blogging bandwagon with a feature they're calling Slapshot. If their first week of Isles coverage is any indication of what's to come, it's looks like you won't need to bookmark it.

- The Islanders were one of four teams to vote against reducing the number of intradivision NHL games next year. It's easy to understand why the Isles would want to protect their lucrative dates against the Rangers, Devils, Flyers, and Penguins, but we think this is an overall positive change for the league. It will be nice to see a Calgary or Phoenix in town more than once every 3 seasons. It hurts the Islander wallet, but improves the integrity of the game.

- Jeff Tambellini is back! The Isles take on Boston tonight at NVMC. 7:10 PM start like usual!

- Lastly, as predicted (ha!), the Jets manhandled the now 0-12 Miami Dolphins. Jets, you may now commence tanking the rest of the season in order to secure that #2 draft pick.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Downright Offensive

The inevitable finally happened. The Islanders lost to the Rangers. Normally that wouldn't throw me into a depression. I mean you can't win them all. However, sometimes the sports world is very good to you and other times it's very bad. It seems to be cyclical. Right now, though, every team I root for in the sporting world is completely absent of offense.

I think most of you know about the Isles' offensive woes. Unfortunately 2 goals is the maximum output this team can muster on a nightly basis. Luckily, they've been able to keep their heads above water. I suppose taking three of six points from Dallas, Ottawa, and the Rangers isn't too bad; I think we as fans somehow expected more though. As the calendar turns from November to December, let's hope that the bodies will start getting in front of the nets and the goals will come more easily. If this week was a test for the Isles, they passed, but barely.

Let's move on to the Gophers. Okposo and crew have two home games this weekend (Friday and Saturday) against Michigan Tech. On Monday the previously 15th-ranked Gophers fell out of the NCAA College Hockey poll altogether. I guess 2.25 goals per game will do that to you. Also, their special teams numbers are horrific (thanks to Gopher Puck Live for the info). A paltry 11.9% on the power play and a kill rate of 75%. Yuck. This team better find some energy pretty quickly. And that's all I care to say about that.

If I may depart from our usual format for a moment (Isles/Gophers), a word about the New York Knicks. They just lost by 45 points to Boston. It is now embarrassing to be a Knicks fan.

Wait. Check that. It continues to be embarrassing to be a Knicks fan.

Similarly, I may return on Sunday and say the same about the New York Jets. I don't care if they win another game this season, but please don't lose to 0-11 Miami. Having now said that, you may taunt me as soon as that game goes final.

And that's the state of affairs in my sports world. Very depressing.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Anyone going to Vegas?

If you're heading out to Sin City, you'd be wise to stop by the Blog Box before you go. Why's that? It seems that Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track and yours truly might win you some dough.

After dropping a 2-1 Friday afternoon affair in Boston, the two teams hopped on charters and played the second leg of the home and home gig on Long Island Saturday night. This time it wound up 2-1 in the Isles' favor, but it wasn't the usual suspects netting goals this time around.

Before the game, Tom predicted that much-maligned Andy Hilbert might break out. After New York fell behind 1-0 early in the first period (do they need to do that *every* game?) it was Mr. Andrew John Hilbert putting a blast past Boston netminder Tim Thomas. Before the red light on Hilbert's goal had gone out, I leaned over to Tom and said, "Prediction: Richard Park." I should have added "with the game winner," but I hedged a bit, and frankly I didn't think Boston would be held to a single goal.

Fast forward to 7:30 gone in the 3rd period, and whom other than Richard Park banked his second goal of the year. The crowd was so impressed with our prognosticative abilities, they did the wave for us (really).

The Isles held on for the win despite DP almost being knocked silly a few minutes before the final horn. The Isles now have 24 points in 20 games, which would project to a 98 point season if their form holds. It's early though, and as a chronic scoreboard watcher I can say that they haven't been getting much help from the other Atlantic Division foes.

Lesson? If you're in the area, you'd do well to find Tom or myself in the Islanders Blog Box at the top of section 201.

Speaking of finding the Blog Box (or not), unbeknownst to me my parents were at Saturday night's game! Given tickets at the last moment, they attended and claimed to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. However, when mom went looking for me between periods, she assumed I sit in the press box and she was, of course, denied entry. Come on mom, you think they would let me in there? You should know they only let grown-ups in the press box!

Sadly, the University of Minnesota's season has seemingly moved into cluster**** phase. The Gophers could only manage a 3-3 tie vs. Michigan State (Okposo with 1 assist) on Friday and took a 5-1 whipping at Michigan on Saturday (Okposo with 0 points). The good news is that Okposo was the correct answer to Saturday's trivia challenge on the Islanders big screen. So thank goodness for that! No plug for this blog though, so we'll have to keep getting the word out the hard way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wake up and watch

Some quick thoughts about the Islanders' latest stumble before we discuss the holiday weekend's upcoming action.

First off, the Montreal Canadiens are a good team this year. Maybe even very good. I haven't gotten a chance to see very much of them, but I knew coming in they had dynamite numbers on the power play. Up in the 28-29% range so far, and the season's 1/4 over.

In fact, during Wednesday's Isles-Habs game (MTL won 4-1) I mentioned to Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track how crisp Montreal's passing looked and how quickly they cycled the puck which allowed their open man to shoot. It was the kind of effortless passing where the puck 'never touches the ice' and opens up wide shooting lanes against defenses.

It's the kind of power play I wish the Islanders were sporting right now. They've gone from 2nd in the league in PP% down to 12th as of this writing. The 0-for-7 versus Montreal certainly didn't help that standing. Believe me, the Isles still have a very good power play when they are allowed to display it, and they work and cycle the puck very well, but nothing like this.

It's almost as if the Islanders, while on the PP, are looking for the perfect shot. They seem to worry so much about fanciness and setup that they forget what the main objective is. No problems like that for Montreal, who fire shots from the point, the circles, and everywhere else.

The Isles did manage to outshoot Montreal in the game and gave up only one shorthanded goal, but Cristobal Huet was on for most of the night and DP wasn't. "Sometimes," as coach Ted Nolan said after the game, "you look too much to what you did wrong and not at what the other team did right." I think that was a spot-on assessment. Both teams, despite preseason predictions, are better than many pundits expected. Montreal was just better on Wednesday night.

Luckily for the Isles, Friday finds them enjoying (yeah, right) a rare 12 PM start in Boston as part of a home and home series. This means I'm gonna have to get up at the crack of noon to watch this thing. Damn.

Another gripe I have is with the jersey change that took place 4 seasons ago. I'm sorry, it just does not look right for the Canadiens to be wearing the fabled white CH jersey on the road. I understand why they implemented the change and the league did see increased apparel sales, but when will it be time to kill this silliness and restore HOME WHITES? Teams aren't wearing 3rd jerseys anymore, so kindly switch back. For 25 years I was used to it one way, and now this 'away whites' nonsense has stuck for good. This isn't football, people. White at home, please.

Lastly, the mood in the Blog Box seems to be that Andy Hilbert's days with the top club are numbered. With Shawn Bates rehabbing and Hilbert shooting everything into the opposing goalie's chest, it doesn't look good for #11. I like Hilbert (well, I like all Islanders) but I feel that Jeff Tambellini needs to come up to the Island and stay regardless of Bates' timeline for return.

I suppose I should mention that the University of Minnesota's trudge through the 2007-08 season continues this weekend in Michigan. They're at Michigan State on Friday night and in Ann Arbor (Univeristy of Michigan) on Saturday night. Hopefully we'll be able to report on two Minnesota wins and some Kyle Okposo goals.

Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. Now wake up and watch hockey!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

It Doesn't Matter

Last night the Islanders made this season's first foray into Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers. As you'll recall, the Isles won both previous contests versus the Rangers on Long Island.

To be honest, I wasn't really confident of their chances for a win. The Rangers entered as a very hot team of late (with a goaltender sporting a sub-2.00 GAA) and the Isles, while winning, had played six 1-goal contests in a row.

But as this season is shaping up, fans in New York and around the NHL are beginning to realize that it doesn't matter how much money you've spent, how much you talk, or where you've been predicted to finish in the standings. It also doesn't matter if you play in one of the NHL's oldest buildings, if your general manager was your backup goalie just a few minutes ago, or if you traded half of your prospects for 2 months of a star.

People are waking up to the fact that the things that do matter are hard work, discipline, and commitment. And this is evidenced by the 2007-2008 New York Islanders.

The Islanders spent the 2nd least amount of money in the league (~$10M) on their defensive corps this season. Only the Chicago Blackhawks spent less.

We know what went on in Ranger-land this off-season.

But when it came time to play, we saw exactly how Ted Nolan has molded this Isles team into one that has a real chance to go places this season.

Scott Gomez? Silenced.
Jaromir Jagr? Under wraps.
Chris Drury? Stymied.

The Islanders came up huge in a big game in hostile territory and outplayed, outworked, and outhustled the Rangers. Martinek, Witt, and friends made sure that Rick only faced 19 shots. He saved 18 for his 100th career win.

And what can be said about players like Vasicek? Or Fedotenko? Or Richard Park? That they came to the Islanders and have bought into Nolan's system is not really saying enough. They committed to the team and the fans and are starting to see the product of their effort.

Lastly, the Islanders played a more disciplined game than the Rangers. Sure there was hitting and chippiness by both sides, but for the most part (are you listening DP?) they did not allow themselves to be baited or trash-talked into penalties or mental errors.

And that's how you win a close game in a tight division on your archrival's ice. By knowing what matters and what doesn't.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Update

The good news is that Kyle scored another goal on Saturday night, his 5th of the season. The bad news is that Minnesota blew a third period lead and lost to Alaska Anchorage. The weekend series was split.

Just to catch everyone up, through 12 games Okposo has 5 goals and 2 assists (7 points).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Just a quickie, please...

Hey gang,

Just some random thoughts pieced together at a VERY late (or early) hour:

- Kyle Okposo scores in a 3-0 shutout over Alaska Anchorage. I see from the boxscore he had 6 SOG and 1 block as well. Nice job. Same two teams on Saturday night.

- Good (and necessary) win for the Isles. I was hoping the Isles would hang on at the end and they did, barely. All praise to DP, who recorded shutout #2 on the season. He was not giving up rebounds, and that was key. NYI at MSG on Monday.

- Prudential Center looks nice. Can't tell much from TV. I'll need to go in person to get a true measure. Might I suggest a BLOG BOX FIELD TRIP to Newark?

- This team drives me crazy when they're not crashing the net and screening the opposing goalie. Someone should tell them (I guess it would be Nolan's job?) it's easier to score that way, and by extension, win the game.

- Sounded like some Isles fans made the trip to NJ. Can we get people to travel to MSG to support the team also, or is that asking too much?

- Our condolences to Howie Rose and his family, whose stepfather recently passed away in Florida. Jiggs McDonald was in the booth again while Howie takes care of more important matters.

- Jiggs said the puckhandling of Trent Hunter reminded him of John Tonelli. Okay, Jiggs. If Hunter has 1/4 of the career Tonelli had, I'll be overjoyed.

- Lastly, to borrow from cable news...today's most ridiculous item:

Yes, you DID hear Stan Fischler call Wayne Gretzky a 'one-dimensional player' and put him on his 4th team of all-time greats.

Um, Stan, whatever one thinks of Gretzky (and I know some people who agree with Stan), we are talking about #99, the guy who rewrote the NHL record book. The guy who if, let's say never existed, would have allowed the Isles to win perhaps, what, 5, 6, 7, Stanley Cups?

4th team? I could accept 2nd team. Or at least put him ahead of Cam Neely!?!?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NHL Network Free Preview

Say what you will about Cablevision, but at least they're providing some of us with more hockey. The other day I was reading my bill (let's not get into *that* sore subject) when I noticed that they're currently providing their subscribers with a free preview of the NHL Network. I don't know what viewing areas are being offered this gratuitous bounty of frozen delight, but if your household is a Cablevision subscriber I would suggest you look around the dial. Here on Long Island (Cablevision of Woodbury) it's being shown on channels 401 and 429 for some reason. I don't know if either are in HD; you may want to drop us a comment if you know.

I don't mean promote Cablevision, I just want those of you who may want to see out of market games made aware of it. It'll be free for about two weeks; I don't remember the exact termination date.

Speaking of out of market games, I just finished watching Edmonton at Vancouver, a game with no shortage of former Islanders (8 by my count). The network shows Wednesday Night Hockey on the TSN feed. Without getting into too much detail, it was a game loaded with scoring chances but completely devoid of scoring. Edmonton won 1-0 in a shootout after 65 minutes of goalless play.

Speaking of former Islanders (or their employees), I saw Mike Milbury doing studio analysis between periods. Let's just say I would have preferred more highlights of Darryl Sittler's 10 point game, which was also shown during an intermission (falls under the "if you have nothing nice to say" category).

Isles continue the road trip tonight in Pittsburgh. They need to get back on the winning track after that Philly slip-up. It's the front end of back-to-back games for the first time since October 10th.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

First Stars!

Double-barreled goodness tonight at Okposo Net world headquarters! Let's start with Mr. Okposo (after all the blog does bear his name) who broke out in a big way on Saturday night. Kyle had been held without a point in UM's last 8 (eight) games, but that's finally over now (thanks, Alice in Chains).

Minnesota found themselves trailing Minnesota State 2-1 after one period, but shortly into the second frame Okposo began firing on all cylinders. Cade Fairchild was able to find Kyle after 3+ minutes of play, and Kyle sent a long blast from the point past MSU goalie Dan Tormey. Finally, the dry spell was over.

Kyle wasn't done, however, and neither were the Gophers. Now tied at 2, it took only 2:02 for Kyle to find the net again, this time taking a Jay Barriball pass and sending it in for the lead.

Minnesota followed Kyle's lead and added another 2 goals in the period (Lucia, Fairchild) to give themselves a 5-2 lead after two. When the dust settled, Minnesota outshot the visiting Mavericks 16-4 in the 2nd period.

The Gophers coasted in the 3rd period, winning by a final of 5-3. Minnesota took both weekend games from the visitors from Mankato. For his game-changing two goal effort, Kyle was voted first star of the game. His season totals now stand at 3-2-5 in 10 games.

Meanwhile, on Long Island, another hot scorer was doing his part to propel his squad to victory. 1200 miles away the Isles were facing a slumping Devils team at Nassau Coliseum. However, any time Martin Brodeur faces your squad, you hope for the best and expect the worst.

Josef Vasicek was able to beat Brodeur late in the first period for a 1-0 lead, and the game stayed that way until the 3rd. Dainius Zubrus netted the equalizer just 1:10 in, and it appeared it was going to come down to a battle of goalies.

Despite coming into the game with 402 fewer NHL victories than Brodeur, Rick DiPietro was up to the task. Great saves are becoming a nightly feature on Long Island, and DP exhibited quite a few versus the Jerseyites.

It took a 5-on-3 effort (the Isles recorded no penalties in the game) to swing the advantage to the home team, but when presented with chances this year the Isles have mostly been able to cash them in. Super-hot scorer Miroslav Satan struck again, his 3rd game winner in as many contests. Trent Hunter slid the puck across the crease at 6:25 and Miro didn't miss. Rick did his part in the final minutes, keeping his net empty and making 20 saves overall to preserve the win.

Satan was awarded first star and the Isles took a wonderful 10 (of a possible 12) points on the homestand. A critical game on Monday night in Philly begins a 4-game road trip.

On a personal note, this was my first home game *not* in the Blog Box. Hey, everyone needs some lady-time once in a while, right?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Kyle Needs a Nickname Contest

Every emerging star needs a good nickname. And Kyle is no different.

Frankly, every attempt we've heard so far has either been lame or already used by another athlete. Christian Okoye (NFL 1987-1992) was known as the 'Nigerian Nightmare', so that's out.

'KO'? Too boring, too boxing-ish.

'O.P.P.'? Weak. Same goes for 'Opie' and 'Opo', which some of his teammates call him.

We've read that Okposo means means “thunder storm” in Arabic. So that could be a starting point.

So now the burden lies upon you, fans. Come up with a good nickname. If you do, we'll make it stick. And not only that, we'll send you a prize of yet to be determined value. Maybe the better the nickname, the better the prize?

Now get to it, moniker bestowers!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Outshined

The 2007-2008 University of Minnesota men's hockey season started with so much promise. As you may or may not know, we here at Okposo Net love both our open-ice checks and our music hard. And we most certainly like that mid-90's Seattle sound, even if does get us a few odd looks now and then. So here's this weekend's Okposo recap, with a decidedly Soundgarden flavor...

Things were "looking California" for both Kyle and UM just one month ago. A top-10 preseason national ranking, a potent top line, and a program filled with top prospects. Well, fast forward to now, and things are definitely "feeling Minnesota."

The Golden Gophers dropped both games this weekend to the University of Denver. Kyle had no points in either contest. The losses leave UM at 4-4 on the season, and 0-4 in the WCHA for the first time league history. To give you an idea of how badly things are going right now, Denver's Tyler Bozak scored more goals during Gophers power plays Sunday than Gophers players have scored on the power play in their past seven games (via twincities.com). Junior forward Blake Wheeler sounded a worrisome tone after the series, calling the team "mentally weak right now."

Coach Don Lucia was a bit more upbeat, saying that the team is "close but yet so far" (whatever that means) and was sure that his squad would soon rebound with spunk.

The troubling thing for Okposo fans is that he is still stuck on 1 goal for the season. On a somewhat related note, it seems that Okposo was completely outshined by Denver's Rhett Rakhshani. On the weekend Rakhshani netted 2 goals and 2 assists while, as mentioned, Kyle did zilch. Rakhshani was named first star of the Friday night game. Needless to say, Okposo was not a star in either.

Those of you who are keen Islanders prospect watchers will note that, like Okposo, Rakhshani was also drafted by the Isles in 2006. Kyle went 7th overall while Rakhshani was selected in the 4th round, at pick #100.

Might we have to rename this blog 'Rakhshani Net?'

Minnesota's recent play would make these guys scream

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Final Observations on AAN

A few more thoughts on the wonderfully fun Al Arbour Night (or "AAN" as the kids call it). What, you expect us to be watching the Jets on a Sunday afternoon?

One of the great things about being part of the blog box is the post-game walk to the locker room. And one of the great things about the post-game walk is that you never know whom you might run into by chance down there. It could be a random player, coach Ted Nolan, Isles exec Bryan Trottier, or even Scotty Bowman.

The great Coach Bowman was mere feet away from me last evening as a crowd gathered around him to hear a few sagacious words from the living legend. As I was ushered past the man, was I thinking about the 9 championships, or the way he finally brought the Cup back to Detroit, or that he enabled Coach Arbour to become a legend in his own right? No, my pea-brain was thinking about how much he looks like Tony Soprano...


Separated at birth?

Another thing that struck me as slightly off-kilter last night was the music that accompanied the tribute video for Arbour. It was intended to be a sweet look back at the golden years, but came off like a funeral dirge. Let's just say it made Paul Anka music seem exciting. Couldn't the Isles hire a musician to stand at center ice and play a sad, solo flute?

However, the BEST thing about the entire evening was the building. I know, lots of people grumble about how old and small and dirty and outdated the place is. Heck, even my co-blogger thinks it prevents the Isles from attracting top free agents. I think the time will come when a new home is built for our team, but when the old barn is filled and roaring it is alive, and I love it. I LOVE IT.

I'm torn about the Coliseum just like I'm torn about Shea Stadium. They're both worn around the edges and everyone else has a newer, shinier sandbox to play in, but I'll be sad when they each go. Just like at Shea, some of my finest childhood memories happened there. The Coliseum may be a "dump," but it's OUR dump. And last night the 16,234 fans inside made the building special again.

Daylight Savings Bonus Coverage

Frisky fingers on the keyboards tonight as Okposo Net brings you a third entry in under 6 hours! As you surely know by now it was Al Arbour Night on Long Island. The legendary coach came back for one more contest to make it an even 1,500 in his career. With the double-threat of Nolan/Arbour behind the bench, how could they lose?

Sure, it got off to a bad start when the man who loves to kill the Isles, Ryan Malone, tickled the twine just 12 minutes in. But then the hard-charging Isles...oh, what's that? That *was* a goal that Tyler Kennedy just scored? And it's 2-0 Pittsburgh?

Well, it couldn't last much longer, right, with a full house and Arbour Magic? And after Trent Hunter finally put a gift carom behind Marc-Andre Fleury to cut the Penguin lead in half, things were looking up. Unfortunately, a few minutes later Rick DiPietro was also looking up...right into Sidney Crosby's elevated stick blade.

And then the worry started.

"Hey! Rick's okay, he's coming back!" we thought momentarily. Nope, he was just showing the ref the blood near his right eye. And Dubie was between the pipes. A double-minor on The Kid. The Isles efforted, then came away with nothing.

But then something happened. The Coliseum got loud. And for one magical period, it was 1980 all over again. Vasicek to Satan. Goal! Crowd injecting the team with life. Under 3 minutes to play. "Let's Go Islanders!" bouncing off the walls. Off the ice. Off the low roof. Satan in front. Rebound. GOAL! Al Arbour on the bench, waving his hands in triumph. Clock ticking down now. Opposing goalie pulled. Crowd pulsating with noise. Islanders clearing the zone. 3..2..1...THE ISLANDERS WIN THE...game.

I still don't know how they pulled it out. After the win a red carpet was rolled out. Legends of years past were paraded and recognized. A banner was hung. A full team photo was taken on the ice. You almost expected the Stanley Cup to be there too.

Soon, my friends. Soon.

ESPN Still Doesn't Care About Hockey

This is the front page of ESPN.com at around 12:15 AM this morning, about 2 1/2 hours after the Islanders win and Al Arbour's 1500th game (click on pic to enlarge).



Look at the headlines under the News heading. Now I don't expect the game and post-game ceremony to be the website's cover story, especially with all the college football upsets. But seriously, while I'm sure Scott Verplank and Stephen Ames are having a battle for the ages in golf, are you really telling me that Al Arbour coming back for his 1,500th game couldn't get a headline on the front page? Hell, I'm surprised there was any room on there for the Devils' new building and Peter Forsberg.

Then again, it's not as if it's a surprise. ABC-7 just did local sports and put the Rangers-Devils game highlights on before the Islanders. Naturally.

Update 1 AM: We get results! Just before signing off this evening, I went back to ESPN.com and the Isles are now on the front page. Now, the chances of someone at ESPN reading this post and changing things up are pretty much zero. But we'd like to think we have an infinitesmal amount of influence at the Worldwide Leader. We'd be wrong, of course.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Banner Is Changed

The Isles came away with a hard-fought 3-2 comeback win to give Coach Al Arbour his 740th win in his 1,500th game, and just a short while ago, a new banner with "1500" was hung to the rafters of the Coliseum. The postgame ceremony was really a class effort all around by the Islanders organization, bringing in Islander legends such as Bossy, Trottier and Gillies, as well as newer Isles favorites such as Benoit Hogue, Steve Webb and Eric Cairns to help Coach Arbour raise the banner. Ken will hopefully be in later with reaction from this great evening at the Coliseum, including hopefully some reaction from Coaches Arbour and Nolan.

As for the game, it was a fun one all around with several exciting flourishes by both the Isles and Penguins during the game, and a very strong second half of the game by the Isles in coming back from a 2-0 deficit. After a plodding first 10 minutes of the second period, the Isles pretty much controlled the rest of the way, leading to an almost storybook ending. Strong efforts especially from Miro Satan with 2 goals and Wade Dubielewicz in relief of an injured Rick DiPietro (sticked unintentionally around the eye by Sidney Crosby in the second period, no word on his condition other than he is headed to the hospital for evaluation).

The win puts the Isles at 7-4 on the season and they must be feeling good about having truly put the 8-3 Carolina abomination behind them (and lord, was that awful). With a stretch of seven straight division games that began tonight, the Isles have a chance to put the rest of the division and league on notice.

In the meantime, in honor of Al Arbour Night, please enjoy a classic Islanders moment.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Clean sheet...with help

Finally! Last night we saw the DiPietro that we know is in there, and frankly by now, have come to expect. I'll keep this an abridged version of the game events; for a detailed liveblog of last night's 4-0 win over Tampa I'll direct you to Mike Gasparino's Still Drivin' website. As mentioned, he liveblogged, as opposed to what I do during games...stand there and pretend to know what's going on.

Anyway, DP recorded his first shutout of the season (12th career) with a little help from his friends. Yes, the defensemen helped, but last night his more ferrous friends (the posts) saved him at least twice. One shot, by Paul Ranger (is that his real name or did he just make it up for the trip to NY?) rang so loudly the people smoking outside the building heard it. But, 4-0 is 4-0 and the win improved the Isles to 6-4-0 on the young season.

Guerin, Vasicek, Fedotenko, and Hunter were your goalscorers. Al Arbour was in attendance (on his birthday). The crowd (11,008) sang to him.

A few random notes:

- An oversized gallon of milk appeared in our section of the arena. Unfortunately, I couldn't get its attention or any of the Ice Girls'. The latter hurt me more. The last time I saw a giant milk carton was at the Metrodome in 2004. That one was larger, stationary, and didn't hand out 50 cent discount coupons.

- The PA music...much better last night for some reason. Sure, they still worked in the Fall Out Boy and Finger Eleven for the kids, but at least we got The Doors and Soundgarden for the adults.

- Postgame player interview was Josef Vasicek. We learned that he is considerably taller than I (he's 6'5") and he is from Havlíčkův Brod in the Czech Republic (I looked that up). I asked him a question but not the one I REALLY WANTED TO ASK. I blathered something about players checking the internet (it's clear by now that they DON'T) but I really wanted to ask him:

'Joe, being Czech, have you ever been to Bohemian Hall in Astoria, Queens? It's one of my favorite places in the world and while it has gotten super-popular in recent years, it's still lots of fun.'

Actually, I wanted to ask him if he would join me there, but I think that would draw the ire of Messrs. Botta and Witt, who oversee the interviews.

But Josef, the invitation is out there now. So when you get moved into your new place and are settled and eventually read this, I would like to buy you a Krušovice (or other beer of your choice) at Bohemian Hall. Just two guys having a beer and talking hockey. I await your reply!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

OkposoNose Knows Spooky

Happy Halloween! As I watch the Former Islanders around the league rock the net, I cannot help but feel excitement for the pending arrival of some of our big prospect names. First, Islanders fan need not worry about the standings. No team has played fewer games than the Isles (9) who are above .500 at 5-4-0. This season is going okay thusfar. Now to the future:

* I know for fact that fans are dying to seeing Jeff Tambellini back on Isles ice. Tamby! Tamby!

* Frans Nielsen is burning it up in Bridgeport with 6 points in 7 games.

* Rhett Rakhshani a native of Orange, CA (represent), is helping burn it up for #7 University of Denver Pioneers hockey with 4 assists in 4 games.

* Kyle might be struggling a little bit but our boy Okposo will turn it out soon enough. He has 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 games for #8 University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.

* Jesse Joensuu is trying to help his struggling hometown team Assat (Pori) of the Finnish league with 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 18 games.

* Blake Comeau is trying to shake off some early season rust and overcome his slow start to energize the Sound Tigers. He has only 2 points so far this season.

Why all the rambling, you ask? My point is that these prospects will find their way to Islanders center stage and for many fans we hope sooner rather than later. Chris Campoli should be the icon for current Isles prospects. Drafted 227th overall in 2004, Campoli is third on the team in points with 9 in as many games and he is a defenseman! All good things come in time. So keep plugging away Kyle, Rhett, Blake, Frans and Jesse. And, oh yeah, let us get Tamby back up to the NHL where he belongs. Please.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Okposo, Where Art Thou?

Checking the fresh Minnesota hockey news this week, we found that those lovable Gophers had moved up to 8th (previously 10th) in this week's NCAA men's hockey rankings. This is the 96th straight week that UM has placed in the top 15 of the poll. While that's good, there is a somewhat disconcerting item hanging over the team right now. Two members of Minnesota's top line are just not scoring.

Admittedly, it's *very* early to call someone out about their play, but one has to notice that Kyle has been completely absent from the scoring sheet since Opening Night (6 games). Even coach Don Lucia has voiced concern, recently saying his Minnesota squad "can’t be the type of team we want to be without [sophomore forward] Jay [Barriball] and Kyle scoring."

Maybe we're getting too worked up about nothing. Kyle could be be distracted by some off-ice issue. Maybe he has just been unlucky. Perhaps his scoring touch is just in a bit of a down cycle? Whatever it is, we want Kyle and his fans to know that we are rooting for him, and we're hoping he breaks out in a big way this weekend against conference foe Denver. Minnesota will host Friday night and Sunday afternoon games at Mariucci Arena so as to thoughtfully not interfere with Saturday's Al Arbour Night on Long Island. Thanks, guys!

Check back often for Isles/Gophers/Kyle news as it happens this weekend, and good luck to all three.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Well, that sucked

The return of hockey to the Island after a long layoff was a disaster as Carolina and old friend Peter Laviolette crushed the Isles 8-3, and it wasn't that close. Obviously, the layoff put some rust on the Isles (and seriously, who came up with this ridiculous scheduling?) and they really didn't start showing life until the third period when they peppered John Grahame with shots in the early portion of the period. The problem is that after starting to get some life back in the third, the Isles now have another 4 day layoff before playing Tampa Bay. The less said about the game, the better, although I'm sure Ken will have some more reaction from the carnage later on.

About the only good thing one can say is that with these repeated long layoffs, Bryan Berard will only end up missing about 3 games.

In other hockey news, the Flyers injured yet another player - this time, Boston's Patrice Bergeron suffered a broken nose and concussion after being boarded by Randy Jones. I'd imagine a suspension is on the way (although almost certainly not the 20-25 games the previous 2 Flyers incidents received). Stay classy, Philadelphia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I Wish Someone Would Play

If you've known me for any length of time, you'll know that March and April are my favorite months of the year. I mean, you've got spring training baseball, March Madness, my birthday, NHL teams jockeying for playoff positioning, flowers blooming, robins chirping, etc., etc.

Conversely, if that's 'the most wonderful time of the year,' it stands to reason that we're currently in the worst. We're left with a World Series involving teams I have no particular affinity toward, a just-completed Formula 1 season where the hero choked away his dream (for my overseas fans), and the impending onset of winter's icy grip.

To top it all off, I can't find my Islanders, who normally act like a piping hot mug of cocoa to fend off winter's chill. No, someone decided that they needed to play their games in bunches this season and then have entire weeks of downtime for (presumably) PlayStation 3 gaming.

The thing that irks me is that the Islanders have a bit of early momentum going, too. They currently stand 2nd in the league in power play percentage and 3rd in the league in penalty kill percentage. That's right, I said league. As in NHL. When's the last time we could say that?

So no Islanders, and to top it off the Gophers dropped both games of their weekend fixture with Colorado College. Mr. Okposo recorded a whopping 0 points in either contest.

So that's where we are. No Islanders. No Gophers. No self-respecting Islanders fan would watch the Rangers right now. I guess I'll flip around the dial and look for the Daily Show. Oh, they're currently showing re-runs? I should have guessed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Good Things Come in Threes

The Islanders came into tonight's game versus the Caps in desperate need of a win. After getting blown out in Toronto 8-1 and dropping their next match to Philly, it was their last chance to take something positive away from the road trip.

Lucky for us Isles fans, they did.

With all three metro area teams in action tonight, the search was on for which channel would feature the Long Island squad. Not surprisingly, it was again channel 14 (Cablevision spillover). If this doesn't tell you that the Isles are the red-headed stepchild of NY-area sports, I don't know what does. But I digress.

Up 2-0 (Bergenheim followed by Guerin) after two periods, the Islanders soon faced a real gut-check. Ruslan Fedotenko had a goal disallowed (which I thought Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe made too much out of in the booth) and the Caps soon leveled the scoring at 2. Ovechkin first put a laser past DiPietro; Tomas Fleischmann then chipped one in and the game had turned decidedly against the visitors.

However, this team did not lay down like those in years past might have. Washington's Chris Clark was called for a trip in his offensive zone, and the Isles got their power play unit up and running. Brian Berard gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead that they would only add to. The final was 5-2 when it was all said and done. New captain Bill Guerin netted the first Isles hat trick of the season, the aforementioned Berard contributed 3 points (1G, 2A), and on the night the Islanders struck for three power play goals (on 5 chances).

Chris Campoli ruined the theme by helping out with 4 assists, but other than that we have no complaints. He has been playing great.

Lastly, about those other metro area teams...the Devils were blanked in Philly and the Rangers were stung by a previously winless Atlanta squad. The Isles may not get respect, but for at least tonight the trifecta was complete.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Time to Shine!

University of Minnesota hockey is back!

The Gophers took on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the second game of the IceBreaker Invitational last night. It was UM's first game of the season, and was played in front of a heavily partisan crowd at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The RPI Engineers went up 3-0 with under 5:00 to play in the second, and it wasn't looking good for the Gophers. The Gophers were being outhustled and outplayed, until Kyle decided he had seen enough loafing.

Minnesota netted their first goal of the night at 16:44 of the second period; Okposo assisted on linemate Ryan Stoa's power play goal, and Kyle had his first point of the season.

Blake Wheeler scored for UM 4:32 into the 3rd period to make it 3-2 in favor of RPI, but there was still plenty of time for heroics. Another power play, and another assist for Kyle, this time to Evan Kauffman, and the game was suddenly tied at 3. With over 9 minutes left to play, Minnesota still had time to set up the visitors for the kill. And who better to deliver the death blow than our man, Kyle Okposo?

With 1:11 left in the final period, KO delivered the knockout punch to the Engineers, taking a pass from Jay Barriball and knocking it past goalie Mathias Lange for the winner!

With that, all that was left to do was run the final minute or so off the clock, and the swift and sudden comeback was complete. It was engineered, if you will, by the 3-point effort of Okposo, who of course won first star of the game.

Humble as always, he gave full credit to his teammates. Not a bad opening night, if you ask me. Tomorrow UM plays 9th-ranked Michigan, a decidedly harder mark. Spare us the excitement and go up early on the Wolverines, no?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wrapping up the Rangers

T minus one day until Kyle hockey!

A few thoughts on last night's Rangers game. I won't go through the entire game recap; you can surely visit NHL.com, ESPN, or one of my fellow BLOG BOXers for that. In fact, Tom Liodice of The Tiger Track was again liveblogging from the game. Here are a few random thoughts:

- The Isles were outshot 37-30, but they were not outworked. This morning I read that the Isles blocked or deflected an additional 19 shots that never reached DiPietro. Great hustle and dedication. Way to keep them wrapped up, boys!

- There was more fighting in the stands than on the ice. While people anticipated a brawl-filled game, there was barely any of that. Meanwhile, I witnessed at least two dustups in the seats which were quickly snuffed out by Coliseum security. The participants were tossed and missed a great 3rd period. Too bad for them.

- After our postgame debrief session, I lingered a bit to try to get some Islanders photos. Sean Bergenheim was nice enough to stop and let me snap him, but here's the interesting thing. On my way to the exits, I popped back into the arena and another game was being played! The Assassins were taking on the Villains. Who are these guys? Is there a clandestine hockey league playing late-night contests on the sacred Islander ice? If so, how do I get involved?

- Has anyone tried the Nassau Coliseum sushi yet? As a sushiphile myself (Hai, watashi wa Nihongo-ga scoshi wakarimasu), I am a bit wary. If you have tried it and are still living, drop us a line in the comments section.

- Since the Isles are in Toronto tonight, what better time to debut a few of the photos I took at the Hockey Hall of Fame this summer? Enjoy!


The entrance to the Hall of Fame


Dr. Hook and Okposo Island with the Cup


The last time it happened. It's been too long.


Trophies everywhere


Sweater of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Bergenheim's team last year, Y****n's this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Strong Win

Now that the Yankees are gone (and words on them can probably take up at least 10 blog posts), it's time to enjoy our New York Islanders. And what perfect timing, as the Isles get a great win against the Rangers -- the "preordained" Atlantic Division champs.

Some quick thoughts from the third period (I imagine Ken will be in later with some thoughts on the full game and reaction from the Coliseum):

-- Strong penalty killing on the Rangers 5 on 3, thought it really took the Rangers out of the game for much of the period.

-- Terrible stoppage by the ref on Guerin's post shot, the puck was obviously still in play.

-- Maybe it was just my TV, but the sound quality made it seem like the Coliseum wasn't as rocking as it normally was for an Isles-Rangers game. I'm sure Ken can provide more details about the crowd, but this was an issue last year with Versus in terms of broadcast quality.

-- While you don't want to necessarily go down 6 on 4 at the end of the game, good penalty by Andy Sutton to help prevent a potential game-tying goal (and it doesn't hurt to have icing waved off for the last 20 seconds).

-- As long as DiPietro plays like this, the Isles will be playoff contenders -- several excellent saves considering the Rangers were starting to apply some serious pressure in the third.

Overall, a good night for the Isles and this team is looking strong (hey, as of this writing, they're in first place by 4 points!). Ken should be back later.

In the meantime, enjoy this link to a fun story about the Philadelphia Flyers. Question: what would Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber and Dave Schultz think about this? PG replies only, please.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A Day of Firsts

Hello everyone,

Well, we're just back from Isles vs. Capitals, a holiday afternoon affair. It was certainly a day of firsts; some exciting, some disappointing.

Today we witnessed the Islanders' first loss of the season (2-1). It was the first time that the team looked at times noticeably flat. The first period got off to a great start, and the Isles led 1-0 after 20:00 (Richard Park, 1st of season). However, the team didn't quite have the jump they began with and allowed the Caps to tie the score at 1 about 8 minutes into the 2nd period. The home squad let a golden opportunity slip by when they were awarded a 5 on 3 advantage for a whopping 1:35, but failed to score. One of the telling signs in the period was the Islanders out shooting Washington 16-3 in the frame, but never putting one past Kolzig.

The play picked up decidedly in the final period, when the Isles themselves killed off a 5 on 3, but DiPietro allowed a rebound with just over 12 minutes left to play and Brooks Laich didn't miss his chance.

Continuing the theme, today we heard the first smattering (not a chorus, mind you) of boos directed toward the home squad. Many fans felt that this was a game where the Isles should have come away with at least a point, and failed to do so.

On a strictly personal level, this blog (and the NYI BLOG BOX crew!) had their first-ever story published in a major sports publication. Kudos to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated for shedding some light on this very fun project we're all partaking in. He even worked in a quote from yours truly (Ken Dick) and while it isn't the first time my blogging work has been featured in a sports mag, it is the first for Okposo Net. You can view his piece here.

Today's game also featured Darryl Bootland's first NHL point since 2003, and after the game we got to speak with the Toronto native. He didn't make excuses for the loss after the game, gave full credit to an outstanding opposing goalie (Kolzig), and didn't think that playing 3 games in 4 days (more like 3 1/2 days) had much effect on the team. He assured us that he will have absolutely NO problem getting up for the Rangers on Wednesday night, and we're hoping to see him scrap it up a bit against the hated Blueshirts.

As a reminder, we're also eagerly awaiting the return of University of Minnesota hockey on Friday (10/12) night, which means the return of fresh news on the play of Kyle Okposo!

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Who stole my Islanders?

A packed Nassau Coliseum, a penalty kill unit that works hard, skaters who crash the net, and a team that toils in unison up and down the ice for 60 minutes. Who are these guys?

Joking aside, as I search for something to be critical of in this new season, these Islanders are not allowing me that indulgence. Last night, in what can only be described as an amazing night for myself and fellow Isles bloggers, the Islanders defeated Buffalo again, this time 3-2.

While it's only 2 games, Mike Comrie has been a spark that this team has sorely missed in past seasons. Fueling the fire has been the the play of new captain Bill Guerin, and the scrappy play of Ruslan Fedotenko. While those guys are getting the glory and the share of the headlines, kudos to Chris Campoli for not only netting his second goal of the year, but for taking the time to speak with us after the game.

You see, last night was the first-ever behind-the-scenes tour for New York Islanders Blog Box members. Being that this blog is a charter member of that new and innovative program, we and our fellow bloggers were led on an all-access tour of the bowels of the Coliseum. We visited the lockerroom (smaller than expected), spoke with on-air personality Deb Kaufman (shorter than expected), and were granted access to Chris Campoli and Ted Nolan for unrestricted questioning (cooler than expected). In all it was a great night and many thanks go to Deb, Chris, and Isles execs Chris Botta and Corey Witt for having the foresight to make this happen.

My fellow bloggers-in-arms also seem very cool to a man (and one woman) and I look forward to enjoying games with them in the future and reading their takes on this special night.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The New Islanders

Opening Night versus Buffalo was a success, with the Islanders recording a 6-4 victory at HSBC Arena. While I would have preferred a little more defense in the effort, it is hard to find fault with their performance.

The game recaps are emphasizing how well the squad played together on opening night, especially the newly-minted top line of Comrie, Guerin, and Fedotenko. Let's not forget about Josef Vasicek either, who netted the first Islander tally after the Orange and Blue quickly fell down 1-0. Honorable mention also goes to "The Rick," who saved 22 of 26 shots, but made some dazzling stops to keep this contest in hand and let The New Islanders go to work.

Game 2 of 82 is tomorrow night. Same teams, different venue (our place), hopefully the same outcome!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

UM is getting ready. Are you?

Fans, the University of Minnesota's regular season begins October 12th with the IceBreaker Invitational (Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, MN). And while we can't get up there to see that tournament, we are making plans to see Okposo in person sometime this season, with a trip to the Twin Cities.

While we are pretty much the only independent site for Kyle Okposo info on the web, we are limited in what we can bring you. But soon that is about to change. Thanks to a generous offer from the NYI organization, we'll have the chance to ask some things we want to know about Kyle and their future plans for him. But, we'd also like to know what YOU want to know about Kyle. If you read and enjoy this blog, have a relevant question, or even if you hate this site and just want to let us know, please feel free at any time use the comment button located beneath each entry. We'll answer you promptly or relay your question to the Isles if we can't answer it ourselves.

Now, to give you a taste of what a special talent we think Kyle is, have a look at this goal from last season. The clip runs about 1 minute.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Let the 2007-08 Season Begin

For Yankees fans like me, it'll hopefully take until the end of October to get fully involved with the Islanders, but for Mets fans, welcome to the 2007-08 NHL season!

Hi, I'm Dr. Hook. You might remember me from such blogs as ... well, none actually. I did work on sports webpages about 10 years ago where I wrote some semi-regular editorial copy (sort of a forerunner of blogs), but this is my first true blog post. First off, thanks to Ken for the opportunity to join this blog - it should be a fun ride this season, and I look forward to Ken's eventual postings from the Isles' new Blog Box, where I hope he is able to break several exclusives, such as which show does Ted Nolan watch -- Grey's Anatomy, CSI or The Office? Inquiring minds want to know.

By way of quick background, I've been an Isles fan for about 25 years - first watching the Isles during the Stanley Cup dynasty, following them through the Easter Epic, going crazy in Bayville after Volek's goal, cringing through 1995-2000, and finally glad to see playoff hockey back making more regular appearances on the Island. The Isles still have some work to do (and a new building wouldn't hurt either - I love the Coliseum, but as we've learned in recent months, free agents do not), but at least one thing seems guaranteed: with Ted Nolan at the helm, these guys will play their asses off.

So once again this year, the Isles are expected by the "experts" to finish out of the playoffs. Personally, with the additions of Bill Guerin, Mike Comrie, Ruslan Fedotenko and Andy Sutton, and the return of Sean Bergenheim, I believe the Isles could surprise once again this season. And if they show as much fight during the season as they did during that preseason brawl with the Rangers (poor Al Montoya never stood a chance), it should make for a very fun season.

I'll be checking in every so often with various thoughts on the Isles, the Coliseum, the Atlantic Division, etc. -- but until then, I'm looking forward to October 5 at a much weaker Buffalo.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ted makes way for Al


This story has been picked up by several media outlets and fellow bloggers, but in case you missed it Al Arbour is returning! On November 3rd, the finest coach in Islanders history will get behind the bench for his 1500th game. We think it's a great move by Ted Nolan and Isles management, not only for the publicity that surrounds the event, but as a nod to history. In the current sports landscape, too many teams are quick to discard their history. The current Islanders, clearly living in the shadow of former glories, are at least acknowledging and displaying pride in their far-too-distant dynastic era. The newer, younger fans will get a chance to see (and hopefully meet and speak to) the great coach later this season. If you're an Islander fan, someone wrote, that game is a "must attend."

One question though: If the Isles win the game, are they going to change the banner in the rafters to read "740?"

Friday, September 21, 2007

We're All Islanders (Bloggers)

Welcome NYI Blog Box readers! We're so excited that the Isles have decided to make Okposo Net part of their new BLOG BOX feature. We hope to bring you all of the fresh Kyle Okposo news as it rolls in.

We must correct an injustice, though. If you found this blog through the aforementioned Isles website, you'll see a picture (unflattering) and bio of Ken Dick, known here as 'Okposo Island.' But not pictured, and deserving equal or more credit for his effort is Brett Schmitt (Okposo Nose). He's an experienced blogger and runs another Isles blog, Former Islanders Watch (http://formerisles.blogspot.com).

Brett has recently packed up his bags and moved to Beverly (Anaheim, actually) and he and his wife are expecting their first child any second now. No, I'm not joking, it could be happening right now. Or now. Anyway, he'll still be contributing to both blogs and when not juggling school and family you'll find him screaming himself hoarse for his beloved Islanders on the road versus the Kings or Ducks.

Before the season starts, we may be able to get some pictures of the Hockey Hall of Fame up for your viewing pleasure. It was a great experience, and we took lots of Isles-related pictures while there. I suggest it to any hockey fan who finds themself in Toronto.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A New York State of Mind

Hello hockey fans!

Well, it's our favorite time of the year -- hockey season! Okay, sure it's in the 70's outside and the Mets and Yanks are still doing their thing, but in this part of cyberspace we're focused on ice, vulcanized rubber, red lights, and twine...

Yours truly has been hanging out in Canada most of the summer, and have hardly had a chance to put down the Molsons and write something. But no more...The good news is that Okposo starts playing meaningful games again on October 12th...and the Isles are already working the legs in those preseason games. Sure, they dropped the first two contests, but I don't think anyone is putting too much stock in that. We're just glad that the Zamboni is oiled up and the leaves are ready to turn. Before you know it the snow will be flurrying and the pucks will be a-flyin' for real.

One minor note, last week the Isles traded former first round pick Petteri Nokielainen to the Boston Bruins for Ben Walter and a conditional 2nd round draft pick. Walter is regarded as a prospect and at 23 years old here's hoping we get to see him in Uniondale sooner rather than later.

Monday, July 9, 2007

One more year...


While we here at Okposo Island have been enjoying our summers (and we certainly hope Kyle is enjoying his), it's just too darn hot out to think about hockey. But think about this: Kyle, who felt his development hasn't reached a level where he would be comfortable competing against professionals, has decided to return to Minnesota for his sophomore year. We support his decision to continue his education, and just think of what another year in one of college hockey's toughest divisions will do for his game. We're not looking at this as a year delayed, but as a year of improved skills before he makes his way to the Isles. See you in September Kyle, when you're once again 'schooling' goalies from Michigan, Wisconsin, and everywhere else.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Minnesota Squeaks Through First Round

The Golden Gophers upended University of Alaska, Anchorage's playoff hopes this past weekend taking the best of 3 series 2-1. It wasn't easy for Minnesota who were trailing the Seawolves 1-0 in the third game before rallying for three unanswered goals including the insurance shorthanded goal to put the game away at 3-1. In 3 games Okposo had 2 goals. He now has 19 goals and 20 assists on the year (season and playoffs) and is tied with Jay Barriball for the team lead in points.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Regular Season Over - Okposo Team Leader

The Golden Gophers have found their MVP and his name is Okposo, Kyle Okposo. With the regular season officially wrapped up and Minnesota crowned with the WCHA title for best record the team can now look to the playoffs to do some damage, we hope. The finish to the year was not as strong as it began. In the end the Gophers were 26-8-3 (18-7-3 n the WCHA) after a fabulous start with only 1 loss in their first 24 games. But worry not, for the Gophers have KO, the man of the hour.

Okposo finishes his rookie regular season leading the team in goals (17), points (37) and tied for game winners (3). He finished second on the team in shooting percentage (.177) and powerplay goals (5). His 20 assists, 96 shots and +15 rating were good enough to qualify him for third in those categories as well. All of this while taking 4 games off to play in the World Junior Championship for Team USA. Not too shabby for a freshman.

And did I mention that Kyle plays with a gentlemanly style managing only 15 minor penalties in 33 games?

We can expect big things from Okposo in the future, but first, let us keep our eyes on the college playoff scoreboards. Go Gophers!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Back... with More

In our absence from posting the Golden Gophers have continued to steamroll the competition in the world of collegiate hockey. Kyle Okposo has also seemed to have regained his touch. Kyle is now back in first on the team in goals (17) and points (34) in only 29 games played. If offense is the backbone of Minnesota's "golden" season than Okposo must be the lower 5 vertebrae or the bone marrow or something like that. He is also third on the team in shots (86) and second in shooting percentage (.198). His 5 powerplay goals and 3 game winners are also tops on the team, albeit tied up with a bunch of his teammates in both categories. We here at OkposoNet can't wait to see what the college playoffs have to offer. Just wait until Kyle can show off in the Frozen Four.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No Net, But Plenty of Points

A sour weekend just passed as the Golden Gophers were swept by the University of North Dakota FIghting Sioux (is that politically correct?) in their two-game set. The Gophers have now lost three straight Friday games and have fallen to a record of 21-5-3. It was ND's first sweep in Minnesota in over 25 years dating back to February 1980.

One of the bright spots of the weeked for Minnesota was the 4 assist performace of Kyle over those two games (2 assists per night). Okposo failed to tally a goal, though, managing only 5 shots in total, all in the first game. With his recent points surge Kyle has climbed back in to second on the team in points with 29, two behind Alex Goligoski. We here at OkposoNet hold out hope that Kyle will find the net this weekend as the Gophers hit the road to take on the University of Alaska, Anchorage Seawolves.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Congrats

Congratulations to Jason Blake for making the All-Star roster. He is the Islanders' lone representative in this year's star-a-thon, for some reason being played in Dallas. We here at Okposo Net salute Blake (the Minnesota native) for helping to prove that America has talent, just really close to the Canadian border.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Top 5s

It's time to step away from home ice and examine what is going on around the world with ProspectWatch, a look at the Top 5 prospects in the Islanders organization.

1) Kyle Okposo - It's really no surprise that University of Minnesota rookie is on the list. Okposo currently leads the #1 ranked Golden Gophers in goals (15), shooting percentage (.221) and powerplay goals (5). He is also fourth on the team in points (24) while having played 4 less games than most of his teammates due to a stint at the World Junior Championship, the prestigious tournament for hockey prospects. He had 1 assist in his time with Team USA where he was surprisingly relegated to lower line status. All this at the tender age of 18. In fact, Kyle will not turn 19 until April 14th. Without a doubt one of the top names for the future of the Isles.

2) Ryan O'Marra - At 6' 1'', 193 pounds and pale white, the 19 year old Ryan O'Marra is not your typical product of a Tokyo hospital, but if and when O'Marra makes it to the NHL he would be the first non-goaltender born in Japan to play in the big league. Much like Okposo, Ryan played in this past World Junior Championship, this time for the gold medal winning Team Canada. As well, O'Marra has 20 points in only 23 games in split campaigns for the Erie Otters and Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He is considered by team scouts to be a commanding presence at Center and, following his final Junior year in the OHL, should join Bridgeport next Fall. He could even forseeably make the cut for the Islanders soon.

3) Denis Grebeshkov - After not agreeing on a contract in the pre-season with new GM Garth Snow, Grebeshkov was granted the option the play a developmental year in Russia. Under this writers' bias that move was a mistake. From the time he was playing with the Islanders late in the 2005-2006 season, after he and Jeff Tambellini were received in exchange for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel, it was more than apparent that Denis has loads of talent at the blueline. His quick passing ability and soft touch on the puck are a potential asset on any team's attack. At last count Grebeshkov had tallied 3 goals for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in 23 games as of late December. It should not come as a surprise then to learn that Yaroslavl is his hometown. Time will tell for Denis who will hopefully make it back into an Islanders uniform in the near future.

4) Jesse Joensuu - Forward Joensuu, a native of Pori, Finland, was the 2nd round 60th overall pick for the Isles in 2006. The towering (6' 4", 209 pound) forward has made a lot of progress with the local Assat team in Finland. The proudest moment for Jesse, though, came this winter when he had the chance to strut his stuff for Team Finland in the World Junior Championship, a competition in which his 2 goals and 2 assists in only 7 games left him a future Finnish star-in-the-making. Since Joensuu is a physical forward, fans can only hope he makes the leap to the NHL sooner rather than later.

5) Rhett Rakhshani - It is not everyday than a South Asian-American from Orange County, California makes a name for himself, but Rakhshani has already started. Number 100 overall in the 2006 draft Rhett showed off for Team USA in the World Junior Championship Under 18s with 5 goals and 1 assist in only 6 games. Playing for University of Denver the freshman Rakhshani leads the team in assists (20) and is third in points (25) in 26 games. He has shown a lot of promise in only his first season of college level play and fans can look forward to a future from this talented Asian hockey player from Southern California.