Eichel nabs MVP honors at CCM All-American Prospects Game

Eichel nabs MVP honors at CCM All-American Prospects Game

Eichel nabs MVP honors at CCM All-American Prospects Game

Buffalo played host to an impressive array of draft eligible prospects last week including a pair of players expected to be picked in the top-five.

Jack Eichel and Noah Hanifin headlined the 2014 CCM All-American Top Prospects game as the city of Buffalo and First Niagara Center played host to the event for the second time. The game will remain in Buffalo again next season as well.

A light crowd took in the game as many seats were left empty despite the Sabres distributing tickets to season ticket holders this year. Despite the presence of the draft’s second most sought after player (and the third depending who you ask) marketing for the event was light and the crowd reflected that. However, the hockey didn’t disappoint.

Eichel was dynamic throughout the game and created opportunities from puck drop. He finished the night as the game’s MVP after finishing with a goal and an assist. It was the goaltenders who stole the show to start. Luke Opilka and Mike Lackey were phenomenal through the first 20 minutes as they consistently turned away high-quality chances. As the pair made the first period a goaltending duel, Teams Olczyk and Grier made the final 40 minutes a shootout. Alec Baer finally broke the scoreless tie just five minutes into the second period and Brendan Warren answered for Team Olczyk just over a minute later.

Baer and Warren’s tallies would be the only goals surrendered by Opilka and Lackey as they gave way to Ryan Bednard and Ryan Larkin midway through the second. The cold goaltenders didn’t have much time to settle in as Eichel combined with Jeremy Bracco for a pretty goal midway through the period. Karch Bachman would add another tally for Team Grier while Tom Novak scored for Team Olczyk to bring the score to 3-2 after the second.

Eichel would eventually register the game winning goal as three third period tallies from Team Grier iced the victory. Eichel and Bracco each had two points and Eichel’s game winner and dynamic play helped preserve MVP honors.

Next for this group of players will be an important year with their respective clubs. Many will be positioning themselves for spots on the US World Junior Championship roster as they work through their season in junior or NCAA.

For Buffalo, their relationship with USA Hockey continues to blossom. HARBORCETNER is set to host the NHL Combine and will most certainly hold most, if not all of next year’s All-American Prospects Game participants. The next US bid for the World Junior Championships will likely see Buffalo as the host yet again as the city’s proximity to Canada and love of hockey helped draw record crowds in 2011. Another key will be ensuring next year’s event sees a better turnout.

Unfortunately the Sabres didn’t do too much public outreach for the event as it is truly a USA Hockey property. However, the Sabres had an opportunity to shout from the rooftops that two of the draft’s top three prospects were going to be playing against each other at First Niagara Center. The team’s president often preaches about the hockey IQ in Buffalo and this is the type of game that not only allows the region to show off that supposed IQ, but to grow it as well.

This is also an issue that lies with the game itself. It’s a very new event without the name recognition or prestige of the CHL Top Prospects game. While this year’s game boasted a pair of lottery picks, that isn’t the case each and every year. USA Hockey and their respective hosts need to continue to promote the fact that there are elite players playing each year to ensure that American hockey fans take notice of this very cool event. Perhaps we are still a few years off from seeing arenas with more fans than empty seats, but the process is certainly in motion.

One thing is for sure, the on-ice product in each event has been spectacular and that doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.

CCM Tacks Stick Brings the Power

CCM Tacks Stick Brings the Power

CCM Tacks Stick Brings the Power

CCM is all about explosiveness these days. The new SuperFast stick, the Tacks skate and now the Tacks stick.

With a focus on adding power and explosiveness to a player’s game, CCM has built a lightweight stick with a mid kick point that should allow heavy shooters to get even more behind their shots. Meanwhile, CCM added a new feature to the blade to ensure the additional torque and power created by the shaft is channeled through to the puck.

The Tacks stick’s mid kick point is geared towards players who like to load up shots and really let them rip. Unlike sticks with lower kick points that promote a quicker release, the Tacks stick allows a player to really lean in and load up powerful shots. While this development favors players who like to blast slap shots it doesn’t mean that forwards who play with a bit more finesse won’t see terrific results either.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the stick is the upgrades made to the blade. CCM has reinforced and strengthened the blade on this stick with a feature they refer to as the AttackFrame. This provides an extra stiff construction that features reinforcements that run throughout the interior of the blade. This addition means the blade with twist and flex far less than other sticks on the market. That means increased accuracy for sharpshooters and additional durability for players whose sticks take a beating on offense and defense.

CCM Tacks Stick now available at Greatskate.com

CCM Tacks Stick now available at Greatskate.com

Eliminating blade torsion will be a welcome improvement for every player as the stiffer blade ought to stay true in terms of accuracy for a longer period of time. However, adding this much to the blade creates the risk of losing feel for the puck. CCM had to be very careful with how they positioned the reinforcements – much like what Warrior executed so well with the Dynasty AX1 – as to not create a dead blade that didn’t translate any feel or responsiveness to the player’s hands.

One terrific feature of the AttackFrame is that it will be part of the entire Tacks stick line. So even if you’re shopping at a lower pricepoint, you’re sure to reap the benefits of CCM’s new feature without having to stretch for the pro model stick.

As someone who prefers a durable stick to one that is ultra-light, the Tacks stick provides a little bit of both as it weighs in well below 500 grams while sporting design features that should not just translate to your stick handling and shooting game but also be able to last through the rigors of a season.

CCM RBZ Superfast

CCM RBZ SuperFast Stick

CCM RBZ SuperFast Stick

In their everlasting search to create a stick that produces the quickest, hardest shot, CCM has again made a major modification to their RBZ stick.

The CCM RBZ Superfast will be in stores soon and is the third model in the RBZ lineage.

The Superfast, in addition to inverting many of the graphics from the previous two RBZ sticks (white to red) will utilize new technology to add an even higher C.O.R. to the blade. This is an improvement to the RBZ Stage 2 blade that already featured a much hotter blade than the original RBZ stick.

CCM is referring to the new feature as the SpeedPocket which will be an even wider area when compared to the Speed Channels in the Stage 2 that offers a quicker release. The theory at work here comes over from golf and CCM’s partnership with TaylorMade and the focus on hot, springy club faces on clubs. The original RBZ used hollow areas in the blade that helped to create a trampoline effect on the blade, thus helping players develop a stronger shot.

The evolution saw CCM alter the Speed Channels to take up a bit more space and add a bit more heat to the puck. Now, the Speed Pocket will help to increase the results of you shot even more. It’s my expectation that the Speed Pocket will be one large opening inside the blade compared to the smaller channel designs the defined the Speed and Freak Channels on the RBZ and Stage 2, respectively.

The other, more obvious change is in the graphics package. While the look and colors remain the same, CCM has gone with a primarily red stick that transitions to black at the top of the shaft. This differs from the white blade and shaft of both the RBZ and Stage 2 which really served to define the line and link the product to TaylorMade in terms of design.

The RBZ SuperFast hits shelves in August and will give CCM one of the most sought after products as the 2014-15 season is set to begin.

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

CCM promotes explosiveness with the new Tacks skate

 

The new CCM Tacks officially hit the shelves this morning as the return of one of hockey’s most storied equipment lines makes its return.

CCM poured a ton of new technology into the new Tacks line, pulling from some of the success they had with the RBZ while introducing new performance features to make the skate a technological and performance-based marvel.

We talked a bit about the coming release earlier this year while a great deal of the features and technology were still under wraps. Although the skates were seen all over the NHL as they were tested by the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and John Tavares, there was still much to learn about the new skates. Tomorrow everyone will get a chance to experience the new features CCM has included on their newest set of wheels.

One of the most important features that CCM added is the Attack Frame that reinforces the area along the eyelets and the upper heel portion of each boot. The Attack Frame is a carbon fiber reinforcement that stiffens those two specific areas to promote quicker, more explosive starts. This is promoted by CCM’s Pro Core, which has various levels of stiffness throughout the boot to work in unison with the Attack Frame.

The Pro Core is stiffest in the areas where the Attack Frame reinforces while adding stiffness through the middle of the boot in the area between the two stiffest portions. Meanwhile, the Speedbalde 4.0 holder and Hyperglide steel gives the Tacks a similar attack angle as the RBZ’s that promotes cornering and agility.

CCM is also introducing a new Tacks stick to their growing product line. The Tacks stick features an Attack Frame reinforced area designed to reduce torsion during shooting. The new stick also sports the sharp black and gold graphics package of the new skate.

CCM set out to create a skate that provides players with the fastest five steps in hockey. They achieved their goal by finding key areas to add stiffness and promote responsiveness so the most elite skaters would feel the difference in their stride. It’s truly a skate that puts you one stride ahead of your competition.

Bauer reigns supreme at the Stanley Cup Final

Bauer reigns supreme at the Stanley Cup Final

Bauer reigns supreme at the Stanley Cup Final

Bauer reigns supreme at the Stanley Cup Final as the equipment giant can claim it is getting the most usage in each major gear category at the Final.

The only close category is sticks, which is the only category in which Bauer doesn’t hold over 50% of the usage. Their 42% share still towers over the next closest manufacturer (Easton) who slots in at 17%. It shouldn’t be too surprising to see the stick category as the most diverse in terms of usage as every manufacturer offers a number of similar, elite products. In fact, Bauer’s dominance in the category is based on their three different lines as opposed to one singular product as is seen by the overwhelming number of players wearing Vapor skates.

One other category that isn’t illustrated above is goaltender equipment. With David LeNeveu currently serving as the Ragners’ backup, there is a 50-50 split between Vaughn and Bauer users. If and when Cam Talbot returns, Vaughn will hold the majority (Quick and Jones) with Bauer and Reebok each having one goaltender wearing their equipment.

To further break down the goaltending category, Lundqvist and Talbot each wear Bauer helmets, Jones wears Pro’s Choice and Quick uses Sportmask.

These are always fun graphics to look at just to see the vast diversity of equipment used by each player. Try to figure out who is wearing what over the rest of the series so you can line up individuals with the graphic above.

CCM going back to Tacks

CCM going back to Tacks

CCM going back to Tacks

The return is coming. CCM will be reintroducing the world to the Tacks line in the coming months as the manufacturer brings a new skate line to complement the RBZ line that burst onto the scene last year.

Already being used in the NHL, Nathan MacKinnon made the unofficial news official when he posted a picture of his new skates to his Instagram account earlier in the season. While MacKinnon’s picture simply added fuel to an already burning fire of rumors and whispers about the skates, the official unveiling of the line won’t come until July ‘14.

The Tacks, on the surface look like a combination of the RBZ and Bauer TotalOne in the aesthetics department. It’s a sleek skate with bright yellow graphics that pop off a basic black boot. The design of the boot has plenty of surface similarities to it’s cousin, the RBZ. Adding in a Speedblade 4.0 holder and Hyperglide blade provides even more similarity between the two skates. Additionally, you can deduce that the Tacks will share the aggressive stance and turning radius that the RBZ boasts.

The comparison to the TotalOne is simply drawn from the yellow trim on a black base. However, the Tacks will utilize a stiff carbon boot construction designed to add straight-line explosiveness. Two features, the AttackFrame and T6 Pro Core will combine to add stiffness and high-end performance for the wearer specifically for explosive acceleration.

Exactly where the skates will fall on the fit scale is an unknown as many specific details about the new line are still under lockdown. Understandably so as CCM is bringing back perhaps the most storied and celebrated skate ever and introducing new technology that will put it on the same level as the most popular skates in stores today.

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

What they’re wearing: Thomas Vanek

He’s the major piece in the first major blockbuster of the NHL season. Thomas Vanek was shipped to Long Island on October 27 and has plenty of new gear on his hands now that he’s suiting up with the Islanders. Here’s a look at the products that Vanek’s wearing this season.

Skates: CCM RBZ

Vanek, when he’s not using Warrior, is using CCM. He graduated to the RBZ this season after wearing the U+ for the last year or two. Vanek is a sneaky quick player who happens to spend a lot of time in front of the net. He needs a tough, durable skate that’s lightweight and the RBZ meets each and every one of those requirements.

Gloves: Warrior Covert

Warrior’s Franchise line may be the favorite among most players, but the Covert is a very close second. A glove with an anatomic build, the Covert offers a snug fit and excellent responsiveness. Exactly the type of glove a sniper like Vanek would want.

Helmet: CCM V08 with an Oakley Visor

Yet another pro who prefers the traditional VN foam liner to than of the more technologically advanced helmets that are on the market. A number of years ago Vanek was sporting the old Mission Intake before changing over to the CCM in the past few years. It’s hard to argue as the CCM helmet line passes the comfort, protection and mirror tests with ease. Vanek’s Oakley visor is the Pro Straight small. It’s a slightly scaled down version of Oakley’s Pro Straight with a small indent along the bottom edge. It’s not a notch or even curve, but simply a small change of height (more or less) that allows for a very nice field of vision.

Stick: Warrior Covert

If there’s one thing to be said about Vanek it’s that he’s a brand loyal guy. Aside from changing up his helmet brand, he’s been using nearly the same thing for about half a decade. Aside from graduating to new models each year, Vanek has been scoring piles of goals with Warrior sticks dating all the way back to the Dolomite. He’s now sporting the Covert taking advantage of the Dagger Taper technology and Warrior’s growing reputation for building some of the game’s best sticks.

Protective:

It’s hard to make out, but it does appear that Vanek is rocking Warrior’s Covert pant based on the Velcro on the inner thigh. However, it’s just as likely that he’s using an Islanders shell while continuing to use his Sabres pants. If that’s the case he could be in anything from a Warrior Hustler to even another company’s pant.

Leave a comment for us below on some players you’d like to see profiled in the What They’re Wearing section. 

On the Ice: Reebok RIBCOR

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

Reebok’s newest stick to hit the market is the much anticipated RIBCOR. A new development from the company that introduces new shaft technology that has never been seen before.

The RIBCOR has special ribbed ridges at the kick point of the stick designed to keep the carbon fibers in tension at all times. By doing so the stick not only becomes easier to load for shots, but produces much more kick because of it.

Reebok also introduced an interesting new set of texture zones along the upper portion of the shaft for this season. In addition to offering a full grip model, the non-grip stick’s texture zones provide a tactile area to offer a bit more feel during play. Add in the new SSX blade specifically built to stay stiff, rigid and strong and Reebok has built a slap shot machine not seen anywhere else on the market.

Out of the Box

One of the coolest things about the RIBCOR is the basic design features Reebok chose to utilize. It is a matte black stick with minimal silver or grey accents worked in. The RIBCOR logo and a few trim items are highlighted in a neon green, but it isn’t anything that’s overdone. It gives an attractive, low-profile look. The feel off the rack is great. It’s a well-balanced stick that is extremely lightweight. With or without gloves the texture zones stand out but aren’t over the top or distracting.

On the Ice

The RIBCOR responds very well from top to bottom. Reebok isn’t kidding around when they say the stick loads and kicks easier and stronger than most others on the market. The ribs do indeed increase the kick point of the stick and the results show right off the bat when taking slap shots.

The same can be said of the way the blade reacts. One teammate – coming from using an original CCM RBZ – was actually surprised at how much he had to compensate when taking passes and when shooting. It was the responsiveness of the blade that took him by surprise more than anything else. Much in the same way, he noted that the balance of the stick – while not perfect – was much more impressive than his RBZ.

Overall the strength of the stick was impressive as well. More than a few hacks and slashes found their way to the ribbed area of the RIBCOR during our game and it endured just fine. One added benefit of the pre-loaded ribs is that they help to strengthen that area of the shaft as well. Reebok actually built-out the taper in a different way than they have in the past for the RIBCOR and the added strength shows without limiting performance.

A few more ice times will certainly yield a few more goals and an even better feel for moving the puck with the new stick. But the RIBCOR is the type of stick that will wow you from your first spin in warm ups.

Bonus On the Ice: RBZ Stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

CCM takes scoring to a new level with RBZ Stage 2 stick

As a bonus for August, I’ll do a second product review from the CCM RBZ family. In addition to having a chance to try out the RBZ skates, I’ve also but an RBZ Stage 2 stick into my arsenal.

The Stage 2 has incorporated a number of new features that weren’t part of the original RBZ stick and the results are noticeable.

Out of the Box

I went with an 85 flex Hossa curve with no grip for my RBZ. The non-grip, matte finish looks very nice and has a nice, smooth feel to it off the rack and on the ice. In addition, the Hossa curve is a solid toe-curve that gives a high level of control.

What I like best with this stick is how it looks with white tape on the blade. Just as cool as the Easton Stealth was with black tape, the RBZ’s white finish looks really cool on the ice, framing the puck without much to disrupt the color distribution between the blade, shaft, puck and ice.

The new graphics package that CCM put in looks real good the first time you pick the stick up off the shelf and some of the physical changes are noticeable too. The original RBZ wasn’t nearly as well balanced as the Stage 2 and had a blade-heavy feel the first time you picked it up. The Stage 2 is ultra-lightweight and has a great balance when you first pick it up.

On the Ice

Unfortunately I’ve been enjoying quite the dry spell in the goals department this summer, so I can’t say the stick has brought me positive results in the finishing department over the last few games. However, like with the original RBZ, when stickhandling and shooting the hot blade stands out. The speed channels in the RBZ blade are such a unique idea when it comes to hockey and the structure makes for a very firm blade when passing or shooting.

The overall feel of the stick is great. I love stick handling with it and have found that passing on the forehand and backhand has been excellent. While my shooting hasn’t been finding the net, I’ve noticed a nice pop off the blade with snap or slapshots. Even when taking wrist shots, the strong blade keeps the puck on plane and on target.

What I’ve yet to see translate with this stick is an overall consistency in my game. In only a few ice times I’ve had limited chances shooting the puck and haven’t really had a chance to tee off on any. I have made more than a few plays with my backhand as of late and I actually feel as if I’ve had a little more on those passes or shots – which hasn’t always been the case. While I’m not sure if the speed channels are to thank for that, I certainly would say the build of the stick has given it a truer flex, kick and strength in all areas.

I’m looking forward to getting this – and the skates – on the ice more in the coming weeks to get an even better feel for the return you get with the technology and perhaps also start filling the net on a regular basis.

On the Ice: CCM RBZ skates

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

CCM RBZ Skate and RBZ Stage 2 Stick

On the heels of their partnership with Taylor made to release the RBZ stick last season, CCM took a step forward in 2013 in not only revamping the RBZ stick, but introducing the RBZ skate to their line.

When I got around to getting the RBZ skates on the ice, it wasn’t the first time I had a chance to try a pair on. The CCM RBZ Demo Day afforded me a chance to take a spin in the new wheels and helped to inspire me to give the product a closer look.

Finer details of the skate’s design can be found in our product review posted earlier this summer.

Out of the Box

The RBZ is a very good looking skate. It’s a very basic, traditional look that goes light on accents and crazy desgins and heavy on dark colors. It is a nice way to disguise the all-carbon boot as the dark upper just looks like the outside of any old skate you’ve grown up wearing. Upon closer inspection, however, the details of the construction are more evident.

One difference with the RBZ over just about every skate on the market is how big they run. CCM constructed them to fit a little wider which practically sizes them up nearly one full size for most people. I’m anywhere between a 10 or 10.5 in skates and the RBZ I’m wearing are a 9.5. Keep that in mind when you go to try them on.

The wide fit is pretty much uniform through the entire skate and it isn’t reduced until they take a spin in the oven and get laced up the first time. This doesn’t mean that putting them on out of the box gives a deceptive feel, but allowing them to bake and mold will do wonders in the fit and comfort department.

Most other facets of the skate are relatively basic. There’s nothing that stands out in store or even in the locker room in terms of the feel or ascetics. The physical attributes of the skate are another story as the incredible weight savings CCM used are the first thing anyone notices when they hold the skate.

This balance and weight work that CCM put into the RBZ is noticeable on the ice as well, as the skates are barely noticeable at times.

On the Ice

One word of warning on the RBZ skate; wear them around your house a lot. My previous on ice review of the Easton Mako revealed a skate that was pretty much game ready after baking. The RBZ is close but does need a little extra wear before your first ice time. While I didn’t get a chance to break them in further at home, I only experience slight discomfort the first time I got them on the ice.

Another thing that stood out to me was the fit once I was ready to go. The wide fit caused me to lace my skates a little tighter than usual to ensure the fit I have grown accustomed to. However, once I got the skates to a point I liked it was smooth sailing.

Since I’m not an overly fast or quick player, nothing much improves those attributes of my game. Yet, the three games I’ve worn the RBZ for have been ice times in which my cornering and edge work have been improved. While only an ACME rocket would give me more straightaway speed, I feel that my edges and in-tight agility have improved with the skates.

There’s something about the RBZ that makes me feel incredibly comfortable on the ice. While the wide fit was something I had to adjust to, the comfort level of these skates is completely unparalleled. CCM has a full line of skates in the RBZ family and each and every one is worth a long look when you come in to grab a new pair.