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Rich and Wade help red-hot Bellingham get even hotter in Nor-Pac

02/07/2014, 12:45am MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to

With Cody Rich sharing the league scoring lead and team captain Mason Wade settling into fifth place, the Bellingham Blazers have climbed to the top of the Northern Pacific Hockey League standings.

More importantly, the Blazers are improving as the season goes along, just as they did a year ago.

Bellingham made its debut in the league last season and gradually climbed to third in the final standings. Then it put everything together for the playoffs and pulled out a pair of overtime wins in the final to rally from behind and take a five-game series win over the regular-season champion West Sound Warriors in the Cascade Cup final.

The Blazers and Warriors are battling again. They see each other often in a five-team league, and after West Sound had the advantage early, Bellingham has won the last four meetings during a 17-game winning streak that has improved the Blazers to 31-5-0-0.

“It’s just the process for us over the course of the season is about development,” Blazers coach Mark Collins said. “We have a few new players. We have a talented team, but early on, teams were able to take advantage of our mistakes.”

The mistakes are less common, and the support for returnees Rich and Wade is more plentiful for the Nor-Pac’s top team.

“We got some real good natural goal scorers on the team,” Collins said. “We recruited some out-of-town guys, and that has taken a little pressure off Cody and Mason.”

Ty Hubbard, from Fort Collins, Colo., was added this season and is second in scoring among Bellingham defensemen behind Scott Hansen, a holdover who joins Rich and Wade in playing for their hometown team.

Collins has coached both Rich and Wade since their Peewee days and has watched each player add to his game this season. Both are closing in on their production for all of last season. Rich leads the league in goals (41) and game-winning goals (9) and has 84 points in 35 games to share that lead with Peter Mingus of the Warriors.

“Cody has always had such a tenacity to his game,” Collins said. “The best way to describe him is relentless. He wants the puck on his stick all the time.”

Rich had eight points Jan. 25 in a game against the Vancouver Vipers, producing his second four-goal game and fourth hat trick of the season in the process.

“He has phenomenal speed flying down the right wing,” Collins said. “And, now he’s shooting the puck properly. He’s able to pick targets.”

Wade, a center, has four short-handed goals while scoring 25 goals and adding 39 assists in 32 games. Collins played Wade as a defenseman in his youth days because of his puck-rushing ability, but Wade never quite got comfortable in that role. He has continued to develop since the Tier III junior team started in Bellingham last season.

“The reason is he’s kind of understanding what’s good about his game,” Collins said. “Last year, he tried to do too much one-on-one. Now, he sees the ice better.

“He’s seeing where Cody is and is able to hit him flying up the wing. We’ve used so much more give-and-go this season. We’re a quick team. If we can get teams to turn over the puck, we can go.”

While his own game progresses, the team captain likes what he sees from the team.

“Our team is a lot more skilled this year,” he said in a story on the team website. “There are a lot of younger guys who want to move on. ... Last year, we were obviously good, too, but the chemistry is coming together sooner than last year.”

That is a bad sign for the rest of the Nor-Pac.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Called up to The Show

09/26/2016, 10:45am MDT
By Kelly Erickson

Three USA Hockey officials earn the chance to officiate in the NHL for the first time this season

For the majority of young hockey players, their dream is to skate in the National Hockey League. They want to be the next Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter — the list goes on. This season, starting in NHL training camps, three young Americans will make their dream a reality, with one caveat — instead of playing, they’ll be officiating.

Ryan Daisy, Furman South and Cameron Voss, three USA Hockey officials, were each recently offered NHL contracts and will attend their first NHL training camps this fall.

“It’s been a dream come true, really,” South said. “I’ve dreamt of being in the NHL my whole life. I grew up playing hockey from a young age and have been a hockey fan my whole life. Ever since I learned to skate it was always a dream of mine to be in the NHL. For most of my life I have dreamt of being there as a player, but once I was done playing, my dream was to make it as an official. And I made it. I can’t wait to have my first NHL game.”

Daisy echoed the sentiment, noting that making it to the NHL level as an official has been a goal of his for awhile.

“It feels awesome,” Daisy said. “I’m sure there will be a lot of emotions going on in my first game, the first time I touch the ice in the NHL with the NHL crest on my sweater that I’ve been dreaming about for years. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

It’s a dream made reality for all three, and the ultimate payoff for many years of hard work and sacrifice.

“It’s an accumulation of all the sacrifices my family has made for me, all the supervisors and friends along the way that have helped me,” Voss said. “It wasn’t just me, it was a collection of people that pushed me and made me believe and work hard. It’s a pretty overwhelming feeling being at this point. I’m just glad all the sacrifices that we’ve made have paid off. I’m very blessed and humbled by the whole experience.”

Voss, South and Daisy were drawn to officiating from different paths, but once on it, they both climbed through the ranks and took advantage of the USA Hockey officiating development initiatives, including summer camps and the USA Hockey Officiating Program for South and Daisy to hone their skills.

Voss was the first of the three to don the zebra stripes, becoming an official at age 12, working alongside his father. It was his way to help pay for his hockey gear and get extra ice time. After closing his collegiate career at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, pursuing a career as a ref became a reality. He attended an officiating summer camp and saw all the opportunities available to work in higher-level hockey, and before long, he was working his way through them, spending time at the youth, high school, junior, NCAA Division I and professional levels in the American League.

“My eyes lit up really wide and I was just eager to start the process,” Voss said.

“USA Hockey gave me lots of opportunities to learn and hone my craft. The people involved in USA Hockey, they sacrificed a lot of time … they helped me out tremendously, especially at the grassroots level. They let me learn and grow and even let me fail and learn from those experiences. USA Hockey helped me from when I first started when I was 12 to when I got the call (from the NHL) in July.”

South played NCAA hockey at Robert Morris University. When he graduated in 2012 at age 24, he simply wanted to find a way to stay involved in the sport about which he was so passionate. He tried coaching, he instructed at camps and then he got a chance to ref a game and he loved it. He’s officiated everywhere from high school up, spending last season in the American Hockey League.

“It kind of came naturally to me and I realized it was something I wanted to pursue,” South said. “A couple of years later, it seems to have worked out.”

Daisy was drawn to officiating because it was a way to be in the game, to skate on the ice. His dream of becoming an official firmly solidified when he joined the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program during his senior year of college. With some early success, he was offered a contract to work in the United States Hockey League full-time, fueling his aspirations.

“(USA Hockey) will do everything in their power to help you achieve your dreams, no matter what level of hockey it is,” Daisy said.

From his Level 1 seminar to summer camps to his job in the USHL, Daisy has felt extreme support from every manager and mentor along the way, noting they all wanted to help him be a better official.

“You’re learning from the best,” Daisy said. “You’re learning from guys that are either currently in the NHL, have been in the NHL, officials that have worked international hockey and college hockey. They’re out there helping you become better.”

South also credits the USA Hockey Officiating Development Program as a factor in his success, noting Scott Zelkin, the Officiating Development Program manager, and the program itself gave him every opportunity to succeed as an official. To make his dreams come true.

“I can’t say enough about USA Hockey and the Officiating Development Program,” South said. “I wouldn’t have had this chance with the NHL if it wasn’t for those guys, that’s for sure.”

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