Countdown to Opening Night
Dayton Gems fans have much to look forward to with a nice mix of veterans and young players, an exciting young coach and the hopes moving forward after a strong 2010-11 season.
Last year the Gems placed eighth in the Turner Conference with a record of 32-29-5 (69 pts) but they were eliminated in the first round by the Rapid City Rush in a 3-game series.
The Gems were one of the surprise teams to start last season and spent some time in first place in the conference but finished 10-12-1 from mid-February on. This year they will look to start and finish strong.
The fans were ecstatic to hear that their captain, Greg Labenski, will be returning to lead the boys in the Gems sweaters. His defensive presence was felt throughout the league, and he was a big contributor for the Gems as he recorded 37 points (33 a, 4 g). His assist total was the second best on the team last year.
In addition, the club announced the resigning of veteran forward Chris Lipsett, who will be returning again as player and Assistant Coach. In 42 games with the Gems last year, Lipsett recorded 22 goals and 27 assists. His 49 points were the second most on the team, as were his 22 goals. The veteran forward accomplished those feats despite missing 24 regular season games.
Brett Lutes will be going into his eighth year as a pro hockey player and has much experience playing the game; luckily Dayton brought him back for another year as a Gem. Last season Lutes recorded 19 goals and 28 assists in 52 games. His 47 points were the third best on the team for the 2010-2011 season.
|Forward Brett Lutes
Fan favorite, Kyle Bochek will be returning again. He was one of three players to play in every single game last season. His hard work and dedication on and off the ice gained attention from the fans, and the coaches, and they decided it was best to bring the forward back for another year.
It is a good thing that Dayton has brought back so many key players because they will have to find a way to replace their number one point scorer from last year, forward Mike Vaskivuo. He separated himself from the rest of his team with 60 points (26g, 34a) in 65 games.
He was a vital player on the power play and the penalty kill, leading his team in shorthanded goals, and total shots. His rights were traded to Evansville, and subsequently traded to Rapid City, where he will be playing with the Rush for this upcoming season.
The Gems have made some big acquisitions but maybe none bigger than forward and ex-Allen American scorer, Nino Musitelli.
Last season with Allen, Musitelli finished third in points with 71, notching a team leading 34 goals (tied with Bruce Graham) and also leading the team with seven game-winning goals. His natural ability to score will be helpful in replacing Vaskivuo.
The Gems were proud to introduce goaltender Kristofer Westblom, a 2005 third-round draft pick of the NHL’s Minesota Wild. Westblom, 24, comes to Dayton fresh from Nova Scotia’s Acadia University where he was named the 2010 Acadia University Athlete of the Year.
Also, power grinder Ryan Hohl will be representing a Gems sweater this year and hopes to bring his physical play to the squad. Brian Gratz added, “Ryan is a feisty player and will give us added grit and intensity to go along with an already motivated team. I’m sure the fans in Dayton will love his style of play.”
First off, congratulations to the Dayton Gems for winning the 2011 CHL Community Relations Franchise of the Year award. It is their first time in the Gems organization that they have won a team award like this, and are very proud of it.
“We take a tremendous amount of pride in being recognized for our efforts in the community. Our owners, players, coaching staff and front office staff share a belief of making a positive impact in the Dayton community on a daily basis,” said Dayton Gems President Joe Greene.
Also, Dayton was happy to announce a new partnership this season with Cassano’s “The Pizza King”. The name of the ice rink inside the historic Hara Arena will be changed officially to “Cassano’s Italian Ice.”
“The Cassano family shares the vision of the Gems organization, with a strong belief in providing quality family products and entertainment in the Miami Valley,” said Gems Team President Joe Greene. “We have a number of special promotions planned for this season in conjunction with Cassano’s, and we couldn’t be more excited to partner with such a historic Dayton brand like The Pizza King.”
Friday, October 7 - Laredo Bucks
Saturday, October 8 - Evansville IceMen
Sunday, October 9 - Quad City Mallards
Monday, October 10 - Wichita Thunder
Tuesday, October 11 - Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees
Wednesday, October 12 - Fort Wayne Komets
Thursday, October 13 - Arizona Sundogs
Friday, October 14 - Tulsa Oilers
Sunday, October 16 - Bloomington Blaze
Monday, October 17 - Texas Brahmas
Tuesday, October 18 - Missouri Mavericks
Wednesday, October 19 - Rapid City Rush
Thursday, October 20 - Allen Americans