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IceCaps game report

Monsters Spook Bulldogs in a Battle of Brothers [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO:  Kyle Hagel | Sylvain Lefebvre  

HAMILTON, ON – There was a compelling storyline Friday night in Hamilton, with local son Marc Hagel in town with the visiting Lake Erie Monsters to face off against brother Kyle Hagel and the Bulldogs. Unfortunately, the 100+ friends and Hagel family members in attendance weren’t in for much of a game, as Lake Erie took it over quickly with a 4-0 advantage which they nursed to a 6-2 victory at the final horn.

Pugilist Kyle Hagel and brother Marc were one of two sets of brothers in Friday night's game (PHOTO: Dario Ayala , Gazette)
Pugilist Kyle Hagel and brother Marc – Hamilton natives – were one of two sets of brothers in Friday night’s game (PHOTO: Dario Ayala, Gazette)

The game started off on a sour note, as Joey Tenute ran Joey Hishon into the boards behind the goal just 13 seconds after the opening buzzer. Hishon lay on the ice for a long while, as Daniel Maggio dropped the gloves with Tenute, pummeling soundly before Jarred Tinordi stepped in to defend the game’s other Hamilton native. Five minute majors to Tenute and Maggio cancelled each other out, but it didn’t matter when seconds later a John Negrin pointshot squeaked through a crowd of bodies before beating starter Dustin Tokarski cleanly.

That first goal would open the floodgates for the Monsters, as defensive lapse after defensive lapse – notably coming from Joe Stejskal – ended up behind Tokarski. First a miscommunication and poor coverage between Stejskal and Peter Merth gave Luke Walker time and space alone in front of Tokarski and an easy tap-in. Then it was an open Andrew Agozzino taking a Tomas Vincour one-time pass and burying it into the empty side of the cage. Finally an individual effort by Paul Carey ended Tokarski’s night, as a pretty little move left the open half of the goal empty for his picking. The only thing the crowd had to cheer about in the first was when Marc Hagel was announced as collecting an assist on Carey’s tally.

A 4-0 Monsters lead did expand the brother factor in the game, as Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stepped in to relieve Tokarski, making his AHL debut. His brother, Joel Chouinard, is a Monsters’ defenseman who was playing in his ninth game of the season.

The second period saw little action, as Lake Erie sat back on their lead, and Hamilton couldn’t muster any offense until the final six minutes, when the team’s best chance came on an Olivier Archambault toe-drag in the slot which was stopped by Calvin Pickard.

Unfortunately, any momentum that may have been built by the home side was quashed just 24 seconds into the third when Agozzino batted a rebound past Gervais-Chouinard to put the visitors up five. They would add one more for good measure, when a Vincent Arsenault shot was popped up by Hamilton’s rookie netminder, and Dean Strong was first on the loose puck with only an empty net in front of him.

While the overall game was a disappointment for those in the crowd, the Hagel clan in attendance would get to see the other brother etch his name on the scoresheet as well. A solo effort by Kyle Hagel had him put a puck between a defender’s legs, skate around him, and fire a shot over a fallen Pickard, breaking the keeper’s shutout bid with his second tally – and first at home – on the season.

With just under five minutes to play, a Michael Bournival shot squeaked through Pickard to make the score 6-2, but it could be read as a mere footnote in the overall game story. One Danny Kristo offensive zone hooking penalty later, and the ugly outing was in the books.

No doubt it was a game to be forgotten for most – and this under the watchful eyes of the full Habs’ brass including Marc BergevinTrevor TimminsMartin LapointePatrice Brisebois, and Larry Carriere – but a night that won’t be forgotten for the Hagel brothers. “I had 70 tickets out, and Marc might have had a couple more, but those are just tickets we got for our family. There are probably more people we knew who got their own tickets,” said Kyle on a big homecoming for the pair. “[Marc] had a good performance. He looks like a really solid pro. I’m proud of him, and I can’t way to see how his career unfolds.”

Hagel being notably the resident enforcer on the Bulldogs’ roster, was there ever a thought of dropping the gloves with his brother? “He came up to me when we were down 4-0 and said, ‘Are you looking for a spark?’ Yeah! I am! And he just shakes his head at me. I don’t know. A lot of people have asked us that. Would it ever happen? Conceivably it could, but it’s not something we would plan. Maybe later down the road in our career if he was having a bad game and needed to prove himself to a coach to stay in the line-up, of course I’d do it for him.”  It is that giving attitude which made Hagel the Bulldogs’ nominee for AHL Man of the Year.

 

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IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Breeze by Heat with 5-3 Win [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Brady Vail | Alex Belzile | Joey Tenute

HAMILTON, ON – They say the first game home after a lengthy road trip is one of the toughest to win. But if Wednesday night was an indication, the Hamilton Bulldogs aren’t familiar with that expression.

After posting a 1-3-0 record on the road over the last two and a half weeks, the ‘Dogs returned to Copps Coliseum with a decisive victory, chilling the Abbotsford Heat by a 5-3 final score in a game they controlled for two periods but would ultimately have to survive a third period collapse. 

Bournival's 8th tied Patrick Holland for 2nd in goals among active 'Dogs this season (PHOTO: GETTY / RDS.CA)
Bournival’s 8th tied Patrick Holland for 2nd in goals among active ‘Dogs this season (PHOTO: GETTY / RDS.CA)

Hamilton got off to a good start with the game’s first quality scoring chance as Alex Belzile narrowly missed getting to the rebound of a Joey Tenute shot. Belzile was promoted to the Bulldogs’ top line with Tenute and Patrick Holland for the night – despite it being only the third AHL game of the tryout’s career – based on his production (a goal and two assists) in his two prior outings.

The Bulldogs would make good of their second opportunity however. Michael Bournival took a couple of strides off a Nathan Beaulieu pass and fired a hard wrister off the post and in on netminder Danny Taylor. With Gabriel Dumont in Montreal Bournival led the ‘Dogs in scoring coming into the game with 24 points in 56 contests, and the marker tied him with Patrick Holland for second on the team in goals with 8.

As rare as it has been for Hamilton to score first this season, on this night, they wouldn’t stop there. First Frederic St. Denis would one-time the rebound of a Philippe Lefebvre shot past a helpless Taylor. Brady Vail picked up his first professional point (in his third game) with an assist on the tally. Then just five minutes later, feel-good story Hamilton local Joey Tenute would collect a Belzile pass and fire a rifle top shelf.

The second period saw the Bulldogs add to their lead with a powerplay marker to make it 4-0. Nathan Beaulieu showed great agility in executing a quick spinorama at the point before feeding back to Patrick Holland. Holland would in turn send the puck cross-ice to Greg Pateryn whose slapshot found the back of the net for his 6th in just 27 games. Robert Mayer would close out the period with a number of quality stops as Abbotsford held a 27-16 shot advantage through 40 minutes, though those totals hardly reflected the balance of play.

Nothing has come easy for the boys from Steeltown North this season and this game would not be an exception. The Heat came out buzzing to start the final stanza and markers from Max Reinhart and Roman Horak quickly made it a two-goal affair. Hoping to settle his troops down, coach Sylvain Lefebvre wisely called a timeout.

And it seemed to work. Again the new top line went to work with Holland flashing skill to break in alone on goal, and while he was stepped, Tenute was Johnny on the spot for his second of the night, restoring a three-goal lead. Belzile registered his second helper of the game on the goal – his fifth point in just his third game – and was impressive throughout the night, regularly going hard to the Heat net.

Ben Street would reduce the Heat deficit to two, but that was as close as this one would come, as the Bulldogs pick up a hard-fought and well-deserved win despite what the shot clock might have one think. The win was made all the more impressive by the fact that no fewer than six players were making their Copps Coliseum debuts in the game.

“It’s a little weird for me, just cause I’ve never experienced anything like this,” explained Vail who – given his young age – will return to the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in the Fall. “I’m here to experience what it’s like at the next level and learn from the pro guys; what it takes, the work ethic, off-ice stuff. All the little things really. Good to get [the first point] out of the way, and hope I get a few more.”

Belzile, playing his first year outside of Quebec and a little self-conscious about his English, is also looking at this as a learning opportunity. “[The AHL] is way faster [than the ECHL]. Just the intensity – you can’t compare them. You have to be smarter – know what you’re going to do with the puck before it comes. Those little details, and I hope [my adjustment] is going to continue the same way.”

 

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IceCaps game report

Costly Penalties Sink Bulldogs against Griffins [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO:  Mike BlundenSylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – With fewer than 20 games to play in their season and the team still sitting in the Western Conference’s basement, every point is critical for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Moral victories are no longer good enough, and thus the squad could not take solace in hanging around for most of the game against a strong Grand Rapids Griffins Squad. In the end, a 4-1 defeat meant two points the home squad could not add to the bank on Sunday afternoon, and the margin for error becomes hopelessly smaller.

As has been typical of the team all season, the Bulldogs seemed unprepared to start tonight’s game, dominated in all zones through the first 20 minutes. An early penalty proved costly as – despite a number of outstanding stops by starter Robert Mayer – a rebound ended up in the slot and on the stick of a pinching Chad Billins who finished it off to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Coach Lefebvre was livid with his team's offensive zone penalties, two taken by Louis Leblanc (PHOTO: Graham Hughes, THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES)
Coach Lefebvre was livid with his team’s offensive zone penalties, two taken by Louis Leblanc (PHOTO: Graham Hughes, THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES)

Hamilton would take three more minor penalties in the first, a period in which they were outshot 16-6, but thanks to solid goaltending and a big 5-on-3 kill, managed to escape the period down just 1. For the second night in a row, the team’s best chances came off the stick of Patrick Holland – the ‘Dogs’ most creative forward offensively over the past few weeks – but he was unable to convert on either a Joey Tenute feed or his own individual rush.

The second period was a little more even, with few real scoring chances for either side. Steve Quailer had two whacks at a powerplay chance in front of Grand Rapids’s goaltender Thomas McCollum but could not be the former first round selection. The only other time Hamilton was menacing was on a Mike Blunden wraparound opportunity, but again the Griffins’ netminder was up to the task.

It seemed early in the third that the ‘Dogs might be able to escape with points by playing just a single period of decent hockey, as an early powerplay gave Nathan Beaulieu the room he needed to step up to the top of the face-off circle and fire a wrist shot that went off Mike Blunden‘s stick before finding the back of the net. Blunden was rewarded with a goal after regularly being one of the team’s top sparkplugs along with Holland and Joey Tenute.

But the momentum the team built was nullified when Philippe Lefebvre took a careless offensive zone hooking penalty – the team’s second such infraction of the game – and Riley Sheahean restored the Grand Rapids lead with the man advantage.

Blunden was at the centre of a bit of controversy near the third’s midway mark as he laid out Louis-Marc Aubry with a huge hit in the offensive zone. Aubry was slow to get up, and a melee ensued, but a powerplay which could have put the game out of reach proved fruitless for the Griffins.

“I thought I hit the guy clean, but I don’t really know, I’d have to look at it again. Definitely can’t take penalties in the offensive zone, but we gotta find a way to kill them,” summarized Blunden on a tougher night for the typically strong Hamilton penalty kill.

No matter how good their penalty kill, a team can’t take a seemingly endless string of penalties without it coming back to haunt them, and Louis Leblanc‘s second offensive zone infraction of the evening did just that, with Gustav Nyquist completing a nice passing play from a tough angle. Seconds later, Grand Rapids captain Jeff Hoggan skated into the zone and fired a hard slapshot on goal which also eluded Mayer, putting this one out of reach.

Understandably, coach Sylvain Lefebvre was short-tempered following a frustrating loss. “Stupid penalty was the reason we lost the game tonight. Robert Mayer gave us a chance to win, and we took stupid penalties after stupid penalties. You can’t win games if you end up in the box all night. Not against that team.”

The ‘Dogs will regroup by heading out on the road to visit St. John’s next weekend, and then Syracuse and Binghamton the following weekend. If any hope remains to salvage the season, they’ll need a perfect road trip before returning to Copps Coliseum heading into the season’s final month.

 

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IceCaps game report

Tokarski, Tenute Lead Bulldogs Over Heat [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Joey Tenute | Dustin Tokarski | Coach Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – On a day where former Hamilton Bulldog Cedric Desjardins was called up to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the man he was traded for, Dustin Tokarski, didn’t want to be shown up.

The ‘Dogs netminder has been nothing but stellar since being acquired by the Canadiens, and on Tuesday he recorded his second straight shutout, making 27 saves to earn a 2-0 decision over the Abbotsford Heat.

Tenute's fourth of the season stood up as the game winner. (PHOTO: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator)
Tenute’s fourth of the season stood up as the game winner. (PHOTO: John Rennison/The Hamilton Spectator)

Hamilton played a strong first period – a period that has been a weakness for them much of the season – but came away with nothing to show for it, as goaltender Leland Irving had the last word.

The second period was a relatively even one, as the sparse mid-week crowd had little to get excited about. One could say it was a tight defensive affair with both teams putting up barriers in their own end, but that would be a polite way of describing the unmotivated sloppy “action” (or lack thereof) taking place between the two bluelines.

There were few scoring chances either way, until a solo rush by Hamilton native Joey Tenute produced a highlight-reel goal with just over a minute to go in the period.

“I saw that I had a couple of guys with me, but I know on a play like that, the goalie is going to be thinking I’m going to make the pass and be cheating a little, and I just kinda went to my backhand and put it upstairs,” described Tenute. But the goal was initially waved off, and the referees had to go upstairs to confirm it hadn’t simply bounced off the crossbar. “I saw it go in, but I don’t think the ref did. No doubt in my mind. I saw it, the whole bench saw it. I think maybe the ref was the only one that didn’t.”

The Bulldog penalty kill was proficient throughout the night, limiting the scoring chances on Tokarski, but he came up big in the third period as Abbotsford pressed for an equalizer with Tenute in the box.

“Sometimes in the game you get momentum, sometimes with the powerplay even if you don’t score, and sometimes with the penalty kill. Guys feel very confident right now in their play and that they can keep the lead if they get it,” summed up coach Sylvain Lefebvre.

Tokarski wouldn’t take all the credit for the win, rightfully pointing to his teammates who – while they conceded 27 shots – kept most chances to the outside and allowed few true scoring opportunities.

“We’ve been playing solid 60 minutes of north-south hockey. Playing some good D and capitalizing on chances,” said the always modest netminder nicknamed ‘Ticker’ of a true team effort. “Guys are staying tight, keeping guys to the outside. Giving me the first shot and then clearing the rebound or I’m controlling it. I thought the D core’s been outstanding the last couple of games.”

In addition to usual stand-up efforts from Greg Pateryn and Frederic St. DenisJoe Stejskal had a particularly good game on the back-end, delivering several crunching hits.

The third period saves were all the team would require, as Louis Leblanc sealed the deal into an empty net after starting a rush that drew a late Heat penalty.

The win is Hamilton’s 9th in the last 13 games, but the team has to continue to take things one game at a time, as they remain far out of a playoff spot. “We’ve been in playoffs in our mind for a little while here,” said Lefebvre, concluding by anointing Tokarski the starter for the team’s next game Friday night.

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IceCaps game report

Beaulieu, Bulldogs Best Marlies in Final Battle of Ontario [with AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Nathan Beaulieu | Gabriel Dumont | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – Tuesday marked the twelfth (no, that’s not a typo) and final meeting between AHL rivals Hamilton and Toronto, and in a season series that has seen a lot of one-sided contests, this one was a dog fight right down till the final minutes. With numerous scoring chances throughout the night, it was the line of Gabriel DumontMike Blunden, and Joey Tenute that ultimately took charge, and a revived Bulldogs powerplay gave the team a 3-2 victory late in the third period.

Nathan Beaulieu - playing nearly 30 minutes a night for Hamilton - was credited with the game's winning goal.
Nathan Beaulieu – playing nearly 30 minutes a night for Hamilton – was credited with the game’s winning goal.

The flow wasn’t in the game from the outset, however. A choppy first period saw six minor penalties called, and despite a strong defensive effort by the ‘Dogs in killing off all four infractions against them, they fell behind 1-0 on a Will Acton converted pass from a tough angle.

In the team’s best period in quite some time, Hamilton would first even the score at 13:48 of the second when a brutal Toronto turnover shorthanded bounced off Joey Tenute and right to Gabriel Dumont. While his shot was stopped, Stefan Chaput was able to cash in his third of the year on a rebound, and the Bulldogs had a rare powerplay goal on the board.

Toronto kept things tight, regaining a lead on a man advantage of their own when an open Joe Colbourne snapped a shot top corner beating a slightly off-angle Robert Mayer. But it would take less than a minute and a half for the ‘Dogs to draw even once again. Dumont sent a hard centering pass across the ice, which bounced off the opposite board and on to the stick of Joey Tenute, whose blistering shot was tipped by Mike Blunden on the way in. The goal was a nice reward for Blunden who has been one of Hamilton’s top forwards consistently of late and had numerous chances in this game.

The Hamilton powerplay – in addition to the gift of a goal – looked as dangerous as it has all season, and Louis Leblanc had a few cracks at beating Jussi Rynnas on centering passes with one such advantage in the final ten minutes of the third. Leblanc’s play has greatly improved since the start of the New Year, and while his production is only slowly coming along, Habs fans should be encouraged that after a summer to fully recover, he should be ready to challenge for an NHL roster spot again in the Fall.

 But it would be the Blunden line again converting on a powerplay with 2:46 to go that gave Hamilton its first lead of the night. A Nathan Beaulieu point shot appeared to be tipped by Gabriel Dumont who was battling in front, and Dumont even reacted by dropping to a knee with an exuberant fist pump. But Beaulieu was officially credited with his fourth of the season.

“It went off my shaft, but then the ref was like, “I gotta give it to Beaulieu because I’m a little bit worried about the height of your stick,” so you know, I didn’t want to ruin that one, didn’t really care, it’s a big win,” joked (I think) Dumont post-game.

Toronto was handed a bench unsportsmanlike minor after the goal, and that was where things got strange. Moments into the Hamilton powerplay, the referee signaled a second call against the Marlies and Mayer took off to the bench for an extra skater. Yet when play resumed, it remained a 5-on-4 advantage. The situation was clarified with the official announcement, that Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins had been assessed a game misconduct, obviously not to fond of the goaltender interference call that led to what would stand-up as the game’s winning goal, and having thrown his clipboard to the ice.

With the win, Hamilton finishes the season with a 5-5-1-1 record against the Marlies, impressive considering the significant gap between the two squads in the standings. The Bulldogs still sit in 30th place in the AHL, but they’ve won two in a row and three in the last four. Beaulieu attributes both his own personal recent successes (being used in all situations and playing close to 30 minutes a night) and those of the team to guys becoming more comfortable at the professional level.

“We sat down and want to take it one game at a time. We got a big win in Toronto and I think it kind of sparked our team. We’re comfortable and we’re playing without fear. We’re not scared to make the plays we have before in different leagues.  [Greg Pateryn, his defense partner] has a couple of years on me, so he definitely knows a lot more than I do. We play really well together. I’m comfortable with him and he helps me a lot.”

 

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Feature

End of Lockout not a Cure-All for Bulldogs

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Dumont wouldn't be wrong to feel like he is "all alone" offensively for Hamilton this season. (PHOTO: Kaz Novak/The Hamilton Spectator)
Dumont wouldn’t be wrong to feel like he is “all alone” offensively for Hamilton this season. (PHOTO: Kaz Novak/The Hamilton Spectator)

TORONTO, ON – After starting the season inconsistently, hovering around the .500 mark for the first 23 games, the Hamilton Bulldogs’ 2012-13 campaign has seen far more downs than ups. In the 18 games that have followed, the club is an abysmal 4-10-4, which has left them 30th overall in the American Hockey League, six points behind their closest Western Conference rival and a full 13 points away from the eighth and final playoff spot.

It seemed all along like the ‘Dogs might be one of the AHL’s best positioned clubs to make a second-half run up the standings ladder with the National Hockey League work conflict resolved. It didn’t look like the team was going to lose any of its core players, it would benefit from weakened opposition league-wide, and it had a need to address – a veteran scoring forward – which it could focus on once the NHL fate of those sitting out had been decided.

But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Due in part to the health of Max Pacioretty, the Montreal Canadiens have decided to keep Brendan Gallagher – one of Hamilton’s top forwards along with Gabriel Dumont through the first half of the year – for the remainder of the season. Injures have meant Mike Blunden has also been largely unavailable to Hamilton, as he has served as press box filler for the Habs. The club inked local talent Joey Tenute, and while he has performed admirably with four points in six games, he is hardly the veteran fallen-from-grace-NHL’er many had hoped would be acquired.

What did the organization identify as a problem this season? If astute observers questioned the system – or lack thereof – the team had been employing, they may have been right. On January 22nd, in a move strongly reminiscent of the Canadiens’ dismissal of Perry Pearn a year prior, the team relieved Assistant Coach Ron Wilson – easily the most experienced man on the green staff – of his duties, citing a difference in philosophies with Head Coach Sylvain Lefebvre.  A strange move, but an early vote of confidence in the man Marc Bergevin picked to lead his AHL squad over the summer. This marked the second time Wilson has been fired from a job with the Bulldogs, previously leaving the team after the 2008-09 season only to come back on board for 2011-12.  He was the only holdover from last season’s ‘Dogs coaching staff.

That Hamilton is 1-0-0 in the post-Wilson era is very likely more coincidental than causal, and it’ll take more than a scapegoat if the team is to build any momentum. Admittedly the club’s schedule didn’t help in the month of January, with a 3-4-3 record not disastrous for a club that played only 4 home games the entire month. February will be much busier, so stay tuned to AllHabs.net for exclusive post-game player interviews and analysis following most contests at Copps Coliseum.

And the month to come should see some reinforcements. While no one is rushing Blake Geoffrion‘s recovery, the other AHL star lost early in the year – Aaron Palushaj – is inching closer to a return. On the blueline, rookie Greg Pateryn had his health status upgraded to day-to-day well over a week ago, and thus should be able to reintegrate into the roster in the coming days to make up for the hole left by the end of Mike Commodore‘s try-out contract. The defense should be one of the team’s strengths moving forward as the trio of promising youngsters – Jarred TinordiNathan Beaulieu, and Morgan Ellis – continue to gain experience and learn the intricacies of the pro game.

Tinordi was a bit of a surprise invite to the Canadiens’ abbreviated training camp, but his rare mix of size and agility combined with Montreal’s need for more toughness on the back end have accelerated his progression towards making an NHL debut, and he looks as though he may be ready to challenge for a job early in the 2013-14 season.

The inconsistencies in Beaulieu’s game have been noticeable, with stretches where he has seemed like Hamilton’s top d-man and other where he seems a long ways from being able to set up residence in la belle province. He is easily the most skilled of the Bulldogs’ defense corps, and if the logjam of offensive blueliners is cleared up this summer through a buyout for Tomas Kaberle and a trade of Yannick Weber, he too may earn some action in 2013-14.

Lastly, based on his dominance at the junior level and well-rounded game, some predicted that Ellis might have the more direct path to the NHL when compared to his first round selection counterparts. He hasn’t been overly noticeable, but that isn’t necessarily troubling for a player who battles hard and does all the little things right. The challenge for Ellis – due to his balanced game – will be to define himself as a professional hockey player.  It’s easy to say the Habs should call up Tinordi if they need size and toughness, or Beaulieu if they need scoring from the point, but under what circumstance will Ellis get his shot? For this reason, he might need a bit more seasoning before cracking the roster, so pencil him in for the Fall of 2014.