2018-2019 Finish: Northwest Division Finals
Standings/Record: 34W-14L-3OTL-0OTW (1st NW)
(Photo by Mark Mauno, WSHL)
The Seattle Totems almost made their first ever Thorne Cup appearance last season but a couple setbacks at the end of their historical year cost them the right.
The Totems and Bellingham Blazers duked it out for five consecutive games spanning from their final two regular season games into the division finals. Seattle had taken Bellingham by storm to claim the regular season title and was hoping to keep the same stride into the finals.
“We were trying to run them down pretty much all year,” Head Coach Mike Murphy said. “Kind of looking at the mathematics of it all, every time we would win or lose, or when they would win or lose, we thought it might come down to those last two games [of the regular season].”
With the division finals at Olympicview Arena, the Totems were skating in front of an eager home crowd. They took Game 1 by a convincing 5-2 margin and the scope of things started to look jubilant.
…But then the series comeback very few expected occurred.
Seattle was in the midst of a six-game win streak that snapped in overtime in Game 2 of the division finals. The Totes out-chanced the Blazers but Bellingham held on to win in overtime and then shutout Seattle for the divisional crown in Game 3.
“They deserved it, but, that was the closest we ever got to finally getting to the Thorne Cup, which is what we were trying to do all year,” Coach Murphy said. “It was hard on everybody to get that close and lose it in three games.”
Per Head Coach Mike Murphy, the Totems are only returning four players so it will be a different Totems team with the same desire to qualify for the Thorne Cup. They will be counting on the return of a few good men and seven Swedes.
The Totems found promise in Kulizade, picking him up just after the Showcase last season. Kulizade came in and made a difference right away to facilitate the late season playoff push. He played to a .915 SV% and 2.75 GAA in the 19 games he was in net.
“We don’t have many returners but getting Rusty [Rustam Kulizade] was a big one,” Coach Murphy said. “For this level he’s a pretty solid goalie.”
Now in his second season, the 18-year-old will get the starting nod but Coach Murphy is poised on seeing what his other goalies can do. On paper, Coach Murphy believes that Elvinas Karla and Jan Faltus can make their mark.
Karla is a 20-year-old out of the USPHL Elite’s Potomac Patriots where he held a .927 SV% and 3.29 GAA over 27 games. With much improved numbers from two years ago, Karla is looking at another step-up as he enters his first season in the WSHL.
Faltus, another 20-year-old rounds up the goaltending facet. Faltus comes from the Czech 3 league and is also a first year rookie to the WSHL.
After Kulizade, Coach Murphy mentioned the return of Cameron Waisman to be imperative. Waisman was a very effective player and his ability to be a difference maker wasn’t overshadowed by his 177 PIMs. Waisman had 33G-24A-57Pts. despite being heavily penalized.
(Photo by Mark Mauno, WSHL)
“He’s a big physical player, probably one of the tougher guys in the league,” Coach Murphy said. “We are trying to focus on keeping him in the games because he’s a force up front.”
Waisman was Seattle’s fifth leading scorer and comes back as the highest scoring returner for 2019-2020.
At the defense, you can expect Zack Zielinski to take a step up from last season. The big defenseman played in 42 games for the Totems notching 12 assists. Now in his second year, the Ohio native will have more initiative and is believed to be making noticeable improvements toward having a breakout season.
Ricky Bredberg was the first name that Coach Murphy uttered when speaking on new players to keep an eye on. Bredberg was a regular around the IF Sundsvall Hockey J20 team. In 27 games for Sundsvall, Bredberg registered 8G-8A-16Pts. Bredberg joins a list of six other Swedes to come to the Totems.
Coach Murphy seconded with Albin and Daniel Modin. The Swedish brothers both spur out of the J20-Elite league. Albin skated for Vännäs HC and had 14-points in 21 games while Daniel most recently represented IF Sundsvall. But all in all, the Swedish group, four up-top and three at the defense, is making good progress. Murphy is pleased with the work his Swedish unit has made through camp saying that they allow him to have depth.
The Totems have never had seven Swedish players at the same time on their roster. The added skill will act as a boost to overall offensive production, where Murphy says the team is still trying to iron things out.
To get back to last season’s heights, the challenge will be more difficult.
When looking at the Totems’ schedule and the new divisional outlook, the Totems will be frequently tested. They will face the Ogden Mustangs, Utah Outliers and Bellingham Blazers on a regular basis. They also have the Edson Aeros on the slate for three games—all top teams in the WSHL last season.
For Coach Murphy, the team is still hunting for a new identity as it largely revolved around the likes of Michael Shippee, Gabriel Sbop, Linus Eriksson, and Dominik Cach.
“I think we will be more of a speed team,” Coach Murphy said. “We are a little smaller than we’ve been. We do have a couple guys with size, but, we’ll rely on our speed, defense and goaltending. Those are our strong points and hopefully we can find a way to score some goals to win games.”