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Wick Schozen

Warman Aussies (Buzzer)

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When the league headquarters announced the sale of the Altona Dragons to an unnamed bar owner in the small town of Warman most around the league didn’t bat an eye. That was until it was leaked who had made the purchase.

 

“Wasn’t he banned from the league from his days in Howitzer?” One anonymous executive sent via text message “Heard he called the commissioner's wife a sex worker after being suspended for putting a fresh coat of lead paint in the visitors dressing room before every home game."

 

It was day 54 of season 2 that Wick Schozen returned to the business of professional hockey. Successfully finding a loophole in the bylaws of Buzzer, Schozen is now the owner, general manager and coach of the Warman Aussies. A mere eight days after the announcement Schozen has stripped any remnants of the teams Altona past and left no confusion in the direction the Aussies are headed in. 

 

“I’m not in the business of telling grown men to divorce their wives. I sleep better at night with a team of 20 year olds who have no idea they just signed their life to me in the fine print of their contracts.” Schozen said at his first press conference in front of the media. "To do that we’re on our way down to the SHL, anyone too undesirable to other teams to be traded will have their contract voided at the end of the season and their stink of mediocrity out of my locker room.”

 

This team of 20 year olds is already well into actualization. Through seven trades in as many days the Aussies have almost more draft picks for the season 2 draft as players on the active roster. As forecast, everyone over the age of 20 is going to see their one-way clause release them from the team. 

 

“We’re building this program from the ground up. To do that I need kids I can mold into competence. It’s the Nike sweatshop model. Children are employed to make shoes before they can wipe their ass. The ones that survive into adulthood are mercenaries on a sewing machine. Look how well Nike is doing as a company, the same model is coming to the Aussies. If these boys can tuck goals at half the efficiency that a nine year old can churn out sweatpants we’re going to have one hell of a hockey team in Warman.”

 

It was his ruthlessness as a general manager that led the Newcastle Fighters to a GHL Championship back Howitzer. But the seasons that followed were tainted by the Fighters failing to live up to expectations. Schozen’s reputation around the league worsening as his antics continued to get more elaborate in search of success. Without notice Schozen was out of the spotlight and Newcastle bought out and relocated. “I thought the guy was dead.” Another anonymous exec said to me, “honestly I preferred believing that than to know he’s back in the league.”

 

What Schozen manages to do at this seasons draft is going to be crucial for the long term success of the new franchise. With 11 draft picks in the bank he can afford to miss on a few, but Schozen is adamant that isn’t an option.

 

“I took my entire scouting staff with me when I left Newcastle. They’ve been following this draft class since they were 12 years old and have been accruing a bar tab with me the entire time. If any of these picks don’t turn out I’m making the scout that backed the player pay back everything they owe on their tab. With that amount of debt I’ll own not only their children but their children’s children. They know what’s at stake.” 

 


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With the season 2 draft set to commence late on day 88 we will be providing a comprehensive recap of the Warman Aussies prospects selected. With 13 picks total, five a piecing coming from the GHL 1st and 2nd round, the Aussies have an opportunity to lay their foundation moving forward. 

 

Many of the players selected during the GHL draft will have an immediate impact in uniform when the team descends to the SHL for season 3. Having four picks by the 20th selection are going to give the Aussies elite talent to compete in the SHL. 

 

Stay tuned for our recap.

 


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There were definitely some snide remarks from other tables on the GHL draft floor after Wick Schozen went up for his fifth and final pick of the first round. The jarring began after his third pick in the top fifteen. 

 

“Leave some good ones for the rest of us!” Was heard from the Wintersville Lancers table who own only a 2nd round pick, the 40th selection, after their first round pick was used by Schozen to select defenseman Jachym Pauliak

 

With the 25th selection on the clock, Wick took the podium again to select forward Jason Mellor with their final selection of the first round. By now many managers were besides themselves at the lunacy of this. With five more selections to follow through to the conclusion of the second round, the notion that one team can make nearly 20% of the picks on the first day of the draft was not favorable on the draft floor. 

 

The Northdale Whales table, run by a former rival Matti Suominen from their Howitzer days, made sure to share their positive outlook on the situation.

“It’s good to see you finally getting some exercise in!” 

 

Their implication of Schozen’s clear degraded physique after years of exile running the drinking hole of small town Warman while ‘tongue-in-cheek’ had some merit. When Schozen met with the media following the draft it was clear that the ten trips to the podium had fatigued the veteran GM. Not helping the situation was the Warman Aussies table being placed at the very back of the room. Upon demotion Warman relinquished all of their GHL draft selections, so regardless of their arsenal of picks, they were banished to the back reaches of the conference hall. 

 

Nonetheless Schozen sat with the media for a good duration, possibly for the lack of will to get up and leave, regardless a good picture was painted of the Warman general managers perception of their first day on the draft floor. 

 

“With our first pick at fourth overall we were able to take a player that we believe in a couple seasons down the line will emerge as the best player from this draft class. The development Aaron Mallard showed down their in the tire fire that was Forest Park in the U.S league, it speaks volumes of what he’ll be able to achieve.”

 

The taking of Mallard with the fourth overall pick after he finished with a final draft ranking of 18 was viewed as a very off the board pick. 

 

“We looked into the potential of trading down a couple picks. But at the end of the day if we felt we were taking a player that could be the best player in the draft why let the schmucks that compile the rankings influence our selection process. I’m sure there are other smart teams in the league that recognized his talent and he might not have been available at the 9th spot where we were picking next.”

 

With their next selection they took defenseman Pauliak. Another player that was taken ahead of his ranking, a trend of the day for not only Warman but many of the teams on draft day. The top goaltender Simon Holmer was taken 2nd overall after being ranked outside of the top 15 and Franscisco McPake shot up the draft board almost as much as Mallard to fourth. 

 

“With Pauliak we are taking who we know to be the best defenseman in the draft at this moment. I’ve seen enough other worldly talented 17 year olds have their career trajectory fall on its face because of arrogance. We’ll see with this kid if he has the sack to stay above his peers. His offensive game where it stands is a non factor in the GHL. If he can take the proper strides next year in the SHL he’ll be a good player. If he doesn’t, well I just used a top ten pick on a 5’9 shutdown defender. If that’s the case I’m not sure I want to come to work every day to be reminded of my wife in the bedroom. I’ll find better accommodations for him.”

 

The next three picks of the Aussies saw them select defenseman Danial Swilley, who fell from being ranked in the top 10 to the 13th selection. Followed by defenseman  Petro Kovalchuk at 20 and forward Jason Mellor at 25, both of whom were originally ranked outside of the first round. 

 

“Well Swilley falling to us at 13 was a pleasant surprise. We think he has the potential to be a really good defenseman. The selection of Petro was on the persistence of one of our scouts who backed the selection with the wellbeing of his family. I’d never seen the kid play but I’m more curious about how a kid with a name like that is an America? I swear if we lose a player to ICE operatives deporting an immigrant I don’t care what kind of player he turns into, that scouts family is ..”

 

                              What about Mellor, a reporter interjected?

 

“Mellor from what I understand is a 5’6 midget on the ice, great all round game but a p***y when it counts. Let’s hope this runt can do enough in the first period to earn his pay.”

 

Outside of the first round the Aussies selected forward, Gotfrids Ziemelis (30th), defenseman, Adolfo Kapp (36th), two goaltenders, Robin Guilmaine (42nd) and Thomas Whyte (48th) and centerman Nael Broadhurst (43rd). During the remainder of the press conference Schozen didn’t go into much detail about each player, but gave special attention to Guilmaine and Broadhurst. 

 

“Well Guily probably would have been the top rated goalie if he didn’t miss half of his 16 year old season to a skiing accident. I swear these rich Canadian families don’t have the capitalistic asset management of their children like American families do. This kid could’ve been starting for a GHL team next season. Instead they take a family vacation to Banff and next thing you know their meal ticket child is falling to the second round because he can't avoid stagnant trees on the slopes and is now being seized by a team headed to the SHL. And that Broadhurst kid. I like him, he reminds me of my own son before he disappointed all of us and said he wanted to join the peace corps. This kid is full of talent and just needs some direction. He’ll get a chance on the first line as Mallard’s centerman. For a 6’6 kid he’s weaker than a starved mutt, but we’ll feed him some steak from Warman’s number one slaughter house restaurant, Gutter Jims. Our loyal sponsor and the best feed you can get in town for a measly $10. Head on down to Gutter Jims for a family dining experience like no other. With a complete open glass panorama view of the slaughter house, Jims is the only place you can see the guts spilt from the animals that will soon fill yours.”

 

With that Schozen got up from the podium without any announcement and resigned to the convention center bar. Through some investigative sports journalism it was relayed to us from someone close to the bartender that Wick will not be in attendance to make the three selections his Aussies hold in the SHL draft held on day 100. The reasons for such absence are of the sorts that he refuses to sit in the same room as “the mouth breathers who run the teams coming up from the BHL.”

 

Wick Schozen’s reemergence to the professional hockey scene appears to be continuing in the same capacity that it was before his absence. We’ll be sure to keep you updated on his exploits as he tries to navigate this fresh team of 18 year olds out of the SHL. 

 


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Aussies Training Camp Day 1 Report

 

Season 3 for the Warman Aussies official commenced on day 4. In the Aussies first game of training camp they skated away to a 4-1 win against Valleyview Big Ducks. This was their fans first look at the new franchise. Sporting a roster that has only one player, Ricky Danielsson a prospect at the time, remaining after Wick Schozen acquired the team. 

 

“We are happy with how todays game went.” Schozen told reporters after the game. “These three days in camp will allow us to find the right combinations around our line up. This is where the players start to build chemistry and find their footing on the team. For the kids this game was the first time they’ve had to compete against men. This season will be a good introduction to the professional game for them before they start playing on some more meaningful ice."

 

Nine of the thirteen prospects taken in the season 2 draft made their debut in an Aussies uniform against the Big Ducks. Goaltender Robin Guilmaine was stellar in his camp debut, stopping 33 of 34 shots. How much he is leaned on this season will be of particular interest for fans. Veteran goalie Lennard Fransson, 39 years old, is speculated to be retiring after this season. Guilmaine will have this season to try and develop into a GHL caliber starter or else someone will be brought in above him on the depth chart to mind the net. 

 

Leading the way for the Aussies today was the formation of the MBZ line. Centered by Nael Broadhurst with Aaron Mallard and Gotfrids Ziemelis on the wings. The MBZ line combined for 8 shots on net, over 20% of the Aussies shots on goal. Leading to Mallard scoring the game winner assisted by Broadhurst. 

 

“Keep pushing that 'MBZ' tag. We’ve got that all trademarked and will be releasing merchandise soon. The SHL is going to be a bit of a financial sink hole for us. Right now the only thing keeping us afloat is the revenue from my bar. This line of 18 year olds together is poised to torch the SHL this season. It’s not out of the question that they could all find themselves in the leagues top 20 scorers, maybe even one of them setting pace for the SHL." 

 

This first game also provided a showcase of the Aussies foursome of 18 year olds that will hold down the teams top 4 of their defensive core. Listing three defenseman taken inside the top 20 picks in the GHL first round with Adolfo Kapp taken high in the second round. Together this group is an imposing foundation for the Aussies to establish their blue line upon. 

 

With majority of the Aussies core listed on entry level deals, GM Wick Schozen was able to surround his young core with big ticket free agents. Under $3M is allocated to their abundance of high octane rookies. With the remaining cap space, Schozen was able to fill out the Aussies forward depth with elite veterans. While some come at a price higher than market rate, the cap space allowed Schozen to sign everyone to one year deals, so not to infringe on later roster construction. 

 

“Look some of these guys were chasing their final big ticket pay day. But we’re dangling a championship in front of them. For a lot of them it was pretty simple, get $4.5M over three years and play in the minors for a GHL team or take $2M for one season and travel into every away game like Germany arriving in Poland in the 1940s. And for those that took those GHL deals just know that if you have a child that breaks into professional hockey I’m going to ruin them. I’ll trade for extra picks, draft their rights and destroy their career trajectory. Those we can’t draft we’ll wait until they’re signed longterm, trade for them and they can enjoy the remainder of their contract in the press box. I’m talking to you Mark Dallaire, put little Bobby in soccer because he has no future in this sport outside of the Ukrainian league."

 

Day 1 of training camp concluded with the announcement that 19 year old defenseman Theo Carruth and 21 year old forward Market Mc-Phail were told to leave their gear and report down the hall to the Big Ducks dressing room. They had been traded to acquire the rights to Iisakki Mäntylä who Schozen said he intends to sign to an entry level deal by the end of the day. 

 

“We hopped for a one for one swap. Similar players, just trying to sure up the left handed dominance in our defensive core. Big Ducks decided to push their chest a bit so they squeezed us for a prospect. I don’t like getting big dicked in my own arena, I’ll remember this. But we’re happy to get Mäntylä. He’s going to need some time in the minors but ideally he’ll be with us late in the season.”

 

The Aussies face the Big Ducks again on day 6 for their final day of camp. This evening they’ll be taking on the Stockton Vortex to finish off day 2.  

 


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Aussies Stumble In Seasons Start


 


To start the season the Warman Aussies General Manager Wick Schozen made some brass claims in his projections of his team in the SHL. Now a tenth of the way into the season at the 8 game mark, the Aussies have fallen short on many of those projections. Sitting on a 3-0-1-4 record, the Aussies are below .500 right now and are grappling with a litany of issues to start the season. 


 


The Goaltending


A lot of fans are going to point to the goaltending as the largest issue with the team right now. The Aussies have given up at least 4 goals in all of their loses and on three separate occasions conceding 5 goals or more. 


 


Veteran goaltender Lennart Fransson who is the only goaltender to have recorded any of the teams wins is currently sitting below a .900 save percentage. He’s been pulled twice in his six starts and is failing to set the tone as the veteran presence for young Robin Guilmaine. 


 


Guilmaine, coming into the season amidst much hype having the ability to develop into the teams longterm starter has done nothing to deliver on that perception yet. Having already been pulled in one of his first three starts, Guilmaine has clearly struggled with the adjustment to the pro game after leaving juniors. While currently sitting on an .863 save percentage and is averaging almost 5 goals a game his early season showing is nothing short of disappointing. 


 


Amidst the struggles though is the obvious fact of sample size. Both Fransson and Guilmaine could simply be stuck inside a slump. A shining glimmer coming through the clouds for fans to latch onto has been Guilmaine’s performance down in the minors where he spent three games to get his head right. Down in the AAHL he posted a .959 save percentage, giving up only 4 goals on 98 shots. The talent is there and it is a worthwhile exercise not to become fixated on first impressions and small sample sizes.


 


Unless of course the small sample size is that of his success. In which case there is nothing to be positive about and fans should look to refund their season tickets before the 10 game mark where they can no longer be refunded. 


 


Anyone playing defense?


To be fair to the Aussies blue line, they haven’t been terrible. They’ve only been outshot in three of the games. Not to mention, Danial Swilley, a staple on the Aussies top pair went down with an injury in the teams second game and is not expected to return until game 11. 


 


That being said, they are definitely underperforming the expectations that they had coming into the season. Petro Kovalchuk, who runs the teams currently faltering power play has only been able to amass 4 assists through 8 games. He needs to be better and he definitely knows that. 


 


Jachym Pauliak, arguably the top defenseman in the league albeit being 18 years old, has given no one that impression. While a defensively minded player, his two goals are again disappointing and his -5 +/- gives no credence to his defensive abilities. 


 


Having Swilley inserted back into the lineup, which should push down Dennis Amann to the second pairing is a more favorable situation for the Aussies. Mann has  shown well filling in for Swilley, offering an optimistic impression that he should excel away from the opposing teams top players. 


 


Yeah the MBZ


Shining early for the Aussies is the MBZ line. They alone might be the only deliverance Wick Schozen finds in his predictions. For any other team, without the lofty expectations, this line alone will give fans a reason to find some optimism. 


 


Aaron Mallard has proved all he’s been billed to be. An assertive two-way player who’s notched 11 points through 8 games to start the season. Mallard is the clear engine on this line. A blur up the left side drawing a lot of the focus for Gotfrids Ziemelis to get lost behind defenders. 


 


Ziemelis has shown well to start the season. 5 goals so far and appearing to be picking up as further chemistry is establish with Mallard and centerman Nael Broadhurst who has contributed 7 points himself. 


 


 


The early showing for the Warman Aussies has not been a vote of confidence for their promotion expectations. Yet they're only 10% into the season, coupled with the fact that this is an entirely new team fastened together, under a system the players are still getting familiarized with. There is enough time for the team to get back on track to begin ascending the standings. 



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Aussies Hot Streak, When's Schozen Streaking

 

Just over the quarter way mark of the season the Warman Aussies have taken hold of a promotion position. Sitting 2nd in the Western Conference and slowly gaining on the Highland Blazers who should prove to be a difficult team to catch with only 29 goals against through 23 games. 

 

Regardless the Aussies have put their season back on track going 12-0-1-1 in their last 14 after a shaky start to the season. The turnaround coincides with their goaltending tandem returning to form with Lennart Fransson sitting on a .911 and Robin Guilmaine who is currently in the AAHL while Fransson takes the reins through a tough schedule, is posting a .907 and climbing. 

 

The return of Danial Swilley to the lineup right as the team went on their run proved to the team and fanbase that his presence is an integral part of the team. He posted 10 points in that 14 game span on the backend. Beyond his offensive contributions, anytime a team can insert an 85 overall defenseman into their top 4 in the SHL is going to have an impact. 

 

Aiding to Swilley’s return is the signing of 81 overall defenseman Bryce Durfee from free agency. Posting 4 points through his first four games with the team. His inclusion into the lineup gives the Aussies a defensive core that has an overall average of 83 with the demotion of Iisakki Mantyla to the minors. 

 

The emergence of Jaimie Arterburn on the second line who posted 13 points in that span before going down with a ten game injury in the 14th game. His play which catapulted him into the top 15 goal scorers league wide was an invaluable development during the Aussies run. How the team can adjust to maintain scoring throughout their roster will be integral to continue amassing points towards their promotion efforts. 

 

Wick Schozen has gone on the record that the Aussies are actively working the phones right now in search of some further depth at center. All four of their centerman are posting a 74 performance score or lower. Being a team with so much talent surrounding the middle of the ice there is no excuse for the teams centerman, comprised of distributors and two way players, to be under performing.

 

“We’re in communication with teams around the league. Trying to figure out a deal that both sides can be satisfied with is proving difficult. We believe the Aussies can find success with this roster, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t finding ways to improve what we have.”

 

The particular target for the middle of the ice is not yet known. Are they trying to bring is someone that will supplant Nael Broadhurst from the top line? Shifting everyone down the middle down a spot and sending Matteo Bellini down to the minors. Or are they happy with the top of the lineup and instead looking to add depth. 

 

Bellini and Henrik Henriksen are out of place in their current standing in the lineup. Henriksen’s strong offensive abilities should have him playing in the top 6. But his defensive deficiencies hold him sheltered on the teams fourth line. While Bellini would be better suited in a fourth line role due to his offensive shortcomings. Although without a defensively responsible centerman capable of taking his place on the third line, the bottom of the lineup down the middle remains in gridlock. 

 

All being told, the Warman Aussies are now right where they wanted to be. After the 4 of their next 5 games that are against top 5 teams from either conference their schedule will reset to the start of its rotation. If the Aussies can hold their position in the standings through the next five, they give themselves a good opportunity to create some separation in the standings from the rest of the teams outside of the top 2. By making up for disappointing losses they had at the start of the season in this next cycle of the schedule the Aussies can start to cement their march to promotion.

 


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Aussies Secure Season 3 First Overall Pick Amidst Promotion

 

The Warman Aussies sealed their return to the GHL in season 4 with a 2nd place finish in the SHL Western Conference. After a tumultuous start to the season the Aussies rode out a hot streak to close out the first quarter of the season. Rising into second place and never relinquishing that standing. 

 

Now season 3 gets even sweeter for Wick Schozen. Waking to the news that Warman holds the first overall pick in the GHL draft. Against the lottery odds, third lowest of the four promotion teams able to pick first, the Aussies now have the opportunity to add another foundational piece in their rebuild. 

 

“Obviously everyone in the Warman organization is very pleased with the news of winning the lottery. As an organization we were preparing for the most likely outcome of a fourth overall selection of which we still would have been pleased with. We knew we’d be taking a great player regardless of where we slotted after the lottery. Last season Aaron Mallard was selected fourth overall and that’s work out wonders for us. At this moment no decisions have been made as to who we’ll be selecting, but whoever it is we’re certain they will play a crucial role in helping the Warman Aussies achieve success for many seasons to come.” 

 

Who the Aussies select first overall will be a defining decision for the direction the organization heads in. Should Schozen lean towards selecting the season long top rated skater in defenseman Nickolas McCollough the Aussies will round out their defensive core that already has a well laid foundation with Pauliak, Swilley and Kovalchuk. 

 

Whereas they could elect to select centerman Ulrik Kristensen and add a foundational piece down the middle. Kristensen’s the most developed center to come through the draft to date. Poised to make an immediate impact in the GHL after Swedish junior leagues, averaging over 2 points per game in each of his three seasons. 

 

“We’re aware of the options we have at the top of the draft” Schozen said, “With the first overall pick you want to take the best player off the board, not necessarily what your team is lacking. In an ideal world those two requirements line up and we do believe that with this draft that is the case.”

 

Moving into season 4, the Aussies are going to need to dramatically round out their roster through free agency. This seasons promotion was engined largely by a crop of 18 year olds that were able to excel in the SHL. But they’re now back in the same camp as most prospects from their draft class and will need time to develop to have an impact in the GHL.

Realistically the Aussies can expect maybe three players from last seasons draft class to have any sort of an impact next season. Consisting of Mallard, Mellor and Pauliak. The rest will likely be fighting for a roster spot or further developing with the Aussies AAHL affiliate. 

 

It is also unlikely that any of this seasons expiring free agents return to the team. Schozen has confirmed that he is communicating with goaltender Lennart Fransson, who is soon to be 40 years old. 

 

So far the rebuild is staying course. Navigating season 4 will be a challenge for Schozen. Depending on how the Aussies fair in the first half of the season decisions will need to be made.


“How the rebuild is unfolding, we have absolutely zero complaints at the front offices in Warman. That being said, just winning the lottery doesn’t stamp the rebuild closed. We won’t jeopardize the development of our up and coming core for short term success. If that means that next season is just a pit stop in the GHL we’ll make sure that the direction we continue in is that of the best longterm path for our team.”

 


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Pauliak, Swilley, Mallard, Mellor, and Kovalchuk in the same draft?
 

That’s a mighty impressive performance given they are still the core of your team. Emblematic of the Warman mandate of growing youth from the beginning, certainly the most successful case of this approach that I have seen. A model I can appreciate.


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Media Ban in Warman Revoked

It took some time for the players of the Warman Fighters to shed their almost instinctual nature to avert their gaze in the presence of a media member. That was to be expected from the players, the cogs of a team that functions behind an iron curtain held in place by their owner and general manager Wick Schozen. 

The exclusive access Schozen granted us is the only media availability that has been allowed amongst the team since season 3. Back when the team was still operating as the Warman Aussies and still in its infancy, a description fitting for both the organization and its roster. 

A lot has happened since the lockout of reporters from Warman went into place. Another fire sale season in the GHL in season 4 to accumulate more assets. While the team still had some press coverage that season, reporters had to buy their own ticket to the arena if they wanted to see the team live. Eventually the shunning was returned, as Warman descended back to the SHL many reporters likely hoped that’s where they would remain. 

As a result Warman’s record setting season in the SHL in season 5 went mostly unnoticed. There was no press coverage of their 66 win season, a feat that no team has come within 10 wins of since. All the more impressive when you consider that there were only two players regularly in the lineup that weren’t on an entry level contract. Since season 6 Warman has been a mainstay in the GHL. Their rebuild, one where all the lottery luck seemingly fell into schozen lap, is now fully actualized. 

What now represents the Warman Fighters is no longer a roster of baby faced prodigies. Despite the teams still relatively young age compared the the rest of the league, existing under the demanding grips of Schozen has weathered them. Lead by two first overall picks in captain Ulrik Kristensen and Ulric Pattenaude, Warman assaults the league with the most damning offense in the GHL. Season 8 saw them be the first team in Buzzer history to eclipse 300 goals in a GHL season. Though where their offense performs like hardened veterans their age still shows in their defensive game. It’s been the stumbling block of the Fighters that have held them back from post season success. Whether that is the case in Schozen’s mind, well he’s never one to follow a reporters lead…

“Look I know you yuckamups have an angle you’re trying to sell and I know how it works, a little you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours. You can write whatever you want, what publication are you guys from anyway?” I informed Wick of our online presence. “Are you f***s kidding? I told the league I wanted a netflix crew. At the very least give me what Alex has, not some forum.gmgames chimp with a macbook.” I informed Wick that we operate on the same platform as Vermillion’s ’soviet propaganda engine’ as Schozen likes to call it. “Yeah clearly not the same operators, maybe it’s just my age but a five year plan sounds a lot like the words of men who call vodka ‘the sweat of Stalin’”

Schozen’s blunt. He certainly doesn’t mince words. Our sit down with him was brief and more than a few times we had to talk him out of revoking our press access. Sometimes you get a glimmer into the inner workings of the Warman organization. Old beat reporters from the Howitzer circuit tell me you have to catch him at the Ringside Lounge, the Fighters themed bar that has been a staple in both iterations of the Fighters, if you want to get any information from him.

Still, one doesn’t need the explicit words from Schozen himself to know that a cap crunch of cataclysmic proportions is on the horizon for Warman. The core of the Fighters are now off their entry level deals and the first championship window has begun. How soon it will close depends on how Schozen can navigate the salary cap in the coming seasons. It remains to be seen if an old school GM such as Schozen has it in him to navigate that terrain. 


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“Sweat of Stalin”, “tears of the proletariat”, “revolution juice” - it’s poetry!

A Netflix-style raw behind the scenes documentary is something I can get behind 100%. I can get you some funding from the Russian department of foreign affairs ;) .


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Trade Deadline Calm and a New Defensive Identity

Looming at the beginning of next week is circled day on the calendar in an otherwise ominous week of the season. Usually an anxious time for rostered players in the top league of Howitzer. The impending trade deadline appears not to have infiltrated the Warman locker room. 

The majority of the moves by Wick Schozen appear to have already been made. The most noteworthy shakeup of the roster this season was the departure of former top 10 pick Jesper Berch. In an exchange of young forwards that saw Daren Tarpley assume ownership of Berch’s stall in the Warman locker room.

That trade was the only one with an impact on Warman’s active roster in the GHL. All the moves beyond that have been transactions involving players that inhabited a role in the organizations farm team. Those moves have seen Schozen amass three additional GHL draft picks and a pair of SHL first rounders.

The dawn of the season brought with it a decision on Warman’s goaltending depth chart. A decision had to be made as to who Warman would be committing to in net for the next couple of seasons. Despite a fragile grasp on the role, the starting job continued to be held by Robin Guilmaine. The start of a three year contract extension signified that Schozen was committed to giving Guilmaine an opportunity to assert himself into his prime years in the Warman crease. A decision that left young goaltenders Ahto Knuutila and Charles Champagne vying for the backup role. Which after testing the trade market, an offer of a 1st round pick for Champagne appeared incentive enough for Knuutila to default into the backup position. 

Whether that decision has proved the right one is still up in the air. Champagne has gone on to assume the starting job in Culdesac and posting far superior numbers to both of Warman’s remaining net minders. The thriving game of Champagne outside of the Warman system appears to be the catalyst that prompted Schozen to look to his skaters as the cause of the Fighters defensive woes as opposed to his goaltenders lackluster play.

While the team maintained a playoff position on the back of their high powered offense, the team was in disarray with a team save percentage of .885. Most wouldn’t have faulted Schozen to have placed the blame at the feet of Guilmaine and Knuutila, opting to bring in a veteran presence to patch the holes in the crease that opposing teams seemed all too aware of. Instead Warman fans awake to news of Berch no longer being a member of the Fighters, replaced Tarpley a player who’s style of play was glaringly absent on the roster.

Following the addition Tarpley to add an element of defensive stability to the bottom six, that Schozen was able to acquire  any compensation for perennial sook Clovis Savariat should be deemed a success. Savariat was mere days away from opening the morning paper to find his name on the waiver wire. Schozen confirmed the story circulating that he never extends the courtesy of informing players they’ve been waived. Apparently opting for players that don’t keep up with the daily happenings of the league to find that their access key to the arena no longer grants entry. A security guard generally leads them to the dumpster that their equipment was thrown in. 

Beyond the roster alterations, fans will likely notice a new defensive identity that the Fighters carry themselves with on the ice. Currently sitting tenth in the entire league in goals against, come the seasons end this year could be the first that the Fighters are able to keep their goals against average below 3.0. Something that would have been irrational to conceive around the 20 game mark.

On the offensive side the Fighters are continuing to assert themselves as a powerhouse in the league. Before being sidelined for 9 games Jason Mellor was having a break out season, leading the league in points at the time of his injury. He and Pattenaude appear to have stuck a playmaker-sniper partnership that has always been envisioned of them. Pattenaude himself is on pace for a career year. He’s already eclipsed 30 goals before the 60 game mark and looks poised to best his career high of 36 that he set in his sophomore season. 

Approval of the performance of Schozen has to be high in the Warman fanbase. Not only is the young roster coming together in a dominant fashion but the longterm outlook of the team is quickly taking direction. The seven prospects that will be selected in this draft complement an organization already holding a deep stable of prospects. Morten Jenssen, taken in the second round last season, got a taste of the big club filling in for Mellor while he was sidelined. His 5 points over 11 games while filling a role on the fourth line will go a long way to keep him in good standing with Schozen when he is forced to look down the pipeline to round out the roster in the coming years. 

What remains to be seen is what Schozen envisions with his backend in the long run. It was leaked that upon signing an three year extension Emile Jomphe was informed by Schozen that he’d be listening to trade offers starting next season. It will be cut throat decisions like this which Schozen will have to make in order to keep the core of his team together for the long haul. Despite Jomphe’s cap friendly extension, it will be the roles in which players like Jomphe fill that Schozen will be forced to economize on the cap. 


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Blizzard Forecast in Playoff First Round

 

The final matchup of the regular season for the Fighters was a heavyweight bout between two young, up and coming powerhouses in the West. The score was tied with Medicine Hat after every period, with Warman finally separating themselves in the shootout when Captain Ulrik Kristensen sealed the deal, scoring the second of the night and capping off a two goal - three point evening.

Wick Schozen exchanged pleasantries with Medicine Hat GM Dave Pellerin in the tunnel after the game. The Fighters players bottlenecking into silence as the slipped by Schozen to get into the locker room. Kristensen being the last player off the ice is followed by Schozen who gives off a nod to Pellerin and slams the locker room door behind him.

“All right shut the fuck up” The room was already silent. “It’s day 87, good job on the season, yada-yada-yada. Don’t crack too big of a smile in the showers yet. We’re bringing Jenssen, Moorehead and Espana with us from the minors for the duration of the playoffs. That means when you go out tonight their coming with you. KLAVINS! You’re responsible for making sure the kids make it out, Willman you’re responsible that they make it back. Either of you fail Pattenaude gets a jock slide, blue line to blue line. We’ve got Hazard first round, they’ve rolled us twice in the last three years from the playoffs. So go out tonight, take advantage of the 88 off day, skip any mixers in your drinks, it’s going to take a room full of men to get past the Blizzard. If I see another photo of Mellor drinking a cruiser I’ll waive you on the spot. Cribbs you’re on the trading block, so you better show up in the playoffs this year or else the only team that’ll want you is Nipawin.”

Just as quick as he came in Schozen is gone, with the slam of the door confirming his departure. Though Schozen’s presence still hangs in the room, it’s one of his defining traits and he remains until Kristensen breaks the silence polling the room for where they’re going tonight. Ray’s Tavern is the decision. A country bar with a jukebox with an impressive 70s collection and a “cannot come back” list that includes a one Wick Schozen, bolded and underlined. 

 

“Jenssen’s singing Stevie Nicks tonight!” Shrieks Kosir, who tonight just capped off a career year, 60 points in the 3C role.  

 

The Hazard Blizzard aren’t mentioned again after Schozen announced the first round matchup though they can’t be far out of mind. Save for the fourth line and Derek Shipman, the team grey beard at 32, everyone on the Fighters has been eliminated from the playoffs by Hazard. A veteran team whose physical style ragged dolled the young Warman side in season 6 and 7.

Those were childlike teams though compared to how Warman presents itself today. The Fighters are coming off their best GHL season yet. A 2nd place finish in the Western conference, 48 wins, their second season in a row topping 300 goals in a season while putting together their best defensive season yet ranked 7th best for goals against. 

The bottom of their lineup now looks the part to go toe to toe with the heavy units that the Blizzard put over the boards. Their last playoff series saw the Blizzard outscore Warman 21 to 11 in a four game series. This time around looks to be a far closer affair. 

But simply a beefing up of the bottom 6 and a few more years of experience won’t be enough for Warman to get over the hump. This is likely Hazard’s last true shot at a championship. GM Feynman knows this and his players, while they may not admit that their time is coming, have enough experience not to let this opportunity slip by them.

Their speed seems to be the most glaring regression in the Hazard lineup. This is no where more obvious than down the middle where their veteran center depth would whale on Kristensen, Pattenaude and Kosir for their lunch like school yard bullies. The tides have turned now. Kristensen has developed into the captain he always looked to be and plays an imposing game as one of the leagues premier power forwards. Pattenaude just finished a career year himself tied for third league wide in goals. While Kosir is the Fighters quiet leader in the bottom six, a player that just goes about his business to surprisingly impressive results. 

 

The Warman Fighters, now packed into the team bus that begins its journey out of Medicine Hat. Schozen, seated at the front of the bus is back operating the phones. A scouting meeting will be held tomorrow kicking off the teams final leg of the draft preparation. There Warman’s internal list of prospects will be narrowed down to single out those that will be invited for private interviews with the player development staff while the playoffs progress out of sight. The three rows of seats behind Schozen are empty save for the minor league call ups who sit isolated as the team roars and beer cans crack behind them. Day 87 will blur into 88 in what will be their last release as a team before playoffs begin. Their next opportunity won’t be until after the Fighters place in the playoff dance is over, which will either be accompanied by a new experience of triumph or the all too familiar taste of failure. 


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Warman Fighters unable to be kept down by Blizzard

I’ve lost track of the Fighters. A group of 23, a literal horde in a town the size of Hazard and yet they’ve managed to duck me. Now I’m sitting in a tavern on Main street with any indication of my association with the Warman Fighters hidden. The atmosphere is bleak, for all the madness that must be unfolding in Warman after defeating the Hazard Blizzard in game 4 in the first round of the GHL playoffs it is matched in the despair felt here by the fans in Hazard.

 

The series looked to be going back to Warman for game five by the end of the first period. Down 4-0, Warman goaltender Guilmaine pulled putting the organization back into disarray as to who will be looked upon in net to fend off this demon that is the Hazard Blizzard in the eyes of the Warman Fighters come playoffs. This seemed again to be a young Fighters team unravelling in the playoffs, though not so young anymore that this could be excused. 

The second period saw Mallard tuck what felt like a garbage time goal. The Hazard arena was electric, hardly noticing the goal. An overheard conversation in the mens room at the urinal went as follows:
“When did Belle blow the shutout?”
“It’s ok, he’s saving his chip to cash in at the end of game 5!”
Both the men laughed. At the time their prediction seemed far more plausible than what unfolded. 

You could see the veins in Schozen’s neck ballooning out of his skin. Attempting to shout over the crowd, frenzied in chant attune to a fever of war, to penetrate the blank stares of his young bench. A bench inexperienced in true success that were again ripped from the tit of the regular season and struggling to make men of themselves on their own in the playoffs. From the press box I was trying to get my hands on tickets for the family to attend game five. 

In my head I explained the change in the ferocity of the crowd to the fans settling into the third period. Like the urinal attendees caught up in the atmosphere I missed another Mallard goal, 30 seconds into the third period which cut the lead in half. Then before the half way mark Cribbs cuts the lead to a single goal. Cribbs who’s scored four goals in the first round. Cribbs who Schozen told on the last day of the season his name is on the trade block. Cribbs whose going to Nipawin unless he intends to do something about his value these playoffs. The score is 4-3 with 12:30 to play. 

11 shots to 2 in favor of the Blizzard was how the Fighters closed out the third period. Knuutila, thrust in goal after Guilmaine folded in the first, was the only thing holding Warman’s hopes alive. 11 shots thrown his way before the end of the period and like the rest of the game so far Knuutila was up to the task. Both of the Fighters shots came in the last two minutes, both off the stick of Emile Jomphe. One shot, with 30 seconds left to go in the period before the series looked to game five for a deciding result, took any flames of doubt in that sentiment and turned it nuclear. Score tied 4-4.

How quickly the remainder of this game unfolded is astonishing compared to the slow burn that was the collapse of Hazard’s first period four goal lead. A fan who dropped their phone at puck drop may have entirely missed the overtime period. Off the stick of captain Ulrik Kristensen launched a shot that seconds ago had merely won a faceoff as a preamble to tooth and nail fight that was expected to close out this game. Instead that fan looked up to see the conclusion of season 9 for the Hazard Blizzard while the Warman Fighters celebrated the death of a personal demon that seemed would never die. The Warman Fighters, after finally getting the best of the Hazard Blizzard in the playoffs are moving on to the second round to face the Culdesac Danger. Where customary to a hero's tale, more personal demons await. 

Edited by Wick Schozen

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Fighters Face Danger In the Second Round

At the start of season 9 Wick Schozen caught wind on the phones that Culdesac GM Fred Longpre was in the market for a goaltender. The situation seemed a perfect match. Schozen had been juggling goaltenders with Guilmaine, Knuutila and Champagne in the fold. It was possibly one of the more straight forward and seamless deals Schozen has completed. A goaltender one way, a first round pick the other. Internal questioning indicates Warman felt pretty confident they had come out on the winning end of the arrangement. Looking at the deal now, I wish anyone good luck in their effort to get a response on the matter that doesn’t hold an air of campaign talk on Capitol Hill. 

The repercussions of that deal and how it relates to Warman in the playoffs is the fact that Charles Champagne went on as the starter of the Culdesac Danger to have a top 3 season league wide in net. The Fighters meanwhile sit on a 23rd overall pick and a continued circus in the crease of the Warman Fighters. While the pick could still pay off with Schozen’s hand on the scouting trigger, at present moment it is still unknown who will be starting in net for Warman ahead of the first game of round 2 against Culdesac.

Guilmaine’s first round performance against the Hazard Blizzard alone would have encouraged the conversation among the media of whether Knuutila could get the look. After the game four implosion of Guilmaine and the heroics of Knuutila in Warman’s comeback victory, that encouraged conversation has morphed into hostile doctrine calling for the chaining of Guilmaine’s ankles to the bench.  

The only issue with the doctrine, like with all ideology, is there is more nuance in the details than the first to mind emotional appeal. Fact of the matter is Guilmaine played exceptional against Culdesac in the regular season, getting the Fighters two of their three wins against Culdesac this season. Knuutila on the other hand was liable for the Fighters only loss to the Danger on the season, with their other win credited to  *double checks notes* Juraj Jarabek, who was waived by the Fighters and spent the rest of the season in the SHL.

So there is some uncertainty that persists in the Warman crease, it’s nothing new to the organization so expect them to prepare as usual. Though there is an added layer of complexity in assessing Warman entering the second round considering they saw more value in a first round pick than the goaltender that will be standing in the opposing crease. If Culdesac were to succeed past Warman it certainly wouldn’t be the first time GM Longpre has gotten the last laugh on Schozen.

A temporary fallout between the two organizations over a disagreement during trade negotiations for then prospect Jean-Philippe Kilburn was able to be buried to get the Champagne deal done. In the end Schozen’s stance on Kilburn has been the equivalent of stepping in an ignited brown paperbag of dog shit on his front porch while the fruits of the eventual deal Longpre pursued has helped guide his team to this crossroads of the two organizations.

In the Culdesac Danger the Fighters don’t face a team of veteran playoff experience like that of Hazard but instead confront a team of a hard forged style of play. Tighter defensively, less flashy offensively but hardly less effective. This is a unit less powered by its star presence in the lineup but instead a roster of everyone pulling the same direction without deviation. 

For Warman success will hinge less on whether their depth is too much for Culdesac to overcome and more so on whether their goaltending will hold together long enough to avoid self sabotage. While Warman took out the regular season series 3-1, each game was a hard fought affair. 

Exiting the first round the Fighters top two lines appear to be rolling hot. With six goals apiece for each line. This series looks to be an opportunity for Warman’s depth to come to the forefront. Every player registered at least a point against the Hazard Blizzard. While Culdesac moved past Oshawa in three games of more tightly fought games, it was their bottom 6 forward group who carried the weight offensively. Leading to the speculation that the top of their lineup is due for a rebound series. 

 

Looking around the league. There were no upsets in the first round in the West with Highland coming out ahead of the season 8 GHL Champions Metairie and Wyoming making easy work of Medicine Hat. In the East Pinehurst pulled out an upset against Wintersville to move to the second round, they’ll face Harrow Hawks who seemed untested by Enigma. While Vermillion and their communist regime are to face off against Bellmore who will be waiving the flag of liberty for our sensible red, white and blue bleeding American viewers at home. 


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Fighters-Danger even after two

The Warman Fighters team bus is silent as it departs Culdesac on their way home to prepare for game three. The players isolated in their own preoccupations, some illuminated by a small flash light from above while they read or isolated with their headphones in the darkness of the bus. Only the barely decipherable cursing of Wick Schozen at the front of the bus disrupts the deafening silence. Scattered across his tray table that serves as a impromptu desk is the most recent game report, a litany of scouting profiles and a document that sits above all; a bill issued by the Culdesac Danger for repairs needed in the away team dressing room.

After a dominating game one performance in which the Fighters at home skated away to a 5-1 victory and their confidence high, now leave Culdesac in a tied series with their heads sunken. If game one gave spectators the impression that this series would be wrapped up in short order, game two reminded everyone that Culdesac in fact had been waiting for their round two matchup before Warman had even punched their ticket to move on. Bested by the their castaway asset Charles Champagne who along with the victory took the games first star honors. The Fighters again confront the cutthroat realities of playoffs, that there is no time to relish in past success.

Game two was a far more accurate depiction of how the next two to three games of round two will play out. Where in game one the Fighters imposed their stature on Culdesac, strongly outshooting them and goals more a product of abundance of offensive than precision. Game two saw the series tighten back up. The shots were more evenly spread, possession was near identical. The only differentiation between the two teams was who was able to make the most of their opportunities. Tonight that honor went to Culdesac. 


If anyone can be an example of the quick adjustments required in the rapidly evolving nature of the playoffs, Wick Schozen is an ideal model. By the time we return to Warman and are back in the arena I am quick to discover that the broom closet in the underbelly of the arena that served as my office is no longer under my possession. I find my elementary school sized desk and a cardboard box of my possession discarded outside the door. Two Vietnamese women attempt to maneuver a massage table into place, it’s clearly too large to fit in the room. 

I’m summoned into Schozen’s office and informed that the rent he’ll receive from the popup massage parlor is going to cover the charges to replace the cracked whiteboard, broken benches and plumbing repairs required for the away team locker room in Culdesac. It was either rent my office or don’t pay the salary of one of the scouts I’m told, and considering scouts tend to gossip among one another Schozen feels confident that a disgruntled scout will reach more ears than my publications. 

 

Around the league, Wyoming has jumped out to a two game lead and pushed top seed Highland to the brink of elimination. Pinehurst and Harrow have split their opening two games in the East while Vermillion looks to be making easy work of Bellmore, up two games with a goal differential of 11-2. 


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