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Champs No More

by Guy Flaming | May 20, 2008, 9:13 AM ET

It was 'Garbage Bag Day' at Acadia Place, the morning when the team gathers one last time to pose for the team picture, clean out their stalls and face the media before the long summer begins. The reign of the Golden Bears came to an abrupt end after a 4-1 series loss to the top ranked Fredericton Express last week but no one in the room seemed to be dwelling on it anymore. "Hey it sucks that we lost but give them a ton of credit, that's an awfully strong team we had to play and for the most part we stuck with them," said regular season and playoff leading scorer Mike Cammalleri. The Bears lost 2-1, 4-2, 2-0 and 4-3 and won game three by a 4-2 score. "The toughest one was the 2-0 shutout at home in game 4," sighed net-minder Rick DiPietro, "We out shot them and I thought we out chanced them but they got two power play goals and that was the difference. After we won game 3 we could of had the momentum but that game 4 loss... that was the killer." Off Season Changes The Bears have three impending UFA's in defenceman Jason Smith and forwards Ryan Smyth and Stephane Yelle. "I know I don't really want to leave, I've spent the last 3 seasons here after leaving Brandon and my family is comfortable here," said Yelle, "But at the same time it's a business and I can only control what I can control. I don't know if there is a spot for me here next year or not." Yelle, who made $920,492 could get a raise in pay on the open market but Acadia would likely entertain bringing him back again at a similar cost. Rugged blueliner Jason Smith's tenure with the club is likely over. The Bears will be happy to shed his $5 million salary but will miss his toughness and leadership. Certainly the player's best days are behind him but he could still be a valuable third pairing defenceman and Acadia, who will be much younger next season, could use that veteran guile to hone their youngters but it would appear that his days with the team are done. Ryan Smyth is the leading candidate to take over the mantle of Franchise Player from Stephane Yelle. Smyth was second on the team in scoring but had a horrible minus-15 rating to go with it. Still, his 34 goals would be tough for the team to replace and so he'll likely be brought back under the special title but will there be a pay raise? The 31-year-old cashed in a $2.75 million salary this past year but took a step back in all offensive categories. New Faces The 2008-09 Golden Bears look to be a younger team and potentially more offensive minded than this year's model. Expected to challenge for roster spots next year are Peter Mueller, Robert Nilsson, Curtis Glencross, Kyle Brodziak and bangers Jared Boll and Zack Stortini. Winger Joffrey Lupul is also expected to return to the SICHL after spending almost all of 2007-08 on the farm. On the backend there should be some key new additions including Dustin Byfuglien, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Kris Russell and Jan Hejda. In net it would appear that both DiPietro and Patrick Lalime will be back but Jason Labarbera will also seek time and rookie Jimmy Howard could make an appearance or two although he's expected to play regularly on the farm. "I expect we'll be a more exciting team for our fans," said GM and head coach Guy Flaming, "We should be able to score more and hopefully have a bit better luck keeping pucks out of our net too." SICHL Entry Draft The Golden Bears will once again be very busy on draft day and are well positioned to add some talented players to their pool of prospects. Acadia has two first round picks, their own and Quebec's in compensation for their signing of RFA Kimmo Timonen a couple summers ago. At this point the Bears will pick 11th and 17th but have accumulated 5 picks in the 2nd round. Acadia currently holds the second round options for Stockholm (29th), Toronto (32nd), Acadia (35th), Ottawa (36th) and Winnipeg (39th). "Having 7 picks in the top 40, especially this year, is an excellent opportunity for us to get players who will help us win the SICHL Cup again in the future," said Flaming, "That said, we are very much open to moving up in the draft as well and we certainly have the assets available to do that too. It should be a fun weekend." Prospect News T.J. Galiardi led the WHL in playoff scoring and has been signed to a minor pro contract. Following suit are Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Justin Abdelkader, Mark Santorelli, Chad Kolarik, netminder Bryan Pitton and expected to be inked soon is blueliner Taylor Chorney.

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