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BULLFROGS NOTEBOOK / PAUL McLEOD : Unknown Gervais Quickly Gaining Some Fame

Roller Hockey International’s all-star game several weeks ago in St. Louis didn’t receive a lot of national coverage. For the record, the Eastern Conference won, 14-12. Victor Gervais of the Bullfrogs was the offensive star for the West with three goals.

“Victor played extremely well,” said Bullfrog Coach Grant Sonier. “It was exciting for him.”

At least one local television station showed a short clip of a Gervais goal, but the announcer mispronounced the name.

Being so unknown outside roller hockey circles is not unusual for Gervais. The team’s captain, he has been a quiet performer most of the season. He proved that by tying a team record with six assists in a 12-10 victory over highly regarded San Jose July 23. On Monday in a 10-6 victory over the Blades at The Pond of Anaheim, he helped break open a tight game in the fourth quarter with two goals and one of his three assists.

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His performance Monday night moved him into second in RHI scoring with 66 points.

One of the few players who has been with the Bullfrogs in all three seasons, Gervais, 5 feet 10, 185 pounds, was drafted by the now-defunct Portland Rage in 1993. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to play roller hockey--it was an unproven sport then--but when the Bullfrogs gained his rights, it wasn’t difficult to make up his mind. A vacation was in order, he thought.

“I’d never been to California,” Gervais said. “And it was a great way to stay in shape.”

Gervais, 26, led the team in goal-scoring with 24 in 1993, so his outburst in St. Louis was not improbable. But this season he has been more of a force in setting up teammates for scores. He has 43 assists, second in the league behind Doug Lawrence of Oklahoma, and credits that to the good relationship he has with teammates.

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“We have good players and good coaching and no one guy stands out,” he said. “When you have good guys who like each other, you play harder for each other.”

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Sonier is a finalist for an assistant coaching position with the Ice Dogs of the International Hockey League. The other candidate is Cornell Coach Brian McCutcheon.

An announcement could be made as early as today .

Because roller hockey and ice hockey seasons don’t conflict, Sonier said he expects to retain his duties with the Bullfrogs.

Formerly the San Diego Gulls, the Ice Dogs will play at the Los Angeles Sports Arena this winter.

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Three Bullfrogs are questionable for the game at San Jose Friday. Fredrik Jax sustained a deep thigh bruise in Monday’s 10-6 victory over the Blades and Joe Cook is recovering from a concussion he received in the same game.

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Brad Tiley injured his back lifting weights Tuesday.

Jared Bednar, who broke his ankle June 30 at Oakland had the cast removed this week, but it’s doubtful he’ll play again this season.

The Bullfrogs thought they had secured some defensive help when they signed Mark Hardy, who spent 14 seasons with the Kings. According to Bullfrog President Stuart Silver, the Hardy deal was completed prior to Tuesday’s RHI deadline for roster changes, but at the last second Hardy backed out. Silver said he would seek permission from the league to continue pursuing the left-handed defenseman.

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Complaint Dept.: Sacramento Coach John Black, a lawyer from Orange, blamed poor officiating for the loss of the River Rats’ leading scorer, Sergei Berdnikov of Russia. In a Sacramento newspaper story, Black, who owned a share of RHI when it began three years ago, said Berdnikov left the team in mid-month to return to Russia because he tired of slashing penalties that weren’t being called.

Berdnikov ranked second in the league with 46 points when he quit. Since then, Sacramento, once tied for the Northwest Division lead, has fallen into last place.

Complaints about officiating, which by most accounts has been uneven at best, came to a head on July 17 when Commissioner Ralph Backstrom sent a memo to general managers, coaches, players and officials. In it he said there has been an increasing number of injuries “as a result of stick swinging incidents.”

Noting that the mission of RHI was to distance itself from “the ice hockey mentality that allows a certain amount of stickwork to occur without it being called,” Backstrom demanded that game officials put a stop to needless use of the stick.

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“There are no gray areas when it comes to slashing--either it is a slash or attempted slash,” the memo read.

And then, to the surprise of many, he warned all referees and linesmen: “Those referees who call it will have the opportunity to continue to work. Those who don’t will not.”

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Bullfrog tickets for the opening round of the RHI playoffs went on sale Tuesday at The Pond and other ticket agencies. The Bullfrogs open the playoffs on the road Aug. 14 against a team to be determined. The Bullfrogs will play host to a first-round game Aug. 16.

Tickets are priced from $6 to $25.

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Although attendance figures have climbed steadily as the summer has worn on, several teams in the RHI have been drawing poor crowds. Through the end of July there were seven teams averaging less than 3,000 spectators a game. Thirteen of the league’s 19 franchises average 4,000 or less.

The Bullfrogs lead the league in attendance, averaging 10,038 a game. In 12 home dates, Anaheim has drawn 120,458.

The team doing the second best is New Jersey, which is averaging nearly 6,000 per game. Vancouver (5,274), Montreal (4,930) and Ottawa (4,712) follow.

Bullfrog Notes

Defender Mark Deazeley was released Tuesday, the final day roster adjustments were allowed. Deazeley played in four games and scored three goals. . . . Season ticket holders got a shot at buying playoff tickets in person Tuesday and at noon the line was 12-deep at the lone ticket window open at The Pond.


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