Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cougars unable to contain Magee . . . Whistle still unbeaten . . . Malenstyn wants to help friend


SATURDAY’S GAMES:


In Regina, F Adam Brooks broke a 2-2 tie in the third period to give the Pats a 3-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Pats, who won 4-2 on Friday, lead the series 2-0 as it heads to Swift Current for games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. . . . Games 3 and 4 are scheduled to be televised by Shaw. . . . D Brett Lernout gave the Broncos a 1-0 lead at 5:00 of the first period. . . . Regina took the lead before the period ended, on goals by F Taylor Cooper, at 8:39, and F Jesse Gabrielle, at 14:24. . . . F Tyler Steenbergen pulled the Broncos even at 7:32 of the second. . . . Brooks scored the winner at 6:34 of the third. . . . It’s the first time the Pats have won back-to-back playoff games at home since the spring of 2001. . . . Regina G Daniel Wapple turned aside 29 shots, eight fewer than Landon Bow of the Broncos. . . . F Braden Christoffer had two assists for the Pats. . . . Regina was 0-for-4 on the PP; Swift Current was 0-for-2. The second of those started with 53 seconds left in the third period. . . . Attendance was 5,377.

In Medicine Hat, G Marek Langhamer stopped 30 shots to help the Tigers to a 2-1 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . This was the series opener with Game 2 tonight in Medicine Hat. . . . Langhamer, a 20-year-old Czech, is the last European goaltender in the WHL. CHL teams no longer are allowed to use Euro goaltenders. . . . One goal was scored in each period of this game. . . . Tigers D Kyle Becker opened the scoring at 6:32 of the first. . . . F Cole Sanford, Medicine Hat’s 50-goal man, made it 2-0 at 14:29 of the second, on a PP. . . . Red Deer F Grayson Pawlenchuk got his guys to within a goal at 11:19 of the third. . . . F Trevor Cox had two assists for the Tigers. . . . Medicine Hat was 1-for-2 on the PP; Red Deer’s PP unit was never given even one opportunity. . . . Red Deer G Rylan Toth stopped 31 shots. . . . Attendance was 4,006. . . . The Tigers have added F James Hamblin to their roster, but he didn’t play last night. He was a first-round selection in the 2014 bantam draft. He played this season with the Edmonton-South Side Athletic Club.

In Victoria, F Brandon Magee scored two third-period goals to lead the Royals to a 5-4 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . On Friday, Magee had three goals in Victoria’s 5-3 victory. . . . The series now moves to Prince George for games on Tuesday and Wednesday. . . . F Greg Chase gave the Royals a 3-1 lead at 15:11 of the second period. . . . The Cougars tied it on goals by F Zach Pochiro, at 18:28 of the second, and D Tate Olson, his second of the game, at 5:02 of the third, via the PP. . . . Magee put the Royals back in front at 11:51, only to have Cougars F Chase Witala tie it at 13:49. . . . Magee then scored the winner at 15:47. . . . That goal was Magee’s 20th career playoff point, allowing him to tie the franchise record that had been held by F Stephen Hodges. . . . F Brad Morrison, F Jansen Harkins and D Joe Carvalho each had two assists for the Cougars. . . . Victoria G Coleman Vollrath stopped 30 shots, 10 more than Prince George’s Ty Edmonds. . . . The Cougars were 2-for-6 on the PP, giving them five PP goals in two games. The Royals were 0-for-2. . . . Attendance was 5,545.

In Kelowna, G Jackson Whistle turned aside 30 shots in posting his second straight shutout as the Rockets beat the Tri-City Americans, 3-0. . . . Whistle has made two career playoff starts and has yet to surrender even one goal. On Friday, the Rockets beat the Americans, 6-0, as Whistle made 18 saves. . . . The series now moves to Kennewick, Wash., for games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. . . . F Rodney Southam, who started this season with the Americans, opened the scoring for Kelowna at 7:42 of the second period. . . . F Leon Draisaitl added insurance at 15:54 of the third and F Tyson Baillie scored an empty-netter at 18:36. . . . Tri-City G Eric Comrie stopped 42 shots. . . . The Rockets held a 20-6 edge in shots after one period. . . . Each team was 0-for-3 on the PP. . . . Attendance was 5,639. . . . Craig West, the play-by-play voice of the Americans, called his 2,000th WHL game last night.

In Everett, the Spokane Chiefs scored four times in the first period en route to a 6-2 victory over the Silvertips. . . . The Chiefs, 5-1 losers in Game 1, will play host to Games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday. . . . F Adam Helewka had two goals and an assist for Spokane, while F Dominic Zwerger also scored twice. . . . Chiefs F Keanu Yamamoto had two assists. . . . Spokane G Garret Hughson stopped 29 shots. He lost his shutout at 14:21 of the third period when D Cole MacDonald scored. . . . Spokane was 3-for-9 on the PP; Everett was 1-for-7. . . . The game featured 30 minor penalties, 16 of them to the Silvertips. Ten roughing minors were handed out at the final buzzer. . . . Everett D Ben Betker left in the first period with an apparent arm injury and didn’t return. . . . Attendance was 4,339.

In Portland, F Mathew Barzal opened and closed the scoring as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Winterhawks, 4-3. . . . Game 2 is scheduled for tonight in Portland. . . . Barzal’s second goal, at 17:18 of the third period, broke a 3-3 tie. . . . The Winterhawks went on the PP with 53.1 seconds left in the third period but weren’t able to equalize. . . . Seattle took a 2-0 lead in the first period when Barzal scored, at 1:01, and F Cory Millette added a PP goal, at 15:43. . . . Portland D Blake Heinrich got his guys on the board at 19:55. . . . The Winterhawks tied it when D Adam Henry scored a PP goal at 8:37 of the second and took the lead on F Evan Weinger’s goal at 6:27 of the third. . . . Seattle F Scott Eansor tied it at 11:41. . . . F Ryan Gropp drew an assist on both of Barzal’s goals. . . . Seattle G Taran Kozun stopped 34 shots, five more than Portland’s Adin Hill. . . . Gropp came up short on a third-period penalty shot with the score 2-2. . . . Weinger scored 10 seconds later. . . . Seattle was 1-for-2 on the PP; Portland was 1-for-3. . . . Portland F Alex Schoenborn returned after not playing since Jan. 31. He missed 19 games. . . . Attendance was 7,072.
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The third game of the series between the Medicine Hat Tigers and Rebels in Red Deer will begin at 7 p.m. The game, which is scheduled for Wednesday, originally was scheduled for 7 p.m., but then was shifted to TBD in order to accommodate a possible Sportsnet telecast. But the Brandon-Edmonton series will go at least five games, with the fifth game set for Wednesday. Sportsnet will televise that game, with an 8 p.m. start time, allowing Game 3 in Red Deer to begin at 7 p.m.
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F Beck Malenstyn of the Calgary Hitmen has a friend in Penticton who is battling cancer. Scott Fisher of the Calgary Sun reports that Kaylee Kozari-Bowland, 16, has “a rare, aggressive form of cancer” and “has exhausted all treatments available at the B.C. Children’s hospital, and now her desperate family is looking to a trial at the MD Cancer Center in Texas.” . . . Her family is looking at a bill of $200,000 or more, and Malenstyn wants to help. So he and the Hitmen are putting together a silent auction. . . . Fisher’s story is right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:

Brett Hopfe has resigned as director of hockey operations and head coach of the AJHL’s Olds Grizzlys. Hopfe has filled both positions for more than three seasons. . . . Hopfe had signed a three-year contract extension on June 10. . . . The Grizzlys finished 24-27-9 this season, good for fifth place in the South Division. They were swept by the Drumheller Dragons in a best-of-five first-round playoff series.
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Friday, March 27, 2015

Wheaties even series . . . Ice get past Hitmen . . . Stadnyk sinks Chiefs








D James Bettauer (Chilliwack, Prince Albert, Medicine Hat, 2008-09, 2010-12) has signed one-year extension with Augsburger Panther (Germany, DEL). This season, with Augsburg, he had nine goals and 17 assists in 50 games. The contract contains a summer opt-out clause should Bettauer sign a North American contract. Bettauer has dual Canadian-German citizenship.
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FRIDAY’S GAMES:


In Brandon, F John Quenneville had a goal and three assists to lead the Wheat Kings to an 8-1 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Edmonton had won the series opener, 4-1, on Thursday night. . . . The next three games will be played in Edmonton, starting on Sunday. Games 4 and 5 are to be televised by Sportsnet. . . . On Friday, Brandon scored the game’s first seven goals. . . . F Tyler Coulter opened the scoring 36 seconds into the first period. One night earlier, Edmonton scored its first goal 11 seconds into the game. . . . F Tim McGauley had two goals and an assist for Brandon, with F Jayce Hawryluk scoring twice. D Ivan Provorov had three assists. . . . Brandon got a goal and an assist from each of D Eric Roy, F Rihards Bukarts and Coulter. . . . Brandon D Colton Waltz had one assist and was plus-4. . . . G Jordan Papirny stopped 33 shots for Brandon. Edmonton starter Tristan Jarry was beaten five times on 29 shots before being relieved by Patrick Dea with 14:08 left in the third. Dea gave up three goals on 12 shots. . . . Dea did turn aside Hawryluk on a penalty shot. . . . Brandon was 3-for-6 on the PP; Edmonton was 0-for-6. . . . Attendance was 4,102, which is 1,016 more than attended the opener.


In Regina, F Pavel Padakin scored two goals to help the Pats to a 4-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . Game 2 of the series is scheduled for tonight in Regina. . . . Broncos F Glenn Gawdin got the game’s first goal, at 2:01 of the first period. . . . Regina F Patrick D’Amico tied it at 12:38. . . . Padakin gave the Pats a 3-1 lead with goals 59 seconds part late in the first period. . . . The Broncos got back to within one on F Jay Merkley’s goal at 10:53 of the second. . . . The score stayed at 3-2 until Regina F Braden Christoffer scored an empty-netter at 19:42 of the third. . . . Each team was 0-for-1 on the PP. . . . Regina G Daniel Wapple stopped 35 shots, including 17 of 18 in the first period. . . . Swift Current’s Landon Bow turned aside 28 shots. . . . Attendance was 5,361.


In Calgary, F Jaedon Descheneau’s shorthanded goal stood up as the winner as the Kootenay Ice beat the Calgary Hitmen, 4-3. . . . Game 2 is scheduled for Sunday in Calgary and will be televised by Shaw. . . . Ice F Luke Philp broke a 2-2 tie with his second goal, at 17:17 of the second period. . . . Descheneau scored his shortie at 9:57 of the third. . . . Philp and D Tyler King gave the visitors a 2-0 lead before the first period was 15 minutes old. . . . Calgary D Jake Bean scored a PP goal at 19:44 of the first and F Kenton Helgesen tied it at 4:23 of the second. . . . Calgary F Connor Rankin got his side’s final goal, at 13:07 of the third. . . . Bean was playing his first game since suffering a wrist injury on Feb. 28 in Kelowna. He missed the last nine games of the regular season. . . . Philp also had an assist, and F Austin Vetterl had two of them. . . . D Radel Fazleev had two assists for Calgary. . . . Ice G Wyatt Hoflin turned aside 29 shots, two more than Calgary’s Brendan Burke. . . . The Ice was 1-for-3 on the PP; the Hitmen were 1-for-4. . . . The Hitmen had won their last five games of the regular season, the last two of which were against the Ice. . . . Attendance was 8,256.


In Victoria, F Brandon Magee scored three times in the second period as the Royals got past the Prince George Cougars, 5-3. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Victoria tonight. . . . The Cougars got first-period PP goals from D Tate Olson and F Chase Witala to take a 2-0 lead. . . . Magee tied it with goals at 4:59 and 5:59 of the second. . . . Victoria F Greg Chase gave his guys their first lead at 12:20 and Magee filled his hat at 18:44. . . . Cougars F Kody McDonald cut the deficit to one with a PP goal at 6:32 of the third. . . . Victoria F Taylor Crunk scored an empty-netter at 19:27. . . . D Joe Hicketts and F Alex Forsberg, who began his career with the Cougars, each had two assists. . . . F Brad Morrison had two assists for Prince George. . . . Victoria G Coleman Vollrath stopped 28 shots, eight more than Prince George’s Ty Edmonds. . . . The Cougars were 3-for-4 on the PP; the Royals were 0-for-3. . . . Attendance was 4,629.

In Kelowna, G Jackson Whistle stopped 18 shots for the first shutout of these playoffs, as the Rockets dumped the Tri-City Americans, 6-0. . . . Game 2 is scheduled for Kelowna tonight. . . . Whistle’s shutout came in his first career playoff start. . . . F Rourke Chartier scored the game’s first goal, at 2:06 of the first period. . . . Chartier scored twice, getting the second one while shorthanded in the third period. F Nick Merkley also scored a shorthanded goal. . . . Chartier also had an assist, while Merkley had two of them. . . . Rockets D Madison Bowey had a goal and an assist, and was plus-4. . . . Tri-City G Eric Comrie stopped 24 shots. . . . Kelowna was 0-for-4 on the PP; Tri-City was 0-for-5. . . . Attendance was 5,369.

In Everett, F Carson Stadnyk scored three goals early in the third period as the Silvertips erased a 1-0 deficit and beat the Spokane Chiefs, 5-1. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Everett tonight. . . . Spokane F Liam Stewart scored the game’s first goal, at 13:55 of the second period. . . . Everett scored five goals on 12 third-period shots. . . . Stadnyk tied it 17 seconds into the third, then gave his guys the lead at 1:34. He completed the hat trick at 4:03. . . . He scored three times in 3:46. The WHL playoff record for fastest three goals by one player is 2:39 by F Doug Saunders of the Kamloops Jr. Oilers. He did it on April 14, 1984, in the third period of a 10-5 victory over the host Portland Winter Hawks. . . . Stadnyk also drew an assist on F Ivan Nikolishin’s first of two PP goals in the latter half of the third period. . . . Everett was 2-for-8 on the PP; Spokane was 0-for-4. . . . The Chiefs took 87 of the 156 penalty minutes that were handed out, with 138 of those coming after Everett went ahead 3-1. . . . Everett G Carter Hart stopped 22 shots, five fewer than Spokane’s Garret Hughson. . . . Attendance was 3,358.
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Condolences to former Portland Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston on the death of his mother. Johnston is in his first season as head coach of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
From a Penguins’ news release:
“Sheila Margaret (Mickey) Johnston . . . passed away Friday in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She was 81.
“Funeral services will be held Tuesday.
“Mike will coach both games this weekend, then travel to Nova Scotia for the funeral.”
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Former Brandon Wheat Kings D Don Dietrich has been to the top of the world — well, kind of — and back, and he loved every minute of it. There’s more right here from the Winnipeg Free Press.
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Tim Hunter, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors, has been named head coach of the Canadian U-18 team that will play in the IIHF World championship that runs April 16-26 in Lucerne and Zug, Switzerland. . . . Hunter, 54, has just completed his first season with the Warriors. A former NHL player and NHL assistant coach, he will be making his first appearance behind a Team Canada bench. . . . His assistant coaches will be Ian Herbers, a former WHLer who is the head coach of the CIS-champion U of Alberta Golden Bears, and Louis Robitaille, an assistant coach with the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs.
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“As a former NHL player, Sheldon Kennedy spent eight years skating for three teams, but his true life’s work has been focused on being a champion for millions of abuse survivors,” reads a news release issued by the University of Guelph on Friday. “It is because of his ability to stand up in the face of adversity and create positive change that the University of Guelph and College of Business and Economics will recognize him with the Lincoln Alexander Outstanding Leader Award on May 27.” . . . The complete news release is right here.
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Rudy Poeschek, a former NHLer who played in the WHL with the Kamloops Jr. Oilers/Blazers (1983-87) has been charged with assault, driving while prohibited and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. . . . Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week has more right here.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oil Kings win opener . . . Another team to hire head coach . . . Three WHLers get NHL deals








F Yannic Seidenberg (Medicine Hat, 2003-04) has signed a one-year extension with Red Bull Munich (Germany, DEL). In 46 games, he had 12 goals and 10 assists. . . .
D Colton Jobke (Kelowna, Regina, 2009-13) has signed a one-year contract with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL). This season, he had four assists in 20 games with the Alaska Aces (ECHL) and he was pointless in 20 games with the Augsburger Panther (Germany, DEL). Jobke is a dual Canadian-German citizen. . . .
D Craig Schira (Regina, Vancouver, 2003-09) has signed a two-year contract with Lulea (Sweden, SHL). This season, with HPK Hämeenlinna (Finland, Liiga), he had five goals and 23 assists in 55 games while averaging 24:33 in ice time per game. He also was an alternate captain. . . .
D Daryl Boyle (Brandon, 2004-08) has signed a one-year extension with Red Bull Munich (Germany, DEL). In 44 games, he had 11 goals and 21 assists. He is a dual Canadian-German citizen. . . .
D Richie Regehr (Kelowna, Portland, 1998-2004) has signed a one-year extension with Red Bull Munich (Germany, DEL). In 51 games, he had 10 goals and 30 assists.
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THURSDAY’S GAME:

In Brandon, the Edmonton Oil Kings, the defending Memorial Cup champions, scored two first-period goals en route to a 4-1 victory over the Wheat Kings. . . . It was Game 1 of their series, with Game 2 scheduled for Brandon tonight. . . . This is the only first-round series being played with a 2-3-2 format, with the middle three games scheduled for Edmonton. That means tonight’s game takes on even more importance. . . . Brandon was 27-3-6 at home in the regular season. . . . The Oil Kings scored 11 seconds in when F Tyler Robertson, who had one goal in his previous 22 games, found the net. . . . F Brett Pollock made it 2-0 at 11:55. . . . Brandon F Peter Quenneville scored a PP goal at 17:53 of the second to get his guys back in it. . . . Pollock scored off a PP rebound at 1:35 of the third for a 3-1 lead. . . . F Lane Bauer provided more insurance for the visitors at 9:07. . . . Edmonton D Dysin Mayo had two assists, while Pollock had one for a three-point night. . . . Oil Kings G Tristan Jarry was sharp in making 25 saves, five fewer than Brandon’s Jordan Papirny. . . . Edmonton was 1-for-2 on the PP; Brandon was 1-for-4. . . . Brandon had won three of four regular-season meetings, although the teams had only met once since Nov. 22. . . . The Wheat Kings had F Stelio Mattheos in the lineup. The Winnipegger was the first selection in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . Edmonton’s lineup included 15 players from last season’s championship club. . . . WHL commissioner Ron Robison presented the Wheat Kings with the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy prior to the game. The trophy is for finishing atop the overall standings in the regular season. . . . Attendance was announced as 3,086. That is 809 below Brandon’s regular-season average crowd.
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Two WHL teams are looking for head coaches. . . . Earlier in the week, the Vancouver Giants revealed that Claude Noel wouldn’t be returning as their head coach. . . . Peter Anholt, who finished the season as the general manager and head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, has confirmed to Paul Kingsmith of Global TV that he won’t be back on the bench. Anholt is involved in contract negotiations with the Hurricanes. Assuming he gets a deal as GM, he will hire a head coach and a head scout. . . . There’s more from Kingsmith right here.
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The Brandon Sun has covered a lot of Brandon Wheat Kings playoff games over the years. And it always, always, always has gotten a story from the game into the next day’s paper. That streak may come to an end next week when the Wheat Kings’ first-round series with the Edmonton Oil Kings moves to the Alberta capital. . . . Sportsnet requested a change in starting times for Games 4 and, if necessary, 5, both of which are scheduled to be played in Rexall Place on March 31 and April 1. Rather than starting at 7 p.m., the games are to begin at 8 o’clock. . . . With the difference in time zones, that is 9 o’clock in Brandon. . . . The Sun’s deadline is 11:05 p.m., and it’s doubtful that it can be changed enough to make a difference.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning has signed F Brayden Point, 19, of the Moose Jaw Warriors to a three-year, entry-level NHL contract. Point also signed an ATO (amateur tryout) with the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, and will finish the season there. . . . The Lightning selected Point in the third round of the 2014 NHL draft. . . . This season, he had 87 points, including 38 goals, in 60 games with the Warriors. In 204 career games, he has 236 points, including 99 goals. . . . From Calgary, he was a member of Team Canada as it won gold at the 2015 WJC in Montreal and Toronto.
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The Calgary Flames have signed F Austin Carroll, who turned 21 on Thursday, to an entry-level deal. He led the Victoria Royals in goals (38) and points (77) in the regular season. Carroll, from Calgary, was a seventh-round pick by the Flames in the 2014 NHL draft. . . . In 268 games with the Royals over four seasons, Carroll had 196 points, including 95 goals.
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The Winnipeg Jets have assigned F Axel Blomqvist of the Moose Jaw Warriors to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. Blomqvist, 20, was acquired by Moose from the Victoria Royals during the season. From Sweden, he finished the season with 59 points, including 25 goals, in 61 games. The 6-foot-6, 212-pounder was a NHL free agent when he signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Jets prior to the 2013-14 season.
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The Edmonton Oilers have signed D Ben Betker of the Everett Silvertips to a three-year, entry-level NHL contract. Betker, 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, was a sixth-round pick in the NHL’s 2013 draft. From Cranbrook, Betker, 20, had 31 points, including six goals, in 64 gamers this season. In 201 career games, he has 58 points, including 14 goals.
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The AHL’s Toronto Marlies have signed F Jack Rodewald of the Moose Jaw Warriors to an ATO (amateur tryout) for the remainder of this season and to an AHL contract for 2015-16. Rodewald, who turned 21 on Feb. 14, had career highs in goals (35), assists (50) and points (85) this season, all in 71 games. . . . In 255 career games, he put up 166 points, including 76 goals.
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Cody Nickolet, over at Dub From Above, reports that only six WHLers who were selected in the NHL’s 2013 draft haven’t signed NHL contracts. Those six are F Jackson Houck of the Vancouver Giants (Edmonton Oilers); D Eric Roy of the Brandon Wheat Kings (Calgary Flames); D Mitch Wheaton of the Kelowna Rockets (Detroit Red Wings); G Brendan Burke of the Calgary Hitmen (Arizona Coyotes); D Mark McNulty of the Kamloops Blazers (Detroit); and D Kyle Burroughs of the Medicine Hat Tigers (New York Islanders).
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The Medicine Hat Tigers open a first-round series against the visiting Red Deer Rebels on Saturday. The Tigers were a bit banged up down the stretch, but reports out of Medicine Hat indicate that F Anthony Ast, F Matt Bradley and D Tommy Vannelli will be available for Game 1. . . . The Tigers will be without D Ty Lewington, their captain, as he serves a one-game WHL suspension. . . .
The Kootenay Ice and Calgary Hitmen open their first-round series tonight in Calgary. The game will be televised by Shaw with Dan Russell calling the play and Bill Wilms riding shotgun. . . .
The Tri-City Americans are huge underdogs as they open a first-round series with the Rockets in Kelowna tonight. The Americans have five injured players who aren’t expected to play — F Parker Bowles, D Carter Cochrane, D Riley Hillis, F Braden Purtill and F Taylor Vickerman. All five are said to be done for the season. . . . The Rockets aren’t expected to have D Josh Morrissey back for this series, but F Justin Kirkland, who hasn’t played since Feb. 14, might return. . . .
The Spokane Chiefs go into these playoffs having lost eight straight playoff games. The Chiefs open in Everett against the Silvertips tonight. . . . Spokane was swept by the Portland Winterhawks in the first round in 2013 and then was swept by the Victoria Royals a year ago. . . . The Chiefs also go into these playoffs having lost their last five regular-season games. . . .
The starting time for Game 3 between the Medicine Hat Tigers and the host Red Deer Rebels on March 31 has been changed. Originally scheduled for a 7 p.m. start, it now is listed as TBD (to be determined). . . . Why? According to a note from the Rebels, it is “to accommodate the possibility of a TV broadcast of the game. . . . Game time will either be 7 p.m. or 8 p.m.”

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THE COACHING GAME:

The OHL’s Flint, Mich., Firebirds have signed Terry Christensen as general manager and John Gruden as head coach. The Firebirds are the former Plymouth Whalers franchise. . . . Christensen, 60, has been with the Little Caesars program and with the USA Selects Elite AAA junior program of late. He has coached in the ECHL, NAHL, Colonial league and NCAA. . . . Gruden, 44, has been in USA Hockey’s program. . . . The Firebirds have kept assistant general manager Joe Stefan and head scout Dave McParlan, both of whom were with the Whalers.


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WHL commish has message for Ice fans: 2,200 isn't good enough!

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, has delivered a message to hockey fans in Cranbrook, telling them that the Kootenay Ice’s average attendance “is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
In a story posted on Between The Lines, a blog operated by Jeff Hollick, the radio voice of the Ice on The Drive102.9 FM, Robison is quoted as saying: “When we’re looking at the Kootenay Ice, we’re in an area where, quite frankly, it’s going to require more support locally in order for that franchise to remain. The numbers we’re currently seeing, 2,200 average attendance, is not close to what we need to make that franchise work in the future.”
Kootenay’s average attendance this season (2,239) was the second-poorest in the 22-team league, ahead of only the Swift Current Broncos (2,162).
Robison attempted to soften the blow a bit when he added:
“We need to assess it as to whether it’s going to be viable beyond next season, that’s not to say we want to move the franchise or feel at this point that that’s part of the plan. That’s not the case at all. We want to see this franchise improve, it’s had a great history of success in the Kootenay market and we want that to continue but, in order for that to happen, we need the attendance to improve significantly.”
In the last five seasons, starting in 2010-11, the Ice’s average attendance has been, in order, 2,501, 2,805, 2,411, 2,227 and 2,239.
On the Ice, Kootenay has been one of the WHL’s more successful franchises. When the Ice opens a first-round series in Calgary on Friday night, it will mark Kootenay’s 17th straight playoff appearance. The Ice won the WHL championship in 2000, 2002 and 2011, and won the Memorial Cup in 2002.
At present, Ice ownership, should it want to move the franchise, doesn’t appear to have a lot of options.
There are three arenas in the Lower Mainland that could house a WHL franchise, but two of them — Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre and the Langley Events Centre — are home to BCHL franchises.
Prospera Centre, of course, was the home of the WHL’s Chilliwack Bruins for five seasons before the franchise moved to Victoria where it is the Royals. In their five seasons in Chilliwack, starting in 2006-07, the Bruins’ average attendance was 4,467, 4,533, 4,073, 3,260 and 3,372.
The third Lower Mainland arena is the 7,000-seat Abbotsford Centre, which was home to the Abbotsford Heat before the Calgary Flames moved their AHL affiliate to Adirondack, N.Y., last summer. In five seasons in Abbotsford, starting in 2009-01, the Heat’s average attendance was 3,897, 3,807, 3,545, 3,778 and 3,007.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Another Sutter on the way . . . Giants looking for head coach . . . Shaw TV to open with Calgary-Kootenay

With apologies to Blackie Sherrod, we're scatter-shooting with another WHL regular season having come and gone:
1. The Brandon Wheat Kings were being built for the 2015-16 season, weren’t they? A trade here and a tweak there, and the Wheat Kings finished first overall this season. Which means Kelly McCrimmon should be the WHL’s executive of the year and the coach of the year. Right?
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2. McCrimmon was the WHL’s exec of the year for 1994-95 and 2009-10. He won CHL honours in 2009-10. He has never been the WHL’s coach of the year.
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3. Whoops! McCrimmon wasn’t even nominated as the Eastern Conference’s coach of the year. That honour went to John Paddock of the Regina Pats.
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4. Of course, Mike Johnston was never honoured as the coach of the year, despite his accomplishments with the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Of course, Johnston never won the executive-of-the-year award either. . . . And look where not winning either award got him.
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5. F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Winterhawks is the most exciting talent this league has seen since . . . F Nino Niedereitter, who also played for Portland.
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6. Bjorkstrand led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118), all in 59 games. Wouldn’t it have been great if the WHL had decided prior to this season to track individual shot attempts and shots on goal? Had that happened, we would know just how much shooting Bjorkstrand did in what has been a truly remarkable season.
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7. How many WHL teams and observers are hoping that the Kelowna Rockets don’t go all the way? Why? Because those people are of the opinion that the deal in which the Rockets landed F Leon Draisaitl from the Prince Albert Raiders, by order of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, stunk to high heaven.
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8. Bruce Hamilton of the Rockets is the Western Conference’s nominee as executive of the year. Some people thought the honour might go to Craig MacTavish of the Edmonton Oilers.
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9. In hindsight, one of the best trades, in terms of helping both teams, at the WHL deadline involved Portland and Calgary Hitmen. The Winterhawks sent G Brendan Burke to Calgary, a move that freed up their starting job for Adin Hill, an 18-year-old freshman from Calgary. . . . With Calgary, Burke went 13-3-1, 2.38, .918. . . . Hill finished up 31-11-1, 2.81, .921.
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10. I have yet to figure out what the WHL gets out of having its games on TV, but what I really don’t understand is how the league ends up with games on Shaw TV and Sportsnet at the same time. For example, on Friday, March 20, Shaw was showing Everett at Victoria, while Sportsnet gave us Kelowna at Vancouver.
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Another Sutter has made his way into the WHL. F Riley Sutter is skating with the Everett Silvertips, who selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . Riley’s father, Ron, is one of the six Sutter brothers to have played in the NHL. Ron and his twin brother, Rich, both had NHL careers. . . . Riley, who won’t turn 16 until Oct. 25, played this season with the midget AAA Calgary Rangers, putting up 50 points, including 22 goals, in 36 games. . . . Should Riley play in a WHL game at some point, he will become at least the 11th member of the Sutter family to do so.
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WHL on Shaw
Shaw TV will show at least seven first-round WHL playoff games.
Shaw’s coverage will begin with Games 1 and 2 between the Calgary Hitmen and the Kootenay Ice. Those games are to be played in Calgary on Friday and Sunday.
Then it will be over to the series between the Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos. Shaw will televise Games 3 and 4 from Swift Current on March 31 and April 1.
Shaw will return to the Calgary-Kootenay series for Game 5, if necessary, which is scheduled for Cranbrook on April 3.
If the series between the Red Deer Rebels and Medicine Hat Tigers goes six games, Shaw will show Game 6 from Red Deer on April 5.
And, finally, if the Hitmen and Ice need seven games to decide their series, Game 7 from Calgary on April 6 will be shown.
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Two games in the first-round series between the Brandon Wheat Kings and Edmonton Oil Kings have had their starting times changed. Games 4 and 5, the latter if necessary, are scheduled for Edmonton on March 31 and April 1. They now will begin at 8 p.m. Mountain, rather than 7 o’clock, as originally was scheduled. . . . That series opens tonight in Brandon.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have signed G Curtis Meger and D Ty Prefontaine. . . . Meger, a list player, is with the Regina Pat Canadians who are playing in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA League final. In 23 regular-season appearances, he was 16-5-0, 1.91, .934. . . . Prefontaine, from Saskatoon, was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. He had 36 points, including seven goals, in 36 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts.
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They’re working hard to raise money for a new arena in Assiniboia, Sask. With that in mind, they are holding their Sports Celebrity Supper and Auction on April 11, at 5:30 p.m. . . . Former New York Islanders star Clark Gillies, who is Moose Jaw’s favourite son, will be in attendance, as will Bob Bourne, who also is a former Islanders skater. Amber Holland, a world curling silver medallist, also is to be there. . . . Among the items available via silent auction: autographed Olympic Team Canada sweaters from the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber and Ryan Getzlaf; a diamond ring; a northern Saskatchewan fishing trip; a trailer for a golf cart or ATV; a whole lot of autographed memorabilia and a trip for two to New York to watch the Islanders play. The latter trek includes seats in the Islanders’ Alumni box alongside Gillies. . . . Tickets? Email springfever@sasktel.net.
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THE COACHING GAME:

The Vancouver Giants are looking for their fourth head coach in three seasons. The Giants announced yesterday that Claude Noel, who joined the team on Nov. 30, won’t return.
According to the team, the decision was mutual.
The Giants were one of 10 WHL teams to make a coaching change during the last offseason. They also were the last of the 10 to fill the vacancy when they hired Troy Ward.
However, management chose to dump Ward when the team was 9-16-0 and on a road trip into the Central Division. Assistant coach Matt Erhart stepped in and went 1-2-0 before Noel was hired.
Under Noel, the Giants went 17-23-4.
Overall, they finished 27-41-4 and missed the playoffs.
In a revealing conversation with Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province earlier in the week, Noel talked about the future of the Giants organization:
”They have some work to do. They need to decide where they’re going to go and how they’re going to get there. There are some things that the organization is probably going to reassess. You always wonder: you were here, how did you get there? There are reasons you get from one to the other, and how do you get back? They have some young players. Their young players all look bright, but they’re just part of it. That’s just part of the equation. Who are your overages? Where’s your goaltending? Where’s your defence? Who are your forwards? Who’s going to score?”
Ewen’s blog piece is right here.
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“Chalk up a win for former players in their battle with the NHL over hockey-related head trauma,” writes Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated. “A motion filed by the league to dismiss the master complaint brought by the players was dismissed today in United States District Court in Minnesota.” . . . Muir’s piece is right here.
The order denying the motion is right here.
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Adam Proteau of The Hockey News takes a look right here at the above-mentioned lawsuit, the decision and the direction in which this whole thing appears headed.
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Centre Jack Miller, the Michigan Wolverines’ best offensive lineman in 2015, won’t play his senior season and he tells ESPN.com it’s because of the risk of brain injuries.
“I know I've had a few, and it's nice walking away before things could've gotten worse,” Miller told ESPN.com. “And yes, multiple schools have reached out. But I'm ready to walk away from it. My health and happiness is more important than a game.
“I know it's pretty unorthodox for a 21-year-old to see past his own nose. This game requires such a passion to excel, and my flame is burned out. However, I'd be lying if I said that the concussion thing doesn't scare me a little.”
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