Is it too early to wonder if it is worth it for a major junior hockey team to really — make that really, really, really — go all-in as it attempts to win a championship?
Is it worth it even if that team wins the championship?
What about the host team for the Memorial Cup tournament? Is it worth it for that team to do the same thing?
Yes, this is all about the Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats.
The Broncos, of course, wheeled and dealed their way to the 2017-18 WHL championship. As one observer told Taking Note the other day, “They sold the farm, animals, crop and the dirt.”
And now the Broncos are paying the price. After dropping a 4-1 decision to the visiting Everett Silvertips on Saturday night, they are 1-13-0 and have lost six in a row. They are 0-4-0 at home; they are 1-9-0 on the road, the only victory a 3-2 shootout triumph over the Wheat Kings in Brandon on Oct. 13.
Surely, the Broncos won’t challenge the WHL record for fewest victories in a season, but early indications are that they will be hard-pressed to win 20 games. That is the number of victories posted by the 2010-11 Calgary Hitmen, to date the fewest in one season by a defending champion. (The 1998-99 Portland Winterhawks are No. 2, with 23.)
Meanwhile, the Pats, who lost in the Memorial Cup final last spring, were 6-2 losers to the Raiders in Prince Albert last night. The Pats are 3-11-0 and have lost five straight games. They are 0-8-0 at home and 3-3-0 on the road.
The Pats and Broncos have met once this season, with Regina posting a 6-5 victory in Swift Current on Oct. 5.
They will play Game 2 of the six-game season series in Regina today, with the teams having a combined 4-24-0 record.
Of course, the question remains as to just how long the Broncos and Pats will pay for all the moves leading into last season’s playoffs?
The Saskatoon Blades went all-in as they prepared for their role as the host team for the 2013 Memorial Cup. Some people will tell you that the franchise still is in the process of recovering.
The Kelowna Rockets announced the signing of F Trevor Wong on Saturday, hours before they met up with the visiting Prince George Cougars. Wong, 15, made his WHL debut in that game. . . . From Vancouver, the 5-foot-8, 135-pound Wong was selected by Kelowna with the 18th overall pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Many observers felt he would have been selected sooner had he not made a verbal commitment to attend the U of Denver and play for the Pioneers starting in 2020-21. . . . Last season, Wong had 64 goals and 77 assists in 30 games with the bantam varsity team at St. George’s School in Vancouver. . . . This season, he has four goals and seven assists in 10 games with the major midget Greater Vancouver Canadians. . . .
With Wong signed, you can bet that the Rockets, who will be the host team for the 2020 Memorial Cup, will turn their attention to attempting to sign F Ethan Bowen, who was a second-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . The 6-foot-2, 160-pound Bowen, 16, is from Chilliwack and is playing in his hometown for the BCHL’s Chiefs. He went into last night with six goals and five assists in 11 games. . . . Bowen has made a verbal commitment to the U of North Dakota Fighting Hawks for 2020-21. . . . His older brother, Ryan, began this season with Kelowna but was released as the Rockets got down to the league-mandated maximum of three 20-year-olds.
No one in the WHL is having a better season than F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders. Leason, a 19-year-old Calgarian, had a goal and an assist, both in the first period, as the host Raiders beat the Regina Pats, 6-2, on Saturday night. That put him at 34 points in 16 games, breaking his career high of 33 from last season when he had one goal in 12 games with the Tri-City Americans and 32 points, 15 of them goals, in 54 games with the Raiders. . . . This season, Leason leads the WHL in goals (15), assists (19) and points (34). . . .
The Raiders acquired Leason from the Americans on Oct. 26, 2017, giving up a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. That pick had originated with the Americans, who traded it to the Raiders as part of a deal in which G Rylan Parenteau moved to Tri-City. . . . In 2016-17, as a freshman, Leason had eight goals and 10 assists with the Americans, who picked him in the third round of the 2014 bantam draft.
SATURDAY NIGHT NOTES:
The Prince Albert Raiders ran their winning streak to eight games as they bounced the visiting Regina Pats, 6-2. . . . Prince Albert scored the game’s first six goals as it improved to 15-1-0. . . . Regina (3-11-0) has lost five in a row. . . . The Raiders’ last two goals both were of the shorthanded variety, from F Eric Pearce (2) and F Jakob Brook (4). Brook drew an assist on Pearce’s goal and, yes, Pearce had an assist on Brook’s tally. Those goals came 2:58 apart midway through the second period. . . . Prince Albert got 19 saves from G Ian Scott, who now is 13-1-0, 1.57, .943.
F Connor Dewar scored two goals and added two assists in leading the Everett Silvertips to a 4-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . Everett (10-5-0) has won three in a row; it went 4-2-0 on its East Division tour. . . . The Broncos (1-13-0) have lost six in a row. . . . This was the first meeting between these two franchises since last season’ WHL championship final. The Broncos won that best-of-seven series in six games. . . . Dewar, Everett’s captain, was playing his first game after serving a four-game suspension. He opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal at 2:15 of the first period. . . . F Tanner Nagel (3) pulled the Broncos even at 11:43. . . . D Gianni Fairbrother (1) of the Silvertips broke the tie with another shorthanded goal, at 16:54 of the second period. . . . Dewar scored his 10th goal of the season, on a PP, 15 seconds into the third period.
F Trey Fix-Wolansky had a goal and two assists as the host Edmonton Oil Kings scored a 5-2 victory over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Oil Kings (8-7-1) have won three in a row. . . . The Blades (8-5-2) have lost three straight (0-2-1). . . . Edmonton took control with the game’s first three goals. . . . F Quinn Benjafield got the first two, scoring on a PP at 18:33 of the first period and shorthanded at 5:16 of the second. He’s got five goals. . . . Fix-Wolansky got his 10th goal into an empty net at 19:06 of the third period. He has 28 points in 16 games this season, including four goals and six assists over his past four games. His 28 points trail only the 34 of F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders. . . . F Gary Haden, who was acquired Thursday from the Medicine Hat Tigers, scored both Saskatoon goals, the first while shorthanded. He’s got three goals this season. . . . D Keegan Slaney, the 20th overall pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft, made his WHL debut with the Oil Kings. From Airdrie, Alta., he has six assists in 11 games with the Edge School prep team in Calgary this season.
The Moose Jaw Warriors erased a 3-0 deficit and got past the host Medicine Hat Tigers, 4-3, in a shootout. . . . The Warriors (6-4-3) had lost their previous two games (0-1-1). . . . The Tigers (8-6-2) have points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . F Tristin Langan won this one with the only goal of the shootout. He was the second shooter in the third round. . . . F Brayden Tracey (4) pulled the Warriors into a 3-3 tie at 19:41 of the third period. . . . F Jaxon Steele (2) had given Medicine Hat a 3-0 lead at 2:25 of the third. . . . F Tate Popple (3) got Moose Jaw started at 4:39, and D Josh Brook (5) got the Warriors to within a goal at 12:13. . . . Moose Jaw took the game’s only two penalties — both minors.
F Nolan Foote scored on a PP just 43 seconds into OT to give the host Kelowna Rockets a 4-3 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . The Rockets (6-10-0) have won two in a row. . . . The Cougars (5-6-3) have lost three straight (0-1-2). . . . Foote was back in the Rockets’ lineup after a brief absence. This was his first game with his father, Adam, as the Rockets’ head coach. The senior Foote is 2-0-0 as a WHL head coach since taking over from the fired Jason Smith on Tuesday. . . . F Kyle Topping (6) had given the hosts a 3-2 lead, on a PP, at 1:08 of the third period. . . . D Ryan Schoettler (3) got the Cougars into a tie at 4:52.
F Jermaine Loewen scored three goals to lead the Kamloops Blazers to a 6-2 victory over the Winterhawks in Portland. . . . The Blazers (5-6-1) are on their first three-game winning streak of the season. . . . The Winterhawks (7-5-1) have lost two in a row. . . . The same teams will play again today in Portland as they conclude their season series. The Winterhawks won twice in Kamloops early in October. . . . Loewen was playing his second game after serving a four-game suspension for a high hit on Portland D Matthew Quigley in a 5-3 loss to the visiting Winterhawks on Oct. 5. Loewen returned Friday with a goal and an assist in a 7-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash. That was Loewen’s first game as team captain; he was named captain while he was suspended. . . . F Joachim Blickfeld (10) gave Portland a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 6:20 of the first period. . . . The Blazers scored the next four goals, three of them before the first period ended. . . . Loewen scored PP goals at 8:19 of the first period and 2:10 of the second, the latter providing a 4-1 lead. He completed his first career hat trick at 5:17 of the third. . . . Kamloops F Connor Zary had a goal, his fifth, and an assist, giving him six points over two games. . . . Portland lost D Jared Freadrich to a cross-checking major and game misconduct at 18:40 of the first period.
The Tri-City Americans erased 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in beating the Chiefs, 5-3, in Spokane. . . . The Americans (9-4-0) have won five straight. . . . The Chiefs slipped to 7-4-3. . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s second goal of the game, on a PP, at 7:39 of the third period gave the home team a 3-2 lead. . . . F Sasha Mutala (3) scored a PP goal to pull Tri-City even at 9:59, and F Isaac Johnson (6) got what proved to be the winner at 15:32. . . . F Nolan Yaremko (10), who also had two assists, got the empty-netter. . . . Anderson-Dolan’s goals were his first of this season and came in his second game since being returned by the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.
The Seattle Thunderbirds got 41 saves from G Liam Hughes as they skated to a 5-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . The Thunderbirds (7-3-2) had lost their previous three games (0-2-1). . . . The Giants (10-3-2) had points in their previous two (1-0-1). . . . The Giants had 17 shots in each of the last two periods but could only muster one goal, that from F Milos Roman (6) at 4:36 of the third period. . . . Seattle jumped out to a 4-0 lead on two goals in each of the first two periods. The outburst featured F Noah Philp’s ninth goal of the season, two from F Matthew Wedman, who has five, and F Samuel Huo’s first of the season.
F Kaid Oliver scored twice to help the host Victoria Royals to a 3-1 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The Royals (9-3-0) had lost their previous two games. . . . The Wheat Kings (6-3-4) have lost four in a row (0-2-2). Brandon now is 1-1-1 on a seven-game road swing that continues today against the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. . . . F Stelio Mattheos (13) put Brandon ahead 1-0, on a PP, at 14:50 of the first period. . . . Oliver, who has nine goals, tied it at 19:53 of the first, then broke the tie at 9:46 of the third. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt (2) got the empty-netter while shorthanded. . . . G Griffen Outhouse stopped 28 shots for the Royals. He returned after missing some time with an undisclosed injury. It’s believed that he tweaked something during practice nine or 10 days ago. . . . The Royals are without F Dante Hannoun, a key offensive contributor, as well as F Phillip Schultz, a freshman import from Denmark, and F Logan Doust, all out with undisclosed injuries.