Rockets lose forward to retirement . . . Warriors win second game in B.C. . . . Red-hot Byram sparks Giants’ victory

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The Kelowna Rockets announced on Wednesday morning that F Erik Gardiner has retired.

Gardiner, an alternate captain, was in his third season with the Rockets. The Regina Pats KelownaRocketsselected him in the second round of the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft.

The Rockets acquired Gardiner and D James Hilsendager from Regina on Nov. 30, 2016, for D Jonathan Smart.

This season, Gardiner had five goals and 18 assists in 39 games. In 114 career regular-season games — four with Regina and 110 with Kelowna — he had 16 goals and 35 assists.

Gardiner, 19, is from Humboldt. He played minor hockey in the Saskatchewan community and also played 25 games with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos in 2016-17. Yes, he lost friends in the April 6 crash involving the Broncos’ bus.

“Due to health and personal reasons, I thought it was time to step away,” Gardiner said in a news release. “I want to focus on different things and take care of myself.”

Gardiner was limited to 31 games in 2017-18, losing a chunk in the middle of the season after being struck on the head while blocking a shot during a 4-3 OT victory over the visiting Tri-City Americans on Oct. 27. The impact of the shot actually broke his visor, but Gardiner returned and drew the primary assist on the winning goal.

Here’s what Regan Bartel, the Rockets’ radio voice, wrote on his blog at the time:

“With many in the building gasping as Gardiner went down in considerable pain and the replay was shown on the video screen, Gardiner took off his helmet, rubbed his head a few times before eventually making his way to his feet. Surprisingly, Gardiner stayed in the game, blocked another key shot on an Americans’ power play in overtime and then set up Carsen Twarynski for the game winner.”

One night later, Gardiner was in the lineup again, picking up two primary assists in a 4-2 victory over the Prince George Cougars in Kelowna.

However, he didn’t play again until Feb. 9 as he tried to overcome post-concussion symptoms.

In mid-April, Gardiner spoke about his Humboldt connections with Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier. That story is right here.

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The GSL Group, which owns the WHL’s Victoria Royals, has purchased the Delta Hockey Academy from the Delta, B.C., School District, for $1. The academy is based out of Planet Ice in North Delta, a facility owned by the GSL Group, which was founded by Graham Lee. . . . Sandor Gyarmati of the Delta Optimist has the story right here.

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The junior B North Okanagan Knights of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League, who play out of Armstrong, B.C., have signed Dean McAmmond as their head coach, replacing the fired John Van Horlick. . . . Van Horlick was dismissed last week, with assistant coaches Liam Mconie and Graham Watkins running the team for a bit. They remain on staff to work with McAmmond, a former WHL and NHL forward. Joey Guerra also remains on staff. . . . Dallas Keller, the Knights’ general manager, told the Vernon Morning Star that Van Horlick will be staying with the organization as a scout and consultant. . . . That story is right here.

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WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Kootenay Ice erased a 2-1 deficit with three straight goals en route to a 4-3 victory Kootenaynewover the Pats in Regina. . . . Kootenay (10-29-7) has won two in a row. Of its 10 victories, six are on home ice and four came in Saskatchewan. With the victory, the Ice moved ahead of the Pats by one point. . . . The Ice went into Tuesday’s game in Swift Current, where it beat the Broncos, 2-0, having won twice since Nov. 1. . . . Regina (12-31-2) has lost eight straight (0-7-1). . . . D Brady Poteau (2) gave the Pats a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 2:03 of the first period. . . . The Ice tied it on a goal by F Austin Schellenberg (3) at 12:08. . . . The Pats went back in front at 1:58 of the second period as F Sebastian Streu (5) scored, on a PP. . . . The Ice took a 4-2 lead on goals from F Jakin Smallwood (6), on a PP, at 4:32; D Valtteri Kakkonen (1), at 11:09; and F Davis Murray (7), at 1:38 of the third. . . . Regina F Duncan Pierce (6) made  it a one-goal game at 6:11 but the Pats weren’t able to get another goal. . . . Kakkonen, a freshman from Finland, scored his first goal in his 36th game. . . . Regina was 2-9 on the PP; Kootenay was 1-5. . . . The Ice got 26 saves from G Curtis Meger, who was making his first appearance since joining the team from the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats. Meger, 20, is from Regina. Last season, he got into 27 games with the Prince Albert Raiders, going 8-10-6, 3.43, .886. . . . The Ice scratched F Jaeger White, who may have been injured while blocking a shot late in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. White scored the game’s first goal and added an assist in that victory.

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F James Hamblin’s shootout goal gave the host Medicine Hat Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Tigers Logo OfficialEdmonton Oil Kings. . . . Medicine Hat (24-16-4) has points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . Edmonton (24-14-8) has points in four straight and now is atop the Central Division by two points over idle Lethbridge. . . . Edmonton leads the season series, 3-0-1; Medicine Hat is 1-1-2. Yes, three of the four games have gone to extra time. . . . The Tigers are fourth in the Central Division, one point out of third. . . . D Ethan Cap (5) gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead at 5:19 of the first period, with the Tigers tying it on a goal by F Corson Hopwo (2), at 10:43. . . . D Wyatt McLeod (3) put the Oil Kings back in front at 19:57. . . . The Tigers tied it, again, at 4:35 of the third as F Ryan Jevne got his 21st goal. . . . Edmonton went in front, again, at 12:45 as F Josh Williams (10) scored, on a PP. That was his first goal with Edmonton since coming over from Medicine Hat in a Jan. 10 deal. . . . The Tigers forced OT when F Ryan Chyzowski (15) struck with 34.3 seconds left in regulation time. Chyzowski hadn’t played since Jan. 5 when he suffered a skate cut near a knee. . . . Hamblin, who had two assists, was the first shooter in the shootout and the only one to score. . . . Each team took one minor penalty. . . . The Tigers lost G Mads Søgaard with 5:16 left in the second period. He left after being involved in a collision with Jevne. . . . The Tigers were trailing 2-1 at the time. Jordan Hollett came on to stop 12 of 13 shots and record the victory. . . . D Matthew Robertson returned for the Oil Kings. He hadn’t played since Dec. 29.

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The Moose Jaw Warriors scored the game’s last five goals and beat the Rockets, 5-1, in MooseJawWarriorsKelowna. . . . Moose Jaw (23-11-7) has won two in a row as it has opened its B.C. Division trek with back-to-back victories. It is third in the East Division, five points behind idle Saskatoon and with four games in hand on the Blades. . . . Kelowna (17-22-4) has lost six in a row (0-5-1). It is third in the B.C. Division, three points ahead of Prince George. . . . Last season, the Rockets finished atop the B.C. Division, at 43-22-7, so have already equalled that loss total. . . . Things aren’t about to get any easier for the Rockets, either, as they are scheduled to meet the Silvertips in Everett on Friday, then hurry home to face the Prince Albert Raiders on Saturday. . . . The Warriors won the faceoff battle, 37-22. . . . F Carson Denomie (2) got the Warriors started at 4:08 of the first period. It was his first goal since Moose Jaw acquired him from Kamloops last week. . . . F Justin Almeida (14) made it 2-0, on a PP, at 15:08 of the second period. . . . D Jett Woo (8) upped it to 3-0 at 19:36. . . . The Warriors got third-period goals from F Drae Gardiner (1) and F Daniil Stepanov (5) before F Kyle Topping (16) scored for the Rockets. . . . D Josh Brook drew three assists, giving him five in the first two games of the B.C. Division trip. He has nine goals and 35 assists in 32 games. . . . G Brodan Salmond earned the victory with 18 saves. He spent the previous two seasons with the Rockets, but was released over the summer. This season, he is 13-4-4, 2.84, .900. . . . Kelowna’s lone scratch was D Matt Barberis, who has yet to play since being acquired from the Vancouver Giants. With the departures of D Libor Zabransky (released) and F Erik Gardiner (retired), the Rockets have only 21 players on their roster.

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The Prince Albert Raiders broke a 2-2 tie with four goals en route to a 6-2 victory over the PrinceAlbertCougars in Prince George. . . . The Raiders (38-5-1) have won three in a row and lead the East Division by 19 points over Saskatoon. This was the start of a B.C. Division tour that continues Friday in Kamloops. . . . The Cougars (16-23-3) had won their previous two games. They hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, a point ahead of idle Seattle. . . . The Raiders took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from F Sean Montgomery (19) and F Parker Kelly (21). . . . The Cougars tied it on goals from F Jackson Leppard (9), at 16:46 of the first period, and F Mike MacLean (4), at 2:40 of the second. . . . Prince Albert F Aliaksei Protas (8) snapped the tie, on a PP, at 10:51. . . . The visitors put it away with three third-period goals, from F Cole Fonstad (17), F Justin Nachbaur (11) and F Noah Gregor (27). . . . G Taylor Gauthier, making his seventh straight start for the Cougars, stopped 43 shots. . . . The Raiders got 23 stops from G Ian Scott, who now is 26-4-1, 1.78, .937. . . . F Ilijah Colina returned to the Cougars’ lineup after last playing on Dec. 30.

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D Bowen Byram’s goal in OT gave the Vancouver Giants a 5-4 victory over the Tri-City VancouverAmericans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Vancouver (27-12-2) has won four in a row and leads the B.C. Division by 11 points over idle Victoria. . . . Tri-City (21-16-3) has lost two straight. It holds down the Western Conference’s first wild-card berth. . . . The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from F Riley Sawchuk (13) and F Sasha Mutala (11). . . . Vancouver went ahead 3-2 on second-period goals from F Jadon Joseph, F Davis Koch (14) and D Bowen Byram. . . . F Kyle Olson (11) got Tri-City into a 3-3 tie at 14:59. . . . Joseph gave Vancouver a 4-3 lead with his 15th goal with 0.6 left in the second. . . . The Americans tied it at 1:56 of the third period when F Parker AuCoin (23) scored on a penalty shot. . . . Byram, who also had an assist, won it with his 15th goal of the season, at 2:39 of OT. . . . Byram has points in seven straight games, with six goals and eight assists over that stretch. In 41 games, he now has 15 goals and 27 assists. . . . Joseph added an assist to his two goals, while Koch had two assists and now has three straight three-point outings. He has 14 goals and 30 assists in 41 games.

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