The social media hills were alive with the sound of accolades on Saturday as word circulated that Rob Vanstone has chosen to leave the Regina Leader-Post after almost 36 years of chronicling everything there is to know about the sporting scene in Regina and, indeed, all over Saskatchewan. . . . Accolades, it must be said, that are certainly well-deserved. . . . But what’s next for someone who is not yet old enough to walk off into the sunset? . . . “A new opportunity, the details of which are to be divulged soon, is to begin on Tuesday,” he wrote in one final column. . . . There aren’t words to describe the size of the hole his departure from the printed page and the newspaper’s website will leave in that area’s sporting community. Yes, he is perhaps best known for his writings on the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. But his most important work has resulted from his love for high school sports, junior football, university sports, the so-called amateur sports, his love for all the “little people” of the sporting world. He loved nothing better than to stumble on a story in a far corner of a gymnasium and take it from there. That was Vanstone at his best. . . .
With Vanstone’s departure, you are free to wonder what’s next for what once was a wonderful sports department, one that in the 1990s featured an editor, a columnist, six reporters, three copy editor/layout people, and an agate clerk. It was nothing for coverage of a Roughriders’ home game to involve five writers. . . . Now there is one — ONE! — person left in the department. That would be Murray McCormick, who is going to be a whole lot busier than the Maytag repairman. . . .
Of course, The Leader-Post is owned by Postmedia, which seems to be sending people to the high jump almost every day. So . . . who knows? Perhaps that once terrific sports department soon is to be nothing but a memory.
And the thought of that is enough to make a grown man cry.
Sparked by the play of F Diego Cuglietta of Kamloops, SG Cortina won the Italian Hockey League Series A last weekend with a 2-1 victory over Ritten Sport. It was a four-team round-robin series and Cortina went 3-0 to win its 17th national title, but first since 2007. . . . Cuglietta scored Cortina’s first goal in the final victory. Cortina also beat HC Meran (3-0) and the Unterland Cavaliers (3-1). . . . In Alps League play, Cuglietta put up 41 points, including 15 goals, in 30 games to lead the team. . . . Cuglietta played three seasons with the BCHL’s Merritt Centennials before going on to spend four seasons at Lake Superior State. He did time in the AHL and ECHL before joining Cortina prior to this season. . . .
From the better-late-than-never department, the WHL’s 2022-23 Guide and Record Book is available for download at whl.ca. Perhaps someone in the Calgary office will put up a link on the home page. Otherwise, go to MORE on the menu near the top of the home page, then to MEDIA INFORMATION and click on the encircled plus sign. You’ll find the link right there. Happy downloading!
SATURDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
THE BEDARD REPORT: F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats added a goal and two assists to his eye-popping numbers, but his side dropped a 7-4 decision to the visiting Winnipeg Ice. . . . The goal came with the Pats shorhanded. It was his fifth shortie of the season and sixth of his career. . . . This was Bedard’s 41st game of the season; he has put up multiple points in 29 of them. . . . He now has a WHL-leading 103 points, including 51 goals. He finished last season with 100 points, 50 of them goals. . . . Since returning to the Pats after leading Canada to gold at the World Junior Championship, Bedard has scored 24 goals and added 15 assists in 13 games. . . . In 118 regular-season WHL games, he now has 231 points, including 114 goals. . . . When Bedard struck for his 50th goal of the season in his 40th game on Friday night, I forgot to mention that the WHL record for quickest to 50 is held by F Bill Derlago, who did it in 27 games — YES, 27!!! — with the Brandon Wheat Kings in 1977-78. . . .
In Regina, the Ice erased a 3-1 deficit with five straight goals en route to a 7-4 victory over the Pats. . . . F Evan Friesen (10) got the Ice into a 3-3 tie at 1:27 of the third period and F Matt Savoie (25) gave the visitors their first lead at 8:06. . . . F Connor Geekie (25) and F Zack Ostapchuk (19) stretched the lead to 6-3. That was Ostapchuk’s second goal; he also had an assist. . . . Savoie later put his 25th into an empty net. . . . Winnipeg (43-7-1) has won six in a row and leads the Eastern Conference by nine points. . . . Regina (25-24-3) has lost its past two and is tied with Swift Current and Medicine Hat for seventh in the conference. . . .
The Calgary Hitmen struck four times on the PP en route to a 7-2 victory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . The Hitmen finished 4-for-6 on the PP; Edmonton was 1-for-5 and gave up a shorthanded goal. . . . F Gavin Hodnett (11) gave Edmonton a 2-1 lead at 11:29 of the first period. . . . Calgary scored the last five goals. . . . F Sean Tschigerl (18) tied it on a PP at 13:07. . . . D Vojtech Husinecky’s first WHL goal, at 2:47 of the second period, stood up as the winner. Husinecky, a 17-year-old freshman from Czechia, has a goal and two assists in 28 games. . . . D Carter Yakemchuk (11) and F David Adaszynski (11) each had two goals for Calgary, with F Riley Fiddler-Schultz getting three assists. . . . Calgary (24-23-7) had lost its previous 10 games (0-7-3) and now is alone in sixth in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Regina, Swift Current and Medicine Hat. . . . Edmonton (8-42-3) has lost five straight. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets, outshot 46-15, were able to hang on and beat the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 3-1. . . . Kelowna G Talyn Boyko was the difference. He finished with 45 saves, 16 of them in the second period when the Rockets were outshot, 16-1. . . . The Rockets scored the last three goals. . . . F Game Klassen’s 30th goal gave Portland a 1-0 lead at 13:25 of the first period. . . . F Marcus Pacheco (9) got Kelowna even with a shorthanded score at 17:29 of the second. . . . The Rockets won it on third-period goals from F Turner McMillen (7) and F Adam Kydd (16). . . . The teams combined to take 11 minors — five to Kelowna F Andrew Cristall. . . . Kelowna (19-30-3) has won two in a row. It is eighth in the Western Conference but now is five points ahead of Victoria. . . . Portland (36-13-4) is on a three-game losing skid and now trails first-place Seattle by eight points in the conference. . . . .
F Kai Uchacz scored twice, including the winner, as the Red Deer Rebels beat the Tigers, 5-4 in OT, in Medicine Hat. . . . Red Deer has needed extra time for each of its past five victories — two in OT, three in shootouts. . . . Uchacz, who is second to F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats in the goal department, got his 43rd goal at 3:34 of OT. . . . F Shane Smith (18) had pulled the Tigers into a 4-4 tie at 3:37 of the third period. . . . The Tigers led 3-1 midway through the second period, but surrendered the next three goals, all via the PP. . . . Red Deer was 4-for-6 on the PP; Medicine Hat was 2-for-3. . . . Red Deer (37-13-4) leads the Central Division by 12 points over Lethbridge. . . . Medicine Hat (22-22-9) is tied with Regina and Swift Current for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. . . .
F Niall Crocker scored twice to help the host Prince Albert Raiders to a 5-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Crocker, who has 11 goals, gave his guys a 1-0 lead at 14:19 of the first period and closed out the scoring, on a PP, at 17:32 of the third. . . . F Ryder Ritchie helped the winners with three assists. Ritchie, a 16-year-old from Calgary, was a first-round pick in the WHL’s 2021 draft. He has 37 points, including 22 assists, in 46 games as a freshman. This was his first three-assist outing and his second three-point game. . . . Crocker’s first career two-goal game came in his 138th regular-season game. A first-rounder from 2019, the native of Delta, B.C., has 23 points in 51 games this season, after recording three goals and three assists in 64 games last season. . . . Prince Albert (22-28-3) has won three in a row and is six points from a playoff spot. . . . Moose Jaw (33-19-3) has lost three straight. It is fourth in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Lethbridge. . . .
The Seattle Thunderbirds scored six times in the game’s first half as they skated to an 8-1 victory over the Victoria Royals in Kent, Wash. . . . D Kevin Korchinski finished with four assists; he had three of them just 8:20 into the first period. . . . It was Korchinski’s second four-point game this season and the fourth of his career. Korchinski was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks with the seventh overall pick of the NHL’s 2022 draft. This season, he has 55 points, including 48 assists, in 39 games. He now is a point-a-game player for his career, with 130 points in 130 regular-season games. . . . F Jared Davidson (31) and F Kyle Crnkovic (27) each scored twice for Seattle. . . . F Colton Dach, who last played a WHL game on Dec. 4, made his Seattle debut and had two assists. He suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Canada at the World Junior Championship, then was traded by the Kelowna Rockets — he had been their captain — to the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle G Scott Ratzlaff stopped 24 shots for the victory. He now is 19-6-1, 2.15, .920 this season. . . . Seattle (41-9-2) has won six straight and looks headed to a first-place finish in the Western Conference. . . . Victoria (15-34-6) has lost two in a row and is five points from a playoff spot. . . . This was the first of three straight between these teams; they’ll play again Monday and Tuesday in Victoria. . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings scored two first-period goals and went on to a 3-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . F Nolan Ritchie drew assists on the first-period scores from F Nate Danielson (26) and F Calder Anderson (13). . . . Brandon was 2-for-4 on the PP; Swift Current was 0-for-4. . . . Brandon (22-24-7) had lost its previous two games. It is 10th in the Eastern Conference, but just two points from a playoff spot. . . . Swift Current (25-24-3) has lost two in a row and is tied with Regina and Medicine Hat for the conference’s last playoff spot, two points ahead of Brandon. . . .
G Tomas Suchanek blocked 39 shots to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 3-0 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Kennewick, Wash. . . . That was Suchanek’s first shutout this season and the second of his career. This season, he is 21-11-2, 3.16, .912. . . . F Deegan McMillan’s 13th goal, at 4:45 of the first period, was all the offence Suchanek would need. . . . Tri-City (26-20-7) had lost its previous six games (0-4-2). It is fourth in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Everett. . . . Spokane (11-36-6) had points in each of its previous three games (2-0-1). . . .
Blanked for almost 50 minutes, the Saskatoon Blades scored twice late to beat the Vancouver Giants, 2-1, in Langley, B.C. . . . The Blades went 4-1-0 in the B.C. Division, the lone loss coming by a 5-2 count in Kamloops on Feb. 10. . . . F Ty Thorpe (27) returned after sitting out a week with an undisclosed injury to give the Giants a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 13:51 of the second period. . . . F Jayden Wiens (12) got the Blades even, on a PP, at 9:43 of the third and F Conner Roulette (21) won it at 13:30. . . . The Blades got 19 stops from freshman G Austin Elliott. The 18-year-old from Strathmore, Alta., who was a 12th-round pick in the WHL’s 2019 draft, is 20-5-2, 1.97, .919. . . . The Giants also had Samuel Honzek back for the first time since he left for the World Junior Championship. He suffered a skate cut to one leg while playing for Slovakia in the WJC. Honzek has 43 points, 17 of them goals, in 31 games, so his offence will help the Giants. . . . Saskatoon (37-13-4) has four straight victories. It is tied with Red Deer for second in the Eastern Conference. But the Rebels are likely to win the Central Division so will be the second seed with the Blades third, both of them behind Winnipeg. . . . Vancouver (20-26-6) is seventh in the Western Conference, six points behind Prince George and five ahead of Kelowna.
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