The WHL’s Kelowna Rockets weren’t considered as a potential host for the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament after an audit found that the team’s home arena, 24-year-old Prospera Place, wasn’t up to standards. As the Rockets posted on their website shortly after the Kamloops Blazers were named as the host team, an audit discovered “significant deficiencies that needed to be upgraded for the facility to meet the Canadian Hockey League standards for hosting the Memorial Cup.” . . . Bruce Hamilton, the Rockets’ majority owner, president and general manager, has told Rob Munro of infotel.ca that he would like to bid again in 2025. But there’s a problem in that most of the improvements needed have yet to be implemented. . . . And now Hamilton is even hinting that it might be time to look for a new home. As he told Munro: “We’ve still got five or six years left on our lease. We’ll see what happens here. It would be pretty unusual for someone to be on a 30-year lease and get into the last five years and not have a plan. You can read between the words on that. I’m not threatening anything but we’re running a big business here.” . . . Munro’s complete story is right here.
The WHL website shows that the Saskatoon Blades, the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, will play host to the opening game in a first-round playoff series on March 31. However, if the Blades’ first-round opponent is the Regina Pats, it seems that the series may begin on March 30, with Game 2 on March 31 . . . That’s because TSN apparently is interested in climbing on board the Connor Bedard bandwagon in time for the playoffs and would like to have a March 30 game to televise. . . . While it isn’t yet guaranteed, all signs point to Bedard and his Pats meeting the Blades in the first round. . . . I don’t have any idea if TSN would like to show more than one game. . . . The original plan was for the Pats and Blades to play at the SaskTel Centre on March 31 and April 2. The NLL’s Saskatchewan Rush have a home game scheduled for April 1.
If the WHL playoffs started today (x-locked in):
Winnipeg (1) vs. Medicine Hat (8)
Red Deer (2) vs. Calgary (7)
Saskatoon (3) vs. Regina (6)
Moose Jaw (4) vs. Lethbridge (5)
x-Seattle (1) vs. Kelowna (8)
x-Kamloops (2) vs. Vancouver (7)
x-Portland (3) vs. Everett (6)
x-Prince George (4) vs. Tri-City (5)
TUESDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
The Seattle Thunderbirds wrapped up first place in the Western Conference with a 6-3 victory over the Kamloops Blazers in Kent, Wash. . . . The two teams will meet again tonight, this time in Kamloops. . . . F Dylan Guenther (11) scored twice for Seattle, which erased a 2-1 first-period deficit. . . . Kamloops D Olen Zellweger (31) scored twice. He is the first defenceman to get to 30 since Connor Hobbs finished with 31 with the Regina Pats in 2016-17. . . . G Thomas Milic stopped 34 shots for Seattle, while the Blazers got 28 saves from Dylan Ernst. . . . Seattle (53-9-3) has points in 19 straight (18-0-1). It has set a franchise record for victories in one season. The previous record was set in 1989-90. . . . The Blazers (47-12-6) had won its previous nine games. . . . Results on Tuesday set up first-round Western Conference playoff series between No. 1 Seattle and No. 8 Kelowna, and No. 2 Kamloops and No. 7 Vancouver. . . . The Thunderbirds swept the season series with the Rockets, 4-0, outscoring them 15-7 in the process. . . . Kamloops went 6-1-1 against Vancouver this season; the Giants were 2-6-0. The Blazers held the scoring edge, 33-19. . . .
F Ty Halaburda scored twice, the second coming in OT, as the Vancouver Giants beat the Winterhawks, 3-2, in Portland. . . . Halaburda scored his 20th goal of the season at 4:24 of OT. . . . Halaburda and D Tyler Thorpe (4) allowed the Giants to hold a 2-0 lead early in the third period. . . . The Winterhawks tied it on goals from F Robbie Fromm-Delorme (33), on a PP, at 7:14 of the third period and F Diego Buttazzoni (6), at 13:35. . . . Portland held a 39-18 edge in shots, including 26-11 through two periods. . . . The Giants got 37 saves from G Brett Mirwald. . . . Vancouver (27-31-8) had lost its previous two games. . . . Portland (39-20-7) has lost three in a row (0-2-1). . . . The Giants now will finish seventh in the Western Conference, so will meet the No. 2 Kamloops Blazers in the first round. . . . The No. 3 Winterhawks already knew that their first-round opponent would be the No. 6 Everett Silvetips. . . .
The Swift Current Broncos erased a 2-1 second-period deficit as they beat the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings, 5-2. . . . F Mason Finley (13) gave the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead with a pair of goals, the second one at 13:14 of the second period. . . . D Sam McGinley (9) pulled the Broncos even at 15:45 and F Caleb Wyrostok (22) broke the tie at 2:55 of the third period. . . . D Connor Hvidston drew three assists. . . . Swift Current (30-32-4) has won two in a row. With two games remaining, it is ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point out of eighth and two from seventh. . . . Edmonton (9-52-4) has lost five straight (0-4-1). The Oil Kings need to win their three remaining games to avoid equalling or setting a WHL record for the fewest victories in one season by a defending champion. The Broncos won the 2017-18 title, then went 11-51-6 in 2018-19.
The AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks announced on Tuesday that they and head coach Clayton Jardine “have mutually agreed to part ways effective immediately.” . . . However, in the second paragraph of the news release, it indicates that “the organization has decided to make a change in leadership at this point in time.” . . . Jardine, 32, had been the club’s head coach since 2019-20. . . . This season, the Kodiaks finished 27-30-3, good for fifth in the South Division. They were swept from a best-of-seven first-round playoff series by the Okotoks Oilers.
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