WHL PLAYOFF NOTES:
The Eastern Conference final opened in Winnipeg last night with the Ice skating to a 3-0 victory over the Saskatoon Blades. They’ll play Game 2 today in Winnipeg, then head for Saskatoon and games on Tuesday and Wednesday. . . . Saskatoon has had eight home games in these playoffs and drawn seven of the top 10 crowds. The other three were for games that featured the Blades against the host Regina Pats. . . . The announced attendance last night in Winnipeg was 1,613, which was lower than the Ice’s average of 1,650 for 34 regular-season games. . . .
And the Western Conference final gets started tonight with the No. 2 Kamloops Blazers visiting the No. 1 Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash. . . . This will be the second straight season in which the conference final has featured these two franchises; Seattle won in seven games a year ago.
You are free to wonder how whether rust — or perhaps nerves — will be a factor in Game 1 tonight. Each of these teams is 8-0 this spring, but Seattle hasn’t played since April 19, while the Blazers have been off since April 20. The Thunderbirds swept aside the No. 8 Kelowna Rockets and No. 4 Prince George Cougars. The Blazers took care of the No. 7 Vancouver Giants and the No. 3 Portland Winterhawks.
Seattle and Kamloops met twice in the last week of the regular season — the Thunderbirds won, 6-3, in Kent on March 21; the Blazers won, 6-5, in Kamloops the next night. Kamloops also won, 3-2, in a shootout in Kent on March 7. . . . Earlier, Seattle won, 2-1 in OT, in Kamloops on Nov. 9.
If you want a whole lot more on this series, there is an in-depth preview available on the WHL website.
They’ll play Game 2 in Kent on Sunday, and then head to Kamloops for games on Tuesday and Thursday. Interestingly, should this series go seven games, they’ll play Games 6 and 7 on back-to-back nights — May 8 in Kamloops and May 9 in Kent.
The 2023 Kamloops Kidney Walk is scheduled for June 4, and Dorothy is taking part once again. She will celebrate 10 years as a kidney-transplant recipient in September, so the annual Kidney Walk is a big deal for her. In fact, she is participating for a 10th straight year. Yes, that means she is fund-raising, with all donations going to the Kidney Foundation. . . . Things are rolling right along, too, as she now has surpassed $3,400 thanks to help from people like the former WHL coach who checked in on Friday. . . . If you are interested in helping, you are able to do so on her home page, which is right here.
FRIDAY IN THE WHL PLAYOFFS:
Saskatoon (2) at Winnipeg (1) — The Winnipeg Ice scored two first-period goals 1:26 apart en route to a 3-0 victory over the Saskatoon Blades in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. . . . They’ll play Game 2 today in Winnipeg, starting at 4 p.m. . . . D Ben Zloty (1) opened the scoring at 14:39 of the first period. He went into the game with no goals and a WHL-leading 15 assists. . . . The Ice went ahead 2-0 at 16:05 when F Zach Ostapchuk (8) scored a shorthanded penalty-shot goal, putting the puck off a post and in. He has goals in eight of the 10 games in which he has played in these playoffs. . . . D Carson Lambos (1) upped the lead to 3-0 at 7:45 of the second period. . . . Saskatoon was 0-for-4 on the PP; Winnipeg was 0-for-1. . . . G Daniel Hauser recorded the shutout with 16 saves. He is 9-1, 2.56, .907 in the playoffs, after going 37-4-1, 2.28, .917 in the regular season. . . . The Blades got 25 stops from G Ethan Chadwick. . . . Were the Blades, coming off two seven-game series, showing signs of fatigue in the latter part of the game? The Ice outshot them 8-4 in the second period and 10-4 in the third. . . . Saskatoon F Justin Lies was back in action after having served a three-game suspension. . . . The Blades continue to be without D Blake Gustafson, who was injured in the previous series. . . . With D Ben Saunderson also injured, Saskatoon had D Morgan Tastad make his playoff debut. The 6-foot-4 Tastad, a 17-year-old from Loreburn, Sask., played in one regular-season game. He was a ninth-round pick by the Blades in the WHL’s 2021 draft.
The WHL will be well-represented on the officiating front at the IIHF World men’s hockey championship in Tampere, Finland, and Riga, Latvia. Referees Adam Bloski and Mike Langin, along with linesmen Brett Mackey and Tarrington Wyonzek, will be working games in what is the biggest tournament of the season in some countries. Each of the foursome will be working his first world championship. . . . The tournament is scheduled to open on May 12 and run through May 28. . . .
The BCHL’s Penticton Vees ran their playoff winning streak to 25 on Friday night with a 5-1 victory over the visiting Salmon Arm Silverbacks. This was Game 1 of the Interior Conference final. The Vees lost their first playoff game a year ago, then won 16 in a row as they skated to the championship. This spring, they now are 9-0. . . . In the Coastal Conference, the host Alberni Valley Bulldogs opened with a 9-5 victory over the Chilliwack Chiefs. . . . Game 2 in both series will be played tonight in the same venues. . . .
In the AJHL, the Brooks Bandits beat the visiting Spruce Grove Saints, 3-2 in OT, on Friday night to win the championship in five games. F Brendan Poshak’s third goal of the playoffs won it at 5:10 of extra time to give the Bandits their seventh AJHL title. . . . Brooks will represent the AJHL in the Centennial Cup tournament in Portage la Prairie, Man., and the Bandits go in as the two-time defending champions. The tournament runs from May 11 through May 21.
THE COACHING GAME:
Brien Gemmell is the new head coach of the junior B White Rock Whalers of the Pacific Junior Hockey League. Gemmell has been coaching for more than 30 years, most recently in the Cloverdale, B.C., minor hockey ranks. This season, his U18 Tier 1 team won bronze at the provincial championship. . . . Gemmell takes over from Jason Rogers, who, according to the team, “is stepping down from his role as head coach.” Rogers is to remain with the organization as senior advisor. He had been the team’s head coach since its first season (2018-19).
THINKING OUT LOUD: The first round of the NFL draft on Thursday had 11.29 million TV viewers in the U.S. Yes, the NFL is No. 1 and it isn’t even close. As Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) pointed out, “That’s more than the Daytona 500, Indianapolis 500, Stanley Cup final, World Series Games 2 & 3, Wimbledon, French Open, Australian Open, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and British Open.” . . . In case you missed it, this was Rick Bowness, the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets after a season-ending 4-1 loss to the host Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday: “I’m so disappointed and disgusted right now. There has to be pride. You have to be able to push back when things aren’t going your way. We had no pushback. Their better players were so much better than ours tonight. They deserved to win.” So who goes before a new season arrives . . . the head coach or some players? . . . F Matthew Phillips, who was a thrill to watch when he played with the WHL’s Victoria Royals, scored 36 goals for the AHL’s Calgary Wranglers this season and 15 of them were game-winners. On Friday night, he scored in OT to give the Wranglers a 4-3 victory over the Abbotsford Canucks. The Wranglers lead the best-of-five series, 2-0. The NHL’s Calgary Flames lost 30 one-goal games this season and missed the playoffs, but somehow Phillips wasn’t able to play for them.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182
Or, for more information, visit right here.