Cougars to be more ‘assertive’ with schedule making . . . Portland still unbeaten in East . . . Gauthier blanks Americans




MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Landshut (Germany, Oberliga South) after requesting and receiving his release from Jablonec nad Nisou (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). He had 14 goals and 20 assists in 23 games.


ThisThat

Andy Beesley is the vice-president of business with the Prince George Cougars. A few days before Christmas, he sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat, a Prince George radio station, and they combined for an episode of the CatScan podcast. . . . If you have ever wondered about what goes into running the business end of a major junior franchise you will want to give this a listen. It’s 50 minutes of Beesley being honest in answering questions about ticket prices, attendance, scheduling, turning games into events, the survival of the WHL in Prince George, and even how he came to change his lifestyle and lose 100 pounds. . . .

One thing I found particularly interesting is that Beesley said the Cougars’ organization has changed its thought process and no longer will look for the one big score.

“We would love to win a Memorial Cup, but we just want to make the playoffs regularly,” he told Miller, “and that’s part of the path that the hockey side of the business is on now. We’ve changed our model a bit to aim for more of a consistent team year by year, rather than selling the farm and just having couple of studs that come in and then you cross your fingers and pay the price for the next five years. We’ve done away with that model.”

The Cougars are scheduled to entertain the Prince George Cougars on Friday night, more than five weeks after their most-recent home game. Between home games, they will have played 11 times on the road and taken the Christmas break.

Beesley promised the Cougars’ fans “that’s not going to happen again . . . we’re not going to put up with that again.”

He added that he, team president John Pateman, co-owner Eric Brown and general manager Mark Lamb “have all talked together and agreed that we need to do a far better job of not just giving input to our schedules but standing up for what the Prince George Cougars need. . . . we are going to be a lot more assertive and make sure we don’t have another six-week gap because we don’t think it’s fair to fans and it’s not fair to our business either.”

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the 50 minutes and it’s all right here.

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KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

All signs point to the Kootenay Ice packing up and moving to Winnipeg before another season gets here. However, no one from the Ice or the WHL office has had much, if 21anything to say about all the speculation.

However, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, did appear with host Dean Millard on TSN Radio (1260) in Edmonton on Dec. 19.

Asked about the situation, Robison responded in part that “we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is.”

We now are into our 21st day since Robison made that statement, and there has yet to be an announcement of any kind.


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Allow me to apologize to Gino De Paoli, the play-by-play voice of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. It was his tweet that tipped me off to an item on G Nick Sanders that I used here yesterday. I meant to credit De Paoli, but it didn’t get done, and for that I offer up an apology. Sorry about that, Gino.

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The Prince George Cougars have signed F Blake Eastman, 15, to a WHL contract. He was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . From Ardrossan, Alta., Eastman is playing for the Elite 15 team at OHA Edmonton, where he has 17 goals and eight assists in 21 games.

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The Spokane Chiefs have returned D Graham Sward to the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. Sward, 15, was the 17th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Sward played one game with the Chiefs and scored his first goal as they beat the Ice, 8-4, in Cranbrook, B.C., on Sunday.

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The Swift Current Broncos have released F Quinton Waitzner, 18, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . From Victoria, he had two assists in 34 games this season, after finishing last season with one goal in 43 games. He also was pointless in five games in 2016-17. . . . Before joining the Broncos, he played for the junior B Saanich Braves.

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The Prince Albert Raiders have returned G Brett Balas, 17, to the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. From Calgary, he was a third-round pick by the Raiders in the WHl’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . Balas was brought in by the Raiders to fill the roster spot created with starter Ian Scott with Team Canada at the WJC. . . . Balas got into two games with Prince Albert, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871. One of the victories was in relief of starter Donovan Buskey.

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Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and contribute to the cause. Thank you, in advance, and stay safe out there.

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TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Portland Winterhawks erased an early 2-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to Portlanda 4-3 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . Portland (24-11-5) has points in nine straight (6-0-3), and is 3-0-0 on its East Division swing. . . . Brandon (16-16-6) has lost two in a row. . . . F Ben McCartney (11) gave Brandon a 2-0 lead with goals at 1:14 and 3:45 of the first period. . . . The Winterhawks tied it before the period ended on goals from F Michal Kvasnica (7) and F Seth Jarvis (10). . . . F Jaydon Dureau (9) broke the tie at 14:39 of the second period. . . . F Joachim Blichfeld upped Portland’s lead to 4-2, shorthanded, at 10:03 of the third period. He leads the WHL in goals (37) and points (76). . . D Braden Schneider (5) got the Wheat Kings to within a goal at 14:53. . . . Portland had a 51-35 edge in shots, including 22-9 in the first period. . . . Brandon G Jiri Patera blocked 47 shots, 15 more than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . Portland D Nick Cicek, an 18-year-old freshman from Winnipeg, had one assist in his first 16 games. He had one assist last night, and now is on a six-game point streak, with nine helpers in that stretch. . . . Portland had F Cody Glass back in the lineup after his stint with Canada’s national junior team. He was held off the scoresheet. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley (suspended) and D Brendan De Jong (concussion).

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F Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and two assists to lead the host Saskatoon Blades to a 4-3 Saskatoonvictory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Saskatoon (25-12-5) has won two in a row. . . . Seattle (12-21-4) is 1-2-0 on its East Division trip. . . . Crnkovic, a 16-year-old from Chestermere, Alta., was the 10th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. In 27 games, he has four goals and nine assists, with three goals and six assists having come in his past nine games. Yes, this was his first multi-point WHL game. . . . D Zach Ashton, who moved from Saskatoon to Seattle in a deal last week, gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead with his first WHL goal, at 6:35 of the first period. The goal came in his 14th WHL game, the third with Seattle. . . . Crnkovic tied it at 15:24, and F Josh Paterson (14) gave the Blades the lead, on a PP, at 17:30. . . . Seattle F Nolan Volcan, playing in his 300th regular-season game, tied it with his 15th goal, at 19:24. . . . The Thunderbirds went ahead 3-2 when F Matthew Wedman (13) accord at 4:36 of the second period. . . . Saskatoon reclaimed the lead before the period ended, on goals from F Chase Wouters (8), at 13:49, and F Eric Florchuk (11), at 17:20. . . . Volcan, 20, is from Edmonton. He was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2013 bantam draft. He has 213 points, including 88 goals, in those 300 regular-regular-season games. . . . F Cyle McNabb, acquired Monday from the Kootenay Ice, wasn’t in Saskatoon’s lineup. . . . The Blades remain without F Kirby Each and D Nolan Kneen. . . . F Sean Richards was in Seattle’s lineup for the first time since being acquired last week from the Everett Silvertips. He had to complete an eight-game WHL suspension before suiting up with the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle was without D Cade McNelly, who completed a three-game suspension.

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G Taylor Gauthier blocked 36 shots to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 1-0 victory PrinceGeorgeover the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Prince George (14-21-3) has won two in a row. The Cougars are 3-7-0 on an 11-game swing that began with a doubleheader in Portland on Dec. 7 and 8, and included the Christmas break. The trip wraps up tonight against the Spokane Chiefs, then the Cougars have to hustle home for games with the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . Tri-City (20-15-2) has lost two straight. . . . Last night, Cougars F Ethan Browne scored the game’s only goal, his sixth, at 16:05 of the second period. . . . Gauthier, a 17-year-old sophomore from Calgary, was the ninth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He has two shutouts in his career both of them this season. This season, he is 10-14-2, 3.08, .904. . . . Tri-City got 28 stops from G Beck Warm.

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Night belongs to penalty-killers . . . Cougars go to Un-Teddy Bear Toss . . . Raiders’ win streak reaches 18


MacBeth

D Cam Barker (Medicine Hat, 2001-06) has been released by Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). In seven games, he had one assist, while averaging 16:06 TOI. Barker signed a one-year contract with Ilves on Oct. 24. The contract contained a tryout clause through the end of November. . . . Barker suffered an undisclosed injury in a game on Nov. 21. According to the Ilves website, the injury required surgery, which was performed Tuesday.


ThisThat

I couldn’t resist posting the above tweet because it’s great to see that Chris Mast hasn’t lost his touch with a camera. He has long been an exceptional hockey photographer and it’s obvious from the above photo that he continues to set the bar high.


What did F Ryan Jevne and D Dylan Plouffe have in common in WHL action on Wednesday night?

There were eight games on the schedule and Jevne, who plays for the Medicine Hat whlTigers, and Plouffe, who skates for the Vancouver Giants scored the night’s only PP goals.

Jevne, who had three goals in the Tigers’ 6-2 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels, scored on the PP at 11:59 of the third period for a 5-2 lead. The Tigers were 1-3 with the man advantage.

In Kelowna, the Giants went 1-5, with Plouffe scoring the game’s first goal, via the PP, at 8:17 of the first period.

All told, the 16 teams in action went 2-56 on the PP, meaning that the night belonged to the penalty-killers. The Spokane Chiefs went 0-9 in beating the visiting Prince George Cougars, 4-0.


The Prince George Cougars have decided to “unfriend the teddy bear.”

You read that correctly. They have done away with the annual game during which fans PrinceGeorgewere invited to throw stuffed toys onto the ice when the Cougars scored their first goal.

Instead, the Cougars, in partnership with the Salvation Army and the Northland Auto Group, are playing host to the “Un-Teddy” Bear Toss game on Sunday, 2 p.m., against the Victoria Royals.

From a Cougars’ news release:

“All fans who attend Sunday afternoon’s game are encouraged to bring warm winter clothes (coats, toques, socks, blankets, and mittens) to the game. When the Cougars score their first goal, you are invited to throw your bagged donations onto the ice. All items will be distributed to people in need over the holidays through the Salvation Army in Prince George.”

Fans are encouraged “to put their items in a plastic bag before tossing onto the ice, to keep everything dry and in great shape and ready to be donated.”

Andy Beesley, the Cougars’ vice-president of business, told CKPG-TV: “In reality, what our community really needs is warm winter clothing — scarves, hats, mitts, pants, toques, that type of thing. We love our teddy bears and people are welcome to bring them if they want, but we actually would really love it if people also bring some clothing to throw on the ice when the Cougars score.”


The Kamloops Blazers, with two games this weekend, have brought in G Rayce Ramsay Kamloops1as insurance in case starter Dylan Ferguson isn’t able to play. . . . Ferguson, 20, who was involved in a goal-mouth collision, left after the second period of a 3-1 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane on Saturday. . . . Ramsay, 17, is from Saskatoon and has been playing with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. He made two appearances with the Blazers earlier in the season, going 0-1-0, 1.99, .931. . . . The Blazers are likely to start Dylan Garand (2-1-1, 2.46, .914) against the visiting Saskatoon Blades on Friday. The Seattle Thunderbirds are to visit Kamloops on Saturday.


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Linden Saip, a former WHL defenceman, has been named the interim head coach of the SurreyEaglesBCHL’s Surrey Eagles following the firing of Peter Schaefer. . . . Schaefer was hired as an assistant coach under head coach Brandon West on July 26. However, West and the Eagles came to one of those mutual agreements to part company on Aug. 28 and Schafer was named head coach. . . . Saip had been an assistant coach under West and then Schaefer. . . . The Eagles also hired Lee Stone as an assistant coach. . . . Associate coach Brad Tobin remains on staff. . . . Saip, 27, is in his second season with Surrey. He is a former Eagles player (2010-12), who played in the who with the Vancouver Giants and Kamloops Blazers before going on to player with the UBC Thunderbirds. . . . Stone spent six years with the junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. He is a Surrey native. . . . The Eagles (7-23-1) are last in the five-team Mainland Division, 12 points out of fourth. . . . There is more on these moves right here.


WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Luka Burzan scored two goals and set up another to help the Brandon Wheat Kings to a BrandonWKregular5-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . The Wheat Kings (11-7-6) had lost their previous three games. . . . The Broncos slipped to 4-19-2. . . . F Cole Reinhardt (3) gave Brandon a 2-1 lead at 7:57 of the second period, and F Ridly Greig (5) added insurance at 18:57. . . . Burzan, who has 15 goals, opened the scoring at 3:16 of the first period and closed it at 12:22 of the third. . . . G Jiri Patera stopped 31 shots to earn the victory. . . . F Nolan Ritchie, 16, made his debut with the Wheat Kings. Ritchie, who is from Brandon, was a third-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft and is in his second season with the midget AAA Wheat Kings. This season, he has 14 goals and 21 assists in 19 games. His father, Darren, is a former Wheat Kings player and assistant coach who now is the organization’s director of scouting.


The Prince Albert Raiders ran their winning streak to 18 with a 5-3 victory over the Oil PrinceAlbertKings in Edmonton. . . . The Raiders (25-1-0) next are scheduled to play Saturday when the meet the Pats in Regina. . . . Prince Albert had won a franchise-record eight straight road games. . . . The Oil Kings (14-10-4) have lost three in a row (0-1-1). . . . The Raiders took a 3-0 lead into the second period and stretched it to 5-1 when F Aliaksei Protas (6) scored at 6:12. . . . F Parker Kelly scored two of Prince Albert’s first three goals. He’s got 13. . . . The game featured the WHL’s two leading scorers. . . . F Brett Leason of the Raiders drew three assists and maintained his lead atop the WHL scoring race. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky scored all three of Edmonton’s goals, given him 18. . . . Leason leads the WHL in goals (26) and points (59). Fix-Wolansky is second in points (55) and leads in assists (37).


The Moose Jaw Warriors opened up a 3-0 lead and went on to beat the Kootenay Ice, 3-1, MooseJawWarriorsin Cranbrook, B.C. . . . The Warriors (13-5-4) have points in eight straight (7-0-1). . . . The Ice (7-17-4) has lost six in a row (0-5-1). . . . F Keenan Taphorn (6), who was acquired by the Warriors from the Ice, got the game’s first goal, at 7:46 of the first period. . . . D Josh Brook (8) made it 2-0 at 3:35 of the second period, and D Jett Woo (3) upped it to 3-0 at 1:55 of the third. . . . F Peyton Krebs (7) got the Ice’s goal, at 10:21. . . . The Warriors got 26 saves from G Adam Evanoff. With G Brodan Salmond out with an undisclosed injury, Moose Jaw had Jackson Berry backing up. Berry, who will turn 16 on Dec. 6, is from Chestermere, Alta. A sixth-round pick in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, he plays for the Edmonton-OHA midget prep team. . . . The Ice had Krebs and D Valtteri Kakkonen back from injuries, but were missing F Cam Hausinger and F Connor McClennon.


F Ryan Jevne scored three times and added an assist to lead the host Medicine Hat Tigers Tigers Logo Officialto a 6-2 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Tigers (12-12-3) have won two in a row. . . . The Rebels (16-8-1) have lost three in a row. . . . D Trevor Longo (3) gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead at 1:48 of the third period, with F James Hamblin (11) making it 4-2 at 7:48. . . . Jevne, who had scored the game’s first goal, completed the scoring with the last two scores, at 11:59 and 18:43. He’s got 10 goals. . . . G Mads Søgaard, the Danish freshman, stopped 21 shots for the Tigers with his father, Brian, in the stands. . . . Medicine Hat held a 47-23 edge in shots. . . . The Rebels were without D Alex Alexeyev for a second straight game.


F Milos Roman broke a 1-1 tie at 9:41 of the second period and the visiting Vancouver Giants went on to a 2-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Vancouver (18-6-2) has won four in a row. . . . Kelowna (11-15-1) has lost two straight. . . . D Dylan Plouffe (4) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 8:17 of the first period. . . . F Nolan Foote (16) got the Rockets even, while shorthanded, at 10:07. . . . G Trent Miner stopped 20 shots for the Giants, 12 fewer than Kelowna’s Roman Basran.


G Bailey Brkin turned aside 27 shots to lead the host Spokane Chiefs to a 4-0 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . Spokane (14-8-3) has won three in a row. . . . Prince George (10-12-3) has lost two straight. . . . Brkin posted his second shutout of the season and third of his career. This season, he is 10-3-2, 2.50, .922. . . . F Riley Woods scored twice for Spokane, including the opener at 4:13 of the first period. He’s got 20 goals in 25 games; he finished last season with 25 in 72. . . . F Adam Beckman (13) and F Cordel Larson (3), into an empty net, also scored for the Chiefs. . . . F Luc Smith, who was acquired Monday from Kamloops, had an assist in his Spokane debut. . . . Chiefs D Ty Smith had two assists.


G Dorrin Luding blocked 30 shots to lead the Saskatoon Blades to a 2-1 victory over the SaskatoonRoyals in Victoria. . . . Saskatoon (16-9-2) is 2-1-0 on a B.C. Division tour that continues Friday in Kamloops. . . . Victoria (12-9-0) has lost three in a row. . . . Luding, who usually backs up Nolan Maier, was making his seventh appearance of the season, his first start since Nov. 3. . . . F Kristian Roykas Marthinsen (8) put Saskatoon ahead 1-0 at 12:39 of the second period. . . . D Scott Walford (2) scored for Victoria at 1:00 of the third. . . . F Zach Huber won it for Saskatoon with his fifth goal of the season, at 3:45. . . . The Royals lost F Kaid Oliver, their leading scorer, to a headshot major and game misconduct at 17:45 of the second period. The penalty came for a hit on Blades D Dawson Davidson.


The Everett Silvertips scored the game’s last four goals and beat the visiting Portland EverettWinterhawks, 4-1. . . . Everett (20-7-1) has points in six straight (5-0-1). . . . Portland (14-10-2) has lost two in a row. . . . F Cross Hanas (3) gave the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead at 10:22 of the first period. . . . F Reece Vitelli (3) pulled Everett even at 14:40 of the second, and F Sean Richards (8) snapped the tie at 15:27. . . . F Martin Fasko-Rudas (7) and F Connor Dewar (22) had third-period goals, the latter into an empty net. . . . Everett G Dustin Wolf blocked 34 shots, three fewer than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . F Cody Glass was among Portland’s scratches. . . . The Silvertips were without D Gianni Fairbrother, who completed a two-game suspension. . . . These teams already have met seven times this season, with Everett having won five times. They will face each other three more times before season’s end.


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