Lajoie fine with Blazers’ coaching addition . . . Loschiavo sparks Oil Kings’ victory . . . Alexeyev helps Rebels end skid

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F Justin Kelly (Spokane, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, 1997-2002) has announced his retirement. This season, he had two goals and five assists in 12 games with Deggendorf (Germany, DEL2), but he hasn’t played since Oct. 21 due to a concussion suffered in a game that night against Kaufbeuren. . . .

F Rudolf Červený (Regina, 2007-09) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Brynäs Gävle (Sweden, SHL) after obtaining his release from Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). In 57 games, he had 11 goals and 12 assists, and was second on the team in scoring. Slovan has four regular-season games left and cannot make the playoffs.


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When the Kamloops Blazers officially added Darryl Sydor to their coaching staff on Tuesday, it wasn’t seen in some corners of the team’s fandom as just another move. Kamloops1That’s because Sydor is one of the team’s five owners. . . . After the Blazers dropped the visiting Victoria Royals, 6-1, on Wednesday night, Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week spoke with Kamloops head coach Serge Lajoie about job security and a whole lot more. . . .

“I’m not worried,” Lajoie told Hastings. “I don’t see Darryl Sydor as a threat. For me, I’ve always invested my full energy in whatever I’ve taken on. But I value family. I also value education. I’ve got an education degree, a master’s degree. I have good roots back in Edmonton.

“The reason I tell you that is that sometimes things aren’t meant to be. In my heart of hearts, I know I’m supposed to be here. If there is an ulterior motive, to have him in to oversee things, I don’t see it. If that’s the case, again, I’ll reiterate, I’ve put a lot of work in this year. I’ve seen a lot of growth in these players.

“I could leave with my head up high.”

As for Sydor, who has spent eight years as an assistant coach in the professional ranks, he told Hastings that he’s not a threat.

“I’m here to give guidance and if there’s feedback that I can give on how he can become a better coach, that’s what I’m here for,” Sydor said.

Hastings’ complete story is right here.


The junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Ghostridershave signed general manager and head coach Jeff Wagner to a contract extension that runs through the 2020-21 season. . . . Wagner is in his first season with Fernie. . . . The Ghostriders are 25-13, with three ties and four OTLs, and will finish second in the Eddie Mountain Division, behind the Kimberley Dynamiters, who are 39-4 with one tie and one OTL. . . . Wagner, from Calgary, joined the Ghostriders after working as the assistant GM with the KIJHL’s Creston Valley Thundercats.


The Young Stars Classic, a September fixture in Penticton, B.C., since 2010, won’t be held in 2019. . . . The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks confirmed that on Thursday, one day after the Winnipeg Jets revealed that will take part in a prospects’ tournament in Belleville, Ont., in September. . . . The Canucks, Jets, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers had teams of prospects play in Penticton prior to 2018. However the Flames and Oilers didn’t take part in 2018, choosing instead to play games in Red Deer. That left the Canucks and Jets to face each other twice, with the UBC Thunderbirds and Alberta Golden Bears also playing each other twice. . . . Patrick Johnston of Postmedia has more right here.


In all my time writing sports, Kaye Kaminishi may be the most unforgettable character I have met. Now 97, the Kamloops resident played baseball in Vancouver for the legendary Asahi, a Japanese-Canadian team that shone in the years before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After that, Kaminishi ended up in an internment camp near Lillooet, B.C., and never did return to Vancouver. He was there recently, though, filming a Heritage Minute that is soon to be seen on your TV set. . . . John Mackie of Postmedia has more on this remarkable man right here


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THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Edmonton Oil Kings scored three third-period goals, two of them by F Vince EdmontonOilKingsLoschiavo, to beat the Warriors, 3-2, in Moose Jaw. . . . Edmonton (31-17-8) is atop the Central Division, three points clear of the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Moose Jaw (30-15-8) has lost two in a row. It appears headed for a third-place finish in the East Division. . . . The Warriors played 12 of their previous 13 games on the road. In those 13 games, they were 9-3-1. . . . The Oil Kings had been 0-7-4 in their previous 11 games with Moose Jaw, not having beaten the Warriors since Feb. 20, 2016. On that night, the Oil Kings won, 3-2, in Moose Jaw with F Dario Meyer getting the winner. . . . F Carson Denomie (3) gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead at 12:55 of the second period. . . . Edmonton went ahead 2-1 on third-period goals from Loschiavo, at 2:11, and F Andrew Fyten (14), at 10:54. . . . D Josh Brook (14) pulled the Warriors even, on a PP, at 12:59. . . . Loschiavo snapped the tie with his 26th goal at 13:38. He has eight game-winners this season; only F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders and F Tristin Langan of the Warriors have more, with nine. . . . Loschiavo would have had a hat trick had he scored on a second-period penalty shot, but he was unable to beat G Adam Evanoff. . . . Loschiavo played the first 215 regular-season games of his WHL career with the Kootenay Ice, then was dealt to Moose Jaw and played 40 games there. On May 3, Edmonton sent F Nick Bowman and a sixth-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft to the Warriors for Loschiavo. . . . G Todd Scott stopped 31 shots for Edmonton. . . . The Warriors got 36 saves from Evanoff. . . . With G Dylan Myskiw (ill) sidelined, the Oil Kings had G Matthew Pesenti, 17, backing up Scott. Pesenti, who plays for the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers, was with Edmonton on an emergency basis, because his WHL rights belong to the Regina Pats. He has spent time with the Pats this season and got into two games last month. . . . The Oil Kings also scratched F Scott Atkinson and F Zach Russell, both of whom also were ill. . . . Edmonton D Jake Neighbours served the last game of a four-game suspension. . . . Moose Jaw had F Tate Popple in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 31.


D Alex Alexeyev scored in the fifth round of a shootout to give the Red Deer Rebels a 2-1 Red Deervictory over the Silvertips in Everett. . . . This game was to have been played on Wednesday night but was postponed 24 hours when poor driving conditions kept the Rebels from making it to Everett in time. . . . Red Deer (29-19-5) had lost its previous six games (0-5-1). It is in possession of the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Everett (38-13-3) leads the U.S. Division by seven points over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . F Robbie Holmes (10) gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 1:40 of the second period. That was his first goal since being acquired by Everett from the Regina Pats at the Jan. 10 trade deadline. He had nine goals and seven assists in 24 games with the Pats. He’s got a goal and two assists in 12 games with Everett. . . . F Brandon Hagel (32) pulled Red Deer even at 11:26 of the third period. . . . D Jake Christiansen scored for Everett in the fourth round of the shootout, only to have F Jeff de Wit equalize. . . . Alexeyev then won it in the next round. . . . Each of the goaltenders — Red Deer’s Ethan Anders and Everett’s Dustin Wolf — stopped 37 shots through OT. . . . Red Deer was 0-5 on the PP; Everett was 0-4. . . . Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ head coach, now has 496 regular-season victories as he strives to become the ninth coach in WHL history to get to 500.


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Habscheid eighth WHL coach to 500 wins . . . Celebrates with chocolate sundae . . . Sutter should be next to milestone

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F Justin Maylan (Moose Jaw, Prince George, Prince Albert, 2007-12) has  signed a contract for the rest of this season with Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, he had eight goals and 31 assists in 44 games with Heilbronn (Germany, DEL2).


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Marc Habscheid, the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, became the eighth coach in WHL history with 500 regular-season victories as his club beat the Hurricanes, 6-5, in Lethbridge PrinceAlberton Saturday night.

Habscheid, a 55-year-old native of Swift Current, went into this season with 456 victories. The Raiders, who have the WHL’s best record, now are 45-7-2. Habscheid missed a Jan. 22 game — the Raiders beat the Royals, 4-1, in Victoria — while at the Top Prospects Game in Red Deer.

How did Habscheid celebrate last night? The Hurricanes stopped at a Dairy Queen. “I had a large chocolate sundae,” Habscheid told Taking Note. “The boys got whatever they wanted. Best $180 I ever spent.”

As for the picture in the above tweet, Habscheid said: “The picture with my boys will be with me forever.” If you look at the photo, that’s Habscheid wearing the top hat that is awarded to the team’s player of the game.

Habscheid coached in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Chilliwack Bruins and Victoria Royals before signing on with the Raiders as a midseason replacement for Cory Clouston in 2014-15.

On Saturday, Habscheid coached in his 995th regular-season game. He is en route to becoming the eighth head coach in WHL history to reach the 1,000-game mark.

The Raiders next are to play on Wednesday when they visit the Swift Current Broncos.

Don Hay, now an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, is No. 1 in victories (750), while former Portland head coach Ken Hodge is tops in games coached (1,364).

This season, on his way to No. 500, Habscheid has passed Dean Clark, Kelly McCrimmon, Jack Shupe and Peter Anholt, all former coaches, as well as Brent Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels.

Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Rebels, will be the next to 500. With the Rebels at 28-19-4, Sutter now has 495 regular-season victories.

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THE WHL’S 500 CLUB

1. Don Hay (Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver) 750

2. Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland), 742

3. Don Nachbaur (Seattle, Tri-City, Spokane) 692

4. Lorne Molleken (Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver) 626

5. Mike Williamson (Portland, Calgary, Tri-City) 572

6. Ernie McLean (Estevan, New Westminster) 548

7. Pat Ginnell (Flin Flon, Victoria, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, New Westminster) 518

8. Marc Habscheid (Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Prince Albert) 500


With G Jack McNaughton having been injured on Friday night, the Calgary Hitmen have Calgaryagain added G Brayden Peters to their roster. . . . McNaughton was hurt when he ventured out to the hashmarks after a loose puck and was involved in a first-period collision with F Brett Leason of the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. Both players left the game, which the Raiders won, 8-2, and didn’t return. . . . Peters plays for the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes and had been up with the Hitmen previously to backup McNaughton with Carl Stankowski injured. . . . Stankowski is back now and will carry the load with McNaughton out, starting today against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

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Meanwhile, F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders, who was involved in that collision with Calgary Hitmen G Jack McNaughton, sat out Saturday night’s game in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes.

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told play-by-play man Trevor Redden that Leason is “nicked up . . . but it’s nothing earth-shattering and we’ll provide him with a bit of rest.”

The Raiders also scratched G Ian Scott, giving him a night off, and had Brett Balas up from the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks to back up Boston Bilous. . . . Balas, who turned 18 on Jan. 31, was a third-round pick in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He got into two games with the Raiders earlier in the season, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871.

This may have been the first time in WHL history that a team had a B.B. in goal and a B.B. on the bench.


F Conner Bruggen-Cate was welcomed with open mouths, as opposed to open arms, on Saturday night when his Kelowna Rockets met the Blazers in Kamloops.

These two teams played in Kelowna on Feb. 2 and, yes, something happened. Whatever it was it resulted in two-game suspensions to Bruggen-Cate and Kamloops D Montana Onyebuchi.

Bruggen-Cate was suspended for what the WHL said were his “actions.” Those “actions” appeared to set off Oyebuchi, who tried to get at Bruggen-Cate, who chose not to engage. Onyebuchi was suspended for a one-man fight.

Had the WHL suspended each player for three games, neither would have been eligible to play on Saturday night.

As it was, Onyebuchi completed his sentence, while Bruggen-Cate was in the Rockets’ lineup.

The announced crowd of 3,365 didn’t seem too aware of Bruggen-Cate’s presence until early in the second period when he was booed while on an early power play. The boos turned to cheers less than two minutes later when he was penalized for interference.

From that point on, he was booed most times he touched the puck, but he turned the boos to cheers, again with another interference penalty late in the period.

The 19-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., got the last laugh, however, as the Rockets won the game, 4-1.

As for what happened on the ice on Feb. 2, well, no one’s talking. It’s almost as though the WHL implemented a gag rule.

On Friday night, Jo Hendricks, a frequent anthem singer at Blazers games, performed while wearing an Onyebuchi sweater. Without the rugged defenceman, the Blazers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Vancouver Giants.


The visiting WHL teams at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., the home of the Seattle Thunderbirds, will notice a new look in their dressing room next season. The KeyArena in Seattle will be undergoing huge renovations in anticipation of the arrival of an NHL expansion team, so the Seattle University Redhawks men’s basketball team is expected to play a handful of games in Kent. University officials have asked that the visitors’ dressing room be painted in the team colours, and the arena operators have agreed. . . . Meanwhile, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, which also plays in KeyArena, will play five home games in Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena, the home of the Silvertips. But the Storm season doesn’t begin until May, so the Silvertips shouldn’t be affected. . . . Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter has those tidbits and more in a story detailing the ShoWare Center’s 2018 finances, and it’s all right here.


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Habscheid, Sutter approach No. 500 . . . Almeida sinks Cougars in OT . . . Raiders post 40th victory


MacBeth

F Justin Sigrist (Kamloops, 2017-18) has signed a one-year contract extension with ZSC Zurich (Switzerland, NL A). This season, he is pointless in nine games with ZSC. On loan to the GC Küsnacht Lions (Switzerland, NL B), he had five goals and 11 assists in 18 games, and on loan to the GCK Lions U20 Zurich (Switzerland, Elite Junior A), he had seven goals and five assists in five games.


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Two long-time WHLers are running almost neck-and-neck as they move closer to becoming only the eighth and ninth head coaches with 500 regular-season victories.

Just one victory separates Marc Habscheid of the Prince Albert Raiders and Brent Sutter whlof the Red Deer Rebels as they close in on the milestone.

Habscheid, whose Raiders are into their 14th consecutive week as the top-ranked team in the CHL, has 495 victories. He wasn’t in Victoria on Tuesday night as the Raiders beat the Royals, 4-1, because he is in Red Deer for the Top Prospects Game.

Habscheid, 55, has coached the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Chilliwack Bruins, Victoria and Prince Albert.

Sutter, 56, is at 494 victories. He is the owner, general manager and head coach in Red Deer and has spent his entire coaching career with the Rebels. Sutter missed one victory earlier this season because he was on a fathers’ junket with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. His son, Brandon, plays for the Canucks.

Don Hay, now an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, holds the career record for victories (750), having passed Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland, 742) last season while the head coach of the Blazers.

After Habscheid and Sutter, the current head coaches with the most regular-season victories are Shaun Clouston of the Medicine Hat Tigers, at 382, and Portland’s Mike Johnston, with 342.


The Prince George Cougars were without F Josh Maser on Tuesday as they dropped a 3-2 OT decision to the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Maser was serving the first of a three-PrinceGeorgegame suspension handed down earlier in the day. He was suspended under supplemental discipline for an unpenalized hit on Kamloops D Quinn Schmiemann during the Blazers’ 3-2 OT victory in Prince George on Sunday. On the WHL’s weekly roster report, Schmiemann is listed as being out for a week. . . . Why did the Blazers file for supplemental discipline? . . . Serge Lajoie, the Blazers’ head coach, told Chad Klassen of CFJC-TV that “it was a situation and a play that should’ve been called on the ice, should’ve been penalized. To what extent in the heat of the battle, you never know, but upon watching video I think it’s something we want to make sure we’re continuing to educate our players that that’s a dangerous play.” . . . As for the length of the suspension, Lajoie also told Klassen: “Three games. I’m not going to judge on that, but I’ve seen our players, for similar players, get more games.” . . . The Blazers have had two players suspended for more than three games for high hits this season. F Jermaine Loewen got four games after hitting D Matthew Quigley of the Portland Winterhawks on Oct. 5 in Kamloops. Quigley missed three games. F/D Jeff Faith drew a five-game suspension under supplemental for an unpenalized hit on D Remy Aquilon of the host Victoria Royals on Jan. 9. Aquilon hasn’t played since absorbing that hit.


F Dylan James, 15, announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he has committed to the U of North Dakota where he will play for the Fighting Hawks. He is the first player born in 2003 to commit to UND. . . . From Calgary, he was a second-round pick by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. James, who won’t turn 16 until Oct. 12, has 14 goals and 12 assists with the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes. . . . Last season, he put up 26 goals and 30 assists in 56 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Bisons.


The Everett Silvertips have signed F Jacob Wright to a WHL contract. Wright, 16, is a list player from Langley, B.C. He has 11 goals and 23 assists in 24 games with the B.C. Major Midget League’s Fraser Valley Thunderbirds.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have signed G Brett Mirwald to a WHL contract. Mirwald, 15, is from Saskatoon. He was selected in the seventh round of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . This season, with the midget AAA Saskaton Blazers, he is 14-2-0, 2.11, .910, with three shutouts in 17 appearances.


The junior B Campbell River Storm of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League has named Mike Wilson as its head coach, replacing Cam Basarab. . . . Wilson is familiar with Campbell River, having been the associate coach for two seasons (2015-17). . . . Basarab had been the head coach — he moved up from assistant coach — since early November following the departure of GM/head coach Lee Stone. Assistant coach Bill Brett took over as the GM. . . . The Storm is 27-9-3 and leads the North Division by 23 points over the Nanaimo Buccaneers.


TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Justin Almeida scored 30 seconds into OT to give the Moose Jaw Warriors a 3-2 victory MooseJawWarriorsover the Cougars in Prince George. . . . Moose Jaw (25-11-8) has points in five straight games (4-0-1), all on a trip through the B.C. Division. The Warriors are third in the East Division, four points behind Saskatoon with three games in hand. . . . Prince George (16-24-5) has lost four in a row (0-2-2). It is two points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Cougars took a 2-0 lead on goals from F Ilijah Collins (6), at 18:07 of the first period, and F Vladislav Mikhalchuk (16), at 3:51 of the second. . . . F Tristin Langan (37) pulled the visitors to within a goal at 7:12, and D Jett Woo (10) tied it at 6:14 of the third period. . . . Almeida won it with his 15th goal, off assists from Langan and D Josh Brook, who finished with two helpers. Almeida, from Kitimat, B.C., began his WHL career by playing 87 games with the Cougars, who had selected him fifth overall in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . The Cougars had a 25-16 edge in shots, and won 31 of 50 faceoffs. . . . The game featured one minor penalty, that to Moose Jaw D Drae Gardiner for slashing at 9:59 of the third period. . . . The Warriors got 23 saves from G Adam Evanoff. . . . The Cougars had G Tyler Brennan, 15, from the Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg on the bench in support of starter Isaiah DiLaura. Brennan was the 21st-overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Taylor Gauthier, the Cougars’ other goaltender, is at the Top Prospects Game in Red Deer.


F Nolan Volcan broke a 1-1 tie just 24 seconds into the second period as the Seattle SeattleThunderbirds beat the Spokane Chiefs, 2-1, in Kent, Wash. . . . Seattle (17-21-5) has points in six straight (5-0-1). It holds down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points ahead of Kamloops and Prince George. . . . Spokane has lost three in a row (0-2-1). It is third in the U.S. Division, six points behind Portland and two ahead of Tri-City. . . . F Matthew Wedman (18) gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 4:07 of the first period. . . . Spokane tied it at 19:44 when F Jake McGrew (19) scored on a PP. . . . Volcan’s 18th goal, with Wedman drawing the lone assist, stood up as the winner. . . . G Roddy Ross blocked 34 shots in his first home start for Seattle, two more than Spokane’s Bailey Brkin. . . . Ross was making his sixth appearance with Seattle since joining the Thunderbirds from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. He is 4-0-1, 2.11, .926. . . . The Chiefs were without F Luc Smith, who left the club following a death in his family. He is expected back in time to play Friday in Kamloops. . . . F Cordel Larson, who left the ice on a stretcher the last time the Chiefs played, on Saturday night, made the trip to Kent with his teammates but won’t play for at least a week. He’s fine, but needs time to recover from the trauma and some soreness. . . . Seattle F Jake Lee missed this game as he is in Red Deer for the Top Prospects Game.


The Prince Albert Raiders got out to a 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back as they PrinceAlbertskated to a 4-1 victory over the Royals in Victoria. . . . Prince Albert (40-5-2) has points in six straight (5-0-1). It is 3-0-1 in the B.C. Division swing that wraps up Thursday against the B.C. Division-leading Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. That game is to be televised by Sportsnet. . . . The Raiders, who last won 40 games in one season in 1998-99, lead the overall standings by 14 points over Everett. . . . Victoria (23-20-1) is second in the B.C. Division, five points ahead of Kelowna. . . . F Justin Nachbaur (13) got the Raiders started, on a PP, at 15:02, with F Sean Montgomery adding his 20th goal just 47 seconds later. . . . F D-Jay Jerome (18) scored for Victoria at 1:00 of the second period only to have F Cole Fonstad (18) get that one back at 4:27. . . . D Max Martin (6) finished the scoring, on a PP, at 8:52 of the third period. . . . The Raiders were 2-3 on the PP; the Royals were 0-5. . . . G Ian Scott stopped 20 shots for Prince Albert, seven fewer than Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse. . . . Outhouse’s night included a right-pad stop on a third-period penalty shot by F Parker Kelly. . . . The Raiders were without head coach Marc Habscheid and F Brett Leason, both of whom are in Red Deer for the Top Prospects Game. . . . In Habscheid’s absence, associate coach Jeff Truitt ran the bench and recorded his 136th victory as a head coach. That includes stints with the Kelowna Rockets and Red Deer Rebels. . . . D Loeden Schaufler, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds on Jan. 10, played his first game with the Raiders.


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Questions and food for thought . . . Vandervlis prepping for return . . . Fans gone missing . . . Leason, Fix-Wolansky penning great stories


MacBeth

F Jeremy Williams (Swift Current, 2000-04) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL). An alternate captain, he has 14 goals and 15 assists in 30 games. He leads the Tigers in goals, assists and points, and is fifth in the league’s scoring race.


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On the 10th day of our annual Christmas countdown, if you click right here you’ll find GENTRI — The Gentlemen Trio — with a neat version of Little Drummer Boy.


F Ryan Vandervlis, 20, who played 162 games over the past four seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, is joining the junior B Red Deer Vipers. . . . The Vipers, who play in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, announced the move via Twitter on Friday. . . . Vandervlis hasn’t played since suffering severe burns to 60 per cent of his body during a campfire incident in June. . . . Sean McIntosh of the Red Deer Advocate has more right here.


D James Miller of the BCHL’s Penticton Vees has committed to the Northern Michigan Wildcats for next season. Miller, 20, was a sixth-round pick by the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. . . . Miller, from Spruce Grove, Alta., actually played two games with the U of New Hampshire Wildcats in 2017-18 before returning to Penticton. . . . He went into Friday’s action with 15 goals and 29 assists in 36 games with the Vees. Miller’s 44 points led all BCHL defencemen. . . . According to a news release from the Vees, Miller is the 18th player on their roster “with an NCAA Division 1 scholarship.”


A few WHL-related thoughts during the Christmas break . . .

Just the other day, I noticed this headline — Raiders win fight-fest in Swift Current — at paherald.sk.ca. The story was dated Dec. 14. I looked it up. There appear to have been five fights. Yes, the WHL has moved far away from the days when a fight-fest wasn’t a fight-fest unless the benches cleared and there was at least a 30-minute delay.

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Where have the hockey fans of Medicine Hat gone? Remember when the 4,006-seat Medicine Arena was sold out for every regular-season game? Now the Tigers play in the 7,100-seat Canalta Centre and the average announced attendance is 3,011 through 16 home games. What changed?

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On the same subject, the Saskatoon Blades appear to have turned the corner — finally! — and are a solid second in not only the East Division but the Eastern Conference. Their average announced attendance (AAA) is 3,658 through 15 games, which has them 14th in the 22-team league. Last season, the Blades finished with an AAA of 3,851 for 36 home dates.

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Will the Kelowna Rockets add an assistant coach over the holidays — to replace the departed Travis Crickard — and will it be former Rockets defenceman/captain Josh Gorges?

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Speaking of Crickard . . . was that him watching the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers practise one day this week?

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Really, there has been no better story in the WHL this half-season than the one written PrinceAlbertby F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders. He went into this season with 24 goals and 27 assists in 135 regular-season games. This season, in 31 games, he has 28 goals and 36 assists. Here’s hoping that a hand injury suffered while in camp with Canada’s national junior team last week in Victoria doesn’t slow him down, although it has kept him out of the pre-tournament games to date.

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There also is a great story in Edmonton where Oil Kings F Trey Fix-Wolansky has 64 EdmontonOilKingspoints, including a WHL-leading 43 assists, in 34 games. The Edmonton native is lighting it up at home and not a lot of players get to do that. The story, though, is that the 5-foot-7 Fix-Wolansky has had to fight the height-challenged battle his entire career. He should have been in the selection camp of Canada’s national junior team, but his invitation must have gotten lost in the mail. He’s now going to spend the second half of the season continuing to prove himself to the doubters.

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Greg Meachem is a former sports editor of the Red Deer Advocate, who now works for the Rebels and writes at reddeerrebels.com. . . . He’s worth reading, especially for the honesty in the quotes from Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Rebels. Sutter never pulls any punches in his post-game comments.

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Is anyone else waiting for the Portland Winterhawks to run off about 10 victories in a row at some point after the break? Or is the competition in the U.S. Division simply to stiff for that to happen?

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Worth watching after the break . . .

In the East Division: The WHL record for fewest losses in one season belongs to the Brandon Wheat Kings, who lost five times in a 72-game season in 1978-79. The Wheat Kings finished 58-5-9 that season, one in which they settled for ties in lieu of OT. . . . The Prince Albert Raiders are halfway through their schedule with a 31-2-1 record, so depending upon your point of view they have lost either two or three games. . . . Of course, the Raiders are playing a 68-game schedule, so perhaps it’s time to open a new section in the record book.

In the Central Division: The Red Deer Rebels, having played 32 games, Lethbridge Hurricanes (33) and Edmonton Oil Kings (36) are tied for first place, each with 42 points. . . . Each of the three added major pieces prior to the break. Will one, two or three of them go shopping again before the Jan. 10 trade deadline?

In the B.C. Division: There are 12 division in the CHL’s three leagues and the B.C. Division has the 11th-poorest points percentage (.512), with a lot of that due to the of that due to the Vancouver Giants (22-8-2, .719). . . . The Kamloops Blazers hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds and two ahead of the Prince George Cougars. If the second half unfolds much like the first half, two of those teams will miss the playoffs; the other will meet the Everett Silvertips in the first round.

In the U.S. Division: The Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs are tied for second in the U.S. Division, each with records of 19-11-4. Everett is 14 points ahead; Tri-City is six points back. . . . How important is home-ice advantage in the playoffs to the Winterhawks and Chiefs? Portland is 2-1-0 in the season series, with three games remaining.

——

How upset are you if you’re a follower of the Kootenay Ice who bought a season-ticket during the team’s Drive to 25 off-season promotion, only to watch so many veteran players quit or be traded amid signs your once-favourite club will move to Winnipeg at season’s end? . . . The Ice already has dressed 38 players this season. It has an 8-22-6 record, meaning it has won eight of 36 games, and is 14 points away from a playoff spot.

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Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, sounded most uncomfortable in responding to a DelisleChiefsquestion about the Kootenay Ice from Dean Millard of the TSN radio in Edmonton on Thursday night. Robison said there will be an announcement involving the Ice “very soon,” but wasn’t any more specific than that, nor did he shed any light on the situation. . . . I can’t imagine what might be in that announcement, but when the Chilliwack Bruins moved to Victoria after the 2010-11 season, the WHL didn’t confirm the much-rumoured move until almost three weeks after their season had ended.

Perhaps fans of the Ice can gain some solace from what Robison told Chilliwack fans after the Bruins left town: “We believe that under the right conditions Chilliwack can be a viable WHL market. We intend to give full consideration to returning should relocation occur in the future.”

One other thing about the Bruins’ move . . . While the WHL didn’t make an official announcement until April 20, 2011, it turned out that the Bruins’ owners and the WHL had agreed to sell the Chilliwack franchise on Jan. 13, 2011.


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Habscheid, Sutter moving on up . . . Rybinski takes Express to BCHL . . . McGeough and family needing help


MacBeth

F Jack Walker (Victoria, 2012-17) has been released by the Aalborg Pirates (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). He had one goal and one assist in 16 games.


ThisThat

With the Prince Albert Raiders gotten off to such a terrific start, head coach Marc Habscheid has moved from 13th to ninth on the list of the WHL’s winningest regular-season coaches.

When this season began, Habscheid had 456 victories as a WHL head coach. With the whlRaiders at 21-1-0, Habscheid has vaulted into ninth place, passing Peter Anholt, Jack Shupe, Kelly McCrimmon and Dean Clark, none of whom is still coaching. Anholt, however, will have the opportunity to improve on his 466 victories when he goes behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ bench when head coach Brent Kisio joins Canada’s national junior team in December. Kisio will be an assistant coach under head coach Tim Hunter of the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Meanwhile, Brent Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels, has closed to within 18 victories of 500. The Rebels are 15-5-1, but Sutter wasn’t with them for one of those victories; instead, he was on a father-son trip with his son, Brandon, and the Vancouver Canucks.

Here’s a look at the 23 WHL head coaches who have more than 300 regular-season victories to their credit (includes games of Nov. 21):

1. Don Hay (Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver) 750

2. Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland), 742

3. Don Nachbaur (Seattle, Tri-City, Spokane) 692

4. Lorne Molleken (Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina) 626

5. Mike Williamson (Portland, Calgary, Tri-City) 572

6. Ernie McLean (Estevan, New Westminster) 548

7. Pat Ginnell (Flin Flon, Victoria, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, New Westminster) 518

8. Brent Sutter (Red Deer) 482

9. Marc Habscheid (Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Prince Albert) 477

10. Peter Anholt (Prince Albert, Seattle, Red Deer, Kelowna, Lethbridge) 466

       Jack Shupe (Medicine Hat, Victoria) 466

12. Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon) 465

      Dean Clark (Calgary, Brandon, Kamloops, Prince George) 465

14. Bob Lowes (Seattle, Brandon, Regina) 453

15. Doug Sauter (Calgary, Medicine Hat, Regina, Brandon) 417

16. Marcel Comeau (Calgary, Saskatoon, Tacoma, Kelowna) 411

17. Bryan Maxwell (Medicine Hat, Spokane, Lethbridge) 397

18. Shaun Clouston (Tri-City, Medicine Hat) 366

19. Graham James (Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Calgary) 349

20. Bob Loucks (Lethbridge, Tri-City, Medicine Hat) 340

21. Willie Desjardins (Saskatoon, Medicine Hat) 333

22. Mike Johnston (Portland) 328

23. Kevin Constantine (Everett) 326



With the WHL schedule having taken Thursday off, perhaps to celebrate American Thanksgiving, here’s a look at what the first-round playoff matchups would be had the regular-season ended yesterday . . . Yes, it doesn’t mean much because teams haven’t played an equal number of games, but, hey, it’s food for thought. . . .

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Prince Albert (21-1-0) vs. Medicine Hat (10-11-3)

Red Deer (15-5-1) vs. Moose Jaw (10-5-4)

Edmonton (14-8-3) vs. Lethbridge (10-8-4)

Saskatoon (14-8-2) vs. Brandon (10-6-6)

Out: Calgary (9-13-2), Kootenay (7-14-4), Regina (8-16-0), Swift Current (3-18-2). . . . Calgary is three points out of a playoff spot, while Kootenay is five back, Regina seven and Swift Current 15.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

Everett (17-7-1) vs. Kelowna (10-13-1)

Vancouver (15-6-2) vs. Tri-City (12-8-0)

Portland (13-8-2) vs. Spokane (12-8-3)

Victoria (12-6-0) vs. Prince George (9-10-3)

Out: Seattle (8-10-3), Kamloops (8-10-2). . . . Seattle is two points out of a wild-card playoff spot, while Kamloops is three points back.


Ask any long-time observer about the best referees in the history of the WHL and Mick McGeough will be in the conversation. McGeough, from Regina, went on to show his outsized personality during a lengthy career in the NHL, too. . . . McGeough has run into some health difficulties this week, and he and his family need help from the hockey world and beyond. . . . There is a GoFundMe page right here.


F Henry Rybinski, who has asked the Medicine Hat Tigers to trade him, has joined the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express. Rybinski, 17, is from Vancouver. Last season, he had three goals and nine assists in 63 games with the Tigers, who picked him in the second round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. This season, he had one goal and four assists in five games. . . . . . . The Tigers revealed on Nov. 1 that Rybinski had asked to be traded and no longer was with the team. Rybinski was wanting more playing time, something the Tigers said they weren’t able to provide because he was behind veteran centres James Hamblin and Ryan Chyzowski on their roster.


The Kootenay Ice has brought back D Anson McMaster, 16, for another look. McMaster, from Siksika, Alta., was a second-round pick by the Ice in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. . . . He is pointless in three games with the Ice this season. . . . In 12 games with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers, he has two goals and seven assists.


The Vancouver Giants have dropped F Hunor Torzsok from their roster. He is expected to end up with a junior A team. Torzsok, 18, had one assist in eight games. Last season, he had one goal and one assist in 25 games with Vancouver. He also played 10 games with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers last season, scoring three goals.


TheCoachingGame

The SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs have signed general manager and head coach Trevor Blevins to an extension that runs through the 2021-22 season. He took over as the Mustangs’ head coach during the 2013-14 season. They won the SJHL title in 2015 and 2016. . . . This season, the Mustangs have the league’s second-best record, at 17-6-1.


The AJHL’s Calgary Canucks have fired Darryl Olsen, who had been their general manager and head coach. He had been with the Canucks since August 2017, and had been head coach since November 2017. He was named GM and head coach on April 5. . . . According to a text from Gino De Paoli (@GDP_PXP), it “looks like assistants Brad Moran and Tyson Avery will take over for the time being.” . . . The Canucks are 2-22-1, and in last played in the eight-team Viterra South Division.


If you stop off here and enjoy what you see — or even if you don’t — feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and make a contribution. Thanks in advance.


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Tory, Stasiuk together, again . . . Blazers add assistant coach . . . Rebels sign Russian forward


MacBeth

F Layne Ulmer (Swift Current, 1997-2001) signed a one-year extension with the Cardiff Devils (Wales, UK Elite). Last season, he had 18 goals and 35 assists in 55 games. . . .

F Joel Broda (Tri-City, Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2004-10) signed a one-year contract with Dornbirn (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had 20 goals and 27 assists in 54 games. . . . Rick Nasheim (Spokane Flyers 1980-81, Regina, 1982-83) is the assistant coach for Dornbirn. . . . For the curious ones out there, the Spokane Flyers began WHL life as the original Flin Flon Bombers, a charter member of the league in 1966. The franchise transferred to Edmonton for the 1978-79 season as the second version of the Edmonton Oil Kings. The franchise lasted one season in Edmonton, then was sold and moved to Great Falls MT, as the Great Falls Americans. The Americans ceased operations in December 1979 after 28 games. The franchise was re-activated as the Spokane Flyers for the 1980-81 season. The Flyers lasted one season plus a bit, folding 26 games into their second season in December 1981. . . .

F Brodie Dupont (Calgary, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with Dornbirn (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL), he had 21 goals and 47 assists in 68 games. The team captain, he led the Admirals in assists and points. He was pointless in one game while on loan to the Stockton Heat (AHL).


ThisThat

The Tri-City Americans have hired Roy Stasiuk as their head scout, filling the spot in tri-citytheir front office that was created when Barclay Parneta, who had been the assistant GM, left to join the Vancouver Giants as general manager. . . . Stasiuk, 55, is quite familiar with the WHL, having worked with the Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton/Kootenay Ice. . . . He spent 10 seasons (1995-2005) as the Ice’s head scout. While with the Ice, Stasiuk worked with Bob Tory, the Americans’ co-owner and general manager. . . . Stasiuk also worked as the Lethbridge Hurricanes’ general manager for four seasons (2005-09) and scouted for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs (2009-15).


Dan Kordic, an assistant coach with the U of Alberta Golden Bears for the past two seasons, has signed on with the Kamloops Blazers as an assistant coach. . . . Serge Lajoie, the Golden Bears’ head coach for the past three seasons, joined the Blazers as their new head coach on June 25. . . . Kordic, 47, played four seasons (1987-91) with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and won a Memorial Cup with them in 1988. He went on to a pro career that included 197 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Meanwhile, the Calgary Hitmen and Tri-City Americans remain the only WHL teams without head coaches. Steve Hamilton, who was fired as head coach by the Edmonton Oil Kings on May 28, is believed to be in the mix in Calgary.


The Red Deer Rebels have signed Russian F Oleg Zaitsev, 17, who was selected in the CHL’s 2018 import draft. . . . “He’s an elite level player, a stud,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ Red Deerowner, GM and head coach, told Greg Meachem of reddeerrebels.com. “Right now he’s the best Russian centre iceman in his age group. We’re very excited about adding him to our team. He’s signed a contract. He’s all in.” . . . Meachem reports that the Rebels likely will go with Russian D Alex Alexeyev, the Washington Capitals first-round pick in the NHL’s 2018 draft, and Zaitsev as their two imports. However, F Ivan Drozdov of Belarus, the Rebels’ other 2018 import draft pick, isn’t yet out of the picture.

Meanwhile, the Victoria Royals dropped F Jeff de Wit, 20, from their protected list and the Rebels have added him to their list. De Wit, who is from Red Deer, was a first-round selection by the Rebels in the 2013 bantam draft. Last season, he played with the Regina Pats, Kootenay Ice and Victoria.

Meachem’s complete story is right here.


Chris Beaudry, an assistant coach with the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos last season, now is on the coaching staff of the Melville Millionaires. Beaudry wasn’t on the Broncos’ bus when it crashed on April 6. He was driving to that night’s playoff game in Nipawin and was about 20 minutes away when the accident occurred. . . . In Melville, Beaudry fills a vacancy created when Mark Chase left to join the junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League as general manager and head coach.


Raelene and Russell Herold, and the estate of their son, Adam, who was killed in the crash of the Humboldt Broncos’ bus, have filed a statement of claim in Regina Court of Queen’s Bench. The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount in damages, expenses, costs and interest, and names the driver of the big rig that was involved, along with the trucking company and the bus manufacturer. . . . Heather Polischuk of the Regina Leader-Post has more right here.


“At first,” writes Mike Aiken of drydennow.com, “it seems like he’s living the life of Riley. Joe Murphy works as a labourer, when he needs money, and he sleeps in a tent in a farmer’s field, when he needs shelter.

“During a short chat, he’ll talk about settling down a bit in an apartment. He says he now calls Kenora his home by the water, but finding affordable housing is next to impossible, not just because of the market.”

This would be the same Joe Murphy who was an NHL first-round draft pick and who played in the league for 15 seasons. Yes, his story now is about concussions.

Aiken’s complete story is right here.


John Branch of The New York Times has written a terrific essay that is headlined: Why the N.F.L. and the N.B.A. Are So Far Apart on Social Justice Stances. . . . This is a great look at the NFL and how it has reacted to its players social protests, and the NBA and how it backs its players and promotes its stars. . . . Pour a cup of coffee and enjoy this piece right here.


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