And then there were six . . .
The Winnipeg Ice, the WHL’s best regular-season team, finished off the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday night, taking the Eastern Conference semifinal in five games. The No. 1 Ice will meet the No. 2 Edmonton Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference final. That series, which will follow a 2-3-2 format for travel reasons, is scheduled to open in Winnipeg with games on May 20 and 21. . . .
Meanwhile, it’ll be a quiet Saturday night in the WHL — with the exception of Portland, of course. Six teams with championship dreams still are alive, but only the Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds will be on the ice tonight. . . . They played Friday night in Kent, Wash., with the Winterhawks posting a 5-1 victory. That means they lead the Western Conference semifinal, 3-1, going into tonight’s game in Portland. . . .
The other Western Conference semifinal is to resume Sunday in Langley, B.C. The Vancouver Giants stayed alive last night with a 5-2 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops, which now leads that series, 3-2.
FRIDAY IN THE WHL:
In Winnipeg, the No. 1 Ice erased a 2-0 first-period deficit and went on to beat the No. 4 Moose Jaw Warriors, 6-3. . . . The Ice won the conference semifinal, 4-1, and will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the final. The No. 2 Oil Kings are 8-0 in the playoffs, having made short work of the No. 7 Lethbridge Hurricanes and No. 3 Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Ice now is 8-2 and will play host to Edmonton for Games 1 and 2 on May 20 and 21. . . . Last night, the Warriors took a 2-0 lead on goals from F Ryder Korczak (3), at 0:46, and F Thomas Tien (2), at 15:52, in the first period. . . . The Ice scored the next four goals. F Zachary Benson (8) cut the deficit to one at 17:04, before Winnipeg took control with three second-period goals — F Matt Savoie (5) tied it at 1:39; F Cole Muir (2) made it 3-2 at 11:12; and F Conor Geekie (3) upped it to 4-2 at 15:04. . . . F Atley Calvert (3) got the Warriors to within one, on a PP, at 17:04, but that was it for the visitors. . . . Savoie (6) added his second goal at 4:03 and F Mikey Milne (9), who also had two assists, scored a shorthanded empty-netter at 18:28. . . . The Ice got 23 saves from G Daniel Hauser, while G Carl Tetachuk stopped 22 shots for the Warriors. . . .The Warriors had D Daemon Hunt, their captain, back in the lineup. Hunt, who is to turn 20 on Sunday, last played on March 19. . . .
If you’re wondering, Winnipeg and Edmonton met four times during the regular season, with the Oil Kings winning three times. However, three of the games were played in 2021. Edmonton won at home, 3-1, on Oct. 29, and 3-2 in Winnipeg on Dec. 8. . . . The Ice won, 5-2, at home on Dec. 11 on a night when four of Edmonton’s top players — G Sebastian Cossa, F Dylan Guenther, D Kaiden Guhle and F Jake Neighbours, each of them an NHL first-round draft pick — were with Canada’s national junior team. . . . In the most-recent clash, the Oil Kings won, 6-3, on Feb. 21.
In Kamloops, the No. 8 Vancouver Giants scored the game’s last four goals, all in the third period, and beat the No. 2 Blazers, 5-2. . . . Kamloops leads the series, 3-2, with Game 5 scheduled for Sunday in Langley, B.C. . . . F Zack Ostapchuk, the WHL’s leading playoff scorer, had two goals and two assists for Vancouver. He has 23 points, two more than linemate Fabian Lysell. . . . The Blazers led this one 2-1 after two periods as F Luke Toporowski (7) and F Matthew Seminoff (3) sandwiched a Vancouver goal by F Adam Hall (9). . . . F Ty Thorpe (3) got the Giants into a 2-2 tie at 1:33 of the third period and Ostapchuk (6) put them out front at 2:32. . . . Hall (10), who also had an assist, and Ostapchuk (7) later added empty-netters. Hall leads the WHL playoffs in goals. . . . G Jesper Vikman had a big night for the Giants, stopping 35 shots, 14 more than G Dylan Garand of the Blazers. . . .
In Kent, Wash., F Cross Hanas scored three times and added an assist to lead the Portland Winterhawks to a 5-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Portland leads the series, 3-1. . . . They’ll meet again tonight, this time back in Portland. . . . The Winterhawks had lost Game 3, 5-0, at home on Wednesday night. . . . Portland’s PP went into the game with three goals in its past 23 opportunities. Last night, it was 3-for-4. . . . Hanas (2) got his guys started at 7:09 of the first period and F Tyson Kozak (2) made it 2-0 at 14:35. . . . Seattle F Lukas Svejkovsky (6) scored a PP goal at 4:56 of the second period. . . . Portland got second-period goals from Hanas (3), at 11:42, and F Jack O’Brien (2), at 17:44, both via the PP. . . . Hanas (4) finished the scoring with a shorthanded empty-netter at 19:41. . . . F Kyle Chyzowki had a big night with three assists. . . . G Taylor Gauthier stopped 31 shots for Portland, including a late second-period penalty-shot attempt by F Reid Schaefer with Portland leading 4-1. . . . Seattle got 17 stops from G Thomas Milic. . . . According to Winterhawks historian Andy Kemper, Hanas’s hat trick was Portland’s first in the playoffs since F Nic Petan turned the trick in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Kelowna Rockets on April 23, 2014.
We can’t leave the Kamloops-Vancouver series without a look back to the post-game scene after Game 4, which the visiting Blazers won, 4-2, after F Logan Stankoven broke a 2-2 tie with a late PP goal.
It was then when Michael Dyck, the Giants’ head coach, told us without telling us that he wasn’t impressed with the officiating.
“With the price of gas these days, I can’t waste money on fines,” he said when asked about the men in stripes, who were booed off the ice at game’s end.
“The fans have a pretty good idea what’s going on,” he said in complimenting the home crowd.
Shortly after Stankoven’s goal, the Giants were hit with a minor penalty for too many men on the ice.
“The too-many-men . . . you’d have to ask their bench,” Dyck said. “They called it. We didn’t.”
And what did Stankoven, who added an empty-netter on the late PP, think of the officiating?
“I think it was very fair,” he said.
(The quotes here were lifted from a story by Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. That story is right here.)
From The Canadian Press: A Canadian warship has been hit with an outbreak of COVID-19 while preparing for an overseas deployment in the Pacific. HMCS Winnipeg is back home in Esquimalt, B.C., after seven sailors tested positive, only weeks before the ship is due to participate in a major training exercise and two overseas missions. . . .
The Vancouver Whitecaps will be without at least two players — Ryan Gauld and Tosaint Ricketts — when they meet the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS action today. Both are in health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID-19. . . .
From The New York Times: New coronavirus cases surged in most counties in New York State this week, putting them on “high” alert under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and triggering recommendations for indoor masking, including inside schools. The state refrained from imposing an indoor mask mandate, but health officials on Friday afternoon did urge residents living in counties that have been placed on “medium” or “high” alert to wear masks in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. . . . As of Thursday, the average of new cases stood at more than 10,000 a day, according to a New York Times database. New cases have increased 47 percent over the past two weeks, and hospitalizations have increased 28 percent over that time period, to an average of more than 2,600 a day.
Also from The New York Times: Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand who led the island nation through the pandemic, has tested positive for the coronavirus, her office said.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Tri-City Americans announced Friday that Bryan Collier won’t be back as the club’s equipment manager. Collier had joined the Americans on June 1, 2021, after working with the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers. Prior to that, he worked with the Seattle Thunderbirds where his father, Brent, has been the equipment manager since 1994. . . .
In the QMJHL, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, who trailed 2-0 in the best-of-five first-round series, beat the Halifax Mooseheads, 2-1, in Game 5 on Friday night. The game had been scheduled for Thursday night but was moved after the teams played into a third OT in Game 4 on Wednesday.
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you feel so inclined you are able to sponsor her right here.
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.