The last four teams standing in the WHL playoffs were in action Friday night as the two best-of-seven conference finals got started with the Edmonton Oil Kings in Winnipeg to play the Ice, and the Seattle Thunderbirds facing the Blazers in Kamloops. . . . There was intrigue in Kamloops, too, where Jon Keen, the radio voice of the Blazers, tweeted early in the first period: “Maybe I missed it . . . but no Matt O’Dette on the T-Birds bench for Game 1.” O’Dette is the Thunderbirds’ head coach and, although he wasn’t listed as a scratch before the game, he wasn’t working the Seattle bench. . . . So where was he? . . . It turns out that he isn’t even in Kamloops. . . . Thom Beuning, the Seattle play-by-play man, said that O’Dette was missing because of “illness” and “due to an abundance of caution he stayed back in Kent.” . . . O’Dette won’t be there for tonight’s second game, either, but the team is hoping he will be on the bench for Game 3 in Kent, Wash., on Tuesday night.
In Winnipeg, F Tyler Horstmann scored in OT to give the No. 2 Edmonton Oil Kings a 5-4 victory over the No. 1 Ice. . . . They’ll play the second game tonight in Winnipeg. . . . After the Ice overcame a 4-1 third-period deficit with three goals in a span of 4:36, Horstmann won it with his second playoff goal at 1:07. Horstmann took advantage of a puck-handling error by Ice G Gage Alexander that left the shooter looking at an empty net. . . . Horstmann had three goals in 27 regular-season games, none of them game-winners. In fact, this was his second winner in 92 WHL games, 85 of them regular-season assignments. He has two goals and two assists in seven games in these playoffs. . . . His OT goal improved Edmonton’s record this spring to 9-0. . . . F Mikey Milne (10) got things started at 8:34 of the first period, giving the Ice a 1-0 lead. . . . F Dylan Guenther (10) got Edmonton even at 13:08 as he ran his goal-scoring streak to nine games. Yes, he has scored at least once in each of the Oil Kings’ playoff games this spring. . . . The Oil Kings then got two second-period goals via special teams, with D Simon Kubicek (2) scoring shorthanded, at 0:47, and Guenther (11), who also had an assist, sniped on the PP, at 7:02. . . . Just 28 seconds later, F Logan Dowhaniuk scored his first playoff goal to make it 4-1. . . . D Benjamin Zloty got the Winnipeg comeback going with two third-period goals, the first, on a PP, at 6:48, and the second at 9:20. Those were his first two playoff goals, to go with 11 assists. . . . F Owen Pederson (6) got the Ice into a 4-4 tie, on a PP, at 11:24. . . . G Sebastian Cossa stopped 22 shots for Edmonton. . . . Winnipeg starter Daniel Hauser was beaten four times on 21 shots. Alexander relieved him at 7:30 of the second period and stopped 18 of the 19 shots he faced. . . . Alexander appeared in a game for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury on March 5. . . . Winnipeg was 2-for-6 on the PP; Edmonton was 1-for-4. . . .
In Kamloops, F Logan Stankoven, the WHL’s leading goal scorer in these playoffs, struck three times to lead the No. 2 Blazers to a 5-2 victory over the No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The two teams will meet again tonight in Kamloops. . . . F Matthew Seminoff (4) gave the Blazers a 1-0 lead at 8:06 of the first period, only to have F Kevin Korchinski (4) get Seattle even at 10:53. . . . Seminoff (5) added a second goal at 17:55, and F Logan Stankoven (11) upped the lead to 3-1 at 18:48. . . . Stankoven (12) scored again just 57 seconds into the third period with the Blazers holding a 5-on-3 advantage. . . . Seattle got to within two, at 4-2, when F Jared Davidson (7) got a PP goal at 17:47. . . . Stankoven, who was stymied by G Thomas Milic’s right pad on a breakaway earlier in the third, completed his hat trick with his 13th goal, into an empty net, at 18:39. . . . Stankoven leads all playoff scorers in goals and points (24). . . . F Luke Toporowski had three assists for the Blazers. . . . Seattle held a 38-27 edge in shots, including 16-7 in the third period. . . . G Dylan Garand turned aside 36 shots for Kamloops, 14 more than Milic. . . . The Thunderbirds were missing head coach Matt O’Dette, who stayed in Kent, Wash., with an illness. In his absence, assistant coaches Kyle Hagel and Matt Marquardt handled the bench.
Jake Caughill, whose duties at the rink in Kamloops have included operating the Zamboni at Blazers games, revealed Friday on Twitter that tonight will be his last time handling that responsibility. “I’ve done over 400 games over the last 14 years,” he tweeted. “It will be a sad day for me . . . as I love driving the games. So please come to the glass and give me a wave.” There was nothing like being the press box in an empty arena after a game, just finishing up writing, and listening to Caughill break into song while resurfacing the ice. He could sing, too! . . . Caughill isn’t going anywhere; his role at the arena is changing.
The NHL’s Dallas Stars, who are owned by Kamloops Blazers majority owner Tom Gaglardi, cleaned out part of their coaching staff on Friday. Head coach Rick Bowness is out, along with assistant coaches Derek Laxdal and Todd Nelson, both of whom had ties to the WHL. . . . Laxdal, a former WHL player and coach, had been with the Dallas organization since July 3, 2014, when he signed on as head coach of the AHL’s Texas Stars. He had been an assistant coach with Dallas since the middle of the 2019-20 season. . . . Laxdal, 56, played for the Portland Winterhawks, Brandon Wheat Kings and New Westminster Bruins (1982-86) and was the Edmonton Oil Kings’ head coach for four seasons (2010-14). . . . Nelson, 53, just finished his fourth season on the Stars’ staff. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, for three seasons. . . . Nelson played four seasons (1986-90) with his hometown Prince Albert Raiders.
From si.com: “The Cincinnati Reds placed four players — infielder Brandon Drury, starting pitcher Tyler Mahle, outfielder Albert Almora, and reliever Joel Kuhnel — on the restricted list Friday, indicating they are unvaccinated, ahead of the club’s series versus the host Toronto Blue Jays.” . . . At the same time, the Reds activated first baseman Joey Votto off the COVID-19 list. . . .
From The New York Times: Broadway theaters will continue to require ticketholders to wear masks at least through June 30, industry leaders said Friday. The Broadway League, a trade association representing theater owners and producers, said the owners and operators of all 41 theaters had agreed to the extension of the mask policy. The decision comes at a time when New York City has declared a “high Covid alert.”
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The junior B Columbia Valley Rockies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League are looking for a general manager and head coach after Briar McNaney “accepted a position at the junior A level,” according to a news release. McNaney had been with the Rockies since April 2020. This season, the Rockies, who play out of Invermere, B.C., went 30-9-2-1 before losing out in a second-round playoff series. . . .
The AJHL’s Drayton Valley Thunder added Sean Brown and Jeff Shantz to their front office on Friday. What will their roles be? From a Thunder news release: “Sean Brown and Jeff Shantz have been hired as the club’s new coaches and general managers, effective immediately. Sean and Jeff will share these roles, with Jeff serving as head coach.” . . . Brown, 46, was an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oil Kings for two seasons (2012-14). . . . Shantz, 48, played three seasons (1990-93) with the Regina Pats before going on to a pro career that included 642 NHL regular-season games. He has been coaching a U15 team at the Edge School in Calgary since 2017. . . . With the Thunder, they replace Eric Thurston, who had been the GM and head coach for the past four seasons. . . .
The MJHL’s Winnipeg Freeze has signed Jay Pylypuik as its general manager and head coach. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the U of Calgary Dinos men’s hockey team. . . . The Freeze had announced on April 25 that Taurean White wouldn’t be returning. He had been with the team since Dec. 2. . . . The Freeze is owned by 50 Below Sports + Entertainment, which also owns the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice.
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 would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so 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.