While F Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats has won the WHL Triple Crown — he led the league in goals, assists and points — it seems that he is going to have to share the lead in one of those categories.
Some time today (Monday), the WHL website is expected to indicate a scoring change from a Friday night game.
That change will award an assist to Prince George F Riley Heidt on the Cougars’ fourth goal in a 7-2 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. That goal was scored by F Koehn Ziemmer, giving the Cougars a 4-1 lead at 5:06 of the second period.
That assist means Ziemmer, a native of Saskatoon who turned 18 on Saturday, will finish with 97 points, 72 of them assists, in 68 games. He was the second overall selection in the WHL’s 2020 draft.
Bedard, who played in 57 games this season, had the outright lead in goals (71) and points (143). As the points leader, he will be awarded the Bob Clarke Trophy.
The WHL’s draft lottery is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, with teams in the lottery able to move up a maximum of two spots.
That’s it. Another WHL regular season is in the books. The Edmonton Oil Kings beat the host Calgary Hitmen, 2-1, on Sunday afternoon in the final game of the 2022-23 regular season. . . . The announced attendance of 7,905 lifted the WHL’s average per game to 3,877, an increase of 672 over last season. . . . Could it be that the WHL is on the way back at the gate after taking a two-season beating from the pandemic? . . . You will recall that the 2019-20 season was brought to a premature end by the pandemic. When it ended in March, each of the 22 teams had played between 30 and 34 games, and the average attendance was 4,154. The 2020-21 season was wiped out, although teams did play some games in what was a developmental situation. . . . In the 20 seasons from the turn of the century through 2019-20, the lowest average attendance was 4,115 in 2000-01. The other seasons all averaged between 4,251 (2001-02) and 4,817 (2012-13). . . . So while this season’s average still was under 4,000, it just might be showing us that pre-pandemic crowds are on the way back. We certainly will hope that’s the case.
SUNDAY’S WHL HIGHLIGHTS:
It took until the final game of the WHL’s 2022-23 regular season, but the defending-champion Edmonton Oil Kings finally got to double digits in victories as they beat the Hitmen, 2-1, in Calgary. . . . That lifted Edmonton’s record to 10-54-4 as it snapped a seven-game losing skid (0-6-1). Still, the Oil Kings, who went 50-14-4 last season, now hold the dubious distinction of having the poorest record in WHL history in the season after winning a championship. The 2018-19 Swift Current Broncos had held the record, having finished 11-51-6. . . . The Hitmen (31-29-8) had won their previous four games. . . . F Loick Daigle (9) broke a 1-1 tie at 19:33 of the third period to give the Oil Kings the victory. Daigle, who turned 21 on Jan. 31, was playing in his final junior game. . . . F Marshall Finnie (8) had given Edmonton a 1-0 lead at 12:45 of the first period. . . . F Sean Tschigerl (27) tied it, shorthanded, at 9:11 of the second period. . . . The Oil Kings got 32 saves from G Logan Cunningham. . . . Calgary lost F Ethan Moore to a boarding major and game misconduct at 6:08 of the second period.
OK . . . what’s next in the WHL?
All eight first-round best-of-seven playoff series are scheduled to open on Friday, which means that the rumours of TSN showing Game 1 between the Saskatoon Blades and Regina Pats on Thursday were just that — rumours.
THE PLAYOFF MATCHUPS:
Winnipeg (1) vs. Medicine Hat (8) — Opens with games in Winnipeg on Friday and Saturday. . . . The Ice won the season series, 3-1-0, outscoring the Tigers, 20-12. . . . The Tigers beat the Ice, 6-4, in Medicine Hat on March 1.
Red Deer (2) vs. Calgary (7) — They’ll start with games in Red Deer on Friday and Saturday. . . . Red Deer was 6-1-1 in the season series; Calgary was 2-4-2. . . . In their most-recent meetings, the Hitmen won, 4-3, in Red Deer on March 10, with the Rebels winning, 9-0, in Calgary on March 11.
Saskatoon (3) vs. Regina (6) — Games 1 and 2 are set for Saskatoon on Friday and Sunday. The ice isn’t available on Saturday because of an NLL game. . . . The season series went to the Blades, 4-2-0. . . . Saskatoon is 15-4-2 versus Regina over the past five seasons. . . . This season, the Blades held a 25-18 edge in goals. . . . Regina F Connor Bedard had five goals and four assists in five games against the Blades, but he was blanked in two of those games. . . . The Pats’ last two visits to Saskatoon drew sellout crowds of 14,768.
Moose Jaw (4) vs. Lethbridge (5) — They are scheduled to open in Moose Jaw with games on Friday and Saturday. . . . The Warriors won the season series, 3-1-0, and held an 18-14 edge on the scoreboard. . . . The Warriors lost four players to suspension on Feb. 11; they went 9-8-0 since then, including 6-2-0 in their last eight games. Assuming those players — G Conner Ungar, D Max Wanner, D Marek Howell and F Lynden Lakovic — carried out the terms of their suspension, they will be eligible to play on Friday.
Seattle (1) vs. Kelowna (8) — Games 1 and 2 are to be played in Kent, Wash., on Friday and Saturday. . . . The Thunderbirds swept the season series, 4-0, outscoring the Rockets, 15-7, but they haven’t played each other since Dec. 30 and 31. . . . After losing 1-0 in Everett on Feb. 4, the Thunderbirds closed by going 19-2-1. The two regulation losses — 6-5 in Kamloops and 3-1 to visiting Portland — occurred in their past three games.
Kamloops (2) vs. Vancouver (7) — They’ll open in Kamloops on Friday and Saturday. . . . Kamloops dominated the season series, going 6-1-1; the Giants were 2-6-0. . . . The Blades outscored the Giants, 33-19. . . . In their last meeting, on March 11 in Kamloops, the Blazers won, 6-0.
Portland (3) vs. Everett (6) — It opens with games in Portland on Friday and Saturday. . . . The season series went to Portland, 6-1-1; Everett was 2-6-0. . . . The Winterhawks held a 34-25 edge in goals. . . . Everett won, 10-3, at home on March 3, but then lost, 3-1, in Portland on March 5.
Prince George (4) vs. Tri-City (5) — This series is the only one that will be played under a 2-3-2 format. The first two games are to be played in Prince George on Friday and Saturday before the scene shifts to Kennewick, Wash. . . . The Americans won the season series, 3-1-0; the Cougars were 1-2-1. . . . Tri-City led 17-14 on the scoreboard, but these teams last met on Dec. 9 and 10. . . . These were two of the hottest teams in the league as the regular season wound down. The Cougars closed on an 8-0-3 run; the Americans went 6-0-1.
(NOTE:There are excellent playoff previews available on the WHL’s website.)
Gardiner MacDougall, who coached teams to the 2022 Memorial Cup and 2023 Canadian university men’s hockey titles, has a lot of fans out there. One of them has reminded me that I shortchanged him here when I dropped a few sentences after his U of New Brunswick Reds won another championship. “I’d like to add to Mr. Gardiner MacDougall’s list of championships in the past several months,” the email read. “He guided the Canadian university all-star squad to a gold medal performance in the World University Games in January in Lake Placid, N.Y.” . . . Yes, he certainly did. It’s worth pointing out that it was his second Universiade championship; he also was head coach of the Canadian team that won in 2013 in Trentino, Italy. . . . At some point in the not too distant future, MacDougall should be an inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
THINKING OUT LOUD — The Penticton Vees concluded a 50-3-1 regular season on Sunday, setting a BCHL record for best points percentage (.935) in the process. So now they go into the playoffs with opponents knowing that if they are to advance they will have to beat the Vees four times in seven games, which would be as many losses as they suffered in the 54-game regular season. . . . BTW, in their last 109 games, including last spring’s 16-1 playoff run, the Vees are 109-12-3. . . . I’m not positive about the previous record, but the 2011-12 Vees went 54-4-2 and that’s a .917 points percentage. . . . If you need to contact me this week, please do so before Thursday. It’s Opening Day and I will be kind of busy all day and into the night. . . . There’s something wrong with the NHL’s Dept. of Discipline when a deliberate cross-check to the face that inflicts damage draws only a one-game suspension. F Blake Lizotte of the L.A. Kings got just that for taking his stick to the face of Winnipeg Jets D Josh Morrissey, who needed stitches inside his mouth and to his chin. Maybe one day the NHL will get serious about shots to the head, but it won’t be today or tomorrow. . . . Noticed some followers of the Vancouver Canucks celebrating the fact they their favourite team reached the .500 mark with Sunday’s 4-2 victory in Chicago. That lifted Vancouver’s record to 34-34-5. That tells me the Canucks have 34 wins and 39 losses, and that’s not .500 in my book. . . . Unfortunately, the Canucks still aren’t going to make the playoffs. . . . The place to be on Tuesday night? The Whitney Forum in Flin Flon. It’ll be the Bombers and Estevan Bruins in Game 7 of a first round SJHL series. Flin Flon forced the series to the limit with a 4-1 victory in Estevan on Sunday night.
My wife, Dorothy, will be taking part in the 2023 Kamloops Kidney Walk on June 4 and, for a 10th straight year, is fund-raising. In September, she will celebrate 10 years as a transplant recipient. . . . If you would like to make a donation and be part of Team Dorothy, you may 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.