Huskies win their first Memorial Cup. . . . Matvichuk in hunt for ECHL position? . . . Americans’ home getting improvements


MacBeth

F Jesse Gabrielle (Brandon, Regina, Prince George, 2012-18) has signed a one-season contract with CBR Brave Canberra (Australia, AIHL). This season, with the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL), he had five goals and 10 assists in 25 games. He also had four goals and two assists in 11 games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL). . . .

F Petr Dvorak (Regina, 2002-03) has signed a one-year contract extension with Valašské Meziříčí (Czech Republic, 2 Liga). This season, he had 18 goals and 31 assists in 38 games. He led the team in points.


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The QMJHL-champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies erased a 2-0 deficit and beat the host 2019MCHalifax Mooseheads, 4-2, on Sunday to win their first Memorial Cup title. . . . The Huskies entered the QMJHL for the 1996-97 season. . . . This was the eighth meeting in the last while between these teams and the Huskies won six of them, including four in a six-game QMJHL championship final. . . . The Mooseheads led 2-0 on goals from F Samuel Asselin, on a PP at 19:16 of the first period, and F Raphael Lavoie, at 5:26 of the second. . . . F Felix Bibeau got the Huskies started with his fifth goal of the tournament, at 10:27 of the second period. . . . F Joel Teasdale, the tournament’s MVP, tied it at 15:11. . . . F Peter Abbandonato’s goal at 3:02 of the third period stood up as the winner. . . . F Vincent Marleau added insurance at 5:03. . . . The game had a WHL flavour to it, too, with two of its officials working the game — referee Chris Crich and linesman Tarrington Wyonzek. Also working were two QMJHL officials — referee Mario Maillet and linesman Maxime Chaput. . . . This was the second time in Memorial Cup history that two QMJHL teams met in the final. In 2006, the Quebec Remparts beat the host Moncton Wildcats, 6-2. . . . Huskies head coach Mario Pouliot is the first head coach to win back-to-back Memorial Cup championships with different teams. Last season, he was the head coach of the Acadia-Bathurst Titan, who won the QMJHL title and then won the Memorial Cup in Regina. . . . Willy Palov of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald has a game story right here. . . . The 2020 Memorial Cup is scheduled for Kelowna with the Rockets as the host team.


The ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets are closing in on a new head coach and Richard Matvichuk, who was fired this season as the head coach of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, is believed to be a candidate. . . . Justin A. Cohn of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported Saturday that an announcement could come in the next few days. . . . Cohn has Ben Boudreau, the son of Bruce Boudreau, the head coach of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, as the leading candidate. . . . Matvichuk joined the Cougars for the 2016-17 season after spending two seasons as director of hockey operations and head coach with the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks. He was the ECHL’s coach of the year for the 2015-16 season. . . . The Cougars fired Matvichuk late in what was his third season as head coach. . . . The Komets’ previous head coach, Gary Graham, was fired on May 13 after going 251-130-51 in six seasons. . . . Cohn’s complete story is right here.


The Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash., the home of the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, will tri-cityhave a new ice plant and two large LED screens in place before another season arrives. . . . These improvements come after the lighting was revamped prior to this season. . . . Each screen will be eight feet high and 41 feet wide. . . . As Wendy Culverwell writes in the Tri-City Herald: “The ice plant and video boards were key to keeping the Americans as tenants after the WHL set the 2019-20 season as the deadline to comply with its new standards for player safety and fan amenities.” . . . When all the work is finished, the cost will be about US$4 million. . . . The Americans’ lease expires after the 2019-20 season. . . . Culverwell’s story is right here.


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The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed F Cayden Glover to a WHL contract. He was a second-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. From Brandon, Glover had 47 goals and 19 assists in 36 games with the midget AAA Wheat Kings this season.


The MJHL’s OCN Blizzard will have two men running its bench in 2019-20. The team announced Sunday that Ryan Wood and Chris Perchaluk will be associate head coaches. Wood also will be assistant general manager, under GM Greg Hunter. . . . The Blizzard also has signed Nick Rusak as assistant coach. . . . Wood spent the past two seasons as the GM/head coach of the Kirkland Miners of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League. . . . Perchaluk played two seasons with the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs and one with the Blizzard. He has been coaching minor hockey in The Pas, Man., since 2005. . . . Rusak, from Cranberry Portage, Man., has been an assistant coach with the Thompson-based bantam AAA Norman Wolves.


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Giants force Game 7 in WHL final. . . . Ed Chynoweth Cup to be awarded tonight. . . . Guelph Storm advances to Memorial Cup

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An airtanker unloads retardant on a fire about 25 km east of downtown Kamloops on Sunday afternoon.

The calendar reads May 12, but the thermometer shows that the temperature already is above 30 C. Records already are being set in the Pacific Northwest, along the West Coast of B.C., and into the province’s Interior.

That, of course, means that fire season is upon us, despite the fact that we have yet seen even one bolt of lightning. To date, every mention I have seen of a fire this season has referred to “human-caused.”

There already have been a number of relatively small fires, but the first big one involving evacuation orders started on Saturday near Fraser Lake, which is west of Prince George.

On Sunday, the fire pictured above — it is the Buse Creek fire — broke out about 25 km east of downtown Kamloops, on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway. By 1:30 p.m., they were working it with two airtankers. By 5:30 p.m., the tankers were gone and a pair of helicopters were filling up in the South Thompson River and going back and forth, dropping water on the fire.

As evening fell, the fire was still considered to be out of control, and appeared to be moving slowly in a southerly direction. Ground crews were scheduled to work it through the night.

The forecast calls for a 30 per cent of showers tonight and Monday, and more rain on Tuesday. Here’s hoping it doesn’t change.


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The Guelph Storm won the OHL championship on Sunday, dumping the visiting Ottawa GuelphStorm67’s, 8-3, to win the series, 4-2. . . . This is the fourth time the Storm has won the J. Ross Robertson Cup. . . . The 67’s had gone into the series with a 12-0 record in these playoffs and had won the first two games. . . . The Storm trailed, 2-0, after one period, then scored five times in the second period to take control. . . . Guelph got two goals and two assists from each of F Isaac Ratcliffe, the team captain, and D Dmitri Samorkov. . . . F Nick Suzuki of the Storm was the playoff MVP. He led all scorers with a franchise record 42 points, including 16 goals, in 24 games. . . . The Storm has had quite a run. It is the only team in OHL history to have trailed three series, 2-0, and come back to win them all. . . . Guelph trailed the London Knights, 3-0, in the first round before coming back to win the series. Then, in a semifinal, the Storm was down 3-1 to the Saginaw Spirit before winning the last three games. . . . The Storm will be in the Memorial Cup for the sixth time. . . .

The QMJHL will be represented at the Memorial Cup by the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who won the championship on Saturday, and the host Halifax Mooseheads. The Huskies beat the Mooseheads, 4-2 in the championship series. . . . The Memorial Cup is to run from Friday through May 26.


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EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup will be decided tonight (Monday) when the Vancouver Giants and the host Prince Albert Raiders meet in the Art Hauser Centre. . . . The Giants forced Game 7 with a 4-2 victory over the host Raiders on Sunday night. . . . The road team now is 7-0 in Game 6s in these playoffs. . . .

This will be the 12th time in WHL history, and the first time since 2014, that Game 7 has been needed to decide the WHL championship. In 2014, the Edmonton Oil Kings became the first team to win a final series Game 7 on the road when they beat the Winterhawks, 4-2, in Portland. . . . However, that series was 2-2 after four games. . . . ICYMI: I took a look in a post here on Saturday night at the first 11 championship series to go seven games. . . .

In WHL history, teams have come from behind 3-1 deficits to win series on 13 occasions. Two of those were teams that trailed 3-0 — the 1996 Spokane Chiefs, in a first-round series with the Portland Winterhawks, and the 2013 Kelowna Rockets, in the Western Conference final against the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . .

However, only one team — the Jack Shupe-coached Victoria Cougars — has managed to erase a 3-1 deficit in the championship series and then win Game 7. The Cougars fell behind the Calgary Wranglers in 1981, before winning the last three games of the series. . . . They opened with three games in Victoria — Calgary won the opener, 3-2; Victoria tied it, 5-1; then Calgary posted an 8-6 victory to go home with a 2-1 edge. The Wranglers then went ahead, 3-1, with a 6-5 victory. The Cougars then rolled to three victories in as many nights — 7-4 on April 29 and 4-2 the next night, both in Calgary, and 4-2 in Victoria on May 1. . . . This was the first time in WHL history that a team had won a best-seven-series in any round after trailing 3-1. . . .

To sum it up: The Giants are trying to become the 14th team in WHL history to erase a 3-1 deficit in the final series and win the championship. They also are trying to become only the second team in WHL history to win Game 7 of the championship series on the road. . . . You can bet that Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck will let his guys know that history awaits!

The Raiders, meanwhile, haven’t lost three games in a row this season, and now are hoping to follow the example set by the 1992 and 1994 Kamloops Blazers. In both seasons, the Blazers met the Saskatoon Blades in the championship series. In each instance, Kamloops took a 3-1 lead and then found itself playing Game 7. In 1992, the Blazers won the title with an 8-0 victory at home. In 1994, the Blazers beat the Blades, 8-1, in Game 7 in Kamloops.

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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

G David Tendeck stopped 36 shots and F Davis Koch scored twice as the Vancouver VancouverGiants skated to a 4-2 victory over the Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup is tied, 3-3, with the winner of tonight’s Game 7 going home with the big bauble. . . . The Giants last won the title in 2006; the Raiders haven’t won it since 1985. . . . Vancouver, down 3-1 in the series, had won Game 5, 4-3, in Langley, B.C., on Friday night. . . . Last night, F Parker Kelly (7) gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds into the first period when he put his own rebound in behind Tendeck. Kelly had scored 41 seconds into Game 3, which the Raiders went on to win, 8-2, in Langley, B.C. . . . Koch (4) pulled the Giants even at 6:58, getting a nifty backhand shot past Raiders G Ian Scott. . . . Vancouver went ahead 2-1 at 15:17 when F Owen Hardy scored his fifth goal of the playoffs. . . . Kelly (8) pulled the Raiders even with 32.2 seconds left in the period, taking a pass from F Aliaksei Protas and scoring. . . . After a scoreless second period, the Giants went ahead 3-2 at 3:40 of the third as F Jared Dmytriw, their captain, scored his ninth goal, coming free in front of Scott and putting in a rebound off a shot by F Lukas Svejkovsky. . . . Dmytriw had the primary assist on Hardy’s goal, too. . . . The Raiders had a glorious chance to pull even when Vancouver F Jadon Joseph went off for tripping at 11:30. However, Tendeck closed the door and Prince Albert was penalized for too many men at 13:23. The Giants weren’t able to score on their PP, either. . . . Koch (5) put it away with an empty-netter with 14.2 seconds left to play. . . . Each team finished 0-2 on the PP. . . . The Raiders had a 38-27 edge in shots, including 16-10 in the first period and 11-7 in the third. . . . Scott finished with 23 saves. . . . The referees were Mike Campbell and Steve Papp, with Sean Dufour and Michael Roberts on the lines.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia has a game story right here.

Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has a gamer right here.


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Giants, Raiders head back to P.A. . . . Game 6 scheduled for Sunday. . . . Guelph one win from title in OHL


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The Guelph Storm won its third straight game on Friday night, beating the host Ottawa ohl67’s, 4-3, to take a 3-2 lead in the OHL’s championship series. . . . They’ll play Game 6 in Guelph on Sunday. . . . Last night, the Storm got a goal and an assist from F Alexey Toropchenko, who has seven goals in his past four games. He has 13 goals in these playoffs. . . . F Tye Felhaber scored twice for Ottawa. He now leads the OHL playoffs, with 17 goals. . . . The 67’s opened the playoffs with 14 straight victories, but now have lost three in a row — for the first time this season — and are facing elimination on Sunday.



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The Prince George Cougars and Vista Radio have extended their broadcast agreement through the 2019-20 season. . . . The Cougars’ games, home and away, will again be heard on 94.3 The GOAT. . . . Fraser Rodgers will be back for his third season as the play-by-play voice. . . . Hartley Miller, The GOAT’s sports director, will be the analyst for a seventh straight season.


Sean Murray, a goaltending coach who has worked with the Portland Winterhawks, TrailVancouver Giants and Prince George Cougars, has signed on with the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters. . . . Murray, a coach for more than 20 years, spent five seasons (2006-11) with the Giants, and was part of their Memorial Cup title in 2007. . . . He also pent three-plus seasons with the Winterhawks and two working with the Cougars. . . . The Smoke Eaters also have hired Jeff Urekar, who had been the head coach of the major midget North East Chiefs, as assistant GM.


The AJHL’s Fort McMurray Oil Barons announced Friday that they have “parted ways” OilBaronswith Tom Keca, who had been their general manager and head coach through four seasons. . . . In a news release, David Fitzgerald, the organization’s president, said: “Unfortunately, we were unable to agree on terms with Tom to extend his contract beyond this season. In light of this, we decided that it was best for the organization to move in a different direction next season.” . . . Before taking over as GM/head coach, Keca had been an assistant coach with the Oil Barons for four-plus seasons. He also spent five seasons (2000-05) on the staff as an assistant before taking over as head coach of the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats. . . . Dave Dupas has stepped in as general manager and head coach “until further notice.” . . . Dupas has been an assistant coach with Fort McMurray for the past three seasons. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings for four seasons. . . . This season, the Oil Barons went 32-19-9 to finish fourth in the Viterra AJHL North. They beat the Grande Prairie Storm, 3-1, in a best-of-five first-round series, then lost a best-of-seven affair to the Sherwood Park Crusaders, 4-2.


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NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup is headed back to the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert. . . . The Vancouver Giants beat the Raiders, 4-3, on Friday night in Langley, B.C. . . . The Raiders now hold a 3-2 lead in the series. . . . The two teams will climb on to the same plane today and fly to Prince Albert where Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday. . . . A seventh game, if needed, would be played on Monday. . . .

Prior to Game 5, Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told Steve Ewen of Postmedia: “The one thing I know for sure is that you don’t give games away. You have a chance like this, you play this like it’s Game 7. “You want to end it as quick as possible. (Friday) is our Game 7.” . . .

After Game 5, Habscheid told reporters: “If someone had told me at the start of the (season) that we’d have two games at home to try and win the league title, we’d take it.” . . .

This is the third straight WHL final to go six games. . . . Two seasons ago, the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the host Regina Pats, 4-3 in OT, to win that series, 4-2. . . . Last season, it was the Swift Current Broncos winning Game 6, 3-0 over the visiting Everett Silvertips, to take that series, 4-2. . . .

On Friday, at 8:15 p.m. PT, with Game 5 between Vancouver and Prince Albert in the first intermission, Rogers Sportsnet had Plays of the Month on four channels, MLB’s Best on one channel and Highlights of the Night on another. Just sayin’ . . . No, Game 6 of the OHL’s championship final wasn’t on any of the channels earlier in the evening either.

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FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Vancouver Giants erased a 2-1 deficit with three-second period goals en route to a 4-Vancouver3 victory over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. . . . The Raiders lead the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, 3-2, with Game 6 to be played in Prince Albert on Sunday. . . . Game 7, if necessary, would be played on Monday. . . . Last night, the Giants got the game’s first goal, at 7:42 of the first period, when F Brayden Watts (7) deposited a rebound off a shot by F Tristen Nielsen into an empty side. . . . The team scoring first now is 5-0 in this series. . . . The Raiders tied it at 10:44 as F Aliaksei Protas (12) scored from the slot off a rebound from a shot by F Sean Montgomery. . . . The teams then combined for five goals in the second period. . . . The visitors took their only lead at 2:45, just nine seconds after killing off a penalty. F Dante Hannoun came free in front of the Giants’ net and beat G David Tendeck for his WHL-leading 13th goal of these playoffs. . . . Vancouver tied it 50 seconds later as D Bowen Byram (8) skated into the left side of the slot and beat G Ian Scott for his first goal of the series. . . . F Davis Koch (3) put the home boys back out front, putting home a rebound at 9:24. He had gone 12 games without a goal. . . . D Dylan Plouffe (6) upped Vancouver’s lead to 4-2 at 11:13 with a shot from the top of the left circle off a play by F Dawson Holt, who gained possession of the puck with some good work along the boards and then threw out a terrific pass. . . . The Raiders got back to within a goal at 15:54 as F Noah Gregor (11) got a backhand shot through Tendeck after the Giants failed to clear their zone. . . . F Jadon Joseph had two assists for Giants, while Byram added an assist to his goal, as did Watts. . . . The Raiders got two assists from F Brett Leason. . . . Leason and Byram remain tied for the playoff points lead, each with 25, two ahead of Hannoun. . . . Tendeck finished with 37 saves, including 16 in the third period as he helped keep the Raiders off the scoreboard. . . . Scott stopped 26 shots. . . . The Giants were 0-1 on the PP; the Raiders were 0-2. . . . The Raiders had D Max Martin back in the lineup after he missed Games 3 and 4. He was injured in the second period of Game 2 after crashing awkwardly into the end boards. With Martin back in, D Loeden Schaufler came out. . . . The referees were Chris Crich and Fraser Lawrence, with Ron Dietterle and Brett Mackey working the lines.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia has a game story right here.


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Holt everything! Giants strike first. . . . Two late second-period goals key to Game 1 victory. . . . Might so many commits work against NCAA schools?

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F Matt Fraser (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Augsburger Panther (Germany, DEL). This season, he had 18 goals and 16 assists in 52 games. The was second on the team in goals and third in points. . . .

D Troy Rutkowski (Portland, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste bank Liga). This season, he had nine goals and 18 assists in 52 games. . . .

D David Němeček (Saskatoon, 2013-14) has signed a one-year plus option contract with Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had three goals and three assists in 46 games. . . .

D Lassi Thomson (Kelowna, 2018-19) has signed a two-year plus option contract with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Kelowna (WHL), he had 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 games. . . .

G Alexander Pechursky (Tri-City, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). This season, with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstan, Vysshaya Liga), he was 13-16-2, 2.36, .917, with one assist, in 32 games.


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You could make an argument that the most surprising part of Thursday’s WHL bantam draft was the decision by the Kamloops Blazers to use both of their first-round selections on players who have made verbal commitments to the U of Michigan Wolverines.

Kamloops used the seventh-overall selection on D Mats Lindgren of the Burnaby Winter Club, then took F Connor Levis of St. George’s Academy in Vancouver with the 20th pick.

Both players have made verbal commitments to the Wolverines for the 2022-23 season.

So . . . you’re wondering why the Blazers, a team that had a mediocre season while in what was the WHL’s weakest division in 2018-19, would take two NCAA commits in the first round?

Well, Jess Myers of therinklive.com has written an excellent piece that details the changes to NCAA hockey and its recruiting process, all of which came into effect on May 1.

In that story, Myers writes:

“The new system may also reduce the high numbers of committed players that many colleges have now. The list of college commitments that is maintained by College Hockey, Inc., shows that in the Big Ten, Michigan has 37 players who have given verbal commitments to play for the Wolverines in the future, and presumably have been given a scholarship offer of some amount. The (Minnesota) Gophers and Wisconsin (Badgers) each has 31 commitments listed.”

I wasn’t able to find the list of 37 potential future Wolverines, but, then, I’m hardly a computer genius. I did find a list of 24 commits, but it doesn’t include any players committed for 2022-23. Another list, this one at collegehockeynews.com, shows Michigan with 33 commitments but it doesn’t include 2022-23, either.

However, I would suggest that somewhere there is a list that shows 37 commits for Michigan.

Still, the point is that Michigan and many other schools have a whole host of commits potentially on the way.

That being the case, it’s got to give Kamloops general manager Matt Bardsley a terrific starting point when he begins his serious recruiting pitch with Lindgren, Levis and their families.

Myers’ story is right here.


CORRECTION: D Sean Comrie, whose rights moved from the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Kelowna Rockets on Thursday, just finished his first season with the U of Denver Pioneers. The Edmonton native had one assists in 18 games, after spending two seasons with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints. Brandon selected him in the second round of the 2015 bantam draft.

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MORE DRAFT BLOODLINES: The Calgary Hitmen selected F Jadon Kwiatkowski of Sammamish, Wash., in the 11th round. A reader tells me that he is from Lake Stevens, Wash., and that he played for the U-14 Everett Jr. Silvertips. His father, Jason, played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, with the Prince Albert Raiders and Tacoma Rockets, while an uncle, Joel, split four WHL seasons (1994-98) between Tacoma, the Kelowna Rockets and Prince George Cougars. . . .

In the sixth round, the Hitmen selected D Matthew Sutter, who had seven goals and 13 assists in 31 games with the bantam AAA Spruce Grove PAC Saints. He isn’t related to the Sutters of Viking, Alta.

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Here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at teams that had four or more players selected in the bantam draft:

Anchorage North Stars (4)

BWC H.A. Bntm Prep (8)

Calgary CBHA Bisons BAAA (6)

Colorado Thunderbirds 14U (6)

Dallas Stars Elite 14U (5)

Delta H.A. Bntm Prep Green (12)

Eastman Selects B1AAA (4)

Edge School Bntm Prep (11)

Fort Sask. Rangers BAAA (5)

Lloydminster Bobcats BAAA (4)

Martensville Marauders BAA (4)

North Zone Kings BAA (4)

Northern Alberta Xtreme Bntm Prep (6)

OHA Edmonton Bntm Prep (7)

Okanagan H.A. Bntm Prep (7)

Okotoks Oilers BAAA (4)

Red Deer Rebels BAAA (8)

Rink H.A. Nationals Bntm Prep (9)

Sherwood Park Flyers BAAA (4)

St. George’s School Bntm Prep (4)

Warman Wildcats BAA (4)

Yale H.A. Bntm Prep (11)


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Ryan Marushak is remaining with the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey DelisleChiefsLeague. The former general manager will be the team’s director of player personnel in what will be his eighth season with the organization. . . . Eric Ditto was named the team’s general manager and head coach on Thursday. . . . If you weren’t aware, Delisle was home to the late Max Bentley, an NHL star who had one of the great nicknames in sports history — the Dipsy Doodle Dandy from Delisle.


Tyler Drader is the new head coach of the Calgary-based SAIT Trojans, who play in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. He spent the previous two seasons as general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs. . . . Drader takes over from Brent Devost, who resigned after one season with the Trojans. . . . There is a news release right here.


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NOTES: First, please allow me to point out that this is the WHL final. It isn’t the WHL finals or the WHL Finals or the WHL FINALS. There is only one series, only one final, thus it is the WHL final. Thank you . . .

With that out of the way, the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup got started on Friday night in Prince Albert with the Vancouver Giants beating the Raiders, 5-4. They’ll play Game 2 in the Art Hauser Centre tonight, then head for Langley, B.C., and games on Tuesday, Wednesday and, if necessary, Friday in the Langley Events Centre. . . .

While there isn’t a player on either team who has played in a WHL final, there are coaches who have been there. . . . Jamie Heward, in his first season as the Giants’ associate coach, is in his second straight final. Last season, he helped guide the Swift Current Broncos to a championship. . . . Jeff Battah, an assistant coach with the Giants, was an assistant with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2008 when they got to the final under then-head coach Michael Dyck. Dyck, of course, now is the Giants’ head coach. . . . Raiders assistant coach Jeff Truitt was an assistant under Marc Habscheid, now the head coach in Prince Albert, when the Kelowna Rockets won the 2003 title. Truitt was the head coach two seasons later when the Rockets won the Ed Chynoweth Cup. . . .

Steve Ewen of Postmedia pointed out before Game 1 that Vancouver D Bowen Byram’s father, Shawn, played 116 games from 1986-88 with the Prince Albert Raiders, putting up 39 goals, 85 points and 300 PIMs. . . . Shawn began his WHL career by playing 62 games with the Regina Pats (1984-87). . . .

FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Vancouver Giants broke a 3-3 tie with two goals in the final minute of the second period and then hung on for a 5-4 victory over the host Prince Albert Raiders in Game 1 Vancouverof the WHL’s championship series. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Prince Albert tonight. . . . Vancouver D Dylan Plouffe (5) opened the scoring from the right faceoff dot at 4:20 of the first period, one-timing a pass from D Bowen Byram while enjoying a two-man PP advantage. . . . F Dawson Holt (6) upped the lead to 2-0 at 6:06 as he pounced on a rebound off the end boards and rifled it home just 10 seconds after Vancouver’s second PP expired. . . . The Raiders cut the deficit in half when F Brett Leason (6) scored on a PP at 3:20 of the second period, beating G David Tendeck through the legs. . . . F Jared Dmytriw (8), the Giants’ captain, restored the two-goal lead at 5:13 as his shot from the top of the circles got past G Ian Scott. . . . The Raiders quickly got that one back as F Noah Gregor (8) made it 3-2 at 6:17 as he split the defencemen at the top of the Giants’ zone, took a pass and scored from 12 feet out. . . . The home team pulled into a tie when F Dante Hannoun (10), a sniper who didn’t score in the six-game semifinal victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, found the range off a rebound at 16:45 of the second period. . . . Vancouver went back out front with 30.9 seconds left in the period as F Yannik Valenti (2) whipped home a one-timer from high in the slot on a PP. . . . Holt (7), who is from Saskatoon, made it 5-3 with his second goal of the game, this one from a bad angle, with 16.5 seconds left in the period. . . . D Jeremy Massella (1) pulled the Raiders back to within a goal at 2:50 of the third period when he drove to the net from the right side and stuffed the puck past Tendeck. . . . Holt had six goals in 53 regular-season games; he’s got seven in 16 playoff games. . . . F Owen Hardy, Dmytriw, who is from Craven, Sask., and Byram each had two assists for the Giants. Byram leads all playoff scorers with 20 points. . . . F Parker Kelly had two assists for the Raiders, with Hannoun adding one to his goal. . . . Vancouver was 2-4 on the PP; Prince Albert was 1-3. . . . Tendeck finished with 25 stops, four more than Scott. . . . F Aidan Barfoot was among the Giants’ scratches. He hasn’t played since suffering a suspected concussion in Game 4 of a first-round series with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The referees were Jeff Ingram and Brett Iverson, with Sean Dufour and Tarrington Wyonzek on the lines.

(NOTE: Scoring changes after the game gave Byram two more assists, while taking one away from Hardy. That left Byram with a WHL-leading 22 points.)

Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has a game story right here.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia has a gamer right here.


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Habscheid: It was open season on our goaltender. . . . Lauer: We need to do more of that. . . . Cozens helps Canada stay unbeaten


MacBeth

F Todd Fiddler (Medicine Hat, Prince Albert, Spokane, Moose Jaw, Prince George, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with Neuilly-sur-Marne (France, Division 1). This season, with the Rosetown Red Wings (Allan Cup Hockey West), he had three goals and six assists in 10 games.


ThisThat

OK. The WHL’s Eastern Conference final officially became a series after Game 2. The Edmonton Oil Kings tied the series, 1-1, with a 4-3 OT victory over the Raiders in Prince EdChynowethCupAlbert on Saturday night.

When the game was over, Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ veteran head coach, pointed out what he felt were some deficiencies in the work of referees Mike Langin and Steve Papp when it came to protecting his goaltender, Ian Scott, from on-rushing Oil Kings.

Brad Lauer, the Oil Kings’ first-year head coach, said his guys need to get to the Prince Albert crease even more than they did in Game 2.

“One thing that concerned me a little bit was it was open season on our goaltender,” Habscheid told reporters. “We depend on the officials to defend our goaltender, because we have no recourse anymore these days. He was getting bumped and stuck and ran all game. We expect them to take care of that and they didn’t. That was real disappointing.”

As for Lauer, he said:

“Their (defencemen) do a really good job getting into (you). They box you out early and they tie you up. We found it really tough in Game 1 to get in front of the net. . . . We had to find ways to get to him and make things difficult for him. We did it a couple times. Did we do it enough? I don’t think so. We need to do more of that and create that second or third opportunity. If we do that, we’ll be okay.”

Jeff D’Andrea of panow.com has a story right here.

Derek Van Diest of Postmedia has a game story right here.

The series resumes with Games 3 and 4 in Edmonton on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.




The Western Conference final also will continue with games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights as the Vancouver Giants take a 2-0 lead over the Chiefs into Spokane. . . . The Chiefs have lost two games in a row for the first time since mid-February when they lost three in a row — 5-4 to the Giants in Langley, B.C., 7-5 to the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash., and 4-3 in OT to the visiting Kelowna Rockets. . . . After those losses, Spokane closed out the regular season on a 10-2-0 run, then opened the playoffs by going 8-2 before losing twice to the Giants. . . .

A key in this series may well be the status of Spokane F Luc Smith, who left Game 1 early in the first period with an apparent ankle injury. Here’s Kevin Dudley of the Spokane Spokesman-Review after Game 2: “The Chiefs were without forward Luc Smith, who was hurt early in Game 1. (Spokane head coach Dan) Lambert said there is no update and they are waiting for Smith to see the team doctors. Smith was walking with a visible limp outside the Spokane dressing room.”


Team Canada ran its record to 3-0 at the IIHF U-18 World Championship by whipping CanadaBelarus, 11-1, on Sunday in Umea, Sweden. . . . F Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes) led Canada with two goals and three assists, with F Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg Ice) adding a goal and an assist. F Connor Zary (Kamloops Blazers) and D Braden Schneider (Brandon Wheat Kings) each scored once. F Daemon Hunt and F Brayden Tracey, both of the Moose Jaw Warriors, each had an assist. . . . G Nolan Maier (Saskatoon Blades) stopped 41 shots in his first start of the tournament. . . . Belarus now is 2-1. . . . Canada is next scheduled to play on Tuesday against Czech Republic. . . .

In Sunday’s other Group A game, Czech Republic improved to 2-1 with a 4-2 victory over Finland (0-3). . . . In Group B, Team USA went to 3-0 with a 6-3 victory over Russia (2-1), and Sweden went to 2-1 with a 5-1 victory over Slovakia (0-3). . . .

On Monday, Switzerland (0-2) is to meet Belarus in a Group A game, while, in Group B, Latvia (0-2) will meet Slovakia (0-3).

The tournament, in Umea and Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, runs through April 28.


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Tracey nets two more for Canada. . . . Scott, Wiesblatt help Raiders to victory. . . . Hardy sparks Giants; Chiefs lose Smith

MacBeth

F Roman Horák (Chilliwack, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with Växjö (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 15 goals and 18 assists in 50 games.


ThisThat

F Brayden Tracey of the Moose Jaw Warriors scored twice and added an assist on Friday Canadato help Canada to a 7-4 victory over Switzerland at the IIHF U-18 World Championship in Umea, Sweden. . . . The tournament, which runs through April 28, also is being played in Ornskoldsvik. . . . Tracey had scored twice on Thursday as Canada skated to a 5-3 victory over Finland as the tournament began. . . . On Friday, Canada got a goal and an assist from each of F Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg Ice) and F Connor Zary (Kamloops Blazers). F Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes) also scored for Canada. . . . G Taylor Gauthier (Prince George Cougars) stopped 17 shots in his second straight start. . . . Canada led 3-0 and 4-3 by period. . . . Canada will next play on Sunday when it is to meet Belarus.

In other Friday games, Team USA dumped Slovakia, 12-5, behind four goals from each of F Cole Caufield, who has seven in two games, and F Jack Hughes; Sweden beat Latvia, 5-2; and Belarus surprised Finland, 4-3, despite being outshot 29-3 in the third period. F Yegor Buyalski of the Warriors had a goal and an assist for Belarus.


The NCAA has announced a series of rule changes regarding the does and don’ts of recruiting that will impact Division I men’s hockey. . . . Here’s Mike G. Morale of nhl.com: “The new legislation, which will go into effect May 1, calls for no recruiting conversations until Jan. 1 of a player’s sophomore (grade 10) school year, as well as no verbal offers (commitments) made to a player until Aug. 1 before the player’s junior (grade 11) school year. Under the old guidelines, players could initiate communication at any time, and verbal offers could be made anytime.” . . . Morreale’s story is right here.

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With the rule changes not kicking in until May 1, there may well be a few young players making verbal commitments between now and then. . . . On Friday, F Tanner Ludtke, a 14-year-old from Elko, Minn., announced via Twitter that he has committed to the U of Nebraska-Omaha and will join the Mavericks for the 2023-24 season. . . . This season, he had 30 goals and 33 assists in 46 games with the Lakeville South bantam AA club. . . .

Meanwhile, F Brett Moravec, 16, has committed to the U of Wisconsin Badgers. Moravec, from Airdrie, Alta., was a fifth-round pick by the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had 13 goals and 23 assists in 32 games with the prep team at the Edge School in Calgary.


The Battlefords North Stars wrapped up the SJHL championship on Friday night, beating the visiting Melfort Mustangs, 7-2. . . . The North Stars won the series and the Canalta Cup, 4-1, and now will meet the MJHL-champion, either the Portage Terriers or the Swan Valley Stampeders, for the ANAVET Cup. The MJHL champion will be decided on Monday when the teams meet in Game 7 in Portage la Prairie. . . . Last night, Battlefords got two goals from each of F Macgregor Sinclair, Quintin Loon-Stewardson and F Braydon Buziak. . . . They also got 32 saves from G Joel Grzybowski.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL playoffs resumed on Friday night as each of the conference finals got started. . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders opened the Eastern Conference final at home with a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, who hadn’t played since eliminating the Calgary Hitmen on April 10. The Raiders won their series with the Saskatoon Blades on April 14. . . .

In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Giants got started with a 4-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Langley. . . . The Giants had been idle since finishing off the Victoria Royals on April 11. The Chiefs eliminated the Everett Silvertips on April 13.

——

FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

G Ian Scott recorded the shutout and F Ozzy Wiesblatt scored the game’s only goal as the PrinceAlbertPrince Albert Raiders opened the Eastern Conference final with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Prince Albert tonight. . . . Wiesblatt (4) scored at 1:48 of the second period, his backhand shot bouncing past G Dylan Myskiw after hitting the stick belonging to Edmonton D Wyatt McLeod. . . . Wiesblatt had scored three goals in the Raiders’ first four games of these playoffs; this goal ended a six-game drought. . . . Scott blocked 26 shots, and was superb in a third period in which his guys were outshot 11-3. . . . In these playoffs, Scott is 9-2, 1.64, .934 with two shutouts. . . . Myskiw finished with 23 saves. . . . Edmonton was 0-2 on the PP; Prince Albert was 0-4. . . . The Raiders are 6-0 at home in the playoffs. . . . The Oil Kings went into the game having won their previous four road games. . . . F Cole Fonstad was back in the Raiders’ lineup after missing the last two games of their six-game series victory over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . F Justin Nachbaur of the Raiders sat out as he completed a two-game suspension.


F Owen Hardy scored once and added two assists to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 4-1 Vancouvervictory over the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. . . . It was Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Game 2 will be played tonight in Langley. . . . The Giants took control with two goals 2:12 apart early in the first period. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky (4) opened the scoring, on a PP, at 6:25, and F Dawson Holt (3) made it 2-0 at 8:37. . . . Hardy (4) upped the lead to 3-0 just 57 seconds into the second period. . . . The Chiefs got their goal at 5:30 as F Adam Beckman (6) scored. . . . D Bowen Byram (5) put it away for the Giants with an empty-netter at 18:06 of the third period. . . . Vancouver was 1-2 on the PP; Spokane was 0-2. . . . G David Tendeck earned the victory with 30 saves, four more than Spokane’s Bailey Brkin. . . . The Giants continued to play without F Aidan Barfoot, who is out with an undisclosed injury. . . . Spokane F Luc Smith left the game early in the first period after falling into the boards. He didn’t return. If he has to miss any time it will be a big loss for the Chiefs. At 6-foot-4, he’s a big body and as a 20-year-old he brings a lot of experience to their lineup. After being acquired from the Kamloops Blazers this season, he had 20 goals and 14 assists in 42 games. He went into this series with four goals and an assist in 10 games.


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Did Chiefs take out WHL’s top team? . . . High Noon arrives for Blades vs. Raiders. . . . P.A. moves into conference final


MacBeth

F Clarke Breitkreuz (Regina. Prince George, 2008-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Lausitzer Füchse Weißwasser (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had 18 goals and 15 assists in 41 games. . . .

F Chris Francis (Portland, 2006-10) has signed a one-year contract extension with Saale Bulls Halle (Germany, Oberliga). In 26 games, he had 21 goals and 38 assists. He actually started the season with the Tulsa Oilers (ECHL), recording one goal and one assist in 10 games.


ThisThat

It seems that the Spokane Chiefs are of the opinion that they eliminated the WHL’s best team when they ousted the Everett Silvertips from the playoffs on Saturday night.

The Chiefs beat the visiting Silvertips, 2-1, in Game 5 on Saturday to win the Western SpokaneChiefsConference semifinal, 4-1, and advance to the conference final against the Vancouver Giants. That series is to open in Langley, B.C., with games on Friday and Saturday nights.

“We just took down the top team in the league, without even a Game 6 or 7,” Spokane goaltender Bailey Brkin, who just may be the biggest individual story of these playoffs, told Kevin Dudley of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “I’m just so proud of the boys for pulling it out.”

Dan Lambert, the Chiefs’ head coach, told Dudley that Everett is “the top team in the league. The reason for that is the way they compete and outwork (teams). . . .”

Don’t tell the Chiefs, but the regular-season standings — never mind the second round of the playoffs — would seem to indicate that the Silvertips weren’t the best team in the league.

The Prince Albert Raiders finished atop the overall standings, at 54-10-4. Because of the unbalanced schedule — it is terribly unbalanced due to the WHL being spread over four provinces and two states — comparing teams in different conferences really is an apples-and-oranges thing.

But the Giants topped the Western Conference, at 48-15-5. They were 11 points behind the Raiders and two in front of the Silvertips.

The Chiefs? The finished 40-21-7, good for eighth place in the overall standings, 12 points behind the Silvertips and 14 behind the Giants, their next opponent.


We may have solved a couple of mysteries left over from Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal between the Spokane Chiefs and Everett Silvertips.

You will recall that Spokane D Filip Kral was suspended for one game for “game misconduct versus Everett on April 12,” according to the WHL. Kral was given a game misconduct at 19:28 of third period of a game that the host Chiefs went on to win, 4-1. There were rumblings that Kral was ejected from the game while seated on the Chiefs’ bench.

Well, a follower of the Chiefs who is a reader of this blog informed Taking Note on Saturday night that “Kral squirted water from the bench and I guess it hit the linesman’s leg.” The source spoke with Kral while he was serving his suspension by missing Game 5 in Spokane on Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the WHL also fined the Chiefs $500 “for warm up violations.”

While the WHL didn’t offer any specifics, including which game it was, the same Chiefs follower tells Taking Note that a violation may have occurred prior to Game 4 when Spokane F Luke Toporowski “shot a puck into Everett’s net just before the horn sounded to end” the warmup. “I saw him do it and thought that wasn’t allowed,” the source told Taking Note.

So . . . while all of this is speculation, it just may have solved a couple of mysteries. A tip of the Taking Note fedora to the observant and interested Chiefs follower who took the time to write.


Going into these playoffs, many of the hockey whisperers were of the opinion that the Spokane Chiefs may have had a goaltending problem. Not that they didn’t have any goaltending, but that their play in that department may have been lacking when compared to some other teams.

Well, Bailey Brkin is in the process of shooting that theory to smithereens.

A 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., Brkin was 27-11-3, 2.75, .914 in the regular season, and now is 8-2, 2.26, .931 in the playoffs. He is preparing to lead the Chiefs into the Western Conference final, having beaten the Portland Winterhawks (Shane Farkas, Joel Hofer) and Everett Silvertips (Dustin Wolf) in the first two rounds.

It could be that the whisperers still haven’t forgotten Brkin’s numbers from the 23 appearances he made with the Kootenay Ice last season — 7-12-2, 4.51, .874.

His time with the Ice ended on Jan. 8, 2018, when the Chiefs acquired him for — get this! — an eighth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft.

The Ice, of course, hasn’t been a good team for a few seasons now, so it’s likely that Brkin found Spokane to be a breath of fresh air.

Considering Brkin’s numbers this season, you would have to say the feeling is mutual.


When the Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver open the Western Conference final on Friday in VancouverLangley, B.C., Giants F Jadon Joseph will be appearing in his third consecutive conference final. . . . In each of the previous two seasons, Joseph was with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Two years ago, they lost to the Regina Pats in six games. Last season, the Hurricanes again were ousted in six games, this time by the Swift Current Broncos. . . . In 2017, Joseph, a 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., had two goals and an assist in 20 playoff games. Last spring, he put up three goals and nine assists in 16 games. . . . The Hurricanes dealt him to Regina this season, and the Giants acquired him from the Pats on Jan. 4, giving up a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and a sixth-rounder in 2020. . . . In the regular season, Joseph had 10 goals and 18 assists in 32 games with the Giants. In the playoffs, he has six goals and two assists in 10 games. . . . Most importantly, as far as the Giants are concerned, is that he joined them having already appeared in 36 playoff games.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES:  The WHL’s conference semifinals are over, with nary a one of the four series going to seven games. . . . Two of them were sweeps — the Edmonton Oil Kings beat the Calgary Hitmen, and the Vancouver Giants dumped the Victoria Royals — while one went five games and another six. . . . The Spokane Chiefs took out the Everett Silvertips in five; the Prince Albert Raiders beat the Blades, 6-3, in Saskatoon on Sunday to win that series in six games. . . .

The WHL now goes dark until Friday night when the conference finals are scheduled to open, with the Oil Kings in Prince Albert, and the Chiefs meeting the Giants in Langley, B.C. . . .

When Prince Albert beat the host Blades, 6-3, on Sunday, it marked the 66th playoff victory for Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid. That moves him into a tie for ninth place with Ken Hitchcock on the WHL’s all-time list, one victory behind Willie Desjardins and Don Nachbaur. . . . Who’s No. 1? Don Hay, of course. Hay has recorded 108 playoff victories as a head coach, seven more than Ken Hodge. . . .

Habscheid also has moved to ninth place on the WHL’s list of combined coaching victories. He now has 575 regular-season and playoff victories, four behind Brent Sutter. . . . Hay also is No. 1 here, at 858, with Hodge second, at 843.

——

SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Dante Hannoun scored three times to lead the Prince Albert Raiders to a 6-3 victory PrinceAlbertover the Blades in Saskatoon. . . . The Raiders won the Eastern Conference semifinal, 4-2, and will meet the Edmonton Oil Kings in the final. That series is to open with games in Prince Albert on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . The Raiders are into the conference final for the first time since 2005. . . . F Parker Kelly (4) put the Raiders out front, 1-0, at 10:28 of the first period. . . . Saskatoon F Ryan Hughes (1) tied it at 16:45. . . . The Raiders took a two-goal lead on second-period goals from Hannoun (7), at 5:08, and F Aliaksei Protas (4), on a PP, at 8:18. . . . Hughes (2) halved the Saskatoon deficit, on a PP, at 15:24. . . . Hannoun (8) restored the two-goal lead, at 3:33. . . . F Sean Montgomery (7) upped the Raiders’ lead to 5-2, on a PP, at 5:27. . . . F Tristen Robins (3) scored for the Blades 29 second later. . . . Hannoun (9) completed his hat trick with an empty-netter at 19:58. . . .

The Raiders acquired Hannoun, along with fourth- and eighth-round picks in the 2019 bantam draft, from the Victoria Royals on Jan. 3, for F Carson Miller, F Kody McDonald and a third-round selection in the 2020 bantam draft. . . . In 28 regular-season games with the Raiders, Hannoun, 20, had 10 goals and 21 assists. In 10 playoff games, he has a WHL-leading nine goals. He is tied for the points lead with F Davis Koch of the Vancouver Giants, each with 14. . . . Prince Albert was 2-3 on the PP; Saskatoon was 2-4. . . . F Noah Gregor and F Brett Leason each had two assists for the winners. . . . G Ian Scott stopped 19 shots for the Raiders, seven fewer than Saskatoon’s Nolan Maier. . . . The Raiders scratched F Cole Fonstad for a second straight game and had F Cole Nagy, an AP, dressed for this one. . . . The Raiders were without F Justin Nachbaur, who served the first of a two-game suspension. He also will sit out the first game of the Eastern Conference final on Friday.


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