Cougars to be more ‘assertive’ with schedule making . . . Portland still unbeaten in East . . . Gauthier blanks Americans




MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Landshut (Germany, Oberliga South) after requesting and receiving his release from Jablonec nad Nisou (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). He had 14 goals and 20 assists in 23 games.


ThisThat

Andy Beesley is the vice-president of business with the Prince George Cougars. A few days before Christmas, he sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat, a Prince George radio station, and they combined for an episode of the CatScan podcast. . . . If you have ever wondered about what goes into running the business end of a major junior franchise you will want to give this a listen. It’s 50 minutes of Beesley being honest in answering questions about ticket prices, attendance, scheduling, turning games into events, the survival of the WHL in Prince George, and even how he came to change his lifestyle and lose 100 pounds. . . .

One thing I found particularly interesting is that Beesley said the Cougars’ organization has changed its thought process and no longer will look for the one big score.

“We would love to win a Memorial Cup, but we just want to make the playoffs regularly,” he told Miller, “and that’s part of the path that the hockey side of the business is on now. We’ve changed our model a bit to aim for more of a consistent team year by year, rather than selling the farm and just having couple of studs that come in and then you cross your fingers and pay the price for the next five years. We’ve done away with that model.”

The Cougars are scheduled to entertain the Prince George Cougars on Friday night, more than five weeks after their most-recent home game. Between home games, they will have played 11 times on the road and taken the Christmas break.

Beesley promised the Cougars’ fans “that’s not going to happen again . . . we’re not going to put up with that again.”

He added that he, team president John Pateman, co-owner Eric Brown and general manager Mark Lamb “have all talked together and agreed that we need to do a far better job of not just giving input to our schedules but standing up for what the Prince George Cougars need. . . . we are going to be a lot more assertive and make sure we don’t have another six-week gap because we don’t think it’s fair to fans and it’s not fair to our business either.”

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the 50 minutes and it’s all right here.

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KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

All signs point to the Kootenay Ice packing up and moving to Winnipeg before another season gets here. However, no one from the Ice or the WHL office has had much, if 21anything to say about all the speculation.

However, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, did appear with host Dean Millard on TSN Radio (1260) in Edmonton on Dec. 19.

Asked about the situation, Robison responded in part that “we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is.”

We now are into our 21st day since Robison made that statement, and there has yet to be an announcement of any kind.


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Allow me to apologize to Gino De Paoli, the play-by-play voice of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. It was his tweet that tipped me off to an item on G Nick Sanders that I used here yesterday. I meant to credit De Paoli, but it didn’t get done, and for that I offer up an apology. Sorry about that, Gino.

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The Prince George Cougars have signed F Blake Eastman, 15, to a WHL contract. He was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . From Ardrossan, Alta., Eastman is playing for the Elite 15 team at OHA Edmonton, where he has 17 goals and eight assists in 21 games.

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The Spokane Chiefs have returned D Graham Sward to the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. Sward, 15, was the 17th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Sward played one game with the Chiefs and scored his first goal as they beat the Ice, 8-4, in Cranbrook, B.C., on Sunday.

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The Swift Current Broncos have released F Quinton Waitzner, 18, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . From Victoria, he had two assists in 34 games this season, after finishing last season with one goal in 43 games. He also was pointless in five games in 2016-17. . . . Before joining the Broncos, he played for the junior B Saanich Braves.

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The Prince Albert Raiders have returned G Brett Balas, 17, to the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. From Calgary, he was a third-round pick by the Raiders in the WHl’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . Balas was brought in by the Raiders to fill the roster spot created with starter Ian Scott with Team Canada at the WJC. . . . Balas got into two games with Prince Albert, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871. One of the victories was in relief of starter Donovan Buskey.

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Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and contribute to the cause. Thank you, in advance, and stay safe out there.

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TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Portland Winterhawks erased an early 2-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to Portlanda 4-3 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . Portland (24-11-5) has points in nine straight (6-0-3), and is 3-0-0 on its East Division swing. . . . Brandon (16-16-6) has lost two in a row. . . . F Ben McCartney (11) gave Brandon a 2-0 lead with goals at 1:14 and 3:45 of the first period. . . . The Winterhawks tied it before the period ended on goals from F Michal Kvasnica (7) and F Seth Jarvis (10). . . . F Jaydon Dureau (9) broke the tie at 14:39 of the second period. . . . F Joachim Blichfeld upped Portland’s lead to 4-2, shorthanded, at 10:03 of the third period. He leads the WHL in goals (37) and points (76). . . D Braden Schneider (5) got the Wheat Kings to within a goal at 14:53. . . . Portland had a 51-35 edge in shots, including 22-9 in the first period. . . . Brandon G Jiri Patera blocked 47 shots, 15 more than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . Portland D Nick Cicek, an 18-year-old freshman from Winnipeg, had one assist in his first 16 games. He had one assist last night, and now is on a six-game point streak, with nine helpers in that stretch. . . . Portland had F Cody Glass back in the lineup after his stint with Canada’s national junior team. He was held off the scoresheet. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley (suspended) and D Brendan De Jong (concussion).

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F Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and two assists to lead the host Saskatoon Blades to a 4-3 Saskatoonvictory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Saskatoon (25-12-5) has won two in a row. . . . Seattle (12-21-4) is 1-2-0 on its East Division trip. . . . Crnkovic, a 16-year-old from Chestermere, Alta., was the 10th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. In 27 games, he has four goals and nine assists, with three goals and six assists having come in his past nine games. Yes, this was his first multi-point WHL game. . . . D Zach Ashton, who moved from Saskatoon to Seattle in a deal last week, gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead with his first WHL goal, at 6:35 of the first period. The goal came in his 14th WHL game, the third with Seattle. . . . Crnkovic tied it at 15:24, and F Josh Paterson (14) gave the Blades the lead, on a PP, at 17:30. . . . Seattle F Nolan Volcan, playing in his 300th regular-season game, tied it with his 15th goal, at 19:24. . . . The Thunderbirds went ahead 3-2 when F Matthew Wedman (13) accord at 4:36 of the second period. . . . Saskatoon reclaimed the lead before the period ended, on goals from F Chase Wouters (8), at 13:49, and F Eric Florchuk (11), at 17:20. . . . Volcan, 20, is from Edmonton. He was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2013 bantam draft. He has 213 points, including 88 goals, in those 300 regular-regular-season games. . . . F Cyle McNabb, acquired Monday from the Kootenay Ice, wasn’t in Saskatoon’s lineup. . . . The Blades remain without F Kirby Each and D Nolan Kneen. . . . F Sean Richards was in Seattle’s lineup for the first time since being acquired last week from the Everett Silvertips. He had to complete an eight-game WHL suspension before suiting up with the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle was without D Cade McNelly, who completed a three-game suspension.

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G Taylor Gauthier blocked 36 shots to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 1-0 victory PrinceGeorgeover the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Prince George (14-21-3) has won two in a row. The Cougars are 3-7-0 on an 11-game swing that began with a doubleheader in Portland on Dec. 7 and 8, and included the Christmas break. The trip wraps up tonight against the Spokane Chiefs, then the Cougars have to hustle home for games with the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . Tri-City (20-15-2) has lost two straight. . . . Last night, Cougars F Ethan Browne scored the game’s only goal, his sixth, at 16:05 of the second period. . . . Gauthier, a 17-year-old sophomore from Calgary, was the ninth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He has two shutouts in his career both of them this season. This season, he is 10-14-2, 3.08, .904. . . . Tri-City got 28 stops from G Beck Warm.

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Brandon hopes to deal veteran d-man . . . McClennon nearly ready to return . . . Rebels pull victory out of the fire


MacBeth

D Ty Wishart (Prince George, Moose Jaw, 2004-08) has been released by Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga). He had four goals and three assists in 27 games.


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The Brandon Wheat Kings have dropped D Schael Higson, 20, from their roster and are BrandonWKregularhoping to trade him before the Jan. 10 deadline. . . . Higson, from Grande Prairie, Alta., has three goals and 14 assists in 20 games this season. . . .

The first indication that something was happening with Higson came on Monday prior to Brandon’s 3-1 loss to the Warriors in Moose Jaw. Higson was scratched and, prior to the game, Brandon Crowe, the radio voice of the Wheat Kings, tweeted that he had been told Higson’s absence was a “coach’s decision . . . he did not make the trip.” . . . 

In his fifth WHL season, Highson has played 90 regular-season games with the Saskatoon Blades and 192 with the Wheat Kings. In those 282 games, he has 18 goals and 61 assists. . . . Higson’s departure leaves Brandon with one 20-year-old on its roster — F Linden McCorrister.

The Wheat Kings, who have lost four in a row and seven of 10, are at home to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night. The skid has knocked the Wheat Kings out of a playoff spot; they had held the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, but now trail the Calgary Hitmen by two points. Brandon has two games in hand. . . . The Wheat Kings are fourth in the East Division, 10 points behind the third-place Moose Jaw Warriors.


D Matthew Quigley of the Portland Winterhawks has been suspended for four games whlafter taking a kneeing major and game misconduct during a game against the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., on Saturday. Quigley hit F Dillon Hamaliuk on the play. Hamaliuk was injured and isn’t expected to play again this season. . . . Quigley sat out Sunday’s rematch in Portland, and will miss road games Friday (Swift Current), Saturday (Moose Jaw) and Tuesday (Brandon) before being eligible to return on Jan. 9 in Regina. . . .

Meanwhile, Seattle D Cade McNelly drew a three-game suspension after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct for a hit on F Michal Kvasnica in Portland on Monday. . . .

As well, Seattle F Matthew Wedman has a TBD suspension after taking a kneeing major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jake Gricius in that Monday game. Gricius left the game and didn’t return. However, he is with the Winterhawks on their Central Division and is expected to play Friday in Swift Current.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have added F Mike Horon to their roster. Horon, 17, was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Tuesday. From Lethbridge, he was playing for the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes and was leading the Alberta Midget Hockey League in scoring, with 50 points, including 25 goals, in 21 games. . . . Seattle got Horon, F Keltie Jeri-Leon, 18, and a 2019 fourth-round bantam draft pick from Lethbridge for G Liam Hughes, 19, and an eighth-round pick in the 2019 draft. . . . The Thunderbirds are to open an East Division swing in Brandon on Friday night.


The Spokane Chiefs have added D Graham Sward, 15, to their roster. He was Spokane’s first-round selection, 17th overall, in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . Sward, from Abbotsford, B.C., has five goals and 12 assists in 19 games with the major midget Fraser Valley Thunderbirds. . . . He will be available to play with the Chiefs on Friday against the visiting Kamloops Blazers and on Saturday in Cranbrook, B.C., against the Kootenay Ice.


F Connor McClennon, who was the second overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft, Kootenaynewappears to be close to returning to the Kootenay Ice’s lineup. . . . McClennon, 16, hasn’t played since suffering an undisclosed injury on Nov. 24 in a 5-1 loss to the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. . . . McClennon, who has four goals and eight assists in 19 games, was a full participant in the Ice’s practice on Wednesday. . . . Kootenay will play three games in fewer than 48 hours this weekend. It is to meet the Tigers in Medicine Hat on Friday, then return to Cranbrook, B.C., to face the Spokane Chiefs on Saturday and the Vancouver Giants on Sunday. . . . The Ice (8-24-7) has lost four in a row (0-3-1) and is 1-6-3 in its last 10 outings. Kootenay is 15 points away from the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.


The Everett Silvertips have added F Justyn Gurney to their roster. Gurney, 18, has been playing with the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. The 6-foot-2, 285-pounder has six goals and seven assists in 23 games. . . . He has previous WHL experience, having totalled three goals and five assists in 86 games. . . . He played 85 games over two seasons (2016-18) with the Calgary Hitmen, who selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . Earlier this season, he got into one game with the Regina Pats. . . . The Silvertips placed him on their protected list on Dec. 13. . . . The Silvertips are to visit the Tri-City Americans on Friday night.


F Jared Legien’s latest WHL stint has come to an end. Legien, 20, left the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers last week to join the Vancouver Giants. He played three games with the Giants, putting up a goal and two assists. . . . All three points came in his first game with Vancouver, a 6-0 victory over the Rebels in Red Deer on Friday. . . . On Wednedsay, the Terriers tweeted that “Legien is returning to the orange and black” and is expected to be in Yorkton’s lineup on Friday against the visiting Flin Flon Bombers. . . . Before joining the Giants, Legien had 28 goals and 24 assists in 32 games with the Terriers. . . . Legien, who was selected by the Kootenay Ice with the ninth pick of the 2013 bantam draft, has 28 goals and 34 assists in 148 regular-season WHL games split among the Ice, Victoria Royals, Regina Pats and the Vancouver.


The Portland Winterhawks have signed F Dawson Pasternak, 15, a Winnipegger who is playing in the Sioux Falls, S.D., Power program with the U-16 team. . . . Pasternak leads the Power in goals (13) and points (37) in 32 games. . . . Pasternak was a fourth-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Prior to this season, Pasternak was a defenceman with the bantam AAA Winnipeg Hawks.


The Prince Albert Raiders have signed F Cole Nagy, 17, to a WHL contract. Nagy, who is from Saskatoon, is in his second season with the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers. Last season, he had eight goals and seven assists in 37 games. . . . This season, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Nagy is leading the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in scoring, with 49 points, including 21 goals, in 32 games. . . . Nagy was a sixth-round pick by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2016 bantam draft.


The Prince George Cougars have added F Craig Armstrong, 15, to their roster. From PrinceGeorgeAirdrie, Alta., he was the Cougars’ first selection, ninth overall, in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Armstrong is playing for the Edge School Mountaineers’ midget prep team, and has 11 goals and 12 assists in 23 games. . . . Armstrong will help fill a spot on the roster that was created when F Ilijah Colina suffered an undisclosed injury during a 2-1 loss to the Blazers in Kamloops on Sunday. He is out week-to-week. . . . The Cougars are to meet the Rockets in Kelowna on Friday night, before completing an 11-game road trip against the Tri-City Americans on Tuesday and the Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday.


The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings have removed the ‘interim’ from head coach Kyle Haines’ title. . . . Haines moved up from assistant coach following the firing of Wes Rudy on Dec. 15. . . . The Red Wings now have decided that Haines, 31, who played three seasons (2005-08) there, will be the head coach, at least through the end of this season. . . . This is Haines’ first season as a coach. Last season, he played for the SPHL’s Pensacola Ice Flyers.


WHL players at the World Junior Championship:

Brandon — G Jiri Patera (Czech Republic).

Medicine Hat — G Mads Sogaard (Denmark).

Moose Jaw — D Josh Brook (Canada).

Portland — F Cody Glass (Canada).

Prince Albert — G Ian Scott, F Brett Leason (Canada).

Red Deer — D Alex Alexeyev (Russia).

Seattle — F Andrej Kukuca (Slovakia).

Spokane — F Jared Anderson-Dolan, D Ty Smith (Canada); D Filip Kral (Czech Republic).

Tri-City — F Krystof Hrabik (Czech Republic).

Vancouver — F Milos Roman (Slovakia).

Victoria — F Phillip Schultz (Denmark).


WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F James Hamblin scored twice and added an assist to help the Medicine Hat Tigers to a 4-Tigers Logo Official3 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . The Tigers (21-15-3) have won four in a row. They are fourth in the Central Division, one point behind the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Giants (23-11-2) have lost three straight. They are 1-3-0 on a six-game Central Division trip. Vancouver leads the B.C. Division by 11 points over the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets. . . . Hamblin gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead at 15:13 of the first period. . . . The Giants took a 2-0 lead on second-period goals from F Davis Koch (11), at 1:07, and F Justin Sourdif (8), just 22 seconds later. . . . Hamblin tied it with his 23rd goal of the season, at 14:45. . . . F Elijah Brown (6) put Medicine Hat in front 3-2 at 15:18, and D Hayden Ostir (8) upped the lead to 4-2, on a PP, at 8:48 of the third. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky (3) got the Giants to within a goal at 11:39. . . . The Tigers won 41 of the game’s 60 faceoffs. . . . G Jordan Hollett, who was playing in his 100th WHL game, stopped 29 shots to earn the victory. . . . The Tigers were without F Bryan Lockner, who, according to Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News, “hit his head on the ice in a fight Sunday.” After the game, McCracken confirmed that Lockner is in concussion protocol.


F Cam Hausinger’s shootout goal gave the Red Deer Rebels a 5-4 victory over the visiting Red DeerLethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Red Deer (22-12-2) is tied with Lethbridge (19-10-8) for second in the Central Division, three points behind the idle Edmonton Oil Kings (21-12-7). . . . Lethbridge has points in three straight (1-0-2). . . . The Rebels forced OT with two goals in the last two minutes of the third period. . . . F Reese Johnson (17) was credited with the first of those goals after Lethbridge D Ty Prefontaine inadvertently scored an own-goal at 18:05. . . . Rebels F Brandon Hagel (23) tied it, on a PP, with 6.6 seconds left in the period. . . . Both goals came with G Ethan Anderson the bench for the extra attacker. . . . The Hurricanes led 2-0 in the first period on goals from F Jake Leschyshyn (25), at 3:48, and D Calen Addison (7), at 10:12. . . . F Jeff de Wit (21) cut the Rebels deficit to one at 10:58. . . . F Dylan Cozens (22) restored the two-goal lead 51 seconds into the second period. . . . Hagel got his guys back to within a goal at 17:08. . . . F Taylor Ross (21) gave the Hurricanes a 4-2 lead at 5:59 of the third period. . . . F Jordy Bellerive gave Lethbridge a 1-0 lead in the shootout, but the Rebels won it on goals from Hagel, who also had an assist, and Hausinger. . . . Leschyshyn’s goal, the 70th of his career, left him with 150 points in 226 games. . . . F Nick Henry had three assists for Lethbridge, with the first one being the 100th of his career. He has 169 points, 102 of them assists, in 163 games. . . . Anders finished with 28 saves. . . . G Liam Hughes, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday, stopped 26 shots in his Lethbridge debut.


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