Protas leads Raiders into final. . . . Belarusian sniper has six goals in two games. . . . Will open against visiting Giants on Friday


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The WHL final will feature the Vancouver Giants and Prince Albert Raiders. The series, whlwith the winner taking home the Ed Chynoweth Cup, is to follow a 2-3-2 format, with Games 1 and 2 in Prince Albert on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . The Raiders won the Eastern Conference title on Sunday, beating the Oil Kings, 4-2, in Edmonton to take the series, 4-2. . . . The Giants took out the Spokane Chiefs in five games, finishing that series in Langley, B.C., on Friday night with a 3-2 victory. . . .

The teams will travel via the friendly skies during the WHL final, so the Giants will fly east for the games in Prince Albert. The two teams, along with various league officials, will share a flight to Vancouver for the middle part of the series. . . . The Giants’ three home games are scheduled to be played in Langley on May 7, 8 and, if necessary, 10. If the series goes long enough, Games 6 and 7 would be played in Prince Albert on May 12 and 13. . . .

The Raiders finished atop the regular-season’s overall standings, at 54-10-4. . . . The Giants went 48-15-5 for the best record in the Western Conference. . . . The last time conference champions met in the WHL final was in 2015 when the Brandon Wheat Kings (53-11-8) went up against the Kelowna Rockets (53-13-6). The Rockets swept the final series. . . . The Raiders and Giants met once during the regular season. The Giants beat the visiting Raiders, 3-1, on Jan. 24 behind two goals from F Davis Koch and 31 stops by G Trent Miner.


The first two teams that will play in the Memorial Cup have been decided. The Halifax qmjhlMooseheads and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who are to play for the QMJHL championship, both will play in the four-team tournament. The Mooseheads are in as the host team, so the QMJHL’s other finalist gets an automatic berth. . . . Halifax scored a 2-1 OT decision over the Drummondville Voltigeurs to win that series, 4-2, and get to its first final since 2013. . . . The QMJHL final opens with Games 1 and 2 in Rouyn-Noranda on Thursday and Friday nights. . . . The Memorial Cup is scheduled to run from May 17-26 in Halifax.


The Ottawa 67’s have one of the spots in the OHL’s championship final, while the other ohlwill go to either the Guelph Storm or Saginaw Spirit. . . . The 67’s are 12-0 in the playoffs, having swept the Hamilton Bulldogs, Sudbury Wolves and Oshawa Generals, having outscored the opposition to the tune of 82-29. . . . The Spirit won three of the first four games in the other semifinal, only to have the Storm roar back with 4-0 and 5-1 victories to tie it, 3-3. . . . They’ll play Game 7 in Saginaw tonight (Monday). The Storm won, 4-0, in Saginaw on Friday, then skated to a 5-1 victory on home-ice on Sunday.


F Lucas Raymond scored his third goal of the game in OT to give Sweden, the host team, a IIHF4-3 victory over Russia in the championship game at the IIHF’s U-18 World Championship on Sunday before 5,602 fans in Ornskoldsvik. . . . It’s the first time that Sweden has won the tournament that started in 1999. Russia won silver for the fourth time. . . . Raymond won it with a wrist shot from just above the hash marks, beating G Yaroslav Askarov at 5:44 of the extra period. . . . Sweden had taken a 2-0 lead, only to have Russia come back and take a 3-2 lead. Raymond, who finished the tournament with four goals, tied the game, 3-3, at 10:47 of the third period, just 25 seconds after F Maxim Groshev gave Russia its only lead. . . .

In the third-place game, Team USA scored four times on the PP and beat Team Canada, 5-2, behind a goal and two assists from F Jack Hughes. That gave Hughes 32 points in his two tournament appearances, breaking Russian F Alex Ovechkin’s career points record of 31. . . . Hughes won the tournament scoring title with 20 points. . . . “In 2016,” writes Lucas Aykroyd of the IIHF, “the last time these archrivals met for bronze, the U.S. thrashed Canada 10-3 in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was the most lopsided score in U18 bronze history. This wasn’t that bad, but America still left no doubt who was in control.” . . . F Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes) had one of Canada’s goals. G Nolan Maier (Saskatoon Blades) stopped 36 shots. . . . The Americans have won a medal in each of the past 16 tournaments. . . . Canada hasn’t won this tournament since 2013 and last won a medal (bronze) in 2015. . . . The 2020 tournament is to be held in Plymouth, Mich. . . . Aykroyd, who does a terrific job covering IIHF events, has a story right here.


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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Aliaksei Protas scored three times for a second straight game as the Prince Albert PrinceAlbertRaiders beat the Oil Kings, 4-2, in Edmonton. . . . The Raiders won the Eastern Conference final, 4-2, and advanced to the WHL’s championship series for the first time since 1985 when they won the franchise’s only Memorial Cup title. . . . The Raiders will open the WHL final at home against the Vancouver Giants with games on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky (5) gave the Oil Kings a 1-0 lead on Sunday, at 11:49 of the first period. . . . Protas, a freshman from Belarus, tied it with his ninth goal of the playoffs, on a PP, at 14:05. . . . The visitors went ahead just 16 seconds later when Protas got his 10th goal. . . . F Noah Gregor (7) upped the lead to 3-1, on a PP, at 17:58. . . . Fix-Wolansky (6) cut into the lead, shorthanded, at 10:41 of the second period, only to have Protas complete his hat trick with his 11th goal at 16:40. . . . The teams played a scoreless third period. . . . Protas, who turned 18 on Jan. 6, had 11 goals in 61 regular-season games. He now leads the WHL playoffs with 11 goals in 16 games. He holds a two-goal lead over teammate Dante Hannoun, who didn’t score in the six games with Edmonton after finishing the second-round series with three goals in the sixth game with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . F Sean Montgomery drew two assists for the Raiders. . . . F Quinn Benjafield had two assists for Edmonton. . . . G Ian Scott stopped 32 shots for the Raiders. In these playoffs, he now is 12-4, 1.84, .930. . . . The Oil Kings got 20 stops from G Dylan Myskiw, who finished 7-6, 2.15, .914. . . . The Raiders were 2-5 on the PP; the Oil Kings were 0-4. . . . On Saturday night, the WHL had revealed that Edmonton head coach Brad Lauer had been fined $1,500 for comments he made about the Game 5 officiating in a post-game scrum with reporters.


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

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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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