Did anything go wrong in Prince George? . . . Sask. Hockey Hall gets new name . . . Arena now bears Kennedy’s name


MacBeth

F Jozef Balej (Portland, 1999-2002) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Freiburg (Germany, DEL2). He was released by Žilina (Slovakia, Extraliga) on Tuesday. The team captain, he had three goals and eight assists in 31 games. . . . Freiburg now has five imports on its roster but is allowed to dress only four per game. The four other imports are d-men Radek Havel and Antti Kauppila, and forwards Brad McGowan, and Josef Mikyska. . . .

F Kris Versteeg (Lethbridge, Kamloops, Red Deer, 2002-06) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Växjö (Sweden, SHL) after obtaining his release from Avangard Omsk (Russia, KHL). In 11 games, he had three goals and five assists. He left Avangard in late October and returned to Canada. . . .

F Tim Bozon (Kamloops, Kootenay, 2011-15) has signed a two-year contract extension with Genève-Servette (Switzerland, NL A). He has three goals and seven assists in 35 games.


ThisThat

Richard Matvichuk, in the final season of a three-year contract and with a new general manager looking over his shoulder, was going to have to win the WHL championship PrinceGeorgethis season in order to earn a new contract as the head coach of the Prince George Cougars.

Of course, that was never going to happen, what with the Cougars in a rebuilding mode.

So . . . with the team eight points from a playoff spot and only 16 games left to play, general manager Mark Lamb fired Matvichuk following a 4-3 overtime loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants on Wednesday night.

The Giants, at 35-13-3, are atop the B.C. Division, 35 points ahead of the Cougars (16-30-6), who have lost 11 straight games (0-8-3).

Lamb, who spent seven seasons (2009-16) as the GM/head coach of the Swift Current Broncos, has taken over as head coach and will be in that role tonight when the Cougars meet the Rockets in Kelowna.

He will be joined behind the bench by associate coach Steve O’Rourke and Nick Drazenovic, who has been moved up from director of player development to assistant coach, at least for the rest of this season.

If you’re wondering why things went south in Prince George this season, it may have had something to do with the schedule. As bad as 16-30-6 may sound now, the Cougars were 11-14-3 as they began an insane 11-game road trip that was interrupted by the Christmas break and included three separate jaunts into the U.S. Division. They went 3-8-0 on that trip, came home and beat Kelowna twice, and are 0-8-3 since those victories.

Team management has since gone on the record as saying it will never again accept such goofy scheduling.

Matvichuk, a 46-year-old native of Edmonton, will find another coaching job. After all, he was the ECHL’s reigning coach of the year when he left the Missouri Mavericks to sign with the Cougars on June 2, 2016. The Mavericks had finished with the ECHL’s best regular-season record (52-15-5) in 2015-16.

In Matvichuk’s first season in Prince George, the Cougars went 45-21-6 to finish atop the B.C. Division, a first for the franchise since it relocated from Victoria for the 1994-95 season.

You may recall that the Cougars went all-in that season. On Nov. 18, 2016, they acquired D Brendan Guhle from the Prince Albert Raiders in exchange for two players, as well as first- and third-round bantam draft picks. Then, on Jan. 5, 2017, the Cougars got Russian F Nikita Popugaev from the Moose Jaw Warriors for two players, including F Justin Almeida, and a couple of bantam draft picks. Popugaev gave the Cougars 25 points, nine of them goals, in 44 games over two seasons before going home 13 games into last season. Almeida has produced 184 points, 71 of them goals, in 150 games with the Warriors.

It turned out for naught as the Cougars lost a first-round playoff series, 4-2, to the Portland Winterhawks.

Last season, the Cougars were sellers — they unloaded the likes of F Kody McDonald, D Josh Anderson and D Dennis Cholowski — as they wound up 24-38-10, leaving them fifth in the B.C. Division and 20 points from a playoff spot.

Somewhere in all of this, the Cougars’ ownership group decided to make a u-turn in regard to its philosophy. Henceforth, the goal won’t be to aim for a single-season splash, to get caught up in what some people still see as the cyclical nature of major junior hockey. Rather, the owners decided that the Cougars are going to build through the draft with the goal of having a team that makes the playoffs on an annual basis. Make the playoffs, the thinking now is, and let the chips fall where they may.

Unfortunately, none of that does Matvichuk any good because he’s gone.

Remember, too, that hockey teams go through coaches these days the way   a Dairy Queen outlet goes through ice cream.

The Cougars are the second of the WHL’s 22 teams to make a coaching change this season. Kelowna was 4-10-0 when Jason Smith was fired and replaced by Adam Foote. The Rockets are 17-16-5 under Foote.

After last season, eight WHL teams changed head coaches. Seven teams, including the Cougars, also brought in new general managers.

The Cougars decided not to renew Todd Harkins’ contract after last season. He had been in the organization for four seasons, the first one as head scout and director of player personnel, the last one as general manager.

It was Harkins who hired Matvichuk.

With Lamb coming in and Matvichuk into the last year of his contract, many observers thought they could see the writing on the wall. Late on Wednesday night, their eyesight was proven to be 20/20.

Lamb signed a four-year contract with the Cougars, and now he gets to hire his own head coach. Or maybe he puts himself into the position on a permanent basis. His last stint as a head coach, with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners, didn’t end the way he would have liked when he was dismissed after one season (2016-17).

Unless Lamb, 54, is one of those rare people who is able to shake free from the coaching bug, he may have a desire to give it another go with the hope that at some point he will be able to walk away on his terms.


F Ilijah Colina left the Prince George Cougars last week.

At the time, the Cougars said that Colina, a 19-year-old from North Delta, B.C., who was in his third WHL season, had gone home for “personal reasons.”

In a tweet (above) that was posted on Thursday evening, Colina’s mother, Carrie, has shed some light on her son’s departure.

The next time you attend a junior hockey game, take a minute to think about the stress the players face, almost all of them living away from home as they chase a dream, with some of them starting to realize that that’s all it is — a dream.

In 151 regular-season games, 68 with the Cougars and 83 with the Portland Winterhawks, Colina has 18 goals and 37 assists.


An update on F Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks, who has been rehabbing a knee injury, from Vince Sapienza, a sports reporter with FOX 5 in Las Vegas:


The Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame has undergone a name change after receiving a $500,000 donation from the family of the late Ted Knight, a former co-owner of the saskhallRegina Pats.

It has been renamed the Ted Knight Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.

From a news release:

“Ted Knight’s children — Tracey, Kevin and Kyle — wanted to honour their father’s name and his love for the game of hockey. Through this title sponsorship of the Hall, the Ted Knight Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame will remain a hub for hockey in the province and honour those individuals who have made a lasting impression on Saskatchewan hockey.”

Knight, who was born in Selkirk, Man., in 1939, played for the Winnipeg Braves when they won the 1958 Memorial Cup.

In 1986, Knight, Bill Hicke, Morley Gusway, Jack Nichol and Huddy Bell bought the Regina Pats. Knight was part of that ownership group for 10 years.

Knight, along with sons Kevin and Kyle, owned the Knight Automotive Group. It started with Crestview Chrysler Dodge in Regina and now has 15 dealerships in the three Prairie provinces.

Knight died on Oct. 13, 2017, at the age of 78.

The Hall of Fame is located in the Credit Union I-Plex, the home arena of the Swift Current Broncos.


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Scattershooting on Sunday . . . Petes trade one player, get nine draft picks . . . Goaltenders in WHL news . . . Schlenker’s movin’ on up

Scattershooting

“San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt named his newborn son August,” reports Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, “in honor of his college coach at Texas, the late Augie Garrido. Just be thankful the Longhorns hired Garrido instead of Oil Can Boyd.”



Jack Finarelli, who is at sportscurmudgeon.com, had this analysis of a recent trade between the Green Bay Packer and Seattle Seahawks: “The Packers sent backup QB, Brent Hundley to the Seahawks where he will carry a clipboard for Russell Wilson instead of Aaron Rodgers. Hundley showed last season that he might someday become a journeyman QB who will not throw up on his shoes.”



College football players are being ejected when ruled to have targeted another player’s head for a helmet-to-helmet hit. In the WHL, meanwhile, teenagers are allowed to punch each other in the face and get only major penalties.



Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, writing about the mess at Ohio State: “Read the public documents Ohio State collected in its investigation of Urban Meyer and you will never again be able to view him as anything but boneless.”

The complete column is right here. After reading it you will never look at a plucked chicken the same way again.


Surely it is only a coincidence that Chris Jones, the vice-president of football operations, general manager, head coach and defensive co-ordinator, and his Saskatchewan Roughriders are 3-0 since ridding themselves of Duron (The Distraction) Carter. Right?


Here’s Janice Hough, who can be found at leftcoastsportsbabe.com: “Bottled water has an expiration date?! So what happens when it expires?”



With Air Canada and WestJet having increased the fees to check bags, perhaps it’s time people flew in the baggage compartment and the bags were strapped into the seats.


MacBeth

F Kris Versteeg (Lethbridge, Kamloops, Red Deer, 2002-06) signed a one-year contract with Avangard Omsk (Russia, KHL). Last season, he had three goals and five assists in 24 games with the Calgary Flames (NHL). . . .

F Ryan Hollweg (Medicine Hat, 1999-2004) has been released by Plzeň (Czech Republic, Extraliga) by mutual agreement due to “long-term health problems.” Hollweg signed a one-year extension with Plzeň in April. Last season, he had two goals and two assists in 41 games.


ThisThat

When the OHL held what it calls its priority selection — most of us call it a draft — the Peterborough Petes selected F Will Cuylle in the first round.

Cuylle, who played last season with the minor midget AAA Toronto Marlboros, and his ohlfamily had told the Petes that he wouldn’t report if they selected him. The Petes rolled the dice and took him anyway, then tried to convince him to report.

When that failed, they traded him to the Windsor Spitfires on Friday in a deal that resulted in the Petes acquiring nine draft picks. Yes, NINE!

Here are the particulars from a Petes news release:

In the deal, Peterborough acquires one first-round pick, four second-round picks, three third-round picks, and one fifth-round pick, as follows:

  • Kingston’s 2nd round pick in 2019
  • Kingston’s 3rd round pick in 2020
  • Windsor’s 5th round pick in 2020
  • Windsor’s 3rd round pick in 2021
  • Barrie’s 2nd round pick in 2022
  • Windsor’s 3rd round in 2023
  • Kitchener’s 2nd round pick in 2024* (conditional)
  • 1st round pick (5th overall) in 2019 (OHL Compensatory Pick)
  • 2nd round pick (end of round) in 2019 (OHL Compensatory Pick)

* Should Windsor acquire a 2nd round pick in 2020 or 2021, Peterborough will receive that pick and return Kitchener’s 2nd round pick in 2024.

The Petes also will receive the 5th overall pick and the last pick in the 2nd round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection as compensation from the Ontario Hockey League.

——

In the OHL, if a team’s first-round selection doesn’t report to training camp he is considered to be a “defected” player and the team will get a compensatory pick if it trades the player prior to Sept. 15. The drafting team also gets a second-round pick if the player in question was a top five pick.

——

With the restrictions that the WHL apparently has placed on the trading of young players, we are left to wonder if we will start to see these kinds of deals happen in the WHL.

(ICYMI, I wrote about those restrictions right here.)

When a team is loading up because it is to play host to a Memorial Cup, will it be prepared to trade away six or seven bantam draft picks in order to land a star player who just might put that team over the top?


Chris Schlenker, a former WHL player and on-ice official, has been promoted by the NHL and will be a full-time referee this season.

Schlenker, 34, worked in the AHL and NHL last season.

From Medicine Hat, he played four seasons (2001-05) in the WHL, playing two-plus seasons with the Regina Pats and one-plus with the Prince Albert Raiders.

He also spent 10 years as a member of the Medicine Hat Police Service.

There is more on Schlenker right here, from scoutingtherefs.com.


The Prince Albert Raiders have added G Donovan Buskey, 18, from the Spokane Chiefs in PrinceAlbertexchange for a sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2020 bantam draft.

Buskey, from Vancouver, was a third-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2015 bantam draft. Last season, he was 10-10-0, 3.56, .871, with one shutout, in 22 appearances with the Spokane.

Adding Buskey adds to the Raiders’ goaltending depth and could figure in the 20-year-old decision-making process as the start of the regular season grows near.

Ian Scott, 19, who will go to camp with the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, is No. 1 on the depth chart. Curtis Meger, 20, and Brett Balas, 17, also are on the Raiders’ roster.

The other 20-year-olds on the roster are F Kody McDonald and F Sean Montgomery. They also hold the WHL rights to F Noah Gregor, 20, who could end up with the San Jose Barracuda, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. The Raiders acquired Gregor’s rights from the Victoria Royals earlier in the summer.



The Prince George Cougars will open the regular season with Isaiah DiLaura, 18, and Taylor Gauthier, 17, as their goaltenders.

Gauthier is atop the depth chart. Last season, he was 8-18-3, 3.96, .885. This summer, he PrinceGeorgeplayed with the Canadian U-18 team that won the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. In fact, Gauthier, from Calgary, was the winning goaltender in the final, coming on with his side down 2-0 and stopping 16 shots as Canada beat Sweden, 6-2.

The 10th overall selection in the 2016 bantam draft, Gauthier was 8-18-3, 3.96, .885 last season.

DiLaura, from Elko New Market, Minn., was 3-3-2, 3.94, .888, in 14 appearances.

The third goaltender on their roster at the moment is Tyler Brennan, a first-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft who won’t turn 15 until Sept. 27. From Winnipeg, he will return to the Rink Hockey Academy and play for the midget prep team.

Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen has more right here.


Because of injuries, the Edmonton Oil Kings used five goaltenders last season as they went 22-42-8 and missed the playoffs.

This season, with exhibition games just having started, they already are down to three EdmontonOilKingsand one of those, Sebastian Cossa, won’t turn 16 until Nov. 21.

Chances are that the Oil Kings, under first-year head coach Brad Lauer, will open the regular season with Todd Scott, 18, who was acquired last season from the Vancouver Giants, and Boston Bilous, 17, a fourth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft, as their goaltenders.

Scott, from Albertville, Minn., was 4-5-0, 3.89, .883 after joining the Oil Kings last season. He had been 8-7-4, 4.11, .869 with the Giants when they sent him east.

Bilous, from Langley, B.C., got into 16 games and went 0-10-1, 4.72, .838.

Cossa, from Fort McMurray, Alta., was a second-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. Last season, he played for the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan Rangers, going 3.37, .915 in 19 games. In seven playoff games, he was 2.28, .943.

With the three young goaltenders, Lauer told Derek Van Diest of Postmedia that age won’t have much to do with which two make the roster.

“They’re all young, so I don’t think the age part of it comes into play,” Later said. “It’s going to be how you’re playing that comes into play. I know we’ll be good defensively and responsible so, for me, goaltending is going to be how the exhibition seasons goes and how they develop through that.”

Van Diest’s complete story is right here.


The Saskatoon Blades are down to three goaltenders after releasing Cameron Beson, 16, who is from Grande Prairie, Alta. He has been in two Blades’ training camps now, and Saskatoonhas been placed on their protected list.

Sophomore Nolan Maier, a 17-year-old from Yorkton, is the Blades’ starter after going 23-17-2, 3.31, .895 in 43 appearances last season. He spent part of his summer winning gold with Canada’s U-18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, going 3.12, .872 in four games.

The other two goaltenders on the roster are Dorrin Luding, 19, of Prince George, and Koen MacInnes, a 16-year-old from Burnaby, B.C.

The Blades re-acquired Luding on June 21, getting him from the Seattle Thunderbirds on June 21 for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft. Saskatoon had selected him in the third round of the 2014 bantam draft.

Last season, Luding got into 11 games with the Everett Silvertips (3-6-0, 3.64, .891) and 17 with Seattle (6-9-1, 3.81, .881). In 30 career games, he is 9-15-1, 3.75, .886.

Saskatoon picked MacInnes in the second round of the 2017 bantam draft. Last season, he played with the Burnaby Winter Club’s Elite 15s, going 2.36, .926 in 17 regular-season games.

The Blades have opened the exhibition season by going 3-0-0.


The Brandon Wheat Kings, who wrapped up training camp with their intrasquad game BrandonWKregularon Sunday, also are down to three goaltenders after releasing Connor Ungar, 16.

That leaves the Wheat Kings with Ethan Kruger, Dylan Myskiw and Jiri Patera as the remaining goaltenders.

Myskiw, 19, got into 22 games with Brandon last season, going 11-5-2, 3.41, .887. He spent the season backing up Logan Thompson, who was playing out his eligibility.

Patera, 19, is from Praha, Czech Republic. He played last season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, after the Vegas Golden Knights selected him in the sixth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has yet to sign a pro contract, and will leave later this week to attend the Golden Knights’ camp.

Kruger, who turns 17 on Sept. 27, is from Sherwood Park, Alta. He was a fifth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. Last season, he played with the midget AAA Sherwood Park Kings.


F Ryan Vandervlis of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who was badly burned during an incident involving a firepit on June 15, is back home after being released from a Calgary hospital on Friday.

Vandervlis, 20, suffered burns to as much as 60 per cent of his body and spent four weeks in a medically induced coma. For the last part of his hospital stay, he was in the burn unit at Foothills Hospital.

Two other hockey players — Jordy Bellerive and Matt Alfaro — were injured in the incident that took place at the home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong near Calgary. Bellerive, the Hurricanes’ captain, is in camp with his club. Alfaro will be going into his second season with the U of Calgary Dinos.

Bellerive scored twice, including the OT winner, as Lethbridge opened its exhibition season with a 5-4 victory over the visiting Medicine Hat Tigers on Friday night.



The junior B Creston Valley Thunder Cats found themselves without a general manager and head coach earlier this week when Brad Tobin left to join the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles as an assistant coach. . . . Tobin, 29, worked as an assistant with the Eagles for six seasons (2010-16) before leaving to join the Thunder Cats. . . . In Surrey, Tobin will work alongside Peter Schaefer, who took over as head coach on Aug. 28 following the departure of Brandon West. . . . One week before Tobin handed in his resignation, the Thunder Cats lost assistant coach Carter Duffin, who left to join the KIJHL’s Castlegar Rebels. . . . Earlier, Jeff Wagner, another Creston assistant coach, joined the Fernie Ghostriders as GM and head coach. After he left, Tobin hired Duffin, who had been with the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins, as an assistant coach.


G Kyle Dumba, 20, had his junior A rights swapped this week when the Nanaimo Clippers acquired them from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who got back D Sam MacBean, 20. . . . Dumba, who has split 41 career regular-season WHL games between the Calgary Hitmen, Kamloops Blazers and Everett Silvertips, is in camp with the Regina Pats. He finished last season on the Pats’ roster, but didn’t get into any regular-season games. Last season, he also got into 30 regular-season and three playoff games with Salmon Arm.


Karablog
Kara is answering the phone and taking pledges as her grandma, Dorothy Drinnan, prepares for her fifth straight Kamloops Kidney Walk on Sept. 23. (Todd Drinnan photo)

Dorothy, my wife of 46 years, will celebrate the fifth anniversary of her kidney transplant by taking part in the 2018 Kamloops Kidney Walk. If you would like to support her with a donation — and she is closing in on $2,000 — you are able to do so right here.


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