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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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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Burzan, Langan fill hats in wins . . . Cutler has Royal birthday . . . Ams eke out victory over ‘Tips


MacBeth

F Ned Lukacevic (Spokane, Swift Current, 2001-06) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Tours (France, Division 1). This season, with the Odense Bulldogs (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had four goals and three assists in games. He was released by mutual agreement by Odense on Dec. 17. . . .

F Petr Vala (Seattle, 1997-98) announced his retirement, effective immediately. This season, he had three goals and nine assists in 12 games with Zell am See (Austria, Alps HL). He also is a coach of the Zell am See U12 team and will continue in that role.


ThisThat

KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

For the bulk of this season, there has been speculation that the Kootenay Ice will leave Cranbrook, B.C., after this season and set up shop in Winnipeg.

Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was on TSN Radio (1260) in Edmonton on Dec. 19.

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

I don’t pretend to know the definition of “very soon,” but we are into our 17th day since Robison made that statement, and there has yet to be an announcement of any kind.


The WHL’s Canadian teams are preparing to take part in the second season of RE/MAX whlPresents: WHL Suits Up with Don Cherry to Promote Organ Donation. . . . The 17 teams first got involved in his promotion last season and it was a resounding success. . . . It is used to promote organ donation and to generate support for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Last season, it raised more than $265,500, which, according to a news release, represents “the largest public awareness and fundraising campaign in the history of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.”

This time around, teams again will be wearing specially-designed Don Cherry-themed sweaters, only they will sport nicknames on the backs rather than surnames. Yes, sweaters will be available via auction after each game.

Here are the dates of these special nights:

Sat., Jan. 19 – Edmonton Oil Kings

Fri., Jan. 25 – Red Deer Rebels

Fri. Feb. 1 – Kamloops Blazers, Moose Jaw Warriors

Sat., Feb. 2 – Prince Albert Raiders

Fri., Feb. 15 – Regina Pats, Vancouver Giants

Sat., Feb. 16 – Brandon Wheat Kings

Fri., Feb. 22 – Lethbridge Hurricanes, Swift Current Broncos

Fri., March 1 – Kootenay Ice

Sat., March 2 – Victoria Royals

Sun., March 3 – Calgary Hitmen

Fri., March 8 – Prince George Cougars

Sat., March 9 – Kelowna Rockets, Medicine Hat Tigers, Saskatoon Blades.


G Kyle Dumba has been picked up by the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks. Dumba, 20, will fill the spot created when the Seattle Thunderbirds signed G Roddy Ross on Tuesday. . . . Seattle immediately added Ross to its roster, replacing G Liam Hughes, who was traded to the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Dumba, 20, had been with the Victoria Grizzlies, who got future considerations from Camrose. . . . Dumba has spent time with the Calgary Hitmen, Kamloops Blazers, Everett Silvertips and Regina Pats in the WHL, along with the junior A Okotoks Oilers, Calgary Mustangs, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, Surrey Eagles and the Grizzlies.


If you enjoy what you see here, 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.


FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Luka Burzan scored three times and added two assists to lead the host Brandon Wheat BrandonWKregularKings to a 7-3 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Brandon (16-14-6) had lost its previous four games. The Wheat Kings are two points shy of the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Seattle (11-20-4) has lost seven in a row (0-6-1) and is five points out of a playoff spot. . . . F Cole Reinhardt gave the home guys a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 3:40 of the first period, and Burzan upped it to 2-0 at 9:21. . . . F Noah Philp halved the deficit, on a PP, at 11:07. . . . Brandon took control with four second-period goals, two of them from Burzan and another from Reinhardt (9), who also had an assist. . . . Philp later added his 13th goal for Seattle. . . . Brandon got a goal, his fourth, and two assists from D Chase Hartje. . . . Burzan has two career hat tricks — he had a five-goal game on Sept. 29 in an 8-4 victory over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . F Stelio Mattheos was back in Brandon’s lineup — he had two assists — after completing a three-game suspension. His line, with Reinhardt and Burzan, combined for 10 points. . . . The Thunderbirds opened a six-game East Division trip with this game. . . . G Jiri Patera, who played with Czech Republic at the WJC, started for the Wheat Kings and stopped 37 shots. . . . Seattle starter Cole Schwebius was beaten four times on 13 shots in 24:32. Roddy Ross, who joined the Thunderbirds from the AJHL’s Camrose Kodiaks this week, came on in relief. He stopped 19 of 22 shots in 35:28. . . . Seattle was without D Cade McNelly, who is serving a three-game suspension, and F Matthew Wedman, who sat out a one-game suspension. . . . F Keltie Jeri-Leon, who was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and D Zach Ashton, who came over from the Saskatoon Blades, both were in Seattle’s lineup. . . . Seattle also had F Conner Roulette, 15, make his WHL debut. From Winnipeg, he was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2018 bantam draft. Roulette has 22 goals and 34 assists in 29 games with the midget AAA Winnipeg Thrashers. . . . The Wheat Kings and Thunderbirds met in the 2015-16 WHL final, with Brandon winning in five games. Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun pointed out in pre-game coverage that there are three Wheat Kings left who played in that series — Mattheos, F Connor Gutenberg and F Linden McCorrister. Seattle also has three players left on its roster — Wedman, F Nolan Volcan and D Jarrett Tyszka.


F Tristin Langan scored three times to help the Moose Jaw Warriors to a 4-2 victory over MooseJawWarriorsthe Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . Moose Jaw (21-8-6) has points in six straight (5-0-1). The Warriors are third in the East Division, five points behind the Saskatoon Blades. However, Moose Jaw has five games in hand. . . . Prince Albert (34-4-1) now has lost two in a row at home where it is 17-2-0. It leads the East Division by 16 points over Saskatoon. . . . Langan gave Moose Jaw a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 6:58 of the first period. . . . F Ozzy Wiesblatt (8) tied it, on a PP, at 19:35. . . . Langan put the Warriors ahead again, at 12:05 of the second period. . . . D Brayden Pachal (10) got the home team back into a tie at 19:43. . . . Warriors F Brayden Tracey (15) snapped the tie, on a PP, at 7:31 of the third period, and Langan completed the hat trick into an empty net at 19:50. . . . Langan now has 66 points, including 30 goals, in 35 games. He went into this season with 71 points, including 25 goals, in 174 games. . . . Langan has four career hat tricks, three of them this season, two in his last six games. . . . The Warriors got three assists from D Josh Brook, their captain, in his first game back after playing for Canada at the WJC. . . . The Raiders were  credited with winning 46 of 65 faceoffs. . . . G Brodan Salmon stopped 38 shots for Moose Jaw, including 14 in the third period. . . . F Dante Hannoun was in the Raiders’ lineup one day after being acquired from the Victoria Royals. The Raiders also had G Ian Scott and F Brett Leason back from their stint with Canada’s national junior team. . . . Scott made 27 saves.


F Kyle Crnkovic scored on a PP in OT to give the host Saskatoon Blades a 2-1 victory over Saskatoonthe Regina Pats. . . . Saskatoon (24-11-5) has won three in a row. . . . Regina (12-25-2) has lost two straight (0-1-1). . . . F Max Gerlach (23) gave Saskatoon a 1-0 lead at 13:16 of the second period. . . . Regina tied it at 4:38 of the third when F Austin Pratt (15) scored, on a PP. . . . Crnkovic won it with his third goal of the season at 1:19 of OT. . . . F Gary Haden had the primary assist on both Saskatoon goals. . . . Saskatoon got 32 saves from G Nolan Maier, while Regina’s Max Paddock was outstanding in blocking 36 shots. . . . D Reece Harsch, acquired this week from the Seattle Thunderbirds, made his Saskatoon debut. . . . F Kirby Dach (undisclosed injury) was among Saskatoon’s scratches. . . . D Tyson Feist, who was acquired from the Spokane Chiefs, was in Regina’s lineup, as was F Blake Allan, who came over from the Kootenay Ice.


F Jaydon Dureau broke a 3-3 tie in the third period and the Portland Winterhawks went Portlandon to a 5-3 victory over the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . Portland (22-11-5) has points in seven straight (4-0-3). The Winterhawks are second in the U.S. Division, 11 points behind the Everett Silvertips. . . . Swift Current (7-27-3) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . This was the start of Portland’s six-game East Division trip. . . . F Lane Gilliss (8) gave the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead at 2:13 of the first period. . . . Broncos F Ethan O’Rourke (3) tied it at 10:11. . . . Portland took a 3-1 lead on goals from F Joachim Blichfeld (35), at 14:41, and F Michal Kvasnica (6), at 16:54. . . . F Matthew Culling pulled the home side to within a goal at 17:36. . . . Culling now has eight goals, seven of them in his past nine games. . . . F Ethan Regnier (7) got the Broncos into a 3-3 tie at 2:46 of the second period. . . . Dureau snapped the tie at 7:28 of the third period, and F Jake Gricius (16) got the empty-netter at 19:10. . . . F Cody Glass, who played for Canada at the WJC, wasn’t in Portland’s lineup. . . . Portland held a 48-23 edge in shots — 16-8, 16-9 and 16-6, by period. . . . Yes, Broncos G Josh Hofer stood tall, again. . . . G Shane Farkas started for Portland, with Dante Giannuzzi backing him up. G Evan Fradette, 17, who was added to Portland’s roster from the midget AAA St. Albert Raiders on Thursday, wasn’t dressed. . . . Portland got back D John Ludvig, who was out with a two-game suspension. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley, who served the second of a four-game suspension, and D Brendan De Jong, who is in concussion protocol.


F Brandon Cutler celebrated his 19th birthday with a goal and two assists to spark the VictoriaRoyalsVictoria Royals to a 3-2 victory over the Oil Kings in Edmonton. . . . Victoria (19-15-1) is 3-2-0 on its six-game Central Division swing. It is second in the B.C. Division, one point ahead of the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Edmonton (21-13-7) had points in each of its previous seven games (5-0-2). The Oil Kings lead the Central Division, by one point over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who have three games in hand. . . . Cutler (9) opened the scoring at 1:03 of the first period, and F Logan Doust (2) made it 2-0 at 15:04. . . . Edmonton got to within a goal at 18:01 when F Vince Loschiavo (18) scored. . . . F D-Jay Jerome’s 16th goal gave Victoria a 3-1 lead at 3:32 of the second period. . . . F Andrew Fyten (11) got the Oil Kings back to within a goal at 16:11. . . . Victoria G Griffen Outhouse blocked 35 shots, 15 of them in the second period. . . . The Oil Kings had D Will Warm back for the first time since Sept. 29 — he missed 35 games with an undisclosed injury — and F Brett Kemp returned after a two-game absence. . . . F Kody McDonald and F Carson Miller, who came over in a deal with the Prince Albert Raiders, made their Victoria debuts. Also in the Royals lineup for the first time was D Jake Kustra, who was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades on Dec. 10. He last played on Oct. 14. . . . D Noah Lamb, who is from Edmonton, also made his debut with the Royals. Lamb, who turned 17 on Tuesday, was a sixth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. He plays for the midget AAA Knights of Columbus Pats in Edmonton.


F Jake Elmer scored twice and added an assist, and G Liam Hughes posted his first Lethbridgevictory with Lethbridge as the Hurricanes edged the visiting Vancouver Giants, 4-3. . . . Lethbridge (20-10-8) has points in four straight (2-0-2). The Hurricanes are second in the Central Division, one point behind Edmonton and one ahead of the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . Vancouver (23-12-2) has lost four straight; it is 1-4-0 on its six-game Central Division trip. The Giants lead the B.C. Division by 11 points over Victoria. . . . The Hurricanes took a 2-0 lead on second-period goals from Elmer, at 1:01, and F Jordy Bellerive (19), at 4:18. . . . The Giants tied it on goals from F Owen Hardy (8), on a PP, at 14:24, and F Justin Sourdif (9), just 33 seconds later. . . . F Taylor Ross (22) gave Lethbridge the lead at 3:31 of the third period, with Elmer (18) making it 4-2 at 7:53. . . . D Bowen Byram (10), on a PP, got Vancouver to within a goal at 16:14. . . . Ross added two assists to his goal. . . . Hughes stopped 33 shots in his second consecutive start since Lethbridge acquired him from the Seattle Thunderbirds earlier in the week. . . . Vancouver had three newcomers in its lineup — D Dallas Hines, who was acquired earlier in the day from the Kootenay Ice; F Jadon Joseph, who came over from the Regina Pats earlier in the day; and D Seth Bafaro, who was acquired from the Saskatoon Blades on Wednesday. . . . The Giants also had F Milos Roman back from his stint with Slovakia at the WJC. . . . F Scott Mahovlich was in Lethbridge’s lineup after being acquired from the Regina Pas on Thursday. . . . Michael Dyck, in his first season as the Giants’ head coach, has a long history in Lethbridge, having coached the Hurricanes and, most recently, the bantam AAA Golden Hawks, and minor midget and midget AAA Hurricanes.


The Calgary Hitmen snapped a 2-2 tie with two goals early in the third period en route to Calgarya 5-3 victory over the visiting Red Deer Rebels. . . . Calgary (18-16-4) has won three straight. Calgary holds down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Red Deer (22-13-2) now is fourth in the Central Division, one point behind Medicine Hat. The Rebels are in possession of the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . F Cael Zimmerman gave Calgary a 1-0 lead at 3:41 of the second period, only to have Red Deer F Brett Davis (11) tie it at 5:59. . . . Calgary went back out front at 15:50 on a goal by F Bryce Bader (3). . . . D Dawson Barteaux tied it for Red Deer, on a PP, at 1:08. . . . The Hitmen broke the tie on goals from F Luke Coleman (10), at 2:00, and F Kaden Elder (16), at 4:19. . . . F Reese Johnson (18) scored for Red Deer at 16:16. . . . Zimmerman (4) iced it at 18:24. . . . Zimmerman also had an assist, for a three-point outing.


G Garin Bjorklund won his second straight start as the Medicine Hat Tigers dumped the Tigers Logo Officialvisiting Kootenay Ice, 5-3. . . . Medicine Hat (22-15-3) has won five in a row and moved into third spot in the Central Division. . . . Kootenay (8-25-7) has lost five in a row (0-4-1). . . . Bjorklund, 16, is from Calgary where he plays for the midget AAA Buffaloes. The Tigers, with G Mads Sogaard with Denmark at the WJC, brought in Bjorklund to partner with Jordan Hollett. . . . Last night, Bjorklund stopped 29 shots. . . . The Tigers took a 1-0 lead when D Hayden Ostir (9) scored at 11:17 of the first period. He left the game with an apparent leg injury late in the second period, and didn’t return, following a collision with Ice D Martin Bodak. . . . F Josh Williams made it 2-0 at 1:43 of the second period. . . . The Ice tied it on second-period goals from F Austin Schellenberg (2), on a PP at 8:30, and F Jaeger White, at 10:49. . . . Medicine Hat went ahead 4-2 before the period ended, on goals from F Ryan Chyzowski (14), at 11:46, and F Tyler Preziuso, at 12:45. . . . White’s 16th goal of the season, at 17:53 of the third period, pulled the Ice to within a goal, but Preziuso (15) put it away at 18:20. . . . White’s stepfather, Shaun Clouston, is the Tigers’ general manager and head coach. . . . Tigers F James Hamblin had one assist in running his point streak to 10 games. He has 10 goals and five assists one that stretch. . . . The Ice had F Connor McClennon in the lineup for the first time since he suffered an undisclosed injury on Nov. 24. McClennon, 16, was the second-overall pick in the 2017  bantam draft. . . . The Ice also had D Marco Creta and F Cyle McNabb make their Kootenay debuts. Creta was acquired from the Regina Pats and McNabb from the Vancouver Giants. . . . The Tigers are without F Bryan Lockner (concussion).


F Tyson Upper’s shootout goal gave the Prince George Cougars a 2-1 victory over the PrinceGeorgeRockets in Kelowna. . . . Prince George (13-21-3) had lost its previous two games. It is two points shy of the Kamloops Blazers, who hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . The Cougars are 2-7-0 on an 11-game road trip that continues on Tuesday against the Tri-City Americans. . . . Kelowna (17-17-4) has points in four straight (2-0-2). The Rockets are third in the B.C. Division, one point behind Victoria, which holds three games in hand. . . . The Cougars are 4-1-1 against Kelowna, which is 2-2-2 against Prince George. . . . F Conner Bruggen-Cate (4) scored, on a PP, for Kelowna at 14:28 of the second period. . . . F Jackson Leppard (8) got the Cougars’ goal, on a PP, at 10:47 of the third. . . . F Nolan Foote, leading off the second round of the shootout, scored for Kelowna. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk and Upper followed with goals for Prince George. . . . The Cougars got 26 saves from G Taylor Gauthier, who was forced from Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Blazers in Kamloops by dehydration after two periods. . . . Prince George had a 9-1 edge in third-period shots; Kelowna led 5-1 in OT. . . . G James Porter stopped 27 shots for the Rockets. . . . D Tyson Phare, who last played on Nov. 18, returned to Prince George’s lineup. . . . Cougars D Cole Moberg (leg) sat out after being injured a week ago in Everett, and F Ilijah Colina left the game in Kamloops on Sunday with an undisclosed injury. D Cam MacPhee (undisclosed injury), F Reid Perepeluk (ill) and D Tyson Phare, who last played on Nov. 18, also were scratched. . . . F Craig Armstrong, 15, made his debut with the Cougars in this one. He was the ninth overall pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. The Cougars also had D Cole Beamin, 17, in the lineup after adding him from the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. He was a second-round pick in the 2016 draft.


The Spokane Chiefs scored the game’s last three goals and beat the visiting Kamloops SpokaneChiefsBlazers, 4-1. . . . Spokane (21-13-4) is third in the U.S. Division, three points behind Portland. . . . Kamloops (14-18-3) is fourth in the B.C. Division seven points behind Kelowna. The Rockets are in Kamloops tonight. . . . F Riley Woods (24) gave the Chiefs a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 12:43 of the first period. . . . F Kobe Mohr (4) scored, on a PP, for Kamloops at 18:52. . . . Spokane broke the tie on a goal by F Jake McGrew (14), on another PP, at 1:28 of the second period. . . . D Filip Kral (4), who had played for Czech Republic at the WJC, added insurance at 7:02. . . . F Luke Toporowski (12) added an empty-netter. . . . The Chiefs were 2-6 on the PP; the Blazers were 1-3. . . . The Chiefs had three players back in their lineup who had been at the WJC — F Jared Anderson-Dolan and D Ty Smith (Canada), and D Kral. . . . This was the first game between the teams since the Nov. 26 deal in which the Chiefs acquired F Luc Smith from the Blazers for F Jeff Faith and two 2020 bantam draft picks — a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder.


The Tri-City Americans erased an early 2-0 deficit and beat the Everett Silvertips, 3-2, in tri-cityKennewick, Wash. . . . Tri-City (20-13-2) has won two in a row. The Americans are fourth in the U.S. Division, four points behind Spokane and in control of the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Everett (29-8-2) had been 14-0-2 in its previous 16 games. This was its first regulation-time loss since it was beaten 5-2 by the host Portland Winterhawks on Nov. 16. Everett leads the U.S. Division by 11 points over Portland. . . . F Zack Andrusiak, in his first game with Everett since being acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds, scored the game’s first goal. His 28th goal of the season and seventh in seven periods came at 3:51 of the first period. . . . F Jackson Berezowski (9) made it 2-0 at 7:12. . . . F Krystof Hrabik, in his first game since playing for Czech Republic at the WJC, got Tri-City started with his ninth goal, on a PP, at 18:57. . . . D Aaron Hyman (9) got the Americans even at 3;23 of the second period, and F Blake Stevenson (8) broke the tie at 15:31. . . . The Silvertips had a 39-18 edge in shots, including 17-4 in the third period. . . . Tri-City G Beck Warm blocked 37 shots. . . . Everett was 0-5 on the PP; Tri-City was 0-1.


Tweetoftheday

Committee supporting Ice ceases operations; cites lack of support from ownership . . . Chiefs stun Thunderbirds with comeback


ThisThat

The Green Bay Committee, which had been working to drum up support for the Kootenay Ice with the hopes of keeping the WHL franchise in Cranbrook, has ceased operations.

In fact, it has informed its members to “cease all of your sales initiatives.”

In an email to members that also went to “Ice supporters,” the committee requested that Kootenaynewthey “make sure (to) return all funding sheets to sponsors (and any cheques or cash).”

The committee reached this decision following a meeting earlier Tuesday.

“It is truly unfortunate that the new Ice ownership has decided not to actively engage in our committee’s initiatives,” the committee said in the email.

Ice owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, who purchased the franchise from the Chynoweth family prior to the 2017-18 season, had been invited to Green Bay Committee meetings, but had refused to attend.

The committee began working this season amid speculation that the Ice will move to Winnipeg in time for the 2019-20 season. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on Oct. 20 that it was told by sources that the relocated team will play in a 1,400-seat arena on the U of Manitoba campus while it awaits construction of a 5,000-seat arena in conjunction with the Rink Hockey Academy.

In an email sent to Cockell, the Ice’s president and general manager, the committee wrote:

“Obviously, we were greatly concerned about this article. We were hoping that you and Greg would deny this story and that you would remain actively engaged in our sales initiative.

“On October 22, 2018, you advised us that you would not be attending our scheduled Town Hall Meeting. You further advised us that you and Greg would not be involved in our sales initiatives and that you would be monitoring the situation.

“We were surprised and disappointed with your position; however, we decided to carry on with our Campaign and other initiatives to increase attendance. We expected that you and Greg would join us, especially given the fact that we were at an early stage in Season 2 of your new ownership.  For the past month, there has been considerable engagement between our Committee and the community.”

Taking Note has been told that the committee had raised around $50,000, money that now will be returned from whence it came.

In the email to Cockell, the committee also wrote:

“We have made considerable progress . . . However, the absence of active engagement by you and Greg with our committee has become a major issue in our community. We believe that this failure has become the biggest obstacle in our ability to achieve a highly successful sales campaign and to create an effective steering committee. As a result, we are terminating our Green Bay Committee effective immediately.

“However, we will consider re-activating our committee if you provide us with a real commitment that you and Greg are prepared to immediately join us and work with us, as partners; and have no plans to move ‘Our ICE’  from Cranbrook.”

The letter to Cockell is signed by committee members Allan Rella, Are Tironese and John Hudak.

The email to Cockell as well as the one to committee members and club supporters also was sent to Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, and to members of the WHL’s board of governors.

In 2016-17, the last season under the ownership of the Chynoweth family, the Ice average an announced attendance of 1,754 for 36 games. In 2017-18, the first season under Fettes and Cockell, the average was 2,442.

This season, through 12 games and amid speculation of a potential move, the average is 2,244. The Ice beat the visiting Regina Pats on Tuesday night before 1,965 fans, the smallest crowd this season.

“I refuse to be Chilliwacked,” Hudak told Taking Note, in reference to the Chilliwack Bruins, who, despite a number of denials, left for Victoria following the 2010-11 season. “But I have talked to some people . . . in hockey circles . . . and other sources. These guys are gone.”

Hudak, however, said that he will continue to work towards having a WHL franchise in his city, even if Fettes and Cockell move their franchise.

“I love my city,” Hudak said.

The Green Bay Committee, which worked with the Ice management team last season to get people to games who wouldn’t under ordinary circumstances have that opportunity, was named in honour of Green Bay, Wisc., “the little city,” Hudak said, “that can support an NFL team.”

Hudak only hopes that his city is given the opportunity to prove it can support a WHL team.


The Kootenay Ice has dropped another veteran player from its roster.

F Nick Bowman’s name doesn’t appear in the WHL’s weekly roster report, which was released on Tuesday. But his name wasn’t on the lineup sheet for the Ice’s game against the Pats in Regina on Tuesday night; the Ice dressed 11 forwards and seven defencemen. Bowman’s name also has disappeared from the Ice’s roster on the WHL’s website.

While most WHL teams like to carry 23 players, the Kootenay roster includes only 20 — 11 forwards, seven defencemen and two goaltenders.

The Ice acquired Bowman and a sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2021 bantam draft from the Moose Jaw Warriors on Oct. 22, giving up twins Kaeden and Keenan Taphorn in the exchange. The Taphorns, 18, are from Yorkton, Sask.

Bowman, 18, had two goals in 10 games with the Ice, after earning one assist in 10 games with the Warriors. From Sherwood Park, Alta., he was a sixth-round pick by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 2015 bantam draft. In 137 career regular-season games, he has 15 goals and 14 assists.

Keenan Taphorn has four goals and an assist in seven games with Moose Jaw, while Kaeden has one assist in three games. He recently returned to the lineup after being out with an undisclosed injury.

In the past couple of weeks, the Ice also lost veteran 19-year-olds Sam Huston and Brendan Semchuk. The Ice has stated that it has suspended Huston, a defenceman, but hasn’t said anything more than that. Huston apparently left the team after being dropped to the third defensive pairing.

The team has said that Semchuk left in order to “pursue his educational goals.”


The Regina Pats have added F Sebastian Streu to their roster. He’s from Germany but also has Canadian citizenship, so doesn’t count as an import. . . . Streu, who will turn 19 on Nov. 22, had nine goals and three assists in 54 games with the Kootenay Ice last season. . . . This season, he had five goals and two assists in 10 games with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers when the Pats came calling. . . . Streu was in Regina’s lineup on Tuesday night and scored a goal as the Pats lost, 5-2, to the host Kootenay Ice.


Chris Selley of the National Post has chimed in with his opinion of whether major junior hockey players are student-athletes or employees, and you are able to read all about it right here.


If you stop off here and enjoy what you see — or even if you don’t — feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and make a contribution. Thanks in advance.


TUESDAY NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS:

G Brodan Salmond stopped 32 shots to help the host Moose Jaw Warriors to a 7-0 victory MooseJawWarriorsover the Tri-City Americans. . . . Moose jaw (8-5-4) has points in three straight (2-0-1). . . . The Americans (11-6-0) are 8-3-0 over their past 11 games. . . . This was Game 8 of an 11-game road trip for the Americans. They now are 6-2-0, including 1-2-0 in the East Division. . . . Salmond, 20, posted his fourth career shutout, but his first with the Warriors. He made 56 appearances with the Kelowna Rockets over the previous three seasons. . . . The Warriors got a goal and three assists from F Tristin Langan, and a goal and two assists from each of D Josh Brook, F Brayden Tracey. . . . Langan has 13 goals, while Brook has six and Tracey five. . . . The Warriors led 3-0 and 6-0 at the period breaks. . . . Moose Jaw had D Brendan Kwiatkowski playing after he had been out since Sept. 22. . . . The Warriors remain without F Justin Almeida, who suffered an undisclosed injury in Game 1 of the CIBC Canada Russia Series in Kamloops on Nov. 5. . . . Moose Jaw head coach Tim Hunter, who also is the head coach of Canada’s national junior team, missed this one as he was at the CIBC Canada Russia game in Sherbrooke, Que. However, the Warriors had associate coach Mark O’Leary back after his stint at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. . . . Kelly Buchberger, in his first season as the Americans’ head coach, is in the Warriors’ Hall of Fame. From Langenburg, Sask., he played two seasons (1983-85) in Moose Jaw before going on to a pro career. In 111 games with the Warriors, he put up 36 points, including 26 goals, and 253 penalty minutes.


In Saskatoon, the Blades gave up nine power-play opportunities, lost 46 of 80 face-offs Saskatoonand were outshot 39-37, but still managed to score a 4-2 victory over the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . The Blades (13-7-2) have won three in a row. . . . The Tigers (9-9-3) have lost three straight (0-2-1). . . . F Ryan Chyzowski scored twice for the Tigers, giving them a 1-0 lead on a PP, at 8:58 of the first period, and cutting their deficit to 3-2 at 19:38 of the third period. He’s got seven goals. . . . In between those goals, F Max Gerlach (14), F Kyle Crnkovic (1) and D Chase Wouters (3) scored for the Blades. . . . Gerlach’s goal, coming against his former team, gave him 200 career regular-season points in 232 games. . . . Crnkovic’s goal was his first in the WHL. He was the 10th overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . F Kirby Dach (12) added insurance for the Blades, with an empty-netter at 19:59 of the third. . . . Saskatoon got 37 saves from G Nolan Maier, who now is 11-5-1, 2.79, .912. . . . Medicine Hat F James Hamblin had a nine-game assist streak and a 10-game point streak snapped.


D Zac Patrick broke a 1-1 tie at 2:03 of the second period and the Kootenay Ice went on to beat the Regina Pats, 5-2, in Cranbrook, B.C. . . . The Ice (7-12-3) had lost their previous five games. . . . The Pats (7-13-0) had won three in a row. This was the first of six straight road games for Regina. . . . Patrick’s goal was his first in the WHL. He didn’t score in 42 games last season; this was his 11th game this season. . . . D Dallas Hines (3) upped the Ice’s lead to 3-1 just 17 seconds after Patrick scored. . . . F Austin Pratt (10) pulled Regina to within a goal at 2:53, but the Ice put it away with third period goals from F Cole Muir (5) and F Cameron Hausinger (6), on a PP. . . . F Sebastian Streu, who spent last season with the Ice, scored in his first game with the Pats. . . . G Duncan McGovern stopped 38 shots to earn the victory. . . . Regina G Max Paddock left at 8:05 of the first period after suffering a cut in a collision with Ice F Peyton Krebs. Paddock, who had stopped three of four shots, was replaced by Dean McNabb, who surrendered four goals on 29 shots. . . . D Makai Mitchell, 16, who is from Fort Collins, Colo., made his debut with the Pats. A list player, Mitchell had one goal and one assist in 11 games with the U-16 Rocky Mountain Roughriders of the NAPHL. He is expected to play two more games with the Pats before returning home. . . . The Ice lost D Jordan Chudley to a headshot major and game misconduct for a hit on Regina F Duncan Pierce at 3:28 of the third period. . . . Regina lost F Logan Nijhoff to a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct at 11:24 of the third period, after a hit on Ice D Martin Bodak.


The Spokane Chiefs erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period and went on to beat the Seattle SpokaneChiefsThunderbirds, 3-2, in OT, in Kent, Wash. . . . Spokane (10-7-3) has won two straight. . . . Seattle (7-8-3) has lost six in a row (0-5-1). . . . F Payton Mount, back after a five-game absence, gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead with his first WHL goal, at 3:36 of the first period. Seattle selected him with the 17th overall pick of the 2017 bantam draft. Mount had one assist in six games with the Thunderbirds last season; this season, he has a goal and five assists in 12 games. . . . F Zack Andrusiak (2) upped Seattle’s lead to 2-0 at 3:05 of the second period. . . . F Ethan McIndoe (6) got Spokane on the scoreboard, on a PP, at 7:05 of the third period, and D Ty Smith (3) tied it at 16:50. Smith also had two assists. . . . F Luke Toporowski (7), who had an assist on Smith’s goal, won the game at 3:58 of OT. . . . The Chiefs got 37 saves from G Dawson Weatherill. . . . Seattle F Dillon Hamaliuk wasn’t successful on a penalty shot at 16:38 of the second period.

 

Vipers’ owner dies at 68 … WHL hits two GMs with fines … Raiders guarantee win over Broncos

MacBeth

F Brady Ramsay (Lethbridge, 2010-14) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite). He started the season with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite), scoring one goal and adding four assists in 13 games. He was released by the Steelers on Dec. 5.


A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

The hockey community is in mourning today following the death of Duncan Wray, the longtime owner of the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers. Wray, who had owned the franchise since 1992, died suddenly Thursday morning, which happened to be his 68th birthday. . . . Besides owning the Vipers, Wray also was the chairman of the BCHL’s board of governors. . . . It was just on Saturday when the Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings played the final game in the history of Vernon’s Civic Arena. Prior to the game, Wray had, according to Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star, “received a loud ovation” when he was introduced to the crowd. . . . Former Vipers head coach Troy Mick too Knox: “This is the saddest day of my life. Part of my heart feels ripped out. I haven’t stopped crying since this morning.” . . . Knox’s story is right here.


The WHL’s disciplinary office added to its coffers on Thursday, having fined a couple of its general managers.

Peter Anholt of the Lethbridge Hurricanes got touched for $750 “for actions following” a whlJan. 5 game against the visiting Vancouver Giants, who won that contest, 5-2.

Stu MacGregor of the Kamloops Blazers will be $500 lighter after being fined “for actions following” a game against the visiting the Spokane Chiefs on Sunday night. The Blazers won that game, 2-1.

Meanwhile, two players have drawn three-game suspensions.

D Matthew Benson of the Moose Jaw Warriors will sit out after taking a headshot major and game misconduct in a game against the host Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday.

F Max James of the Tri-City Americans got hit with three games after he took a charging major and game misconduct for a hit during a game against the host Everett Silvertips on Wednesday night.


The Swift Current Broncos, having gone all-in at the WHL trade deadline, are hoping their fans will follow suit at the box office. The team announced Thursday that it is selling SCBroncospro-rated season tickets — prices are based on the number of regular-season home games remaining — through Jan. 31.

Season-ticket holders, of course, also have the first option on their seats for the 2018 playoffs. As well, should the Broncos have 2,100 season tickets sold by Jan. 31 — they went over 2,000 on Thursday — they will be giving away one free 2017-18 season ticket during each of the last 10 home regular-season games.

According to Dianne Sletten, the team’s director of business operations, “We’ve sold (more than) 250 season tickets this week and are thrilled to see an electric atmosphere as we push forward.”

The Broncos are at home Saturday when they entertain the Edmonton Oil Kings. Three of the Broncos — D Tyler Steenbergen, Canada’s golden boy, D Artyom Minulin (Russia) and F Aleksi Heponiemi (Finland) — will be saluted for having played in the WJC in Buffalo.


The Swift Current Broncos are scheduled to play their first game since the trade deadline tonight against the host Prince Albert Raiders.

What makes this game noteworthy is that the Raiders, who are 19th in the 22-team PrinceAlbertWHL’s overall standings, have guaranteed a victory over the No. 2 Broncos.

Yes, they have!

“Here’s how it works,” reads a Raiders’ news release. “After we beat Swift Current, we’ll all be happy. To be honest, we don’t think we’re going to lose.

“In the small chance that the Broncos pull off a miracle, here’s what we’ll do. We’ll hand out ticket vouchers to all fans in attendance on the way out. Each fan can bring that voucher, as well as the used game ticket from Friday night, to the Raiders box office on Saturday, Jan. 13, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., and redeem it for a free ticket to Saturday night’s game against the Moose Jaw Warriors.”

After the Raiders post the victory, they will trail the Broncos by 21 points.


On the subject of players having returned from the WJC, the Kelowna Rockets honoured D Cal Foote and F Dillon Dube prior to a 7-4 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Wednesday night. Both played for Canada in Buffalo, with Dube serving as team captain. . . . Unfortunately, Dube wasn’t in attendance on Wednesday, as a flu bug kept him out of action.

Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks welcomed back F Kieffer Bellows (U.S.) and D Henri Jokiharju (Finland) on Thursday. Both players are expected to play tonight (Friday) in Kennewick, Wash., against the Tri-City Americans. The Americans should have D Jake Bean, who also played for Canada, in their lineup tonight, too. Bean was acquired by the Americans from the Calgary Hitmen earlier in the week. He arrived in Kennewick on Thursday.


The Tri-City Americans have signed F Blake Stevenson, 16, to a WHL contract. Stevenson has five goals and three assists in 27 games with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks and will remain there for the remainder of this season. Last season, he had 23 goals and 32 assists for the minor midget AAA CNHA Canucks. . . . The Americans selected him in the fourth round of the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.


The Saskatoon Blades have released F Dryden Michaud, 19, and he has joined the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. From Maple Ridge, B.C., Michaud had two goals and two assists in 29 games this season. Last season, he had one goal in 29 games with the Blades.


The Saskatoon Blades have added F Tristen Robins and F Kyle Crnkovic to their roster for a three-game road trip that features stops in Red Deer on Saturday, Cranbrook, B.C., on SaskatoonSunday, and Calgary on Tuesday. . . . Robins, who turned 16 on Nov. 15, is from Brandon and plays at the Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg. He is the son of former Blades G Trevor Robins. Tristen was acquired from the Regina Pats earlier in the week. They had selected him in the fourth round of the 2016 bantam draft. . . . Crnkovic, the Blades’ first-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, played two WHL games earlier this season. He is playing for the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team in the CSSHL. . . . The Blades won’t have F Kirby Dach on this trip. Dach, who is to turn 17 on Jan. 21, has four goals and 19 assists in 23 games. However, he hasn’t played since Dec. 27 and is sidelined on a weekly basis with an undisclosed injury.


F Ian Briscoe, 18, who was released by the Seattle Thunderbirds, has signed with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings. Briscoe, from Winnipeg, had three assists in 24 games this season. Last season, he had two goals in 20 games. He also played 22 games with Dauphin last season, recording six goals and 10 assists. . . . Seattle selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 bantam draft.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have dropped D Brenden Kwiatkowski, 17, from their roster. He is expected to join the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm. Kwiatkowski, who is from Grande Prairie, had one assist in 22 games with the Warriors.


If you would like to contact Taking Note with information, have a question or just feel like commenting on something, feel free to send an email to greggdrinnan@gmail.com. I’m also on Twitter (@gdrinnan).


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Scoreboard

THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Edmonton at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Swift Current at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Medicine Hat at Regina, 7 p.m.

Calgary at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Lethbridge at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Prince George at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

Portland vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

Kamloops at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m.


TWEET OF THE DAY