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


MacBeth

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


ThisThat

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

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

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

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

As for Lauer, he said:

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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


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


MacBeth

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

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


ThisThat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


EdChynowethCup

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

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

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

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

——

SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

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

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


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WHL’s War of the Words continues. . . . Blades skate back into series. . . . Oil Kings, Giants win in OT, go ahead 3-0

MacBeth

D Blake Orban (Vancouver, Edmonton, 2010-15) has signed a one-year contract with MAC Újbuda Budapest (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). This season, with the U of Lethbridge (USports, Canada West), he had one goal and five assists in 25 games.


ThisThat

OK. Let’s review . . .

Marc Habscheid, the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders and one of eight men with more than 500 regular-season WHL victories, got his club’s second-round series with whlSaskatoon really going by accusing the Blades of doing more diving than members of the Saskatoon Diving Club.

Mitch Love, the Blades’ first-year head coach, waited until after the second game and, with his club trailing 2-0, suggested that the Raiders’ players dish out more headshots than competitors with the Prince Albert Boxing Club.

Love, though, went a step further and suggested that the WHL, a league whose pooh-bahs love to talk about the importance of player safety, has “turned a blind eye to that kind of thing . . .”

Love added that he had expressed his concerns to the WHL, but “it falls on deaf ears, and here we are.”

That brings us to Game 3, which was played Tuesday night in Saskatoon.

Prior to the game, it was Habscheid’s turn to fire a volley in the WHL’s latest War of the Words.

“This is all fun and games, but it comes to a bigger issue,” Habscheid told Trevor Redden of panow.com for a story that is right here. “The fact that he’s questioning the integrity of our league about player safety, that crosses the line. I did not think that was an appropriate comment.”

You will remember that it was Habscheid — aka Mark (The Entertainer) Habscheid — who started all this.

Yesterday, he told Redden that it’s all gamesmanship.

“That’s just a weak ploy to try to change the narrative,” Habscheid said. “He’ll probably start yelling at me from his bench, too, just to add to it . . . so whatever, we don’t care.”

For the record, Love wasn’t seen yelling at Habscheid as the Blades skated to a 1-0 victory last night.

——

With Habscheid and Love both having mentioned the importance of player safety, allow me to point out a thing or two.

The WHL issued a news release on March 28 announcing that F Sean Richards of the Seattle Thunderbirds had been suspended indefinitely.

Richards had taken a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct in a game the previous night.

In that news release, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, was quoted thusly: “Player safety is the first priority for the WHL at all times.”

That quote was recycled last week when the WHL announced that Richards’ suspension had been set at eight games.

One on-line dictionary defines hypocrisy like this: “The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform.”

A league that condones fighting simply cannot trumpet the importance of player safety.

A league that continues to hand out measly two-game suspensions for checking-from-behind fouls and headshots cannot trumpet the importance of player safety. It just can’t.

After D Jake Lee of the Thunderbirds drew a two-game suspension

for a hit from behind on Vancouver F Justin Sourdif in Game 1 of a first-round series, Giants head coach Michael Dyck told Steve Ewen of Postmedia:

“I played with Brad Hornung. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. It was the same type of play. The only thing that saved Justin Sourdif was the net. It’s a terrible play. He (Lee) is a young guy. But somebody has to teach him. All two games is … I don’t know.

“It’s one of the worst plays in hockey. It had nothing to do with making a play. It’s emotion. I understand that. But you have to learn.”

Dyck, as I mentioned here after he was fined $1,000 for his comments, is right. But is anyone listening?

The time has long since passed by for the WHL to ban fighting and to issue suspensions to those who choose to engage in fisticuffs.

And it’s time for the WHL to get serious about suspensions for headshots and checks from behind. No more of this two-game stuff. Let coaches and players know that such a foul means a player could sit for a month.

Yes, start with 10 games, and then the league can puff out its chest and tell people that player safety is a priority in the WHL.

And when it comes to the neanderthals who continue to insist that hockey needs fighting, well, . . .

Patti Dawn Swanson, aka The River City Renegade, blogged about ‘the code’ the other day:

“You hit me with a cheap shot — or hit me legally but too hard for my liking — and I now must knock your block off. If not me, one of my guard dogs will take care of business. Might not do it immediately. Might not do it that same night. Might have to wait a year. But someone is coming after you and you better not turn tail when challenged. You want the respect of friend, foe and fan? Only way is to ‘man up.’ That’s the ‘code.’

Well, the ‘code’ is stupid and so are hockey players for following it.”

She’s right and that piece is right here.


It seems that the Swift Current Broncos no longer have a radio rights holder.

Shawn Mullin, the Broncos’ play-by-play voice for the past nine seasons, indicated in a SCBroncosTuesday afternoon tweet that talks on a new agreement have broken down between the Broncos and The Eagle 94.1

“Despite what I believe were the best intentions on all sides,” Mullin tweeted, “the Broncos and the radio station have been unable to reach an agreement to continue our broadcasts.”

Mullin, who is from Ottawa, moved to Swift Current after four seasons as the radio voice of the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters.

Regan Bartel, who calls the Kelowna Rockets’ games, and Jon Keen, the Kamloops Blazers’ broadcaster, both are former Swift Current play-by-play voices.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: There were three second-round games on Tuesday night, and there will be three more tonight. The difference is that there is one team facing elimination tonight. . . .

Last night, the Edmonton Oil Kings went into Calgary and beat the Hitmen, 2-1 in OT. That means the Oil Kings can move into the Eastern Conference final with a victory over the host Hitmen tonight. . . .

In Saskatoon, the Blades rode the goaltending of Nolan Maier to a 1-0 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders. Still, the Raiders hold a 2-1 lead going into Game 4 in ’Toontown tonight. . . .

In Victoria, the Vancouver Giants beat the Royals, 5-4 in OT, and now lead that series, 3-0. Game 4 is scheduled for Victoria on Thursday night. . . .

The Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs didn’t play last night. Their series resumes tonight in Spokane with the Chiefs holding a 2-0 lead. Remember that this series is following a 2-3-2 format because Cirque du Soleil is in Everett’s Angels of the Wind Arena through Sunday.

——

TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

G Nolan Maier stopped 26 shots to lead the Saskatoon Blades to a 1-0 victory over the Saskatoonvisiting Prince Albert Raiders. . . . The Raiders lead the series, 2-1, with Game 4 in Saskatoon tonight. . . . The teams will be back in Prince Albert for Game 5 on Friday night. . . . This was only the second time the Raiders have been blanked this season and Maier has been the goaltender both times. On Dec. 9, he stopped 32 shots in a 1-0 victory in Saskatoon. F Tristen Robins scored the only goal, at 5:14 of the second period. . . . Last night, the game’s lone goal came from F Kirby Dach (5), who was able to fight off a check, reach into the crease and backhand a loose puck into the net at 4:21 of the first period. . . . The Raiders came within inches of equalizing in the dying seconds when F Sean Montgomery had a redirection go off the right post. . . . Prince Albert G Ian Scott also was stellar, with 26 saves. . . . Despite the ongoing verbiage from the head coaches, the game included only five minor penalties. The Blades were 0-2 on the PP; the Raiders were 0-1.


D Wyatt McLeod scored from the left point to give the Edmonton Oil Kings a 2-1 victory EdmontonOilKingsover the Hitmen in Calgary. . . . Edmonton holds a 3-0 lead in the series and gets its first chance to close it out tonight in Calgary. . . . F Zach Russell (1) gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead at 7:57 of the second period. . . . The Oil Kings nursed that lead into the last three minutes of the third period when they were hit with back-to-back minor penalties. . . . Calgary scored on the ensuing 5-on-3 advantage, with F Mark Kastelic getting his sixth goal, at 18:53, to force OT. That goal came one second before the first minor was to expire. . . . McLeod won it with his second goal of these playoffs, at 2:46 of OT. Russell had the lone assist on the winner. . . . Calgary was 1-5 on the PP; Edmonton was 0-5. . . . According to the online scoresheet, Calgary was 38-19 on faceoffs, with Kastelic going 20-10. . . . G Dylan Myskiw blocked 24 shots for the Oil Kings. . . . The Hitmen got 27 saves from G Jack McNaughton. . . . The Hitmen had F Jake Kryski back in their lineup. He had been out since Jan. 11 with an undisclosed injury.


F Owen Hardy’s second goal of the night, this one in OT, gave the Vancouver Giants a 5-4 Vancouvervictory over the Royals in Victoria. . . . The Giants, with a 3-0 lead in the series, will have the opportunity to end it in Game 4 on Thursday in Victoria. . . . Last night, Vancouver went ahead 1-0 at 3:32 of the first period when F Jared Dmytriw, a former Royals skater, scored his second goal of the playoffs. . . .  The Royals responded with goals from F Sean Gulka (2), at 9:10, and F Igor Martynov (2), on a PP, at 19:31. . . . F Milos Roman (2) tied it for Vancouver, on a PP, at 3:44 of the second period. . . . D Mitchell Prowse (1) put Victoria back in front at 13:06 on the Royals’ first shot of the period. . . . That lead lasted until Hardy (1) scored 14 seconds into the third period. . . . The Royals went back out front at 10:15 on a goal from F Carson Miller (5). . . . The Giants forced OT when D Alex Kannok Leipert (2) scored at 15:40. . . . Hardy, who had nine goals in 64 regular-season games, won it with his second goal of the game — and of the playoffs — at 13:34 of OT. He’s from Nanaimo, so no doubt had some familiar faces in the crowd, too. . . . Vancouver was 1-2 on the PP; Victoria was 1-3. . . . Vancouver held a 28-9 edge in shots through two periods. An interested observer told Taking Note that “of the Royals’ nine shots, three have gone in and two were clearing attempts from their own end of the ice that hit the net.” . . . In the end, the count was 57-20, including 15-5 in OT. . . . Vancouver G Trent Miner stopped 16 shots, but the story was Victoria G Griffen Outhouse and his 52 stops. . . . In the three games, the Giants hold a 124-45 edge in shots, but are only ahead 10-5 in goals. . . . Vancouver won Game 2, 2-1 in OT. . . . The Giants were without F Aidan Barfoot, who was injured in the first round and has yet to play in this series. . . . D Ralph Jarratt, who didn’t finish Game 2, was among Victoria’s scratches. The Royals also were without F Tanner Sidaway for a third straight game, while F Kody McDonald served the fifth of a six-game suspension. As well, D Jake Kustra began serving a two-game suspension. . . . With their lineup depleted by injuries and suspensions, the Royals had two APs in the lineup — D Noah Lamb and F Alex Bolshakov. . . . On top of all that, the Royals may have lost F Phillip Schultz, who has two goals and seven assists in nine playoff games, with some sort of arm injury. About a minute before the game ended, Schultz went hard into the boards at the Vancouver bench. The gate was open and he hit an edge of the boards. Schultz dropped his gloves and stick and appeared to be in serious pain as he went to the dressing room.


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Gaglardi ‘suspects’ Lajoie will be back. . . . Habscheid, Love in war of the words. . . . Ice, assistant coach go separate ways


MacBeth

F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract extension with Langnau (Switzerland, NL). This season, he had 14 goals and 14 assists in 39 games.


ThisThat

It seems that a lot of folks who follow the WHL are wondering about the coaching situation with the Kamloops Blazers. Specifically, they want to know if Serge Lajoie will be back for a second season as the head coach.

You will be aware that the Blazers went 28-32-8 this season, then beat the Kelowna Kamloops1Rockets in a tiebreaker to get into the playoffs, where they were beaten in six games by the Victoria Royals in a spirited first-round series.

Let’s break down the Blazers’ season a little bit.

Darryl Sydor, one of the franchise’s five owners, was named a full-time assistant coach on Feb. 12. A former Blazers defenceman who went on to play and coach in the NHL, Sydor is a two-time Stanley Cup winner and also won a Memorial Cup.

When the Blazers made that announcement, they were 20-27-5. With Sydor officially on board, they finished the regular-season 8-5-3, won that tiebreaker, then went 2-4 in the playoffs.

So, all told, they were 11-9-3 after the Sydor announcement.

Which brings us to an interview that Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week did with Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner. Here are three questions and answers:

Hastings: Will Serge be the head coach to start next season?

Gaglardi: I suspect so. He’s got a long-term contract and we haven’t had any conversation about anything other than that. We’re very happy with where we are. We had a great finish to the year and we’re excited about next season, but this week is just a week to lick our wounds. This is a series (vs. Victoria) we truly thought we could win.

Hastings: What do you think assistant coach Darryl Sydor brought to the team?

Gaglardi: Darryl really understands what it takes to win and what a successful bench feels like. He’s been a long-time player and had success at the junior level, had success at the NHL level, won a couple of Stanley Cups. He knows what benches need. I think he was really instrumental in figuring out what his role could be to help. Sometimes you’ve got a coach that’s a hard coach and the kids need to be brought up and built back, and Darryl really understands the ying and yang, the methods, and figured out a role that he could help in. He really worked hard to make sure the kids believed they could actually get the job done. He perhaps brought something to the staff that was missing. Darryl is a tremendous guy and I was thrilled when he agreed to join full-time and come on board and he made a difference.

Hastings: Does Darryl have what it takes to be a head coach here or somewhere else?

Gaglardi: I’ve got to think so, if that’s what he wants to do. He’s come home and I think he’d like to be involved in some way. We’ve had lots of talks around this for a long time. What this blossoms into, I’m not sure. He’s a tremendous guy and we’d love to have him involved. He’s got kids playing competitive hockey. I’m not sure where he’s going to be, in terms of level of commitment next year, whether he’s ready to step in and take on some sort of full-time role again with the club. I’m not sure. He did make a big difference to us down the stretch.

That complete interview is right here.

I don’t have any idea what the future holds here. I do know that in the 12 seasons under the ownership of Gaglardi, Sydor, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Mark Recchi, the Blazers have gotten out of the first round twice, been a first-round casualty six times, and have missed the playoffs on four occasions.

Lajoie is the 10th head coach or interim head coach, including Guy Charron on two occasions, this franchise has employed over those 12 seasons.


It’s ‘Game On’ in the Eastern Conference seminal between the Prince Albert Raiders and Saskatoon Blades.

The series resumes tonight in Saskatoon, with the Raiders holding a 2-0 lead. Game 3 will be televised by Sportsnet.

Other than the quotes in the above tweets, Ryan Flaherty of Global TV in Saskatoon also Saskatoontweeted this quote from Blades head coach Mitch Love:

“There was four head-whipping incidents (Sunday) night, three of which led to penalties on our side, by their players. So is that embellishment? I don’t know. Is it? I hope they’re getting their necks fixed over there today.”

You’ll recall that prior to the series Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, offered up PrinceAlbertthese thoughts to Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

As Zary reports in a story posted on Monday evening, Love went so far as to suggest that the WHL office needs to be paying more attention to player safety.

“I really chose not to say too much about it up until this point,” Zary quotes Love as having said, “but after watching two games in which I felt there were several incidents — especially (Sunday night’s) hockey game where there was a lot of contact towards players’ heads — I know our league stresses player safety, so I think the real story here is how people have turned a blind eye to that kind of thing, based on comments that were made previously, prior to the start of the series.”

Zary’s story is right here.

And, in case you missed it, here’s some video of Habscheid off the Sportsnet telecast early in Game 2 on Saturday night. . . .


The Winnipeg Ice revealed via Twitter on Monday that the organization and assistant coach Gord Burnett “have agreed to part ways.” Burnett, a native of Regina, just completed his fourth season on the Ice’s coaching staff. . . . According to the Ice’s website, its coaching staff now comprises head coach James Patrick and associate coach Jon Klemm. . . . Patrick, from Winnipeg, and Klemm, who is from Cranbrook, have been with the Ice through two seasons.


F Kyle Olson of the Tri-City Americans has joined the San Diego Gulls, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, on an ATO. From Calgary, Olson was selected by the Ducks in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. He hasn’t signed an NHL contract. . . . This season, Olson, who turned 20 on March 22, had 21 goals and 49 assists in 62 games with the Americans.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed D Matt Smith to a WHL contract. An Edmonton native, Smith was a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . He played this season with the midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., Rangers, recording two goals and 10 assists in 41 regular-season and playoff games.


Rick Westhead of TSN filed another story regarding the minimum-wage lawsuit on Monday, and this one really involves the WHL.

“A fight is unfolding in the Western Hockey League minimum-wage class-action lawsuit over the privacy of current and former players who pursue a claim against the league for minimum wage, back pay and overtime,” Westhead writes.

“A year and a half after an Alberta judge certified a minimum-wage lawsuit against the WHL, lawyers for the plaintiffs and the league are now battling over how to notify those players about their right to proceed with a case or, if they choose, withdraw from the litigation.

“The two sides will appear at a hearing in Calgary on Monday to make arguments about the notice the players will be given regarding the lawsuit.”

The complete story is right here.

Westhead also mentioned that “the CHL and its three leagues have been battling minimum-wage lawsuits for the past five years.”

It is hard to fathom that it already has been that long. Wouldn’t you like to know how much money the WHL has spent on legal fees over that time?


F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks will play for Denmark’s national men’s team in a pair of exhibition games against visiting Finland this week. The games are scheduled for Thursday in Aalborg and Saturday in Vojens. . . . The Danish team, under head coach Heinz Ehlers, dropped eight players from its training camp after weekend workouts. . . . Blichfeld, who won the WHL scoring championship with 114 points in 68 games this season, is hoping to earn a spot on the national men’s A team that will play in the IIHF World Championship in the Slovakian cities of Bratislava and Košice, from May 10 through May 26.


Kevin Kaminski is the new general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice larongeWolves. Kaminski, who is from Churchbridge, Sask., signed a three-year contract. . . . Kaminski, 50, spent three seasons (1986-89) with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades before going on to a pro career that included 139 games in the NHL. . . . For the past three seasons, he has been the head coach of the Western States Hockey League’s Fresno Monsters. . . . The Ice Wolves also announced that Gaelan Patterson, another former Blades skater, will be turning, but as associate GM and associate coach. Patterson finished the season as the team’s interim head coach after the firing of Evan Vossen. . . . The team also said that Travis Hegland will be returning as athletic therapist and trainer.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: D Jake Kustra of the Victoria Royals has been suspended for two games after taking a cross-checking major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jared Dmytriw of the DisciplineVancouver Giants at 2:54 of the second period on Saturday. That was in Game 2 of the series. The Giants won, 2-1 in OT, and hold a 2-0 leading going into Game 3 tonight in Victoria. . . .

Meanwhile, the Giants have been fined $750 for, according to the WHL website, “actions of player at end of game” on Saturday night. There was a bit of a brouhaha after Vancouver F Tristen Nielsen scored the game-winner at 3:29 of OT. G Griffen Outhouse of Victoria came out of it with a roughing minor, while Giants D Alex Kannok Leipert was hit with a roughing minor and a game misconduct. I would think it’s safe to assume that he is the “player” in question. . . .

In these playoffs, the WHL’s Dept. of Discipline now has issued 13 suspensions totalling 30 games, and handed out six fines worth a total of $4,250. . . . In all of last season’s playoffs, there were six players suspended for a total of 12 games, and two fines meted out worth $1,250. . . .

——

After a quiet Monday night, there are three second-round games on the schedule tonight. . . .

As mentioned, the Vancouver Giants hold a 2-0 lead as they play Game 3 against the Royals in Victoria. The Royals obviously will be without D Jake Kustra, while F Kody McDonald serves the fifth of a six-game suspension. . . . Victoria D Ralph Jarratt left late in Game 3 with an apparent injury to his left shoulder or arm and didn’t return. . . . The Giants are expected to again be without F Aidan Barfoot, who was injured in the first round. . . .

——

In Calgary, the Edmonton Oil Kings, with a 2-0 lead, will meet the Hitmen as the Battle of Alberta resumes. . . . Here’s a note from Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun involving the first two games:

“Two games and two won face-offs have ended up the back of the Hitmen net so far in the series.

“The Oil Kings won 3-2 in overtime Saturday after (Mark) Kastelic won a clean draw in his own zone and pulled it back through the legs of an unsuspecting (goaltender Jack) McNaughton and off the goal post. Jake Neighbours was then first to the rebound and knocked it into the net for the game-winner.

“On Sunday, Carson Focht pulled one back from the same face-off circle past McNaughton and into the net to give the Oil Kings a 2-1 lead in the second period.”

As Calgary head coach Steve Hamilton told Van Diest: “It’s not everyday you win two faceoffs and shoot two pucks into your own net in two games. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that. That was a bid odd, but it was probably par for the course, too.”

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The Prince Albert Raiders, with a 2-0 lead, venture into Saskatoon to meet the Blades in a game that will be televised by Sportsnet, which also showed the first two games of the series. . . . With the two head coaches firmly involved in a war of the words, it will be interesting to see the attendance in the SaskTel Centre tonight.

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The other second-round series, between the Everett Silvertips and Spokane Chiefs, is to resume on Wednesday. The Chiefs went into Everett and won twice, so they take a 2-0 lead on to home ice. The next three games, if necessary, are scheduled for Spokane because the Cirque du Soleil is in the Angels of the Wind Arena in Everett through Sunday.


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Latest on minimum-wage lawsuit front. . . . Battles of B.C., Saskatchewan open tonight. . . . Other two series begin Saturday

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There was news on the minimum-wage battleground between former major junior players and the OHL on Thursday.

“The Ontario Hockey League will be forced to defend allegations of conspiracy, ohlnegligence and breach of contract after a three-judge panel in Ontario reinstated those claims against the league in its legal battle against former players over minimum wage,” writes Rick Westhead of TSN. “The judgment, released late Wednesday by three Ontario Divisional Court judges, comes after an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed those claims against the OHL in April, 2017. Lawyers for the former players appealed that decision.

“The judges on Wednesday also rejected an OHL appeal that asked for the case to be stripped of class-action status. As a class action, current and former players going back to the 2012-13 season automatically become plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Players will now have the option to opt out of the litigation.

“The judges also ordered the OHL to immediately pay roughly $500,000 worth of legal fees to the plaintiffs, in addition to another $700,000 in legal fees that must be paid if the OHL loses the lawsuit.”

Westhead’s complete story is right here.


F Nick Henry and F Jake Leschyshyn, both of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, have moved on Lethbridgeto pro teams. . . . Henry, who will turn 20 on July 4, has joined the Colorado Eagles, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, while Leschyshyn now is with the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights. . . . Henry, a fourth-round pick in the NHL’s 2017 draft, has signed with the Avalanche. He had 29 goals and 65 assists in 69 games this season. . . . Leschyshyn, who turned 20 on March 10, was a second-round pick by Vegas in the NHL’s 2017 draft. He has signed an NHL contract. This season, he had 40 goals and 41 assists in 68 games. . . . The Hurricanes acquired Henry and Leschyshyn from the Regina Pats in an early-season trade.


The Spokane Chiefs have signed F Blake Swetlikoff to a WHL contract. The 15-year-old from Regina was a third-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft after putting up 32 goals and 40 assists in 31 games with the bantam AA Regina Monarchs. . . . This season, he had 10 goals and 19 assists in 40 games for the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians.


Whenever someone writes a WHL-related newspaper column that includes a mention of Bobby (The Brain) Heeney, well, you just know it has to be a good read. Ed Willes of Postmedia has that column right here and, while it’s more to do with Michael Dyck and Jamie Heard of the Vancouver Giants, there is a mention of Heeney. Oh, and Kelly Handy, a football player who once played for the Regina Pats, gets a mention too. Enjoy!


The junior B Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League made it official on Thursday . . . Dean Maynard is their general manager and head coach. Maynard had been interim head coach since the firing of Mark Chase in January. . . . Maynard will be joined by assistant coaches Brandon Watson and David Gordon, while Tyler Liebel is on board doing work on skills instruction player development and video. Mitch Fritz will be involved with player selection and development.



The SJHL’s Melville Millionaires have signed Kyle Adams to a two-year contract as general manager and head coach. Adams signed on as an assistant coach prior to this season, then was named interim GM and head coach following the firing of Devin Windle on Nov. 29.


EdChynowethCup

The WHL playoffs resume tonight with second-round series beginning on two fronts. . . . The other two series will open on Saturday night. . . . In each instance, if the outcome of the season series means anything, these all should be short series. . . . But, hey, it’s the playoffs and it’s junior hockey. . . .

The Battle of Saskatchewan opens in Prince Albert as the Raiders meet the Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Raiders (54-10-4) won the Scotty Munro Trophy as the WHL’s regular-season champions. . . . The Blades were second to the Raiders in the East Division at 45-15-8. . . . Prince Albert was 6-2-0 in the season series; Saskatoon was 2-5-1. . . . They have only met twice since the trade deadline. The Blades won, 3-2, at home on March 15; the Raiders on, 3-1 in Prince Albert the next night. . . . Saskatoon is in the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2013. . . . The first three games of this series will be televised by Sportsnet, with host Rob Faulds, play caller RJ Broadhead and analyst Sam Cosentino. . . .

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, played for the Blades back in the day. This season, he recorded his 500th regular-season coaching victory. He also understands that he is in the entertainment business as much as he is in the hockey business. That’s one of the reasons he says things like this:

“They embellish. That’s what they do. They led the league in drawing minors. It’s known around (the league) that they do that. Hopefully, that stops because it’s not a good thing. You look at a guy like Kirby Dach. He’s a good player. I met the young man at the Prospects game. A great kid, awesome kid and really great player. He doesn’t need to embellish. He’s better than that. He’s a good enough player. He doesn’t need to that.”

That was Habscheid chatting with Darren Zary of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. The complete story is right here.

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The Battle of B.C. begins in Langley, B.C., with the Vancouver Giants playing host to the Victoria Royals. . . . Vancouver (48-15-5) finished atop the Western Conference. . . . Victoria (34-30-4) was second in the B.C. Division, 29 points behind the Giants. . . . Vancouver won the season series, 6-2-2; Victoria was 4-4-2. . . . They played each other four times after the trade deadline. Vancouver won at home, 3-2 and 4-0, on Jan. 13 and Feb. 22. Victoria won, 5-4 in a shootout, at home on Feb. 23, then lost 2-1 on Feb. 24. Yes, they played each other three times in as many days. . . .

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The Battle of Alberta will open on Saturday with the Calgary Hitmen in Edmonton to meet the Oil Kings. . . . Edmonton (42-18-8) finished atop the Central Division, with Calgary (36-26-6) 14 points in arrears. . . . The Oil Kings won the season series, 7-0-1; the Hitmen were 1-6-1. . . . They have met four times since the trade deadline, with Edmonton winning all four of them — 3-2 and 6-1 in Edmonton, 5-1 and 3-1 in Calgary. . . . Edmonton G Dylan Myskiw went 6-0-0, 2.00, .935 in six games against Calgary. . . . Steve Hamilton, Calgary’s head coach, was fired by the Oil Kings after last season. He spent eight seasons in Edmonton, the last four as head coach.

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The Battle of Washington also gets started on Saturday as the Everett Silvertips play host to the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Everett (47-16-5) finished second in the Western Conference and first in the U.S. Division, 12 points ahead of Spokane (40-21-7). . . . Everett won the season series, 6-0-2; Spokane was 2-5-1. . . . However, they have played only once since the Jan. 10 trade deadline. The Silvertips skated to a 3-1 victory in Spokane on March 5. . . . If the Chiefs are to win, they are going to have to solve Everett G Dustin Wolf, who went 6-0-1, 1.75, .929 against them.

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NOTES: F Logan Barlage of the Lethbridge Hurricanes has been given a two-game suspension after taking a slashing major and game misconduct at the end of a first-round playoff game against the visiting Calgary Hitmen on Tuesday. Barlage slashed Calgary F Carson Focht right off a faceoff as the Hitmen closed out a 4-2 victory in Game 7. Barlage will have to sit out the first two games of the 2019-20 regular season. . . .

Focht, who scored twice in Calgary’s Game 7 victory, fell to the ice after the slash, clutching an arm. We won’t know whether he is injured until lineups are posted prior to Game 1 in Edmonton on Saturday. . . .

D Bowen Byram, who missed a couple of Vancouver practices this week, is expected to be in the Giants’ lineup tonight for Game 1 with the visiting Victoria Royals.


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Habscheid questions penalty call to Leason. . . . QMJHL game goes to fourth OT period. . . . Oil Kings pull even with Tigers


MacBeth

F Antonín Honejsek (Moose Jaw, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with Zlín (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he had six goals and 12 assists in 40 games.


ThisThat

As of Sunday night, the WHL’s Department of Discipline hadn’t suspended F Brett Leason PrinceAlbertof the Prince Albert Raiders after he was given a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a second-period hit on F Cam Hausinger of the visiting Red Deer Rebels. . . . “It was amazing how (Hausinger) recovered quickly and was back out there the next shift,” Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Daily Herald quoted Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid as saying after the game. “There are two good officials (Adam Bloski and Adam Byblow) out there, but they fell for the embellishment, which is too bad as we lost a really good player.” . . . The Raiders won the game, 6-4, to take a 2-0 lead in the series, which continues Tuesday night in Red Deer.


The QMJHL experienced the third-longest game in its history on Saturday as the qmjhlRimouski Oceanic beat the visiting Chicoutimi Sagueneens, 3-2, in the fourth OT period. . . . F D’Artagnan Joly scored the winner at 9:15 of the fourth extra period, meaning the goal came after 129 minutes 15 seconds of hockey. . . . Rimouski had forced OT with a goal at 18:56 of the third period. . . . The Oceanic leads the first-round series, 2-0, with Game 3 in Chicoutimi on Tuesday. . . . The longest game in QMJHL history lasted 146:31 when the host Hull Olympiques beat the Victoriaville Tigres, 3-2, on March 19, 1999. . . . The second-longest game (132:57) featured the visiting Cape Breton Screaming Eagles beating the Quebec Remparts, 3-2, on April 3, 2009. . . . The longest game in CHL history occurred on April 2, 2017, when the visiting Everett Silvertips beat the Victoria Royals 3-2 in a game that went 151:36. F Cal Babych scored the winner at 11:36 of the fifth OT period. That was Game 6 of a first-round series, and Everett won it, 4-2, on Babych’s goal.


Dean Maynard is the new general manager and head coach of the junior Osoyoos Coyotes of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Maynard had been the Coyotes’ interim head coach since Mark Chase was fired on Jan. 14. . . . Maynard had been an assistant coach on Chase’s staff.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: There was only one playoff game on Sunday, with the Medicine Hat Tigers visiting the Edmonton Oil Kings for Game 2 of their series. The Oil Kings won that game to pull even, 1-1, in that series. . . . The WHL will be dark today (Monday), before a seven-game Tuesday. Only the Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans won’t play on Tuesday; they resume Wednesday in Kennewick, Wash. . . . After Sunday’s game, home teams now are 12-4. . . . When Kamloops G Dylan Ferguson skated onto the ice in Victoria for the Blazers’ game with the Royals on Saturday night, it was the first playoff experience of his WHL career. Ferguson, 20, made 156 regular-season appearances, all with the Blazers. Ferguson, from Lantzville, B.C., which is 125 km northwest of Victoria, was the game’s first star as the Blazers beat the Royals, 4-3, in OT to even the series, 1-1. . . . The Blazers went into Saturday’s game having lost nine straight games in Victoria.

SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Edmonton Oil Kings scored the only two goals of the third period to beat the visiting EdmontonOilKingsMedicine Hat Tigers, 4-3. . . . The series is tied, 1-1, as the teams head to Medicine Hat for games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. . . . F Liam Keeler (1) gave Edmonton a 1-0 lead at 2:26 of the first period, but the Tigers took a 2-1 lead before the period ended on a pair of goals from D Linus Nassen. The first, on a PP, came at 11:36. He broke the tie at 14:39. . . . F Vince Loschiavo (1) scored, on a PP, to get the Oil Kings into a 2-2 tie at 12:49 of the second period. . . . Medicine Hat went back on top at 18:42 when F Brett Kemp (1) scored, on a PP. . . . The Oil Kings moved back into a tie at 7:25 of the third period as F Carter Souch (1) scored. . . . F Quinn Benjafield (1) won it with a goal at 17:04. . . . Nassen also had an assist, giving him a three-point outing. . . . Medicine Hat was 2-3 on the PP; Edmonton was 1-2. . . . Edmonton G Dylan Myskiw recorded the victory with 18 saves. . . . Mads Søgaard of the Tigers, who had made 49 saves in a 2-1 victory on Saturday night, blocked 37 shots in this one. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News points out that the Tigers have yet to beat the Oil Kings twice in the same playoff series. In two previous meetings, Edmonton swept Medicine in 2013 and won in five games in 2014.


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Stankoven continues spinning records. . . . Almeida leads Warriors to win. . . . Sudden-Death Byram strikes in OT again


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A few WHL-related notes . . .

If you’re wondering why the Brandon Wheat Kings are on the road these days, the above tweet tells the story. The 2019 Tim Hortons Brier is scheduled to run from March 2 through March 9 in Westoba Place and the icemakers already are hard at work. . . . The Wheat Kings have nine games remaining. They will begin a six-game trek through the Central Division when they meet the Hitmen in Calgary on Friday. The Wheat Kings won’t play at home again until March 16 when they are to entertain the Regina Pats. . . . At this point, the Wheat Kings are hanging on to the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, two points behind the Medicine Hat Tigers and two ahead of the Red Deer Rebels. Brandon is to play in Red Deer on March 8 and in Medicine Hat on March 9.

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Say what you want about WHL attendance figures — and there are a lot of times when the announced attendance doesn’t seem to match the number of butts in the seats — but the Everett Silvertips put 15,684 fans in the pews for back-to-back home games this weekend. . . . On the same nights, Friday and Saturday, the Spokane Chiefs played two home games and drew a total of 18,140 fans. . . . Just a thought but maybe the Memorial Cup would look good in one of those cities.

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When Kamloops lost, 2-0, to the Rockets in Kelowna on Saturday night, the Blazers were credited with 18 shots on goal. . . . “That was 18 shots that the Kelowna scorekeepers kept,” Kamloops head coach Serge Lajoie told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week. “By our count, we had 27. It’s a little misleading. It’s a psychological advantage for them. We had some good chances, just like they did.” . . . Lajoie was saying out loud what a lot of WHL coaches think, and have thought over the years.

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When Wyatte Wylie scored his 10th goal of the season for Everett on Saturday night, it gave the Silvertips three defencemen with at least that many scores. Jake Christiansen has 12; Gianni Fairbrother has 10. . . . The three also have combined for 121 points.

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Mitch Love, in his first season as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades, spent the previous seven seasons on the staff of the Everett Silvertips. While Everett, which joined the WHL for 2003-04, has never missed the playoffs, the Blades clinched a berth on Saturday for the first time since 2013. . . . It’s neat that Love wasn’t able to conceal his excitement in the post-game media scrum. “There are a few guys in the room who obviously haven’t played a playoff game in their career,” Love said.“It is awesome for them. They are going to get that experience. We have a lot of guys that we have brought in here throughout the year that have had playoff experience. This is my eighth consecutive season of playoff hockey, so I may look like I’m not that excited tonight, but I am. I’m a hockey coach, and I am always looking to be better the next day. I’m excited for our guys.” . . . Darren Steinke, the travellin’ blogger, has more from the Blades’ clinching victory right here.

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You are free to wonder if the hockey fans of Saskatoon and area have re-discovered the Blades, now that they are playoff bound once again. Their last two home games have drawn crowds of 4,815 and 4,334 — the first time this season they have had back-to-back gatherings of 4,000-plus. . . . The Blades have six home games remaining.

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Headline at globalnews.ca: Saskatoon Blades clinch playoff birth with 4-3 shootout win over Kootenay Ice.

So . . . does that mean the Blades are due in April/May?

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There still is a lot to be decided, but the first round of the playoffs could feature the Prince Albert Raiders, who will finish atop the Eastern Conference, against the Brandon Wheat Kings, who may end up in the second wild-card spot. . . . The Wheat Kings are the only team to have beaten the Raiders twice this season — 5-4 in OT in Prince Albert on Feb. 15, and 6-3 in Brandon the next night. . . . The Raiders then whipped Brandon, 7-1, at home on Saturday night. . . . “We were looking forward to this one,” Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Herald after Saturday’s game. “They were trying to take some liberties. They were running around at us and they were taunting us a bit after they got those two wins, so the guys were pretty excited to face them again.” . . . Habscheid, who just may have been priming the playoff pump, added: “That was probably as dominant a performance was we’ve had all season, which is good to see as we continue to get in that playoff mindset.”

——

A tip of the Taking Note fedora to F Stelio Mattheos of the Brandon Wheat Kings and F Reece Vitelli of the Everett Silvertips. On Jan. 10, they were told that they had been involved in a trade and would be swapping teams. Shortly afterwards, they were told that, uhh, no, the trade was off. No one has spelled out exactly what happened, but both players handled the mess like true professionals, or true student-athletes. . . . Mattheos, 19, has put up 14 goals and 25 assists in 21 games since Jan. 10. . . . Vitelli, 17, has five goals and four assists in 18 games since then, but has been especially proficient of late with three goals and three assists over his past four games.

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The Swift Current Broncos, who are the WHL’s defending champions, won’t be in the playoffs this time around. They have played 57 games and are 10-42-5; they have won four times in regulation time. They begin a seven-game road trip on Tuesday in Edmonton as the Oil Kings hold their annual Hooky Hockey game. It starts at 11 a.m. . . . The Kootenay Ice (11-38-10) has won eight games in regulation time.

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It is information that is this that highlights why every WHL team should have an in-house historian.

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On the subject of attendance, according to hockeydb, the BCHL’s Penticton Vees are averaging 3,105 fans per game this season. Also of note are the Wenatchee Wild (2,426), Chilliwack Chiefs (2,147), Vernon Vipers (1,975) and Trail Smoke Eaters (1,873). . . . Penticton’s average attendance is higher than five WHL teams — the Medicine Hat Tigers (3,012), Prince Albert Raiders (2,602), Prince George Cougars (2,600), Swift Current Broncos (2,386) and Kootenay Ice (2,201).


F Logan Stankoven of the Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League put his name into the record book with his 45th goal of the season on thompsonblazersSunday.

Stankoven broke the record in leading the Blazers to a 7-2 victory over the South Island Royals in Kamloops’ Memorial Arena.

The previous record of 44 had been set by F Tyson Jost of the Kelowna-based Okanagan Rockets in 2013-14. Jost now plays for the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

Stankoven also had three assists on Sunday, and now has 90 points in 34 games. The Blazers have four games remaining in their regular season.

The league record for points in a season is 108 and belongs to F Alex Kerfoot, who did it in 38 games in 2010-11 with the Vancouver North West Giants. Kerfoot, who had 36 goals and 72 assists that season, is a teammate of Jost’s with the Avalanche.

The Kamloops Blazers selected Stankoven with the fifth overall pick of the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Stankoven, who is from Kamloops, has one assist in seven WHL games this season.

Last season, Stankoven played for the bantam prep team at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., putting up 57 goals and 33 assists in 30 games.


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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Justin Almeida scored once and added three assists to help the host Moose Jaw MooseJawWarriorsWarriors to a 5-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Moose Jaw (34-16-8) has won three in a row. It is third in the East Division, eight points behind the Saskatoon Blades with two games in hand. . . . Kootenay (11-39-10) has lost nine straight (0-7-2). . . . This was the third game in fewer than 48 hours for both teams. Moose Jaw finished 3-0-0). Kootenay actually was playing its fourth road game in five days — it went 0-2-2. . . . It was the 10th time in Almeida’s WHL career — and the fifth time this season — that he put up at least four points. He now has 87 points, including a league-leading 62 assists, in 54 games. . . . The Warriors scored the game’s first four goals. . . . F Keenan Taphorn (14) got the first one, scoring against his former team at 10:26 of the first period, and F Brayden Tracey (31) made it 2-0, on a PP, at 16:27. . . . Tracey’s goal proved to be the winner. He leads the WHL with 10 GWG. . . . F Tristin Langan (45) upped it to 3-0, at 6:52 of the second period, and Almeida (25) made it 4-0, on a PP, at 9:56 of the third. . . . F Owen Pederson (4) scored for the Ice, on a PP, at 12:18. . . . F Tate Popple (11) got Moose Jaw’s last goal, on a PP, at 19:22. . . . Tracey added two assists to his goal and now has 73 points, including 42 assists in 58 games as a freshman. . . . Langan also had two assists. He’s got 96 points in 57 games. Langan is seven points off the WHL scoring lead that is held by F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks. Last season, Langan finished with 16 goals and 26 assists in 70 games. . . . Moose Jaw was 3-5 on the PP; Kootenay was 1-4. . . . The Warriors got 26 saves from G Brodan Salmond, while Curtis Meger also stopped 26 for the Ice.


D Bowen Byram scored his fourth OT goal of the season to give the Vancouver Giants a 2-Vancouver1 victory over the Royals in Victoria. . . . Vancouver (41-14-4) has points in three straight (2-0-1). It will finish atop the B.C. Division, and now is two points behind the Western Conference-leading Everett Silvertips. The Giants have one game in hand. . . . Victoria (31-25-4) is second in the B.C. Division, nine points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets. . . . These teams met three times in fewer than 48 hours. The Giants won, 4-0, in Vancouver on Friday; the Royals won 5-4 in a shootout on home ice on Saturday. . . . Vancouver won the season series, 6-2-2); Victoria was 4-4-2). . . . F Justin Sourdif (19) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 4:18 of the first period. . . . The Royals tied it at 16:00 of the third when F Phillip Schultz (15) scored, on a PP. . . . Byram won it with his 22nd goal of the season, just 59 seconds into OT. He’s got seven game-winners this season. . . . Vancouver was 1-4 on the PP; Victoria was 1-8. . . . The Giants got 25 saves from G Trent Miner. G David Tendeck was back in a Vancouver uniform after missing one game for what the team said was “personal reasons.” . . . The Royals got 28 stops from G Brock Gould. . . . The Royals scratched F Kaid Oliver, who went heavily into the boards in the second period of Saturday’s game and left the game favouring a wrist. Oliver leads the Royals in goals (27) and points (49) so it really will sting if he is out for any length of time.


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