Lamb, Matvichuk talk about Cougars . . . Montgomery sets Raiders’ record . . . Søgaard, Tigers shock Silvertips

MacBeth

F Nikita A. Popugayev (Moose Jaw, Prince George, 2015-18) has been released by mutual agreement by Amur Khabarovsk (Russia, KHL). He had one goal in 37 games. He also had four goals and four assists in nine games with Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk (Russia, MHL, the top junior league). . . . Popugayev started the season with CSKA Moscow (Russia, KHL) and was assigned to their junior team, Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (Russia, MHL), where he had two goals and an assist in three games. CSKA traded Popugayev to Amur on Sept. 9.


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Mark Lamb, in his first season as general manager of the Prince George Cougars, worked his first game as head coach on Friday night in a 4-3 loss to the Rockets in Kelowna.

That loss left the Cougars riding a 12-game losing skid (0-9-3) was they head for Langley, PrinceGeorgeB.C., and a Sunday afternoon appointment with the B.C. Division-leading Vancouver Giants.

The Giants won twice in Prince George this week — 4-2 on Tuesday and 4-3 in OT on Wednesday.

The Cougars fired head coach Richard Matvichuk, who was in the last season of a three-year contract, after Wednesday’s game.

Lamb and Matvichuk talked about the move with Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen.

Here’s Lamb: “This has been ongoing for a while — I think it was inevitable that something was going to happen (Wednesday) night, win or lose. At the start of the (season) we talked about a lot of development and getting better all the time and we seemed to be stagnant and just kind of not getting better.

“It’s a lengthy streak and it’s hard on everybody — the coaches, the owners, office staff, everybody. It’s not a fun time and you just can’t keep it going. You have to do something to make it change.

“Whether he had one year or two years left was irrelevant on how we were thinking.”

Here’s Matvichuk: “When you go all-in, like we did two years ago, and you take a look at how many players were drafted in the last five years who aren’t even playing in the WHL, regardless of whether it’s a first-rounder or a seventh-rounder, the development curve wasn’t there.

“We knew as an organization last (season) when we decided to go into our rebuild it was going to be a struggle, and it was a struggle. We’re not far off where me and the coaching staff thought we’d be, right around 20 or 25 (wins) and fighting for that last playoff spot this year and that’s exactly where we’re at. Going through the season our goal was to get better every day, the playoffs was never an issue, it was about developing these kids to get ready for the next three years. It wasn’t about winning and losing, it was about making these players better every day and I truly believe that’s what we did.”

Clarke’s complete and thorough story is right here.


The AJHL’s Whitecourt Wolverines and Gord Thibodeau, their vice-president of hockey operations, general manager and head coach, have parted company. . . . Assistant coach Shawn Martin has taken over as interim GM/head coach. . . . “After 25 years of coaching, I have reached the inevitable point of hockey burnout,” Thibodeau said in a news release. “Moving forward I will take some time to rest, recharge and re-evaluate my future within the game of hockey.” . . . Thibodeau is the winningest head coach in WHL history, having put up 889 regular-season victories. . . . The Wolverines went into Friday at 19-30-2, good for seventh in the eight-team Viterra AJHL North. . . . Thibodeau, 55, has been coaching in the AJHL since 1994 spending time with the Fort Saskatchewan Traders, Lloydminster Blazers, St. Albert Saints, Fort McMurray Oil Barons, Lloydminster Bobcats and the Wolverines. . . . He also has battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on four different occasions since 1989, most recently in 2016.


D Kyle Chernenkoff had his BCHL playing career come to an end in January when Trailanother brain injury forced him to retire from the Trail Smoke Eaters. . . . An alternate captain, Chernenkoff, 20, now is a member of the Trail coaching staff. . . . “It wasn’t really a hard decision to make,” Chernenkoff told Jim Bailey of the Trail Times. “It was a decision made for me by the doctors. It was a hard pill to swallow so I took a couple days to come to terms with it myself, and then transitioning into the coaching and being with the team made it easier for me to make that transition.” . . . Bailey’s story is right here.


FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Ben McCartney scored the only goal of a shootout as the Brandon Wheat Kings beat the BrandonWKregularvisiting Swift Current Broncos, 3-2. . . . Brandon (23-21-7) had lost its previous two games. It now is six points from a playoff spot. . . . Swift Current (10-37-4) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . The Wheat Kings, who were 0-6 on the PP, fired 55 shots at Broncos G Riley Lamb, who is from Rivers, which is 30 km northwest of Brandon. . . . F Baron Thompson (6) gave Brandon a 1-0 lead at 17:49 of the first period, and D Braden Schneider (8) made it 2-0 at 13:48 of the second. . . . F Joona Kiviniemi (13) got Swift Current’s first goal, at 18:48. . . . F Ethan O’Rourke (10) got the Broncos to OT with a goal at 18:40 of the third period. Yes, Lamb was on the bench for the extra attacker at the time. . . . McCartney, the second shooter in the first round, got the winner. . . . Brandon had a 21-6 edge in first-period shots, and it was 19-6 in the second period. . . . Brandon remains without G Jiri Patera (leg), but did get back D Braydyn Chizen from suspension and F Linden McCorrister from an undisclosed injury.


F Noah Gregor scored three times and added an assist as the Prince Albert Raiders PrinceAlbertskated to an 8-2 victory over the Calgary Wranglers (aka Calgary Hitmen). . . Prince Albert (44-7-2) has won three in a row and leads the East Division by 18 points over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Calgary (27-20-5) had points in each of its previous seven games (6-0-1). It is fifth in the Central Division, one point behind the Red Deer Rebels. The Hitmen also hold down the Eastern Conference’s second-wild card spot. . . . This was the third game of the three-game Corral Series in which the Hitmen saluted the three teams that have called the Corral home — the Centennials, Cowboys and Wranglers. . . . The Raiders swept the four-game season series, the first time in franchise history that they have done that with Calgary. . . . The Raiders took control of this one by scoring the game’s first four goals. . . . F Dante Hannoun (25) got it started, on a PP, at 7:33 of the first period, with F Cole Fonstad making it 2-0 at 8:37. . . . Gregor upped that to 3-0 at 3:12 of the second period, and D Sergei Sapego (8) made it 4-0 at 3:33. . . . F Riley Stotts (16) scored for Calgary at 16:20, but the Raiders opened the third period with four straight goals to take an 8-1 lead. . . . Fonstad, who has 24 goals, finished with two goals and three assists, giving him his first career five-point game. . . . Gregor completed his second career hat trick with his side’s last two goals. He has 33 goals. . . . F James Malm (22) scored Calgary’s second goal on a penalty shot at 17:03 of the third. . . . Calgary G Jack McNaughton left in the first period after being involved in a collision with Raiders F Brett Leason. McNaughton had skated out to the hash marks in pursuit of a puck that Leason was chasing. That meant that Carl Stankowski came off the bench to see his first playing time since Nov. 23 when he suffered an ankle injury. . . . McNaughton stopped five of seven shots in 8:58, with Stankowski giving up six goals on 38 shots in 51:02. . . . Prince Albert got 21 saves from G Ian Scott. . . . F Sean Montgomery of the Raiders, who is from Calgary, played in his 331st regular-season game to set a franchise record. F Brett Novak (2000-06) had held the previous record. . . . Montgomery, 20, was a sixth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. He has played 65, 72, 69, 72 and now 53 games in each of his regular-seasons. . . . Montgomery had one assist last night, and now has 134 points, including 64 goals, in 331 games. This season, he has career highs in goals (21), assists (28) and points (49). . . . F Justin Nachbaur of the Raiders sat out Game 2 of a three-game suspension. . . . The Hitmen are without D Dakota Krebs, D Egor Zamula, F Jake Kryski and F Hunter Campbell.


D Josh Brook scored 35 seconds into OT to give the Moose Jaw Warriors a 4-3 victory over MooseJawWarriorsthe Hurricanes in Lethbridge. . . . Moose Jaw (29-13-8) had lost its previous two games. It is third in the East Division, six points behind the Saskatoon Blades with three games in hand. . . . Lethbridge (27-15-10) has points in four straight (2-0-2). It is tied with the Medicine Hat Tigers for second in the Central Division, two points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . The Warriors, who got 47 saves from G Adam Evanoff, were 3-3 on the PP. . . . F Jake Elmer (21) put the Hurricanes ahead at 5:20 of the first period, only to have Brook tie it at 8:23. . . . Lethbridge went ahead 3-1 on goals from D Calen Addison (9), at 8:54, and F Taylor Ross (25), on a PP, at 0:19 of the second period. . . . F Justin Almeida, who also had two assists, got Moose Jaw into a tie with two second-period PP goals, at 6:53 and 15:54. He’s got 23 goals. . . . Brook, who also had two assists, won it with his 12th goal of the season. . . . The Warriors got three assists from F Brayden Tracey. . . . Elmer added two assists to his goal for Lethbridge. . . . The Hurricanes were 1-5 on the PP. . . . Moose Jaw had F Tristin Langan back after he served a one-game suspension, but now is without D Jett Woo, who will sit for two games after taking a charging major and game misconduct in a 6-1 loss to the Blades in Saskatoon on Wednesday. Woo also will miss tonight’s game in Red Deer against the Rebels.


D Ryker Evans scored at 2:37 of OT to give the Regina Pats a 3-2 victory over the Rebels in PatsRed Deer. . . Regina (15-36-3) is 26 points from a playoff spot with 14 games remaining. . . . Red Deer (28-18-4) has lost four straight (0-3-1). It is fourth in the Central Division, four points out of third and one up on the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Red Deer went up 1-0 when F Cam Hausinger (17) scored at 1:35 of the second period. . . . Regina tied it on F Ty Kolle’s 12th goal, on a PP, at 2:39. . . . F Brett Davis (16) put Red Deer back in front, on a PP, at 10:14. . . . Regina tied it when F Logan Nijhoff (4) scored at 15:24. . . . Evans won it when he scored his first WHL goal on a PP. A 17-year-old freshman from Calgary, Evans scored in his 31st games. . . . Red Deer F Brandon Hagel drew an assist on his club’s second goal to tie the franchise’s career record of 161. He now shares it with F Arron Asham (1994-98). . . . Regina had D Tyson Feist back after a four-game absence, while F Brandon Dubinsky completed a four-game suspension by missing this game. . . . The Rebels had D Alex Alexeyev back in their lineup. He missed six games since last playing on Jan. 19.


Freshman F Lukas Svejkovsky had a goal and two assists, and veteran F Tristen Nielsen Vancouverhad two goals and an assist, to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 3-1 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. . . . Vancouver (36-13-3) has won four in a row, including the last three on the road. . . . The Giants now are 20-3-2 against the other B.C. Division teams. They lead the division by 20 points over the Victoria Royals. . . . Kamloops (20-26-5) had points in each of its previous three games (1-0-2). It is fourth in the B.C. Division, four points behind the Kelowna Rockets, who are to visit Kamloops tonight. The Blazers also are one point behind the Seattle Thunderbirds, who hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Svejkovsky, who opened the scoring on Jan. 30 when the Giants won, 3-2 in OT, in Kamloops, did it again, this time at 16:07 of the first period. It was his sixth goal of the season. . . . F Connor Zary (13) pulled Kamloops even, on a PP, at 12:33 of the second period. . . . The Giants won it on two goals from Nielsen in the third period. He got his eighth goal at 12:44, then added insurance, on a PP, at 14:42. Both goals came off slick passes from F Jadon Joseph, with Svejkovsky getting the secondary assist each time. . . . Nielsen also had an assist on Svejkovsky’s goal. . . . Vancouver G Trent Miner, who finished with 26 saves, appeared to be shaken up halfway through the third period when he stumbled and went down on his own behind the Giants’ net. Mike Burnstein, the athletic therapist, went out to chat with Miner as he was stretching his irons, but the goaltender stayed in and finished up. . . . The Blazers got 31 stops from G Dylan Ferguson. . . . Each team was 1-6 on the PP as both goaltenders stood tall. . . . With F Ryley Appelt still out with a finger injury incurred in a fight, the Blazers had F Logan Stankoven, the fifth-overall pick in the 2018 bantam draft, in the lineup for his sixth game of the season. Stankoven plays for the Kamloops-based Thompson Blazers of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. He leads the league in goals (40), assists (36) and points (76), all in 31 games. . . . Kamloops D Montana Onyebuchi missed this one as he began serving a three-game suspension. . . . D Dallas Hines was one of Vancouver’s scratches. . . . Vancouver F Jared Dmytriw played in his 300th regular-season game. The team captain, he has played 95 games with Vancouver, after starting his career by playing 179 with the Victoria Royals, then 26 with the Red Deer Rebels.


F Mark Liwiski broke a 3-3 tie in the third period as the Kelowna Rockets scoured the KelownaRocketsgame’s last three goals to get past the visiting Prince George Cougars, 4-3. . . . Kelowna (22-26-5) is third in the B.C. Division, four points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers. . . . Prince George (16-31-6) has lost 12 in a row (0-9-3) and is eight points from a playoff spot. . . . The Cougars jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from D Cole Moberg (11), on a PP, at 13:13, and F Josh Curtis, at 16:13. . . . F Nolan Foote halved Kelowna’s deficit while shorthanded, at 18:14. . . . Curtis stretched the lead to 3-1 with his 11th goal, on a PP, at 19:07. . . . D Cayde Augustine pulled the Rockets to within a goal with his his first goal of the season, on a PP, at 9:20 of the second period. . . . That also was Augustine’s first WHL point and came in his 28th game. He’s a 17-year-old from Airdrie, Alta. . . . Foote’s 28th goal, at 8:05 of the third period, tied it, and Liwiski won it with his sixth goal, at 12:10. . . . G Roman Basran came on in relief for the Rockets and stopped all 15 shots he faced through two periods to earn the victory. . . . G Taylor Gauthier, Prince George’s starter, left the game at 9:05 of the third period with an injury. There wasn’t a penalty on the play. He had stopped 17 of 20 shots. Tyler Brennan, 15, came on to make his WHL debut, and stopped four of five shots. . . . Brennan, from Winnipeg, was the 21st-overall selection in the 2018 bantam draft. He is on the roster with Isaiah DiLaura out with an undisclosed injury. . . . Kelowna F Conner Bruggen-Cate completed a two-game suspension by sitting out.


The Portland Winterhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to a 4-1 victory over the PortlandSeattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash. . . . Portland (33-15-5) is second in the U.S. Division, five points behind the Everett Silvertips. . . . Seattle (20-26-6) has lost two in a row. It is in possession of the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point ahead of the Kamloops Blazers. . . . F Joachim Blichfeld gave Portland a 1-0 lead with his WHL-leading 44th goal at 2:07 of the first period. . . . D John Ludvig (4) made it 2-0 at 10:41. . . . F Lane Gilliss (13) upped the lead to 3-0 at 11:18 of the second period. . . . Seattle cut into the deficit at 16:13 of the third period as F Matthew Wedman (26) scored, on a PP. . . . F Josh Paterson’s 20th goal, into an empty net, wrapped it up for the Winterhawks. . . . Seattle was 1-6 on the PP; Portland was 0-2. . . . G Shane Farkas earned the victory with 25 saves, one more than Seattle’s Cole Schwebius. . . . Farkas now is 9-1-0 in his career against Seattle. . . . Portland continues to play without F Cody Glass (knee). . . . Seattle D Simon Kubicek left in the first period and didn’t return. He is expected to miss some time with an undisclosed injury. . . . D Jarret Tyszka was back in Seattle’s lineup after missing a couple of games, but F Nolan Volcan remains out. . . . Attendance on a stormy night was announced as 2,688.


F Ethan McIndoe scored two goals and added two assists, and D Nolan Reid had a goal SpokaneChiefsand three helpers, as the Spokane Chiefs dumped the visiting Victoria Royals, 8-3. . . . Spokane (28-17-6) has points in five straight (4-0-1). It is third in the U.S. Division, nine points behind the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Victoria (26-22-3) is second in the B.C. Division, six points ahead of the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Victoria actually held a 3-2 lead late in the first period, but then surrendered the game’s last six goals. . . . The Chiefs held a 49-31 edge in shots, including 20-14 in the first period and 21-8 in the third. They were 4-8 on the PP and won 46 of 74 faceoffs. . . . Spokane F Luc Smith (23) tied the game 3-3 at 17:45 of the first period. . . . McIndoe, who has 12 goals, broke the tie at 8:55, and Spokane later added four third-period goals. . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his seventh goal of the season for Spokane, and it was the 100th of his career. . . . Spokane F Connor Gabruch, who didn’t score for the first 34 games of his freshman season, scored his second goal in two games. . . . F Jake McGrew (23) and F Luke Toporowski (16) added goals for the winners, who in the third period scored three times on the PP and once while shorthanded. . . . Reid, who has two four-point games during his 315-game career, now has 12 goals this season. . . . D Mitchell Prowse (3), F Kaid Oliver (22) and F Kody McDonald, on a PP, scored for the Royals, who began a five-game road swing with this one.


F Parker AuCoin scored three times and added two assists to lead the Tri-City Americans tri-cityto a 7-4 victory over the Kootenay Ice in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Tri-City (28-19-3) has won three straight games. It is fourth in the U.S. Division, four points behind the Spokane Chiefs. The Americans hold down the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, 13 points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Kootenay (11-34-8) has lost two in a row. . . . F Peyton Krebs (18) gave the Ice a 1-0 lead at 6:22 of the first period, with AuCoin tying it, on a PP, at 11:49. . . . The Ice then took a 3-1 lead on goals from F Cole Muir (11), at 15:37, and F Holden Kodak (1), at 16:33. Holden, a 17-year-old from Cloverdale, B.C., got his first WHL goal in his 40th game, 38 of them this season. . . . The Americans scored the games next five goals to take control. . . . F Nolan Yaremko (19) made it a one-goal game at 17:05. . . . F Krystof Hrabik scored while shorthanded at 13:38 of the second period to tie the score, and AuCoin’s 29th goal gave Tri-City the lead at 14:53. . . . F Paycen Bjorklund (4) and AuCoin, with his 30th goal, added insurance before the period ended. . . . In the third period, Hrabik got his 13th goal for the winners, with F Jakin Smallwood (10) counting for the ice. . . . AuCoin enjoyed his first career hat trick and his first five-point game.


G Mads Søgaard stopped 41 shots to lead the Medicine Hat Tigers to a 1-0 victory over the Tigers Logo Officialhost Everett Silvertips. . . . Medicine Hat (30-18-4) has won three in a row. The Tigers are tied for second with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Central Division, two points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Everett (37-13-2) had won its past four games. It leads the U.S. Division by five points over the Portland Winterhawks, with the Silvertips holding a game in hand. . . . Søgaard, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Denmark, was hot right from the start, as he stopped 17 shots in the first period. . . . F James Hamblin scored the game’s only goal, his 29th, on a PP at 16:40 of the second period. . . . Everett got 28 saves from G Dustin Wolf. . . . This was a battle of two of the league’s best goaltenders. . . . Søgaard now is 14-4-4, 2.24, .933. . . . Wolf is 33-12-1, 1.81, .931.


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


MacBeth

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was Harkins who hired Matvichuk.

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

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

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


F Ilijah Colina left the Prince George Cougars last week.

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

From a news release:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Hitmen add two players to roster . . . Lamb discusses being WHL GM . . . Giants win battle of division leaders


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Earlier this week, the Calgary Hitmen returned G Brayden Peters to the midget AAA CalgaryLethbridge Hurricanes. On Thursday, they brought him back. This would seem to indicate that G Carl Stankowski (ankle) isn’t yet ready to return. With Stankowski out, G Jack McNaughton has started 19 straight games. A 17-year-old freshman from Calgary, McNaughton is 15-12-2, 3.32, .888 in 30 appearances this season. . . . At the same time, the Hitmen have added F Orca Wiesblatt from the MJHL’s Portage Terriers. He has six goals and nine assists in 16 games with the Terriers, and was pointless in two earlier games with the Hitmen. . . . The Hitmen are to entertain the Prince George Cougars tonight.


Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be the general manager of a WHL team? How about the GM of a team that has changed philosophy and now had a plan that involves building a strong foundation? Mark Lamb, the first-year general manager of the Prince George Cougars, sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat for an episode of the Cat Scan podcast and it’s all right here.


THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Davis Koch scored twice to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 3-1 victory over the Prince VancouverAlbert Raiders in Langley, B.C. . . . Vancouver (30-12-2) has won seven straight games. It leads the B.C. Division by 15 points over the Victoria Royals. . . . The Giants are 19-5-1 at home. They went 6-0-0 against the East Division this season, as all six teams visited Langley. . . . Prince Albert (40-6-2) had points in each of its previous six games (5-0-1). The Raiders, who are 20-3-2 on the road, went 3-1-1 in its swing through the B.C. Division. They still lead the East Division by 20 points over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . F Brayden Watts (11) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 13:15 of the second period. . . . Koch upped the lead to 2-0 at 8:37 of the third period. That goal stood up as the winner, giving him three winners in as many games. . . . D Brayden Pachal (12) got the Raiders to within a goal at 18:22. . . . Koch iced the victory with an empty-netter at 19:32. . . . Koch, who has 18 goals, is riding a six-game goal streak and a seven-game point streak. He has 16 points, including seven goals, over those seven games. . . . For the season, Koch has 49 points in 44 games. . . . Prince Albert was 0-4 on the PP; Vancouver was 0-1. . . . The Giants got 31 saves from G Trent Miner, who had a great night. He now is 14-3-1, 1.86, .933. . . . Prince Albert G Ian Scott stopped 25 shots. . . . Head coach Marc Habscheid was back with the Raiders, after having been in Red Deer at the Top Prospects Game. Also arriving in Vancouver from Red Deer in time to play were F Brett Leason of the Raiders and D Bowen Byram of the Giants. . . . The game was televised on Sportsnet. Early in the second period, analyst Sam Cosentino said he had been told there were 140 NHL people in the building.


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Hitmen lose their head coach . . . Porter leaving Broncos . . . A team-by-team look at what’s been happening


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F Mark Derlago (Brandon, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with Esbjerg (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Last season, with the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite), he had 18 goals and 33 assists in 54 games. He was second on the Panthers in goals, assists and points. . . . Derlago played for Esbjerg in 2014-15, when he finished third in league scoring. Mark Pederson (Medicine Hat, 1983-88) is Esbjerg’s GM and head coach. . . .

D Jesse Dudas (Lethbridge, Prince George, Swift Current, Regina, 2003-09) signed a one-year extension with MAC Budapest (Hungary, Slovakia Extraliga). Last season, he had five goals and 15 assists in 30 games with Budapest in Erste Bank Liga. The club is moving to Slovakia’s Extraliga for this season. . . .

D Dylan Yeo (Prince George, Calgary, 2003-07) signed a one-year contract with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL). Last season, with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL), he had 11 goals and 12 assists in 51 games. An alternate captain, he led DEL defencemen in goals.


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There were two more — that we know of — departures from the front offices of WHL teams on Tuesday.

The Calgary Hitmen announced that head coach Dallas Ferguson has resigned after one season “due to family reasons.”

General manager Jeff Chynoweth is quoted in a news release saying: “Dallas approached Calgaryme last week, stating his wife is unable to continue to work her current job in Alaska while moving to Calgary as originally planned. As a father to two young girls he does not want to live apart from his family again this (season). We respect this decision, supporting that family comes first and wish Dallas all the best in the future.”

Ferguson joined the Hitmen last summer after 13 seasons with the U of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, the last nine as head coach.

In his lone season in Calgary, the Hitmen, who were in rebuilding mode, went 24-37-11, finished fifth in the six-team Central Division and missed the playoffs.

Chynoweth, the former long-time GM of the Kootenay Ice, just completed his first season with the Hitmen, and now he’ll have to hire his second Calgary head coach.

When Chynoweth starts sorting through resumes, assistant coaches Jason LaBarbera, Trent Cassan and Joel Otto will get consideration.

“If one of these guys is the best candidate,” Chynoweth told Calgary freelancer Rita Mingo, who covered the story for Postmedia, “we’ll definitely look at him. In my past in Kootenay, we promoted a couple of assistant coaches.”

As for when a replacement might be named, Chynoweth told Mingo: “No timeline. I remember one year in Cranbrook, we didn’t hire someone until I think Aug. 6, three weeks before training camp. Ideally, the sooner the better for everyone involved. We’ve had a lot of resumes already and we’ll get more. It’s something that will play out, we’ll get lots of good candidates and we’ll definitely hire the right guy.”

Mingo’s story is right here.

Meanwhile, the Swift Current Broncos announced that Jamie Porter, their director of SCBroncoshockey operations, is leaving the organization “at the end of July.”

Porter had been with the Broncos since 2002 and had been the top dog in the scouting department since 2005.

The terse three-paragraph news release from the Broncos concluded with: “There will be no further comments from the organization.”

That leads one to believe that, in this instance, perhaps parting won’t be such sweet sorrow.


With the Kamloops Blazers and Swift Current Broncos having introduced, or about to introduce, new head coaches this week, let’s take a team-by-team look at what has been happening . . .

EASTERN CONFERENCE

East Division

Brandon Wheat Kings — All is quiet on the WHL’s eastern front.

Moose Jaw Warriors — Things are quiet in Moose Jaw, too.

Prince Albert Raiders — Associate coach Dave Manson now is an assistant coach with the Bakersfield Condors, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. General manager Curtis Hunt and head coach Marc Habscheid will be looking for a replacement.

Regina Pats — There is speculation that general manager/head coach John Paddock will leave the bench, turning the head-coaching duties over to Dave Struch, the assistant GM and assistant coach. That move is expected to happen; it just hasn’t happened yet.

Saskatoon Blades — They have hired Mitch Love as head coach to replace Dean Brockman, who was fired when last season ended. Brockman had been with the Blades for four seasons, the last two as head coach. Love joins the Blades from the Everett Silvertips, where he was an assistant coach for seven seasons. . . . The Blades also hired Ryan Marsh as an assistant coach, to replace Bryce Thoma, who was dismissed shortly after Brockman. Marsh was fired by the Edmonton Oil Kings following the season. He had been there for four seasons.

Swift Current — The Broncos have hired Dean Brockman as their director of hockey operations and head coach, replacing Manny Viveiros, now an assistant coach with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers. . . . Jamie Porter, who had been the director of hockey operations, will leave the organization at the end of July.

——

Central Division

Calgary Hitmen — Head coach Dallas Ferguson is leaving after one season, citing family reasons for his departure. Ferguson had taken over from Mark French, who spent three seasons with the Hitmen before leaving to become head coach of HC Fribourg-Gottéron in the Swiss National League.

Edmonton Oil Kings — They need a head coach, having fired Steve Hamilton, and an assistant after dismissing Ryan Marsh, who landed on his feet with the Saskatoon Blades. The Oil Kings also need a general manager after they and Randy Hansch chose to go in different directions. It has been speculated for almost two months that former WHLer Kirt Hill will be named director of hockey operations.

Kootenay Ice — Things have been quiet in Cranbrook, although the Ice did add Tyler MacDonald of Winnipeg to its scouting staff. According to the team website, he is the organization’s lone scout so it could be that more additions are soon to be made.

Lethbridge Hurricanes — The winds of change have left the Hurricanes alone.

Medicine Hat Tigers — They parted company with Carter Sears after one season as director of player personnel. Bobby Fox has moved from behind the bench as an assistant coach to replace Sears. Shaun Clouston, the GM and head coach, says he will hire an assistant coach if he finds a good fit.

Red Deer Rebels — The Rebels and Jeff Truitt, their veteran associate coach, went in separate directions after last season. Red Deer later hired Brad Flynn and Ryan Colville as assistant coaches, and is quietly looking for another assistant. Flynn had been the director of hockey operations and head coach for the NAHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays. Most recently, Colville was the president, GM and head coach of the NAHL’s Cincinnati Thunder. . . . The Rebels also hired former WHL G Kraymer Barnstable as their goaltending coach after Taylor Dakers left for the Prince George Cougars.

——

WESTERN CONFERENCE

B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers — They moved out general manager Stu MacGregor, head coach Don Hay, assistant coach Mike Needham and Matt Recchi, the director of player personnel. . . . Matt Bardsley is the new GM, after being in the Portland Winterhawks’ front office since 1999. He has hired Serge Lajoie as head coach. Lajoie is fresh off three seasons as head coach of the U of Alberta Golden Bears — they won the Canadian university title last season. . . . Still to come — at least one assistant coach and a move atop the scouting department.

Kelowna Rockets — All quiet, although assistant coach Travis Crickard has been keeping busy in New Zealand, which is a long way from Flin Flon.

Prince George Cougars — The Cougars hired Mark Lamb as their general manager, replacing Todd Harkins, who was dismissed at season’s end. They also have added their first full-time goaltending coach, that being Taylor Dakers.

Vancouver Giants — Glen Hanlon left the club after two seasons as general manager, and that spot has been filled by Barclay Parneta, who had been the assistant GM with the Tri-City Americans. Parneta then dismissed head coach Jason McKee, who had been there for two seasons. There is speculation that former WHL D Michael Dyck could be the next head coach. . . . Dyck is a former WHL player and coach, who has worked with the Medicine Hat Tigers, Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Giants. He spent three seasons (2002-05) as an assistant coach with Vancouver and was Lethbridge’s head coach for four seasons (2005-09). Of late, he has been coaching minor hockey in Lethbridge. He was the head coach of the midget AAA Hurricanes last season.

Victoria Royals — Things are quiet on Vancouver Island.

——

U.S. Division

Everett Silvertips — They lost Bil La Forge, their director of player personnel, to the Seattle Thunderbirds, who hired him as general manager, so will be looking to fill that spot.

Portland Winterhawks — Matt Bardsley, who had been in the Portland front office since 1999, signed on with the Kamloops Blazers as general manager. He had been the Winterhawks’ since 1999.

Seattle Thunderbirds — Russ Farwell, the Thunderbirds’ general manager for 23 seasons, now is the vice president of hockey operations. Bil La Forge, who had been Everett’s director of player personnel, is the Thunderbirds’ new GM.

Spokane Chiefs — Things are quiet here, too.

Tri-City Americans — Bob Tory, the co-owner and general manager, needs to find an assistant GM to replace Barclay Parneta, now the GM with the Vancouver Giants. As well, head coach Mike Williamson is leaving after four seasons. Brian Pellerin, the associate coach for the past four seasons, may be the favourite to replace Williamson.


TheCoachingGame

Gilles Bouchard has left the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to join the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, as an assistant coach. Bouchard, 47, had been the Huskies’ general manager and head coach. . . . In Syracuse, he’ll work alongside head coach Benoit Groulx. . . . Bouchard also was the head coach of the Canadian U-18 entry for the Hlinka Gretzky Cup that is to be played in Edmonton and Red Deer, Aug. 6-11. Obviously, he will have to be replaced by Hockey Canada. . . . Mitch Love, the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades, and Ryan Oulahen, the head coach of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds, are the assistant coaches.


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Lamb signs on to shepherd Cougars . . . Anholt has updates on injured players . . . Deadmarsh back with Chiefs

MacBeth

F Tanner Eberle (Moose Jaw, 2010-15) signed a one-year contract with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Allen Americans (ECHL), he had two goals and an assist in 11 games. He also had 21 goals and 11 assists in 63 games with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL). He was second on Jacksonville in goals. . . .

D Harrison Ruopp (Prince Albert, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with the Manchester Storm (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had four goals and seven assists in 14 games with the Balgonie Bisons (Qu’Appelle Valley Senior). . . .

D Kendall McFaull (Moose Jaw, 2009-13) signed a one-year contract with the Belfast Giants (Northern Ireland, UK Elite). Last season, with the U of Saskatchewan (Canada West), he had four goals and five assists in 27 games. He was the team captain. . . . McFaull was named to Canada West’s second all-star team, and won Canada West’s Student-Athlete Community Service Award, and the Dr. Randy Gregg Award (U Sports Student-Athlete Community Service).


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The Prince George Cougars introduced Mark Lamb as their new general manager on Tuesday morning. Lamb, 53, signed a four-year contract. He replaces Todd Harkins, PGCougars25whose contract wasn’t renewed after last season. Harkins had been the GM for four seasons. . . . Lamb, a native of Ponteix, Sask., spent seven seasons (2009-16) as the general manager and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos. . . . He left to join the NHL-Arizona Coyotes organization and spent 2016-17 as the head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners. However, he was dismissed after one season. . . . Lamb got into coaching as an assistant with the Edmonton Oilers in 2001-02, then spent six seasons as an assistant with the Dallas Stars. . . . Eric Brewer, one of the Cougars’ owners, was a defenceman with the Oilers when Lamb coached there. Cougars head coach Richard Matvichuk was a defenceman with Dallas when Lamb was on its coaching staff. . . . According to the Prince George Citizen, Matvichuk is starting the last season of a three-year contract as the Cougars’ head coach, while associate coach Steve O’Rourke has two seasons left on a deal. Assistant coach Shawn Chambers’ contract expired on May 31 and there has been no word as to whether he has been extended. Last week, the Cougars hired Taylor Dakers as the organization’s first full-time goaltending coach.


Peter Anholt, the general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, held a news conference on Tuesday to talk about the Friday night incident that left three hockey players in a Calgary hospital.

F Ryan Vandervlis, 20, remains in a medically induced coma and in critical condition, Lethbridgealthough he has been taken off dialysis. F Jordy Bellerive and F Matt Alfaro also are in Calgary’s Foothills Health Centre.

Vandervlis and Bellerive play for the Hurricanes; in fact, Bellerive is the captain. Alfaro, who played in the WHL with the Kootenay Ice and the Hurricanes, just completed his first season with the U of Calgary Dinos.

The three were injured when something went wrong with a fire that was being lit at the home of former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong near Calgary.

Anholt began by reading a prepared statement that included:

“Alfaro and Bellerive sustained burns to their upper bodies and are continuing to make progress and steps towards full recovery. Vandervlis sustained burns to the front of his body and has continued to be in a medically induced coma. He, too, has shown signs of progress having been taken off dialysis (Monday), which again is a real positive step.”

Anholt also continued to discredit earlier reports that claimed the incident occurred during a bachelor party in honour of Wong.

“It has been reported that the campfire occurred during a bachelor party, these reports are inaccurate and totally false,” Anholt’s statement read. “The campfire incident occurred at the family home of former WHL player Tyler Wong along with nine of his friends prior to a planned day of golf and camping.”

Later, Anholt told the news conference that Wong is preparing for his wedding.

“Well, Tyler Wong is getting married and this happened before the wedding, so I guess you can say whatever you like as far as pre-wedding is concerned,” Anholt said. “We’re talking about nine awesome kids, men, good friends, and they were getting prepared to play some golf the next day and go camping. That’s what it was, done.”

Aaron Mahoney of lethbridgenewsNOW has more right here.


Adam Deadmarsh will be back for a second season as an assistant coach with the SpokaneChiefsSpokane Chiefs. Deadmarsh, 43, joined the Chiefs prior to last season and worked under head coach Dan Lambert. . . . Deadmarsh played 567 NHL games, split among the Quebec Nordiques, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings. Deadmarsh won a Stanley Cup with the 1995-96 Avalanche. . . . He also worked as an assistant coach with Colorado (2009-12). . . . Before going on to a pro career, Deadmarsh played four seasons (1991-95) with the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have placed G Josh Dechaine, who will turn 20 on Sept. 14, on waivers. The St. Albert, Alta., native got into 17 games with the Oil Kings in 2016-17 and 32 last season, when he was 12-14-5, 4.19, .867. . . . In 49 career regular-season games, he is 15-22-6, 4.26, .870.


The Seattle Thunderbirds have signed F Mekai Sanders, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. Sanders, from Gig Harbor, Wash., played minor hockey with the Seattle Junior Hockey Association and Sno-King Hockey Association. . . . Last season, he played for the U-14 Detroit Compuware team, putting up six goals and 12 assists in 20 games.


The Kamloops  Blazers have signed F Matthew Seminoff, who was a fifth-round pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Coquitlam, B.C., he had 12 goals and 13 assists in 30 games with the Burnaby Winter Club Academy last season.


Dickson Liong’s writing used to end up on this blog, back in the days before he moved on to bigger and better things as The Sports Corporation’s director of communications. Now he has decided to leave TSC. . . . He writes about his decision right here.


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