After taking a couple of nights off, the WHL playoffs resume tonight (Thursday) as the second round gets started with an Eastern Conference matchup — the Red Deer Rebels visiting the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . No, I’m not going to make predictions but I will tell you that the teams met 10 times this season — the Oil Kings were 5-3-2, while the Rebels were 5-5-0. . . . Edmonton had a 34-29 edge in goals scored. . . . Over 68 games, the Oil Kings finished 50-14-4, which left them 10 points ahead of the Rebels (45-19-4). . . . If you’re looking for a harbinger, perhaps this is it — they evenly split their last four regular-season meetings, all of which came in April, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. Edmonton outscored Red Deer, 16-15, in those four games. . . . Does that signal a close series? . . . The Oil Kings are coming off a sweep of the No. 7 Lethbridge Hurricanes, while the Rebels took six games to shake off the No. 6 Brandon Wheat Kings. . . .
The other Eastern Conference semifinal is to open Friday night in Winnipeg with the Ice playing host to the Winnipeg Warriors. . . . They met seven times in the regular season, with Winnipeg going 5-1-1 and Winnipeg 2-5-0. . . . There was a large discrepancy in offence with the Ice holding a 37-16 edge. . . . Winnipeg had the WHL’s best regular-season record (53-10-5) and wound up 20 points ahead of the Warriors (37-24-7). . . . They met three times late in the regular season, with Winnipeg winning, 4-0 and 8-1, on March 16 and 29. The last time they played each other, on April 2, the host Warriors won, 3-1. . . . In the first round, the Ice took care of the No. 8 Prince Albert Raiders in five games, while the Warriors did the same to the No. 5 Saskatoon Blades. . . .
Meanwhile, one Western Conference semifinal opens Friday night, with the other swinging into action on Saturday. . . .
The Vancouver Giants, fresh off perhaps the biggest upset in WHL playoff history, are to be in Kamloops to face the Blazers on Friday night. . . . The Blazers are the highest seed in the Western Conference now. They went in as the second seed, but the top-seeded Everett Silvertips were ousted by the No. 8 Giants. . . . Kamloops finished the regular season at 48-17-3, 46 points ahead of Vancouver (24-39-5). . . . The Blazers, who swept the No. 7 Spokane Chiefs while outscoring them, 23-3, dominated the regular-season series, going 10-1-1 — Vancouver was 2-9-1 — and outscoring the Giants, 50-24. . . . These teams have met four times since Feb. 1 with Kamloops winning three of them — 3-2, 4-3 (OT) and 5-2 — while losing 4-3 in OT at home. . . .
The No. 3 Portland Winterhawks and No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds are to open on Saturday night. Because the arena in Portland is busy with high school grads, this series will have a 1-2-1-1-1-1 format, meaning it is to begin in Kent, Wash., before moving to Portland for two games. . . . The Winterhawks, who swept the No. 6 Prince George Cougars, had a 47-16-5 regular-season record, leaving them five points ahead of Seattle (44-18-6). . . . The Thunderbirds took out the No. 5 Kelowna Rockets in five games. . . . Portland and Seattle met 13 times in the regular season with the Winterhawks going 9-4-0; the Thunderbirds were 4-6-3. . . . Nine of the games were decided by one or two goals with Portland outscoring Seattle, 44-36. . . .
Go ahead. Make your picks. Then let the fun begin . . .
In the OHL, the No. 7 Kitchener Rangers took out the No. 2 London Knights on Wednesday night . . .
#OHLPlayoffs#LDNvsKIT: Mike Petizian joins names like Michael Richards, Nick Spaling and Jason Akeson as Game 7 heroes by striking game winning goal 11:35 into overtime to oust the Knights. Petizian did not record an overtime winner in previous 247 career competitive games.
As expected, the Spokane Chiefs have signed Matt Bardsley as their general manager, replacing Scott Carter who announced earlier in the season that he is leaving for health and family reasons. Carter had been the GM for six seasons (2016-22). . . . Contract terms weren’t revealed, but you would be safe to say that Bardley got three years and perhaps as many as five. . . . Bardsley is only the Chiefs’ third GM since 1990. Carter had replaced Tim Speltz (1990-2016), who left to scout for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. . . . Bardsley was the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager from 2018-21. Recently, he has been working as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. . . . Bardsley, who is from Portland and spent 18 seasons in the Winterhawks’ organization, left Kamloops for family reasons in May 2021. . . . Bardsley was in Kamloops last week for the third game of the Chiefs’ first-round playoff series with the Blazers and, in fact, was spotted in the Spokane dressing room after the game. . . . The Chiefs’ news release is right here.
In case you thought the pandemic was over, it isn’t. . . . Jackson Browne was supposed to have opened for James Taylor and his All-Star Band tonight (Thursday) at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg. But that isn’t going to happen because a “small number of positive COVID-19 cases” were found among tour staff. . . . According to a note on the tour’s website, the decision “was made out of an abundance of caution for the touring personnel, general public and the audience in Winnipeg.” . . . The next stop on the tour is scheduled for Saturday in Calgary. If the virus approves, of course.
Mitch Love, a former WHL coach and player, has been named the recipient of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s coach of the year. Love, 37, is in his first season as head coach of the Stockton Heat, an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. . . . Love played five seasons (2000-05) in the WHL, splitting time with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips. He was an Everett assistant coach for six seasons before spending three seasons as the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Stockton went 45-16-7 to finish atop the Pacific Division and is awaiting a first-round playoff opponent.
F Bear Hughes of the Spokane Chiefs will finish up this season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears after signing an amateur tryout agreement with them. Hughes, who just completed his 20-year-old season, was a fifth-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL’s 2020 draft. . . .
D Olen Zellweger of the Everett Silvertips has joined the AHL’s San Diego Gulls for the remainder of the season. The Anaheim Ducks selected Zellweger, who will turn 19 on Sept. 10, in the second round of the NHL’s 2021 draft. . . .
F Ridley Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings has joined the AHL’s Belleville Senators for their playoff run, as long or short as it may be. The Ottawa Senators grabbed Greig, 19, with the 28th overall pick in the NHL’s 2020 draft. . . .
CapFriendly reported Wednesday that F Ryder Korczak of the Moose Jaw Warriors has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL’s New York Rangers. Korczak, 19, was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2021 draft. . . .
The BCHL’s Surrey Eagles have been purchased by brothers Ron and TJ Brar from Chuck Westgard, who had owned the team for 12 seasons. The league’s board of governors approved the sale last weekend, and it is effective immediately. . . . The Brars own Evergreen Herbs, which, according to a BCHL news release, is “a Surrey-based business that has grown into a leading provider of fresh herbs and vegetables to grocery stores across the country.” . . .
Rob DiMaio, a former WHL player, has been named assistant general manager with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. He also will serve as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. DiMaio was with the St. Louis Blues for the past 13 seasons, most recently as director of player personnel. He won back-to-back (1987 and 1988) Memorial Cups with the Medicine Hat Tigers and was the tournament MVP in 1988. . . .
Adam Nightingale is the new head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. For the past two seasons, he was a head coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He also has experience as an NHL assistant coach, most recently (2019-20) with the Detroit Red Wings. Nightingale replaces Danton Cole, the head coach for the past five seasons. . . .
The QMJHL’s Cape Breton Eagles have renewed the contract of head coach Chad Cassidy. He took over the Eagles’ position on Jan. 7, replacing Jake Grimes, who had resigned for personal reasons.
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Earlier this week, Geoff Baker, a reporter with the Seattle Times, was writing about Brendan Lee, a forward with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips who was born in Seattle and is of Chinese heritage.
Baker wrote about how Lee was “jolted” by last week’s mass shooting in Atlanta in which six women of Asian descent were killed, something that brought stories of anti-Asian harassment to the forefront.
Baker wrote: “Lee said neither he nor his immediate family have felt targeted, though he’s aware of fears within the broader Asian community. He hopes there’s some role he can play, through hockey, in projecting a positive image of Asian Americans — within that diverse community and beyond.”
Lee told Baker: “It’s horrible what happened. And with the platform I have, I think I can be an influencer. Maybe have somebody look up to me that’s a kid, who can see an American Asian playing hockey — and that it’s a kid from Seattle.”
Let’s move ahead to Thursday now, when Baker was writing this:
“Two teenage forwards with the Seattle Thunderbirds major junior hockey team have been released for the remainder of the season for a racial-taunting incident in which the squad’s lone Black player alleged he was called a racial slur and had a banana waved in front of him.
“The players, age 17 and 18, had been suspended the Thunderbirds’ first two Western Hockey League games last weekend after team officials investigated a complaint of racial harassment against a 17-year-old teammate.
“On Thursday the team informed the suspended players they were no longer on the team and would be flown back home to Canada shortly, and removed their names from the roster.”
Baker reported that the Thunderbirds have said neither player will be back next season, although the team will maintain their rights and could trade them.
“Both are awaiting further instructions on when they can return to Canada due to tightened border restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “The 17-year-old is from Alberta, the 18-year-old from British Columbia.”
The victim texted Baker: “I am very disappointed with what happened, but I appreciate and respect the way my organization has handled this situation. That’s all I am going to say, and now I just want to focus on our season at hand.”
Baker’s story involving the Thunderbirds is right here.
Oh boy, is the general manager of the Ottawa Senators going to be sorry about losing his cool in this age of social media, or what? This was Pierre Dorion after his club lost in OT to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night . . .
The Regina Pats broke a 1-1 tie with four straight goals en route to a 5-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in the Regina hub on Thursday. . . . F Carson Denomie, who went into this developmental season with 35 goals in 198 regular-season games, scored his seventh goal in as many games for the Pats (2-3-2). He also had an assist. . . . Regina F Connor Bedard had two assists, giving the 15-year-old 12 points as he has started his WHL career on a seven-game point streak. . . . F Cole Carrier also had a goal and an assist for Regina, with D Ryker Evans adding two assists. . . . The Raiders (2-3-2) are winless in four games (0-3-1) after opening this developmental season by earning five points in their first three games. . . . Regina lost its captain, F Logan Nijhoff, to a kneeing major at 5:24 of the third period. . . . Prince Albert was without its captain, D Kaiden Guhle, for a fifth straight game due to a hand injury. . . . The Raiders dressed only one goaltender, Carter Serhyenko, because Cam Paddock is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. . . . Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told Jeff D’Andrea of paNOW that “we had a goalie from another team (WInnipeg Ice) in the stands, so if something (had) happened to Carter, he would have dressed. It’s part of the bubble. It’s the way it is.” . . .
In the night’s other game, F Ridly Greig’s first goal of the season, shorthanded at 4:11 of the third period, broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Brandon Wheat Kings a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Ice. . . . F Connor Geekie gave the Ice a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Brandon scored three times — F Nate Danielson, F Rylen Roersma and F Jake Chiasson — in a span of 2:17 before the period ended. . . . F Peyton Krebs and F Owen Pederson pulled the Ice (5-2-0) even, the latter scoring on a PP at 2:09 of the third. . . . Winnipeg had won five straight since opening with a 3-2 loss to Brandon on March 13. . . . The Wheat Kings (5-2-1) were without D Braden Schneider for a second straight game. He is listed as day-to-day with what is believed to be an injury to his right knee.
It was a big day for COVID-19 on the sporting front Thursday. First, it took the Notre Dame Fighting Irish right out of the chase for the NCAA men’s hockey title. And then it took big chunks out of two summer baseball leagues that used to feature lots of U.S. college players. Oh, and it got into the coach staff of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres for the second time this season . . .
The Fighting Irish were to have taken part in the NCAA Northeast Regional hockey tournament in Albany, N.Y., this weekend. But they have had to withdraw due to COVID-19 protocols. . . . According to head coach Jeff Jackson, “With multiple positives and contact tracing it became clear that for the safety of our team and others in the tournament we could not proceed.” . . . Notre Dame was to have played the Boston College Eagles on Saturday. That game has been declared no-contest and the Eagles moved directly into Sunday’s regional final against either St. Cloud State or Boston U. . . . Interestingly, Notre Dame was in the tournament as a late invitee after St. Lawrence U had to withdraw because of COVID-19 protocols. Notre Dame couldn’t be replaced because the NCAA had set a Monday night deadline for replacements to be made.
The pandemic has forced quite a shuffling of the deck with the Western Canadian Baseball League. . . . The Edmonton Prospects, Lethbridge Bulls, Okotoks Dawgs (two teams) and Sylvan Lake Gulls have said that they will play the 2021 season using only Canadian players. . . . According to the league, the Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks continue to discuss their options. . . . At the same time, “due to the COVID-19 restrictions, border issues and the uncertainty of any changes,” five other teams — the Brooks Bombers, Moose Jaw Miller Express, Regina Red Sox, Swift Current 57’s and Weyburn Beavers — have decided to sit out the 2021 season. . . . At the same time, Taylor Shire of Global Regina tweeted that the “Yorkton Carinals and Melville Millionaires have left the WCBL and, according to WCBL president Kevin Kvame they both ceased operations.” . . .
From a news release issued by the Red Sox:
“Player and staff testing protocols will need to be in place at an estimated cost of $40,000 per team, as well as quarantine costs amounting to $2,000 per player. Interprovincial travel continues to be restricted, and the US/Canada border remains closed at this time. The WCBL is exploring options for an ‘All Canadian League’ in Alberta, which would also be subject to quarantine, testing, and border restrictions, presenting a challenge for the league. The Saskatchewan franchises have made the decision to defer the resumption of operations until 2022.”
The West Coast League, a wood-bat summer baseball league, has revised its 2021 schedule in order to remove international travel from its regular season, but it is leaving open the possibility of a playoff format involving teams from both Canada and the U.S. . . . The WCL, which features 15 teams, didn’t play in 2020. . . . In Canada, the Kelowna Falcons have opted out of the 2021 season, leaving the Victoria HarbourCats to play against three first-year teams — the Edmonton Riverhawks, Kamloops NorthPaws and Nanaimo NightOwls. . . . American teams in the league are the Bend Elks, Corvallis Knights, Cowlitz Black Bears, Portland Pickles, Ridgefield Raptors, Walla Walla Sweets, Bellingham Bells, Port Angeles Lefties, Wenatchee Apple Sox and Yakima Valley Pippins.
Kevyn Adams, the Buffalo Sabres’ general manager, served as head coach on Thursday night as the team lost 4-0 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. That’s because Don Granato, who was named interim head coach last week after Ralph Krueger was fired, and interim assistant coach Matt Ellis were in self-isolation. . . . This is the second time this season that the Sabres’ coaching staff was impacted by the virus. Earlier, Krueger tested positive and missed some time. . . . The Sabres have six victories this season; they have been shut out seven times. . . .
Meanwhile, the New York Rangers had assistants Jacques Martin and Greg Brown back behind the bench for last night’s 8-3 victory over the host Philadelphia Flyers. But head coach David Quinn has yet to be cleared to return from COVID-19 protocol, so former WHL player/coach Kris Knoblauch continues to work as head coach. Under normal conditions, Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. . . . Knoblauch will stay with the Rangers at least through Saturday’s game in Philly. . . .
Marc Bergevin, the general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, expects his club to return to the ice next week. He said Thursday that one player had tested positive — forwards Joel Armia and Jesperi Kotkaniemi — and that it was a variant. . . . So far, the Canadiens have had four games postponed — three against the Edmonton Oilers and one with the Ottawa Senators. . . . If all goes well, the Canadiens will return to practice on Monday and play in Ottawa on Tuesday. . . . The NHL now has postponed 41 games because of COVID-19.
And how are things going out west? Hey, thanks for asking . . .
Justin McElroy, CBC Vancouver — 800 new cases of COVID-19 in B.C., the highest number since the very height of the second wave, as the province’s trendline is going up VERY sharply now. . . . Active cases jump by almost 300, now the highest since January 8. . . . Five new deaths and hospitalizations up.
Oh, hey, things are going great in Alberta, too . . .
CBC News — Alberta reports 764 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 more deaths. The province confirms 191 variants of concern cases. 294 people are in hospital, 55 in ICU. . . . Variant cases now make up more than 20 per cent of the total.
Party on, Garth!
“I went from healthy teenager to being told I had a rare genetic kidney condition in a month.”
Thanks to Sasha, whose period pain turned out to be kidney disease, for sharing her story to help other young people going through kidney disease. Read more 👇https://t.co/jPOJZDM5Wf
JUST NOTES: The Spokane Chiefs have promoted Chris Baird to director of hockey operations. He had been assistant director of hockey operations since 2017. He first was hired by the Chiefs in 2006-07 as a part-time video co-ordinator. . . . The AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders have named Adam Manah as general manager — he will continue as head coach — and Jeff Woywitka as assistant GM. Manah has been with the Crusaders since 2015 when he was associate coach. He took over as assistant GM and head coach in 2016. Woywitka has been associate coach since 2016. The moves were necessitated by the firing of general manager Kyle Chase on March 19. Chase, who had been part of the organization since 2004, had been GM since 2016. Shane Jones of the Sherwood Park News has more on Chase’s dismissal right here.
Ryan Smith, who spent four seasons (1991-95) in the WHL, needs a kidney — the sooner, the better. Smith, 46, played with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince George Cougars, totalling 158 points, including 131 assists, in 274 games before going on to the U of Manitoba Bisons. . . . A married father of two young sons, Smith and his family live in Lavington, B.C., which is near Vernon. . . . He was diagnosed with IgA Nephropathy (aka Berger’s disease) about four years ago and has been on dialysis for almost two years. . . . Smith is on the deceased donor list, but is hoping to shorten what could be at least a four-year wait by finding a live donor. He thought he had found a live donor at one point; however, 10 months into the testing process the potential donor was found to have medical issues that short-circuited things, something that sometimes happens. . . . If you are interested in being a kidney donor, the contact information for the Living Kidney Donor Program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is further down in this post. . . . Roger Knox of the Vernon Morning Star has Smith’s story right here.
So . . . I’m wondering who is going to win the race — Regina or Saskatoon? . . . Shaun Semple, who with his father, Gavin, now owns the Regina Pats lock, stock and barrel, says it’s time that the Saskatchewan capital had a new arena. As hard is it is to believe, the home of the Pats is 44 years of age and, as Shaun told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post, “it’s getting tired. . . . There needs to be a new (arena) for sure.” . . . Harder’s complete story is right here, and what it tells me is that the conversation has started. . . .
Meanwhile, there has been talk in Saskatoon about a possible new arena, one that would replace the SaskTel Centre, for a couple of years now. The home of the Blades is 33 years old and getting close to its best before date, if it isn’t already there. . . . A new facility likely would be built somewhere in the downtown area. In October, Phil Tank of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix wrote: “A funding plan for the project has not been finalized, but the cost is estimated between $172 million and $178 million. If the arena project is combined with a new downtown convention centre, the cost rises to between $330 million and $370 million.” . . . While Blades owner Mike Priestner hasn’t said a whole lot publicly about it, he has let it be known that he wants to be involved. Colin Priestner, the Blades’ president and general manager, appeared in front of Saskatoon city council on Monday and, according to Kevin Mitchell of the StarPhoenix, “made a pitch for his group to take a larger role in SaskTel Centre’s operations.” . . . Mitchell’s story is right here.
Two WHL players, both of them eligible for the NHL’s 2021 draft, have had their developmental seasons come to an end. . . . The Red Deer Rebels announced Wednesday that F Jayden Grubbe, the team captain, needs knee surgery (ACL) and won’t play again this season. According to the team, Grubbe “is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.” Grubbe, 18, was injured in the first period of a game against the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday. That was his fifth game of this season; he had a goal and two assists. . . . Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Ice revealed that F Carson Lambos “has left the Regina hub and returned to Winnipeg for a medical procedure. . . . More information will be provided at a later date.” Lambos, 18, was pointless in two games this season. He is a potential first-round selection in the NHL draft.
Our sincerest condolences to Rob's family and friends, as well as the @IcemenInsider where Rob was the General Manager and Coach.
Rob Hartnell, who played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, has died. He was 48 when he died of cancer on Friday in Camrose, Alta. . . . Hartnell played 143 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes over parts of three seasons, then finished up his WHL career by putting up 59 points, including 25 games, in 48 games with the Tri-City Americans. . . . All told, he had 227 points, 98 of them goals, in 191 regular-season WHL games. . . . He went on to play professionally in the ECHL, WPHL and in Europe. He wound up his playing career in the Chinook Hockey League with the Bentley Generals. . . . He had been coaching the junior B Wetaskiwin Icemen until having to step aside for health reasons prior to the 2019-20 season. . . . There is a complete obituary right here.
Kris Knoblauch, a former WHL player and coach, made his NHL head-coaching debut on Wednesday night, running the New York Rangers’ bench as they drubbed the visiting Philadelphia Flyers, 9-0. . . . Knoblauch is the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate. He was called into New York after the Rangers’ coaching staff was ruled out because of COVID-19 protocol. That took out Rangers’ head coach David Quinn and assistants Jacques Martin, David Oliver and Greg Brown. Gord Murphy, Hartford’s associate coach, and Chris Drury, the Rangers’ associate general manager, were behind New York’s bench with Knoblauch, 42. He played with the Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton/Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes (1996-99), and later coached with the Prince Albert Raiders and Kootenay (2006-12).
So . . . how are things going with the Buffalo Sabres? Well, they’ve lost 12 in a row and been outscored 50-19 in the process. . . . The Buffalo News published its latest NHL power rankings earlier this week and they had the Sabres in 32nd place. Yes, 32nd . . . behind the Seattle Kraken, the expansion club that won’t begin play until next season. . . . Oh yes, the Sabres canned head coach Ralph Krueger on Wednesday.
The Government of Ontario has announced new funding in support of the #OHL Scholarship Program, one that was accessed by a total of 334 #OHLAlumni during the 2019-20 academic year.
There will be a new hockey conference in play come the 2021-22 season and it promises to be a good one. The Prep Hockey Conference will feature six of the top prep programs, each with a history of producing NCAA and NHL players. . . . The six are Shattuck-St. Mary’s School (Minnesota), St. Andrew’s College (Toronto), Northwood School (New York), Culver Academies (Indiana), Mount St. Charles Academy (Rhode Island) and South Kent School (Connecticut). All six programs have developed NHLers and top-end NCAA players throughout their histories. . . . Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News has more right here.
The Wheat City Whiskey Jacks are going to play a second straight season without making even one appearance on their home field in Brandon. The Whiskey Jacks will play out of Fargo, ND., for a second straight Expedition League season because of the U.S.-Canada border being closed to non-essential travel. . . . Last season, the league played with six teams as four opted out; it now has 12 teams, all of whom have said they’re in for 2021. . . . The Expedition League is a collegiate summer circuit whose season opens in late May. . . . Thomas Friesen of The Brandon Sun has more on the Whiskey Jacks right here.
JUST NOTES: The BCHL’s Cranbrook Bucks have lost one assistant coach and added two others to their staff. Adam Stuart has left to join the coaching staff at the North Alberta Xtreme. The Bucks have added Ehren Menard and Todd Skirving to general manager/head coach Ryan Donald’s staff. Menard has spent six seasons with the Knights of Columbus program in Edmonton. Skirving plays for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers, who opted out of the 2020-21 season. He played in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers, then spent four seasons at the Rochester Institute of Technology before turning pro.
This is going to be a great day in Allan, Sask. That’s because the folks there are in the middle of their winter festival, and they will be taking time to rename the local arena in honour of the late Logan Schatz, who was the captain of the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos. The Allan and District Communiplex is to be renamed the Logan Schatz Memorial Arena. . . . Allan is located about 60 km southeast of Saskatoon. . . . Schatz, a native of Allan, was finishing up his fourth season with the Broncos when he was killed in the April 6 bus crash. . . . The dedication ceremony also will involved the unveiling of signage inside and outside the arena. Angie Rolheiser of northeastnow.com writes that the “signs were made by Humboldt Collegiate Institute industrial arts teacher Brian Hinz, who also taught Logan while he attended HCI.” . . . It is only fitting that there will be a hockey game in the Logan Schatz Memorial Arena tonight, with the Allan Senior Flames meeting the Kinistino Tigers in Game 2 of a Wheatland Hockey League playoff series. . . . Rolheiser’s story is right here.
There is an interesting conundrum in Kamloops where the Blazers ran out of goaltenders and had one on their bench Friday night whose WHL rights belong to the Everett Silvertips.
This all started on March 6 when Kamloops starter Dylan Ferguson, 20, was injured during a 5-0 loss to the visiting Vancouver Giants.
The Blazers immediately brought in Rayce Ramsay, who turned 18 on Jan. 3, from the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos to back up Dylan Garand. In Ferguson’s absence Garand, a 16-year-old freshman from Victoria, made his fifth straight start last night as the Blazers lost, 5-4 in OT, to the visiting Prince George Cougars.
Ramsay was on the bench for the first four of those starts, but he couldn’t make it five because he had to return to Humboldt as the Broncos started a playoff series in Estevan against the Bruins last night. Ramsay made 29 saves as the Broncos opened with a 4-1 victory.
In the end, the Blazers were able to add G Danton Belluk to their roster as an emergency backup, getting him, with the WHL’s approval, on loan from the Silvertips. Under emergency conditions, Belluk will only be able to play should Garand be injured.
Belluk, 17, is from Lorette, Man. A 10th-round pick of the Silvertips in the 2016 bantam draft, he spent this season with the midget AAA Eastman Selects. Last season, he got into two games with the Silvertips.
Two WHL veteran forwards signed three-year entry-level NHL contracts on Friday.
Trey Fix-Wolansky, the captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings, signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who selected him in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2018 draft. Fix-Wolansky, 19, has 101 points, including 37 goals, in 63 games. He has single-season career highs in goals, assists and points. . . . From Edmonton, he has 244 points, including 151 assists, in 204 career regular-season WHL games over three seasons, all with the Oil Kings. . . . He wasn’t selected in the WHL bantam draft. . . .
Jake Elmer, an undrafted free agent, signed with the New York Rangers. He has 38 goals and 41 assists in 67 games. Elmer, who turned 20 on Dec. 31, is from Calgary. The Regina Pats selected him in the sixth round of the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. . . . They dealt him to the Kootenay Ice and he later was moved to the Hurricanes. Last season, he finished with 18 goals and 19 assists in 70 games with Lethbridge. . . . In 203 career regular-season games, he has 63 goals and 69 assists.
If you have attended a WHL game or a show at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, you may have seen Freda and/or Howard Brown. Both of them have been heavily involved with the volunteers and security at the arena; Freda also looked after the media and scouts in the press box for a number of years. . . . Freda now is dealing with kidney disease — she started dialysis earlier this month — and is hoping that a transplant is in her future. Howard has proven to be a match, and he now is going through the testing process to see if he can be the donor. . . . With Thursday having been World Kidney Day, they told their story to CFJC-TV in Kamloops, and it’s all right here. There is a story here, as well as video.
The Trinity Western Spartans won their second straight BCIHL championship on Friday night, beating the Vancouver Island Mariners, 9-1, in Aldergrove, B.C., to sweep the best-of-three series. . . . The Spartans are the first team to successfully defend its BCIHL championship since the Castlegar, B.C.-based Selkirk College Saints won in 2014-15 and 2015-16. . . . TWU finished the regular season at 18-5-0, then went 4-0 in the playoffs. Over the past two seasons, the Spartans’ combined record is 47-8-1. . . . TWU has applied for admission to Canada West in time for the 2020-21 season. A decision is expected later this year.
A big milestone tomorrow: Head Equipment Manager Darren Granger will work his 2,000th NHL game. “Take a look at our roster. There were seven kids that weren’t even born when he started, and another four or five that were still in diapers,” Dana Bryson said. Congrats, Grange!
Darren Granger started in the hockey business as the assistant equipment manager with the Brandon Wheat Kings. That was about 25 years ago. He now has been in the NHL since 1992, first with the Vancouver Canucks as their assistant equipment manager. Since 2006, he has been the head equipment manager for the Los Angeles Kings. . . . Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times has more on Granger right here.
The Brandon Wheat Kings had their playoff hopes come to an end as they were beaten, 5-4, by the host Regina Pats. . . . Regina (19-45-3) had lost its previous seven games. . . . Brandon (30-29-8) has lost five in a row. The Wheat Kings are four points away from a playoff spot but have only one game remaining. . . . The same teams will play again tonight, this time in Brandon. . . . Regina is 4-2-1 in the season series; Brandon is 3-4-0. . . . The Pats won this one with three goals in the span of 1:31 in the third period. . . . Regina D Liam Schioler (5) tied the score, 3-3, at 9:13 of the third period. . . . D Brett Clayton (5) broke the tie at 9:47. . . . F Sergei Alkhimov (13) upped Regina’s lead to 5-3 at 10:44. . . . F Luka Burzan (40) got the Wheaties to within a goal at 11:40 but they weren’t able to get even. . . . Brandon F Ben McCartney shot wide on a penalty shot at 15:43 of the third period. . . . F Cole Reinhardt (22) and Burzan had given Brandon a 2-0 first-period lead. . . . F Cole Dubinsky (5), on a PP, and Alkhimov got Regina even in the second period, and Brandon D Braydyn Chizen (2) gave his guys a 3-2 lead at 1:12 of the third. . . . G Dean McNabb stopped 34 shots for Regina. . . . The Wheat Kings got 39 stops from G Jiri Patera.
F Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored in OT to give the Prince George Cougars a 5-4 victory over the Blazers in Kamloops. . . . Prince George (19-40-8) has won two in a row. . . . Kamloops (27-32-8) has points in five straight (4-0-1). It is tied with the Kelowna Rockets for third place in the B.C. Division. If they are tied after tonight’s games, they will meet in a sudden-death play-in game in Kamloops on Tuesday night. . . . They Blazers and Cougars will play again tonight, this time in Prince George. . . . Kamloops is 6-0-2 in the season series; Prince George is 2-5-1. . . . The Cougars erased a 2-1 deficit with three goals in the first half of the third period. Mikhalchuk tied the game at 1:11; F Josh Curtis (13) gave the Cougars the lead at 6:51; and F Mike MacLean came out of the penalty to score his fifth goal of the season on a breakaway at 9:50. . . . F Kyrell Sopotyk (13) got Kamloops to within a goal, on a PP, at 13:39, and F Connor Zary (23) tied it from a scramble at 19:04 with G Dylan Garand on the bench for the extra attacker. . . . The Blazers held possession for most of the OT, but got a bit too fancy in the offensive zone and gave up a 2-on-1 with Mikhalchuk and Curtis going the other way. Mikhalchuk ended it with his 24th goal of the season. . . . D Rhett Rhinehart (5) scored Prince George’s first goal, with F Kobe Mohr (8) and F Ryley Appelt (5) giving Kamloops a 2-1 lead. . . . Mikhalchuk finished with two goals and two assists, while Curtis added two assists to his goal. . . . Zary also had three points, as he, too, had two helpers. . . . The Cougars got 26 saves from G Taylor Gauthier. . . . Garand stopped 24 shots for Kamloops. . . . The Blazers scratched D Joonas Sillanpää, their Finnish freshman, for a third straight game.
F Max Gerlach broke a 2-2 tie in the third period to give the Saskatoon Blades a 3-2 victory over the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Saskatoon (45-14-8) has won eight in a row, and 14 of 15. It also has won nine in a row on home ice. The Blades will finish second in the East Division. They open a first-round series against the Moose Jaw Warriors on March 22 in Saskatoon. . . . Prince Albert (53-10-4) had won its previous three games. The Raiders will finish atop the Eastern Conference and meet the Red Deer Rebels, the second wild-card team, in the first round. . . . Season series: Prince Albert, 5-2-0; Saskatoon, 2-4-1. . . . These two teams will play tonight in Prince Albert. . . . F Parker Kelly (35) gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead at 1:21 of the first period. . . . The Blades went ahead 2-1 on goals from D Brandon Schuldhaus (8), at 5:44, and F Ryan Hughes (30), on a PP, at 0:37 of the second period. . . . F Noah Gregor (41) got the visitors into a 2-2 tie, on a PP, at 4:49 of the third period. . . . Gerlach won it with his 41st goal, on a PP, at 7:17. . . . G Nolan Maier stopped 28 shots for the Blades. . . . Prince Albert G Ian Scott, who stopped 29 shots, went into the game riding three straight shutouts. His shutout streak ended at a franchise-record 185:44 when Schuldhaus scored. The Raiders’ previous record (128:32) had been set by G Craig Hordal in 1995-96. . . . Saskatoon D Dawson Davidson played in his 300th regular-season game. . . . The Raiders’ scratches included F Dante Hannoun.
F Jake Leschyshyn scored three times to help the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a 4-3 victory over the host Red Deer Rebels. . . . Lethbridge (39-18-10) has won seven in a row. It is tied with the Edmonton Oil Kings for top spot in the Central Division. The Oil Kings will go home-and-home with the Calgary Hitmen this afternoon and Sunday afternoon. The Hurricanes will meet the Tigers in Medicine Hat tonight. . . . Red Deer (33-28-6) has lost three straight. Despite the loss, the Rebels clinched the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot when the Brandon Wheat Kings lost. Red Deer will meet the conference-champion Prince Albert Raiders in the first round. . . . Lethbridge won the season series, 4-1-1; Red Deer was 2-3-1. . . . F Dylan Cozens (34) and Leschyshyn, on a PP, gave the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead with goals 30 seconds apart in the first period. . . . The Rebels tied it on two goals from F Reese Johnson, at 9:13 of the first period and 5:18 of the second. . . . Leschyshyn put the Hurricanes back out front at 12:58. . . . Johnson completed his third hat trick of the season by scoring his 27th goal at 13:41. . . . Leschyshyn’s 40th goal, at 4:15 of the third period, stood up as the winner. He’s got three career hat tricks; this was his first with Lethbridge, which acquired him from the Regina Pats this season. . . . G Carl Tetachuk earned the victory with 27 saves, two fewer than Red Deer’s Ethan Anders.
The Moose Jaw Warriors set a franchise record for most road victories in a season with a 6-1 victory over the Broncos in Swift Currrent. . . . Moose Jaw (39-20-8) has won two in a row. It will finish third in the East Division and meet the Saskatoon Blades in a first-round playoff series. . . . The Warriors won 24 road games this season, one more than last season’s team. . . . Swift Current (11-50-6) will travel to Moose Jaw tonight. . . . Season series: Moose Jaw, 4-0-1; Swift Current, 1-3-1. . . . The Warriors got two goals and two assists from F Justin Almeida, who now has 108 points, including 76 assists. Almeida, who has had 12 career games with at least four points, leads the WHL in assists and is third in points, four points behind Portland Winterhawks F Joachim Blichfeld and two behind teammate Tristin Langan, who had one assist. . . . The Warriors also got goals from F Carson Denomie (7), F Keenan Taphorn (15), F Daniil Stepanov (8) and D Josh Brook (16). . . . Almeida and Stepanov each scored while shorthanded. . . . F Brayden Tracey was among Moose Jaw’s scratches.
F Ryan Jevne scored once and added two assists to lead the Medicine Hat Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook. . . . Medicine Hat (35-26-6) has won three in a row. With the victory, it clinched the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. The Tigers will play the Central Division champion, either the Edmonton Oil Kings or Lethbridge Hurricanes, in the first round. . . . Kootenay (12-45-10) has lost six in a row. . . . The Tigers won the season series, 5-1-0; the Ice was 1-4-1. . . . F Tyler Preziuso (21), Jevne (31) and F Ryan Chyzowski (27), on a PP, gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead in the first period. . . . D Linus Nassen (7) made it 4-0 at 12:58 of the second. . . . D Marco Creta (4) and F Holden Kodak (2) scored for the Ice in the third period, before F Brett Kemp (32) got an empty-netter for Medicine Hat. . . . Ice G Jesse Makaj stopped 51 shots, 22 more than the Tigers’ Mads Sogaard. . . . Kootenay F Austin Schellenberg left in the first period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. . . . The Ice brought in D Anson McMaster, 16, for the final two games of the season. A second-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft, he had been with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. . . . The Ice has one home game remaining, Sunday afternoon against the Red Deer Rebels, and its stay in Cranbrook will be over. The franchise is relocating to Winnipeg.
It was a sad moment arriving at Western financial place in Cranbrook today. The Tigers and the Ice meet for the final time Friday night in the iconic building, the home of the ice for over 20 years. Very sad indeed. pic.twitter.com/59tPVCv0L6
The Victoria Royals got 35 saves from G Griffen Outhouse and two shootout goals to beat the visiting Everett Silvertips, 3-2. . . . Victoria (34-29-4) had lost its previous four games. It will finish second in the B.C. Division and meet with the Kamloops Blazers or Kelowna Rockets in the first round. . . . Everett (46-16-5) has lost three in a row (0-4-1). It will finish atop the U.S. Division, and will see the Tri-City Americans in the first round. . . . Victoria is 2-1-0 in the season series; Everett is 1-1-1. . . . These two teams will meet again tonight in Everett. . . . Last night, F Connor Dewar (36) gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 1:15 of the first period, only to have Victoria F Brandon Cutler tie it 17 seconds later. . . . Everett went ahead 2-1 as F Martin Fasko-Rudas (12) scored at 8:59 of the second period. . . . Cutler tied it with his 14th goal of the season, just 57 seconds later. . . . Victoria got shootout goals from D Ralph Jarratt and F Igor Martynov, with F Bryce Kindopp the only Everett shooter to score. . . . G Dustin Wolf stopped 28 shots for the Silvertips. . . . F Lucas Cullen, 19, who spent his season with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors, made his Everett debut. . . . The Royals scratched D Mitchell Prowse, D Jameson Murray, D Matt Smith, F Tyus Gent, F Kody McDonald, D Jake Kustra and F Kaid Oliver. . . . They had 16 skaters dressed, including two APs — D Kaden Reinders and D Noah Lamb.
F Jake McGrew enjoyed his third career hat trick to lead the Spokane Chiefs to a 5-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Spokane (39-21-7) has won two in a row. It is third in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. The Chiefs have one game remaining. The Winterhawks will play the Seattle Thunderbirds tonight and again Sunday. . . . Portland and Spokane will be first-round opponents. . . . Tri-City (34-27-6) has lost four straight (0-2-2). It will be the Western Conference’s first wild-card team and will meet the Everett Silvertips in the first round. . . . Season series: Tri-City, 6-4-1; Spokane, 5-5-1. . . . The Chiefs and Americans will play again tonight, this time in Spokane. . . . McGrew, on a PP, and D Roman Kalinichenko (2) gave the Chiefs an early 2-0 lead. . . . F Parker AuCoin, who scored 21 goals last season, got his 42nd of this season for the Americans at 13:34 of the opening period. He also had two assists in this one. . . . McGrew added his second goal at 19:15. . . . Chiefs F Luke Toporowski gave his guys a 3-2 lead at 13:18 of the second period. . . . Tri-City F Krystof Hrabik (21) tied it, on a PP, at 2:35 of the third. . . . Spokane D Filip Kral (10) broke the tie at 18:12, and McGrew completed his hat trick by scoring his 30th goal into an empty net at 19:03. . . . The Chiefs got 25 saves from G Reece Klassen, while Tri-City’s Talyn Boyko blocked 39 shots. . . . The Chiefs scratched F Jaret Anderson-Dolan, F Riley Woods, D Ty Smith and F Eli Zummack. F Bear Hughes, who played this season with the junior B Spokane Braves, made his WHL debut.
D Dylan Plouffe scored a late PP goal to give the Vancouver Giants a 2-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets in Langley, B.C. . . . Vancouver (48-15-4) has won three in a row. With the victory, the Giants clinched first place in the Western Conference and will meet the Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round. . . . Kelowna (27-32-8) has lost four in a row (0-2-2). It is tied for third with the Kamloops Blazers in the B.C. Division. Each team has one game remaining — the Rockets will entertain the Giants tonight, while the Blazers are playing the Cougars in Prince George. . . . Should the Blazers and Rockets end up tied for third place, a sudden-death play-in game will be held in Kamloops on Tuesday night. . . . Vancouver is 7-0-1 in the season series with Kelowna, which is 1-7-0. . . . D Alex Kannok Leipert (5) gave Vancouver a 1-0 lead at 3:36 of the second period. . . . Kelowna F Kyle Crosby (7) tied it at 11:01. . . . Plouffe won it with his eighth goal of the season, at 16:50 of the third period. . . . The Giants got 17 stops from G Trent Miner. . . . Kelowna G Roman Basran stopped 29 shots. . . . Vancouver was 1-1 on the PP; Kelowna was 0-1. . . . The Rockets continue to play without D Lassi Thomson (concussion).
Babcock, before taking questions: "I had six friends, one of my teammates from England here this week. They saw two Marlie losses, two Leaf losses. Partway through the game tonight I sent security to get them and get them out of the building." #Leafs
F Grant Toulmin (Swift Current, 2005-07, 2008-09) has signed a one-season extension with the Sydney Ice Dogs (Australia, AIHL). Last season he had 22 goals and 20 assists in 27 games. He led the team in goals and points. . . . The AIHL regular season opens on April 21.
A LITTLE OF THIS . . .
NEWS: Blades announce plans for Don Cherry Night, unveil jerseys
Four of the WHL’s 17 Canadian teams will hold their WHL Suits Up With Don Cherry games this weekend.
The Victoria Royals will have their game on Friday, with the Kelowna Rockets, Red Deer Rebels and Saskatoon Blades following suit on Saturday.
If you’re new to this, the home teams wear sweaters fashioned after the outfits worn by Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner. Those sweaters are available via auction, with proceeds going to the local branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada.
There also are Don Cherry bobbleheads available, as well as Upper Deck cards featuring Cherry, and some really nifty mini-hockey helmets.
The Medicine Hat Tigers are one of the teams that held their game last weekend. When it was all over, the Tigers had raised almost $50,000 through the sweater auction.
Scott Roblin of CHAT News in Medicine Hat has a story right here that tells all you need to know about this promotion and its importance. It’s about people like the mother and daughter who took part in the ceremonial puck drop in Medicine Hat, and it’s all about organ donor awareness.
We'll be wearing these beauties on Mar 9 for WHL Suits Up in support of @kidneycanada, presented by @REMAXca!
Jerseys auctioned online, along w/ autographed Don Cherry version! 2nd signed jersey, & @Marty_Marmot's by silent auction @ game on Mar 9
When the Portland Winterhawks chose to try and get an exemption from Oregon laws regarding the paying of minimum wage and other benefits, you have to think they, and the WHL, weren’t anticipating what followed.
“What started as something the WHL and the Winterhawks thought would be a simple process,” Ken Campbell of The Hockey News writes, “has degenerated into a nightmare, largely because some people in Oregon stood up to junior hockey. The local United Food and Commercial Workers, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, Oregon Working Families and the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association all spoke out against the bill and in fact created a website urging people to contact their senators to vote against the bill.”
Campbell’s complete piece, which explains what went on, is right here.
The New York Rangers have signed F Ty Ronning of the Vancouver Giants to a three-year entry-level NHL contract. Ronning, 20, has 55 goals and 22 assists in 64 games with the Giants this season. . . . He is the WHL’s second-leading goal scorer and now holds the Giants’ record for goals in one season. . . . The 5-foot-9, 172-pound Ronning was a seventh-round pick by the Rangers in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2016 draft. . . . He finished last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the Rangers’ AHL affiliate, and had two goals and three assists in 12 games. . . . He is the son of former WHL/NHL F Cliff Ronning. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia has more on Ty’s signing right here.
JUST NOTES . . .
The Portland Winterhawks will induct former players Andrew Ference, Marian Hossa, Brendan Morrow and Todd Robinson into their Hall of Fame on Saturday night, prior to a game against the visiting Tri-City Americans. At the same time, they will honour the 1998 Memorial Cup-winning team, with most of the players and coaches from that team expected to be on hand. The ceremony will be emceed by the legendary Dean (Scooter) Vrooman, who was the radio voice of the Winterhawks for so many years. . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings announced Monday that should they qualify for the playoffs, they will play their first-round home games at Credit Union Place in Dauphin, Man. As always happens, the Wheat Kings will get bumped from their home arena, Westoba Place, by the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair. . . . The Wheat Kings, who have seven games remaining, hold down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, four points ahead of Prince Albert and eight ahead of Saskatoon.
The MJHL’s Dauphin Kings are looking for a general manager and head coach. . . . The Kings started the season with Marc Berry as the GM and head coach. But they fired him in November after a 4-18-2 start. . . . Mitch Giguere, an assistant coach since August, was named interim GM and head coach on Nov. 19. At the time, the Kings stated that they would be “looking into all options” to fill the GM/head coach position following the season. . . . The Kings finished the season at 14-44-2 — 10th in the 11-team league — and didn’t make the playoffs. . . . There’s more on the opening right here.