Giants force Game 7 in WHL final. . . . Ed Chynoweth Cup to be awarded tonight. . . . Guelph Storm advances to Memorial Cup

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An airtanker unloads retardant on a fire about 25 km east of downtown Kamloops on Sunday afternoon.

The calendar reads May 12, but the thermometer shows that the temperature already is above 30 C. Records already are being set in the Pacific Northwest, along the West Coast of B.C., and into the province’s Interior.

That, of course, means that fire season is upon us, despite the fact that we have yet seen even one bolt of lightning. To date, every mention I have seen of a fire this season has referred to “human-caused.”

There already have been a number of relatively small fires, but the first big one involving evacuation orders started on Saturday near Fraser Lake, which is west of Prince George.

On Sunday, the fire pictured above — it is the Buse Creek fire — broke out about 25 km east of downtown Kamloops, on the south side of the Trans-Canada Highway. By 1:30 p.m., they were working it with two airtankers. By 5:30 p.m., the tankers were gone and a pair of helicopters were filling up in the South Thompson River and going back and forth, dropping water on the fire.

As evening fell, the fire was still considered to be out of control, and appeared to be moving slowly in a southerly direction. Ground crews were scheduled to work it through the night.

The forecast calls for a 30 per cent of showers tonight and Monday, and more rain on Tuesday. Here’s hoping it doesn’t change.


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The Guelph Storm won the OHL championship on Sunday, dumping the visiting Ottawa GuelphStorm67’s, 8-3, to win the series, 4-2. . . . This is the fourth time the Storm has won the J. Ross Robertson Cup. . . . The 67’s had gone into the series with a 12-0 record in these playoffs and had won the first two games. . . . The Storm trailed, 2-0, after one period, then scored five times in the second period to take control. . . . Guelph got two goals and two assists from each of F Isaac Ratcliffe, the team captain, and D Dmitri Samorkov. . . . F Nick Suzuki of the Storm was the playoff MVP. He led all scorers with a franchise record 42 points, including 16 goals, in 24 games. . . . The Storm has had quite a run. It is the only team in OHL history to have trailed three series, 2-0, and come back to win them all. . . . Guelph trailed the London Knights, 3-0, in the first round before coming back to win the series. Then, in a semifinal, the Storm was down 3-1 to the Saginaw Spirit before winning the last three games. . . . The Storm will be in the Memorial Cup for the sixth time. . . .

The QMJHL will be represented at the Memorial Cup by the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who won the championship on Saturday, and the host Halifax Mooseheads. The Huskies beat the Mooseheads, 4-2 in the championship series. . . . The Memorial Cup is to run from Friday through May 26.


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EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup will be decided tonight (Monday) when the Vancouver Giants and the host Prince Albert Raiders meet in the Art Hauser Centre. . . . The Giants forced Game 7 with a 4-2 victory over the host Raiders on Sunday night. . . . The road team now is 7-0 in Game 6s in these playoffs. . . .

This will be the 12th time in WHL history, and the first time since 2014, that Game 7 has been needed to decide the WHL championship. In 2014, the Edmonton Oil Kings became the first team to win a final series Game 7 on the road when they beat the Winterhawks, 4-2, in Portland. . . . However, that series was 2-2 after four games. . . . ICYMI: I took a look in a post here on Saturday night at the first 11 championship series to go seven games. . . .

In WHL history, teams have come from behind 3-1 deficits to win series on 13 occasions. Two of those were teams that trailed 3-0 — the 1996 Spokane Chiefs, in a first-round series with the Portland Winterhawks, and the 2013 Kelowna Rockets, in the Western Conference final against the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . .

However, only one team — the Jack Shupe-coached Victoria Cougars — has managed to erase a 3-1 deficit in the championship series and then win Game 7. The Cougars fell behind the Calgary Wranglers in 1981, before winning the last three games of the series. . . . They opened with three games in Victoria — Calgary won the opener, 3-2; Victoria tied it, 5-1; then Calgary posted an 8-6 victory to go home with a 2-1 edge. The Wranglers then went ahead, 3-1, with a 6-5 victory. The Cougars then rolled to three victories in as many nights — 7-4 on April 29 and 4-2 the next night, both in Calgary, and 4-2 in Victoria on May 1. . . . This was the first time in WHL history that a team had won a best-seven-series in any round after trailing 3-1. . . .

To sum it up: The Giants are trying to become the 14th team in WHL history to erase a 3-1 deficit in the final series and win the championship. They also are trying to become only the second team in WHL history to win Game 7 of the championship series on the road. . . . You can bet that Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck will let his guys know that history awaits!

The Raiders, meanwhile, haven’t lost three games in a row this season, and now are hoping to follow the example set by the 1992 and 1994 Kamloops Blazers. In both seasons, the Blazers met the Saskatoon Blades in the championship series. In each instance, Kamloops took a 3-1 lead and then found itself playing Game 7. In 1992, the Blazers won the title with an 8-0 victory at home. In 1994, the Blazers beat the Blades, 8-1, in Game 7 in Kamloops.

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SUNDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

G David Tendeck stopped 36 shots and F Davis Koch scored twice as the Vancouver VancouverGiants skated to a 4-2 victory over the Raiders in Prince Albert. . . . The WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup is tied, 3-3, with the winner of tonight’s Game 7 going home with the big bauble. . . . The Giants last won the title in 2006; the Raiders haven’t won it since 1985. . . . Vancouver, down 3-1 in the series, had won Game 5, 4-3, in Langley, B.C., on Friday night. . . . Last night, F Parker Kelly (7) gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds into the first period when he put his own rebound in behind Tendeck. Kelly had scored 41 seconds into Game 3, which the Raiders went on to win, 8-2, in Langley, B.C. . . . Koch (4) pulled the Giants even at 6:58, getting a nifty backhand shot past Raiders G Ian Scott. . . . Vancouver went ahead 2-1 at 15:17 when F Owen Hardy scored his fifth goal of the playoffs. . . . Kelly (8) pulled the Raiders even with 32.2 seconds left in the period, taking a pass from F Aliaksei Protas and scoring. . . . After a scoreless second period, the Giants went ahead 3-2 at 3:40 of the third as F Jared Dmytriw, their captain, scored his ninth goal, coming free in front of Scott and putting in a rebound off a shot by F Lukas Svejkovsky. . . . Dmytriw had the primary assist on Hardy’s goal, too. . . . The Raiders had a glorious chance to pull even when Vancouver F Jadon Joseph went off for tripping at 11:30. However, Tendeck closed the door and Prince Albert was penalized for too many men at 13:23. The Giants weren’t able to score on their PP, either. . . . Koch (5) put it away with an empty-netter with 14.2 seconds left to play. . . . Each team finished 0-2 on the PP. . . . The Raiders had a 38-27 edge in shots, including 16-10 in the first period and 11-7 in the third. . . . Scott finished with 23 saves. . . . The referees were Mike Campbell and Steve Papp, with Sean Dufour and Michael Roberts on the lines.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia has a game story right here.

Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has a gamer right here.


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Holt everything! Giants strike first. . . . Two late second-period goals key to Game 1 victory. . . . Might so many commits work against NCAA schools?

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F Matt Fraser (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Augsburger Panther (Germany, DEL). This season, he had 18 goals and 16 assists in 52 games. The was second on the team in goals and third in points. . . .

D Troy Rutkowski (Portland, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Linz Black Wings (Austria, Erste bank Liga). This season, he had nine goals and 18 assists in 52 games. . . .

D David Němeček (Saskatoon, 2013-14) has signed a one-year plus option contract with Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Mladá Boleslav (Czech Republic, Extraliga), he had three goals and three assists in 46 games. . . .

D Lassi Thomson (Kelowna, 2018-19) has signed a two-year plus option contract with Ilves Tampere (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Kelowna (WHL), he had 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 games. . . .

G Alexander Pechursky (Tri-City, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk (Russia, Vysshaya Liga). This season, with Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstan, Vysshaya Liga), he was 13-16-2, 2.36, .917, with one assist, in 32 games.


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You could make an argument that the most surprising part of Thursday’s WHL bantam draft was the decision by the Kamloops Blazers to use both of their first-round selections on players who have made verbal commitments to the U of Michigan Wolverines.

Kamloops used the seventh-overall selection on D Mats Lindgren of the Burnaby Winter Club, then took F Connor Levis of St. George’s Academy in Vancouver with the 20th pick.

Both players have made verbal commitments to the Wolverines for the 2022-23 season.

So . . . you’re wondering why the Blazers, a team that had a mediocre season while in what was the WHL’s weakest division in 2018-19, would take two NCAA commits in the first round?

Well, Jess Myers of therinklive.com has written an excellent piece that details the changes to NCAA hockey and its recruiting process, all of which came into effect on May 1.

In that story, Myers writes:

“The new system may also reduce the high numbers of committed players that many colleges have now. The list of college commitments that is maintained by College Hockey, Inc., shows that in the Big Ten, Michigan has 37 players who have given verbal commitments to play for the Wolverines in the future, and presumably have been given a scholarship offer of some amount. The (Minnesota) Gophers and Wisconsin (Badgers) each has 31 commitments listed.”

I wasn’t able to find the list of 37 potential future Wolverines, but, then, I’m hardly a computer genius. I did find a list of 24 commits, but it doesn’t include any players committed for 2022-23. Another list, this one at collegehockeynews.com, shows Michigan with 33 commitments but it doesn’t include 2022-23, either.

However, I would suggest that somewhere there is a list that shows 37 commits for Michigan.

Still, the point is that Michigan and many other schools have a whole host of commits potentially on the way.

That being the case, it’s got to give Kamloops general manager Matt Bardsley a terrific starting point when he begins his serious recruiting pitch with Lindgren, Levis and their families.

Myers’ story is right here.


CORRECTION: D Sean Comrie, whose rights moved from the Brandon Wheat Kings to the Kelowna Rockets on Thursday, just finished his first season with the U of Denver Pioneers. The Edmonton native had one assists in 18 games, after spending two seasons with the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints. Brandon selected him in the second round of the 2015 bantam draft.

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MORE DRAFT BLOODLINES: The Calgary Hitmen selected F Jadon Kwiatkowski of Sammamish, Wash., in the 11th round. A reader tells me that he is from Lake Stevens, Wash., and that he played for the U-14 Everett Jr. Silvertips. His father, Jason, played three seasons (1990-93) in the WHL, with the Prince Albert Raiders and Tacoma Rockets, while an uncle, Joel, split four WHL seasons (1994-98) between Tacoma, the Kelowna Rockets and Prince George Cougars. . . .

In the sixth round, the Hitmen selected D Matthew Sutter, who had seven goals and 13 assists in 31 games with the bantam AAA Spruce Grove PAC Saints. He isn’t related to the Sutters of Viking, Alta.

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Here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at teams that had four or more players selected in the bantam draft:

Anchorage North Stars (4)

BWC H.A. Bntm Prep (8)

Calgary CBHA Bisons BAAA (6)

Colorado Thunderbirds 14U (6)

Dallas Stars Elite 14U (5)

Delta H.A. Bntm Prep Green (12)

Eastman Selects B1AAA (4)

Edge School Bntm Prep (11)

Fort Sask. Rangers BAAA (5)

Lloydminster Bobcats BAAA (4)

Martensville Marauders BAA (4)

North Zone Kings BAA (4)

Northern Alberta Xtreme Bntm Prep (6)

OHA Edmonton Bntm Prep (7)

Okanagan H.A. Bntm Prep (7)

Okotoks Oilers BAAA (4)

Red Deer Rebels BAAA (8)

Rink H.A. Nationals Bntm Prep (9)

Sherwood Park Flyers BAAA (4)

St. George’s School Bntm Prep (4)

Warman Wildcats BAA (4)

Yale H.A. Bntm Prep (11)


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Ryan Marushak is remaining with the junior B Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey DelisleChiefsLeague. The former general manager will be the team’s director of player personnel in what will be his eighth season with the organization. . . . Eric Ditto was named the team’s general manager and head coach on Thursday. . . . If you weren’t aware, Delisle was home to the late Max Bentley, an NHL star who had one of the great nicknames in sports history — the Dipsy Doodle Dandy from Delisle.


Tyler Drader is the new head coach of the Calgary-based SAIT Trojans, who play in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. He spent the previous two seasons as general manager and head coach of the AJHL’s Calgary Mustangs. . . . Drader takes over from Brent Devost, who resigned after one season with the Trojans. . . . There is a news release right here.


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NOTES: First, please allow me to point out that this is the WHL final. It isn’t the WHL finals or the WHL Finals or the WHL FINALS. There is only one series, only one final, thus it is the WHL final. Thank you . . .

With that out of the way, the WHL final for the Ed Chynoweth Cup got started on Friday night in Prince Albert with the Vancouver Giants beating the Raiders, 5-4. They’ll play Game 2 in the Art Hauser Centre tonight, then head for Langley, B.C., and games on Tuesday, Wednesday and, if necessary, Friday in the Langley Events Centre. . . .

While there isn’t a player on either team who has played in a WHL final, there are coaches who have been there. . . . Jamie Heward, in his first season as the Giants’ associate coach, is in his second straight final. Last season, he helped guide the Swift Current Broncos to a championship. . . . Jeff Battah, an assistant coach with the Giants, was an assistant with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in 2008 when they got to the final under then-head coach Michael Dyck. Dyck, of course, now is the Giants’ head coach. . . . Raiders assistant coach Jeff Truitt was an assistant under Marc Habscheid, now the head coach in Prince Albert, when the Kelowna Rockets won the 2003 title. Truitt was the head coach two seasons later when the Rockets won the Ed Chynoweth Cup. . . .

Steve Ewen of Postmedia pointed out before Game 1 that Vancouver D Bowen Byram’s father, Shawn, played 116 games from 1986-88 with the Prince Albert Raiders, putting up 39 goals, 85 points and 300 PIMs. . . . Shawn began his WHL career by playing 62 games with the Regina Pats (1984-87). . . .

FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Vancouver Giants broke a 3-3 tie with two goals in the final minute of the second period and then hung on for a 5-4 victory over the host Prince Albert Raiders in Game 1 Vancouverof the WHL’s championship series. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Prince Albert tonight. . . . Vancouver D Dylan Plouffe (5) opened the scoring from the right faceoff dot at 4:20 of the first period, one-timing a pass from D Bowen Byram while enjoying a two-man PP advantage. . . . F Dawson Holt (6) upped the lead to 2-0 at 6:06 as he pounced on a rebound off the end boards and rifled it home just 10 seconds after Vancouver’s second PP expired. . . . The Raiders cut the deficit in half when F Brett Leason (6) scored on a PP at 3:20 of the second period, beating G David Tendeck through the legs. . . . F Jared Dmytriw (8), the Giants’ captain, restored the two-goal lead at 5:13 as his shot from the top of the circles got past G Ian Scott. . . . The Raiders quickly got that one back as F Noah Gregor (8) made it 3-2 at 6:17 as he split the defencemen at the top of the Giants’ zone, took a pass and scored from 12 feet out. . . . The home team pulled into a tie when F Dante Hannoun (10), a sniper who didn’t score in the six-game semifinal victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, found the range off a rebound at 16:45 of the second period. . . . Vancouver went back out front with 30.9 seconds left in the period as F Yannik Valenti (2) whipped home a one-timer from high in the slot on a PP. . . . Holt (7), who is from Saskatoon, made it 5-3 with his second goal of the game, this one from a bad angle, with 16.5 seconds left in the period. . . . D Jeremy Massella (1) pulled the Raiders back to within a goal at 2:50 of the third period when he drove to the net from the right side and stuffed the puck past Tendeck. . . . Holt had six goals in 53 regular-season games; he’s got seven in 16 playoff games. . . . F Owen Hardy, Dmytriw, who is from Craven, Sask., and Byram each had two assists for the Giants. Byram leads all playoff scorers with 20 points. . . . F Parker Kelly had two assists for the Raiders, with Hannoun adding one to his goal. . . . Vancouver was 2-4 on the PP; Prince Albert was 1-3. . . . Tendeck finished with 25 stops, four more than Scott. . . . F Aidan Barfoot was among the Giants’ scratches. He hasn’t played since suffering a suspected concussion in Game 4 of a first-round series with the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The referees were Jeff Ingram and Brett Iverson, with Sean Dufour and Tarrington Wyonzek on the lines.

(NOTE: Scoring changes after the game gave Byram two more assists, while taking one away from Hardy. That left Byram with a WHL-leading 22 points.)

Lucas Punkari of the Prince Albert Daily Herald has a game story right here.

Steve Ewen of Postmedia has a gamer right here.


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Canada gets Belarus next at U-18s. . . . Neighbours big for Oil Kings in OT. . . . Third-period explosion lifts Giants


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F Martin Lang, who just completed his first season with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, scored twice on Saturday to help the Czech Republic to an 8-2 victory over Switzerland at the IIHF U-18 World Championship in Umea, Sweden. . . . D Simon Kubicek (Seattle Thunderbirds) had one assist for the winners. . . . In the day’s only other game, Russia skated to a 5-1 victory over Latvia in Ornskoldsvik. . . . On Sunday, in Group A, Team Canada, which is 2-0, is scheduled to play Belarus (2-0), while Finland (0-2) goes against Czech Republic (1-1). In Group B, Team USA (2-0) meets Russia (2-0), and Slovakia (0-2) plays Sweden (1-1).


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NOTES: The WHL’s conference finals continued on Saturday night with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Vancouver Giants putting up victories. . . . The Oil Kings and Prince Albert Raiders are all even, 1-1, in the Eastern Conference final, with the Vancouver Giants holding a 2-0 lead over the Spokane Chiefs in the Western Conference final . . . Each series will pick up again on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Games 3 and 4, this time in Edmonton and Spokane. . . . The Oil Kings and Raiders will be back in Prince Albert for Game 5 on Friday night. . . .

F Davis Koch of the Giants leads the playoff scoring race, with 15 points, one more than F Dante Hannoun of the Raiders and Vancouver D Bowen Byram. . . . Hannoun leads in goals, with nine, and Koch is No. 1 in assists, with 13. . . . Among the goaltenders, Ian Scott of Prince Albert leads in GAA (1.79), with Edmonton’s Dylan Myskiw at 1.88. . . . Scott’s save percentage is tops, at .928, just ahead of Spokane’s Bailey Brkin (.926). . . . Scott has record nine victories, and Brkin has eight.

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SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

F Jake Neighbours scored in OT to give the Edmonton Oil Kings a 4-3 victory over the EdmontonOilKingsRaiders in Prince Albert. . . . That evened the Eastern Conference final, 1-1, with Game 3 scheduled for Edmonton on Tuesday night. . . . Prince Albert had posted a 1-0 victory on Friday night. . . . The Raiders led 2-0 early in the first period on goals by F Noah Gregor (5), at 3:28, and F Justin Nachbaur (1), at 6:55. . . . Nachbaur was back in the lineup after serving a two-game WHL suspension. . . . Edmonton tied it on a pair of PP goals before the period ended. D Matthew Robertson (3) scored at 13:58, and F Andrew Fyten (4) tied it at 19:31. . . . F Aliaksei Protas (5) put the home side ahead again, at 2:47 of the third period. . . . The Oil Kings tied it when F Trey Fix-Wolansky (4) scored at 5:38. . . . Neighbours won it with his fourth goal of these playoffs, beating G Ian Scott with a wrist shot from the left-wing boards at 14:49 of the first extra period. . . . This was his second OT goal of the playoffs. On April 6, as the visiting Oil Kings beat the Calgary Hitmen in Game 1 of a second-round series, he forced OT with a goal at 19:47 of the third period and then won it at 3:20 of extra time. . . . Neighbours, who turned 17 on March 29, is from Airdrie, Alta. He will be eligible for the NHL’s 2020 draft. The fourth overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft, he had 11 goals and 13 assists in 47 regular-season games. He is having a terrific run in the playoffs, with 11 points in 12 games. . . . Neighbours and Robertson also had an assist each. . . . F Jakob Brook had two assists for the Raiders. . . . Edmonton was 2-4 on the PP; Prince Albert was 0-1. . . . G Dylan Myskiw made 26 saves for the Oil Kings. He is 6-3, 1.88, .921 in the playoffs. . . . Scott finished with 30 saves.


The Vancouver Giants struck for four goals in a span of 3:21 in third period — three of Vancouverthem from the line of Jared Dmytriw, Owen Hardy and Dawson Holt — en route to a 4-2 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. . . . The Giants, who have won eight straight games, lead the Western Conference final, 2-0, as the teams head to Spokane for games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. . . . Vancouver had won, 4-1, on Friday night. . . . Last night, the Chiefs took a 2-0 lead on goals from D Noah King (1), with 19 seconds left in the first period, and F Jaret Anderson-Dolan (4), just 19 seconds into the second period. . . . Holt (4) got the Giants started at 5:15 of the third period, and Dmytriw (5) pulled Vancouver even at 7:11. . . . Dmytriw (6) scored again at 7:33 for a 3-2 lead, and F Yannik Valenti (1) made it 4-2, one-timing a pass from the left faceoff dot on a PP, at 8:36. . . . In light of Valenti’s goal, here’s a tweet from Steve Ewen of Postmedia after Game 1: “Interesting to see Yannik Valenti getting some PP1 duty, considering he’s played sparingly at times during the playoffs. He does have that big, righty shot you see teams like to set up in the left faceoff circle.” . . . D Dylan Plouffe recorded two assists for Vancouver, with Holt adding one to his goal. . . . Vancouver was 1-2 on the PP; Spokane was 0-2. . . . Spokane’s PP is 0-4 in the two games; it went into the series with 12 goals in 25 attempts. . . . The Giants held a 24-20 edge in shots through two periods, then exploded in the third period when they outshot the visitors, 20-6. . . . G David Tendeck made his third straight start for the Giants and stopped 24 shots. . . . G Bailey Brkin came up with 40 saves for Spokane. . . . The Chiefs were without F Luc Smith, 20, who left Friday’s opening game early in the first period with an apparent ankle injury.


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Tracey nets two more for Canada. . . . Scott, Wiesblatt help Raiders to victory. . . . Hardy sparks Giants; Chiefs lose Smith

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F Roman Horák (Chilliwack, 2009-11) has signed a one-year contract extension with Växjö (Sweden, SHL). This season, he had 15 goals and 18 assists in 50 games.


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F Brayden Tracey of the Moose Jaw Warriors scored twice and added an assist on Friday Canadato help Canada to a 7-4 victory over Switzerland at the IIHF U-18 World Championship in Umea, Sweden. . . . The tournament, which runs through April 28, also is being played in Ornskoldsvik. . . . Tracey had scored twice on Thursday as Canada skated to a 5-3 victory over Finland as the tournament began. . . . On Friday, Canada got a goal and an assist from each of F Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg Ice) and F Connor Zary (Kamloops Blazers). F Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes) also scored for Canada. . . . G Taylor Gauthier (Prince George Cougars) stopped 17 shots in his second straight start. . . . Canada led 3-0 and 4-3 by period. . . . Canada will next play on Sunday when it is to meet Belarus.

In other Friday games, Team USA dumped Slovakia, 12-5, behind four goals from each of F Cole Caufield, who has seven in two games, and F Jack Hughes; Sweden beat Latvia, 5-2; and Belarus surprised Finland, 4-3, despite being outshot 29-3 in the third period. F Yegor Buyalski of the Warriors had a goal and an assist for Belarus.


The NCAA has announced a series of rule changes regarding the does and don’ts of recruiting that will impact Division I men’s hockey. . . . Here’s Mike G. Morale of nhl.com: “The new legislation, which will go into effect May 1, calls for no recruiting conversations until Jan. 1 of a player’s sophomore (grade 10) school year, as well as no verbal offers (commitments) made to a player until Aug. 1 before the player’s junior (grade 11) school year. Under the old guidelines, players could initiate communication at any time, and verbal offers could be made anytime.” . . . Morreale’s story is right here.

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With the rule changes not kicking in until May 1, there may well be a few young players making verbal commitments between now and then. . . . On Friday, F Tanner Ludtke, a 14-year-old from Elko, Minn., announced via Twitter that he has committed to the U of Nebraska-Omaha and will join the Mavericks for the 2023-24 season. . . . This season, he had 30 goals and 33 assists in 46 games with the Lakeville South bantam AA club. . . .

Meanwhile, F Brett Moravec, 16, has committed to the U of Wisconsin Badgers. Moravec, from Airdrie, Alta., was a fifth-round pick by the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. This season, he had 13 goals and 23 assists in 32 games with the prep team at the Edge School in Calgary.


The Battlefords North Stars wrapped up the SJHL championship on Friday night, beating the visiting Melfort Mustangs, 7-2. . . . The North Stars won the series and the Canalta Cup, 4-1, and now will meet the MJHL-champion, either the Portage Terriers or the Swan Valley Stampeders, for the ANAVET Cup. The MJHL champion will be decided on Monday when the teams meet in Game 7 in Portage la Prairie. . . . Last night, Battlefords got two goals from each of F Macgregor Sinclair, Quintin Loon-Stewardson and F Braydon Buziak. . . . They also got 32 saves from G Joel Grzybowski.


EdChynowethCup

NOTES: The WHL playoffs resumed on Friday night as each of the conference finals got started. . . .

The Prince Albert Raiders opened the Eastern Conference final at home with a 1-0 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings, who hadn’t played since eliminating the Calgary Hitmen on April 10. The Raiders won their series with the Saskatoon Blades on April 14. . . .

In the Western Conference, the Vancouver Giants got started with a 4-1 victory over the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. . . . They’ll play again tonight in Langley. . . . The Giants had been idle since finishing off the Victoria Royals on April 11. The Chiefs eliminated the Everett Silvertips on April 13.

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FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

G Ian Scott recorded the shutout and F Ozzy Wiesblatt scored the game’s only goal as the PrinceAlbertPrince Albert Raiders opened the Eastern Conference final with a 1-0 victory over the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . They’ll play Game 2 in Prince Albert tonight. . . . Wiesblatt (4) scored at 1:48 of the second period, his backhand shot bouncing past G Dylan Myskiw after hitting the stick belonging to Edmonton D Wyatt McLeod. . . . Wiesblatt had scored three goals in the Raiders’ first four games of these playoffs; this goal ended a six-game drought. . . . Scott blocked 26 shots, and was superb in a third period in which his guys were outshot 11-3. . . . In these playoffs, Scott is 9-2, 1.64, .934 with two shutouts. . . . Myskiw finished with 23 saves. . . . Edmonton was 0-2 on the PP; Prince Albert was 0-4. . . . The Raiders are 6-0 at home in the playoffs. . . . The Oil Kings went into the game having won their previous four road games. . . . F Cole Fonstad was back in the Raiders’ lineup after missing the last two games of their six-game series victory over the Saskatoon Blades. . . . F Justin Nachbaur of the Raiders sat out as he completed a two-game suspension.


F Owen Hardy scored once and added two assists to lead the Vancouver Giants to a 4-1 Vancouvervictory over the Spokane Chiefs in Langley, B.C. . . . It was Game 1 of the Western Conference final. Game 2 will be played tonight in Langley. . . . The Giants took control with two goals 2:12 apart early in the first period. . . . F Lukas Svejkovsky (4) opened the scoring, on a PP, at 6:25, and F Dawson Holt (3) made it 2-0 at 8:37. . . . Hardy (4) upped the lead to 3-0 just 57 seconds into the second period. . . . The Chiefs got their goal at 5:30 as F Adam Beckman (6) scored. . . . D Bowen Byram (5) put it away for the Giants with an empty-netter at 18:06 of the third period. . . . Vancouver was 1-2 on the PP; Spokane was 0-2. . . . G David Tendeck earned the victory with 30 saves, four more than Spokane’s Bailey Brkin. . . . The Giants continued to play without F Aidan Barfoot, who is out with an undisclosed injury. . . . Spokane F Luc Smith left the game early in the first period after falling into the boards. He didn’t return. If he has to miss any time it will be a big loss for the Chiefs. At 6-foot-4, he’s a big body and as a 20-year-old he brings a lot of experience to their lineup. After being acquired from the Kamloops Blazers this season, he had 20 goals and 14 assists in 42 games. He went into this series with four goals and an assist in 10 games.


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

MacBeth

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


ThisThat

OK. Let’s review . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s right and that piece is right here.


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

——

TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

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


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


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


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Scattershooting while wondering what happened to the Astros . . . Sports Curmudgeon is unique . . . President Pateman answers questions

Scattershooting

After the New York Giants were drubbed by the visiting Philadelphia Eagles last weekend to fall to 1-5, the New York Post headline: From Bad To Hearse.


Jack Finarelli, aka The Sports Curmudgeon, with a most valid point:

“Pardon me, but I need to vent here.  We are only about a third of the way through the football season and I have reached my limit on something that TV announcers say far too often.  There is no such thing as a ‘very unique’ offense or defense; in fact, nothing in the universe is ‘very unique.’ Everything and anything are either ‘unique,’ or they are ‘not unique.’ There are no gradations there.”

He finishes up with this:

“Memo to TV announcers —  Please replace ‘very unique’ in your vocabulary with something that makes sense such as ‘highly unusual’ or ‘very different.’ ”

——

Also . . . please look up the definition of “howitzer” before using it to describe a slapshot from the blue line or a high fastball. . . . Oh, and hockey players don’t play “years.” They play seasons. There is a difference.



So . . . what happens to the WHL’s divisional alignment should the Kootenay Ice be the Winnipeg Ice before another season arrives? Obviously, the Ice would have to play in the East Division. That being the case, one would think that the Swift Current Broncos would then shift into the Central Division. That would keep six teams in each of the divisions.


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Headline at TheOnion.com: Manny Machado Denies Playing Dirty After Late Slide into Pitcher’s Mound

——

Headline at Fark.com: Manny Machado called up to the bush leagues.


Yes, MLB has a pace-of-play problem. If you don’t believe it, consider this note that Taking Note received from a Victoria-based reader late Wednesday:

“If anyone wonders why baseball’s TV ratings have declined, here’s what I was able to do tonight:

Watch the first hour of the Red Sox—Astros.

Drive downtown, watch a hockey game, drive home.

Watch the last half hour of the baseball game.

Four hours 40 minutes for nine innings is inexcusable.”

He’s right!

——

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Lee Merkel, a fan of the Buffalo Bills, died recently at the age of 83. His obit in the Utica, N.C., Observer Dispatch included: “Lee has requested six Bufffalo Bills players as pallbearers so they can let him down one last time.”


Gerry James, a former head coach of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, played for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. He was a tremendous athlete, whose nickname was Kid Dynamite. His son is having some health issues and a GoFundMe page has been set up to help the James family with travel-related costs. . . . You will find that page right here.


Just wondering: Is the United States of America the first country in the world to be governed via Twitter?


MacBeth

F T.J. Foster (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite). This season, he was pointless in one game with Sport Vaasa (Finland, Liiga). He was released from a tryout contract by Sport on Sept. 26.


ThisThat

John Pateman, one of the Prince George Cougars’ six co-owners, is the franchise’s president and has been for almost a year now. He recently sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat, the analyst on home game broadcasts, and talked all things Cougars for last week’s Cat Scan podcast. . . . If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to own a WHL team, give this a listen. . . . At one point, Pateman offered: “When we got into this, we would hope to not lose money. We managed to lose quite a bit and we’ll lose quite a bit this year. Until we can have a bit of a playoff run, I think we will continue to lose money. . . . we would obviously like to break even but I think we have to hit the second round of the playoffs to do that.” . . . Asked by Miller if the six owners are in it for the long run, Pateman chuckled and replied: “I don’t think we have a choice . . . we’re in. It is what it is.” . . . The podcast runs almost 36 minutes and it’s all right here.


You may recall the schmozzle that arose in January after the final game of the World Junior Championship when three Swedish coaches — Tomas Monten, Nizze Landen and Henrik Stridh — removed their silver medals immediately after receiving them and chose not to wear them for the rest of the post-game ceremony. Shortly thereafter, Monten was hit with a three-game suspension, with Landen and Stridh drawing two-game bans. Those suspensions were to have been served at the beginning of the 2019 event. However, they appealed and won as the Court of Arbitration for Sport tossed out the suspensions. . . . At the same time, the suspensions to the five players who removed their medals are still in place. . . . There is more on this story right here.


SUNDAY NIGHT NOTES:

F Jackson Leppard snapped a 1-1 tie at 2:40 of the third period and the Prince George PrinceGeorgeCougars went on to beat the visiting Swift Current Broncos, 3-1. . . . The Cougars (5-5-1) have won three in a row. . . . The Broncos (1-11-0) have lost four in a row, with all losses coming on a B.C. Division tour that wraps up Tuesday in Kelowna. . . . Leppard also had two assists as he figured in all three Prince George goals. It was the third three-point night of his 116-game career. This season, he has two goals and four assists in 11 games. . . . Broncos G Joel Hofer stopped 37 shots. He has started four of the Broncos’ past five games, stopping 192 of 205 shots (.937). . . . The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes as the on-ice officials were late getting to the arena.


The Everett Silvertips scored the game’s last five goals and beat the host Regina Pats, 5-1. Everett. . . Everett (7-4-0) is 1-1-0 on its East Division trek. . . . Regina (3-9-0) has lost three in a row. . . . Everett got F Sean Richards back after he served a five-game suspension, and he scored his club’s first goal, his first of the season. . . . F Reece Vitelli (1) broke the tie at 1:06 of the second period. . . . The Silvertips were without their captain, F Connor Dewar, after he drew a four-game suspension for a cross-checking major and game misconduct in a 5-2 loss in Brandon on Friday night. He also will miss games in Prince Albert (Tuesday), Saskatoon (Wednesday) and Moose Jaw (Friday). He will be eligible to return on Saturday in Swift Current, the last game of the Everett’s East Division swing.


F Trey Fix-Wolansky scored twice and added an assist, leading the Edmonton Oil Kings to EdmontonOilKingsa 6-3 victory over the visiting Kootenay Ice. . . . The Oil Kings (6-7-1) had lost their previous eight games (0-7-1) after opening the season with five straight victories. . . . Kootenay (3-5-3) has lost six in a row (0-3-3). . . . Fix-Wolansky, who has nine goals, broke a 1-1 tie at 17:56 of the first period, on a PP, and the Ice was left to chase the game for its remainder. He now has 23 points in 14 games. . . . F Peyton Krebs (4) got Kootenay to within a goal, at 4-3, at 13:09 of the second period, on a PP. However, Edmonton F Jake Neighbours (3) upped his club’s lead to 5-3, on a PP, at 19:46. . . . Fix-Wolansky iced it at 18:06 of the third period. . . . The Oil Kings also got two goals from F Andrei Pavlenko (4). A sophomore from Belarus, he has four goals and two assists in 14 games; last season, he finished with three goals and one assist in 20 games.


F Owen Hardy scored twice to help the Vancouver Giants to a 3-1 victory over the VancouverKelowna Rockets in Langley, B.C. . . . Vancouver (10-2-2) was playing its third game in fewer than 48 hours, having gone 0-1-1 in a home-and-home with the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Kelowna (4-10-0) also was playing its third game in fewer than 48 hours. It had swept two games in Victoria before travelling to Langley. . . . Hardy gave the Giants a 1-0 lead at 15:26 of the first period and provided them with a 3-1 edge at 11:48 of the third period. He’s got four goals this season. . . . D Bowen Byram had two assists for the Giants. He has five goals and seven assists in 14 games. . . . Kelowna gave G Roman Basran his third start of the weekend. He stopped 21 shots. . . . At the other end, Trent Miner blocked 28 shots. His 1.24 GAA and .958 save percentage are the best in the WHL. . . . The Giants were without F James Malm, who suffered an undisclosed injury on Saturday night. . . . The Rockets scratched F Lane Zablocki for a second straight game after he had made his season debut on Friday.


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