Americans’ Valimaki on shelf . . . Winning debut for McDonald in P.A. . . . No stopping Blades or Giants

MacBeth

F Chase Witala (Prince George, 2010-16) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Žilina (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had three goals and seven assists with the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL), and was pointless in five games with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL).


A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

The Tri-City Americans, already without F Michael Rasmussen for up to eight weeks, are going to have to play without D Juuso Valimaki for the next while.

Valimaki has been with the Finnish national junior team at the World Junior TriCity30Championship in Buffalo.

The 19-year-old Valimaki is in his third season with the Americans. The Calgary Flames selected him in the first round of the NHL’s 2017 draft.

Wes Gilbertson, who covers the Flames for Postmedia, tweeted Saturday evening that Valimaki “was playing through injury” at the WJC.

Valimaki went from Buffalo to Calgary where he was examined by the Flames’ medical staff. According to Gilbertson, any injury isn’t major, but is enough to keep Valimaki on the shelf for “likely . . . a couple of weeks.”

Valimaki has five goals and 15 assists in 19 games with Tri-City, but missed five games between Nov. 18 and Dec. 8 with an undisclosed injury. He returned to play three games and then left to join Finland’s national junior team.

Of course, when Valimaki does return, he will get to skate with D Jake Bean, one of the WHL’s top players, who was acquired from the Calgary Hitmen last night.

Rasmussen, meanwhile, had surgery before Christmas to repair a damaged wrist. A first-round pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL’s 2017 draft, he has 31 points, including 16 goals, in 22 games this season. However, he didn’t play between Nov. 18 and Dec. 2, then came back to play five games. He last played on Dec. 16.


The Prince Albert Raiders got down to three 20-year-olds on Saturday by releasing F Devon Skoleski. The move became necessary after the Raiders acquired F Regan Nagy, 20, from the Victoria Royals earlier in the week. . . . From St. Adolphe, Man., Skoleski had eight goals and nine assists in 38 games this season, his third in the WHL. He played the previous two seasons with the Everett Silvertips. In 169 regular-season games, he has 31 goals and 39 assists. . . . The move leaves the Raiders with Nagy, F Curtis Miske and F Jordy Stallard as their 20-year-old players.


The Kootenay Ice has signed D Benjamin Zloty, who was a sixth-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. From Calgary, he has three goals and six assists in 11 games with the midget AAA Calgary Royals this season. . . . The Ice now has signed seven of the 10 players it selected in the 2017 bantam draft.


Scoreboard

SATURDAY:

At Prince Albert, F Kody McDonald, acquired in a trade earlier in the day, scored in OT to give the Raiders a 2-1 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Raiders (15-17-8) have PrinceAlbertpoints in three straight (2-0-1). They now are five points out of a wild-card playoff spot. . . . The Rebels (10-21-9) have lost seven straight (0-3-4). . . . The Raiders had D Vojtech Budik back after his stint with Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship and he opened the scoring with his third goal of the season, 48 seconds into the second period. . . . That goal came after a first period in which the home side held a 17-0 edge in shots. . . . F Reese Johnson (13) pulled the Rebels even at 19:33 of the second. . . . McDonald won it at 1:08 of extra time with his 20th goal of the season. . . . Budik earned an assist on the winner. . . . Prince Albert was 0-2 on the PP; Red Deer was 0-3. . . . G Curtis Meger earned the victory with 18 saves. . . . Red Deer got 33 saves from G Ethan Anders. . . . Both teams will make it three games in fewer than 48 hours today as they hit the road — the Rebels will play in Swift Current, while the Raiders are in Regina. . . . Announced attendance: 1,901.


At Swift Current, the Broncos broke a 2-2 tie with two third-period goals and beat the Regina Pats, 4-2. . . . Swift Current (28-10-3) has points in three straight (2-0-1). The SCBroncosBroncos are second in the overall standings, 10 points behind Moose Jaw and six ahead of Brandon. . . . Regina (20-19-3) had won its previous four games. The Pats hold down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, five points ahead of Prince Albert. . . . The Broncos took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from F Kaden Elder, at 9:34, and F Matteo Gennaro, at 11:42. . . . Regina tied it in the second period as F Bryan Lockner (6) scored, on a PP, at 4:41 and F Nick Henry (7) counted at 18:46. . . . Gennaro (26) broke the tie at 15:15 of the third period and Elder (11) added insurance at 18:31. . . . D Josh Mahura had two assists for the Pats. . . . Regina was 1-4 on the PP; Swift Current was 0-3. . . . The Broncos got 33 saves from G Logan Flodell. . . . Regina starter Tyler Brown allowed two goals on 11 shots in 11:45 before being relieved by Jacob Wassermann, who made his WHL debut by stopping 15 of 17 shots in 48:15. Wassermann, who plays for the SJHL’s Humboldt Broncos, is on the Pats’ roster while G Max Paddock is sidelined. . . . F Austin Pratt, acquired earlier in the day from Red Deer, was in the Pats’ lineup. However, F Jesse Gabrielle and D Jonas Harkins, who came over to Regina from Prince George on Friday, didn’t play. . . . D Artyom Minulin played for the Broncos after returning from the World Junior Championship where he played for Russia. . . . Announced attendance: 2,284.


At Saskatoon, the Blades ran their winning streak to seven games with a 4-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . The Blades (21-17-3) now have won 10 of their past 11 games. They Saskatoonare in the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, two points ahead of Regina. . . . The Ice (18-21-3) has lost five in a row, going 0-4-1 as it played five games in six nights. This also was its eight game in 11 nights since the end of the Christmas break. Kootenay remains second in the Central Division, two points ahead of Lethbridge. . . . F Gage Ramsay, who went into the game with two goals this season, got his guys off to a quick start by scoring twice in the first period, at 3:07 and 12:46. . . . F Josh Paterson (20) made it 3-0 at 17:13. . . . Saskatoon F Cam Hebig (30) upped the lead to 4-0 at 8:33 of the third period. . . . The Ice got two late third-period goals from F Keenan Taphorn (4), at 15:48, and F Brett Davis (11), at 18:44. . . . Ramsay added an assist to his two goals, while Hebig had two helpers. . . . D Zachary Patrick had two assists for the Ice. . . . Kootenay was 0-1 on the PP; Saskatoon was 0-2. . . . Saskatoon G Nolan Maier stopped 27 shots. He’s got 10 victories in his past 10 starts. . . . Kootenay starter Bailey Brkin was beaten three times on 17 shots in the first period. Duncan McGovern finished up by stopping 14 of 15 shots in 38:51. . . . This was the first meeting of four between these teams this season. . . . D Libor Hajek, who played so well for Slovakia at the World Junior Championship, was back in the Blades’ lineup. . . . The Blades will make it three games in fewer than 48 hours when they meet the Wheat Kings in Brandon today. The Wheat Kings were idle last night. . . . Announced attendance: 3,241.


At Edmonton, F Jayden Halbgewachs, the WHL’s top sniper, scored twice to help the Moose Jaw Warriors to a 7-2 victory over the Oil Kings. . . . Moose Jaw (33-6-3) has points MooseJawWarriorsin eight straight (7-0-1) and is 10 points clear atop the overall standings. . . . The Oil Kings (10-24-6) have lost three in a row (0-2-1). . . . The Warriors jumped out front 2-0 on first-period goals form F Tanner Jeannot (31) and Halbgewachs, at 5:05 and 10:32. . . . Edmonton tied it before the period ended on PP goals from F Davis Koch (18) and F Trey Fix-Wolansky (17). . . . The Warriors scored the game’s last five goals. . . . F Luka Burzan (6) broke the tie at 12:00 of the second period, and F Justin Almeida added insurance at 17:18. . . . Almeida (24) scored again at 2:14, Halbgewachs (44) got his second of the game, while shorthanded, at 14:25, and F Tate Popple (4) finished the scoring at 17:32. . . . F Brayden Burke, who leads the WHL points race, had three assists. . . . Fix-Wolansky and Koch each had an assist for Edmonton. . . . The Oil Kings were 2-7 on the PP; the Warriors were 1-4. . . . The Warriors got 16 saves from G Brody Willms, while Edmonton’s Josh Dechaine stopped 25 shots. . . . Moose Jaw lost D Matthew Benson to a headshot major and game misconduct at 3:23 of the third period. . . . The Oil Kings were without F Colton Kehler, who served a one-game suspension after a slew-footing incident in Medicine Hat on Friday night. . . . Announced attendance: 7,375.


At Lethbridge, F Andrew Fyten scored Calgary’s first two goals and the Hitmen went on to a 6-1 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . Calgary (13-21-6) has won four straight from CalgaryLethbridge and leads the season series, 4-2-0. Calgary is fourth in the Central Division, five points behind Lethbridge. . . . Lethbridge (17-19-3) has lost two in a row. It is 2-3-1 in the series with Calgary. The Hurricanes are third in the division, two points behind Kootenay with three games in hand. . . . Fyten gave his guys a 1-0 lead at 5:38 of the first period. . . . Lethbridge F Jordy Bellerive (24) tied it at 15:05 with his seventh goal in six games. . . . Fyten (6) put the Hitmen back out front at 17:34. . . . The visitors took control with three second-period goals, from F Luke Coleman (8), at 1:34; D Jameson Murray (1), at 6:34; and F Riley Stotts (9), at 8:53. . . . F Cael Zimmerman (4) closed out the scoring, on a PP, at 19:19 of the third period. . . . James and F Jake Kryski each had two assists for Calgary, with Coleman and Stotts each adding one. . . . The Hitmen were 1-4 on the PP; the Hurricanes were 0-3. . . . Calgary G Nick Schneider stopped 37 shots. . . . The Hurricanes started G Stuart Skinner, who allowed five goals on 17 shots in 28:53. . . . Reece Klassen played the final 31:07, stopping 16 of 17 shots. . . . Calgary F Jakob Stukel came up short on a second-period penalty shot. . . . The Hitmen will play their third game of the weekend today when they entertain the Kelowna Rockets, who didn’t play last night. . . . Announced attendance: 3,773.


At Medicine Hat, the Vancouver Giants scored the game’s last two goals to beat the Tigers, 5-3. . . . Vancouver (23-14-5) has points in six straight (5-0-1) and has won six straight road Vancouvergames. The Giants, who have missed the playoffs each of the previous three seasons, are tied with Kelowna for first place in the B.C. Division. . . . Medicine Hat (22-16-3) had been 3-0-1 in its previous four games. It leads the Central Division by eight points over Kootenay. . . . F Tyler Preziuso (11) scored a shorthanded goal at 2:08 of the first period to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. . . . F Dawson Holt pulled the visitors even at 6:51. . . . The Tigers went back out front when F Ryan Chyzowski (14) scored, on a PP, at 2:53 of the second period. . . . Vancouver pulled even again just 55 seconds later when F Brad Morrison (11) scored. . . . The Giants took their first lead at 8:27 as F Brayden Watts (12) scored while shorthanded. . . . Medicine Hat tied it at 9:53 when F Gary Haden (10) scored while on the PP. . . . The Giants won it with two third-period goals. . . . F Ty Ronning (36) broke the tie, on a PP, at 5:38, and Holt (6) provided insurance with his second goal of the game at 11:36. . . . Morrison and Watts had an assist each for Vancouver. . . . Chyzowski added an assist to his goal, too. . . . Medicine Hat was 2-7 on the PP; Vancouver was 1-4. . . . G Todd Scott stopped 23 shots for the Giants, two fewer than Medicine Hat’s Jordan Hollett. . . . F Ryan Jevne of the Tigers completed a three-game suspension by sitting out this one. . . . Announced attendance: 3,353.


At Kamloops, the Victoria Royals erased a 3-0 first-period deficit and beat the Blazers, 5-4 in OT. . . . Victoria (23-15-4) has won two in a row and is third in the B.C. Division, one VictoriaRoyalspoint behind Kelowna and Vancouver. . . . Kamloops (17-19-3) now is eights points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Blazers got first-period goals from F Nick Chyzowski (13), at 0:51; F Garrett Pilon (18), who ended a six-game drought, at 4:44; and F Travis Walton, with his first goal in his 21st game, at 19:08. . . . F Tyler Soy (18) got Victoria on the scoreboard at 14:52 of the second period, but D Joe Gatenby (9) got it back for Kamloops just 1:07 later. . . . The Royals got to within two goals at 16:52 as F Dino Kambeitz scored his ninth goal. . . . D Jared Freadrich (9) made it 4-3, on a Victoria PP, at 10:12, and F Matthew Phillips (30), who was the game’s best player and also had two assists, tied it at 14:36. . . . The game ended on the first shot of OT at 0:23. Soy won a puck battle deep in the Royals’ zone, and rifled the puck up ice to send Phillips and D Chaz Reddekopp in 2-on-1. Phillips made the pass to give Reddekopp a look at an open net and he didn’t miss for his fifth goal of the season. . . . Soy and Reddekopp also had an assist each. . . . The Blazers got two assists from D Nolan Kneen and one each from Pilon and Gatenby. . . . Victoria was 1-3 on the PP; Kamloops was 0-3. . . . G Griffen Outhouse stopped 32 shots to record the victory over Dylan Ferguson, who made 30 saves. . . . The Blazers had F Justin Sigrist back after his time with Switzerland at the World Junior Championship. . . . F Jeff de Wit, who finished Friday’s 5-0 victory over visiting Everett, was among Victoria’s scratches. . . . The Royals left immediately after the game for Everett where they are scheduled to play the Silvertips today. . . . Announced attendance: 4,740.


At Prince George, F Parker AuCoin scored two third-period goals to force OT then got the only goal of a shootout as the Tri-City Americans, who had trailed 4-1, came back to beat TriCity30the Cougars, 6-5. . . . Tri-City (21-12-5) had lost its previous two games. It is third in the U.S. Division, one point behind Everett. . . . Prince George (15-18-7) has points in four straight (2-0-2) and is tied with Kamloops, eight points out of a playoff spot. . . . F Jared Bethune, who had scored three times in the Cougars’ 4-3 victory on Friday night, got his 13th goal at 7:32 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. . . . F Aaron Boyd (7) made it 2-0 at 8:51. . . . F Sasha Mutala (5) cut into the deficit, on a PP, at 16:40. . . . The Cougars went ahead 4-0 with a pair of second-period PP goals just 1:31 apart — F Jackson Leppard (9) scored at 11:24 and D Dennis Cholowski (13) followed up at 12:55. . . . The Americans got to within a goal by scoring twice before the period ended, as F Jordan Topping (20) scored at 13:11 and F Max James got his sixth goal at 15:55. . . . The Cougars went ahead 5-3 at 3:30 of the third period when F Max Kryski got the third goal of his freshman season. . . . The Americans tied it on a pair of AuCoin PP goals, at 10:41 and 12:16. He’s got 10 goals. . . . AuCoin, the shootout’s first shooter, scored and his goal held up as the winner. . . . The Americans got two assists from each of D Mitchell Brown and Topping, with James getting one. . . . Leppard and D Joel Lakusta had two assists apiece for the Cougars, with Cholowski and Bethune adding one each. . . . Lakusta, who went into his third season with three goals and 16 assists in 104 games, has four goals and 16 helpers in 40 games this season. He has recorded six assists in his past four games. . . . Tri-City was 3-5 on the PP; Prince George was 2-4. . . . G Beck Warm stopped 38 shots for the Americans, and that included a save on F Josh Curtis on a penalty shot at 1:19 of OT. . . . The Cougars got 34 saves from G Tavin Grant. . . . Newly acquired F Kjell Kjemhus, who came over from Regina, and D Rhett Rhinehart (Prince Albert) made their Prince George debuts. . . . The Americans were fined $250 on Saturday for a “warm-up violation” prior to Friday’s game. . . . Tri-City will complete a three-game weekend today in Kamloops. . . . Announced attendance: 2,841.


At Everett, F Jake Gricius scored at 19:21 of the third period to give the Portland Winterhawks a 4-3 victory over the Silvertips. . . . Portland (23-13-3) had lost its previous Portlandthree games (0-1-2). The victory lifted it past Everett and into first place in the U.S. Division. . . . Everett (23-16-2) has lost two straight. . . . Portland scored the game’s first three goals. . . . Gricius opened the scoring at 17:41 of the first period, and F Ryan Hughes (6) made it 2-0 just 17 seconds later. . . . F Ilijah Colina (3) upped the lead to 3-0, on a PP, at 1:39 of the second period. . . . Everett tied it with the next three goals, all via the PP. . . . F Wyatte Wylie (3) made it 3-1 at 8:11 of the second period. . . . F Matt Fonteyne made it a one-goal game, at 9:49, then tied it with his 20th goal, at 7:59 of the third period. . . . The teams appeared headed to OT when Gricius won it with his ninth goal of the season. . . . F Mason Mannek had two assists for the Winterhawks. . . . Everett got two assists from each of D Kevin Davis and F Patrick Bajkov. . . . Everett was 3-5 on the PP; Portland was 1-2. . . . G Cole Kehler stopped 36 shots for the Winterhawks, two more than Everett’s Dustin Wolf. . . . The Silvertips brought in D Dylan Anderson from the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League, but he wasn’t in the lineup. Anderson, 15, was a fourth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . Announced attendance: 7,019.


At Kent, Wash., F Donovan Neuls scored twice and added an assist as the Seattle Thunderbirds dumped the Spokane Chiefs, 4-1. . . . Seattle (20-14-5) has points in eight Seattlestraight (7-0-1). . . . Spokane (21-16-3) is tied with Seattle for fourth in the U.S. Division, two points behind Tri-City. Seattle and Spokane hold down the Western Conference’s two wild-card spots. . . . Neuls opened the scoring at 18:10 of the first period. . . . Seattle D Jarret Tyska (6) made it 2-0 at 6:36 of the second period. . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan (22) scored for Spokane at 12:44 of the second period. . . . Neuls (13) restored the two-goal lead, on a PP, at 16:05. . . . Seattle F Matthew Wedman (7) stretched the lead, on another PP, at 5:54 of the third period. . . . F Zack Andrusiak and D Turner Ottenbreit each had two assists for the winners. . . . Andrusiak, 19, went into this season with six goals and five assists in 67 games. This season, he has 18 goals and 20 assists in 39 games. . . . Seattle was 2-5 on the PP; Spokane was 0-6. . . . G Liam Hughes earned the victory with 39 saves, 10 more than Spokane’s Dawson Weatherill. . . . Announced attendance: 5,180.


SUNDAY (all times local):

Saskatoon at Brandon, 4 p.m.

Red Deer at Swift Current, 4 p.m.

Prince Albert at Regina, 4 p.m.

Kelowna at Calgary 4 p.m.

Victoria at Everett, 4:05 p.m.

Tri-City at Kamloops, 5 p.m.


TWEET OF THE DAY

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Saturday’s WHL trades: Cougars get first-rounder, more from Raiders for McDonald . . . Pats add forward from Rebels

WHEELING AND DEALING …

NUMBER OF TRADES (since Nov. 13): 24

PLAYERS: 45

BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 29

CONDITONAL BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 5


THE DEAL: Prince Albert acquired F Kody McDonald, 19, and a conditional fourth-round pick in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft for D Rhett Rhinehart, who turned 16 on Nov. 27, D PrinceAlbertAustin Crossley, 18, and the Raiders’ first-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: McDonald was the Cougars’ leading goal scorer, with a single-season career-high of 19. He also had 17 assists in 35 games. . . . In 232 regular-season games, all with the Cougars, he had 60 goals and 66 assists. . . . The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Rhinehart had one assist in 31 games with the Raiders this season. . . . Crossley, 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, had four assists in 19 games with the Raiders this season, after recording a goal PrinceGeorgeand an assist in 30 games last season.

THE INFO: McDonald is from Lethbridge and was in his fourth season with the Cougars, who selected him in the second round of the 2013 bantam draft. It was evident on Friday evening that something was up as McDonald was scratched from the lineup just moments before the Cougars met the visiting Tri-City Americans. . . . Rhinehart, a right-hand shot from Lloydminster, Alta., was a first-round pick, 12th overall, by the Raiders in the 2016 gantam draft. He played last season for the midget prep team at the Yale Hockey Academy, putting up 30 points, nine of them goals, in 25 games. . . . Crossley, from Fort St. John, B.C., signed with the Raiders last season after playing 25 games with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers.

WHY: Despite being seven points out of a playoff spot at the time of the trade and playing in the toughest division in major junior hockey, the Raiders continue to work at strengthening this season’s roster. They are looking for McDonald to bring goals and grit. . . . The Cougars also were seven points out of a playoff spot at the time of the trade, which is all about looking down the road. This deal gets them back into the first round of the 2018 bantam draft after they dealt their pick to the Raiders on Nov. 18, 2016, in a deal that had D Brendan Guhle go to Prince George. The Raiders also got D Max Martin, F Kolby Johnson and a third-rounder in 2019 in that exchange. Apparently, the Raiders keep the Cougars’ first-round pick in 2018, while sending their pick to Prince George.


THE DEAL: The Regina Pats acquired F Austin Pratt, 18, from the Red Deer Rebels for a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Pratt was in his third season with Red Deer. ReginaPats100This season, he had seven goals and nine assists in 39 games. In 165 career games, he has 62 points, including 31 goals.

THE INFO: Pratt, from Lakeville, Minn., was a fourth-round selection by the Rebels in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . NHL Central Scouting had him ranked 103rd among North American skaters eligible for the NHL’s 2017 draft, but he wasn’t selected. . . . The trade came the morning after Pratt was victimized on the game-winning goal in a 3-2 loss to the host Saskatoon Blades. “You have to be able to pick your guy up in your own zone,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ GM and head coach, told Greg Meachem of reddeerrebels.com. “It’s a back door play and Pratter lets his guy go. He’s puck watching, not watching his man. The guy drives the net and scores.”

WHY: Pratt adds more depth to the Pats’ forward ranks, while the Rebels add another chip for what is an obvious rebuild.

O Canada! Steenbergen is our hero . . . Blades’ winning streak reaches six . . . Giants keep rolling on the road

MacBeth

F Pavel Brendl (Calgary, 1998-2001) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Wings Arlanda (Sweden, Division 1). Brendl didn’t play last season. In 2015-16, he had 19 goals and 10 assists in 46 games with Skalica (Slovakia, Extraliga), and three goals and three assists in six games with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga) 6.


A LITTLE OF THIS …

With D Linus Nassen on the shelf, the Medicine Hat Tigers had D Eric Van Impe make his WHL debut on Friday night against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings.

Van Impe is the son of former WHL D Darren Van Impe (Prince Albert, Red Deer, 1990-Tigers Logo Official94).

The Tigers acquired Eric from Spokane, along with F Hayden Ostir, and a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft, on Oct. 19, sending F Zach Fischer to the Chiefs.

Van Impe, a second-round pick by the Chiefs in the 2016 bantam draft, has eight goals and 13 assists in 21 games with the midget AAA Calgary Northstars. Last season, he had five goals and 10 assists in 34 games with the Northstars.

CHAT News Today reports that Nassen, a freshman from Sweden, will miss up to eight weeks with a broken radial bone near one wrist. CHAT also reports that Ostir is week-to-week with a broken hand.

The Tigers are still waiting to get F Mason Shaw back after he suffered a knee injury that required surgery while with the NHL-Minnesota Wild’s entry in a preseason tournament.

F Josh Williams, who suffered a broken collarbone at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, returned to the Medicine Hat lineup last night.


The Red Deer Rebels, who likely aren’t going to be in the playoffs in the spring, continued Red Deerto get younger on Friday when they added F Alex Morozoff, 16, to their roster. . . . Morozoff, from Saskatoon, was a seventh-round selection by the Rebels in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, he had 15 goals and 10 assists in 27 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts. Last season, he finished with five goals and 11 assists in 44 games with the Contacts. . . . Morozoff made his WHL debut in his hometown last night, scoring once in a 3-2 loss to the Blades.


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Tyler Steenbergen of the Swift Current Broncos, Canada’s 13th forward for most of the World Junior Championship, broke a 1-1 tie at 18:20 of the third period as his guys won Canadagold with a 3-1 victory over Sweden on Friday night in Buffalo. . . . Steenbergen’s winner came as he skated to the left side of the Swedish goal with his stick on the ice and redirected a hard pass from D Conor Timmins past G Filip Gustavsson. . . . When Steenbergen left for Team Canada’s selection camp early in December, he had 35 goals in 27 games with the Broncos. . . . G Carter Hart stopped 35 shots in posting his eighth WJC career victory. He now shares the Team Canada record for career victories with Jimmy Waite and Stephane Fiset. . . . Team Canada included eight WHL players — D Jake Bean (Calgary), D Kale Clague (Brandon), F Dillon Dube (Kelowna), D Cal Foote (Kelowna), Hart, F Brett Howden (Moose Jaw), F Sam Steel (Regina) and Steenbergen — along with assistant coach Tim Hunter (Moose Jaw), athletic therapist Brian Cheeseman (Edmonton) and video coach Tim O’Donovan (Kamloops). . . . Brad McEwen, a familiar face in WHL arenas for a lot of years, played a key part, too, as Hockey Canada’s head scout. . . . In the video above, that’s Clague celebrating with this family. That’s his father, Jason, to the left. He is a former WHL goaltender. . . .

D Cale Makar, who is in his first season at UMass-Amherst, may have been Canada’s top defenceman in the tournament. He finished with three goals and five assists in the seven games. . . . A 19-year-old from Calgary, Makar was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . The Medicine Hat Tigers picked Makar in the eighth round of the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft, but he chose to play for the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits and then take the NCAA route. . . . It’s interesting that Brad McEwen, now Hockey Canada’s head scout, was Medicine Hat’s assistant GM and director of scouting when the Tigers drafted Makar. . . . A former Tigers scout told Taking Note last night that “Makar being on the Canadian team has Brad McEwen’s fingerprints all over it. . . . We had hoped he would come over to the WHL, but it never happened. . . . Brad has spent many years scouting in the Dub and obviously drew on some of that knowledge in putting the different pieces together on this team.” . . .

F Kieffer Bellows of the Portland Winterhawks scoredtwice as the U.S. beat Czech Republic, 9-3, in the third-place game at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo on Friday. That left Bellows with nine goals in the tournament — one of them came in a shootout, and the IIHF credits scorers with those goals. That is the most goals scored by an American in any one WJC, breaking the record that had been set by Jeremy Roenick at the 1989 tournament in Anchorage. In that event, Roenick had eight goals and eight assists in seven games as the U.S. finished fifth.

It’s worth noting that F Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs played in Friday’s game, despite having to be helped off the ice near the end of Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Sweden in a semifinal game. In the dying seconds, Swedish F Oskar Steen slashed Yamamoto behind the right knee. Yamamoto went down in a heap and teammates had to help him to the dressing room. In Friday’s pregame warmup, Yamamoto appeared to be favouring the leg, but as time went on — and he got warmed up — he looked to be playing at top speed.

Steen received a warning from the IIHF disciplinary committee and played in the championship game later in the evening.

Meanwhile, reports indicate that F Joachim Blichfeld of the Winterhawks, who played for Denmark at the WJC, wasn’t seriously injured when he was checked into the boards and struck his head. Blichfeld, who missed some games earlier in the season with a concussion, was stretchered off the ice and taken to hospital for tests.

Kevin Kurz, who covers the NHL’s San Jose Sharks for @TheAthleticSF, tweeted that a Sharks spokesman had told him there was “nothing serious” and that Blichfeld would “rest for a bit” and be back with Portland soon.

Blichfeld was selected by the Sharks in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2016 draft and signed an NHL contract on Dec. 28.


THE COACHING GAME …

The OHL’s Peterborough Petes fired head coach Jody Hull on Friday and replaced him with assistant Andrew Verner, at least on an interim basis. . . . At the time of the move, the Petes were 16-20-3, good for fourth place in the East Division and sixth place in the Eastern Conference. . . . Hull took over as interim head coach on Dec. 20, 2012, and had the interim tag removed on Feb. 14, 2013. His regular-season record with the Petes is 167-147-30. . . . Hull played for the Petes (1985-88) before going on to a 16-year pro career. . . . Verner is in his third season as an assistant coach with the Petes. He had been the team’s goaltending coach for two seasons (2013-15), and also played for the Petes (1989-92).


Scoreboard

FRIDAY:

At Prince Albert, F Regan Nagy, in his first game with the Raiders, scored twice in a 7-3 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Nagy, who hadn’t played since Nov. 28 because of a PrinceAlbertfinger injury, was acquired from the Victoria Royals earlier in the week. . . . The Raiders (14-17-8) had lost their previous five games (0-4-1). They are seven points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Ice (18-20-3) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). It finishes a stretch of five games in six nights tonight in Saskatoon. Kootenay is second in the Central Division, eight points behind Medicine Hat. . . . F Jordy Stallard (27) gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead 34 seconds into the first period. . . . Ice F Colton Veloso tied it at 1:25. . . . The Raiders took control with the next four goals. . . . D Brayden Pachal broke the tie at 9:36, with F Brett Leason (7) scoring, shorthanded, at 7:30 of the second period. . . . F Parker Kelly (17) upped the lead to 4-1 at 1:05 of the third period. . . . Pachal (4) got his second goal of the game at 2:37. He has three of his four goals in his past two games. . . . Veloso (14), on a PP, and D Jonathan Smart (5), shorthanded, added third-period goals for the Ice. . . . Nagy got the game’s last two goals, at 14:59 and 19:57. . . . Stallard added an assist to his goal. . . . The Ice got two assists from F Peyton Krebs. . . . The Ice was 1-5 on the PP; the Raiders were 0-1. . . . G Ian Scott earned the victory with 21 saves. . . . Kootenay starter Duncan McGovern was beaten three times on 14 shots in 11:14. Bailey Brkin came on to finish up and stopped 12 of 16 shots. . . . D Jeremy Masella, acquired by the Raiders from Victoria on Thursday, had one assist. . . . Announced attendance: 1,882.


At Saskatoon, D Jake Kustra broke a 2-2 tie at 10:35 of the third period as Blades beat the Red Deer Rebels, 3-2. . . . Saskatoon (20-17-3) has won six straight games and is tied with SaskatoonRegina for the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots. . . . The Rebels (10-21-8) have lost six in a row (0-3-3). . . . F Braylon Shmyr (20) put the home side ahead 1-0 at 19:19 of the first period. Shmyr, who drew the primary assist on the winner, has goals in five straight games. He also is on a six-game multi-point tear during which time he has six goals and 11 assists. . . . The Rebels took a 2-1 lead on second-period goals from F Reese Johnson (12), at 8:44, and F Alex Morozoff (1), on a PP, at 13:51. From Saskatoon, Morozoff was making his WHL debut. . . . F Bradly Goethals (9) pulled the Blades even at 16:42. . . . Kustra won it with his second goal of the season. It was his fourth goal in 128 career games. . . . Red Deer was 1-2 on the PP; Saskatoon was 0-1. . . . G Nolan Maier stopped 22 shots for the Blades, two fewer than Red Deer’s Riley Lamb. . . . F Mason McCarty (ill) was among Red Deer’s scratches. . . . Announced attendance: 3,169.


At Brandon, F Ty Lewis scored in OT to give the Wheat Kings a 3-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . Brandon (26-12-1) had lost its previous four games. . . . Swift Current BrandonWKregular(27-11-2) is second in the overall standings, four points ahead of Brandon. . . . F Matteo Gennaro scored twice for the visitors, giving him 24 goals. He gave his guys a 1-0 lead at 16:53 of the first period. . . . After Brandon F Baron Thompson (11) tied it, at 6:27 of the second period, Gennaro put his boys out front again, at 7:10 of the third. . . . F Evan Weinger (19), on a PP, tied it for Brandon at 9:31. . . . Lewis won it with his 21st goal of the season at 3:32 of extra time. . . . Weinger had the lone assist on the winner. . . . F Max Patterson had two assists for the Broncos. . . . Brandon was 1-4 on the PP; Swift Current was 0-1. . . . The Wheat Kings got 24 saves from G Logan Thompson. . . . Logan Flodell stopped 32 shots for the Broncos. . . . Announced attendance: 3,351.


At Calgary, the Moose Jaw Warriors jumped out to a 4-0 lead and went on to a 5-3 victory over the Hitmen. . . . Moose Jaw (32-6-3) has points in seven straight games (6-0-1) and MooseJawWarriorsleads the overall standings by 10 points over Swift Current. . . . Calgary (12-21-6) is 13 points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Warriors scored two goals in each of the first two periods. . . . F Jayden Halbgewachs (42) got it started while shorthanded, at 9:35 of the first and F Tanner Jeannot upped it to 2-0 at 17:47. . . . D Dmitri Zaitsev (3) scored on a PP at 7:33 of the second and Jeannot (30) made it 4-0 at 15:17. . . . F Riley Stotts got Calgary’s first goal, on a PP, at 11:58 of the third period. . . . Moose Jaw F Vince Loschiavo (13) got that one back at 14:33. . . . Stotts (8) and D Layne Toder, with his first WHL goal, scored for Calgary before the period ended. . . . The Warriors got two assists from F Tristin Langan and one each from Loschiavo, Zaitsev, Jeannot and Halbgewachs. . . . Moose Jaw F Brayden Burke, the WHL scoring leader, was held pointless. . . . Toder also had an assist for Calgary. . . . Calgary was 1-4 on the PP; Moose Jaw was 1-5. . . . G Adam Evanoff started and stopped all 18 shots he faced in 45:53 for Moose Jaw, before giving way to Brady Willms, who was beaten three times on five shots in 14:07. Evanoff went to the dressing room with trainer Brooke Kosolofski after taking a blow to the head. . . . Calgary starter Nick Schneider was beaten four times on 31 shots through two periods. Matthew Armitage stopped 10 of 11 shots in the third period. . . . Announced attendance: 5,435.


At Lethbridge, F Tyler Benson scored twice to help the Vancouver Giants to a 5-2 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . The Giants (22-14-5) are 4-0-1 in their past five games. They also Vancouverhave won five straight on the road. They are second in the B.C. Division, two points behind Kelowna. . . . Lethbridge (17-18-3) had points in its previous three games (2-0-1). It is third in the Central Division, two points behind Kootenay. . . . F Jordy Bellerive (23) gave Lethbridge a 1-0 lead at 8:02 of the first period. . . . D Alex Kannok Leipert (2) tied it at 15:56. . . . Benson gave the visitors their first lead at 4:30 of the second period. . . . G Giorgio Estephan (18) tied it at 5:50. . . . Benson (17) snapped that tie at 6:29, with F Ty Ronning (35) adding insurance at 3:39 of the third period, on a PP. . . . F Jared Dmytriw (11) got the empty-netter, on a  PP, at 17:31. . . . Ronning, D Darian Skeoch and F Brayden Watts each had two assists for the winners. . . . Bellerive also had an assist for Lethbridge. . . . Vancouver was 2-6 on the PP; Lethbridge was 0-5. . . . The Giants got 33 saves from G David Tendeck. . . . G Stuart Skinner blocked 21 shots for the Hurricanes. . . . F Cole Shepard, a second-round pick by the Giants in the 2017 bantam draft, made his BCHL debut with the Penticton Vees last night. From West Vancouver, B.C., has has 10 goals and 25 assists in 23 games with the Delta Hockey Academy’s CSSHL prep team. . . . Announced attendance: 3,475.


At Medicine Hat, F Max Gerlach had two goals and an assist to help the Tigers to a 5-1 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Medicine Hat (22-15-3) has points in four Tigers Logo Officialstraight games (3-0-1). It leads the Central Division by eight points over Kootenay. . . . Edmonton (10-23-6) had points in each of its previous six games (3-0-3). . . . Gerlach opened the scoring, on a PP, at 8:28 of the first period, and F Baxter Anderson (1) made it 2-0 at 5:05 of the second. Anderson, 17, had one goal in six games last season. He’s got a goal and three assists in 27 games this season. . . . D David Quenneville (17) made it 3-0, on a PP, 46 seconds into the third period. . . . F David Kope (6) scored while shorthanded for Edmonton, at 2:57 of the third period. . . . F Mark Rassell (34) and Gerlach (16) scored for the Tigers before the period ended. . . . D Kristians Rubins had two assists for the winners, with Gerlach, Rassell and Quenneville adding one apiece. . . . The Tigers were 2-8 on the PP; the Oil Kings were 0-6. . . . G Michael Bullion earned the victory with 19 saves, two fewer than Edmonton’s Josh Dechaine. . . . The Oil Kings lost F Colton Kehler at 18:45 of the second period with a match penalty for attempt to injury after he slew-footed D Dylan MacPherson of the Tigers. . . . Freshman F Josh Williams, 16, was back in Medicine Hat’s lineup for the first time since Oct. 28. He had four goals in 14 games when he suffered a broken collarbone at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. He was the fifth-overall selection in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . D Logan Dowhaniuk, 15, made his WHL debut for the Oil Kings. From Sherwood Park, Alta., he was a second-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft. . . . Announced attendance: 3,059.


At Prince George, F Jared Bethune scored three times to lead the Cougars to a 4-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . The Cougars (15-18-6) have points in three straight (2-0-PrinceGeorge1). They are tied with Kamloops for fourth in the B.C. Division, seven points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Americans (20-12-5) have lost two in a row. They are third in the U.S. Division, two points behind Portland. . . . Bethune, who has 12 goals, gave the home side a 2-0 first-period lead with goals at 14:42, on a PP, at 16:51. . . . F Nolan Yaremko (13) pulled the Americans to within a goal at 1:41 of the second period. . . . F Josh Maser (16) got that one back for Prince George at 11:58. . . . Bethune completed the hat trick, his second in the WHL, with a PP goal at 6:40 of the third period. . . . The Americans made it interesting with goals from F Sasha Mutala (4), on a PP, at 9:46, and F Riley Sawchuk (5), at 19:00. . . . Maser, D Dennis Cholowski and D Joel Lakusta each had two assists for Prince George. . . . Mutala added an assist to his goal. . . . The Cougars were 2-3 on the PP; the Americans were 1-5. . . . G Tavin Grant stopped 34 shots for the Cougars. . . . The Americans got 16 saves from G Patrick Dea. . . . F Kody McDonald was among Prince George’s scratches. He was in the lineup but then was a late scratch. . . . Announced attendance: 2,855.


At Kelowna, the Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s last three goals and beat the Rockets, 6-4. . . . Seattle (19-14-5) has points in seven straight games (6-0-1). It holds down Seattlethe Western Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Kelowna (24-12-3) had won its previous six games. It has also won 13 in a row at home. The Rockets lead the Western Conference by two points over Vancouver. . . . Seattle D Aaron Hyman, back after being out since Dec. 1 with an undisclosed injury, scored his first goal of the season — and fourth in 134 career games — at 1:36 of the opening period. . . . F Dillon Hamaliuk (7) made it 2-0 at 13:52. . . . F Leif Mattson (11) got Kelowna on the scoreboard at 16:11. . . . Seattle got that one back when F Donovan Neuls scored, on a PP, at 7:23 of the second period. . . . The Rockets took a 4-3 lead on second-period goals from D Gordie Ballhorn (3), on a PP, at 8:25; F Kyle Topping (15), at 10:10; and F Carsen Twarynski (27), at 17:16. . . . Seattle pulled even as Neuls (11) got his second goal of the game, at 18:19. . . . F Nolan Volcan scored his 17th goal at 8:59 of the third period to give Seattle a 5-4 lead. . . . D Austin Strand (13) upped it to 6-4 at 12:09. . . . Volcan, in his fourth season with Seattle, had 16 goals in each of his previous two seasons. . . . Seattle got two assists from each of D Jarret Tyszka, F Zack Andrusiak and F Matthew Wedman. . . . F Nolan Foote had two helpers for Kelowna. . . . F Sami Moilanen had an assist in his return to Seattle’s lineup. He hadn’t played since leaving in December to try and crack the roster of Finland’s national junior team. . . . Seattle was 1-1 on the PP; Kelowna was 1-7. . . . G Liam Hughes earned the victory with 26 saves, five more than Kelowna’s James Porter Jr. . . . Announced attendance: 5,230.


At Spokane, F Hudson Elynuik and F Jaret Anderson-Dolan each had two goals as the Chiefs whipped the Portland Winterhawks, 9-3. . . . Spokane (21-15-3) is tied with Tri-City SpokaneChiefsfor third in the U.S. Division, but the Americans hold four games in hand. . . . Portland (22-13-3) had been 1-0-2 in its previous three games. It is second in the U.S. Division, one point behind Everett. . . . The Chiefs took control of this one with three first-period goals, from F Ethan McIndoe (10), on a PP, at 5:55; D Tyson Helgesen (5), at 9:11; and Anderson-Dolan, at 19:07. . . . F Jake Gricius (7) scored Portland’s first goal, at 4:26 of the second period. . . . Spokane F Zach Fischer (18) restored the three-goal lead, on a PP, at 8:32. . . . Portland F Cody Glass (23) scored at 11:23. . . . The Chiefs put it away with the next three goals, from F Jake McGrew (7) and two from Elynuik, who now has 21 goals. . . . F Skyler McKenzie (28) had Portland’s last goal. . . . Anderson-Dolan (21), on a PP, and D Luke Gallagher (1) rounded out Spokane’s scoring. . . . The Chiefs got three assists from F Eli Zummack, two from each of D Nolan Reid and D Ty Smith, and one each from Helgesen, McGrew and Elynuik. . . . Spokane was 3-4 on the PP; Portland was 0-2. . . . G Dawson Weatherill made 16 saves for the Chiefs, while Portland’s Cole Kehler stopped 41 shots. . . . Announced attendance: 5,042.


At Victoria, G Griffen Outhouse tied a franchise record as the Royals blanked the Everett Silvertips, 5-0. . . . Outhouse had 10 career shutouts, tying the Chilliwack/Victoria VictoriaRoyalsfranchise record that he now shares with Lucas Gore. . . . Victoria (22-15-4) had lost its previous two games (0-1-1). It is third in the B.C. Division, one point behind Vancouver. . . . Everett (23-15-2) leads the U.S. Division, by one point over Portland. . . . Outhouse stopped 38 shots in recording his second shutout of this season. . . . The Royals got goals from three recently acquired players. . . . F Braydon Buziak (3), who came over from Regina, made it 1-0 at 16:05 of the second period. . . . F Jeff de Wit (5), acquired from Kootenay, increased the lead to 2-0 just 17 seconds into the third period. . . . F Andrei Grishakov (12), who was acquired from Calgary, scored the game’s last goal, at 17:40. . . . F Dante Hannoun (14) and F Matthew Phillips (29) also scored. . . . F Kaid Oliver had two assists, with Buziak, Phillips and Hannoun each getting one. . . . Victoria was 0-2 on the PP; Everett was 0-3 on the PP. . . . Everett starter Dustin Wolf allowed four goals on 22 shots in 51:18, beefier Danton Belluk came on to stop two of three shots in 8:42. . . . Announced attendance: 5,207.


SATURDAY (all times local):

Red Deer at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Regina at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Saskatoon 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Edmonton 7 p.m.

Calgary at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.

Vancouver at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.

Victoria at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Portland at Everett, 7:05 p.m.

Spokane vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash. 7:05 p.m.


TWEET OF THE DAY

 

Blichfeld leaves WJC game on stretcher . . . Organizers declare WJC a success . . . Royals add import from Hitmen, make deal with Raiders

A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

The Portland Winterhawks boarded their bus Thursday afternoon and headed for Spokane where they will play the Chiefs tonight.

But you can bet the Winterhawks’ thoughts weren’t on the road in front of them. Rather, Portlandthey will have been wondering about the condition of F Joachim Blichfeld, a teammate who was stretchered off the ice midway through the second period of a relegation-round game at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo earlier in the day.

Blichfeld hit his head on the boards after taking a high hit from behind from D Dmitri Deryabin of Belarus, who was assessed a match penalty on the play.

Blichfeld did flash a thumbs-up signal as he was carried from the ice surface. He was taken to hospital for further examination.

Blichfeld, 19, is from Frederikshavn, Denmark. He was selected by San Jose in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2016 draft and signed with the Sharks on on Dec. 28 while in Buffalo.

In Game 1 of the best-of-three relegation series on Wednesday, Blichfeld had two goals and an assist as Denmark won the opener, 5-4.

On Thursday, Blichfeld had two primary assists as Denmark opened up a 2-0 lead. Belarus came back to tie it before Denmark won it, 3-2, in a shootout. The victory means Denmark stays in the top group for the 2019 WJC, with Belarus sliding back to Division 1A. (If you’re wondering, Kazakhstan won promotion to the big group, so will be in Victoria/Vancouver for the next tournament.)

This season with Portland, Blichfeld has 13 goals and 17 assists in 26 games. He missed a handful of games early in October with what is believed to have been a concussion.

This latest injury, then, depending on the diagnosis, might be his second brain injury of the season, meaning the Winterhawks will be extra careful with a player who is key part of their roster.


Officials from the IIHF and organizers of the 2018 World Junior Championship held a Buffalostate-of-the-event news conference in Buffalo on Thursday afternoon. Michael Traikos of the National Post was there and, as he wrote, “With noses growing, they called it a success.” . . . During the news conference, Traikos continued, “Organizers bragged that more than 200,000 tickets had been sold, ignoring that a quarter-final between the U.S. and Russia on Tuesday night had only 6,242 fans in a building that seats more than 19,000. They highlighted the record-setting crowd that braved the snow to watch an outdoor game that ‘was a little bit of magic,’  but then blamed the same weather for driving away fans at the other indoor games. . . . His complete column is right here.

Ken Campbell of The Hockey News also was at the news conference, and his take is right here.

Interestingly, Campbell reported that Rene Fasel, the IIHF president, said that 50 per cent of the tickets already have been sold for the 2019 WJC that is to be held in Victoria and Vancouver.

That, Campbell wrote, “is quite a feat considering the 18-game pack (and one pre-tournament game) for Vancouver ranges in price from $650 ($34 per game) to $2,250 ($118 per game).”

Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, told Vancouver sportscaster Rick Dhaliwal of NEWS 1130 and Sportsnet 650 on Dec. 28 that tickets are “well over 60 per cent sold.”


The Portland Winterhawks lost F Lane Gilliss to an undisclosed injury on Sunday during a 4-3 shootout loss to the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. As a result, they have brought back F Jaydon Dureau from the midget AAA Regina Pats Canadians. He had been with the Winterhawks but was returned to the Pat Canadians following the Christmas break. The Pat Canadians won the Mac’s tournament in Calgary on Monday. Dureau had two goals and two assists in the championship game, a 4-0 victory over the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs. . . . Dureau, 16, was an eighth-round pick by Portland in the 2016 bantam draft. This season, he has 56 points, including 27 goals, in 26 games with the Pat Canadians. . . . Portland also returned D Nick Cicek to junior A, in his case to the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, but quickly brought him back when D Keoni Texeira went down with an undisclosed injury.


The Edmonton Oil Kings have brought in F Jake Neighbours for a look-see. From Airdrie, Alta., Neighbours was the fourth overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. He made his WHL debut with the Oil Kings earlier this season. . . . In 23 games with the midget AAA Calgary Buffaloes, Neighbours has 17 goals and 25 assists. . . . If you’re interested in the return of D Brayden Gorda to the Oil Kings, there is more right here.


The Red Deer Rebels have dropped F Lukus MacKenzie, 18, from their roster and he is expected to join the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. . . . MacKenzie had four assists in 17 games with the Rebels after being acquired from the Saskatoon Blades, with whom he had four assists in 13 games. . . . From Calgary, MacKenzie was a third-round pick by the Blades in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . In 138 games, he has eight goals and 28 assists.


WHEELING AND DEALING …

NUMBER OF TRADES (since Nov. 13): 20

PLAYERS: 35

BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 21

CONDITONAL BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 4


THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals acquired F Andrei Grishakov, 18, from the Calgary Hitmen for a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: Grishakov, from Chelyabinsk, Russia, has 22 goals and 39 assists in 107 VictoriaRoyalsgames with the Hitmen. This season, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has 11 goals and 15 assists in 37 games. . . . The Hitmen selected him in the CHL import draft after he put up 21 goals and 24 assists in 32 games with Traktor Chelyabinski’s U-17 team in 2015-16. He also played four games with the U-18 side that season, recording four goals and five assists.

THE INFO: Grishakov should be in Victoria’s lineup tonight (Friday) against the visiting Everett Silvertips. If he doesn’t play then, he will get another opportunity on Saturday when the Royals visit Kamloops. Yes, it’s a quick turn-around for Victoria.

WHY: The Royals have had room for an import since F Yan Khomenko returned to Russia and signed with Ak Bars Kazan, a KHL team. He is pointless in three games with Irbis Kazan, a junior team. . . . The Royals are hoping that putting Grishakov into their top six will ignite his offence. . . . Grishakov joins F Igor Martynov, who turns 19 on Jan. 19, as the Royals’ import players. Martynov is from Belarus and has been representing his country at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. . . . The Hitmen, who aren’t likely to make the playoffs, have been in sell mode since Nov. 25 when they dealt top-flight forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn to the Swift Current Broncos. Now it’s all about freeing up ice time for younger players.


THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals have acquired F D-Jay Jerome, 18, from the Prince Albert Raiders for D Jeremy Masella, 18.

THE NUMBERS: From Lethbridge, Jerome has one assist in 31 games with the Raiders. PrinceAlbertHe split last season between the Red Deer Rebels and the Raiders, recording eight goals and eight assists in 55 games. . . . Masella had three goals and four assists in 35 games with the Royals. In 63 career games, all with Victoria, he has three goals and five assists.

THE INFO: Red Deer placed the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Jerome on their protected list in 2016. The Rebels dealt him to Prince Albert on Dec. 28, 2016, along with a 2017 third-round bantam draft pick, for F Austin Glover. . . . The 6-foot-5, 214-pound Masella is from Phoenix. He had been on Victoria’s protected list since 2015. . . . This is the second deal between these teams this week. On Tuesday, the Royals dealt F Regan Nagy, 20, to the Raiders for the rights to F Hunter Strand, 15, sixth- and 10th-round picks in the 2018 bantam draft and a third-rounder in 2019. . . . Cam Hope, the Royals’ general manager, has made seven trades since Dec. 1.

WHY: For starters, both players get fresh starts and a chance to earn more ice time with new teams. . . . The Royals had been carrying eight defencemen so it seemed that someone would go before the Jan. 10 trade deadline. Victoria also adds another bigger forward as it continues to alter the size of its forward ranks. . . . The Raiders add size to their back end. Their roster shows nine defencemen, but Sergei Sapego is injured, Vojtech Budik is at the WJC in Buffalo, and Kaiden Guhle, the first overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft, is only 15 so will have to go back to his club team at some point.


Scoreboard

THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Kootenay at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Red Deer at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Swift Current at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Calgary, 7 p.m.

Vancouver at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.

Tri-City at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Seattle at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.

Portland at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.

Everett at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.

Royals, Raiders make a deal . . . OHL swap includes 5-year-old . . . Skinner returns with record shutout

Scattershooting

Come on, folks. Lighten up. Anyone piling on Christian Wohlwend, the Swiss junior team’s head coach, for his comments on Sunday needs to stop drinking so much coffee. He’s a funny man, and his team had zero chance of beating Canada. You can bet his players knew it, too, so how be we cut him some slack.


Canada dumped Switzerland, 8-2, on Tuesday, as Wohlwend had pretty much predicted. Did I watch? No, because I took Wohlwend at his word.


However, I did watch Sweden and Slovakia, with Dennis Beyak and Craig Button doing their usual excellent job. Earlier in the day, Beyak and Button called a thriller between Finland and Czech Republic. Later, I went in and out of the game between Russia and the U.S. The host team playing the Russians and the arena was devoid of people and atmosphere.



Let’s be honest. We all want to see Canada and the U.S. on a real ice surface in Friday’s championship final. We’ll watch then, unless the poohbahs take the game and move it outside.



Willie Desjardins, the head coach of Canada’s Olympic team, is in Buffalo now, having conquered Europe — they won the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland, last week. Also there are assorted other Team Canada officials, including GM Sean Burke, as they continue to look for those who would be Canadian Olympians.


This morning at 11 o’clock, Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops is expected to introduce Curtis Atkinson as its new athletic director. He will take over from Ken Olynyk, who is retiring after 14 years in charge. Atkinson, who has been working for Canada West, is a former interim AD at the U of Regina. Former WHLer Peter Soberlak, who is on staff at TRU, was the other candidate who received serious consideration.


BTW, America, can’t you do something about President Tweet? If you aren’t aware, he has become something of an embarrassment.


After President Tweet’s big button shot at North Korea on Tuesday, how comfortable are you if you’re preparing to head for South Korea and the Olympic Winter Games? Yeah, that’s what I thought.


A reader sends this note . . .

Before their loss in Kamloops on Monday, the Victoria Royals were listed as 1-0-0-1 in the ‘Streak’ column in the standings on the WHL website. That was for a win on Thursday against Prince George and a shootout loss Saturday in Kelowna. After Monday’s regulation loss to the Blazers, the Royals’ streak now is listed as 0-1-0-1. So I guess that a shootout loss can be part of both a winning streak and a losing streak.


MacBeth

F Rodrigo Ābols (Portland, 2015-17) has been assigned on loan by Örebro (Sweden, SHL) to Karlskoga (Sweden, Allsvenskan). The length of the loan wasn’t specified. He had one assist in 26 games, while averaging 7:34 time on ice per game with Örebro this season.


A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

There have been a number of trades in the OHL over the past few days, but only one of them included a five-year-old who, as Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator points out, “is somewhere in Ontario currently enjoying his Christmas break from the grinding rigours of kindergarten.” . . . Yes, a deal made Monday between the Windsor Spitfires and Kingston Frontenacs included a selection in the OHL’s 2028 draft. No one trades picks like OHL teams, and this deal was no different. Windsor traded away two veterans for a 16-year-old centre and draft picks from 2020, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025, 2027 and, yes, 2028. . . . Radley has more right here and it’s an entertaining read.


The Seattle Thunderbirds are down to three 20-year-olds with the news that F Tyler Adams has joined the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks. . . . A native of Regina, Adams got into only one game with Seattle this season, thanks to an undisclosed injury. He was acquired last season from the Swift Current Broncos, and had three goals and five assists in 41 games with the WHL-champion Thunderbirds. . . . His departure leaves Seattle with F Donovan Neuls, D Turner Ottenbreit and D Austin Strand as its 20-year-olds.


The Calgary Hitmen have added F Bryce Bader, 16, to their roster. From Sherwood Park, Alta., he was a second-round selection by the Hitmen in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, he has 10 goals and 12 assists in 25 games with the midget AAA Sherwood Park Kings. . . . He got into one game with the Hitmen last season, but was pointless.


WHEELING AND DEALING . . .

NUMBER OF TRADES (since Nov. 13): 18

PLAYERS: 32

BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 20

CONDITONAL BANTAM DRAFT PICKS: 4


TUESDAY:

THE DEAL: The Victoria Royals have acquired the WHL rights to F Hunter Strand, 15, a third-round selection in the WHL’s 2019 bantam draft, and sixth-and 10th-round picks in 2018 from the Prince Albert Raiders for F Regan Nagy, 20.

THE INFO: Strand was selected by the Raiders in the sixth round of the 2017 bantam draft. He hasn’t yet committed to the WHL. In fact, on Nov. 30, he made a verbal commitment to attend Notre Dame and play for the Fighting Irish, starting with the 2021-22 season. Of course, verbal commitments are non-binding, so the Royals have plenty of time to deliver their pitch. . . . Strand, who is in Grade 9, has a late birthday; he turned 15 on Nov. 13. . . . Nagy had  been a part of the Victoria organization since being a second-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft.

THE NUMBERS: The 5-foot-11, 170-pound Strand, who is from Anchorage, is playing for the U-16 Alaska Oilers, a midget AAA team in the Alaska State Hockey Association. In his first 21 games this season, through Nov. 5, he had 26 goals and 16 assists in 21 games. The Oilers’ website doesn’t include stats past that date. . . . The Royals got a good look at Strand in December 2016, when he put up 10 goals and eight assists in five games at the Rick LaPointe Memorial bantam tournament in Victoria. . . . Nagy, who is from Ogema, Sask., has 18 goals and six assists in 26 games this season. He hasn’t played since Nov. 28 due to a finger injury. Last season, the 6-foot-0, 195-pound Nagy had 18 goals and 23 assist in 69 games. In 253 career games, he has 50 goals and 47 assists.

WHY: The Royals are hoping they can convince a young player with high-end offensive skills to sign with them. They also added three bantam draft selections and those always are useful. . . . Moving Nagy also gets the Royals back to three 20-year-olds — D Kade Jensen, D Chaz Reddekopp and F Tyler Soy. . . . With the trade deadline arriving on Jan. 10, the Raiders, despite being seven points out of a playoff spot, appear to have signalled that they aren’t in a selling mode. Acquiring Nagy gives them four 20-year-olds, one over the maximum, meaning they will have to move one over the next week. The others, all forwards, are Curtis Miske, Devon Skoleski and Jordy Stallard.


Scoreboard

TUESDAY:

At Lethbridge, G Stuart Skinner, who had been in sick bay, stopped 20 shots to help the Hurricanes to a 7-0 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . The Hurricanes (17-17-3) have Lethbridgepoints in three straight games (2-0-1). . . . The Ice (18-18-3) have points in each of its previous seven games (5-0-2). . . . Kootenay is 0-1-1 to being a stretch of five games in six nights. The Ice will be in Swift Current tonight. . . . Lethbridge is third in the Central Division, two points behind Kootenay, which is five points back of Medicine Hat. . . . Skinner was back in goal after not having played since Dec. 16. He became ill after the Christmas break. He posted his fourth shutout this season and the 10th of his career. He now holds the franchise’s career record with one more than Logan Koopmans (1999-2004). . . . It may have been key that the Hurricanes scored in the last minute of each of the first two periods. . . . F Jordy Bellerive opened the scoring, on a PP, with five seconds left in the first period. . . . F Giorgio Estephan, who also had three assists, scored his 17th goal, on a PP, at 8:43 of the second period. . . . F Jadon Joseph (4) made it 3-0 at 19:08. . . . The home side put it away with four third-period goals, from Bellerive (22), at 3:43; F Taylor Ross (10), at 4:36; F Zachary Cox (1), at 5:42; and F Lane Zablocki (11), at 10:50. . . . Lethbridge got two assists from each of D Calen Addison, F Dylan Cozens and D Igor Merezhko, with Zablocki and Joseph adding one each. . . . Lethbridge was 2-4 on the PP; Kootenay was 0-4. . . . G Duncan McGovern stopped 34 shots for the Ice, which was outshot 34-13 over the final two periods. . . . D Nolan Jones, 16, a second-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, was in Lethbridge’s lineup, as was D Alex Cotton, 16, who was a fifth-round pick in that draft. Jones, who was pointless in three games last season, is from Moose Jaw and has four goals and 11 assists in 28 games with the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals. Cotton, who made his WHL debut, is from Langley, B.C. He has four goals and 32 assists in 24 games with the CSSHL’s Yale Hockey Academy prep team. . . . F Holden Kodak, 16, who is from Cloverdale, B.C., made his WHL debut with the Ice. An 11th-round selection by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2016 bantam draft, he was placed on Kootenay’s protected list in October and signed on Dec. 19. Kodak has been playing with the Yale Hockey Academy’s prep team in the CSSHL. He has 60 points, 36 of them goals, in 26 games. . . . Announced attendance: 2,973.


WEDNESDAY (all times local):

Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Medicine Hat at Calgary, 7 p.m.

Vancouver at Edmonton, 7 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.


THURSDAY (all times local):

No Games Scheduled.


TWEET OF THE DAY

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Empty seats in Buffalo. What the heck happened? . . . WHL returns to action tonight with 11 games. A preview

Well, the 2018 World Junior Championship is through one day. Day 1 in Buffalo featured two routs, a pair of close games and a whole lot of empty seats.

Yes, it would appear that attendance — or lack of same — is going to be a big story at the BuffaloWJC for a second straight year . . . or have you forgotten what happened in Toronto and Montreal a year ago?

“There might have been 2,000 folks in the KeyBank Center stands to see the Czech Republic’s upset of Russia in the opener,” writes Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. “Canada got better as its 4-2 victory over Finland went along in a game played in front of maybe 8,000 fans. Team USA battered Denmark in front of a pathetic house of maybe 5,000 — and officials closed the 300 level and offered fans comp seats down below. Which had to make folks who paid for that level super-duper happy about the extra money they shelled out.

“Organizers have to be choking on their hot chocolate after the intimate gatherings that entered the building. The Canada-Russia game played here on Dec. 26, 2010 drew a sellout crowd of 18,690. The US-Finland game that day drew 14,093.  So what the heck happened Tuesday?”

In his column, that is right here, Harrington goes on to detail what he thinks happened, and it doesn’t portend well for the rest of the tournament.

Following the 2017 WJC, Harrington wrote a column that warned of what might happen if . . .

After Team USA won the gold medal, Harrington wrote: “But the bigger story should serve as a cautionary tale for the Sabres, USA Hockey and the International Ice Hockey Federation, which seems bent on squeezing every dollar out of this tournament it can. The Saskatoons, Halifaxes and Grand Forkses of the world need no longer apply because the IIHF clearly want big cities, big dollars.

“That led to embarrassing scenes of empty seats all over the Air Canada Centre in Toronto during the opening rounds and in the Bell Centre in Montreal up through the semifinals. The problem here is simple: Price point, price point, price point.

“And packages, packages, packages.”

That column from almost a year ago is right here.


The WHL swings back into action tonight (Wednesday) after a Christmas break that began following games of Dec. 17.

Of course, that also means that the annual trade moratorium has been lifted, and you whlcan expect the dealing to resume anytime and to run through Jan. 10, when the trade deadline arrives.

Since Nov. 13, the WHL’s 22 teams have combined to make 13 trades involving 25 players, 14 bantam draft picks and three conditional bantam picks.

Tonight, there are 11 games on the schedule; yes, all 22 teams are to play. It’s worth noting that 26 of the WHL’s best players won’t be playing, at least not in the WHL; that’s because they are with various teams at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo.

Here’s a brief look at tonight’s schedule (all times local):

REGINA (16-17-3) at BRANDON (24-8-1), 7 p.m. — The Pats are without F Sam Steel, while the Wheat Kings won’t have D Kale Clague. Both are with Team Canada in Buffalo. . . . Brandon has won nine of its past 10 games and is third in the East Division, 14 points ahead of Regina, which is to be the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup but hasn’t yet played much like a contender. The Pats, who hold down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot, have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are 3-6-1 in their past 10. . . . Regina isn’t expected to have D Josh Mahura in the lineup after he was cut by Team Canada for a second time on Tuesday. Mahura had been dropped after Canada’s selection camp, but then was brought back as insurance in case D Dante Fabbro couldn’t answer the bell. Fabbro was pronounced OK to play on Tuesday, so Mahura was released. Again. He has flown home to Edmonton and the Pats have given him some family time. Whether he returns for the rematch with Brandon in Regina on Thursday remains to be seen.


PRINCE ALBERT (13-14-7) at SASKATOON (15-17-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Raiders and Blades are tied for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, each with 33 points. . . . The Raiders are 3-4-3 in their past 10 outings; the Blades are 5-5-0. . . . Saskatoon is 1-0-1 in the season series; Prince Albert is 1-1-0. . . . Prince Albert is missing D Voytech Budik (Czech Republic), while the Blades are without D Libor Hajek (Czech Republic). Interestingly, the two formed one defensive pair as the Czech got past Russia, 5-4, in Buffalo yesterday. . . . These teams will play again Thursday, this time in Prince Albert.


MOOSE JAW (27-6-2) at SWIFT CURRENT (25-7-2), 7 p.m. — The Warriors have the WHL’s best record, with the Broncos second, just four points in arrears. . . . Tim Hunter, Moose Jaw’s head coach, is with Team Canada in Buffalo as an assistant coach, meaning that assistant coach Mark O’Leary is in charge. . . . Warriors F Brett Howden (Canada) also is in Buffalo.while the Broncos have three players there — D Artyom Minulin (Russia), F Tyler Steenbergen (Canada), F Aleksi Heponiemi (Finland). . . . The Warriors are 2-1-1 in the season series; the Broncos are 2-2-0. . . . They’ll continue the series on Thursday in Moose Jaw.


EDMONTON (7-22-4) at RED DEER (10-18-6), p.m. — The Oil Kings have lost four in a row (0-3-1) and are 2-6-2 in their past 10 outings. They own the WHL’s poorest record and are 15 points out of a playoff spot. . . . The Rebels have points in three straight (1-0-2) and in six of 10 (1-4-5). However, they are seven points away from a playoff spot. . . . Rebels F Brandon Hagel, 19, has 23 points, including 16 assists, in 27 games but has sat out the past six games with an undisclosed injury. . . . Red Deer F Kristian Reichel (Czech Republic) is in Buffalo, but D Alex Alexeyev, 18, should be back after he was released Tuesday by the Russian junior team. . . . F Arshdeep Bains, who turns 17 on Jan. 9, remains with the Rebels after playing two games with them prior to the break. When he joined the Rebels, he was leading the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League in scoring, with 57 points, 41 of them assists, in 22 games with the Valley West Hawks. . . . These teams haven’t met since the Rebels opened the regular-season with a doubleheader sweep (7-3, 5-3). . . . They’ll play again Thursday, this time in Edmonton.


CALGARY (10-18-5) vs. KOOTENAY (15-17-2), at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m. — The Ice is tied with Lethbridge for second in the Central Division, six points behind Medicine Hat. Kootenay has points in three straight (2-0-1) and is 5-4-1 in its past 10 games. . . . The Hitmen are 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference. They have lost two in a row (0-1-1) and are 4-5-1 in their past 10. . . . This will the third straight game in which these teams have played each other. They close out the pre-Christmas schedule with a home-and-home series, Kootenay winning them both — 5-1 at home on Dec. 16 and 4-3 in OT on Dec. 17. . . . And guess what? Yes, they’ll make it four in a row on Thursday in Calgary. . . . The Hitmen are without their best player in D Jake Bean, who is with Canada in Buffalo, and D Vladislav Yeryomenko (Belarus). . . . Kootenay D Martin Bodak is with Slovakia.


LETHBRIDGE (15-16-2) at MEDICINE HAT (18-14-2), 7 p.m. — Each of these teams won its last game before the break. . . . Lethbridge is 5-4-1 in its past 10 and has closed to within six points of the Central Division-leading Tigers, who are 3-5-2 over their past 10. . . . The Hurricanes lead the season series 2-1-0, but the teams haven’t met since Oct. 22. . . . Medicine Hat F Mark Russell has three goals and three assists in the three games against Lethbridge. . . . Tigers F Mason Shaw, who put up 27 goals and 67 assists in 71 games last season, has yet to play this season after suffering a knee injury while with the Minnesota Wild’s entry at an NHL rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich. . . . The Tigers also are waiting for freshman F Josh Williams to recover from a collarbone injury suffered during a practice at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge almost two months ago. . . . The Hurricanes have lost F Ryan Vandervlis, 19, for the rest of the season with shoulder woes. He had 19 points, 11 of them goals, in 19 games. Lethbridge GM Peter Anholt acquired F Lane Zablocki, 19, from Red Deer in the hopes that he can fill the void created by Vandervlis’s absence. Zablocki, who had 19 points in 31 games with Red Deer this season, has one assist in two games with Lethbridge. . . . The Hurricanes and Tigers will resume hostilities on Thursday in Lethbridge.


TRI-CITY (18-10-3) vs. PORTLAND (21-11-1), 7 p.m. — The Americans have won three in a row and are 5-4-1 over their past 10 games. . . . The Winterhawks (21-11-1) have lost two in a row and have stumbled of late — they are 2-7-1 in their past 10. . . . It all leaves Portland second in the U.S. Division, one point behind Everett and four ahead of the Americans. . . . Tri-City is without D Juuso Valimaki (Finland), while Portland is missing F Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark), F Kieffer Bellows (U.S.) and D Henri Jokiharju (Finland). . . . The host Winterhawks beat the Americans 5-2 on Nov. 11 in the only previous meeting between these teams this season. . . . They’ll meet again Friday in Kennewick, Wash.


EVERETT (21-13-2) vs. VANCOUVER (18-13-4), at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m. — The Silvertips won their last two pre-Christmas games and nine of their past 10. That streak has lifted them to the top of the Western Conference, one point ahead of Portland, Kelowna and Victoria. . . . The Giants are the WHL’s hottest team, having won six in a row and eight of 10. They are third in the B.C. Division, three points behind Kelowna and Victoria. . . . Vancouver will be missing F Milos Roman (Slovakia), who leads all WHL freshmen with 29 points. . . . Everett is without Carter Hart, the WHL’s top goaltender, who started for Canada in its 4-2 victory over Finland in Buffalo on Tuesday. In his absence, freshman Dustin Wolf, a 16-year-old from Tustin, Calif., will get the bulk of the work. A fifth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, he is 5-2-0, 2.00, .942 this season. . . . The Giants return from the break to play Everett twice (they’ll meet again Friday, this time in Everett), and then return to Langley for a doubleheader with Prince George. Vancouver then will journey into Alberta for three games in four nights (Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat), before travelling to Prince George for games on Jan. 9 and 10. . . . Yes, that stretch of nine games in 15 days may end up defining the Giants’ season.


PRINCE GEORGE (12-17-5) at VICTORIA (20-13-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Cougars have lost three in a row and are 3-6-1 in their past 10, as they have slid into the Western Conference cellar, four points behind Kamloops. . . . Victoria also has lost its last three, and is 3-5-2 in its past 10. But it is tied for first with Kelowna in the B.C. Division, and is only one point out of the Western Conference lead. . . . The Cougars will stay in Victoria for a game on Thursday night, then travel to Langley, B.C., for games with Vancouver on Saturday and Monday, before heading home for a weekend doubleheader against Tri-City and a Jan. 9-10 double-dip with visiting Vancouver. . . . F Vladislav Mikhalchuk of the Cougars is in Buffalo with Belarus. . . . The Royals are missing F Ivan Martynov, who also is with Belarus. . . . F Tyler Soy, who is six assists away from owning the Victoria/Chilliwack franchise record for career assists, left the last game before Christmas with an apparent shoulder injury. There has been no word on his status since then. . . . Victoria has been playing without F Regan Nagy (finger) and F Dante Hannoun (ill). Both are key offensive performers. . . . This is the sixth straight season in which these teams have returned from Christmas to play twice in Victoria. The Royals are 8-1-1 in the previous 10 meetings.


KAMLOOPS (16-17-1) at KELOWNA (20-11-3), 7:05 p.m. — The Blazers last their last game before the break and are 5-4-1 in their past 10 games. More importantly, they are 16-8-1 since opening the season with a nine-game losing skid. They are fourth in the B.C. Division, seven points behind Vancouver, and are just one point shy of the Western Conference’s second wild-card playoff berth. . . . The Rockets have won two in a row and seven of 10. Kelowna is one point out of the Western Conference lead and tied with Victoria atop the B.C. Division. . . . The Blazers lost two players to the WJC — D Ondrej Vala is with Czech Republic and freshman F Justin Sigrist is with Switzerland. . . . With Vala gone, the Blazers have added D Quinn Schmiemann from the midget AAA Notre Dame Hounds of Wilcox, Sask. . . . The Rockets are without D Cal Foote and F Dillon Dube, both of whom are with Canada. . . . Kelowna is 2-0-0 in the season series, but the teams haven’t met since opening weekend when the Rockets posted 8-2 and 5-1 victories. . . . The Rockets will play in Kamloops on Friday night. . . . Kamloops head coach Don Hay needs six regular-season victories to equal the WHL career record of 742, held by the retired Ken Hodge.


SEATTLE (15-14-4) at SPOKANE (18-13-3), 7:05 p.m. — The defending-champion Thunderbirds surged a bit going into Christmas as they won their last two games to finish a 10-game stretch at 4-4-2. They hold down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . The Chiefs lost their last game prior to the break — 10-3 to the visiting Thunderbirds — but have won six of 10. . . . These teams will meet again on Friday, this time in Kent, Wash., meaning they will have played each other in three straight games. . . . They are 1-1-0 in the season series, the Chiefs having posted a 9-2 home-ice victory on Dec. 9. . . . Spokane has two players at the WJC — F Kailer Yamamoto (U.S.) and D Filip Kral (Czech Republic). . . . Seattle F Sami Moilanen was among the last players released by Finland.


Tweet of the day


Scoreboard

TUESDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


WEDNESDAY (all times local):

Regina at Brandon, 7 p.m.

Prince Albert at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Calgary vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, B.C., 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.

Tri-City at Portland, 7 p.m.

Everett vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

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

Kamloops at Kelowna 7:05 p.m.

Seattle at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.


THURSDAY (all times local):

Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.

Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.

Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Calgary, 7 p.m.

Red Deer at Edmonton, 7 p.m.

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

WHL’s Eastern Conference: Who’s buying, selling, standing pat?

The run to the WHL’s Jan. 10 trade deadline began for real on Nov. 13.

That was the day on which the Regina Pats dealt D Jonathan Smart, F Cole Muir, whlsecond- and sixth-round selections in the 2018 bantam draft, and a conditional pick in 2019 or 2020 to the Kootenay Ice for D Cale Fleury. Yes, Regina gave up a possible five assets for one player, albeit a good one.

Since then, and including that deal, the WHL’s 22 teams have combined to move 25 players, 14 bantam draft selections and three conditional bantam draft picks.

It’s fair to say that the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Regina Pats, the latter the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup, are all-in this season. They definitely are buyers.

But . . . who is selling? And are there other buyers out there?

It’s interesting, too, that the East Division, at least at the top, is so much stronger than the Central Division, whose six teams have combined to lose 53 games more than they have won.

With the WHL now on its Christmas break and with the schedule pretty much at the halfway mark, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference, with teams ranked in order of points:

1. MOOSE JAW (27-6-2): The Warriors lead the overall standings, meaning they also are atop the Eastern Conference and the East Division. General manager Alan Millar will buy if there is something out there that grabs his eye, but he’s already done some shopping by getting F Vince Loschiavo, 19, from the Kootenay Ice and D Ryan Peckford, 18, from the Victoria Royals, although he gave up a pretty good player in F Noah Gregor in the latter swap. . . . Don’t discount the value of veteran F Barrett Sheen, a gritty guy, who came over from Kootenay on Nov. 13. . . . Now it’s a matter of Moose Jaw getting everyone healthy and keeping them that way.


2. SWIFT CURRENT (25-7-2): The Broncos are four points behind the Warriors and hold one game in hand. Manny Viveiros, the Broncos’ director of player personnel and head coach, ventured into the Pacific Northwest on a November scouting junket. He returned home and immediately shoved all of his chips into the centre of the table, sending five players and a second-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft to the Calgary Hitmen for F Matteo Gennaro, 20, F Beck Malenstyn, 19, and a fifth-round pick in 2018. Only time will tell if Viveiros gave up too much — F Conner Chaulk, 20, F Riley Stotts, 17, D Dom Schmiemann, 18, D Josh Prokop, 15, and G Ethan Hein, 15, are the players who went to Calgary. . . . Prior to the deal, the Broncos were very much a one-line team and Viveiros knew that as the season wore on opposing teams would be harder on F Glenn Gawdin, F Aleksi Heponiemi and F Tyler Steenbergen. . . . The deal with Calgary will take some heat off those three. Keep in mind that Malenstyn (wrist), a 32-goal man last season, has played only four games this season. . . . The Broncos went into the break on a five-game winning streak. . . . They’ll get Heponiemi (Finland) and Steenbergen (Canada) some rest after the World Junior Championship, then add Malenstyn to the lineup and see if they can make some noise.


3. BRANDON (24-8-1): The Wheat Kings went 9-1-0 in their past 10 games and now are seven points behind Moose Jaw and three behind Swift Current. Of course, the Warriors are 8-1-1 and the Broncos 8-2-0 in their past 10. . . . But who saw the Wheat Kings making this kind of noise this season? They won the WHL championship in 2015-16, then got swept by Medicine Hat in the first round last spring. . . . A terrific combination of maturing younger players and solid veterans has the Wheat Kings in the hunt. . . . They appear to have a good thing going, so it’s doubtful that GM Grant Armstrong would do anything major that might disrupt it. . . . But, hey, never say never.


4. MEDICINE HAT (18-14-2): The Tigers lead the Central Division, but have stumbled of late, going 3-5-2, and watched their lead over Lethbridge and Kootenay get sliced to six points. Still, if they playoffs were to start today, Medicine Hat would have a first-round bye. . . . The Tigers also have yet to play even one game with F Mason Shaw, 19, a 94-point man last season, in their lineup. He suffered a knee injury while playing with the Minnesota Wild rookie team at a September tournament in Traverse City, Mich. He is expected to return at some point in the season’s second half, so the Tigers have that to look forward to without even making a deal. . . . Even without Shaw, the Tigers can score. But are they able to defend well enough to contend, or are Shaun Clouston, the GM and head coach, and Carter Sears, the director of player personnel, looking for an experienced defenceman?


5. REGINA (16-17-3): Ahh, yes, the Pats. The host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup was in last spring’s championship final, but has scuffled to this point of this season and finds itself fourth in its division, 14 points behind third-place Brandon. Yes, 14 points! . . . While Regina does hold down the conference’s first wild-card spot, it is just two points ahead of Prince Albert and Saskatoon. . . . Yes, things are messy in Regina. In fact, columnist Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post this week called the Pats an “embarrassment” in a column that is right here. . . . You know that the Pats will be buyers between now and Jan. 10, but considering their record and recent performances, one wonders if there is a big enough shopping cart available to fix whatever it is that ails them. . . . GM/head coach John Paddock acquired D Cale Fleury from Kootenay on Nov. 13, but Regina is only 5-9-1 since then, so it would seem that more is needed. . . . Paddock no doubt will be first in line for the Boxing Day sales.


6-7. PRINCE ALBERT (13-14-7) and SASKATOON (15-17-3): These two teams are tied for the conference’s second wild-card spot. The Raiders hold a game in hand, but the Blades have two more victories. They return from the Christmas break to meet in Saskatoon on Dec. 27 and in Prince Albert on Dec. 28. . . . Neither team is on the same level as the conference’s top three, but it’s important that both show improvement over last season when neither made the playoffs. . . . I wouldn’t expect either team to sell, sell, sell, but you can bet that both will be prepared to move older assets for younger players.


8. LETHBRIDGE (15-16-2): Have the Hurricanes underperformed? Or was last season (44-21-7 and a run to the conference final) an aberration? . . . Despite the inconsistent play, the Hurricanes are within reach of first place in the Central Division, and you know that GM Peter Anholt will be working the phone lines. At the same time, though, he has to be wondering if his roster, as it stands today, isn’t good enough to chase down Medicine Hat. . . . Earlier this month, Anholt added veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 on Dec. 27. He had 28 goals last season, splitting time between Regina and Red Deer, but was spinning his wheels with the Rebels this season. Anholt is hoping that Zablocki will fill the void created when F Ryan Vandervlis, a point-a-game guy, was lost for the season with shoulder woes. . . . The bottom line, however, is that the Hurricanes need to be better defensively, and that includes the goaltending department. Stuart Skinner is a better goaltender than this season’s numbers. Perhaps Anholt will be able to bring in a stay-at-home defender.


8. (tie) KOOTENAY (15-17-2): The Ice won 12 games two seasons ago and 14 last season. So by those standards, this season, the franchise’s first under the ownership of Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, is a success. Of course, a playoff spot would be even nicer, but Fettes and Cockell, and head coach James Patrick, can’t allow the short-term view to circumvent their long-term plan. . . . Cockell already has traded away three veterans — D Cale Fleury, F Vince Loschiavo and F Barrett Sheen — and you can bet he will move even more experience if he thinks a deal or deals will improve the future outlook.


10. RED DEER (10-18-6): What happened to the Rebels? A season that began with promise has imploded and they find themselves seven points out of the conference’s second wild-card spot. They went into the Christmas break having gone 1-4-5 in their past 10 games. In the Central Division, they are one point ahead of fifth-place Calgary. . . . Red Deer’s biggest problem is that it can’t score. Only Edmonton (88) has fewer goals than Red Deer (96). . . . Brent Sutter, the owner, GM and head coach, may have signalled his intentions on Dec. 8 when he dealt veteran F Lane Zablocki, who turns 19 next week, to Lethbridge, getting back sophomore F Josh Tarzwell, 17, a second-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft and a conditional third-rounder in 2020. At that point, the Rebels had lost 10 in a row and 16 of their previous 17 games. . . . Yes, Sutter, as much as he won’t like it, will be selling. . . . Interestingly, Red Deer is carrying two 20-year-olds, one under the maximum allowable. While Sutter isn’t going to want to bring in someone to take playing time away from a younger player in this situation, that vacant spot may prove useful come the deadline.


11. CALGARY (10-18-5): The Hitmen have lost 13 more games than they have won, and find themselves eight points out of the playoffs. In order to get there, they will have to pass four teams, which is unlikely, even with 39 games left on their schedule. . . . Former Kootenay president/GM Jeff Chynoweth, in his first season as Calgary’s GM, signalled his intentions on Nov. 25 when he dealt veteran forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn to Swift Current for a goody bag that included five players. At the time, Chynoweth said: “We’re not giving our players away, and we’re not throwing in the towel for the season. We expect to make the playoffs.” Of course, what was he expected to say? . . . He’ll be selling more if the price is right.


12. EDMONTON (7-22-4): The Oil Kings spent three seasons (2011-14) in the penthouse, winning at least 50 games each time and appearing in three straight championship finals, winning two of them. That was then; this is now. . . . The fall began in earnest last season (23-43-6) and it has continued, with the Oil Kings sporting the WHL’s poorest record. . . . They’ll be sellers, just don’t expect GM Randy Hansch to give away any of the franchise’s promising youngsters.

TOMORROW: The Western Conference.