The Edmonton Oil Kings could become the WHL’s first playoff champion since the spring of 2019 with a victory over the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds tonight (Saturday).
The Oil Kings returned home Wednesday night after having won twice in Kent, Wash. — 4-0 on Tuesday and 3-2 earlier Wednesday. That put the Oil Kings in control of the series for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, with a 3-1 lead.
Keep in mind, however, that the Thunderbirds haven’t been an easy out in these playoffs. In fact, this game will mark the sixth time that Seattle will have faced elimination. Yes, the Thunderbirds are 5-0 in elimination games, having come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Portland Winterhawks and 3-2 against the Kamloops Blazers. In the process, the Thunderbirds became the first team in WHL history to win two Game 7s on the road.
If they are to win this series, they’ll have to do it on the road, too. Because the arena in Kent is busy with high school graduation ceremonies, this series is running on a 2-2-3 format with as many of the last three games as needed to be played in Edmonton. Should a sixth game be necessary, it would be played on Monday with the Thunderbirds designated as the home team. If needed, Game 7 would be be played on Tuesday.
Seattle will be without D Tyrel Bauer, its captain and a dominating shutdown defender, tonight and again on Monday if there is a Game 6. Bauer, 20, who has signed with the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, drew a two-game suspension for an early first-period hit on Edmonton F Brendan Kuny on Wednesday. Bauer was given an interference major and game misconduct on the play. Kuny received medical attention from personnel from both teams, was placed on a backboard, then removed from the ice surface on a stretcher and taken to an area hospital. He rejoined his teammates before the night was done and returned with them to Edmonton where he was examined by the team’s medical staff on Thursday. Kuny, a 20-year-old from Ardrossan, Alta., won’t play again in this series.
The Prince Albert Raiders hold the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL champions, having won it in 2019. The WHL was closing in on its 2019-20 playoff season when the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the remainder of the season late in March. There wasn’t a true regular season in 2020-21 — with teams playing an abbreviated development season — before things resumed in earnest last fall.
The Oil Kings are gunning for the organization’s first WHL title since 2014. They went on to win the Memorial Cup that spring, the last time a WHL team has won it.
The 2022 Memorial Cup is scheduled to run from June 20-29 in Saint John, N.B.
The only team assured a spot in the four-team tournament to date is the host Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. They were eliminated in the first round, then fired head coach Gordie Dwyer on May 26, replacing him with Gardiner MacDougall, the head coach of the U of New Brunswick Reds for 22 seasons. MacDougall is to return to the Reds when the tournament is over.
Meanwhile, the OHL playoffs continued on Friday night in Windsor where the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the Spitfires, 3-2, in OT. . . . F Will Cuylle gave Windsor a 2-1 lead at 12:41 of the second period, and the Spitfires nursed that edge into the last two minutes of the third period. . . . D Nathan Staios then pulled Hamilton even at 18:03 with G Marco Costantini on the bench for an extra attacker. . . . D Gavin White won it with his second goal of the playoffs, at 7:31 of extra time. The goal came 10 seconds after the conclusion of a Hamilton PP opportunity. . . . They’ll play Game 5 in Hamilton on Sunday, with Game 6 scheduled for Monday in Windsor. . . .
In the QMJHL, the visiting Charlottetown Islanders scored four times in the second period on Thursday night and went on to beat the Shawinigan Cataractes, 7-0. . . . G Francesco Lapenna earned the shutout with 16 saves. . . . Shawinigan still holds a 3-1 lead in the series with Game 5 scheduled for Charlottetown tonight. . . .
Remember that all of these playoff games are being televised by TSN.
THE COACHING GAME:
The Kamloops Blazers announced on Friday that Mark Holick is leaving the organization for “personal reasons” after one season as associate coach. . . . Shaun Clouston, the Blazers’ general manager and head coach, told Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week: “Originally, the plan was for Mark to move his family up here. There were some schooling- and work-related situations with his wife and the roads closed there for half the winter. That didn’t make it easier. And there is a situation right now they’re dealing with that was just going to make that move impossible. When you added everything up, it just wasn’t going to work out with him and his family moving forward.” . . . Clouston said that the Blazers, who will be the host team for the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament, are likely to hire two full-time assistant coaches before the 2022-23 season gets here. . . . Hastings’ story is right here. . . .
The Calgary Hitmen have signed assistant coach Matt Stajan to a two-year extension. A veteran of 1,003 regular-season NHL games, Stajan just completed his first season on Calgary’s coaching staff. He works alongside head coach Steve Hamilton and fellow assistant Trent Cassan. . . .
The Regina Pats have signed five members of the their hockey operations staff to what the team referred to as “multi-year contract extensions.” . . . Assistant coach Brad Herauf is preparing for his eighth season with the Pats. A Regina native, he stepped in as interim head coach early in February and remained in that position through season’s end as John Paddock, the general manager and head coach, was sidelined with health-related issues. . . . Ken Schneider, the club’s other assistant coach, just completed his first season on the coaching staff. He previously had scouted for the Pats for three seasons. . . . Rob Muntain, the goaltending coach, is returning for his 12th season with the club. . . . Greg Mayer, the athletic therapist, is preparing for his 19th season. He is the longest-serving member of the hockey operations department. . . . Gord Cochran, the Pats’ equipment manager, will be back for his ninth season in Regina.
JUNIOR JOTTINGS: The Prince George Cougars have acquired F Chase Wheatcroft, 20, from the Winnipeg Ice for a fourth-round selection in the WHL’s 2023 draft. Wheatcroft, from Calgary, was acquired by the Ice from the Lethbridge Hurricanes during the 2021-22 season. In 55 games, he totalled 16 goals and 22 assists. He added a goal and five assists in 15 playoff games. . . . Wheatcroft is the second 20-year-old forward picked up by the Cougars of late. Last month, they added Nolan Boyko from the Saskatoon Blades. He and Wheatcroft were teammates in Lethbridge at one point. . . .
Cole Waldie will be the play-by-play voice of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars when another season gets here. The former radio voice of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings has joined the Cougars as their director or broadcasting, communications and public relations. Waldie spent the past three seasons with the Spruce Kings. He replaces Fraser Rodgers, who left after five years with the Cougars to return to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees as their vice-president of business operations and director of broadcasting, communications and public relations. . . .
A couple of interesting notes from the annual meeting of the junior B Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. For starters, accountant Jason Traska reported that despite attendance being limited to 500 fans per game for a lot of the season the organization was able to pay off a $40,000 COVID-19 loan and have money left over. As well, the blog Rider News reported: “Oddly enough, overall attendance was down but beer sales were up, and that’s great news for the Fernie Brewing Company and anyone who sells Tylenol.” . . . Oh, and did we mention that seven people — yes, SEVEN — attended the AGM.
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