After taking a couple of nights off, the WHL playoffs resume tonight (Thursday) as the second round gets started with an Eastern Conference matchup — the Red Deer Rebels visiting the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . No, I’m not going to make predictions but I will tell you that the teams met 10 times this season — the Oil Kings were 5-3-2, while the Rebels were 5-5-0. . . . Edmonton had a 34-29 edge in goals scored. . . . Over 68 games, the Oil Kings finished 50-14-4, which left them 10 points ahead of the Rebels (45-19-4). . . . If you’re looking for a harbinger, perhaps this is it — they evenly split their last four regular-season meetings, all of which came in April, with each team winning once at home and once on the road. Edmonton outscored Red Deer, 16-15, in those four games. . . . Does that signal a close series? . . . The Oil Kings are coming off a sweep of the No. 7 Lethbridge Hurricanes, while the Rebels took six games to shake off the No. 6 Brandon Wheat Kings. . . .
The other Eastern Conference semifinal is to open Friday night in Winnipeg with the Ice playing host to the Winnipeg Warriors. . . . They met seven times in the regular season, with Winnipeg going 5-1-1 and Winnipeg 2-5-0. . . . There was a large discrepancy in offence with the Ice holding a 37-16 edge. . . . Winnipeg had the WHL’s best regular-season record (53-10-5) and wound up 20 points ahead of the Warriors (37-24-7). . . . They met three times late in the regular season, with Winnipeg winning, 4-0 and 8-1, on March 16 and 29. The last time they played each other, on April 2, the host Warriors won, 3-1. . . . In the first round, the Ice took care of the No. 8 Prince Albert Raiders in five games, while the Warriors did the same to the No. 5 Saskatoon Blades. . . .
Meanwhile, one Western Conference semifinal opens Friday night, with the other swinging into action on Saturday. . . .
The Vancouver Giants, fresh off perhaps the biggest upset in WHL playoff history, are to be in Kamloops to face the Blazers on Friday night. . . . The Blazers are the highest seed in the Western Conference now. They went in as the second seed, but the top-seeded Everett Silvertips were ousted by the No. 8 Giants. . . . Kamloops finished the regular season at 48-17-3, 46 points ahead of Vancouver (24-39-5). . . . The Blazers, who swept the No. 7 Spokane Chiefs while outscoring them, 23-3, dominated the regular-season series, going 10-1-1 — Vancouver was 2-9-1 — and outscoring the Giants, 50-24. . . . These teams have met four times since Feb. 1 with Kamloops winning three of them — 3-2, 4-3 (OT) and 5-2 — while losing 4-3 in OT at home. . . .
The No. 3 Portland Winterhawks and No. 4 Seattle Thunderbirds are to open on Saturday night. Because the arena in Portland is busy with high school grads, this series will have a 1-2-1-1-1-1 format, meaning it is to begin in Kent, Wash., before moving to Portland for two games. . . . The Winterhawks, who swept the No. 6 Prince George Cougars, had a 47-16-5 regular-season record, leaving them five points ahead of Seattle (44-18-6). . . . The Thunderbirds took out the No. 5 Kelowna Rockets in five games. . . . Portland and Seattle met 13 times in the regular season with the Winterhawks going 9-4-0; the Thunderbirds were 4-6-3. . . . Nine of the games were decided by one or two goals with Portland outscoring Seattle, 44-36. . . .
Go ahead. Make your picks. Then let the fun begin . . .
In the OHL, the No. 7 Kitchener Rangers took out the No. 2 London Knights on Wednesday night . . .
As expected, the Spokane Chiefs have signed Matt Bardsley as their general manager, replacing Scott Carter who announced earlier in the season that he is leaving for health and family reasons. Carter had been the GM for six seasons (2016-22). . . . Contract terms weren’t revealed, but you would be safe to say that Bardley got three years and perhaps as many as five. . . . Bardsley is only the Chiefs’ third GM since 1990. Carter had replaced Tim Speltz (1990-2016), who left to scout for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. . . . Bardsley was the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager from 2018-21. Recently, he has been working as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. . . . Bardsley, who is from Portland and spent 18 seasons in the Winterhawks’ organization, left Kamloops for family reasons in May 2021. . . . Bardsley was in Kamloops last week for the third game of the Chiefs’ first-round playoff series with the Blazers and, in fact, was spotted in the Spokane dressing room after the game. . . . The Chiefs’ news release is right here.
In case you thought the pandemic was over, it isn’t. . . . Jackson Browne was supposed to have opened for James Taylor and his All-Star Band tonight (Thursday) at the Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg. But that isn’t going to happen because a “small number of positive COVID-19 cases” were found among tour staff. . . . According to a note on the tour’s website, the decision “was made out of an abundance of caution for the touring personnel, general public and the audience in Winnipeg.” . . . The next stop on the tour is scheduled for Saturday in Calgary. If the virus approves, of course.
Mitch Love, a former WHL coach and player, has been named the recipient of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s coach of the year. Love, 37, is in his first season as head coach of the Stockton Heat, an affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. . . . Love played five seasons (2000-05) in the WHL, splitting time with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips. He was an Everett assistant coach for six seasons before spending three seasons as the head coach of the Saskatoon Blades. . . . Stockton went 45-16-7 to finish atop the Pacific Division and is awaiting a first-round playoff opponent.
F Bear Hughes of the Spokane Chiefs will finish up this season with the AHL’s Hershey Bears after signing an amateur tryout agreement with them. Hughes, who just completed his 20-year-old season, was a fifth-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL’s 2020 draft. . . .
D Olen Zellweger of the Everett Silvertips has joined the AHL’s San Diego Gulls for the remainder of the season. The Anaheim Ducks selected Zellweger, who will turn 19 on Sept. 10, in the second round of the NHL’s 2021 draft. . . .
F Ridley Greig of the Brandon Wheat Kings has joined the AHL’s Belleville Senators for their playoff run, as long or short as it may be. The Ottawa Senators grabbed Greig, 19, with the 28th overall pick in the NHL’s 2020 draft. . . .
CapFriendly reported Wednesday that F Ryder Korczak of the Moose Jaw Warriors has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL’s New York Rangers. Korczak, 19, was selected by the Rangers in the third round of the 2021 draft. . . .
The BCHL’s Surrey Eagles have been purchased by brothers Ron and TJ Brar from Chuck Westgard, who had owned the team for 12 seasons. The league’s board of governors approved the sale last weekend, and it is effective immediately. . . . The Brars own Evergreen Herbs, which, according to a BCHL news release, is “a Surrey-based business that has grown into a leading provider of fresh herbs and vegetables to grocery stores across the country.” . . .
Rob DiMaio, a former WHL player, has been named assistant general manager with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. He also will serve as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. DiMaio was with the St. Louis Blues for the past 13 seasons, most recently as director of player personnel. He won back-to-back (1987 and 1988) Memorial Cups with the Medicine Hat Tigers and was the tournament MVP in 1988. . . .
Adam Nightingale is the new head coach of the Michigan State Spartans. For the past two seasons, he was a head coach with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He also has experience as an NHL assistant coach, most recently (2019-20) with the Detroit Red Wings. Nightingale replaces Danton Cole, the head coach for the past five seasons. . . .
The QMJHL’s Cape Breton Eagles have renewed the contract of head coach Chad Cassidy. He took over the Eagles’ position on Jan. 7, replacing Jake Grimes, who had resigned for personal reasons.
My wife, Dorothy, is preparing to take part in her ninth Kamloops Kidney Walk. . . . It will be held on June 5, but thanks to the pandemic it again will be a virtual event. . . . If you would like to sponsor her, you are able to do so right here.
If you are interested in being a living kidney donor, more information is available here:
Living Kidney Donor Program
St. Paul’s Hospital
6A Providence Building
1081 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6
Toll free: 1-877-922-9822
Vancouver General Hospital Living Donor Program – Kidney
Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre
Level 5, 2775 Laurel Street
Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9
604-875-5182 or 1-855-875-5182
Or, for more information, visit right here.