How much will Ernst’s ‘May Miracle’ impact series? . . . Ice moves into WHL final . . . Blades’ amazing run comes to end

Where is the puck? Was it in Dylan Ernst’s glove?

Only time will tell whether it was a save that at least helped to turn around the WHL’s Western Conference final.

But this one particular save definitely played a key role in the host Kamloops KamloopsBlazers beating the Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-1, on Tuesday night, an outcome that tightened the series. Seattle now leads, 2-1, with Game 4 in Kamloops tonight.

The play in question occurred late in the second period with the Blazers holding a 2-1 lead. The Thunderbirds thought they had tied it when a puck that originated with Seattle F Gracyn Sawchyn took a crazy bounce and ended up behind G Dylan Ernst — perhaps in his glove or pinched between the glove and his back. Or was it on his right shoulder?

A screen shot from a highlights package on the WHL’s website shows Ernst’s glove completely over the goal line. Except that the puck isn’t visible. If you watch the entire series on video and then watch the replays, the puck actually appears to end up on his right shoulder before he collapses and ends up gloving it.

Anyway . . . here’s how Marty Hastings of Kamloops This Week explained the goings-on . . .

“A Seattle shot pinged off the backboards and boomeranged back over the net, falling dangerously onto the backpedaling backstop . . . who has Sesame Street character Ernie painted on the back of his mask.

“Physics dictates that momentum would on most occasions have carried or propelled the (puck) over the goal line.

“But this occasion belonged to contortionist Ernst, who, with Ernie’s eyes in the back of his head, pinched the puck into his No. 35 with his mitt and fell forward to deny the T-Birds — and physics.

“ ‘I wasn’t too sure where it was,’ Ernst said. ‘It hit off the crossbar and I felt it hit my back. I got lucky when I swung my hand around and caught it.’

“Ernst shot up, prize raised high above head in glove, and drank in the chant: ‘Ernie! Ernie! Ernie!’

“ ‘Honestly, I wasn’t too sure if I was over the goal line or not,’ Ernst said. ‘I was hoping. Obviously, I wasn’t.’

“No goal was the call after the review, which (resulted in) another chant: ‘Whose house? Ernie’s house!’ ”

That’s how the score remained at 2-1. The Blazers put it away with two late third-period goals.

Hastings’ complete story is right here.




There was a point on Wednesday night when the Winnipeg Ice became huge fans of the Kamloops Blazers.

The No. 1 Ice completed an Eastern Conference final sweep of the No. 2 Saskatoon Blades last night, winning 3-2 in the Saskatchewan city.

The Western Conference final, with the No. 1 Seattle Thunderbirds holding a 2-1 edge on the No. 2 Blazers, is to resume tonight in Kamloops.

The Blazers will be the host team for the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament, meaning that if they reach the WHL’s championship final their opponent will get the WHL’s spot in the four-team tournament.

Sure, the Ice wants to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup, but you can bet it would take some of the pressure off if the Memorial Cup berth already was in their left hip pocket. Right?

The Ice will have home-ice advantage in the championship final and, yes, I’m told Winnipeg’s home games will be played in the Wayne Fleming Arena, which seats about 1,700.

Meanwhile, after playing tonight in Kamloops, the Blazers and Thunderbirds will head for Kent, Wash., and Game 5 on Saturday night.

BTW, Kamloops D Olen Zellweger lost a goal at some point after Tuesday’s game, going from 10 to nine. So he no longer is tied for the playoff points lead, his 26 now one behind teammate Logan Stankoven and F Matt Savoie of the Ice.

The 2023 Kamloops Kidney Walk is scheduled for June 4, and Dorothy is taking part once again. She will celebrate 10 years as a kidney-transplant recipient in September, so the annual Kidney Walk is a big deal for her. In fact, she is participating for a 10th straight year. Yes, that means she is fund-raising, with all donations going to the Kidney Foundation. . . . If you are interested in helping, you are able to do so on her home page, which is right here.



Winnipeg (1) at Saskatoon (2) — The Winnipeg Ice brought an end to WinnipegIceSaskatoon’s playoff run, beating the host Blades, 3-2, to sweep the conference final. . . . The Blades had reached the conference final by winning two seven-game series — the first after losing the first two games at home, the second after opening with two home-ice losses and one on the road. They became the third team in WHL history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. . . . The Ice outscored the Blades, 17-5, in the four games. . . . Last night, D Aidan De La Gorgendiere (3) gave the Blades their first lead of the series when he opened the scoring at 15:08 of the first period on a delayed penalty situation. . . . F Connor McClennon followed with two goals, at 18:40 on a PP, and at 13:30 of the second period, for a 2-1 Ice lead. . . . McClennon, who scored six times in the last three games, leads the WHL playoffs with 13 goals. . . . F Trevor Wong (3) got the Blades even at 2:45 of the third period, only to have F Briley Wood (3) break the tie at 6:19. . . . Wood, who turned 20 on Jan. 15, is from Rivers, Man. He had two goals in 13 regular-season games with the Ice this season. In 91 career regular-season games, the first 78 with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, he put up four goals. He has three in 14 games in these playoffs. In his career, he has one regular-season game-winner and now one playoff winner. . . . A note from Lucas Punkari (@lpunkari): “Prior to coming back to the Ice in mid-March, Wood was with the MJHL’s Neepawa Titans. The 20-year-old Rivers product recorded 57 points (19 goals and 38 assists) in 39 games.” . . . The Blades took the game’s only four minor penalties; the Ice was 1-for-4 on the PP. . . . The Ice got 16 saves from G Daniel Hauser. . . . Saskatoon G Austin Elliott stopped 36 shots. . . . The Ice again was without D Wyatt Wilson, while the Blades remained without D Ben Saunderson and D Blake Gustafson.

This is just so Canadian minor hockey. . . . The coach of a U11 team takes his guys off the ice because they are being subjected to all kinds of racial abuse. He ends up being suspended and losing his coaching position. There comes a time when there just aren’t words.


It sounds as though Chris Crich, the WHL’s top referee each of the past two seasons, is into the final days of his whistling career. Crich worked the game in Kamloops between the Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds on Tuesday night. . . . Later, Jon Keen, the radio voice of the Kamloops Blazers, tweeted that Crich had told him: “This is pretty much it. It’s been a good run. It is probably getting to be time with the family and the job.” . . .

The Quebec Remparts earned a spot in the QMJHL’s championship final on Wednesday, beating the host Gatineau Olympiques, 3-1, to sweep the series. . . . The Patrick Roy-led Remparts won two of the games in OT. . . . The Remparts had the league’s best regular-season record (53-12-3), finishing four points ahead of the Olympiques (49-12-7). . . . The other semifinal, featuring the Sherbrooke Phoenix and Halifax Mooseheads, is to resume tonight in Sherbrooke. The Phoenix holds a 2-1 lead. They’ll play a fifth game in Halifax on Saturday afternoon. . . .

In the BCHL, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs advanced to the Fred Page Cup final for the first time with a 3-2 victory over the host Chilliwack Chiefs. The Bulldogs swept the Coastal Conference final. They won last night’s game when F Ethan Bono broke a 2-2 tie with his eighth goal at 19:31 of the third period. . . . In the Interior Conference final, the Salmon Arm Silverbacks stayed alive with a 3-2 OT victory over the visiting Penticton Vees. Salmon Arm won on F Isaac Lambert’s sixth goal at 3:36 of OT. The Vees, who had a 27-game playoff winning streak come to an end, lead the series, 3-1. They are to play Game 5 in Penticton on Friday night.


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

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873



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.


Lightning strikes twice in two years for ex-WHLers . . . Raiders sign import goalie . . . Horrible day for Roughriders


A brief weather-related note: As we were driving into Kamloops early this afternoon, the temperature was 31C. . . . That is 16 degrees higher than what it was at 2 a.m. . . . It also is 16 degrees ‘cooler’ than what it was here on June 29. . . . Is this a great time to be alive, or what?

Grant Armstrong has added a couple of rings to his haberdashery since leaving the WHL. Armstrong and his wife, Lezlie, were in Tampa Bay on Wednesday night to celebrate with the Lightning as they won their second consecutive Stanley Cup. . . . “I’m a little weary because it was a late night,” he told Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader on Thursday, “but well worth it. It’s special.” . . . Zillich’s complete story is right here. . . . Armstrong was with the Portland Winterhawks for five seasons (2007-12) and the Victoria Royals for three (2013-16) before working for the Brandon Wheat Kings for three seasons (2016-19) as general manager. . . . He has been scouting for the Lightning for two seasons and, yes, he now has two Stanley Cup rings. . . .

Also on Tampa Bay’s scouting staff is Josh Dye, a former Portland scout who has been with the Lightning for two seasons, meaning that he, too, has a pair of rings. Dye scouted for Portland from 2006-13 before spending three years with Newport Sports Management Inc. He returned to Portland prior to the 2016-17 season as the team’s U.S. and European scout. . . .

And let’s not forget Jason Berger, the Lightning’’s assistant equipment manager. Berger spent four seasons (2007-11) with the Seattle Thunderbirds as their equipment manager. He just completed his fourth season with the Lightning.


The Tampa Bay Lightning’s front office also includes two former WHL players — Jamie Pushor and Stacy Roest. . . . Pushor is assistant general manager, director of player personnel. Pushor played 204 regular-season games over five seasons with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He has been with the Lightning for 10 seasons now. . . . Roest, the Lightning’s assistant general manager, director of player development, played four full seasons (1991-95) with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He has been with the Lightning for eight seasons; he also is the general manager of Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Roest’s son, Austin, is a 17-year-old forward preparing for his second season with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips.


The Prince Albert Raiders have signed G Tikhon Chayka of Belarus, who was Raiderspicked in the CHL’s 2001 import draft. . . . Chayka, who turns 18 on Aug. 26, got into three games with Belarus at the IIHF U18 World championship in Texas, going 2-1-0, 2.67, .911. . . . In 29 appearances with Team Belarus in a junior league there, he was 3.60, .870. . . . The Raiders didn’t have any imports on their roster in the Regina hub earlier this year. They finished the 2019-20 season with three on their roster — F Daniil Stepanov, now 20, of Belarus; F Aliaksei Protas, now 20, also of Belarus; and F Ivan Kechkin, now 19, of Russia.


The CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders haven’t opened training camp — that happens on Saturday — but they lost four players to torn Achilles injuries on Thursday as they worked out at Mosaic Stadium in preparation for things getting serious. DE Freddie Bishop, MLB Larry Dean, RB Jonathan Femi-Cole and DB Nelson Lokombo all went down in a matter of minutes. General manager Jeremy O’Day told reporters that he expects all four to be out long-term. . . . Bishop and Dean were projected as starters after signing in February. . . . “It wasn’t a competitive drill by any means,” O’Day told reporters. “It happened close enough that while one trainer was dealing with one, then another trainer was dealing with another.” . . . Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post has more 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

Tel: 604-806-9027

Toll free: 1-877-922-9822

Fax: 604-806-9873



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.

JUST NOTES: Barry Wolff has signed a two-year contract extension with the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders. According to a team news release, the contract contains “an option for a third year if he chooses.” Wolff is heading into his fourth season with the junior A team. . . . Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted on Wednesday that “longtime Vancouver Giants equipment manager Shingo Sasaki has left the club for a post with the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL team in Abbotsford.” . . .

Scott Burt, a former WHL player and assistant coach, has signed on as head coach and director of hockey operations with the ECHL’s Rapid City Rush. Burt spent 2019-20 as an assistant coach with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads. Burt, 44, played three seasons (1995-98) in the WHL, suiting up with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Swift Current Broncos, Edmonton Ice and Red Deer Rebels. He later spent six seasons (2013-19) as an assistant coach with the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Jackson Playfair has joined the UBC Thunderbirds men’s hockey team as a full-time assistant coach. Playfair, 27, played in the WHL for three seasons (2012-15) with the Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans before going on to spend four seasons at Dalhousie U. His father, Jim, also a former WHL player, is an associate coach with the Edmonton Oilers. . . .

USA Hockey has added F Cross Hanas of the Portland Winterhawks to the roster for the 2021 World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Mich., from July 24-31. Hanas, a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, is the only WHL player on the 44-man roster. . . . Matt Bardsley, who spent the previous three seasons as the Kamloops Blazers’ general manager, has joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an amateur scout. He left the Blazers with three years left on his contract, saying that he wanted to get his family back to the U.S. He will spend most of his scouting time working WHL games out of Portland. . . .

The Winnipeg Ice will have a new play-by-play voice following the resignation of Mitch Peacock, who had been its manager, broadcast and communications. He handled the play-by-play for each of the previous two seasons. . . . Hockey Canada has invited 45 players, 17 of them from the WHL, to it U-18 summer development that is scheduled for the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina National near Calgary, from July 25 through Aug. 4. The six-man coaching staff includes three WHL head coaches — Brent Kisio (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Brad Lauer (Edmonton Oil Kings) and Dennis Williams (Everett Silvertips). There’s more right here.


Hansch, Hamilton, Marsh gone from Oil Kings . . . Heponiemi is finished in Swift Current . . . Blades, Ice sign draft picks


F Josh Holden (Regina, 1994-98) has retired from playing and signed a one-year contract as assistant coach with Zug (Switzerland, NL A). He will also be development coach for Zug Academy (NL B) and Zug U20 (Elite Junior A). This season, he had two goals and three assists in 19 games with Zug, and had nine goals and 19 assists in 31 games with Zug Academy, where he was team captain. . . . According to the Zug news release, Holden “has been living with his family in the canton of Zug for 10 years and is likely to receive the Swiss passport soon.” . . .

F Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current, 2016-18) signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Swift Current, he had 28 goals and a WHL-leading 90 assists in 57 games.


I have spent the past few weeks tinkering with three different blog sites.

If you haven’t already, please take a few moments to check them out, then let me know which one you prefer.

Here are the three addresses . . .

Let me know your preference by sending an email to

The Edmonton Oil Kings will have at least three new faces in their hockey operations department when another season rolls around.

The Oil Kings will have a new general manager after revealing on Monday that Randy EdmontonOilKingsHansch is joining an as-yet-unnamed NHL team as an amateur scout.

At the same time, the Oil Kings announced that they have fired head coach Steve Hamilton, who had been in the organization for eight seasons, while assistant coach Ryan Marsh’s contract won’t be renewed. Marsh had been in that position through four seasons.

The decisions were announced by Peter Chiarelli, the president of hockey operations and general manager of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, who own the WHL franchise.

Hamilton, 44, spent four seasons as an assistant coach under head coach Derek Laxdal, then was head coach for four seasons. Hamilton took over from Hamilton when the latter joined the AHL’s Texas Stars as head coach.

Under Laxdal, the Oil Kings won two WHL titles and a Memorial Cup championship. Under Hamilton, the Oil Kings went 108-152-28, missing the playoffs each of the past two seasons.

This season, the Oil Kings had the WHL’s poorest record — 22-42-8.

Hansch, 52, had been with the Oil Kings since 2007-08, working the past five seasons as general manager. Prior to that, he was the director of player personnel and assistant general manager.

There has been speculation since the WHL bantam draft on May 3 that Kirt Hill, a former WHL player who spent this season as an amateur scout with the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks, will be joining the Oil Kings as director of hockey operations.

Hill played in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets and Regina Pats (2004-08). He joined the WHL office as manager of player development during the 2013-14 season, then left to work for the Blackhawks prior to this season.

Derek Van Diest of Postmedia has more on the Oil Kings right here in a piece that includes some good quotes from Hansch.

There now are four WHL teams in need of a head coach.

The Oil Kings, of course, need one, having fired Steve Hamilton on Monday after he spent four seasons in that role.

Also needing a head coach are the Kamloops Blazers, Saskatoon Blades and Swift Current Broncos.

The Blazers are looking for a replacement for Don Hay, who has moved into an advisory role after four seasons as head coach. However, Hay, 64,  has said he wants to continue coaching and you would think he would at least get some consideration in Edmonton. Hay has more regular-season and playoff victories than anyone in WHL history.

Saskatoon needs a head coach after firing Dean Brockman following the end of its season.

Swift Current, which won the WHL championship, has to replace Manny Viveiros, who left the Broncos on Friday and now is an assistant coach with the Oilers.

When it comes to general managers, there are three teams looking to hire.

The Oil Kings are looking for a replacement for Randy Hansch after Monday’s announcement.

Also in the market are the Kamloops Blazers and Prince George Cougars. The Blazers announced earlier this month that Stu MacGregor had been reassigned to the scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi is the majority owner of the Blazers — while the Cougars parted company with Todd Harkins after their season ended.

The general manager in Prince George will inherit a head coach, Richard Matvichuk, who is going into the final season of his contract.

The Vancouver Giants already have a new general manager, having hired Barclay Parneta earlier this month. He replaces Glen Hanlon, who left the team after two seasons in that role.

If you aren’t already, you really should be paying attention to TSN where, led by Rick Westhead’s reporting, it is putting a spotlight on the NHL and head injuries. . . . It all has to do with the concussion-related lawsuit filed by a number of players against the NHL in 2013. It is mind-numbing to watch NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at his condescending best, and to read about some NHL owners denying having ever heard of CTE. . . . This is important to junior hockey fans, and owner/operators, too, because sooner or later a connection is going to be made, if it hasn’t already, between former professional players who are showing signs of CTE and head injuries they incurred in junior hockey. . . . The first of TSN’s five-part series is right here. There is video and a story by Westhead.

F Aleksi Heponiemi won’t be back for a third season with the WHL-champion Swift SCBroncosCurrent Broncos. The 19-year-old Finnish sensation has signed a two-year contract with Kärpät Oulu of the top pro league in Finland. . . . This season, Heponiemi had 118 points, including 90 assists, in 57 regular-season games with the Broncos. Last season, as a freshman, he had 28 goals and 58 assists in 72 games. . . . In 2016-17, he was named the WHL’s rookie of the year after leading all freshmen in assists and points. This season, he led the WHL in assists and was named a first-team all-star. He also was named the CHL’s most sportsmanlike player. . . . Heponiemi was selected by the Florida Panthers in the second round of the NHL’s 2017 draft. . . . The Broncos’ other import player is Russian D Artyom Minulin, who is eligible to return for his 20-year-old season.

Back in the day, the Kamloops Blazers were a major junior dynasty, something that was defined by their three Memorial Cup titles in four years (1992, 1994, 1995). The architect of all that was Bob Brown, who was fired as general manager a couple of weeks after the third title as the organization chose to go in a different direction. The Blazers, of course, haven’t come close to that kind of success since then, but what is Brown up to these days? . . . Tom Zillich of the Surrey Now-Leader checks in with Brown right here.

Here’s a thought . . . Zillich reports that Brown’s scouting contract with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers is about to expire. As well, Ken Hitchcock, who had considerable success as the Blazers’ head coach back in the day, doesn’t have a coaching job these days; he has moved into an advisory role with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. . . . So you don’t suppose . . . Nah. Never happen.

The Saskatoon Blades have signed F Colton Dach, who was the sixth overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. From Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., he is the younger brother of Blades F Kirby Dach, who was the second overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. . . . This season, Colton had 22 goals and 47 assists in 30 games with the OHA Edmonton bantam prep team.

The Kootenay Ice has signed three of its selections from the 2018 WHL bantam draft — D KootenaynewCarson Lambos, D Karter Prosofsky and F Skyler Bruce. . . . Lambos, from Winnipeg, was taken second overall. He had 15 goals and 25 assists in 30 games with the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy Nationals bantam prep team. He was named the CSSHL bantam league’s top defenceman. . . . Prosofsky and Bruce were second-round selections. . . . Prosofsky, from Saskatoon, had eight goals and 10 assists in 24 games with the Victoria-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team. . . . Bruce, from Winnipeg, also played at the Rink Hockey Academy. He had 21 goals and 19 assists in 30 games with the bantam prep team.

The WHL’s 22 teams now have signed nine of the first-round selections from the 2018 bantam draft.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Dylan Guenther, the first overall selection, while the Ice (Lambos), Prince Albert Raiders (3. D Nolan Allan), Calgary Hitmen (4. F Sean Tschigerl), Saskatoon Blades (6. F Colton Dach), Lethbridge Hurricanes (8. F Zack Stringer), Tri-City Americans (14. D Marc Lajoie), Spokane Chiefs (17. D Graham Sward), and Edmonton (20. D Keegan Slaney),

The teams that have yet to sign their first-round selections are the Kamloops Blazers (5. F Logan Stankoven), Red Deer Rebels (7. F Jayden Grubbe), Prince George Cougars (9. F Craig Armstrong), Seattle Thunderbirds (10. F Kai Uchacz), Medicine Hat Tigers (11. F Cole Sillinger), Vancouver Giants (12. F Zack Ostapchuk), Victoria Royals (13. D Nolan Bentham), Brandon Wheat Kings (15. F Jake Chiasson), Red Deer (16. D Kyle Masters), Kelowna Rockets (18. F Trevor Wong), Portland Winterhawks (19. F Gabe Klassen), Prince George (21. G Tyler Brennan), and Moose Jaw Warriors (22. F Eric Alarie).

A tip of the Taking Note cap to the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves for hiring Mike Commito to fill the newly created position of team historian. . . . This is great news for a part of the hockey world whose history often is shoved into the shadows and forgotten. . . . “In anticipation of the Wolves 50th anniversary in the 2022 season,” the team noted in a news release, “the organization has created a new role to help capture the stories and memories that shape the rich Wolves’ hockey tradition.  From players and coaches, to fans and billet families, there are amazing stories that weave throughout the decades and who better to capture those stories than the team’s very first historian.” . . . That news release is right here.

%d bloggers like this: