Lamb to wear two hats with Cougars. . . . Pats get Holmes back from Everett. . . . Raiders’ Sapego gets AHL deal


MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) has signed a one-year contract with Kobra Prague (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). Last season, in 25 games with Jablonec nad Nisou (Czech Republic, 2. Liga),he had 14 goals and 27 assists. He also had six goals and 21 assists in 18 games with Landshut (Germany, Oberliga). . . .

F Tyler Wong (Lethbridge, 2011-17) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, he had five goals and eight assists in 68 games with the Chicago Wolves (AHL). . . .

F Adam Cracknell (Kootenay, 2002-06) has signed a one-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, with the Toronto Marlies (AHL), he had three goals and seven assists in 14 games. He also was pointless in two games with the Anaheim Ducks (NHL), and had 15 goals and 13 assists in 32 games with the San Diego Gulls (AHL). . . .

F Garet Hunt (Vancouver, 2004-08) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL), he had nine goals and 14 assists in 69 games. . . .

F Adam Helewka (Spokane, Red Deer, 2012-16) has signed a one-year contract with Barys Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan, KHL). Last season, he had 13 goals and 18 assists in 41 games with the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), and eight goals and 11 assists in 24 games with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL). . . . Nur-Sultan was known as Astana until the Kazakhstan parliament voted in March 2019 to change the name. . . .

F Brandon Magee (Chilliwack/Victoria, 2009-15) has signed a two-year contract with Kunlun Red Star Beijing (China, KHL). Last season, with U of Alberta (USports, Canada West), he had 10 goals and 18 assists in 22 games.


ThisThat

Mark Lamb won’t be joining the coaching staff of the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Instead of flying into NHL cities all over North America, he’ll be riding a bus to cities that are home to WHL franchises.

The Prince George Cougars announced Thursday that Lamb now is the team’s 13th head PrinceGeorgecoach since it relocated from Victoria for the 1994-95 season. Lamb also is their general manager.

Lamb has a history with Dave Tippett, the Oilers’ new head coach, and there had been speculation that the two would reunite in Edmonton.

According to Lamb, he rejected overtures from the Oilers to stay in Prince George, and when is the last time that happened?

In a story by Ethan Ready of myprincegeorgenow that is right here, Lamb explained his decision this way:

“The NHL lifestyle is unbelievable, as we all know. And it should be unbelievable because it’s the best league in the world. That’s where everybody wants to be. You’re flying on chartered jets, staying in nice hotels. But I’m from Cadillac, Saskatchewan — there’s not a lot of jets out there.”

Lamb, who will turn 55 on Aug. 3, spent 16 seasons as a pro player. He was in the NHL long enough to play 403 regular-season games and 70 in the playoffs. He won a Stanley Cup with the 1989-90 Oilers. He then spent seven seasons as an NHL assistant coach before working for seven seasons (2008-16) as the general manager/head coach of the Swift Current Broncos.

“I’ve been there. I’ve had some success in the NHL as a player and won a Stanley Cup,” Lamb said. “I’m not downgrading it at all, it’s an unbelievable league, but the situation here is pretty gratifying.”

Lamb, who signed a four-year contract with the Cougars a year ago, has completed one season as the franchise’s general manager. He had been the interim head coach since Richard Matvichuk was fired on Feb. 7.

The Cougars finished 19-41-8 and didn’t make the playoffs in 2018-19. Interestingly, Lamb said at that time that he wasn’t interested in being a full-time head coach.

“That’s not the plan to come back, I’m interim head coach since I took over and that’s still what I am,” Lamb told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen in late March.“There’s going to be a search for it . . .”

Early in May, Lamb told Clarke that the search for a head coach was in progress.

“I’ve talked to quite a few people and I’m going to be talking to more,” Lamb said. “You’ve got to be able to relate to the kids, know the trends how hockey is being played now, how you communicate. Just being down there coaching, I have a pretty good idea what it’s going to take and what type of coach the guys do need. I have a lot of connections not just in our league but in pro leagues and I’m doing a lot of work in those areas.”

At the end of the day, the Cougars’ ownership group obviously decided that Lamb fit all of those descriptions and was the best man for the job.

Or maybe Lamb’s wife, Tanya, who is from Edmonton, was tired of all the moving in recent years?

——

Here is the last sentence of the news release in which the Prince George Cougars announced that general manager Mark Lamb also would be the head coach:

“The Cougars will be naming an associate coach and finalizing other members of the hockey operations department in the coming weeks.”

Steve O’Rourke, the team’s associate coach for the past three seasons, no longer is with the Cougars.

Lamb told Bill Phillips of pgdailynews.ca, for a story that is right here, that the new associate coach will have a lot on his plate.

“It’s going to be like two coaches,” Lamb said. “He’s going to have a lot of responsibility . . . I want to make that one of the tightest coaching staffs in the league, which will give us a greater opportunity to have success.”

Others in the Cougars’ hockey operations department include goaltending coach Taylor Dakers and Nick Drazenovic, the director of player development.


There now are two WHL teams without head coaches — the Brandon Wheat Kings, who are looking to replace David Anning, whose contract wasn’t renewed, and the Spokane Chiefs, who lost Dan Lambert to the NHL’s Nashville Predators where he now is an assistant coach.

The Wheat Kings also are without a general manager as they have yet to replace Grant Armstrong, whose contract wasn’t renewed.

Earlier, the Kamloops Blazers signed Shaun Clouston, who had been dismissed by the Medicine Hat Tigers, to replace Serge Lajoie. Willie Desjardins has taken over as the general manager and head coach in Medicine Hat.


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F Robbie Holmes is back with the Regina Pats. They have acquired Holmes, who will turn Pats20 on July 22, from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for two 2020 bantam draft selections — a fifth- and a sixth-round pick. . . . Holmes, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta., had played 148 regular-season games with the Pats before he was dealt to Everett on Jan. 10 for F Sloan Stanick, a second-round pick in the 2020 bantam draft and a sixth-rounder in 2022. . . . Last season, he had three goals and seven assists in 26 games with Everett, after putting up nine goals and seven assists in 16 games with Regina. . . . In 174 career games, he had 32 goals and 34 assists. . . . The Pats’ roster now includes four 20-year-olds — Holmes, F Austin Pratt, F Dawson Holt, who was acquired from the Vancouver Giants last month, and F Sebastian Streu. . . . Everett now has five 20s on its roster — F Lucas Cullen, F Max Patterson, F Bryce Kindopp, D Jake Christiansen, D Wyatte Wylie.


The Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, have signed D PrinceAlbertSergei Sapego of the WHL-champion Prince Albert Raiders. Sapego, from Belarus, had 10 goals and 33 assists in 58 regular-season games last season, then added three goals and 10 assists in 23 playoff games. . . . The signing came after Sapego attended the Maple Leafs’ development camp. . . . Sapego will turn 20 on Oct. 8. . . . The Raiders also have Belarusian F Aliaksei Protas, who was a third-round pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL’s 2019 draft, on their roster, and they selected Russian F Ivan Kechkin in the 2019 import draft. . . . The Raiders have yet to post a pre-season roster on the WHL website, but the 20s on their playoff roster were G Ian Scott, Sapego, D Max Martin, D Brayden Pachal, D Zack Hayes, D Jeremy Masella, F Parker Kelly, F Brett Leason and F Brian Harris. . . . Scott (Toronto), Kelly (Ottawa Senators) and Leason (Washington Capitals) are expected to begin their pro careers with the start of the upcoming season.


If you click on Nick’s tweet, you will find the schedule for the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup . . .

 


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Cougars to be more ‘assertive’ with schedule making . . . Portland still unbeaten in East . . . Gauthier blanks Americans




MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) signed a contract for the rest of this season with Landshut (Germany, Oberliga South) after requesting and receiving his release from Jablonec nad Nisou (Czech Republic, 2. Liga). He had 14 goals and 20 assists in 23 games.


ThisThat

Andy Beesley is the vice-president of business with the Prince George Cougars. A few days before Christmas, he sat down with Hartley Miller of 94.3 The Goat, a Prince George radio station, and they combined for an episode of the CatScan podcast. . . . If you have ever wondered about what goes into running the business end of a major junior franchise you will want to give this a listen. It’s 50 minutes of Beesley being honest in answering questions about ticket prices, attendance, scheduling, turning games into events, the survival of the WHL in Prince George, and even how he came to change his lifestyle and lose 100 pounds. . . .

One thing I found particularly interesting is that Beesley said the Cougars’ organization has changed its thought process and no longer will look for the one big score.

“We would love to win a Memorial Cup, but we just want to make the playoffs regularly,” he told Miller, “and that’s part of the path that the hockey side of the business is on now. We’ve changed our model a bit to aim for more of a consistent team year by year, rather than selling the farm and just having couple of studs that come in and then you cross your fingers and pay the price for the next five years. We’ve done away with that model.”

The Cougars are scheduled to entertain the Prince George Cougars on Friday night, more than five weeks after their most-recent home game. Between home games, they will have played 11 times on the road and taken the Christmas break.

Beesley promised the Cougars’ fans “that’s not going to happen again . . . we’re not going to put up with that again.”

He added that he, team president John Pateman, co-owner Eric Brown and general manager Mark Lamb “have all talked together and agreed that we need to do a far better job of not just giving input to our schedules but standing up for what the Prince George Cougars need. . . . we are going to be a lot more assertive and make sure we don’t have another six-week gap because we don’t think it’s fair to fans and it’s not fair to our business either.”

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the 50 minutes and it’s all right here.

——

KOOTENAY KOUNTDOWN

All signs point to the Kootenay Ice packing up and moving to Winnipeg before another season gets here. However, no one from the Ice or the WHL office has had much, if 21anything to say about all the speculation.

However, Ron Robison, the WHL commissioner, did appear with host Dean Millard on TSN Radio (1260) in Edmonton on Dec. 19.

Asked about the situation, Robison responded in part that “we’ll be very soon making an announcement as to what the future of that franchise is.”

We now are into our 21st day since Robison made that statement, and there has yet to be an announcement of any kind.


——

Allow me to apologize to Gino De Paoli, the play-by-play voice of the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. It was his tweet that tipped me off to an item on G Nick Sanders that I used here yesterday. I meant to credit De Paoli, but it didn’t get done, and for that I offer up an apology. Sorry about that, Gino.

——

——

The Prince George Cougars have signed F Blake Eastman, 15, to a WHL contract. He was a second-round selection in the 2018 bantam draft. . . . From Ardrossan, Alta., Eastman is playing for the Elite 15 team at OHA Edmonton, where he has 17 goals and eight assists in 21 games.

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The Spokane Chiefs have returned D Graham Sward to the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League. Sward, 15, was the 17th overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . Sward played one game with the Chiefs and scored his first goal as they beat the Ice, 8-4, in Cranbrook, B.C., on Sunday.

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The Swift Current Broncos have released F Quinton Waitzner, 18, who was a ninth-round selection in the WHL’s 2015 bantam draft. . . . From Victoria, he had two assists in 34 games this season, after finishing last season with one goal in 43 games. He also was pointless in five games in 2016-17. . . . Before joining the Broncos, he played for the junior B Saanich Braves.

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The Prince Albert Raiders have returned G Brett Balas, 17, to the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks. From Calgary, he was a third-round pick by the Raiders in the WHl’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . Balas was brought in by the Raiders to fill the roster spot created with starter Ian Scott with Team Canada at the WJC. . . . Balas got into two games with Prince Albert, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871. One of the victories was in relief of starter Donovan Buskey.

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Feel free to click on the DONATE button over there on the right and contribute to the cause. Thank you, in advance, and stay safe out there.

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TUESDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Portland Winterhawks erased an early 2-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to Portlanda 4-3 victory over the Wheat Kings in Brandon. . . . Portland (24-11-5) has points in nine straight (6-0-3), and is 3-0-0 on its East Division swing. . . . Brandon (16-16-6) has lost two in a row. . . . F Ben McCartney (11) gave Brandon a 2-0 lead with goals at 1:14 and 3:45 of the first period. . . . The Winterhawks tied it before the period ended on goals from F Michal Kvasnica (7) and F Seth Jarvis (10). . . . F Jaydon Dureau (9) broke the tie at 14:39 of the second period. . . . F Joachim Blichfeld upped Portland’s lead to 4-2, shorthanded, at 10:03 of the third period. He leads the WHL in goals (37) and points (76). . . D Braden Schneider (5) got the Wheat Kings to within a goal at 14:53. . . . Portland had a 51-35 edge in shots, including 22-9 in the first period. . . . Brandon G Jiri Patera blocked 47 shots, 15 more than Portland’s Shane Farkas. . . . Portland D Nick Cicek, an 18-year-old freshman from Winnipeg, had one assist in his first 16 games. He had one assist last night, and now is on a six-game point streak, with nine helpers in that stretch. . . . Portland had F Cody Glass back in the lineup after his stint with Canada’s national junior team. He was held off the scoresheet. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley (suspended) and D Brendan De Jong (concussion).

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F Kyle Crnkovic had a goal and two assists to lead the host Saskatoon Blades to a 4-3 Saskatoonvictory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Saskatoon (25-12-5) has won two in a row. . . . Seattle (12-21-4) is 1-2-0 on its East Division trip. . . . Crnkovic, a 16-year-old from Chestermere, Alta., was the 10th-overall selection in the 2017 bantam draft. In 27 games, he has four goals and nine assists, with three goals and six assists having come in his past nine games. Yes, this was his first multi-point WHL game. . . . D Zach Ashton, who moved from Saskatoon to Seattle in a deal last week, gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead with his first WHL goal, at 6:35 of the first period. The goal came in his 14th WHL game, the third with Seattle. . . . Crnkovic tied it at 15:24, and F Josh Paterson (14) gave the Blades the lead, on a PP, at 17:30. . . . Seattle F Nolan Volcan, playing in his 300th regular-season game, tied it with his 15th goal, at 19:24. . . . The Thunderbirds went ahead 3-2 when F Matthew Wedman (13) accord at 4:36 of the second period. . . . Saskatoon reclaimed the lead before the period ended, on goals from F Chase Wouters (8), at 13:49, and F Eric Florchuk (11), at 17:20. . . . Volcan, 20, is from Edmonton. He was a second-round pick by Seattle in the 2013 bantam draft. He has 213 points, including 88 goals, in those 300 regular-regular-season games. . . . F Cyle McNabb, acquired Monday from the Kootenay Ice, wasn’t in Saskatoon’s lineup. . . . The Blades remain without F Kirby Each and D Nolan Kneen. . . . F Sean Richards was in Seattle’s lineup for the first time since being acquired last week from the Everett Silvertips. He had to complete an eight-game WHL suspension before suiting up with the Thunderbirds. . . . Seattle was without D Cade McNelly, who completed a three-game suspension.

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G Taylor Gauthier blocked 36 shots to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 1-0 victory PrinceGeorgeover the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash. . . . Prince George (14-21-3) has won two in a row. The Cougars are 3-7-0 on an 11-game swing that began with a doubleheader in Portland on Dec. 7 and 8, and included the Christmas break. The trip wraps up tonight against the Spokane Chiefs, then the Cougars have to hustle home for games with the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday nights. . . . Tri-City (20-15-2) has lost two straight. . . . Last night, Cougars F Ethan Browne scored the game’s only goal, his sixth, at 16:05 of the second period. . . . Gauthier, a 17-year-old sophomore from Calgary, was the ninth-overall selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He has two shutouts in his career both of them this season. This season, he is 10-14-2, 3.08, .904. . . . Tri-City got 28 stops from G Beck Warm.

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Two WHLers get NHL deals . . . Warriors add first-rounder to their roster . . . Gilhooly writes about James, abuse


MacBeth

F Tomáš Plíhal (Kootenay, 2001-03) has signed a contract for the rest of this season with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2) after being released  by mutual agreement by Orli Znojmo (Czech Republic, Erste Bank Liga). He had three goals and 12 assists in 45 games, and was an alternate captain. . . . Znojmo has two games left in its playoff round and cannot advance. Heilbronn has two games left and is in the 10th and last playoff spot, three points ahead of 11th-place Weisswasser. If Znojmo doesn’t make the playoffs, Heilbronn will play in the ‘playdowns’ or relegation series. . . .

F Robin Soudek (Edmonton, Chilliwack/Victoria, 2008-12) has signed  a contract for the rest of the season with Eispiraten Crimmitschau (Germany, DEL2) after being released by mutual agreement from Épinal (France, Ligue Magnus). In 42 games, he had 17 goals and 17 assists. . . . Épinal has five games left in its playdown series and cannot be relegated. Crimmitschau has two games left, is in ninth place, and has either playoffs or playdowns remaining. . . .

D Alex Roach (Calgary, 2010-14) has been released by Grizzlys Wolfsburg (Germany, DEL). He had three assists in 25 games. He also had two assists in eight games while on loan to Eispiraten Crimmitschau (Germany, DEL2).


A LITTLE OF THIS . . .

The Vancouver Canucks have signed F Kole Lind of the Kelowna Rockets to a three-year entry-level NHL contract. Lind, 19, has 85 points, including 35 goals, in 51 games this season, his third in Kelowna. . . . He scored the game’s first three goals on Wednesday night in Prince George, but his Rockets went on to lose, 7-6 in OT, to the Cougars. . . . During his career, he has 214 points, including 79 goals, in 197 regular-season games. . . . From Shaunavon, Sask., Lind was a second-round pick by the Canucks in the 2017 NHL draft.


F Brayden Burke of the Moose Jaw Warriors has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. Burke was a free agent. This season, Burke, who turned 21 on Jan. 1, has 112 points, 81 of them assists, in 59 games. He is second in the WHL in assists and points. . . . Burke, who was never drafted by an NHL team, is from Edmonton. He has 337 points, 252 of them assists, in 236 regular-season WHL games. He also has played with the Red Deer Rebels and Lethbridge Hurricanes.


The Moose Jaw Warriors have added F Brayden Tracey to their roster for the remainder of the season. Tracey, 16, was a first-round selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. . . . From Calgary, he had 52 points, including 21 goals, in 30 games with the midget AAA Calgary Northstars this season, finishing third in the Alberta Midget Hockey League scoring race.


F Ryan Robinson, a 16-year-old from Plano, Texas, has committed to Arizona State for the 2020-21 season. Robinson has 19 goals and 23 assists in 36 games with the Dallas Stars U-16 team. . . . He was a seventh-round selection by the Everett Silvertips in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft.


Tyler Metcalfe was a terrific player through five WHL seasons, all of them with the Seattle Thunderbirds. These days, you are able to find Metcalfe coaching a high school team in Winnipeg — the Sturgeon Heights Huskies.

On Wednesday, the Huskies were involved in a game that ended prematurely when Metcalfe chose have it called.

“The game was getting out of control at that point, it seemed,” Metcalfe told CBC News. “It’s 5-0 and you don’t expect big hits to come when the game is essentially out of reach for us.

“I think it was the right call for all parties involved to call it quits at that point of the game. There’s nothing to gain other than to put more kids at risk.”

By that stage, one of Metcalfe’s players had left on a stretcher after behind hit from behind, and the St. Paul’s Crusaders also had a player who needed help getting back to the bench.

The full CBC story is right here.

The teams played the third game of the best-of three Tier 1 final on Thursday, with St. Paul’s winning, 2-1.


“More than 200 current and retired National Hockey League players have taken concerns about existing or potential brain injuries into their own hands by visiting a neurosurgeon in Kingston, Ont., for MRI brain scan procedures,” writes Rick Westhead of TSN. “Dr. Douglas James Cook says at least 120 former and some 80 active NHL players have undergone the scans over the past two years. He said that about 50 active players combined from the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League have also been tested at Queen’s University over the same time frame.” . . . That complete story is right here.


In 2010, Graham James was charged with sexual abuse of Theo Fleury, Todd Holt and Greg Gilhooly. James pleaded guilty to the Fleury- and Holt-related charges; the charge involving Gilhooly was stayed. . . . Gilhooly now has written a book and the title says it all — I Am Nobody: Confronting the Sexually Abusive Coach Who Stole My Life. . . . I haven’t yet read Gilhooly’s book, but Ken Campbell of The Hockey News has, and his review is right here.


IF THE PLAYOFFS OPENED TODAY …

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Saskatoon/Prince Albert at Moose Jaw

Brandon at Medicine Hat

Regina at Swift Current

Red Deer at Lethbridge

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

Seattle at Everett

Tri-City at Kelowna

Spokane at Portland

Vancouver at Victoria


Scoreboard

THURSDAY:

No Games Scheduled.


FRIDAY (all times local):

Prince Albert at Swift Current, 7 p.m.

Lethbridge at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.

Moose Jaw at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.

Calgary at Edmonton, 7 p.m.

Kootenay at Red Deer, 7 p.m.

Vancouver at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Seattle at Portland, 7 p.m.

Victoria at Prince George, 7 p.m.

Spokane vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

Kelowna at Everett, 7:35 p.m.


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