The WHL’s 21-year history in Cranbrook, B.C., ended on Sunday as the Kootenay Ice skated to a 5-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels.
If you’re late to this situation, the Ice is relocating to Winnipeg and will spend at least the next two seasons playing out of the 1,400-seat Wayne Fleming Arena on the campus of the U of Manitoba while it awaits construction of a new facility. . . .
The Ice, which ended a six-game losing skid with Sunday’s victory, finished 13-45-10. Kootenay has missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season. . . .
Before the game, a fan emailed this: “At 4 pm the ticket lineup for the final game is the full length of the building.” . . . The announced attendance at the last WHL game in 4-264-seat Western Financial Place was 2,684.
“The fans continued to turn out to support the PLAYERS who were caught in a terrible situation through no fault of their own,” John Hudak, the marketing director of the now-defunct Green Bay Committee, told Taking Note via email. “Make no mistake, there were very few fans that were supporting this ownership and to the credit of the fans they turned out to support the players and the good name of the City of Cranbrook and its hockey history. It could have been ugly but the people of Cranbrook took the high road.”
The Green Bay Committee was formed early in the season to help owners Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell sell tickets and sponsorships. After selling what it said was $50,000 worth, the committee disbanded in mid-November because of what it said was a lack of co-operation and support from the owners.
Prior to that point, there had been ample speculation that the owners, who are from Winnipeg, planned to move the franchise to the Manitoba capital. When the Green Bay Committee went public about the lack of support it had received, the pieces started to fall into place.
“The vibe in the arena today was a testament to the people of Cranbrook,” continued Hudak, who is running for a spot on city council in a May 11 by-election. “They were respectful of the ownership. They got behind the players and the players reciprocated by not rolling over.”
The game ended with the clock showing 27.7 seconds still to play. But that was only because the timekeeper inadvertently hit the wrong button, something that caused the clock to count up rather than down.
“It was almost as if he didn’t want to see the game end,” Hudak noted. “In all seriousness, he has run the clock for more than 20 years . . . he won’t live this one down for the rest of his days!”
This isn’t the first time in recent history that a WHL team has relocated. After the 2010-11 season, the Chilliwack Bruins, who had been sold, left the Lower Mainland city after five seasons and opened up shop in Victoria as the Royals. . . .
Ice F Peyton Krebs, a sure-fire first-round selection in June’s NHL draft, didn’t finish the first period. He was ejected at 11:57 with a boarding major and game misconduct for a hit on F Jacob Herauf, who later returned to the game. Should Krebs be suspended, he will serve his suspension to open the 2019-20 regular season . . . unless he cracks the roster of the NHL team that selects him, that is.
F Joachim Blichfeld of the Portland Winterhawks earned an assist with 1.1 seconds left in the third period of a 6-5 loss to the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Sunday, and that was enough to give him the WHL scoring title. . . . He finished with 114 points, one more than F Tristin Langan of the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Blichfeld had 53 goals and 61 assists in 68 games; Langan was at 53 and 60 in 67 games. . . . Had they ended up tied, they would have shared the title. . . . In 1987-88, Theo Fleury of the Warriors and Joe Sakic of the Swift Current Broncos tied at the top, each with 160 points. Sakic was named the scoring champion on the basis of more goals, 78-68. . . .
Blichfeld and Langan led the league in goals, with six more than F Mark Kastelic of the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Moose Jaw F Justin Almeida was tops in assists (78), well ahead of F Trey Fix-Wolansky of the Edmonton Oil Kings and F Nick Henry of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who tied at 65. . . . Kastelic had a WHL-leading 24 PP goals. . . . Moose Jaw D Jett Woo was No. 1 in PP assists, with 33. . . . Lethbridge F Jake Elmer led in shorthanded goals, with seven. . . . Edmonton F Vince Loschiavo and two Warriors — F Brayden Tracey and Langan — tied for the lead in game-winning goals, each with 11. . . .
Tracey was the WHL’s top-scoring freshman, leading in goals (36), assists (45) and points (81). . . .
Among goaltenders, Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips was tops in GAA (1.69), save percentage (.936) and victories (41). . . . Ian Scott of the Prince Albert Raiders was second in all three categories — 1.83, .932 and 38. . . . Scott was No. 1 in shutouts (8), one more than Wolf. . . .
Josh Brook of the Warriors and Dawson Davidson of the Saskatoon Blades led all defenceman in points, each with 75, four more than Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants. . . . Byram led in goals (26), while Davison and Ty Smith of the Spokane Chiefs were tops in assists (62).
The U of New Brunswick Varsity Reds won the Canadian university (U Sports) championship on Sunday, beating the Alberta Golden Bears, 4-2, in Lethbridge. . . . The Golden Bears went into the tournament as the top-ranked of the eight teams; UNB was ranked No. 2. . . . In the final, UNB got goals from Samuel Dove-McFalls, Oliver Cooper, Kris Bennett and Mark Rassell, the latter a former Medicine Hat Tigers sniper. . . . Steve Owre and Brandon Magee, both ex-WHLers, replied for the Golden Bears. Owre also played in Medicine Hat; Magee played for the Chilliwack Bruins/Victoria Royas. . . . G Alex Dubeau stopped 32 shots for the winners. . . . Alberta got 27 saves from Zach Sawchenko, who played in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . The Golden Bears lost F Luke Philp, the Canadian university player of the year, to an undisclosed injury in the first period. . . . UNB now has won eight national titles. . . . Each of the past seven titles has been won by UNB (2017, 2016 and 2013) or Alberta (2018, 2015 and 2014).
F Vince Loschiavo scored twice to lead the Edmonton Oil Kings to a 3-1 victory over the Hitmen in Calgary. . . . Edmonton (42-18-8) closed out the regular-season on an 11-game winning streak that tied a franchise record. It had been done on three previous occasions, most recently in 2013-14. . . . Calgary (36-26-6) has lost four in a row. . . . The Oil Kings finished atop the Central Division and will open the playoffs against the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . . The third-place Hitmen will meet the Lethbridge Hurricanes, who wound up second, in the first round. . . . Edmonton won the season series, 7-0-1; Calgary was 1-6-1. . . . F Riley Fiddler-Schultz (4) gave Calgary a 1-0 lead at 10:07 of the first period. . . . Loschiavo tied it at 7:14 of the second period, then gave his guys the lead at 10:47 with his 37th goal of the season, on a PP. That also turned into his 11th game-winner this season, a franchise record. . . . Edmonton F Jake Neighbours (11) wrapped up the scoring with an empty-netter, at 19:35 of the third period. . . . G Todd Scott stopped 25 shots for Edmonton. . . . Calgary got 33 saves from G Carl Stankowski.
F Michael Milne broke a 4-4 tie in the third period as the Kootenay Ice closed out its history in Cranbrook, B.C., with a 5-4 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Ice (13-45-10), which is relocating to Winnipeg, snapped a six-game losing streak. Kootenay has missed the playoffs for a fourth straight season. . . . Red Deer (33-29-6) has lost four in a row. The Rebels, who finished in the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot, will meet the Prince Albert Raiders, the WHL’s top regular-season team, in the first round. . . . F Jaeger White (28) put the Ice in front 1-0 at 6:48 of the first period. . . . The Rebels responded with three straight goals — from F Cam Hausinger, on a PP, at 12:20; F Brett Davis (20), on a PP, at 14:46; and Hausinger (21), on yet another PP, at 0:19 of the second period. . . . The Rebels acquired Hausinger and Davis, who also had two assists, from the Ice earlier this season. . . . The Ice came back with the next three goals, in the span of 1:45 early in the second. . . . F Nolan Orzeck (4) got it started at 3:01. F Holden Kodak (3) tied the score at 3:56. F Connor McClennon (14) gave the Ice a 4-3 lead at 4:46. . . . The Rebels tied it at 17:40 when F Jordan Borysiuk, an AP, scored his first goal. He was playing in his seventh WHL game, but his first this season. . . . Milne, a 16-year-old freshman from Abbotsford, B.C., broke the tie with his third goal at 14:16 of the third period. . . . Red Deer was 3-4 on the PP; Kootenay was 0-3. . . . G Curtis Meger earned the victory with 25 saves, one fewer than Red Deer’s Byron Fancy. . . . The Ice lost F Peyton Krebs to a boarding major and game misconduct at 11:57 of the first period. . . . The Rebels scratched G Ethan Anders, D Dawson Barteaux, F Jeff de Wit, F Reese Johnson, F Josh Tarzwell and F Brandon Hagel. . . . They also dressed four APs — G Eric Ward, F Jordan Borysiuk, F Ethan Rowland and F Jace Isley. . . . F Austin Schellenberg, who suffered an undisclosed injury on Friday, was among the Ice’s scratches.
The Seattle Thunderbirds erased a 4-3 deficit with three straight goals and beat the Winterhawks, 6-5, in Portland to bring down the curtain on the WHL’s 2018-19 regular season. . . . Seattle (31-29-8) has won three in a row. As the Western Conference’s second wild-card entry, it will go up against the conference-champion Vancouver Giants in the first round of the playoffs. . . . Portland (40-22-6) has lost two in a row. It finished third in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Spokane Chiefs, who won 10 of their final 12 games. Those two teams will meet in the first round with Spokane having home-ice advantage. . . . Portland went 8-4-0 in the season series; Seattle was 4-6-2. . . . Last night, Portland took an early 2-0 lead on goals from F Reece Newkirk (23), on a PP, at 1:47, and F Jake Gricius (27), at 5:35. . . . Seattle scored the next three goals. . . . F Jared Davidson (2) scored at 19:32, with F Kai Uchacz getting his first WHL goal at 13:03. D Simon Kubicek (9) gave Seattle a 3-2 lead, on a PP, at 15:14. . . . Uchacz, 15, was the 10th-overall selection in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. . . . The Winterhawks tied it 42 seconds later as D Clay Hanus (8) scored. . . . Again, Seattle scored three in a row, this time to take a 6-4 lead. . . . F Brecon Wood (4) tied it at 4:27 of the second. . . . F Sean Richards (16) gave the Thunderbirds a 5-4 lead, on a PP, at 4:30 of the third, and D Jarret Tyszka (8) made it 6-4 at 8:00. . . . D Jared Freadrich (15) of Portland got the game’s final goal, on a PP, with 1.1 seconds left in the third period. . . . Portland F Joachim Blichfeld drew an assist on Freadrich’s goal for his only point of the game. That gave him 114 points on the season, enough to win the WHL scoring title by one point over F Tristin Langan of the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . F Andrej Kukuca had three assists for Seattle. . . . Freadrich added two assists to his goal, for his fifth career three-point outing. . . . Seattle got 40 saves from G Cole Schwebius, while Portland’s Joel Hofer stopped 27 shots. . . . The Winterhawks scratched F Cody Glass (knee) for an eighth straight game. They say the plan is for him to be back in time for Friday’s playoff opener, but, hey, it’s that time of year when you can’t believe anything you might hear about injuries. . . . F Matthew Wedman, F Noah Philp and F Nolan Volcan, Seattle’s top three scorers, all were scratched.