Friday, January 14, 2011

The Medicine Hat Tigers were on their way to a 5-2 victory over the host Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday night when the visitors were awarded what would be their only full power play of the game.
Head coach Shaun Clouston responded by sending out five forwards. A member of the Tigers’ entourage said it was the first time the team had done that this season.
The move involved having Linden Vey, Wacey Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick and Emerson Etem on the ice, along with newcomer Kellan Tochkin, who had just arrived via trade from the Everett Silvertips.
Those forwards, all with great skill and good speed, basically moved the puck around the outside, looking for the long pass to set up a one-timer, with the odd foray in the direction of Kamloops goaltender Jeff Bosch.
The Tigers didn’t score, but it was an intriguing couple of minutes and it will be interesting to see how often Clouston goes with that PP alignment.
Of course, it is the acquisition of Tochkin that allows Clouston to do that. Tochkin is a highly skilled player who should fit right in -- he played his first game with the Tigers on a line with Vey and Etem, two of the WHL’s premier performers.
The Tigers acquired Tochkin, 19, and defenceman Alex Theriau, 18, from Everett for forward Ryan Harrison, 18, and a 2011 second-round bantam pick.
Tochkin has signed an NHL contract, as a free agent, with the Vancouver Canucks. Theriau, who was taken sixth overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2007 bantam draft, was selected by the Dallas Stars in the fourth round of the NHL’s 2010 draft. Theriau (ankle) won’t play for a couple of weeks.
Brad McEwan, now the Tigers’ general manager, was running the Lethbridge draft table when the Hurricanes selected Theriau.
“We believe he has a lot of upside,” Clouston said earlier this week. “This is a bit of an off season for him, but last season was pretty good for him.”
Clouston is excited with the new additions because, as he put it, “One is signed and one is drafted.”
“You always want guys excited about the future,” he added, “and pushing and working and trying to get better every day. We’ve added two guys who can help us right now.”
As for how the deal went down, Clouston explained: “Both sides were interested in the other guys. Everett was definitely interested in a (1992-born) forward. With Harrison leaving, getting Tochkin in to fill that position for right now made a lot of sense. I think the deal made sense for both sides.”
Theriau is only the second 1992-born defenceman on the Tigers’ roster. The other is Scott McKay, who spent most of Wednesday’s game on a forward line.
“Yes,” Clouston said, “looking to next season on the back end, we’ve definitely got some room with the ’92 defencemen. It helps us in that area next season.”
As for this season, the Tigers would appear poised to make a run.
They’ve got two forward lines -- Vey between Etem and Tochkin, Hamilton with Pitlick and 16-year-old Hunter Shinkaruk -- that can score. They’ve got a beef line, in Dylan Bredo with Cole Grbavac and Kale Kessy. And the acquisition of Scott Ramsay from the Seattle Thunderbirds at the deadline will help them in their zone. He’s a solid 6-foot-4 defender with some sandpaper in his game, who will fit in well alongside the likes of 6-foot-4 Sebastian Owuya and 6-foot-3 Matthew Konan.
Yes, indeed, the Arena just may be rocking well into April or early May this spring.
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The Prince George Cougars’ chances of finishing atop the B.C. Division, thus earning the second seed in the Western Conference, took a hit Wednesday when F Brett Connolly went down with a knee injury during a 5-2 loss to the Bruins in Chilliwack.
He has been diagnosed with a sprained right knee and is expected to be out from three to six weeks.
Connolly, recently returned from helping Team Canada to a silver medal at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo, was injured late in the first period when he went knee-to-knee with F Steve Oursov of the Bruins.
Oursov wasn’t penalized but has since been suspended by the WHL under its supplemental discipline rule. The length of the suspension has yet to be determined.
"He just came to hit (Connolly) and kind of stood in his path a little bit -- it ended up being knee-on-knee and (Oursov) didn't do a lot to get out of the way," Cougars head coach Dean Clark told Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen. "He tried to turn his body but left his knee there and there was no call on the play, which was really disappointing. The league has the video of it now. . . . Regardless of who's getting hit, we just can't go knee-on-knee, it's too dangerous. We want to take that right out of hockey, whether it's our level, minor hockey or the NHL."
Connolly, 18, was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning with the sixth overall pick of the 2010 NHL draft. Hip problems limited him to 16 games last season. This season, he has 40 points, including 25 goals.
The Cougars (21-18-3) were beaten 5-2 by the Bruins, who are in Prince George for games tonight and Saturday.
Prince George and the Vancouver Giants (20-18-5) are tied atop the B.C. Division, with the Kelowna Rockets (22-19-0) just one point back. The Kamloops Blazers (20-22-2) are three points off the pace, with the Bruins (19-18-3) in fifth, one point behind the Blazers.
The Cougars also lost F Charles Inglis on Wednesday. He took a high stick to the face, left for repairs and then finished the game. But he didn’t practise Thursday and may not play tonight. . . . Chilliwack D Brandon Manning (groin) took Wednesday’s pregame warmup but didn’t play. Manning, 20, isn’t expected to play this weekend.
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The Regina Pats will honour Mike Sillinger tonight. He is a Regina native who lived a dream by excelling for his hometown team for four seasons (1987-91). . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post talks with Sillinger right here.
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Craig Stancher of nhl.com takes a look at former Portland Winterhawks F Luke Walker, who now is with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche. That story is right here.
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The 2012 World Junior Championship, which will be held in Calgary and Edmonton, already is sold out. But, boy, are there some unhappy people, none of whom are scalpers! There is a story right here from CBC News.

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