Friday, February 4, 2011

Down the stretch they come . . .

It is fair to say that the WHL is into the stretch run. Every team but one, the Tri-City Americans, has played at least 50 games. And there are some awfully interesting playoff races on the go.
It would seem safe to say that things are going to get awfully heated between now and March 20, the final night of the regular season.
There are 10 games scheduled for tonight and there are some interesting matchups.
The Regina Pats, for example, are in Brandon to play the Wheat Kings. The Pats are 11th in the 12-team Eastern Conference, three points behind the Wheat Kings, who hold down the last playoff spot.
The Seattle Thunderbirds visit the Silvertips in Everett, knowing that they need to stop their nine-game losing streak if they are to make the playoffs. The Thunderbirds are 10th in the 10-team Western Conference, two points out of a playoff spot and six points behind Everett, which has won four in a row.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes are in Prince Albert to meet the Raiders, with both teams tied for ninth in the East, one point behind Brandon and two behind the seventh-place Swift Current Broncos, who have lost seven in a row and are at home to the fourth-place Medicine Hat Tigers.
And the Spokane Chiefs are in Kennewick, Wash., where they will meet the Americans. The Chiefs are second in the U.S. Division, but are just three points behind the Portland Winterhawks and just one ahead of Tri-City. The Americans hold two games in hand on the Chiefs and four on the Winterhawks.
Meanwhile, the Chilliwack Bruins will cross the Coquihalla to Kamloops where they will tangle with the Blazers, showcasing again what is turning into a nasty, nasty rivalry.
In fact, Eric Welsh of the Chilliwack Progess reports that the coaches -- Kamloops head coach Guy Charron and Chilliwack head coach Marc Habscheid -- seem to be embroiled in something of a war of words.
It seems that Charron had a few things to say on Radio NL’s postgame show after his club scored a 5-1 victory in Chilliwack on Saturday in a game that featured some late scraps and a biting allegation.
Habscheid, ordinarily a man of few words, wasn’t reserved in firing back.
Each team is 2-7-1 in its last 10 games, so perhaps frustrations are starting to boil over on the ice and behind the benches.
The teams meet tonight in Kamloops and again Saturday in Chilliwack.
For your reading enjoyment, check out Welsh’s piece right here.
These are not good times in the camp of the Swift Current Broncos. Jordan Wall, the team’s director of business operations, tells Chris Jaster of the Prairie Post that falling attendance figures have put the organization in a tough financial position. That story is right here.
Unless some local investors come forward between now and March 4, the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats will be on their way to Whitecourt, Alta. Carl Carter of the Lloydminster Meridian Booster has the story right here.
Kristen Odland of the Calgary Herald takes a look at F Jimmy Bubnick of the Calgary Hitmen, including his latest facial cut. This one took about 20 stitches to close and, yes, there’s a photo. It’s all right here.
D Luca Sbisa (Lethbridge, Portland, 2007-10) is beginning to carve out what he hopes is a long NHL career with the Anaheim Ducks. Mark Whicker of the Orange Country Register checks in with him right here.
JUST NOTES: The Brandon Wheat Kings have recalled D Dylan Kuczek, 16, from the midget AAA Winnipeg Thrashers. He was a second-round selection by the Wheat Kings in the 2009 bantam draft. The 6-foot-0, 205-pounder has 18 points and 69 penalty minutes in 30 games with the Thrashers. . . . The Wheat Kings are short of defencemen, having lost Brodie Melnychuk to a broken leg and Spencer Galbraith to a one-game suspension for a charging major incurred in Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over the visiting Swift Current Broncos. . . . The Wheat Kings are at home to the Regina Pats tonight. . . . F James Henry (knee) hasn’t played for the Vancouver Giants since being injured on Dec. 27 in a 4-1 loss to the visiting Kamloops Blazers. The Giants, having won seven of their last eight games, meet the Hitmen in Calgary tonight and they hope to have Henry back in the lineup. . . .
Here’s how Neate Sager of Yahoo! Sports began his report on the firing of a QMJHL coach this week: “This actually happened: Tuesday, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens took the team picture with Richard Martel in it; and by Wednesday, he was out of the picture.”

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