Saturday, March 19, 2011

Friday . . .

Goaltender Drew Owsley of the Tri-City Americans gets a close-up look at
Kevin Sundher of the Chilliwack Bruins during a game in the Toyota Center
at Kennewick, Wash., on Friday night.

(Photo by John Allen/
If you read only one thing today, make it this piece right here. Written by Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail, it features Buffalo Sabres GM Darcy Regier and his view on the problem of concussions in hockey. MacGregor is the best sports essayist in Canada today, and one of the best in North America, and Regier is one of the most progressive thinkers in the game.
After Friday’s WHL games, here are some things that we know:
1. The Saskatoon Blades, with the WHL’s best record, will meet the Prince Albert Raiders in the first round. The Raiders locked up the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot last night.
2. The Red Deer Rebels will be the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed. They clinched that with a victory in Edmonton and will face either the Oil Kings or Brandon Wheat Kings in the first round.
3. The Lethbridge Hurricanes won’t be in the playoffs. That was assured when Prince Albert won and the Hurricanes lost at home to the Kootenay Ice.
4. The Moose Jaw Warriors will finish fifth and play either the Medicine Hat Tigers or Kootenay in the first round.
5. The Kamloops Blazers won’t be in the playoffs for only the second time in the franchise’s 30-year history in that city. They were finished when they lost 3-2 in a shootout to the visiting Prince George Cougars.
Here are some things we don’t know:
1. Who will finish third and fourth in the Eastern Conference? The Medicine Hat Tigers, with two games left, are third, one point ahead of the Kootenay Ice, which has one game left. The Tigers are at home to the 12th-place Calgary Hitmen tonight and then visit Calgary Sunday. The Ice is at home to Lethbridge tonight.
2. Who will finish sixth and seventh in Eastern Conference? The Brandon Wheat Kings are sixth, two points ahead of the Edmonton Oil Kings. The Wheat Kings are at home to Moose Jaw tonight, while the Oil Kings wrap things up in Red Deer. Should Brandon lose in regulation and should Edmonton win, both would have 71 points. Edmonton would win the tiebreaker on victories, 32-31.
3. What will be the first-round matchups in the Western Conference? We don’t know any of them. The Kelowna Rockets will be the No. 2 seed; the Tri-City Americans will be No. 4. Everything else is up in the air.
4. Which other Western Conference team will join Kamloops on the outside looking in? . . . Seattle is four points behind eighth-place Everett, with both teams having two games remaining. Seattle needs two victories and two Everett losses in regulation to force a sudden-death game for the final playoff spot. That game would be played in Kent, Wash., as Seattle would have more victories — 29-28. . . . Everett is in Chilliwack tonight and in Vancouver on Sunday. . . . The Thunderbirds are at home to Portland tonight and Tri-City on Sunday.
In Edmonton, the Red Deer Rebels beat the Oil Kings 4-3 to clinch the Central Division pennant and the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed for the first round of the playoffs. . . . Attendance was 12,960. . . . The teams meet again tonight in Red Deer. . . . The Oil Kings are seventh, two points behind the sixth-place Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The Wheat Kings are at home to Moose Jaw tonight. . . .
In Prince Albert, the Raiders doubled the Swift Current Broncos 6-3 and locked up the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot. . . . The eighth-place Raiders can start preparing for a first-round matchup with the Saskatoon Blades. . . . The Raiders lost D Antoine Corbin to a kneeing major and game misconduct at 5:01 of the third period. . . . Attendance was 3,366. . . . They play again tonight in Swift Current. . . .
In Regina, F Brayden Schenn scored in OT to give the Blades a 2-1 victory over the Pats. . . . Schenn has 22 goals in 27 games with the Blades. . . . F Jordan Weal scored the game’s first two goals for Regina, giving him 42. . . . The Pats won’t be in the playoffs for a third straight season. . . . The teams will play again tonight in Saskatoon. . . .
In Lethbridge, the Kootenay Ice dumped the Hurricanes, 5-3. . . . The Hurricanes had needed a victory and a Prince Albert loss to have any chance to make the playoffs. . . . The teams meet again tonight in Cranbrook. . . .
In Moose Jaw, the Warriors beat the Brandon Wheat Kings 2-1 in a shootout in the last regular-season game to be played in the Civic Centre (aka the Crushed Can). . . . Attendance was 2,945. . . . Former Warriors captain Mark MacKay dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff. In a nice touch, his son, Matt, took the draw for the Wheat Kings. . . . The Warriors will move into the new Multiplex in time for next season. . . . Moose Jaw F Antonin Honejsek scored in the shootout in his first game back after missing 16 with a broken ankle. . . . Moose Jaw won for the 40th time this season, the third time in franchise history that it has reached 40. . . .
In Kamloops, F Charles Inglis, the 14th shooter, scored the only goal of the shootout as the Prince George Cougars beat the Blazers, 3-2. . . . The loss dashed the Blazers’ hopes of making the playoffs. . . . Kamloops has lost seven in a row. . . . The teams meet again tonight in Prince George. . . . F Brett Connolly scored twice for the Cougars, giving him 45. . . .
In Portland, the Winterhawks got two goals from F Nino Niederreiter, who has 40 now, as they came from behind to beat the Everett Silvertips, 4-3. . . . The Winterhawks continue to lead the Western Conference by one point over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Portland, with 101 points, broke the century mark for the first time since 1997-98. . . . If you believe in omens, the Winterhawks won the Memorial Cup that season. . . . Portland G Mac Carruth got the victory in his first appearance since he was injured during the pregame warmup on March 4. . . . Everett continues to be without F Landon Ferraro (groin) and G Kent Simpson (ankle). . . . The Winterhawks meet the Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., tonight, then return home to face Spokane on Sunday, 5 p.m., at the Rose Garden. . . . The Silvertips are eighth in the Western Conference so may end up meeting the Winterhawks in the first round. . . .
In Spokane, G Mac Engel stopped 23 shots as the Chiefs beat the Seattle Thunderbirds, 5-0. . . . Engel has four shutouts. . . . The victory allowed the Chiefs to reach the 100-point barrier and to stay within one point of the Western Conference-leading Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs visit Tri-City tonight — they have beaten the Americans five straight times — and are in Portland on Sunday. . . .
In Kennewick, Wash., F Mason Wilgosh scored once in his return from injury as the Tri-City Americans dumped the Chilliwack Bruins, 5-1. . . . Wilgosh had missed 11 games. . . . The Toyota Center was sold out (5,929). . . . The Bruins had picked up at least one point in each of their last 10 games. . . . Tri-City also had F Neal Prokop (leg) back in the lineup. He sat out 28 games since being injured on Jan. 14. . . .
In Vancouver, F Geordie Wudrick scored twice as the Kelowna Rockets got past the Giants, 3-1. . . . Wudrick has 42 goals. . . . The Giants lost their eighth straight game. . . . Vancouver F Brendan Gallagher (concussion) returned to action. . . . The Giants are sixth in the Western Conference, one point behind Chilliwack. Vancouver can finish no lower than sixth. . . . The Giants are in Kelowna tonight and at home to Everett on Sunday. . . . The Bruins meet visiting Everett tonight.
Two minors:
D Graeme Craig, Swift Current
F Andrew Rieder, Regina
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