THE CHILLIWACK-TO-VICTORIA SAGA, Chapter 44:
It’s official. Not that it really was ever in doubt.
The Prince George Cougars aren’t going anywhere.
WHL commissioner Ron Robison has told CKPG-TV in Prince George that “there’s never been any application made to the WHL for a move.”
Robison went on to say that “these rumours come up from time to time. I think any time you have a franchise that . . . is struggling with attendance, as Prince George has, for a lengthy period fo time, you’re going to see these types of rumours surface. But the ownership is still committed to the Prince George market and hoping that things can turn around soon.”
This all started, of course, because the WHL has allowed the majority owners of the Chilliwack Bruins to sell their franchise for $5.5 million. Eventually, the WHL will announce that Vancouver-based RG Properties has purchased the franchise and will relocate it to Victoria.
Once the WHL confirmed that the Bruins had been sold, the speculation was immediate that the Cougars were likely to head south. That just isn't going to happen.
But what Robison didn’t mention to CKPG-TV — or, if he did, the TV station didn’t use it — is that Moray Keith, one of the Bruins’ minority owners, made an attempt to purchase the Cougars.
Keith first tried to buy the Bruins, but his offer of $6.2 million — not $7.75 million as was reported about a month ago — wasn’t even considered, apparently because majority owners Darryl Porter, Brian Burke and Glen Sather had already accepted RG Properties’ offer.
Keith found out that the Cougars aren’t for sale, at least not for what he was offering, and now the good people of Chilliwack appear likely to have a BCHL franchise moving into their city in the near future.
Bob Sales, the president of the BCHL’s Quesnel Millionaires, has confirmed to CKPG-TV that, yes, “the team is for sale.”
And, furthermore, there have been talks with . . .
“We haven’t had any firm offers from Chilliwck,” Sales told the TV station, “but we have talked to Chilliwack.”
THE MacBETH REPORT:
F Byron Ritchie (Lethbridge, 1993-97) signed a two-year contract with Bern (Switzerland NL A). He had 23 goals and 21 assists in 53 games with MoDo Örnsköldsvik (Sweden Elitserien) this season, good for fifth in league scoring.
A tip of the cap to the American Hockey League for trimming four games from each team’s regular-season schedule.
Yes, the AHL announced Wednesday that each of its teams will play 76 games next season, down from 80.
At the same time, the AHL said it will lengthen the amount of time it takes to play its regular-season schedule by one week. And it will reduce its first-round playoff series to best-of-five from best-of-seven.
The regular-season scheduling changes will mean teams no longer will be required to play four games in five nights.
"As our league has grown in recent years, we have been working closely with the National Hockey League and the Professional Hockey Players' Association to seek a solution to what has become a very onerous playing schedule," David Andrews, the AHL president, said.
"As our league has grown and our game has become faster and more physical, the wear and tear on our players has begun to affect player development and at times the quality of competition.
“These steps are intended to provide a safer environment for our players through increased rest and recovery time, and also to provide our fans with an even higher calibre of play as a result of reduced player fatigue."
Hurrah for the AHL!
There is an interesting story developing in the OHL where the Soo Greyhounds are expected to introduce Kyle Dubas as their general manager today. Dubas, at 25 years of age, is a player agent. In fact, he is the youngest player agent to be certified by the NHLPA.
Peter Ruicci of the Sault Star has more right here.
The New York Islanders will make a coaching change with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, their AHL affiliate. Pat Bingham, an assistant coach who took over as head coach when Jack Capuono moved up to the Islanders in November, won’t be returning.
The Sound Tigers went 24-30-11 under Bingham, who is a former WHL player (Kamloops, New Westminster, 1985-89).
F Tyler Pitlick of the Medicine Hat Tigers, who hasn’t played in a month because of a broken ankle, has signed a three-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers, who selected him in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft.
Pitlick, 19, put up 62 points, including 27 goals, in 56 games in his first WHL season. He joined the Tigers from the NCAA’s Minnesota State-Mankato Mavericks.
Pitlick wsa able to dump his crutches earlier this week, but isn’t expected back in the Tigers’ lineup in the near future.
ON THE ICE:
In Medicine Hat, the Red Deer Rebels stayed alive with a 1-0 victory over the Tigers. . . . G Dawson Guhle, starting in place of Darcy Kuemper (ankle), turned aside 21 shots for the shutout. . . . Guhle, an 18-year-old from Daysland, Alta., played in 15 games during the regular season — five with the Regina Pats and 10 with Red Deer. . . . Bolton Pouliot, a 16-year-old from Calgary, served as Guhle’s backup. . . . F Byron Froese scored the game’s only goal, his fourth, at 11:27 of the third period. . . . Medicine Hat G Tyler Bunz turned aside 23 shots. . . . The Tigers had won six straight games. . . . Attendance was 4,006. . . . The Tigers take a 3-1 series lead into Game 5 in Red Deer on Saturday. . . . “(Guhle) made some key saves at key times, some big saves,” Jesse Wallin, the Rebels’ head coach, told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “We know he has that capability and at times this season he’s played real well and shown us what he’s got. But talk about a tough situation to step into, because he hasn’t played a lot of games this season. Good for him. I’m real proud of him and I thought the boys battled real hard in front of him, keeping things to the outside and letting him see the puck and make the first stop. We did a good job of that and yet at playoff time you need big-time goaltending.” . . .
In Cranbrook, the Kootenay Ice erased a 1-0 deficit with four straight goals and finished off the Saskatoon Blades, 5-2. . . . The Ice, the Eastern Conference’s fourth seed, swept the Blades, who had finished with the WHL’s best regular-season record. . . . The Ice is the first team to advance to a conference final. . . . F Matt Fraser scored twice and added two assists for the Ice. He leads the playoffs with 10 goals and is third in points (15). . . . F Max Reinhart also scored twice for the Ice. He’s got seven in these playoffs. . . . Ice G Nathan Lieuwen stopped 33 shots, five fewer than Saskatoon’s Steven Stanford. . . . Attendance was 3,021. . . . The Blades won a WHL-high 56 regular-season games. However, they scored only five goals in four games against the Ice. . . . The Los Angeles Kings, who open the NHL playoffs tonight against the Sharks in San Jose, are expected to recall Saskatoon F Brayden Schenn, who was the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft. Schenn has played eight NHL games, so two more would result in him using up one year of his three-year contract. . . . Cody Nickolet, who provides colour on Blades’ radio broadcasts, tweeted late last night that “Schenn will speak to (Kings GM) Dean Lombardi on Thursday to learn where he is headed.” . . . Nickolet also tweeted that F Curtis Hamilton and D Stefan Elliott will be bound for AHL teams. Hamilton, a second-round NHL draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2009, likely will sign an ATO with the Oklahoma City Barons, while Elliott, who has signed with the Colorado Avalanche, is to join the AHL’s Lake Eric Monsters.
In Kelowna, F Nino Niederreiter drew three assists to lead the Portland Winterhawks to a 4-2 victory over the Rockets. . . . The Winterhawks, having won three in a row, hold a 3-1 edge and get their first chance to end the series at home on Friday night. . . . The Winterhawks took a 2-0 on goals 39 seconds apart by F Ty Rattie, at 12:25 of the first, and F Taylor Peters and never trailed. . . . F Shane McColgan got his eighth goal on the PP at 17:39 of the first. . . . Portland D Joe Morrow got that one back on a PP at 2:30 of the third. . . . F Brett Bulmer pulled Kelowna to within one just over 10 minutes later, but the Rockets weren’t able to equalize. . . . Portland F Ryan Johansen, with his seventh point in the last three games, got his sixth goal at 16:11 to provide some insurance. . . . Portland G Mac Carruth, who is 7-1 in these playoffs, stopped 24 shots, while Kelowna’s Adam Brown turned aside 35. . . . Attendance was 4,763.
WEDNESDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
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