Sunday, February 26, 2012

The sporting fraternity in Saskatchewan is mourning the loss of Bill Johnston, a long-time organizer who passed away in Moose Jaw on Thursday after a short illness. He was 76.
Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more right here.
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The Memorial Cup hasn’t been decided in an American city since 1998, when the Portland Winterhawks won the championship in Spokane.
There are some people within WHL circles who wonder when one of the WHL’s five U.S. teams will get another chance to play host to the championship tournament.
Well, you fans in Everett, Kent, Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Portland, Seattle and Spokane shouldn’t hold your breath.
“We’ll never see a cup down here again,” someone who is with a U.S. team told me. “Once again, too lazy to make it work across the border.
“To me, it’s just arrogance on the Canadian side, telling us we don’t deserve the sport. . . .”
The WHL next will play host to the Memorial Cup tournament in 2013 when it will be in Saskatoon. Next up will be 2016 and there already is speculation that the Vancouver Giants are interested in putting in a bid to play host to that one.
Of course, the hangup with taking the tournament south seems to be sponsorships.
“The league marketing deals just frost all of us here,” the person said. “Baseball, NHL and the NBA can cross the border on deals . . . but us? And don’t even get me started on the TV deals with Shaw and ROOT.”
The CHL may have taken at least one step towards holding a Memorial Cup in the U.S. this week when it signed a deal with Aaron’s, Inc., a home furniture and electronics operation that is based in Atlanta and has more than 1,940 outlets in 48 states and Canada.
Aaron’s has huge involvement with NASCAR — if you are watching today’s Daytona 500, you will see its logo on Mark Martin’s No. 55 Toyota. Aaron’s is signed as a sponsor with Michael Waltrip Racing through the 2013 Sprint Cup season.
Aaron’s also was involved in sponsoring the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, before the franchise flew north to Winnipeg.
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The Concussion Report is working hard to keep track of the number of concussions in the NHL this season. On Friday, TCR reported: “As of today there is a 40 per cent increase in concussions versus last (season). The total number of 98 is the exact total of the entire regular season last (season).” . . .
TCR’s report also includes this:
“Speaking of (upper-body injuries) and undisclosed, I know I am beating a dead horse, but why the need to hide the injury? Why misinform the public and even the players about injuries that are inherent to hockey? Haven’t we learned from Chris Pronger, Colby Armstrong, even Sidney Crosby? I am not good enough to write an open letter or even where to send it, but Mr. Bettman there are some very small changes you can make before you should eliminate all head contact and take on the fighting issue in hockey: Do not allow your teams to hide the concussion/brain injury. You want to know what the real problem is, (then) stop placing your head in the sand, start there!”
If there is a 40 per cent increase in the number of concussions in the NHL this season over last, should we assume that the WHL, which also is hiding its injuries in the vast majority of instances, will report the same kind of increase?
The WHL’s latest weekly injury report lists 44 players as being out with upper-body injuries.
TCR’s report is right here.
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The Lethbridge Hurricanes, who are to play the Oil Kings in Edmonton today, were living the life on Saturday.
Here’s an afternoon tweet from Pat Siedlecki, the radio voice of the Hurricanes:
“Well, still waiting to leave Lethbridge for Edmonton. The @WHLHurricanes bus broke down before it got to the rink to load up.” . . .
Later, F Nick Buonassisi tweeted:
“Our bus departs from lethbridge to edm 6 hours later then scheduled then finally get a bus that works and the tranny hits the ground #classic”
And then it was G Liam Liston’s turn:
“We had our bus replaced by one with a vhs player, no AC, smaller than normal number of seats, an awful transmission and a door that won’t close.”
One more from Buonassisi:
“Broken bus update: the door has just flew off. whats next? Place your bets.”
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F Brett Connolly played 15:21 on Saturday as his Tampa Bay Lightning lost 8-1 to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. He played 12:25 at even-strength and 2:56 on the power play. . . . Connolly had four shots on goal, took one minor penalty and was minus-1. . . . The Lightning has until Monday, the NHL’s trade deadline, to make a decision on whether to assign Connolly to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans.
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In the BCHL, the Penticton Vees ran their winning streak to 36 games by beating the Centennials 2-1 in OT in Merritt. . . . The Vees got the winner from F Travis St. Denis with 45 seconds left in the second OT period, which is played 3-on-3. . . . The Vees, who have seven regular-season games remaining, are at home to the Prince George Spruce Kings this afternoon.
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It isn’t the WHL but Nanaimo appears about to land another hockey team. Already the home to the BCHL’s Clippers, the Vancouver Island city is about to become home to a junior B team that will play out of the Nanaimo Ice Centre. Phil And Brenda Levesque are negotiating for ice with the city. The team will play in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
Tamara Cunningham of the Nanaimo Daily News has that story right here.
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SATURDAY’S GAMES:
(With a tip of the hat to @WHLFacts for some of the info that follows. If you are on Twitter and aren’t following, you should be.)
In Moose Jaw, the Warriors scored the game’s last four goals and beat the Swift Current Broncos, 5-2. . . . Warriors D Travis Brown tied the game 2-2 at 18:32 of the second and F James Henry, with his 13th, both the tie just 25 seconds later. . . . F Kenton Miller scored twice for Moose Jaw, giving him 30 this season. He has 11 goals in February; last season he finished with 10 goals in 55 games with the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Henry added two assists to his goal. He has 21 points, including seven goals, in 20 games with Moose Jaw since coming over from the Vancouver Giants at the trade deadline. . . . Swift Current G Jon Groenheyde stopped 43 shots, 26 more than Moose Jaw’s Luke Siemens. . . . The Warriors had lost three straight. . . . Moose Jaw is four points behind the Eastern Conference-leading Edmonton Oil Kings. Each team has 10 games remaining. . . .

In Prince Albert, F Sam Reinhart’s 26th goal of the game, 19 seconds into OT, gave the Kootenay Ice a 5-4 victory over the Raiders. . . . Prince Albert took a 3-1 lead into the second period but couldn’t hold it. . . . Ice F Max Reinhart tied the game 4-4 when he scored his 26th goal on a penalty shot at 14:46 of the third. He finished with two goals and two assists. He drew the lone assist on his younger brother’s winner. . . . F Mark McNeill, who had a goal and two assists, had given the Raiders the lead with his 28th goal at 8:21 of the third. . . . Ice G Nathan Lieuwen stopped 25 shots in setting the franchise record for career victories (83). The previous record was held by Taylor Dakers (2003-06). . . . The Ice is fourth in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of the Calgary Hitmen. . . .

In Saskatoon, D Alex Petrovic scored the only goal of the shootout as the Red Deer Rebels beat the Blades, 4-3. . . . With the Blades shooting first, Petrovic was the circus’s final shooter. . . . Red Deer F John Persson forced OT with his 21st goal at 18:45 of the third. . . . Persson finished with two goals and an assist. . . . F Jake Trask gave the Blades a 3-2 lead with his 18th goal, via the PP, at 2:45 of the third. . . . Saskatoon G Andrey Makarov stopped 44 shots, 12 more than Red Deer’s Deven Dubyk. . . . The Blades are 2-5-1 in their last eight. . . . This was the Blades’ last home game until March 13 as their home rink will be home to the Tim Hortons Brier — the Canadian men’s curling championship — from March 3-11. . . . The Blades are sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Calgary. . . . The Rebels are 10 points out of a playoff spot with 11 games left. . . .

In Brandon, F Mark Stone scored the only goal of the circus as the Wheat Kings beat the Regina Pats, 2-1. . . . Brandon’s victory officially eliminated the Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes from the playoff race. . . . The Broncos are out for just the third time in 26 seasons. . . . This was the third straight game in which Brandon went to OT. . . . Brandon has won nine of 11. . . . Stone, who had his 14-game point streak come to an end, was the first shooter of the circus. . . . F Jack Rodewald scored his sixth goal for Regina, at 1:51 of the first. . . . F Paul Ciarelli got the equalizer at 15:40 of the first. . . . Brandon G Corbin Boes stopped 23 shots, seven fewer than Regina’s Matt Hewitt. . . . The Wheat Kings had gone two years without a shootout victory when they beat the visiting Swift Current Broncos 3-2 on Friday. . . . Brandon holds down eighth place in the Eastern Conference but is just one point behind Regina and four points out of fourth. . . .

In Kent, Wash., G Calvin Pickard stopped 29 shots as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Everett Silvertips, 3-0. . . . Pickard has five shutouts this season and 12 in his career. . . . Pickard and Ty Rimmer of the Tri-City Americans are the WHL leaders, each with five. . . . WHLFacts points out that Seattle’s last 50 victories have been credited to Pickard. That’s right. It’s been more than two years since a goaltender other than Pickard has won a game for the Thunderbirds. . . . Everett G Kent Simpson stopped 42 shots. . . . Seattle F Dillon Wagner got his fifth goal, at 14:14 of the first, and it stood up as the winner. . . . D Brad Deagle drew two assists. . . . Seattle also got goals from F Connor Honey, his sixth, and F Jacob Doty, his second. . . . Everett has lost three in a row and now is three points behind Seattle, which holds down the Western Conference’s last playoff spot. . . .

In Medicine Hat, F Hunter Shinkaruk and F Curtis Valk scored in the circus to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Shinkaruk was returning after missing six games with an undisclosed injury. . . . Shinkaruk drew two assists. . . . Medicine Hat F Emerson Etem scored his WHL-leading 53rd goal. . . . F Brett Bulmer scored twice for Kelowna, giving him 28 goals. . . . Bulmer, who also had an assist, has 50 points in 44 games. Last season, he finished with 49 in 57. . . . Kelowna took a 3-2 lead into the second period. . . . Tigers F Trevor Cox tied it with his 10th goal at 8:00 of the second. . . . The Tigers were missing F Cole Grbavac, their captain, with an undisclosed injury, while G Tyler Bunz also wasn’t dressed. . . . Medicine Hat G Kenny Cameron stopped 35 shots. Dawson MacAuley of the SJHL’s Yorkton Terriers backed him up. . . . After the game, Darren Steinke of the Medicine Hat News tweeted: “#Medhat Tigers lose import D Patrik Parkkonen, who was hit from behind by Kel. #Rockets LW Jessey Astles in second per. No pen. call.” . . . The Tigers are third in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Kootenay. . . .

In Kamloops, the Vancouver Giants erased a 3-1 first-period deficit and beat the Blazers, 5-3. . . . A victory in regulation would have allowed the Blazers to clinch the B.C. Division’s regular-season pennant. . . . The Giants had lost their last three, including a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the visiting Blazers on Friday. . . . F Marek Tvrdon broke a 3-3 tie with a PP goal at 19:23 of the third period, just 20 seconds after Kamloops D Austin Madaisky was penalized for hooking Giants F Brendan Gallagher. . . . F Riley Kieser had three assists for Vancouver. . . . F Brendan Ranford had two goals, giving him 36, and an assist for Kamloops. He ran his point streak to 13 games. . . . F Chase Schaber had a goal and two assists for Kamloops. . . . The Blazers lead the overall standings, by a point over the Tri-City Americans and Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Giants now are five points ahead of the fifth-place Spokane Chiefs, who hold two games in hand. . . .
Gallagher had two goals, the second one into an empty net. The second one gave him 274 career points, one more than the franchise record that had been held by Adam Courchaine (2001-05). . . . Gallagher also holds the franchise record for career goals. . . . He has 141 assists and needs 14 to equal D Jon Blum’s franchise assist record. . . . “It’s pretty special to me,” Gallagher said of the franchise record for career points. “A lot of people have helped me. It’s not invidividual even though my name is on it. Starting with (head coach) Don (Hay). When you’re 16 and you come here you don’t really understand the game. He’s a really good teacher and you learn every time you come to the rink. Every player I’ve played with . . . I’ve had a lot of good veteran players when I was young to learn from and see how they act. I was put in a really good situation and I’m thankful for that.” . . .

In Prince George, the Victoria Royals completed a weekend doubleheader sweep with a 5-3 victory over the Cougars. . . . The Royals had won 4-2 on Friday night. . . . In this one, F Robin Soudek, who had two goals, broke a 1-1 tie at 5:40 of the second period. . . . The Royals went on to take a 4-1 on goals by F Brandon Magee, at 17:47 of the second, and Soudek, at 3:16 of the third. . . . The Cougars got third-period goals from F Daulton Siwak, shorthanded, and F Chase Witala, at 8:30, but weren’t able to equalize. . . . Royals G Jared Rathjen, a Prince George native, stopped 30 shots for his second career victory. He had earned his first one on Friday. . . . Cougars G Drew Owsley made 37 saves. . . . Each team was 0-6 on the PP. . . . The Royals are seventh in the Western Conference, two points ahead of Seattle. . . . The Cougars are four points out of eighth with 11 games left. . . .

In Spokane, F Brendan Shinnimin continued his amazing run with four points as the Tri-City Americans beat the Chiefs, 7-3. . . . Shinnimin, who was coming off back-to-back three-goal games, had a goal and three assists in this one. He has 14 points in his last three games. So let’s just announce the WHL and CHL player of the week right now. . . . He ran his goal-scoring streak to nine games. . . . Shinnimin now has 110 points and leads the WHL scoring derby by five points over F Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Tri-City F Patrick Holland had two goals and two assists, giving him 92 points. He has three straight four-point games. Holland is on a nine-game point streak — he has 22 points, 19 of them assists, in that stretch. . . . F Adam Hughesman, the third member of that line, had a goal and an assist, giving him 96 points. . . . Holland broke a 2-2 tie at 11:11 of the second. . . . Americans F Justin Feser, with his second of the game and 31st of the season, made it 4-2 at 14:32. . . . Spokane F Blake Gal got his guys to within one at 9:46 of the third, but the Americans put it away with the last three goals. . . . F Dominik Uher had a goal and two assists for Spokane. . . . Tri-City G Ty Rimmer stopped 36 shots in earning his 25th victory. . . . The Americans have won five in a row. . . . The Chiefs have lost six of seven. . . . The Americans moved back into a tie with Portland atop the U.S. Division.
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SATURDAY’S CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
D Tanner Muth, Kootenay.
F Tyrell Goulbourne, Kelowna.
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SATURDAY’S CHECKING-TO-THE-HEAD COUNT:
D Jagger Dirk, Kootenay.
D Jared Hauf, Seattle.
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The incomparable Roy MacGregor takes a look at Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin and what may be ailing him, and it’s right here.


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