Friday, March 23, 2012

THE MATCHUPS
Eastern Conference
Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8) — Overall leaders face defending champs.
Moose Jaw (2) vs. Regina (7) — The Trans-Canada Rivalry heats up.
Calgary (3) vs. Brandon (6) — Brandon draws first blood.
Medicine Hat (4) vs. Saskatoon (5) — Will the Tigers Etem up? Or are Blades equal to the Trask?
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Western Conference
Tri-City (1) vs. Everett (8) — Can Silvertips handle Ams’ all-star line?
Kamloops (2) vs. Victoria (7) — This one’s on Shaw TV.
Portland (3) vs. Kelowna (6) — To tell the Carruth, Portland’s favoured.
Vancouver (4) vs. Spokane (5) — The battle of the two Dons.
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THE MacBETH REPORT:
F Chad Bassen (Regina, Vancouver, Medicine Hat, Everett, 2000-04) signed a one-year contract extension with the Augsburger Panther (Germany, DEL). He had nine goals and 16 assists in 52 games for Augsburg this season.
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There was more than one full page of copy and photos dedicated to the Western Hockey League in Thursday’s edition of the Kamloops Daily News.
In fact, about half the editorial space that was provided to the sports department was filled with WHL-related copy.
In one story, the Victoria Royals were referenced on one occasion as the Victoria
Grizzlies. The Royals, of course, are the team that the WHL allowed RG Properties to purchase and move to Victoria after five seasons as the Chilliwack Bruins; the Grizzlies are the BCHL’s Victoria franchise.
And so it came to pass that Dave Dakers, the president and alternate governor of the Bruins, er, Royals, chose to get up on his hind legs during a Thursday news conference in Kamloops — he was the guy who someone suggested looked as though he’d slept on a Greyhound bus and arrived just before the talking started — and whined about the lack of respect his club was getting.
Yes, the Bruins, er, Grizz . . . ahh, Royals are in full ‘woe is me’ mode. Rodney Dangerfield never had it this bad.
Victoria, the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference, got into the playoffs with 24 victories — the Bruins, er, Royals also lost 48 games, although they earned loser points for seven of those setbacks.
Were they in the Eastern Conference, they would have missed the playoffs by 27 points. (By the way, WHL commissioner Ron Robison spent part of his address yesterday talking about his league’s competitive balance. Ahh, we won’t go there, not when the final standings show 14 of 22 teams at better than .500, not when three Eastern Conference teams are out, despite having far superior records to three Western Conference teams that are in.)
But we digress . . .
So far the Royals have played the experts-are-picking-Kamloops-in-three card, the we-beat-Portland-twice-last-week-and-didn’t-get-any-respect card, the we-don’t-know-why-we’re-playing-this-series card, the nobody-knows-our-name card. . . .
All of which means the playoffs have arrived.
Here’s Marc Habscheid, the Bruins’, er, Royals’ GM/head coach, to the Victoria Times Colonist earlier in the week:
“Some people are picking them in three games, not just four. We shouldn't even go to Kamloops, the way it sounds. All I know is, we’ll show up Friday when the puck is dropped.”
Here’s Habscheid, to Travis Paterson of the Victoria News:
“We beat Portland and we’ve heard, ‘Well, they didn’t have (Sven) Baertschi.”
Here’s Dakers, at Thursday’s news conference:
“We’re not sure why we’re playing this series.”
One of the reasons the WHL held the news conference, as it put it in a news release, was to launch the 2012 playoffs.
The news conference was held in the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops, but only one team — the Blazers — had a coach and players in attendance.
Here’s hoping the Bruins, er, Grizzlies or whoever they are — the Salsa? — show up tonight and for five or six games after this one.
Hey, at least we didn’t call them the Cougars! Or did we?
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If you're looking for the Western Conference individual award winners and all-star teams that were announced yesterday, you will find them at www.whl.ca.
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THURSDAY’S GAME:
In Calgary, F Mark Stone broke at 2-2 tie late in the second period and the Brandon Wheat Kings went on to a 6-2 victory over the Hitmen. . . . This was the first game of a first round series, with Game 2 scheduled for tonight in Calgary. . . . The teams then head to Winnipeg for as many as three games, if necessary. With the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair in Brandon, the Wheat Kings have again had to take their first-round show on the road. . . . Stone, who is playing with a thumb injury, got his first playoff goal at 16:13 of the second period. . . . F Darian Dziurzynski scored twice for Brandon, which got two assists from F Paul Ciarelli. . . . After Brandon took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by F Jason Swyripa and Dziurzynski, Calgary tied it when F Brooks Macek scored at 19:01 of the first and F Alex Gogolev scored at 1:16 of the second, on a PP. . . . Brandon G Corbin Boes stopped 34 shots. . . . Calgary was without F Cody Sylvester (undisclosed) and F Victor Rask (leg), two of its top three regular-season scorers.
Scott Fisher of the Calgary Sun was at the game and filed this story.
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On the eve of opening a playoff series in Edmonton, Jeff Chynoweth, the president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, talked with Chris O’Leary of the Edmonton Journal about what might have been. The Ice, you’ll recall, began life as the Edmonton Ice and spent two seasons there before relocating to Cranbrook.
That story is right here.
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Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province has all but guaranteed the series between Don Hay’s Giants and Don Nachbaur’s Spokane Chiefs — it opens tonight in Vancouver — will be a goaltender’s nightmare.
Here’s some of what Ewen wrote:
“Hay is an old school guy. Don Nachbaur is  an old school guy. They are defence first guys and this is going to a series of 2-1 and 3-2 games. The regular season match-ups this year, which saw Vancouver win 2-1 in Spokane on Feb. 15 and 3-2 at home in a shoot-out on Oct. 5 certainly suggest that. The team that sticks with its plan the best should win. Another point to ponder? Vancouver is 11-1 in playoff series under Hay when it has home-ice advantage like it does in this one, and 1-5 when it does not.”
Ewen also has a piece today on Vancouver G Adam Morrison who, it turns out, has a relative on the Chiefs’ roster. Morrison and Spokane F Steven Kuhn are cousins.
For more from Ewen, scoot on over to The Province’s website.
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It has been almost 23 years since Duncan MacPherson, a former Saskatoon Blades defenceman, disappeared while traveling in Austria. You will recall that his body was found 14 years after his disappearance. His parents, Lynda and Bob, were convinced that there was more to this story than authorities were letting on. Now there’s a book about the case — Cold a Long Time: An Alpine Mystery — and author John Leake has spoken about it with Kevin Mitchell, the sports editor of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix.
That story is right here.
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F Turner Elson of the Red Deer Rebels has signed an ATO with the Abbotsford Heat, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames. Elson, a free-agent signee of the Flames after their last training camp, had 46 points and 59 penalty minutes in 56 games with the Rebels. Elson turned 20 on Wednesday.
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Dave (Crash) Cameron of the Edmonton Sun writes that the bandwagon is filling up. Of course, that would be the Edmonton Oil Kings’ bandwagon. That piece is right here.
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If there is a model franchise in the CHL today, it very well may be the Tri-City Americans. The franchise is operated by general manager Bob Tory, who is profiled right here by Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald.
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Pat Conacher, the first-year head coach of the Regina Pats, is the Eastern Conference nominee as the WHL’s coach of the year. When he heard the news, he was surprised, honoured and uncomfortable.
Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has that story right here.
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And finally . . . I’m sorry but this just slays me. Mac Engel, a writer with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has a blog — The Big Mac Blog. . . . No, he isn’t related to Mac Engel, the Spokane Chiefs goaltender. . . . But Mac the Blogger is keeping tabs on Mac the Goaltender, “the greatest goalie in the history of hockey” as it says here. . . . The latest entry is right here.


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