Some notes and thoughts on the Western Conference semifinal between the Kamloops Blazers and Portland Winterhawks, which resumes Saturday in the Rose City with the host team holding a 3-1 edge. . . .
1. Dylan Bumbarger, who blogs about all things WHL and Winterhawks at OregonLive.com, did the research and reported that the Winterhawks “hadn't lost a game in which they led by four goals in at least 15 years” prior to Wednesday night. He went back to 1996 on the WHL website and reached that conclusion. . . . On Wednesday, of course, the Winterhawks led 4-0 just past the first-period’s midway point and went on to lose, 5-4.
2. Portland-based writer Scott Sepich pointed out that the Blazers once blew a four-goal lead against the Winterhawks. On April 9, 1989, the Blazers had a 5-1 lead in the third period of a best-of-nine second-round series. Portland, playing in front of 5,102 fans, roared back for a 6-5 victory. The Winterhawks had won the opener 7-3. Portland would go on to take a 3-0 lead in games and would eventually win the series, 5-3.
3. Portland F Oliver Gabriel will sit out the fourth game of his four-game suspension on Saturday. He was suspended for a late-game hit on Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave in the series opener. . . . Kamloops head coach Guy Charron said Thursday evening that Cheveldave won’t be available for Game 5.
4. Charron said that F Cole Ully, who has missed the series with an undisclosed injury, will be available. That being the case, look for the Blazers to insert Ully in place of F Brayden Gelsinger, who made his WHL debut in Game 4 but saw very limited playing time.
5. It is interesting that the Winterhawks players on the bench actually sit while between shifts. I don’t know that there is another WHL team whose players do that, the players preferring instead to stand and hang over the boards. . . . Sure, it’s a case of a team doing something that it thinks might give it an edge somewhere down the road. . . . But when you think about it, it makes sense. Why not take advantage of an opportunity to get off your feet and rest your legs, even if for only a few minutes?
6. The Winterhawks didn’t play on Thursday but F Ty Rattie picked up another goal. A scoring change has given Rattie credit for Portland’s first goal in Game 4. The goal had been given to D Troy Rutkowski. . . . On the goal, Rutkowski rifled the puck from the right side toward the Blazers net. Rattie, fighting off a defenceman, got his stickblade on the puck and directed it into the net. . . . Rattie, who was injured eight minutes later, now has 13 goals in these playoffs. . . . Rutkowski and F Sven Baertschi got the assists on the goal.
7. Rattie left with what appeared to be a lower back problem but may well be a concussion after he was drilled by Kamloops F J.C. Lipon. On Thursday, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ general manager and head coach, asked the WHL for supplemental discipline on Lipon, who wasn’t penalized on the play. . . . Rattie was fishing for a loose puck in his feet, when Lipon hit him. Rattie’s helmeted forehead bounced off the glass, although when he reached the Portland bench — after Lipon followed up by scoring the Blazers’ first goal — he reached for his left lower back area. . . . I would suggest that Rattie is doubtful for Game 5.
8. Johnston chose not to ask for supplemental discipline on Kamloops D Austin Madaisky, who was given a minor penalty for a check to the head of Portland F Taylor Leieir. Madaisky received a minor penalty but, because Leier wasn’t injured, Johnston chose not to press the issue.
THE COACHING GAME:
The Oshawa Generals announced a changing of the guard on Thursday. General manager Chris DePiero, head coach Gary Agnew and Joe Cirella, the assistant head coach and assistant GM, won’t be back. . . . Agnew took over the coaching reins from DePiero in November. The Generals went into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed and lost a six-game series to Niagara IceDogs. . . . DePiero had been with the Generals since 2006, first as associate coach. . . . Cirella was an assistant coach with the Generals from 1998-2004 and later returned in 2010. . . .
The NHL’s Calgary Flames have parted company with head coach Brent Sutter and assistant coach Dave Lowry. . . . Sutter owns the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels and is a former Rebels head coach. . . . Lowry coached the Calgary Hitmen for one season, reaching the WHL final where they lost to the Kelowna Rockets, before moving up to the Flames. . . .
The USHL’s Omaha Lancers have named Mike Aikens as GM and head coach, with Michael Zucker staying on as associate head coach. . . . The two have been co-coaches with the Lancers since Bliss Littler was fired on Nov. 30. . . . Omaha is 27-11-1 since the coaching change. . . . Aikens and Zucker are signed through the end of the 2012-13 season. . . .
The U of Alberta is looking for a hockey coach for the Golden Bears. The position is posted right here. . . . Stan Marple was the head coach last season, but now is the general manager after a restructuring took place. . . .
The Manitoba community of Virden, which is about 80 km west of Brandon, has a new recreation facility that includes a 1,200-seat arena. It appears that also may soon have an MJHL franchise. Should the MJHL’s Winnipeg Saints relocate there, it would leave Winnipeg with just one franchise, the Blues, in the junior A league.
There’s more on that story right here.
D Brandon Underwood of the Regina Pats will join the Central league’s Texas Brahmas in time to play Sunday in Game 2 of a best-of-seven second-round series with the Wichita Thunder. That series opens tonight in Wichita with Game 2 there on Sunday. . . . Underwood, from San Marcos, Calif., is eligible to return to Regina as a 20-year-old. He had 13 points and 76 penalty minutes in 54 games this season. Underwood missed some time with a broken foot incurred while blocking a shot. . . .
The Moose Jaw Warriors are expected to have D Morgan Rielly in their line up for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against the Oil Kings in Edmonton on April 20. Rielly hasn’t played since Nov. 14 when he suffered a knee injury. He had surgery on Dec. 1. Despite not playing, Rielly was ranked at No. 5 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters eligible for the NHL’s 2012 draft. . . . Rielly has been skating with the Warriors for two months and good on them for not rushing him back into the lineup. . . .
F Emerson Etem, whose season with the Medicine Hat Tigers ended on Wednesday night, has joined the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim selected Etem, who is from Long Beach, Calif., with the 29th overall pick in the NHL’s 2010 draft. . . .
In case you missed it, D Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings and F Hunter Shinkaruk of the Medicine Hat Tigers have joined the Canadian team at the IIHF U-18 World championship tournament in Czech Republic. . . .
The Vancouver Giants’ website shows Dan Elliott as the director of media relations and broadcasting. But it seems that the Giants and Elliott, who also was the team’s play-by-play man, have parted company. Elliott Pap of the Vancouver Sun first tweeted that news on Wednesday.
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