Saturday, March 2, 2013

If you haven’t seen this piece right here by now, you may want to give it a look. David La Vaque of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that things are heating up between those who control the high school hockey scene in Minnesota and the WHL. In fact, the gloves just may be coming off.
Former high schooler Alex Baer, 15, made his WHL debut with the Vancouver Giants last night. In fact, he had a chance to win the game with a third-period penalty shot. More on that later.
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The Portland Winterhawks have added Steve Kariya to their coaching staff, at least for the remainder of this season. The Winterhawks didn’t add to their staff after general manager/head coach Mike Johnston was suspended for the remainder of this season on Nov. 28 for his role in what the league called “a series of violations” of its regulations. . . . Kariya, according to a news release, “will oversee the team’s in-game video scouting, helping the coaching staff make adjustments between periods. He will also assist with players’ skill development at practices.” . . . Veteran assistant coach Kyle Gustafson handled the video work for the last number of seasons, but moved to the bench when assistant GM/assistant coach Travis Green moved up following Johnston’s suspension. . . . Kariya, who is from Vancouver, played at the U of Maine before going on to a pro career that included 65 games with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. He played in Europe before retiring after the 2009-10 season. . . . Johnston was on the Canucks’ coaching staff when Kariya played there.
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Former WHL G Kurtis Mucha posted his fifth straight shutout on Friday night as the U of Alberta Golden Bears opened the Canada West final with a 5-0 victory over the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies. . . . Mucha last surrendered a goal on Jan. 26 in a 3-2 shootout loss against the visiting Calgary Dinos. . . . His shutout streak now rests at 324 minutes 20 seconds. . . . Evan Daum of the Edmonton Journal points out that the NHL record of 332:01 is held by Brian Boucher, with the Phoenis Coyotes (2003-04), while the WHL record of 265:13 is held by Chris Worthy of the Flin Flon Bombers (1967-68). . . . “It’s starting to get a little ridiculous,” Mucha told Daum. “The boys are loving it, but tonight’s a huge team effort. Forty-five to 12 were the shots. I was there for one big breakaway save and that’s all they really needed.” . . . They’ll play again tonight in Edmonton. . . . Daum’s story is right here.
Mucha was the starting goaltender through some horrid times with the Portland Winterhawks not that long ago, and you wonder if this isn't the hockey gods giving him a little payback.
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The matchups, if the WHL playoffs opened today:
EASTERN CONFERENCE
Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8)
Saskatoon (2) vs. Swift Current (7)
Calgary (3) vs. Medicine Hat (6)
Prince Albert (4) vs Red Deer (5)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Portland (1) vs. Everett (8)
Kelowna (2) vs. Seattle (7)
Kamloops (3) vs. Victoria (6)
Spokane (4) vs. Tri-City (5)
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FRIDAY’S GAMES:
In Saskatoon, the Blades won their 18th straight game, beating the Brandon Wheat Kings, 4-1. . . . The outcome also gave head coach Lorne Molleken his 600th WHL victory. He is only the second coach in WHL history to get there, behind Ken Hodge (742). . . . Saskatoon F Josh Nicholls earned his 300th regular-season point when he drew an assist on the game’s first goal. He later scored his 41st goal of the season, into an empty net. . . . Blades F Nick Zajac scored his eighth goal, running his goal streak to four games. . . . In reference to Molleken’s 600th victory, Zajac told Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix: “It’s special to see. It’s a great accomplishment for him. He can say he’s a big dog now.” . . . Brandon F Richard Nejezchleb (hand) was back in the lineup after not playing since Jan. 8. He scored Brandon’s lone goal at 17:38 of the third, on a PP. . . . The Blades next play Sunday when they meet the Warriors in Moose Jaw. Saskatoon has won five in a row from Moose Jaw during this 18-game streak. . . .

In Cranbrook, F Cory Millette scored twice to help the Red Deer Rebels to a 4-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Millette’s second goal, his 10th of the season, broke a 1-1 tie at 14:18 of the second period. . . . F Jaeden Descheneau scored his 22nd for the Ice. . . .


WHLIn Calgary, D Eetu Laurikainen stopped 36 shots as the Swift Current Broncos beat the Hitmen, 3-1. . . . F Adam Lowry of the Broncos broke a 1-1 tie withhis 431st goal at 17:20 of the first period. . . . All four goals were scoed in the first period. . . . D Dillon Heatherington had two assists for the winners. . . . The Hitmen had D Alex Roach back in the lineup after he missed five games with a shoulder injury. . . .

In Regina, F Trent Ouellette scored at 4:44 of OT to give the Pats a 3-2 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Moose Jaw F Sam Fioretti scored his 30th goal to force OT at 13:21 of the third period. . . . Regina G Matt Hewitt stopped 41 shots. . . . D Christos Zinis, who turned 16 on Thursday, made his WHL debut with the Warriors. He is from Broomfield, Colo., and was an eight-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft. . . .

In Kennewick, Wash., the Seattle Thunderbirds scored two first-period goals and went on to a 3-1 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . Seattle F Roberts Lipsbergs scored his 23rd goal at 14:00 of the first and it stood up as the winner. . . . Seattle F Luke Lockhart got his 20th goal into an empty net. . . . Tri-City G Troy Trombley stopped 28 shots in losing for the first time in his seven straight starts. . . . Seattle G Brandon Glover also stopped 28 shtos. . . . Tri-City F Justin Feser played in his 312th consecutive game, breaking the WHL record that had been held by D Dwayne Newman (Brandon, Victoria, 1987-92). . . .

In Prince George, F Colin Smith had two goals and an assist as the Kamloops Blazers beat the Cougars, 4-1. . . . Smith’s first goal was the 100th of his career; the second one was his 40th of the season. . . . Smith has 99 points this season. . . . The Blazers are five points shy of the B.C. Division-leading Kelowna Rockets, who hold one game in hand. . . . Kamloops F Brendan Ranford tied the franchise record for career regular-season games played (341). He should break the record he now shares with F C.J. Stretch (2005-10) tonight when the Blazers meet the visiting Vancouver Giants. . . . The Cougars took 87 of the game’s 164 penalty minutes, most of which came in the third period as things degenerated a bit. . . .

In Victoria, F Mike Aviani scored at 3:38 of OT to give the Spokane Chiefs a 4-3 victory over the Royals. . . . Aviani has 29 goals this season. . . . Spokane D Brenden Kichton drew three assists. . . . Victoria V Logan Nelson forced OT with his second goal of the game, and 12th of the season, at 13:24 of the third. . . . D Brett Cote had three assists for the Royals. . . . The Royals, who have lost eight straight, had F Tyler Soy, 15, and D Isaac Schacher, 18, in their lineup. Soy was a first-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft, while Schacher played for the junior B Kimberley Dynamiters, whose season is over. . . . Victoria F Logan Fisher is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. He left a 5-4 loss to the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes on Wednesday on a stretcher and was taken to hospital. . . .

In Vancouver, F Carter Popoff scored at 1:06 of OT to give the Giants a 5-4 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . The Giants used the game to celebrate Gordie Howe’s 85th birthday (he actually turns 85 on March 31). . . . Lethbridge F Sam Mckechnie scored his 26th goal at 7:28 of the third to force extra time. . . . The Hurricanes had trailed 3-1 after the first period. . . . F Russell Maxwell scored twice for Lethbridge, giving him 21. . . . Popoff has 13 goals. . . . The Giants had F Alec Baer, 15, in the lineup for the first time. The Minnesotan was awarded a penalty shot at 17:33 of the third period, with the score tied 4-4. Lethbridge G Ty Rimmer, who stopped 31 shots, thwarted him. . . . The Giants revealed that D Reid Zalitach’s season is over. He suffered a knee injury in Wednesday’s 5-3 victory in Kamloops. . . .

In Everett, F Michael St. Croix had four assists as the Edmonton Oil Kings dropped the Silvertips, 7-1. . . . D Martin Gernat scored twice — he’s got three — for the Oil Kings, who went 3-2-0 on their U.S. Division swing. . . . Edmonton was 3-for-7 on the PP. . . . F Trevor Cheek had two goals, giving him 29, and an assist for Edmonton. . . . D Griffin Reinhart added his seventh goal and two assists for Edmonton.
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CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT:
F Colin Smith, Kamloops
F Cain Franson, Vancouver
F Michael Sofillas, Lethbridge

CHECKING-TO-THE-HEAD COUNT:
F Tanner Eberle, Moose Jaw
F Carter Proft, Spokane
F Ty Mappin, Everett
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From Joy Newman (@dogsmrs): “@Fespal22 Hey there, you just tied my husband’s WHL Ironman record so wanted to say congrats! Good luck tomorrow in setting the new record”
Dwayne Newman’s wife, Joy, tweets congratulations to Tri-City Americans F Justin Feser, who tied Dwayne’s WHL Ironman record earlier in the week and broke it last night.

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