THE MacBETH REPORT:
AIK Stockholm (Sweden, Elitserien) announced that they will not re-sign three players to contracts for next season, including F Kris Beech (Calgary, 1996-2001). Beech had three goals and two assists in 23 games with AIK. He started the season with Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga), where he had two goals and six assists in 21 games before being released in mid-November and joining AIK. . . .
Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga) announced they will not re-sign D Brad Cole (Seattle, Kootenay, Saskatoon, 2003-07) for next season. Cole had three goals and 12 assists in 42 games for Villach this season.
A week ago, the Saskatoon Blades were skating on top of the world.
They had finished the regular season on a 22-2-3 run that included an 18-game winning streak.
The trials and tribulations of a horrible 2-7-0 start to this season were well behind them.
The host team for the 2013 Memorial Cup was ready for bear. Or so it seemed.
However, a closer look at that 22-2-3 run shows that 11 of those games were against the Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings, neither of whom qualified for the playoffs. The Blades were 10-0-1 in those 11 outings.
Granted, a team can’t do anything about its schedule but play it. However, when the Blades finished the regular season by losing twice to the host Prince Albert Raiders, who didn’t finish strongly at all, perhaps we should have heard the warning bells.
But just three days before the first of those losses, the Blades had gone into Edmonton and beaten the Oil Kings, 3-2.
Talk about mixed messages — the Blades were handing those out all season long.
Somewhere in all of this, Lorne Molleken, the general manager and head coach, had to be wondering just which team was the real Blades. Was it the team that beat the Calgary Hitmen 6-0 and 3-2 or the one that lost 9-5? Was it the one that beat the Medicine Hat Tigers twice – 4-3 and 6-3 – after the Jan. 10 trade deadline?
Or is it the one that lost four straight games to the Tigers and now is on the outside looking in and waiting for the Memorial Cup to arrive?
Yes, it all came crashing down on the the Blades in a matter of six nights. The 18-game winning streak? The 22-2-3 finish? None of it means a thing today.
There was Molleken addressing the Saskatoon media on Thursday.
"It's disappointing,” he said. “We didn't get the job done. We thought we were peaking at the right time."
(Amazingly, there were people who, upon hearing that owner Jack Brodsky and Molleken would hold a news conference yesterday, actually thought there would be a coaching change.
“I’m not going to let a game or a series or a year be a measure of what this hockey club is about or what my life is about,” Brodsky told the gathering. “I’m not talking about changes. I’m not going to talk about that today because the guy that’s behind the bench for our hockey club is my guy and I’ve got all the trust and respect in the world or him. Period.”)
I also wonder about the impact starring in their own TV show has had on the Blades during this tumultuous season. The TV camera has been there from Day 1 and it has been relentless, following the players everywhere, from shopping trips to hospital gurneys. If they had it to do all over again, I really wonder whether the Blades’ management would be all-in with this project.
Anyway . . . it is what it is and now the Blades are out, having been swept from the first round of the playoffs by the Tigers. This wasn’t just your average sweep, either. This was a SWEEP! The Blades never held a lead, not even for one second. They were outscored 15-4 by a Medicine Hat team that entered the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 7 seed. The No. 2 Blades were supposed to be the ones with the brooms.
But it didn’t happen.
Let’s pause here and forget about the Blades for a moment. Let’s not forget that the Tigers won this series. Sheesh, they must have done something right.
So perhaps some credit should be given to Shaun Clouston, the general manager and head coach of the Tigers, his staff and the players. Obviously, they got superb goaltending from Cam Lanigan, and that always helps. But the Tigers also have two of the league’s top forwards in Hunter Shinkaruk and Curtis Valk, and their back end, led by Derek Ryckman, has proven to be solid, too.
And now, while the Tigers prepare to play in the second round, perhaps against the Edmonton Oil Kings, Saskatoon’s players are going home.
Those who are in high school will return on April 8, with the others coming back on April 15. They don’t play until May 17 when they are to open their Memorial Cup schedule against the OHL champions.
By the time May 17 arrives, they will be awfully tired of trying to explain what happened during those six days in late March.
Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix was at the news conference. His story is right here.
The Kelowna Rockets, already without F J.T. Barnett (ill), F Carter Rigby (shoulder, foot), F Colton Sissons (shoulder) and D Mitchell Wheaton (shoulder), may be down two more players for Saturday’s game against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier writes that D MacKenzie Johnston and F Rourke Chartier, both of whom suffered undisclosed injuries in Games 3 and 4 in Kent, Wash, this week, might not play in Game 5 on Saturday. The Rockets trail 3-1 in the series. . . . If they can’t answer the bell, F Nick Merkley and D Joe Gatenby, the Rockets’ first two selections in the 2012 bantam draft, may draw in. Merkley, who is from Calgary, has played in one regular-season game; Gatenby, who played for the major midget Okanagan Rockets, has yet to make his debut. . . .
The Everett Silvertips have lost F Manraj Hayer for the remainder of the season. Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald reports that Hayer broke a finger in blocking a shot by Portland Winterhawks D Seth Jones on Wednesday night. The finger will require surgery. . . . Everett F Ryan Harrison (concussion) won’t play in Games 4 and 5 of that series this weekend. . . .
If you’re wondering what’s happening in Medicine Hat regarding a new arena. Colin Gallant of the Medicine Hat News tackles the subject right here. . . .
The BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings have signed general manager Mike Hawes to a contract extension that runs through 2014-15. He has been the GM since November 2010. (A tip of the cap to Hartley Miller.)
The WHL’s first-round situation:
Edmonton (1) vs. Kootenay (8)
(Edmonton leads 3-1; Game 5 tonight in Edmonton)
Saskatoon (2) vs. Medicine Hat (7)
(Medicine Hat wins 4-0)
Calgary (3) vs. Swift Current (6)
(Calgary wins 4-1)
Red Deer (4) vs Prince Albert (5)
(Red Deer wins 4-0)
Portland (1) vs. Everett (8)
(Portland leads series 2-1; Game 4 tonight in Everett)
Kelowna (2) vs. Seattle (7)
(Seattle leads 3-1; Game 5 on Saturday in Kelowna)
Kamloops (3) vs. Victoria (6)
(Kamloops leads 3-1; Game 5 on Saturday in Kamloops
Spokane (4) vs. Tri-City (5)
(Spokane leads 3-1; Game 5 on Saturday in Kennewick, Wash.)
In the East, if Edmonton takes out Kootenay, the second round will feature Edmonton against Medicine Hat and Calgary versus Red Deer.
In Calgary, G Chris Driedger stopped 34 shots as the Hitmen dumped the Swift Current Broncos, 3-1. . . . Driedger had a solid season, going 1.91 and .942. . . . F Jake Virtanen and F Elliott Peterson each scored his first postseason goal for Calgary. . . . The elimination of the Broncos means there aren’t any East Division teams left in the playoffs. The Saskatoon Blades and Prince Albert Raiders bowed out on Wednesday night. . . . A tweet from Alan Caldwell (@smallatlarge): “Since the WHL went from 2 divisions to 3 (and later to 4) in 1995-96, one division has never been completely eliminated this early” . . .
In Kennewick, Wash., F Blake Gal scored at 5:10 of OT as the Spokane Chiefs beat the host Tri-City Americans, 4-3. . . . This was the 16th time in the past 29 playoff games between these teams that OT has been needed. . . . Tri-City D Drydn Dow forced extra time when he scored his third goal of the series at 17:17 of the third period. . . . Americans G Luke Lee-Knight stopped 41 shots before leaving at 2:02 of OT with an undisclosed injury. Lee-Knight was holding his left arm as he left the ice after Spokane F Adam Helewka slid into him. G Troy Trombley finished up. . . . Gal scored his third game-winner against the Americans this month. He got the OT winner in the last meeting of the regular season and then scored the winner in Game 2 of this series. . . . Tri-City F Justin Feser had a goal and an assist. He now has 402 career points, including regular-season and playoff games. . . . A scoring change has given the OT goal in Tri-City’s 5-4 victory on Tuesday to F Connor Rankin. Originally, it was credited to F Parker Bowles. . . .
In Victoria, F Dylan Willick scored at 17:47 of OT to give the Kamloops Blazers a 5-4 victory over the Royals. . . . That was the only time the Blazers led in this game. . . . Kamloops D Marek Hrbas forced OT with a goal at 15:42 of the third period. . . . Hrbas and Victoria G Patrik Polivka, who made 43 saves, grew up friends in Plzen, Czech Republic. . . . F Kale Kessy scored Kamloops’ first three goals. . . . The Blazers got three assists from each of F JC Lipon and F Colin Smith. Lipon now leads all WHL scorers in assists (7) and points (10). . . . F Jamie Crooks, F Logan Nelson, F Brandon Fushimi and F Ben Walker replied for the Royals, who led 1-0, 2-0. 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3. . . . Fushimi played his first game in the series. He was inserted when the Royals scratched F Brandon Magee, their second-leading scorer, with an undisclosed injury. . . . Kamloops scratched F Tim Bozon (undisclosed) after he took the warmup. . . . The Blazers last appeared in a playoff overtime game on March 23, 2010, when they lost 5-4 to the visiting Vancouver Giants in Game 3 of a first-round series. F Brett Breitkreuz scored the winner, at 2:28. . . . The Blazers last won an OT playoff game on March 25, 2005, when F Terrance Delaronde scored 16 seconds in for a 4-3 victory over the host Kootenay Ice.
CHECKING-FROM-BEHIND COUNT (9):
F Alessio Bertaggia, Spokane
CHECKING-TO-THE-HEAD COUNT (4):
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