A little of this and some of that . . .
1. Most observers have the matchup they were hoping for as it’ll be the QMJHL-champion Halifax Mooseheads against the WHL-champion Portland Winterhawks in Sunday’s Memorial Cup final. . . . The Winterhawks advanced with a 2-1 victory over the OHL-champion London Knights on Friday night. . . . Sunday’s game starts at 5 p.m. That’s Saskatoon time.
2. I’m thinking that should Paul Brandt ever decide to quit his real job, he could get work as an anthem singer. If you aren’t aware, Brandt is a true Canadian hero thanks to all the charitable work he does and the work done by his Build It Forward Foundation.
3. Lorne Molleken, the general manager and head coach of the Saskatoon Blades, will spend the next while pondering his future. He will be back next season, but will he return as head coach? . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix, who did such a bang-up job of covering the Blades through a difficult season, has that story right here.
4. There were at least some $20 tickets available for last night’s semifinal, and it seems there are some available for Sunday’s game, too. A friend from Regina sent me a note from the Saskatchewan Hockey Association. . . . “Let’s PACK the HOUSE” for the semifinal and final, it reads. “A limited number of $20 seats are available in the upper bowl.” . . . It also provided a link to Ticketmaster.
5. I don’t know if those $20 tickets had any impact on the gate, but attendance for last night’s semifinal was 9,161.
6. What thoughts were going through Saskatoon D Dalton Thrower’s head when he couldn’t play in the Blades’ 6-1 loss to London in Thursday night’s tiebreaker? . . . The aforementioned Daniel Nugent-Bowman has that story right here.
7. A postgame tweet from Portland freelancer Scott Sepich (@SSepich): “Ty Rattie after the game: ‘We aren't done yet. We're doing this for Portland, for Mike Johnston and everything that happened this year.’ ”
8. Sepich is in Saskatoon covering the tournament for The Oregonian. His complete story is right here.
9. The line of the night belongs to Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino. Late in the first period, Portland F Chase De Leo blocked a shot deep in his zone and was on the limp. Moments later, however, he was zipping up ice with the puck. “De Leo,” Cosentino said, “looked like he got touched by Oral Roberts when that puck came to his stick.”
10. If they are to win on Sunday, the Winterhawks are going to have to manage the puck better than they did last night. They had some shoddy moments in their zone and were bailed out by G Mac Carruth, who is back in the zone. . . . Only Carruth had more of an impact on the semifinal game than did Portland D Derrick Pouliot, who was terrific. Pouliot was plagued by a high ankle sprain during the regular season and played in only 44 games. You wonder if he’s feeling a bit fresher now, and perhaps his recovery time is a bit quicker, because of his time off the ice during the regular season.
An email from one fan after Friday’s post:
“The prices you quoted are close to half the seats at a Winnipeg Jets game. My seats in the bottom row of the upper bowl behind the net go for 60 bucks. Remember, Jets tickets are among the highest in the NHL, and the Blade's owners attitude is that people should expect those kinds of prices, after all it is the Memorial Cup. I say, yes, but it is still junior hockey.”
And this email from a fan in the Portland area:
“I'm a fan of hockey in general and I follow the Portland Winterhawks. I go to a few games a year, recently took my son to Game 5 of the final against Edmonton. Cost for two good seats in the lower bowl including service fees was under $70. Lots of families in attendance.
“If the Memorial Cup was held in Portland or another WHL city I would surely be tempted to get a tournament ticket package. I am a fan of hockey, having grown up in Ontario and played as a youth. But, at $600 to $800 a ticket package, how in the world would a family be able to afford that? Even one game in the least attractive seats is going to be a minimum of $150 for a family of four.
“I am not sure an average fan would shell out that kind of money, especially if the host team is not able to compete with the other three elite teams in the tourney.
“As for me, I am thrilled to have purchased a streaming package for all the games for $25 and have watched all the games live on my computer. Clearly many fans even in the host city would choose this option as the best bang for the buck.
“I say the Memorial Cup ticket prices should be the same as the host city's regular pricing structure. Fill that arena, and keep fans buzzing all week long about the amazing live hockey they get to see. It is appalling to see so many empty seats for such amazing hockey.”
F Brendan Ranford, who set the Kamloops Blazers’ record for career regular-season games played this season, has signed a contract with the AHL’s Texas Stars.
Ranford, who completed his junior eligibility as a 20-year-old this season, signed a professional tryout deal (PTO) with the Stars and will attend their training camp. The Stars are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, who are owned by Blazers majority owner Tom Gaglardi.
Ranford had 87 points, including 65 assists, for the Blazers this season. He then added 20 points, 15 of them assists, in 15 playoff games.
The Edmonton native, who is a nephew of former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford, played in 348 regular-season games with the Blazers, finishing with 357 points, including 137 goals.
Ranford was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL draft but wasn’t signed and became a free agent.
Paul Danzer of The Columbian, a newspaper in Vancouver, Wash., reports that Edmonton Oil Kings F Trevor Cheek has “three torn oblique muscles and a partially torn trapezius muscle.” . . . Cheek was injured in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final against the Calgary Hitmen and didn’t play again. . . . Danzer’s story is right here.
Hockey Canada, which is holding its annual general meeting in Charlottetown, P.E.I., this weekend, has dropped head scout Kevin Prendergast and goaltender coach Ron Tugnutt. . . . Prendergast had been the head scout since September 2010. Since then, Canada placed second twice at the world junior championship, while also finishing third and, this year, fourth. . . . Tugnutt had been with Hockey Canada since 2011.
THE COACHING GAME:
The Moose Jaw Warriors have re-signed assistant coaches Mike Vandenberghe and Mark O’Leary. . . . Vandenberghe is preparing for his third season on the Warriors’ coaching staff after joining them during 2010-11. He played with the Warriors in the late 1980s, and also has worked as an assistant coach with the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . O’Leary joined the Warriors prior to last season. He had played in the OHL with the Mississauga IceDogs and Guelph Storm before going on to a five-year pro career. . . .
The USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks have fired head coach Jim McKenzie, who had one year left on a two-year contract. McKenzie joined the Lumberjacks during 2011-12, replacing the fired Kevin Patrick. . . . Muskegon was 32-23-10 this season, but was swept from the first round of the playoffs. . . . McKenzie played in the WHL with Moose Jaw (1984-88) and Victoria (1988-89).
Matt Kabayama, the associate coach with the Lethbridge Hurricanes, won’t be returning. The WHL team made that announcement on Friday. . . . Kabayama spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Hurricanes before being named associate coach prior to 2009-10. . . . The Hurricanes also are looking for a head coach, having fired Rich Preston in March. . . . The Hurricanes have yet to announced whether Chris Chisamore, an assistant coach who also works with goaltenders, will return. . . .
Jean-Guy Trudel has signed on as head coach of the Peoria Rivermen, who will debut next season in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Trudel signed a one-year contract that includesd a mutual option on a second season. . . . Kevin Tucker has a one-year contract as assistant coach. . . . Both are former Rivermen players. . . . Trudel has been coaching with the Peoria Mustangs of the NA3HL. . . . With Peoria no longer in the AHL, the Rivermen are preparing for their first season in the SPHL.
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