Saturday, February 8, 2014

Warriors make a Point in Prince Albert

D Jakub Cutta (Swift Current, 1998-2001) has signed for the rest of this season with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). SaiPa had 12 players out of Thursday's game due to injuries. This season with Liberec (Czech Republic, Extraliga), Cutta had seven points, including three goals, in 29 games. . . .
F Josh Bonar (Kamloops, Vancouver, Regina, 2000-03) signed for the rest of this season with Ertis Pavlodar (Kazakhstan, Vysshaya Liga). This season with Corona Brasov (Romania, MOL Liga), Bonar had 37 points, 12 of them goals, in 27 games.
According to the numbers, the Victoria Royals are the WHL’s best defensive team.
The Royals go into today’s games having surrendered 137 goals in 56 games (2.45 goals against per game). That puts them inches ahead of the Edmonton Oil Kings (132 against in 53 games, 2.49) and the Kelowna Rockets (138 in 54, 2.55).
“We’re a low-scoring team,” Victoria head coach Dave Lowry said Friday night, moments after his club had finished off a 3-1 victory over the host Kamloops Blazers. “If we want to win, we have to play a certain way. This is the way we have to play . . .”
Last season, 14 of the WHL’s 22 teams allowed fewer goals than did the Royals, who finished 35-30-7 and then lost a six-game first-round series to Kamloops.
This season, 11 teams have scored more goals than have the Royals, but few defend as well.
“We pay a lot of attention to” playing defence, Lowry added. Chat with him for a bit and he talks, like a lot of NHL coaches, about the importance of blocked shots and how plays like that can “lift your bench.”
He also talks of how “we still consider ourselves to be a young team . . . we have to be patient.”
The Royals are carrying two 1997-born skaters, in F Tyler Soy and D Chaz Reddekopp, and six born in 1996. Soy was terrific and scored the shorthanded game-winner in Kamloops last night.
Before last night’s game, assistant coach Enio Sacilotto, when asked about a commitment to defence and how it came about, talked about how much video work the coaches and players have done. He also mentioned hard work on the ice, preaching by the coaches and the importance of early-season success which really helped in terms of the players buying into the program.
Sacilotto mentioned one other thing, too. That would be goaltending.
Coleman Vollrath, 18, who has made four straight starts in the absence of the injured Patrick Polivka, 19, is 16-5-2, 2.09, .936. Polivka, who played in six games in January but hasn’t played since Jan. 31, is 20-11-2, 2.56, .918.
Lowry said that Polivka, who was injured in practice, should return next week. His return should set up the Royals nicely for the stretch run.
In the meantime, Vollrath is expected to be back in goal tonight as the Royals face a stiff test against the Rockets in Kelowna. The matchup is interesting as the Royals are 3-2-1 against the Rockets this season, including 2-0-0 in Kelowna -- 4-3 in a shootout on Sept. 28 and 4-1 on Nov. 20.
Once upon a time, the Tri-City Americans played an exhibition game in which it used two goaltenders, both of whom will play for Canada at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. Carey Price started that exhibition game and Shannon Szabados finished up. Price now is with the Canadian men’s team and Szabados with the Canadian women’s team. Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail has more right here.
Freelance writer Scott Sepich has a terrific story in The Oregonian on the relationship between U.S. Olympic hockey player Lyndsey Fry and F Dominic Turgeon of the Portland Winterhawks. That story is right here.
Stan Mikita, one of hockey’s all-time greats, has been diagnosed with short-term memory loss. Mikita, 74, “says he does not want to investigate the root cause of the memory loss,” writes Peggy Kusinski of . . . That story is right here.
The Brandon Wheat Kings CKLQ Sportsman’s Dinner was held Thursday night. . . . Yes, it was sold out. . . . Held to benefit the Wheat Kings’ scholarship fund, it featured Bryan Trottier, Gord Stellick of Sportsnet and comedian Andrew Grose. . . . It also featured a whole lot of memorabilia, all of it up for grabs. . . . An autographed Steven Stamkos jersey went for $1,100, while a Jordan Eberle-autographed Titleist bag brought in $1,050 and an autographed Matt Calvert sweater sold for $1,000. . . . When it was all over, the Wheat Kings issued a news release that included this interesting gem on the first Sportsman’s Dinner (May 2, 1959): “Guest speakers that night were pitcher Lefty Gomez, Father Athol Murray and former Chicago Blackhawks great Bill Mosienko.”
If you are a regular here, you will know that the Lethbridge Hurricanes held a shareholders’ meeting on Thursday night. . . . Dylan Purcell of the Lethbridge Herald has his look at that meeting right here.
The Vancouver Giants have signed F Johnny Wesley, 16, who is playing with the junior B Richmond Sockeyes of the Pacific International junior league. Wesley, who was listed by the Giants last year, has 48 points, including 22 goals, in 40 games with he Sockeyes. . . . On Thursday, the BCHL's Langley Rivermen announced that Wesley had agreed to play for them next season.
SATURDAY’S WHL GAMES (all times local):
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Regina, 7 p.m.
Lethbridge at Kootenay, 7 p.m.
Calgary at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Everett at Portland, 7 p.m.
Red Deer at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Vancouver, 7 p.m.
Victoria at Kelowna, 7 p.m.
Spokane at Tri-City, 7:05 p.m
In Lethbridge, F Tim Bozon scored three times and added an assist as the Kootenay Ice dumped the Hurricanes, 8-1. . . . Bozon has 26 goals, with 14 of those coming in his last 14 games. . . . Ice F Sam Reinhart had a goal, his 26th, and two assists as he ran his point streak to 12 games. . . . The Ice, winner of four straight, also got two goals and an assist from F Luke Philp, who has 22 goals, and a goal and two helpers from F Jaedon Descheneau, who has 35 goals. . . . Lethbridge G Teagan Sacher got into action for the first time since being injured on Dec. 28. He came on in relief of Jonny Hogue and stopped 23 of 28 shots over the last two periods. . . . Ice G Mackenzie Skapski turned aside 23 shots. . . . The same teams meet tonight in Cranbrook, which may explain the late-game scraps last night. . . . Kootenay (29-21-4), 8-1-1 in its last 10, is fifth in the Eastern Conference, five points behind the Medicine Hat Tigers. . . .

In Brandon, F Tim McGauley scored twice to help the Wheat Kings to an 8-1 victory over the Swift Current Broncos. . . . He's got 15 goals. . . . Brandon scored the game's last six goals. . . . F John Quenneville was back in Brandon's lineup after sitting for six games with an undisclosed injury. He had a goal, his 22nd, and an assist. His brother, Peter, drew three assists. . . . F Jayce Hawryluk added a goal, his 17th, and two assists for Brandon. . . . Broncos F Graham Black got his 27th goal. . . . Brandon was 4-for-9 on the pp; the Broncos were 1-for-3. . . . Referees Nathan Wieler and Chris Crich handed out 128 penalty minutes, 75 to the Broncos. Of that total, 104 came at 17:00 of the third period when nine misconducts were doled out. . . . The Broncos have lost three in a row. . . . The Wheat Kings (28-20-6) now have sole possession of first place in the East Division, two points ahead of the Broncos (26-21-8). The East Division champ will be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference when the playoffs open. . . .

In Saskatoon, F Dylan Bredo had a goal and two assists as the Medicine Hat Tigers beat the Blades, 5-2. . . . The Tigers swept the four-game season series from the Blades. . . . Bredo has three goals this season. He scored into an empty-net to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead. . . . Tigers F Curtis Valk ran his point streak to 13 games with an assist. That is the longest ongoing streak in the WHL at present. . . . Tigers F Cole Sanford broke a 1-1 tie at 8:07 of the first period, his 26th goal coming via the PP. . . . Tigers F Anthony Ast made it 3-1 with his ninth, shorthanded, at 11:40 and the visitors were never headed. . . . The Blades remain without F Nikita Scherback, the WHL’s leading freshman scorer. He has an undisclosed injury. . . . Medicine Hat (32-19-3) has won three in a row and is fourth in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind the Calgary Hitmen and five ahead of Kootenay. . . .

In Prince Albert, the Moose Jaw Warriors ended their nine-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over the Raiders. . . . F Brayden Point had three goals and three assists to lead the Warriors to their fifth victory in six meetings with the Raiders. . . . According to Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald, the last Moose Jaw skater with a six-point game was Steven Gillen, who had seven against the Swift Current Broncos on Jan. 28, 2007. . . . Point has 25 goals this season. In 53 games, he now has 58 points. Last season, he finished with 57 points, including 24 goals, in 67 games. . . . Interestingly, only seven Warriors had at least a point last night. . . . The Warriors had scored a total of seven goals over their previous five games. . . . Moose Jaw G Justin Paulic stopped 39 shots. . . . The Warriors scratched F Colton McCarthy, F Sam Fioretti, F Brandon Potomak and D Jesse Forsberg. Fioretti was serving a suspension; the others are injured. . . . With Fioretti and Forsberg out, the Warriors didn’t dress any 20-year-olds. . . . The Raiders (24-26-3) are seven points out of a playoff spot with 19 games remaining. . . .

In Kennewick, Wash., the Portland Winterhawks scored three times in a span of 1:22 in the first period and went on to beat the Tri-City Americans, 10-3, as they ran their winning streak to 11 games. . . . Portland also won 11 in a row from Oct. 12 through Nov. 2. . . . Portland D Josh Hanson, who was plus-5, had a career-high three assists as 17 of 18 skaters picked up at least one point. . . . Portland G Brendan Burke stopped 29 shots in winning for the 30th time this season. He had a shutout going until midway in the third period when his shutout streak ended at 174 minutes 57 seconds. . . . Portland got two goals from each of Nic Petan, who has 28, and F Alex Schoenborn, who has 13. . . . Petan now has 89 points, just three behind Spokane Chiefs F Mitch Holmberg, who leads the WHL. . . . Portland F Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his 38th goal and added two assists. He has scored in five straight games, the second time he’s done that this season. . . . The Winterhawks were 3-for-4 on the PP. . . . Portland (37-12-5) leads the U.S. Division by four points over the Seattle Thunderbirds. Portland has two games in hand. . . . The Americans (26-23-5) are eighth in the Western Conference, four points ahead of the Prince George Cougars. . . .

In Kent, Wash., G Taran Kozun shut out Spokane for the third straight game as the Thunderbirds beat the Chiefs, 4-0. . . . Kozun stopped 35 shots and also drew an assist on the game’s first goal when F Mathew Barzal scored off an end-to-end rush. Barzal also had two assists. Barzal, the first overall pick in the 2012 bantam draft, has 42 points, including 10 goals, in 43 games. He has seven points, two of them goals, in his last three games. . . . Since being acquired from the Kamloops Blazers at the trade deadline, Kozun is 9-1-0 with four shutouts. He has a 1.18 GAA and a .962 save percentage. . . . Kozun also leads all goaltenders with four assists. . . . In seven games versus Spokane this season, the Thunderbirds are 7-0 with a 29-9 edge in goals. . . . Spokane has gone 197:23 without scoring against the Thunderbirds. The Chiefs have been blanked five times in their last 12 games. . . . Seattle scored its first three goals via the PP as it went 3-for-4 with the man advantage. . . . Barzal scored his 10th goal at 6:29 of the second period, with F Brendan Troock getting his 21st at 12:14 and F Ryan Gropp adding his 14th just 53 seconds later. . . . Gropp added another goal at 6:38 of the third period. . . . Seattle has won three in a row; the Chiefs have dropped four straight. . . . Seattle (35-16-5) is fourth in the Western Conference, one point behind the Victoria Royals and eight clear of the Chiefs (31-18-5). . . . Spokane is four points ahead of the Vancouver Giants. . . .

In Vancouver, G Chris Driedger turned aside 44 shots to lead the Calgary Hitmen to a 5-0 victory over the Giants. . . . According to WHL Facts (@WHLFacts) that is the most saves by a goaltender recording a shutout this season. . . . It was Driedger’s third shutout this season and the eighth of his career. . . . Calgary F Brady Brassart got the game’s first goal, his 25th, at 12:01 of the first period. He has scored in five straight games for a second time this season. . . . F Adam Tambellini scored twice, giving him seven in 14 games. He has 17 points since joining the Hitmen from the U of North Dakota. . . . Calgary was 3-for-5 on the PP; the Giants were 0-for-9. . . . The Giants remain without D Dalton Thrower, their 20-year-old captain, who has an ankle injury. . . . Vancouver (27-20-9) is sixth in the Western Conference, three points ahead of the idle Everett Silvertips, who hold two games in hand. . . .

In Prince George, F Todd Fiddler scored twice and set up another as the Cougars ran their winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . Fiddler broke a 2-2 tie with his 33rd goal of the season at 4:37 of the second period. He later added No. 34 into an empty net. . . . Prince George G Adam Beukeboom stopped 46 shots, nine more than Red Deer’s Patrik Bartosak. . . . F Presten Kopeck had a goal, his 10th, and an assist for the Rebels. He’s got 15 points, including six goals, in 15 games since moving over from the Portland Winterhawks in a January deal. . . . Red Deer now has lost five straight. . . . The Cougars haven’t enjoyed a five-game winning streak since December 2005. . . . Prince George (23-26-7) is four points behind Tri-City, which holds down the Western Conference’s last playoff spot. . . . Red Deer (27-24-4) is eighth in the Eastern Conference, a point behind the Regina Pats and seven ahead of Prince Albert. . . .

In Kelowna, F Mitch Moroz scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Edmonton Oil Kings a 3-2 victory over the Rockets. . . . The game matched the WHL’s conference leaders, with the Oil Kings skating to their 10th straight victory. . . . Edmonton now is 8-10 in road games played in the B.C. Division. . . . F Myles Bell got the Rockets on the board with his 36th goal, via the PP, at 4:08 of the first period. . . . Edmonton took the lead on goals by F Cole Benson, his fourth, at 8:12 of the first, and F Brett Pollock, his 20th, via the PP, at 5:54 of the second. . . . Kelowna F Carter Rigby forced OT with his 14th goal at 17:42 of the second. . . . Edmonton G Tristan Jarry (34-11-1, 2.27, .913) stopped 26 shots, one more than Kelowna’s Jordan Cooke (30-4-4, 2.39, .918). . . . Each team was 1-for-6 on the PP. . . . The Rockets came awfully close to winning this game in OT. From an Oil Kings’ news release: “The result could have (gone) the other way as Ryan Olsen broke in alone on Jarry with 4.6 seconds left in overtime. His breakaway chance was stopped by Jarry’s pad but bounced off his own skate and back between Jarry’s legs where it disappeared before slipping out the side of the goal as the net was knocked off. After a lengthy review, the original no-goal call was upheld.” . . . Edmonton (39-13-1) leads the Central Division by five points over Calgary. . . . Kelowna (43-7-4) is atop the overall standings, 11 points up on Edmonton and Portland. . . .

In Kamloops, F Tyler Soy broke a 1-1 tie with a shorthanded goal at 1:29 of the third period and the Victoria Royals went on to beat the Blazers, 3-1. . . . Soy, the eighth overall selection in the 2012 bantam draft, has 11 goals this season; that was his first shorthanded effort. . . . Victoria has points in its last eight games (6-0-2). . . . The Royals won for the 36th time this season, breaking the franchise record set last season. This also was their 17th road victory, breaking the franchise record set in 2009-10. . . . Victoria has 76 points, one shy of the franchise record set last season. . . . The Royals are 5-1-0 against Kamloops this season, with a 26-9 edge in goals. . . . F Brandon Magee scored his 20th goal for Victoria. He’s got at least 20 goals in each of the last three seasons. . . . Victoria G Coleman Vollrath turned aside 36 shots. He’s 16-5-2, 2.09, .936 this season and has played extremely well in the recent absence of Patrik Polivka, who is out with an undisclosed injury. . . . Kamloops has lost eight in a row. . . . The Blazers added D Cam Reagan, 16, to their roster for last night’s game. He also will play tonight against the visiting Calgary Hitmen. . . . Kamloops was without D Sam Grist (one-game WHL suspension) and five injured players -- D Connor Clouston, F Luke Harrison, G Justin Myles, F Matt Needham and F Tyson Ness. . . . The Royals (36-16-4) are third in the Western Conference, a point ahead of Seattle. . . . Prior to the game, the WHL honoured Dennis Coates, a longtime director with the Kamloops Blazers Sports Society and a former alternate governor, with one of its distinguished service awards.

From Dan Russell (@DanRussellST): “Feast or famine tonight in the WHL. Four teams scored 7 goals or more while six teams scored 1 goal or less.”

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