Monday, March 17, 2014

Rebels take advantage of short-staffed Oil Kings, force tiebreaker

Helsingin Sanomat, the leading newspaper in Finland, reported Friday that Harry Harkimo has sold his 48.98 per cent share of the Jokerit Hockey Club to the Russians for 960 euros. That meant the club was valued at 1,960 euros at sale in October 2013. Official minutes from 2012 valued Jokerit at that time at 1.3 million euros.
Meanwhile, Helsingin Sanomat's parent company is suing Harkimo over the sale of the club and the arena, alleging that when he purchased the Jokerit and Arena shares from the paper, he failed to disclose why he was purchasing them.
As well, the EU has been talking about freezing all assets of Russian oligarchs as a response to Russia's annexation of Crimea. Two oligarchs, Gennady Timchenko and Arkady Rotenberg (Vladimir Putin's judo partner and childhood friend), bought the club and arena. Bloomberg reports that Rotenberg's construction company won contracts worth US$7.4 billion, for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, more than the entire 2010 Vancouver budget. The contract for construction of the road connecting Sochi with the mountain venues went to Russian Railways for $9 billion. Russian Railways subcontracted this out to SK Most, which is 25 per cent owned by Timchenko.
The Moose Jaw Warriors’ two main hockey men will be back in 2014-15. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald reported late Sunday, via Twitter, that general manager Alan Millar and head coach Mike Stothers, each of whom is believed to have one year left on his contract, were “given a vote of confidence by the MJ Warriors’ board.” . . . Gourlie also reported that assistant coach Mike Vandenberg won’t be back, as he leaves to focus on business interests. . . . According to Gourlie, assistant coach Mark O’Leary will be Stothers’ “main assistant coach” next season. . . . The Warriors (21-42-9) finished 10th in the 12-team Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs for a second straight season. . . . Millar has been with the Warriors through four seasons. Stothers just completed his third season as head coach.
My, but that was an interesting situation that presented itself in Edmonton on Sunday.
The Red Deer Rebels were there to take on the Oil Kings in a game that the visitors absolutely had to win if they were to entertain any thoughts of making a playoff appearance.
A Red Deer victory would lift the Rebels into a tie for eighth place with the Prince Albert Raiders in the Eastern Conference, and that would necessitate a sudden-death game on Tuesday, with the winner of that game moving into the playoffs and the loser going home.
On Saturday night, the Oil Kings had visited Red Deer and skated to a 7-4 victory, clinching first place in the Central Division and the Eastern Conference in the process.
On Sunday, in a game that meant nothing to them and everything to Red Deer and Prince Albert, the Oil Kings scratched forwards Edgars Kulda, Curtis Lazar, Reid Petryk and Henrik Samuelsson, along with defenceman Griffin Reinhart and starting goaltender Tristan Jarry.
Perhaps predictably, the Rebels won the game, 5-0. The Raiders now will travel to Red Deer for that tiebreaker game on Tuesday.
After the game, Edmonton head coach Derek Laxdal told the media:
“I didn’t sit anybody. We’ve got some guys with nagging injuries they have battled through, we’ve got some guys with sicknesses. We’re not going to push these guys to the limit and force them to play injured.
“We had to make sure that guys are rested, and we’ve got some guys with some injuries, and it’s been a long haul the last three weeks . . . so at the end of the day we did what’s right for our hockey club.”
In November 2012, the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs went on a six-game road trip that was to conclude in Miami with a game against the Heat. Following the fifth game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich sent home Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, meaning they didn’t play in Miami.
For that, the Spurs were fined $250,000.
David Stern, then the NBA commissioner, said the Spurs “did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
In a statement at the time, Stern said: “The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team’s only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans.”
Yes, comparing what goes on in the NBA to something that happens in the WHL is like basketballs to hockey pucks.
But you have to think it would behoove the WHL to have commissioner Ron Robison look into what went into Laxdal’s decision to scratch key players from his lineup for a game of such importance.
Yes, it’s touchy territory when a league office -- any sport, any league -- delves into player personnel decisions, especially when it might be construed as interfering with a coach’s roster decisions. But there is an issue of credibility at play here.
Let’s not forget that the game, billed as Fan Appreciation Night, drew 13,912 fans, the Oil Kings’ largest crowd of the season.
The headline above Swane’s story on the Sun’s website read: Edmonton Oil Kings shut out in meaningless season-ender with Red Deer Rebels.
Was it really meaningless to the Rebels, the Raiders and the fans?
Alicja Siekierska of the Edmonton Journal wrote: “Sunday’s uninspiring, often difficult-to-watch game was played in front of 13,912 spectators — the biggest crowd of the season — on what was, ironically, fan appreciation night. It’s doubtful many fans were appreciative of the effort the Oil Kings put forward.”
You can bet the Raiders weren’t appreciative either.
The Oil Kings, meanwhile, apparently are planning on travelling to Red Deer to watch Tuesday’s game.
The Edmonton Sun's game story is right here.
The Edmonton Journal's game story is right here.

F Mitch Holmberg of the Spokane Chiefs won the WHL scoring title, finishing with 118 points. He is the first Spokane player to finish on top since F Ray Whitney, who put up 185 points in 1990-91. . . . Holmberg also led the WHL in goals, with 62. The last Chiefs skater to do that was F Tyler Johnson, who scored 53 times in 2010-11. . . . There weren’t any 50-goal scorers last season. This season, there were three -- Holmberg, Portland Winterhawks F Oliver Bjorkstrand (50) and Prince George Cougars F Todd Fiddler (50). . . .
F Nic Petan of the Portland Winterhawks, who finished second in the scoring race with 113 points, led the league in assists, with 78. F Sam Reinhart of the Kootenay Ice was next, with 69. . . .
Russian F Nikita Scherbak of the Saskatoon Blades led all freshmen in assists (50) and points (78). He and Brandon Wheat Kings F Rihards Bukarts, who is from Latvia, led all first-year players in goals, each with 28. . . . Russian F Ivan Nikolishin of the Everett Silvertips was second in points, with 59. . . .
Shea Theodore of the Seattle Thunderbirds was the highest-scoring defenceman, with 79 points, six more than Josh Morrissey of the Prince Albert Raiders. Morrissey led all defencemen in goals, with 28, while Theodore had 57 assists. . . .
The qualifying number for goaltenders was 1,440 minutes played. . . . Tristan Jarry of the Edmonton Oilers was No. 1 in GAA (2.24) and victories (44). Jordon Cooke of the Kelowna Rockets was next at 2.28 and 39. . . . Jarry and Patrik Bartosak of the Red Deer Rebels tied for the lead in shutouts, with eight. Bartosak put up No. 8 on Sunday, as the Rebels won 5-0 in Edmonton. Jarry wasn’t dressed for that one. . . . Coleman Vollrath of the Victoria Royals had the best save percentage (.928). . . . Bartosak led in appearances (65), one more than Jarry. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks had the highest-scoring offence, with 338 goals. . . . The top defence belonged to the Edmonton Oil Kings, who allowed 179 goals, two fewer than the Victoria Royals and three fewer than the Kelowna Rockets.

So . . . what was decided on Sunday?
In the Western Conference, it took the skills competition in the regular-season’s final game before home-ice advantage in the No. 4 versus No. 5 series was decided. Oh, and did we mention that each of the goaltenders was a freshman in his first shootout? . . . The Portland Winterhawks beat the visiting Everett Silvertips, with the latter needing a victory to get home-ice advantage. Instead, it went to the Seattle Thunderbirds, who had beaten the host Tri-City Americans moments earlier. . . . Everett and Seattle will open in Kent, Wash., on Saturday night.
In the Eastern Conference, the Red Deer Rebels went into Edmonton and beat the Oil Kings 5-0 to force a tiebreaker for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Rebels will meet the Prince Albert Raiders in Red Deer on Tuesday, 7 p.m. The winner gets the Oil Kings in the first round of the playoffs with Game 1 on Saturday. . . . Why will the tiebreaker be played in Red Deer? Because the Rebels won three of four games in the season series.
TUESDAY’S GAME (all times local):
Prince Albert at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
(Eastern Conference one-game tiebreaker; winner finishes eighth.)
THE FIRST ROUND (best-of-seven):
Eastern Conference
Edmonton (1) vs. Prince Albert/Red Deer (8)
Regina (2) vs. Brandon (7)
Calgary (3) vs. Kootenay (6)
Medicine Hat (4) vs. Swift Current (5)
Western Conference
Kelowna (1) vs. Tri-City (8)
Portland (2) vs. Vancouver (7)
Victoria (3) vs. Spokane (6)
Seattle (4) vs. Everett (5)
In Lethbridge, the Medicine Hat Tigers scored the game’s first four goals and went on to beat the Hurricanes, 6-2. . . . The game had been postponed from Friday due to water-related problems in Lethbridge. . . . F Curtis Valk scored his 47th goal for the Tigers, giving him career highs in goals and points (92). . . . D Connor Hobbs, who turned 17 on Jan. 4, scored his first WHL goal for the Tigers. From Saskatoon, he scored in his 10th game. . . . F Riley Sheen had a goal, his 19th, and an assist for the Hurricanes. . . .  Tigers G Nick Schneider stopped 24 shots as he improved his record to 6-0-0 since coming over from the Regina Pats in a swap. With the Tigers, the 16-year-old from Leduc, Alta., is 1.42, .943. . . . The Tigers had beaten the visiting Hurricanes 6-3 on Saturday. . . . The Tigers (44-24-4) are the Eastern Conference’s No. 4 seed and will meet the Swift Current Broncos in the first round. . . . Lethbridge (12-55-5) finished the season on a 14-game losing skid and with the poorest record in franchise history. Previously, the poorest season had been by the Winnipeg Jets, who were 16-42-10 (that’s 10 ties) in 1972-73. The poorest record in Lethbridge came in 1987-88 when the Hurricanes, in their first season there after moving from Calgary where they had been the Wranglers, went 20-48-4 (that’s four ties). . . . The Hurricanes, who wound up with 37 fewer points than last season, are out of the playoffs for a fifth straight season. . . .

In Edmonton, G Patrik Bartosak stopped 20 shots as the Red Deer Rebels beat the Oil Kings 5-0 to force a tiebreaker game for eight place in the Eastern Conference. . . . The Rebels and Prince Albert Raiders will meet in Red Deer on Tuesday night. The winner will go on to play the Oil Kings in the first round of the playoffs with the series opening in Edmonton on Saturday. . . . The WHL last had to go to a tiebreaker prior to the 2009 playoffs. The Oil Kings beat the Raiders 2-1 in OT in that one. F Rhett Rachinski won that one at 8:54 of OT. . . . Bartosak finished this season with seven shutouts; he has 13 in his career. He also is the Rebels’ career leader in saves,having passed Mike Whitney (1994-98) on Sunday. . . . F Rhyse Dieno had a goal, his 25th, and two assists for Red Deer, which opened the scoring at 1:25 of the first period when F Adam Musil got his 11th. He also had an assist. . . . F Wyatt Johnson and F Scott Feser also had a goal and an assist each. Johnson has 14 goals; Feser has 15. . . . Among the Oil Kings scratches were big guns Henrik Samuelsson, Curtis Lazar and Edgars Kulda, along with D Griffin Reinhart and starting G Tristan Jarry. . . . The Oil Kings had a three-game winning skein end. . . .

In Portland, F Nic Petan scored the deciding goal in the shootout as the Winterhawks beat the Everett Silvertips, 5-4. . . . Portland D Derrick Pouliot and Everett F Josh Winquist exchanged goals, before Petan won it in the fourth round. . . . Portland F Taylor Leier, who scored twice, forced OT with a shorthanded goal at 8:13 of the third period. He finished with 37 goals. . . . Petan had a goal, his 35th, and an assist. He finished with 113 points, five away from Spokane Chiefs F Mitch Holmberg, who won the scoring title. . . . Portland F Brendan Leipsic, who shared the scoring title with Petan last season, each with 120 points, finished with 91 points, including 39 goals. . . . The Winterhawks, who have won seven in a row, took a 2-0 lead into the second period, only to have Everett, which is 9-0-2 in its last 11, tie it. . . . Petan gave Portland the lead again at 11:47 of the second, but Everett got goals from D Matt Pufahl, his 15th, and F Josh Winquist to go out front, 4-3. . . . Winquist scored twice as he finished with 47 this season and 101 in his career. He also finished with 93 points this season, tying the franchise’s single-season record set by F Zach Hamill in 2006-07. . . . Portland G Adin Hill stopped 17 shots. . . . Everett G Carter Hart, who came on for Austin Lotz after the first period, turned aside 30 shots through OT. . . . The Winterhawks (54-13-5) finished five points behind the Kelowna Rockets, who were atop the overall standings. Defending-champion Portland, which won 28 of its last 29 regular-season games, will meet the Vancouver Giants in the first round. . . . The Silvertips (39-23-10) had moved into fourth place in the conference on Saturday night, but the stay was short-lived. . . .

In Kennewick, Wash., D Shea Theodore scored twice and added an assist as the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Tri-City Americans, 6-1. . . . Theodore set a franchise record for career goals by a defenceman when he scored his second of the season. That was the No. 45, one more than Deron Quint (1993-95). . . . Theodore scored 22 times this season. . . . Seattle F Mathew Barzal, the first overall selection in the 2012 bantam draft, had one assist. He finished his 16-year-old season with 54 points, including 14 goals, in 59 games. . . . The game featured two penalty shots, with Seattle F Branden Troock unsuccessful against Tri-City G Evan Sarthou in the second period and Tri-City F Parker Bowles unable to beat Seattle G Taran Kozun in the third. . . . Tri-City F Morgan Geekie, who is from Strathclair, Man., scored his first WHL goal in his first game. He signed with the Americans earlier in the week. . . . Seattle (41-25-6) and Everett have never met in the playoffs. Until now, that is. . . . The Americans (29-33-10) will face the Kelowna Rockets in the first round. . . . Following Sunday’s game, F  Donovan Neuls, an eight-round selection in the 2012 bantam draft, tweeted that he had signed with the Thunderbirds. Neuls, who turns 17 on Oct. 24, is from Melville, Sask. He played this season with the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals.

From Guy Flaming (@TPS_Guy): “Lots of roster changes (Sunday) for the Oil Kings; out: Samuelsson, Lazar, Petryk, Kulda, Jarry . . . I bet the Raiders of PA will be thrilled.”
From the Kootenay Ice (@WHLKootenayICE): “Best fans in the world!!! At Friday night’s game you helped raise $3,581 for the Tim Bozon Trust Fund. @timbozon94 #kice #heartwarming”
From Paul Kingsmith (@paulkingsmith): “#WHLCanes Coach Drake Berehowsky on his future: ‘If they have me back, they have me back. If not that's their decision.’ #YQL #WHL”
One more from Kingsmith: “#WHLCanes Berehowsky on if he wants to be back ‘Of course. It's a dream to coach in the WHL. We're moving in the right direction.’ #WHL #YQL”
From Fred Jack (@FreddieJack643): “Been great to work with such a good man. Thanks for the 5 years @radiopat258.”
Jack was Pat Siedlecki’s analyst for Lethbridge Hurricanes home games on 94.1 CJOC. The team’s contract with the radio station is up.

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