Friday, April 25, 2014

Winterhawks into fourth straight WHL final

D Nathan Deck (Vancouver, Prince Albert, 2005-11) signed a one-year contract with Mora (Sweden, Allsvenskan). This season with Stockton (ECHL), Deck had 19 points, including five goals, in 40 games. He signed with the Ravensburg Towerstars (Germany, DEL2) on Jan. 31 and put up seven points, two of them goals, in 10 games. . . .

D Stefan Warg (Seattle, Prince Albert, 2008-10) signed a two-year contract with Malmö (Sweden, Allsvenskan). This season with the Norfolk Admirals (AHL), he had one assist in 21 games. He also had two assists in three games with the Utah Grizzlies (ECHL). He signed with Skellefteå (Sweden, SHL) on Feb. 2 and went pointless in seven games.

1. The Portland Winterhawks advanced to their fourth straight WHL championship final on Friday night, beating the Rockets 7-3 in Kelowna to win the best-of-seven Western Conference final, 4-1. . . . But when the defending-champion Winterhawks begin the championship series, for the Ed Chynoweth Cup, they may do it without F Brendan Leipsic, one of their top forwards. . . . Leipsic, who scored his 11th and 12th goals of these playoffs last night, was tossed from the game at 16:27 of the third period with a spearing major. . . . Leipsic is a repeat offender, so unless the WHL office overturns last night’s penalty -- for example, it could, on review, be turned into a slashing minor -- he almost certainly would be suspended. He already has served 10 games in suspensions this season. He sat out three games for an incident against the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Sept. 25 and drew a seven-game sentence after taking a match penalty against the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds on Dec. 14.

2. After two off days, the Medicine Hat Tigers and the Oil Kings get back into the Eastern Conference final tonight in Edmonton. The Oil Kings hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. A victory will send them into their third straight WHL championship series, each of them against Portland. A loss sends the series back to Medicine Hat for Game 6 on Monday night. . . . A seventh game, if needed, would be played in Edmonton on Tuesday. . . . Including regular-season games, the Oil Kings are 8-1-1 against the Tigers this season.

3. The Winterhawks finished the regular season with 113 points, based on a 54-13-5 record. The Oil Kings wound up with 103 points (50-19-3). The Tigers (44-24-4) had 92 points. . . . All of which means Portland will have home-ice advantage in the final, regardless of which Eastern Conference team advances. . . . Speculation, and that is all it was as of late Friday, has the championship final opening in Portland with games on Saturday and Sunday.

4. When Dan Russell signs off from Sportstalk, his long-running Vancouver-based radio show, on Thursday night, he won’t be back, at least not on a nightly basis. Brad Ziemer of the Vancouver Sun has more right here. . . . Whether you agree with Russell’s views or not, the Vancouver sports scene will be poorer for not having him there every night. He often provided a point of view that was different from the one being sold by most other observers, and that is never a bad thing.

5. Ryan Ohashi, who knows his way around the WHL, has a blog upon which I found a neat story involving the Lethbridge Hurricanes and some playoff hockey. Yes, it’s true. The Hurricanes once were in the playoffs. Anyway, Ohashi’s story is right here, just don’t read it on an empty stomach.

6. There was a huge Canadian moment on Friday night as umpire Stu Scheurwater of Regina made his Major League Baseball debut. He worked second base as the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers played at Chavez Ravine. Vin Scully, the legendary voice of the Dodgers, mentioned Scheurwater’s debut with this: "Special night and we wish him well."

7. The last Canadian to debut as an umpire in the majors? Ian Lamplugh, who made his debut in 1999. His big league career lasted about 200 games. Lamplugh was born in Great Britain and moved with his family to Canada at the age of four. He now lives in Victoria. . . . Jim McKean is the most well-known of the Canadian umpires. McKean, a Montreal native, worked MLB games from 1973 through 2001.

8. The OHL final will feature the Guelph Storm and the North Bay Battalion. . . . The Storm finished off the Erie Otters on Friday night, winning 5-0 in Guelph to take the Western Conference final in five games. . . . The Battalion is finishing up its first season in North Bay after moving from Brampton. . . . The best-of-seven final is scheduled to open Thursday in Guelph.

QMJHL9. The QMJHL is the site of two thrilling conference finals. . . . The Blainville-Boisbrand Aramada beat the host Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-2 in OT on Friday night to take a 3-2 lead in that series. They’ll play Game 6 on Sunday at Blainville-Boisbrand. . . . In the other series, the Halifax Mooseheads has come back from a 2-0 deficit to pull into a 2-2 tie with the Val-d’Or Foreurs. The Foreurs won twice in Halifax, 5-2 and 4-2, with the Mooseheads then winning twice on the road, 6-5 in OT and 5-4. They haven’t played since Wednesday, and will resume tonight in Halifax.

The Saskatoon Blades and the Saskatoon Media Group have agreed on a four-year contract extension that will cover the team’s broadcast rights through 2017-18. The Blades games are heard on 92.9 The Bull. . . . The agreement calls for the station to carry a minimum of two exhibition games, along with all regular-season and playoff games each season. . . . The Blades have been partnered with SMG since 1994. . . . Les Lazaruk is preparing for his 21st season as the radio voice of the Blades.
Curtis Hawkins has signed on as the athletic therapist for Victoria HarbourCats, who play in baseball’s West Coast League. Hawkins is the athletic therapist for the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals. He also worked with the WHL’s Victoria Royals while attending Camosun College in Victoria.
Brian McNaughton, the president of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, and WHL commissioner Ron Robison are scheduled to appear before Lethbridge City Council on Monday. According to the council’s agenda, McNaughton and Robison will be there to talk about “the team’s three-year business and operational plan.” . . . Pat Siedlecki, the radio voice of the Hurricanes, has more on his blog right here.
USHLF Hank Crone of Cedar Hill, Texas, whose WHL rights belong to the Portland Winterhawks, has decided to play next season with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers and then move on to the Boston University Terriers. . . . Crone, who turned 16 on Feb. 19, had 40 points in 31 games this season as he played for the Dallas Stars elite under-16 team. . . . "Hank was added to the protected player list for the Winterhawks in the WHL,” Kristie, his mother, told Rita Cook of the Focus Daily News. "If you play major junior you lose your NCAA eligibility and he has always wanted to play college hockey.”
MJHLOfficials with the MJHL’s Neepawa Natives met with community supporters recently and have decided to proceed with the 2014-15 season. They will do it with head coach Dwayne Kirkup back running things. . . . “I am not surprised by this as Neepawa always seems to find a way to get it done,” general manager Myles Cathcart said in a news release. As for Kirkup, Cathcart said: “In terms of quality coaches in hockey, Kirkup is in the elite group. He is professional, works extremely hard, is approachable and the players work hard for him. He fits in with what we are doing. We want quality players and coaches within our organization.”

THE THIRD ROUND (best-of-seven; all times local):
(x - if necessary)
(Edmonton leads, 3-1)
Season series: Edmonton, 5-0-1; Medicine Hat, 1-5-0.
(All games on Shaw TV)
Friday: Medicine Hat 3 at Edmonton 8 (7,694)
Sunday: Medicine Hat 1 at Edmonton 3 (5,763)
Tuesday: Edmonton 1 at Medicine Hat 2 (3,189)
Wednesday: Edmonton 4 at Medicine Hat 1 (3,832)
Saturday: Medicine Hat at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
x-Monday: Edmonton at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
x-Tuesday: Medicine Hat at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Edmonton: D Blake Orban, day-to-day.
Medicine Hat: F Anthony Ast, day-to-day; F Gavin Broadhead, day-to-day; F Hunter Shinkaruk, indefinite.
(Portland wins, 4-1)
Season series: Kelowna, 4-0-0; Portland, 0-4-0.
Friday: Portland 4 at Kelowna 5 (6,218)
Saturday: Portland 5 at Kelowna 3 (6,341)
Tuesday: Kelowna 3 at Portland 4 (OT) (9,259)
Wednesday: Kelowna 1 at Portland 5 (9,744)
Friday: Portland 7 at Kelowna 3 (6,331)
Kelowna: F Myles Bell (knee), week-to-week.
Portland: None.

In Kelowna, the defending-champion Portland Winterhawks broke open a close game with three goals early in the third period and went on to a 7-3 victory over the Rockets. . . . Portland won its fourth straight Western Conference championship. . . . The Winterhawks will be the fourth team in WHL history to appear in four straight finals, joining the Flin Flon Bombers (1968-71), Edmonton Oil Kings (1969-72) and New Westminster Bruins (1975-78). . . . The Winterhawks, who scored three PP goals in the game, led 3-0 eight minutes into the second period, only to have the Rockets score two PP goals and get back into the game. . . . F Tyson Baillie, at 8:29, and D Jesse Lees, at 10:48, scored for the Rockets, who had the WHL’s best regular-season record and finished the regular season as the CHL’s top-ranked team. . . . Portland D Mathew Dumba got his third goal of these playoffs 59 seconds into the third period and F Brendan Leipsic scored his second goal of the game, and 12th of the playoffs, on a PP at 2:56 and school was out. . . . Leipsic was later ejected with a spearing major and could be facing a WHL suspension. . . . Portland F Nic Petan had two assists and was named the series’ MVP. He had 11 points, including seven assists, in the five games. . . . Portland F Taylor Leier had a goal and two assists, while F Oliver Bjorkstrand drew three assists. Bjorkstrand leads the playoffs in goals (15) and points (28). . . . Portland D Derrick Pouliot leads in assists, with 22. He had two last night, giving him 55 in his career, the third-highest total in WHL history. . . . Pouliot and Leipsic have at least one point in each of Portland’s 14 playoff games this season. . . . Pouliot also played in his 78th career playoff game, passing D Troy Rutkowski and taking over the franchise record. Starting with his freshman season, Pouliot has played in 21, 22, 21 and 14 post-season games. . . . Portland G Corbin Boes stopped 35 shots, while Jordon Cooke of the Rockets turned aside 34. . . . The Rockets played the series without F Myles Bell (knee), who led them in goals (42) and points (77) in the regular season. Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska, speaking on the Rockets’ post-game radio show, said Bell “blew a lot of things out in his knee, he's got a lot of things going on in there."

From the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers (@VernonVipers): “Attention Vipers Alumni! If you're planning on attending the RBC Cup pls contact for some alumni event details #RBC2014”

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