Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winterhawks in transition . . . Cougars add one, subtract another . . . Trio of trades








F Jakub Klepiš (Portland, 2001-02) has been released by Färjestad Karlstad (Sweden, SHL) by mutual agreement. An alternate captain, he had six goals and five assists in 21 games.
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WATCHING THE WINTERHAWKS:

It is obvious that the Portland Winterhawks are a team in transition, and not only from general manager/head coach Mike Johnston to GM/head coach Jamie Kompon.
The Winterhawks are coming off four straight appearances in the WHL’s championship series, having won the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2012-13.
Last spring, the Winterhawks lost a seven-game final to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Now the Winterhawks are scuffling. As they go into a Friday-Saturday doubleheader in Kelowna against the Rockets, the Winterhawks are 9-12-3, which leaves them tied for seventh in the Western Conference with the Spokane Chiefs (9-7-3) and Seattle Thunderbirds (9-10-3). Quick math shows that the Chiefs hold five games in hand and the Thunderbirds two.
The Winterhawks reached those four straight championship series in no small part because they had the likes of Derrick Pouliot, Troy Rutkowski and Tyler Wotherspoon on the back end. You also can’t forget Garrett Haar, who was there last season, and Mathew Dumba, who was there for 26 games in last season’s second half.
The Winterhawks’ transition game and their short, quick passing game began with the puck on the stick of one of those defencemen, each of whom was good for close to a point per game.
Today, that dynamism is missing from Portland’s back end.
Watching the Winterhawks drop a 4-1 decision to the host Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday night, it was quite evident that the Portland forwards, especially the veterans, haven’t yet adapted to that fact.
Far too often, when a defenceman gained possession of the puck deep in Portland’s zone, the forwards were too quick to leave the zone. Full credit to the Blazers for taking advantage of that and getting a quick and heavy forecheck going. On more than one occasion that resulted in a turnover and a Kamloops scoring chance. In fact, there were two or three times when, after just such a sequence of events, a Kamloops forward found himself all alone with the puck on his stick in front of G Brendan Burke.
While it’s easy to point a finger at Burke and say that he needs to be more aggressive, his confidence likely would be higher if he could look up and see more than two teammates trying to ward off three opposing forwards.
The Winterhawks, after 24 games, are allowing 3.88 goals per game. That is exactly one goal more per game than they surrendered all of last season.
You aren’t going to win consistently in this league if you are giving up almost four goals a game.
For the Winterhawks to find their game again, the forwards are going to have to come back deeper with a purpose and visit a while longer, thus helping the defencemen clear the zone and cutting down on the opposing team’s scoring chances.
At the same time, the Blazers, who were 0-4-3 in their previous seven games, played awfully well in beating the Winterhawks on Wednesday night.
F Cole Ully, who is the straw that stirs the Blazers’ drink, looks to be back to his old self after a rough stretch battling an illness that, at one point, had him briefly in hospital.
He was the best player on the ice in Wednesday’s game and proved again that he is most deserving of an invitation to the Canadian national junior team’s selection camp next month.
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The Prince George Cougars have added D Kirk Bear, 19, to their roster. He had been with the SJHL’s Melville Millionaires, where he put up two goals and eight assists in 23 games. . . . Bear, from Whitewood, Sask., was pointless in 35 games with the Red Deer Rebels last season. . . . The Cougars also released D Kobe Eagletail, 17, from their roster. He will join the Banff Bears of the Heritage junior league. Eagletail was pointless in two games with the Cougars. (Hey, gotta think there are worse places to play hockey than Banff!)
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Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix reports that G Nik Amundrud, 17, who has been out with a concussion since Oct. 31, has been cleared to return to action. With that, the Blades are expected to move one of their other two goaltenders -- Alex Moodie, 19, or Trevor Martin, 18 -- in the immediate future, perhaps even before they play host to the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday. . . . According to Nugent-Bowman, Blades F Alex Forsberg, who missed a 4-1 loss to the Hitmen in Calgary on Sunday with an undisclosed injury, is probable for Saturday, as is D Ryan Coghlan (shoulder), while F Wyatt Sloboshan (broken jaw) won’t play until mid-December at the earliest. . . . D Jordan Thomson (concussion) is away from the team but is expected back sometime next week.
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Parts of Buffalo will have experienced about nine feet of snow by this morning. Apparently, it’s all because of something call a “localized lake effect.” . . . If you are wondering what that’s all about, National Geographic explains it right here, with the usual terrific photos, of course.
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The Prince Albert Raiders have acquired F Cory Millette, 19, from the Saskatoon Blades for a fifth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft. That selection originally belonged to the Blades. . . . Millette, from Storthoaks, Sask., had 14 points, including five goals, in 22 games with the Blades. He was their second-leading scorer. . . . Last season, he was pointless in two games with the Red Deer Rebels, then put up 34 points, 17 of them goals, in 61 games with Saskatoon. . . . He was a second-round selection by Red Deer in the 2010 bantam draft. In 186 regular-season games, he has 86 points, 40 of them goals. . . . As Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix explains right here, the deal frees ice time for one of the Blades’ younger players.
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The Moose Jaw Warriors have acquired F Jesse Shynkaruk, 18, from the Kamloops Blazers for a bantam draft pick. . . . According to the Blazers, it’s a fourth-round bantam draft pick in 2015 or 2017. According to the Warriors, it‘s a fourth-round pick in 2017. The WHL website says it’s a conditional fifth-round pick in 2015 or 2017. . . . He had eight points in 18 games with the Blazers this season. Shynkaruk, from Saskatoon, didn’t play in the Blazers’ 4-1 victory over the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday night. . . . The Blazers selected Shynkaruk in the seventh round of the 2011 bantam draft. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has more right here.
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The Vancouver Giants have acquired F Dakota Odgers, 18, from the Swift Current Broncos for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. Odgers, the son of former WHL/NHL F Jeff Odgers, is from Spy Hill, Sask. He was a second-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft. . . . In 65 regular-season games over two seasons, he has three goals and three assists. . . . This season, Odgers had two goals and an assist in 25 games with the Broncos. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province points out right here that the Giants are looking for some toughness and an improvement in their competitiveness. . . . Odgers is expected to be in the lineup tonight against the visiting Regina Pats. . . . Vancouver F Tyler Benson also is expected to be in the lineup. He hasn’t played since suffering an undisclosed injury at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge.
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Alan Caldwell, over at Small Thoughts At Large, is working hard as he tries to chart all of the bantam draft picks that have changed hands. You can check that out right here.
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F Mitch Holmberg, who won last season’s WHL scoring title while with the Spokane Chiefs, was involved in a trade on Thursday. . . . When the Vancouver Canucks dealt F Kellan Lain to the Edmonton Oil Kings for F Will Acton, the deal also included Holmberg’s rights. Holmberg, who had one assist in eight games with the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors, now may be joining the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. . . . Last season, Holmberg had 118 points, including 62 goals, as a 20-year-old with the Chiefs. . . .
Admiral Vladivostok of the KHL has dumped head coach Dusan Gregor and replaced him with Sergei Shepelev. Interestingly, Gregor is to remain on the coaching staff, along with the team’s other assistant coaches -- Alexander Selivanov, Andrei Matytsyn and Konstantin Vlasov. . . .
The National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association has selected Mike Boyle, the radio voice of the Spokane Chiefs, as one of three finalists for Washington Sportscaster of the Year. The winner is to be announced in mid-January. . . . Boyle has been the Chiefs’ play-by-play voice since 2002.
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