Friday, March 20, 2015

Best of the East . . . Coach resigns in Prince George . . . Cougars clinch playoff spot



Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has polled the WHL’s Eastern Conference teams about the best this and the best that. It’s an interesting read and it’s right here. . . . This part especially stood out for me: “Teams submitted two ballots — one filled out by a member of the coaching staff and another by a player representative, in most cases the captain. The Edmonton Oil Kings refused to distribute the player ballot, their reason being that the poll was conducted too close to playoff time. As a result, their coach's selections were counted twice.” . . . What we have here is a serious case of bush league-itis. You have a newspaper, the StarPhoenix, that does a terrific job of covering the WHL and is willing to dedicate resources — space and a writer, for starters — to a project like this, and one team refuses to allow its players to participate. Surely, the WHL office could — ch-ch-ching! — dip into the defending Memorial Cup champion's thick wallet for this egregious faux pas.
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Back in the 1980s, I knew her as Denise Lesiuk and she played the organ at Regina Pats’ games. Yes, she was good. Now, she is Denise Batters. She is a Canadian Senator and an advocate of mental-health issues. . . . Roy MacGregor of The Globe and Mail has more right here.
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Ron Toigo, the Vancouver Giants’ majority owner, says his team will be back in the Pacific Coliseum again next season. Toigo and Giants general manager Scott Bonner answered questions from fans prior to last night’s game against the visiting Kelowna Rockets. . . . Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province has more right here.
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THE COACHING GAME:

Dave Dupas resigned as head coach of the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday. He cited family BCHLreasons. The Spruce Kings went 27-24-1-6 (one tie, six OT losses) and finished third in the Mainland Division. They beat the Langley Rivermen in six games in a first-round series, then lost to the Chilliwack Chiefs in four. . . . Dupas had been the Spruce Kings’ head coach since Nov. 25, 2010. . . . Dupas has a home in West Kelowna. His wife and two sons stayed there while he coached in Prince George. . . . “I have some potential replacements in mind and I’m going to make some calls over the next few days and have some conversations with guys that I feel would be a good fit,” GM Mike Hawes said in a news release. “We’re in no rush to fill the spot but that being said I would like to fill the vacancy sooner than later so that the new coach can be heavily involved in the recruiting and building of next season’s team.”
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THE WHL PLAYOFF PICTURE:

EAST DIVISION:
1. Brandon (1 game remaining) leads the overall standings by two points over Kelowna (1). Brandon needs one point to win its first Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy since 1995-96. . . . The Wheat Kings will meet Edmonton in the first round with the series opening in Brandon on Thursday. . . . At home to Moose Jaw tonight.
2. Regina (1) will finish second in division. Will meet third-place team in first round. . . . In Prince Albert tonight.
3. Swift Current (1) leads Moose Jaw by two points. . . . The Broncos need one point to clinch third place. . . . They entertain Lethbridge tonight.
4. Moose Jaw (1) is two points behind Swift Current. . . . Should the Broncos and Warriors end up tied, there would be a play-in game at the home of the team with the most victories. But if they end up tied, each team will have 33 victories. . . . The second tiebreaker is points in the season series. Each team has six of those. . . . The third tiebreaker is “highest ratio when taking goals for and subtracting goals against in regular-season play.”  The Broncos are minus-28; the Warriors are minus-38. . . . It would seem, then, that a tiebreaker, if needed, would be played in Swift Current. . . . The Warriors are in Brandon tonight and need a victory and a Broncos loss in regulation time to get to that tiebreaker. . . . Moose Jaw is expected to start Brody Willms, 16, in goal.
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CENTRAL DIVISION:
1. Calgary (1) has a one-point lead over Medicine Hat. . . . At home to Kootenay on Sunday afternoon.
2. Medicine Hat (1) is one point behind Calgary. . . . Each team has 44 victories. . . . At home to Saskatoon tonight in the final regular-season game in the history of The Arena.
3. Red Deer (1) will finish third in the division and meet the second-place team in the first round. . . . At home to Edmonton tonight.
4. Kootenay (1) has wrapped up the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Will meet the division’s first-place team in the first round. . . . In Calgary on Sunday afternoon.
5. Edmonton (1) will finish in the conference’s second wild-card spot, meaning a first-round series that opens Thursday in Brandon. . . . In Red Deer tonight.
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B.C. DIVISION:
1. Kelowna (1) trails Brandon by two points in the race for first place in the overall standings. The first tiebreaker is victories and they are tied, at 52. . . . The second tiebreaker is points in the season series; each team has two. . . . The third tiebreakers is the ratio in goals-for and goals-against. Kelowna is plus-119; Brandon is plus-114. . . . The Rockets are at home to Vancouver tonight.
2. Victoria (1) will finish second and meet Prince George in the first round. . . . That series opens Friday in Victoria. . . . The Royals are in Everett tonight.
3. Prince George (1) beat visiting Kamloops last night to clinch third place. . . . The Cougars will open a first-round series in Victoria on Friday. The Cougars were 3-3-2 in the season series; the Royals were 5-3-0. . . . Prince George is in Kamloops tonight.
4. Kamloops (1) can’t finish third in the division, but still could end up in the conference’s second wild-card spot. It is two points behind Tri-City (2). In order to force a play-in game, the Blazers need to beat visiting Prince George tonight and needs the Americans to lose in regulation tonight in Spokane and again Sunday at Portland. . . . Should that scenario play out, the Blazers and Americans would have a play-in game in Kennewick, Wash., likely on Tuesday. . . . Kamloops, which didn’t make the playoffs last season, has never been on the outside looking in two seasons in a row.
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U.S. DIVISION:
1. Everett (2) has a two-point lead over Portland. . . . At home to Victoria tonight.
1. Portland (2) trails Everett by two points. . . . Each team has 42 victories. . . . Visits Seattle tonight.
3. Seattle (1) will finish third in the division, so will meet the second-place team in the first round. . . . At home to Portland tonight.
4. Spokane (2) is locked into the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Visits Tri-City tonight.
5. Tri-City (2) holds the conference’s second wild-card spot, two points ahead of Kamloops. . . . The team that finishes in that spot gets Kelowna in the first round. . . . The Americans are at home to Spokane tonight.
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IF THE WHL PLAYOFFS BEGAN TODAY:

Eastern Conference
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Calgary vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Medicine Hat vs. Red Deer
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Western Conference
Kelowna vs. Tri-City/Kamloops
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Seattle
(NOTE: Team with home-ice advantage shown first.)
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FRIDAY’S GAMES:

In Edmonton, F Riley Sheen scored two goals and set up another as the Red Deer Rebels beat the Oil Kings, 6-2. . . . Attendance on Fan Appreciation Night was announced at 16,104, the third-largest in franchise history. . . . Sheen has 24 goals. . . . Red Deer D Nelson Nogier broke a 2-2 tie with his third goal at 3:30 of the third period. . . . Rebels F Wyatt Johnson upped the lead to 4-2 with his 25th goal, shorthanded, at 7:43. . . . F Brooks Maxwell scored his 27th goal, also shorthanded, and added two assists for Red Deer, while F Scott Feser scored his 17th goal and had an assist. . . . The Oil Kings got two assists from each of F Andrew Koep and D Ashton Sautner. . . . Edmonton was 1-for-7 on the PP; Red Deer was 0-for-1. . . . The Rebels (38-22-11) are 1-1-1 in their last three. . . . The Oil Kings (33-31-7) have lost two in a row. . . . The teams meet again tonight, this time in Red Deer. The Rebels expect to have F Conner Bleackley, their captain, in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 6. . . . Brian Swane of the Edmonton Sun has a game story right here. . . .

In Regina, F Kris Schmidli scored the only goal of a three-round shootout to give the Prince Albert Raiders a 5-4 victory over the Pats. . . . The Raiders trailed 3-1 in the second period and 4-2 with less than five minutes to play in the third period. . . . D Brendan Guhle scored his fifth goal at 15:17 of the third period and Schmidli tied it at 18:37 with his 12th. . . . F Jayden Hart had two assists for the Raiders, who got 33 saves from G Nick McBride. . . . Regina D Colby Williams, who was named the team’s player of the year prior to the game, scored his 11th goal and added two assists, while F Taylor Cooper also had two assists. . . . Pats G Daniel Wapple stopped 42 shots. . . . The Raiders were 1-for-7 on the PP; the Pats were 1-for-4. . . . The Raiders (30-37-4) won’t make the playoffs. . . . The Pats (37-24-10) have lost three in a row (0-2-1). . . .

In Moose Jaw, F Jack Rodewald and F Jesse Shynkaruk scored shootout goals to give the Warriors a 7-6 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . The Wheat Kings held a 3-1 lead early in the second period when the Warriors exploded for three goals in 28 seconds. F Tanner Eberle got his 33rd goal at 4:43; F Jayden Halbgewachs scored his fourth at 5:04; F Axel Blomqvist got No. 25 at 5:11. . . . Brandon D Kale Clague tied it with his third goal at 14:13. . . . The Warriors took the lead on Rodewald’s 34th goal 23 seconds into the third period. . . . F Nolan Patrick pulled Brandon back even with his 29th goal at 1:20. . . . F Brett Howden put Moose Jaw back in front with his 22nd goal at 1:47. . . . Brandon D Macoy Erkamps scored his second goal, at 7:05, to force OT. . . . Brandon G Alex Moodie stopped 25 shots, five fewer than Moose Jaw’s Zach Sawchenko. . . . Warriors F Brayden Point scored his 37th goal and added two assists. Eberle also had two assists. . . . F Braylon Shmyr scored twice for Brandon, giving him 18, while F John Quenneville and F Morgan Klimchuk each had two assists. . . . Moose Jaw was 0-for-4 on the PP; Brandon was 0-for-1. . . . Moose Jaw F Jaimen Yakubowski, 20, had shoulder surgery Friday, so his WHL career is over. . . . The Warriors (32-34-5) have won three in a row. . . . Brandon (52-11-8) had won its previous five games. . . . Matthew Gourlie of the Moose Jaw Times-Herald has a game story right here. . . .

In Cranbrook, Calgary G Brendan Burke stopped 29 shots to help the Hitmen to a 2-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Calgary D Loch Morrison scored his fourth goal at 9:19 of the second period and F Jordy Stallard got his fifth at 14:57 as the visitors went ahead 2-0. . . . Ice F Tim Bozon got his 35th goal at 14:36 of the third, on a PP. . . . Ice G Wyatt Hoflin stopped 29 shots. . . . The Ice was 1-for-4 on the PP; the Hitmen were 0-for-1. . . . The Hitmen (44-22-5) have won four in a row. . . . The Ice (37-30-4) had a four-game winning streak end. . . . Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman has a game story right here. . . .

BroncosIn Lethbridge, F Jake DeBrusk scored three goals and added an assist to lead the Swift Current Broncos to a 5-3 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . Lethbridge took a 2-0 lead after the first period, only to have the Broncus score the next five goals, four of them in the second period. . . . DeBrusk, who has 42 goals, gave his side a 3-2 lead with his second goal at 7:56 of the second. . . . Broncos F Colby Cave had two assists. . . . F Giorgio Estephan scored his 23rd goal for the Hurricanes. . . . Broncos G Landon Bow was key, with 43 saves, 10 more than Lethbridge’s Stuart Skinner. . . . The Broncos were 1-for-2 on the PP; the Hurricane’s PP unit never got on the ice. . . . The Broncos (33-33-5) had lost their previous game. . . . The Hurricanes (20-43-8) have lost seven in a row. . . .

In Saskatoon, F Chad Butcher broke a 1-1 tie at 16:55 of the second period and the Medicine Hat Tigers went on to a 3-1 victory over the Blades. . . . They’ll play again tonight in the last regular-season game in the history of the Medicine Hat Arena. . . . Butcher, who missed a chunk of the season with a concussion, has 20 goals. . . . F Dryden Hunt scored his 33rd goal, on a PP, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead at 15:40 of the first period. . . . F Nick Zajac tied it with his 11th goal at 17:47. . . . Tigers F Trevor Cox provided insurance with his 28th goal at 17:49 of the second. . . . Medicine Hat F Matt Bradley left in the first period with an undisclosed injury. . . . Tigers G Marek Langhamer stopped 21 shots, 23 fewer than Brock Hamm of the Blades. . . . The Blades scratched D Brycen Martin with an undisclosed injury. . . . Saskatoon also scratched G Nik Amundrud (groin), The Blades had Joel Grzybowski on the bench. An 11th round pick in the 2014 bantam draft, he played for the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers but has yet to sign with the Blades. . . . Attendance was announced as 8,929 and the 50-50 draw was worth $60,207.50. It was claimed by Ross and Carly Wiebe, who are father and daughter. Merry Christmas to them! . . . The Tigers (44-23-4) are 3-0-1 in their last four games. . . . The Blades (19-48-4) have lost eight straight. . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has a game story right here. . . .

In Prince George, G Ty Edmonds turned aside 36 shots to lead the Cougars to a 3-1 victory over the Kamloops Blazers. . . . The 4,570 fans in attendance gave the Cougars a standing ovation at game’s end after they had clinched their first playoff spot since the spring of 2011. . . . F David Soltes gave the Cougars a 1-0 lead with his 13th goal at 2:01 of the second period. . . . F Kody McDonald upped that to 2-0 with his ninth goal 35 seconds into the third. . . . Kamloops F Cole Ully scored his 34th goal at 8:22. . . . Cougars F Colby McAuley added insurance with his fifth goal at 18:28. . . . Kamloops G Connor Ingram stopped 38 shots. . . . The Cougars were 0-for-6 on the PP; the Blazers were 0-for-3. . . . The Cougars (31-35-5) have won three in a row. . . . The Blazers (27-37-7) have lost three straight. . . . Prince George is in Kamloops tonight. The Cougars are 5-2-0 against the Blazers; the Blazers are 2-4-1 against the Cougars. . . .

In Spokane, F Ryan Gropp struck four times to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 7-2 victory over the Chiefs. . . . Gropp, who has 28 goals, scored once in the first period and three times in the third when Seattle struck five times. . . . F Mathew Barzal had three assists for the Thunderbirds. . . . F Adam Helewka scored his 42nd goal for Spokane. . . . Seattle G Taran Kozun stopped 29 shots. . . . Seattle D Sahvan Khaira took a kneeing major and game misconduct at 5:12 of the second period. The Chiefs weren’t able to score on the five-minute PP. . . . Spokane was 0-for-3 on the PP; the Thunderbirds were 0-for-2. . . . The Chiefs had F Hudson Elyniuk back in their lineup. He hadn’t played since Dec. 28. . . . “For me, we weren't committed,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur told Chris Derrick of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “I mean, it looked to me, and it was apparent with the end result, that you're not going to win games unless you outwork the other team and we got outworked in everything we did. We were second to every puck and that was the choice we made. We chose not to play the game the right way and those are the results you get when you play like that.” . . . The Thunderbirds (37-25-9) have won three in a row. . . . The Chiefs (34-32-4) have dropped three straight. . . .

In Kennewick, Wash., G Eric Comrie turned aside 43 shots to lead the Tri-City Americans to a 4-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Tri-City F Tyler Sandhu broke a 2-2 tie with his second goal of the game, and 16th of the season, at 10:15 of the third period. . . . F Beau McCue added his 26th goal, into an empty net, at 18:46. . . . The Americans got two assists from each of F Jordan Topping and F Richard Nejezchleb. . . . F Miles Koules scored his 27th goal and added an assist for Portland. . . . G Adin Hill stopped 29 shots for the Winterhawks. . . . Tri-City is 1-8-0 against Portland this season. . . . The Americans (30-37-3) had lost their previous two games. . . . The Winterhawks (42-22-6) had been 2-0-1 in their previous three games. . . .

In Victoria, the Everett Silvertips erased a 2-1 deficit with three straight goals and beat the Royals, 4-3. . . . F Austin Carroll’s 38th goal of the season gave the Royals a 2-1 lead at 12:38 of the second period. . . . Everett F Brayden Low tied it with his 15th at 14:45 and F Remi Laurencelle, who had two assists, got No. 22 at 17:02 to give the visitors the lead. . . . D Noah Juulsen got his eighth goal at 10:27 of the third period. . . . Victoria F Tyler Soy got his guys to within one with his 28th at 15:01. . . . F Nikita Scherbak had two assists for the Silvertips. . . . Everett G Carter Hart stopped 18 shots, six fewer than Victoria’s Coleman Vollrath. . . . Everett was 1-for-2 on the PP; Victoria was 1-for-3. . . . The Silvertips (42-20-8) are 2-0-1 in their last three. . . . The Royals (38-29-4) have lost two in a row. . . .

In Vancouver, D Madison Bowey scored on the PP at 1:05 of OT to give the Kelowna Rockets a 4-3 victory over the Giants. . . . The Giants’ playoff hopes had ended a few minutes earlier when the host Tri-City Americans beat the Portland Winterhawks, 4-2. . . . Bowey, who also had an assist, has 17 goals. . . . Kelowna F Leon Draisaitl forced OT with his 17th goal, on a PP, at 15:54 of the third period. . . . Draisaitl also had three assists. . . . Giants F Dawson Holt, playing in his second WHL game, scored his first goal to pull the Giants into a 2-2 tie at 2:59 of the third. . . . The Giants took a 3-2 lead on F Alex Baer’s 13th goal at 10:14, via a PP. . . . Vancouver D Brennan Menell had two assists. . . . Attendance on Fan Appreciation Night was 11,644. . . . The Rockets are 7-0-0 against the Giants this season. . . . Kelowna was 3-for-5 on the PP; Vancouver was 2-for-5. . . . Kelowna G Michael Herringer, who is 5-0-0 against the Giants, stopped 23 shots. . . . Vancouver G Cody Porter made 22 saves. . . . Kelowna D Josh Morrissey is in a walking boot and isn’t expected to be ready for the opening round of the playoffs. He hasn’t played since Feb. 28. . . . This game was televised by Sportsnet and intermission panellists John Shannon and Todd Warriner were all over the Rockets for what they perceive as a lack of veteran leadership. They were echoing the comments made by owner/GM Bruce Hamilton in the Kelowna Daily Courier earlier in the week. . . . The Rockets (52-13-6) are 2-0-1 in their last three games. . . . The Giants are 27-40-4.
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SATURDAY’S GAMES

(all times local)
Moose Jaw at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Lethbridge at Swift Current, 7 p.m.
Regina at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Prince George at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Spokane vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Vancouver at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Portland vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Victoria at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
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SUNDAY’S GAMES

(all times local)
Kootenay at Calgary, 2 p.m.
Tri-City at Portland, 5 p.m.
Everett at Spokane 5:05 p.m.
END OF REGULAR SEASON
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