Sunday, March 22, 2015

Did it work to fire coaches? . . . Bjorkstrand wins scoring title . . . Hitmen top Central Division



Three WHL teams — the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Prince Albert Raiders and Vancouver Giants — made coaching changes during the WHL regular season that wrapped up on Sunday.
How did it work out? Well, not one of those teams qualified for the playoffs.
The Hurricanes were 6-19-4 when they fired head coach Drake Berehowsky. Shortly thereafter, they also dumped general manager Brad Robson. They then brought in Peter Anholt as GM/head coach. Under Anholt, they went 14-25-4. Their overall record (20-44-8) means they missed the playoffs for a sixth straight season. It seems likely that Anholt will return as general manager, but that the Hurricanes will hire a new head coach.
The Raiders fired Cory Clouston when they were 6-9-0. Associate coach Dave Manson went 1-0-0 before Marc Habscheid was hired as head coach. Under Habscheid, the Raiders went 24-28-4. Their 31-37-4 record left them fifth in the East Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. There is speculation that Raiders general manager Bruno Campese won’t be back. He has been in Prince Albert, as either head coach or GM, since 2007. Perhaps Habscheid, who signed on only through the end of this season, ends up as GM and head coach.
The Giants tossed Troy Ward overboard with a 9-16-0 record. Assistant coach Matt Erhart went 1-2-0 before Claude Noel came on board. Under Noel, the Giants were 17-23-4. They finished fifth in the B.C. Division and 10th in the Western Conference. That left them on the outside looking in for the second time in three seasons. Noel isn’t expected to return, meaning majority owner Ron Toigo and GM Scott Bonner will spend a second straight offseason looking for a coach.
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Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province takes a look right here at what went wrong with the Giants, a team that scored only 189 goals, the lowest total in franchise history. That came after management talked about moving from a grinding, forechecking style to one that emphasized skating and puck possession.
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BJORKSTRAND
F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118), all in 59 games. He is the first Portland player to win the scoring title since F Brendan Leipsic and F Nic Petan tied with 120 points in 2012-13. . . . Leipsic led the WHL with 49 goals that season. . . . This season, Medicine Hat Tigers F Cole Sanford (apologies for having referred to him as Curtis in past posts) was second in goals, with 50 in 72 games. . . . Medicine Hat F Trevor Cox was No. 1 in assists, with 80 in 69 games. Petan was second, with 74 in 54 games. . . .
D Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings led all freshmen in assists (46) and points (61), all in 60 games. . . . Brandon F Nolan Patrick was tops in goals (30), in 55 games. . . . Spokane F Kailer Yamamoto had 57 points in 67 games, while Patrick put up 56. . . . Regina Pats F Sam Steel had 54 points, including 37 assists, in 61 games. . . .
Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen scored one goal Sunday afternoon, allowing him to lead all defencemen in points (65). He finished with one more than Joe Hicketts of the Victoria Royals. . . . Victoria D Travis Brown led all defencemen in goals (18), one more than Madison Bowey of the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Spokane’s Jason Fram was tops in assists (53), one more than Hicketts. . . .
Among goaltenders, Brandon’s Jordan Papirny had the most victories (44), eight more than Wyatt Hoflin of the Kootenay Ice. . . . Evan Sarthou of the Tri-City Americans and Landon Bow of the Swift Current Broncos each had seven shutouts, one more than Victoria’s Coleman Vollrath. . . . Carter Hart of Everett had the best GAA (2.29), with Taran Kozun of the Seattle Thunderbirds next (2.41). . . . The best save percentage (.921) belonged to Portland’s Adin Hill, ahead of Hart and Kozun (.915).
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Here are the WHL’s playoff pairings:
Eastern Conference
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Medicine Hat vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Calgary vs. Red Deer
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Western Conference
Kelowna vs. Tri-City
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Seattle
(Didn’t make it: Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kamloops, Vancouver.)
(NOTE: Team with home-ice advantage shown first.)
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Here are the playoff pairings had the WHL used a divisional format:
Brandon vs. Moose Jaw
Regina vs. Swift Current
Medicine Hat vs. Kootenay
Calgary vs. Red Deer
Kelowna vs. Kamloops
Victoria vs. Prince George
Everett vs. Spokane
Portland vs. Seattle
(Wouldn’t have made it: Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Vancouver, Tri-City.)
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Here are the playoff pairings had the WHL used a conference format:
Brandon vs. Swift Current
Medicine Hat vs. Edmonton
Calgary Hat vs. Kootenay
Red Deer vs. Regina
Kelowna vs. Tri-City
Everett vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Spokane
Seattle vs. Victoria
(Wouldn’t have made it: Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kamloops, Vancouver.)
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F Adam Musil of the Red Deer Rebels suffered an apparent ankle injury during a 3-2 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Saturday night. Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate reports that Musil is to undergo an MRI today. . . .
Ralph Zander, who has worked with the Calgary Hitmen since they arrived in the Alberta city in 1996, has been honoured with a WHL Distinguished Service Award. He has helped the Hitmen out by selling tickets, working as an off-ice official, scorekeeping and compiling statistics. He and his wife, Karen, also have billeted players for 20 years.
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SUNDAY’S GAMES:

In Calgary, the Hitmen won their seventh Central Division banner with a 3-2 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . The same teams will open a first-round playoff series in Calgary on Friday night. . . . The Hitmen were 4-2-1 in the season series; the Ice was 3-4-0. . . . Calgary’s victory means the Medicine Hat Tigers finished second in the division. They draw the Red Deer Rebels in the opening round. That series opens Saturday in Medicine Hat. . . . On Sunday, Calgary D Travis Sanheim broke a 2-2 tie with his 15th goal at 15:43 of the third period. . . . F Levi Cable gave the Ice a 1-0 lead with his 28th goal at 3:15 of the second period. . . . Calgary F Kenton Helgesen got No. 21 at 12:41, on a PP. . . . Calgary took the lead on F Jody Stallard’s sixth goal at 1:43 of the third. . . . Ice F Sam Reinhart tied it with his 19th goal at 9:16. . . . Calgary G Brendan Burke stopped 23 shots; two fewer than the Ice’s Wyatt Hoflin. . . . Calgary was 1-for-5 on the PP; Kootenay was 0-for-3. . . . Calgary (45-22-5) has won five in a row. . . . Kootenay (37-31-4) has lost two in a row, both against Calgary. . . .

In Portland, F Oliver Bjorkstrand scored two goals and added an assist, leading the Winterhawks to a 5-3 victory over the Tri-City Americans. . . . Bjorkstrand led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118). . . . Portland F Chase De Leo broke a 2-2 tie with his 39th goal at 12:06 of the third period. . . . F Nic Petan added his 15th, into an empty net, at 18:54. . . . Tri-City F Max James then scored his fifth, on a PP, at 19:17 to get the Americans to within one. . . . Bjorkstrand wrapped it up with an empty-netter at 19:41. . . . Tri-City F Richard Nejezchleb scored his 20th goal. . . . Portland G Evan Johnson stopped 18 shots, while Tri-City’s Evan Sarthou turned aside 49. . . . The Winterhawks (43-23-6) had lost their previous two games. . . . The Americans (31-38-3) had won their previous two games. . . .

In Spokane, G Austin Lotz stopped 39 shots to help the Everett Silvertips to a 5-4 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . These two teams will open a first-round series in Everett on Friday. . . . The Silvertips snapped a 2-2 tie with three goals in the first 15:13 of the third period. . . . D Noah Juulsen got his ninth goal at 3:35. F Jake Mykitiuk got his fourth, on a PP, at 11:19. F Brayden Low scored No. 16 at 15:13. . . . The Chiefs got close with two late goals as F Riley Whittingham scored his 19th and F Adam Helewka got No. 44. . . . Everett F Gunnar Wegleitner scored his first WHL goal in his 43rd game. . . . F Logan Aasman, D Cole MacDonald and D Kevin Davis each had two assists for Everett. . . . Helewka finished with two goals and an assist for Spokane, while F Hudson Elyniuk had two assists. . . . Everett scratched F Kohl Bauml, D Ben Betker, F Nikita Scherbak and F Carson Stadnyk, while dressing D Alex Astasiewicz, 16, D Jantzen Leslie, 15, and F Bryce Kindopp, 15. . . . Astasiewicz made his WHL debut. Leslie played in his sixth game; Kindopp was in his third. . . . Among the Chiefs scratches were F Liam Stewart, D Jason Fram and F Calder Brooks. . . . Everett (43-20-9) has points in five straight (3-0-2). . . . The Chiefs (34-34-4) have lost five in a row.
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