Thursday, April 23, 2015

Conference finals open tonight . . . Pucklandia rocks . . . Giants' prospect staying home


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THURSDAY’S GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.
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BRANDON VS. CALGARY: These teams are meeting in the playoffs for the sixth time in 11 seasons. . . . They last clashed in the spring of 2012 with the Wheat Kings winning a first-round series in five games. . . . Brandon F Jayce Hawryluk, who sat out the last three games of the second round, is back skating and could play tonight. . . . Brandon D Colton Waltz and F Rihards Bukarts of the Wheat Kings, both of whom went down in Game against Regina, should be available tonight. Both resumed skating on Monday. . . . Brandon F Reid Duke, injured in Game 5 against Regina, isn’t skating yet. . . . The Hitmen were missing F Chase Lang when the second-round ended, while F Adam Tambellini, who leads the post-season points race, and F Connor Rankin had missed time with undisclosed injuries. . . . The Wheat Kings will open with Jordan Papirny in goal; the Hitmen likely will start Mack Shields. . . . Shaw TV will be on the air tonight from Brandon. In fact, it will show the entire Eastern Conference final between the Wheat Kings and Calgary Hitmen. You’ll have Dan Russell calling the play, with analysis by Bill Wilms. Andy Neal will be the host. . . . F Morgan Klimchuk of the Wheat Kings is from Calgary and his NHL rights belong to the Calgary Flames. Yes, he is looking forward to playing the Hitmen. Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun has more right here. ——
KELOWNA VS. PORTLAND: The Winterhawks are in their fifth straight conference final. One year ago, they took out the Rockets in five games. The Rockets were without F Myles Bell, their leading scorer, for that series. . . . This time, both teams appear healthy. Of course, this being the playoffs, we won’t know for sure until lineups are posted. . . . Dan Lambert, in his first season as Kelowna’s head coach after five seasons as an assistant, has been on the losing side of three series with Portland, including 2011 and 2012. . . . Despite rumbling to the contrary, G Jackson Whistle will open for the Rockets, while the Winterhawks, as expected, will counter with Adin Hill. Lambert actually told Whistle on Saturday that he would be starting Game 1. . . . Whistle has put up three shutouts in these playoffs. . . . The teams haven’t played each other since Nov. 21 and 22, so you can forget about trying to read anything into the season series.
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I made a return appearance on the Pucklandia podcast on Thursday evening. If you’ve got some time, feel free to give it a listen. It’s just two guys sitting around and talking all things WHL. . . . It’s right here.
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The WHL announced its conference nominees for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as its outstanding player this season. It’ll be either F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks or F Tim McGauley of the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Bjorkstrand, who turned 20 on April 10, led the WHL in goals (63) and points (118). He was a third-round selection by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the NHL’s 2013 draft. . . . McGauley, who will be 20 on July 23, finished third in the scoring race with 105 points, including 42 goals. . . . McGauley is eligible for the NHL’s 2015 draft. . . . We’ll find out who wins the award when the WHL holds its awards ceremony in Calgary on May 6.
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The Prince Albert Raiders announced the signing of head coach Marc Habscheid to a four-year contract this week. But they have yet to announce whether general manager Bruno Campese will be back. What’s up with that? . . . Daniel Nugent-Bowman of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has that story right here.
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Dennis Coates, a longtime Kamloops lawyer who helped keep junior hockey in Kamloops back in the day, is involved in a lawsuit over a 1926 Model T. . . . Coates was a shareholder when the Junior Oilers/Blazers were community-owned and today is a director with the Kamloops Blazers Sports Society’s sports legacy fund. He received the WHL’s Distinguished Service Award in 2014. . . . Tim Petruk of Kamloops This Week has more on the lawsuit right here.
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“Depression and anxiety are the worst kept secrets in professional sports,” writes Hayley Wickenheiser, perhaps the greatest female hockey player in history, at The Players’ Tribune. “In every locker room across the NHL, there are guys who are struggling with the fear of everything — the fear of a bad shift, the fear of pissing off their coach, the fear of getting traded or cut and letting down their family. What also happens in every locker room is that there are teammates, trainers and staff who stay silent too long when a guy struggles.” . . . Wickenheiser was friends with the late Steve Montador and she pours out her heart in this piece right here. . . . At one point, she writes: “We need to do more. The entire hockey community, including league officials, teammates, coaches, trainers, the NHLPA, and the hundreds of former players out there, need to come together and solidify a comprehensive support system for those struggling with depression, anxiety and the aimlessness that comes with finding a second life after hockey. Not in the future. Not next season. Right now.” . . . She’s right!
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F Owen Hardy has decided to play next season with the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers. Hardy, who is from Nanaimo, was selected by the Vancouver Giants with the 42nd overall pick in the WHL’s 2014 bantam draft. . . . "I knew the coach (Mike Vandekamp) and I liked him very much," Hardy told Scott McKenzie of the Nanaimo Daily News. "I didn't really know who the Giants coach was going to be, so it just seemed like the safer place to go, and it seemed like a very good place to go just from practicing and being with the team all year.” . . . Hardy played this season with Nanaimo’s major midget team. . . . McKenzie’s story is right here.
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From the Prince Albert Daily Herald: “Former Prince Albert Raiders goalie Travis Laycock has been honoured for saving two lives. Brad Wall presented Laycock and seven others with the Saskatchewan Premier’s Commendation Award in Regina on Tuesday to honour the individuals’ various courageous actions. Last July, Laycock jumped into a slough near Bruno to save a couple whose car had gone into the water. Laycock, 43, was a goalie with the Raiders from 1989-92.”
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The SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings held their AGM on Wednesday. Earlier this season, they had announced that they were close to $200,000 in debut and in danger of not answering the bell for 2015-16. At the AGM, it was revealed that the debut has been reduced to about $70,000. Ticket sales increased by about $80,000 after the team went public with its problems in January.
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