Sunday, November 27, 2016

Hay: Cunningham 'special person' . . . Steinke checks on Tigers . . . Oil Kings end trip with win


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Don Hay’s face lights up and there’s a glint in his eyes when you ask him about his relationship with Craig Cunningham.
And then Hay’s face settles into something that reminds you of a father thinking of a son or a grandfather a grandson.
Cunningham played five seasons in the WHL, totalling 409 regular-season and playoff games, all but 56 of them with the Hay-coached Vancouver Giants.
Cunningham is in critical but stable condition in Banner University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.,
CRAIG CUNNINGHAM
although he has yet to regain consciousness after collapsing on the ice prior to an AHL game between the host Roadrunners and Manitoba Moose on Sept. 19.
Cunningham, 26, was the captain of the Roadrunners, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. He had put up 13 points, including four goals, in 11 games.
The fact that he also captained the two other AHL teams on which he has played — the Springfield Falcons and Providence Bruins — tells you a lot about Cunningham’s character. Yes, he also captained Hay’s Giants.
“I had him since he was 15 at training camp,” Hay said. From Trail, B.C., Cunningham was a seventh-round pick by the Giants in the WHL’s 2005 bantam draft. Of course, he wasn’t eligible to play full-time in the WHL in 2005-06 and, according to Hay, wasn’t expected to play with the Giants the following season.
“At 16,” Hay said, “he wasn’t in our plans.”
Before training camp started, prior to the 2006-07 season, the Giants had three other 16-year-olds ahead of Cunningham — forwards Lance Bouma, Wacey Hamilton and James Wright. However, Hamilton, who is from Cochrane, Alta., wanted to play closer to home and subsequently was traded to the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Craig was the next guy on the list,” Hay said. “He didn’t score as a 16-year-old (Cunningham managed five assists in 48 games), but he did everything right and he was such a coachable guy.
“At 19, he was one of our top scorers. At 20, he was our captain.”
In his 19-year-old season, Cunningham finished with 97 points, 37 of them goals, and was the Western
Don Hay (left) coached the Vancouver Giants while
Craig Cunningham played there.

(Photo: Vancouver Giants)
Conference’s nominee as the WHL’s player of the year.
Hay calls those 16-year-olds “a special bunch.”
The Giants won 45 regular-season games in 2006-07, with that special bunch. They lost the WHL championship in seven games to the Medicine Hat Tigers, but went on to win the Memorial Cup as the host team.
Over the following three seasons, Vancouver won 49, 57 and 41 regular-season games. Although another title eluded them, they played in 43 playoff games through those three seasons.
“When we were able to win,” Hay said, “all they knew was winning and they knew how hard they had to work to win.”
On Dec. 28, 2010, the Giants dealt the 20-year-old Cunningham to the Portland Winterhawks for forwards Spencer Bennett and Teal Burns, a 2011 first-round draft pick and a second-rounder in 2012. (The Giants used that first-rounder on F Thomas Foster; they took F Jesse Roach with the 2012 pick.)
In the spring of 2011, the Winterhawks lost in the WHL’s championship final. It was the first of their four straight appearances in the final.
“It’s why Portland wanted (Cunningham),” Hay said. “He taught guys like (Nic) Petan how to win.”
Hay has kept in touch with Cunningham, talking to him “over the summers.”
The veteran coach said he was “shocked” when he heard that Cunningham had collapsed and been taken to hospital.
“It’s different when you have feeling for someone,” Hay said. “I know his life and how hard he has had to work to get to where he is.
“He is just a special person.”

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The Kelowna Rockets dressed only 16 skaters, including 10 forwards, on Saturday night when they beat the visiting Regina Pats, 3-2 in overtime. The Rockets scratched two injured players — F Riley Stadel,
who is out with an undisclosed injury, and D Gordie Ballhorn, who is believed to have injured a hand in a fight with F Jack Walker of the Victoria Royals earlier this month. Also scratched were F Jake Kryski, F Jack Cowell and F Conner Bruggen-Cate.
I am told that Kelowna head coach Jason Smith was asked after Saturday’s game if the players who weren’t dressed all were injured and he chose not to comment, other than to say it was a hockey decision.
Kryski, 18, now has missed three straight games — he last played on Nov. 18 in a 5-3 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants — but wasn’t listed as being injured on the WHL’s Nov. 22 roster report. He sat out a doubleheader in Victoria as the Rockets beat the Royals 5-1 on Nov. 20 and then lost 6-2 on Nov. 22.
Kryski had 14 points, including five goals, in 20 games. In his last eight games, he had two goals and five assists.
Kryski was selected 13th overall by the Prince Albert Raiders in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. He was traded to the Kamloops Blazers and they moved him to the Rockets 
The Rockets acquired him from the Kamloops Blazers on Aug. 18, giving up D Joe Gatenby, D Danny Gatenby — yes, they are brothers — and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft.
When I inquired Sunday night about Kryski’s status, a Rockets official replied with: “No comment.”
Kelowna next is scheduled to play Wednesday when it is to visit the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash.
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While many observers were watching the Everett Silvertips, Prince George Cougars and Regina Pats dance around at the top of the WHL standings, the Medicine Hat Tigers skated past them all. . . . Yes, the Tigers are atop the 22-team WHL’s overall standings, which is what can happen when a team goes on a nine-game winning streak. . . . The Tigers ran that streak to nine with an 8-2 victory over the host Saskatoon Blades on Saturday night. . . . Darren Steinke has more on the Tigers and their success right here.
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Meanwhile, the Prince George Cougars are in their third season under new ownership and, yes, things are going pretty well. Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen talks with Greg Pocock, the franchise’s president, about what has gone right. And, as Clarke points out, you can’t discount the drafting done by former general manager Dallas Thompson. That’s all right here.
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SUNDAY’S GAMES:


At Cranbrook, B.C., F Lane Bauer broke a 2-2 tie at 15:47 of the second period and the Edmonton Oil Kings went on to post a 5-3 victory over the Kootenay Ice. . . . Both teams had played Saturday night and
LANE BAUER
this game started at 4 p.m. The Oil Kings were coming off a 6-5 victory over the Chiefs in Spokane, while the Ice lost 4-3 to the visiting Swift Current Broncos. . . . Edmonton (12-13-2) has won two in a row to finish off a stretch of seven road games in seven days. The Oil Kings won four of those games. . . . The Ice (5-16-6) has lost three straight. . . . Kootenay F Zak Zborosky became the WHL’s third 20-goal man when he scored on a PP at 6:30 of the first period. . . . Edmonton took the lead on goals from F Colton Kehler (7) at 8:11 and F Kobe Mohr (5) at 10:15. . . . Kootenay D Cale Fleury (6) tied it at 13:53 of the second period. . . . Bauer then scored two straight PP goals, giving him 16. He broke the tie at 15:47 of the second and added insurance at 8:01 of the third period. . . . Oil Kings F Tyler Robertson (9), who had two assists, added insurance with another PP goal at 11:12. . . . Ice D Fedor Rudakov (3) closed out the scoring at 18:48. . . . Edmonton D Aaron Irving had two assists, while Mohr added one to his goal. . . . Zborosky also had an assist for the Ice. Zborosky, F Michael Rasmussen of the Tri-City Americans and F Tyler Steenbergen of the Swift Current Broncos are tied for the WHL goal-scoring lead, each with 20 scores. . . . Edmonton G Josh Dechaine stopped 36 shots to earn his first victory in his first WHL start. An 18-year-old from St. Albert, Alta., he had been with the SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves  until joining the Oil Kings a couple of weeks ago after G Liam Hughes went down with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Ice got 34 saves from G Payton Lee. . . . The Oil Kings were 3-8 on the PP; the Ice was 1-5. . . . Ice D Troy Murray left with a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct for a hit on Edmonton F Artyom Baltruk at 11:46 of the third period. . . . Announced attendance: 1,499, the smallest crowd in Cranbrook this season.
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At Portland, freshman F Brad Ginnell, who has some WHL in his blood, broke a 3-3 tie at 13:54 of the third period and the Winterhawks went on to a 6-3 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . This was
BRAD GINNELL
an afternoon game, with a 2 o’clock faceoff. The Cougars had played Saturday night, losing 3-0 to the host Everett Silvertips, while the Winterhawks enjoyed a night off. . . . Portland (13-12-1) now has points in six straight (5-0-1). . . . The Cougars (18-6-2) have lost two in a row. . . . The late Pat (Patty) Ginnell, the legendary coach, was Brad’s grandfather. Brad’s father, Erin, scouts for the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and played in the WHL with the New Westminster Bruins, Calgary Wranglers, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Swift Current Broncos (1985-87). . . . Brad was a fifth-round pick by Portland in the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Ginnell’s second goal of the season was his first game-winner. . . . Portland F Joachim Blichfeld (9) opened the scoring at 8:21 of the first period, only to have Prince George D Brendan Guhle (4) tie it on a PP at 13:35. . . . The Winterhawks then took a 3-1 lead as D Henri Jokiharju (2) scored at 6:09 of the second period and F Cody Glass got his 13th, on a PP, at 12:15. . . . F Colby McAuley (11) followed with two goals, at 15:50 of the second and 11:54 of the third. . . . After Ginnell snapped the tie, F Brendan De Jong (5) added insurance at 14:40 and D Keoni Texeira (7) got the empty-netter, at 18:27. . . . Portland got two assists from F Jake Gricius, while Jokiharju added an assist to his goal. . . . F Aaron Boyd had two assists for the Cougars. . . . The Winterhawks got 39 saves from G Cole Kehler, while Nick McBride turned aside 27 for the Cougars. . . . The Winterhawks were 1-3 on the PP; the Cougars were 1-5. . . . D Sam Ruopp of the Cougars, who is their captain, served the final game of an eight-game suspension. . . . Announced attendance: 3,164.
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MONDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

No Games Scheduled.
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TUESDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Prince Albert at Medicine Hat, 7 p.m.
Prince George at Vancouver, 7 p.m.

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