Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ice close to new ownership? . . . Mumps not finished with WHL yet . . . Hitmen grab last playoff spot

F Kyle Beach (Everett, Lethbridge, Spokane, 2005-10) has signed a two-year contract with Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with the Graz 99ers (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had a team-high 30 goals, along with 15 assists, in 54 games. . . .
F Brandon Kozun (Calgary, 2006-10) has signed a one-year extension with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Russia, KHL). He led the team in scoring this season, with 56 points, 23 of them goals, in 59 games. Kozun was named the KHL’s forward of the week three times in the regular season and once during the playoffs.

Guy Flaming, the host of The PipeCast and the analyst on Edmonton Oil Kings broadcasts, tweeted Friday evening that the Kootenay Ice franchise was “very close” to being sold to “the local group in Cranbrook.”
That group is believed to include Colin Sinclair, a former Ice captain who has a business degree and an MBA. Among other things, he is the controller and co-founder of Spartan Scaffolding Ltd., a Cranbrook-based business.
A native of Brooks, Alta., Sinclair, 35, played five seasons (1998-2003) with the Ice. He attended the U of New Brunswick for four years, before going on to a brief professional career.
When news of this group first surfaced early this season, it was believed to also included two former WHL/NHL defencemen — Robyn Regehr and Rhett Warrener. Regehr spent three seasons with the Kamloops Blazers; Warrener played three seasons with the Saskatoon Blades. Regehr and Warrener were teammates with the NHL’s Calgary Flames from 2003-08.
The Ice played its final home game last night, losing 6-1 to the Calgary Hitmen before 2,139 fans. According to figures compiled by the WHL, the Ice averaged 1,754 fans per game this season. Last season, that figure was 1,957, down from 2,239 in 2014-15.
The WHL had hoped to have the Ice under new ownership and relocated to Nanaimo in time to start the 2017-18 season. But any hopes of that happening were dashed a week ago when Nanaimo voters resoundingly defeated a referendum by which the city asked for the OK to borrow $80 million in order to build an events centre that would include an arena. The WHL had gone so far as to enter into a memorandum of understanding through which it guaranteed a franchise to Nanaimo, along with a 20-year lease.
The Chynoweth family has been trying to sell the Ice since at least 2012.

It seems the mumps virus isn’t through with the WHL just yet.
A source familiar with the situation told Taking Note on Friday night that G Jordan Papirny of the Swift Current Broncos has the WHL’s latest confirmed case of mumps.
Papirny, 20, hasn’t played since March 7. He wasn’t in uniform again last night as the Broncos posted a 2-1 victory over the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.
Papirny, who was acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings in January, has 119 career victories, which may be one shy of the WHL record for regular-season victories by a goaltender. Unofficially, that record is shared by Tyson Sexsmith (Vancouver Giants, 2004-09) and Corey Hirsch (Kamloops Blazers, 1988-92).
The Broncos close out their regular season tonight in Moose Jaw.
Meanwhile, the Seattle Thunderbirds haven’t yet released results of tests involving F Mathew Barzal. He took the warmup prior to March 10 game against the visiting Everett Silvertips but was feeling ill and went to the dressing room before the game started. He now has missed three games.
The Thunderbirds are scheduled to entertain the Portland Winterhawks tonight in Kent, Wash.
At the same time, the Edmonton Oil Kings have cancelled their traditional post-game autograph session that was to be held after Sunday’s game against the Red Deer Rebels. That move comes despite it being the last game of the Oil Kings’ season. They won’t be in the playoffs.
“Due to the number of recent cases of outbreaks of mumps in Canada and the United States, our organization is continuing to commit to refraining from any direct interaction with fans,” reads a news release from the Oil Kings. “While there is still an extremely low risk of spectators contracting the virus, our main concern is for the health and welfare of our fans and players.
“While we appreciate this is the final game of the season, with there being more cases as of late it unfortunately became necessary to cancel this event for the protection of the fans and players. While our team staff and players have shown no symptoms of the virus, confirmed cases within our league and other leagues have been reported as recently as this week.”
Ron Toigo, the majority owner of the Vancouver Giants, said Friday that the decision to move the franchise from the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver to the Langley Events Centre “was very good . . . the
team was not.”
Speaking on Vancouver radio station TSN 1040, Toigo added that “we identified we need to really build for the future and made that decision before the trading deadline. At the trading deadline, we went all-in.
“It’s been rough for the guys since then, but overall I think the (season) was successful for being at Langley. The building’s certainly going through a transition on how to manage events of this size. They’re certainly light years ahead of where they were at the beginning of the (season) and I think next (season) will even be that much better. We enjoy being there. We enjoy the ambience there, the fan interaction . . . it’s a lot of fun to be there, even the way the team’s been playing.”
The Giants were 16-23-3 at the Jan. 10 trade deadline. Since then, they are 4-21-3. 
The LEC seats 5,276, a figure that includes 24 suites. According to figures compiled by the WHL, the Giants go into their final home game averaging 3,831 fans per game. They will miss the playoffs for a third straight season and for the fourth time in five seasons.
Still, Toigo said, the response at the ticket office has been great.
“We’ve basically been sold out for the season,” he said, “even though there’s been a lot of no-shows. It’s been standing room only for the last couple months even with the way the team’s been playing.
“When we start winning, and we’ll be a lot better next (season), it’s going to be a lot of fun to be there.”
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have signed D Koletrane Wilson to a WHL contract. Wilson, 17, was a fourth-round selection in the 2014 WHL bantam draft. A native of Edmonton, Wilson, 17, played this season with the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders, putting up one goal and 10 assists in 45 games. . . . The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is the younger brother of former WHL F Klarc Wilson (Brandon, Edmonton, Prince George, 2009-14).
The WHL has honoured Herman Elfring, a longtime member of the Lethridge Hurricanes’ board of directors, with a 2016-17 Distinguished Service Award. Elfring was on the Hurricanes’ board for 23 seasons, including 21 (1994-2016) as governor. He also spent 10 years on the WHL’s finance committee. . . . Elfring retired as governor prior to this season.
While two B.C.-based junior hockey teams — the WHL’s Kootenay Ice and the BCHL’s Nanaimo Clippers — have For Sale tags hanging from them, the junior B Port Moody Panthers have been sold.
The Panthers, who play in the Pacific Junior Hockey League, have been sold by a group led by Dennis Obcena and Frank Iantorno to a new ownership groups. Partners in the new group prefer to remain anonymous.
The transfer of ownership has been approved by the nine other PJHL governors.
The Panthers’ new owners have already brought in a new general manager, with Peter Zerbinos taking over from Obcena.
Zerbinos isn’t a stranger to the PJHL, having spent eight seasons with the Delta Ice Hawks, six as director of hockey operations and two as general manager. Under Obcena, the Ice Hawks won the PJHL title in 2012 and also reached the championship final in 2010.
This season, the Panthers finished 16-27-0-1, leaving them fifth in the five-team Tom Shaw Conference. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
The 2017-18 season with be the Panthers’ 12th in Port Moody.
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If the playoffs began today . . . 
Eastern Conference
Regina vs. Calgary
Medicine Hat vs. Brandon
Moose Jaw vs. Swift Current
Lethbridge vs. Red Deer
Western Conference
Everett vs. Victoria
Prince George vs. Tri-City
Kelowna vs. Kamloops
Seattle vs. Portland


At Kamloops, F Jesse Gabrielle scored two goals to lead the Prince George Cougars to a 3-1 victory over
the Blazers. . . . The teams will meet again tonight in Prince George, with the Cougars (45-21-5), who have won three in a row, needing one point to clinch first place in the B.C. Division. They go into the game with a two-point lead over the Kelowna Rockets, who will finish up against the Vancouver Giants in Langley, B.C. If the Cougars and Rockets end up tied for first place, Kelowna will win it on the third tiebreaker. Each will have 45 victories and they split the season series, 4-4-0. The Rockets will end on having a better goals-for minus goals-against ratio. . . . The Blazers (41-24-6) have won their previous three games. They will meet the second-place finisher in the first round of playoffs. . . . Last night, the Cougars, who dominated the neutral zone and forced an untold number of turnovers, scored the game’s first three goals. . . . F Kody McDonald scored his 17th goal at 18:08 of the first period. . . . Gabrielle, who has 35 goals, scored at 3:47 and 7:36 of the second period, with F Nikita Popugaev getting the primary assist on both goals. . . . F Nic Holowko (7) scored for Kamloops at 9:37 of the second. . . . The Cougars got two assists from D Josh Anderson. . . . G Ty Edmonds stopped 24 shots to earn his 100th career regular-season victory. . . . The Blazers got 35 stops from G Connor Ingram. . . . Prince George was 0-2 on the PP; Kamloops was 0-4. . . . Announced attendance: 4,973.
At Kelowna, F Kole Lind had a goal and three assists to help the Rockets to a 7-0 victory over the
Vancouver Giants. . . . The Rockets (44-22-5) are second in the B.C. Division, two points behind the Prince George Cougars. If the Cougars lost at home to the Kamloops Blazers tonight and Kelowna beats Vancouver in Langley, B.C., the Rockets will finish atop the B.C. Division. . . . The Giants (43-23-5) have lost two in a row. . . . Kelowna is 6-1-0 in the season series. In winning the last four games, the Rockets have posted three shutouts and outscored the Giants 26-1. . . . G Michael Herringer stopped 21 shots to record his second shutout this season and the fifth of his career. . . . The Giants got 31 saves from G David Tendeck. . . . F Reid Gardiner gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead with his 17th goal just 52 seconds into the game. . . . F Nolan Foote upped it to 2-0 with No. 18, on a PP, at 12:15. . . . F Rod Southam added two goals, giving him 19, with F Kyle Topping (14), D James Hilsendager (6) and Lind (29) also scoring. . . . F Nick Merkley and F Calvin Thurkauf each had two assists, with Gardiner and Foote each picking up one. . . . Kelowna was 3-8 on the PP; Vancouver never got even one opportunity. . . . The Giants took 52 of the game’s 78 penalty minutes. . . . Announced attendance: 5,438.
At Cranbrook, B.C., F Beck Malenstyn scored three times, sparking the Calgary Hitmen to a 6-1 victory
over the Kootenay Ice. . . . The Hitmen (29-32-10) clinched the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card playoff spot with the victory and will meet the Regina Pats in the first round. . . . The Ice (14-45-12) has lost nine in a row (0-7-2). . . . Calgary took control with three goals in a span of 1:48 early in the second period. . . . F Jake Kryski scored his 20th goal at 4:16. . . . F Tyler Mrkonjic (8) made it 2-0 at 5:12. . . . Malenstyn upped it to 3-0 at 6:04. . . . F Max Patterson (8) scored for the Ice, on a PP, at 15:03. . . . Calgary put it away with three third-period goals. Malenstyn scored at 3:59. F Matteo Gennaro got No. 43, on a PP, at 5:15. Malenstyn completed the hat trick with his 32nd goal, shorthanded, at 11:59. . . . D Jake Bean had three assists for Calgary, with Kryski and Gennaro adding one each. . . . Calgary G Cody Porter stopped 20 shots. . . . G Payton Lee turned aside 32 shots for Kootenay. Lee, 20, is from Cranbrook so was playing the final game of his WHL career at home. . . . Kootenay was 1-3 on the PP; Calgary was 1-5. . . . D Sam Huston and F Keenan Taphorn, both out with shoulder injuries, were among the Ice’s scratches. Taphorn was injured on Tuesday during a 3-2 OT loss to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings. In the second period, with the Ice on the long change, Edmonton G Josh Dechaine was headed to the bench on a delayed penalty when he collided with Taphorn, who obviously got the worst of it. . . . Announced attendance: 2,139.

At Lethbridge, F James Hamblin scored two goals as the Medicine Hat Tigers skated to a 5-1 victory over
the Hurricanes. . . . The Tigers scored the game’s first three goals. . . . F John Dahlstrom (30) got it started with a PP goal at 12:52 of the first period. . . . Hamblin scored at 18:30. . . . F Chad Butcher made it 3-0 with his 27th goal at 3:30 of the second period. . . . F Ryan Bowen (11) got Lethbridge’s goal, shorthanded, at 7:33 of the second period. . . . Medicine Hat got that one back when F Mark Rassell (35) counted at 9:31. . . . Hamblin’s 21st goal closed out the scoring at 12:08 of the third period. . . . D Clayton Kirichenko had three assists for the winners, while Butcher had one. . . . G Michael Bullion stopped 32 shots for the Tigers. They were without G Nick Schneider (personal), so had Duncan McGovern backing up Bullion. . . . Ryan McCracken of the Medicine Hat News later tweeted that Shaun Clouston, the Tigers’ GM/head coach, had “confirmed that Schneider has gone home for medical reasons but is (expected) to return for playoffs.” . . . The Hurricanes got 37 stops from G Stuart Skinner. . . . Medicine Hat was 1-4 on the PP; Lethbridge was 0-8. . . . The Tigers lost F Matt Bradley to a spearing major and game misconduct at 19:56 of the first period. . . . The Hurricanes continue to play without F Matt Alfaro and F Zak Zborosky. . . . The Tigers (50-20-1) have won at least 50 games for the fourth time in franchise history. . . . The Hurricanes (44-20-7) will finish second in the Central Division. . . . Announced attendance: 5,203.

At Regina, F Adam Brooks scored two goals and added two assists, while F Sam Steel scored his 50th goal, as the Pats beat the Brandon Wheat Kings, 7-1. . . . Steel, who leads the WHL with 131 points,
became the league’s third 50-goal man. . . . Brooks, who won the scoring title with 120 points last season, has 127 points, including a WHL-leading 85 assists. . . . Regina scored the game’s first three goals. . . . Brooks got it started just 34 seconds into the game. . . . Steel got No. 50, on a PP, at 8:29 of the first period. . . . F Braydon Buziak (11) made it 3-0 with a shorthanded goal at 6:23 of the second period. . . . D Daniel Bukac (2) scored for Brandon at 9:05. . . . F Austin Wagner (29), who also had two assists, Brooks and F Filip Ahl (27) added second-period goals for Regina, with F Wyatt Sloboshan finishing the scoring with his 11th goal, on a PP, at 16:15 of the third period. . . . Regina D Connor Hobbs had two assists, while Ahl had one. . . . G Tyler Brown record the victory with 21 saves, eight fewer than Brandon’s Travis Child. . . . Regina was 2-4 on the PP; Brandon was 0-4. . . . Brandon F Nolan Patrick left in the first period favouring a knee, but returned for the second period. . . . Brandon later lost F Reid Duke with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Wheat Kings were without D Kale Clague and F Tanner Kaspick, with undisclosed injuries, D Garrett Sambrook (ill) and F Tyler Coulter (suspended). . . . The Pats (51-12-8) have won seven in a row. They will finish atop the overall standings and open the playoffs against the Calgary Hitmen. . . . Bruce Luebke, the former longtime radio voice of the Wheat Kings, tweeted that Brandon (31-30-10) finished the season with nine road victories, its lowest such total since 1991-92. . . . Announced attendance: 6,484. . . . That was Regina’s 14th sellout of the season. The Pats set a franchise record with an average attendance of 5,456. The previous record (5,095) was set in 2007-08.

At Saskatoon, G Logan Flodell turned aside 36 shots in leading the Blades to a 5-3 victory over the
Prince Albert Raiders. . . . Despite the victory, the Blades (28-24-9) will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. They haven’t qualified since being the host team for the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament. . . . The Raiders (20-44-7) won’t be in the playoffs, either. . . . F Cavin Leth (23) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at 8:13 of the first period, but the Blades responded with the next four goals. . . . F Jesse Shynkaruk, a 20-year-old from Saskatoon, scored his 31st goal at 13:49 in his final home game. . . . F Braylon Shmyr (35) scored on a PP at 2:05 of the second period to give Saskatoon the lead. . . . F Michael Farren (8) made it 3-1 at 6:21 and F Gage Ramsay (9) scored shorthanded at 10:21. . . . The Raiders made it interesting with third-period goals from F Parker Kelly (21), shorthanded, at 4:53, and F Spencer Moe (6), at 8:39. . . . Saskatoon F Josh Paterson (17) put it away with an empty-netter at 19:59. . . . F Chase Wouters had three assists for Saskatoon, with Shmyr getting one. . . . G Nic Sanders started for the Raiders and allowed three goals on 14 shots in 26:21. Ian Scott finished up by stopping 10 of 11 shots in 31:27. . . . Saskatoon was 1-3 on the PP; Prince Albert was 0-4. . . . Announced attendance: 10,030. . . . Darren Steinke, the wandering blogger, was in attendance and filed an emotional piece that is right here.

At Swift Current, F Aleksi Heponiemi broke a 1-1 tie at 17:35 of the third period as the Broncos beat the
Moose Jaw Warriors, 2-1. . . . These teams will meet in the first round of the playoffs. They also will play again tonight in Moose Jaw. . . . The Broncos (39-22-10) will finish third in the East Division, while the Warriors (41-21-9), who are 0-4-1 in their last five games, in second spot. . . . D Matt Sozanski gave the Warriors a 1-0 lead with his third goal at 8:09 of the first period. . . . The Broncos tied it on F Glenn Gawdin’s 26th goal, at 5:58 of the second period. . . . Heponiemi won it with his 28th goal. . . . F Ryley Lindgren had two assists for the Broncos. . . . G Taz Burman earned the victory with 34 saves. . . . The Warriors got 21 stops from G Zach Sawchenko. . . . Each team was 0-3 on the PP. . . . The Broncos had F Logan Barlage, who turned 16 on Jan. 12, in their lineup. Barlage, from Humboldt, Sask., was the fourth-overall pick in the 2016 bantam draft. He was pointless in two earlier games with the Broncos. With the midget AAA Prince Albert Mintos, he had 76 points, including 37 goals, in 44 games this season. . . . D Josh Brook was among Moose Jaw’s scratches, while the Broncos were without, among others, G Jordan Papirny (ill), D Colby Sissons, F Kaden Elder and D Max Lajoie. . . . Announced attendance: 2,890.
At Kennewick, Wash., F Morgan Geekie scored his second goal of the game 28 seconds into OT to give
the Tri-City Americans a 5-4 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . The victory lifted the Americans (39-28-3), who had lost their previous five games, into the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, one point ahead of the Victoria Royals. Tri-City is fourth in the U.S. Division, one point behind the Portland Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs (26-33-11) have lost eight in a row (0-7-1). . . . Geekie, who has 34 goals, gave the Americans a 4-3 lead at 15:13 of the third period. . . . The Chiefs tied it as F Kailer Yamamoto, who had three goals, counted at 18:58 and again at 19:24. He’s got 42 goals. . . . F Vladislav Lukin, back after missing eight games with an undisclosed injury, got his 25th goal at 19:35 of the first period to give Tri-City a 1-0 lead. . . . Yamamoto tied it at 16:52 of the second. . . . Yes, the teams combined for six third-period goals. . . . Tri-City D Dylan Coghlan (14) scored at 0:22 and F Tyler Sandhu (22) gave the home side a 3-2 lead at 7:31. . . . F Hudson Elynuik had Spokane’s other goal, his 28th, on a pp, at 12:28. . . . D Jordan Topping had two assists for the Americans, with Coghlan, Geekie and Lukin each getting one. . . . Elynuik, D Ty Smith and F Keanu Yamamoto had two assists each for the Chiefs. . . . G Evan Sarthou stopped 32 shots for the Americans. . . . The Chiefs got 27 stops out of G Jayden Sittler. . . . Spokane was 2-5 on the PP; Tri-City was 0-4. . . . The Americans also had F Max James back from a three-game absence. . . . Announced attendance: 4,579.
At Victoria, F Matt Fonteyne scored two goals to help the Everett Silvertips to a 4-2 victory over the
Royals. . . . The Silvertips (43-16-11) moved back into first place in the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of the idle Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The Royals (37-28-6) have lost six in a row (0-5-1) and slipped a spot into the conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . F Jack Walker’s 30th goal, on a PP, gave the home side a 1-0 lead at 5:56 of the first period. . . . The visitors took a 2-1 lead on goals from D Kevin Davis (9), on a PP, at 8:24, and Fonteyne, at 11:44. . . . Walker scored again, 22 seconds into the second period, to get the Royals even. That was his 100th career regular-season goal. . . . F Eetu Tuulola (18) restored the Everett lead at 1:32 and Fonteyne’s 19th goal added insurance at 2:59. . . . Everett got two assists from each of F Dominic Zwerger and F Patrick Bajkov. . . . D Scott Walford had two assists for Victoria. . . . G Carter Hart blocked 25 shots for Everett, while Victoria’s Griffen Outhouse turned aside 18. . . . Each team was 1-3 on the PP. . . . F Tyler Soy returned to Victoria’s lineup after missing 13 games with an undisclosed injury, while head coach Dave Lowry was back behind the bench after sitting out three games with the mumps. With assistant coach Dan Price running the bench, the Royals went 0-2-1. . . . Victoria D Mitchell Prowse also was back after recovering from the mumps. . . . D Ryan Gagnon set a Royals franchise record for career regular-season games played, with No. 319. That is one more than F Brandon Magee (Chilliwack/Victoria, 2009-15). . . . Announced attendance: 7,006.

SATURDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Regina at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Kootenay at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Victoria at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Kamloops at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Portland vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Tri-City at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.
Kelowna vs. Vancouver, at Langley, B.C., 7 p.m.

SUNDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Red Deer at Edmonton, 4 p.m.
Spokane at Portland, 5 p.m.
Vancouver vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 5:05 p.m.
Everett vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 5:05 p.m.

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