Friday, April 28, 2017

Owners prepping plan for new Ice age ... Pats, T-Birds take control; series resume Sunday

Scattershoot

When the host Ottawa Senators opened the second round of the NHL playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night, there were more than 2,000 empty seats in the Canadian Tire Centre.
The howls of outrage could be heard all the way to Kamloops. Where were the fans?
According to Ken Warren of the Ottawa Citizen, “Ticket prices jump for Round 1 playoff tickets and jump again for Round 2. Those $25-$30 cheap seats in the regular season become $100. Lower-level seats are about $300, rich by local standards even if most other NHL clubs charge more.”
It likely didn’t help, either, that a parking lot close to the arena jacked up its fee fro $20 to $30.
And did I mention that a double bacon cheeseburger and a tall boy beer would total $27.75?
At some point, and perhaps we’re there now, sporting fans are going to tire of paying high prices to watch athletes who pull down much higher salaries than they do. Those in the corporate seats may always be there, but the average folks, I think, have about run out of the funds necessary to watch a lot of professional sports.
I have always found it interesting when people, often media types who can’t remember the last time they had to pay for a ticket, question the loyalty of fans because they, for whatever reason, choose not to fork over their hard-earned dollars, not even for a playoff game.
Of course, then there’s Edmonton, where thousands show up at Rogers Place even when the Oilers are playing a playoff game away from home. Last night, the winner of the 50/50 draw went home with $51,522.
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Two recent headlines of note . . . 
At TheOnion.com: Clogged rain causes Orioles’ dugout to overflow with chewing-tobacco spit.
At The kicker.com: LeBron passes Popovich for most wins by active head coach.
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Saw a young lady today who was wearing those cut up jeans that seem so popular these days. Had a thought: How do you put those on without catching your toes in the holes and causing even more damage?
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I spent 17 years at the Regina Leader-Post, the last 12 as sports editor, and for a lot of that time the Saskatchewan Roughriders weren’t far removed from the youngster next door with the lemonade stand. They were far removed from the big business that they are today. How much have times changed? The organization swallowed another $36,500 in fines on Friday, something that ran the tab to $116,500 since Aug. 2. . . . As Rob Vanstone of The Leader-Post writes right here: “Six figures worth of sanctions do not take into account other questionable moves by the Roughriders.” . . . Ohh, how times have changed!
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Hey, Sportsnet, how about getting rid of the giant computer-generated logos that you love to put up on the hitters’ background on the camera shot from behind home plate? There is a reason why that background is big and blank.
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The Toronto Blue Jays jettisoned backup catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Friday, then went out and blew a 3-1 seventh-inning lead in losing 7-4 to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, who hit three eighth-inning home runs. Can we assume, then, that the 6-17 start wasn’t Saltalamacchia’s fault, even if he was only 1-for-25? . . . The Toronto bullpen now has blown eight of 12 save opportunities.
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The NHL’s Calgary Flames have lost 29 straight games in Anaheim; Calgary last won there on April 25, 2006. The Edmonton Oilers just posted two victories there in three days.
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D Spencer Humphries (Tri-City, Calgary, 2008-13) has signed a one-year extension with the Stavanger Oilers (Norway, GET-Ligaen). This season, in 45 games, he had 14 goals and 19 assists. Humphries led the league’s defencemen in goals as the Oilers won the Norwegian championship. . . .
F David Vrbata (Calgary, 2000-01) has announced his retirement from hockey. This season, with Neumarkt/Egna (Italy, Alps HL), he had fige goals and six assists in 12 games. He had four assists in 12 games with Benátky and Jizerou (Czech Republic, 1. Liga). Vrbata has accepted an offer to work in the marketing department for Czech Extraliga team Mladá Boleslav. He is from Mladá Boleslav.
G Chet Pickard (Tri-City, 2005-09) has signed a two-year contract with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL). This season, with the Iserlohn Roosters (Germany, DEL), he was 6-14, 2.98, .920 in 26 games.
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Matt Cockell, the new president and general manager of the Kootenay Ice, says he and partner Greg Fettes will need help to get the WHL franchise back on track.
“We wouldn’t be getting into this if we weren’t confident that we could make it a success,” Cockell told Cranbrook radio station Summit 107 FM. “Of course, in order to do that, we are going to need the help of everybody — we’re going to need the help of the community, we’re going to need the help of the city,
MATT COCKELL
we’re going to need the help of the entire East Kootenay region.”
The WHL’s board of governors unanimously approved the transfer of the franchise from the Chynoweth family to Fettes and Cockell, both of whom have been headquartered in Winnipeg, on Thursday.
Earlier this month, Fettes and Cockell are said to have met with Lee Pratt, the mayor of Cranbrook, for about five hours. Mayor Pratt has told people that he felt “very positive” about the meeting.
"This really is the City of Cranbrook and the East Kootenay region's team,” Cockell said. “That's how my partner, Greg, and I are approaching this, and in order for that partnership to be something that's really exciting and allows everybody to participate, we need to first and foremost get the chance to hear what that means for everybody.
"The franchise in its current state needs some investment, and that's what we're going to do. We're going to come in and we're prepared to invest and engage all the stakeholders. Our sincere hope and commitment is to ensure the long term viability of the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook.”
WHL commissioner Ron Robison told the Cranbrook Townsman that the new ownership’s plans will be “contingent, obviously, on the level of support from the community.”
Robison went one step further, in fact, and used the word “immediately.”
“The attendance levels are at a point where they need to improve immediately,” he said, “and (the new owners) are focused not only on being very engaged in the community but (also) on improving the fan experience in the building.”
The Ice plays in the 4,264-seat Western Financial Place, which also has room for 352 standees. This season, the Ice had the poorest average attendance (1,754) in the 22-team league. that was down from 1,957 in 2015-16 and 2,239 in 2014-15.
There was a time, in the early 2000s, when the Ice drew more than 3,000 fans per game.
Of course, on the other hand, had the taxpayers of Nanaimo voted to allow city council to borrow $80 million that would have gone towards a new arena, the moving vans would be in Cranbrook and the Ice would be moving to Vancouver Island in time for the 2017-18 season.
Nanaimo taxpayers voted 80 per cent not to allow city council to borrow the money, so the Ice now has new owners who are about to get to work in Cranbrook.
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Austria and Korea have advanced to the top division of the IIHF World Championship after finishing in the top two spots at the Division I Group A championship that concluded Friday in Kyiv, Ukraine. . . . Austria finished the tournament in top spot after beating Poland, 11-0, in the final game. The Austria roster includes F Brian Lebler, who was a seventh-round selection by the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL’s 2003 bantam draft. He had four goals and an assist in five games. . . . Korea finished second after scoring a 2-1 shootout victory over host Ukraine. D Alex Plante, a former WHLer, is on the Korean roster. He had two goals and an assist in three games. . . . Plante was named to the tournament all-star team, was was F Nigel Dawes, another former WHLer, who plays for Kazakhstan. Dawes led the tournament in goals (5) and was tied for the points lead (9), in five games. . . . Former NHLer Jim Paek is the Korean team’s head coach. He won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. . . . The 2018 World Championship is scheduled to be played in Copenhagen and Herning, Denmark.
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In the OHL, the host Erie Otters scored a 4-2 victory over the Owen Sound Attack on Friday and now lead the Western Conference final, 3-2. Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Owen Sound. The winner of that series will meet the Mississauga Steelheads in the championship final.
In the QMJHL, the host Saint John Sea Dogs blanked the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, 4-0, to take a 3-2 lead in that semifinal. Game 6 is scheduled for Sunday in Chicoutimi. . . . The other semifinal, featuring the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Charlottetown Islanders, resumes today. The Aramada holds a 3-1 lead as they go into Charlottetown for Game 5.
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FRIDAY’S GAMES:

At Regina, F Adam Brooks drew four assists to lead the Pats to a 5-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. . . . Regina now leads the Eastern Conference, 3-2, with Game 6 scheduled for Lethbridge
ADAM BROOKS
on Sunday. . . . Brooks, the Pats’ captain, has seven points over the last two games. . . . Last night, Regina F Dawson Leedahl broke a 3-3 tie with his 11th goal of these playoffs, at 6:25 of the third period. Leedahl one-time a nifty backhand pass from Brooks, who was cruising behind the Lethbridge net. . . . Leedahl has goals in three straight games. . . . F Josh Tarzwell gave Lethbridge a 1-0 lead at 2:53 of the first period as he scored his first WHL playoff goal. He left shortly after that with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. . . . The Pats tied it as D Josh Mahura (3) scored at 15:37. . . . Lethbridge went back in front when F Ryan Vandervlis, who had eight regular-season goals, scored his seventh of the playoffs, on a PP, at 3:04 of the second period. . . . The Pats took the lead on second-period goals from F Sam Steel (8), on a PP, at 5:10, and F Filip Ahl (3), at 11:29. That was Ahl’s first goal of the series. . . . Lethbridge pulled even at 13:54 as F Egor Babenko got his ninth goal. . . . That set the stage for Leedahl’s winner, with F Austin Wagner (13) adding an empty-netter at 19:57. . . . Shortly after Leedahl’s goal, the Hurricanes found themselves with a 5-on-3 PP for 1:30, but they weren’t able to score. . . . Wagner also had two assists, with Steel and Leedahl adding one each. . . . Vandervlis added an assist to his goal for Lethbridge. . . . G Tyler Brown earned the victory with 29 saves, three more than Lethbridge’s Stuart Skinner. . . . Regina was 1-2 on the PP; Lethbridge was 1-4. . . . The Pats had the speedy Wagner back in the lineup after he missed the previous game with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Hurricanes again scratched F Matt Alfaro, and they also took out F Ryan Bowen. . . . Announced attendance: 6,484, the 23rd sellout at the Brandt Centre this season.
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At Kent, Wash., the Seattle Thunderbirds broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of late second-period goals and went on to a 5-3 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . The Thunderbirds hold a 3-2 lead in the Western
ALEXANDER TRUE
Conference final with Game 6 in Kelowna on Sunday. . . . In a game that featured 18 power-plays and six PP goals, Seattle took advantage of two Kelowna turnovers to grab a 2-0 first-period lead, F Scott Eansor (5) scoring while shorthanded at 3:15 and F Sami Moilanen (4) counting on a breakaway at 10:57. . . . Kelowna pulled even on PP goals from F Calvin Thurkauf (8), at 12:07 of the first period, and F Nick Merkley (6), at 9:23 of the second. . . . Seattle countered with a pair of PP goals in a span of 1:20 late in the period. F Alexander True (6) broke the 2-2 tie at 17:34 and F Ryan Gropp (4) added insurance at 18:54. . . . True added a second goal, on another PP, at 6:57 of the third period. . . . Kelowna F Dillon Dube (7) completed the scoring with, yes, another PP goal, at 19:25. . . . Seattle was 3-8 on the PP; Kelowna was 3-10. . . . Seattle F Mathew Barzal had three assists, with D Turner Ottenbreit adding two and Moilanen one. . . . The Rockets got two assists from D Cal Foote. . . . The Thunderbirds got 37 saves from G Carl Stankowski, while Kelowna’s Michael Herringer turned aside 19. . . . Seattle D Ethan Bear took the pregame warmup but it was apparent that he was having difficulty handling the puck and he was scratched. He suffered a hand injury — Taking Note has been told that there is a break — while blocking a shot late in Game 4. . . . Seattle G Rylan Toth was scratched again. He has yet to dress for a playoff game. . . . With Bear out, D Jake Lee, a 16-year-old who played four regular-season games, made his WHL playoff debut with Seattle. . . . Announced attendance: 5,001.
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SATURDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

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

Seattle at Kelowna, 5:05 p.m. (Seattle leads, 3-2)
Regina at Lethbridge, 6 p.m. (Regina leads, 3-2)

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Governors approve Ice's new owners ... WHL on Shaw nears end ... Lawsuit against OHL, teams certified


Scattershoot

The Chynoweth family has been involved in the WHL for 45 consecutive years, a run that ended Thursday when the board of governors approved the sale of the Kootenay Ice, the franchise that the Chynoweths had been trying to sell since 2011.
There was a time when the WHL would have announced the transfer of ownership at a news conference and perhaps someone would have spoken about how much the family has meant to the WHL. These days, the WHL prefers to do things via news release posted on its website, which is what happened yesterday.
Well, allow this aging writer who still has ink in his veins to say “Thank You” to Linda, Dean and Jeff Chynoweth for their time and the many conversations, and heartfelt thanks for sharing your husband and father with us for all those years.
The late Ed Chynoweth was the WHL’s president for something like 23 years, starting in 1972. He left the WHL office to spend a season as GM of the Calgary Wranglers, returned, then later purchased an expansion franchise, the Edmonton Ice, that he later relocated to Cranbrook, B.C.
Back in the day, it wasn’t unusual for a writer to call Ed at home, no matter the time of night. It also wasn’t unusual for that same writer to get a call from Ed, who disagreed, sometimes politely, with something that had been written.
Ed rarely, if ever, visited a WHL city without meeting the local media, even if just to acknowledge our existence.
It hasn’t been the same since he left us, and it won’t be same now, without the Chynoweths owning the Ice. Perhaps Jeff will end up working in another team’s front office, unless, of course, he’s had enough of the WHL. Say what you want, though, he always answered his phone, returned calls and responded to texts, until near the end when he would have had to deny that a sale was near when it was close to happening.
Anyway . . . thanks to the first family of the WHL. May the next chapter be a good one.
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How could the NHL end up with a playoff schedule that had both its eastern series being played at the same time on Thursday night? Hey, Gary Bettman, I couldn’t decide which game to watch, so I spent the evening with baseball.
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A friend sent me a note on Thursday afternoon. With the WHL playoffs more than half over, the 2016-17 WHL Official Guide and Record Book now is available for download. You will find it right here.
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The WHL’s conference finals are scheduled to resume tonight with the Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds meeting in Kent, Wash., and the Regina Pats and the Hurricanes clashing in Lethbridge. Each of the series is 2-2.
Seattle fans can forget about seeing D Ethan Bear for a while. Taking Note has been told that he suffered a broken hand when he blocked a shot late in Game 3 on Tuesday in Kelowna.
The Rockets lost D James Hilsendager, who has been terrific in these playoffs, to an undisclosed injury in the first period of Game 4 on Wednesday. He didn’t return, so you would have to think he’s doubtful for tonight and perhaps longer. His absence means the pairings of Cal Foote/Gordie Ballhorn and Lucas Johansen/Devante Stephens will get a workout.
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The St. Louis Cardinals struggle to catch the ball, throw the ball and run the bases. Still, they were able to sweep a Thursday doubleheader from the visiting Toronto Blue Jays, who blew a 4-0 lead in the opener. If you missed it, the Blue Jays, leading 4-2, were one strike away from victory when they gave up a game-tying home run. They then lost on a grand slam in the 11th. The Blue Jays now are 6-16. Ohh, this is going to be a long season for Gibby and his guys.
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F Martin Růžička (Everett, Lethbridge, 2003-05) has signed a one-year extension with Třinec (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he had nine goals and 13 assists in 33 games.
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As expected, the WHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Kootenay Ice to Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell, a pair of Winnipeggers, on Thursday.
Fettes and Cockell have purchased the entire franchise, ending the Chynoweth family’s involvement in the WHL after 45 years.
The late Ed Chynoweth was the face of the WHL for a long time, especially during a 23-year run as the league’s president. In 1995, Chynoweth left the WHL office to set up the Ice as an expansion franchise in Edmonton. After two seasons in Edmonton, the franchise relocated to Cranbrook, B.C., for the 1998-99 season.
Chynoweth died in 2008 and his son, Jeff, has been the Ice’s president and general manager.
Fettes is the founder of 24-7 Intouch, which has more than 8,000 employees in call centres, according to a WHL news release, “in 14 sites around the world including Canada, United States, Guatemala, Jamaica, and the Philippines.”
Cockell played three seasons (1996-99) in the WHL as a goaltender, spending time with the Saskataoon Blades, Seattle Thunderbirds, Regina Pats and Spokane Chiefs. He had been working with True North Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the NHL’s Winnipeg Moose, as vice-president, corporate partnerships. Prior to that, Cockell was the chief customer officer at 24-7 Intouch.
Cockell now is the Ice’s president and GM.


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WHL on Shaw

When the WHL’s championship final concludes next month, the WHL on Shaw will sign off for good, ending a 13-season relationship.
Corus Entertainment and Shaw Communications announced Wednesday that Shaw will close stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Corus Entertainment, which acquired Shaw‘s media arm in a deal last year, will continue to operate Shaw stations in Victoria, Kelowna and Saskatoon, each of which is home at a WHL franchise.
About 70 people are expected to lose their jobs, while the WHL on Shaw also will be a casualty.
The deal between Shaw and the WHL had one season (2017-18) remaining. However, a  source familiar with the situation has told Taking Note that the WHL has taken a $300,000 buyout.
“It’s easier for Shaw rather than pay out $750,000 in production costs,” the source explained, adding that the WHL was “in line for $375,000 in the next year of the deal.”
In light of the demise of the WHL on Shaw, it could be that Access7, a community TV station in Regina, expands its coverage of the Regina Pats and, as the source said, “may become the motor that drives WHL coverage to the remaining community stations.”
Access7 has been providing coverage of the Pats’ playoff games this spring.
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An Ontario Superior Court Justice has certified a class-action lawsuit brought by former OHL players against the league in an attempt to force teams to pay minimum wage.
Justice Paul Perell made the ruling Thursday in Toronto, something that will allow the three-year-old lawsuit to move forward.
A similar action filed in Calgary against the WHL was heard before Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Hall, who has yet to rule. It is anticipated that there will be a decision in the next month.
As for Thursday’s ruling, Rick Westhead, a senior reporter with TSN, writes:
“Justice Perell wrote that he certified the case despite the warnings from the OHL that the ‘allegedly selfish class action would bring on the eve of destruction for hockey players.’ ”
The OHL has 20 days in which to file an appeal.
Westhead’s story is right here.
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F Nick Merkley now holds the Kelowna Rockets’ record for most career playoff points. Merkley had a goal and an assist on Wednesday as the Rockets beat the visiting Seattle Thunderbirds, 4-2, to even the Western Conference final, 2-2. . . . Merkley, who will turn 20 on May 23, now has 64 points, including 50 assists, in 55 playoff games. The previous record had been held by F Tyson Baillie, who put up 63 points, including 27 goals, in 64 games.
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F Mitch Skapski, who played in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, Saskatoon Blades and Victoria Royals, will attend Ryerson U and play hockey for the Rams. Skapski, from Abbotsford, B.C., split the past two seasons between the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Cowichan Valley Capitals, totalling 68 points in 109 games. He played 143 WHL games (2012-15), scoring six goals and adding 13 assists. He was a fourth-round selection by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2011 WHL bantam draft.
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The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes fired Doug Soetaert on Thursday, after one season as the general manager of their AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. Soetaert is a former WHL goaltender (Edmonton Oil Kings, 1971-75), who spent six seasons (2006-12) as the Everett Silvertips’ vice-president of hockey operations and general manager. Soetaert had spent 2015-16 as the Coyotes’ western pro scout. . . . The Roadrunners were an expansion team this season and finished 29-31-8, good for sixth in the eight-team Pacific Division. They didn’t make the playoffs. . . . The Roadrunners’ head coach is Mark Lamb, a former GM/head coach of the Swift Current Broncos.
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If you enjoy stopping off here and would care to make a donation to the cause, please feel free to do so by clicking on the DONATE button and going from there.
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Coaching

The SJHL’s La Ronge Ice Wolves have hired Darren Martens as an assistant coach. Martens, from Mossbank, Sask., has ample playing and coaching experience. From a news release: “A graduate of the SJHL, Martens went on to play in the CIS, UHL, ECHL and six seasons in Germany. At the completion of his playing career, Darren transitioned into coaching. He has coached all levels of hockey, from bantam to junior B, and also spent two seasons with the Briercrest Clippers of the ACAC.” . . . Martens will work alongside head coach Evan Vossen and assistant Terry Hunt.
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THURSDAY’S GAMES:

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

Lethbridge at Regina, 7 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)
Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Conference finals all tied up ... Series resume Friday ... Kelowna d-man gets NHL deal

Scattershoot

Looking for a good read today? Check out this piece right here by Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star, who takes a look back at the Blue Jays’ crazy Tuesday night victory and ahead to today’s doubleheader.
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A number of major junior players have signed NHL contracts over the past month or so. I’ve always wondered just how thrilled their junior coaches are to have this stuff going on at this time of the season.
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The next head coach of the WHL’s Everett Silvertips? How about Mark Holick? Holick, who spent this season in Italy, and Everett GM Garry Davidson go back to their days in the BCHL. In fact, they won a silver medal together with the BCHL team at the 2002 Viking Cup in Camrose, Alta. Holick, of course, has ample WHL experience, having been the head coach with the Kootenay Ice and Prince George Cougars.
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G Zach Sawchenko has already played four seasons in the WHL, so what’s left for him to prove with the Moose Jaw Warriors? I would suggest that he is showing maturity beyond his years with his decision to start the next chapter in his life by attending the U of Alberta and starting work on a business degree. If a professional contract shows up four years down the road, he’ll still be there.
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Unlike the rest of us, the WHL is much younger than it used to be. You can bet its teams will be hoping that no other 20-year-olds choose to follow Sawchenko’s example and leave with a year of eligibility remaining.
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As you will note in The MacBeth Report, former WHLer Tim Bozon is leaving North America to play next season in Switzerland. It could be that Bozon, a third-round selection by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2012 draft, never was the same after surviving a near-fatal run-in with Neisseria meningitis three years ago. You will recall that the WHL set up a trust fund and solicited donations from its fans on behalf of the Bozon family, but never did let those same fans know just how much money was raised.
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ESPN lopped somewhere around 100 folks from its payroll on Wednesday and some of them, like Jayson Stark and Ed Werder, were the best in the business at what they were doing. Of course, ESPN also dumped most of its NHL writers despite the fact the playoffs are in full swing. . . . In Vancouver, the Sun and Province newspapers don’t have a football writer between them, and they actually had a freelancer write the sports lead for Sunday’s Vancouver Sun Run, an event that drew around 40,000 runners. . . . My point? Don’t think for a minute that there is any rhyme or reason to the chopping when the axe starts falling.
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For a good read on exactly what ESPN’s cuts mean to the NHL and hockey in the U.S., check out this piece right here from Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star.
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Do you think anyone is enjoying these NHL playoffs more than Nashville Predators D P.K. Subban?
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F Tim Bozon (Kamloops, Kootenay, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Kloten (Switzerland, NL A). This season, with the Springfield Thunderbirds (AHL), he had eight goals and seven assists in 43 games. He also had three goals and three assists in 14 games with the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL). . . .
F Dylan Stanley (Tri-City, 2000-05) has signed a one-year extension with Feldkirch (Austria, Alps HL). This season, in 40 games, he had 19 goals and 38 assists. He led the league in assists and points.
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As you will know from Tuesday’s news, G Zach Sawchenko has decided to leave the Moose Jaw Warriors, rather than return for his 20-year-old season, and start working towards a business degree at the U of Alberta in Edmonton, where he will play for the Golden Bears. . . . Greg Ballock of ingoalmag.com spoke with Sawchenko and that conversation, which explains a lot, is right here. . . . It is quite apparent that attending the 2016 NHL draft in Buffalo and not being selected, despite being one of the WHL’s top goaltenders, weighed heavily on Sawchenko and influenced this decision.
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D Devante Stephens of the Kelowna Rockets has signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Buffalo Sabres, who selected him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2015 draft. Stephens, 19, is from Surrey, B.C. He has played three seasons with the Rockets, totalling 57 points, including 19 goals, in 203 regular-season games. This season, he put up career highs in goals (13), assists (22) and points, all in 67 games. . . . Interestingly, the Sabres were able to sign Stephens despite not having a general manager in place; Tim Murray was fired last week.
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The OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads are the first CHL team to advance to a league final. They got there last night by beating the Peterborough Petes, 7-0, to sweep the Eastern Conference final. . . . In the other series, Kris Knoblauch’s Erie Otters posted a 4-3 victory over the host Owen Sound Attack, who are coached by Ryan McGill. That series is tied, 2-2, with Game 5 in Erie on Friday. . . . In the QMJHL, the host Chicoutimi Sagueneens beat the Saint John Sea Dogs 4-3 to tie that series, 2-2. They’ll play Game 5 on Friday in Saint John. . . . In the other series, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada posted a 4-2 victory over the visiting Charlottetown Islanders to take a 3-1 lead. That series will resume on Saturday in Charlottetown.
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Joey Burke is the new general manager of the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. Burke has been with the IceDogs since their inaugural season, when he was the goaltending scout. He was named assistant GM in 2010 and remained in that position until prior to this season, when he was named director of player personnel. . . . Burke’s brother, Billy Jr., is an assistant coach with the IceDogs, who are owned by their parents, Denise and Bill Burke.
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If you enjoy stopping off here and would care to make a donation to the cause, please feel free to do so by clicking on the DONATE button and going from there.
If you have some information you would like to share or just a general comment, feel free to email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
If interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.
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WEDNESDAY’S GAMES:


At Kelowna, the Rockets erased a 1-0 deficit with four straight goals en route to a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds. . . . The Western Conference final is tied, 2-2, with Game 5 scheduled for Friday in
NOLAN FOOTE
Kent, Wash. . . . The teams will return to Kelowna for Game 6 on Sunday. . . . Last night, the Thunderbirds, who lost for the first time in six road games in these playoffs, thought they had taken an early 1-0 lead, but the goal was disallowed, officials ruling that a Seattle player in the Kelowna crease had kicked the puck into the net. . . . Shortly after that, at 3:09, F Ryan Gropp (3) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, on a PP. . . . The Rockets tied it when F Nolan Foote scored his first WHL playoff goal, on a PP, at 8:34, then took the lead just 28 seconds later as F Kole Lind scored his sixth goal. . . . F Nick Merkley (5) gave the Rockets a 3-1 lead at 2:40 of the second period, and F Tomas Soustal (4) made it 4-1 at 4:29 of the third. . . . F Scott Eansor (4) got Seattle to within two goals at 10:54. . . . The Rockets got two assists from F Dillon Dube and one each from Foote, Lind, Soustal and Merkley. . . . G Michael Herringer stopped 27 shots to earn the victory. . . . Seattle G Carl Stankowski kicked out 31 shots in another stellar performance. . . . The Rockets held a 15-2 edge in shots in the second period, but only scored once. . . . Seattle was 1-3 on the PP; Kelowna was 1-5. . . . In the four games, Kelowna is 6-25 on the PP, with the Thunderbirds 4-11. . . . Kelowna F Reid Gardiner, who leads all playoff skaters in goals (15) and points (27), was held pointless for a second straight game. . . . The Thunderbirds were forced to scratch D Ethan Bear, who blocked a shot, perhaps with a hand, late in Game 3 on Tuesday and wasn’t able to go. . . . D Austin Strand got more playing time as he got what would have been Bear’s PP time. . . . Announced attendance: 5,063.
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At Lethbridge, F Adam Brooks and D Connor Hobbs each had a goal and two assists to lead the Regina Pats to a 6-2 victory over the Hurricanes. . . . The Eastern Conference final is tied, 2-2, with Game 5
BRAYDON BUZIAK
scheduled for Regina on Friday night. . . . They’ll return to Lethbridge for Game 6 on Sunday. . . . Last night, Regina took a 1-0 lead as F Braydon Buziak scored his first WHL playoff goal at 9:53 of the first period. . . . Lethbridge tied it at 2:21 of the second period as F Dylan Cozens scored his third goal. . . . Regina went back out front at 9:00 on F Jeff de Wit’s third goal. . . . F Ryan Vandervlis (6) pulled Lethbridge even again, at 9:34. . . . The Pats took control with two late second-period goals, Brooks (5) scoring at 18:06 and F Dawson Leedahl (10) counting at 19:16. . . . Hobbs (4), on a PP, at 7:53, and F Wyatt Sloboshan (3), into an empty net, at 17:04, added goals for the Pats. . . . F Sam Steel had two assists for the Pats, with Sloboshan getting one. . . . Regina got 24 stops from G Tyler Brown, while Stuart Skinner turned aside 28 shots for Lethbridge. . . . The Pats, who had the regular-season’s top PP unit, were 0-9 in the series. They went 1-4 in this one. . . . Lethbridge was 0-2 on the PP. . . . The Pats scratched F Austin Wagner, who left in the second period of Tuesday’s game, apparently after having absorbed a slash. His absence means Regina now is without three regulars, as F Jake Leschyshyn and D Dawson Davidson have long-term injuries. . . . With Wagner out, de Wit slid into the spot alongside Brooks and F Filip Ahl. . . . F Matt Alfaro again was missing from Lethbridge’s lineup. . . . Announced attendance: 5,203.
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THURSDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

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

Lethbridge at Regina, 7 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)
Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m. (Series tied, 2-2)

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Top WHL goaltender leaves for school ... Seattle, Lethbridge take leads ... Vees win BCHL title


F Aaron Gagnon (Seattle, 2001-07) has signed a one-year contract with Langnau (Switzerland, NL A). This season, with Lukko Rauma (Finland, Liiga), he had 11 goals and 15 assists in 43 games. He also played seven games with Bern (Switzerland, NL A), scoring three times and adding two assists. . . . 
F Brandon Segal (Calgary, 1999-2004) has signed a one-year extension with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany, DEL). This season, he had 16 goals and 16 assists in 52 games.
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Zach Sawchenko, one of the WHL’s premier goaltenders, revealed on Tuesday that he won’t be returning to the Moose Jaw Warriors for his 20-year-old season. Instead, he will be attending the U of Alberta and playing for the Golden Bears.
ZACH SAWCHENKO
It seems the insecurity inherent with a professional career doesn’t appeal to Sawchenko, at least not without a backup plan.
“This is going to come as a surprise to most, but now more than ever, the uncertainty in the game is through the roof,” Sawchenko told Marc Smith of discovermoosejaw.com. “You're seeing guys like Zach Fucale end up in the (ECHL) where they're making $40,000 a year, it's tough to live off that, it's tough to live off a signing bonus. Your career could end at any time and you have to have a plan B.”
This season, Sawchenko went 30-14-7, 2.79, .917 in the regular season. He was selected as the Eastern Conference’s top goaltender and named to the conference’s first all-star team, the latter for a second straight season.
A native of Calgary, Sawchenko played four seasons in Moose Jaw, going 88-65-16, 3.11, .908 in 177 games.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder never was selected in the NHL draft. He went into the 2016 draft ranked by NHL Central Scouting as No. 6 among North American goaltenders.
The Warriors selected Sawchenko in the second round of the WHL’s 2012 bantam draft.
The Warriors’ depth chart now will show Brody Willms as the organization’s No. 1 goaltender, with Adam Evanoff sliding into the No. 2 spot.
Willms, who turns 19 on July 21, is from Coquitlam, B.C. He was an eighth-round selection in the 2013 bantam draft. This season, he got into 25 games, going 12-7-2, 3.11, .907.
Evanoff is from Penticton, B.C., and was a 10th-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft. He will turn 17 on Aug. 16. He played this season at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, going 2.44, .918 in 19 appearances.
Smith’s story is right here.
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The Victoria Royals have signed F Tyus Gent, who was a fourth-round selection in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. Gent, 16, is from Delta, B.C. He played this season with the Delta Hockey Academy’s Elite 15s of the Canadian Sports School Hockey League, putting up 25 goals and 25 assists in 25 games. He led the Elite 15s in goals and points, and was saluted as the MVP at season’s end. . . . He also got into eight games with the academy’s prep team, scoring twice and adding an assist.
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F Judd Caulfield, a highly touted prospect out of the North Dakota high school ranks, has decided to join the U.S. National Team Development Program, according to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. . . . Caulfield, 16, will be part of the U-17 program. . . . Caulfield, whose WHL rights belong to the Portland Winterhawks, put up 64 points, including 25 goals, in 27 games this season with Grand Forks Central, which won the state championship to conclude an undefeated season. . . . Caulfield was selected by Portland in the 10th round of the 2016 WHL bantam draft. He committed to the U of North Dakota on Oct. 5.
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In the BCHL, F Duncan Campbell scored on a rebound at 9:25 of OT to give the Penticton Vees a 1-0
DUNCAN CAMPBELL
victory over the host Chilliwack Chiefs in Game 7 of the championship final. . . . Campbell, 20, is from Brandon and spent the previous two seasons playing for the Wheat Kings. He joined the Vees early this season and put up 28 points, including 11 goals, in 40 games. . . . Three of the last four games in the BCHL final were decided in OT. . . . Both teams advanced to the Western Canada Cup that runs in Penticton from April 29 through May 7. It also features the AJHL-champion Brooks Bandits, SJHL-champion Battlefords North Stars and MJHL-champion Portage Terriers. . . . Interestingly, F Keegan Kolesar, whose two goals helped the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 2-1 victory over the Rockets in Kelowna last night, also was born in Brandon.
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If interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.
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Coaching

The NHL’s Vancouver Canucks will introduce Travis Green, a former WHL player and coach, as their new head coach at a news conference today. . . . Green, 46, is from Castlegar, B.C. He played four seasons (1986-90) in the WHL, three-plus with the Spokane Chiefs and the last 25 with the Medicine Hat Tigers before going on to a pro career that included 970 NHL games. As a coach, he spent three seasons (2010-13) on the Portland Winterhawks’ staff. For the past four seasons, Green has been the head coach of the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ AHL affiliate. . . . In Vancouver, he replaces Willie Desjardins, who was relieved of his duties when their season ended. . . . You can look for Green to bring along Nolan Baumgartner, a former WHL defenceman, as his lead assistant coach. Baumgartner, 41, has been an assistant through all four seasons with Green in Utica. Baumgartner played four seasons (1992-96) with the Kamloops Blazers and was twice named the WHL’s top defenceman.
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The junior B Port Moody Panthers of the Pacific Junior Hockey League have hired David McLellan as their head coach. He replaces Mike Renner, who was dropped on March 29. . . . McLellan has PJHL experience, having worked as head coach of the Delta IceHawks (2010-13), where he won a league championship in 2012. Most recently, he was the GM/head coach with the junior B Nelson Leafs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. He also has coached in the BCHL, B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League and in Japan.
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Jeff Brown resigned Tuesday as the general manager and head coach of the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. He cited personal reasons in leaving after three seasons. . . . He served as head coach for three seasons and GM for the past two. . . . “The move back to Ottawa has been difficult at times for my family,” Brown said in a news release, “and it’s time I put them first and became a full-time father as we transition back to our hometown of St. Louis.” . . . That news release is right here.
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The Chicago Blackhawks have fired Ted Dent, who was the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. Dent had been with Rockford through six seasons, going 221-179-54. Before taking over as head coach, he had been an assistant with the Blackhawks’ AHL team, either in Rockford or Norfolk, for five seasons.
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TUESDAY’S GAMES:


At Kelowna, F Keegan Kolesar scored his second goal of the game with 20 seconds left in the third period to give the Seattle Thunderbirds a 2-1 victory over the Rockets. . . . Seattle leads the Western
KEEGAN KOLESAR
Conference final, 2-1, with Game 4 in Kelowna tonight. . . . The Thunderbirds won the opener, 5-4, on a PP goal by D Ethan Bear with 12 seconds left in the third period. The Rockets won Game 2, 4-3 in OT. . . . Last night, the winner came off a faceoff in Kelowna’s, with F Mathew Barzal getting the puck back to D Turner Ottenbreit. His shot didn’t get through to the net, but the puck went to Kolesar who snapped a shot from the slot that beat G Michael Herringer through traffic. . . . Kolesar, who has nine goals, gave Seattle a 1-0 lead at 11:33 of the second period. . . . The Rockets tied it on a PP at 13:53 when F Calvin Thurkauf (7) scored a goal that was confirmed after a lengthy video review. A shot by F Nick Merkley went off the end boards and rebounded over the Seattle net, where Thurkauf batted it past G Carl Stankowski. . . . “They said that it was right at the cross bar,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk told Andy Eide of 710 ESPN Seattle. “It seems in the three games, we’re not getting any calls. Two goals last game, there were plays on the goals that could have been called and we’re just not getting the calls right now. We have to persevere and control what we can control.” . . . Kelowna was 1-7 on the PP; Seattle was 0-1. The Thunderbirds enjoyed the game’s first PP opportunity, then watched the Rockets get the last seven. . . . The Rockets have at least one PP goal in eight straight games. . . . Stankowski finished with 34 saves and was the game’s first star as he continued to weave his playoff magic. He is 10-1 in the playoffs since replacing injured starter Rylan Toth, who has yet to dress for a game. . . . Herringer finished with 12 saves. . . . Seattle had four shots on goal in each of the first and third periods. . . . Kelowna F Reid Gardiner, who leads the playoffs in goals (15) and points (27), had his point streak snapped at nine games. Gardiner had put up eight straight multi-point games, getting 24 points over that stretch. . . . Seattle F Donovan Neuls had his point streak end at 10 games, the longest in the playoffs this season. . . . Announced attendance: 5,085. . . . Eide’s story is right here. . . . Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier has a game story right here.
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At Lethbridge, F Jadon Joseph broke a 1-1 tie in the second period and the Hurricanes went on to score a 3-1 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Lethbridge leads the Eastern Conference final, 2-1, and will play
JADON JOSEPH
host to Game 4 tonight. . . . Joseph, who has two goals in these playoffs, took a slashing minor at 11:46 of the second period. He stepped out of the penalty box and went in to score the go-ahead goal at 13:54. . . . Joseph, a freshman from Sherwood Park, Alta., had three goals in 68 regular-season games. . . . D Brennan Menell (5) had given the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead just 16 seconds into the first period. . . . Regina tied it when F Dawson Leedahl (9) scored at 10:43 of the second period. . . . The Hurricanes got some insurance from F Egor Babenko (8), at 4:08 of the third period. . . . D Brady Poteau and F Tyler Wong each had two assists for Lethbridge. . . . The Hurricanes got 28 stops from G Stuart Skinner, who won his 10th game of the playoffs. . . . G Tyler Brown blocked 24 shots for Regina. . . . Each team was 0-3 on the PP. . . . The Pats received the game’s first three PP opportunities but weren’t able to score. That may well have been a turning point. Regina’s PP is 0-9 in the series. It was No. 1 (31.5 per cent) in the regular season. . . . Regina F Austin Wagner left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He has 12 goals and two assists in 14 games. . . . The Hurricanes remain without F Matt Alfaro, 20. . . . Announced attendance: 5,178. . . . Darren Steinke, the Travellin’ Blogger, is in Lethbridge and his Game 3 post is right here. . . . Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post has a game story right here.
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WEDNESDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Seattle at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m. (Seattle leads, 2-1)
Regina at Lethbridge, 7 p.m. (Lethbridge leads, 2-1)

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Papirny, Gawdin, Kaspick off to AHL ... Three schools get coaches ... Broncos sign prospect


F Taylor Vause (Swift Current, 2007-12) has signed a one-year extension with the Vienna Capitals (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, he had 13 goals and 15 assists in 49 games. . . . 
F Jens Meilleur (Brandon, 2010-14) has signed a one-year extension with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had eight goals and 10 assists in 36 games. He started the season with the Nuremberg Ice Tigers (Germany, DEL), going pointless in four games. He was loaned to Bayreuth (Germany, DEL2), where he had two assists in seven games. On to Blue Devils Weiden (Germany, Oberliga), he was pointless in one game. He signed with Kassel on Nov. 18. Meilleur had played for Kassel each of the previous two seasons.
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The Swift Current Broncos have signed D Connor Horning to a WHL contract. From Kelowna, Horning was a third-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. Horning, who will turn 16 on May 11, had a goal and six assists in 22 games with the Pursuit of Excellent 18U prep team. He also was pointless in four games with the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors.
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G Jordan Papirny of the Swift Current Broncos has signed an ATO with the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. . . . Papirny, who moved to the Broncos from the Brandon Wheat Kings in a January deal, completed his junior eligibility this season. Last season, he backstopped the Wheat Kings to a WHL title. . . . Here’s a note from pensionplanpuppets.com: “There’s no better place to start than the Toronto Marlies, and they may have some practice time opening up for (Papirny). With the Orlando Solar Bears losing their starting goalie Ryan Massa to a head injury after a line brawl, the Marlies could send Kasimir Kaskisuo back to Orlando to help out the Bears as they try to advance through the ECHL playoffs.”
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F Glenn Gawdin, the captain of the Swift Current Broncos, and F Tanner Kaspick of the Brandon Wheat Kings have signed ATOs with the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. . . . Gawdin, who turned 20 on March 25, has played four seasons with the Broncos. This season, he had 26 goals and 33 assists in 52 games. He was a fourth-round selection by the Blues in the NHL’s 2015 draft. If they don’t sign him by June 1, he will be available in the 2017 NHL draft. . . . Kaspick, 19, was selected by the Blues in the fourth round in 2016 draft. This season, Kaspick had 19 goals and 26 assists in 49 games. . . . The Wolves are involved in the first round of the AHL playoffs. They trail the Charlotte Checkers 2-1 in a best-of-five series that continues tonight (Tuesday) in Rosemont, Ill.
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Team USA won the IIHF U-18 World Championship on Sunday, beating Finland, last year’s winner, 4-2 in the final at Poprad, Slovakia. It was Team USA’s third championship in four years and its seven in the past nine years. . . . At this point in 2017, the IIHF has had four world titles decided and the U.S. has won them all -- the World Junior, the World Women’s, the Women’s U-18 and now the Men’s U-18. . . . There’s more right here. . . . Russia won the bronze medal with a 3-0 victory over Sweden in Poprad. Russia’s roster included D Mark Rubinchik of the Saskatoon Blades. It was Russia’s first medal in the competition since it won bronzie in 2011. Rubinchik had two goals and four assists in six games. . . . In Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia, Belarus won the best-of-three relegation series, 2-1, with a 3-1 victory over Latvia. D Vladislav Yeryomenko of the Calgary Hitmen had two goals and two assists in seven games with Belarus.
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If you enjoy stopping off here and would care to make a donation to the cause, please feel free to do so by clicking on the DONATE button and going from there.
If you have some information you would like to share or just a general comment, feel free to email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
If interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.
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Coaching

Sven Butenschon, a former Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman (1993-96), is expected to be named the fulltime head coach of the UBC Thunderbirds in Vancouver today. . . . Howard Tsumura of varsity letters.ca reported the story on Monday afternoon. . . . Butenschon, 41, moved up from assistant coach after UBC dropped head coach Adam Shell just prior to the start of last season. Under Butenschon, who was the program’s fourth head coach in as many seasons, the Thunderbirds went 12-13-3 and made the Canada West playoffs, where it was swept by the Calgary Dinos in a best-of-three first-round series. Game 1 went to triple OT.
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Mel Pearson has left Houghton-based Michigan Tech to take over as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines, who play out of Ann Arbor. At Michigan, he will replace the legendary Red Berenson, 77, who stepped aside following the season. . . . Pearson had spent 23 seasons (1983-2011) with the Wolverines as an assistant/associate coach before leaving to take over the Michigan Tech program. . . . Pearson was 118-92-29 at Michigan Tech, including a 75-34-14 run over the past three seasons. He has twice been named WCHA coach of the year. . . . Pearson’s father, Mel, played with the Flin Flon Bombers (1955-57) when they were in the SJHL — he played for them when they won the 1957 Memorial Cup — and later coached the Bombers for one season (1974-75). The people of Flin Flon haven’t forgotten him, either, as they annually hold the Mel Pearson Memorial Tournament for novice players.
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Jason Lammers is the new head coach of the Niagara U Purple Eagles. He replaces Dave Burkholder, who was dropped on March 13. Lammers is the third head coach in the program’s 21 years. Burkholder had been the head coach since 2001. Lammers will step into his job following the completion of the USHL playoffs. He is the head coach of the Dubuque, Iowa, Fighting Saints, who are involved in the second round of playoffs.
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MONDAY’S GAMES:

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

Seattle at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m. (Series tied, 1-1)
Regina at Lethbridge, 7 p.m. (Series tied, 1-1)

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