Sunday, May 28, 2017

Spitfires win 99th Memorial Cup ... Is it time for a format change? ... Hitmen looking for new head coach


D Ty Wishart (Prince George, Moose Jaw, 2004-08) has signed a one-year contract with Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Republic, Extraliga). This season, he had five goals and six assists in 49 games with Banská Bystrica (Slovakia, Extraliga).
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F Aaron Luchuk broke a 3-3 tie at 5:07 of the third period as the host Windsor Spitfires won the 99th Memorial Cup with a 4-3 victory over the OHL-champion Erie Otters on Sunday night. . . . This was the best game of what had been a rather mundane tournament. . . . The Spitfires, who won the tournament for the third time in nine years, ran the table in the four-team tournament, going 4-0. . . . The Otters wound up 3-2. . . . Also in the tournament were the QMJHL-champion Saint John Sea Dogs, who went 1-2 in the round-robin and then lost 6-3 to Erie in the semifinal game, and the WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds (0-3). . . .
Erie held 2-1 and 3-2 leads during the championship game. . . . Windsor F Jeremy Bracco, who finished with a goal and two assists, opened the scoring, on a PP, at 16:07 with his third goal of the event. . . . Erie F Dylan Strome tied it 49 seconds later. He finished with seven goals, one shy of the tournament record. . . . Erie took the lead at 5:35 of the second period, on a PP, when the puck hit F Warren Foegele (2) in the left skate and bounced into the net. The goal call was confirmed after video review, although many observers were left wondering exactly what constitutes a distinct kicking motion. . . . Windsor pulled even 52 seconds later when D Logan Stanley scored his first goal. . . . Erie went back out front at 12:41 as F TJ Fergus, the son of former NHL F Tom Fergus, scored his first goal. . . . The Spitfires tied it again, at 14:53, on another PP goal, this one from F Graham Knott (3). . . . That set the stage for Luchuk’s winner, which was set up by Bracco. . . . Windsor got two assists from each of F Gabriel Vilardi and Logan Brown. . . . Strome added an assist to his goal. . . . Both goalies had great games. . . . Michael DiPietro stopped 32 shots to record the victory over Troy Timpano, who made 18 saves. . . . Windsor was 2-4 on the PP; Erie was 1-4. . . . Announced attendance: 6,519, the tournament’s first sellout in the WFCU Centre, which has a capacity of 6,500. It also was the first sellout of the 2016-17 season in the facility. . . . Steve Papp, who works in the WHL, was one of the game’s two referees. The other was the OHL’s Darcy Burchell. . . .
Strome and F Taylor Raddysh of Erie led the tournament with 11 points each. . . . Strome also led in goals (7), while teammate Alex DeBrincat had a tournament-high eight assists. . . . DiPietro finished 4-0, 2.00, .932. . . . Windsor’s Rocky Thompson is the first head coach to win a Memorial Cup without having won a playoff series. . . . The Spitfires lost out to the London Knights in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series and then were off for 44 days before the tournament opened. . . . The last host team to win the Memorial Cup? The QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, in 2012. All told, 10 host teams have won it all since the format was adopted in 1983. . . . The 2018 Memorial Cup tournament, which will celebrate 100 years, is scheduled to be held in Regina with the WHL’s Pats as the host team. . . . Erie played in its 95th game of the season on Sunday, while Windsor was playing No. 79. . . .
The OHL now has won three straight Memorial Cups. . . . Windsor joins the Cornwall Royals and Kamloops Blazers atop the list, each with three Memorial Cup championships since the round-robin format began. . . . The New Westminster Bruins/Kamloops franchise won five titles. . . . Warren Rychel, the Spitfires’ general manager, has won three championships, tying Matt Leyden (Oshawa Generals, 1939, 1940, 1944) and Bob Brown (Kamloops, 1992, 1994, 1995). . . . Rychel is expected to leave the Spitfires for a spot in the front office of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.
Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun has a game story right here.
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Every year, it seems, the Memorial Cup format comes under fire once the tournament has concluded.
When the host team wins, which is what happened on Sunday when the Windsor Spitfires did just that, well, the flames seem to be just a little bit hotter.
OHLBut, really, is there a better way to decide a Memorial Cup champion than under the present format?
Ideally, it would be decided the way it was back in the day — with the eastern and western champions meeting in a best-of-seven series.
There also was a time (1972-82) when the Memorial Cup was decided in a three-team format without a host team. How do you think the 2017 event would have been received had it featured the Erie Otters, Saint John Sea Dogs and Seattle Thunderbirds in Windsor?
Having a host team allows an organizing committee to turn the tournament into a 10-day festival of sorts. Knowing where the tournament will be well in advance also means fans are able to book vacations and make plans to attend.
The one thing the 2017 tournament did was provide more evidence that junior hockey has lost its way to a certain degree. When it comes to ticket pricing, junior hockey needs to realize that it’s just that — junior hockey. Even with the Spitfires playing well and going 3-0 in the round-robin, the only game in Windsor that sold out was the final one.
It will be interesting to see how the Regina organizing committee and the CHL price tickets for the 2018 tournament in the Brandt Centre, which has a capacity of 6,484.
As we prepare for Regina, maybe the thing to do is come to the realization that the Memorial Cup doesn’t mean what it once did. Winning a league championship in the OHL, QMJHL or WHL is what it’s all about; winning a Memorial Cup is gravy, but it’s not the end of the world if a team gets there and comes up short.
While we’re at it, let’s take Memorial Cup week — or Memorial Cup 10 days — for what it is, a celebration of hockey, a time to enjoy being around other hockey people, fans and media (or what’s left of the media), and have a good time.
Now . . . about those ticket prices.  
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The Calgary Hitmen are in the market for a head coach.
The Hitmen announced Sunday that Mark French, their head coach for the past three seasons, has
signed on as head coach of the Fribourg-Gottéron Dragons of Switzerland’s National League A.
Rumblings about that possibility surfaced early this month with reports from Europe that French was to be interviewed by the Dragons.
Under French, the Hitmen went 117-80-19, qualifying for the playoffs each season. This season, Calgary was 30-32-10, grabbing the Eastern Conference’s second of two wild-card spots, before being swept by the Regina Pats in a first-round playoff series.
The Hitmen had signed French to what the club said was a “multi-year extension” on June 20.
French, who is from Milton, Ont., had joined the Hitmen after being head coach of Medveščak Zagreb in the KHL. He also was to have been an assistant coach with the U-18 Canadian team that will play in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August.
There now are two WHL teams without a head coach, the other being the Spokane Chiefs.
Former Kelowna Rockets coach Dan Lambert, who was fired last week by the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres as head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, has been rumoured to be in the mix in Spokane.
The Hitmen also are looking for a general manager, having promoted Mike Moore to vice-president and alternate governor on May 15. Moore is acting as general manager until a successor is found. Moore, who has been with the Hitmen for 10 seasons, had been Calgary’s GM through the past four seasons.
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cougars redo ticketing system ... Peterson has seen it all in Nashville ... Ex-WHL goalie retires


The Prince George Cougars, having lost a big chunk of change over the past three seasons, have moved to a new ticket-pricing system. As Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen writes: “The team has dropped age-based pricing and will instead sell tickets based on where the seats are located in the arena.”
Greg Pocock, the franchise’s president, told Clarke:
"We've lost $2.3 million in three years and we can't continue to provide the players with the experience they're getting, that they've earned and deserve, and lose that kind of money. It's not sustainable.
“Projecting forward, this will put us up in the middle of the league in our pricing structure and it should encourage more people to come out and enjoy Cougars hockey.”
Here’s how Clarke explained the new pricing system:
“The team has set up four tiers of ticket-pricing for season memberships. A premium centre ice red ticket in the two main sections of the arena which starts a few seats shy of each goal line on either side will cost $728. The next most expensive tickets ($576) are in the blue section to the sides and behind the goal in what will be the Cougars' attacking end for the first and third periods.
“Seats in the white section, which will be to the sides and behind the goal the Cougars will defend for two periods, are priced at $420. The cheapest seats ($252 for a full 36-game season) are in the green section and will be in the first four rows in either end. Based on a 36-game schedule, the per-game ticket cost is $20.20 (red), $16 (blue), $11.67 (white) and $7 (green).”
Clarke’s complete story is right here.
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Back in the day, Brent Peterson was a player (1974-78) with the Edmonton Oil Kings/Portland Winterhawks and a coach (1991-98) with Portland. He was the Winterhawks’ head coach when they won the 1998 Memorial Cup. . . . These days, he’s getting ready for the Stanley Cup final as a radio analyst on the Nashville Predators’ radio crew. Peterson, 59, has been with the Predators since Day 1, so you know how much this means to him. He was on the coaching staff until Parkinson’s disease made that untenable. . . . Allan Maki of The Globe and Mail has more on Peterson’s story right here.
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Nathan Lieuwen played in the WHL for seasons (2008-12) in the WHL, all of them tending goal for the Kootenay Ice. He’s 25 years of age now and has chosen to retire from hockey. He got into seven NHL games during his career, all of them with the Buffalo Sabres, but he got run over in the last one and ended up with a concussion, one that has had an impact on his vision. . . . Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada has more in his 30 Thoughts and it’s all right here.
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Friday, May 26, 2017

Winterhawks land big one ... Tigers deal goalie to Hitmen ... All OHL final at World Series


F Mads Eller (Edmonton, 2013-15) has signed a one-year contract with Rødovre (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). Eller played his minor hockey with Rødovre. This season, with Gentofte (Denmark, Metal Ligaen), he had a goal and four assists in 25 games. . . .
D Renat Mamashev (Moose Jaw, 2000-01) has signed a one-year contract with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Russia, KHL). This season, with Sochi (Russia, KHL), he had four goals and 13 assists in 47 games.
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F Kieffer Bellows is leaving Boston University to join the Portland Winterhawks. Bellows, who will turn 19 on June 10, is the son of former NHLer Brian Bellows.
Following this Memorial Day long weekend in the U.S., the Winterhawks will introduce Kieffer to the Portland fans and media at a Tuesday afternoon news conference.
The New York Islanders selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the NHL’s 2016 draft. A native of
KIEFFER BELLOWS
Edina, Minn., he was a seventh-round selection by Portland in the WHL’s 2013 bantam draft. That pick was made by Mike Johnston, then Portland’s general manager and head coach. Johnston returned to the Winterhawks prior to this season after a stint as head coach of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 6-foot-0, 200-pound Bellows was a freshman at BU this season. He struggled at times against NCAA competition, finishing with seven goals and seven assists in 34 games. However, he was solid with the U.S. national team, with two goals and an assist in seven games, as it won the 2017 World Junior Championship. 
Bellows spent 2014-15 with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, scoring 33 goals and adding 19 assists in 58 games. In 2015-16, he played 62 games with the U.S. National U-18 team, putting up 50 goals and 31 assists in 62 games. He also played 23 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program U-20 team, scoring 16 times and adding 16 assists.
The Winterhawks see Bellows as a power forward along the lines of graduating captain Keegan Iverson, but with a better scoring touch. Iverson had 26 goals and 44 assists in 55 games this season.
You can bet the house that Bellows will get the opportunity to play alongside F Cody Glass, who will be an early first-round selection in the NHL draft next month. Glass, who turned 18 on April 1, is a tremendous playmaker who had a breakout season, with 94 points, including 62 assists, in 69 games.
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For the third time this week, two WHL teams have been involved in a deal involving a goaltender.
On Friday, the Medicine Hat Tigers dealt G Nick Schneider, who turns 20 on July 21, to the Calgary
NICK SCHNEIDER
Hitmen for a fourth-round selection in the 2019 WHL bantam draft.
This season, Schneider, from Leduc, Alta., went 32-11-1, 3.43, .886. In 142 career regular-season games, he is 76-47-5, 3.30, .893. The Calgary Flames signed him to a three-year entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent in September 2015. As a signed 20-year-old, he will be eligible to play in the Flames’ organization, perhaps with the AHL’s Stockton Heat. But don’t forget that the Flames’ parent company — Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation — also owns the Hitmen.
On the Calgary end, this trade was made by former general manager Mike Moore. He was moved up from vice-president business operations and general manager to vice-president and alternate governor on May 15, but is continuing to act as GM until a successor is found.
Schneider began his career by playing nine games with the Regina Pats in 2013-14. On Jan. 10, 2014, the Tigers traded F Logan McVeigh and G Daniel Wapple to the Pats for Schneider, then 16, and a third-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft.
Schneider joins two other veteran goaltenders on Calgary’s roster — Cody Porter, who turns 20 on Sept. 23, and Kyle Dumba, 19.
Aside from Porter, the roster includes four other 20-year-olds — F Matteo Gennaro, D Jaydan Gordon, D Brady Reagan and F Jakob Stukel.
On Tuesday, the Tigers acquired G Jordan Hollett, 18, from Regina for F Matt Bradley, 20, a second-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft and a fifth-rounder in 2019.
Having traded away Bradley and Schneider, the Tigers still have eight 20-year-olds on their roster, including G Michael Bullion. Others are Swedish F John Dahlstrom, F Zach Fischer, D Brad Forrest, D Jordan Henderson, F Mark Rassell, D Kristians Rubins, who is from Latvia, and D Ty Schultz.
The other trade involving a goaltender came down on Thursday, as the Everett Silvertips dealt Mario Petit, who will turn 20 on July 25, to the Kootenay Ice for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2018 bantam draft.
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D Vojtech Budik of the Prince Albert Raiders has been invited to the summer camp of the Czech Republic’s national junior team. That camp is to run in Rokycany and Salzburg, June 9-16. . . . Budik, 19, had a goal and 25 assists in 56 games with the Raiders last season. . . . He was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the fifth-round of the NHL’s 2016 draft. . . . Budik played two games for Czech Republic at the 2017 World Junior Championship.
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Coaching Game

The Buffalo Sabres have fired Dan Lambert, who was the head coach of their AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans, for one season. Lambert, a former WHL player and coach, went 32-41-3 with the Americans this season. Last season, Lambert, 47, was an assistant coach with the Sabres. Prior to that, he spent six seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, five as an assistant coach and the last one (2014-15) as head coach. The Rockets won the WHL title in his only season as head coach. . . . A defenceman, he played four seasons (1986-90) with the Swift Current Broncos, helping them to the 1989 Memorial Cup championship. . . . Even before the Sabres fired him on Friday, Lambert’s name had been mentioned in Spokane as a potential candidate for the Chiefs’ vacant head-coaching job.
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Anthony Noreen is the new general manager and head coach of the USHL’s Tri-City Storm. Noreen takes over from Bill Muckalt, the head coach for two seasons, who left to pursue other opportunities. . . . When this season began, Noreen, 43, was in his second season as head coach of the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. However, he was fired on Nov. 14. . . . Prior to that, the Chicago native spent five seasons with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms, one as an assistant coach and four as GM/head coach. . . . Muckalt spent four seasons as an assistant coach at Michigan Tech before joining the Storm.
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Jessie Leung has stepped down as head coach of the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League and has joined the BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters as an assistant coach. . . . Leung spent six seasons with the Hawks, the last three as head coach. He guided them to a league title in 2015-16. . . . In Trail, Leung will work alongside general manager/head coach Cam Keith.
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FRIDAY’S GAME:

The OHL-champion Erie Otters broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of early third-period goals en route to a 6-3 victory over the QMJHL-champion Saint John Sea Dogs in the Memorial Cup semifinal on Friday night in Windsor, Ont. . . . The Otters will meet the host Spitfires in the tournament final on Sunday. Game time is 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET). . . .
Last night, F Dylan Strome broke the 2-2 tie with his sixth goal of the tournament at 2:38 of the third period and F Gera Poddubnyi added insurance at 3:45 with his first goal. . . . F Taylor Raddysh (5) upped the lead to 5-2, on a PP, at 12:31. . . . Saint John D Thomas Chabot (2) chopped the deficit to two with his second goal at 16:28. . . . Erie F Warren Foegele (1) iced it with an empty-netter at 19:26. . . . Erie D Darren Raddysh (3) had opened the scoring at 9:56 of the first period, with F Joe Veleno (3) of the Sea Dogs equalizing at 14:10. . . . Erie went ahead 2-1 when Taylor Raddysh scoring, on a PP, at 10:57. . . . Saint John F Julien Gauthier, who also had two assists, tied it, on a PP, at 19:18. . . . F Alex DeBrincat recorded three assists for the Otters and F Anthony Cirelli had two. . . . Erie G Troy Timpano stopped 20 shots. At the other end, Callum Booth turned aside 31. . . . Erie was 2-7 on the PP; Saint John was 1-2. . . . Announced attendance: 5,410. . . .
When they met in the round-robin portion of the tournament, Windsor posted a 4-2 victory despite being outshot, 35-19. . . . The Otters are hoping to become the first U.S.-based team from the OHL to win the Memorial Cup. . . . Sunday’s final will be the first since 2007 to feature two teams from the same league. In 2007, the host Vancouver Giants beat the WHL-champion Medicine Hat Tigers, 3-1, in the final. . . . This will be the third Memorial Cup in a row won by an OHL team. The London Knights won it last year, with the Oshawa Generals having won in 2015. . . . 
Both head coaches — Windsor’s Rocky Thompson and Erie’s Kris Knoblauch — are former WHL players and coaches, who may be coaching their final major junior game on Sunday. Both are expected to move on to the pro ranks after this season. There has been speculation that Thompson will be the next head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. 
Jim Parker of Postmedia has a game story right here.

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The WHL and its Memorial Cup nightmare: What to do?


What’s going on here?
In the nine Memorial Cup tournaments from 2000 through 2008, WHL teams were 22-19 against teams from the OHL and QMJHL. As well, five different WHL teams won the tournament.
The Vancouver Giants, as the host team, won the title in 2007. The WHL-champion Spokane Chiefs won it in 2008. The WHL was skating in high clover.
Since then, well, if you’re a WHL fan the numbers are ugly.
Since then, there have been nine Memorial Cup tournaments and only one has been won by a WHL team — the 2014 Edmonton Oil Kings. Don’t forget, too, that three of the tournaments in that stretch were played in WHL cities. That means that only one of 12 WHL teams to have played in the tournament over that time has brought home the loot.
If you take a look at those 12 teams, only four won more games than they lost in the round-robin portion of the tournament — the 2016 Red Deer Rebels, who were the host team, the 2013 Portland Winterhawks, 2010 Calgary Hitmen and 2009 Kelowna Rockets.
In the past two tournaments, the WHL champions — the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2016 and Seattle Thunderbirds this time around — went a combined 0-6 and were outscored 34-8 — yes, 34-8! — in six round-robin games. The Thunderbirds went 0-3 and were outscored 18-3 in the tournament that is ongoing in Windsor, Ont.
So . . . what’s going on?
The easy thing is to say, well, junior hockey is cyclical and this is all part of the cycle.
But that is supposed to be a three- or four-year cycle. Could this be deeper than that?
As one long-time observer suggested to me on Sunday, after the host Windsor Spitfires had whipped the Thunderbirds, 7-1: “Too many teams, not enough players.”
The WHL has 22 teams. There are 20 in the OHL and 18 in the QMJHL. In the past nine years, the OHL has won four Memorial Cup titles, the QMJHL three, with the 2017 event yet to be decided, but likely headed for an OHL team.
The WHL faces stiff competition from junior A teams in recruiting talent. This season, there were 56 junior A teams operating in Western Canada — 11 in the MJHL, 12 in the SJHL, 16 in the AJHL and 17 in the BCHL.
Of course, a player in junior A maintains his NCAA eligibility, while a player who signs a WHL contract loses his. With 22 teams, the WHL has to find a way to attract more of the better players. It needs to raise the talent level on the bottom half its rosters, which is where the OHL teams have an edge.
Then there is the issue of travel.
The WHL’s regular-season schedule — each team plays 72 games — with all of the travel that comes with it, works against it as it limits practice time, something that is invaluable in what is a development league. It’s worth noting that the OHL and QMJHL regular seasons are 68 games in length.
During Tuesday’s game, Sportsnet put up a graphic showing the playoff travel of each of the four
Memorial Cup teams. The Spitfires, who played only one round, were at 1,146 km. The OHL-champion Erie Otters finished at 5,376, with the QMJHL-champion Saint John Sea Dogs at 10,320. The Thunderbirds travelled 13,724 km. Keep in mind, too, that of all the CHL playoff series this spring, the one between Seattle and the Everett Silvertips featured the two teams in the closest proximity to each other. Yes, the Thunderbirds did some serious travelling in the other three series.
But . . . the Thunderbirds won the WHL title in Regina on a Sunday night, flew to Abbotsford, B.C., the next day and rode the bus home. Two days later, they flew to Windsor. Could they not have cut down on some of the travel by staying in Regina and flying from there to Windsor?
I wondered the same thing a year ago when the Wheat Kings won the championship in Seattle, bussed to Abbotsford, flew home for a couple of days and then drove to Red Deer, only to go 0-3 and be outscored 16-5.
The WHL needs to work harder to get its players more rest and more practice time. When the teams returned from their Christmas break this season, each of the 22 teams, with minimal if any practice time, promptly played three games in four nights. The WHL needs a schedule with a minimum of three games in three nights and no more four in fives. Oh, and one other thing — if a team plays on a Saturday night it shouldn’t have to play a Sunday game that starts before 6 p.m.
Of course, none of this would guarantee a WHL victory in the Memorial Cup, but surely it would make life at least a bit easier for its players, which can only be good for the product.
Meanwhile, a former WHL coach told Taking Note that there is one other thing involved in all of this. It seems that not all teams are able to come down from the high of winning a WHL championship and then scale the heights again a few days later at the Memorial Cup.
“It's really hard to reset your team mentally after you win your league title because of the grind it takes to win,” he said. “Then you have to get ready mentally for a one-win tourney format . . . not all young players can do it.”
Just more food for thought . . .

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ice gets goaltender from Silvertips ... Oil Kings sign early pick ... Name stays same in Regina


F Tomáš Karpov (Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2007-09) has signed a one-year extension with the Basingstoke Bison (England, Premier). This season he had 20 goals and 28 assists in 20 games, while serving as an alternate captain. Karpov also is attending the University of Winchester and working on his master's degree while playing with the Bison.
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The Kootenay Ice has acquired G Mario Petit, who turns 20 on July 25, from the Everett Silvertips in exchange for a conditional sixth-round selection in the 2018 WHL bantam draft.
The pick is conditional on Petit making the Ice’s roster.
MARIO PETIT
Petit has backed up Everett starter Carter Hart for the past two seasons. From Île-des-Chênes, Man., Petit is 14-8-8, 2.89, .892 in 37 regular-season appearances. In the playoffs, he is 3-0, 1.30, .953.
This is the first trade made by Matt Cockell, the Ice’s new general manager.
The Ice is looking for a starting goaltender after Payton Lee completed his eligibility this season. Jakob Walter, 18, also is on the roster after getting into 30 game this season (4-17-2, 5.02, .868).
The Silvertips still have eight 20-year-olds on their roster — F Keith Anderson, F Cal Babych, F Patrick Bajkov, D Kevin Davis, D Mackenzie Dwyer, F Matt Fonteyne, D Noah Juulsen and F Devon Skoleski. Juulsen, a first-round pick by Montreal in the NHL’s 2015 draft, has signed and is expected to play in the Canadiens’ organization next season.
Hart, 19, remains No. 1 on their goaltending depth chart, with Dorrin Luding, 18, and Dustin Wolf, 16, also there.
Ludding, from Prince George, played this season with the Valley West Hawks of the B.C. Major Midget League. He was a third-round pick by the Saskatoon Blades in the 2014 bantam draft. On Dec. 5, Everett acquired him from Saskatoon for a sixth-round pick in the 2019 bantam draft.
Wolf, from Tustin, Calif., was a fifth-round selection in the 2016 bantam draft. Wolf has been in the Los Angeles Jr. Kings program for three seasons. Some observers see Wolf as the heir apparent to Hart, the WHL’s goaltender of the year each of the past two seasons.
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The Edmonton Oil Kings have signed F Jake Neighbours to a WHL contract. From Airdrie, Alta., Neighbours was the fourth overall selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. He played this season with the Pursuit of Excellence’s bantam prep team, putting up 68 points, including 27 goals, in 30 games. That left him third in the Canadian Sports School Bantam Hockey League scoring race. He had five goals and six assists in five playoff games.
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The Brandt Centre, home of the Regina Pats, will be keeping its name for at least the next 10 years. Evraz Place announced Thursday that it has cut a 10-year deal with the Brandt Group of Companies for naming rights to the arena. . . . Regina Exhibition Association Ltd., which operates the facility, had been advertising that the naming rights were available. . . . Shaun and Gavin Semple, who are partners in Queen City Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the Pats, are with the Brandt Group of Companies. . . . The 2018 Memorial Cup will be played in the Brandt Centre with the Pats in as the host team.
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Coaching

Cory Stillman is the new head coach of the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. Stillman, from Peterborough, Ont., played three seasons in the OHL, with the Windsor Spitfires and Peterborough Petes, before going on to a pro career that included two Stanley Cup championships with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes. For the past five seasons, he has been working in player development with the Hurricanes. . . . Stillman takes over from Dave Matsos, who had one year left on his contract when he and the Wolves parted company, saying they weren’t able to reach agreement on a contract extension.
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James Richmond, who added the general manager’s duties to his head-coaching responsibilities with the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads earlier this week, has his hockey operations team in order. . . . From a news release: “Assistant coach Jeff Kyrzakos and Mike Doyle, the co-ordinator of analytics, have been promoted from within and will both take on assistant general manager duties. Kyrzakos will also remain as an assistant coach. Former video coach Brendan Taylor will step in to an assistant coach position and join Richmond and Kyrzakos behind the bench next season. Ryan Daniels will remain on staff as the team’s goaltending coach.” . . . As well, Rob Toffoli has been named head scout, after having scouted the Toronto area for the Ottawa 67’s. He is the father of Los Angeles Kings F Rob Toffoli.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spitfires have spot in Memorial Cup final ... Hitmen move two veteran scouts ... Rockets' top pick commits to UND


F Michal Hlinka (Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, 2010-12) has signed a one-year extension with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL). This season, he had seven goals and four assists in 43 games. Hlinka also spent time with Dukla Trenčín (Slovakia, Extraliga) this season, scoring three goals and adding an assist in 13 games.
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The host Windsor Spitfires claimed the first berth in the Memorial Cup final with a 4-2 victory over the OHL-champion Erie Otters on Wednesday night. The Otters (2-1) will play in Friday’s semifinal, where they will meet the QMJHL-champion Saint John Sea Dogs (1-2). The winner of that game will meet the Spitfires (3-0) in Sunday’s final. . . . The WHL-champion Seattle Thunderbirds went 0-3 and were eliminated on Tuesday when they lost 7-0 to Saint John. . . . 
OHLLast night, F Jeremiah Addison, who finished with three goals, got Windsor started with a pair of first-period goals, at 5:50 and 15:28. F Gabriel Vilardi earned the primary assist on both goals en route to a four-assist game. . . . F Mikhail Sergachev upped it to 3-0 with his first goal, on a PP, just 43 seconds into the second period. . . . F Kyle Maksimovich got Erie on the scoreboard when he scored off a rebound at 8:10 of the third period. . . . Addison completed his hat trick at 13:31. . . . F Taylor Raddysh’s third goal of the tournament got Erie to within two goals at 17:34, on a PP. . . . 
The Spitfires got a big game from G Michael DiPietro, with 33 saves. At the other end, Troy Timpano turned aside 15 shots. . . . Erie was 1-3 on the PP; Windsor was 1-4. . . . Erie F Alex DeBrincat, who scored 65 goals in the regular season, was helped from the ice late in the second period after taking a hit from Addison. However, DeBrincat was back for the third period. . . . Announced attendance: 6,136.
Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun has a game story right here.
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The Calgary Hitmen moved Mike Moore from general manager and vice-president of business operations to vice-president and alternate governor last week. The announcement was made by Ken King, the president and CEO of Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation. . . . Taking Note was told Wednesday night that the Hitmen also jettisoned Dan Bonar and Roy Stasiuk, although those moves weren’t included in the announcement. . . . Bonar, 60, had been with the Hitmen since 2003, starting as a scout. He was named head scout on July 11, 2011, and took over as director of player personnel prior to the 2013-14 season. Bonar, from Deloraine, Man., played three seasons (1974-77) with the Brandon Wheat Kings before going on to a pro career that included 169 NHL games with the Los Angeles Kings. . . . Stasiuk, from Edmonton, was named Calgary’s Prairie scouting director on July 31, 2015. Before joining Calgary, he spent six seasons scouting for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs. Prior to that, Stasiuk, 54, spent 20 seasons in the WHL, working with the Prince Albert Raiders, Red Deer Rebels, Edmonton Oil Kings, Kootenay Ice and Lethbridge Hurricanes.
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F Ethan Bowen, whose WHL rights belong to the Kelowna Rockets, has committed to North Dakota, for 2020-21, while saying he will play for the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs in 2018-19. Bowen, who turned 15 on May 14, is from Chilliwack. He played this season at the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C., putting up 33 goals and 29 assists in 29 games with the bantam prep team. . . . Had there not been doubts about which route he would take, Bowen would have been an early first-round selection in the WHL’s 2017 bantam draft. The Rockets took him with their first pick, which happened to be in the second round. 
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The NHL’s Arizona Coyotes have signed Craig Cunningham, 26, to a two-year contract as a pro scout. He also will work in player development. Cunningham, from Trail, B.C., played in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants and Portland Winterhawks (2006-11). He was the captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate, when his playing career ended this season when he suffered a cardiac emergency prior to a game on Nov. 19. Doctors later had to amputate part of his left leg.
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Coaching

Darryl Sydor is back in the NHL. The St. Louis Blues announced Wednesday that Sydor has been signed to a three-year contract as an assistant coach. Sydor, 45, will work alongside Blues head coach Mike Yeo. . . . Sydor, a co-owner of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, was an assistant coach with the Minnesota Wild for five seasons during Yeo’s time there as head coach. . . . This season, Sydor was an assistant coach with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. . . . Sydor, from Edmonton, played four seasons (1988-92) in Kamloops.
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Arnie Caplan is the new general manager and head coach of the MJHL’s Waywayseecappo Wolverines. Caplan, 49, most recently was the head coach of the Portage College Voyageurs of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference. As a goaltender, he made brief stops in the MJHL and the WHL, before spending four years with the Acadia Axemen. . . . With the Wolverines, Caplan replaces Barry Butler, who had been the GM/head coach for all but two seasons since 1999-2000, when the franchise joined the MJHL.
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Kirk MacDonald has been named director of hockey operations and head coach of the ECHL’s Reading Royals, who have a working agreement with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. MacDonald signed a three-year contract. MacDonald took over as interim head coach on April 3, replacing Larry Courville, who was fired with a week left in the regular season. He had revealed in February that he wouldn’t be returning for another season. MacDonald, who is from Victoria, had been an assistant coach since July 2014. 
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