Sunday, March 19, 2017

WHL's playoff stage is set . . . Last pairings set on final day . . . Post-season begins Friday




F Bud Holloway (Seattle, 2003-08) has signed a two-year contract extension with Skellefteå (Sweden, SHL). He had 11 goals and 11 assists in 26 games this season. Holloway started the season with CSKA Moscow (Russia, KHL) and had three goals and six assists in 12 games when he was released on Nov. 18. He signed with Skellefteå on Dec. 1.
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The rant is legendary. The NFL’s New York Jets were 2-5 in 2002 and head coach Herm Edwards wasn’t happy.
Addressing a news conference on Oct. 30, Edwards said: “This is what the greatest thing about sports is: You play to win the game. Hello! You play to win the game.”
And then along came the loser point.
The Prince George Cougars, in their 23rd season in the northern city, won their first B.C. Division pennant on Saturday night, despite losing 2-1 in a shootout to the visiting Kamloops Blazers.
This isn’t to slight the Cougars’ accomplishment. After all, you play the hand you’re dealt — and you play by the rules as they are put in front of you — and that’s exactly what the Cougars did. At the end of a gruelling 72-game regular season, the Cougars stood tallest. There is no taking that away from them and the entire organization should hold its head high.
But regulation time on Saturday came to something of a strange conclusion, and it’s something at which the pooh-bahs who are enamoured with the loser point need to look.
Here’s Ted Clarke of the Prince George Citizen, explaining what happened:
“The game was heading into overtime with 80 seconds to play when Cougars defenceman Brendan Guhle got the puck behind the net and just stood there running time off the clock. Guhle wisely figured it was better to play it safe and lock away the point to clinch than try to go for the win in regulation and run the risk of the Blazers popping one in. He stayed behind the net a full 40 seconds.”
The Cougars went into the game with a two-point edge over the second-place Kelowna Rockets. Prince George, then, needed one point to wrap up first place. With the score 1-1 late in the game, the Cougars knew that the single point was all they needed. 
The loser point, then, has brought us to a point where, as Herm Edwards might say, “There are times when you don't play to win the game.”
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The stage is set for the WHL playoffs to open on Friday and you can bet that teams have fingers crossed in the hopes that the mumps virus doesn’t show up along the trail.
The most recent WHLers to show symptoms — G Jordan Papirny of the Swift Current Broncos and F Mathew Barzal of the Seattle Thunderbirds — may be ready to return to the ice. However, the playoffs also signal the start of the WHL’s secret season, so we may not know how healthy they are until we see the Game 1 lineups.
Papirny hasn’t played since March 7. Barzal, the Western Conference’s top player this season, took part in the warmup on March 10, prior to a game against the visiting Everett Silvertips, but left the ice and hasn’t played since. He has missed five games.
The virus continues to lurk around Western Canadian arenas, too. On Sunday, the NHL’s Calgary Flames revealed that F Michael Ferland has been isolated while they await test results for mumps.
“We’ll probably know in the next day or so,” Brad Treliving, the Flames’ general manager, told Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson. “When you start not feeling well, start to show some symptoms, then you have to push pause and make sure that gets checked out.
“That’s the key thing — this is precautionary right now. But until such time that we get a diagnosis one way or another, we’re going to take precautions.”
If Ferland tests positive, the Flames will be the third NHL team impacted by mumps this season, along with the Vancouver Canucks and Minnesota Wild.
At least five WHL teams — Seattle, Swift Current, the Brandon Wheat Kings, Medicine Hat Tigers and Victoria Royals — have had players and coaches with symptoms.
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The Vancouver Giants raised $12,102 for the Kidney Foundation of Canada during a recent promotion that involved them wearing sweaters in honour of Don Cherry, and then auctioning them off. . . . Roxanne Hooper of the Langley Advance has more right here, including the news that “an original Don Cherry ensemble, complete with a signed Don Cherry jacket, shirt and tie . . . fetched the largest donation of $1,810.”
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Jimmy Breslin, a legendary New York City newspaperman, had died at the age of 86. No writer has put grit on a newspaper page the way Breslin did. In fact, he was New York City. . . . He was in bed on the night John Lennon was shot. In two hours, Breslin wrote this column right here. . . . If you haven’t read it, it’s also worth your while to chase down the column he wrote after the assassination of JFK. . . . And if you want more of Breslin’s brilliance, click right here and you’ll find three columns that he wrote about the man who now is POTUS. These columns are from 1990, 1989 and 1988.
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THE STAGE IS SET . . . 

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Regina vs. Calgary: Opens with games Friday and Saturday in Regina. . . . Regina won season series, 3-1-0; Calgary was 1-2-1.
Medicine Hat vs. Brandon: Opens in Medicine Hat, Friday and Saturday. . . . Season series went to Medicine Hat, 3-1-0.
Lethbridge vs. Red Deer: Opens in Lethbridge on Saturday and Sunday. . . . Lethbridge was 5-0-1 in season series; Red Deer was 1-4-1.
Moose Jaw vs. Swift Current: They’ll start with games Friday and Saturday in Moose Jaw. . . . The Warriors won the season series, 4-2-0.
WESTERN CONFERENCE
Everett vs. Victoria: They are scheduled to open Friday and Saturday in Everett. . . . The Silvertips were 4-0-0 in the season series; the Royals were 0-3-1.
Prince George vs. Portland: It starts with games Friday and Saturday in Prince George. . . . In the season series, the Cougars were 2-2-0; the Winterhawks were 2-1-1. . . . Interestingly, the WHL website includes dates for only the first four games. Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ GM/head coach, told the Portland Tribune that he would prefer a 2-3-2 format. The Cougars want to play 2-2-1-1-1. This one might take some negotiating.
Seattle vs. Tri-City: They’ll get started in Kent, Wash., on Friday and Saturday. . . . Seattle won the season series, 6-2-0.
Kelowna vs. Kamloops: The series begins in Kelowna on Friday and Saturday. . . . Kamloops was 6-3-1 in the season series; the Rockets were 4-6-0.
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SUNDAY’S GAMES:


At Edmonton, F Riley Stadel completed his WHL career with an OT goal that gave the Oil Kings a 5-4
RILEY STADEL
victory over the Red Deer Rebels. . . . The Oil Kings (23-43-6), who won’t be in the playoffs, concluded their season with three straight victories, the last two over Red Deer. In fact, five of Edmonton’s 23 victories came against Red Deer (30-29-13), which finished third in the Central Division. . . . The Oil Kings scored the game’s first two goals and the last three. . . . D Ethan Cap gave the home side a 1-0 lead at 6:54 of the first period and F Tyson Gruninger (3) made it 2-0 at 8:07 of the second. . . . The Rebels scored the next four goals. . . . F Evan Polei (33) got them to within a goal at 9:38. . . . F Brandon Hagel, who had two goals and two assists, tied it, on a PP, at 19:17. . . . Hagel (31) gave his guys the lead at 11:47 of the third period and F Austin Glover (22), who had two assists, stretched the lead at 14:13. . . . The Oil Kings got close when F Trey Fix-Wolansky got No. 24, on a PP, at 18:29, and F Colton Kehler (18) tied it at 18:59. . . . Stadel won it with his seventh goal of the season. . . . Edmonton got three assists from F Davis Koch and two from F Graham Millar. . . . G Patrick Dea stopped 23 shots for Edmonton, with G Riley Lamb turning aside 32 at the other end. . . . Edmonton was 1-3 on the PP; Red Deer was 1-6. . . . Edmonton F Adam Berg got tossed with a charging major and game misconduct at 4:48 of the third period. . . . The Rebels rested D Colton Bobyk and F Michael Spacek. . . . Announced attendance: 18,102.
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At Portland, it was a memorable night for the Yamamoto brothers as they led the Spokane Chiefs to a 7-2 victory over the Winterhawks. . . . The Chiefs (27-33-12) won’t be in the playoffs, so this was the final
KEANU YAMAMOTO
game for F Keanu Yamamoto, 20. Head coach Don Nachbaur, with an obvious feel for the moment, had Keanu on a line with his younger brother, Kailer. . . . Keanu finished with two goals, an assist and a fight, while Kailer helped out with three assists. . . . F Riley Wood had a goal and two assists for the Chiefs. . . . Spokane took a 1-0 lead on F Alex Mowbray’s fourth goal, at 5:57 of the first period. . . . Woods (12) increased that lead, on a PP, at 8:04, after Portland was given a bench minor for having an ineligible player on the bench. F Brett Clayton was listed as a scratch but was dressed. Because he was scratched, he was ineligible. . . . D Henri Jokiharju (9) got Portland on the scoreboard, on a PP, at 11:43, but the Chiefs scored the next four goals. . . . Keanu Yamamoto got two of those, to run his total to 26, with F Eli Zummack (9) and F Hudson Elynuik (29) getting the others. . . . F Riley McKay (3) had Spokane’s other goal, while F Keegan Iverson (26) also scored for Portland. . . . Elynuik and Zummack added an assist each. . . . Jokiharju and Iverson each had an assist for Portland. . . . G Jayden Sittler recorded the victory with 30 saves. . . . Portland G Shane Farkas blocked 27 shots. . . . Spokane was 3-6 on the PP; Portland was 2-4. . . . F Cody Glass, who didn’t play in the final two periods of Saturday’s 4-1 victory over the host Seattle Thunderbirds, was among Portland’s scratches. . . . The Winterhawks (40-28-4) had won their previous three games. They finished in the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot and now will move into a first-round playoff series with the Prince George Cougars, who finished atop the B.C. Division. . . . Announced attendance: 9,114.
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At Kent, Wash., F Alexander True and F Nolan Volcan each scored twice to lead the Seattle
AUSTIN STRAND
Thunderbirds to a 6-1 victory over the Vancouver Giants. . . . Seattle (46-20-6) finished second in the U.S. Division. This victory lifted it two points clear of the Prince George Cougars, something that could come into play in deciding home-ice advantage down the playoff trail. . . . The Thunderbirds will open against the Tri-City Americans. . . . The Giants (20-46-6) lost their last three games. They missed the playoffs for a third straight season and the fourth time in five years. . . . True, who finished with 25 goals, gave Seattle a 1-0 lead 30 seconds into the first period. . . . Volcan, who had 16 goals, made it 2-0 at 8:34. . . . F Elijah Brown (4), and F Matthew Wedman (6) also scored for Seattle. . . . F Johnny Wesley scored his 11th goal for Vancouver, at 15:15 of the third period. . . . D Austin Strand and F Keegan Kolesar each had two assists for Seattle. . . . Strand led the WHL in games played, with 74. He opened the season with the Red Deer Rebels, playing 38 games there before being dealt to Seattle, where he played the final 36 games. . . . Seattle G Carl Stankowsi stopped 19 shots. . . . Vancouver starter David Tendeck allowed six goals on 25 shots through two periods. Ryan Kubic played the third, stopping all nine shots he faced. . . . Seattle was 1-4 on the PP; Vancouver was 0-3. . . . Announced attendance: 4,067.
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At Kennewick, Wash., the Tri-City Americans were this close ( ) to a first-round series with the Prince George Cougars when they scored three quick goals and beat the Everett Silvertips, 6-5, in OT. . . . The
JORDAN TOPPING
Silvertips twice held third-period leads — 4-2 and 5-3 — and it appeared that the Americans would end up fourth in the U.S. Division and in possession of the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot, meaning a first-round hookup with the Cougars, who won the B.C. Division. . . . However, F Jordan Topping, who had three goals, cut the deficit to one, at 17:44, and D Dylan Coghlan (15) tied it at 18:33, with Topping drawing an assist. . . . Topping, who finished with 28 goals, won it 2:40 into extra time. . . . F Brandson Hein gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 3:07 of the first period, before Tri-City scored twice — F Morgan Geekie (35), on a PP, at 6:12 of the first period, and D Juuso Valimaki (19), at 2:48 of the second. . . . Everett took a 4-2 lead on goals from F Riley Sutter (20), who later left with an apparent injury, at 4:42, Hein (6), at 13:22, and F Brian King (4), at 4:29 of the third period. . . . Topping pulled his side to within a goal at 6:25, only to have Everett F Connor Dewar (14) get it back at 13:48. . . . All that did was set up the Americans for the big finish. . . . Tri-City F Tyler Sandhu had three assists, D Parker Wotherspoon and Coghlan each had two, and Valimaki had one. . . . King and Hein had an assist each for Everett. . . . Tri-City G Rylan Parenteau earned the victory in relief of Evan Sarthou. Parenteau stopped six of seven shots in 17:36, after Sarthou was beaten four times on 23 shots in 44:29. . . . Everett got 39 saves from Mario Petit. . . . Tri-City was 1-3 on the PP; Everett was 0-5. . . . The Silvertips rested D Noah Juulsen, D Lucas Skrumeda, F Dominic Zwerger, F Patrick Bajkov and F Matt Fonteyne. . . . Everett F Devon Skoleski left early with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Silvertips (44-16-12) won the U.S. Division and Western Conference titles and will meet the Victoria Royals, the conference’s second wild-card entry, in the first round. . . . Everett finished with points in its last four games (3-0-1). . . . The Americans (41-28-3) played three games in fewer than 48 hours to close out the regular season. They won all three, twice in OT and once in a shootout. . . .. . . . Announced attendance: 4,190.
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END OF REGULAR SEASON

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