Apologies for the brief absence. We were away for a couple of days and there were Internet issues in the hotel in which we stayed. . . . So now to get caught up . . .
F David Hruška (Red Deer, 1995-96) has signed a one-year extension with Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic, Extraliga).
This season, in 50 games, he had 12 goals and 15 assists. He also was an alternate captain.
Dale Marquette, a former WHL player and coach, died on the weekend. He was 47. His ex-wife Lisa Norman has said: “Due to complications with his diabetes he slipped into a coma and passed away.” . . . Marquette was from Prince George. . . . He played four seasons (1984-88) in the WHL, the first two with the Lethbridge Broncos and the last two with the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheat Kings traded F Sheldon Kennedy to the Broncos, who were moving to Swift Current, in exchange for Marquette. . . . In his final season, he finished with 103 points, including 51 goals, in 62 games. . . . He was a 10th-round selection by the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL’s 1987 draft. . . . Later, he was the head coach of the Rocky Mountain Junior League’s Prince George Spruce Kings (1993-95), the WHL’s Prince George Cougars (1995-96) and the BCHL’s Quesnel Millionaires (2000-01).
F Oliver Bjorkstrand of the Portland Winterhawks is the WHL’s scoring leader heading into the final week of regular-season play. Bjorkstrand had a goal and four assists in an 8-6 victory over the visiting Spokane Chiefs on Sunday. He now leads the WHL in goals (57) and points (108). . . . F Trevor Cox of the Medicine Hat Tigers is second, with 105 points, with Brandon Wheat Kings Tim McGauley at 103. . . . The last WHLer to score 57 goals in one season was Portland F Ty Rattie (2011-12). The last Portland skater with more than 57 goals was F Lonny Bohonos, who scored 62 in 1993-94.
G Coleman Vollrath of the Victoria Royals is riding a shutout streak of 129 minutes 31 seconds. That includes back-to-back shutouts of the Vancouver Giants. The franchise record for longest shutout streak is held by Matt Esposito (153:56) of the Chilliwack Bruins. The Victoria record is 139:04 and belongs to Patrik Polivka (2013-14). . . . Vollrath’s second shutout of the Giants was his sixth of the season and that set a Victoria/Chilliwack single-season record. For one day, Vollrath, 19, had shared the record with Lucas Gore (2009-10, 2010-11) and Polivka (2013-14).
The Victoria Royals, who will finish second in the B.C. Division, will open the playoffs at home on March 27 and 28. The third-place team, either the Prince George Cougars or Kamloops Blazers, will provide the opposition.
G Wyatt Hoflin of the Kootenay Ice set franchise records for victories and saves in one season on the weekend. He posted his 35th victory of this season on Saturday in Red Deer, breaking a record that he had shared with Dan Blackburn (1999-2000), Jeff Glass(2004-05) and Mackenzie Skapski (2012-13). . . . Hoflin broke the single-season saves record that had been set by Tim Winters in 1996-97, the Ice’s inaugural season. Hoflin broke that record in a game against visiting Medicine Hat in Friday. The previous record had been 1,724.
The U of Alberta Golden Bears won their second straight CIS men’s hockey championship, and their 15th overall, as they beat the UNB Varsity Reds 6-3 in Halifax on Sunday. . . . Former WHLers Stephane Legault, Jordan Hickmott, Johnny Lazo, Kruise Reddick, Levko Koper and Jordan Rowley had Alberta’s goals. Dylan Willick had one of New Brunswick’s goals and was named the Varsity Reds’ player of the game. Koper got the same honour for the Golden Bears. . . . G Kurtis Mucha, another former WHLer, faced just nine shots in Alberta’s goal. . . . Reddick, Hickmott, Alberta D Jesse Craige and UNB F Cam Braes, all former WHLers, were named tournament all-stars.
F Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings may be the best 16-year-old in the WHL this season. Of course, his father also played for the Wheat Kings. But there’s more to the Patrick family story than that. Kirk Penton of the Winnipeg Sun has that story right here.
The Prince Albert Raiders made their final visit to the Medicine Hat Arena on Sunday. Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, has been there more than a few times, both as a player and a coach. On Sunday, he took time to remember. “I took time before the game to walk the concourse and there are a lot of great old pictures up (there),” he told Myles Fish of the Prince Albert Daily Herald. “We just wish this rink could talk because it could tell a lot of stories.”
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have lost two players to suspensions, both from incidents in a game at Calgary on Sunday. . . . D Kord Pankewicz will sit for two games after being hit with a match penalty. F Tyler Wong drew a one-game suspension for a slashing major and game misconduct. . . .
The Portland Winterhawks will finish first of second in the U.S. Division, meaning they will have home-ice advantage in the first round. They will open at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, March 28. That game will begin at 6 p.m., thus avoiding a direct conflict with an NBA game that is to start at 7 p.m. The Winterhawks will play Game 2 of their series on March 29, 5 p.m., in the Moda Center. . . .
F Kailer Yamamoto scored twice as the Spokane Chiefs beat the visiting Tri-City Americans 5-2 on Saturday. Yamamoto has 22 goals, tying him with F Pat Falloon (1988-89) for most goals scored by a Chiefs’ 16-year-old. F Jason Podollan holds the franchise record, having scored 36 times in 1992-93. . . .
F Jansen Harkins of the Prince George Cougars set a Prince George franchise record for assists in a season when he got No. 59 in a 6-5 shootout victory over the host Portland Winterhawks on Saturday. The previous record had been held by F Quinn Hancock (1997-98). . . .
The Calgary Hitmen wrapped up their franchise-record 11-game road trip on Saturday with a 4-2 victory in Lethbridge. The Hitmen went 7-4-0 on the swing that was forced on them when the Tim Hortons Brier, the Canadian men’s curling championship, took over the Saddledome. . . . On Sunday, the Hitmen returned home and beat Lethbridge, 4-1. . . .
F Tim McGauley of the Brandon Wheat Kings had his 24-game point steak snapped in a 3-1 victory over the host Saskatoon Blades on Saturday. McGauley had 53 points, including 17 goals, in the 24 games. . . . Brandon F Morgan Klimchuk had his streak ended at 11 games in that same game. . . .
F Rourke Chartier returned to the Kelowna Rockets’ lineup on Saturday night, after an eight-game absence. He scored his 47th goal as the Rockets beat the visiting Kamloops Blazers, 2-1. . . .
The Prince Albert Raiders had their hopes of a playoff spot dashed on Saturday night when they dropped a 7-3 decision to the Broncos in Swift Current. . . . Raiders F Kris Schmidli returned from a 15-game absence in that game. . . .
The Swift Current Broncos ended a seven-game losing streak with two weekend victories over Prince Albert, losses that eliminated the Raiders from the playoff race. . . .
The Vancouver Giants snapped a nine-game losing skid with a 4-1 victory over the Royals in Victoria on Sunday. The Giants now are four-points out of a playoff spot. If they are to make it, they need to sweep a weekend doubleheader from the Western Conference-leading Kelowna Rockets and also get some help.
In a stunning move, linebacker Chris Borland, 24, has retired, ending his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers after one terrific season. He has told ESPN’s Outside the Lines that he is retiring in order to avoid further head trauma. “I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told Outside the Lines. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.” . . . The complete story is right here.
THE WHL PLAYOFF PICTURE:
1. Brandon (3 games remaining) leads the overall standings by two points over Kelowna (3). The Wheaties last finished first overall in 1995-96. . . . The Wheat Kings will play the conference’s second wild-card team, likely Edmonton, in the first round. . . . In Regina tonight.
2. Regina (3) will finish second in division. Will meet third-place team in first round. . . . At home to Brandon tonight.
3. Swift Current (3) leads Moose Jaw by four points. . . . The Broncos can clinch third place with a victory in Moose Jaw tonight.
4. Moose Jaw (3) now is four points behind Swift Current. . . . Entertains Swift Current tonight and needs a victory to stay alive. Moose Jaw isn’t expected to have either F Jaimen Yakubowski or F Tanner Eberle in its lineup. As well, D Ryan Gardiner (hip) is day-to-day after going hard into the boards during a Saturday skate.
1. Calgary (3) completed a franchise-record 11-game road trip with a one-point lead over second-place Medicine Hat. . . . At home to Red Deer on Wednesday.
2. . Medicine Hat (3) trails Calgary by one point. Each team has 42 victories. . . . In Prince Albert tonight.
3. Red Deer (3) got to within one point of first place, but now is four points behind Medicine Hat and five in arrears of Calgary. . . . D Colton Bobyk returned to Red Deer’s lineup on Saturday after a 12-game absence. . . . In Calgary on Wednesday.
4. Kootenay (3) holds down the conference’s first wild-card spot, three points ahead of Edmonton. . . . In Lethbridge on Wednesday.
5. Edmonton (2) is in the second wild-card spot, three points behind Kootenay. . . . At home to Red Deer on Friday.
1. Kelowna (3) has clinched first place in the Western Conference. . . . Trails Brandon by two points in the race for first place in the overall standings. . . . At home to Seattle on Wednesday.
2. Victoria (2) will finish second and meet the division’s third-place team in the first round. . . . At home to Everett on Friday.
3. Prince George (3) is two points ahead of Kamloops. . . . All three of its remaining games are against Kamloops, starting Wednesday and Friday in Prince George.
4. Kamloops (3) has two playoff options. It is two points behind third-place Prince George in the division and is tied with Tri-City (4) for the conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Will meet Prince George three times this week — Wednesday and Friday in Prince George, and Saturday in Kamloops.
5. Vancouver (2) has one victory in its last 10 games and is hanging on by a hangnail It is four points out of the conference’s second wild-card spot but has only two games remaining, both against Kelowna. . . . At home to the Rockets on Friday.
1. Everett (3) leads the division by two points over Portland. . . . In Victoria on Friday.
2. Portland (4) is two points off the pace with a game in hand. . . . In Spokane on Wednesday as it closes with four games in five nights.
3. Seattle (4) trails Portland by 11 points so won’t finish second. . . . Is five points ahead of Spokane. . . . At home to Tri-City tonight.
4. Spokane (4) is five points behind Seattle and has clinched at least the conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . At home to Portland on Wednesday.
5. Tri-City (4) is tied with Kamloops for the conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Visits Seattle tonight.
(NOTE: If two teams tie for a conference’s last playoff spot, those teams will have a play-in game at the home of the team with the most victories. . . . For example, should Tri-City and Kamloops end up tied for the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, a play-in game will be played at the home of the team with the most victories. Tr-City leads, 29-27. . . . Should Prince George and Kamloops finish tied for third in the B.C. Division, the first tiebreaker is total victories. Prince George has a 29-27 edge.)
IF THE WHL PLAYOFFS BEGAN TODAY:
Brandon vs. Edmonton
Calgary vs. Kootenay
Regina vs. Swift Current
Medicine Hat vs. Red Deer
Kelowna vs. Tri-City/Kamloops
Everett vs. Spokane
Victoria vs. Prince George
Portland vs. Seattle
(NOTE: Team with home-ice advantage shown first.)
(all times local)
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Brandon at Regina, 7 p.m.
Tri-City vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
(all times local)
Medicine Hat at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Red Deer at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Kootenay at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Kamloops at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Seattle at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Portland at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.
No Games Scheduled.
(all times local)
Red Deer at Edmonton, 7 p.m.
Prince Albert at Regina, 7 p.m.
Brandon at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Calgary vs. Kootenay, at Cranbrook, 7 p.m.
Swift Current at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat at Saskatoon, 7:05 p.m.
Kamloops at Prince George, 7 p.m.
Seattle at Spokane, 7:05 p.m.
Portland vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Everett at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.
Kelowna at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.
(all times local)
Moose Jaw at Brandon, 7:30 p.m.
Lethbridge at Swift Current, 7 p.m.
Regina at Prince Albert, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Prince George at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Spokane vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Vancouver at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Portland vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:05 p.m.
Victoria at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
(all times local)
Kootenay at Calgary, 2 p.m.
Tri-City at Portland, 5 p.m.
Everett at Spokane 5:05 p.m.
END OF REGULAR SEASON