The Kelowna Rockets opened the Western Conference final against the host Seattle Thunderbirds in Kent, Wash., last night without D Cal Foote, who will be a first-round selection in the NHL’s 2017 draft. He was completing a three-game WHL suspension. . . . The Rockets also were missing D Braydyn Chizen, who is out with a leg injury suffered in the previous round against the Portland Winterhawks. . . . Minus those two veterans, the Rockets had two young defencemen in the lineup — Kaedan Korczak, who turned 16 on Jan. 29, and Konrad Belcourt, who will be 17 on May 4. . . . F Erik Gardiner, who also was injured against Portland, was back in Kelowna’s lineup.——As expected, G Carl Stankowski, who turned 17 on March 9, made his ninth straight start for the Thunderbirds. He has played every one of Seattle’s playoff games with G Rylan Toth, 20, out with an undisclosed injury.——Just a thought: If the Thunderbirds play in Kent, shouldn’t they be the Kent Thunderbirds? Or will the Thunderbirds move back to Seattle if/when the big city gets an NHL-type facility?——Doug Weight, the head coach of the NHL’s New York Islanders, was in attendance at the game in Kent. The Islanders selected Seattle F Mathew Barzal in the first round of the 2015 NHL draft. Barzal started this season with the Islanders before eventually being returned to Seattle.——In Regina, the Lethbridge Hurricanes had two of their five injured regulars back for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference against the host Pats. F Zak Zborosky and F Zane Franklin returned, but F Matt Alfaro, F Ryan Vandervlis and D Calen Addison remain out.——

#Regina #Pats captain Adam Brooks is at the bottom of a scrum his first shift back from injury. #WHL.— Darren Steinke (@StanksSports) April 22, 2017

The Pats were without D Dawson Davidson, who was acquired from the Kamloops Blazers in January. He was injured in Game 7 against the Swift Current Broncos. John Paddock, the team’s GM/head coach, has said Davidson will be out for a while. . . . Regina had F Adam Brooks, its captain, in the lineup and he played after missing the previous five games. He suffered a knee injury in Game 2 against the Broncos. He was in uniform for the last three games of that serious, but never got on the ice. Last night, Brooks took his first shift shortly after the Pats had taken an early 1-0 lead. Yes, the crowd roared when Brooks left the bench.——Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press points out that “this is the kind of (NHL) playoffs where the winner of the office pool will be the guy who thought PK Subban still played for the Canadiens.” . . . Yeah, or the guy who tried to select Wayne Gretzky in the fourth round.———

F Brad Moran (Calgary, 1995-2000) announced his retirement through the website of the Nottingham Panthers (England, UK Elite). The team captain, he had 11 goals and 28 assists in 51 games this season. . . .F Devin Setoguchi (Saskatoon, Prince George, 2003-07) has signed a two-year contract with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL). This season, he had four goals and eight assists in 45 games with the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), and three assists in nine games with the Ontario Reign (AHL). . . .D Dominik Bittner (Everett, 2011-12) has signed a two-year contract with the Schwenninger Wild Wings (Germany, DEL). This season, he had a goal and four assists in 36 games with Adler Mannheim (Germany, DEL). . . .F Justin Kirsch (Calgary, Moose Jaw, 2009-13) has signed a one-year extension with the Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). This season, he had 18 goals and 21 assists in 52 games.———

Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post wrote a column this week that marked his 30th anniversary — or, rather, one of them — at his favourite newspaper. The reasons I mention this isn’t because I was the assistant sports editor there at the time, but because it is amazing to read this and realize just how many people worked in that sports department. Yes, those were the days, my friends. . . . Vanstone’s piece is right here.——The finalists will be decided today at the IIHF’s U-17 World Championship in Poprad, Slovakia. It’s Finland against Russia in the first semifinal, with Team USA and Sweden meeting in the second game. . . . The winners will play in Sunday’s final in Poprad. . . . Meanwhile, in Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia, Latvia beat Belarus, 3-2, on Friday in Game 2 of the best-of-three relegation series. It’s tied 1-1 and will be decided on Sunday. D Vladislav Yeryomenko of the Calgary Hitmen had an assist for Belarus.——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 interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.———

Concussion Report

“A researcher at Boston University says she has diagnosed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, in the brains of four former junior hockey players,” writes Rick Westhead, a senior reporter at TSN. “Neuropathologist Dr. Ann McKee made the diagnoses over the past two years. Each of the four former junior players – none of whom advanced to the National Hockey League – committed suicide before the age of 30, she said. . . . Only one of the players has been identified. Drew Mulligan, who was 22 when he committed suicide, played for the Springfield, Mass., Pics of the Empire Junior Hockey League. . . . Westhead’s story is right here.———


USA Hockey will go into the 2018 World Junior Championship with the same coaching staff that guided it to a gold medal earlier this year in Toronto and Montreal. . . . Bob Motzko, the head coach at St. Cloud State, is back for a second go-round as Team USA’s head coach. Also returning are assistant coaches Greg Brown (Boston College), Kris Mayotte (Providence), Steve Miller (Air Force) and Grant Potulny (Northern Michigan). . . . The 2018 tournament is to be held in Buffalo, Dec. 26, 2017, through Jan. 5, and will feature an outdoor game between Team Canada and the Americans on Dec. 29.——The ECHL’s Rapid City Rush fired head coach Mark DeSantis on Friday. The announcement was made by general manager Joe Ferras, who had been the head coach before DeSantis was moved up from his post as an assistant. The Rush was 38-47-11 under DeSantis.———

Just in time for Game 1 vs Pats our behind the scenes Vlog #6 is up. @CTVAllieMiller & I get a little excited..— Kaella Carr (@CTVKaellaCarr) April 21, 2017


FRIDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Friendly fire in visitors broadcast booth.— Regan Bartel (@Reganrant) April 22, 2017

At Kent, Wash., D Ethan Bear broke a 4-4 tie with a PP goal with 11.2 seconds left in the third period to give the Seattle Thunderbirds a 5-4 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . They’ll play Game 2 of the


Western Conference final tonight in Kent. . . . Seattle was on only its second PP of the game — it finished 1-2 — when there was a face-off in Kelowna’s zone. The puck came to Bear and he hammered home a slap shot from the top of the left circle for his fourth goal of these playoffs. . . . Just 35 seconds earlier, Seattle G Carl Stankowski had stopped Kelowna D Devante Stephens on a shorthanded breakaway. . . . The Rockets, who were 3-6 on the PP, had tied the game 4-4 with a pair of third-period PP scores. . . . F Tomas Soustal (3) cut Kelowna to within a goal at 5:53 and F Calvin Thurkauf (6) tied it at 15:00. . . . Earlier, the Thunderbirds scored first for a ninth straight playoff game when F Ryan Gropp got his second goal at 10:00 of the first period. . . . The Rockets took a 2-1 lead on goals from F Kole Lind (4), on a PP, with 6.2 seconds left in the first period, and F Reid Gardiner, his WHL-leading 13th, at 1:09 of the second. . . . The Thunderbirds pulled even when F Alexander True (5) scored with 2.6 left in the second. . . . Seattle then scored two goals three minutes apart to start the third period. . . . D Turner Ottenbreit (1) counted at 0:52 and F Sami Moilanen (3) added another goal at 3:52. . . . Moilanen added two assists to his goal, while Gropp had one. . . . The Rockets got two assists from Gardiner, with Thurkauf adding one. . . . Stankowski stopped 29 shots in running his record to 9-0. . . . Kelowna G Michael Herringer turned aside 20 shots. . . . The Thunderbirds had their big line — Mathew Barzal between Keegan Kolesar and Gropp — together to start a game for the first time in a while. . . . As a result of Gropp rejoining that line, F Donovan Neuls moved back to play on a line with True and Tyler Adams. . . . Announced attendance: 4,001.——

#Lethbridge #Hurricanes goaltender @ssskipy_74 dives across his crease to make a save. #WHL.— Darren Steinke (@StanksSports) April 22, 2017

At Regina, F Giorgio Estephan scored twice, the second into an empty net, to help the Lethbridge


Hurricanes to a 3-1 victory over the Pats. . . . They’ll play Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final tonight in Regina. . . . Last night, F Austin Wagner’s 11th goal gave the Pats a 1-0 lead at 1:10 of the first period. . . . The Hurricanes, who have won four straight road games, tied it on Estephan’s first goal of the game, at 13:23 of the second period. . . . The Hurricanes took their first lead at 1:59 of the third period when F Jordy Bellerive scored his fifth goal, on a PP. . . . The Pats thought they had tied it at 8:21 of the third when Wagner got the puck into the Lethbridge net. However, the goal was disallowed after a video review during which it was ascertained that the net was off its moorings before the puck entered the net. . . . Estephan iced it with his 10th goal, into an empty net, at 18:38. . . . D Igor Merezhko had two assists for Lethbridge. . . . The Hurricanes got 36 saves from G Stuart Skinner, while Regina’s Tyler Brown stopped 22 shots. . . . Lethbridge was 1-3 on the PP; Regina was 0-2. . . . Announced attendance: 6,484. . . . Darren Steinke, the Travellin’ Blogger, was in attendance and posted his game piece right here.

Canes gather at centre ice.. raise their sticks and salute the crowd.officials also booed off the ice.. this will be a long series #WHL— Warren Woods (@WoodsyCJME) April 22, 2017


SATURDAY’S GAMES (all times local):

Kelowna vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m. (Seattle leads, 1-0)Lethbridge at Regina, 7 p.m. (Lethbridge leads, 1-0)
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