Monday, 30 April 2018

Heckling part of life in major junior hockey

Raspberry treatment can hurt worse depending on situation

Giorgio Estephan in action for the Hurricanes in the 2017 WHL playoffs.
    For as long as major junior hockey has existed or junior hockey for that matter, heckling has been part of the game, and it will be part of the game for the foreseeable future.
    Depending on the situation, the raspberry treatment can hit deeper to the core.
    When the Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes advanced to meet each other in the best-of-seven WHL Eastern Conference championship series, one of the big plot lines that came to mind revolved around a blockbuster trade the two teams made with each other on Jan. 9, which was one day before the WHL’s trade deadline.
    In that deal, the Hurricanes sent star overage captain Giorgio Estephan, star 19-year-old netminder Stuart Skinner and winger Tanner Nagel, who turned 20 in late January, to the Broncos.
    In exchange, the Broncos sent overage star netminder Logan Flodell, rookie centre Logan Barlage, who turned 17 in early January, sophomore centre Owen Blocker, who turned 18 in late March, sophomore defenceman Matthew Stanley, who turned 20 in early February, a first round selection and a third round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a future conditional second round pick in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft to the Hurricanes.
    The on ice battle has been intriguing. The Broncos entered the series as favourites having finished second overall in the WHL’s regular season with a 48-17-5-2 record, while the Hurricanes were 16th overall with a 33-33-6 mark.
    The Broncos lead the series 3-2 taking all three games held in Swift Current by a one-goal margin each time out. The Hurricanes won both contests held in Lethbridge by respective 5-1 scores. Game 6 is set for Monday at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge with a 7 p.m. local time start.
    The other main compelling story has been the fact Estephan and Skinner have been the targets of heckles during the games held in Lethbridge. Social media lines have contained sizable debate about the treatment both players have received in their former WHL home rink on whether it is warranted or not.
Stuart Skinner in action with the Hurricanes in 2017.
    As far as Hurricanes fans are concerned, there are some that say Estephan and Skinner shouldn’t be heckled and others are fine with what has gone down.
    I remember a visit I once had with former Saskatoon Blades owner Jack Brodsky. He told me that the fans paid money for the ticket, and if they don’t like the product they see on the ice, they have a right to “boo” or voice their displeasure with the product. The context of that visit did focus on the hometown fans being critical of the home team.
    For myself, I am good with fans booing or heckling players on the ice. I realize the players can range in age from the 15-year-old call up to the overager that just celebrated his 21st birthday. Major junior is supposed to help prepare players for life in the professional ranks, and dealing with hecklers is part of that training too.
    If you don’t learn how to deal with that in rinks with 5,000 spectators, how do you deal with that in professional rinks with 18,000 spectators?
    Historically in major junior hockey, there have been players who have relished being the villain in opposition rinks like Sean O’Connor when he played for the Moose Jaw Warriors, Tanner Shultz when he played for the Blades or Derek Dorsett when he played for the Medicine Hat Tigers. They are looking forward to the hecklers on the road.
    Of course, there is a line. Fans shouldn’t do anything that physically harms a player, yell something derogatory based on race or scream you wished a certain player was dead.
    In the case of Estephan and Skinner, it feels like an unwritten code of respect has been broke. Of course, hockey is full of unwritten codes.
    Both were selected in the WHL Bantam Draft by the Hurricanes and played in Lethbridge for an extended time. Estephan, who was picked fourth overall in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, was with the Hurricanes for four-and-a-half seasons, and Skinner, who was selected 17th overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, played there for three-and-a-half seasons. They were in Lethbridge long enough to establish lifelong connections.
    On top of that, both joined the Hurricanes during a dark era, when the team missed the playoffs for six consecutive seasons from 2009-10 to 2014-15. After the Hurricanes went 12-55-2-3 in the 2013-14 season, it seemed a death watch was surrounding the team. The Hurricanes existence in Lethbridge was called into question at times.
Giorgio Estephan in action for the Broncos in this year’s WHL playoffs.
    Lethbridge was not a prime destination in the WHL, and it seemed like players that were there couldn’t wait to leave.
    Things started to change when the Hurricanes hired Peter Anholt as the club’s assistant general manager before the start of the 2014-15 campaign. The veteran coach and hockey executive became the team’s head coach and general manager halfway through that campaign.
    Before the start of the 2015-16 season, he stepped back as head coach and made the inspired move to hire Brent Kisio for that role.
    On the players’ front, Estephan and Skinner were part of a group along with former Hurricanes captain Tyler Wong who wanted to be part of the solution in turning the team around. They played a huge part in helping the Hurricanes top the Central Division in 2015-16 with a 46-24-1-1 record.
    In 2016-17, they helped the Hurricanes post a 44-21-4-3 mark to sit seventh overall in the league. They helped the Hurricanes win two seven game series in the playoffs to advance to the WHL Eastern Conference championship series falling to the Regina Pats in six games.
    Wong graduated after that campaign, and Estephan and Skinner worked to assist a reloading Hurricanes club during the first half of this past season. They were not asking to be traded, and when an opportunity to make the deal with the Broncos came about, the Hurricanes gained players that could help in the present along with players and assets to be of aid in the future.
    Both Estephan and Skinner are pretty good persons too.
    Skinner sounded off on the Hurricanes fans following the Broncos 5-1 loss in Lethbridge in Game 4 last Wednesday. For everything they did in Lethbridge, the fan heckles Estephan and Skinner received in their playoff return to Lethbridge felt at least uncomfortable.
    Fans have the right to boo and give the raspberries to who they want, but in this case, it feels wrong. It feels like an unwritten hockey code was broken.
Stuart Skinner in action for the Broncos in this year’s WHL playoffs.
    In another case, netminder Tyler Brown backstopped the Pats into the WHL Championship series last year, where they fell in six games to the Seattle Thunderbirds. He was dealt by the Pats to the Blades in a blockbuster trade on Jan. 10.
    Brown had been the target of distain from a sizable group of Pats fans on social media and sports talk radio, when the team hovered around .500 for the first half of the season. When Brown returned to Regina with the Blades on Jan. 24, he was given a standing ovation and a video tribute.
    Of course, the big difference was Brown never did play against the Pats in the post-season.
    When the playoff series between the Broncos and Hurricanes wraps up, here is hoping the Lethbridge fans that got on both Estephan and Skinner remember what they did do for the Hurricanes and tip the cap to both whey they return to Lethbridge in the future.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 28 April 2018

Esso Cup gold eludes Stars as Slash repeat as champs

Ashley Messier was named the Stars play of the game in the Esso Cup final.
    The tears became visible in the faces of the Saskatoon Stars seconds after the third period of the Esso Cup final expired.
    Despite pressing in a frantic final minute on Saturday at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S., the Stars couldn’t find an equalizer to send the contest to overtime and the reality that the St. Albert Slash had prevailed 2-1 started to sink in.
    At one end of the rink, the Slash were celebrating history. The Alberta club became the first team to win the Esso Cup twice and in consecutive years in the 10-year history of the female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament.
    The Slash defeated the Quebec based Harfangs du Triolet 1-0 in overtime in last year’s Esso Cup championship game held in Morden, Man., and 10 players from that Slash team returned to be part of this year’s squad.
    The Stars were processing the emotional hurt. They were making their third appearance in the last four years at the Esso Cup and there was a steadfast believe that this would be their season to win it all.
    Saskatoon was 14-0 in the post-season entering Saturday’s game and was riding a 24 game winning streak dating back to the regular season. The Stars last loss before Saturday came back on Jan. 7, when they fell 4-3 to the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask.
    Saskatoon was 6-0 at the Esso Cup and had outscored the opposition 28-4 in the process heading into the event’s gold medal game. The Stars had beaten the Slash 4-1 in a round robin contest on Tuesday.
A couple of Stars players console each other after Saturday’s loss.
    In the Esso Cup championship game, the Stars played well in a contest that was tightly contested. The Slash held an 18-15 edge in shots on goal and blocked a large number of other Saskatoon shots.
    During the frantic final minute, Stars standout centre Grace Shirley and slick defender Ashley Messier had prime scoring chances and their shots were blocked by skilled Slash left-winger McKenzie Hewett. The Stars players will likely be replaying those moments in their minds in the hours following the end of Saturday’s contest.
    In the first half of the first period, the Stars came wheeling out of the gate pretty good. Gritty left-winger Jordyn Holmes was stoned by Slash star netminder Camryn Drever on an early chance, and Shirley and standout centre Joelle Fiala fired shots from good positions just wide of the St. Albert goal.
    The Slash started executing their game plan, forechecked the Stars hard and pinned them in their own zone. At the 17:11 mark of the first period, a turnover in the Saskatoon zone landed on the stick of Slash captain Tyra Meropoulis.
    Meropoulis fired a shot on goal, followed the rebound of her own shot, deked around Stars netminder Jordan Ivanco and slid the puck into the Saskatoon cage to give St. Albert a 1-0 lead.
    The Slash kept up their forechecking pressure and trapped the Stars fairly well when the Saskatoon side entered the centre ice zone funneling the advancing skaters to the boards. Stars right-winger Anna Leschyshyn had three shots on goal from solid chances, but she was turned away by Drever.
The Slash celebrate with the Esso Cup.
    Inside of the final minute of the second, the Slash went up 2-0 as a result of their tough forecheck. Meropoulis caused a turnover in the Saskatoon zone and got puck down to linemate Jayme Doyle at the left side of the Saskatoon goal.
    Doyle slid the puck across the face of the Saskatoon net to winger Madison Willan, who put home a backhander to give her side a 2-0 lead.
    Just seconds into the third, the Slash missed the Saskatoon goal on a scoring chance and Stars netminder Jordan Ivanco made a big stop on Willan.
    A short time after that save, Shirley stole the puck from a Slash player at the St. Albert blue-line creating a two-on-run rush. She fed a pass across the face of the St. Albert goal to hard-working forward Kianna Dietz, who knocked the puck into an empty part of the net to cut the Slash lead to 2-1 just 47 seconds into the third.
    With Dietz’s goal coming after a couple of big saves by Ivanco, it felt like the comeback was going to be on. A short time after Dietz’s tally, Stars superstar captain Mackenna Parker, who was named the MVP and was the leading scorer of the Esso Cup, was stopped in close.
    The Stars controlled play for most of the third period holding a 6-2 edge in shots on goal. Saskatoon had a number of other shots get blocked.
    Slash centre Shyla Kirwer came up with two key shot blocks on Shirley and Messier, when the Stars were working on the power play in the second half of the third.
    Defender Mackenzie Butz was named the player of the game for the Slash, while Messier took that same honour for the Stars.
Grace Shirley set up the Stars goal on Saturday.
    Drever made 14 saves to pick up the win in goal for the Slash. Ivanco made a number of quality stops turning away 16 shot taking the setback in goal for the Stars.
    Earlier in the day, the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere from Quebec slipped past the Brampton Canadettes from Ontario 2-1 in the bronze medal game.
    The Stars finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 44-7-1 overall record, and one of their losses was a tight one to a good team in a national final. The Slash finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 43-11-1 overall record and sport a 13-1 mark over the last two years at the Esso Cup.
    For the Stars, the hurt is there at the end of the game because the journey to get to the national championship contest was meaningful. Saturday marked the Stars 52nd game, and the team stated on Twitter they have been together for eight months, 143 days and 82 practices.
    When the season ends, you reflect on everything that happened over that period of time. With the success the Stars had, the team gets pulled that much closer together.
    Entering the national final, everyone on the team believed they were going to win that game. When the win doesn’t happen, it is tough to take, because you reflect on the journey to get there.
    Overlooked is the fact the season was extremely successful, and it is a major accomplishment in any campaign to play in a national championship game. That in itself makes the season a success.
    For most of the Stars, their bonds go beyond what happened this season. Parker, Dietz, Holmes, Jordyn Gerlitz, Jordan Ivanco and Dana Wood all exhausted their midget eligibility with the end of Saturday’s game.
    Parker, Dietz, Holmes, Gerlitz, who wasn’t able to play in this year’s Esso Cup due to a broken collarbone, and Shirley were with the Stars in all of their Esso Cup appearances. Shirley was an associate player call up in the 2015 Esso Cup in Red Deer, Alta.
    Gerlitz will go down as the first Stars player to score a Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League championship series clinching goal, when the Stars won their first SFMAAAHL title in 2015. That group grew up before your eyes over the last four years from all the experiences they went through together.
Captain Mackenna Parker and the Stars had a memorable season.
    Ivanco, Wood, Leschyshyn and Fiala have been with the Stars since the start of the 2015-16 season. Messier, Kaitlin Jockims, Grace Tam, Chace Sperling, Jayda Sachs, Abby DeCorby and Arden Kliewer all finished their second complete season with team.
    Calli Arnold, Makena Kushniruk and Emily Holmes, who is Jordyn Holmes’ younger sister, were the fresh faced rookies who were quickly adopted into the Stars family by the veterans. They all played big roles on the team as the season progressed.
    The Stars came up just short in basking in the euphoria of a national championship win. At some point in time, the hurt over the disappointment of the setback will lessen.
    The memories and experiences that came from the accomplishments made along the way to get there can never be taken away.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 27 April 2018

Stars punch ticket to Esso Cup gold medal game

Saskatoon to play in national final for first time ever

Arden Kliewer stopped 23 shots in goal for the Stars on Friday.
    Arden Kliewer gave the Saskatoon Stars the traction they needed to earn the right to play for a national title.
    Often, those that play goal for the Stars are overlooked as the powerhouse club from the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League is best known for offence. Early in an Esso Cup tournament semifinal game on Friday at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S., the Stars needed Kliewer to be sharp.
    The sophomore netminder, who turned 16 in February, made a number of key stops early as the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere from Quebec took a quick 1-0 lead. Kliewer’s performance allowed the time for the Stars offence to get on track.
    In the second period, the Stars burst out to score four times to go ahead 4-1 and cruised from that point to a 5-1 victory.
    With the win, Saskatoon advances to the gold medal game of the Esso Cup female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament for the first time in team history. They will face the defending champion St. Albert Slash from Alberta in the final.
    The Slash outlasted the Brampton Canadettes from Ontario 2-1 after a tiebreaking shootout in Friday’s other semifinal.
    The gold medal game will be played on Saturday and show live on TSN at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time.
    In the clash between Saskatoon and Lanaudiere, the Pionnieres got off to a big start early. Just 2:38 into the first period, centre Maya Labad broke down the right wing into the Saskatoon zone on a rush and wired home a shot to the top left corner of the Stars goal to give the Pionnieres a 1-0 lead.
    The Quebec side had a couple of other big chances to extend the lead in the opening 20 minutes.
Grace Shirley had the Stars first two goal on Friday.
    Labad was robbed on a breakaway by Kliewer, and Kliewer turned away another dangerous drive from the point that came through a screen of bodies in front of the Saskatoon goal.
    Just 45 seconds into the second, Kliewer stoned the Pionnieres on a dangerous two-on-one chance.
    After that stop, the Stars proceeded up ice and Grace Shirley wired home a shot to the top left corner of the Pionnieres goal to force a 1-1 tie at the 1:24 mark of the frame. From that point, the Stars hit high gear.
    At the 12:22 mark of the second period, the Stars broke into the Pionnieres zone on a two-on-one break. Left-winger Jordyn Holmes broke down the left wing with the puck and fed a pass across the front of the Pionnieres goal to Shirley, who quickly roofed a shot to the top right corner of the net to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
    Just 22 seconds later, superstar captain Mackenna Parker scored to put the Stars up 3-1. Before the second ended, Parker wired home her second tally of the game in close to the top left corner of the Pionnieres goal to put the Stars up 4-1.
    After the Stars fourth goal, the Pionnieres pulled starting goalie Leila Cecilia Lotke Salinas, who stopped 16-of-20 shots sent her way. Sarah Vanier turned away 12-of-13 shots playing the rest of the way in relief.
    Kliewer came up with a couple of big saves in the third to protect the Stars three-goal edge. She turned away Pionnieres centre Ann-Frederik Naud on a rush and denied Labad on a short-handed breakaway.
    Shortly after the breakaway stop on Labad, Stars 16-year-old veteran defender Abby DeCorby blasted home a power-play goal to put the final touches on the Saskatoon victory. Stars skilled sophomore left-winger Kaitlin Jockims picked up her third assist of the contest on DeCorby’s goal.
    Kliewer stopped 23 shots to pick up the win in goal for Saskatoon in one of her best performances of the season helping the Stars improve their record at this year’s Esso Cup to 6-0. The Pionnieres fell to 2-3-1 at the Esso Cup with the setback.
Kaitlin Jockims had three assists for the Stars on Friday.
    The Pionnieres fell to 2-3-1 at the Esso Cup with the setback. They will face the Canadettes (3-3) in a bronze medal game to be held on Saturday.
    Saskatoon fell in its two other semifinal appearances at the Esso Cup. At the 2015 tournament in Red Deer, Alta., the Stars dropped a heartbreaking 2-1 decision after a tiebreaking shootout to the host Chiefs. At the 2016 Esso Cup in Weyburn, Sask., the Stars came out on the wrong end of a 4-0 score to the Brantford Ice Cats from Ontario, who moved on to win the event’s championship game.
    With their win on Friday, the Stars improve their overall record to 44-6-1 in the 2017-18 campaign and have a perfect 14-0 record in the post-season. Including action from the regular season and post-season, the Stars have won their last 24 straight games.
    The Stars are trying to become the first Saskatchewan based team to win the Esso Cup’s gold medal game since the Weyburn Gold Wings in 2014.
    The Slash improved to 5-1 at this year’s Esso Cup. They dropped a preliminary round contest to the Stars 4-1 on Tuesday. That was St. Albert’s only setback at the Esso Cup in the past two years, and the Slash are 12-1 at the female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament during that time.

Parker, Messier take home individual tourney awards

Mackenna Parker was named the MVP of the Esso Cup.
    In what has been an outstanding season, more accolades came the way of the Saskatoon Stars on Friday.
    Two members of the Stars took home three of the Esso Cup’s major individual awards. Superstar captain Mackenna Parker was named the tournament’s most valuable player and claimed the top scorer award on the basis of round robin play.
    Parker led all scorers in the preliminary round with five goals and six assists for 11 points in five games. With Friday’s semifinal games in the books, Parker still topped the tournament in scoring with 13 points coming off seven goals and six assists.
    Ashley Messier took home the award as the top defender at the Esso Cup. Messier had a goal and five assists in the Stars five preliminary round games, and she had a goal and six assists in six contests overall at the female midget AAA national hockey championship tournament.
    McKenzie Hewitt of the St. Albert Slash claimed honours as the top forward at the Esso Cup. She has four goals and two assists in six overall games at this year’s Esso Cup.
    Forward Paige Whaley of the Brampton Canadettes was named the tourney’s most sportsmanlike player. Sarah Vanier of the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere was named the event’s top goaltender.

Stars join select company with coming TV appearance

The U of R Cougars played in the 2001 U Sports final shown on TSN.
    When the Saskatoon Stars hit the ice for Saturday’s gold medal game at the Esso Cup female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament, it is believe they will be the fourth high level female hockey team from Saskatchewan to play in a national championship game on national television.
    The Stars gold medal game will be shown at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on TSN.
    It is believed the University of Regina Cougars Women’s Hockey Team was the first high level female hockey team from Saskatchewan to play in a national final in television. The Cougars fell 4-3 in the U Sports women’s championship final in 2001 to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues Women’s Hockey Team in a nationally televised game on TSN. At the time, U Sports was known as the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union.
    At the 2010 Esso Cup in Regina, the Notre Dame Hounds from Wilcox, Sask., made it to the championship game shown on TSN and fell 4-3 to Thunder Bay Queens from Ontario.
    The Hounds returned to the Esso Cup’s championship game in 2011 in St. Albert, Alta., and posted a 5-2 victory over the Edmonton Thunder in a nationally televised game on TSN.
    The Weyburn Gold Wings are the third high level female team from Saskatchewan to appear in a national final on national television. The Gold Wings downed the Thunder 2-1 in the 2014 Esso Cup championship game held in Hamilton, Ont., and that contest was also shown on TSN.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Thursday, 26 April 2018

Stars roll to 5-0 at Esso Cup, will face Pionnieres in semifinal

Grace Shirley has four goals and two assists for the Stars at Esso Cup.
    It seemed like everyone was pitching in for the Saskatoon Stars in their final round robin game at the Esso Cup.
    On Thursday at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S., five different players scored for the Stars as they rolled past the Northern Subway Selects from New Glasgow, N.S. 5-2. Saskatoon built a 5-0 lead after 40 minutes, and the Selects scored twice inside of the final three minutes of the third period to round out the contest’s scoring at the female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament.
    The Stars finished play in the preliminary round with a perfect 5-0 record, and they became the fourth team in the history of the Esso Cup, which is being contested for the 10th time this year, to win all of their round robin games in regulation. The defending Esso Cup champion St. Albert Slash from Alberta are the last team to win all their preliminary round games in regulation pulling off that feat last year, when the Esso Cup was held in Morden, Man.
    Saskatoon will face the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere (2-2-1) from Quebec in Friday’s early semifinal set for 1 p.m. Saskatchewan time. The Slash (4-1) take on the Brampton Canadettes (3-2) from Ontario in Friday’s late semifinal set for 4:30 p.m. Saskatchewan time. The Selects (1-3-1) and host Metro Boston Pizza (0-4-1) were eliminated from playoff round contention with Thursday’s results.
Kaitlin Jockims scored for the Stars on Thursday.
    In Thursday’s encounter between the Stars and Selects, the Stars jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 20 minutes getting goals from standout centre Grace Shirley, superstar captain Mackenna Parker and right-winger Jayda Sachs. Sachs tipped home a point shot from rookie 15-year-old defender Emily Holmes right before the first period buzzer went.
    Holmes had two assists in the contest.
    Just 2:17 into the second, the Stars went ahead 4-0, when veteran right-winger Kianna Dietz, who turned 18 in January, netted her second goal of the tournament. With 81 seconds remaining in the second, Kaitlin Jockims potted her third goal of the event to give the Stars a 5-0 advantage.
    Inside of the final three minutes of the third, Maddie Quinn and Kara MacLean scored singles for the Selects.
    Jordan Ivanco stopped 14 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Jenna Landry turned away 27 shots to take the setback in goal for the Selects.
    The Stars currently have five players averaging a point or more per game so far at the Esso Cup. Parker leads all players in tournament scoring with five goals and six assists for 11 points. Centre Joelle Fiala has seven points coming off three goals and four assists.
    Shirley, right-winger Anna Leschyshyn and defender Ashley Messier all have six points each. Shirley has four goals and two assists, Leschyshyn had two goals and four assists, and Messier has one goal and five assists.
Emily Holmes had two assists for the Stars on Thursday.
    The Pionnieres have two players who are averaging a point or more per game in the Esso Cup. Centre Ann-Frederik Naud has seven points coming off three goals and four assists. Her linemate and left-winger Megane Quirion has six points coming off six assists.
    The Stars are 13-0 in this year’s post-season. They will be looking to earn their first semifinal win ever at the Esso Cup on Friday.
    At the 2015 tournament in Red Deer, Alta., the Stars fell 2-1 after a tiebreaking shootout to the host Chiefs. At the 2016 Esso Cup in Weyburn, Sask., the Stars fell 4-0 to the Brantford Ice Cats from Ontario, who moved on to win the event’s championship game.
    The Stars are trying to become the first Saskatchewan based team since the Weyburn Gold Wings in 2014 to win the Esso Cup.
    The tournament’s bronze and gold medal games are slated for Saturday, and the gold medal final will be shown live at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on TSN.

Parker officially receives Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award


    On Thursday, Saskatoon Stars captain Mackenna Parker officially received this year’s Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Female-Player-of-the-Year Award from Hockey Canada.
    The award is given annually to a player that most demonstrates good values, leadership and strong community involvement. Hockey Canada named Parker the winner of the Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award back on April 5.
    Parker topped the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in regular season scoring with 33 goals and 27 assists in 23 regular season games. She was named the winner of the SFMAAAHL’s most valuable player award and a first-team all-star.
    In the process, she equaled the Stars team record for most points in one regular season also set by Emily Clark, who is a member of Canada’s senior national women’s hockey team. Clark piled up 60 points in 26 regular season games in the 2011-12 campaign with the Stars coming off 26 goals and 34 assists.
    Parker is completing her final season of midget AAA eligibility and will graduate sitting second on the SFMAAAHL’s all-time regular season scoring list with 82 goals and 76 assists in 104 regular season games.
    In January, Parker helped Canada win bronze at the under-18 women’s world championship, which was held in Dmitrov, Russia.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Stars lock up first in round robin standings at Esso Cup

Saskatoon improves to 4-0 with 6-0 win over host squad

Grace Shirley had a goal and an assist for the Stars.
    The Saskatoon Stars will be the top stars going into the playoff round at the Esso Cup.
    On Wednesday at the female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament, Saskatoon overwhelmed the host Metro Boston Pizza squad 6-0 and held a 49-6 edge in shots on goal at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S.
    With the win, the Stars improved to 4-0 and secured first place in the round robin standings. This marked the first time the Stars have finished first in the preliminary round in three visits to the Esso Cup. Saskatoon finished second in the preliminary round in 2015 at the tournament in Red Deer, Alta., and third in 2016 at the tournament held in Weyburn, Sask.
    The six shots on goal by Metro Boston Pizza marked the lowest number of shots on goal any team has posted in a tournament game in the history of the Esso Cup.
    In Wednesday’s clash with Metro Boston Pizza, the Stars were led by superstar captain Mackenna Parker, who recorded two goals and two assists in the convincing outcome.
Mackenna Parker had two goals and two assists for the Stars.
    Centres Joelle Fiala and Grace Shirley and defender Ashley Messier each had a goal and an assist, while standout right-winger Anna Leschyshyn had a pair of assists.
    Parker scored just 31 seconds into the contest to give the Stars a 1-0 edge. Fiala added a power-play marker at the 13:51 mark of the opening frame to give the Stars a 2-0 lead. Saskatoon held a 12-2 edge in shots on goal over the opening 20 minutes.
    The Stars continued to pin the host side in their own zone in the second period holding a 22-2 edge in shots on goal for the frame. Metro Boston Pizza goalie Brooke Bennett was sensational making 21 saves in the stanza only allowing a goal from Messier, which gave the Stars a 3-0 edge.
    Saskatoon continued to put on the pressure in the third. Skilled left-winger Kaitlin Jockims scored at the 7:41 mark of the third to give the Stars a 4-0 advantage. Parker and Shirley each added a power-play goal to round out the game’s scoring.
    Arden Kliewer made six saves to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Stars. Bennett turned away 43 shots to take the setback in goal for Metro Boston Pizza, who fell to 0-3-1.
Ashley Messier had a goal and an assist for the Stars on Wednesday.
    The six teams at the Esso Cup play in a round robin qualifying round with the top four teams earning spots in the playoff round. The defending champion St. Albert Slash (3-1) from Alberta locked up a playoff spot on Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Northern Subway Selects (1-2-1) from New Glasgow, N.S.
    Saskatoon closes out round robin play against the Selects on Thursday. The Selects go into that contest needing a win to keep their hopes for making the playoff round alive.
    After preliminary round play wraps up on Thursday, the Stars will take part in one of two semifinal games on Friday. The tournament’s bronze and gold medal games are slated for Saturday, and the gold medal final will be shown live at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on TSN.
    The Stars are trying to become the first Saskatchewan based team since the Weyburn Gold Wings in 2014 to win the Esso Cup.


    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Stars sink defending Esso Cup champion Slash

Saskatoon a win away from locking up first in round robin play

Mackenna Parker had the winning goal for the Stars on Tuesday.
    The Saskatoon Stars picked up their biggest win at this year’s Esso Cup knocking off the defending champs.
    On Tuesday, the Stars improved to 3-0 in round robin play at the female midget AAA hockey championship tournament downing the defending national champion St. Albert Slash from Alberta 4-1. The Stars trailed 1-0 early before rallying with four straight goals at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S.
    The Slash are trying to become the first team to win the Esso Cup in consecutive years. They fell to 2-1 with the setback.
    Saskatoon has opened the Esso Cup on an impressive run. The Stars blanked the Brampton Canadettes from Ontario 5-0 on Sunday and the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere from Quebec 3-0 on Monday.
    With the victory over the Slash, the Stars have defeated the teams from the three provinces in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta that traditionally do well at the Esso Cup, which is being held for the 10th time this year.
    In Tuesday’s encounter between the Slash and Stars, St. Albert jumped in front 1-0 on a goal from Allison Reich at the 7:19 mark of the first period.
    Just over six minutes later, the Stars evened things up at 1-1 on a goal from rookie left-winger Calli Arnold, who turned 15 earlier this month. Stars superstar captain Mackenna Parker scored to give the Stars a 2-1 lead just 30 seconds after Arnold scored.
    Saskatoon held a 9-5 edge in shots on goal after the first period.
Jayda Sachs had an assist for the Stars on Tuesday.
    The Slash came with a big push back in the second holding a 12-7 edge in shots on goal, but they were unable to solve Stars 17-year-old veteran goalie Jordan Ivanco. Saskatoon continued to hold a 2-1 lead after 40 minutes.
    The Stars proceeded to find another gear in the third period. Defender Dana Wood and right-winger Jayda Sachs set up Joelle Fiala for a goal to give Saskatoon a 3-1 edge.
    Anna Leschyshyn netted the Stars final tally to seal victory for the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League champs. Saskatoon held a 16-4 edge in shots on goal in the third period.
    Ivanco stopped 20 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Stars. Camryn Drever turned away 28 shots to take the setback in goal for the Slash.
    The Slash went a perfect 7-0 at last year’s Esso Cup tournament to win the national championship. They saw their nine game overall winning streak at the Esso Cup come to an end with Tuesday’s loss.
    With the win, the Stars clinch a berth in one of Friday’s two semifinal matches. Saskatoon needs to win one of its final two games in round robin play to lock up first place in the round robin standings.
    On Wednesday, the Stars return to action taking on the host Metro Boston Pizza (0-2-1) squad. The Stars conclude their round robin schedule on Thursday against the Northern Subway Selects (1-1-1) from New Glasgow, N.S.
    Six teams take part in the Esso Cup, and the top four clubs advance on to two semifinal games to be held Friday. The tournament’s bronze and gold medal games are slated for Saturday, and the gold medal final will be shown live at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on TSN.

Back in the Express with Mandarich

    I was back in the Saskatoon Express this week with a story on former NFL offensive lineman Tony Mandarich.
    Mandarich will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Dogs’ Breakfast, which will be held May 3 at 6:45 a.m. at Prairieland Park. The Dogs’ Breakfast raises funds for scholarships for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team.
    Born and raised in Oakville, Ont., Mandarich became a star in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s top football division with the Michigan State University Spartans being named a consensus all-American in 1988 and the Big 10 Conference lineman of the year in 1987 and 1988.
    He was dubbed by Sports Illustrated as “the best offensive lineman prospect ever” and selected in the first round and second overall by the Packers in the 1989 NFL Draft behind quarterback Troy Aikman, who would later enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
    After three lacklustre seasons, the Packers released Mandarich and Sports Illustrated labeled him “The NFL’s Incredible Bust” in a 1992 article.
    He battled drugs and alcohol abuse until his family intervened in March of 1995 and helped him enter rehab and become sober. In an often overlooked epilogue to his time in the NFL, Mandarich returned to the league playing three season for the Indianapolis Colts, which included starting all 16 games in the 1997 campaign.
    A shoulder injury pushed him into retirement following the 1998 season.
    These days, Mandarich lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, pursuing a passion as a full-time photographer, creative and digital artist creating commercial and advertising campaigns for clients.
    The Saskatoon Express story on Mandarich can be found right here.
    Anyone looking for tickets to the Dogs’ Breakfast can do so by clicking here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Silvertips or Ams might prove U.S. Division is still WHL’s best

Carter Hart in action for the Silvertips in February of 2017.
    The Everett Silvertips or the Tri-City Americans might prove you should never go to sleep on the WHL’s U.S. Division.
    During the 2017-18 campaign, a lot of talk among those that follow the WHL noted that the league’s East Division might be the toughest the circuit has seen in some time. That distinction might belong to the circuit’s U.S. Division.
    While all the clubs in the six-team East Division had winning records under the WHL’s current standings format, all the squads in the five-team U.S. Division have accomplished that feat twice in the last three years.
    This season four teams from the U.S. Division finished in the top nine of the circuit’s overall standings. All five clubs in the U.S. Division finished in the top 13 of the overall standings.
    By comparison, four clubs from the East Division finished in the top eight in the overall league standings, and all six East Division teams finished in the top 15 overall in the league.
    Due to the fact teams in one conference only play teams in the other conference once per regular season, WHL followers that live in centres that are part of the league’s Eastern Conference sometimes forget what is happening with clubs from the Western Conference.
    Teams from the U.S. Division have won the Western Conference championship eight out of the last 10 years. With the Silvertips and Americans going at it in this year’s best-of-seven WHL Western Conference championship series, that run will extend to nine out of the last 11 years.
    The Silvertips and Americans were both elite clubs this season. Everett finished third overall in the regular season standings with a 47-20-2-3 record, while the Americans were ninth overall in the regular season with a 38-25-8-1 mark.
    Everett advanced to conference final downing the Seattle Thunderbirds, who won last year’s WHL title, in five games in the first round and getting past the Portland Winterhawks in five games in the second round.
    Tri-City had the first wildcard spot in the Western Conference and was placed in a bracket with B.C. Division teams. The Americans swept the Kelowna Rockets 4-0 in the first round and took out the Victoria Royals 4-0 in the second round.
    In the first two games of the best-of-seven Western Conference championship series played at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, the Silvertips claimed Game 1 on Friday 3-2, while the Americans rebounded to take Game 2 on Saturday 5-3.
    In Game 3 on Monday before 3,268 spectators at the Toyota Centre in Kennewick, Wash., the two clubs played a wild one. The Silvertips led 4-2 after two periods, but the Americans rallied to force a 4-4 tie scoring twice in the first 1:45 of the third. Everett closed out the contest scoring four straight times to pull out an 8-4 victory and take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Patrick Bajkov in action for the Silvertips in February of 2017.
    Overage right-winger Patrick Bajkov had a hat trick for the Silvertips, while centre and Saskatoon product Garrett Pilon, who turned 20 earlier this month, had a goal and two assists for the visitors. Martin Fasko-Rudas, Reece Vitelli, Ian Walker and Connor Dewar all netted singles for the Silvertips.
    Star overage captain Michael Rasmussen, who turned 19 earlier this month, had a pair of goals and an assist for the Americans. Juuso Valimaki and Isaac Johnson netted singles for Tri-City.
    Carter Hart turned away 29 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Silvertips. Patrick Dea turned away 18-of-26 shots starting and taking the loss in goal for the Americans. Beck Warm turned away both shots he faced playing the final 8:16 of the third period in relief.
    While the goals came in bunches in Game 3, goaltending has been key for both the Silvertips and Americans.
    Hart gained increased fame after he backstopped Canada to a gold medal win at the world junior tournament, which wrapped up on Jan. 5 in Buffalo, N.Y.
    The 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., appeared in 41 regular season games with the Silvertips posting a 31-6-4 record, a 1.60 goals against average, a .947 save percentage and seven shutouts.
    In the WHL playoffs, Hart has continued his stellar play appearing in all of Everett’s 13 games posting a 10-3 record, a 2.25 goals against average, a .931 save percentage and two shutouts.
    Dea, who is in his overage season, had a solid regular season with the Americans posting a 22-14-7 record, a 3.17 goals against average, a .913 save percentage and two shutouts. The St. Albert, Alta., product has been steady in the WHL post-season making 11 appearances posting an 8-2 record, a 3.36 goals against average, .890 save percentage and two shutouts.
    When it comes to goaltending, Hart has hit such a high level in his play he gives the Silvertips the edge in that department no matter who they play in the major junior ranks.
    These teams are off until Thursday, when they will meet in Game 4 at 7 p.m. local time in Tri-City. The winner of this series will be well-prepared to potentially claim the best-of-seven WHL Championship series.

“Skin-Ner” call amuses veteran goalie

Stuart Skinner has heard one common heckle call in every road venue.
    Stuart Skinner expects to hear “it” any time he plays in an opposing team’s building.
    When the veteran Swift Current Broncos star netminder gets set to play goal on the road, he will eventually hear a fan in the building call out the heckle “Skin-Ner” in the voice of Simpsons character superintendent Gary Chalmers. Skinner, who is a 19-year-old NHL Entry Draft selection of the Edmonton Oilers, heard that call in his first three-and-a-half seasons in the WHL playing for the Lethbridge Hurricanes and still kept hearing it after he was acquired by the Broncos in a blockbuster trade on Jan. 9.
    “I’ve been around it for four years now,” said Skinner, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 200 pounds. “I hear it ever place I go.
    “I like it. I think it gives me more energy and kind of gets me pumped up.”
    The Edmonton product said the “Skin-Ner” call never gets old.
    It hasn’t had an effect on his consistency.
    In 207 career regular season games, Skinner has posted a 104-72-15 record, a 3.22 goals against average, a .908 save percentage and 12 shutouts. During the Broncos current playoff run, Skinner has played in all of the Broncos 16 games posting a 10-6 record, a 2.10 goals against average, a .935 save percentage and four shutouts.
    On Monday, Skinner was named the WHL goaltender of the week for the week ending on April 22. Over the week the award was granted for, Skinner won all three of his starts, posted a 1.58 goals against average, turned away 100 of 105 shots for a .952 save percentage and recorded one shutout.
    During the Broncos 4-3 overtime win on Saturday night over the visiting Hurricanes, the sellout crowd of 2,890 spectators at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex took a page out of the playbook of the fans that cheer for the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets to support Skinner and to try to get on Lethbridge star goalie Logan Flodell.
    The Broncos’ fans echoed the “Skinner’s better” chant throughout the building at one point in the game. Flodell had been with the Broncos and was dealt to the Hurricanes in that blockbuster trade on Jan. 9.
    With the series set to shift to Lethbridge for Game 3 on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. local time start, it be interesting to hear of the “Skin-Ner” call is heard once again.

Eyes on Broncos’ key injuries

The Broncos hope Glenn Gawdin won’t be sidelined for long.
    Fans of the Swift Current Broncos have to be feeling nervous about a couple of key undisclosed injuries.
    The Broncos lost 19-year-old Russian import defenceman Artyom Minulin in their 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the WHL Eastern Conference championship series with the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday night. Broncos overage captain Glenn Gawdin left the ice skating gingerly to the bench after being hit into the boards by a Hurricanes player in the first period of Swift Current’s 4-3 overtime victory in Game 2 on Saturday night. Both of those games were played at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex in Swift Current.
    The status for either player to take part in Game 3 of the series on Tuesday in Lethbridge is uncertain.
    Minulin, who played for Russia at world juniors, missed three games of the Broncos first round playoff series win over the Regina Pats with an apparent shoulder issue, so there is worry that could be a problem again. He appeared in 64 regular season games recording 13 goals, 30 assists and a plus-37 rating in the plus-minus department. He has one goal, three assists and a plus-two rating in 12 playoff appearances.
    Gawdin, who is a star centre, topped the Broncos in regular season scoring piling up 56 goals and 69 assists in 67 regular season games, while also posting a plus-61 rating. In the Broncos 16 playoff games, Gawdin has posted nine goals, 13 assists and a plus-four rating.
    The Broncos have good depth, but Gawdin and Minulin are two heart and soul career members of the team. Their absence is still going to be felt even with the Broncos strength in depth.

Heponiemi named WHL player of the week

Aleksi Heponiemi was named the WHL’s player of the week.
    Aleksi Heponiemi came through in the clutch for the Swift Current Broncos, which resulted him being named the WHL’s player of the week.
    The star import right-winger from Finland took the honour for the week ending on April 22. In the week that the award was given for, Heponiemi appeared in three games recording two goals, four assists and a plus-six rating in the plus-minus department.
    On April 16, Heponiemi had a pair of assists in the Broncos 6-0 victory over the host Moose Jaw Warriors in a series deciding Game 7 victory in the best-of-seven second round set between the two clubs. That win allowed the Broncos to advance to the WHL Eastern Conference championship series for the first time since 2001.
    On Friday, Heponiemi scored the winning goal and had an assist as the Broncos claimed Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final over the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex. On Saturday, Heponiemi had an assist and a goal that forced a 3-3 tie that sent Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final to overtime, which the Broncos claimed 4-3 at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex.
    Heponiemi, who turned 19 in early January, finished second in Broncos team regular season scoring with 28 goals, 90 assists and a plus-42 rating in 57 games. In the Broncos 16 playoff games, Heponiemi has two goals, 20 assists and a plus-three rating.
    The Broncos face the Hurricanes in Game 3 on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Monday, 23 April 2018

Stars get 40th win with 2-0 start at Esso Cup

Joelle Fiala had a goal and an assist for the Stars on Sunday.
    The Saskatoon Stars have quickly turned heads at this year’s Esso Cup.
    The defending Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League champions have jumped out to a 2-0 start posting wins at the female midget AAA hockey national championship tournament over the representatives from Ontario and Quebec at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater, N.S. The teams from Ontario and Quebec traditionally do well at the six-team national championship tournament, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
    With those wins, the Stars improved their overall record to 40-6-1. They have won 40 or more games overall in three of the last four seasons. Their lifetime record at the Esso Cup improved to 10-6 as well having won a bronze medal at the 2015 tourney and finishing fourth at the 2016 event.
    On Sunday, the Stars downed the Brampton Canadettes from Ontario 5-0. Grace Shirley, Calli Arnold, Joelle Fiala, Kaitlin Jockims and Kianna Dietz all netted singles for the Stars. Fiala had an assist to go along with her goal, while Ashley Messier and Jayda Sachs both had two assists each.
    Jordan Ivanco made 12 stops to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Stars. Hannah Szczepanowski turned away 22 shots to take the setback in goal for the Canadettes.
    On Monday, the Stars blanked the Pionnieres de Lanaudiere from Quebec 3-0. Mackenna Parker and Anna Leschyshyn each had a goal and an assist, while Shirley had a goal for the second straight game.
Grace Shirley scored for the Stars on Monday.
    Arden Kliewer made 19 stops to pick up the shutout win in goal for the Stars. Leila Cecilia Lotke Salinas turned away 43 shots to take the setback in goal for the Pionnieres.
    The Stars continue round robin play on Tuesday against the defending Esso Cup champion St. Albert Slash from Alberta. The Slash defeated the Pionnieres 3-2 after a tiebreaking shootout on Sunday and bombed the host Metro Boston Pizza squad 8-0 on Monday.
    The Slash are trying to become the first team ever to win the Esso Cup in two straight years.
    The Stars, who are 10-0 in this year’s post-season, are trying to become the first Saskatchewan based team to win the title since the Weyburn Gold Wings in 2014.
    The round robin schedule for the Esso Cup runs through until Thursday. The top four teams advance on to two semifinal games to be held Friday. The tournament’s bronze and gold medal games are slated for Saturday, and the gold medal final will be shown live at 4 p.m. Saskatchewan time on TSN.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 22 April 2018

Hurricanes prove they are for real in battle with Broncos

Hurricanes LW Taylor Ross speeds by Broncos C Giorgio Estephan.
    The Lethbridge Hurricanes didn’t remain in the purgatory of reloading for long.
    After two games in the WHL Eastern Conference championship series, the underdog Hurricanes have given the favoured Swift Current Broncos all they can handle. The Broncos lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 on the strength of two wins in Swift Current. They took Game 1 on Friday 3-2 and Game 2 on Saturday 4-3 in overtime.
    Those two games could have easily gone the other way. Actually, had an early overtime shot by sophomore defenceman Calen Addison been an inch to the left on Saturday night at the Innovation Credit Union i-Plex, the Hurricanes would be heading home to play Game 3 at the Enmax Centre on Tuesday at 7 p.m. local time with the series even at 1-1.
    With how the first two games have played out, it could be argued that would have been a just result. The Hurricanes host Game 4 at 7 p.m. local time on Wednesday at the Enmax Centre.
    The Broncos finished second overall in the WHL’s regular season standings with a 48-17-5-2 record. They made it to the conference final eliminating the Memorial Cup hosting Regina Pats, who finished seventh overall in the regular season with a 40-25-6-1 mark, in a tough seven game series in the first round and taking out the Moose Jaw Warriors, who topped the WHL regular season standings with a 52-15-2-3 record, in a difficult seven game series in the second round.
Hurricanes RW Dylan Cozens poke checks Broncos RW Tyler Steenbergen.
    The Hurricanes finished 16th overall in the regular season standings with a 33-33-6 mark, and with the WHL utilizing a hybrid format of playing through the division in playoffs, they had an easier bracket to navigate through.
    Lethbridge took out the Red Deer Rebels, who finished 17th overall in the regular season with a 27-32-10-3 mark, in five games in the first round, and disposed of a tougher Brandon Wheat Kings side, who finished eighth overall in the regular season with a 40-27-3-2 record, in five games in the second round.
    These teams are familiar with each other thanks to the fact Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt and Broncos head coach and director of player personnel Manny Viveiros, who are both good friends, made a blockbuster deal on Jan. 9 - one day before the WHL’s trade deadline.
    In that trade, the Hurricanes sent overage captain and star centre Giorgio Estephan, star 19-year-old netminder Stuart Skinner and winger Tanner Nagel, who turned 20 in late January, to the Broncos.
Jordy Bellerive has developed into a star for the Hurricanes.
    In exchange, the Broncos sent overage star netminder Logan Flodell, rookie centre Logan Barlage, who turned 17 in early January, sophomore centre Owen Blocker, who turned 18 in late March, sophomore defenceman Matthew Stanley, who turned 20 in early February, a first round selection and a third round selection in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft and a future conditional second round pick in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft to the Hurricanes.
    Following the Broncos overtime win on Saturday, Viveiros stated his side expected the Hurricanes to be far from a pushover.
    “We’re not surprised with how good Lethbridge is,” said Viveiros. “We knew they are a good hockey team.
    “They have good goaltending, and they are well coached. They are going to give us everything they have to give. If we don’t play well, they can beat us. We have to play as well as we can.”
    When the Hurricanes and Broncos made their trade on Jan. 9, it appeared the Hurricanes had decided to look to the future acquiring younger players and draft picks, while the Broncos were strengthening their roster for a long playoff run this season. As it has turned out, both teams have made a long post-season foray.
    In 2016-17, the Hurricanes had an older roster and posted a 44-21-4-3 record to finish seventh overall in the WHL. They advanced to the Eastern Conference championship series falling in six games to the Regina Pats, who topped the league regular season standings in that campaign with a 52-12-7-1 mark.
Logan Flodell has been stellar in goal for the Hurricanes.
    That Hurricanes team was powered by the exploits of star captain Tyler Wong and star offensive defenceman Brennan Menell, who now plays for Iowa Wild of the AHL. The Iowa Wild are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild.
    At the moment, the Hurricanes only have six hold overs from their team at this time last year in centres Jordy Bellerive and Jadon Joseph, right-winger Dylan Cozens, and defencemen Addison, Ty Prefontaine and Igor Merezhko.
    In advancing to the conference final this season, the Hurricanes have built an obvious togetherness. They are playing for each other and are intent on doing everything they can to ensure the 2017-18 campaign continues into the WHL Championship series.
    On Friday night, the Hurricanes outshot the Broncos 41-30 in Game 1, and a stellar 39 save performance from Skinner allowed the Broncos to pull out victory. On Saturday night, the Hurricanes outshot the Broncos 39-33 and led 3-2 after the second period. The Broncos scored to force overtime, and Addison rang a shot off the post of the Swift Current goal early in the extra session to almost deliver victory to the Hurricanes.
    Estephan recorded a hat trick that night including the overtime winner to give the Broncos the win.
The Hurricanes plan to celebrate a few more goals in the post-season.
    As far as playing style goes, the Hurricanes appear to be a younger version of the Broncos. Both squads like to get up and down the ice, play with skill and make some big hits.
    The similarities have made the series entertaining to watch.
    The rapid improvement of the Hurricanes, while surprising, doesn’t come as a total shock. Anholt has one of the smartest hockey minds you will find anywhere, and third-year head coach Brent Kisio is one of the circuit’s elite bench bosses.
    If the Hurricanes can win Game 3, this series could still be a long way from being over. Even if the series ends up being a short one, the Hurricanes are poised to go down fighting.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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