WHL Playoffs Round 2 – Two teams split games, two take a lead

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NBCS Northwest

WHL Playoffs Round 2 – Two teams split games, two take a lead

BY STUART KEMP

Four games each night during the weekend took place, but much of the two nights was reserved for a horrific bus crash that ended up killing fifteen people and injuring fourteen others outside the rural town of Tisdale, Saskatchewan, located east of Saskatoon … more on that in a moment.

The first night of the WHL second round saw Eastern Division teams Swift Current Broncos and Moose Jaw Warriors battle in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The first night the Warriors led for the game before allowing Swift Current to get close before finishing the game with a 5-3 win. 

The Central vs East Division was up next with Lethbridge Hurricanes facing the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Kings had a tough night out in the first game dropping a 5-1 decision to the Canes. Jordy Bellerive and Taylor Ross each scored a pair of goals for the Hurricanes.

The Victoria Royals goaltender, Griffin Outhouse, was shellacked for seven goals by seven different scorers and Patrick Dea earned the shutout in a 7-0 win for the Tri-City Americans.

The Everett Silvertips gave up the first three goals of the game before coming back with a pair in the second to make it close, but Skyler McKenzie scored with just over one second left in the period to restore the two goal cushion and added another midway through the third period to take game one by a 5-2 score.

The second night, the news had sunk in about the horrific tragedy that has taken place the night before and all games in the WHL had all the players on each team gather together side by side in alternating fashion either at center ice or at the blue line.

NHL teams Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets removed their nameplates and played the game with the name Broncos stitched in their place. 

Many teams donated either portions of 50/50 sales or collected donations from patrons for the people of Humboldt, Saskatchewan, home of the Humboldt Broncos and along with a GoFundMe project, is closing on five million dollars in less than two days.

It was a tough night for the second set of games as teams seemingly were preoccupied with the situation in Saskatchewan.

The Swift Current Broncos came back from the loss the previous night to shutout the Moose Jaw Warriors 4-0 with four different scorers to now tie the series at one game apiece with the series shifting to Swift Current.

The Brandon Wheat Kings scored four goals in the first two periods before a comeback by the Hurricanes. The Canes started the comeback in the middle of the second by Jordy Bellerive who also scored midway through the third and a late powerplay goal by Lethbridge tied up the contest. Late into the first overtime the Hurricanes completed the comeback with a 5-4 overtime win and a two game lead in the series. The Kings will host the next two games in Brandon.

In Victoria after smarting from a shutout, the Royals gave up the first goal less than a minute into the contest to Tri-City’s Michael Rasmussen. Just under seven minutes into the second, the Royals tied it up, only to allow Rasmussen his second of the game ten minutes later while on the powerplay. Early in the third period, Tri-City extended the lead and the game saw the Americans cap off the scoring with the hat trick goal by Rasmussen with just over a minute left in the game, Rasmussen ended the game with three goals and one assist to lead the Ams to a 4-1 win and a two games to one lead in the series with it now shifting to Kennewick, WA.

The Portland Winterhawks seemed to be more focused on anything but the game at hand as they gave up two goals in the first, one of which came in the first minute of play, three more in the second and one in the third which gave Patrick Bajkov a hat trick and Carter Hart the shutout in a 6-0 thrashing of the Hawks. The series now tied at one will move to Portland.

All series will resume again on Tuesday, with the all series except the Portland/ Everett series playing game four on Wednesday. That series will play game four on Thursday.

The horrific bus crash that took place on Friday afternoon is being investigated by the RCMP with the driver of the tractor trailer escaping without injury, fourteen players initially dead at the scene and fourteen players on the bus as injured, three critically. One player who had just turned twenty-one had signed a donor registry card at the same time and his body was being used to assist up to eleven lives after he was pronounced brain dead in hospital, raising the total to fifteen. The driver of the tractor trailer was initially taken into custody

On Sunday, a vigil was held in Humboldt, Saskatchewan home of the Broncos which filled the arena to capacity.

Overflow crowds moved to the curling center with the vigil streaming online. Elsewhere, vigils were held in Saskatoon at City Hall and the Art Bauer Centre in Prince Albert Saskatchewan. The names of all deceased were read at the vigil, however the RCMP had not officially announced the victims. The Premier of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Prime Minister attended, but did not speak. Don Cherry, who hosts a segment called Coaches Corner on CBC TV during hockey games also attended.

Photos including aerial ones have circulated online and show a strewn about scene with bales of peat moss which the tractor trailer truck was carrying. The truck was westbound on Highway 335 which had a stop sign to yield to traffic on Highway 35 in which the bus was traveling northbound.  There is a stand of trees on the angle to the left that has some impairment to those turning off the highway northbound. The investigation is also looking into weather and road conditions. The impact sent both vehicles a distance northbound up the highway and the bus appeared to be shredded. Among the dead were ten players ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-one, the bus driver, the head coach, assistant coach, statistician and radio broadcaster. The crash occurred at approximately 5 PM with less than thirty minutes prior to arrival in Nipawin, Saskatchewan where the Humboldt Broncos were to play game five against the Nipawin Hawks, down 3-1 in the series. Dame six was set to take place in Humboldt on Sunday, where instead a vigil was held. The vigil started at 7:30pm when puck drop would have taken place and instead a moment of silence was held. 

At this point, the SJHL has suspended operations for all teams, though the race is on for decisions on what will happen as the finals and RBC Cup which is similar to the Memorial Cup in the Canadian Hockey League are scheduled to be taking place in the coming days. The Estevan Bruins were awaiting the winner of the Hawks/ Broncos series which was scheduled to begin this coming Friday and the winner to move onto the RBC Cup. 

The GoFundMe account, which is closing in on five million dollars, was helped by large donations from several NHL teams and over sixteen thousand individual donors. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will be collecting donations at home games on Tuesday and Thursday with the funds going directly to Humboldt Broncos. 

It was announced at the initial press conference that an accountant and attorney will assist with the distribution of funds once collected to figure out the best way to assist those in need in this tragic situation. 

More will be announced in the coming days.

New ownership in the offing for Winterhawks -- could it be 'Pickled?'

New ownership in the offing for Winterhawks -- could it be 'Pickled?'

(Updated at 2:58 PDT)

Portland Winterhawks fans can relax for the time being.

It appears that their franchise -- while it will soon have a new owner -- will likely not be affected adversely by the bankruptcy of several companies owned by Edmonton oil man Bill Gallacher, who purchased the Western Hockey League team in 2008.

And it's possible that the owner could be the same group that operates the Portland Pickles, a team in the summer collegiate wood-bat West Coast League.

Alan Miller, who operates a marketing company in Los Angeles when not in Portland during the WCL season, expressed an interest Monday.

"They have a broker in Toronto who is running the file on behalf of the finance company," Miller said. "And a representative of our company has had a conversation with them. I love hockey. Been to Winterhawks games. My partner, Jon Ryan (the former Seahawk punter), has had plenty of experience in hockey -- he comes from Regina, Saskatchewan, and he tells the story that he was cut from five different teams in that league."

Miller emphasized that his group is still in the preliminary stages of studying a possible deal and would not sell the Pickles if it purchased the Winterhawks. The Pickles' season fits reasonably well into the Winterhawks' off-season and he believes there is an economy of scale with the two franchises under the same umbrella.

The Winterhawks have built a near-dynasty and had the WHL’s best record with a very young team this season, prior to the pandemic shutting down the league in March.

But the team, which has done well financially since Gallacher bought it, was one of a number of his companies put up as security against a loan that he did not repay. The hockey team is now in receivership, meaning it will be sold to help repay the loan.

The receiver, Bridging Finance, a Canadian company, will be attempting to sell the team but has motivation to find solid ownership because prospective new owners in the WHL require league approval. The good news for the receivers is that the Winterhawks are a successful business that would be attractive to someone wishing to get into the hockey business. 

The key officers of the team, president Doug Piper and vice-president/general manager and coach Mike Johnston, are expected to remain in place -- depending on the wishes of new ownership -- and they will add value to the franchise.

But the good news for fans of the team is that the organization itself is on solid business footing in a city that supports it very well -- pending the future of the pandemic, of course.

The franchise should attract solid -- perhaps even local -- ownership.

Portland Winterhawks' parent company files for bankruptcy

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks' parent company files for bankruptcy

The coronavirus has had a global impact not just from a health and safety perspective, but from an economic one, too.

As the sports world remains at a standstill for two months, tough decisions have been made. People have lost their jobs, taken paycuts and companies have had a shutter their doors. For some businesses, it's temporary. For others, the pandemic has changed the course of some companies forever. And Portland, Oregon, is no exception.

The Trail Blazers' NBA season, Timbers' MLS season and Thorns FC's NWSL season have all been suspended. The Portland Winterhawks' WHL season was cancelled-- and now the consequences are dire.

According to Oregonlive, Portland Winterhawks Inc., the Winterhawks parent company, filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy Thursday after owner William Gallacher "allegedly failed to repay money his companies had borrowed in 2018."

Bridging Financing, who reportedly took the Gallacher to court in Toronto, claims it has taken control of several of his companies, which includes the hockey franchise.

Now, a court-appointed receiver has the Winterhawks' fate in its hands. 

A receivership could be devastating for the hockey team. The Western Hockey League can terminate a team’s ownership agreement if the franchise enters bankruptcy or is in receivership for more than 10 days. The Winterhawks’ landlord, Rip City Management LLC, can also void the team’s lease to play in the Moda Center and Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum. Rip City Management LLC is affiliated with the Trail Blazers.

The receiver said he has no plans to shut down the Winterhawks organization and added that he hopes it will soon return to normal operations.

The WHL said in a statement Sunday that they are aware of the situation and are “working closely with the Receiver and the Winterhawks team management to ensure the smooth transition to new ownership in short order.”

President Doug Piper, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston, and the executive staff will remain with the team.

The Winterhawks arrived in Portland in 1976, having made the WHL Championship series 12 times, and has won the championship three times: 1982, 1998, and 2013. Before the pandemic, the franchise was atop the Western Conference before the abrupt ending of the season. 

Brendan Leipsic's Capitals contract terminated after offensive remarks revealed

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USATSI

Brendan Leipsic's Capitals contract terminated after offensive remarks revealed

The Washington Capitals have placed former Winterhawks wing Brendan Leipsic on unconditional waivers with the intention of his contract being terminated after private messages revealed misogynistic comments. 

The Capitals forward came under fire after screenshots of the conversation leaked on Twitter. 

They showed Leipic making derogatory comments about women and their appearances that were sexual in nature. 

The Capitals forward also made some remarks about current and former teammates.

The Capitals front office denounced Leispsic’s comments immediately. So, too, did the NHL, which released a statement regarding the situation.

Leipsic later took to his personal social media and apologized for the comments that he made.

https://twitter.com/19LEIP/status/1258173279946199040

During his career with the Winterhawks, Leipsic scored 120 points in 68 games to win the CHL Top Scorer Award as the highest-scoring player in the Canadian Hockey League.

Leipsic was finishing out a one-year, $700,000 contract with the Capitals before he was cut. He scored three goals and eight assists in 61 games this season.

He will head to the offseason as a restricted free agent.

COVID-19 ends WHL season -- with the Portland Winterhawks as champs

COVID-19 ends WHL season -- with the Portland Winterhawks as champs

The bad news for the Portland Winterhawks and their fans Wednesday was that the Western Hockey League has canceled the remaining games of its regular season.

The good news, though, is that the young Winterhawks have capped off the abbreviated season by being declared the winners of the WHL’s U.S. Division and, even better, winners of the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as regular-season champions, with the best record in the entire league.

The WHL is still holding out hope of holding its playoffs if the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and conditions allow.

Mike Johnston, the team’s head coach, vice president and general manager, admitted that it has been a surprising season for a young team not expected to contend this season.

“To be honest, it was,” Johnston said. “We thought at Christmas we wanted to see where we would be, in the running, and we were kind of surprised at that time we were holding that top position in the league.

“We decided at the trade deadline not to make any moves -- one of the first years we didn’t make any moves, for the simple reason that we liked our team. They were over-performing. And I thought they deserved to make a run with it.

“Also, we knew going forward that we had a phenomenal team coming back next year and the following year so we didn’t want to tinker with that. Most teams in our position did make moves and acquired players, but even with that, we still held on right to the end.

“It’s amazing. This is only the third time we’ve had the best overall record and we’ve had a lot of good teams.”

The Hawks were loaded with youngsters this season. They will have two big-time losses next season, in goalie Joel Hofer and captain and star defenseman Johnny Ludvig. Both could be headed for professional hockey next season.

But all of the team’s offensive firepower should return.

“In the future, you’re looking at a real nice team for next year and the year after,” Johnston said, “A team that should be one of the strongest in the league.

“Our core players will be back. Two years ago, we had four 16-year-olds in our lineup and this year we had three. A third of our team was 16- and 17-years-old this year.”

The star of that group will be a player, Seth Jarvis, who is expected to be a high pick in the NHL draft this year. As a 17-year-old, he had 42 goals and 56 assists in just 58 games.

Indeed, a franchise that has had so much success under Johnston seems to be on the same road again.

Portland Winterhawks remaining games cancelled, finish in first place

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WHL

Portland Winterhawks remaining games cancelled, finish in first place

As the sports world remains at a standstill to help contain the spread of COVID-19, leagues are having to make tough decisions. 

On Wednesday, the Western Hockey League, which the Portland Winterhawks play in, announced the conclusion of its 2019-2020 season.

The WHL had 54 remaining games to play in its regular season before entering the playoffs.

The Winterhawks were on a tremendous run with a 45-11-3-4 record. 

Following the announcement, the Winterhawks release the following statement.


With the current concerns related to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Portland Winterhawks fully support the Western Hockey League’s decision today to conclude the 2019-20 WHL regular season.

Following a meeting with the WHL Board of Governors and consultation with medical professionals, it was determined that the remaining 54 games on the 2019-20 WHL Regular Season schedule will be cancelled and not played.

The Portland Winterhawks also announced that its players are allowed to return home to their families immediately.

Final standings were determined based on winning percentage, meaning the Portland Winterhawks finished in first place with an overall record of 45-11-3-4 (.770 percentage) for 97 points in 63 games.

Congratulations to the Portland Winterhawks on a great season!

How Don Hay ended up as an assistant with the Winterhawks

How Don Hay ended up as an assistant with the Winterhawks

Don Hay surprised a lot of hockey fans when he took a job as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks last week.

Hay is the winningest head coach in Western Hockey League history, has won three Memorial Cups, two WHL Coach of the Year awards, a World Junior championship and been the head coach of the NHL Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes. Hay recently announced a "retirement" from coaching, leaving the Kamloops Blazers.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest, Hay talked about the opportunity to coach in Portland under old friend Mike Johnston and his responsibilities on the staff.

See the video above

What happened in Kamloops that led to Don Hay joining the Winterhawks

What happened in Kamloops that led to Don Hay joining the Winterhawks

Don Hay surprised a lot of hockey fans when he took a job as an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks last week.

Hay is the winningest head coach in Western Hockey League history, has won three Memorial Cups, two WHL Coach of the Year awards, a World Junior championship and been the head coach of the NHL Calgary Flames and Phoenix Coyotes. Hay recently announced a "retirement" from coaching, leaving the Kamloops Blazers.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest, Hay talked about the opportunity to coach in Portland under old friend Mike Johnston and his responsibilities on the staff.

See the video above

Winterhawks add Don Hay as an assistant coach

Winterhawks add Don Hay as an assistant coach

The Portland Winterhawks announced Monday afternoon that they've added one of the greatest coaches in Western Hockey League history to their staff.

Don Hay, the WHL's career head-coaching leader with 750 wins, won 3 Memorial Cup Championships with the Kamloops Blazers and Vancouver Giants, has two WHL Coach of the Year Awards, a Gold Medal in the 1995 World Juniors, and NHL Head Coaching roles with Phoenix and Calgary. During the 2017-18 season while coachig at Kamloops, Hay set a WHL record, surpassing longtime Portland Coach Ken Hodge to become the leagues winningest Coach with 750 wins in his career.

He will join head coach Mike Johnston's staff as an assistant coach.

"We are thrilled to add a coach of Don's caliber to our staff.  He will bring not only experience in the league but also a history of winning. When I first approached Don about the idea I wasn't sure what his reaction would be, but he was both interested and excited. (Associate head coach) Kyle (Gustafson) and I have always had a good rapport with Don and feel he will definitely be a great addition to our group," said Johnston, who also serves as the team's vice president and general manager.

“I’m excited to work with the Portland Winterhawks organization. I’m looking forward to working with Mike and Kyle and the rest of their staff. It’s a great opportunity to continue to learn and add my experience to the coaching staff,” said Hay in the team's news release.

 

WHL Final Set, US Represented

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USATI

WHL Final Set, US Represented

BY 

It’s a tough order to get a US Division team into the WHL Finals with only five of twenty-two possible, but the US Division was strong once again this year. They knocked out the BC teams in record fashion which led to a matchup with almost as much distance across the league as possible. 

The Everett Silvertips punched their ticket with a tough 6-5 overtime win over the Tri City Americans in Kennewick, WA. The Tips held a 2-1 lead after one period with both teams scoring on the powerplay, the Tips coming late in the period. The second period was all Americans with two goals, one of which came by the way of the powerplay and followed up with two more midway through the third period to take what appeared to be a commanding 5-2 lead. However, Everett scored just over a minute later and banged home two more a minute apart with six minutes left in the game to force overtime. 

The Americans took a costly tripping penalty just under five minutes into the overtime which set the stage for Kevin Davis’ second of the night just over a minute into the powerplay, to get the come from behind 6-5 overtime win and a trip for the first time ever to the WHL Finals.

The Swift Current Broncos, long thought by many to be the favorites in the WHL Finals, had an easier time with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Canes led the game after the first period with a goal late in the first period, but five straight by the Broncos, one on the powerplay, one short-handed and one in the empty net were all they needed to take game six by a 5-1 margin. 

Thus the stage was set for two powerhouses and what should be a tight matchup with it going close to the distance. The first two games were held in the sold out Credit Union iPlex in Swift Current and game one set the tone for showing just how evenly matched the two teams were. Three goals and five penalties in the game between the two teams with one goal on the powerplay and a final of 2-1 in favor of the Everett Silvertips. 

Game two in Swift Current started out very well for Everett as they piled on three goals in fourteen minutes in the first period to take a commanding lead. The Broncos started chipping away in the second with one goal and scored another midway through the third to close the gap. After pulling goaltender Stuart Skinner for the extra attacker, they completed the comeback with just over ninety seconds to play and sent the game to overtime. Close to the midway mark, Giorgio Estaphan, whom the Broncos had acquired at trade deadline from the Hurricanes, knocked off his former team with the overtime marker which sent the Bronco faithful into euphoria. 

Games three and four now head to Everett and game five set for Swift Current at the end of the week. This is the only series where teams have the option of flying and with a twenty plus hour drive distance between them, it is safe to say that wasn’t even an option.

The Portland Winterhawks finished their week with the Bantam Draft for 2018. This year, the Hawks had all their draft choices in place, the first time since 2013 when they had heavy sanctions imposed.

Leading up to the draft, the Hawks made a trade.  The Hawks traded a conditional pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft in exchange for 1998-born defenseman Jared Freadrich. With 196 games under his belt, the overage defenseman is expected to plug a major hole in the Hawks defensive core with Keoni Texeira and potentially Henri Jokiharju gone from the Hawks for the upcoming season. 

Eleven players were selected by the Hawks with four defensemen, six forwards and one goaltender who will all come to camp this year before being re-assigned to respective junior teams. Training camp for the Hawks is set for late August with the first regular season game coming up on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

The Cinderella season of the Nipawan Hawks continues down three games to two in the Avanet Cup and a spot in the RBC Cup which will have a US team in the mix with the Wenatchee Wild coming in after winning their series.