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  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Edmonton will need a "short memory" about its Game 3 loss, where it outshot the Medicine Hat Tigers 44-21. (Edmonton Sun, Medicine Hat News)

    The Parker era in Regina could soon be over, pending approval of the Pats' sale. (CJME, Regina Leader-Post, Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

    Don't overlook that Portland's Corbin Boes had to make game-saving stops in the Winterhawks' comeback vs. Kelowna, although he wasn't dealing in volume like Jordon Cooke. (KATU, Kelowna Capital News, The Oregonian)

    Swift Current Broncos grad Graham Black has signed on with the New Jersey Devils organization. (Regina Leader-Post)

    Are the Seattle Thunderbirds prepared to allocate all three overage spots to forwards next season? (ESPN 710)

    What was up with Calgary canning Mike Williamson? (The Pipeline Show)

    OHL

    North Bay's Ben Thomson was a Kitchener rookie when it had a 3-0 lead over Windsor in 2010 and didn't seal the deal. And Oshawa coach D.J. Smith was on the Spitfires staff. Hello, Game 4 storyline! (North Bay Nugget)

    Erie has saved some face, now can it save its season? (Erie Times-News)

    Read More »from Regina Pats’ sale imminent, Battalion shoot for sweep: the coast-to-coast
  • Kelowna goalie Jordon Cooke made 61 saves in Friday's overtime loss to Portland (photo: Kelowna Rockets)PORTLAND, Ore. — Goaltender Jordon Cooke and the Kelowna Rockets were 5:10 away from stealing Game 3 of the WHL’s Western Conference final against the Portland Winterhawks.

    But after Cooke delivered a scintillating performance for 57 minutes Tuesday, the bounces suddenly went against him late as Portland scored twice in the last three minutes of regulation to force overtime, then won on a Taylor Leier shot that caromed in off a jersey 10 minutes into the extra period.

    Portland captured a 4-3 decision, and now leads the series 2-1, and the Rockets are left wondering how they can combat a Winterhawks onslaught that brought 65 shots on goal in 70 minutes.

    Cooke, an overager in his fourth WHL season, cobbled together several weeks worth of highlight-reel saves in a single night, but unfortunately became the sidenote to the Winterhawks’ series-shifting comeback when all was said and done.

    “Jordon was great, if we would have won that game it would’ve been a steal,” said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. “He played really well and kept us in for as long as he could. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hold them off toward the end of the third period.”

    Ryan Olsen’s goal put the Rockets up 3-1 with 5:10 left in the third, and some fans in the crowd of 9,259 at the Moda Center started to head for the exits. It turned out to be a bad choice.

    “When it got to 3-1 most teams would let it get the wind out of their sails,” said Portland’s Brendan Leipsic, who scored the game-tying goal with 1:18 remaining in regulation. “We knew we were going to get our chances and we waited it out.

    “We’ve been in this position before with a goalie getting hot on us, but we’re a veteran team and we stuck with it.”

    Despite turning in what Portland goalie Corbin Boes called “one of the best performances I’ve ever seen,” Cooke couldn’t hide his disappointment in the aftermath.

    “It’s unfortunate, when you’re up 3-1 against them and you eventually lose in overtime,” said Cooke. “It’s deflating and it sucks.”

    Oliver Bjorkstrand’s second goal of the game came on the power play with 2:59 left in the third and the net empty for a six-on-four situation. His weak nudge toward the net hit a body and squeezed through Cooke’s pads.

    On the winner, Leier wheeled around from about 45 feet out and fired a blind shot through traffic. The puck hit Rockets defenceman Colten Marin in the sleeve and fluttered into the net. A video review was needed to confirm that it hadn’t hit a high stick of a Winterhawk in front, and a delirious celebration resumed after a short break.

    “I like how our players handled it when we got down 3-1,” said Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston. “We knew we were getting our chances, and once the first one fell the crowd was so into the game it was a big boost. I almost thought we were going to win in regulation there.”

    Read More »from Portland’s late rally spoils Jordon Cooke’s sensational night, as Winterhawks beat Kelowna 4-3 in overtime to take 2-1 series lead
  • Phoenix Coyotes draft pick Marek Langhamer (CP)

    No. 1 star: Marek Langhamer, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)

    This was the goaltending equivalent of German volume training, you might say. Langhamer, who thrives on being peppered with pucks, flat-out stole a Game 3 win from the Edmonton Oil Kings by stopping 43-of-44 shots in Medicine Hat's must-have 2-1 victory. The Phoenix Coyotes-drafted goalie was beaten in the sixth minute by Ottawa Senators first-round pick Curtis Lazar. St. Louis Blues prospect Tommy Vannelli got the goal back 71 seconds later and Langhamer came through with 18 first-period saves to preserve a tie after 20 minutes.

    Langhamer continued to bunker down in the second, buying time for the Tigers to go ahead with 2:28 left in the frame on a tally credited to Chad Labelle. After that, the Tigers went to work stymieing the potent Oil Kings as much as possible, with Dylan Bredo doing yeoman's work neutralizing both Lazar and Henrik Samuelsson's line. Langhamer came through with 14 more saves in the final period, upping his playoff save percentage to a gaudy .939.

    Read More »from Marek Langhamer’s 43 saves gets Tigers back into WHL Eastern final: Tuesday’s 3 Stars
  • Leafs signing Connor Brown (right) had 2 points to extend Erie's season (OHL Images)

    The psychology of 3-0 series deficits is the topic du jour. Erie began the long climb back thanks in large part to Toronto Maple Leafs signing Connor Brown's line coming alive. An An international border and a few hundred clicks away, Captain Teal himself, Barclay Goodrow, buried a pair in front of a sellout crowd to North Bay as the Battalion put Oshawa in the most perilous of positions. On with the post-game questions:

    Western final

    Erie 5 Guelph 2, ENG (Storm lead 3-1 and host Game 5 on Friday) — How much impact did Brown (2G-1A, +2) have on the Otters? Tangibly, the captain came through with a go-ahead goal in the first, then carried deep into the Guelph zone to set up a point shot that Dane Fox redirected in to open a 4-2 lead after one. (No one scored again until Erie's empty-netter.) It was an inspirational effort from the OHL's leading scorer.

    "He's a guy who steps it up and takes the bull by the horns," Otters goalie Devin Williams said of Brown. "Even when we're down a goal,

    Read More »from Erie forces Game 5, Battalion put Gens’ back to wall: OHL post-game questions
  • Fabbri helped Guelph roll a seven for the 2nd night in a row (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    Scott Kosmachuk did his best Buzz Killington by scoring 18 seconds after the opening faceoff in Erie. Robby Fabbri scored a hat trick in a Game 3 rout, and the Guelph Storm are poised to sweep the Otters in an OHL Western Conference final most forecast to be a six- or seven-gamer. On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from Guelph absolutely Fabbri-ulous, opening 3-0 lead on Erie Otters: OHL post-game questions
  • Hunter Smith is ranked 39th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting (OHL Images)

    Hunter Smith has gone from scoring one OHL goal in two seasons — partial seasons, albeit — to being a one-man cleanup crew around the opposing net for the Oshawa Generals.

    The 18-year-old right wing who is listed at 6-foot-6¼ and 208 pounds and might still be growing offers a combo of can't-be-taught size with a burgeoning nose for net. That has led to Smith's draft stock spiking in the second half of the season with the Generals, peaking with a No. 39 slot in NHL Central Scouting's final North American ranking. The Windsor native had 16 goals and 40 points across 64 regular-season games, and has built off that with three goals and 11 points through 10 Ontario league playoff matches.

    "I attribute all my success to the work last summer," says Smith, whose Generals trail North Bay 2-0 in the OHL Eastern Conference final that resumes Tuesday. "I think of late that's helped me not be as tired. Maybe I have more to give ... My first two years, I was a very tall, lanky kid — still am, The coordination started to come along, I started to become a man as I played with men. I think just getting my weight up and being able to skate and compete at the level that OHL guys compete at is what has helped me the most."

    Developing his coordination was a trial for Smith, who grew early but developed a decent set of hands as a catcher on the ball diamond with the Windsor South Canadians program. At age 16, the Windsor Spitfires sent him to the Junior B Lasalle Vipers to get up to speed. Following a trade to Oshawa in 2012, he missed half the year after cutting tendons in his hand. That lost year made it imperative to have a breakthrough this season, in his second year of NHL draft eligibility.

    "Junior B was tough," says Smith, who made the 2013 draft cutoff by only four days. "As a second-rounder you expect to play in your first year. So that was tough. I battled and knew I was going to get my chance the following year. The injury took a toll on where I was at — cut tendons in my hand, missed three months. That was a major setback for me and was crucial in just realizing this year was going to be the last kick at the can to really make an impression on someone. I hope I've done enough."

    Read More »from NHL draft tracker: Hunter Smith, Oshawa Generals
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...

    WHL

    Terry Jones has the week's must-read on Medicine Hat's "broadcasting bus driver" Bob Ridley, who's now matched legendary Edmonton Oilers play-by-player Rod Phillips' 3,542 career games. Ridley: "I'm pretty sure I’ve probably done over 4,000 games now. But I’ve never taken the time to actually add them all up. I’m not ready to add ‘em up yet. It just makes me feel older." (Edmonton Sun)

    Medicine Hat stuck to the plan but trails Edmonton 2-0 nevertheless in the Eastern final. Tigers defenceman Tyler Lewington: "I think that we got a little momentum with this game." (Medicine Hat News, Edmonton Journal)

    Are these Curtis Lazar's final weeks as a junior? Then again, maybe the Ottawa Senators would be unable to keep him next season because of his cap hit. Stop laughing. (Edmonton Sun)

    Why Saskatoon's Nikita Scherbak is a Guy You Should Know. (On The Forecheck)

    Calgary Hitmen grad Kenton Helgesen, who shifted around from defence to forward to help his team, has signed with Anaheim Ducks organization. (Orange County Register)

    The Telus Cup: it's a bigger deal. (Moose Jaw Times-Herald)

    OHL

    Now it's about "if" Oshawa even brings the Eastern Conference final back home for Game 5. That's how well the North Bay is doing with the shutdown game. (durhamregion.com, North Bay Nugget)

    The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League is Junior A-calibre in several regards already, but making it official is meeting with some opposition. (London Free Press)

    Read More »from Storm seek stranglehold over Erie on Easter Monday: the coast-to-coast
  • Lazar has led the Oil Kings to two wins over the Tigers. (Getty Images)

    The Edmonton Oil Kings have the Medicine Hat Tigers on the ropes after taking the first two games of the WHL Eastern Conference final.

    The Oil Kings blew the Tigers out of the water in the first game of the series. They scored seven goals in the first half of the contest and went on to take the win 8-3.

    It ultimately wasn’t surprising to see Edmonton come out flying in the Friday affair. They came into the match with a full week break following knocking off the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games. Meanwhile, Medicine Hat just wrapped up their seven-game series against the Kootenay Ice on Wednesday night.

    Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston didn’t point to the difference in breaks as an excuse for the Tigers’ poor start to the game, though.

    “I think we weren’t quite ready, and sometimes things just happen,” Clouston told the Medicine Hat News. “They scored on the first two shots. Four on four, we just didn’t manage the puck very well. The first one we turned it over. The second one we

    Read More »from Oil Kings tame Tigers through two in WHL Eastern Conference final
  • Nick Merkley scores to give Kelowna a 1-0 lead over Portland in the first period of Game 2 of the WHL's Western Conference final (Doyle Potenteau/The Daily Courier)KELOWNA — First-period leads seem to be the kiss of death in the WHL’s Western Conference final. On Friday, Portland led 3-0 before Kelowna rallied for a 5-4 Game 1 win.

    In Game 2, the Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead through one period on two power-play goals, but the Winterhawks took control from there, earning a 5-3 victory to even the series as the teams head south of the border for Games 3 and 4.

    Portland only got 26 shots on Rockets goalie Jordon Cooke in Game 1, but threw 53 shots his way in Game 2, including 24 in a decisive second period in which the Hawks scored four times.

    “They were the better hockey club tonight,” said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. “They were skating and they made us defend a lot.

    “When you get into the situation and stand around against a good team, they’ll do that to you.”

    The three-goal lead the Hawks built in Game 1 was a bit of a mirage, as they weren’t completely sharp from the start. Turnovers mounted, and the Rockets eventually made Portland pay for its sloppiness.

    Game 2 provided a dramatic shift in the Hawks’ fortunes, especially for defenceman Derrick Pouliot, who was on the ice for four of Kelowna’s five goals in Game 1 but turned things around with three assists on Saturday.

    “We were playing our game tonight, when we weren’t right on it last night,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “When we’re on, our puck movement is really crisp and really sharp.

    “When we’re not on, we’re sloppy with the puck. We’re trying to make plays, and if we’re off we look sloppy and don’t create as much. We were snapping it around pretty good tonight.”

    Read More »from Portland scores four unanswered goals against Kelowna to even WHL Western Conference final
  • Minnesota Wild signing Zack Mitchell (Terry Wilson, OHL Images)

    Erie took the first seven shots, then Guelph commenced to score seven goals to maintain its eerie mastery of the Otters on home ice. Meantime, Oshawa allowed an opponent to hit half-a-hundred on the shot counter — say shot clock, and it's fine — for the first time all year as North Bay was full value for the effort in its Game 1 road win in the Eastern final. On with the post-game questions:

    Read More »from Storm take 2-0 lead into Erie, Battalion nab opener ahead of Scott Laughton’s return: OHL post-game questions

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