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  • Portland Winterhawks goaltender Brendan Burke (Getty)Aside from being a key B.C. Division battle, the Kelowna Rockets' game against the Kamloops Blazers Monday night was also important in determining which Western League team would jump to the top of the Buzzing the Net Dynamic Dozen rankings for this week. The Rockets lost the game 6-5, but it went to overtime, and they maintain a healthy lead over the Blazers for the top spot in the division.

    The Portland Winterhawks, U.S. Division foes (who beat both the Rockets and the Blazers in the playoffs last season) went 2-0-1 this past week, although both of their wins were shutouts: they beat Spokane 3-0 and Tri-City 7-0. Both goaltenders, Mac Carruth and Brendan Burke, earned individual shutouts and Carruth finds himself tops in the Western Hockey League among goaltenders in save percentage, three points ahead of Red Deer's Patrik Bartosak. Portland gets a lot of credit for their offence, especially the point production of top prospects Nic Petan and Seth Jones, but this team is scarier because they've allowed just 110 goals this season in 49 games. Only Edmonton has allowed fewer (109), but they've played 51 times.

    The wise money may be spent betting on a WHL championship final identical to last season's.

    1. Portland Winterhawks, WHL (.581 RPI, 1.8 SRS, +2) — Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic remain No. 1 and No. 2 in the WHL points race, but Petan is within striking distance of Spokane's Todd Fiddler for most goals. Fiddler has the advantage of playing on a team without as many offensive weapons. Part of why Portland's been able to find continual success in the WHL is the development of imported players: first Nino Niederreiter, then Sven Bärtschi, and now Oliver Bjorkstrand, who leads WHL rookies in scoring.

    Also to note from that link is longevity. Tyler Wotherspoon and Troy Rutkowski represent such a sturdy one-two punch of defensive defencemen. Rutkowski broke the team record for games played this past week, and barring catastrophe this week, he should tie Andrew Ference's team ironman record with 217 straight games played on Saturday.

    2. Kelowna Rockets, WHL (.576 RPI, 1.6 SRS, -1) — The Rockets, as described by Neate last week, are not the best at anything, but are very good at everything. It may have been for the best for Colton Sissons to get hurt when he did—rather than play for Canada at Ufa, Sissons was back in Kelowna on December 30 and has been a big part of their recent run. He has points in seven straight, and while I hate +/- as a statistic, it's probably worth noting that he hasn't been a "minus" rating in a game since October 27, not bad for an 18-year old who plays his teams' toughest defensive minutes.

    Read More »from Portland flips with Kelowna to re-take top spot in BTN’s Dynamic Dozen
  • The Kingstone Courtyard MarriottWhen you hear stories of junior hockey road trips, typically they don't end up being about pillow fights and "twisted games of hide-and-go-seek." But maybe the London Knights prefer to travel differently, and while they're at it, allegedly ruined the chances of a 15-year-old girl to compete at the world championships in fencing.

    Or at least that's the story coming out of Kingston this week. This past weekend, the team was on an Eastern Conference road trip and earned wins over the 67s and Frontenacs which bookended a 3-1 loss to Belleville on Saturday night. The night before the one loss, they stayed at a hotel in Kingston, where the team was reportedly up quite late, according to one restless neighbour and her daughter:

    Laurie-Anne Manel said that she and her 15-year-old daughter Paige were staying at the Marriott Courtyard on Dalton Avenue on Friday night as Paige was competing in the Canada Cup fencing tournament at the Royal Military College.

    She says that players from the Ontario

    Read More »from Mother of fencer claims London Knights cost her daughter world cup opportunity
  • Screen grab of the tweet via @ivegotyour6

    Being an on-ice official — particularly in junior hockey — is often a tough, thankless job. Having said that, it was a particularly bad weekend to be a referee in the Ontario Hockey League.

    First, we have referee Joe Monette who went on Twitter and added to the pantheon of dumb with the following tweet: "@MONZY25: Soo Saint Marie, two words, Slim Pickens. #noteeth #hicktown #allfaties"

    The erudite Monette, who hails from Windsor, Ont., was supposed to work the Greyhounds game on Saturday night against the Oshawa Generals but was apparently called off when the tweet — posted on Friday — came to the attention of both the OHL and Soo Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas.

    Shortly after the Sault hit the fan, Monette's Twitter account was set to "protected." Judging by the other tweet pictured, that's most likely to our benefit.

    Greyhounds general manager Kyle Dubas said he was made aware of the tweet by his staff on Friday night.

    On Saturday morning, he received a telephone call from Conrad Hache,

    Read More »from Manhandling, male parts & no teeth: A bad weekend for OHL officials
  • Attack defenceman Brayden Rose checks London's Ryan Rupert (CP)In a weird weekend punctuated by a goalie fight, Owen Sound Attack defenceman Brayden Rose got hit Saturday night with a rare "Abuse of Official" penalty. Rose got involved in a scrum with Guelph's Tyler Bertuzzi during a scrum at the end of a 5-0 blowout for the Storm. Restrained by OHL referee Sean Reid, the two exchanged short jabs, caught on video by a fan sitting right behind the glass next to the action.

    Here's OHL rule 40.3, Category II abuse of officials:

    40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II - Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official,shall be automatically suspendedfor not less than ten (10) games.

    You may recall Jonathan Huberdeau was suspended four games for a similar infraction back in December. His transgressions were considered a Category III, where he took down the linesman in an effort to get free. You can see Rose and Reid both take short jabs at each other at about the :31 second mark of this video, as Bertuzzi continues to jaw at Rose:

    Read More »from VIDEO: Owen Sound’s Brayden Rose ejected for Category II Physical Abuse of Official
  • It's been less than a week since our last brawl at the end of a Western Hockey League game, but at the tail-end of a 7-1 win by the Edmonton Oil Kings over the Lethbridge Hurricanes, emotions got the better for a few players from either side:

    The twist here is that the guilty parties from the events taking place at 17:54 of the third period aren't your typical thugs who specialize in goonery. Jaimen Yakubowski, the Hurricanes' fights leader, was notably absent in the following proceedings, captured on video with play-by-play from Corey Graham and Guy Flaming of the Team 1260.

    It looks like it starts with Lethbridge's Josh Derko with a cheap shot on NHL top prospect and Oil Kings' player Curtis Lazar. As Edmonton attempts to establish possession, and I guess increase their 7-1 lead, the Lethbridge players seem more pre-occupied with taking shots at whoever is standing near them. The catalyst appears to be Harrison Harper, #27 in red, coming in and landing a shot on Phoenix Coyotes' first rounder Henrik Samuelsson, #10 in white:

    Oh yeah, forgot. At :55 in, there's a goalie fight. Laurent Brossoit, who stopped 21 of 22 shots in the contest was ejected after landing a couple of good rights to Ty Rimmer, who came on in relief at the start of the third period for Hurricanes' backup Christopher Tai.

    Read More »from Laurent Brossoit and Ty Rimmer headliners for brawl in WHL contest
  • Former Sarnia Sting Alex Galchenyuk celebrates his first NHL goal (Getty)One of the key differences in the way entry-level contracts work in the shortened 2013 National Hockey League season versus other years is the maximum number of games a junior-aged player can play before a year off of his deal is "burned". In most years, once a player hits ten games playing in the National Hockey League a year is taken off his three-year minimum first contract. Those years are valuable in a salary-capped league, oftentimes because rookies are a good way to get NHL-level talent for minor-league pay. The Philadelphia Flyers understood that after they brought in Sean Couturier right out of the QMJHL last season to play heavy defensive minutes for them in the 2011-12 season. This season, they've sent down Scott Laughton to the Oshawa Generals.

    The previous limit was nine, but the current limit for this season is five. Laughton was cut by the Philadelphia Flyers after five games, no goals and no points, an "even" +/- and 11:31 of ice-time per game, mostly at even strength on a line with Matt Read and Wayne Simmonds.

    Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild cut defenceman Mathew Dumba after he was a healthy scratch for four games. That's likely all the best for Dumba, who has struggled for Red Deer this season and as a result didn't make Canada's World Junior squad after being selected No. 7 overall. Minnesota has a fairly young defensive corps so it could still be a tough lineup in the coming years. Red Deer have gone 2-4 in the absence of Dumba, but their playoff position is fairly secure at third place in the WHL's Central Division, hardly within striking distance of No. 1 Edmonton and No. 2 Calgary. Even shaky, they'll welcome Dumba's two-way physical play back to the lineup.

    Read More »from Scott Laughton and Mat Dumba returned to CHL clubs; which top prospects are left?
  • Lethbridge defenceman Macoy Erkamps (Larry MacDougall, The Canadian Press)No. 1 star: Macoy Erkamps, Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL)

    The 17-year-old defenceman had the best offensive night of his young Western League tenure, factoring into four of the five consecutive goals that powered the 'Cane Train to a 6-4 divisional win over the Calgary Hitmen. Erkamps (1G-3A, +3) began Lethbridge's climb out of an early two-goal hole with an unassisted tally in the second period by intercepting bad pass and fogging a shot past Ottawa Senators-drafted goalie Chris Driedger. The Delta, B.C., native set up a pure effort goal by Axel Blomqvist in the final minute of the frame that put the Hurricanes ahead to stay.

    Erkamps, who has a solid 31 points in 51 games so far in his sophomore season, assisted on two more third-period goals, including an out-of-the-penalty-box marker by Hurricanes newcomer Josh Derko with 7:27 left that stood as the game-winner. The win kept Lethbridge within three points of fourth-place Red Deer in the congested middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

    No. 2 star: Brock McGinn, Guelph Storm (OHL)

    If only Sportsnet execs could have had some inkling that the front end of a home-and-home between Guelph and Owen Sound, who were seven points apart in the standings, might be a better Midwest Division matchup to put on national television than one between Erie and Kitchener, who were separated by 20 points. McGinn, a Carolina Hurricanes second-rounder who has been steady as rent during Guelph's six-game win streak, came through with both goals in taut, tense thrilling 2-1 triumph over Team Canada goalie Jordan Binnington and the Owen Sound Attack.

    Read More »from Lethbridge Hurricanes’ Macoy Erkamps has career night: Friday’s 3 Stars
  • Mantha moved up to 5th in QMJHL scoring (Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images)

    No. 1 star: Anthony Mantha, Val-d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL)

    The scary thought with Mantha is that this he might have a hard-luck hatter during a 6-2 Foreurs divisional win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The 18-year-old draft prospect who seems like a terrific confluence of speed, hands and size at 6-foot-3 was credited with 10 dangerous shots while notching his fifth hat trick of the season. For good measure, the grandson of Original Six-era Montreal Canadiens Andre Pronovost added an assist and was plus-3. His dangerous shots were a season high; who knows, it could have been a five-goal game if not for a couple saves by the beleaguered Huskies 'tenders, Alexandre Bélanger and Philippe Gingras.

    Mantha, who is second in the QMJHL with 37 goals and fifth with 67 points (behind three overages and a 19-year-old), got started early by scoring off a setup from Randy Gazzola in the game's sixth minute.

    Read More »from Val-d’Or Foreurs’ Anthony Mantha gets 5th hat trick of season: Thursday’s 3 Stars
  • Latvian Roberts Lipsbergs WHL’s unlikely leading rookie sniper

    Latvian star Roberts Lipsbergs has 19 goals this season for Seattle (photo: Seattle Thunderbirds)

    Quick: Name the WHL's leading rookie goal scorer. No, it's not Oliver Bjorkstrand, Leon Draisaitl or Brayden Point. It's not Alex Delnov, Miles Koules or even Seth Jones.

    I'm not sure even the Seattle Thunderbirds would've imagined it would be Latvian forward Roberts Lipsbergs when they chose him with the 60th and final pick in the first round of the most recent CHL Import Draft.

    Through his first 40 games, the 18-year-old from Riga has racked up 19 goals and 36 points, outpacing several other highly regarded import rookies.

    Playing for an American CHL team that's rebuilding makes it tough for Lipsbergs to get a lot of publicity, but he's starting to attract the attention of scouts and is a possible NHL draft pick this year after being passed over in his first year of eligibility.

    Lipsbergs and Thunderbirds teammate Delnov (the eighth overall import pick) have provided a big offensive boost to a Seattle franchise that's looking to get back into the postseason after a three-year absence.

    It's been a tough road for the Birds, as they recently ended a 15-game losing streak that dropped them from a comfortable position back into a battle for a playoff spot. Seattle leads Prince George by five points for the eighth and final berth.

    Who knows where Seattle would be without Lipsbergs, whose play has earned him the 61st spot on Central Scouting's midterm rankings of North American skaters.

    After scoring just twice in his first 19 games and looking like he may be just a marginal contributor, Lipsbergs caught fire and netted 15 goals in a 15 game stretch before heading off to Ufa for the world junior championship.

    Read More »from Latvian Roberts Lipsbergs WHL’s unlikely leading rookie sniper
  • Combing all corners of the country and the blogosphere for your junior hockey headlines ...


    Prince George Cougars GM Dallas Thompson, on the midseason coaching change to Mark Holick: "We didn't want to be in a situation where we send our guys home and make changes in the summer... I wanted them to know what we're doing just because we're so young here." (Prince George Citizen)

    Brandon Wheat Kings defensive star Ryan Pulock seems close to a return from a wrist ailment. (Brandon Sun, paywall)

    Regina Pats forward Dryden Hunt has medical clearance to play after recovering from two concussions this season, but will take a little more time before he gets back to action. (Regina Leader-Post)

    For anyone wondering, the Kamloops Blazers would have needed another 16 shots on Everett Silvertips goalie Austin Lotz on Wednesday to tie the WHL record. (Kamloops Daily News)

    Spokane Chiefs goalie Eric Williams had to shake off allowing two late goals to hold off Portland in overtime and the shootout. (Spokane Spokesman-Review)

    A definite should-read: Sheri Lamb relates how frustrating recovering from a concussion has been for Prince George's Jordan Harris. (Prince George Citizen)

    Saskatoon is going to put a great 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup, know that much. The Blades, meantime, couldn't drive the Edmonton Oil Kings to distraction on Wednesday. (CBC News)

    It doesn't get much more Canadian Gothic than the story of one-time bantam draft pick Michael Newman Wright, a crystal meth addict who's headed to prison for the armed robbery of an adult video store. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)


    T.J. Maughan contends that erstwhile Barrie Colt Mark Scheifele isn't ready for the pro grind with the Winnipeg Jets: "Visions of the number 55 collecting a lose puck and dashing down the wing with a stride as smooth as the polar blue uniform he adorns rarely, if ever result in anything other than a rendition of Bambi on ice." (Arctic Ice Hockey)

    Read More »from Grigorenko getting it done, Scheifele scuffling: Thursday’s late coast-to-coast


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