Thursday, February 21, 2019
DUPONT'S AROUND THE DUB
1 - NEVER LEAVE EARLY: There has never been a better example than Wednesday night in Regina. The Pats had been badly outplayed by the visiting Kootenay Ice for the entire first half of the hockey game and trailed 4-0. The fourth Kootenay goal spelled the end of the night for 18-year-old Pats goaltender Max Paddock.
While calling this game on the radio, I never would have expected things to end the way they did. The Pats went on to score four unanswered goals to force extra time and win the game in a shootout. Two of the goals came from shots that banked in off of Ice goaltender Jesse Makaj, and fell in behind him. The Pats also killed off a minute-and-42-second 5-on-3 late in the game and Dean McNabb stopped all 13 shots he faced in relief, including a few highlight-reel saves that will likely been seen again in the WHL Plays-of-the-Week. A fun night to be on the air and in the Brandt Centre!
2 - PLAYOFF CHASE: The playoff race in the Eastern Conference has taken quite a turn. Wednesday night’s game between Calgary and Brandon was supposed to be a battle for the final wildcard spot but the Red Deer Rebels have won just once in their last 10 and, after Brandon’s 5-1 win over the Hitmen on Wednesday night, the Rebels and Wheat Kings are now tied for the final playoff berth in the east!
Meanwhile, the Hitmen have picked up points in 10 of 13 (9-3-1) and are just two points back of Medicine Hat for third in the Central and seven points back of the Edmonton Oil Kings for top spot in the division. Stay tuned, it’s changing on a daily basis!
3 - GO WEST: Out west it’s a three team race for two playoff spots between Kelowna, Seattle, and Kamloops. The Rockets are third in the BC Division with 53 points. Seattle is currently holding down the second, and final, wildcard spot with 52 points. On the outside looking in, the Kamloops Blazers have 49 points as they look to close the gap on the Rockets and Thunderbirds.
Kamloops has 2 games in hand on Seattle and three games in hand on Kelowna.
4 - HAPPY HABBY: A belated congratulations to Prince Albert Raiders’ head coach Marc Habscheid who picked up his 500th career win behind a WHL bench earlier this month. A Swift Current product, Habscheid has spent time behind the bench for the Blazers, Rockets (winning the ‘03 WHL Championship and ‘04 Memorial Cup), Chilliwack Bruins, Victoria Royals, and now the Raiders. He joins seven others who have reached the milestone. What an accomplishment! Congratulations Marc!
5 - BLADES VOICE: Speaking of milestones and acknowledgements, a big happy birthday to the radio play-by-play voice of the Saskatoon Blades Les Lazaruk who turned 60-years-young on Wednesday! Les is zeroing in on 2,000 games called in the Western Hockey League and I have been privileged enough to be in the booth alongside him for a few.
I’ve been lucky to be able to call games with legends like Rod Pedersen, Peter Loubardias and Les, but riding shotgun with Les is where I got my start covering this league back in the fall of 2013 and we’ve been doing it every year since. What an honour!
6 - BLADES ON THE VERGE OF PLAYOFFS: Speaking of our time together in the booth, since joining the Blades’ radio broadcast team, there has not been playoff hockey in Saskatoon. Even if that’s the case, it appears to be coming to an end as the Blades continue to be red hot. They are 11-0-2-0 over their last 13 games and have moved into the CHL Top 10 at #10. It’s more than time to pay attention Saskatoon!
7 - #MYWHL: The Western Hockey League has started a wonderful social media campaign called #MyWHL where they ask a new question each week and let you, the fans, answer on your social platforms.
This week's question asked you to pick any WHL player (past or present) that you would like to play alongside. I’d take Brayden Point of the Moose Jaw Warriors (now Tampa Bay Lightning). There haven’t been many players come through this league that could see the ice and distribute the puck the way he could. All I would have to do is park myself at the side of the net and he’d find a way to put 30 off me and in!
8 - GO SASK GO: Saskatchewan is off to the ice hockey semi-finals at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer after a 6-3 quarter-final win over Nova Scotia Wednesday afternoon. Team Sask had a two-point effort (1g, 1a) from Regina’s Cole Sillinger. Cole is the son of former NHL’er Mike Sillinger and is a Medicine Hat Tigers’ prospect after being selected 11th overall this past spring.
Another Tigers’ prospect, Prince Albert’s Ashton Ferster, scored the game-winning goal and also added an assist in the win. Saskatchewan will play Quebec, while Alberta will face Ontario in the semi-finals which take place Thursday.
9 - KOZUN SETTING RECORDS: Former Seattle Thunderbirds’ goaltender Taran Kozun of Nipawin is adding to a record year in the crease for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Kozun was named a first-team all-star in the Canada West after leading the Huskies to a first-place finish. Kozun became the first goaltender in conference history to record 20 wins in a single season. He also set a new conference record with five shutouts, a mark that was also matched this season by former Moose Jaw Warrior Zach Sawchenko of the Alberta Golden Bears.
The full list of all-stars can be found here: https://www.canadawest.org/sports/mice/2018-19/releases/20190220mhkyallstars
10 - GAME TO WATCH: Kamloops @ Kelowna on Saturday. A Kamloops win will really make things interesting in the BC playoff picture but a Rockets win will really make things tough on the Blazers. Honourable mention: Regina at Moose Jaw Saturday at 2:30 pm. It's nationally televised on Sportsnet's Saturday Showcase.
I love this time of year! Until next week...
(Follow Darren on Twitter at @darrendupont)