Friday, March 13, 2009
WHL Photo Finish and random notes
The Prince Albert Raiders have drawn even with the Edmonton Oil Kings after a shootout win over the Saskatoon Blades on Friday night. The Raiders and the Oil Kings each have 67 points with the final regular season games coming off the season schedule this weekend.
You couldn't script a more exciting finish to the 2009-01 campaign as the Raiders have needed seemingly improbable wins over Brandon and Saskatoon as well as a late comeback against Regina simply to stay alive.
The pressure now falls squarely on Edmonton to respond in kind. The local team has rattled off recent victories against Lethbridge and Kootenay but could regret blowing a 4-1 lead in Moose Jaw on Feb 28th. The Warriors ended up stealing the win in overtime costing Edmonton a single point that could mean the difference between making the playoffs or not.
Both teams are in action tomorrow (Saturday) and if Edmonton is able to beat Red Deer at the Centrium it will guarantee them at least a one-game playoff with Prince Albert as the tie breaker.
You can hear the call of the game on the TEAM 1260 with the voice of the Oil Kings A.J. Jacubec and Kent Simpson. There will also be an extended pre-game show from Red Deer with Bryn Griffiths and myself involved to some degree (or so I understand).
Calgary Flames Making Enemies
Reports this week that the Clagary Flames are hoping to end their tenure in Moline so they can relocate their AHL affiliate to Abbotsford B.C. much to the outrage of the nearby WHL clubs.
Greg Drinnan reacted as has Vancouver Giants owner Ron Toigo. His comments in the Vancouver Sun would have to be considered "fightin' words" wouldn't they?
Logistically a AHL team all by itself in BC doesn't make much sense. It's great for the Flames who will be able to access their farm team much quicker but the rest of the AHL isn't going to think much of the idea. It's basically a bus league and the closest team would be the Maniotba Moose, 3 provinces away.
The Chilliwack Bruins and the Vancouver Giants would be greatly affected and considering the Flames and the Calgary Hitmen are under the same ownership umbrella, might it hurt the WHL team's reputation if it's big brother moved into the backyard of another WHL club and put it out of business?
The situation will get interesting, especially if the Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers want to follow Calgary's example (should they follow through) and move their farm clubs closer. The Oilers have stated publicly that as attractive as Saskatoon would be to have their AHL team located, it wouldn't be practical because it would affect the WHL market there. The Oilers view the other WHL owners and partners in junior hockey so, up to now, haven't wanted to invade on anyone's turf or otherwise compete for market share.
- Calgary Hitmen forward Brett Sonne has singed on with the St. Louis Blues, official release here. Sonne has 47 goals on the season so far with two games left on Calgary's schedule and a realistic chance at cracking the 50-goal plateau.
- Everett Silvertips rookie forward Kellan Tochkin looks set to win the scoring title amongst first year players. However, if one was to go by points per game (because the top rookies were all busy in international tournaments over Christmas and New Year's) then Jordan Weal would be the man. His 69 points in 64 games (1.0781 pts/gp) ranks better than Kelowna's Mikael Backlund (1.0714), Tochkin (1.0286) and Prince George rookie Brett Connolly (.9524).
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Wouldn't it make more sense for the Abbotsford group to put a WHL team in their arena, anyway? 7,000 is a pretty solid size for a junior rink, no?
I'm kind of pulling for the Oil Kings to make it myself, not just because it'd be their first time and because they're an Oilers affiliate, but because the first round would then be a proper BoA between the Flames-owned team and the Oilers-owned team.
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