Category Archives: Hockey

Blades Sign Another Prospect

PHOTO COURTESY (Steve Hiscock)

The Saskatoon Blades are extremely pleased to announce that they have signed 1998-born defenceman Schael Higson to a standard WHL Education Contract.

“Schael is a major part of our future and a player we can build around,” said Blades general manager and head coach Bob Woods. “We think he has all the tools to be a top flight defenceman in the WHL and beyond. This is a very exciting announcement for this franchise.”

“Signing Schael has been one of our top priorities this offseason,” adds Blades managing partner Colin Priestner. “Considering the number of top NCAA schools pursuing him, we are so thrilled he has chosen us. We felt that he was one of the very best players at our recent spring camp and he will be a pillar on our defence for years to come.”

The Blades were quick to snap up the 5’11, 196 pound defenceman after he went undrafted in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, adding him to their 50-man protected list.

After a strong training camp with the Blades in the fall of 2013, the product of Grand Prairie, Alberta followed that up with a solid season of midget-AAA with his hometown Grand Prairie Storm. Higson put up 8 goals, 12 assists, for 20 points to go along with 6 powerplay goals and 48 PIMs in 33 games.

Proof Good Guys Do Finish First

One of the all time good guys was officially promoted this morning.

Congrats to Hilty!!!

The Saskatoon Blades are pleased to announce that Steve ‘Hilty’ Hildebrand has been named as the team’s new assistant general manager. Hildebrand leaves his post as the team’s trainer to take on the new position.

“I’m excited about the direction of this hockey club and to now have a bigger part of it, it’s an exciting thing,” said Hildebrand. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do. I thought it would come later down the road, but the opportunity arose and I’m looking forward to the new challenge as I’ve been doing this role for the past 21 years.”

“Hilty comes with a lot of experience within the WHL,” said Blades general manager and head coach Bob Woods. “He has also been involved with things like the World Junior Hockey Championships and has a lot of connections. He’s going to be a big help and a guy that we all lean on heavily. He was a person that was instrumental in making me feel comfortable through this transition and he’ll be a great fit for what we’re looking to accomplish.”

Hitmen Hire French Head Coach

The Calgary Hitmen today announced the Western Hockey League club has named Mark French as head coach.  Also, associate coach Brent Kisio has been appointed to assistant general manager in addition to his coaching role.  French, Kisio, assistant coach Joel Otto and goaltending coach Darcy Wakaluk will form the Hitmen coaching staff for the 2014-15 season.

French joins the Hitmen following a season with the Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL, where he guided the expansion team to the playoffs after a 92-point regular season that included setting a league record for most consecutive wins by a debut team at eight.

“Mark comes to us with tremendous coaching experience from all levels of hockey and is a proven winner,” said Mike Moore, Hitmen general manager and vice president of business operations. “He is a teacher of the game, has a passion and commitment to the development of players and is well respected in hockey circles.  We are fortunate that Mark identified the Calgary Hitmen as a great opportunity for his coaching career and that he and his family were willing to come here from Croatia.  We are grateful for the cooperation from his former team, the Medvescak Zagreb, and look forward to watching our team develop and succeed under his leadership and direction.”

French, a native of Milton, Ontario, brings a wealth of experience and winning to the Hitmen having been both a head coach and an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals’ AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears for six seasons.  Named an assistant coach with Hershey during the 2007-08 season, French helped guide the Bears to the their 10th league title in 2009; and in 2010, in his first season as head coach, led Hershey to their second-straight Calder Cup and 11th in franchise history.

WHL AGM Complete: New Play-off Format

A new playoff format for the Western Hockey League topped the list of items at this year’s WHL Annual General Meeting, which concluded today in Vancouver. The new playoff format, which is identical to the new playoff format introduced by the NHL this past season, was approved by the Board of Governors and will be in place for the next three seasons starting with the 2014-15 season.

“We believe the new format is a hybrid of the WHL’s previous Conference and Divisional formats,” said WHL Commissioner Ron Robison. “This will allow us to feature our regional rivalries in the playoffs and offer the most fair and competitive path to the WHL Championship.”

The new format will see the top three teams in each Division make up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed teams in each Conference, based on their regular-season record and regardless of Division. It is possible for one Division in each Conference to send five teams to the postseason while the other Division sends just three.

In the First Round, the Division winner with the best record in each Conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lesser record; the wild card team with the better record will play the other Division winner.

Blades Add Tender

The Saskatoon Blades have acquired the rights to Carolina Hurricanes goaltending prospect Collin Olson from the Prince George Cougars.

The deal also has future considerations heading to Saskatoon as part of the trade. The 6’3 goaltender was selected in the 6th round, 159th overall, in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Hurricanes. In exchange for the 1994-born product of Apple Valley, Minnesota, the Blades have dealt prospect Joel Lakusta and a conditional 6th round selection to Prince George.

“We were presented with the opportunity to acquire an NHL prospect goaltender and we are going after it,” said new Blades general manager and head coach Bob Woods, marking the first move he’s made since taking over his new position last week. “Our next task will be speaking to Collin and his family about the opportunity of signing with the Blades.”

Blades Head To The Woods To Bring NHL Coach Home

The Saskatoon Blades are thrilled to introduce Bob Woods as the team’s 6th general manager and 20th head coach. The native of LeRoy, Saskatchewan comes to us from the Anaheim Ducks, where he was an assistant coach, and, previous to that, the Washington Capitals, where he held the same position. Prior to those 5 seasons in the National Hockey League, Woods enjoyed unprecedented success in the American Hockey League, winning AHL Calder Cups as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and in the East Coast Hockey League, where he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

“I’m really excited to be given this opportunity to come home and lead the Blades into a great, new era,” says Woods. “This is a wonderful time to come into this organization – there’s a solid foundation in place and the new leadership team is committed to the development of young men and the winning of championships.”

“Bob is the ideal fit for the criteria we laid out for the successful candidate at the start of this process,” says the Blades managing partner Colin Priestner. “He is a fantastic person with a demonstrated history of success in the game, both winning in the playoffs and developing young hockey talent.”

Oil Kings Crowned With Upset Win At Memorial Cup

PHOTO COURTESY: Aaron Bell/CHL Images

The Edmonton Oil Kings captured the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup with a 6-3 win over the Guelph Storm earning their first Championship title in modern franchise history.

“So proud of these guys,” said Head Coach Derek Laxdal. “The effort they put into tonight to beat an unbelievable team in Guelph, it just shows you what we’ve gone through all year.

Edmonton brings a Memorial Cup back to the City of Champions for the first time since 1966 when the Oil Kings defeated the Oshawa Generals by a 4-2 score, and become the first WHL team to win since the 2008 Spokane Chiefs upended the Kitchener Rangers on home ice six years ago to the day.

“We never gave up,” said Oil Kings captain Griffin Reinhart. “I think that’s been a theme of ours this year, we’ve been down before and we just kept climbing back up.”

Terriers Top Dogs!

The Yorkton Terriers have won the 2014 RBC Cup, Canada’s 44th National Junior A Championship, with a 4-3 overtime victory over the Carleton Place Canadians on Sunday night at Kal Tire Place.

The national championship is the first for Yorkton, which was making its fifth all-time appearance at the tournament. The Terriers are the 10th team from the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to be crowned national champions, and the fourth to do it since the start of the five-team format in 1990. The Humboldt Broncos were the last SJHL team to win the national title, in 2008.

Derek Falloon scored the game-winning goal 15:01 into overtime to give the Terriers the national championship. It was the second extra-time winner for Falloon in the last four days; he also scored in overtime in Yorkton’s 2-1 win Thursday over the Dauphin Kings that clinched a semifinal spot for the Terriers.

Pair Of Blades Head To Combine

PHOTO COURTESY: (Steve Hiscock)

A pair of Saskatoon Blades have taken another step closer to realizing their dream of being drafted into the NHL as Nikita Scherbak and Nelson Nogier have both been invited to attend the NHL Draft Combine.

The event goes May 26th through 31st in Toronto.

The two members of the Blades are among the 119 players invited. The combine gives players a chance to go through physical testing in front of NHL team personnel, as well as take part in interviews with all the team’s in attendance.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said Blades defenceman Nelson Nogier, who has known for several weeks that he would be attending the event later this month. “I will be heading to Toronto and just seeing what happens from there.”

Scherbak enters the 2014 NHL Draft Combine sitting 15th on Central Scouting’s Final Rankings for the draft, which goes June 27th and 28th in Philadelphia. Scherbak led the Blades and WHL rookies in scoring this year, putting up 28 goals and 50 assists for 78 points in 65 games. He took home a number of awards for the Blades including Team MVP, Top Rookie, the 3rd Star Award and Plus-Minus Award. He also finished 2nd in the WHL in Rookie Of The Year voting, behind only Kelowna’s Nick Merkley.

Oil Kings Crowned Champions

PHOTO COURTESY: Bryan Heim

The Edmonton Oil Kings captured the Ed Chynoweth Cup as WHL Champions after defeating the Portland Winterhawks 4-2 in Game 7 of the 2014 WHL Championship Series on Monday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR.

A four-goal second period propelled the Oil Kings to the victory in the winner-take-all affair, giving them their second WHL Championship in three seasons. The series win also gives the Oil Kings a victory in the ‘rubber match’ with Portland, as the Clubs have met in the WHL final in each of the last three years with each team winning in the first two meetings.

“It’s surreal,” said Oil Kings’ captain Griffin Reinhart, who was named the MVP of the WHL Championship Series. “This team has got great character and we never give up…We were down 2-0 in the series and 2-0 in Game 3, but we always found a response.”

Indeed, it was a big response by Edmonton, who suffered a major blow just one night earlier in Game 6 at home, with Portland erasing a three-goal lead in the third period en route to a 6-5 overtime win to force the seventh and deciding game.