Stanley Cup Final: We Like the Blackhawks in Six Games

With Duncan Keith playing the best hockey of his career, Jonathan Toews at the top of his game and Corey Crawford doing the job that’s required, the Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of their third Stanley Cup championship in six years.

However, after surviving the big, talented Anaheim Ducks, the Hawks will now head into a buzz saw in Tampa, Fla.

Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by James Carey Lauder).

Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by James Carey Lauder).

The Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that features Steven Stamkos’ skill, Ben Bishop’s size in net and a gifted group of young, talented legs, took out the New York Rangers in seven games and are lying in wait for a Blackhawks team that has already played some remarkable hockey just to get to the 2015 Stanley Cup final.

In Tampa, where a sunny community of retirees and beach lovers has turned the downtown into “Hockeytown,” the Lightning is ready to corral their second Cup in 11 years. In fact, the folks in tampa are so crazy about their Lightning, that Garth Brooks had to cancel two concerts to make room for the hockey team.

And make no mistake, the Bolts have a ton of talent.

Besides Stamkos (43 goals in the regular season), the Lightning also boasts “The Triplets Line” of Tyler Johnson, 25 (league-leading 12 goals and 21 points in the playoffs), Nikita Kucherov, 22 (nine goals and 19 points) and Ondrej Palat, 24 (seven goals and 15 points). Throw in Valterri Flippula, Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan and this Lightning club has all the tools it needs up front.

The Hawks, meanwhile, have a first line that’s been lights out – Toews with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad. That line tallied 15 goals in the last four games against the Ducks. Throw in Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw and the Hawks have the ability to put up some crooked numbers.

Jonathan Toews (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Jonathan Toews (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

“This will be another great test,” Toews told NBC Sports. “If we can remember the other games we had against them this regular season, if that’s any sort of foreshadowing, it’s going to be a tough one. But we’ll be ready for ’em.”

Chicago was 1-1-0 against Tampa in the regular season, winning 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 11 and losing 4-0 on Feb. 27. Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stopped 65 of 67 shots this season while Stamkos had two goals and three points.

“We never really stopped believing in ourselves,” said Patrick Sharp on Saturday night. “We were hearing a lot of things about our team in the regular season. Seems like we put things back together at the right time and we’re back in the finals with this group. We know what we have in this room, we believe in each other, we believe in the organization and it really matter what other people say.”

What they have in “this room” is one of the best defensive units in the game.

Two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith has been spectacular and many think he’s Conn Smythe Trophy material. Keith leads all defensemen in the playoffs with 18 points, including 16 assists. Brent Seabrook has six goals and played terrifically in his own zone. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson have been as good as could ever be expected.

For Tampa, the first team to play four “Original Six” teams in one Stanley Cup tournament (Detroit, Montreal, the Rangers and Chicago), will rely on Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman to do most of the defensive work. Veterans Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn have to be more consistent and that’s why the Hawks have the edge on defense.

Steven Stamkos scores (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Steven Stamkos scores (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

The Blackhawks trailed the Ducks 3-2 in the Western Conference final before winning Game 6 at United Center and Game 7 at Honda Center. Chicago is 8-0 in series that were tied 2-2 since the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Lightning is 9-0 when scoring first in the postseason. That’s why Stamkos and The Triplets have been so instrumental in Tampa’s success.

Ben Bishop (6-foot-7, 210 pounds) for Tampa and Corey Crawford for the Hawks will handle the bulk of the goaltending work. In fact, if their backups play at all, it’s because Bishop or Crawford were benched midway through a game.

Special teams always play a huge role in the post-season but neither the Hawks nor the Lightning has been outstanding. The Hawks power play has been inconsistent while the penalty-killing unit ranks 11th out of 16 playoff clubs at 75.5 per cent. Meanwhile, the Lightning’s power play is fourth overall in the playoffs at 22.2 per cent while the penalty kill is eighth at 81.2 per cent. The winning team, however, will have the best special teams units in the final – count on it.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Wednesday at Amalie Arena (7 p.m. CST; NBC, CBC) in downtown Tampa. The Lightning has home-ice advantage because it had six more points than Chicago during the regular season (108-102).

Game 2 is at Tampa Bay next Saturday. Game 3 is at United Center on June 8, followed by Game 4 on June 10. Game 5, if necessary, is at Tampa Bay on June 13; Game 6 is at Chicago on June 15; and Game 7 is at Tampa Bay on June 17.

Our pick: Blackhawks in Six Games.

BLACKHAWKS

Forwards

Brandon Saad—Jonathan Toews—Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell—Brad Richards—Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp—Antoine Vermette—Teuvo Teravainen

Andrew Desjardins—Marcus Kruger—Andrew Shaw

Defensemen

Duncan Keith—Niklas Hjalmarsson

Kyle Cumiskey—Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya—David Rundblad

Goaltenders

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

LIGHTNING

Forwards

Alex Killorn—Valtteri Filppula—Steven Stamkos

Ondrej Palat—Tyler Johnson—Nikita Kucherov

J.T. Brown—Cedric Paquette—Ryan Callahan

Brenden Morrow—Brian Boyle—Vladislav Namestnikov

Defensemen

Victor Hedman—Anton Stralman

Jason Garrison—Braydon Coburn

Matt Carle—Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Ben Bishop

Andrei Vasilevskiy



The New Black Sox Scandal

FIFA has been called a “vile criminal organization.” History would suggest that description is true.

Soccer, football if you will, is one of the fastest growing sports among children in North America. It’s unlikely kids care that the people who run the game are crooks, but as the FIFA Women’s World Cup comes to Canada this week, cartoonist Bill Day had a thought about FIFA today and how it compared to the 1919 Black Sox scandal — a scandal involving the fastest growing sport among children in the second decade of the 20th Century.

bd150529As I said, I don’t suppose kids care about the criminals who run FIFA. And I doubt anyone, media included, will care that the people who actually run this coming month’s Women’s World Cup are as corrupt as human beings can be.

Still, the long term fallout from the criminal activities of an organization that is actually killing construction workers in Russia and Qatar, remains to be seen.

In Winnipeg this week, I would not be surprised if it was simply ignored.

 



Toews Rides to the Rescue

Just when the Chicago Blackhawks needed the cavalry, Jonathan Toews arrived.

Saturday night in hostile territory on the West Coast, Toews scored the first two goals of the game, logged nearly 22 minutes of ice time and was the game’s first star as the captain of the Blackhawks led his team to a 5-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Jonathan Toews scores again.

Jonathan Toews scores again.

But this wasn’t just any victory. This was a win, on the road in Game 7 of the Western Conference final.

And it started and ended with the play of the best athlete ever to be produced in Winnipeg, Manitoba – period.

Toews was a monster all night. He scored off a rebound at 2:23 of the opening period to set the tone and then scored again in the first, this time on the power play at 11:55 and the Hawks had a 2-0 lead. Chicago then scored the first two goals of the third period and suddenly, before the Ducks got on the board, Chicago was up 4-0 and getting set to head to Tampa for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday.

There had been some talk earlier in the week that Duncan Keith might be the Blackhawk most likely to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Keith has been good, but he hasn’t been as good as Toews. Toews now has nine goals and nine assists in 17 playoff games and the Hawks are going back to the final.

In fact, Chicago has reached the final for the third time in six seasons. They won the Cup in 2010 and 2013, and last year, lost in overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Final to Los Angeles. Had the bounce gone the other way, the Toews-led Blackhawks would be playing in their third championship round.

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by James Carey Lauder)

Regardless, Chicago is the first team to reach the Cup Final three times since the salary cap was instituted in 2005. They could become the first team to win three Cups in six seasons since the Detroit Red Wings did it between 1997-2002.

So does that make Toews and the Blackhawks a “dynasty?” Probably. At least by modern NHL standards.

Sure, I get it. Unlike basketball, hockey is not a one-man game. After all, Hawks goalie Corey Crawford had another solid game and made 35 saves on Saturday night and Patrick Kane had three assists, but consider this: During the series, Toews had five goals and two assists, won 103 faceoffs and lost only 73 (with a 51-19 domination at home) and was a solid plus-two while leading all forwards in ice time.

And that was just his offence. He was also a dominant defensive forward, shutting down rushes, blocking shots and holding his opposing centre scoreless most night. He was a tireless forechecker and has so much skill, that it’s tough for even skilled defensemen to get the puck out of their own zone on his side of the rink (whichever side he chooses).

LeBron James

LeBron James

Jonathan Toews is not the LeBron James of ice hockey. It’s a completely different game and Toews would laugh at that kind of comparison.

But while James, 30, has won two NBA championships (and is favored to win his third this month) since 2003, Toews has won two NHL championships since 2007. James has been NBA Finals MVP twice, Toews, 27, has been the Conn Smythe Trophy winner once. Both athletes have two Olympic gold medals.

This doesn’t mean that one of them is better or more important to his sport, it just means that these two athletes are the most dominant athletes of the era.

And for the next two weeks, we get to watch them chase the only thing that really matters in team sport – a championship. Don’t be surprised if they both pull it off.



Zimmer: AP Can Play for the Vikings or Not Play. He’ll Play

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn’t pull his punches. Granted, Zimmer was upbeat and polite when he made his pronouncement this week, but a handful of sports columnists and, I’m sure, the agent for Adrian Peterson weren’t happy about it.

Asked about Peterson’s future during a news conference at spring camp this week, Zimmer made his position quite clear: “Adrian? He’s really got two choices. He can either play for us or he cannot play. He’s not going to play for anybody else. That’s just the way it’s going to be.’’

Mike Zimmer.

Mike Zimmer.

Pretty simple.

Now for those who haven’t been following the soap opera (and I have no criticism for those who haven’t bothered), Peterson and his agent Ben Dogra have a number of statements over the last few months suggesting they want Peterson traded sooner rather than later. When he wasn’t dealt at the draft, the Vikings made it pretty clear that he was not going to be traded.

In their view (as wrongheaded as that view might be), the Vikings didn’t have the Peterson’s back last year as he served a nearly season-long ban over criminal charges related to the beating of his four-year-old son.

Some tried to make a big deal out of Peterson not attending this week’s OTA but Zimmer just laughed and said it was not uncommon for Peterson to miss spring camp. In fact, no one could remember the last time he attended an OTA even though missing this one will cost him $250,000.

“He’s missed a lot of OTAs over the course of his career,” Zimmer said. “I’m not worried about it. I’ve got 89 guys out here that I’m coaching to try and get better.”

Just so everyone is aware, the 30-year-old runningback is signed with the Vikings through the end of 2017 and it’s pretty likely Peterson will be in Minnesota for the duration of his contract. We have been told Peterson would rather play in Dallas (did the Cowboys have his back during his prosecution – in Texas?!), but I’m not sure that’s true.

And, to be fair, Peterson is not that far removed from a 2,000-yard rushing season and an NFL MVP award. His presence on the field might also help a young Vikings team that believes it could make the playoffs this season.

Of course, now we hear Peterson might retire from football. The Vikings would love that. Peterson’s contract is not guaranteed but the cap hit is (as of now). If he retires, the cap hit is gone.

Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson

To be precise, Peterson has three years and $44.25 million left on his current contract. He will be paid $12.75 million the upcoming season. That is, if he plays.

Peterson sent a written statement to ESPN on Wednesday night claiming he wants a better contract from the Vikings.

“The reason I’m not attending OTAs has nothing to do with wanting to be traded,’’ Peterson wrote in his statement. “It’s about securing my future with the Vikings. It’s business, not personal and I understand that firsthand. Go Vikings.”

Well isn’t that an interesting and somewhat refreshing response? Actually, it’s the first volley in what Peterson and Dogra hope is an upcoming negotiation to re-work his contract. No doubt, he wants some guaranteed money.

Right now, we’re closer to something we’ve written about here at Game Day Gold since this entire mess began. Peterson will play for the Vikings in 2015 and for at least two years after that.

Unless, of course, some idiot general manager thinks of Peterson the same way Mike Lynn thought of Herschel Walker 25 years ago and is prepared to give the Vikings enough to guarantee the team a successful future.

I’m not sure that guy is out there, but really, who knows?



The NBA is a One-Man Game

As an example, On Saturday night, Steph Curry scored 40 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 115-80 shellacking of the Houston Rockets.

Curry finished 12-for-19 from the floor, 7-for-9 from behind the three-point line, and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. He also had seven assists and five rebounds.

Steph Curry beats the Rockets.

Steph Curry beats the Rockets.

Because of Curry, the consensus NBA MVP this season, the Warriors are now just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in 40 years. That’s right, 40 years.

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, LeBron James scored 37 points to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 114-111 overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks.

James recorded his first triple double of the playoffs, finishing with 18 rebounds and 13 assists to go with his 37 points as Cleveland pushed the Hawks to the brink of elimination. James started 0-for-9 from the field and was 3-for-16 at halftime, but still fought through a number of injuries to dominate Game 3.

I’m probably not telling you anything you didn’t already know, but the NBA is a one-man game.

It’s been a one-man game since the days of Bill Russell and all those NBA championships in Boston. Sure the Celtics had other great players, but mostly they had Russell in the middle and he didn’t lose. Then there was Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and then the battles between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and then there was Michael Jordan and then Tim Duncan and now there is Curry and James.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the Houston Rockets won a couple of titles and the Detroit Pistons (who had the indomitable Isiah Thomas) won a bunch, but for the most part, if you don’t have one big-time, superstar dominant player, you can’t win in the NBA.

Now that Curry has reached his potential, the Golden State Warriors are a threat to be NBA champions. James is a classic story. In his first stint in Cleveland, he took the Cavs to the NBA Finals. Then he took his talents to South Beach, won two NBA championships and made the Miami Heat an annual favorite to win. When James left Cleveland, they became a last-place mess. Miami was a good team that became great. Now that he’s back in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will likely face Curry and the Warriors in the NBA final.

Think about it. In 2013-14, the Cavaliers were 33-49, third in the Central Division, out of the playoffs and little more than a postscript to the NBA season. In 2014-15, the Cavs got LeBron and went 53-29, first in the Central and are now one win away from the Finals.

LeBron James beat the Hawks almost by himself.

LeBron James beat the Hawks almost by himself.

Sure they also had the gifted Kyrie Irving (a player they had when they were lucky not to be last) and Kevin Love (who has been hurt for most of the post-season), but without LeBron, they aren’t playing now. In fact, without LeBron, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs.

It’s a one-man game and that’s exactly what Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers fans have to remember when they look at this year’s draft and next year’s team.

As an example, if say Andrew Wiggins does what Steph Curry did and grows into that one-man show, the Timberwolves could compete, but quit analyzing the club from a team perspective and stop worrying about “what the ‘Wolves need to do.”

What they need is their own LeBron or Steph Curry or Michael Jordan. Teams don’t win NBA titles. Single superstar players do. And until the ‘Wolves — and the Magic and the Sixers and on-and-on — get one, they aren’t going anywhere.



Hawks-Ducks About Survival

The Anaheim Ducks survived. And make no mistake, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 in Chicago two days after one of the longest and most incredible Stanley Cup playoff games ever staged, the Ducks are definitely survivors.

Thursday night at the United Centre, the Ducks’ Simon Despres scored at 19:05 of the second period to give Anaheim a 2-1 lead. Little did anyone know that Depres’ goal would hold up to be the winner.

Jonathan Toews knows there isn't a lot of room against Anaheim.

Jonathan Toews knows there isn’t a lot of room against Anaheim.

On a night when both teams started out either tentative or tired, the game turned into a dandy with plenty of scoring chances (Jonathan Toews missed a beauty in the third period) and some wonderful goaltending.

The two teams went hard at it: Plenty of hitting, lots of scrambles around the net and once again, terrific goaltending.

In the end Frederik Andersen of the Ducks out-dueled Corey Crawford of the Hawks in a game that was much better than anyone expected. Especially after Tuesday’s long night’s journey into day.

In fact, after the Hawks had finally dispatched the Ducks 3-2 in triple overtime, Hawks forward Bryan Bickell pretty much summed up Game 2 of what is now The Survivor’s Series.

“That’s going to take the wind out of their sails, definitely,” Bickell told NBC Sports, not knowing at the time that Anaheim was not about to back down. “Now, we need to back it up in Chicago. We’ve got the momentum, although it doesn’t feel like we do, because I’m really tired.”

This is a series for real men.

This is a series for real men.

Turns out Bickell was right on one count. The Hawks did not have the momentum. Especially after a game that wasn’t just a triple overtime monster, but almost two games in their entirety. Marcus Kruger scored the winning goal at 16:12 of OT No. 3. That’s a lot of hockey for one night. Especially on the West Coast.

Now I don’t feel sorry for guys making millions playing hockey. Maybe they should always play two games a night to earn their pay. However, I did worry on Wedensday morning that the quality of play in Game 3 might be affected by two teams that killed it – went hard — for 116 minutes in one night (and an early morning).

Despite the fact both teams were starting to look tired by the midway point of the third overtime (Heck, I was barely awake just watching), they had played one helluva hockey game.

They hit posts, had pucks go in off helmets, whacked the puck off crossbars, and shot it at two goaltenders a total of 118 times.

After the game, the Hawks did what they always do: they credited their collective playoff experience for the win. After all, the Hawks have reached the conference finals five times in seven seasons so you would think they know what they’re doing.

But this time Anaheim proved that the 2010 and 2013 Stanley Cup champions are facing a different breed of duck.

Ryan Kesler.

Ryan Kesler.

Anaheim is huge. It’s a team with three superstars – Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler – and all three are big and powerful. Perry is 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, Kesler is 6-foot-2, 210 and Getzlaf is 6-foot-4, 220. They are monsters – in both size and skill – and they were dominant when the Ducks took out Winnipeg and Calgary.

All three pound the end boards, charge the net and make brilliant plays. They can score and hit and handle the puck and while Getzlaf, with a couple of assists in Game 3, was the only one of the trio to hit the scoresheet, they combined for five hits, five blocked shots and five shots on goal. When they are on the ice, there is no relief.

Chicago is a team with a reputation for winning big games at home. That means Saturday night’s game should be the Hawks for the taking. However, this tough, relentless Anaheim outfit just might be Chicago’s match.

I wonder how the NBC TV executives feel about a Tampa bay-Anaheim Stanley Cup final as opposed to a New York-Chicago final? Not much, I suspect.

Look out, if Tampa wins at home tonight and the Ducks win on the road Saturday, NBC’s worst nightmare could come to pass.

In the meantime, for real hockey fans, those fans who simply love the game, a Tampa-Anaheim final just could be one for the ages.



It’s Longer, But it’s Still Just a Kick

Despite what my friends Troy Westwood and Trevor Kennerd might want to believe, people don’t pay money for football tickets to watch kickers. Sorry, guys, you were both great but kicking is sort of football, but I watched you at practice with your pal Cameron. It’s a completely different game.

nfllogoSo on Tuesday, the National Football League, a league that had actually considered dropping the extra point altogether, voted to change the league’s extra-point rules from 2015.

That’s right, instead of just dumping the extra point – in 2013 only five extra points were missed all season – the NFL’s owners decided to move the scrimmage line for extra points from the two-yard line to the 15-yard line.

Instead of dumping the extra point, they decided to make it more challenging. And why not? They’re paying for a kicker, might as well make him work for his cheque.

To make things a little more interesting, the owners decided that if the defense blocks this new 32-yard extra point (min-field goal), they can return it for two points.

Sure, it will be a little more fun, but it won’t keep too many people from getting up for a beer. Unless, of course, it forces a few coaches to give that two-point conversion try a little more often. One can always hope.

32-yards should be easy, but not a given.

32-yards should be easy, but not a given.

Anyway, as New York writer Elliot Hannon suggested yesterday, “It will add just enough uncertainty to keep you in your seat and put more emphasis on the kicking game, which, after all, is why fans go to the stadium on Sunday—to see their favorite kicker until he gets waived.”

Sorry, Troy and Trevor, I go to watch touchdowns and see receivers get knocked on their backsides. But I’m sure somebody likes to watch kickers.



Portage Terriers Win National Championship

Blake Spiller’s plan was to build a national contender and now his Portage Terriers are Canadian Jr. A hockey champions.

Sunday night, on home ice at the PCU Centre, Shawn Bowles had a goal and two assists to lead head coach Spiller’s Terriers to a 5-2 victory over the Carleton Place Canadians in the championship game of the 2015 RBC Cup.

Captain Tanner Jago with the RBC Cup (Photo by Bruce Fedyck).

Captain Tanner Jago with the RBC Cup (Photo by Bruce Fedyck).

Bowles brother Brad also scored, as did Davis Ross, Grant Valiquette and Jordyn Boyd as the Terriers won their first national title since 1973 and the first for Manitoba since the Selkirk Steelers won in 1974.

After easily winning the MJHL championship with 12 straight playoff wins, the Terriers finished second at the Western Canada Cup. Now, a team that has had pretty much the best season in Manitoba hockey history can celebrate a national title.

When the Terriers wrapped up a near-perfect run to the MJHL’s Turnbull Trophy, there was not a team with a better record in organized hockey anywhere in the world. Portage finished the regular season in first place overall, 25 points ahead of second-place Steinbach, with a record of 53-3-4. Then, in the playoffs, the Terriers won 12 straight games to claim the title.

On May 3, the Terriers beat the Melfort Mustangs 4-2 to finish second at the 2015 Western Canada Cup in Fort McMurray, Alta. Portage lost the Championship Game 4-3 in overtime to the B.C, Champion Penticton Vees.

On Sunday night in Portage, the Terriers wrapped up the RBC Cup tournament by shutting down the only team to beat them during the week. In the second game of the round robin Carleton Place, the pre-tournament favorites, beat Portage 3-0 and remained the favorites heading into the championship game.

Grant Valiquette about to score the game's first goal (Photo by Bruce Fedyck)

Grant Valiquette about to score the game’s first goal (Photo by Bruce Fedyck)

But a relentless forecheck combined with great goaltending from Zac Robidoux – who made 26 saves – gave the Terriers a decisive, if not an upset, victory.

Zack Waldvogel, Garick Gray, Dane Schioler and Tyler Jeanson all pitched in assists as Portage scored the game’s opening goal and never looked back. Portage led 1-0 after the first period on a breakaway goal by Valiquette, and were ahead 2-1 heading into the final period. In the third, the Terriers scored two power play goals – Boyd at 2:02 and Brad Bowles at 8:15 – and the game was pretty much in the bag.

It was the second straight season in which the Canadians reached the national championship game and lost. Last season it was a 4-3 overtime loss to the Yorkton Terriers in Vernon, B.C.

Coach Blake Spiller said his team “went about its business this season.” No doubt about that. In fact, in the end, Portage finished 74-6-4 in 2014-15. It was an incredible, no a remarkable season and on Sunday night, the Terriers left no doubt that they were worthy national champions.

Hail to the Champions (Photo by Bruce Fedyck)

Hail to the Champions (Photo by Bruce Fedyck)

 



Terriers Reach RBC Cup Final, Canada Will Play for Gold

Saturday was a great day for Manitoba Hockey. The Portage Terriers beat the Melfort Mustangs 6-1 to reach the final of the RBC Cup, Team Canada beat Czech Republic 2-0 to make it to the gold medal game at the IIHF World Championship and Manitobans Mat Bodie and Dylan McIlrath played major roles as the Hartford Wolf Pack reached the AHL Eastern Conference final.

Manitoba Junior Hockey League (CJAHL)

The host team, the Portage Terriers, are now 4-1 at the RBC Cup, the National Jr. A hockey championship, and will play in the gold medal final on Sunday night on TSN. In the semifinal on Saturday:

Portage 6 Melfort 1

Jordyn Boyd (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Jordyn Boyd (Photo by Jeff Miller)

Jordyn Boyd led the way with a pair of goals while Taylor Friesen, Garick Gray, Zack Waldvogel and Brett Orr also scored. Waldvogel had a goal and an assist and Tyler Jeanson had a pair of assists. Zac Robidoux had to make on 12 saves to get the win.

The Terriers will now face the only team that has beaten them in the tournament, the Carleton Place Canadians, in the gold medal game at 7 p.m. CDT on Sunday on TSN.

IIHF Men’s Senior World Championship

Despite a brilliant performance by Czech Republic player of the game and Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, Winnipeg’s Cody Eakin and the rest of Team Canada beat the Czechs 2-0 in the semifinals of the IIHF World Championships in Prague on Saturday morning. Eakin had a solid game and had a great chance to score in the first period, but hit the cross bar. Pavelec was named one of the Czech Republic’s three best players of the tournament. Goalie Mike Smith, defenseman Brent Burns and forward Claude Giroux were named Canada’s three best players of the tournament. Team Canada has now won eight straight games and will play Russia in the gold medal game on Sunday at 1:45 p.m. CDT.

Czech Republic’ goalkeeper Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.

Czech Republic’ goalkeeper Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets.

In the other semifinal game, Winnipeg Jets prospect, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck played an outstanding game but it wasn’t enough as Russia scored four goals in the third period to beat Hellebuyck and Team USA 4-0.

Manitobans in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Conference Finals started on Saturday. The New York Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in the opening game of the Eastern Final.

Out west, the Anaheim Ducks will face Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final at 2 p.m. CDT on CBC.

Manitobans and Jets Prospects in the AHL

Winnipeg's Dylan McIlrath of the Hartford Wolf Pack.

Winnipeg’s Dylan McIlrath of the Hartford Wolf Pack.

In the AHL’s Eastern Conference semifinal on Saturday night: Winnipeg’s Dylan McIlrath had an assist and was plus one while East St. Paul’s Mat Bodie was plus two as they helped the Hartford Wolf Pack beat the Hershey Bears 6-3. Hartford won the semifinal series 4-2 and will face the Manchester Monarchs in the Eastern Final.



Bowles Leads Terriers, Canada Plays Czech in World Semis

Brad Bowles had another big night as he led the Portage Terriers to a 3-2 win over Melfort at the RBC Cup. The Conference Finals are next in the Stanley Cup tournament. Team Canada plays Czech in the semifinals at the IIHF World Championships.

Manitoba Junior Hockey League (CJAHL)

The host team, the Portage Terriers, are now 3-1 at The RBC Cup, the National Jr. A hockey championship at the PCU Centre in Portage la Prairie. On Thursday night:

Portage 3 Melfort 2

Zack Waldvogel had three assists for Portage.

Zack Waldvogel had three assists for Portage.

Brad Bowles, the tournament points leader with eight in four games, led Portage with a goal and an assist, Zack Waldogel had three assists and Shawn Bowles and Landon Peel each scored. Justin Laforest made 26 saves to get the win.

The Terriers will play the Melfort Mustangs in the semifinals on Saturday at the PCU Centre in Portage. Game time is 8 p.m.

Manitobans in the Stanley Cup Playoffs

The Conference semifinals are next: In the East the New York Rangers will take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 1 goes Saturday at 12 Noon.

Jonathan Toews leads the Blackhawks into the Western Conference finals.

Jonathan Toews leads the Blackhawks into the Western Conference finals.

Out west, the Anaheim Ducks will now face Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final. Game time for Game 1 is Sunday at 2 p.m.

IIHF Men’s Senior World Championship

Winnipeg’s Cody Eakin and the rest of Team Canada had an easy time on Thursday morning whipping Belarus 9-0 to advance to the semifinals of the 2015 IIHF Senior Men’s World Championships. Brent Burns led Canada with two goals and two assists while Ryan O’Reilly had two goals and an assist. The semifinals will be played on Saturday. Canada will face Czech Republic at 8:15 a.m. CDT in Prague. In the other semifinal, Russia will face Winnipeg Jets prospect Connor Hellebuyck and Team USA.

Manitobans and Jets Prospects in the AHL

Mat Bodie, Hartford Wolf Pack.

Mat Bodie, Hartford Wolf Pack.

In the AHL’s Eastern Conference semifinal on Wednesday night: East St. Paul’s Mat Bodie had an assist and two shots on goal as he helped the Hartford Wolf Pack beat the Hershey Bears 5-4 in overtime. Hartford now leads Hershey 3-2 in the best-of-seven series with Game 6 on Saturday night in Hershey.