Warriors notebook

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January 4, 2011

With the Times-Herald’s new 11:20 p.m. deadline these west coast games have been a challenge.

With that in mind, here’s a few things that didn’t make the paper for Wednesday . . .

When the Moose Jaw Warriors acquired Brett Lyon from Vancouver Tuesday he immediately found a home with Joey Kornelsen and Jesse Paradis on the checking line.

After the success the Warriors had by employing Paradis, Spencer Edwards and Cody Smuk against the opposition’s top line last season, it seemed a fair question to see if head coach Dave Hunchak was going to look to line up the new checking line against the opposition’s big guns more often.

Hunchak responded that it was too early to say how the lines will shake out moving forward and he was happy with how that Kornelsen-Paradis-Lyon line played for the most part — both against Kamloops’ top line and when they were matched up against another trio.

“We’ll see how things develop. I certainly liked their chemistry (Tuesday),” said Hunchak. “I thought they were hard to play against. They did some good things off the cycle and I thought they were very good defensively with the exception of the turnover by Kornelsen at the offensive blue line. Other than that I thought they played very well defensively.”

*  *  *  *

Typically 15-year-olds can only play five regular season games in the WHL. However, since the Warriors were short-staffed due to having players away at world championships when they called up Brandon Potomak, he would be eligible to play more games if needed.

Kamloops’ Matt Needham played his eighth game as a 15-year-old Tuesday and scored his second goal of the season.

The Warriors are expecting Quinton Howden, Antonin Honejsek, Morgan Rielly and Brayden Cuthbert to join them in Kelowna. Hunchak said they won’t know who may play Thursday until the players are all back.

“It’s too early to say at this point,” said Hunchak. “Number one we have to evaluate their health when they get back and see how everyone is feeling. Number two, those guys have played a lot of hockey themselves, so when we get them in we’ll see where they’re at.”

*  *  *  *

Hunchak praised Potomak and noted that the youngster probably deserved his first WHL assist Tuesday and may get it retroactively.

“Brandon’s played excellent,” said Hunchak. “At times he was playing on the fourth line with A.J. (Johnson) and (Jordan) Wyton, but he was also on our so-called top line with Edwards and (Dylan) Hood.”

*  *  *  *

Dylan Hood saw his four-game point streak snap, but what a run he’s been on since the break.

Hood had eight points in the previous four games and is now 12th in league scoring as of Wednesday morning with 48 points. It’s worth remembering that the Warriors decision to unload their 20-year-olds at the 2009 trade deadline had its critics, but the decision to get Hood from Kelowna for Ryley Grantham looks pretty good right now.

Of course Grantham and Ian Duval won a WHL title with the Rockets, so those two trades fall into the category of deals that works out well for both sides.

*  *  *  *

The Warriors got a lot more coverage than they normally would Wednesday.

The Kamloops Blazers have decided to not allow Kamloops Daily News sports editor Gregg Drinnan access to Blazers players or staff because he is “too negative” in his coverage.

The WHL issued a statement that all sides will meet on Jan. 11. “It’s our hope we can come to an immediate resolution,” WHL Communications Director Cory Flett said to Kamloops This Week.

The league policy on media is pretty clear (it’s on page 26 of this year’s WHL Media Guide if you happen to have one handy). But right now the league isn’t enforcing their own rules.

Drinnan covered Tuesday’s Warriors-Blazers game, but only spoke to members of the visiting side after the game.

Drinnan’s bosses at the Daily News went public with the issue Tuesday, but it’s clear from Drinnan’s story from Sunday’s Blazers win that the policy has been in effect before it became public knowledge.

The sad irony in this issue is that Drinnan’s blog is arguably the best source for league-wide WHL news. He is respected as a trusted source of league news by both the media and by hockey people league-wide.

The Blazers haven’t won a playoff series this millennium. That’s not negative, it’s a fact.

If the Blazers wanted to see negative they could have searched for “Kamloops” on twitter Tuesday. The negative reaction to their move was swift and pretty much uniform out in cyberspace.

*  *  *  *

The WHL handed out a huge suspension Tuesday as Red Deer’s Josh Cowen was suspended eight games after his fight with Saskatoon defenceman Stefan Elliott.

The fight came after Lukas Sutter picked up an instigator penalty for fight young Rebels star forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins six seconds earlier. There was a delayed high sticking call coming to Nugent-Hopkins when Sutter went after him.

Cowen went straight after Elliott off the draw and caught him with a punch that Elliott didn’t appear to see coming.

You can see the Cowen-Elliott incident here:

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and the Nugent-Hopkins vs. Sutter fight is here:

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As with most things, the incident on New Year’s day should be put into its proper context.

You will recall that Cowen got a five-minute charging major last year during the playoffs in Saskatoon. He picked it up after charging Blades goalie Steven Stanford. Lorne Molleken responded by putting out what he later termed his “power play unit” featuring arguably his five toughest players — Randy McNaught, Sena Acolatse, Darian Dziurzynski and Duncan Siemens from the Blades were all suspended — instigated a four-on-four brawl. Molleken was suspended four games as well. Cowen also got four games for his trouble.

Clearly these two teams aren’t real fond of each other.

*  *  *  *

One of Cowen’s former dance partners was Clinton Atkinson. The former Warriors defenceman is having a strong season in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.

Atkinson, 19, has two goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. He also had a 10-game point streak before Christmas.

*  *  *  *

When the Warriors were looking to move one of their 20-year-olds, it was speculated that the Portland Winterhawks could use another front line centre. The perception was that a centre and another defenceman was all they needed.

Frankly, the Winterhawks didn’t look like they were missing much when they came though Moose Jaw. Still with Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen and Brad Ross on one line and Sven Bartschi and Ty Rattie on the other, there was a noticeable drop off to their sixth forward.

The Hawks took care of that and then some when they acquired reigning Western Conference player of the year Craig Cunningham from Vancouver.

Now the Hawks are apparently about to add San Jose second rounder William Wrenn. Wrenn, 19, is a six-one, 200-pound defenceman who has left Denver University and is expected to be with the Hawks imminently.

Frankly with NHL picks Brett Ponich, Taylor Aronson and Troy Rutkowski along with first overall pick Derrick Pouliot in the fold; not to mention Joe Morrow and Tyler Wotherspoon — both off to the NHL’s top prospects game in Toronto in two weeks — the Winterhawks seemed to have more than their fair share of elite defencemen, but adding the likes of Wrenn won’t hurt.

Kelowna had some unbelievable defences during their glory years of the mid-2000s, but it’s conceivable that the Winterhawks have seven defencemen who could play in the NHL.

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