The Dauphin Kings won 31 games in the 2019-20 season as they locked down the seventh spot heading into the Turnbull Cup playoffs and that spot earned them a date against the Portage Terriers, a team they had beat three times in the regular season.

Braeden Young scored the first goal of the series for Dauphin less than 10 minutes into game one. Ultimately, the Terriers would score four of the next five goals to post a 4-2 win in game one to take a 1-0 series lead.

After a Baron Thompson goal tied game two at one early in the first period, the Terriers scored four of the next five goals once again as they posted a 5-2 win to take a 2-0 series lead.

Dauphin was in tough, without a doubt, down 2-0 against a team that was stacked with all sorts of firepower and a goalie that was one of the best in the league.

The Kings; however, were returning home and Doug Hedley knew the team had the skill to get back in the series.

"The biggest thing for us was just focusing on our strengths, we played them well all regular season," said Hedley. "I think the first two games could have gone the other way as well, we didn't capitalize on some great chances and we made some mistakes." 

In front of a crowd of more than 1000, Noah Giesbrecht for Portage and Levi Mitchell for Dauphin put on a show for the fans. In more than 72 minutes, Noah stopped 26 while Levi turned away 43. The lone blip to Giesbrecht's day was he gave up a goal on the final shot he saw.

Early in double overtime and off a turnover by Portage, Bryson Cecconi shovelled a puck in front that Grady Hobbs potted into the back of the net as the Kings won the game, 1-0 and they got back into the series in the process. As Hedley takes a look back at the win, he says the celebration that followed was special.

"Guys were off the bench and on the ice in seconds. I remember telling Mitch that we're back in the series," offered Hedley. "Everyone was singing and dancing after the game, it's amazing what a win like that does to a dressing room."

Hedley has been behind the bench in a ton of important games and his team has won big games in the past, but he says that victory with Dauphin is for sure in his top 10.

"A goal like that in a series like that, it's right up there," ended Hedley. "The entire team believed in themselves after that game."

COVID-19 ultimately postponed the remainder of the playoffs and shut down the sports world.

With that said, 2020 did provide a huge goal for the Dauphin Kings as they won their first playoff game in more than five years and it came against a team that was set to host the Centennial Cup at Stride Place.

Riese Gaber arrived in North Dakota in late July and he joined his Fighting Hawks teammates on the ice as soon as he did arrive. 

The former Dauphin King and Steinbach Piston in the MJHL and all-star Dubuque Fighting Saint forward of the USHL was set to embark on his freshman college season with one of the top teams in the NCAA ranks.

Playing in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the team was waiting patiently to find out when they would hit the ice for real in game action. The picture became very clear on Thursday, October 15, when the NCHC's Board of Directors approved a plan to begin the season on December 1 using a 'bubble' format. All eight conference teams would enter the bubble at the Baxter Arena in Omaha and each played 10 games in the 20-day span.

After months of preparing and waiting to find out when he would make his college debut, Gaber was thrilled to know that it would come in early December.

"The guys were pretty excited, I think it was pretty awesome that we were going to get to play," said Gaber. "We knew that we had a good plan in place with the league and they did a really good job of preparing this."

The bubble portion of the season came to an end last weekend and what a three-week span it was for Gaber and the rest of the Fighting Saints. North Dakota went 7-2-1 in their 10 games as they lead the conference with 20 points -- two more than Minnesota Duluth and St. Cloud State -- while Omaha has 16 points. 

In the 10 games, Gaber recorded 33 shots on goal and he scored seven times, tied for the conference lead with Carter Savoie of the Denver Pioneers and he's also an Edmonton Oilers draft pick. Riese had two, two-goal games including the team's finale in the bubble in a 6-2 win against Miami back on Sunday.

Gaber's nine points are tied for the eighth-most in the conference.

"I was pretty happy with what I was able to get done in those first 10 games," said Gaber. "Toward the end, I knew I was at a point where I needed to finish strong and I was able to get that done. Getting those two goals in the final game was big for my confidence."

Although he had a hot start, Gaber knows it's how you finish and not how you start. The Gilbert Plains native is now enjoying a little bit of a break south of the border with a few of his teammates for a few days. North Dakota will be back in Omaha later this month as they continue their season with two games against the Mavs and the games will be Riese's first two college contests outside of the bubble.

"It's nice to get a little bit of a breather here, it was a pretty exhausting three weeks for all of us," continued Gaber. "We're in a good spot right now and we'll be ready to go when we get back on the ice."

North Dakota will play the remaining 16 games on their schedule against West Division teams. Six of the games come against Omaha, six come against Colorado College and the remaining four are against Denver. 

Gaber will play his first home game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena on Friday, January 8 when they welcome Omaha to Grand Forks. Riese doesn't know how many fans will be in attendance; however, the NCHC is leaving it up to each respective State to decide how many fans can be in the stands.

That means for the first time in a long time, Gaber will be playing in front of some fans. The last time he played in front of fans was back on March 11 when he had one assist in a 3-0 win against Waterloo when he was with Dubuque.

"I think about that every day, to be honest, just playing in front of fans gets me super excited," ended Gaber. "It's a pretty exciting feeling and it's been a long time coming, so everyone is pumped about it."

Stay tuned to hear more from Riese as we turn the page on 2020 and look forward to 2021 very soon. 

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League continues to prepare for a restart to the season in the New Year and they have developed a "restart action plan" that will be used when it is deemed safe to do so and restrictions allow.

The MJHL said in a release.

"The league remains optimistic that teams will have the opportunity to provide on-ice training activity for their players during the latter half of January with return to game play targeted for early-to-mid February,"

Key Elements of Restart Action Plan:

  • Players/Staff to complete a 14-day self-isolation period before participating in team activities;
  • Players / Staff to follow detailed travel procedures before reporting to the community/organization;
  • Teams to provide a ten to fourteen-day modified training period for Players/Staff once the 14-day self-isolation phase has been completed in advance of resuming games;
  • All new players added to the roster would be required to complete a 14-day self-isolation period before participating in any team activities;
  • Each team will play a minimum of two games a week against the same team and will play the same team a minimum of four times in a row over consecutive weekends;
  • Each team will only play teams from the same public health region, same division and/or of closest proximity based on regional restrictions at that time;
  • Each team will schedule games to be played during the weekend (Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday);
  • Regular Season will be extended until the end of April to allow for further schedule and gameplay flexibility; and
  • The playoff format will be reviewed over the coming weeks.

Doug Hedley had this to say on the plan.

"I think the positive thing about this is we want to have a season," said Hedley. "Teams are prepared to play into May. We're doing everything we can to play a season."

Kevin Saurette, Commissioner said this.

“Our goal remains the same as in September, to provide a meaningful development season for the players through knowingly very challenging circumstances while continuing to exhaust all options in order to do so in a safe, structured and sensible manner,” 

The MJHL Board of Governors will meet early in the New Year to consider potential start dates and further restart activation planning.

Aiden and Keaton Ziprick are all hockey. Whether they're on the ice competing with their teams or just sitting on the couch at home in Russell watching a game, the two brothers live and breathe the great game.

Aiden is playing with Rink Hockey Academy this season while Keaton has stayed in the Parkland to play with the Rangers. Both were off to great starts with their teams, but the season has now been put on pause because of 'Code Red' restrictions.

The hope is hockey can resume early in 2021, but for now, the two are staying sharp in their backyard. 

The Ziprick's have made their own rink and perhaps the best part about it is that it's inside as the family has turned an old horse barn into a rink.

While the season is on pause, Aiden says it's great that he can continue to get on the ice.

"Just to get the chance to be on the ice all the time is a cool feeling," said Aiden. "I know a lot of guys don't have this opportunity, so it's a great feeling."

Aiden went back to Russell last Thursday and he says he's been on the ice every day since and basically, he skates from the minute he wakes up until he goes to sleep. Keaton, meanwhile, says he's also been on the ice every day as he continues to stay sharp. 

"It's nice to be able to strap on the pads and face some shots," offered Keaton. 

Aiden has played in just a couple of games with Rink Hockey Academy this season while Keaton is 5-0 with the Rangers as the U18 team is atop the league with a 6-1 record.

Ryan Pulock scored two times and he added eight assists as he helped the New York Islanders advance to the Eastern Conference final in the Edmonton bubble, where they came up short against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup, the biggest question was when the new season would begin. There were rumours that the season would begin on January 1 so Ryan returned to Brandon where he trained in preparation for that day. In the end, the NHL won't begin its season on January 1; however, it will begin not long after.

The NHL has a plan to begin the new season on January 13 after the NHL and the NHL Players Association formulated a plan to move forward.

Ryan is now back in New York and he is in quarantine until Thursday.

For most of the offseason, Ryan was able to hit the ice and train in gyms as he would in any offseason. When Manitoba went under 'Code Red' restrictions, that changed as arenas were required to close their doors as were gyms.

This certainly changed how Ryan prepared, but there were no excuses for the Islander who has become one of the team's top players from the back end.

"I just had to figure things out, I did a lot of things at home, and stayed in shape that way," said Pulock. "I was pretty fortunate that the weather was nice so I was able to get outside pretty often."

The Islanders will be in the East Division alongside Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington. Each team will play 56 games with formal training camps beginning on January 3 with no preseason games.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs will feature 16 teams in a best-of-7, four-round format and conclude around mid-July with the plan of returning to a normal hockey calendar for the 2021-22 season (regular season beginning in October). 

As he quarantines for two more days, Ryan is thrilled about the news.

"It seems quite crazy to be honest, it has happened quite quickly," said Pulock. "It's going to be great to get back at it and sort of have a feeling of normalcy back."

The Grandview native has now played in 234 regular-season NHL games -- 270 if you include playoffs -- and he's scored 34 times while adding 88 assists. He was well on his way last year to record a career-high in points when the season was ended in March because of the novel coronavirus. Pulock put up 35 points in 68 games and his previous high was 37 points the year prior in 82 games. 

As he continues to prepare for his fourth full season in the NHL, the former Brandon Wheat King is expecting big things.

"Every player's goal is to always improve. I'm reaching my prime with the aspects of my age and I think it's important that I continue to take steps and improve," said Pulock. "My goal is to get to the point where I can dominate the game a little bit."

Parkland connection:

This year's Islanders team will once again feature a pair of Parklanders. Ryan is joined by Barry Trotz who led the Washington Capitals to a Stanley Cup title back in 2018. This will be Barry's third year behind the Islanders bench and he's led the team to the playoffs in the previous two years.

"Having Barry behind our bench gives us a chance to win every night," ended Pulock. "The adjustments that our staff make every game gives us the edge and sometimes that's the difference between winning and losing."

Curl Manitoba had a plan to run its men's and women's provincial championships from February 2-7 at the Selkirk Recreational Complex.

However, that is no longer the case. Both events have been cancelled. As a result, Manitoba gave the option to last year's provincial winners to advance to this year's nationals in Calgary.

Team Gunnlaugson has accepted their berth on the men's side while Team Jones accepted their team's spot on the women's side. Team Samagalski/Karwacki will represent Manitoba at the mixed doubles event.

Curl Manitoba listed a few reasons as to why they cancelled the events.

• In order to discourage travel between communities which would be required for regional qualifying;
• In order to limit volunteer preparations for the championships to the time and effort already expended;
• In order to ensure the health of athletes, volunteers, and spectators by not encouraging them to assemble in an uncontrollable situation at a championship venue.

Jolie Richmond has been skating on a creek by Manipogo Provincial Park for 11 years. 

In a normal year, the creek is just one of the places that she would skate on as she also skates with different clubs inside. But under 'Code Red' restrictions, that isn't the case so Jolie is strictly heading outdoors and she has done so about 20 times already.

Although she isn't able to invite her friends over right now, she can't wait until the time she can once again.

"I love hanging out with my friends on the creek," said Richmond. "We always laugh and have a ton of fun, we all just hope we can do that again soon.

Jolie has taken skating lessons in Ste. Rose and she's also skated with Epic Edge in Dauphin. 

"I've had the chance to learn a bunch of different tricks over the past years and I enjoy that," said Richmond. 

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For the most part, Jolie uses her figure skates on the ice, but she will also lace up her regular skates when her friends come over as well.

Don't forget to check out some of the other beautiful outdoor rinks in the Parkland and stay tuned to see more over the holiday season. 

Riese Gaber has another multi-goal game as his time in the NCHC bubble has come to an end.

Backed by two goals from the Gilbert Plains sniper, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks skated past Miami, 6-2, in their final game in the bubble.

Gaber has now scored seven times in the first 10 games of the season as the Fighting Hawks enter the Christmas break on a solid note.

(Gaber notches his second of the night) 

North Dakota went 7-2-1 in the bubble and they will be back on the ice in game action on December 31 when they face Omaha back at the Baxter Arena.

On Sunday, the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum, a non-profit organization dedicated to Manitoba’s hockey heritage, past, present and future, is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the first recorded organized hockey game in Western Canada, which took place in Winnipeg in 1890 at the Street Railway Rink on the Assiniboine River. 
Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame’s mandate is to preserve and recognize Manitoba’s rich hockey heritage through the development of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame and its physical presence at the Bell/MTS Iceplex in Winnipeg.  
This day encourages all players, coaches and volunteers to embrace the important principles of good sportsmanship, fair play, and respect for all who love and enjoy the game.
Manitoba’s hockey community will celebrate and participate in special online engagements and social media messaging on this day across the province. 
Hockey rinks remain closed in the province until at least January 8 under 'Code Red' restrictions.

Peter Quenneville started his junior hockey career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) with the Sherwood Park Crusaders where he would play 120 games (including playoffs).

After recording just 22 points in his first season, Peter became an elite offensive threat as he scored 31 times in 53 regular-season games and he chipped in 50 assists the following season. In 10 playoff games, he scored four more times and had eight points.

Peter made the move south of the border after that season as he joined the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He finished eighth in league scoring with 70 points -- 33 of which were goals -- as the Fighting Saints went 45-11-1-7 and finished atop the Eastern Conference. They went on to beat Fargo in the league final as they were crowned USHL champions.

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Quenneville played just one season in Dubuque before he packed up his bags and moved to Manitoba for the first time. He joined the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2013-14 season. Peter would quickly become a consistent offensive contributor with 51 points in just 44 regular-season games and he added another four points in eight playoff games that year.

Moving forward to the 2014-15 season, Quenneville was named Brandon's captain. He led a team that included Jayce Hawryluk, Michael Ferland, and Brandon's own, Tyler Coulter, to name a few. Also on the roster was John Quenneville, Peter's brother. 

"The experience to be able to play with John was pretty incredible," said Quenneville. "It was a pretty special opportunity and we both loved it."

Peter's 75 points in the regular season led Brandon to a 53-11-4-4 record which won them the East Division by a whopping 29 points over the Regina Pats. The Kelowna Rockets went 53-13-5-1 that season to win the B.C. Division by 30 points. Both teams cruised in their first three series which put them up against one another in the championship final. 

Leon Draisaitl would ultimately score the game-winning goal in game four as Kelowna swept Brandon to win the Western Hockey League. 

Although it wasn't the finish to his junior career that he had hoped for, Peter is grateful for the opportunities Brandon provided for him and the playoff run was something he will never forget.

"It was a lot of fun playing on that team, we had a lot of great guys that have played in the NHL," said Quenneville. "It may not have been the finish we were hoping for, but it was still a year that I'll never forget."

Moving on:

Peter would move on to play in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones in the 2015-16 season where he recorded 26 points in 58 games. After just one season with the Cyclones, Quenneville embarked on the biggest change of his playing days as he moved overseas to Denmark for the 2016-17 season.

He felt after his season in Cincinnati that his value in North America was just about as low as it ever has been.

"I felt that I needed to sort of disappear a little bit and make a name for myself on the big ice," said Quenneville. "I had the chance to work on some elements of my game that you have to on the big ice. It helped my skating a ton and my ability to carry the puck."

From 2016 to 2019, Peter played 162 games (including playoffs) in Denmark, Czech Republic, Finland, and Norway. His final season overseas saw him record 50 points in 48 regular-season games in Norway and he followed that up with another six playoff points in six games.

"Using those three years really helped me when I decided to come back, that's for sure." he offered.

North American bound:

When Peter returned, he joined the Rapid City Rush in the 2019-20 season and he was named the team's captain. He played 51 games and scored 24 times while adding another 34 assists. During the middle of the season, Quenneville was playing so well that he was called up by the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey and that's where he reunited with his brother, John. 

The brothers had the chance to play seven more games together as they have now played in the AJHL, WHL, and AHL together.

"That's pretty crazy to think about, not many brothers get the chance to play with each other at the professional level, so it was pretty special," offered Quenneville. 

Peter is now back playing with Rapid City and once again, he's been named the organization's captain. The former Brandon Wheat King had one assist in the team's opening weekend of play -- as they went 1-1 -- ahead of a three-game set this weekend against the Allen Americans. 

During the summer, you can often find Cary Fillion at the Gilbert Plains Country Club with his son, Zak, and daughter, Caitlin. In the winter, you will find Cary at the rink supporting both Zak and Caitlin as they stay busy playing on multiple teams.

Caitlin plays for the U15 Ice Dogs and the Parkland U15 women's Rangers while Zak plays with the U13 Star Hawks. Due to 'Code Red' restrictions in the province, the Fillion's arent able to spend their nights in rinks across the province, but they are still spending time on the ice.

For the first time ever, the family has teamed up to create their own backyard rink so now all they have to do is walk outside to get a good skate in.

The name of the rink is very fitting as the Fillion's have named their rink, the Fillion Plex.

"We're huge Winnipeg Jets fans and we have some ties to the organization with our family," said Fillion. "We actually thought of the Fillion Forum, but because we're huge Jets fans and not Montreal Canadiens fans, that's how we came up with the name."

It's early in the season, but the Fillion family have already made a bunch of special memories on their backyard creation. On top of all the skating that happens in their backyard, the Fillion's also have a fireplace and a hot tub.

So whether they're in the mood for a good skate, some marshmallows on the fire, or some lounging in the hot tub, the Fillion's have it all and they're loving every minute of the family time they spend together.

"It's pretty incredible, we're spending so much time as a family outside," ended Fillion. 

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Over the past two weeks, Darnell Duff has taken a trip around the Parkland to feature nine of the beautiful outdoor rinks across the region. You can check them out right here which includes the feature. Stay tuned over the holiday season for more.

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