Riese Gaber had two goals -- one of which was a game-winner -- as the North Dakota Fighting Hawks are champions.

Playing in front of their home crowd, the Fighting Hawks beat St. Cloud State, 5-3, to claim the NCHC title.

It was Riese's first-ever playoff multi-goal game as North Dakota now will prepare for nationals. 

A former Parkland Ranger has been assigned to an NHL taxi squad.

Connor Dewar, who played with Parkland from 2013 to 2015, has been assigned to the taxi squad for the Minnesota Wild. 

The former Ranger has been on fire with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League this season as he's scored five times and has eight points in 12 games.

Dewar has just 22 shots this year with Iowa, which makes his five goals that much more impressive. Connor was taken 92nd overall in the 2018 NHL draft. 

After a weekend split to open a 24 game season Regina, the Brandon Wheat Kings are back on the ice on Tuesday in game action as they battle the Prince Albert Raiders for the first time this season.

Brandon lost to Moose Jaw on opening night before they bounced back on Saturday to beat their provincial rival Winnipeg ICE, 3-2. Tyson Zimmer -- Brandon's sixth overall pick in 2019 -- played in both games and he was a +1 in Saturday's win. Growing up just about two hours away from Brandon in Russell, Man., Tyson spent many nights in the Wheat City cheering on the Wheat Kings and it's been his goal for a long time to make it to the Western Hockey League.

And that goal, as you know, has been completed as the 16-year-old now prepares for his third game with Brandon, against the defending WHL champions.

"My whole family has done everything to put me here and help me get here," said Zimmer from Regina. "I can't thank my entire family and all of the coaches over the years, I wouldn't be here without them."

Zimmer wasn't thrilled with how he played in game number one as he says there were many nerves before the game and during it as well. But as the clock advanced nearly 24 hours from game one to game two, Tyson was feeling better and it showed on the ice.

"I felt more like myself, I was really calm," stated Zimmer. 

The Moose Jaw Warriors and Saskatoon Blades lead the East Division after opening the season with two straight wins. While this season isn't purely about wins and losses because it's a developmental season, it is guaranteed that any time a team hits the ice, they're looking for two points.  

Zimmer knows he has a ton to learn at the WHL level. The good thing is he's only 16 and the rookie Wheat King understands and respects the process that it will take to become a top-tier elite player. Tyson has already proved he can score at the junior level, as he scored four times and added four assists in 10 games to start the season with Waywayseecappo. 

"I'm just trying to take in how the veterans play, they know how to play in this league, and how to stay in the lineup," ended Zimmer. "Being on this team is a huge thing for me and I want to do everything I can to help this team win games."

Troy Quinn's stop in Swan Valley was short -- it lasted just one season -- but it nearly ended with a league title. From Nepean, Ont., Quinn joined the Stampeders in the 2018-19 season after playing the previous season with the Cornwall Colts of the Central Canada Hockey League. 

The Stampeders won 42 games that season and their 89 points earned them second place heading into the playoffs. Quinn scored five times while adding 19 assists in 40 games. 

"That was probably the closest group of players that I have ever played with, everyone was super tight-knit, and that was awesome," said Quinn. "The community also built around us, the entire town changed, and we became something. I know it didn't end how we would have hoped, but the whole year is one I won't forget."

Troy had another two goals and seven assists in 17 playoff games as the Stampeders were just one win away from winning a championship.

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Following the run with Swan Valley, Quinn joined the Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Hockey League before he was traded to the Flin Flon Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The Bombers were one of the favourites to win the league when the season was ended because of COVID-19. 

While in Flin Flon, Quinn would commit to the University of Wisconsin-Superior where he would join the hockey team as they play in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. And after losing in game seven and not getting his chance in Flin Flon, Troy finally got the chance to lift a trophy. The Yellowjackets came back from a two-goal deficit as they beat UW-Stevens Point, 3-2 in the final. 

"Losing that chance in Swan and not even getting the ability in Flin Flon last year, I'm so happy we won it," ended Quinn. "We had such an incredible group, it's an amazing feeling to finish it off and win a title.

The baseball season in Dauphin is right around the corner and registration opens on Sunday. After running a season last summer in unprecedented times, Dauphin Minor is looking forward to another summer on the diamond.

The hope is that restrictions continue to loosen so teams in Dauphin can play more teams from across the province, opposed to only teams within the Parkland like last summer. 

Registration runs until April 9 and there is no late registration this season which means if you want to play this summer, you have until April 9 to register. Here are the fees for the different age groups.

RALLY CAP (2014/15/16) - $75

U9 GRAND SLAM (2012/2013) - $95

11U (2010/2011) - $170

13U (2008/2009) - $180

15U (2006/2007) - $190

18U (2003/2004/2005) - $180

Jodie Romanow says registering to play this season gives all players a great chance to make some new friends while getting outside and having fun.

"It's a great opportunity to get out, get active, and play an organized sport," said Romanow, President. "Baseball Manitoba did a tremendous job with its return-to-play plan which keeps all players safe."

Dauphin Minor is also looking for coaches, managers, and safety coordinators and you can register as a staff online. Identification camps will be held in the last two weeks of April with games beginning on May 15. The season will end for most players on June 23. However, Jodie is hoping regionals and provincials can be held which would make the season longer for players. 

Looking forward, Saturday, June 5 will be a special day to remember as Dauphin Minor runs 'Vic Fron Memorial Day'. Dauphin Minor's plan is to host a one-day jamboree that will focus on umpire appreciation and sportsmanship.

"We understand that in this ever-changing world of COVID-19, our plan may have to be adjusted along the way," said Dauphin Minor in a release.

The Edmonton Oil Kings are the class of the Central Division right now after four straight wins to begin the season — in which they have scored 21 goals — while giving up just six.

The WHL’s U.S. Division will begin its 24 game schedule on Thursday, March 18 when the Portland Winterhawks battle the Tri-City Americans. The B.C. Division; meanwhile, begins on Friday, March 26.

In the prairies, the Eastern Division is just days away from beginning a season like none other, as the Central Division already has.

All seven teams are now inside the Regina hub which includes the Brandon Wheat Kings who arrived at their dorm rooms this past weekend. Brandon will play every one in their division four times beginning with a game against the Moose Jaw Warriors on Friday afternoon at 4:00 CST. The 24 game campaign wraps up less than two months from now on April 28 as Brandon battles Saskatoon.

The Wheat Kings got on the ice for the first time back on Friday and now, the team’s preparation continues with opening day set for Friday.

Don MacGillivray, Head Coach for the Wheat Kings says everyone came into camp in shape and ready to go.

“It was really exciting to get back at it, you could see all the smiles from everyone,” said MacGillivray. “It’s been a great experience so far and we’re just continuing to get ready to play 24 games.”

This year’s roster of 24 includes 16 returning players, three of which are Lynden McCallum, Marcus Sekundiak, and Reid Perepeluk, the three 20-year-olds on the roster.

Brandon’s top three picks in the 2019 draft have joined the club as Nate Danielson, Rylen Roersma, and Tyson Zimmer will all look to make an impact in this development season, one that at this point, does not include playoffs.

2003-born: Jake Chiasson, Jaxon Dube, Brett Hyland, Logen Hammett, and Jacob Hoffrogge.

2002-born: Ridly Greig, Riley Ginnell, Nolan Ritchie, Ty Thorpe, Vincent Iorio, and Connor Ungar.

2001-born: Ben McCartney, Jonny Lambos, Chad Nychuk, Neithan Salame, Braden Schneider, Rylan Thiessen, and Ethan Kruger.

Of Brandon’s 22 skaters, only four haven’t played any Major Junior hockey. Tyson Zimmer — the team’s sixth-overall pick in 2019 — hasn’t played in the Western Hockey League before; however, he started this season with the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. In 10 games with them, Zimmer had four goals and four assists.

Between the pipes, the Wheat Kings are very confident in their goaltending duo which includes Connor Ungar and Ethan Kruger.

“I like the mix of our group. We have some young guys, but they’re very talented,” said MacGillivray. “We need our older guys to lead the way and our younger guys to pick up on all their habits and develop as they go.”

Don says practices have been very intense with a solid pace and execution.

Leadership group:

What Braden Schneider has achieved in the past several months has been well documented and all of the recognition the young man from Prince Albert has received has been well deserved.

Beginning with draft day, Braden was taken 19th overall by the New York Rangers. He then entered the Red Deer bubble where he went on to make Team Canada as he helped the Canadians earn silver at the IIHF World Junior Championships.

And when the Brandon Wheat Kings do open up their East Division schedule on Friday, Braden will be wearing the ‘C’ on his jersey as he will serve as the team’s captain.

Ridly Greig and Marcus Sekundiak will serve as alternate captains. Ben McCartney will serve as an alternate captain during home games while Lynden McCallum will wear the ‘A’ during away games.

(Photo Credit - Kelly McGuinness - Brandon Wheat Kings)

The five have combined to play 789 games in a Brandon Wheat Kings jersey. Ben McCartney has scored the most goals at 48 while Ridly Greig has lit the twine 40 times. In all, the five have scored 142 goals and added 229 helpers combined. Seven more goals and 12 assists have been added in 39 playoff games.

Schedule:

It is without a doubt a very busy one for all East Division teams. Brandon plays 10 games from this Friday to the end of the month and the remaining 14 games will be played over 28 days in April.

The Wheat Kings only have three back-to-back games in as many nights, starting this weekend with Friday’s game against Moose Jaw before they battle Winnipeg on Sunday which will go down as the first ‘All-Manitoba’ battle of the season.

MacGillvray says that after a year of waiting, the Wheat Kings are ready to hit the ice in a game.

“Everyone is very excited to start playing games,” ended MacGillivray. “Our goal is to translate our practices into games because we really like how we have looked at practice. It’s going to be a new feeling with no fans in the stands, so it’s going to be a unique experience for all of us.”

Tyler Carefoot and Rick Freese came together this season with one goal in mind, put together the best possible team with the top talent from around the Parkland region.

After holding conditioning camp back in the summer, the Rangers proceeded with their tryouts and the team that came out of it was extremely promising. With a great group of 15-year-olds to go along with the 16-year-old and 17-year-olds, Parkland believed they could make some noise.

And that's exactly what they achieved. The team won six of their first seven games of the season and they were atop the standings when the season was paused back in November. Months after that pause was first announced, the Rangers are back on the ice; however, they aren't preparing for a Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League game because the season has been suspended.

Despite the disappointment that the season has ended, Tyler Carefoot says being back at the rink is a wonderful feeling.

"You walk in the dressing room and see all the guys, you can't help but put a smile on your face," said Carefoot. "Sport and recreation mean so much to a lot of people. It's tremendous to have the group together."

Among the players practicing with the team is Brayden Kohlman who put up 11 points in the team's seven games, tied for the most on the team. Kohlman has committed to join the Neepawa Natives next season. Trey Sauder of Swan River has signed his letter of intent with Swan Valley and he's also practicing. 

The team will continue practicing every Tuesday and Thursday until the end of the month. Although they aren't practicing to prepare for a game, Tyler Carefoot says everyone is working extremely hard.

"These are the kids that have aspirations of playing higher-level hockey, so we're glad they can get back on the ice," said Carefoot. "Every day is about getting bigger, stronger, and improve your game. 

As it was discussed with Peter Woods from Hockey Manitoba previously, masks must be worn by all players and coaches on and off the ice. This rule was put in place by Public Health officials. It's not a rule embraced by Hockey Manitoba and it's certainly not one embraced by Tyler.

"As excited as we all were to hit the ice, we were all surprised to learn that we had to wear them," said Carefoot. "I would love to know the logic and the rationale behind this decision."

It was one year ago today that the Dauphin Kings returned to Credit Union Place for game three of their first-round playoff series against the Portage Terriers. After dropping the first two games at Stride Place, Dauphin was desperate for a win in front of their home fans.

And Grady Hobbs made it happen. On a mad scramble in front, Hobbs found the puck in the blue paint and put it past Noah Giesbrecht as Dauphin topped Portage, 1-0, in double-overtime to get back in the series.

"I still remember it pretty clearly, Cecconi shot it, and I just found the rebound," said Hobbs, who is still in Dauphin training. "I was kind of surprised to see it go in, it was good to see all the boys celebrating with me."

Ultimately, that was the final game of the playoffs as the sports world was shut down in mid-March because of the novel coronavirus. It was Grady's first goal of the series after he scored 43 times in the regular season.

After deciding to wait one year before heading to Rochester Institute of Technology, Hobbs returned to Dauphin for his fifth season as a King after breaking onto the scene as a 16-year-old in the 2016-17 season. This year's roster was loaded with talent upfront and on the back end and although it was for a short period of time, the Kings even had Trent Miner on its roster, although he never played a game. 

Hobbs was ready to make a big push, but the team only played six games, three of which they won.

"I think this was probably the best roster we've had since I came here back in 2016," added Hobbs. "I was really excited to play with all those guys, it's unfortunate that the season was cancelled. 

Time as a King:

Including the playoffs, Grady played 237 games as a King, 230 of which were in the regular season. Hobbs was always one of the most respected players around the league on and off the ice and he will forever be grateful for the opportunities that were provided to him in Dauphin.

"I really enjoyed my time here, that's why I kept coming back," said Hobbs. "It was an incredible four and a half years, Dauphin is such a great place, and the Kings are such a great organization."

Hobbs scored 78 regular-season goals and he added 81 assists. 

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Grady's preparations have continued throughout the whole pause. While he wasn't able to skate inside for several months, the Deloraine native skated on outdoor rinks and hit the weights as often as possible.

In the fall, he will join the Rochester Institute of Technology Division 1 team. Points were easy to come by for Grady in his final 66 games as a King. He scored 51 goals and added 42 assists for 93 points, an average of just about 1.4 points per game. A true fan favourite, Hobbs knows making the jump up to Division 1 hockey won't be an easy one, but it's one that the former King is ready for. 

"It's not about points for me heading in, I just want to be in the lineup consistently, that's my first goal," ended Hobbs. 

Hobbs' played 230 games (regular-season) with Dauphin and that will go down as the fifth-most behind Brendan Arnold (234), Shane Luke (241), Kyle Lopez (242), and TJ Warkentin (252). 

Many rinks in the Parkland and across the province have removed their ice and shut their doors for the season. Although 10 players can be on the ice at a time, that wasn't enough to save many rinks in the province.

Credit Union Place; however, is one of the rinks that are back up and running. After a near five-month hiatus, the facility opened back up for 1-on-1 instruction and under current Public Health orders, 10 players can be on the ice at one time and coaches may join the players. 

Although restrictions still don't allow games or even full team practices, just the chance to get on the ice with more than a few people is welcomed by most Manitobans while some believe games should be allowed. Peter Woods with Hockey Manitoba respects all decisions made by the government, but he does also believe things could have gone differently.

"Getting back on the ice is certainly a step in the right direction and it is very exciting for so many people," said Woods. "With that said, we're disappointed in some of the decisions and how long they have taken, it seems like all the decisions are made in isolation. It would be helpful if we would have had the opportunity to be in the decision-making process."

Peter knows the government is looking at the bigger picture and not just the hockey world and at the end of the day, he's just happy that rinks have the ability to welcome more players across the province.

While many are still upset that games aren't able to be played, that issue seems small compared to another instruction that has come from the province that has not been welcomed by so many, including Hockey Manitoba. All players and coaches are required to wear masks at all times on and off the ice. Woods wants to assure everyone that it wasn't Hockey Manitoba that decided to make mask-wearing mandatory.

"We don't have a full explanation on this decision," said Woods. "We're required to follow Public Health orders and we're doing so, but that doesn't mean we have to accept them. We're just disappointed about it."

Tyler Carefoot is also questioning why players and coaches must wear masks while on the ice.

"As excited as we all were to hit the ice, we were all surprised to learn that we had to wear them," said Carefoot. "I would love to know the logic and the rationale behind this decision."

Many Rangers are back on the ice practicing inside Credit Union Place and Carefoot says everyone is just making the best of it, despite the confusion as to why they need to wear face masks. 

With no hockey being played for several months in the province, Woods is worried about what kind of effect that may have on participation levels in the province moving forward. 

"Our concern is kids may find something else to do rather than play hockey," ended Woods. "There has been so much stress over the past year, we just want everyone to stay safe and healthy as we prepare for the 2021-22 season.

Barry Trotz is officially in a class that only includes two other people.

Trotz, from Dauphin, coached his 1700th NHL game on Tuesday, becoming just the third coach to achieve the feat. He joins Scotty Bowman and Joel Quenneville.

Barry also led the team to a 2-1 shootout win over Boston on what was a historic day.

Riese Gaber scored his first goal as a North Dakota Fighting Hawk back on December 2 as the team opened up their season against the Miami Redhawks in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference's (NCHC) bubble. 

North Dakota won that game 2-0 and they went on to win another 17 games throughout the season -- one that was played within the conference -- as the team finished with an 18-5-1 record. Gaber notched two multi-goal games, one against Western Michigan, and the other being against Miami. 

The sniper from Gilbert Plains would end up scoring eight goals and he also added eight assists in his freshman season. And his season isn't going unnoticed at all as Gaber is one of three forwards named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. Jake Sanderson, Gaber's teammate is one of the two defenders to make the team. 

"It's always nice to be acknowledged, so I'm happy about that," said Gaber. "Now I'm just focusing on our schedule moving forward."

Back on February 20, Gaber had one assist, North Dakota won 7-1, and that victory gave the team a conference championship. 

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It was the team's second-straight conference title and it came in front of their home fans at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. 

"That was really special, it's a goal that we're going to have every year," stated Gaber. "We're trending in the right direction as we try to win a national championship."

Frozen Faceoff:

By this time next week, we will know who the NCHC champion is as the conference playoffs begin this weekend at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The eight-team single-elimination format begins on Friday at 2:37 p.m. when Colorado College squares off with St. Cloud State, who is ranked number two just behind the Fighting Hawks. 

Five hours after that game, North Dakota battles Miami. The RedHawks won just five games this season and they come in as the eighth-ranked team. But, Gaber knows anything can happen when it's win or go home.

"Every team in our conference is very good, anyone can beat anyone, and we've seen that throughout the year," said Gaber. "We're not taking things lightly and we'll be ready to put our foot on the gas come Friday."

The conference semifinals take place on Sunday while the finals are set for Monday evening. Only the winning team earns a direct berth into the national championship. 

Gaber thoughts:

Riese has always been a scorer, from the moment he held a stick for the first time, he has always found a way to put the puck into the back of the net.

And while things weren't smooth sailing the entire season, Gaber respects the process it takes to become a consistent offensive threat in college hockey, and he looks forward to growing and becoming more dangerous offensively every game while being responsible on the defensive side of the puck as well.

"I think looking at the overall picture, it was a solid season for me," offered Gaber. "With that said, I wasn't completely happy with my season, but I'm only a freshman so I have time."