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Tuesday, January 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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WHL notes: Red Deer’s Presten Kopeck finds success, inspiration back in U.S.

The Red Deer Rebels’ Presten Kopeck writes the initials “A.R.” on his hockey stick before each game.

That’s Kopeck’s way of honoring his former billet mom in Portland, Aimee Rasmussen, who died of cancer on Oct. 7 at age 36.

“It was a relationship that built the first two minutes I met her,” said Kopeck, who was traded from Portland to Red Deer last December. “We kept in touch almost every day in the summer. … She was my second mom in a way.”

Kopeck and the Rebels were struggling this season until they started a tour of U.S. Division teams in early November. Kopeck was part of a pregame ceremony to honor Rasmussen on Nov. 7 in Portland.

Since then, Red Deer has improved from a sub-.500 team to 18-13-3-1, one point behind second-place Calgary in the Central Division. Kopeck, held to eight points in his first 15 games, now has nine goals and 14 assists.

“It’s weird how that works, but after that (Portland) game my playing just took off,” Kopeck told Sean Rooney of the Medicine Hat News. “I started putting up way better numbers.”

Wheat Kings keep rolling

The Brandon Wheat Kings (24-7-3-1) are on pace for 107 points, which would be the most for the franchise since the 1978-79 team set a Canadian Hockey League record that still stands with 125 points.

The Wheat Kings lead the Western Hockey League with 160 goals, topped by Tim McGauley, who already has a career-high 22. Four other Brandon players are averaging at least one point per game.

It’s a quick turnaround for a team that finished 24-40-4-4 two seasons ago.

“We had a great start (16-3-1-0) to the season,” Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon told Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun. “That automatically puts us in a position to be a team that our opponent is going to have those games circled. We’re going to see teams’ best games and that’s fine. That should make our team better.”

The Spokane Chiefs play at Brandon on Feb. 13.

Reinhart named alternate

Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart, the reigning WHL Player of the Year, will serve as alternate captain for Canada’s team at the IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Friday in Toronto and Montreal.

Reinhart is one of 10 current WHL players named to the team. The others are: Eric Comrie, Tri-City; Nic Petan, Portland; Shea Theodore, Seattle; Madison Bowey, Kelowna; Joe Hicketts, Victoria; Josh Morrissey, Prince Albert; Brayden Point, Moose Jaw; Jake Virtanen, Calgary; and Dillon Heatherington, Swift Current.

Fully-stocked Ice hit stride

Reinhart’s Ice own the league’s second-best record (15-4-0-0) since Nov. 1.

Kootenay, which began the season 3-13-0-0, received a boost when Reinhart rejoined the team after a nine-game stint with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Before that, the Ice welcomed the return of 20-year-old Tim Bozon from the Montreal Canadians.

“When Sam (Reinhart) and Bozon came back, it just put everybody right into a role that they could handle,” Ice head coach Ryan McGill told Taylor Rocca of the Cranbrook Daily Townsman. “Not only the ice time, but their role as far as 5-on-5 play goes, power play, penalty kill – it just put everybody in the right spot.”

Big check leads to big delay

Kamloops’ game at Medicine Hat last Wednesday was delayed for more than an hour when a door leading to the ice broke off from the impact of a body check.

Kamloops defenseman Riley Rehill checked Tigers forward Trevor Cox into the boards, breaking off a metal latch holding the door in place. A temporary fix completed in 15 minutes didn’t survive a test by Rehill, forcing a call to a welding crew while house band Mahoney entertained the crowd for another 45-plus minutes.

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