It's an exciting time for many as the Parkland U18 Rangers will hit the ice in game action on Friday, October 16. Late last week, the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League announced its Phase 2 of the Return-to-Play plan which highlights the changes that will be in effect for the 2020-2021 season.

A couple of changes include the number of games played. A modified 36-game schedule will be used for each team and teams will be split into divisions. The West Division will include the Rangers who will be joined by the Yellowhead Chiefs, Brandon Wheat Kings, and Southwest Cougars.

The Central Division includes the Central Plains Capitals, Pembina Valley Hawks, Interlake Lightning, and the Eastman Selects. The East Division includes the Winnipeg Bruins, Winnipeg Thrashers, Winnipeg Wild, and Kenora Thistles. The Norman Northstars aren't in a specific division. 

Rick Freese who will coach alongside Tyler Carefoot had this to say on the news.

"We're really looking forward to our main camp later this month, this is great news," said Freese. "I know a ton of players are chomping at the bit and Tyler and I are as well. We're just happy that we're going to play a season, even though the schedule is a little bit smaller than normal."  

Playing 36 games cuts off a quarter of the team's normal schedule as all member Clubs would play 48 games in a normal season. 26 games were needed to make the playoffs last season in a 48 game season. With 36 games ahead, a number lower than that could be expected but regardless of the number of wins it takes, Freese knows how important it will be to get off to a solid start.

"We know the importance of it and I know we're ready to rock and roll here," continued Freese. "Some of these kids have shown their commitment at our conditioning camps that we've been running and that's a positive moving forward."

Ahead of their training camp, the Rangers were very well represented this past weekend as the Dauphin Kings held the Prospects Camp. The first two days consisted of drills and scrimmages which were followed by an intrasquad game on Sunday which was decided when Aidan Brook scored the game-winning goal with just 48 seconds left on the clock. 

In that game, Brayden Dube, Carter Zalischuk, Kyan Grouette, and Jayden Jubenvill all scored goals and the four will all be at Rangers camp later this month. Keaton Ziprick was great in net making 20 saves while Rylan Gibbs and Madden Murray picked up the assists. It's safe to say that many Rangers made great impacts over the weekend and that's what many are expecting to happen throughout the season.

"We had some guys that looked really good and it showed that they worked extremely hard this summer and we're always taking note of that," ended Freese. 

The one final hurdle the league needs to get over for the season to begin on October 16 is approval from Hockey Manitoba. 

Austin Dobrescu has been a force in the Manitoba amateur golf scene over the past two years. He won back-to-back match play championships with last year being at Quarry Oaks and he defended his title earlier this summer at the St. Charles Country Club.

Next year; however, there will be a new match play champion as the Brandonite has officially turned professional, a decision that was made just about a week ago.

"It feels pretty good to know that I'm a professional golfer right now, I knew the time was coming," said Dobrescu. "There isn't much to play in the winter anyway, so I just thought it was the best time to get it done so I did."

Then shortly after turning pro, Dobrescu made his debut in the Canada Life Series which is hosted by the Mackenzie Tour. The Mackenzie Tour is under the PGA Tour umbrella and it's two stages below the PGA Tour with the next step being the Korn Ferry Tour.

Due to the novel coronavirus, the Mackenzie Tour cancelled its summer season. However, a Canada Life Series was created which is a four-event stop, two of which were played in British Columbia while the final two events are played in Toronto.

The points leader at the end of the four events earns a spot in the RBC Canadian Open next summer and full status next season on the Mackenzie Tour. The third event was played at TPC Toronto: Heathlands Course and Austin is now 1-for-1 when it comes to making cuts as a professional.

After opening the tournament with a 2-under, 69, Dobrescu shot a 71 on day two as he made the cut by five strokes. A final round of 3-over, 74, finished him at 1-over for the tournament and that put him in a tie for 29th. The event was won by Albert Pistorius who ended at 8-under.

"I definitely played solid. The conditions were pretty tricky with a lot of into the wind shots and crosswinds," added Dobrescu. "I wasn't very familiar with the course. I played a lot better during the first two days, but I still played pretty well on the third day, I just didn't get any breaks."

Austin now has hopes of playing in this week's event, but he's currently on the waiting list as the first alternate. He was the 7th alternate last week and he ended up getting a spot so he's very confident that he will get the chance to tee it up this week. 

After this week, Austin will turn his sights on Q-School as he'll look to earn status on the Mackenzie Tour next summer. Dobrescu will choose a site and look to make the number that is required to earn status. With one successful cut under his belt, the Brandonite knows he has what it takes to compete at the next level.

"If I sharpen a few things up, I'll be very competitive out here," ended Dobrescu. "I just have to keep grinding and working on my game and I feel like I'll earn some type of status next summer."

The Tampa Bay Lightning were fresh and they made the most of it on Sunday night. 

Riding the momentum of a big win against Philadelphia, it wasn’t enough for Ryan Pulock and Barry Trotz.

The Lightning lit up the scoreboard in an 8-2 win to take a 1-0 series lead.

Pulock played more than 21 minutes, more than anyone on the team. 

Aidan Brook is back in the Parkland and he was the hero on Sunday afternoon. 

The Roblin native scored the game-winner as Prospects Camp came to an end with an intrasquad game that was full of excitement.

It was Brook's first of the game as Team Blue skated off with a thrilling 4-3 win. The goal was scored with just 48 seconds left. Madden Murray and Rylan Gibbs picked up the assists.

Prior to the goal, Team Blue opened up a 3-0 lead and it started with a goal from Jayden Jubenvill who calls Gilbert Plains his home.

Kyan Grouette would make it 2-0 early in the second before he picked up an assist later in the period as the team was up by three.

Roblin's Brayden Dube started the come back for Team White with his first early in the third and Dauphin's Kevin Chrisp brought the game within one shortly after.

Later in the period, Carter Zalischuk would tie the game up and it looked like overtime was on the way, until Brook sealed it late.

Keaton Ziprick was phenomenal in net as he went 20-for-20 in the first 30 minutes of the game.

The Kings will now host main camp in a couple of weeks time.

Ryan Pulock chipped in an assist and the New York Islanders have set up a best-of-seven winner advance to the Stanley Cup Final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Backed by an overall lockdown defensive performance across the board, the Islanders skated by the Flyers, 4-0, to win the series in seven games.

The Islanders also began this series with a 4-0 win and they won their last game last series by the same scoreline.

Both Tampa Bay and New York will now leave the Toronto bubble and head to Edmonton where the Eastern Conference alongside the Western Conference Finals will take place.

For the first time since the 2002-2003 season, the Manitoba Junior Hockey League will operate with 12 teams.

The league announced that an expansion franchise has been awarded to 50 Below Sports + Entertainment for the upcoming 2020-2021 season which is slated to begin on October 9. 50 Below Sports + Entertainment is the company that owns the Winnipeg Blues (MJHL) and the Winnipeg ICE (WHL).

“50 Below Sports + Entertainment, along with all of our member clubs, have really stepped up and put the players first to provide safe and competitive development conditions,” said Kevin Saurette, MJHL Commissioner. “These are trying times as teams continue with necessary preparations for the difficult season ahead as we are all committed to developing our players in a safe, structured, and responsible environment.”

50 Below Sports + Entertainment has also announced that they will have more exciting news in the coming days regarding its newest MJHL Franchise. 

The team will be based in the Winnipeg market.

In other news, the MJHL has said it will release the schedule for the upcoming season next week. Main camps are slated to open on September 18 with each team having a maximum of 34 players. 

Day one of Dauphin Kings Prospects Camp has officially come to a close inside Credit Union Place.

41 players and four goalies hit the ice for a pair of drill sessions on Friday afternoon which was followed by two scrimmages on Friday evening. 

"The 2005 draft picks that are here look really good, some of their skillsets is extremely impressive," said Doug Hedley. "Aidan Brook from Roblin looked really solid on both ends of the ice and a lot of players did a solid job. It just proves that these players worked hard in the summer."

Keaton Ziprick played in the first scrimmage of the day on Team Yellow and he was very impressive. He also shut the door in a shootout which followed regulation play and you can check out the shootout here.

Ziprick was an all-star last season with the Parkland U18 Rangers and he also earned his first MJHL win with the Dauphin Kings against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines, a team he grew up watching.

"He took in three sessions so he faced a lot of pucks and he looked really good," said Hedley. 

The last session of the night included some more Parkland talent including Brook. Garrett Hrechka was on Team Teal and they handily won their game, 9-1. Hrechka was all over the ice on both sides of the puck. Sean Williams was very impressive as a 2004 draft pick. 

"Garrett had a solid skill session during the afternoon and he had some more opportunities in the game," ended Hedley. "I think Williams was one of the best players on the ice."

Things get going on Saturday morning with another pair of skill sessions before scrimmages take centre stage during the evening.

Here is a full list of Parklanders that are suiting up this weekend.

Hayden Lacquette, Zach Boychuk, Carter Zalischuk, Rylan Gibbs, Keaton Ziprick, Kylar Swanton, Aidan Brook, Garrett Hrechka, Brayden Dube, Kevin Chrisp, Marco Bodnarski, Jayce Legaarden, Drake Pahl, Kyan Grouette, Madden Murray,  Zach Grouette, Jayden Jubenvill, Cole Delamare, Skylar Carriere, Kayden Bodnar.

Just a reminder that no fans are permitted in the stands this weekend. 

Morgan Geekie played two games in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League with the Neepawa Natives in the 2014-2015 season where he scored once and added one assist. That was also the same season where he scored 27 times and added 36 assists with the Yellowhead Chiefs and it was also the year he made his Western Hockey League debut with the Tri-City Americans and he played 11 games with the WHL Club that season.

That start in Tri-City has ultimately led Morgan to some pretty special things including becoming a Calder Cup Champion and he's now also played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. From small-town Strathclair, Geekie has worked tirelessly over the years and his family has been right by his side the entire time. His brother Conor and Noah Geekie were both all-star hockey players. Conor now plays with the Winnipeg ICE of the WHL while Noah has chosen the baseball path as he's set to join the Emporia State University Hornets in Kansas. 

Craig Geekie is the father and he's played in the WHL before as well as had a short stint professionally so the Geekie family is well known in the sports world, but at the end of the day, it's hard work that pushes a person over the edge and Morgan has given his all since day one.

In his last season in the WHL with the Americans, Geekie put up 111 points in 82 games in the 2017-2018 campaign. 27 of the points came in a 14 game playoff run that the Americans went on. 

Junior Days numbered:

It was a tough ending to what turned out to be a very solid junior career for the Strathclair native as the Americans lost in six games to Everett in the Western Conference Final. Geekie had one goal and went 8-for-17 from the faceoff dot in the 6-5 overtime game five loss. But staying positive, Geekie looked past what had happened and he focused on the future as he joined the American Hockey League's Charlotte Checkers in the 2018-92547423 874348489655215 6732281612081299456 n 22019 campaign and he immediately became an everyday guy. In 73 games in his rookie professional campaign, Geekie scored 19 times and added 27 assists, but that was just the start of what turned out to be a year he won't ever forget.

After a 51-17-7-1 regular season, Charlotte were favourites to win the title and they did just that as they rolled through the competition to win the Calder Cup. In the fifth game of the final against Chicago, Morgan scored one goal and had one assist in a 5-3 win. 

In the playoff run, Geekie scored eight goals and had 10 assists for an 18 point total in 19 games. Combine that with his 27 playoff points with Tri-City the season prior and Geekie had 45 points in two playoff runs, one which led to a championship.

"That was definitely one of the most special years of my career so far and I'll never forget it," said Geekie. "We had such a great group of guys that played so well together. Our coaching staff was also unbelievable, they believed in us that we could win a championship and we wanted to reward them for believing in us."

NHL comes calling:

The sports world came to a screeching halt in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus. All professional sports were sidelined alongside amateur sports and everything in between. Before that, Morgan accomplished another feat that he won't forget. He got the call-up to the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes ahead of a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That meant that his first NHL game was coming against the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, just to name a couple, and what a debut it was.

In a 6-2 win, Morgan potted two goals and added one assist for a three-point performance in his NHL debut.  Geekie learned of his first NHL recall from Charlotte Checkers head coach Ryan Warsofsky on Saturday, March 7. He figured he was going to the coach's office to work through some pregame video. He left the office phoning his family, sharing the good news.

He hopped on a flight out of Charlotte at 8 p.m. that day and landed in Pittsburgh later that night, the rest of the team had already arrived from Long Island earlier in the evening. Morgan's family was also in attendance. 

"It was kind of a whirlwind. Getting that call, ending up on a plane, and then getting into town, I don't think I slept much that night," said Geekie. "It's one of those things that you know who you're playing against, those guys have had storied careers. There were some nerves but I was just trying to go out to help the team win a game."

"It was incredible having my family and my girlfriend at the game," offered Geekie. "The guys in the room were incredible and they helped me learn the systems. Everything just seemed to align perfectly for that one."

Bubble:

Back in late May, the National Hockey League announced its Return-to-Play Plan which would include a modified 24 team playoff format. Fast forward to mid-July and the NHL announced that two hub cities were named. The 12 Eastern Conference teams would begin in Toronto while the 12 Western Conference teams would begin in Edmonton with the Conference Finals in both Conferences and Stanley Cup taking place in Edmonton.

Being a member of the Hurricanes, Geekie found himself in the Toronto bubble as teams began to arrive at their hotels just a couple of weeks after it was announced that Toronto and Edmonton would play as hub cities. A week after entering the bubble, the Hurricanes began their first-round best-of-five series against the New York Rangers.

"The NHL did a great job of giving us everything we needed. We had to sign into this app and take our temperature every day, I think the league did a great job," said Geekie. "There was a golf simulator and some other activities for us and we had our own floor. It wasn't an ideal situation for anyone, but I think it was handled very well."

Carolina would make quick work of the Rangers as they swept them in three games which advanced them to the Sweet 16 and gave them a date against the Boston Bruins.

"New York was a good team, but we prepared well for them and our coaching staff did a great job in getting us ready for what was to come," offered Geekie. "We went out, got a couple of bounces, and found a way to get it done."

Geekie and the rest of the Hurricanes were bounced from the playoffs with a five-game defeat against the Bruins who lost to Tampa Bay earlier this week. 

"They capitalized on their chances. We had some tough injuries at a bad time, but that happens to many teams," said Geekie." The series just didn't go our way, Boston is a very good team and they got the job done."

Family time:

Morgan is now back home spending lots of time with his family and of course, his girlfriend who has been right by his side during this journey. He will take some time off before he ramps things up again with a goal of cracking the Hurricanes roster from the get-go next season. He's already made plenty of noise with the team already and that was just a small sample size of what most believe will be an extremely successful career.

"That's definitely the goal I set for myself heading into camp whenever that may be," ended Geekie. "I'm just going to go in and earn every inch that is up for grabs. I know there are so many guys battling for spots, I just have to battle harder and work my hardest and we'll see where the chips fall."

The Swan Valley Stampeders took a look into the future earlier this week inside of the Centennial Arena.

The Club held their Prospects Camp on Tuesday and Wednesday as a lead up to their main camp which is slated to begin on September 18. Two teams were split up with two goalies each, five defenceman each, and nine forwards with a ton of Parkland content on hand.

The list of Parklanders included Kristen Moshenko, Tyson Eisner, Will Munro, Trey Sauder, and Bo Eisner, just to name a few.

"It was awesome, we had a great group of guys that were committed and they wanted to learn," said Barry Wolff, head coach, and general manager. "It was a fun day two days for us."

The two days were full of drills and scrimmages. 

"It was a chance for us to get to know these prospects more," offered Wolff. "They also had the chance to get comfortable with their surroundings so when they come back, they know they're coming into."

As noted above, the Stampeders will now switch their focus to main camp which will begin on September 18 and run through the 20. After that, a short preseason schedule will follow which leads up to Opening Day across the MJHL on October 9.

The Stampeders advanced to the league final two seasons ago and last year, they were up in their series against Waywayseecappo before the season was cut short due to the novel coronavirus.

"We're really eager to get going, I wish it started today," ended Wolff. "It just gives us some extra time to work on things that may get neglected this time of the year so all is good."

Carter Hart stole the show, a former Brandon Wheat King scored the game-winner and things are going the distance in Toronto.

Hart made 49 saves and Ivan Provorov scored the winner in double-overtime as the Flyers edged the Islanders, 5-4.

Ryan Pulock played 36:14, the most of any Islander and second-most behind Provorov.

Game seven goes on Saturday evening. 

Beginning tomorrow and running through Sunday, the Dauphin Kings will run their Prospects Camp inside of Credit Union Place.

The Club's best prospects will come together to show what they have in a weekend full of drills and scrimmages. The event caps off on Sunday afternoon.

In a normal year, fans would be permitted inside of the facilities to watch the action; however, that isn't the case this year as the entire Prairie Mountain Health Region is currently under the "orange" risk category which limits gatherings.

"Fans aren't allowed inside of Credit Union Place this weekend, the Dauphin Kings are following all health protocols," said Christian Laughland, Director of Business Operations."

Players will; however, be allowed one parent or guardian inside the facility at a time. There will be no water fountains and if a parent or guardian enters the facility, a face mask is mandatory. 

Dauphin's season was cut short last year after a double-overtime game 3 win against Portage. The rest of the sports world joined the Kings on the sidelines due to the novel coronavirus and although the virus hasn't gone anywhere, the Kings continue to strictly abide by all health protocols and they're excited to get back on the ice.

"It's great to be back. We have players from all over Manitoba and it's a bit of an injection to the local economy when it comes to hotels, restaurants, and other local establishments." ended Laughland.

Darnell Duff will be on hand throughout the weekend covering the lead up to main camp which takes place in a couple of weeks’ time.