Vancouver Giants part ways with coach

Don Hay’s tenure as head coach of the Vancouver Giants spanned a decade.

His successor’s lasted less than five months.

Vancouver became the second WHL team this season to part ways with its head coach as Troy Ward was fired by the Giants just 25 games into his first season. He joins Prince Albert’s Cory Clouston as coaches who have received the ax.

Ward was hired in July to take over for the legendary Hay. Hay spent 10 seasons with the Giants, winning the league championship in 2006 and the Memorial Cup in 2007, before he and the team parted ways following last season so that Hay could return to the Kamloops Blazers, the team which he guided to Memorial Cup championships in 1994 and 1995. From 2005-07 Vancouver built a heated rivalry with the Everett Silvertips as the teams vied for supremacy in the Western Conference, with the six games between the two teams becoming must-see events.

But Ward, who was hired in July, didn’t even make it to Vancouver’s first visit to Everett this season. He was given the boot with the Giants having a 9-16-0-0 record. After starting the season 6-4, Vancouver had lost 12 of 15.

“Obviously with where we are in the standings, it just wasn’t working with Troy,” Vancouver general manager Scott Bonner said in a press release. “This is the unfortunate part of sports, but we thought change was needed.”

The timing of the firing was particularly odd. Ward was fired last Friday in the middle of Vancouver’s four-game road trip through the Central Division. The announcement came just hours before the Giants faced the Lethbridge Hurricanes. That left Vancouver without a head coach for the final three games of the road trip, as assistant Matt Erhart took over on an interim basis.

On Sunday the Giants announced the hiring of Claude Noel as their new head coach. Noel coached the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets from 2011-14, compiling an 80-79-18 record before being fired in January. He also coached the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets for part of the 2009-10 season, going 10-8-6.

And one can bet the Giants will be hoping Noel can last longer than Ward.

Around the WHL

A total of 14 WHLers were named to Canada’s selection camp for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships. Those players were forwards Nicolas Petan (Portland), Sam Reinhart (Kootenay), Rourke Chartier (Kelowna), Morgan Klimchuk (Regina), Brayden Point (Moose Jaw) and Jake Virtanen (Calgary); defensemen Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert), Madison Bowey (Kelowna), Haydn Fleury (Red Deer), Dillon Heatherington (Swift Current), Joe Hicketts (Victoria), Travis Sanheim (Calgary) and Shea Theodore (Seattle); and goaltender Eric Comrie (Tri-City). … Red Deer made a move to upgrade its oveagers, acquiring 20-year-old forward Riley Sheen and a conditional fifth-round pick in the 2017 bantam draft in exchange for 20-year-old defenseman Devan Fafard and 17-year-old forward Brayden Burke. … Brandon upgraded its back-up goaltending by acquiring 19-year-old Alex Moodie from Saskatoon for a conditional eighth-round bantam pick in 2015. … Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old forward had five goals and one assist as the Winterhawks went 3-0.

Leaders

Points — Rourke Chartier (Kelowna) 48; goals — Chartier 29; assists — Nick Merkley (Kelowna) 38; penalty minutes — Ryan Rehill (Kamloops) 76; wins — Jordan Papirny (Brandon)18; goals against average — Taran Kozun (Seattle) 2.25; save percentage — Eric Comrie (Tri-City) .924.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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