After the first couple of games of the WHL Playoffs, there was a great deal of uncertainty as to the direction some matchups were going. However, the landscape changed significantly following the next pair of games.
Starting in the Western Conference where a bit of a shock occurred for the Kelowna Rockets. Despite holding the best record in the BC Division and facing wild card Tri-City Americans, the Rockets season is over thanks to a four game sweep in Kennewick, WA. After capturing both games in Kelowna, the Americans took game three in a come from behind win and despite a tough battle in game four, the Americans were also able to take that and win their series. They now await the winner of Vancouver and Victoria.
The Portland Winterhawks split their first two games with the Spokane Chiefs in Portland and headed to Spokane for games three and four. Portland picked up a 3-1 win in Spokane in game three, but it was game four where the most excitement came. The Hawks never led the game until midway through the third period. Spokane jumped out to a 2-0 lead early, but the Hawks clawed back with goals by Alex Overhardt and Skyler McKenzie. Spokane took the lead again, but it was a pair of goals by the Hawks that created huge buzz. Joachim Blichfeld scored after some hard work by Overhardt to tie the game. On the faceoff, just seven seconds later, Blichfeld flew into the Spokane end and fired a low knuckleball that fooled Spokane goaltender Dawson Weatherill to give Portland their first lead. Even with all the continued pressure, the Chiefs couldn’t find the equalizer and Portland skated away with a 4-3 win and a 3-1 series lead. They could wrap up the series in Portland this weekend.
Victoria and Vancouver are knotted at two games each after splitting games in Victoria and Vancouver and are guaranteed to play a sixth game on Monday. Game four was the most lopsided of the games thus far with Victoria Royals hammering the Giants 7-2.
The Eastern Conference will not see any sweeps after all. The Brandon Wheat Kings and Red Deer Rebels staved off elimination with victories in game four. The Wheat Kings looked to be on their way out after the Medicine Hat Tigers built up a 3-0 series lead, but the Kings stormed back with a 5-2 win to send the series back to Medicine Hat for game five where they are in a must win situation to force a game six back in Dauphin, Manitoba.
The Rebels also with their backs against the wall, came on the strongest they have been all series and thumped the Lethbridge Hurricanes by a 5-2 margin. That series returns to Lethbridge with the Canes up 3-1 and could end the series before the end of the weekend.
The Moose Jaw Warriors proved why they were the Scotty Munro Champions. After splitting games in Moose Jaw, the Warriors fell behind Prince Albert in game three by a pair of goals, but dug deep to tie the game and send it to overtime where they took all of nineteen seconds to score the game winner. The next night, the Warriors shutout the Raiders by a 2-0 score and lead the series 3-1 heading back to Moose Jaw.
The Regina Pats are doing all they can to keep going in the WHL Playoffs this year. The Memorial Cup hosts split their series in Speedy Creek and did the same in Regina to force the series back to Swift Current and a return to Regina for game six on Monday.
The next round of the playoffs is set for Friday and will keep as much of the divisional matches as possible.