The first round of the WHL Playoffs is complete and round two will get underway this weekend.
Victoria was rattled by Kamloops, but it may have been a match penalty that gave Kamloops the willies after dropping a 6-1 game in Victoria, leading to a game-six in Kamloops.
The only thing to extend the game in Kamloops was broken glass. With getting ready to replace the glass outright to conform with WHL standards of shatterproof, just over five minutes into the game, a pane shattered sending both teams to the dressing room. Another pane shattered midway in the second period and again both teams were sent while it was being repaired. Victoria has built a 4-0 lead heading into the third with Kamloops finally able to break the shutout with a few minutes left to go in the third period.
Victoria will now head to Vancouver to face the Giants in one Western Conference series, while Everett will host Spokane in the other.
In a battle of Alberta, the Calgary Hitmen used the smaller rink in Lethbridge, Alberta to stun the Hurricanes in game seven, 4-2. Calgary had built up a 3-0 lead in the first period and almost saw it evaporate with two goals by the Hurricanes in the second. With just 20 seconds left, Calgary bagged an empty-net goal to prevent the Lethbridge comeback and score the 4-2 win.
Calgary now faces rivals Edmonton Oil Kings in one Eastern semifinal, while Prince Albert hosts Saskatoon in the other. The Hurricanes were forced from the Enmax Center of nearly 6,000 seats to the snug confines of the Nicholas Sheran Arena of 1200 seats including temporary seats due to Bonspiel Curling.
The series will start with Prince Albert and Saskatoon with Victoria travelling to Vancouver. The series will continue as late as Wednesday, April 17, should the series go the full seven games.
The Hawks held their exit interviews as players started heading out; Cody Glass has been assigned #29 with the Chicago Wolves and will be under an Amateur Tryout Contract for the duration of this season as rosters have already been frozen with Trade Deadline for the year. As Cody is now listed as an overage player, he will most likely start with the Wolves next season.
The Hawks will also say goodbye to overage players Joachim Blichfeld, Brendan DeJong and Jared Freadrich, who joined the team at the start of the season. Portland will also have to pair down its overage situation as well. With Cody headed to Chicago, Lane Gillis, Jake Gricius, Josh Paterson, Matthew Quigley and Shane Farkas will all be in the overage category. Each team is only allowed three players. The speculation is that Gricius will be captain next season and with a trade happening to get Paterson, three players will be vying for one spot. Joel Hofer was acquired for six draft picks, which would make him seem like a lock. Dante Giannuzzi at sixteen played a strong goaltending position, which seems to be the direction the Hawks are looking at. The uncertainty is Farkas, who appears to be the odd man out in a two goaltender situation.
Portland conducted its exit interviews with the players within the first few days of its arrival back home and then saw them head off to their next adventures during the summer. The players will return in early August for fitness testing.
The biggest question mark is the status of Don Hay. Hay was brought in at the last minute after refusing an offer from the Kamloops Blazers. He hasn’t worked as an assistant coach since 1997 with the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and even further back if you look at WHL stats with Kamloops in 1991-92.
Hay was instrumental in the trade with Saskatoon with Josh Paterson coming from Saskatoon for Ryan Hughes. Portland also picked up a second-round pick in 2020 and fourth round in 2021 as part of the deal.
All of the other moments since Anaheim were as a Head Coach; one of those was with the Vancouver Giants in 2005-06 when he won a Memorial Cup.
Rumors have swirled since his arrival that Hay will be looking to a behind-the-bench role with Mike Johnston moving up. Johnston added Vice President to his resume in the offseason and currently is the head coach, general manager and Vice President of the Portland Winterhawks.
Don signed just a one-year deal, so we will see what the offseason holds.
While firm dates are yet to be announced, Neely Cup action looks to be starting August 22 through the 24th with the Everett tournament starting a week later. The full schedule will be announced by the WHL in late June.