WHL Playoff Picture Turns A Little Clearer

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The first two games of each series provided little clarity for who might move forward, but a few series came clean  as the game shifted to the lower seed’s venues.

Out West, Spokane and Portland split the first two games as the series moved to the Rose City. The next two games didn’t work as well as Portland had hoped as the Hawks saw their leads evaporate each night to force overtime.

In the first game, Spokane took nine minutes, the second game took just two as a result of a delay of game call for sending the puck over the glass to record overtime goals as the Chiefs now lead the series 3-1 as the series head back to the Spokane Arena. Portland welcomed Cody Glass to the series for game 5 and his first shot; the Hawks first shot resulted in a goal as Bailey Brkin misplayed the puck, which allowed Cody to score. It was less than a minute later Spokane scored to tie it and despite the Hawks’ strong play in the rest of the first and second periods, the result was no goals. Spokane with a late goal in the first stretched the Hawks thin. Spokane outshot Portland in the final game 39-35 and were one of two on the powerplay while stopping all four chances with the man advantage. That seemed to take all the steam out of Portland.

Until the final game, the Hawks were never at full strength and played a very young group against a team that was expected the win the Division. It was that reason I thought Portland might win this series, In the end, Spokane won the series 4-1.

Everett waited an extra day to have their next pair of games, having won the first pair in Everett. Following a very close overtime game in Tri City and a series lead, Everett completed the series with a shutout in Tri City of 3-0. After scoring in each of the first two periods, Everett added a third period empty-net goal and now after giving Tri City a little life with one win, the final game saw Everett completely dominate to a 9-1 win. Everett takes it in five.

Vancouver split with Seattle both at home and in Seattle, but it took the next two games with a 3-2 win at home and then 5 to 1 over Seattle in Kent. This allowed Vancouver to beat a pesky team from Seattle in six games. Seattle surprised a few teams mostly due to a very strong net performance by Roddy Ross. Ross, who seemed to magically appear, kept his team in the hunt night after night, but he couldn’t do it alone.

The Victoria versus Kamloops series was deadlocked at a pair following a split in each of the two cities. A scary moment happened in the fourth game as Victoria’s Kody McDonald either heard something he didn’t like or snapped as he swung his stick from the bench. Trying to hit a Kamloops player, he instead hit the glasses of the trainer and broke them. After three swings, he was removed from the game with a Match penalty and an unknown future. Victoria scored a powerful 6-1 win over Kamloops in Victoria, but will have to win game six in Kamloops if they want the series, or they will have to head back and play in Victoria. If that happens, there will be just one day of rest until they play again, which will be in Vancouver.

The action moved out east as a couple series ended in four games. As expected, Prince Albert got past Red Deer with them completing the series at the home of Red Deer Rebels. That series ending will see the Raiders face Saskatoon in the next round.

The Blades, after suffering a drought since 2011 with an extension of their season, picked up a four-game sweep of the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Warriors were the last team out in the Eastern Division to get into the playoffs and didn’t last very long. Saskatoon will face Prince Albert in the best of seven starting late next week.

Calgary Hitmen evened up the series with the Hurricanes. After being down in the series, Calgary won both games on home ice and moves the series to at least six games. The Hurricanes, thought by many to be the favorite in the Central Division, will play until early next week to decide a winner. The series has been a rough one with a multiple fight happening while the series was in Lethbridge. Video has surfaced of the game breaking down as the series gets tighter. Calgary played Lethbridge in front of a very small audience, as getting ice time with curling tournaments going, there was a lottery held to get tickets to the game, as Calgary hung on for the 6-5 win. They were unable to close the door in the next game as it became a shootout with Lethbridge winning 7-6 in overtime.

Edmonton Oil Kings knotted their series with the Medicine Hat Tigers after splitting in Medicine Hat and then splitting in Edmonton. The series has seen wild swings in scoring as both teams seemingly get strong in one game and falter the next. After leading the series on Friday with the win in Medicine Hat 5-4, the series waited until Sunday to see the two teams battle again. Like many of the other battles, they stayed tied into the third period; Edmonton had scored first on a short-handed marker, but they gave up three straight to Medicine Hat before they found a way to score twice including an early-third-period goal to tie things up.

With just two minutes gone in the overtime, Medicine Hat’s season was over. Edmonton scored to take the series in six games and now waits on the Calgary versus Lethbridge series, which won’t be played until Tuesday.

Starting Friday, Prince Albert hosts Saskatoon; Edmonton will host either Lethbridge or Calgary.  Everett will host Spokane and Vancouver will host the winner of Kamloops / Victoria. There are many upset that  a top team will knock off another top team in the second round due to the hybrid playoff system. Top teams that go into the final round will face a much lower seed as a result.

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About Author

Stuart Kemp

Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club since 2008 and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.

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