WHL Playoff Update – Round Three Series Tight, Portland Winterhawks Announce Five In The AHL

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Out East, it was thought the Swift Current Broncos would blow past the Lethbridge Hurricanes in easy steps. Having a nearly twenty point advantage at the end of the regular season, along with a top scorer and top goaltender that they had acquired from the Canes at trade deadline, one would think that the Broncos would bury the Canes.

However, Lethbridge had other ideas. The Broncos and Canes stayed scoreless until the second when the Broncos scored a pair to take the lead into the final frame. The Canes replied with two goals in the first half of the third period to tie the game, only to see the Broncos come back less than two minutes later to steal away game one.

Game two saw the Broncos once again hit a two goal lead with both goals occurring a minute apart very early in the game by Giorgio Estaphan who was part of the trade deadline deal for Swift Current and Lethbridge. The Hurricanes came back with three straight goals, one by a penalty shot in the second period to take the lead.

The Broncos scored midway through the third period to tie the game and despite both teams getting chances, the game moved to overtime. Midway through overtime, Estaphan captured his third of the game to give the Broncos a 4-3 win and a two games to none lead in the series with the game reverting to Lethbridge.

Out West, the Tri-City Americans who stormed through the first two rounds in sweeps over Kelowna and Victoria, took their road show to Everett to face the Silvertips. Everett had battled Seattle and Portland in longer series, but boasted the top goaltender in the WHL in Carter Hart. Game one saw the Tips pick up a two goal lead in the first period and looked to be in the driver’s seat. Goals early in the second, both on the powerplay, tied the game up for the Americans. A late goal in the second period was the remainder of the scoring and Everett picked up a 3-2 win.

Game two saw the Tips score first while on the powerplay, before Tri-City found the equalizer. Two minutes later, it was another Everett powerplay that took the lead back heading into intermission. Tri-City tied the game in the second period and topok the lead midway through the third period. The Tips tied the game up just over a minute later, but relinquished that lead just over a minute after that to give the Americans the lead again. A late empty net goal by the Americans sealed the win and a split with the Silvertips with the series now moving to Kennewick for games three and four. 

Meanwhile in Portland, the Winterhawks announced that five players had moved to the AHL for the playoffs. Dennis Cholowski had already made the move, but was joined by Joachim Blichfeld, Skyler McKenzie, Cole Kehler and Cody Glass in heading to AHL teams on what is known as an ATO or Amateur Try Out which protects their status of returning to the Winterhawks. In the case of Kehler, as an overager, he could be signed to a deal, but retained the ATO status as his contract with the LA Kings isn’t in effect until next season.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) under twenty tournament saw Henri Jokiharju being added to Finland’s roster for next month’s tournament. There is some confusion as to whether Jokiharju will return to Portland next year. It is believed he was originally loaned from the Finnish team which is different than an outright draft pick. As a loaned player from Europe, he could be assigned to an AHL team at nineteen as opposed to overage due to the rules governing such imports. More will be known at the import draft as both Blichfeld and Jokiharju were drafted by NHL teams and Blichfeld would return as an overage import to Portland, which is highly unlikely as he would take two roster spots in the WHL. Jokiharju, who was drafted by Chicago, could return to Portland as a nineteen-year-old, but his status is still unclear. Portland would have the opportunity to draft two European imports this year with both current imports in draft status in the NHL. More on this to come. 

The Humboldt Broncos GoFundMe campaign ended on April 18 with a record fifteen million dollars raised.  This is the largest amount ever recorded in Canada and the team has brought in lawyers and accountants to help distribute the resources. They have also started a new foundation to assist in future situations down the road. The Humboldt Broncos Memorial Fund Inc. will transfer the funds from the GoFundMe account and further details on the disbursement  will be posted on https://humboldtstrong.info/contact/. In Saskatchewan, the SJHL continues to play with Nipawin vs Estavan tied at three games apiece with the final game to be held this week. The winner of this series will be crowned Canalta Cup Champions and will play the winner of the Manitoba series (Turnbull Cup) for the Avanet Cup and a berth in the RBC Cup with five teams Pacific, West, Central and East and host team (Chilliwack Chiefs) competing in round robin games for the cup. 132 teams started the journey with less than twenty left to play at this time.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will be the Grand Marshal at this year’s 82nd Avenue Parade of Roses on Saturday, April 28 starting at 9am. Close to 10,000 people line the streets from Eastport Plaza along the two and half mile route to 79th Avenue and Yamhill. More parade participants are requested and can join the Winterhawks Booster Club group by 8am at the entrance to Eastport Plaza on Saturday the 28th.

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