2023 WHL Western Conference Finals Settled, Portland Winterhawks Smartest In The League

Image Credit - Chris Mast / Getty Images

The Portland Winterhawks are not getting a great of hardware throughout the league though possessing a regular season record of 40 wins or better for a decade. However, they recently snagged an award from the WHL that continues to be their defining premise in the league and something they promote heavily while recruiting. 

The Hawks have been named Scholastic Team for 2022 – 2023 after registering 15 college/ university students. The students had two courses, including College Writing and Public Speaking, with 8 of 15 receiving honors for  Clackamas Community College. In addition, eight students attended high school, with seven of those at Beaverton High School. Josh Zakreski, named Winterhawks Scholastic Player of the Year, registered 96% in eleventh-grade coursework, including biology, advanced Mathematics, and English. Average grades were between 84-98% 

The Winterhawks last received the award in 2018-2019, and since 1999-2000, when the award was introduced, they have received the award seven times, more than three times any other WHL team. 

Meanwhile, the Western Conference went to game six, and in the end, Kamloops couldn’t come back and fell 4-2 to Seattle Thunderbirds. 

Kamloops scored first just before the sixteen-minute mark of the first period. Dylan Sydor battled off the puck, firing it from the faceoff dot past Thomas Milic for the lead. 

Jared Davidson shot short side on Dylan Ernst for the only goal of the second period and a tie game. Seattle took the lead when Sawyer Mynio redirected his shot off the elbow of Kamloops’ Aapo Sarell and past Ernst for the first Seattle lead. Kyle Crnkovic padded the lead at the ten-minute mark. Kamloops took a timeout to recharge the troops.  

Matthew Seminoff scored for Kamloops with just over 90 seconds left while on the powerplay to bring the Blazers within one. Just over a minute later, as Kamloops put heavy pressure on the Thunderbirds in their own end, Reid Schaefer lofted a shot from the T-Birds faceoff dot that went in the Kamloops net for the empty net goal, giving Seattle the 4-2 win and the same margin in the series. Seattle outshot Kamloops 43-30 and was blanked on three tries with the powerplay as Kamloops was 1-3. 

With the Manitoba Moose eliminated from the AHL playoffs, the ICE are using the Winnipeg Jets’ home rink Canada Life Centre to host games 1 & 2 this weekend. The larger arena and downtown location may allow them to draw a larger crowd than at Max Bell Centre, where they were lucky to see 1650 fans a game. 

It will be interesting to see how these two will match up in post-season play. The only regular-season meeting was a Seattle overtime win 4-3 on January 11. Dylan Guenther had not yet joined Seattle.  

In the OHL, Peterborough Petes outlasted the North Bay Battalion 3-2 in game seven. Previously the London Knights got past the Sarnia Sting 5-1 in game six, which will pit these two starting on Thursday in London, Ontario. The Petes had just 74 points which put them in fourth place in the Western Conference to the 92 for London in the number 2 spot in the Eastern Conference. 

The QMJHL sees Halifax Mooseheads take on Quebec Remparts, with that series starting May 12 in Quebec City. Halifax squeaked by Sherbrooke Phoenix 1-0 after a goal early in the second period. Halifax was outshot 42-21, but goaltender Mathis Rousseau stopped them all to secure the win. Halifax was down 3-2 in the series, but two successive shutouts, 5-0 the previous night where the shots were tied at 26, and then the 1-0 win allowed Halifax to face Quebec for the rights to be the entrant in the Memorial Cup. The setup is different as both teams hail from the Eastern Conference. The teams play according to points in seeding and do not reseed after round one. 

This year’s Memorial Cup will see a change in points received. A winning team will receive two points regardless of how won, regulation versus overtime. A losing team, no matter regulation or overtime, will receive no points. Another change applying only to the round-robin implemented last year will be a 3-on-3 format in overtime with no media timeouts. However, a dry ice scrape will occur after ten minutes have elapsed should there be a stoppage, and the scrape will only be at the benches and in front of the goaltender’s crease. Five on Five will be in place at the tiebreaker if needed and the semifinal and finals of the Memorial Cup.  

Fans can watch the games on NHL Network from May 25 to June 4, 2023.

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About Stuart Kemp 364 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the Immediate Past President of 15 years of the Booster Club. 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.