Giants Steal Conference, Dust Finally Settles On Most WHL Teams Except Two

Image Credit - Ben Ludeman /

Though they were snubbed in the bidding for the Memorial Cup 2020, the Vancouver Giants snuck in and captured the Western Conference title, which will give them the home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.

Vancouver was hard pressed in their first match with Kelowna as they eked out a 2-1 win. Kamloops lost against Prince George in Overtime. As of Saturday they hung onto third in the BC Division. Victoria, which won in a shootout over Everett didn’t move anywhere, but going into te postseason, wins are important for the momentum.

The US Division saw Spokane beat Tri City 5-3 in their first game with the Winterhawks idle. That win put them within a point of the Hawks as Portland faces Seattle  and Spokane versus Tri City, which could ultimately decide who has home ice.

Out East, Brandon lost, so they have been eliminated from postseason play. Only Lethbridge and Edmonton are fighting it out for top spot in the Central Division, but Edmonton had the advantage with two games to just one of Lethbridge. Edmonton won and kept Lethbridge at bay with a follow-up win and will be the overall tops in the Central Division.

Saturday night was a big one with Kamloops getting a win 4 -2 over Prince George and Kelowna only able to salvage a point in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Vancouver Giants, which meant the two teams were in a dead heat. Tuesday, the two teams will face off in Kamloops as they won the season series with it all on the line. Win and play some more; lose and take the summer off.

Seattle won a 5-2 decision over Portland, who welcomed back Matt Quigley after quite some time away but still had to deal without Kade Nolan, Cody Glass and John Ludvig. It made line juggling happen again. Portland had a tough time in the game outshout 11-3 in the first 10 minutes and allowing a goal early in each of the periods. Portland did make it interesting with a pair of goals by Jared Freadrich and Josh Paterson, but the dagger happened on a breakaway that saw the puck initially stopped by Shane Farkas, but it dribbled over his shoulder into the net for the lead. Seattle added an empty-net goal to seal it 5-2. Portland did outshoot Seattle 47-38 with the strongest period being the third; however, it was too little, too late for the Hawks to mount a big comeback.

Both teams scored one goal apiece on five power plays each. Spokane trounced Tri City 10-,1 which gave them a point up on Portland.

Sunday the waters were calmer as only Portland versus Seattle would have made any difference in movement. Portland scored four goals in the first, but they were countered by Seattle with goals on its own and two goals of three on the powerplay to the Winterhawks two on four chances. Seattle’s big three-goal third period, put the Hawks in a hole and even a late goal by Jared Freadrich to give Joachim Blichfeld the WHL scoring title wasn’t enough to propel the Hawks.

Seattle ended up holding on for a 6-5 win. Again Portland outshot Seattle 45-33 but comes away with no points for its efforts. Portland now plays Friday and Saturday in Spokane with games Tuesday and Wednesday in Portland, Saturday in Spokane, Monday in Portland and Wednesday in Spokane. The latter three are only if necessary.

With the schedules now set, here are the matches for the playoffs.  In the East, Prince Albert will face Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon will face Moose Jaw Warriors, Edmonton Oil Kings will host Medicine Hat Tigers and Lethbridge will be at home to the Calgary Hitmen. Out West, Vancouver Giants will face Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett Silvertips will face Tri City Americans,  Spokane Chiefs will host the Portland Winterhawks and Victoria Royals will get either Kamloops or Kelowna to visit them with that decision happening this Tuesday.

It was also the last-ever game in Cranbrook for the Kootenay Ice. With a crowd of almost 2600, the Ice won 5-4 as they came back with three straight goals in the second frame, saw Red Deer tie it and Kootenay salted it away with just over five minutes remaining in the game. The stars of the game went to two overage players and the top star was listed as the fans of Cranbrook that kept the team in the hunt for twenty-one years. The move will happen in the offseason and will see them land in Winnipeg. Swift Current will join the Central Division next season to make the divisions more balanced. The Winnipeg Ice will play a couple of seasons at the University of Northern Manitoba while a 5,000-seat arena is being constructed in the south part of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Ice Chips: For those who have the WHL Live packages, the Kamloops versus Kelowna game is a free bonus this Tuesday. Portland handed out its awards before the game. The overage players were recognized, Cody Glass was named the Booster Club Memorial Most Popular Player of the Year winner, John Ludvig was named the Jann and Robert Boss Best Defensive player, Seth Jarvis was the Rookie of the Year, Jared Freadrich was named the Sportsmanship and Team Ability winner, Clay Hanus picked up the Scholastic Player of the Year award, Character, Leadership Heart and Soul award went to Jake Gricius and Cody Glass. Joachim Blichfeld was the MVP as he also won the scoring race of the WHL with the Bob Clarke trophy.

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About Stuart Kemp 294 Articles
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.