Round 1 Of The WHL Playoffs Start With Few Surprises

Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs

The much anticipated Spokane Chiefs vs. Portland Winterhawks started fine for the Hawks, as Jake Gricius opened the scoring on the powerplay, midway through the first period, which gave them a 1-0 lead after twenty minutes and a huge shot advantage.

John Ludvig returned to action after an injury and was assessed a game misconduct and check to the head major toward the end of the period. Ludvig would receive a two-game suspension from the WHL, which would mean he would miss Saturday and Tuesday’s games.

Spokane scored on the extended powerplay early in the second with all three of their goals in the second period occuring with the man advantage. Spokane added two more even-strength goals early in the third period, before Joachim Blichfeld scored a powerplay goal of his own late in the third period to stop Spokane’s goal scoring streak and perhaps give the Hawks some momentum as they head into game two.

Thirteen penalties were assessed in the game with eight-man advantage opportunities going Spokane’s way and five to Portland. Portland shot Spokane 36-22, but it was the powerplay chances of Spokane’s that hurt the Hawks the most. In the end it was Spokane with a 5-2 decision

Everett handed Tri City a 6-1 loss, Vancouver destroyed Seattle 7-1, Victoria shutout Kamloops 4-0. In the East The Prince Albert Raiders shutout Red Deer 3-0, Saskatoon barely got by Moose Jaw 4-3, Lethbridge needed overtime to beat Calgary 3-2.

Saturday saw all teams play as Edmonton versus Medicine Hat started their series with just one game on Sunday that being the same two teams.

Without Ludvig and Glass Portland had to focus which was no small task. An errant pass by Hofer, left the net open for Spokane which they made no mistake with and led 1-0 after the first period. Midway through the second, Spokane was given a chance in the front of the net, which they buried to lead 2-0. Josh Paterson found a shot from the left faceoff dot that passed a screen and Bailey Brkin for a 2-1 Spokane lead at the end of the second. Portland’s Lane Gilliss added another as he used the mess in front to score. Just over a minute later, Josh Paterson added his second of the night which gave Portland their first lead in the game and the series. Just under four minutes later Mason Mannek increased Portland’s lead. Spokane added another just before they pulled their goaltender which gave Matthew Quigley a shot and a goal in the empty net to end the game at 5-3 and a split in Spokane. This game saw absolutely no penalties a stark contrast to the previous night with thirteen power plays called.

Seattle scored twice in the first and third to beat Vancouver 4-1. Everett scored a 4-3 win over Tri City with The Tips getting 4 consecutive goals in the first and second periods. That game saw a near bench brawl in the third period and rough stuff in the second with a total of thirteen power plays in that game, which will probably be carried over into Tri City.

Kamloops used overtime to beat Victoria 4-3  to knot that series. In the East Prince Albert scored a 6-4 decision over Red Deer after scoring three in the first and third periods. Lethbridge scored a 4-1 win over Calgary after collecting the first four goals in the game. Saskatoon scored in the second and third periods to grab a lead in the game 3-1 and a series stranglehold. Medicine Hat scored their goals in the second period  and saw a late goal by the Oil Kings to make things interesting.

On Sunday Edmonton gave up the first two goals to their one in the first and traded goals in the second, but score the final two in the third to take the game 4-3. After almost doubling them in shots at 41-21 and strong power plays from both teams, the series are pretty much all tied or very close in the scores.

The series now shift to the “lower placed teams” on Tuesday. Out East Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Lethbridge hold a 2-0 series lead while the Oil Kings versus Medicine Hat is also tied at one. In the Western Conference, only Everett holds a 2-0 series lead. The others Portland/ Spokane, Kamloops/ Victoria and Seattle/ Vancouver are tied at one.

Ice Chips: Joel Hofer signed an entry level deal with St Louis after being drafted in the fourth round. Hofer, who will join the Hawks as a nineteen year old, has played in the past two games in the playoffs and is poised to be the top netminder of the team going forward.

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About Stuart Kemp 343 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.