As expected. as one gets closer to the final pairing for the WHL title, so to does the quality of opposition and the number of games it will take to get there.
All four teams entered the matchups at 8 wins, 2 losses and though they may have arrived at those records a bit differently than each other, the competition was going to be fierce.
In Vancouver, after Spokane’s destruction of Everett in five games, the pressure was on to have the same result against the Vancouver Giants who flew through the Royals from Victoria rather handily. Spokane had netminder Bailey Brkin between the pipes, while Vancouver countered with the one-two punch of David Tendeck and Trent Miner.
The first game saw Vancouver score once in the first period and twice in the second, including a powerplay goal and once in the third period with the empty net, to take the first game 4-1 over Spokane. With a 31-30 shots-on-goal advantage for Spokane, getting one past Tendeck was nearly impossible. Spokane was not successful on its two opportunities with the man advantage, vancouver with one goal on two chances as the teams battled for every advantage.
Spokane looked to battle back with a two-goal lead in the first and second periods, but it was Vancouver with a goal on the powerplay late in the period and three regular-strength goals also in the final frame that gave Vancouver a come-from-behind 4-2 win and a 2-0 series lead as the two teams head to Spokane for the next pair. If Vancouver can get a split in Spokane, things will be very tough for the Chiefs.
To the Eastern Division where Prince Albert needed to come out strong to thwart any feelings that the next round contenders, the Edmonton Oil Kings, could be the ones to unseat them. As expected, both games held in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan were extremely close and as a result, Edmonton was able to do what they needed as they split the series with the Raiders. The first game was scoreless in the first and third periods with neither team laying claim to a powerplay goal in their combined seven chances and the shots at 26-24 favoring the Oil Kings were often ones that the goaltenders had to be on their toes for. In the end, an early second-period goal just two minutes in held up as the winner as the Raiders shutout the Oil Kings, 1-0.
The second game saw more scoring, with Prince Albert rushing to a two-goal lead early in the first period, only to see Edmonton score twice on the powerplay in the frame to even the game at the end of one. Neither team was able to cash in during the second and the two teams traded goals early in the third, to again stalemate at the end of the third. In overtime, both teams had a shot to win it; just past the fourteen-minute mark, Edmonton was able to get the puck and score on Ian Scott to take the game 4-3 and tie the series at one. With the win, Edmonton gets the split and takes home-ice advantage from Prince Albert as both teams will battle midweek in the Oil Capital.
The Final Central Scouting reports have come out with two Winterhawks listed. Reece Newkirk and John Ludvig have been listed in the top 130 in the world according to the draft. While neither is expected to be taken until the third round, the fact that any team has two listed players on the report is always impressive. The Hawks also have the rights to Bobby Brink who has yet to sign with the Winterhawks. Currently he is number 19, according to the NHL Central Scouting Rankings.