Well it looked like an easy Slam Dunk for Tuesday with Spokane facing Kamloops and having Everett face Portland. Add to that Vancouver versus Seattle and the look from all was Everett trashing Portland, with Spokane cakewalk over Spokane and Vancouver would beat Seattle giving Everett and Vancouver a tie heading to the weekend matches which see Everett and Victoria in a home and home with Kamloops facing Prince George in a home and home and Kelowna against Vancouver in a home and home. Portland will face Seattle in two televised contests as a home and home series Saturday and Sunday.
Only one of the three actually happened and it has caused a major shift atop the Conference standings. Vancouver defeated Seattle 5-1 which put them atop the conference ahead of the outcome of Portland versus Everett. A big shock happened as Kamloops did the same to Spokane with a 5-1 beating which kept them two points behind Kelowna and yet currently out of the playoffs as the WHL mirrors the NHL in playoff format. Portland, which had trouble with Everett and minus several key players, found itself on the winning end of a 4-1 score. The story was simply the play of goaltender Joel Hofer.
Hofer stopped shot after shot, but give Portland it’s due, they also controlled the play as well and kept the Tips and themselves off the scoresheet after one. It was a Reece Newkirk goal early in the second that started the Hawks off. That score kept up until just past the five minute mark of the third period when Jake Gricius knocked one in and suddenly Portland was up 2-0. Late in the third, Everett landed a faceoff in the Hawks zone, won it and stormed the net which resulted in their only goal of the game. Everett started physical battles with the Hawks in trying to weaken them, but to no avail. Portland landed and empty net goal by Jared Freadrich and forty seconds later it was Lane Gilliss who added another empty net goal from his own blueline that gave the Hawks a 4-1 win. Everett tried to maul the players on the ice and even after the game was over, but the Hawks answered those and more as they get the win which now gives them a five point lead with Spokane still having a game in hand which they would use in Kelowna the following night. Everett outshot Portland 37-32 and neither team was able to score on the powerplay with Everett having three chances to Portland’s two. Portland welcomed back Seth Jarvis from his injury from the boarding call assessed to Mark Liwiski of Kelowna Rockets. Still out are Kade Nolan, Matt Quigley, Cody Glass and John Ludvic who may not play in the final weekend games against Seattle.
Currently Vancouver leads the Conference with Everett second Portland will face Spokane still but it is still unknown who will have home ice advantage. Portland has that right now. With the change, Vancouver will face Seattle and Everett will face Tri City. With Kamloops win, it is uncertain if Kelowna or Kamloops will face Victoria and that won’t be known until Saturday at the earliest as even a Kelowna win against Spokane will give them a four point lead but two games against the Giants where Kamloops gets a much easier Prince George team. Of course this could change with the weekend games, so all bets are off. Kelowna lasted until overtime and grabs a point so it stays one ahead of Kamloops. Spokane with the win comes within three points of Portland, but the Hawks hold the season series lead and need just a point to seal their second place finish.
Kamloops did their part in remaining in the mix with an 8-0 devastation of Victoria. Brandon was all but eliminated with a lost against Moose Jaw and a win by Medicine Hat assures the Tigers of postseason play. Red Deer could still be caught by Brandon, but has to lose both games while Brandon has to win both games, Seattle won in overtime to keep themselves in the wildcard mix and have enough points to make it a clean sweep of the US Division with all five teams compared to three in the BC Division. Kelowna’s loss in overtime still gave the Rockets a point which make a huge difference with two games left in the season. Both the Rockets and Blazers are fighting for the third spot, the loser doesn’t play in post season.
The weekend started as a ho hum thinking with teams pretty much assured of their spots Now there is chaos as the top spot in the Western Conference, third spot in the BC Division and who controls home ice in the second place battle with all the teams having to battle through Sunday to be assured of their positions.