WHL CONFERENCE PLAYOFF PREVIEW

Apr 03, 2014 - 13:08 GMT

CALGARY, AB – The quest for the Ed Chynoweth Cup and a spot in the 2014 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament in London, ON, continues as the second round of the 2014 WHL Playoffs, presented by Kal Tire, begins on Thursday, April 3rd.

In the WHL Eastern Conference, the Edmonton Oil Kings are in the second round for the third consecutive season, having swept aside the Prince Albert Raiders in Round 1.  The two-time defending Eastern Conference champions will now face the Brandon Wheat Kings, whose high-octane offense helped them sweep the East Division champion Regina Pats in the first round. 

The Medicine Hat Tigers edged out the Swift Current Broncos in a competitive six-game series, allowing them to reach the second round for a sixth straight year.  They’ll face the Kootenay Ice, who knocked out the No. 3 seeded Calgary Hitmen thanks to the efforts of the dynamic duo of Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau.

In the WHL Western Conference, the Scotty Munro Memorial trophy winning Kelowna Rockets, who eliminated the Tri-City Americans in five games, meet a familiar playoff foe in the Seattle Thunderbirds, who needed five games to knock out U.S. Division rivals the Everett Silvertips.

Meanwhile, the defending WHL champion Portland Winterhawks made short work of the Vancouver Giants, sweeping them aside in the first round.  They’ll face a Victoria Royals squad whose stingy defense saw them sweep WHL scoring champion Mitch Holmberg and the Spokane Chiefs.

Here's a look at the second-round WHL playoff match-ups:

 
WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) EDMONTON OIL KINGS vs (7) BRANDON WHEAT KINGS

2013-14 regular-season record:
Edmonton:        50-19-2-1, 103pts
Brandon:           34-29-6-3, 77pts

2013-14 head-to-head record: 
Edmonton:        3-1-0-0, 6pts
Brandon:           1-2-1-0, 3pts

2013-14 head-to-head top scorers:
Edmonton:
Henrik Samuelsson        4gp-2g-5a-7pts
Dysin Mayo                  4gp-0g-5a-5pts

Brandon:
Ryan Pulock                 4gp-3g-3a-6pts
Rene Hunter                  4gp-0g-5a-5pts


 The Edmonton Oil Kings meet the Brandon Wheat Kings in the second round of WHL playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.  Mark Pysyk and the Oil Kings swept Mark Stone and the Wheat Kings four games to none in the second round of the 2012 WHL playoffs en route to the WHL championship.

The Oil Kings needed just four games to knock out the Raiders in the first round, outscoring the Raiders 18-9 in the process.  A balanced attack was a big factor for Edmonton in the opening round, with seven players scoring at least two goals and nine players putting up at least four points in the four-game series.  Defensively, the Oil Kings will have to prepare for a much more potent attack versus Brandon, which put up 24 goals in four games versus Regina.  Defensemen Griffin Reinhart, Cody Corbett and Ashton Sautner will need to find a way to neutralize the likes of Jayce Hawryluk and the Quenneville brothers much the same way they neutralized the Raiders’ Leon Draisaitl in the opening round.  Tristan Jarry performed well versus the Raiders in his first full playoff series, but will need to be even better to stop the Wheat Kings’ collection of sharp shooters.

The Wheat Kings are in the second round for the fourth time in the last six seasons, having knocked out the East Division regular season pennant winning Regina Pats in an opening-round sweep.  Led by Jayce Hawryluk, who netted five goals and 10 points in the opening round, the Wheat Kings have averaged six goals per game in the post-season.  Going up against the WHL’s best defensive team in the Oil Kings, expect the goals to be much harder to come by for Brandon’s snipers. Defensively, the Wheat Kings gave up 12 goals in four games to the high-flying Pats. Now, they’ll have to shut down the Oil Kings, who not only boast offensive depth, but play a much more physical style. 

Series Schedule (All Start Times Local)
#1 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Thursday, April 3 (7:00pm)
#2 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Saturday, April 5 (12:00pm)
#3 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Tuesday, April 8 (7:00pm)
#4 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Wednesday, April 9 (7:00pm)
#5 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Friday, April 11 (7:00pm) **
#6 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Monday, April 14 (7:00pm) **
#7 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Wednesday, April 16 (7:00pm) **
** If Necessary

Saturday's game in Edmonton is a noon start due to a National Lacrosse League game scheduled for later that day.

Tickets to Brandon's first two home games of the series are on sale at the Keystone Centre box office (during the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair), or by calling 726-3555. Fans can also order online at wheatkings.com


(4) MEDICINE HAT TIGERS vs (6) KOOTENAY ICE

2013-14 regular-season record:
Medicine Hat:                44-24-3-1, 92pts
Kootenay:                     39-28-2-3, 83pts

2013-14 head-to-head record: 
Medicine Hat:                3-3-0-0, 6pts
Kootenay:                     3-3-0-0, 6pts

2013-14 head-to-head top scorers:
Medicine Hat:
Trevor Cox                    6gp-3g-6a-9pts
Curtis Valk                    6gp-4g-3a-7pts

Kootenay:
Jaedon Descheneau      5gp-5g-3a-8pts
Sam Reinhart                4gp-1g-6a-7pts

 The Medicine Hat Tigers meet up with the Kootenay Ice for a WHL Playoff series for the first time since the 2010-11 season.  Brayden McNabb and the Ice swept Linden Vey and the Tigers four games to none in the 2011 Eastern Conference Championship series on their way to the 2011 WHL championship.

The Tigers knocked out the Swift Current Broncos in six games in what was a closely-contested first-round series.  Led by Trevor Cox’s three goals and 10 points, the Tigers mustered 15 goals over their six games versus the Broncos.  Aside from Cox, only Curtis Valk, Cole Sanford and Chad Butcher scored more than one goal in the opening round.  On the back end, the Tigers surrendered only 11 goals in six games versus the Broncos, thanks to strong penalty killing and the excellent goaltending of Marek Langhamer.  The Tigers will have to work hard to slow down Ice forwards Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, who piled up a whopping 12 goals and 34 points in their series versus Calgary.  Staying out of the penalty box will also be key for the Tigers as Kootenay’s power play operated at a 30.6% clip in the first round.

The Ice are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season after knocking out the No. 3 ranked Calgary Hitmen in six games in the first round.  Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau’s contributions to the Ice’s success versus Calgary are obvious, with the pair each putting up 17 points in six games.  If those two continue to play the way they have, the goals will come for Kootenay.  Defensively, the Ice gave up 26 goals in six games to Calgary.  Look for the Ice to key in on Curtis Valk and Trevor Cox, who combined for seven goals and 16 points in six regular-season head-to-head games.  If the Ice are to win the series, they’ll have to break the pattern of home dominance between the two Clubs as the home team won all six regular-season meetings.


WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) KELOWNA ROCKETS vs (4) SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS

2013-14 regular-season record:
Kelowna:           57-11-0-4, 118pts
Seattle:             41-25-2-4, 88pts

2013-14 head-to-head record: 
Kelowna:           2-1-0-1, 5pts
Seattle:             2-1-0-1, 5pts

2013-14 head-to-head top scorers:
Kelowna:
Tyrell Goulbourne          4gp-3g-2a-5pts
Madison Bowey            4gp-2g-2a-4pts

Seattle:
Alexander Delnov          4gp-3g-1a-4pts
Roberts Lipsbergs         4gp-2g-1a-3pts

 The Kelowna Rockets and Seattle Thunderbirds meet up in the WHL playoffs for the second time in as many seasons.  The Rockets and Thunderbirds met in the first round of the 2013 WHL playoffs, with the Rockets pulling off a stunning comeback from an 0-3 deficit to win the series in seven games.

The Rockets took down the eighth-seeded Tri-City Americans in five games in the opening round to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years.  The WHL’s second highest scoring Club during the regular season, the Rockets outscored the Americans 18-10 in the first round while firing an average of over 41 shots per game on the Tri-City net.  Led by Marek Tvrdon’s four goals, the Rockets saw 10 different players score in the opening round.  The Rockets’ scoring depth will be key if they are to find a way through a T-Birds’ defense that allowed just 11 goals in five games through the first round.  Defensively, the Rockets will aim to shut down T-Birds’ scorers like Branden Troock, who had four goals in the first round.  Netminder Jordon Cooke carried his strong regular-season form into the post-season, posting a .935 save percentage through five games.  Cooke was winless in two starts versus the T-Birds this season.

The Thunderbirds made it through to the second round of the WHL playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season after taking out the Everett Silvertips in five games in the opening round.  While Branden Troock and Roberts Lipsbergs both out up a point per game in the first round, more will be needed from their top offensive players like Alex Delnov and Shea Theodore if the T-Birds are to find a way through Kelowna’s solid defense.  Seattle’s defense did a good job of slowing up Everett’s stars like Josh Winquist and Manraj Hayer in the opening round.  They’ll have to be even more diligent in the defensive zone to hold off a Kelowna offense that rolls four lines.  Taran Kozun was solid in the T-Birds’ net through the first round.  Though he allowed six goals in Game 4 of the series, Kozun bounced back with a shutout in their series-clinching Game 5 win.  Kozun faced Kelowna six times during the regular season, posting a 1-4-0-1 record, but four of those meetings came as a starter for the Kamloops Blazers.


(2) PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS vs (3) VICTORIA ROYALS

2013-14 regular-season record:
Portland:           54-13-2-3, 113pts
Victoria:            48-20-1-3, 100pts

2013-14 head-to-head record: 
Portland:           1-1-1-1, 4pts
Victoria:            3-1-0-0, 6pts

2013-14 head-to-head top scorers:
Portland:
Brendan Leipsic            3gp-2g-3a-5pts
Derrick Pouliot              3gp-0g-5a-5pts

Victoria:
Austin Carroll                4gp-2g-2a-4pts
Brandon Magee             4gp-2g-2a-4pts

 The Portland Winterhawks meet the Victoria Royals for their first ever WHL playoff series.  The teams met up four times during the regular season, with the Royals claiming victory three times.  All four games were decided by one goal, with two going to overtime or a shootout.

The Winterhawks advanced to the second round of the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season after sweeping the Vancouver Giants in the first round.  The WHL’s highest-scoring team during the regular season, Portland tallied 19 goals against Vancouver in their four-game sweep.  While Oliver Bjorkstrand and Brendan Leipsic were prolific offensively versus the Giants, they’ll find it much more difficult versus a Victoria team that allowed just seven goals in four games versus the Spokane Chiefs.  The Hawks will need contributions from the likes of Chase De Leo, Taylor Leier and Keegan Iverson if they are to find a way through Victoria’s solid back line.  Defensively, the Hawks will have their hands full with a Royals attack that boasts no super stars but plenty of scoring depth.  Goaltender Brendan Burke appeared in two games versus the Royals this season, posting a 1-0-1 record, a 1.99 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage.

The Royals advanced past the first round for the first time in franchise history with their four-game sweep of the Spokane Chiefs.  Veteran forwards Austin Carroll, Ben Walker and Logan Nelson shared the team lead with three goals apiece in the first round while a total of seven players recorded at least four points.  Victoria knows the goals will be hard to come by versus a Portland team that limited them to just nine goals in four head-to-head regular-season encounters.  Defensively, the Royals were able to shut out WHL scoring champion and 62-goal man Mitch Holmberg in the first round.  Now, they face perhaps the deepest offense in the WHL in Portland.  Fortunately, the Royals handled the Hawks well during the regular season, limiting them to eight goals in four meetings.  Patrik Polivka has been terrific in the Royals’ net in the post-season, but has yet to face Portland this season as Coleman Vollrath started all four regular-season games, posting a stellar 1.96 GAA and a .949 save percentage.