We are into the final few days of the WHL’s regular season and things are happening fast. Let’s get right into it!
1. HOME STRETCH - Things are tightening up on a daily basis and on Wednesday both the Seattle Thunderbirds and Medicine Hat Tigers punched their tickets into the postseason while things became much more difficult for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
2. HANGING BY A THREAD - A 6-2 loss on Wednesday night to the Moose Jaw Warriors has nearly squashed the Brandon Wheat Kings playoff chances. The Wheaties entered the night just four points out of a playoff spot with three games remaining. They woke up on Thursday morning still four points out but now with just two games left.
Brandon must now win both of their final games this weekend, a home-and-home with Regina, while Red Deer must lose both of their games, against Lethbridge and Kootenay. That scenario would set up a one game tiebreaker to determine the final playoff spot in the east. That’s a lot that must go right!
3. PRAIRIE PROUD - Medicine Hat’s 7-4 win over Red Deer on Wednesday night clinched a playoff spot for the team and 18-year-old Yorkton, SK product Brett Davis led the way. Davis recorded his first career hat trick and added an assist in the win. The great night gives him 31 goals on the year and 57 points in 62 games.
4. MAKE IT 500 - A big congratulations to Red Deer Rebels’ head coach Brent Sutter on getting his 500th win back on Saturday. Brent is one of the most recognizable faces in the league and this milestone speaks to the impact he has had on the game. I haven’t had a large number of interactions with Brent, but, each time I have, I come away with a greater understanding of the game and his fingerprint on it.
5. RED HOT - Who’s the hottest team in the WHL heading into the final weekend of the regular season? The Saskatoon Blades have won seven-straight and can still reach 100 points on the year. The Lethbridge Hurricanes have won six-straight, but it’s the Edmonton Oil Kings who are the hottest right now having won nine-in-a-row and are closing in on a division title. Watch out for the Oil Kings over the next little while.
6. WILD WEST - There is one final playoff spot up for grabs in the Western Conference and it has come down to the Kelowna Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers. Entering the final weekend, Kelowna holds a one-point lead and each team has two games remaining. Kamloops has a home-and-home with Prince George while the Rockets have a home-and-home with Vancouver.
The Blazers have won four-straight and have the scheduling edge. Vancouver is 6-0-0-1 in the season series with Kelowna while Kamloops is 6-0-0-1 against the Cougars.
7. SAVOIE SWEEPSTAKES - We now know the three teams who will have a shot at the first overall draft pick this spring. Swift Current, Kootenay and Regina will finish 22nd, 21st, and 20th respectively and, of the six non-playoff teams in the draft lottery, these three will have the chance to move up to number one. Prince George owns the Broncos’ first-round pick while Saskatoon holds the Pats’ first-round pick. The draft lottery is expected to be held next Wednesday.
Did that make sense?
8. U-CUP HITS LETHBRIDGE - The Hurricanes have vacated the Enmax Centre while the nation’s top university hockey teams roll into town for the next four days. The defending champion Alberta Golden Bears are the number-one seed while the Saskatchewan Huskies have been seeded at five and the host Lethbridge Pronghorns are number-eight. Action begins Thursday at 3pm ET when the Huskies face the Guelph Gryphons.
9. PLAYOFF PREVIEW - We have two playoff spots to decide this weekend and eight days for tension and hype to build before the puck drops on the 2019 WHL Playoffs next Friday. I’ll have a full playoff preview of each series next week in this space.
10. TELEVISION - Our last television broadcast of the season is Friday in Regina. The game is a must-win for the Brandon Wheat Kings and will be a fun one to call. In fact, this whole season has been a treat to be in the booth. In a year where the Regina Pats have taken a step back and begin the rebuilding process, the team continues to be an entertaining one on the ice and the atmosphere inside the Brandt Centre continues to be electric. I hope it continues!
Rest up, the playoffs are coming. Talk to you next week!