WHL Roundup: Pats hit 50 wins; trio of playoff series solidified

Keith Hershmiller


The 2017 WHL Playoffs picture began to take shape Wednesday night as a trio of first round Eastern Conference matchups were finalized and solidified.

A Brandon Wheat Kings win over the Moose Jaw Warriors locked in a first-round clash between the defending Ed Chynoweth Cup champions and the 2016-17 Central Division champion Medicine Hat Tigers.

While the Warriors lost, the Swift Current Broncos also fell to the Regina Pats, meaning Moose Jaw secures second place in the East Division and home-ice advantage for a first-round series against the Broncos. That Pats’ win also happened to be the 50th of the season for Regina.

Finally, the Red Deer Rebels knocked off the Calgary Hitmen, roping third place in the Central Division and, with it, a first-round date against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Those same Hurricanes laid a beating on the Kootenay ICE Wednesday night, while the Everett Silvertips knocked off the Kelowna Rockets out west. Rounding out the action, the Seattle Thunderbirds maintained their slim lead atop the U.S. Division be defeating the Spokane Chiefs.

Details for days…

Brandon Wheat Kings (3) at Moose Jaw Warriors (1)
Brandon (31-29-7-3) // Moose Jaw (41-20-8-1)

The Brandon Wheat Kings scored three unanswered goals en route to a 3-1 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors Wednesday night.

The victory also contributed to the playoff fate of the Wheat Kings, as they will now face the Medicine Hat Tigers to open the post-season.

Wednesday night, Jett Woo opened the scoring 8:49 into the second period, giving Moose Jaw a 1-0 lead with his fifth goal of the year. After that, it was all Wheaties.

Connor Gutenberg tied the game with his 13th of the campaign four minutes later and Reid Duke registered what went on to stand as the eventual game-winning goal late in the second period. For the first signing of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights, it was his 37th marker of the year.

Caiden Daley added some insurance with a third period goal.

Between the pipes, Logan Thompson made 28 saves for 14th win of the season.

The Wheat Kings will finish the regular season in the first wild card slot in the Eastern Conference.

Everett Silvertips (4) at Kelowna Rockets (1)
Everett (42-16-8-3) // Kelowna (43-22-5-0)

The Everett Silvertips kept within striking distance of a U.S. Division title by scoring a 4-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets Wednesday night.

With a game in hand on the division-leading Seattle Thunderbirds, the Silvertips sit only one point back and control their destiny as the season winds its way down.

Dominic Zwerger scored twice to help boost the Silvertips Wednesday. He added the insurance marker as well as another into the empty net, while Aaron Irving’s 18th of the season served as the game-winner. Kevin Davis also scored for Everett.

Dillon Dube hit the 20-goal plateau, proving the lone tally for Kelowna.

Carter Hart made 26 saves for his 30th win of the season.

Davis (1G-1A) and Zwerger (2G) provided multipoint performances for the Silvertips.

With three games remaining in its regular season schedule, the Silvertips are at 95 points – one back of the Thunderbirds – and maintain control over their destiny. Everett closes the season with games against Victoria (March 17 and 18) and Tri-City (March 19).

As for the Rockets, their hopes for a B.C. Division title cling to life, though the Prince George Cougars hold fate in their paws. Kelowna sits in second with 91 points, two back of the Cougars. The Rockets wrap the season with a pair of games against the Vancouver Giants (March 17 and 18), while the Cougars face a pair of outings against the Kamloops Blazers (March 17 and 18).

Kootenay ICE (1) at Lethbridge Hurricanes (8)
Kootenay (14-44-10-2) // Lethbridge (44-19-4-3)

Giorgio Estephan logged four points, including a hat trick, as the Lethbridge Hurricanes defeated the Kootenay ICE by an 8-1 margin Wednesday night.

The Hurricanes built a 4-0 lead in the first period as Estephan opened the scoring with a power-play goal 5:45 in. Alec Baer and Jordy Bellerive tallied 24 seconds apart near the mid-point of the period and Calen Addision made it 4-0 with his eighth of the season.

In the second period, Estephan added his second of the night and Egor Babenko piled on to make it a 6-0 game after 40 minutes of play.

Colton Kroeker broke Stuart Skinner’s shutout bid five minutes into the third period but Ryan Vandervlis responded with a short-handed marker and Estephan completed the hat trick with his 35th of the season to complete the scoring.

Skinner made 33 saves for his 34th win of the season.

Baer (1G-1A), Estephan (3G-1A), Ryan Bowen (2A), Vandervlis (1G-2A) and Babenko (1G-2A) enjoyed multipoint efforts.

The Hurricanes are now set to face the Red Deer Rebels when the WHL Playoffs open next week.

Calgary Hitmen (1) at Red Deer Rebels (5)
Calgary (28-32-8-2) // Red Deer (30-28-8-4)

The Red Deer Rebels sewed up third place in the Central Division with a 5-1 win over the Calgary Hitmen Wednesday night.

The victory sets up a first-round series that sees the Rebels face the Lethbridge Hurricanes in a Central Division clash.

Wednesday in Red Deer, it was Brandon Hagel pacing the Rebels with four points, including two goals.

Hagel opened the scoring 12:51 into the first period with a power-play marker. He made it a 2-0 game with a second power-play effort 2:48 into the second period. That tally went on to stand as the eventual game-winner.

Michael Spacek provided some insurance midway through the second period.

Beck Malenstyn got Calgary on the board with his 29th of the season, which happened to come short-handed.

Jordan Roy and Dawson Martin added third period goals to round out the Rebels scoring.

Riley Lamb made 26 saves for his 14th win of the season.

Colton Bobyk (2A), Hagel (2G-2A), Spacek (1G-2A) and Martin (1G-1A) helped fuel the Rebels offense.

While the Rebels know their playoff fate, the Hitmen remain in the hunt for that final seed in the Eastern Conference.

With two games left to go, the Hitmen face the Kootenay ICE (March 17 and 18) and hold a three-point lead on the Saskatoon Blades for the second wild card position in the conference. The Blades also have two games to go, taking on the Prince Albert Raiders (March 17 and 18).

Swift Current Broncos (2) at Regina Pats (6)
Swift Current (38-22-4-6) // Regina (50-12-7-1)

The Regina Pats reached the 50-win plateau with a 6-2 victory over the Swift Current Broncos Wednesday night.

The Pats jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period courtesy goals from Adam Brooks, Dawson Leedahl and Sergey Zborovskiy. For Brooks, the goal served as his 40th of the campaign.

Lane Pederson put Swift Current on the score sheet 3:15 into the second period, but Nick Henry and Connor Hobbs strucked back and Regina took a 5-1 lead into the second intermission.

Filip Ahl made it a 6-1 game before Ryley Lindgren rounded out the scoring.

Jordan Hollett made 24 saves for his 14th win of the season.

Henry (1G-1A), Sam Steel (3A), Ahl (1G-1A), Leedahl (1G-2A) and Brooks (1G-2A) lit up the scoreboard in big ways for Regina.

Glenn Gawdin (2A) was the lone Broncos to produce a multipoint night.

With the outcome, the Broncos know with full certainty they will finish third in the East Division and take on the Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round of the WHL Playoffs.

As for the Pats, they wrapped up the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as WHL Regular Season Champions on Tuesday and await a decision on the second wild card team.

Seattle Thunderbirds (4) at Spokane Chiefs (2)
Seattle (45-19-4-2) // Spokane (26-33-7-3)

Ryan Gropp scored twice as the Seattle Thunderbirds doubled up the Spokane Chiefs by a 4-2 margin Wednesday night, maintaining first place in the U.S. Division in the process.

Taylor Ross opened the scoring before Gropp tied the game with his 33rd of the season late in the first period.

After a scoreless second period, Zack Andrusiak put the Thunderbirds ahead before Gropp added another 67 seconds later. That marker went on to stand as the eventual game-winner.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan managed to pull Spokane back within a goal, scoring his 37th of the season, but Austin Strand restored the two-goal advantage.

Carl Stankowski made 15 saves for his second win of the season.

Gropp’s two goals were helped along by a pair of assists from Keegan Kolesar.

With the win, Seattle sits one point ahead of the Everett Silvertips for first place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds close the season with a pair of home dates against the Portland Winterhawks (March 18) and Vancouver Giants (March 19). As for the Silvertips, they have the luxury of three games remaining, including at Victoria (March 17), versus Victoria (March 18) and at Tri-City (March 19).

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