WHL Roundup: Rockets close out season series sweep of Blazers in style

Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets


Swift Current Broncos (2) at Moose Jaw Warriors (4)
Swift Current (47-16-4-2) // Moose Jaw (50-15-1-2)

As the Moose Jaw Warriors honoured the Canadian Snowbirds Saturday at home, they were flying high on the ice in a big divisional contest.

The top two teams in the Western Hockey League’s standings went head-to-head for the final time in the regular season, offering up a glimpse of what a second round playoff series may look like.

From the Warriors’ perspective, things are looking good in that case as they handed the Swift Current Broncos a 4-2 loss at Mosaic Place with Branden Klatt scoring twice and Justin Almeida adding a goal and two assists.

Klatt’s fourth of the season and the 67th goal of the year from Jayden Halbgewachs (San Jose Sharks) had the Warriors up 2-0 after 20 minutes while Almeida’s goal in the second, his 41st of the campaign, made it 3-0 after 40.

Kaden Elder and Beck Malenstyn (Washington Capitals) responded for the Broncos in the third, but Klatt’s second of the game was the insurance goal to keep the game out of reach.

Brody Willms stopped 21 of 23 shots in the victory. Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers) and Joel Hofer combined for 35 saves on 39 shots in the game.

The win increased the Warriors’ lead over the Broncos to three points.

Calgary Hitmen (3) at Prince Albert Raiders (4) — OT
Calgary (21-36-9-2) // Prince Albert (32-25-9-2)

There may have been some tense moments on the ice, but the Prince Albert Raiders extended their winning streak to nine games with a 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Hitmen.

Brayden Pachal ended Saturday’s game with his seventh goal of the season, completing a comeback that began in the third period.

After Mark Kastelic scored to give the Hitmen a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, Jordy Stallard (Winnipeg Jets) scored his 43rd of the season early in the second, only to have the Hitmen to go ahead by one again later in the period on Carson Focht’s 13th of the season.

The Raiders zoomed back into the lead in the third thanks to goals 47 seconds apart from Vojtech Budik (Buffalo Sabres) and captain Curtis Miske. Mark Kastelic would score minutes later to force overtime before Pachal ended things for good.

Ian Scott (Toronto Maple Leafs) stopped 20 of 23 shots in the win. Matthew Armitage stopped 40 of 44 shots in the loss.

The win kept the Raiders closer to clinching the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and within four points of the Brandon Wheat Kings for the first wild card spot.

Brandon Wheat Kings (4) at Saskatoon Blades (2)
Brandon (37-26-3-2) // Saskatoon (32-32-3-1)

The Brandon Wheat Kings clinched a playoff spot Saturday night while placing a dagger in the post-season hopes of the Saskatoon Blades.

Cole Reinhardt and Linden McCorrister each had a goal and an assist while Dylan Myskiw stopped 29 of 31 shots for his eighth victory of the season.

Stelio Mattheos (Carolina Hurricanes) had the lone goal of the first period while goals from McCorrister and Luka Burzan increased Brandon’s lead to two goals after 40 minutes as the Blades responded with a goal from Michael Farren.

Josh Paterson’s 31st of the season and Reinhardt’s 18th of the campaign featured in the third period.

Nolan Maier stopped 12 of 15 shots in the loss.

The win kept the Wheaties to within three points of the Pats for third in the division and four points ahead of the Raiders. The Blades now need to win out and get help from the Prince Albert Raiders in order to qualify for the playoffs.

Regina Pats (5) at Lethbridge Hurricanes (3)
Regina (38-25-5-1) // Lethbridge (32-30-6-0)

Jesse Gabrielle (Boston Bruins) had a goal and two assists while Max Paddock stopped 27 shots as the Regina Pats continue their hot play down the stretch with a 5-3 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The Pats opened the game with four straight goals as Koby Morrisseau, Gabrielle, Nick Henry (Colorado Avalanche), and Robbie Holmes scored to give the Pats a 4-0 lead by the midway mark of the second period.

Answering back for the Hurricanes were Brad Morrison and Calen Addison, with the overage Morrison finding the back of the net twice to close the gap to a single goal.

That would be as close as they’d come though, with Pats captain Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks) scoring an empty-net goal to close out the contest. Six different Pats skaters all contributed a single assist in the victory.

Igor Merezhko had a pair of assists for the Hurricanes while Reece Klassen stopped 38 of 42 shots in the loss.

Though they’re already slotted into a playoff spot, the Pats win put the Hurricanes on the cusp of elimination from the race for the Central Division crown. The Pats remained three points ahead of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the race for third in the East Division.

Medicine Hat Tigers (2) at Red Deer Rebels (5)
Medicine Hat (35-26-8-0) // Red Deer (26-30-10-3)

After a rollercoaster 69 games, the Red Deer Rebels are headed back to the WHL Playoffs for the fourth season in a row.

Brandon Hagel (Buffalo Sabres) had a hat trick and four points while Kristian Reichel scored twice in the victory as the Rebels also denied the Medicine Hat Tigers a shot at clinching the Central Division.

Kristians Rubins and Hagel traded goals in the first while Bryan Lockner scored the only goal of the second to keep the Tigers ahead going into the third.

That’s where the Rebels took charge though as Reichel tied up the game early in the period and the Rebels added three goals in the final 4:10 of the game to secure the post-season berth.

Mason McCarty added a pair of assists in the victory while Ethan Anders stopped 34 of 36 shots for the victory. Michael Bullion stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss.

With the Rebels clinching, the Kootenay ICE were eliminated from playoff contention. The Tigers remain on the cusp of clinching the Central Division and can do so as early as Tuesday.

Tri-City Americans (6) at Portland Winterhawks (2)
Tri-City (34-24-8-1) // Portland (42-21-1-4)

The Tri-City Americans received a pair of goals from captain Michael Rasmussen (Detroit Red Wings) and a goal and two assists from Juuso Valimaki (Calgary Flames) Saturday as the Americans aided their pursuit of third place in the U.S. Division with a win over the Portland Winterhawks.

Isaac Johnson, Brett Clayton, and an empty-net goal Riley Sawchuk added the other goals for Tri-City while Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes) added three assists in the victory.

Alex Overhardt and Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Sharks) each had a goal and an assist in the loss. Ryan Hughes added a pair of assists.

Leading 2-0 after 20 minutes and 3-1 after two periods, the Americans tacked on three more goals in the third period.

Patrick Dea earned the victory, stopping 38 shots. Shane Farkas allowed five goals on 23 shots in the loss while Cole Kehler (Los Angeles Kings) stopped all five shots sent his way.

The Americans moved three points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the standings with the victory. The Winterhawks had their gap between them and the Everett Silvertips widened to six points with their loss.

Kamloops Blazers (0) at Kelowna Rockets (4)
Kamloops (29-35-1-4) // Kelowna (40-22-5-2)

James Porter earned the the third shutout of his WHL career Saturday, stopping all 18 shots sent his way in a 4-0 blanking of the Kamloops Blazers as they suited up with Don Cherry to wear some stylish uniforms.

Leif Mattson scored twice while Dillon Dube (Calgary Flames) and Gordie Ballhorn each had a goal and an assist in the victory as the Rockets scored twice in the first and twice more in the third.

Max Palaga stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss. Jackson Shepard and Brodi Stuart led the Blazers with three shots each.

The victory extended the Rockets’ winning streak over the Blazers to nine games as Kelowna moved closer to clinching the B.C. Division.

Everett Silvertips (3) at Seattle Thunderbirds (2) 
Everett (45-18-2-3) // Seattle (32-26-8-2)

The Everett Silvertips are one step closer to clinching the U.S. Division title Saturday after a 3-2 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds in the finale of the series and potential first round playoff preview.

Bryce Kindopp scored a pair of goals and captain Matt Fonteyne added his 33rd of the season in the victory.

Nolan Volcan and Austin Strand (Los Angeles Kings) responded for the Thunderbirds in the loss. Donovan Neuls added a pair of assists in the loss.

Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) stopped 33 of 35 shots for the 113th victory of his WHL career. Liam Hughes stopped 34 of 37 shots in the loss.

Vancouver Giants (6) at Spokane Chiefs (5) — SO
Vancouver (35-24-6-3) // Spokane (39-23-3-3)

The Vancouver Giants aided their pursuit of home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs Saturday with a wild 6-5 shootout victory over the Spokane Chiefs.

Dawson Holt scored the only goal in the shootout and Trent Miner stopped all three shooters from the Chiefs to pick up his second victory of the season.

The first 60 minutes itself featured 10 goals, including three in the first as Jake McGrew (San Jose Sharks) and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles Kings) bookended a Giants’ goal from Aidan Barfoot. Giants captain Tyler Benson (Edmonton Oilers) and Hudson Elynuik (Carolina Hurricanes) traded goals in the second to keep the gap at a single goal heading to the third.

In that final period, Riley Woods scored to extended the lead to two goals, but Holt tied up the game with his 12th of the season. Just 72 seconds later, Woods had converted again to put his side up by a pair of goals, but a late rally by the Giants featured goals from Tyler Popowich and Benson’s second of the game, forcing overtime and eventually the shootout.

In addition to the perfect shootout performance, Miner stopped 29 of 34 shots in regulation and overtime. Dawson Weatherill stopped 24 of 29 shots in the first 65 minutes before stopping one of two shots from the Giants.

Davis Koch added three assists in the contest while Nolan Reid added a pair of helpers for the Chiefs.

The Giants closed their gap against the second place Victoria Royals to three points while the Chiefs trailed the Portland WInterhawks by five points with four games remaining.

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