Calgary, AB – The 2012-13 Western Hockey League regular season continues to wind down, with just two weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
Six Western Conference playoff spots are already spoken for while four Eastern Conference Clubs have locked up playoff spot thus far.
The WHL’s Eastern and Western Conferences will use a Conference playoff format.
The first place teams in the two Divisions in each Conference will receive the top two playoff seeds based on regular season points. The next six Clubs in each Conference, based on regular season points, will receive the 3rd – 8th playoff positions. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, and 4 vs. 5 in a best-of-seven series.
The first place Clubs in each Division will be guaranteed the top two playoff seeds in the first round. As in previous seasons, the format for the remaining three rounds of the WHL Playoffs will remain the same. The four Clubs winning first round series in each Conference will advance to the second round, where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 4, and 2 vs. 3 in best of seven series.
The two Clubs winning the second round series in each Conference will advance to the third round (WHL Conference Championships), where they will be ranked in order of regular season points. The Clubs will be paired 1 vs. 2 in a best of seven series.
The Eastern and Western Conference Champions will advance to the best of seven WHL Championship Series, with the Club having the most regular season points receiving home ice advantage
WHL EASTERN CONFERENCE
X denotes clinched playoff spot, *denoted Division leader
1). X *Edmonton Oil Kings 66gp-46-15-2-3, 97pts (6 games remaining)
2). X *Saskatoon Blades 66gp-41-21-1-3, 86pts (6 games remaining)
3). X Calgary Hitmen 65gp-40-20-1-4, 85pts (7 games remaining)
4). X Red Deer Rebels 66gp-36-24-4-2, 78pts (6 games remaining)
5). Prince Albert Raiders 65gp-35-24-2-4, 76pts (7 games remaining)
6). Medicine Hat Tigers 67gp-34-30-2-1, 71pts (5 games remaining)
7). Swift Current Broncos 66gp-31-28-3-4, 69pts (6 games remaining)
8). Kootenay Ice 65gp-33-30-2-0, 68pts (7 games remaining)
9). Lethbridge Hurricanes 65gp-26-29-3-7, 62pts (7 games remaining)
10). Regina Pats 66gp-24-35-3-4, 55pts (6 games remaining)
11). Moose Jaw Warriors 66gp-22-34-4-6, 54pts (6 games remaining)
12). Brandon Wheat Kings 67gp-22-38-4-3, 51pts (5 games remaining)
The Red Deer Rebels locked up a playoff spot on the weekend, joining the Edmonton Oil Kings, Calgary Hitmen and Saskatoon Blades among playoff-bound Eastern Conference Clubs, while the Prince Albert Raiders guaranteed themselves at least a tiebreaker for a playoff spot.
The Oil Kings closed out the U.S. Division portion of their road trip with three straight wins last week, putting them within striking distance of claiming their second straight Central Division and Eastern Conference regular-season titles. The Oil Kings can lock up both titles with any combination of points gained and points dropped by Calgary totaling 3. Edmonton remains on the road this week with stops in Regina on Wednesday, Brandon on Friday and Moose Jaw on Saturday.
The Blades saw their incredible 18-game winning streak snapped with Sunday’s loss in Moose Jaw, but moved one point ahead of Calgary for second place in the overall Eastern Conference standings thanks to the point gained from the overtime loss. The Blades have their sights set on clinching the East Division this week, and will do so with any combination of points gained and points dropped by the Raiders totaling five.
The Hitmen are mired in a four-game losing skid, but remain a comfortable seven points ahead of fourth-placed Red Deer. Calgary faces a tough two-game road trip this week with stops in Saskatoon on Tuesday and Prince Albert on Wednesday.
The Red Deer Rebels clinched a playoff spot on Saturday thanks to their win over the Broncos and Lethbridge’s loss in Kelowna, and currently hold a two-point lead over Prince Albert for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Rebels host Kootenay on Tuesday before playing a home-and-home series versus Lethbridge on Wednesday and Friday.
The Raiders suffered a loss to the 12th-placed Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday, but guaranteed themselves at least a tiebreaker for a playoff spot in the conference after Lethbridge lost in Kelowna. The Raiders need just one more point or for the Hurricanes to drop a point to lock up a playoff spot and snap a three-year post-season absence. The Raiders are in Swift Current on Tuesday before hosting Calgary on Wednesday.
The Medicine Hat Tigers downed visiting Calgary on Sunday to move two points clear of Swift Current for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Medicine Hat can finish no higher than fourth in the Conference. The Tigers have the fewest number of games remaining of all Clubs currently in a playoff position in the conference.
The Broncos currently sit one point up on Kootenay for seventh place and two points back of Medicine Hat for sixth place in the conference, and are seven points clear of Lethbridge for a playoff spot. The Broncos play five of their final six games against Eastern Conference teams already eliminated from playoff contention.
The Ice picked up four of a possible six points last week, putting a six-point spread between them and the Lethbridge Hurricanes for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Kootenay is only three points back of sixth placed Medicine Hat, and holds two games in hand on the Tigers. The Ice face three tough games on the road this week, with a stop in Red Deer on Tuesday before visits to Tri-Cities on Friday and Spokane on Saturday.
The Hurricanes dropped the final two games of their B.C. Division road trip on the weekend, and now find themselves six points out of a playoff spot in the conference. All seven of the ‘Canes’ remaining games are versus Central Division opposition currently in playoff spots. The ‘Canes will play a home-and-home series versus Red Deer on Wednesday and Friday before a visit to Calgary on Saturday.
The Moose Jaw Warriors, Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings have all been eliminated from playoff contention.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). X *Portland Winterhawks 66gp-51-12-1-2, 105pts (6 games remaining)
2). X *Kelowna Rockets 66gp-46-16-3-1, 96pts (6 games remaining)
3). X Kamloops Blazers 67gp-44-18-2-3, 93pts (5 games remaining)
4). X Tri-City Americans 65gp-39-23-1-2, 81pts (7 games remaining)
5). X Spokane Chiefs 65gp-39-24-2-0, 80pts (7 games remaining)
6). X Victoria Royals 64gp-32-26-2-4, 70pts (8 games remaining)
7). Everett Silvertips 66gp-23-37-2-4, 52pts (6 games remaining)
8). Seattle Thunderbirds 66gp-22-36-7-1, 52pts (6 games remaining)
9). Prince George Cougars 64gp-18-38-2-6, 44pts (8 games remaining)
10). Vancouver Giants 67gp-19-46-2-0, 40pts (5 games remaining)
Two playoff berths remain up for grabs in the Western Conference, with the first six all being accounted for.
The Portland Winterhawks already locked up the U.S. Division title and have their sights set on the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy. Having lost their last three outings, the Hawks have seen their lead in the overall standings diminished to eight points over Edmonton. The Hawks can capture first place in the overall WHL standings and the Scotty Munro with any combination of points gained or points dropped by Edmonton totaling 5.
The Kelowna Rockets saw their B.C. Division lead cut to three points over Kamloops after they dropped a 3-0 decision to the Blazers on Sunday, but are guaranteed to finish no lower than third in the Western Conference. The Rockets face a crucial week with a visit by the Victoria Royals on Wednesday before a key home-and-home series versus Kamloops on the weekend that could very well decide the B.C. Division winner.
The Blazers have won their last three games to close the gap on Kelowna to three points for first place in the division, and are now guaranteed to finish no lower than fourth in the Western Conference. Next weekend’s home-and-home series versus Kelowna should decide the Blazers’ fate as to where they wind up in the Conference.
The Tri-City Americans moved into fourth place in the Western Conference – one point up on Spokane – with their win in Prince George on Monday. The Ams are now even with the Chiefs in games played, with the teams set to play a home-and-home series on the final weekend of the regular season. The Ams will face the Cougars twice more this week.
The Spokane Chiefs swept a pair of games in Victoria this weekend, stretching their winning streak to five games, but fell to fifth place in the conference with the Ams’ win in Prince George on Monday. The Chiefs kick off a five-game home stand this week looking to keep ahead of the Americans for home-ice advantage in what will likely be a first-round playoff match-up.
The Royals saw their losing skid extended to nine games with their two weekend losses to visiting Spokane, and have fallen 10 points back in the race for fourth place in the conference. The Royals face a difficult road this week with visits to Kamloops on Tuesday and Kelowna on Wednesday before a home-and-home series versus Vancouver on the weekend.
The Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips currently share seventh place in the Western Conference, but Everett slots into the seventh seed due to having more wins than Seattle. Both teams have six games remaining, including a head-to-head meeting next Saturday in Kent. The Silvertips are on the road in Portland on Tuesday and Spokane on Friday, while the Thunderbirds are in Spokane on Wednesday and host Prince George on Friday.
The Cougars saw their losing skid hit five games with their loss to the visiting Americans on Monday, and currently sit eight points back of Everett and Seattle for a playoff spot in the conference. The Cougars still hold two games in hand on both Seattle and Everett. Though they have eight games remaining, six of those games are against teams in the top 5 in the Western Conference, and six of those eight games are on the road where they’ve won just six times all season.
The Giants were officially eliminated from playoff contention on the weekend, meaning they will miss the playoffs for the first time since their expansion season in 2001-02. The Giants have won four of their last five games, and could play spoiler down the stretch if they continue their strong play.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Brendan Leipsic, POR 63gp-44g-67a-111pts
2. Nicholas Petan, POR 66gp-43g-65a-108pts
3. Justin Feser, T.C. 65gp-41g-59a-100pts
4. Colin Smith, KAM 67gp-40g-60a-100pts
5. Ty Rattie, POR 57gp-42g-57a-99pts
6. Myles Bell, KEL 64gp-36g-51a-87pts
7. JC Lipon, KAM 58gp-34g-51a-85pts
8. Curtis Valk, M.H. 66gp-42g-42a-84pts
9. Michael St. Croix, EDM 66gp-33g-50a-83pts
10. Adam Lowry, S.C. 66gp-41g-40a-81pts