Welcome to WHL On This Day, where we look day at notable accomplishments of Western Hockey League Alumni. On Tuesday and Thursdays, we’ll breakdown some of the best moments to take place on that specific day in WHL history, adding context to the rest of their season and career. Be sure to share your favourite moments from a specific day on social media using #WHLOTD!
2006 – Kurtis Mucha, Portland Winterhawks
After prevailing in a seven-game series to open the 2006 WHL Playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks were riding high. However, they had to quickly adjust to play the top team in their conference, the Vancouver Giants, just days later. Enter Kurtis Mucha.
On April 7, 2006, the Sherwood Park, Alta., product was a brick wall between the pipes, making 41 saves in a 1-0 shutout of the Giants to steal the first game of the series north of the 49th parallel. The Giants fired 15 shots in the first, 10 in the second, and 16 in the third, but Mucha turned them all aside for his second road shutout of that year’s playoffs. Though the Winterhawks would eventually lose the series, Mucha’s performance from the game stands out as one of the best for his team that season.
While utilizing his WHL Scholarship at the University of Alberta, Mucha starred for the Golden Bears, and was recognized as the U SPORTS Men’s Hockey Goaltender of the Year during the 2012-13 season in addition to winning four Canada West championships and a pair of national titles.
2007 – Spencer Machacek, Vancouver Giants
Like they had done in 2006, the Vancouver Giants opened the second round of the 2007 WHL Playoffs with a one-goal home loss, dropping a 4-3 overtime game to the Seattle Thunderbirds. In order to face a 2-0 hole heading onto the road, the Giants needed a spark in Game 2.
On April 7, 2007, the Giants evened up the series with a 3-1 win on home ice. With his team scoring once in each period, Spencer Machacek tallied the game-winning goal 7:32 into the second. The Giants would outscore the Thunderbirds 17-4 over the next three games of the series to advance, eventually hoisting the Memorial Cup on home ice later that season. The game-winning goal set also the tone for future wins as Machacek enjoyed a nine-game point streak running for the rest of the calendar month.
Machacek, a product of Lethbridge, Alta., enjoyed a productive three seasons with the Giants. In 203 WHL regular season games, he tallied 168 points (77G-91A), helping the Giants secure the B.C. Division title in each of his three seasons. He also added 41 points (20G-21A) in 50 WHL playoff games. Chosen in the third round, 67th overall, of the 2007 NHL Draft, Machacek made his NHL debut on March 16, 2009 with the Atlanta Thrashers and scored his first NHL goal on March 23, 2012 with the Winnipeg Jets. During the 2019-20 season, Machacek played in Germany with Grizzlys Wolfsburg.
2018 – Tate Olson, Lethbridge Hurricanes
In September 2017, the Lethbridge Hurricanes swung a deal with the Prince George Cougars to acquire overage defenceman Tate Olson. Throughout the season, the Saskatoon, Sask. product would tally 24 points (2G-22A) in 54 games to rank fourth in defensive scoring on the Hurricanes. With the arrival of the 2018 WHL Playoffs, Olson found more ways to contribute offensively for the club in their moment of need.
On April 7, 2018, the Hurricanes were trailing 4-0 to the Brandon Wheat Kings midway through regulation in Game 2 of their second round matchup. The Hurricanes found their spark over the second half of the game, tallying four goals to force overtime, with Olson providing a pair of assists. Nearing the end of the first overtime, Olson scored his third goal to complete the comeback and his three-point night, lifting the Hurricanes to a 2-0 series lead. Though his team eventually fell in the Eastern Conference Championship, Olson recorded 19 points (3G-16A) in 16 games to tie as the team’s top-scoring defenceman and tie for second among all WHL defencemen in the 2018 WHL Playoffs.
That brought an end to Olson’s WHL career, with him recording 131 points (25G-106A) in 306 WHL regular season games. In 31 WHL playoff games, he added 26 points (7G-19A). Utilizing his WHL Scholarship, Olson is currently attending Acadia University and playing with their men’s hockey team.
2019 – Dante Hannoun, Prince Albert Raiders
During their run to claim the WHL Championship in 2019, the Prince Albert Raiders won their first six home games. After earning a pair of home wins against the Red Deer Rebels in their first-round sweep, the Raiders continued their home success with a pair of wins to start the second round against the Saskatoon Blades.
On April 7, 2019, the Raiders edged the Blades by a 3-2 score in front of 3,289 fans at the Art Hauser Centre. Forward Dante Hannoun, who became an integral part of the team’s roster upon his acquisition from the Victoria Royals, tallied his team’s second goal and and assisted on Sean Montgomery’s game-winning goal for one of his seven multi-point efforts throughout the 2019 WHL Playoffs. Of those multi-point performances, five came on home ice.
In 314 WHL regular season games, Hannoun recorded 279 points (108G-171A) between the Royals and Raiders. In 55 WHL playoff games, Hannoun added 47 points (22G-25A) to cap his incredible WHL career. During the 2019-20 season, Hannoun played with the ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators and in Italy with HC Bolzano