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WHL Season Rewind: 2018 WHL Playoffs

 

As the Western Hockey League’s 22 member clubs prepare for the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season, there’s renewed hopes of hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup at the conclusion of the 2019 WHL Playoffs. Before the season gets underway, it’s time to take a look back at the individual and team performances that made the 2017-18 season one to remember. Today, the WHL is taking a look back at the 2018 WHL Playoffs. This is the WHL Season Rewind.

The 2018 WHL Playoffs delivered 87 games of pulse-pounding action from Thursday, March 22, 2018 to Sunday, May 13, 2018 when the Swift Current Broncos hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup for the third time in franchise history.

Round One – Eastern Conference

Starting in the Eastern Conference, the four Round One matchups pitted the Moose Jaw Warriors against the Prince Albert Raiders, the Broncos against the Regina Pats. On the other side of the bracket, the Medicine Hat Tigers played host to the Brandon Wheat Kings while the Lethbridge Hurricanes took on the Red Deer Rebels.

With the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy Champions taking on the lower-ranked Raiders, the series was a battle to the bitter end. After dropping Game One, the Warriors won three straight games, including a pair of overtime victories. With their season hanging in the balance, the Raiders staved off elimination twice, setting up a seventh and deciding game in the series. A back-and-forth seventh game saw the two teams go down to the wire with a late goal from Brayden Burke providing the difference in the series.

Brayden Burke led the way for the Warriors, recording 14 points (6G-8A) in the seven games while Raiders captain Curtis Miske led the Raiders with 10 points (3G-7A) in the series.

The Broncos and Pats met in the WHL Playoffs for a second-straight season with the Broncos holding home-ice advantage this time around. The series was also a seven-game battle with neither team stringing back-to-back victories together throughout the seven games. It all came down to a deciding Game Seven in Swift Current on April 2, with the Broncos emerging with a 3-2 victory.

Leading the way for the Broncos in the series was Tyler Steenbergen, who had 12 points (6G-6A) in the seven games while Pats captain Sam Steel led Regina with 11 points (1G-10A) in the series.

On the Central Division side of the Eastern Conference’s bracket, the Medicine Hat Tigers were repeating as Central Division champions and had their eye on another solid playoff run. In their way though was the Brandon Wheat Kings. After the Tigers bolted out to a 2-0 lead on home ice, the Wheat Kings fought back to win four-straight games, capping it off with Linden McCorrister’s overtime-winner in Game Seven to propel the Wheaties to Round Two.

Dylan Myskiw lifted the spirits of the Wheat Kings in the series, going 4-0-0-0 with a 2.54 goals-against-average and 0.928 save percentage. Despite taking the loss, Tigers captain Mark Rassell led all players in scoring throughout the series with 13 points (8G-5A).

The final Round One matchup pitted the revamped Lethbridge Hurricanes against a Red Deer Rebels squad that had put on a second-half surge to work their way into a playoff spot. Despite playing strong hockey down the stretch, the Hurricanes controlled the series from the start. After sweeping the first two games by a combined score of 14-3, the Hurricanes stole Game Three in Red Deer. After Red Deer battled to a Game Four win, keeping their season alive, the Hurricanes closed out the series in five games on home ice.

Brad Morrison stepping into the spotlight in the series, tallying 16 points (6G-10A) in the five games. Both Reese Johnson and Brandon Hagel tied for the Rebels’ scoring lead in the series with each tallying six points.

Round Two – Eastern Conference

Round Two in the Eastern Conference saw the Warriors host the Broncos while the Hurricanes took on the Wheat Kings.

The top two teams from the East Division delivered a thrilling series, going a full seven games. After the two teams split the pair of games in Moose Jaw in Swift Current, the series came down to a best-of-three, with the home teams losing all three contests, including a Game Six marathon that went into a third overtime, won by Jayden Halbgewachs.

Both captains led their respective sides in the series as Glenn Gawdin recorded nine points (4G-5A) and Howden tallied eight points (3G-5A) for Moose Jaw. However, it was Edmonton Oilers prospect Stuart Skinner who stole the show, shutting out the Warriors three times in their own rink during the series, with clean sheets in Game Two, Five, and Seven. His 1.56 GAA led all starting goaltenders in Round Two while his 0.943 SV% was just a smidge behind Carter Hart of the Everett Silvertips.

After their strong five-game performance in Round One, the Hurricanes brought the storm to the Wheat Kings in Round Two, outscoring them 24-14 in a five-game series. The Hurricanes remained perfect on home-ice in the 2018 WHL Playoffs winning the first two games of the series and then securing their spot in the Eastern Conference Championship in Game Five.

Morrison was once again a force to contend with, tallying 13 points (6G-7A) in the series while captain Jordy Bellerive added eight points (4G-4A).

Eastern Conference Championship

The WHL’s Eastern Conference was guaranteed a new champion after the Pats bowed out in Round One and the Broncos and Hurricanes were in a prime position to battle each other for the banner and the opportunity to compete for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The tight series saw the Broncos and Hurricanes defend their home turf in the first four games of the series, sending the matchup to a best-of-three. After the Broncos earned a victory on home ice in Game Five, they did what the Rebels and Wheat Kings had failed to do before, win a game in Lethbridge.

Former Hurricanes captain Giorgio Estephan led the Broncos in the series with eight points (7G-1A). Responding for the Hurricanes once again was Morrison, who had eight points (4G-4A) while teammates Taylor Ross and Bellerive finished just a point behind him.

Round 1 – Western Conference 

The Seattle Thunderbirds knew they had work to do entering Round One against the top-seeded Everett Silvertips, who entered the 2018 WHL Playoffs having only allowed 167 goals in the regular season, 46 fewer than the second-best team in that statistic. The first game followed usual fashion, with the number one team in the U.S. Division and Western Conference defeating the Thunderbirds, but the second was an overtime thriller that saw the Thunderbirds tie the series at one game each. Everett proceeded to overtake the series, winning the next three games to advance.

The Silvertips were led by a pair of forwards. Connor Dewar and Matt Fonteyne each had eight points while the Thunderbirds were led by Matthew Wedman, who recorded five points (1G-4A).

The second matchup of Round One saw the Portland Winterhawks take on the Spokane Chiefs. After splitting the first two games, the Winterhawks won both games in Spokane to take a 3-1 series lead. Spokane would battle back against their division rivals to even the score at three games a piece and force a winner-takes-all Game Seven. In the game, Cody Glass had three points (1G-2A), factoring in to all three Portland goals while goaltender Cole Kehler turned away 30 of 31 shots to give Portland the series win.

The series between the Winterhawks and Chiefs also produced the tying of a WHL Playoff record thanks to San Jose Sharks prospect Joachim Blichfeld. In Game Four of the series, Blichfeld scored a pair of goals seven seconds apart, tying Ron Sutter and Bill Derlago for the record. Making matters better for Blichfeld was that both goals came in the third period, providing the tying and game-winning goals in the contest.

Glass stole the spotlight for the Winterhawks, posting 11 points (3G-8A) in the series. Jaret Anderson-Dolan was the lead man for the Chiefs, recording nine points (2G-7A) throughout the seven games.

The Tri-City Americans entered round one of the 2018 WHL Playoffs in the first wild-card spot. They were facing a Kelowna Rockets squad that finished first in the B.C. Division and were fifth in the league in goals for during the 2018 regular season. The series was a high-scoring affair that saw a total of 37 goals scored over four games, an average of 9.25 goals per game. The Tri-City Americans dominated the series, scoring 24 goals over those four games and sweeping the series.

The series was overtaken by a pair of Americans forwards in Morgan Geekie and Michael Rasmussen. In the four games, Geekie hit the back of the net nine times and added four assists for 13 points. Rasmussen had five goals and seven assists for 12 points in the series.

The rivalry continued for the Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants as they faced off in Round One. Finishing in second and third respectively, the Royals and Giants faced off ten times in the regular season, with seven victories belonging to the Royals. The series went the distance, going to seven games with four of them being decided by a single goal. Ultimately it was the Royals who came out on top, coming back from a 3-2 series deficit and holding off a late surge from the Giants after leading game seven 3-0.

The series was sealed on two goals from Royals forward Matthew Phillips, who tallied 16 points (6G-10A) in the seven-game series. Tyler Benson was the leading scorer for the Giants with 11 points (3G-8A).

Round Two – Western Conference

The first matchup of Round Two of the 2018 WHL Playoffs featured a U.S. Division showdown saw the number one and two ranked teams face off. The Winterhawks started game one with a chip on their shoulder, defeating the Silvertips by a score of 5-2. Through the next four games, the Silvertips would shut the door, holding the Winterhawks to only four goals over the rest of the series. The Silvertips outscored the Winterhawks 19-4 over the next four games in what looked like a completely different series from Game One. Carter Hart record one shutout, and earned a combined shutout with Dustin Wolf, leading his team to the series win and a berth in the Western Conference Championship.

Patrick Bajkov and Hart were the stars of the series. Bajkov recorded a hat trick in game two and tallied eight points (3G-5A) over the series. Hart was a rock in net, allowing only nine goals over the five games for a 1.86 GAA and a 0.949 SVS%.

The  saw the Americans pitted against the Royals. This was a high-scoring series that saw 31 goals scored in four games, for an average of 7.75 goals per game. The Americans got off to a quick start, winning the first game by a score of 7-0 and continued their rampant pace, outscoring the Royals 11-1 through the first two games. The series ended similar to the Americans round one matchup, as they won all four games, sweeping their final B.C. Division opponent.

The Americans were again powered by Rasmussen, who tallied 12 points (5G-7A) and Jake Bean, who recorded 10 points (1G-9A) in the series. Leading the Royals was captain Matthew Phillips, whose 10 points (5G-5A) paced his team through the four-game series.

 

Western Conference Championship

The Western Conference Championship saw Carter Hart and the Silvertips play their undefeated division rival Americans. The championship, like all of the Americans series before, was a high scoring one, with 47 goals over six games, an average of 7.8 goals per game. This time though, the Americans got a taste of defeat, losing their first game in Everett, Wash.

It was the first loss for the Americans, but they rebounded, winning game two to head home with the series tied at 1-1. The next two games were overtaken by the Silvertips, who outscored the Americans 11-5, including an 8-4 victory. With the championship on the line, the Americans persevered and won Game Five to force a sixth game at home. The game was intense and after a third period surge that saw the Silvertips erase a 5-2 deficit to force overtime, Kevin Davis scored the game-and-series-winning goal on the power play in overtime, crowning the Silvertips as Western Conference Champions for the second time in franchise history.

Rasmussen again led the Americans with nine points (6G-3A), giving him 33 points (16G-17A) through the three series. Garett Pilon was the force for the Silvertips recording 10 points (5G-5A) in the Western Conference Championship.

The series also saw one WHL Playoffs record tied in Game Five. Dewar’s opening goal seven seconds into the game tied former Medicine Hat Tigers forward Trevor Linden for the fastest goal from the start of a WHL Playoff game, a feat Linden achieved back in April 1988.

2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series

The Broncos and Silvertips dueled for the right to earn the Ed Chynoweth Cup and delivered a fitting six-game series.

Despite the Broncos emerging victorious at the end, the Silvertips struck first in the series, claiming a 2-1 victory in Swift Current. The following day, the Broncos responded with a 4-3 victory in overtime to even up the series heading stateside.

In Everett was where the Broncos really took hold of he series, winning a pair of overtime games in Game Three and Game Four to put themselves on the cusp of the championship.

The Silvertips sent the series back to Swift Current with a 6-3 victory in Everett, the final game of the season at Angel of the Winds Arena, but that’s as close as the Broncos would let the series get.

In a dominating Game Six performance, the Broncos shutout the Silvertips 3-0. The trio of Gawdin, Matteo Gennaro, and Estephan combined for 19 points (8G-11A) in the series.

In his 360th and final WHL game with the Broncos, Gawdin delivered the championship Swift Current had been seeking since their last championship victory in 1993.

Before he was given the honour of hoisting the Ed Chynoweth Cup and delivering it to his teammates, Gawdin was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2018 WHL Playoffs, capping off a run that saw him record 32 points (14G-28A) in 24 games.

Stuart Skinner won the goaltending duel in the series, sporting a 1.79 GAA and 0.947 SV% in the series while also picking up two shutouts. Skinner’s play was more meaningful when taking a look at the larger picture of his performance in the 2018 WHL Playoffs as he set new records for games played (26), minutes played (1,609), saves (811), and shutouts (six).

2018 WHL Playoffs leaders:
Goals:
Morgan Geekie, Tri-City Americans, 17
Assists:
Aleksi Heponiemi, Swift Current Broncos, 25
Points:
Brad Morrison, Lethbridge Hurricanes, 37
Power-play goals:
Three-way tie (Michael Rasmussen, Tri-City Americans, Patrick Bajkov, Everett Silvertips, Giorgio Estephan, Swift Current Broncos) at 7
Game-winning goals:
Three-way tie (Morgan Geekie, Tri-City Americans, Glenn Gawdin, Swift Current Broncos, Giorgio Estephan, Swift Current Broncos) at 4

Games Played: Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 26
Minutes: 
Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 1,609
Saves: 
Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 811
Wins: 
Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 16
Goals-against-average: Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 2.20
Save percentage: 
Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 0.932
Shutouts: 
Stuart Skinner, Swift Current Broncos, 6

 

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