Calgary, AB – The 2011-12 Western Hockey League regular season is in the stretch run, with four weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
Two more Western Conference teams have locked up playoff spots, meaning only three playoff berths remain out west. No team has clinched a playoff berth the Eastern Conference, yet, though the Oil Kings are within striking distance.
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). *Edmonton Oil Kings 60gp-39-14-3-4, 85pts (12 games remaining)
2). *Moose Jaw Warriors 60gp-37-16-5-2, 81pts (12 games remaining)
3). Medicine Hat Tigers 61gp-36-20-2-3, 77pts (11 games remaining)
4). Calgary Hitmen 60gp-35-22-2-1, 73pts (12 games remaining)
5). Kootenay Ice 59gp-32-19-4-4, 72pts (13 games remaining)
6). Saskatoon Blades 60gp-35-24-0-1, 71pts (12 games remaining)
7). Regina Pats 60gp-31-23-5-1, 68pts (12 games remaining)
8). Brandon Wheat Kings 61gp-32-26-1-2, 67pts (11 games remaining)
9). Red Deer Rebels 59gp-27-26-1-5, 60pts (13 games remaining)
10). Swift Current Broncos 61gp-23-32-2-4, 52pts (11 games remaining)
11). Lethbridge Hurricanes 60gp-23-36-0-1, 47pts (12 games remaining)
12). Prince Albert Raiders 59gp-18-37-2-2, 40pts (13 games remaining)
The Edmonton Oil Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors remain in the No. 1 and 2 spots in the Eastern Conference.
The Oil Kings currently hold an eight-point lead over Medicine Hat for first place in the Central Division and a four-point lead over the Warriors for top spot in the Conference. The Oil Kings can clinch a playoff spot with any combination of points gained and points dropped by Red Deer totaling two.
The Warriors stretched their lead to 10 points over the Blades for first place in the East Division, and now trail Edmonton by just four points for top spot in the Eastern Conference. The Warriors visit the Regina Pats and host Swift Current next weekend.
The Tigers managed a 1-2-0-1 record in the past week, leaving them eight points out of first place in the Central Division while seeing their lead dwindle to one point over Calgary and two points over Saskatoon for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Tigers visit Calgary on Wednesday night in a pivotal Central Division match-up.
The Hitmen got themselves back on track this past week, winning all three games on a B.C. Division road trip, and now sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Hitmen play their next five games at home, including key match-ups versus Medicine Hat, Edmonton and Saskatoon.
The Blades picked up just one win in four outings over the last week, leaving them a full 10 points out of first place in the East Division. The Blades welcome Lethbridge, Kootenay and Red Deer this week.
The Pats won three of their four games in the last week, keeping them a point ahead of the streaking Brandon Wheat Kings for seventh place in the Conference and just five points out of a top-4 spot. The Pats host Kootenay and Moose Jaw before a Saturday night meeting in Brandon versus the Wheat Kings.
The Wheat Kings turned their four-game winning streak into a seven-point lead over Red Deer for the final playoff spot in the conference. The Wheat Kings play just three more road games this season, all against Regina.
The Rebels fell seven points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference after posting a 2-1-0-1 record over the last week. Red Deer kicks off a four-game Saskatchewan road trip next weekend.
The Broncos are now 15 points out of a playoff spot in the conference, and have just 11 games remaining to make up ground. The Broncos host Prince Albert on Wednesday before embarking on a five-game road trip next weekend.
The Hurricanes sit 20 points out of a playoff spot, and have just 12 games remaining. The ‘Canes can finish no higher than sixth in the conference, and will be eliminated from post-season contention with any combination of points dropped and points gained by Brandon totaling four.
The Raiders have dropped their last eight games, and were officially eliminated from post-season contention with Saturday’s loss to the Wheat Kings.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). *Kamloops Blazers X 59gp-41-14-1-3, 86pts (13 games remaining)
2). *Portland Winterhawks X 59gp-41-15-2-1, 85pts (13 games remaining)
3). Tri-City Americans X 58gp-40-15-2-1, 83pts (14 games remaining)
4). Vancouver Giants X 61gp-35-22-1-3. 74pts (11 games remaining)
5). Spokane Chiefs X 59gp-32-20-4-3, 71pts (13 games remaining)
6). Kelowna Rockets 60gp-25-27-3-5, 58pts (12 games remaining)
7). Seattle Thunderbirds 59gp-20-37-1-1, 42pts (13 games remaining)
8). Victoria Royals 59gp-18-35-2-4, 42pts (13 games remaining)
9). Everett Silvertips 58gp-16-33-1-8, 41pts (14 games remaining)
10). Prince George Cougars 58gp-19-37-0-2, 40pts (14 games remaining)
The Vancouver Giants and Spokane Chiefs locked up playoff spots over the last week, joining Kamloops, Portland and Tri-Cities among Western Conference teams guaranteed playoff hockey.
The Blazers sit in first place in the B.C. Division, Western Conference and overall WHL standings with 86 points but have seen their lead dwindle to one point over Portland and Edmonton for first place in the WHL standings. With a 12-point lead over Vancouver for first place in the B.C. Division, the Blazers can clinch the division crown with any combination of points gained or points lost by Vancouver totaling 12.
The Portland Winterhawks extended their winning streak to seven games with four more wins in the past week, and took over top spot in the U.S. Division. The Hawks play Tri-Cities and Kamloops two more times each in their battle for first place in the Western Conference.
The Americans’ 2-1-0-1 record over the past week saw them relinquish first place in the Western Conference to Portland, and now trail the Hawks by two points in the standings. The Americans host Everett twice before visiting Spokane and Seattle on the weekend.
The Vancouver Giants locked up a playoff spot last week and now hold a three-point lead over Spokane for fourth place in the Western Conference. The Giants are gearing up for a home-and-home series versus the conference-leading Blazers next weekend.
The Chiefs snapped a four-game losing skid with a win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Sunday, and currently sit 14 points back of Portland for first place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs face the Hawks and the Tri-City Americans next weekend.
The Rockets remain firmly entrenched in sixth place in the conference, trailing the Giants by 16 points for fifth spot while leading Seattle and Victoria by 16 points for sixth place. The Rockets kick off a five-game road trip this week that will take them through Alberta.
The Royals and Thunderbirds are deadlocked for seventh place in the Western Conference, but sit just one point up on Everett and two points up on Prince George for playoff spots. The Thunderbirds play Everett four more times and Prince George twice more over their final 13 games, while the Royals play eight of their final 13 games versus teams in the top five in the Western Conference.
The Silvertips earned a big win over the Vancouver Giants on Saturday to keep them just one point off the pace for a playoff spot in the conference. A tough week ahead sees the ‘Tips visit Tri-Cities for a pair of games on Wednesday and Friday, visit Seattle on Saturday, then host Portland on Sunday.
The Cougars posted a 2-2 record over the last week to close to within two points of a share of seventh place in the Western Conference. The Cougars hold a game in hand on both Seattle and Victoria, and will host the Royals for a pair of meetings next weekend.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Mark Stone, BRN 55gp-38g-64a-102pts
2. Ty Rattie, POR 56gp-50g-50a-100pts
3. Brendan Shinnimin, T.C. 55gp-41g-55a-96pts
4. Jordan Weal, REG 59gp-34g-60a-94pts
5. Emerson Etem, M.H 54gp-52g-40a-92pts
6. Michael St. Croix, EDM 60gp-38g-54a-92pts
7. Adam Hughesman, T.C. 58gp-33g-56a-89pts