The WHL regular season enters its final week of play with much to determine, including the final two playoff spots in the Western ConferenceMonday, Mar 12, 2012
Calgary, AB – The 2011-12 Western Hockey League enters its final week of regular-season action, with much to be determined over the next seven days.
The Brandon Wheat Kings locked up the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference while the battle for the final two playoff berths in the Western Conference and the race for first place in the overall standings will be decided this week.
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, Y denotes clinched Conference title, *denoted Division leader
1). *Edmonton Oil Kings XY 69gp-47-15-3-4, 101pts (3 games remaining)
2). *Moose Jaw Warriors X 69gp-42-19-6-2, 92pts (3 games remaining)
3). Medicine Hat Tigers X 69gp-42-22-2-3, 89pts (3 games remaining)
4). Calgary Hitmen X 69gp-42-24-2-1, 87pts (3 games remaining)
5). Kootenay Ice X 69gp-36-25-4-4, 80pts (3 games remaining)
6). Regina Pats X 69gp-36-25-6-2, 80pts (3 games remaining)
7). Saskatoon Blades X 69gp-38-28-1-2, 79pts (3 games remaining)
8). Brandon Wheat Kings X 69gp-37-28-1-3, 78pts (3 games remaining)
9). Red Deer Rebels 69gp-30-33-1-5, 66pts (3 games remaining)
10). Swift Current Broncos 70gp-26-36-2-6, 60pts (2 games remaining)
11). Lethbridge Hurricanes 69gp-27-41-0-1, 55pts (3 games remaining)
12). Prince Albert Raiders 68gp-21-41-3-3, 48pts (4 games remaining)
All eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference are now locked up. Yet, there is still plenty to decide as far as first-round match-ups are concerned.
Edmonton, Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat and Calgary have all clinched at least top-four spots, meaning they will have home-ice advantage through at least the first round of the playoffs.
The Edmonton Oil Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors remain in the No. 1 and 2 spots in the Eastern Conference. With the Oil Kings having clinched the Eastern Conference title, those two teams will remain exactly where they are in the standings.
The Oil Kings stretched their win streak to eight games with three more wins this past week, clinching the Eastern Conference crown in the process. Currently tied with Tri-Cities for first place in the overall standings, the Oil Kings will battle over the final week of the season for the Scotty Munro Memorial trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the WHL playoffs. Edmonton closes out the regular season with three road games.
The Warriors are locked into first place in the East Division and second place in the Eastern Conference. The Warriors, however, could finish as low as fourth in the conference on points, meaning they could lose home-ice advantage after the first round of the playoffs. The Warriors visit Brandon on Wednesday before closing out the regular-season schedule with a home-and-home series versus Prince Albert next weekend.
The Tigers currently hold a two-point lead over Calgary for third spot, with both teams having three games left to play. The Tigers host Red Deer, Edmonton and Lethbridge this week while the Hitmen host Lethbridge on Wednesday then play a home-and-home series versus Kootenay to close out the regular season.
The Kootenay Ice and Regina Pats now sit tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, with both teams boasting 80 points and an equal number of wins. The Pats own the tiebreaker if the teams end up tied at the end of the regular season.
Kootenay has a tough final week with a game versus Edmonton on Wednesday followed by two contests versus Calgary to finish the season. The Pats host the Raiders on Wednesday then close out the season with a home-and-home versus Brandon.
The Blades currently sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just one point back of Kootenay and Regina and one point up on Brandon. The Blades face Prince Albert on Tuesday before a season-ending home-and-home series versus Swift Current on the weekend.
The Wheat Kings locked up the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, but sit just two points out of fifth place. A weekend home-and-home series versus Regina to finish the regular season will determine where the Wheaties finish in the standings.
The Red Deer Rebels joined the Swift Current Broncos, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders among teams eliminated from playoff contention.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). *Tri-City Americans X 69gp-49-17-1-2, 101pts (3 games remaining)
2). *Kamloops Blazers X 69gp-46-18-2-3, 97pts (3 games remaining)
3). Portland Winterhawks X 69gp-48-17-3-1, 100pts (3 games remaining)
4). Vancouver Giants X 70gp-39-26-2-3. 83pts (2 games remaining)
5). Spokane Chiefs X 68gp-36-23-5-4, 81pts (4 games remaining)
6). Kelowna Rockets X 69gp-29-31-3-6, 67pts (3 games remaining)
7). Everett Silvertips 69gp-21-38-2-8, 52pts (3 games remaining)
8). Victoria Royals 70gp-22-41-3-4, 51pts (2 games remaining)
9). Seattle Thunderbirds 68gp-23-43-1-1, 48pts (4 games remaining)
10). Prince George Cougars 69gp-22-45-0-2, 46pts (3 games remaining)
The races at the top and bottom of the Western Conference standings will go down to the wire as the U.S. Division title, the Western Conference crown and the final two playoff spots in the conference have yet to be determined.
The Tri-City Americans finished the weekend in first place in the U.S. Division and Western Conference standings after see-sawing back and forth with Portland over the past week. However, the Winterhawks are just one point back for the division and conference lead.
The Americans play their final three games at home, where they are 26-5-0-2 this season, while the Winterhawks head to Victoria for two games on Wednesday and Friday before closing out the season versus Seattle on Sunday.
The Kamloops Blazers have already clinched the B.C. Division title, meaning they will finish no lower than second in the conference. However, they now sit four points behind Tri-Cities in the race for first place in the conference and first place overall. The Blazers are in Spokane on Wednesday before finishing their season with a home-and-home series versus Prince George.
At the other end of the table, the Everett Silvertips kept hold of seventh place in the Western Conference, and sit one point up on eighth-placed Victoria. Any combination of points gained or points dropped by Seattle totaling three will guarantee the ‘Tips a playoff spot.
The Royals sit three points ahead of Seattle for eighth place in the conference, but have just two games left as compared with Seattle’s four remaining contests. The Royals host the Portland Winterhawks for a pair of games on Wednesday and Friday to wrap up their regular-season schedule.
The Thunderbirds pulled off a huge 3-2 overtime win over Everett on Sunday to pull within three points of Victoria for the last playoff berth in the conference. With at least one game in hand on both teams they are chasing, the T-Birds control their own destiny. Four wins would guarantee them a playoff spot.
The Prince George Cougars find themselves five points out of the playoff picture in the conference. With just three remaining games, the Cougars cannot afford to drop more than one point while also hoping Victoria gains no more than one point from their final two games in order to give themselves a chance at playoff hockey.
The Vancouver Giants and Spokane Chiefs will face each other in the opening round of the 2012 Playoffs. Who gets home-ice advantage has yet to be determined. The Giants, who went 2-1-1 over the past week, pulled two points ahead of the Spokane Chiefs for fourth place in the conference. However, the Chiefs hold two games in hand on the Giants, meaning they control their own destiny.
Vancouver closes out their regular-season schedule with a home-and-home series versus Kelowna, while Spokane faces tough tests versus Kamloops and Tri-Cities while also facing the T-Birds two more times.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Brendan Shinnimin, T.C. 66gp-57g-72a-129pts
2. Ty Rattie, POR 66gp-54g-62a-116pts
3. Mark Stone, BRN 63gp-39g-76a-115pts
4. Jordan Weal, REG 67gp-39g-75a-114pts
5. Adam Hughesman, T.C. 69gp-46g-64a-110pts
6. Emerson Etem, M.H 62gp-60g-45a-105pts
7. Patrick Holland, T.C. 69gp-24g-81a-105pts
8. Michael St. Croix, EDM 69gp-42g-58a-100pts