2006 Conference Semi-Final Preview

By pbadmin

WHL Press Release

Calgary, AB — The quest for Western Hockey League supremacy and a spot in the 2006 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament continues as the second round of the 2006 WHL playoffs kicks off on Friday, April 7th. Here’s a look at the Conference semi-final match-ups.

MNP EASTERN CONFERENCE



Medicine Hat Tigers vs Saskatoon Blades

2005-06 head-to-head regular season record: Saskatoon won season series 3-2



2006 playoff scoring leaders:

Medicine Hat: Daine Todd 4gp-6g-1a-7pts

Derek Dorsett 4gp-5g-2a-7pts

Brett Robertson 4gp-2g-5a-7pts



Saskatoon: Chad Klassen 6gp-4g-6a-10pt

Devin Setoguchi 6gp-7g-2a-9pts

Wacey Rabbit 6gp-4g-2a-6pts


The Medicine Hat Tigers and Saskatoon Blades meet up in the playoff for the first time since the 1990 post-season, when the Blades beat the Tiger three games to none in the opening-round best-of-five series.

The Tigers advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year after sweeping the Swift Current Broncos 4-0 in the opening round. The Tigers, the Eastern Conference’s top seed, will be well-rested heading into the second-round series with Saskatoon, having had eight days to recuperate since finishing their opening-round series with the Broncos. The Tigers’ offense was explosive versus the Broncos, outscoring the club from Speedy Creek 22-6 in four games. Darren Helm and Roman Psurny, the Tigers’ top two scorers in the regular season, accounted for just two goals in the opening round, showing the tremendous offensive depth the Tigers possess. Medicine Hat’s defense was a combined plus-18 versus the Broncos. However, they’ll face a much stiffer challenge against a Blades team that also possesses a tremendous amount of firepower. Goaltender Matt Keetley played well versus Swift Current, posting a 1.44 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in four games, but will surely be tested more often by a strong Saskatoon attack. As dominant as the Tigers were during the regular season, they had a tough time playing Saskatoon, losing three of five meetings including one of two meetings in Medicine Hat.

The Blades advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-00 campaign after defeating the Regina Pats four games to two in the opening round. While most teams would be considered underdogs going up against the Tigers, the Blades were one of the few that actually had success versus the Eastern Conference regular-season champs, winning three of five regular-season meetings. Devin Setoguchi has been a dominant force for the Blades in the playoffs, scoring a playoff-leading seven goals. Meanwhile veteran forward Chad Klassen – acquired from Spokane at the trade deadline -has paid playoff dividends for the Blades, leading the team in scoring through the opening round. Klassen and Setoguchi, along with Wacey Rabbit, Joe Barnes and Aaron Bader, will need to take their offensive play to the next level to break down a very deep Medicine Hat defense. Netminder Anton Khudobin, who played well in the opening round versus Regina, will have no shortage of work versus the Tigers, who regularly out-shoot their opponents. There’s no questioning the offensive firepower the Blades possess. However, their defensive play will be the difference if they want to have playoff success versus the Tigers.

Series Schedule



Saskatoon @ Medicine Hat; Friday, April 7, 7:30 p.m.

Saskatoon @ Medicine Hat; Saturday, April 8, 7:30 p.m.

Medicine Hat @ Saskatoon; Tuesday, April 11, 7:00 p.m.

Medicine Hat @ Saskatoon; Wednesday, April 12, 7:00 p.m.

Saskatoon @ Medicine Hat; Saturday, April 15, 7:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Medicine Hat @ Saskatoon; Monday, April 17, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Saskatoon @ Medicine Hat; Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Calgary Hitmen vs Moose Jaw Warriors

2005-06 head-to-head regular season record: Calgary won season series 3-1



2006 playoff scoring leaders:

Calgary: Fredrik Pettersson 6gp-3g-4a-7pts

Craig Lineker 6gp-0g-7a-7pts

Brodie Dupont 6gp-3g-3a-6pts



Moose Jaw: Riley Holzapfel 6gp-3g-3a-6pts

Blair Jones 6gp-3s-3a-6pts

Steven Gillen 6gp-2g-4a-6pts


The Calgary Hitmen and Moose Jaw Warriors meet up in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-00 season when the Hitmen swept the Warriors 4-0 in the opening round.

Calgary reached the second round of the post-season for the second straight year after downing the Lethbridge Hurricanes four games to two in the opening round. The Hitmen allowed the fewest goals in the WHL during the regular season – just 155 in 72 games – but surrendered 18 goals in six games to the Hurricanes in the opening round of the playoffs. However, they showed signs of regaining their defensive dominance over the last three games of the series, allowing only five goals and earning three straight victories. Calgary won three of four meetings with Moose Jaw during the regular season, and limited the Warriors to just six goals in the process. They will need to be equally as dominant defensively if they want to shut down Moose Jaw’s high-octane attack in the post-season. Up front, Fredrik Pettersson and Brodie Dupont began to catch fire near the end of the first round series versus the ‘Canes. They, along with Ryan White, Riley Merkley and Keegan Dansereau, will need to take their game up a notch to beat Warriors’ netminder Joey Perricone, who was very strong in the opening-round series versus Brandon. Of course, the biggest factor for Calgary will be the play of netminder Justin Pogge. The All-Star goaltender struggled at times versus Lethbridge in the first round, but clearly has the ability to steal a game when at his best.

Moose Jaw advances to the second round of the post-season for the first time since the 2003-04 season when they fell four games to two to Red Deer in the Eastern Conference semi-final. The Warriors may have been a freewheeling, high-scoring team during the regular season, but they’ve shown they can play a solid defensive game in the playoffs, having posted back-to-back shutout victories over the Wheat Kings to close out their first-round series. They’ll need to continue their solid defensive play versus Calgary as goals will be scarce versus the defensively dominant Hitmen. Troy Brouwer led the WHL in scoring during the regular season, but only managed two goals in four games versus Calgary. He’ll need to step up his post-season production for the Warriors to have success versus Calgary. Goaltender Joey Perricone really stepped up his game in the opening round series with Brandon, posting a solid 1.17 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage in six games. If he can keep up his current form, it will greatly increase the Warriors’ chances of advancing.

Series Schedule



Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Saturday, April 8, 12:00 p.m.

Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Sunday, April 9, 2:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Tuesday, April 11, 7:00 p.m.

Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Wednesday, April 12, 7:00 p.m.

Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Friday, April 14, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Calgary @ Moose Jaw; Sunday, April 16, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Moose Jaw @ Calgary; Wednesday, April 19, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

KALTIRE WESTERN CONFERENCE



Vancouver Giants vs Portland Winter Hawks

2005-06 head-to-head regular season record: Vancouver won season series 5-0



2006 playoff scoring leaders:

Vancouver: Gilbert Brule 5gp-5g-3a-8pts

Spencer Machacek 5gp-3g-3a-6pts

Cody Franson 5g-2g-3a-5pts



Portland: Brandon Dubinsky 7gp-5g-8a-13pts

Jannik Hansen 7gp-4g-6a-10pts

Michael Sauer 7gp-4g-2a-6pts


The Vancouver Giants and Portland Winter Hawks meet up for the first-ever playoff series between the teams.

Vancouver advanced to the second round of the playoff for the second time in the franchise’s five-year history, having dispatched the Prince George Cougars four games to one in the opening round. The Giants, the Western Conference’s top seed, come into the series as heavy favorites, having won all five regular-season games versus the Winter Hawks by a combined score of 25-3. The Giants have also enjoyed almost a week off to rest up after their opening-round series victory over the Cougars. Gilbert Brule, rookie Spencer Machacek and veteran Mitch Bartley accounted for nine of the Giants’ 17 goals versus Prince George in the first round. However, the Giants boast plenty of scoring depth beyond that trio, especially with the return of shifty forward Tim Kraus. Vancouver’s defense allowed just six goals in five games in the opening round, and will need to be equally stifling in the next round to effectively shut down the Hawks’ big guns, particularly the dominant Brandon Dubinsky. The task of stopping Dubinsky will likely fall on the shoulders of Mark Fistric, who did well in neutralizing Prince George’s top attackers in the opening round. Goaltender Dustin Slade was solid, if a bit under-worked, in the first round versus Prince George, and need to be sharp versus the Hawks, who boast several dangerous snipers.

The Winter Hawks advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign after an emotional overtime win in Seattle in Game 7 of their opening-round series. However, the Hawks’ victory came at a price as they lost forward Kyle Bailey – one of the team’s most dependable players – to a serious ankle injury. With the Hawks already considered underdogs versus the favored Giants, the loss of Bailey makes it an even bigger uphill climb for Portland. The Hawks’ first-round success was largely due to the dominant play of their best player, Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky (5g-8a) had a hand in 13 of the Hawks’ 20 goals in the opening round versus Seattle, including a masterful four-point performance in Portland’s overtime road win in Game 7. He, along with Danish winger Jannik Hansen, veteran forward Jon Bubnick, and defenseman Michael Sauer, will be charged with producing offense against one of the most stifling defenses in the WHL. Rookie goaltender Kurtis Mucha played well in the opening round, out-dueling Seattle’s veteran netminder Bryan Bridges. However, Mucha will need to be at his best to stop Vancouver’s relentless offense, which averaged just under 37 shots on net per game versus the Cougars in the first round.

Series Schedule



Portland @ Vancouver; Friday, April 7, 7:30 p.m.

Portland @ Vancouver: Saturday, April 8, 7:00 p.m.

Vancouver @ Portland; Wednesday, April 12, 7:00 p.m.

Vancouver @ Portland; Thursday, April 13, 7:00 p.m.

Portland @ Vancouver; Sunday, April 16, 5:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Vancouver @ Portland; Tuesday, April 18, 7;00 p.m. (if necessary)

Portland @ Vancouver; Wednesday, April 19, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Kelowna Rockets vs Everett Silvertips

2005-06 head-to-head regular season record: Kelowna won season series 3-1



2006 playoff scoring leaders:

Kelowna: Blake Comeau 6gp-3g-4a-7pts

Lauris Darzins 6gp-5g-1a-6pts

Justin Keller 6gp-3g-3a-6pts



Everett: Shaun Heshka 4gp-2g-5a-7pts

Zach Hamill 5gp-3g-3a-6pts

Torrie Wheat 5gp-1g-3a-4pts


The Kelowna Rockets and Everett Silvertips meet up in the post-season for only the second time. Everett beat Kelowna four games to three in the 2004 Western Conference final.

The Rockets advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs for the fifth straight season after eliminating the Kootenay Ice four games to two in the opening round. Kelowna’s offense has been productive so far in the post-season, scoring an average of four goals per game in the first-round series with Kootenay. However, the Rockets’ power play has struggled in the post-season, accounting for just three of their 24 goals in six games versus the Ice. The Rockets’ penalty killing also had difficulties in the opening round, surrendering seven power play goals in 33 shorthanded situations through the six-game series. The Rockets will definitely need to improve their penalty killing versus the Silvertips’ lethal power play. Kelowna’s defense was a combined plus-24 versus Kootenay in the opening round. Mike Card and the Rockets’ blue line brigade will need to be equally solid versus the ‘Tips, who boast two potent attacking lines. Having home-ice advantage could work in the Rockets’ favor as they won both regular-season contests versus the ‘Tips at Prospera Place by a combined score of 8-2.

The Silvertips advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the third time in their three-year existence after beating the Tri-City Americans four games to one in the opening round. Everett allowed just four goals in five games versus the Americans, due largely to the stellar goaltending of Leland Irving. Irving, who posted a miniscule 0.79 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts versus the Ams, will need to be just as strong if the Silvertips are to be successful versus a much more potent Kelowna offense. The Silvertips’ power play has been strong during the playoffs. Quarterbacked by defenseman Shaun Heshka, the ‘Tips’ power play struck for six of the team’s 13 goals in the first round versus the Ams. Everett will need to make the most of their power play chances versus a Kelowna team that struggled on the penalty kill in the first round. The ‘Tips have not won in Kelowna since September 2004. They will need to resurrect their form from the 2004 post-season when they won three times at Prospera Place to upset the Rockets in the Western Conference final.

Series Schedule



Everett @ Kelowna; Friday, April 7, 7:00 p.m.

Everett @ Kelowna; Sunday, April 9, 5:00 p.m.

Kelowna @ Everett; Tuesday, April 11, 7:05 p.m.

Kelowna @ Everett; Wednesday, April 12, 7:05 p.m.

Everett @ Kelowna; Friday, April 14, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)

Kelowna @ Everett; Sunday, April 16, 6:05 p.m. (if necessary)

Everett @ Kelowna; Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 p.m. (if necessary)