WHL awards handed out

By Aaron Dowding

Regular season over, bring on the post season.
The Western Hockey League held a press conference on Wednesday morning to announce the awards for the regular season and to welcome the playoffs starting March 22nd.

The playoff matchups in the first round look great with many rivalries set to be stirred.

“One of the objectives we had in establishing four new divisions within the Western Hockey League was to create a greater level of rivalry and interest delivering what the fans are looking for. That is more intense games, more meaningful games with their closest rivals and I think when you look at the matchups in the playoffs this year these playoff rounds are going to be just outstanding,” said Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison.

The matchups in the B.C. divison are quite possibly the most heated with Kelowna taking on archrivals the Kamloops Blazers. Blazers have home ice advantage first.

Prince George is also on the road to face Kootenay in the B.C. division.

Brian Maxwell discussed next the Lethbridge Hurricanes series with Red Deer now that Calgary has taken over third in the division.

“Obviously taking on Red Deer again this year, we had real good success against them last year,” said Maxwell sarcastically. “We won the first one, all we did was delay it longer we had to play them five times.”

Head coach for the Hitmen, Richard Kromm, strictly stated at the conference he feels his team is ready for their matchup with Swift Current.

“Our guys have basically been in playoff mode for two to three months now, really since right around Christmas,” said Kromm. “Certainly we look toward the playoffs it is what we worked so hard for and our guys are pretty fired up to get it started.”

Seattle plays Portland while Tri-Cities take on Spokane in the U.S. division quarter finals.

In the East it is the Brandon Wheatkings vs. the Saskatoon Blades and Moose Jaw tangles with Regina.

Tyler Beechey, forward for the Hitmen, was also in attendance as he was named to the Eastern Conference first all-star team.

“I played my best for the past four years and to be named to that team is big honour,” said Beechey. As far as the playoffs go he said it worked out as planned.
“We wanted to play Swift Current in the first round, we’ve had better success against them (than Red Deer) and I think if we just keep doing the same things were doing now and carry over to the playoffs and were going to be successful.”

Nathan Barrett also received the Bobby Clarke trophy for the Western Hockey League leading man in the regular season.
The 20 year-old from Surrey, B.C., has played five seasons in the Western Hockey League. He recorded 157 goals and 329 points in 316 regular season games, an average of 1.04 points per game in his WHL career.