The Second Season

By Jeff Bromley

After each of the WHL’s 18 member teams have finished their grueling 72-game schedule, a league total of 648 contests to eliminate four teams
from playoff contention, the fourteen remaining teams start a playoff odyssey that will culminate in one of them making the trip to Halifax for the
Memorial Cup some ten weeks from now. That being said it is now time for all pucksters, pundits and fans alike to enjoy what has become an
annual event by the ‘Fan – Playoff Predictions.

Starting in the Western Conference where there’s an opinion that there is not only a noticeable drop off in the quality of teams seeded one
through six but also a sizeable discrepancy in caliber in comparison to the Eastern Conference clubs. In theory that should make predicting the
winners of the first round of series’ that much easy right? Yeah, just as easy as picking the ‘Lotto’ numbers every week.

Spokane vs. Tri-Cities. If you were looking for a first round upset in the West then this series won’t be it. Most of the season I have thought
that Spokane has been somewhat overrated (against the Eastern conference teams) but in the Wild West the WHL’s most improved team over
last season (53 point improvement) has settled in to become the favorite to the win the West. The Americans sold their soul at the trading
deadline last year and are paying for it now. Give the Americans one game. Chiefs in Five.

Prince George vs. Kelowna. Once again if you’re looking for the upset then keep looking. The Cougars could be the club to watch coming out of
the West. Tyler Bouck, Blair Betts and goaltender Scott Myers will shine over the uninspired Rockets. Kelowna will find it hard to stay out of
the box and it will be their undoing. I won’t even give the Rockets one, Cougars in four. Kamloops vs. Seattle. Out of all the Western Conference
series, this will be the one to watch. Two evenly matched up teams separated by only two points in the standings to give the T-Birds home ice
advantage even though the Blazers had more wins. Saprykin, DeCecco, Manness and Fomitchev will be the difference in this series. The loss of
Konstantine Panov to a knee injury is going to hurt the Blazers. Still this one will go the distance – T-Birds in seven.

Eastern Conference – Calgary vs. Moose Jaw. Although a goaltender controversy could hurt them in the later rounds, deciding between Brent
Krahn and Ratislav Stana. I don’t think it matters who plays at this point. If the Hitmen stop admiring themselves long enough and play the way
they’re capable of playing then this series won’t even be close – Hitmen in four.

Swift Current vs. Prince Albert. Notwithstanding the two wins P.A. got in Speedy Creek’s building this season (out of only four losses all
season at home for the Broncos), the Raiders have been on a slide to finish the season (2-8-0 in the last ten). Raiders haven’t recovered from the
Lupaschuk trade earlier in the season. No upsets here – Broncos in five.

Regina vs. Saskatoon. Although I don’t think it would be much of an upset but this going to be one. Because of the obvious rivalry due the
close proximity of the two teams, both in location and standings, this one going to be a war with the Pats coming out on top – Pats in seven.

Kootenay vs. Red Deer. Let’s not forget that last season the Rebels got hot in the first round and defeated the Wheat Kings in a major upset.
That being said if the ICE play the way they’re capable of then the series shouldn’t go past five. The loss of ICE captain Steve McCarthy for rest
of the season (barring a miracle) will hurt the club on the offensive side of the blueline. D – Matt Walker has stepped up to fill the McCarthy void
and the play of rookie sensation Dan Blackburn will be crucial. Can the 16 yr old phenom live up to the intensity of the WHL playoffs? If the
regular season is any indication then the answer is yes. The Rebels with sensational rookie goalie Shane Bendera, Justin Mapletoft and Kyle
Wanvig with something to prove against the ICE could be dangerous. Best not to underestimate them – ICE in five.