FRIDAY'S WHL MATCH-UPSDec 28, 2012 - 04:43 MST
RAIDERS WELCOME BLADES – Mike Winther and the Prince Albert Raiders (22-11-0-3) welcome Josh Nicholls and the Saskatoon Blades (19-15-0-1) for the first of back-to-back meetings between the East Division rivals in Western Hockey League action on Friday night.
The Raiders entered the Christmas break having shut out the Brandon Wheat Kings 3-0 in their final game, and currently sit in first place in the East Division. The Raiders boast an 11-5-0-3 record on home ice this season. Winther shares the team lead with 14 goals and ranks second with 32 points this season.
The Blades dropped their final game before the break with a 3-1 defeat in Swift Current, snapping a six-game winning streak, and currently sit eight points back of the Raiders for first place in the East Division. The Blades have claimed 13 of their 19 wins this season on the road. Nicholls shares the WHL lead with 26 goals this season.
Friday’s meeting marks the third of the season between the Blades and Raiders. The teams split a home-and-home series on the opening weekend of the 2012-13 regular season.
Elsewhere on Friday night, Ryan Pulock and the Brandon Wheat Kings (13-19-2-2) host Tanner Eberle and the Moose Jaw Warriors (13-17-3-4) for another battle between East Division combatants.
The Wheat Kings swept a home-and-home series versus the Warriors on the final weekend of action before the break but lost their last contest with a 3-0 defeat to Prince Albert on December 16th. Brandon’s penalty killing unit ranks 22nd in the WHL at 70.9% efficiency.
The Warriors edged the Pats 4-3 in Regina on Thursday night, snapping a three-game losing skid, and currently sit three points up on the Wheat Kings for fourth place in the East Division. Eberle scored twice on Thursday night, giving him three goals in his last three games.
In Calgary, AB, Cody Sylvester and the Calgary Hitmen (23-8-1-3) take on Russell Maxwell and the Lethbridge Hurricanes (17-16-1-4) for a Central Division clash on Friday.
The Hitmen suffered a 4-1 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on December 18th in their final game before the break, snapping a three-game winning streak, and currently sit one point behind the Oil Kings for first place in the Eastern Conference. Sylvester leads the Hitmen with 20 goals this season.
The Hurricanes fell 3-2 to the visiting Regina Pats in their last game before the break, and currently sit in fourth spot in the Central Division. The Hurricanes are 1-3-0-2 over their last six road games.
In Cranbrook, B.C., Sam Reinhart and the Kootenay Ice (10-23-1-0) host Mike Aviani and the Spokane Chiefs (23-10-1-0) on Friday night.
The Ice dropped their last three games before the Christmas break, including a 5-1 loss to the Red Deer Rebels in their final contest, and remain in sixth place in the Central Division. Reinhart leads the Ice in scoring with 11 goals and 29 points this season.
The Chiefs were edged 4-3 by the visiting Portland Winterhawks on December 18th for their second loss in a row to close out the first half of the season, and currently sit in second place in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs own the third-ranked offense in the WHL, having scored 140 goals this season.
In Red Deer, AB, Matt Dumba and the Red Deer Rebels (22-13-2-1) take on TJ Foster and the Edmonton Oil Kings (23-8-2-3) for the back half of a home-and-home series between the teams.
The Rebels skated to a 5-3 win in Edmonton on Thursday night for their second win in a row, and currently sit in third place in the Central Division standings. Dumba scored a pair of goals on Thursday night in Edmonton, giving him nine goals this season.
The Oil Kings saw a five-game winning streak snapped with Thursday’s loss to the Rebels, but remain in first place in the Eastern Conference standings. Foster is one of four Oil Kings forwards with 40 or more points.
In Kent, WA, Connor Honey and the Seattle Thunderbirds (16-17-1-1) host Josh Winquist and the Everett Silvertips (13-22-0-2) for a battle between U.S. Division foes on Friday.
The Thunderbirds kick off their second half having lost their last five games before the break, and currently sit in fourth place in the U.S. Division. The Thunderbirds own the WHL’s third-ranked power play, currently operating at 23.5% efficiency.
The Silvertips dropped a pair of decisions to the Portland Winterhawks to finish off their first half, and currently sit in fifth place in the U.S. Division. Winquist leads the Silvertips with 12 goals this season.
In Swift Current, SK, Adam Lowry and the Swift Current Broncos (16-17-3-2) welcome Hunter Shinkaruk and the Medicine Hat Tigers (15-18-2-0) on Friday.
The Broncos skated to a 3-1 win over the visiting Saskatoon Blades in their final game before the break for their second straight win and their third victory in four games. Lowry has piled up 12 goals on a current seven-game goal streak.
The Tigers edged the visiting Kamloops Blazers 7-6 in overtime in their last game ahead of the Christmas break, and currently sit in fifth place in the Central Division. The Tigers have won just four times on the road this season.
In Kennewick, WA, Beau McCue and the Tri-City Americans (20-12-1-2) take on Nicholas Petan and the Portland Winterhawks (29-5-1-0) for a battle between U.S. Division rivals on Friday.
The Americans posted a 4-1 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds in their final contest ahead of the break, and currently sit in third place in the U.S. Division. McCue, a rookie, has seven goals over his last eight games.
The Winterhawks managed a 4-3 win over the Chiefs in Spokane on December 18th to finish off their first half on a six-game winning streak, and currently hold a five-point lead for first place in the overall WHL standings. The Winterhawks are 14-2-1 on the road this season.
In Vancouver, B.C., Brett Kulak and the Vancouver Giants (9-25-0-0) host Zach Franko and the Kelowna Rockets (24-10-1-1) for a match-up between B.C. Division clubs on Friday.
The Giants ended the first half with three straight games versus Prince George, winning the first then losing the final two, and currently sit in fifth place in the B.C. Division. The Giants scored just three goals over the three games versus the Cougars.
The Rockets blasted the visiting Kamloops Blazers 7-3 on Thursday night to improve to 14-2-0 on home ice this season, and closed the gap to just four points on the Blazers for first place in the division. Franko (2g-3a) had a five-point outing on Thursday, giving him 41 points this season.
In Victoria, B.C., Alex Gogolev and the Victoria Royals (17-14-0-2) take on Alex Forsberg and the Prince George Cougars (12-18-1-3) for another B.C. Division tilt on Friday.
The Royals dropped their final two outings before the break, and currently sit in third place in the B.C. Division. The Royals own a 10-5-0-1 record on home ice this season.
The Cougars claimed a pair of victories over the visiting Vancouver Giants on the final weekend before the break, and currently occupy fourth place in the B.C. Division. Forsberg has four assists in four games versus Victoria this season.