THE ROAD TO THE 2013 WHL PLAYOFFSFeb 11, 2013 - 04:54 MST
Calgary, AB – The 2012-13 Western Hockey League regular season is in the stretch run, with five weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
Three Western Conference teams and one Eastern Conference Club have locked up playoff spots thus far, and no team has yet been eliminated from playoff contention.
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, *denoted Division leader
1). X *Edmonton Oil Kings 58gp-41-12-2-3, 87pts (14 games remaining)
2). *Prince Albert Raiders 56gp-31-20-2-3, 67pts (16 games remaining)
3). Calgary Hitmen 56gp-36-16-1-3, 76pts (16 games remaining)
4). Saskatoon Blades 55gp-31-21-0-3, 65pts (17 games remaining)
5). Red Deer Rebels 57gp-29-22-4-2, 64pts (15 games remaining)
6). Swift Current Broncos 56gp-27-24-3-2, 59pts (16 games remaining)
7). Lethbridge Hurricanes 59gp-25-25-2-7, 59pts (13 games remaining)
8). Medicine Hat Tigers 56gp-27-26-2-1, 57pts (16 games remaining)
9). Kootenay Ice 56gp-26-28-2-0, 54pts (16 games remaining)
10). Regina Pats 56gp-20-30-3-3, 46pts (16 games remaining)
11). Moose Jaw Warriors 56gp-18-29-3-6, 45pts (16 games remaining)
12). Brandon Wheat Kings 57gp-20-33-2-2, 44pts (15 games remaining)
The Edmonton Oil Kings and Prince Albert Raiders hold down the No. 1 and 2 spots in the Eastern Conference as leaders of their respective divisions. The Oil Kings are the lone team in the Eastern Conference to have clinched a playoff spot.
The Oil Kings, gunning for their second straight Central Division and Eastern Conference regular-season titles, currently hold a comfortable 11-point lead over the Calgary Hitmen, their closest rival on points, but have also played more games than any other Eastern Conference Club aside form Lethbridge. The Oil Kings are at home for two games next weekend, beginning with Sunday’s match-up versus the red-hot Victoria Royals.
The Raiders have managed a 7-9-2 record since the start of January, and now find themselves clinging to a two-point lead over the surging Saskatoon Blades in the race for the East Division crown. The Raiders are in action three times this week, facing East Division rivals Moose Jaw twice and Swift Current once.
The Hitmen currently sit comfortably in third place in the Eastern Conference, with a nine-point lead over Prince Albert and an 11-point cushion over Saskatoon, and can clinch a playoff spot with any combination of wins and Kootenay losses totaling six. The Hitmen have won three straight on their current U.S. Division tour, and close out their road trip with stops in Tri-Cities on Tuesday and Spokane on Wednesday.
The Blades’ current eight-game winning streak has allowed them to climb up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference and to within two points of Prince Albert for first place in the East Division. The Blades face Moose Jaw three times and Brandon twice over the next 11 days, but don’t meet the Raiders until their regular season-ending home-home-and-home series.
The Red Deer Rebels currently sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point back of Saskatoon and five points up on Lethbridge and Swift Current. The Rebels are back home this week after closing out a four-game road trip, and face B.C. Division opponents Prince George on Wednesday and Victoria on Friday.
The Swift Current Broncos and Lethbridge Hurricanes are currently tied on points for sixth place in the conference, but the Broncos have played three fewer games than the Hurricanes. The Broncos face tough road games in Saskatoon on Tuesday and Prince Albert on Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who have lost nine of their last 11 games, play just once over the next 11 days, hosting Prince George next Saturday.
The Medicine Hat Tigers currently hold a three-point lead over the Kootenay Ice for the eighth and final playoff position in the Eastern Conference, having defeated the Ice 3-2 on Sunday in a key match-up. The Tigers hit the road for games in Regina on Tuesday and Brandon on Wednesday.
The Ice fell three points back of the Tigers in the playoff race with Sunday’s setback in Medicine Hat, but are still 16-4-1 over their last 21 games. Kootenay hosts Victoria on Wednesday before heading to Brandon for two games versus the Wheat Kings next weekend.
The Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors and Brandon Wheat Kings are all within two points of each other in 10th, 11th and 12th places, respectively, in the Eastern Conference, and are all at least 11 points out of a playoff position. Six of the Pats’ remaining 16 games are versus top-4 teams in the Eastern Conference while the Warriors will play Saskatoon and Prince Albert a combined seven times over their final 16 games. The Wheat Kings will face East Division opposition in 11 of their last 15 games.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). X *Portland Winterhawks 56gp-45-8-1-2, 93pts (16 games remaining)
2). X *Kelowna Rockets 58gp-41-13-3-1, 86pts (14 games remaining)
3). X Kamloops Blazers 57gp-37-15-2-3, 79pts (15 games remaining)
4). Victoria Royals 55gp-32-19-1-3, 68pts (17 games remaining)
5). Spokane Chiefs 56gp-32-22-2-0. 66pts (16 games remaining)
6). Tri-City Americans 55gp-31-21-1-2, 65pts (17 games remaining)
7). Everett Silvertips 57gp-21-31-1-4, 47pts (15 games remaining)
8). Seattle Thunderbirds 57gp-19-32-5-1, 44pts (15 games remaining)
9). Prince George Cougars 56gp-17-31-2-6, 42pts (16 games remaining)
10). Vancouver Giants 55gp-14-41-0-0, 28pts (17 games remaining)
The Portland Winterhawks, Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops Blazers have all locked up playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The Winterhawks, currently sitting in first place in the overall WHL standings, can lock up their second U.S. Division title in three years with any combination of points gained and points lost by Tri-Cities totaling seven. The Winterhawks will play nine of their remaining 16 games on the road, where they own the best winning percentage in the WHL.
The Rockets suffered a pair of losses to Portland on the weekend, dropping them seven points back of the Hawks for first place in the Western Conference and leaving them seven points up on Kamloops for the B.C. Division lead. The Rockets host Everett on Thursday before a key home-and-home series versus the Blazers next weekend.
The Blazers have won four straight, keeping them 11 points ahead of Victoria for third place in the Western Conference, but still sit seven points behind Kelowna for the division lead. The Blazers play Kelowna five more times before the end of the season, and also play Victoria and Portland once more each.
The Victoria Royals’ recent 12-2-0-1 run has gotten them into the top four in the Western Conference as they now sit two points up on fifth placed Spokane and three up on sixth placed Tri-Cities. The Royals hit the road for a four-game Central Division tour, beginning Wednesday night in Cranbrook versus Kootenay. Any combination of points gained and points dropped by Prince George totaling seven will clinch the Royals a playoff spot.
The Chiefs dropped to fifth place in the conference with Sunday’s loss to the Royals. The Chiefs, who have lost six of their last eight games, host the Calgary Hitmen on Wednesday before visits to Everett on Friday and Tri-Cities on Saturday.
The Americans suffered losses to both Victoria and Spokane on the weekend, dropping them to sixth place in the Western Conference. The Americans play 10 of their final 17 games at home, where they are 13-11-0-2 this season.
The Everett Silvertips currently sit in seventh place in the conference and hold a five-point lead over Prince George and a three-point lead over Seattle. The Silvertips, losers of their last six games, don’t face the Cougars again this season, but face the T-Birds three more times.
The Thunderbirds have also dropped six straight games, and currently sit just two points ahead of Prince George for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The T-Birds face Vancouver three times and Everett twice over their next five games, and also host the Cougars one more time this season.
The Cougars hold a game in hand on both teams they are chasing for playoff spots. The Cougars, who head out on a Central Division road trip this week, play 10 of their final 16 games on the road where they’ve managed just five wins all season.
The Giants find themselves in 10th place in the Western Conference and 16 points out of a playoff spot. The Giants have not missed the WHL playoffs since their first season in the League in 2001-02.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Nicholas Petan, POR 56gp-40g-58a-98pts
2. Brendan Leipsic, POR 53gp-39g-58a-97pts
3. Colin Smith, KAM 57gp-36g-52a-88pts
4. Ty Rattie, POR 47gp-31g-50a-81pts
5. JC Lipon, KAM 48gp-30g-46a-76pts
6. Myles Bell, KEL 56gp-31g-44a-75pts
7. Adam Lowry, S.C. 56gp-36g-38a-74pts
8. Justin Feser, T.C. 55gp-31g-43a-74pts