Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WHL 2nd Round Preview

The quest for Western Hockey League glory and an opportunity to compete in the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, QC, continues as the second round of the 2012 WHL Playoffs kick off on Friday, April 6th.

In the Husky WHL Eastern Conference, Mark Pysyk and the Edmonton Oil Kings swept aside the defending WHL champion Kootenay Ice in the first round. Now, they meet Pysyk’s Canadian World Junior teammate, Mark Stone, and the high-octane Brandon Wheat Kings club who knocked out the third-ranked Calgary Hitmen in five games. Who will prevail in this regal match-up?
Quinton Howden and the East Division champion Moose Jaw Warriors overpowered the Regina Pats in five games in a first-round meeting between division rivals. They will now take on red-hot Emerson Etem and the Medicine Hat Tigers, who made short work of the Saskatoon Blades in their four-game sweep in the opening round. Can Howden’s Warriors declaw the Tigers? Or, will Etem’s Tigers maul the Warriors in their second-round clash?

In the Kal Tire WHL Western Conference, Brendan Shinnimin and the Western Conference regular-season champion Tri-City Americans swept past the Everett Silvertips in four games in the opening round, while Mitch Holmberg and the Spokane Chiefs rallied from an 0-2 series deficit to get past the Vancouver Giants in six games. Now, the U.S. Division archrivals will go head-to-head in what will be a fierce second-round series.
Ty Rattie led the high-flying Portland Winterhawks to a first-round sweep of the Kelowna Rockets. Now, they face Brendan Ranford and the B.C. Division champion Kamloops Blazers, who ousted the Victoria Royals in an opening-round sweep. Who will prevail in this battle between two Western Conference heavyweights?
Who will advance to the 2012 Husky WHL Eastern and Kal Tire Western Conference Championship series?
Here's a look at the second-round Husky WHL Eastern and Kal Tire Western Conference Semi-Final match-ups:

2011-12 regular-season record: (W-L-OTL-SOL, PTS)
Edmonton: 50-15-3-4, 107pts
Brandon: 39-28-1-4, 83pts
2011-12 head-to-head record:
Edmonton: 3-1-0-0, 6pts
Brandon: 1-3-0-0, 2pts
2011-12 head-to-head top scorers:
Michael St. Croix 4gp-4g-4a-8pts
T.J. Foster 4gp-2g-5a-7pts
Michael Ferland 3gp-2g-2a-4pts
Brenden Walker 4gp-2g-1a-3pts
The Edmonton Oil Kings meet the Brandon Wheat Kings for the first time ever in the WHL playoffs.
The Scotty Munro Memorial trophy-winning Oil Kings are making their first appearance in the second round of the WHL playoffs in the modern history of the franchise, having knocked off the defending champion Kootenay Ice in a four-game sweep in the first round. Edmonton comes into the second round of the post-season on a 15-game winning streak, with their last loss coming on February 22nd to the Kelowna Rockets. Though they received strong offensive contributions from their usual top performers like Michael St. Croix and Tyler Maxwell, it was rookie Curtis Lazar who led the offense in the first round, netting three goals and seven points in four games versus Kootenay. Defensively, the Oil Kings allowed only seven goals in four games versus the Ice. They will likely face a tougher test in the defensive zone versus the offensively charged Wheat Kings. Mark Pysyk and Griffin Reinhart will need to find a way to stop Mark Stone, the WHL’s second-leading scorer during the regular season. Laurent Brossoit stopped 88 of 95 shots through the first round versus the Ice. He’ll have to prepare for more work versus the Wheaties’ collection of sharp shooters.
The Wheat Kings are in the second round of the WHL playoffs for the fifth time over the last eight seasons, having toppled the third-ranked Calgary Hitmen in five games in the Husky WHL Eastern Conference quarter final. Offensively, the Wheat Kings spread around the scoring in their first-round series versus Calgary, with 10 different players finding the back of the net through five games. Yet, it was the Wheat Kings’ defense limiting the Hitmen to just 10 goals in five games that propelled them into the next round. Now, they will have to stop Edmonton’s 2nd-ranked offense. Brodie Melnychuk, Ryan Pulock and Ryley Miller will be counted on to defend a deep and talented Oil Kings’ attack that boasts four point-per-game players from the first round. Goaltender Corbin Boes was a difference-maker for the Wheat Kings in the first round. The 18-year-old from Saskatoon gave up just 10 goals on 181 shots in five games in the first round for a stellar .945 save percentage. He will have to improve on the 4.08 goals-against average he posted in three appearances versus the Oil Kings during the regular season.
Series Schedule(All Start Times Local)
#1 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Friday, April 6 (7:00pm)
#2 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Saturday, April 7 (6:00pm)
#3 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Tuesday, April 10 (7:00pm)
#4 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Wednesday, April 11 (7:00pm)
#5 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Friday, April 13 (8:00pm)**
#6 – Edmonton @ Brandon; Sunday, April 15 (6:00pm**
#7 – Brandon @ Edmonton; Wednesday, April 18 (7:00pm)**
**If Necessary

2011-12 regular-season record:
Moose Jaw: 45-19-6-2, 98pts
Medicine Hat: 42-24-2-4, 90pts
2011-12 head-to-head record:
Moose Jaw: 2-2-0-0, 4pts
Medicine Hat: 2-2-0-0, 4pts
2011-12 head-to-head top scorers:
Moose Jaw:
Cam Braes: 8gp-6g-7a-13pts
Quinton Howden: 4gp-2g-4a-6pts
Medicine Hat:
Patrik Parkkonen: 4gp-1g-6a-7pts
Boston Leier: 4gp-3g-1a-4pts
The Moose Jaw Warriors take on the Medicine Hat Tigers for a playoff series for the first time since the 2005-06 season. Troy Brouwer and the Warriors defeated Darren Helm and the Tigers 4-1 in the 2006 WHL Eastern Conference championship series.
The Warriors advanced past the opening round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2005-06 season when they made it all the way to the WHL championship series. After losing the series opener, the Warriors reeled off four straight wins over the Pats to advance to the second round. Led by Quinton Howden, the Warriors’ offense racked up 23 goals over their four wins, and connected for seven power play goals on 21 chances. Four Warriors scored at least three goals and five players notched at least six points in the first round series win. If they can keep up their offensive production, they’ll have a better chance at beating Tigers’ netminder Tyler Bunz. Defensively, the Warriors managed to limit Regina star Jordan Weal to just one goal in the first round. Now, Dylan McIlrath and the defense corps will have to find a way to shut down Emerson Etem, one of the league’s top snipers. Limiting the Tigers’ power play chances will be a key to the Warriors’ success. Luke Siemens posted four wins in the opening round, but will want to improve on his .886 save percentage. He won two of three appearances versus Medicine Hat during the regular season.
The Tigers are in the second round of the WHL playoffs for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons, having swept the Saskatoon Blades in the Husky WHL Eastern Conference quarter finals. As was the case during the regular season, Emerson Etem was a key cog in the Tigers’ success. The Anaheim Ducks prospect scored seven goals, including two game-winners, and 12 points in four games. Aside from Etem, only Curtis Valk, with four goals, and James Bettauer, with two tallies, had more than one goal in the opening round series. The Tigers will need more from Hunter Shinkaruk and Cole Grbavac if they are to have success versus the Warriors’ tough defense. On the back end, the Tigers allowed just seven goals over their four-game series versus the Blades, and surrendered just one power play marker. Goaltender Tyler Bunz, the Eastern Conference nominee for the WHL Goaltender of the Year award, was terrific in the opening round, stopping 118 of 125 shots in the series for a solid .944 save percentage. He’ll need to be equally strong versus a Warriors’ offense that is firing on all cylinders right now.
Series Schedule
#1 – Medicine Hat @ Moose Jaw; Friday, April 6 (7:00pm)
#2 – Medicine Hat @ Moose Jaw; Saturday, April 7 (7:00pm)
#3 – Moose Jaw @ Medicine Hat; Tuesday, April 10 (7:00 pm)
#4 – Moose Jaw @ Medicine Hat; Wednesday, April 11 (7:00pm)
#5 – Medicine Hat @ Moose Jaw; Friday, April 13 (7:00pm)**
#6 – Moose Jaw @ Medicine Hat; Sunday, April 15 (6:00pm)**
#7 – Medicine Hat @ Moose Jaw; Tuesday, April 17 (7:00pm)**

2011-12 regular-season record:
Tri-City: 50-18-2-2, 104pts
Spokane: 38-25-5-4, 85pts
2011-12 head-to-head record:
Tri-City: 8-4-0-0, 16pts
Spokane: 4-8-0-0, 8pts
2011-12 head-to-head top scorers:
Brendan Shinnimin 11gp-9g-13a-22pts
Patrick Holland 12gp-4g-16a-20pts
Brenden Kichton 12gp-2g-9a-11pts
Dominik Uher 10gp-5g-5a-10pts
The Tri-City Americans face the Spokane Chiefs in a playoff series for the second straight season. Tyler Johnson and the Chiefs beat Kruise Reddick and the Americans in six games in the second round of the 2011 WHL playoffs.
The Americans advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs for a fifth straight season after sweeping the Everett Silvertips in the first round. The Ams outscored the Silvertips 18-6 in the four-game series, and never trailed in any of the four games. As usual, the Ams’ offense has been led by Brendan Shinnimin and Adam Hughesman, who combined for six goals and 15 points in the series. Shinnimin, Hughesman and Patrick Holland dominated to the tune of a combined 19 goals and 60 points in 12 games versus the Chiefs in the regular season. Zach Yuen and the Ams’ defense corps will face a much tougher test versus a spirited and hard-working Chiefs team that boasts some talented snipers. Ty Rimmer, the Western Conference nominee for WHL Goaltender of the Year, stopped 96 of 102 shots in four games versus the Silvertips. He was strong versus Spokane this season, posting an 8-2 record with a.923 save percentage.
The Chiefs booked their place in the second round of the WHL playoffs for a fourth time in five seasons after defeating the higher-seeded Vancouver Giants in six games in the Kal Tire WHL Western Conference quarter finals. Having lost the first two games of their series versus the Giants, surrendering 14 goals in the process, the Chiefs turned their fortunes around and won the next four games while giving up just six goals. While Mitch Holmberg led the way with six goals, the Chiefs did spread their scoring around with seven different players tallying at least two goals. They will need big contributions from the likes of Dominik Uher, Todd Fiddler and Marek Kalus if they are to match Tri-City’s offensive punch. Defensively, the Chiefs will greatly miss the contributions of Brenden Kichton, who suffered a broken jaw in the first round. However, the opportunity is there for players like Reid Gow and Davis Vandane to take on bigger roles. They will have their hands full trying to limit Tri-City’s dominant first line. Eric Williams turned in a string of outstanding efforts to backstop the Chiefs past the Giants in the final four games of the series. If Williams can maintain his current form, the Chiefs will have a much better chance at knocking off their bitter rivals.
Series Schedule (All Start Times Local)
#1 – Spokane @ Tri-City; Friday, April 6 (7:05pm)
#2 – Spokane @ Tri-City; Saturday, April 7 (7:05pm)
#3 – Tri-City @ Spokane; Wednesday, April 11 (7:05pm)
#4 – Tri-City @ Spokane; Friday, April 13 (7:05pm)
#5 – Spokane @ Tri-City; Saturday, April 14 (7:05pm) **
#6 – Tri-City @ Spokane; Monday, April 16 (7:05pm) **
#7 – Spokane @ Tri-City; Wednesday, April 18 (7:05pm) **

2011-12 regular-season record:
Portland: 49-19-3-1, 102pts
Kamloops: 47-20-2-3, 99pts
2011-12 head-to-head record:
Portland: 2-1-1-0, 5pts
Kamloops: 2-2-0-0, 4pts
2011-12 head-to-head top scorers:
Sven Bartschi 3gp-3g-6a-9pts
Ty Rattie 4gp-2g-5a-7pts
Brendan Ranford 4gp-4g-2a-6pts
Chase Schaber 4gp-1g-3a-4pts
The Portland Winterhawks meet the Kamloops Blazers for a playoff series for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Darcy Tucker and the Blazers beat Todd Robinson and the Winterhawks 4-1 in the 1995 Western Conference semi-final en route to their second straight WHL championship.
The Winterhawks swept the Kelowna Rockets in the first round of the WHL playoffs to advance to the second round of the post-season for a third straight season. The Hawks’ WHL-leading offense cranked out 21 goals over the four-game set, thanks to Ty Rattie’s remarkable 10-goal performance in the series. The Airdrie, AB, product and St. Louis Blues prospect enjoyed a hat-trick in the series-opener, and then netted four goals in Game 4 to secure the series win. Rattie’s linemates, Sven Bartschi and Marcel Noebels, put up a combined 19 points. Even if that line can’t keep up that type of production versus a tougher Blazers defense, the Hawks still have plenty of other offensive options at their disposal. Defensively, the Hawks allowed just nine goals in four games. They will face a more difficult task in shutting down a Blazers’ offense that boasts plenty of depth. William Wrenn and the Hawks’ defense corps will have to neutralize Brendan Ranford, who scored four goals in four head-to-head meetings during the regular season. Mac Carruth performed well in the first round for the Hawks, and now has 22 playoff wins under his belt. Having faced an average of over 30 shots per game in the first round, Carruth is used to getting lots of work. He should be busy versus a strong offensive team like Kamloops.
The Blazers swept B.C. Division rivals the Victoria Royals in four games in the opening round to win their first playoff series since 1999 when they last advanced to the WHL Championship series. The Blazers doubled up the Royals 22-11 in scoring over the four-game set, and saw their power play go 5-for-19 in the process. The Blazers also spread out their offense, with eight forwards picking up at least a point per game in the series. Losing captain Chase Schaber for the season will hurt the Blazers. However, the team still has the offensive depth to compete with the Hawks. Defensively, the Blazers allowed 11 goals over their series win versus Victoria. Yet, their penalty killing unit allowed just one goal on 16 Royals opportunities. They will need their penalty killing unit to be equally good to shut down a lethal Portland power play. A key factor in any success the Blazers have will be Austin Madaisky and Tyler Hansen’s ability to shut down Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi. Cole Cheveldave won his first four post-season starts, but will aim to improve on his .899 save percentage. The 18-year-old rookie went 1-1 with a .928 save percentage in two starts versus Portland during the regular season.
Series Schedule
#1 – Kamloops @ Portland; Friday, April 6 (7:00pm) Memorial Coliseum
#2 – Kamloops @ Portland; Saturday, April 7 (7:00pm) Memorial Coliseum
#3 – Portland @ Kamloops; Tuesday, April 10 (7:00pm)
#4 – Portland @ Kamloops; Wednesday, April 11 (7:00pm)
#5 – Kamloops @ Portland; Saturday, April 14 (7:00pm)** Rose Garden
#6 – Portland @ Kamloops; Monday, April 16 (7:00pm)**
#7 – Kamloops @ Portland; Wednesday, April 18 (7:00pm)** Memorial Coliseum

No comments: