(If you didn’t get a chance to see the round 1 roundup and round 2 predictions for the East, you can read those here.)
Let’s take a look at how I did with round 1 in the West:
(1) Kelowna 118pts v (8) Tri-City 68pts
Prediction: Kelowna in 4
Actual: Kelowna in 5
As I had mentioned in the series preview, Tri-City was the most offense starved team in the playoffs and that continued against Kelowna. The Americans managed 3 goals total in the 3 games in Kelowna. Even with Comrie playing as well as he did, you can’t win a series averaging 1 goal a game on the road. The Rockets, conversely, scored at least 3 goals in every game and Cooke managed to match Comrie and beat him. Were it not for the 52 saves Comrie made in game 3, this would have been a sweep.
(2) Portland 113pts v (7) Vancouver 75pts
Prediction: Portland in 5
Actual: Portland in 4
First, I’ll admit my mistake in writing that Rathjen would be busy. I knew Lee would be the one playing but just wrote down the wrong name. Having said that, I don’t think it would have mattered who the goalie was, Portland wasn’t going to be stopped. The goal differential I talked about before the series started came through in the series. The Winterhawks averaged almost 5 goals per game. Leipsic and Bjorkstrand carried the bulk of the goal scoring, combining for 9 of the 19 Portland goals.
(3) Victoria 100pts v (6) Spokane 86pts
Prediction: Victoria in 6
Actual: Victoria in 4
Victoria took a page out of the Seattle strategy guide when playing Spokane. The Royals held Aviani and Holmberg to a combined 3 points, all of them assists. Only one Chief, Liam Stewart, had more than one goal and defenceman Jason Fram was the only one to score more than 2 points. Spokane lost the first two on the island in OT making it seem like they were two shots away from being up 2-0. Once reaching the Inland Empire, though, they didn’t get closer than a 2 goal loss.
(4) Seattle 88pts v (5) Everett 88pts
Prediction: Seattle in 6
Actual: Seattle in 5
When I wrote that prediction, I figured the teams would alternate home victories until Seattle won game 6 at Comcast Arena. Consider my very pleased when the Thunderbirds came from behind and won game 2 in Everett. Once that happened, a 5 game series was a very distinct possibility. Despite the 5 goal differences in the final 2 games, this series was as close as the records would lead you to expect it to be. While the Khaira and Lotz injuries didn’t prove too costly, the ones that the Silvertips suffered in games 3 and 4 might have turned the series. Missing two defenceman, Seattle played and hit hard in game 5 and finally broke the dam open late in the 2nd.
4 out of 4, not too bad. Of course, I also went chalk so it’s hard to pat myself on the back for that.
On to the next round:
(2) Portland 4-0 v (3) Victoria 4-0
Victoria won 3 of the 4 games played in the season series. 2 of those, however, needed either OT or the shootout. What’s most interesting about all 4 of those games is that Coleman Vollrath started and finished each of them. The Winterhawks haven’t seen Patrik Polivka at all this season. Assuming the Royals continue to roll with him as the starter, it will be interesting to see who starts out with the advantage. At the other end, Brendan Burke faced Victoria twice and was 1-0-0-1. In the just finished series vs Vancouver, he faced only 92 shots. He will be tested more by Victoria. Both teams gave up only 7 goals total in their first round sweeps but one would think that the offences will shine a little better for the opposition in this round. I think Portland has the edge in scoring, everything else being equal, so they will move on.
Portland in 6
(1) Kelowna 4-1 v (4) Seattle 4-1
As has been mentioned elsewhere already, the season series between these two ended divided but, because of the shootout, each team was 2-1-0-1. Each team won a shootout on the opposing teams ice and then the home team won in regulation in the other two games. Before he was traded to Seattle, Taran Kozun had faced Kelowna 4 times and was 0-3-0-1, giving up 16 goals total. In the 2 games he played with the Thunderbirds, he gave up 5 and was 1-1. (He was pulled for a little over 30 minutes in the one loss, accounting for the lower goal total.) They are going to need him to come up large against a Rockets team that was the 2nd highest scoring team in the WHL while giving up the 3rd fewest. Seattle is going to have to keep the penalties down in this series as they won’t be able to count on Kelowna to be as disjointed as Everett was. Cooke and the Rockets will have a hard time if Troock and Lipsbergs continue their point per game pace. These teams match-up well with each other which means that this result shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.
Seattle in 6