Calgary, AB – The 2011-12 Western Hockey League regular season enters the stretch run, with six weeks left to play before the post-season begins.
Only two teams 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). *Edmonton Oil Kings 52gp-34-12-2-4, 74pts (20 games remaining)
2). *Moose Jaw Warriors 53gp-32-15-5-1, 70pts (19 games remaining)
3). Medicine Hat Tigers 54gp-32-18-2-2, 68pts (18 games remaining)
4). Calgary Hitmen 53gp-32-18-2-1, 67pts (19 games remaining)
5). Kootenay Ice 52gp-29-15-4-4, 66pts (20 games remaining)
6). Saskatoon Blades 53gp-32-20-0-1, 65pts (19 games remaining)
7). Regina Pats 54gp-27-21-5-1, 60pts (18 games remaining)
8). Brandon Wheat Kings 54gp-26-25-1-2, 55pts (18 games remaining)
9). Red Deer Rebels 52gp-23-24-1-4, 51pts (20 games remaining)
10). Swift Current Broncos 54gp-20-29-2-3, 45pts (18 games remaining)
11). Lethbridge Hurricanes 55gp-21-33-0-1, 43pts (17 games remaining)
12). Prince Albert Raiders 53gp-18-32-1-2, 39pts (19 games remaining)
The Edmonton Oil Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors own the top two spots in the Eastern Conference, but neither team is running away with their respective division titles, yet.
The Oil Kings sit in first place in the Central Division and Eastern Conference with a four-point lead over Moose Jaw for top spot in the conference and a six-point lead over Medicine Hat in the Central Division. Just eight points separates first from fourth in the Central Division, making for an exciting stretch run.
The Oil Kings will play Medicine Hat, Calgary and Kootenay seven more times, combined, and face both Saskatoon and Moose Jaw once more before the regular season is done.
The Warriors currently boast a five-point lead over Saskatoon for top spot in the East Division, but trail Edmonton by four points for first place in the conference. The Warriors will play 12 of their remaining 19 games on the road.
The Tigers sit only one point up on Calgary, two up on Kootenay and three up on Saskatoon in a logjam for a top-four spot in the conference, and have played more games than all three of those teams. The Tigers take on the Hitmen on Tuesday before facing Brandon and Prince Albert on the weekend.
The Hitmen have been on a roll over the last several weeks, steadily climbing the Eastern Conference standings, and sit just seven points out of first place. They face tough tests versus Edmonton, Medicine Hat, Moose Jaw and Kootenay this week.
The Ice hold at least one game in hand on Medicine Hat, Calgary and Saskatoon, which could help them down the stretch should they earn points from those games in hand. The Ice face Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon among their four games over the next week.
The Blades sit comfortably in second place in the East Division, five points ahead of Regina and five back of Moose Jaw. Like the Warriors, the Blades will play the majority of their remaining games on the road, including making two trips through Alberta.
The Regina Pats sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, and are nine points clear of Red Deer for a playoff spot. The Pats face the Wheat Kings five more times down the stretch. 13 of the team’s remaining 18 games are versus divisional opponents.
The Wheat Kings hold a four-point cushion over Red Deer for the final playoff spot in the conference, but have played two more games than the Rebels. The Wheat Kings play 11 of their last 18 games at home.
The Rebels are four points out of a playoff spot in the conference and six points up on 10th-placed Swift Current. Nine of the Rebels’ next 11 games are on the road, including a trip through the B.C. Division.
The Broncos are 10 points out of a playoff spot in the conference, and have 18 games remaining to make up ground. The Raiders will have a chance to close the gap with 14 games versus teams ahead of them in the standings.
The Hurricanes sit 12 points out of a playoff spot, and have played the most games of any team in the WHL. The ‘Canes face a tough schedule to close out the season, with 10 of their remaining 17 games versus teams among the top six in the conference.
The Raiders find themselves in 12th place in the conference and 16 points out of a playoff spot. The Raiders play 11 of their final 19 games on the road, where they’ve won just six times all season.
WHL WESTERN CONFERENCE
1). *Kamloops Blazers X 53gp-37-12-1-3, 78pts (19 games remaining)
2). *Tri-City Americans X 51gp-37-12-1-1, 76pts (21 games remaining)
3). Portland Winterhawks 52gp-34-15-2-1, 71pts (20 games remaining)
4). Spokane Chiefs 52gp-29-16-4-3, 65pts (20 games remaining)
5). Vancouver Giants 53gp-31-19-1-2. 65pts (19 games remaining)
6). Kelowna Rockets 53gp-24-23-2-4, 54pts (19 games remaining)
7). Victoria Royals 54gp-17-31-2-4, 40pts (18 games remaining)
8). Seattle Thunderbirds 51gp-18-31-1-1, 38pts (21 games remaining)
9). Prince George Cougars 52gp-16-34-0-2, 34pts (20 games remaining)
10). Everett Silvertips 52gp-12-31-1-8, 33pts (20 games remaining)
The Kamloops Blazers and Tri-City Americans have both locked up playoff spots, and both currently lead their respective divisions.
The Blazers sit in first place in the B.C. Division, Western Conference and overall WHL standings with 78 points. With a 13-point lead over Vancouver for first place in the B.C. Division, the Blazers are poised to claim their first division title since 2001-02.
The Americans boast a five-point lead over Portland for first place in the U.S. Division, and trail Kamloops by just two points for the Western Conference lead. The Ams visit Kamloops and host Portland this week.
The Winterhawks need just three more points from their remaining 20 games to clinch at least a tiebreaker for a playoff spot in the conference. The Hawks face the Americans four more times and the Blazers twice more over the last six weeks of the season.
The Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants are tied for fourth place in the Western Conference, with both teams sitting six points back of Portland for third place and 11 points ahead of Kelowna for fifth place. They meet for the final time on February 15th in Spokane.
The Rockets sit firmly entrenched in sixth place in the Western Conference, trailing both Spokane and Vancouver by 11 points while leading Victoria by 14 points. The Rockets play 12 of their final 19 games versus teams among the top 10 in the WHL.
The Royals sit two points ahead of the Thunderbirds for seventh place in the Western Conference, and six points clear of Prince George for a playoff spot. The Royals play Prince George and Everett a combined eight times over their final 18 games.
The Seattle Thunderbirds hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference, with a four-point lead over Prince George and a five-point lead over Everett. The T-Birds’ remaining schedule includes 13 games versus top-four teams in the Western Conference.
The Cougars and Silvertips currently sit four and five points out of a playoff position, respectively. The Cougars face Seattle and Victoria twice more each this season, while the Silvertips face the T-Birds three times and Victoria four times before the end of the regular season.
BOB CLARKE TROPHY RACE
1. Ty Rattie, POR 50gp-42g-45a-87pts
2. Mark Stone, BRN 48gp-35g-51a-86pts
3. Jordan Weal, REG 53gp-31g-55a-86pts
4. Emerson Etem, M.H 47gp-48g-37a-85pts
5. Adam Hughesman, T.C. 51gp-31g-50a-81pts
6. Michael St. Croix, EDM 52gp-33g-47a-80pts
7. Brendan Shinnimin, T.C. 48gp-31g-49a-80pts