Coincidental Minors WHL Conference Finals Update

By: Scott Rennie, Managing Editor

@scott_rennie

Four games into the WHL conference finals, and it’s been a bit of deja vu for all teams involved, and all of a sudden, both series look like they might be short ones.

In the Western Conference final, Portland has eviscerated Tri-City’s home-ice advantage, taking Games 1 and 2, both 5-4 in overtime.

In Game 2, Ty Rattie had a hat trick including the shorthanded winner in overtime while Derrick Pouliot sat in the box for slashing. On the goal, Rattie beat a pinching defender, took the biscuit the length of the ice, looked off Sven Barthsci, pulled back from a diving defender, and roofed it past Ty Rimmer. When Bartschi joined the game-winning rush, he kind of looked bored — like ‘Well, this is going in. Why am I even here?” Highlights here.

In Game 1, Rattie had an assist and, after serving goaltender Mac Carruth’s delay of game in overtime, helped set up the game-winning scoring play. You can watch highlights of this game, which are for some reason accompanied by Finger Eleven’s Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me here. Joe Morrow’s stick play to rob Ty Rankin of a tap-in is pretty ridiculous, if you can make it out — these videos were apparently filmed on the Hubble Space Telescope.

So where do these teams go from there? Americans coach Jim Hiller didn’t have many answers, telling the Tri-City Herald:

Face the facts, but if you look it from the perspective we could be up 2-0, the belief and will knowing we can come back is there. There is a lot of randomness in hockey. It’s not like we’ve been standing in our own end and not had opportunities to score in all the overtimes. Sometimes it just doesn’t go in.

Read more here.

Losing two games in your own barn is pretty backbreaking, but both games were decided off the rush in overtime. If the Americans are out of this series (and all of a sudden, it looks like it will be a quick one) — it’ll be hard for their players and coaches to look back at how these first two games could have gone either way.

Looking more and more like the other Ed Chynoweth finalists are the Edmonton Oil Kings. In the Eastern final, it’s been two games, and two 6-1 results over the Moose Jaw Warriors.

And while Edmonton’s Game 1 win was pretty much a rout in every way (check the highlights here), it was Laurent Brossoit’s brilliance that made all the difference in Game 2. The Calgary draft pick made 48 saves as Moose Jaw threw everything they had at the Oil Kings on Sunday night.

Moose Jaw is strong team that scores off the cycle — they pride themselves on their ‘grimetime’ — but for every scoring chance they could manufacture in Game 2, Brossoit had the answer. And while its unlikely that Surrey, B.C.-product is going to make 49-save nights a regular occurrence (to be fair, he was great in Game 1 as well), it doesn’t change the fact that the Oil Kings have managed to stymy the Warriors scoring threats.  Of the Warriors three leading postseason scorers, only one — Cam Braes — has a point through the series’ first two games.

But Game 3 will be in Moose Jaw, where all the Warriors do is win. (And they indeed use that DJ Khaled tune as their win song). Coupling another spirited offense performance with just a wee bit of luck should make for a closer game, and a chance for the Tribe to get back into the series.

One thing that stuck out to me though — all postseason, the Warriors have been uber-disciplined, cutting their penalty minutes per game in half from the regular season.

Game 2 saw them stray, as pesty Cody Beach instigated a brouhaha near the end of the third, and got the gate for his trouble. Obviously this is frustration, but if this spills into Game 3, and chippy penalties lead to the squad spending more time in the box then they should be, this too will be a short series.

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