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Friday, April 22, 2016

East and West WHL Conference Championship Preview


Calgary, AB – The 2016 WHL Conference Championships are set to begin tonight in Brandon, MB and Kelowna, BC.
The WHL’s Eastern Conference Championship will see the defending conference champion Brandon Wheat Kings take on the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels, live on Shaw. In the WHL’s Western Conference Championship, the reigning WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets battle the surging Seattle Thunderbirds.

2016 WHL Eastern Conference Championship

*WHL on Shaw to broadcast series
The 2016 WHL Eastern Conference Championship is set to begin tonight as the Brandon Wheat Kings take on the Red Deer Rebels. Both Clubs continue their journey to become the 50th WHL Champions while Brandon looks to move closer to a berth at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer, AB.

The Wheat Kings will look to repeat as WHL Eastern Conference Champions while the MasterCard Memorial Cup host Rebels continue their quest to enter the event through the front door. The two clubs meet in the WHL Playoffs for the first time since 2003, another WHL Eastern Conference Championship tile, when Red Deer took the series in five games to advance. The WHL Eastern Confernce Championship will be broadcasted in its entirety on WHL on Shaw TV (Shaw HD channel 304).

Here's a preview of the 2016 WHL Eastern Conference Championship.

BRANDON WHEAT KINGS vs. RED DEER REBELS

2015-16 regular season record 
Brandon:                            48-18-4-2, 102pts (L10: 9-0-1-0) 
Red Deer:                           45-24-1-2, 93pts (L10: 8-2-0-0) 

2015-16 head-to-head record 
Brandon:                            2-2-0-0, 4pts
Red Deer:                            2-2-0-0, 4pts

2015-16 head-to-head top scorers 
Brandon:
Nolan Patrick                     4gp-2g-1a-3pts
Jayce Hawryluk                 3gp-0g-3a-3pts

Red Deer:
Jake DeBrusk                     6gp-5g-3a-8pts
Brandon Hagel                  4gp-2g-3a-5pts

The Brandon Wheat Kings look to be in cruise control after ousting the Moose Jaw Warriors in five games in the second round. Wheat Kings’ forward John Quenneville has had a terrific post-season as the native of Edmonton, AB has notched 16 points (7g-9a) to go along with a plus-12 rating in 11 games so far. Quenneville’s 16 points have him tied for second in playoff scoring along with teammate Reid Duke (6g-10a) as the Wheat Kings’ offence leads all remaining post-season teams in goals with 50. Nolan Patrick, the 2014-15 WHL Rookie of the Year and a projected top pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, punctuates Brandon’s powerful forward group. The Wheat Kings’ blue line has been effective as WHL Defenceman of the Year finalist Ivan Provorov and team captain Macoy Erkamps each have recorded eight points and have a combined plus-23 rating. Brandon has netted 11 power play goals and are clicking at a 23.4% rate while their penalty kill owns a success rate of 79.0% in post-season play. Wheat Kings’ netminder Jordan Papirny has been steady appearing in all 11 games for Brandon with a 2.65 goals against average and a .898 save percentage with one shutout. The Wheat Kings are 4-1 on the road in the post-season and look to return to the WHL Championship Series after last season’s appearance.

The MasterCard Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels eliminated a relentless Regina Pats squad in a hard-fought seven games series in Round 2. With the score tied 1-1 midway through the third period of Game 7, Adam Musil buried his third goal of the post-season to give the Rebels a 2-1 lead and ultimately clinch the series. Rebels’ forwards Adam Helewka and Jake DeBrusk have been consistent throughout the post-season as they each have recorded 12 points in 12 games. Helewka has netted eight goals, including a League-best six goals on the power play. Brandon Hagel (1g-7a) and Michael Spacek (2g-8a) are also key parts of a forward group that should prove a formidable foe for Brandon. Red Deer’s power play has been strong with a 26.2% success rate on 11 goals. Hurricanes prospect Haydn Fleury, Kale Doetzel, Colton Bobyk and draft-eligible Josh Mahura lead a defensive unit that will look to contain the Wheat Kings potent offence. Rebels’ netminder Rylan Toth returned from injury midway through Round 2 against Regina and made four consecutive starts that resulted in a pair of wins, a 2.31 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. Expect Toth to continue to carry the load for Red Deer.

WHL Eastern Conference Championship Schedule
(Available on WHL on Shaw, Shaw HD channel 304)
GameVisitorHomeDateTime (local)
1Red Deer@BrandonFriday, April 227:30
2Red Deer@BrandonSaturday, April 237:30
3Brandon@Red DeerTuesday, April 267:00
4Brandon@Red DeerWednesday, April 277:00
5 *Red Deer@BrandonFriday, April 297:30
6 *Brandon@Red DeerSunday, May 15:00
7 *Red Deer@BrandonTuesday, May 37:00
 *If necessary
**SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE**


2016 WHL Western Conference Championship

The 2016 WHL Western Conference Championship begins tonight as the defending WHL Champion Kelowna Rockets clash with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The two squads resume their quest to become the 50th WHL Champions and earn a trip to the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Red Deer, AB.

With the Red Deer Rebels, hosts of the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup, competing in the WHL’s Eastern Conference Championship, it’s possible that Seattle or Kelowna could earn a berth at the national championship should Red Deer advance past Brandon. Seattle is arguably the hottest team in the WHL right now, while Kelowna’s experience is undeniable.

Here's a preview of the 2016 WHL Western Conference Championship.

KELOWNA ROCKETS vs. SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS

2015-16 regular season record 
Kelowna:                            48-20-4-0, 100pts (L10: 5-4-1-0)
Seattle:                               45-23-4-0, 94pts (L10: 9-0-1-0)

2015-16 head-to-head record 
Kelowna:                            2-2-0-0, 4pts
Seattle:                               2-2-0-0, 4pts

2015-16 head-to-head top scorers 
Kelowna:
Justin Kirkland                   4gp-2g-3a-5pts
Tyson Baillie                      4gp-1g-4a-5pts

Seattle:
Mathew Barzal                  4gp-4g-3a-7pts
Scott Eansor                      4gp-1g-5a-6pts

The Kelowna Rockets pulled off a stunning 3-2 overtime win in Game 7 of their second round match-up with the Victoria Royals to return to the WHL Western Conference Championship for a third straight year. In that contest, Rockets forward Justin Kirkland netted his eighth goal of the post-season with less than one second remaining in the third period to force overtime which was then followed by Calvin Thurkauf’s game-winning goal minutes into the extra frame. It also took Kelowna a Game 7 overtime to eliminate Kamloops in the first round. Kelowna has a trio of forwards with 11 points including Justin Kirkland (8g-3a), Rourke Chartier (5g-6a) and Tomas Soustal (5g-6a). Perennial clutch performer Tyson Baillie (3g-4a) and the fast-emerging Thurkauf (2g-5a) join an offence that seems to be clicking at the right time. Draft-eligible Rockets defenceman Lucas Johansen has been productive with seven points (2g-5a) and a plus-2 rating in 14 games to lead a young but talented blue line that also includes 2017 NHL Draft prospect Cal Foote (1g-4a). Goaltender Michael Herringer has carried the load for the Rockets as he has appeared in all 14 contests with a 2.34 goals against average and an impressive .928 save percentage with two shutouts.

The Seattle Thunderbirds enter the WHL Western Conference Championship well rested as they took care of their second round opponent, the Everett Silvertips, in five games. Seattle has won eight of nine contests overall throughout the WHL Playoffs, having previously swept the Prince George Cougars in the first round. Thunderbirds forward and New York Islanders prospect Mathew Barzal leads the Club in scoring with 12 points (2g-10a) to go along with a plus-8 rating. Ryan Gropp returned from injury last round to join Barzal and posted three points (2g-1a) in his first two games back. Team USA forward Scott Eansor provides further depth to a talented Seattle offence. The defensive unit for Seattle has been terrific as they have only allowed 13 goals, tops amongst all post-season Clubs. Ethan Bear has been solid for Seattle at both ends of the ice as the veteran defenceman has tallied nine points (3g-6a) and a plus-10 rating in nine games. Seattle’s penalty kill has played a major role in their playoff run as it is operating at an impressive 86.0% success rate. Acquired earlier this season, Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Bow has been outstanding in the Seattle cage and owns a 1.42 goals against average, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts after starting all nine games so far.

WHL Western Conference Championship schedule:

GameVisitorHomeDateTime (PDT)
1Seattle@KelownaFriday, April 227:05
2Seattle@KelownaSaturday, April 237:05
3Kelowna@SeattleTuesday, April 267:05
4Kelowna@SeattleWednesday, April 277:05
5 *Seattle@KelownaFriday, April 297:05
6 *Kelowna@SeattleSunday, May 15:05
7 *Seattle@KelownaTuesday, May 37:05
 *If necessary
**SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE**

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