Thanks to Doyle at the Kelowna Daily Courier for giving me in the green light on using this article. It appears in Sunday's edition:
Matt Keetley was perfect on Friday night. Sadly, the same couldn’t be said for this paper’s playoff prediction crew, though Regan Bartel came pretty close.
The WHL’s Conference championships began on two fronts on Friday evening, with Medicine Hat playing host to Calgary and Vancouver entertaining Prince George. Both home teams won to take 1-0 leads in their best-of-seven series, including Keetley turning aside 24 shots in the Tigers’ 2-0 victory.
That Medicine Hat won isn’t surprising; the Tigers are one of the WHL’s elite teams this season. What is surprising is Calgary and Prince George having advanced to the third round, courtesy of second-round upsets that most didn’t predict.
Unless you’re Bartel. Play-by-play caller for the Kelowna Rockets, Bartel predicted Calgary would upset Brandon, one of three picks he got right of the four second-round series. Only Prince George’s upset of Everett prevented Bartel from a clean sweep.
As for the remainders, well, we didn’t fare as well. Rockets head coach Jeff Truitt was 1-for-4; assistant coach Ryan Huska, 1-4; assistant coach Kim Dillabaugh, 2-4 (including Calgary over Brandon); and yours truly, 1-4. Overall, including first-round results, Bartel is the leader at 8-12, with Huska and Dillabaugh at 7-12, while Truitt and myself are 6-12.
Said Huska: “He should know what he’s talking about because he gets to see every team play.”
“I feel very, very bad right now,” Dillabaugh said laughing. “But, hey, this is all in good fun.”
Notably, Truitt wasn’t available to make his third-round picks. Currently, he’s in Finland as an assistant coach with Team Canada at the world under-18 championship. Today, Canada, including Rockets defenceman Luke Schenn, will play Sweden for the bronze medal at 4 a.m. (TSN), while U.S.A. will play Russia for gold at 8 a.m.
Again, and, like last time, we hope you find our predictions to be a tasty read.
Medicine Hat vs. Calgary:
Huska: Medicine Hat in five. The team is playing so well right now and they’re feeling good about themselves. That, and they’re such a good, quick team.
Dillabaugh: Medicine Hat in six. The Tigers have better depth and they’re really playing well right now.
Bartel: The Hitmen have bit off more than they can chew in this series. The Tigers’ small, yet speedy, forwards will give the Hitmen fits in the attacking zone, and East MVP Kris Russell will be a calming influence as the intensity of this Central Division rivalry heats up. Tigers in five.
Potenteau: Tigers in four. Why? Not enough rest between series for Calgary; the Tigers finished finished 22 points above the Hitmen during the regular standings; Medicine Hat defenceman Kris Russell is having an MVP season; the Tigers suffered just seven losses on home ice during the regular season (five regulation time, two in overtime) . . . . need I go on why the Hitmen won’t win this series?
Vancouver vs. Prince George
Huska: Vancouver in six. Prince George’s fans are excited again, so I think Prince George will play well at home.
Dillabaugh: Vancouver in five. Prince George’s defence won’t be able to handle Vancouver’s forwards, especially the Giants’ physical forwards. They’ll wear down Prince George’s back end, which will result in turnovers and mistakes. And Vancouver has the forwards who can capitalize.
Bartel: The Cougars will pay for not earning home-ice advantage in this series, as the Giants play so well at home — a place where the Cougars couldn’t win in four games this season. Much like the Hitmen in the East final, who were the third seed coming into the playoffs, the Cougars’ Cinderella season will end in five games.
Potenteau: After maligning Vancouver with my last pick, by choosing Seattle in an upset in seven, I’m selecting the Giants this time around. In six, though my gut says sweep. As good as Prince George has been playing of late, with their six-game victory over Everett as proof, the Cougars don’t have the offensive or defensive depth the Giants do. Over time, this will be the deciding factor.
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