Sunday, March 27, 2011

WHL Playoff Notes:Rebels grab 2-0 lead

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wasn't the main story on Saturday night, but he did get the party started for fans at the Enmax Centrium. RNH and Andrej Kudrna picked up Saturday where Friday ended with Nugent-Hopkins 3rd straight goal going back to game 1. After that the Oil Kings did a pretty good job of shutting down and targeting physically the budding star for most of the night. It was Brett Ferguson and Adam Kabeitz who did the damage instead. Both had 3 points as the Rebels grabbed a 2-0 lead in the series. The shots were even at 28, but that was about it, as Edmonton's power play is sputtering. It's 0-9 in the two games and only has clicked once all season vs. Red Deer. The Series shifts to Edmonton for game 3 Monday night (TEAM 1260, SHAW TV)

Medicine Hat bit back against the Wheat Kings evening their series with Brandon at one. The Tigers scored a 5-2 win despite being outshot by Brandon 40-23 thanks to the terrific netminding of Devan Dubyk who started for the first time in the playoffs. Medicine Hat's Tyler Bunz (Edm 2010) was pulled Friday night and didn't dress Saturday after aggravating an upper body injury (that makes both Oilers prospects in Medicine Hat banged up as Tyler Pitlick is out with a broken ankle). Unlike Red Deer and Edmonton who have just an hour and a half of travel between them, Medicine Hat and Brandon will play game 3 Monday night in Winnipeg. A solid 12 hour drive.

Saskatoon lit it up against Prince Albert with an 8-1 win as they started a day later then most series. Saskatoon put up 45 shots but gave up 34, meaning the Raiders likely had their chances. The Blades spread the scoring around and will look for the home sweep Sunday night.

Kootenay evened things up with Moose Jaw winning 5-2, Buffalo 2009 3rd rounder Brayden McNabb scored once and set up two others, while Cody Eakin taken 19 spots after McNabb in '09 by Washington had 2 helpers. Thomas Heemskerk was good again in a losing cause with 37 saves. Jeff Bromley has a good description of what happened when Dylan McIlrath crushed Jesse Ismond and received a 5 minute major. The tied series shifts back to the crushed can Tuesday night.

Portland cruised to a 4-0 victory in their opener with Everett. It was interesting to see how well Portland's 2010 draft class preformed. Riley Boychuk, taken with the 3rd to last pick scored once and set up another. Brad Ross a second rounder of Toronto had a goal, Ryan Johanssen 4th overall to Columbus had a goal and 2 assists while Nino Neiderrieter whom the Islanders took right after Johanssen picked up two assists. Not to be outdone, Mac Carruth a Chicago 7th rounder from the same draft class kicked out 32 for the shut out. Game 2 is tonight.

Kelowna is out to a 2-0 lead after what must have been a wild one against Prince George. 4 Lead changes and 11 goals later Kelowna skated away with a 7-4 win. St. Albert product Cody Chikie tied the game with Oilers prospect Martin Marincin in the box for tripping. Chikie also had 2 assists. PG played without star forward Brett Connolly, a 6th overall pick of Tampa Bay last year. He left game one Friday night after a Mitch Callahan hit. Rockets play by play man Regan Bartel says it's believed to be a separated shoulder but official word from the Cougars is upper body injury and he's day to day. Last year's first overall bantam pick Alex Forsberg suited up in his first WHL playoff game.

After needing overtime Friday night, Spokane fired up the guns Saturday winning 5-0 over Chilliwack. Once again Lucas Gore was the story. He didn't face 63 shots like game one, but rather 47 giving him a two game total of 110. It likely hasn't even fazed the undrafted 20 year as he made the second most saves of any goaltender this year. The series shifts to Chilliwack for game 3 Wednesday.

There hasn't been much to give between Tri City and Vancouver, but the Americans hold a 2-0 lead after another one goal win Saturday. Overtime wasn't need this time, in fact after the visitors cut their deficit to 5-4 late in the second, the teams played 24 minutes of scoreless hockey. The Giants will hope that home ice helps them get back in the series on Tuesday.

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