Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub: The Final Four

As the world counts down to the royal wedding, the Regina Pats are rolling out the red carpet for junior hockey's royalty. Memorial Cup games start tomorrow. It's a wide open field of contenders this year. The Pats are hosting the Swift Current Broncos, Hamilton Bulldogs and Acadie-Bathurst Titan.Top NHL prospects will be on display, including goalie Stuart Skinner, World Junior hero Tyler Steenbergen and Regina Pats captain Sam Steel. One of the biggest weeks in the junior hockey season is about to begin. Who will come out on top? All the teams are too good to pick a sure thing, but I do know for sure that the WHL is going to be in the spotlight. 

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From the Dub: Long Weekend

I was all about the underdogs winning their respective WHL conference championships. The Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Tri-City Americans have come a long way in a short time, and they deserved to win. Alas, it was not to be. The Everett Silvertips eliminated the Americans 6-5 in OT and the Swift Current Broncos launched a 96-second, three-goal assault that led to their 5-1 elimination of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. My underdog favorites may be going home, but they have nothing to apologize for. The Americans and the Hurricanes fought hard and played well this year. It also means that two of the league’s top teams will vie for the WHL Championship.

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From the Dub: Spring Fever

It's been seven months since I had to face a weekend without Winterhawks hockey. The first weekend without local hockey is always weird, even when the Winterhawks make a deep playoff run. The Everett Silvertips eliminated the Winterhawks last Friday, which wasn't exactly a surprise. The real headline involves the Tri-City Americans, who went undefeated in the first two rounds of playoffs. The Western Conference final begins tonight in Everett. Meanwhile in the East, the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Swift Current Broncos will vie for the Eastern Conference title. The Silvertips and the Broncos have the edge on paper, but I like the underdogs. I'm all in for the Americans and the Hurricanes to take their respective titles. 

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From the Dub: One and Done

I would be totally screwed right now if I gambled on sports. Round one of the WHL playoffs is almost over. Safe bets and sure things are not so certain. The Tri-City Americans swept the Kelowna Rockets out of playoffs on Thursday. The Everett Silvertips eliminated the defending WHL Champions. The Lethbridge Hurricanes have eliminated the Red Deer Rebels. The Portland Winterhawks blew a 3-1 series lead with a Game 5 overtime loss to the Spokane Chiefs. I can only imagine what round two is going to be like. 

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From the Dub: March Madness

College basketball isn't the only sport where things get crazy in March. This month also marks the final push to the playoffs in the Western Hockey League, where the regular season ended with a bang last night. In a tight race with the Portland Winterhawks for the U.S. Division title, the Everett Silvertips emerged victorious. Perennial favorite the Kelowna Rockets are the B.C. Division Champions. The Moose Jaw Warrirors are the East Division Champions and the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Medicine Hat Tigers are the Central Division Champions. It all sets the stage for an epic post-season, which begins March 22 with a Western Conference match-up between the Rockets and the Tri-City Americans. 

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From the Dub: We Just Got Here

It seems like only yesterday that I traveled to Everett for the WHL Preseason Classic over Labor Day weekend, but here we are. It's March already and the WHL regular season ends in less than two weeks. The top ranked teams have already clinched a playoff spot, including the Portland Winterhawks, Everett Silvertips, Kelowna Rockets, Medicine Hat Tigers, Swift Current Broncos and the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Even more intriguing are the individual players who have come into their own this season. The starring players include Cody Glass, Henri Jokiharju, Kailer Yamamoto, Carter Hart, Tyler Steenbergen and yes Detroit, Dennis Cholowski. But if you ask me, it's the supporting players who are going to take center stage during playoffs. 

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From the Dub: Neutral Zone

The Portland Winterhawks are currently on a seven day break, which is virtually unheard of except for the end-of-year holiday break. That meant no games this weekend. What's a local fan to do? It's an excellent time to catch up with the competition. And maybe brush up on WHL alumni making the headlines, including Mathew Barzal and Dominic Turgeon. There was plenty of action out there in the WHL this week. Now is the perfect time to keep the enemy closer. 

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Game, Set, Match

I spent the last two weeks in January taking a break from hockey to watch the Australian Open. The main reason was nostalgia: watching it live was like being back in Melbourne again. That, and I was quite sure that if I stared at the sunny conditions long enough on my TV, I would somehow warm up here in the midst of Oregon's winter. I wasn't sure why at first, but I ended up being really captivated by the game of tennis itself. After two weeks of watching tennis matches at odd hours of the day and night, I've come to realize that it's a little bit like hockey. 

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From the Dub: ROI

Now that the 2018 WHL trade deadline is over, the question is whether all those blockbuster trades were worth it. Here in Portland, Dennis Cholowski is turning out to be a really sweet playmaker, which has earned him several Three Stars honors. But some local fans still aren't quite convinced it was worth the nine-player deal the Winterhawks made to get him and a goalie we'll probably never see. I don't see anything that indicates he wasn't worth it. Dennis has made a difference in almost every game he's played for the Winterhawks. This past week, we also got a chance to see whether the competition's trades were worth it. I can safely say they were. 

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From the Dub: Welcome to Portland

This weekend provided a good look at the WHL Trade Deadline in action. If the final scoresheets are any indication, most of the big blockbuster trades will pay dividends. That includes Portland, where Dennis Cholowski has already played in three games with four more on deck this week. It's early yet, but from what I can see here in Portland, the epic deal the team made to acquire Dennis will pay off. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com

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