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Above the Glass

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.

Cinderella story: The Everett Silvertips have earned their first Western Conference title since their inaugural season in 2003 – 2004. They already had the U.S. Division to go with it. Let’s face facts. It’s their year. Long loaded with talent like Carter Hart, the Silvertips did not always rise to the occasion under Head Coach Kevin Constantine. He didn’t always set the best example for players in terms of sportsmanship and he never quite took them to the next level. Enter new Head Coach Dennis Williams.  The Silvertips retained their physical, in-your-face style, but it was tempered with discipline, player development and teamwork. From the start of the annual Pre-Season Classic to the Western Conference Final, their season was as close to perfect as it gets.

Midnight snack: The Silvertips’ fans may be legendary for the notorious cowbells, but nobody can fault them for their dedication. They greeted the team when the Silvertips returned home from Kennewick at 3 a.m. with the Western Conference trophy in hand. The Silvertips have a quick turnaround before traveling to Swift Current for Game 1 of the WHL Championship on Friday.

Reversal of fortune: The Swift Current Broncos didn’t have the easiest time in the Eastern Conference Final, but if it was easy, would it have been as fun? They came out swinging with back-to-back wins over Lethbridge in the first two games of the series. The second was a 4-3 overtime thriller in which former Hurricanes captain Giorgio Estephan scored a hat trick, including the game winner. What could possibly go wrong? According to both Estephan and goalie Stuart Skinner, they got exactly what they deserved in their next two games. The Hurricanes fired back with back-to-back 5-1 wins. That means the Broncos literally made the same mistake twice. They weren’t about to do it again. After the Hurricanes scored an early first period goal in Game 6, the Broncos got down to business. They scored three goals in 96 seconds in the second period, plus two more. The Swift Current Broncos walked away with a 5-1 win and the Eastern Conference Championship. It's the first time since 1993 that they will compete for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. 

Tip of the hat: The Swift Current Broncos and the Everett Silvertips have only played each other once this season. The Silvertips walked away with a dominant 4-1 win that was indicative of their season overall. But it was their 6-5 OT comeback win that makes me want to pick the Silvertips for the Ed Chynoweth Cup. It wasn’t just that they won. It’s that they came back in such spectacular fashion late in a Game 6. That was a statement game if ever there was one. They know they can survive and overcome adversity. The Broncos faced their own share of adversity along the way, to be sure. But I’m still inclined to give the edge to the Silvertips. If they win the WHL Championship, they will represent the U.S. Division in the Memorial Cup. Out of the 22 teams in the WHL, only five are located in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Teams from the U.S. Division aren't necessarily the  the odds-on favorites most years. That’s what I like about this matchup. The Silvertips deserve our respect for all that they’ve achieved. I may keep this particular WHL enemy closer for most of the season, but for now, I’m all in for the Silvertips.

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Comments

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My backside is still a little sore, so I’m going to explain how it came to be that Michael Rasmussen and his Americans are no longer playing.
The Ams have a season long bad habit of starting late, so they fell behind early in every game of a very tight series. The Tips are very well coached, while Ams had more talent. (my opinion)
However, the Ams won game 2 in Everett to take back home ice advantage.
They then lost game 3 8-4 at home, after coming back from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits, giving up 4 in a row in the 3rd period.
At this point it’s important to note that the Tips had one goal in each game (all 3) that went in off an Ams skate. Two of those games were decided by one goal. I know, it’s playoff hockey…..
Game 4 was a 3-1 loss at home, with the Tips pretty much in control the entire game. The Ams look like they are done
But! game 5 was a surprising 5-2 win in Everett. Back to TC we go.
Game 6 started bad, of course, but the Ams got a great first period from their goalie, and eventually ground out a 3-2 lead. In the 3rd they scored two quickies, and were in solid shape at 5-2 with 10 minutes left. The scariest lead in hockey.
Somehow Coach Mike Williamson didn’t know this. The Tips took a tripping penalty AFTER the goal, so they were looking at a PK, but the Ams bailed them out with a penalty on the ensuing faceoff!
Of course the Tips scored within 30 seconds to make the score 5-3. Obviously the perfect time for the Ams to take a TO, right?
No.
The Tips scored again 1-1/2 minutes later to make it 5-4.
Timeout?!
No.
2 minutes later the Tips tie the game at 5-5.
Coach Williamson takes a time out.
WTF???
Tips go on to win in OT because the Ams handed all of the game (and series?) momentum back in a 5 minute period, while the head coach watched.
The Tips coach was rightfully voted Coach of the Year, and if there was any justice Williamson would surely be the Worst Coach of the Year.
Sorry for the rant.

Posted by pnwwing on 05/02/18 at 09:57 PM ET

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I think you have good points. The Ams are a talented team that I had picked to win the Western Conference. II was truly sorry to see them eliminated.  I followed the series and you’re right there were decisions on the Ams part that led to the outcome. When all is said and done, I still think they did well overall and I look forward to hpefully getting out to Kennewick more often next season. I also feel like some of this was just fate. I don’t think there was much that was going to stop the Tips this year. Thanks for reading my posts and sharing your thoughts.

Posted by Samantha from Portland, Oregon on 05/02/18 at 10:22 PM ET

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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