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Above the Glass

From the Dub: Round and Round They Go

We’re only in the second round of playoffs out here in the WHL, but it already feels like we’re much deeper into it. Maybe it’s the double OT it took the Portland Winterhawks to tie up the series with Everett  1-1. It could be that the Silvertips had to go to trip overtime to eliminate Spokane. Whatever it is, it’s wild and woolly out here as we head into a blockbuster playoff weekend.

And you are? Walking around the concourse, I actually heard someone ask his friend “Who’s Connor McDavid?” Obviously he missed the memo where the CHL Player of the Week scored five goals in one game.  Kudos to said hockey newbie for expanding his horizons, but for his own safety I might suggest that he do his homework next time.

Oh Captain, My Captain: In years past, the Winterhawks would have been the odds-on favorite in a series with Seattle or Everett. Welcome to the new world, where the Hawks lost their first game in Round 1 and stumbled again with a 5-2 loss in Game 3 before they ultimately eliminated Seattle from the playoffs. Why? Because Taran Kozun and top draft prospect Matthew Barzal are truth in advertising and must be feared and respected at all times; because their teammates are very good at getting Portland off its game; because the Thunderbirds didn’t just adjust their roster this year, they changed their game. But note to self if I was Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk: When Captain and Jets prospect Nic Petan has been too quiet for too long, pay special attention, because that’s when he scores late in OT to eliminate your team in the first round.

Spoiler Alert: The same holds true for Oliver Bjorkstrand. If he goes longer than one game or let’s face it, one period without scoring a point, get ready; because overcompensation is quickly becoming his signature move. Friday, April 10 was his 20th birthday and Everett held him pointless en route to a 5-3 win over the Winterhawks. The Silvertips continued to hold him in check all the way through one overtime on Saturday, when it became clear that he’d had quite enough of that, thank you. Which explains why he scored the game winner 29 seconds into the second overtime.

Winging it: While it has become obvious that Head Coach Jamie Kompon has winged it through much of the season, it is also clear that Red Wings prospect and hockey royalty Dominic Turgeon has not. He has proven to be blue chip hockey stock. Have no fear Detroit, I’ve been keeping a close eye on one of my favorite players this season and trust me when I say that signing him to an entry level deal would be money well spent.

Tip of the Hat: To Everett Silvertips' rookie goaltender Carter Hart, who stopped 30 Winterhawks shots Friday and another 41 on Saturday to help keep his team in the game until Oliver returned the favor and spoiled their party.

Rocket Power: The Kelowna Rockets were on the verge of a second round sweep of the Victoria Royals, but they were foiled when the Royals won in overtime last night. And yes, Leon Draisaitl is all that. But even a blockbuster-trade player can't do it all by himself. The Rockets are powered by good on-ice leadership, solid teamwork and confidence. There's a small charge to tune in on WHL Live, but it’s money well-spent if you want to see how the series with the Royals turns out. Winterhawks fans have a vested and special interest in the BC Division series; if both the Rockets and the Winterhawks can prevail this weekend, it will be the second consecutive showdown with the Rockets for the Western Conference title.

Eat Your Wheaties: Before they eat you. The Brandon Wheat Kings eliminated the defending Memorial Cup Champions in the first round and are currently leading their series with the Regina Pats 3 – 1. On Friday, they can punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final. A likely opponent?

Keep the enemy closer: The Calgary Hitmen continue their hot season with a 3-1 series lead over the Medicine Hat Tigers. With a win in Game 5 on Friday, they will also punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference finals. One of the players fueling their success is Adam Tambellini, who notched four points in Game 3 on Monday. Last season, the Winterhawks traded his rights to Calgary and received a first round pick in return, manually overriding the WHL sanctions that bans the team from the first round through 2017. The Hawks used it to draft Cody Glass, who has joined the team but has yet to play in the post-season. We got a glimpse of him in the pre-season and excitement about him is already running high based on what we have seen so far.

#driveforfive: This is the motto in Portland, where hopes are high that the Hawks will prevail as they prepare for Games three and four at home tonight and tomorrow. It's a long way to the top and something tells me the second round will go to Game 7. With the Kelowna Rockets in good position to eliminate the Royals, the outcome of both series has suddenly motivated me to really, truly believe a fifth Western Conference title is possible for the Hawks. At the very least, a second showdown with the Kelowna Rockets will be more than worth the price of admission. If you want to see how it all turns out, I'll keep you posted this weekend and you can also tune in on WHL Live or my personal favorite junior hockey source: Yahoo's Buzzing the Net.  

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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