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Above the Glass

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. 

Better luck next time: Upon reflection, the Winterhawks' early exit from the playoffs wasn't entirely a surprise. It took seven games to outlast the Spokane Chiefs, which didn't leave a lot of gas in the tank for Everett anyway. The Silvertips have been dominant all season. They edged the Winterhawks for the U.S. Division title. The Winterhawks showed a brief sign of life when they won Game 1 against Everett, but it didn't last. After a 6-0 loss to the Silvertips in Game 2, it was game over. That's not easy to admit, but there it is. On the upside, local fans can turn our attention to the Hawks who have a second chance in the AHL playoffs.

Onward! It's not all a loss for the Winterhawks' top NHL prospects. Five players have been reassigned to their respective AHL clubs: Cody Glass (Chicago Wolves), Dennis Cholowski (Grand Rapid Griffins), Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Barracudas), Skyler McKenzie (Manitoba Moose) and Cole Kehler (Ontario Reign). 

Don't we know you? Joachim will be playing alongside former Winterhawks teammates Evan Weinger and Alex Schoenborn. Skyler joins former Winterhawk forwards Chase De Leo and Nic Petan in Winnipeg. Other former WHL players in Winnipeg include Eric Comrie, Tanner Kaspick and JC Lipon. The Manitoba Moose play the Grand Rapid Griffins in Round 1 of the AHL playoffs, beginning April 21. The Barracudas are currently facing off against former Winterhawk goaltender Adin Hill and the Tucson Roadrunners in Round 1. The Roadrunners lead the series 1-0 after a 4-2 win on Thursday. This series continues on Saturday night.  

All-Americans: The Tri-City Americans qualified for playoffs as the first wild card in the Western Conference. They had a solid but sometimes inconsistent season that was impacted by injuries in January. The team acquired Jake Bean at the deadline, signaling their intention to get serious in playoffs. They weren't kidding around. The Americans dispatched the Kelowna Rockets and the Victoria Royals in historic back-to-back playoff sweeps. The names in the headlines include Michael Rasmussen, goaltender Patrick Dea and Bean. But like I said, my money is on Morgan Geekie, one of the hardest working and most fearless players in the WHL. They only prediction I'm making for this series is Geekie as the Western Conference MVP. Other Tri-City players to watch include Dylan Coghlan, Jordan Topping, Juuso Välimäki and rookie Sasha Mutala. 

History lesson: It wasn't that long ago that headlines in Lethbridge involved players and assistant coaches leaving the team, financial troubles and talk of a sale. Critics made fun of the 'Cane Train as more people headed for the exit. What GM Peter Anholt has achieved is a miracle, but it also meant making tough decisions that weren't necessarily popular at the time. Exhibit A: The trade deadline deal he made with the Swift Current Broncos on January 9. Then-Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner was part of that trade. He just powered the Broncos to the Eastern Conference Final with three shutouts in Round 2. Skinner will face off against his former team starting tonight in Swift Current. This is a hard one to call.The Hurricanes have come a long way in a short time and I like underdogs anyway. They get my vote for Eastern Conference Champion.

The connection between these two teams extends beyond the trade deadline. Founded in 1967 in Swift Current, the Broncos played there for seven seasons before relocating to Lethbridge from 1974 to 1986 as the Lethbridge Broncos. 

We're all on the same team: All four teams left in the WHL playoffs will sport a Humboldt Broncos commemorative logo at center ice for the remainder of playoffs. 

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Geekie and Rasmussen have goals tonight in Game 1, but trail Everett 3-2 after 2.
Correction- TC played Kelowna in the first round.

Posted by pnwwing on 04/20/18 at 11:15 PM ET

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I should also add that Dennis Williams (Everett) killed it this year in his first year coaching in the WHL. Could be a name to watch going forward.

Posted by pnwwing on 04/20/18 at 11:17 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