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WHL notebook: Trends noted as WHL reaches holiday break

Wed., Dec. 18, 2013

The Western Hockey League reached its holiday break after Tuesday’s games, marking the approximate halfway point of the 72-game season.

A few trends have evolved.

The Western Conference is far stronger than the Eastern Conference. Six Western teams have compiled 44 or more points – including the Spokane Chiefs – and two have reached the 50-point plateau. Four Eastern teams have 45 or more points but none has 50.

Edmonton (23-10-0-1) and Calgary (22-7-2-3), by both winning nine of their last 10, appear to be the elite Eastern teams. But ninth-place Red Deer is just 13 points out of first.

Western Conference teams have taken turns catching fire, starting with Spokane and followed by Portland, Everett and Seattle. Everett reached the top of the standings on Dec. 1, but slipped by losing six of its eight games heading into the break.

But Kelowna is the team of the year so far, having played the fewest games (33) but scored the most points (58).

On Tuesday, Kelowna (28-3-0-2) defeated Swift Current 7-1 to complete a 6-0 road trip against East Division teams and run its winning streak to 12. The Rockets came from behind in four of the games against the East.

“They don’t give up on themselves … and that’s something we’re really proud of them for,” Rockets coach Ryan Huska told Larry Fisher of the Kelowna Daily Courier.

The Rockets have won 13 consecutive road games and 21 of 22 games overall. Rockets goalie Jordon Cooke is 20-1-0-2.

Spokane is 1-0 against Kelowna and next plays the Rockets on Jan. 29.

Around the league

Travis Sanheim scored his first career WHL goal Sunday as Calgary improved to 4-0 against Swift Current this season with a 5-2 home win. The Hitmen have picked up at least one point in 10 consecutive games. … Prince Albert is 0-7 in December after Tuesday’s 4-3 home loss to Moose Jaw. … Medicine Hat defenseman Spenser Jensen left the team Sunday and returned home to Airdrie, Alberta. Tigers coach/general manager Shaun Clouston said Jensen may return to school. … Red Deer played Tuesday without four of its top six forwards. Three are injured and expected back when WHL play resumes. … Brandon (18-14-3-0) reached four games better than .500 for the first time this season. The Wheat Kings are 7-0 against Moose Jaw. … Kamloops goalie Taran Kozun, who posted an 11-4-3 record as a backup last season, is 4-15-3 this year. His Blazers ended the longest losing streak (13) in franchise history last Wednesday with a 4-3 shootout win over Regina.

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