One point could end up being the difference between second and sixth places in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The way the WHL playoffs are set up, all four division champions (two in the Eastern Conference, two in the Western) receive no lower than a No. 2 seed into the playoffs. Having the No. 2 seed brings the prospect of home-ice advantage through the conference semifinals.
Regina (68 points) leads the Eastern Conference’s East Division with 13 regular-season games left on its schedule. The Pats are currently seeded No. 2 in the conference despite having the fifth-best record. Four Central Division teams have better records than the Pats.
Swift Current, second place in the East Division, trails Regina by two points but is currently seeded sixth.
Regina took over the East lead for the first time this season with a 5-4 shootout win over Prince Albert on Friday. The following night, Regina lost a 4-3 shootout to Swift Current, leaving both teams tied for first in the East with 66 points.
Regina again took over first place alone on Monday night with a 4-0 win over Brandon (64 points), which lost its sixth consecutive game. Brandon could have forged a three-way tie for first in the East with a win.
Regina has missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons.
“First place in our division is an unreal feeling,” forward Dyson Stevenson, who has played 241 games with the Pats, told Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post. “I haven’t experienced it at all in my four years here.”
Raiders at the gate
The Prince Albert Raiders (58 points), who play the Spokane Chiefs at the Arena tonight, are two points behind Red Deer for the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final postseason berth. Red Deer has lost nine of 10.
“I have no doubt in my mind that we are going to pull through into the playoffs,” Raiders center Dakota Conroy told Andrew Schopp of the Prince Albert Daily Herald last Thursday, one day after the Raiders knocked off the conference’s top team, Edmonton, 4-3.
The Raiders boast the league’s second-best power-play percentage (25.3). Ex-Chief Collin Valcourt, who started this season with Saska- toon, now plays for the Raiders.
Portland is up to its old tricks, only better.
The Winterhawks (43-12-2-3), defending WHL champions, set a franchise record with their 16th consecutive win by defeating Vancouver 7-4 on Saturday.
The streak reached 17 on Tuesday when the Winterhawks defeated Prince George 5-1.
The 1979-80 and 1997-98 Winterhawks won 15 consecutive games.
Portland hasn’t lost since a 3-2 setback against Victoria on Jan. 10.