Ten teams have clinched postseason berths as the Western Hockey League’s regular season winds down to its final 1 1/2 weeks, but the Spokane Chiefs must wait to become the 11th.
The Kamloops Blazers postponed the Chiefs’ celebration by defeating the Prince George Cougars 7-4 Wednesday night in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Kamloops (59 points) tied idle Tri-City for the Western Conference’s eighth and final seed to the postseason. Kamloops has five games remaining, Tri-City six.
Spokane (68 points) has seven games remaining and a nine-point edge on Kamloops and T-C heading in to Friday’s home game against Portland. The Chiefs’ next victory will put them in the postseason for the ninth consecutive season.
The Chiefs figure to be the No. 7 seed and open against the U.S. Division champion, either Portland or Everett. Portland (85 points) moved within two points of Everett (87) with a 6-1 victory at Everett on Wednesday.
The Chiefs will have a big say in which team wins the division. Spokane plays Portland three times and Everett once – before the regular season ends March 22.
Kelowna (B.C.) and Brandon (East) have clinched division titles. East Division second-place Regina secured home-ice advantage for the playoffs on Saturday when Swift Current lost its sixth consecutive game to fall 14 points behind the Pats with six games left.
Rockets in rare territory
Kelowna became the fourth team in Canadian Hockey League history to achieve three consecutive 50-win seasons by defeating visiting Spokane 5-2 on Saturday.
The Rockets won 52 games two seasons ago and set a franchise record with 57 wins last season.
The other teams with three consecutive 50-wins seasons are the Kamloops Blazers (1989-92) and the Edmonton Oil Kings (2011-14) of the WHL, and the Saint John Sea Dogs (2010-13) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“When you look at the teams that have achieved this, we’re in some pretty good company,” Rockets president/general manager Bruce Hamilton told Warren Henderson of the Kelowna Capital News.
Around the league
Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand had his 12-game, goal-scoring streak snapped Saturday against Tri-City. During the streak, the 19-year-old right wing from Denmark had 21 goals and 15 assists. … Regina goalie Daniel Wapple took a puck to the throat during the first period of last Friday’s game against Edmonton. Wapple returned for Tuesday’s game at Prince Albert. … Red Deer winger Evan Polei, out since Jan. 24 with a lower-body injury, is expected to return this week. Red Deer defenseman Colton Bobyk, acquired from Spokane in late December, may miss another week-plus with a lower-body injury that has sidelined him for three weeks. … Everett rookie Carter Hart was named CHL Goaltender of the Week after picking up three wins, including Friday’s shutout over Tri-City. Hart also defeated the league’s top-ranked team, Kelowna, by stopping 37 shots during a 3-2 overtime decision on March 3. … Brandon forward Peter Quenneville was named WHL Player of the Week after collecting six goals and three assists in three games.
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