Only four teams remain in the race for the Ed Chynoweth Cup as the Western Hockey League playoffs wear on.
Eastern Conference Championship
The 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels (second, Central Division), featuring former Kootenay Ice captain Luke Philp, eked out a trip to the Eastern Conference championship series by defeating the Regina Pats (wildcard, Eastern Conference) in a seven-game thriller.
While the Rebels aim to enter the Memorial Cup through the front door by winning the WHL title, the next task at hand will be a tall one as they face the Brandon Wheat Kings (first, Eastern Conference), who cruised past the Moose Jaw Warriors (third, East Division) in a five-game second-round series.
Philp has been productive during the post-season as he captains the Rebels squad. The 20-year-old native of Canmore, Alta., has amassed three goals and 10 points in 12 games this post-season after wrapping up the regular season with 21 goals and 45 points to his credit in 39 games.
Led by John Quenneville (7-9-16), the Wheat Kings have been an offensive juggernaut to this point in the post-season, leading the WHL with 50 goals for through 11 games, good for an average of 4.55 goals per game.
The Wheat Kings and Rebels open their best-of-seven conference championship Friday in Brandon. The series shifts to Red Deer for Game 3, scheduled for Tuesday, April 26.
Western Conference Championship
On the other side of the equation, the Kelowna Rockets (second, B.C. Division) scored a dramatic win over the Victoria Royals (first, WHL) in Game 7 of their second-round clash to advance to the Western Conference championship.
Justin Kirkland scored twice in regulation for the Rockets, including the game-tying marker with less than one second to play in the third period. From there, Calvin Thurkauf converted 5:56 into overtime to give Kelowna an improbable and unbelievable triumph over the WHL’s regular season kings.
Standing in the way of the Rockets’ title defense will be the Seattle Thunderbirds (first, U.S. Division), who knocked off the Everett Silvertips (second, U.S. Division) in a five-game second-round series.
Mathew Barzal (2-10-12) continues to be the catalyst for the Thunderbirds offense, while former Swift Current Bronco Landon Bow has been solid between the pipes (8-1, 1.42 GAA, .936 SP).
The Rockets and Thunderbirds open their best-of-seven conference championship Friday in Kelowna. The series shifts to Seattle for Game 3, scheduled for Tuesday, April 26.