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The Heat is On

By Ryan McCracken on February 10, 2017

Goaltender Tyler Brown returned last week after suffering a lower body injury last month. (Courtesy of the Regina Pats)

The WHL reached its halfway point with four clear-cut division leaders, but after a wild start to 2017, only the Regina Pats still hold claim to a comfortable lead on their division.

At 37-6-6-1 with a nine-game winning streak entering the weekend — thanks in part to the return of injured goaltender Tyler Brown — the Pats remain the CHL’s top-ranked squad and one of the hottest teams in the Dub. Their record puts them five points ahead of the B.C. Division leading Prince George Cougars for the top of the league with six games in hand. In fact, Regina still has at least two games in hand on every team in the WHL.

While the Pats have kept on surging, the Cougars have seen their hold on the B.C. Division dwindle to seven points after going roughly .500 through January. Meanwhile the Kamloops Blazers have mounted a serious push for the B.C. banner with points in eight of their last 10 games entering this weekend’s events, and a game in hand on Prince George.

Over in the Central Division, the Medicine Hat Tigers are now clinging to a six-point lead for the top of the pack. While the Tabbies have been dealing with broken legs to key defencemen David Quenneville and Ty Schultz, they’ve managed to stay afloat with eight wins in their last 10 contests. That being said, the Hurricanes have been the hottest team in the WHL since bolstering their bench at the trade deadline. Additions like Zak Zborosky and Riley Lindgren have helped the ’Canes push their way to a 12-2-1-1 record since the calendar turned over into 2017, as well as an eight-game winning streak entering the weekend and points in each of their last 14 games.

South of the border, the Everett Silvertips have been struggling to maintain their hold on the U.S. Division, and the reigning Western Conference champion Seattle Thunderbirds are hot on their heels. The T-Birds have collected 19 points over their last 10 contests to cut the divisional gap to just one. The ’Tips still have a game in hand, but they’ll need to start stringing together some wins after being dealt seven losses in their last 10 games.

While the battle for the division titles has been heating up, the battle for the basement has followed suit. The last place Prince Albert Raiders have been putting together some impressive hockey of late, gathering five wins in their last 10 games to close to within a point of the Kootenay Ice. But the real story has been the complete derailment of the Edmonton Oil Kings — who now sit just eight points ahead of the Ice, and 24 points out of a playoff position.

The Oil Kings offloaded a number of players in the days leading up to the trade deadline and haven’t won a game since — they haven’t even earned a point. After opening the new year with a 4-3 overtime victory against the Calgary Hitmen, the Oil Kings fell into a 15-game tailspin, and they’ve yet to climb out.

    

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By Ryan McCracken| February 10, 2017
Categories:  Major Junior
Keywords:  WHL

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