While there isn’t playoff hockey going on in Stockton or Calgary this season, a few prospects who could be joining the Flames and Heat down the road are still fighting for their playoff lives.
Swift Current Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin and last year’s first-round selection in the NHL Entry Draft (and current Tri-City American) Jusso Valimaki found themselves in deep playoff runs, in their respective conference finals matchups with Gawdin and the Broncos took the series 4-2 on the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the WHL’s Eastern Final, and Valimaki and his Americans fell in their series, 4-2 against the Everett Silvertips.
Gawdin and his Broncos clinched their berth in the Finals on Monday with a resounding 5-1 win over Lethbridge with the Flames prospect picking up another pair of assists. Despite assists in Game 1 and Game 2, Gawdin would be shelved with an undisclosed injury for both Game 4 and Game 5, both games resulting in 5-1 losses for the Broncos, before returning last Saturday and helping Swift Current put a halt to Lethbridges’ momentum with the 4-3 win, picking up another assist.
As for Valimaki, whose Tri-City Americans had rolled through the first two rounds of the WHL playoffs, sweeping Dillon Dube and the Kelowna Rockets, followed by a sweep of Matthew Phillips and the Victoria Royals. However, the West Finals haven’t been as easy.
In fact, the Everett Silvertips had the Americans on the ropes after going up in the series 3-1 through the first four games of the series. Facing elimination on Saturday, the Americans needed to come up with a big effort to keep the series alive for a Game 6, and it was Valimaki who provided the heroics.
After an early goal, just seven seconds into the game from Everett put the ‘Tips up front, it’d be Valimaki who’d even things up early in the second period for the Americans. Tri-City would take the lead later in the period and Valimaki would put the eventual game winner in for his second of the night moments into the third period as the Americans would stave off elimination with the 5-2 win.
They once again faced elimination on home ice this past Monday, trying to force a Game 7. Valimaki did his part, recording 4 assists, bringing his point total in the series to 3 goals and 9 assists and a plus-2 rating. However, despite his heroics, it wasn’t enough.
The Silvertips stormed back in the third period to tie the game up, and capped off the Game 6 win with an overtime goal just 5:58 into the extra session to win the game, and the series. The ‘Tips scored four-straight goals to end the game, and end Valimaki’s hopes of meeting up with Gawdin in the finals.
Despite his season being over, Valimaki finished the postseason with 17 points, fifth among WHL defenseman and 20th overall in the WHL this postseason.
That now sets up a best-of-seven showdown with Glenn Gawdin and the Swift Current Broncos against the Everett Silvertips.
The Broncos captured their fourth Eastern Conference championship and first since 1993 while the Silvertips captured their second Western Conference championship and first since 2004 following a 4-2 series victory over the Tri-City Americans, also on Monday night.
The winner of the 2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series will advance to the 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup, which takes place May 17-27, 2018 in Regina, Sask. The 2018 Mastercard Memorial Cup already features the WHL host Regina Pats and will also bring together the champions from the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This season marks the centennial celebration of the Canadian Hockey League’s prestigious national championship.
2018 Rogers WHL Championship Series Schedule:
|1||Everett||@||Swift Current||Friday, May 4||7:00|
|2||Everett||@||Swift Current||Saturday, May 5||7:00|
|3||Swift Current||@||Everett||Tuesday, May 8||7:05|
|4||Swift Current||@||Everett||Wednesday, May 9||7:05|
|5 *||Swift Current||@||Everett||Friday, May 11||7:35|
|6 *||Everett||@||Swift Current||Sunday, May 13||7:00|
|7 *||Everett||@||Swift Current||Monday, May 14||7:00|
* If necessary