The Seattle Thunderbirds have clinched a playoff spot in the WHL’s Western Conference after beating the visiting Tri-City Americans 8-3 on Tuesday.
The Thunderbirds (24-37-9) can’t be caught by the ninth-place Prince George Cougars, who lost 6-4 to the host Spokane Chiefs last night. Seattle is back in the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09.
Prince George (21-40-8) is four points behind the eighth-place Everett Silvertips, and the Cougars have three games remaining. They will play the Rockets in Kelowna on Thursday, before finishing with a home-and-home set with the Kamloops Blazers — the teams will play at Interior Savings Centre on Friday, and up north on Saturday.
The Silvertips also have three games remaining in the regular season — they will go home and home with the Victoria Royals on Friday and Saturday, before playing host to the Americans on Sunday.
Everett will clinch the last playoff spot if any of the following happens:
a) It wins two or more games;
b) It wins one game and the Cougars lose one game;
c) The Cougars lose two games.
The Blazers (45-20-5) will finish third in the conference, and will open against the sixth-place Royals (33-29-7).
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The Eastern Conference playoff picture is starting to take form, after the Kootenay Ice clinched the final spot Tuesday.
The Ice defeated the Lethbridge Hurricanes 3-1 in Cranbrook last night, knocking Lethbridge out of the playoffs. Kootenay (34-33-2) is eighth right now, but has a slim chance to finish as high as sixth.
Kootenay and the Hurricanes will meet tonight in Lethbridge.
The top four spots have been determined — the Edmonton Oil Kings will finish first, with the Saskatoon Blades guaranteed the East Division title and second place. The Calgary Hitmen will take third, ahead of the Red Deer Rebels.
The Prince Albert Raiders, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers also have clinched.
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The Blazers and Royals announced the remainder of the dates for their first-round best-of-seven series on Tuesday.
The series will start March 22 and 23 at Interior Savings Centre. Game 3 will be at Victoria’s Bear Mountain Arena on March 26, with Game 4 scheduled for March 28. Game 5, if needed, will be at ISC on March 30, with a possible Game 6 on April 1 at Bear Mountain Arena and Game 7 back at ISC on April 3.
The Royals will be pushed out of their home arena — Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre — because of the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship, which runs March 30 to April 7. Because of the time it will take to prepare the arena, Victoria will have to play its home games at Bear Mountain Arena, the home of the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies may still be in the first round of their playoffs that week, and a possible Game 5 in the best-of-five series would be March 27. That’s the reason for the extra day between Games 3 and 4 of the Blazers-Royals series.
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The Royals have placed G Patrik Polivka (undisclosed) on the injury list. Polivka last played on March 5 when he started and went 40 minutes in a 6-0 loss to the Blazers in Kamloops. Polivka stopped 17 of 22 shots in that one before being replaced by Coleman Vollrath to start the third period.
Since then, Vollrath has gone the distance in five straight games — a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rockets in Kelowna on March 6, a 5-3 victory over the visiting Vancouver Giants on Friday, a 3-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday, a 5-2 loss to the visiting Portland Winterhawks on Sunday, and last night’s 4-1 loss to the Winterhawks in Victoria.
The Royals have brought in G Michael Herringer, a ninth-round selection in the 2011 bantam draft, to back up Vollrath. Herringer, who was on the bench last night, had been with the junior B Victoria Cougars.
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JUST NOTES: The Blazers have added two players to their roster. F Devin Oakes, 17, and F Deven Sideroff, 15, have joined the team. Oakes had been with the junior B Kamloops Storm, while Sideroff was with Penticton’s Okanagan Hockey Academy prep team. . . . The Blazers’ hockey school is scheduled for Aug. 12-16 at McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre, and is for players born between 2001 and 2008. . . . Former Kamloops F Matt Kassian was traded to the Ottawa Senators by the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The Wild got a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NHL draft in return . . . F Jordan DePape, who started the season with the Blazers, will make his debut with the Rebels on Friday. DePape, 20, was injured early in the Blazers’ season, and was thought to be facing retirement. But his injured shoulder got better quickly, and the Rebels picked up his rights in January. He will make his debut against the visiting Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday. It will be his first game since Nov. 11.