I figured with so many days off before the postseason starts, I would prepare some series preview's for the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
In the week’s first entry, I will look at the 4th ranked Kootenay Ice against the 5th ranked Moose Jaw Warriors. For each matchup I will compare the teams’ offense, defense, special teams, goaltending, post there schedule and dabble into the game of predictions.
So here it is.
Kootenay Ice (4) vs. Moose Jaw Warriors (5)
I think this might be the most balanced matchup of any of the Eastern Conference’s 4 playoff series. So I guess it’s fitting that these two teams are ranked so closely as the playoffs get underway at 4th and 5th.
The Ice are led by former Bronco Cody Eakin, who led the team with 83 points this year as he split time between both teams. But, he is far from their only option. Max Reinhart and Kevin King each had 34 and 33 goals respectively, and both of those players had over 75 points. Their balanced attack led to 272 goals in the regular season, 3rd most in the entire conference.
The Warriors are led by the big, fast and physical Quinton Howden. The Panthers draft pick had 40 goals in 60 games this year. Dylan Hood has also been a guy that has flown under the radar as he had 83 points, which led the team. They scored 245 goals in the regular season, 8th out of 12 teams in the conference.
Looking at the numbers and the players involved, Kootenay definitely has more skill and pure offense up front. The Warriors do have a ton of speed a size up front, so it’s pretty hard to pick which team could come out on top offensively as I think the Warriors team size fits the postseason style of play a little better.
Kootenay’s big anchor is Brayden McNabb. The 6’4 Sabres draft pick plays great defense and also had an astonishing 72 points this year. Joey Leach is also an underrated player on the blueline for the Ice, and they will need him to provide some major depth in their top 4. They got 51 goals from blueliners this year, something not many (if any) teams can say.
Moose Jaw’s defense is big, tough and physical. They may not have anyone as good as McNabb, but I like their group 1 through 6 better than Kootenay. Dylan McIlrath is their big anchor, and was the 10th overall pick of the Rangers last year. He can shut a line down all by himself on some nights. He will likely be up against Eakin in every game. Other players to watch on the blueline are 16 year old Morgan Rielly and 11 goal man Collin Bowman.
It’s close, but I give the edge to the Warriors on the back end.
Between The Pipes
This should be another interesting battle. The 6’5 Nathan Lieuwen of Kootenay takes on 20 year old former-Ice goalie Thomas Heemskerk. Both guys could be considered their respective teams MVP’s this year.
Lieuwen was 33-16-1-3 with a 2.79 GAA and a .903 save %. He had 3 shutouts.
Heemskerk was 36-21-2-4 with a 2.94 GAA and a ..908 save %. He had 2 shutouts.
Talk about similar numbers.
The Ice finished T-6th on the powerplay at 21.8%.
The Ice finished 11th on the penalty kill at 79.3%.
The Warriors finished 16th on the powerplay at 17.7%.
The Warriors finished 9th on the penalty kill at 81.7%.
Game 1 - Fri Mar 25 7:00 PM Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 2 - Sat Mar 26 7:00 PM Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 3 - Tues Mar 29 7:00 PM Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 4 - Wed Mar 30 7:00 PM Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 5 - Fri Apr 1 7:00 PM * Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
Game 6 - Sun Apr 3 7:00 PM * Kootenay @ Moose Jaw
Game 7 - Tues Apr 5 7:00 PM * Moose Jaw @ Kootenay
As I have alluded to, this might be the toughest series to handicap in the Eastern Conference. Both teams enter the playoffs with the EXACT same record in their last 10 at 6-3-0-1. But, the Ice are unbeaten in regulation in their last 7, so I might give them a slight edge there.
Like I said above, I like the Ice’ offense, the Warriors defense, the special teams are pretty even. That leaves goaltending and home ice as the big factors for me.
I say the Kootenay Ice win this series in 7 hard fought games. With that being said, I wouldn’t be at all shocked if Moose Jaw can find a way to pull this one out.
Up next, I will preview the Medicine Hat Tigers against the Brandon Wheat Kings tomorrow.