Since February 1st, the Kelowna Rockets are 14-2-1 (including 4-0 against Prince George) for 29 points.
During the same five week period, the P.G. Cougars are 6-7-0-2 for 14 points.
Yes, the surging Rockets, who have won their last five, have made up a whopping 15 points in the standings.
This raises the question, can Kelowna make up the final two points and surpass the Cats for the B.C. Division title?
The race for first place has the possibility to extend until Saturday, March 18th when both teams complete their regular season schedule.
Last week at this time it appeared Kamloops would challenge P.G. for top spot but the Blazers practically killed their chance when they dropped a pair at CN Centre 8-4 and 6-1.
Since 2002-03, the Rockets have won four WHL championships, reached the third round of the playoffs three times (including each of the past two seasons) and have advanced to round two on three other occasions.
Only once in the last 14 years have they missed the playoffs, and over the same stretch of time Kelowna has on just two occasions been eliminated in the first round.
Like them or not, the Rockets are a model franchise that know how to succeed and when to elevate their game.
Winning the division is important for the Cougars who are seeking their first banner in 23 years since arriving in Prince George.
The (42-21-3-2) Cougars have 89 points and four games left: (at Tri-City tonight (Friday), at Spokane Saturday, at Kamloops Friday, March 17th and home against Kamloops on Saturday, March 18th).
The (41-21-4-0) Rockets have 87 points and five games remaining: (home against Vancouver tonight, Victoria Saturday, Everett Wednesday, Vancouver again on the 17th and a road game in Langley against Vancouver on the 18th).
The Blazers have a mathematical chance of overtaking both teams but it is highly unlikely since they have just four games left (home to Victoria tonight and Vancouver Saturday plus the two against P.G.) and trail the Rockets by three points and the Cougars by five.
It doesn’t appear that Prince George will win the Western Conference with Everett having 91 points and seven games to play and Seattle sitting with 90 and five left.
With nine days to determine the division race and with the standings so tight, the word tie-breaker comes into play.
So what happens if Prince George and Kelowna tie for first?
Here is the official wording from the league:
WHL PLAYOFF – TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURE
In the event two Clubs finish tied in total points in WHL standings, the edge goes to the Club with the most victories. If that is a tie, it will go to the Club with the most points in games between the two Clubs during the regular schedule. If the two Clubs are still even, the edge goes to the Club with the highest ratio when taking goals for and subtracting goals against in regular season play. If it is still a tie, the edge will go to the Club with the highest ratio when taking goals for and subtracting goals against in games played between the two Clubs in regular schedule play. If it is still a tie, the edge will go to the Club having scored the most goals in regular schedule play. If it is still a tie, the edge will go to the Club having scored the most goals in games played between the two Clubs in regular schedule play.
If the Cougars and Rockets finish with the same amount of points and wins, Kelowna has the edge in the tie-breaker.
The season series was even 4-4 with all four games decided in regulation time.
Kelowna has a plus 62 goal differential while Prince George is plus 45.
The Rockets also outscored the Cougars 22-19 over the eight meetings: (P.G. won 2-1, 4-1, 3-0 and 4-2 before Kelowna won 3-2, 5-1, 5-2 and 5-1).
As long as they finish second in the division, the Cougars will have home ice advantage in the opening round likely starting in two weeks on March 24th but considering they have been in first since day one, that would not even be a consolation prize.
There are still four realistic first round playoff opponents for the Cougars: Victoria, Kamloops, Portland or Tri-City.
Based on today’s standings, Prince George would face Victoria.
For the moment, post-season match-ups are not a concern for the Cougars who need to win and perhaps get some help from an unexpected source like Vancouver in order to fend off arguably the most successful WHL team in the past decade and a half.
Going by the stats, the Kootenay Ice should get crushed by the Cariboo Cougars.
If Kootenay can pull off the miracle and win the best of three quarter-final series it would arguably be the biggest upset ever in the BCMML.
The first place (34-5-1) Major Midget Cougars had a goal differential of +139.
The eighth place (18-21-0-1) Ice had a -57 goal differential.
The Cougars dominated the season series winning all four games by a combined 32-3 score.
Games will be played at Kin 1 today (Friday) at 3:30, Saturday at 2:30 and if needed (likely not) Sunday at 10:15 a.m.
This will be the first playoff action for Kootenay in its 11-year history.
With nothing to lose, the Ice won’t have to worry about cracking under the pressure.
From the Quote Rack:
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he is going to stand for national anthem this year. Of course, he may be standing in his living room.
Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
The Cleveland Browns have made Charley Hughlett the NFL’s highest paid long-snapper. Well, gee, as many times as Cleveland punted last year, I’d say he earned it.
Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
A Tom Brady movie is in the works. No word on who will play the role of Tom but rumor has it that the short list of actors to portray Roger Goddell is down to PeeWee Herman or Bozo.
Contributor Tony Chong of Vancouver
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred says the league is talking about expanding safety netting at ballparks. But mostly just for the teams that are considering having 50 Cent or Snoop Dog throw out the first pitch.
Comedy writer Jim Barach http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.com/
And in case you missed it:
Metro News reports Waterloo student Sara Greenbergh has left university to perform in Cavalia, a world-famous circus. It’s like being drafted by the New York Knicks.
Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat.
He also is the 94.3 radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller