And down the stretch, they come!
The Prince George Cougars want to finish in fourth place in the WHL Western Conference Standings for two key reasons: home-ice advantage and preferred home dates in the first round of the playoffs.
There is not a lot of drama in the Western Conference; Seattle will finish 1st, Kamloops 2nd, and Portland 3rd.
Vancouver and Kelowna will battle for 7th and 8th but both will be in the playoffs and are long shots to advance to round two.
Victoria is destined for 9th and Spokane last (10th) with both of those teams out of contention.
This leaves Prince George, Everett, and Tri-City to determine 4th, 5th, and 6th.
What does 4th bring?
Home dates for the first two games on a prime weekend (March 31st and April 1st) as opposed to the fifth-place team that will get midweek home contests (April 4th and 5th?) for games three and four.
Game five would also be a weekend home date (April 7th or 8th?) and naturally, every team wants a game seven at home, regardless of when and at what time.
The (31-24-5) Cougars sit in the driver’s seat, holding down fourth place with 67 points, four more than both the (30-27-2-1) Everett Silvertips and the (28-25-5-2) Tri-City Americans.
All three teams have eight games left and all three play three games this weekend in as many days.
The Cougars have four on the road, visiting the (15-38-6-1) Victoria Royals tonight (Friday) and Saturday and then facing the (23-28-5-2) Vancouver Giants Sunday at 4 PM in Langley.
P.G.’s last away game is in two weeks on Friday, March 24th against the (42-11-4-2) Blazers in Kamloops.
The four remaining home games for the Cougars are against the (23-34-3) Kelowna Rockets on Wednesday (March 8th), a double at CN Centre vs. Victoria on March 10th and 11th, and then the season finale, fan appreciation night on March 25th vs. Kamloops.
The Americans have five left at home and three on the road.
Tri-City has a difficult weekend visiting (48-9-1-2) Seattle tonight (the Western-Conference leading Thunderbirds are riding a 14-game point streak), hosting (37-17-3-3) Portland on Saturday, and home to Kelowna on Sunday.
The Americans then have four of their last five games against the last-place Spokane Chiefs, two in Spokane (March 17th and 25th) and two in Kennewick, Washington (March 18th and 24th). The other game for Tri-City will be home to Vancouver on March 19th.
The Silvertips have just three left at home and five on the road.
Everett plays at Kamloops tonight, at Seattle Saturday, and then home against Spokane on Sunday.
The Silvertips have a home-and-home with Vancouver on March 17th (in Langley) and 18th (in Everett) and an away game at Spokane on March 19th.
Everett will conclude with a home-and-home against Victoria on March 24th (in Everett) and 25th (in Victoria).
To summarize, the Cougars have four games left against Victoria, two remaining against Kamloops, and one each vs. Kelowna and Vancouver.
The Americans have four remaining against Spokane and one vs. Seattle, Portland, Kelowna, and Vancouver.
The Silvertips have two left against Spokane, Vancouver, and Victoria and one remaining against Kamloops and Seattle.
Either way, the Cougars will have their hands full against either the Americans or the Silvertips.
Keep in mind Tri-City and Everett have had a more difficult schedule because they had more games within their U.S. Division, which is much stronger than the B.C. Division.
However, the Cougars roster is stronger now than at the start of the season (thanks to a few key deals) while the Silvertips dealt away their top two players at the trade deadline.
The playoffs are now three weeks away.
Since the Cougars haven’t won a playoff game in six years and haven’t won a playoff series in 16 years, any opponent, at any place at any time will be a welcome sight, especially with P.G. having a realistic chance of advancing to round two.
If you are curious about a tie in the standings, the tie-breaking procedures taken from the WHL website are listed below.
If teams are tied in victories and points:
–Tri-City has the tie-breaker over P.G. having gone 3-1 in the season series. The Cougars went 1-2-1 against the Americans.
–Everett has the tie-breaker over Prince George by taking the season series 3-1 with all four games ending in regulation time.
–Tri-City has the tie-breaker over Everett by going 5-4 in the season series. Everett was 4-4-1.
WHL PLAYOFF – TIE-BREAKING PROCEDURE
1) The Club having the greater number of points shall be awarded higher position.
a) 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.
b) In the event three (3) or more Clubs finish tied in total points in WHL standings, the edge goes to the Club with the most victories. Should the Clubs have won the same number of games, then the higher position shall be awarded to the Club having the greatest ratio when taking goals for and subtracting goals against in regular schedule play. If the Clubs are still tied, the total records of the Clubs against each other will be used with the Club having the highest points per game average having the edge. If the Clubs are still tied, the Club with the highest ratio when taking goals for and subtracting goals against each other in regular season play among the Clubs will advance. 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 Clubs in regular schedule play.
Cat Scan podcast:
In part 2 of the Jim Playfair @PGCougars Cat Scan #podcast, the ex #NHL coach talks about his surprise firing from #CalgaryFlames, high expectations for the Cougars, spending time with the PG players & watching their tendencies, growing up in FS James, the success of his 3 sons. https://t.co/pHDTx8MTUg
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) March 8, 2023
Taking Note column:
Edmonton police: Incident non-criminal in nature . . . WHL not commenting . . . Another Blazers skater gets NHL deal https://t.co/qwJPrsyiW1
— Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan) March 10, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
One publication says New Orleans signing of QB Derek Carr makes the Saints favourites in the NFC South. It would also mark the first time a 6-11 team hosts a playoff game.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Apparently, all three Jeopardy players Monday missed all the “In the Sport” clues, including guessing this sport for $200 -“Inherited runners, appeal play, pickoff.”
I’m so old I remember when baseball was considered the “thinking man’s sport.”
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
The footwear Roger Bannister wore in running the first sub-four-minute-mile fetched $409,344 at a recent auction. After bidding, the auctioneer held up the shoes and said “Soled.”
*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the news and sports director/supervisor plus morning news anchor for 94.3 the GOAT and Country 97fm. He is in his 10th season as the radio colour commentator for Prince George Cougars’ home games. Hartley has been on the airwaves in PG since 1979 and is the author of You Don’t Say (sports quotes).