There wasn’t one upset in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
The eight teams (four in each conference) with the better regular season record all won, the first time that has happened in eight years.
The Prince George Cougars are hoping there is at least one big surprise in round two, and that would be in their series against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The two teams have not played each other in four months.
This season for the Cougars was about having a winning record and advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 16 years.
Now, maybe the team does not look at it this way, but the rest is a bonus.
Even if they lose in four straight to the Western Conference regular season champions the 2022-23 season will be deemed a success for Prince George, especially when one looks at the huge amount of playoff ticket sales.
This season for the Thunderbirds isn’t about winning a round or two, it is about celebrating at least a WHL championship and a possible Memorial Cup title.
Seattle almost got its WHL title last year, but fell two games short, falling 4-2 in the league final to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
By the way, the Thunderbirds won three rounds last year as the #4 seed in the West.
It just so happens the Cougars are the #4 seed this year in the West.
I am not suggesting history will repeat itself, but at this stage, when you are down to the elite eight, any result is possible.
The Second Round of the 2023 #WHLPlayoffs presented by @NutrienLTD begins Friday and we’re previewing each series.
We wrap with the matchup between the @PGCougars and @SeattleTbirds!
📰 | https://t.co/oStKR8NSG1#FeedingTheFuture pic.twitter.com/ex5B69HrY5
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 13, 2023
Seattle is loaded with arguably one of the top five rosters ever put together in the WHL.
The Thunderbirds have 10 NHL Draft selections on its roster including Dylan Guenther, who played 33 games this season for the Arizona Coyotes.
The T-Birds, who had a streak of 18-0-0-1 down the stretch, appear to have no visible weak spots, and their goaltending, led by all-star Thomas Milic, is arguably the best in the league.
He surrendered only one goal in his 120 minutes of work, helping the @SeattleTbirds reach the Second Round of the #WHLPlayoffs.
Thomas Milic is the WHL Goaltender of the Week!
📰 | https://t.co/XQsw94sLwy pic.twitter.com/IzcECexmmQ
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 10, 2023
There is also local PG talent on the Thunderbirds.
18-year-old Nico Myatovic put up 60 points, including 30 goals, as he played in all 68 games.
He added an assist in four first-round games against Kelowna.
Seattle had nine players average a point per game or better in the regular season.
The PG Cougars had five players that averaged a point or better.
Those five (Team MVP Chase Wheatcroft, Riley Heidt, Koehn Ziemmer, Hudson Thornton, and Team Captain Ethan Samson) consist of their entire power play.
Here’s something the Cougars can say that the Thunderbirds can not, P.G. had three players in the WHL top 10 of scoring while Seattle had none in the top 15.
As the Prince George Cougars, the @SeattleTbirds have faced them 5 times in the playoffs:
2016 1st round Seattle wins 4-0
2003 1st round Seattle wins 4-1
2000 2nd round Prince George wins 3-0 (best of 5)
1999 1st round Seattle wins 4-3
1997 Conference Final Seattle wins 4-2
— TBird Tidbits (@TBirdTidbits) April 10, 2023
I was a bit surprised that #8 Kelowna was not a pushover against #1 Seattle in the first round.
Sure the Thunderbirds did the expected with a four-game sweep, but Seattle won the opener 3-2 after trailing 2-0 with a minute left in the second period.
The T-birds needed three unanswered goals in the third for a 4-1 victory in Game 2; they got four unanswered goals in the third period for a 4-1 win in Game 3, and to cap it off Seattle notched two unanswered goals in the third for a 3-0 triumph in Game 4.
At crunch time the Thunderbirds cranked it up, but it was not total domination.
The Cougars were given more of a test against Tri-City, needing six games and having two of their wins go into overtime, but P.G. got better as the series went along outscoring Tri-City 17-8 over the final three games.
P.G. fans will reflect back to the 2006-2007 season, the last time the Cougars won a series, in fact, they won two.
In the second round, P.G. upset #1 Everett in six games.
The Silvertips that year finished with 111 points, a whopping 37 more than the 7th-place Cougars.
Well wouldn’t you know it, guess who finished with 111 points in 2022-23?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you said that would be first place Seattle.
This year Prince George was fourth and 30 back of the top team.
So is one suggesting there is a chance?
Of course, it is sports, it is hockey, and it is the playoffs.
The Cougars do have a chance of knocking off the Thunderbirds; the debate is about how realistic of a chance is it.
2023 WHL PLAYOFFS PRESENTED BY NUTRIEN – SERIES K SCHEDULE
|1||April 14, 2023||Prince George||Seattle||7:05 p.m. PT|
|2||April 15, 2023||Prince George||Seattle||6:05 p.m. PT|
|3||April 18, 2023||Seattle||Prince George||7:00 p.m. PT|
|4||April 19, 2023||Seattle||Prince George||7:00 p.m. PT|
|5||April 21, 2023||Prince George||Seattle||7:05 p.m. PT||*|
|6||April 23, 2023||Seattle||Prince George||6:00 p.m. PT||*|
|7||April 25, 2023||Prince George||Seattle||7:05 p.m. PT||*|
* – if necessary
Cat Scan podcasts:
It is @PGCougars Catscan #podcast again. Today hear from a 2007 Cougars player Nick Drazenovic. Nick talks about his role with TSC, the difference between playing & developing talent, he compares the 2007 team to 2023 Cougars. He also says he did not play desperate enough in Jr. https://t.co/6JzN3AWzZA
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) April 13, 2023
The @PGCougars associate coach Josh Dixon discusses many topics in the Cat Scan #podcast. Dixon talks about the turning points vs TC to help the team advance to round 2; their next opponent @SeattleTbirds, depth, leadership, playoff atmosphere, increased attendance, & more. https://t.co/PHyXr812s4
— Hartley Miller (@Hartley_Miller) April 12, 2023
Lazaruk solves mystery surrounding scoring change . . . Struch signs on with Notre Dame . . . Truitt gets Hockey Canada gig https://t.co/OiAAgG6da1
— Gregg Drinnan (@gdrinnan) April 13, 2023
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Former NHL defenceman Chris Chelios is selling the Malibu, Cal. house he paid $6 million for 20 years ago and has listed it on the market for $75 million. This proves that shower grab bars really do add to a house’s value.
*Contributor Marc Ragovin of New York
Jaylen Brown missed the Boston Celtics’ final two regular season games after injuring his hand while watering plants. That must’ve been some Venus Flytrap.
*Contributor Bill Littlejohn of South Lake Tahoe, California
Reuters reports a Labrador in Indiana somehow shot its owner in the foot. Not to be outdone, New Orleans claims their team of Pelicans just shot themselves in their own feet.
*Western Canadian comedy writer RJ Currie
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).