U.S. Division Tri-City Americans (2) vs. Seattle Thunderbirds (3)
Synopsis: This is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated first-round matchup. Both teams enter the playoffs on fire, Tri-City having won eight of its last nine and Seattle having won 14 of its last 17. Both teams have an offensive superstar and a quality veteran goaltender – Tri-City’s Colton Yellow Horn and Carey Price, Seattle’s Aaron Gagnon and Derek Yeomans. This one could go either way.
Prediction: Seattle in seven games.
B.C. Division Vancouver Giants (1) vs. Chilliwack Bruins (4) Synopsis: Chilliwack made a valiant push to earn a playoff spot as an expansion team, and the Bruins had the Giants down 4-0 in the season finale before losing in overtime. However, Vancouver won all eight games during the regular season, outscoring the Bruins 44-11 in the process.
Prediction: Vancouver in four games.
Kamloops Blazers (2) vs. Prince George Cougars (3)
Synopsis: These are two teams that come into the playoffs from different directions. Kamloops won just four of its final 21 games and although captain Reid Jorgensen is back from injury, star defenseman Ray Macias is questionable. Meanwhile, Prince George surged at the end of the season and won the final three matchups between the two teams.
Prediction: Prince George in six games.
Central Division Medicine Hat Tigers (1) vs. Red Deer Rebels (4)
Synopsis: Medicine Hat was the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference this season and had its way with the Rebels, going 6-1-1-0. Red Deer, which returns to the playoffs after missing out for the first time in a decade last season, has the top-end talent, but not the depth to stay with the Tigers.
Prediction: Medicine Hat in five games.
Kootenay Ice (2) vs. Calgary Hitmen (3)
Synopsis: This should be a competitive series, despite the 19-point differential in the standings. Calgary offers plenty of offensive firepower and a solid defense. But Kootenay has so many offensive weapons and also should have the edge in goal with Taylor Dakers.
Prediction: Kootenay in six games.
East Division Brandon Wheat Kings (1) vs. Prince Albert Raiders (4)
Synopsis: This appears to be a mismatch. Brandon ran away with the East Division this season, features an experienced and deep lineup, and has a dependable veteran goaltender in Tyler Plante. Meanwhile, Prince Albert made the playoffs by default as someone among the Raiders, Moose Jaw and Saskatoon had to get in.
Prediction: Brandon in five games.
Regina Pats (2) vs. Swift Current Broncos (3)
Synopsis: Regina, one of the early-season favorites to be among the league’s best, struggled through much of the season before finally gaining steam late. The Pats have a strong defense, and Swift Current is lacking the type of game-breaking offensive ability that can unlock a tight defense.
Prediction: Regina in five games.
Nick Patterson, Herald writer