Tips catch a break, plus reader poll

Well, the Tips got a little unlikely help tonight.

A short-handed Seattle Thunderbirds team upset Tri-City 4-3 tonight. That means Everett has U.S. Division and Western Conference destiny in its own hands. The Tips and Americans remain tied atop the division/conference, but Everett has a game in hand. For the first time in the race, Everett’s in a position where if the Tips win out they hang a banner.

In Sunday’s other Western Conference games, Vancouver beat Chilliwack 6-0, and Kamloops topped Prince George 4-3.

So here’s how the conference playoff race stands. I’ll include all eight playoff teams this time so people can see the potential first-round match-ups. Keep in mind that Vancouver is listed second despite a worse record because the Giants have clinched the B.C. Division and will therefore receive the No. 2 seed for the first round, regardless of record.

1. Tri-City 45-21-1-2, 93 points, three games remaining

2. Vancouver 40-24-2-3, 85 points, three games remaining

3. Everett 44-19-3-2, 93 points, four games remaining

4. Spokane 42-21-3-2, 89 points, four games remaining

5. Portland 41-25-2-1, 85 points, three games remaining

6. Kelowna 33-30-2-4, 72 points, three games remaining

7. Kamloops 32-32-2-4, 70 points, two games remaining

8. Chilliwack 30-32-1-5, 66 points, four games remaining

Here’s each team’s remaining schedule:

Tri-City — Seattle, at Spokane, Spokane

Vancouver — Kelowna, Kamloops, at Seattle

Everett — at Portland, Seattle, Chilliwack, at Spokane

Spokane — Kelowna, Tri-City, at Tri-City, Everett

Portland — Everett, at Chilliwack, at Seattle

Kelowna — at Spokane, at Vancouver, Prince George

Kamloops — Prince George, at Vancouver

Chilliwack — at Prince George, at Prince George, Portland, at Everett

It’s still a three-team race at the top as Spokane is on fire, having won 11 of its past 13. That home-and-home set between Tri-City and Spokane looms large and will go a long ways toward determining seeding among the top three. That final-day game between Everett and Spokane could be for all the marbles, or it could be meaningless.

Here’s the tiebreaker procedure. If teams finish tied in points, total wins is the first tiebreaker. Tri-City, which has fewer loser points than Everett and Spokane, is on course to win that tiebreaker, while Everett and Spokane are on pace to finish with an equal number of wins if they finish tied on points. If teams are subsequently tied in wins, then head-to-head is the second tiebreaker. Everett would lose that one to Tri-City, but win it against Spokane, regardless of next Sunday’s result.

So allow me to post my weekly poll a little early:

Who finishes first in the Western Conference?surveys

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