Winterhawks have home-ice advantage in WHL playoffs

A full week may remain in the WHL’s regular season, but all of the biggest regular season team prizes have already been determined.

The Portland Winterhawks sewed up the Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record by winning 5-2 at Victoria on Sunday. Portland, at 53-12-1-2, has 109 points. Edmonton, which has 103, can still catch Portland should the Oil Kings win all their remaining games and the Winterhawks lose all theirs. However, Portland would still have one more win, and total wins is the first tiebreaker.

Portland also earned a U.S. Division title, the No. 1 playoff seed in the Western Conference, and the Winterhawks will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.

Edmonton didn’t come away empty handed. The defending WHL champion has clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, as well as the Central Division title.

The other two division championships have also been secured as Saskatoon has won the East Division and Kelowna the B.C. Division.

Therefore, all that’s left to determine are the remaining playoff teams and some of the seeding.

In the Western Conference, six teams have already clinched berths: Portland, Kelowna, Kamloops, Spokane. Tri-City and Victoria. Portland (first), Kelowna (second), Kamloops (third) and Victoria (sixth) are already locked into their seeds. Spokane and Tri-City know they will be playing one another in the first round, but are still battling to decide which team has home-ice advantage. Seattle, Everett and Prince George are fighting it to see which teams take the final two playoff berths.

In the Eastern Conference, seven teams have clinch berths: Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary, Red Deer, Prince Albert, Swift Current and Medicine Hat. The top four seeds have already been locked up by Edmonton, Saskatoon, Calgary and Red Deer, respectively. The other four are still to be determined. Kootenay is in good shape to earn the eighth playoff spot, as only a collapse combined with a major rally by Lethbridge can prevent the Ice from getting into the postseason.

Around the WHL

The Tri-City Americans tied a WHL record when they earned their 40th victory of the season by beating Kootenay 6-4 last Friday. That gave Tri-City seven straight seasons with 40 wins, tying the record set by Regina in 1979-86, then matched by Kamloops in 1989-96. … Three WHL players inked NHL contracts last week. Undrafted Portland overage forward Taylor Peters signed with the Dallas Stars. Saskatoon overage forward Josh Nicholls, who was drafted by Toronto in 2010 but wasn’t signed by the Maple Leafs, signed with the New York Rangers. Kamloops 19-year-old defenseman Joel Edmundson signed with the St. Louis Blues, the team that selected him in the second round in 2011. …Calgary’s Cody Sylvester was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 20-year-old forward had five goals and seven assists as the Hitmen went 4-0. … Tri-City’s Justin Feser was named the WHL Player of the Month for February. The 20-year-old forward had 12 goals and 12 assists in 11 games. … Kootenay’s Mackenzie Skapski was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for February. The 18-year-old went 9-2-0-0 with a 1.27 goals against average and .956 save percentage.

League leaders

Points — Brendan Leipsic (Portland) 114; goals — Josh Nicholls (Saskatoon), Nicolas Petan (Portland) 45; assists — Leipsic 70; penalty minutes — Carter Proft (Spokane) 187; wins — Andrey Makarov (Saskatoon) 36; goals against average — Tristan Jarry (Edmonton) 1.63; save percentage — Patrik Bartosak (Red Deer) .935.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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