The Winnipeg ICE are in the second round after defeating the Prince Albert Raiders in five games.
The ICE opened up the playoffs with a 3-1 win in front of a full house at the ICE Cave in game one. Jakin Smallwood, Owen Pederson, and Connor McClennon scored the goals, two of them coming on the power play, to open up the playoffs with a victory.
In game two, Winnipeg showed up even stronger. With two more power play goals, Winnipeg used a fast start to drive to a 5-2 win. Smallwood and Pederson scored again, while Nolan Orzeck, Zach Benson, and Conor Geekie got in on the fun with their first goals of the playoffs. Winnipeg chased Raiders’ netminder Tikhon Chaika 2:10 into the second after scoring four goals on 15 shots.
Winnipeg went up to Prince Albert for game three and massacred the Raider’s hopes with a 10-1 clobbering victory. Winnipeg held a 4-0 lead after the first, leading to the second straight game where Chaika got yanked. Mikey Milne notched a hat trick and Benson potted two goals. Smallwood, Pederson, McClennon, Geekie and Skylar Bruce also scored for the win. Winnipeg scored three power play goals while Daniel Hauser picked up a third straight win.
The Raiders were able to keep their season going with a 3-1 decision in game four. Milne’s late power play goal was the only one the ICE scored despite outshooting the Raiders for a fourth straight game.
Back home for game five, the ICE used their home crowd to help finish off Prince Albert with an 8-2 series clinching win. Benson and McClennon each tallied twice while Milne, Jack Finley, Jonas Woo, and Matthew Savoie scored singles. Winnipeg outshot the Raiders 35-13 in the win to send Prince Albert to the links.
Winnipeg needs to wait for the Red Deer Rebels and Brandon Wheat Kings to finish their series before they know who they will play. If Brandon wins, the ICE will face their provincial rival; if Red Deer moves on, then Winnipeg plays the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Rebels have a 3-2 edge in the series right now.
Why Winnipeg Won
1) Dominant Special Teams
The ICE are second on both the power play and penalty kill through the first round. Winnipeg scored at least one power play goal in four of five games, and only gave Prince Albert one power play goal on 17 tries. Special teams are arguably the biggest decider of success in a playoff run – right now, the ICE’s units are playing like champions.
2) Spread Out Scoring
Winnipeg is getting contributions from all over their lineup, with 17 skaters having notched at least one point in the opening round. Six players scored multiple goals in the first round, featuring players from the ICE’s top three lines. Having that scoring spread out means the coaching staff doesn’t have to lean on one line or one pair to score the big goal – right now, every line the ICE use is a threat.
Winnipeg knew Daniel Hauser would give them quality starts, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Hauser is sitting pretty with a .915 save percentage and 1.61 goals against average through the first round. While his team’s suffocating defense certainly helps (Winnipeg is giving up an average of 18.8 shots against per game), Hauser has made the saves his team has needed him to make.
Top Player in the First Round – Zach Benson – five goals, five assists, 10 points
Three multipoint games have helped put the 16-year-old atop the ICE’s scoring chart through round one. The Chilliwack local has multiple shots in every game so far in the playoffs and has been a positive player in every game so far. The young star is expected to go in the top five in next year’s NHL Entry Draft because of his game-changing offensive abilities. He put those abilities on full display in the first round to help Winnipeg move on to round two.