Led by the likes of Byron Ritchie, Kirby Law, Travis Brigley, Bryce Salvador, Shane Willis, and more, the Lethbridge Hurricanes completed the 1996-1997 Western Hockey League regular season with a record of 47W-22L-3T for 97-points capturing the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s regular season champions. Chris Phillips was awarded the Bill Hunter Trophy as the WHL’s top defenseman at the conclusion of the regular season.
As the WHL’s regular season champions, the Lethbridge Hurricanes maintained home-ice advantage for the duration of the 1997 WHL Playoffs. The ‘Canes opened the playoffs on March 19, 1997 against Prince Albert sweeping the Raiders in the opening round and outscoring them 16-11.
Moose Jaw proved a more challenging team in the second round as the ‘Canes opened up the series with a 3-2 overtime win on March 31st. The next night, the Warriors claimed a 5-4 victory before both teams headed to Moose Jaw for games three and four, which they also split. Lethbridge won game three by a score of 5-3, Moose took a 5-4 win in game four. The Hurricanes won the next two games (5-1 and 5-4) to take a 4-2 series win.
It was a battle of Alberta for the Division Finals as the ‘Canes faced off against the Red Deer Rebels who finished the regular season 43W-26L-3T for 89 points. For the third straight series, the Hurricanes won the opening game, this time by a score of 3-2 in overtime. The Rebels dominated with a 7-4 win in game two but the ‘Canes stormed back to win three straight (5-3, 6-4, and 5-2), claiming the series and the division.
And then came the WHL Championship series against the Seattle Thunderbirds who finished the regular season 41W-27L-4T for 86 points. Seattle’s journey to the WHL Championship took them through Kamloops with a 4-1 series win, a bye in the second round, and defeating Prince George in six games in the third round. The ‘Canes defeated the Thunderbirds in dominating fashion, by a score of 7-2 to open the series. They never looked back; taking the next three games 4-1, 3-1, and 5-1. While the Hurricanes scored 19 goals against Seattle in the four-game series, ‘Canes goaltender, Blaine Russell, stood tall in net allowing just five goals through four games earning him WHL Playoffs Most Valuable Player honours. A series sweep and your Lethbridge Hurricanes were crowned the 1997 Western Hockey League Champions, capturing what was then known as the President’s Cup.
Tonight, you can watch game four of the 1997 WHL Championship against the Seattle Thunderbirds. Played on April 30, 1997, overage player, Mike Josephson, scored the lone goal in the second period, his 10th of the playoffs, and the eventual game-winning goal. Puck drops at 7:00PM!