Although one of the most exciting regular seasons in the 20-year history of the Western States Hockey League is coming to a close, things are only going to heat up, as 16 teams will battle it out for the right to be called champions in the 2014 Thorne Cup Playoffs.
The top four squads in each division (Midwest, Mountain, Northwest and Western) will qualify for the divisional semi-finals, which will consist of two best-of-three series, with the top seed playing host to the #4 seed and the #2 team hosting the #3 from March 14-16.
The winner of each series will move on to the divisional finals round the following weekend, March 21-23, where another three-game series will decide a division champion. Once again, the higher remaining seed will host the lower seed at their home arena.
The four divisional winners will all qualify for a spot in the 2014 Thorne Cup Finals, which will be held in El Paso, Texas from April 2-6.
Since the El Paso Rhinos are hosts of the event, they receive an automatic bid into the festivities. Should they end up winning their division (Midwest) then the team they beat in the divisional finals will also receive a spot in the Thorne Cup Finals.
Joining the four division winners and the Rhinos (or runner-up should they win the Midwest Division) will be a sixth team. This “wildcard” will be given to the team that had the best regular season record of the four that fell in the divisional finals.
The six teams will be divided into two, three-team brackets, with each team playing the three teams from the opposite bracket during the round-robin stage, which will begin on Wednesday April 2 and run through Friday April 4, with games slotted at 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM and 7:30 PM each day (all times MST.)
After the round robin portion concludes, the top four teams will then move to the semi-finals on Saturday, with the highest seed facing the lowest seed and the #2 and #3 seeds meeting, with game slots at 3:00 PM and 7:30 PM.
The winners of the two semi-final match-ups will then play for the Thorne Cup on Sunday April 6 at 4:30 PM and will also qualify for the United Hockey Union National Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada, to be held two weeks later. (More information here: UHU Nationals)
2014 Thorne Cup Playoff Schedule
March 14-16- Divisional Semi-Finals (Best of three series, #1 seed vs. #4 seed and #2 seed vs. #3 seed)
March 21-23- Divisional Finals (Best of three series, higher seed remaining hosting lower seed remaining)
April 2-6- Thorne Cup Finals in El Paso, Texas (Four division winners, host El Paso Rhinos or Midwest Division runner-up if Rhinos win division and wildcard team)
April 16-20- United Hockey Union National Championships- Top two WSHL finishers, as well as the top two teams from both the Northern States Hockey League and Midwest Junior Hockey League play for the National Title. Running concurrently will be the “Best of the Rest” tournament, which features two all-star teams from the WSHL and one each from the NSHL and MWJHL)
Tickets for the Thorne Cup Finals will be available at the Sierra Providence Events Center box office and run from $60-90 for entry into all 11 games, or $10-30 for any single game. More information regarding the Thorne Cup Finals, including lodging, meal and rental car information will be available shortly.