By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Ryan Hanes wasn’t patrolling the centre-ice red line on behalf of his Kamloops Blazers teammates prior to Wednesday night’s WHL playoff game at Interior Savings Centre.
One night earlier, Hanes skated back and forth, just inside the Kamloops side of centre ice, chirping at the Portland Winterhawks as they prepared for the game.
Prior to last night’s game, Hanes said Winterhawks like forwards Brad Ross and Brendan Leipsic had done that same thing prior to games in Portland.
“I had enough of it,” Hanes, a Kamloops native who turned 20 on March 20, said. “I took it upon myself to try and get them off their game.”
Then he paused, smiled and added: “It didn’t quite work.”
A lot of Hanes’ chatter was aimed at Portland goaltender Mac Carruth, who finished with 38 saves in a 5-2 Winterhawks victory that gave them a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series.
Asked if the Winterhawks responded with anything that was printable or if it was just hockey talk, Hanes laughed and said he was told to “go eat another cheeseburger.”
“So I would just blow out my cheeks and make myself look fatter,” he said with another laugh.
Linesman Ryan Dawson shadowed Hanes through most of the warmup, telling the Blazers veteran to settle down.
WHL supervisors observed the goings-on and reported to the WHL office.
On Wednesday, Richard Doerksen, the WHL’s vice-president, hockey, said he spoke with Kamloops general manager Craig Bonner and “I am comfortable that there will not be a repeat performance.”
That message was relayed to Hanes through trainer Colin (Toledo) Robinson.
When Carruth joined the Winterhawks as a 17-year-old from the NAHL’s Wenatchee Wild, he brought with him a reputation. Get in his kitchen, hockey people said, and you can get him off his game.
Teams did that and found that it worked. So they kept doing it.
These days, though, Carruth is almost a picture of serenity back there.
“It’s a competitive thing knowing that teams are going to try and get me off my game,” the Shorewood, Minn., native said. “I’m taking that as a challenge and trying to compete against it and stay focused.”
He’s doing a pretty good job of it, too.
He led the WHL with 42 regular-season victories, along with a 2.96 GAA and .904 save percentage. Those are good numbers when you’re the goaltender on a team that most often plays a high-risk offensive game.
He went into last night’s action with a 7-0 record in these playoffs, along with a 2.14 GAA and .935 save percentage.
“He has gotten better every year,” Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ general manager and head coach, said of Carruth’s on-ice battle with his emotions. “He has taken the initiative to work at it on his own. He’s really worked on it.”
Carruth was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2010 draft.
“He’s talked with Chicago guys,” Johnston added. “They want him to be emotional but they want him to be in control. It’s a fine line with those goaltenders.”
This season, Carruth has mostly stayed on the right side of that line.
Carruth said he really appreciates the play of D Troy Rutkowski, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound shot-blocker from Edmonton.
“He blocks a lot of shots. He takes a lot of pride in sacrificing his body,” Carruth said. “I think secretly he wants to be a goalie.”
Rutkowski didn’t deny that.
“I always joke with him in the room," he said with a laugh. "I tell him I’m secretly a goalie and I’ll maybe come for his job next year.”
Bob Hall, a former WHL and NHL referee who now is an NHL officiating manager, was in attendance at Tuesday’s game. He apparently was taking a close look at veteran referee Matt Kirk. When he isn’t officiating, Kirk is a Vancouver-based lawyer.
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