Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shorthanded 'Hawks bury Blazers

Portland forward Brad Ross (18) took a boarding minor for this
hit on Kamloops defenceman Brady Gaudet. Ross came back to
score four goals in Portland's 5-2 playoff victory.

(Photo by Keith Anderson / Kamloops Daily News)
Daily News Sports Editor

The Kamloops Blazers, or at least Ryan Hanes, did a lot of talking in the pregame warmup on Tuesday night.
When the puck dropped, however, the Blazers weren’t able to walk the walk, especially when they were on the power play.
The Portland Winterhawks scored two shorthanded goals 33 seconds apart in the second period and went on to a 5-2 WHL playoff victory over the Blazers at Interior Savings Centre.
The end result is that the Winterhawks, who got four goals from Brad Ross, lead this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 3-0 and can put it to bed tonight at ISC. Should the Blazers win, Game 5 would be played in Portland on Saturday.
Hanes, who plays on the Blazers’ fourth line, spent the entire pregame warmup skating along the centre-ice red line chirping at the Winterhawks, especially goaltender Mac Carruth.
If that was intended to get Carruth off his game, it didn’t work. He made 38 saves as he ran his record to 7-0 in these playoffs.
“He was doing his job,” Carruth said. “He was trying to get me off my game. It was just hockey talk. It’s his job.”
“All I heard from our guys,” added Portland general manager/head coach Mike Johnston, who didn’t watch the warmup, “was that he was standing at centre ice just chirping.”
Then, a chuckling Johnston added: “He didn’t take any reps with a line so we didn’t know what line he was on.”
Guy Charron, the Blazers’ head coach, also said he didn’t watch the warmup, but he felt Hanes was simply copying something he witnessed in Portland.
“That’s something they did in Portland,” Charron said, “and probably Ryan took it upon himself to do what they did. Two of their guys did it in Portland for both games, just stood there and talked to our players.
“He probably picked up on those two games and felt it’s our building so he’s going to do it to them.”
Whatever it was it didn’t bother Carruth at all. And it isn’t that Carruth was spectacular, it’s just that he was focused and did his job.
“He was really good tonight . . . really good,” Johnston said. “His positioning was really good and he didn’t get involved.”
The Blazers’ power play was another story.
It did score once in this game, but by that stage it was 0-for-17 in the series. It also got beat for three shorthanded goals, two of them 33 seconds apart with the game there for the taking.
“We don’t have to beat around the bush,” Charron said. “Special teams in this series have been very difficult for us. Overall, our penalty kill has been good. But tonight our power play gives up two shorthanded. It’s a big concern.
“It’s the same power play that finished sixth over the regular season. The personnel is there, but we need to make some adjustments. We need to get more (pucks) at the net. We need to cause traffic.”
The Blazers were in good shape as the first period ended. They had gotten a breakaway goal from Brendan Ranford at 15:53 that allowed them go into the break tied 1-1, Portland having gotten an early power-play goal from Ross.
Not only that . . . the home boys would start the second period with a two-man advantage for 1:17.
The Kamloops power play, however, has been drier than July and that didn’t change. The Blazers managed to get four shots on Carruth during that 5-on-3 but didn’t score.
Shortly after, Ross and teammate Cam Reid took penalties and the Blazers had more chances to take control. Instead, Portland’s Taylor Peters went to work and that resulted in shorthanded goals by Taylor Leier and Ross.
Just like that, it was 3-1 for the visitors, the crowd was pretty much out of it and the Winterhawks were on their way.
“He’s a real solid guy . . . solid player all-around,” Johnston said of Peters, a 19-year-old from Delta. “People don’t recognize him because he doesn’t get a lot of points but a lot of pro guys are starting to look at him as a real solid big horse of a guy.”
At the same time, Johnston wasn’t please with his club’s discipline.
“We weren’t very smart,” he said. “Little things, like giving a guy a wahck after a hit. In the playoffs, so far, I thought we’d done a great job but . . .”
The Blazers did get back to within a goal, at 3-2, when Colin Smith beat Carruth off a rebound on, yes, the power play.
But the Winterhawks came back just 48 seconds later, at 16:59 of the second, getting traffic to the net and Ross — who else? — put the puck past goaltender Cam Lanigan, who finished with 24 saves.
“We might be holding our sticks a little tight (on the PP) because it’s not really working right now,” Kamloops winger Jordan DePape said. “We did have chances, we did set it up, we did get some shots off it. But there are no excuses.
“We could work harder in the paint. In the playoffs you have to play in front of the net. Look at their (fourth) goal . . . them crashing the net. We can’t expect it to be pretty goals all the time . . . we have to bear down.”
Ross, the younger brother of former Blazers defenceman Nick Ross, rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal that also came with the Winterhawks shorthanded.
“We played a really good game,” said Ross, a truculent type whose NHL rights are held by the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We took some undisciplined penalties, including myself, but we had a great PK today. And we got the bounces we needed on the PK.”
Ross, who is coming off a 42-goal regular-season, said his performance in this one was a first.
“I’ve never had four goals . . . I don’t think so,” he said, after running his three-game total to six goals. “(Ty) Rattie did it last series and it was pretty impressive. Just to do it myself is pretty nice.”
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 3,712. . . . Portland finished 1-for-4 on the PP; Kamloops was 1-for-9. . . . Ross is one of five players in Winterhawks history to score four times in one playoff game, joining Rattie, Alfie Turcotte, Adam Deadmarsh and Max Kostovich. . . . The Winterhawks also set a franchise playoff record with three shorthanded goals in one game. . . . Ross has four shorthanded goals in these playoffs and that also is a franchise record. . . . Portland F Oliver Gabriel had his suspension set at four games by the WHL office yesterday. He will be eligible to play in Game 6 should this series get there. He was suspended for a late third-period hit in Game 1 that has taken Kamloops G Cole Cheveldave, a second-team conference all-star, out of the series with a suspected concussion. . . . Blazers captain Chase Schaber, whose season was ended by a skate cut to his left leg in the first-round victory over the Victoria Royals, is out and about on crutches. He was at the Kamloops bench during the warmup and took in the game from a corporate box. . . . The Daily News’ Three Stars: 1. Ross: Four goals in a road playoff game; 2. Carruth: 7-0 in playoffs; 3. D Troy Rutkowski, Portland: Does everything but score.

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