Thursday, April 25, 2013

West Coast offence carries Winterhawks to Game 4 victory

Portland forward Brendan Leipsic expresses his dismay after being called
for embellishment in the first period of the Winterhawks' 3-0 victory
over the host Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday night.

(Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
Portland forward Brendan Leipsic was a lot happier
after defenceman Seth Jones scored his side's
second goal on Wednesday night.

(Murray Mitchell / Kamloops Daily News)
 By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor

The Portland Winterhawks, their short passing game working the way the West Coast offence is supposed to, made short work of the Kamloops Blazers at Interior Savings Centre on Wednesday night.
The 3-0 Portland victory, behind goaltender Mac Carruth’s 29 saves, left the Winterhawks with a 3-1 edge in the WHL’s best-of-seven Western Conference final.
Shortly after the game, both teams headed for Portland where Game 5 will be played on Friday night. While Games 1 and 2 were played in Memorial Coliseum, the next game is scheduled for the Rose Garden, the home of the NBA’s Trail Blazers. In its hockey alignment, the Rose Garden seats about 11,000 fans.
Should the Blazers win Game 5, the teams will reconvene at ISC on Sunday, 6 p.m.
Just like in Tuesday’s Game 3, which Kamloops won 5-1, the Blazers found themselves facing a 5-on-3 disadvantage early in the first period. And, again, they gave up a quick power-play goal, this one to forward Nic Petan on a back-door play. (Yes, the Winterhawks show up at the back door more often than a hobo in the Great Depression.)
“Two games in a row,” said Petan, “you get that 5-on-3 and it’s definitely a bonus. When you get those, you just have to capitalize.”
Why?
“You know they’re going to get those power plays back,” reasoned Petan.
“Any time you get a 5-on-3 you’ll take it,” offered Travis Green, Portland’s interim general manager and head coach, who then allowed that, yes, “it’s kind of weird that we’ve gotten two early in both games.”
Guy Charron, the Blazers’ head coach, didn’t offer any excuses for his guys starting both games in an identical fashion.
“We haven’t been disciplined against them,” Charron said. “Yesterday, we were able to get away with it and we scored on some opportunities. Tonight, we didn’t.”
But this wasn’t the same Portland team as the previous night. This bunch of Winterhawks did a much  better job of managing the puck, the short-passing game worked really well, and the result was a first period in which the Blazers spent a lot of time chasing the game.
“We spent the last 24 hours . . . our team had to look at themselves in the mirror a little bit,” Green said. “When you play well, you have to own the game and when you play bad, you have to own the game as well.”
Green was quick to give Kamloops credit for its play in a 5-1 victory in Game 3 — “They did stop some of our puck movement,” he said — but wasn’t at all happy with his club’s effort.
“We made some soft plays that I didn’t think we made tonight,” Green added. “Little backhand passes . . . we were a lot more direct in our game tonight and our execution was a lot better. We didn’t have many passes in our feet. (Tuesday) night, I didn’t like our game; we didn’t look sharp.”
The Winterhawks likely had possession for two-thirds of the first period, if not more. And they ended up with a 2-0 lead when defenceman Seth Jones scored on a point shot that appeared to clip goaltender Cole Cheveldave’s catching mitt on the way by. Cheveldave didn’t seem to see the shot, what with forward Brendan Leipsic camped out in front of him.
The second period took on something of a different tone, with the Blazers pushing and the Winterhawks seeming to have lost the oomph from their game.
It started when Portland wasn’t able to muster even one shot on a power play that took up the first 1:44 of the period.
And it continued for the rest of the period, the result being a 16-5 edge in shots for the home boys, but they weren’t able to solve Carruth. On one occasion when Carruth was beaten, winger JC Lipon drilled a goalpost.
In the second half of period, Kamloops forwards Kale Kessy and Colin Smith both had Carruth dead to rights but couldn’t beat him.
“I thought our second period was very strong. We had 16 shots,” Charron said. “But, again, as we were having momentum we took another penalty in the offensive zone.”
Kessy was penalized for roughing at 13:21 after he separated Jones’ head from his helmet.
“It’s frustrating for everyone,” Charron continued, “because we’re a team that when things go well, yeah, we’re a happy group and we play well . . . we’re hard to play against. But adversity . . . all year we’ve had a difficult time dealing with it.”
The Blazers’ attempt to get back into this one took a severe hit at 1:35 of the third period when Petan scored his second goal of the game, and eighth of the playoffs, getting to a loose puck in the crease and shoving it over the line.
Portland forward Ty Rattie drew three assists in the game, as he and linemates Petan and Brendan Leipsic showed the form that allowed them to finish 1-2-3 atop the WHL’s regular-season point derby.
“Just our feet moving,” Rattie said when asked about the different from one night to the next. “We weren’t sharp with the puck (Tuesday) night. Keep our feet moving and the puck moving up (ice) and we like our game.”
Petan agreed.
“We were more simple tonight; we didn’t try anything too fancy,” he said. “You make those short, good passes and the long ones will work after.”
The Blazers lost centre Brendan Ranford at 11:29 of the third period when he took a hit from Portland forward Keegan Iverson and went down hard. Originally, a penalty wasn’t called. However, during the stoppage, referees Adam Byblow and Jeff Ingram huddled with linesman Chris Sweeting, and Iverson ultimately was given a charging major, meaning the WHL will take a close look at the situation before Game 5.
Ranford, who was treated on the ice by trainer Colin Robinson, eventually skated off the ice and went straight to the dressing room. He didn’t return.
The Blazers struggled to mount even a shot on goal on the five-minute penalty as the lights dimmed on their chances of winning this one.
Charron was unable to provide an update on Ranford’s condition, saying only that the player was “with the medical people.”
“The thing that upsets me,” Charron said, “is that we may have another good player out on a hit by a secondary player. That to me . . . I’m not saying it was meant to be, but . . .”
JUST NOTES: Attendance was 5,164. . . . Rattie picked up two assists in the first period, giving him 87 career playoff points. That moved him into third on the WHL’s all-time list, one ahead of former Blazers star Rob Brown. . . . The Daily News Three Stars: 1. Rattie: A maestro in this one; 2. Petan: A gritty effort; 3. Jones: Huge improvement over Game 3. . . . Portland played without F Joe Mahon, who drew a one-game suspension for a game misconduct he incurred in Game 3. As well, each team was fined $250 for what the WHL calls “warmup violations.” . . . While the Blazers were to travel directly to Portland after last night’s game, the Winterhawks planned to go as far as Bellingham, and continue on to Portland later today. . . . The highest-priced tickets for Game 5? Seats along the glass are going for US$54.


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