The Winterhawks seemed to have embraced the wrath of Darth Vader as they are looked upon from fans outside of Portland as cheaters and other names that can't be printed. The Hawks players have instead taken to Twitter with #adversityhawks and #formikej as the main hashtags. The Star Wars theme started following the last regular season game in Seattle, where the Hawks were ushered off the ice to the theme and have since taken it as their own.
After taking the first 2 games at home by a combined 8-1 score, there were many who thought the Winterhawks would actually sweep the series vs. Kamloops Blazers. They should have asked Tim Bozun, Colin Smith and JC Lipon in Game 3 about that.
In Game 3 of the series at Kamloops, the Blazers top line, which had been shut down in the first two games, suddenly came to life for 7 points as they handed the Hawks a 5-1 loss. The only bright sides of that day were Mac Carruth getting the nod as the CHL Goaltender of the Week for giving up just one goal in 2 games, including a shutout vs. Kamloops, and Ty Rattie adding to his scoring total with the opening goal of the game. The rest of the game saw the Blazers take advantage of Portland’s issues and scoring almost at will.
Prior to this year, such a loss would result in the team possibly questioning itself. However, the Hawks simply have too much invested and a little thing called retribution to allow this small diversion to slow them down. With GM and Coach Mike Johnston suspended until after the Hawks playoff season is done, the team has every reason to keep the playoffs alive. With Game 4 in Kamloops, the Hawks needed a split to put them back in the driver's seat coming back to Portland.
Similar to the first two games, Kamloops created their own issues by getting into penalty trouble. Only 1:07 in, the Blazers took the first two penalties and the Hawks capitalized on the 5-on-3 power play with Nic Petan's first of 2 goals on the night. Seth Jones picked up a goal with a heavy slap shot from near the blue line to put the Hawks up by 2. The Blazers were in full force in the second period, outshooting the Hawks 16-5, but Carruth came up big at every opportunity. The Hawks nearly capitalized on a couple of Kamloops miscues near Cole Chevaldave, who made 24 saves on 27 shots. Just 1:35 into the 3rd period, Nic Petan finished the scoring after continuing to battle for the puck around Chevaldave and also finding himself in the net after the goal.
The Hawks continued to keep Kamloops off the score sheet with good clearing of the slot area and an incredible 5 minute penalty kill midway through the third period. Keegan Iverson was assessed a 5 minute major for charging Brendan Ranford, which many media people saw as a clean hit. However, it is potentially a suspendable offense. Iverson was inserted into the lineup in place of Joe Mahon who was assessed a game misconduct in Game 3 for an objectionable gesture to the Kamloops crowd. If Iverson is suspended, Mahon would be eligible to return for Game 5 on Friday.
Overall, penalties called in games 3 and 4 were about half of the first two games, as discipline on both sides kicks in and one should expect a similar experience on Friday as the Blazers now trail 3-1 in the best of seven Western Conference Final.
In Alberta, the Eastern Conference Final has seen a seesaw battle with the series tied at 2. With the exception of the Calgary win in overtime for Game 1, the last three games have been very lopsided. Edmonton would win Game 2 by a 6-0 rout, Calgary would come back 5-1 and then Edmonton would take a 7-3 win. The winner of the Edmonton / Calgary series will take on the Portland / Kamloops series, which would begin on Friday May 3.
The Winterhawks Booster Club will be raffling off a Kevin Popp game used 1996-97 team signed stick on Friday at the Rose Garden.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) Registered Charity www.pwhbc.com