When the Western Conference Finals matchup was set, fans felt that the series would be tough, hard-fought and go the distance. What they didn't see coming was a Portland Winterhawks team that would literally own the Kamloops Blazers in the first two games. With over 7,000 fans the first night and over 9,000 for game two at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Hawks showed why they had won the season points race and the Scotty Munro trophy.
Kamloops was unable to register a single power play goal in the first two games and even gave up one shorthanded game one. The Hawks went 3 for 11on the power play in the two games, as Kamloops seemed to use desperation moves and instead, found themselves taking more penalties. To watch the stick work and after the whistle shenanigans of the Blazers, you've be hard-pressed to believe they had the fourth best WHL record this season. The scoring lines for the Hawks were in full force and Kamloops tried to reply with its top line, only to see it shut down and held off the score sheet completely.
The scoring for the Hawks was once again, spread out amongst the team in the first 2 games with Taylor Leier, Troy Rutkowski, Seth Jones, Nic Petan, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie each scoring at least one goal. Eventually, with hopes dashed for any chance of coming back, the Blazers used tactics that put more of them off the ice in the penalty box or in the dressing room with misconducts. Eighty-five minutes were handed out in the first game, 72 in the second game, the majority in the mid to latter stages of the third period after the Hawks had finished scoring. Rattie's goals put him atop the scoring race in the playoffs with 25, 4 ahead of Kamloops JC Lipon. Rattie also passed Reg Leach in overall WHL playoff points and needs 4 goals to pass the all-time playoff scoring record of Mark Pederson of the 1983-88 Medicine Hat Tigers.
Mac Carruth, who registered his first shutout vs. Kamloops in this series in game two, now has four for the 2012-13 playoffs and doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. In fact, he has only given up 2 goals in the past 332 minutes of action and it seems his confidence has hit an all-time high. Mac also passed Cam Ward as the all-time leader in playoff games played by a goaltender. His 66th was Saturday night. Mac continues to write the record book for the WHL.
Only one change in the lineup happened for the Winterhawks and that was in game 2 of this series; 6'5" 210 pound tough guy Joe Mahon checked in for Keegan Iverson. Mahon's father and sister had driven 14 hours from Calgary to watch the game and were pleasantly surprised to see him play.
Kamloops returned Tim Bozon and Colin Smith to the lineup for game one after injuries. Bozon was a surprise in that he had a hand injury that was expected to keep him out of the lineup until late in this series; Smith had a concussion that was day-to-day.
Next up for the series is a trip to Kamloops and games Tuesday and Wednesday at the Interior Savings Center. A fairly large group of Winterhawks fans are headed there for both games.
In the Eastern Conference, the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings are tied 1 game apiece after Calgary's 3-2 overtime win on Thursday and Edmonton's 6-0 win on Friday. Their series resumes on Tuesday and Wednesday in Calgary. Game two of the series saw 146 minutes in penalties and Edmonton score on 4 of 14 attempts with the man advantage on Friday.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) Registered Charity