The Portland Winterhawks are two wins away from being able to take a trip to round two. Both them and the Prince George Cougars have the longest travel of any pair of teams.
The first game was a solid 5-2 win with a 38-34 shot advantage to Portland along with 2 for 5 on the powerplay compared to 1 for 4 for the Cougars.
The difference was a three-goal output for the Hawks in the first 8:43 of the game. Aiden Litke scored less than two minutes into the game on the powerplay. Just over four minutes later, it was James Stefan rifling home a shot from the point. Cross Hanas added another for the Hawks and with it, spelled the end of the night for Ty Young of the Cougars in the net.
With Tyler Brennan between the pipes, the Cougars settled down and finished the period, still three goals down.
The second period saw Prince George get on the board with former Wintehawk Conor Bowie curl around and fire through a maze of players while on the powerplay.
Towards the end of the period, Gabe Klassen scored on the powerplay as Luca Cagnoni bore down looking to take a shot on the left side, then casually passed across the goal to Klassen, who made it count.
Riley Heidt brought the Cougars within two as he finished off a mess in the Portland zone to give the Cougars life again with 15 minutes left to play.
Prince George, in desperation, pulled Brennan but found they were unable to capitalize. Portland did, however, when Jack O’Brien snatched the puck from the Hawks blueline following a Hawks big hit and fired into the open cage to put the Hawks up 5-2.
The game took a nasty turn when Craig Armstrong of Prince George hit Clay Hanus of Portland with a vicious check, for which he received a minor and major for Checking to the Head and a Game Misconduct. Things got testy with both teams, with additional penalties in the next few seconds leading to the end of the game. Craig received a two-game suspension which ends after Tuesday’s game. Hanus did not play the next night, and it is not known when he will return.
The next night Portland took a 1-0 lead with Kurtis Smythe fired from the left faceoff dot and used Cross Hanas as a screen in front to score.
Midway through the second period Luca Cagnoni got a pass from Tyson Kozak and snapped it over the shoulder of Brennan to put the Hawks up by a pair.
The Cougars saw another former Hawk score when Jonas Brondberg came in on Taylor Gauthier from the slot and fired a wrist shot that somehow fooled him and went in.
The third period remained scoreless, but the Hawks carried on relentless pressure and couldn’t score on Tyler Brennan but did win 2-1.
With the wins, Portland leads the series 2-0 as they head to Prince George to battle in games 3 and 4.
All the series except for two are currently at 2-0. The only series that is currently tied are Everett and Vancouver, where the Giants shocked the Silvertips by scoring in overtime in the first game. The Giants came back to earth with a 7-3 loss the next night and Red Deer versus Brandon, where the Red Deer Rebels blanked Brandon Wheat Kings 5-0 and then had to battle to a 2-1 overtime game, which Brandon won.
The other series have seen some significant blowouts like Kamloops Blazers versus Spokane Chiefs, where the Blazers humiliated Spokane 9-0, and then the next night, it was 6-2. Seattle Thunderbirds took Kelowna Rockets 6-0 and then 7-3 the next game.
The next round, which would begin May 6, features the top teams from the regular season as most lead their series 2-0.