The Portland Winterhawks, knowing they had to at least split the two home games following two losses in Kelowna, used their memories from game two to start the trend. The physical play in game two was brought into game three as the Hawks pounded their way to a 4 to 2 win over the Rockets, but did so with a price. Evan Weinger, Caleb Jones, Joachim Blichfled and Sklyer McKenzie scored for the Hawks as they reduced the Rockets shots on goal considerably and held court during the game Just seconds after the Skyler McKenzie goal, he was viciously elbowed in the head by Kelowna’s Cal Foote which resulted in a concussion and prevented him from playing in game four. Foote assessed a minor penalty for checking to the head, was suspended by the league on a to be determined basis.
This action touched off complaints by the Rockets who claimed two of their players had been injured in the game and would not play in game four and demanded supplemental discipline. That discipline was handed down just hours prior to puck drop as Alex Overhardt and Evan Weinger were both suspended for an undetermined time. This would mean that six skaters were no longer available for game four. The depletion seemed to give the Rockets a second wind as they cruised to an ugly 6 to 1 win over the Hawks as the series shifts back to Kelowna.
As we mentioned the physical play and ugliness, that reared its head again game four where a donnybrook occurred with just under four minutes in the game following a major penalty assessed to Carsen Twarynski for boarding Keegan Iverson and resulted in the benches being considerably reduced and most certainly more suspensions being handed out. The complete lack of control on the ice will have to be addressed prior to game five in Kelowna which Portland must win in order to have a game six on Sunday. Twarynski received a to be determined suspension while the other suspensions were finalized from the other evening. Cal Foote from Kelowna received the longest at three games, while Portland’s Evan Weinger got two games and Alex Overhardt at one game, meaning he is eligible to play in game five in Kelowna. Suspensions garnered in the playoffs can be extended into preseason and regular season when teams are eliminated with suspension time left.
Portland isn’t the only team in the hole right now as two other series have proven to be shockers in that as well. Everett Silvertips, who ran the US Division table this season, had a bit of trouble with the Victoria Royals in the first round and have hit a wall against the Seattle Thunderbirds in the second round. Despite having solid netminding all season, the Tips haven’t been able to really solve a goaltender brought out for the playoffs by Seattle. Carl Stankowski, who is just 16 years old, has been stellar in net for Seattle with the injury to veteran netminder Ryland Toth. Toth, who was acquired in a trade with the Red Deer Rebels at the start of the season, was injured in a game in Portland a month ago and hasn’t returned to game action yet. Stankowski mowed down the Tri-City Americans and has been solid against Everett’s top lines which now sees the distinct possibility of being the first team to be swept in the second round this season. Seattle needs just one win to advance to the Western Conference final in two years straight.
Out east, the big story is the possibility of the Scotty Munro trophy winning Regina Pats being eliminated from further play. Swift Current Broncos have managed to win the defensive battles in games versus the Pats, taking their three wins in three overtime games. Two wins of 2-1 in overtime and a wild 5-4 win in triple overtime have given the team from Speedy Creek a huge boost. Regina’s lone win was game two, a blowout of 6-2 in Regina, but haven’t been able to counter the overtime luck of the Broncos.
The points difference between the Medicine Hat Tigers and Lethbridge Hurricanes was just eight points as the two teams battled for top spot in the Central Division during the season. The first game was a shutout win for the Tigers, the second game, a come from behind old fashioned shootout at 7-4 for Lethbridge. The Tigers would take game three 5-2, but suddenly, the defense came to the matchup as the Hurricanes picked up a 3-2 overtime win. That series is truly a best a three battle with the Tigers having two home games of the three.
Back to the west, should Portland pick up a win in Kelowna, the series shifts back to Portland for Easter Sunday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 5pm with a game seven if needed, back in Kelowna on Tuesday.
Ice Chips: The International Scouting Service announced its final rankings for the upcoming NHL draft. Portland places two players in the first-round projections. Cody Glass, who started in the middle of the pack, has earned a jump to seventh on the list, while Henri Jokiharju who joined the Hawks as an import draft choice this season, ranks 24th. Others who might get a look in the draft include Skyler McKenzie, who was not drafted last season, but has put up banner numbers during the season. Several players who were either drafted, but not signed, or brought to NHL camps last year, may also get a bigger look this year. Some forty scouts representing teams all over the NHL converged at the series with Prince George and many have returned for the Kelowna series making it appear that perhaps some NHL teams aren’t quite set on their selections for NHL draft day in June.