The second round of the WHL playoffs kicked off on Friday. The visiting Portland Winterhawks took down the U.S. division winning Everett Silvertips in game one of their series, and did so in pretty emphatic terms.
The first period set the tone for the rest of the game. Portland led 2-0 on the scoreboard, and 17-9 in the shot counter. The Hawks’ gameplan appeared to be simple: get pucks on net, look for a rebound. And it worked pretty well.
“It wasn’t like they came down and cycled and scissored and had these high tech plays,” Coach Williams said after the game. “They just got pucks to the net, they out-muscled us.”
Portland got on the board just over 2 minutes in when Ludvig sent a shot in from the bottom of the left circle and Grucius was able to bury the rebound behind Hart. Portland got their second goal just 6 minutes later, in much the same fashion. A shot from the bottom of the left circle, this time by Newkirk, and MacEachern was able to poke the rebound through the five-hole to make it a 2 goal lead.
The Winterhawks would open the second period scoring as well when Ludvig found himself all alone at the top of the left circle. He fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of Hart to give Portland a 3 goal lead.
The Tips finally broke the seal just after the halfway mark of the game. After a few more blocked shots by Portland, Ian Walker finally got one through to the net and Fonteyne was able to find the rebound and get the Tips on the board.
As the period was winding down, a turnover in the neutral zone gave Everett a 2 on 1. Pilon put some sauce on his pass over the defender and Richards was able to lift it over a sprawling Kehler to bring the Silvertips to within 1. It seemed as though Everett would take all the momentum into the locker room with them, but Portland decided that wasn’t okay. With only a handful of seconds left, Kieffer Bellows recovered the puck in his own zone and flew down the right side. He threw the puck towards the front of the net and Skyler McKenzie tipped it in with just 1.4 seconds remaining in the period.
The Tips were able to come back out strong to start the third, drawing the game’s first penalty just 2 minutes in, but were unable to capitalize. Portland went on their first powerplay shortly afterwards, but the best chance came right as Everett’s penalty expired. Bajkov got the puck right out of the box and found himself all alone on a breakaway, but Kehler stayed with him and made a big save to preserve the 2 goal lead.
Just before the halfway mark of the third, Portland’s leading playoff scorer Cody Glass got his first of the series and gave Portland back their 3 goal lead. He entered the zone on the right side and made it almost down to the goal line, when I’m assuming he remembered that old Wayne Gretzky quote about 100% of the shots you don’t take not going in. He threw it on net and it somehow found it’s way through the five-hole make the score 5-2 Portland. The Winterhawks played a complete game, and Silvertips coach Dennis Williams acknowledged that after the game.
“They were the better hockey club. They skated better, they competed harder, what can I say, we have to learn from it. I thought there was times in the game we started to play, but our consistency of it wasn’t there. We need better efforts and better compete from more players.”
Everett will look to even the series on Saturday at 7:05 back in Angel of the Winds Arena.