Valcourt Suspended for Game 5…

Collin Valcourt, who had four points in the Spokane Chiefs 8-3 win last night in Spokane, has been suspended one game under supplemental discipline by the WHL.  Valcourt will miss Game 5 tonight at the Rose Garden.

Valcourt delivered a hit to the head of Tyler Wotherspoon in the third period last night and there was no penalty assessed on the play.

Game Day – Game 4

Feels like November in Spokane today as I watch the snow fall outside my window – nothing accumulating, but still…it’s freaking April 29th for criminy sakes.  But…it does feel like hockey weather as the Portland Winterhawks look to extend their lead in the Western Conference Final to 3-1 if they can knock off the Spokane Chiefs again tonight.

Tonight is a pivotal game…if the Hawks win, they can head home knowing they have the opportunity to end the series on home ice tomorrow night in Game 5.  If Spokane wins, they know that they force a Game 6 back in Spokane on Monday night.  Either way, we shouldn’t expect anything different than what we saw in Games 1-3 – close, tight-checking, physical battle between two teams that are very evenly matched.

The difference in Game 3 for Portland was obviously the play of their penalty killers as the Chiefs had an overwhelming 9-2 advantage in power play opportunities but failed to score on any of them and they gave up a short-handed goal to Taylor Peters to tie the score at 1-1 late in the first period.  The Chiefs had the #1 ranked power play team in the regular season, and it wouldn’t be wise for the Hawks to give them nine more chances to show what they can do tonight.  Granted, the power play differential shouldn’t have been that great in Game 3, but that is history now and the focus will be on Game 4.

Peters played outstanding for Portland in Game 3, scoring the first goal and setting up Brendan Leipsic’s OT winner.  It was a simple play, a chip up the boards to spring Leipsic down the left wing and the 16 year old made a nice head deke to get James Reid moving before filing it top shelf.  Leipsic’s celebration and subsequent tackling by his teammates was quite the spectacle and even had some Spokane fans near the celebration saying it was a #1 type play…or at least, that is what I think they were signalling, but it was hard to tell from the press box.

Mac Carruth once again played tremendous in Game 3, stopping 41 of 43 shots to increase his league best save percentage in the post-season.  Plus, his little running feud with Reid during timeouts was high comedy.   Playoffs bring out some heated battles amongst rivals and the battle between the pipes has been a good one so far through three games.

Tonight has the makings to be a great game…we’ll bring it to you live on 95.5 The Game at 6:30 with the pre-game show featuring myself, Todd Vrooman and John Kirby.

Lastly…since I made such note of the small press box in Kelowna…I thought I’d share the rather spacious confines of the Spokane press box…Mr. Vrooman relaxing before Game 3…

Game 3 Photo’s…

I’ll have some thoughts later tonight, but here are a few photo’s…a couple from the pro’s and a few from the press box:

Credit - Gary Peterson

Credit - Gary Peterson

Hawks Warming Up...

Team Meeting at the half-wall...

Closer look...

The Happy Scoreboard...

Monday Thoughts…

Photo Credit - Brent Wojahn, The Oregonian

Playoff goals feel good…as evidenced by the expression on William Wrenn’s face in the picture on the left.  The feel even better when it helps stem the tide and regain momentum after giving up the first goal as the Portland Winterhawks did in Game 2 last night.

Wrenn’s goal came just 33 seconds after Matt Marantz’s wrist shot eluded the glove of Mac Carruth late in the opening period.  The late Portland tally propelled the Hawks to perhaps their best 20 minute stretch against Spokane this season in the second period when Portland out-shot the Chiefs 20-8 and got the eventual game winner from Ryan Johansen.

It was a team effort, starting with Carruth standing tall in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots, and his defense doing a nice job of boxing out around the net and limiting second chance opportunities.  Offensively, the Hawks were opportunistic and did a much better job of breaking out of the defensive zone and putting pressure on the Chiefs defense throughout the game.

This series, like most expected, is extremely close with both teams having scored three goals and both teams having gone 1 for 6 on the power play through 120 minutes.

Some random notes before Game 3…

– With the win, Mac Carruth now has 14 career WHL playoff wins to move him to fourth all-time on the Winterhawks list.  He is one behind both Brent Belecki and Scott Langkow, two behind Bart Hunter and three behind all-time leader Darrell May, Sr., who had 17 wins in 29 career appearances for the Hawks in the early 80’s.  Carruth is 14-6-1 in 23 career playoff games.

– From the WHL:  The WHL has also nominated Mac Carruth of the Portland Winterhawks for the CHL Goaltender of the Week Award.  Carruth posted a 1-1-0-0 record this past week, stopping 75 of 78 shots faced for a 1.51 goals-against average and 0.962 save percentage.  Carruth, a native of Shorewood, MN, helped the Winterhawks to a 1-1 series tie this past week in the Kal Tire WHL Western Conference Championship against the Spokane Chiefs.

– The Hawks are also fast approaching an attendance milestone in the playoffs as they are closing in on 1,000,000 playoff attendance numbers all-time in team history.  After the two games this weekend, the Hawks sit at 997,892 all-time in playoff attendance, just 2,108 away from the 1,000,000 mark.  I think we’ll get there on Saturday in Game 5.

– The game winner by Ryan Johansen was his third game winner of the post-season.  The all-time Hawk record for game winning goals in four by Greg Leahy in 1988-89.

– The game last night was the 70th career WHL playoff game for Craig Cunningham, becoming one of just 18 players in WHL history to have played at least 70 games.  The WHL record is 87 games played by Shay Stephenson of the Red Deer Rebels.

– Next up is Game 3 on Wednesday night…we’ll be on the air at 6:35 on Freedom 970 with the pre-game show.

Hawks Even the Series, Win 2-1

The Portland Winterhawks earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Spokane Chiefs in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final series to even the series at 1-1 heading to Game 3 Wednesday night in Spokane.

I’ll have complete thoughts on Monday…enjoy the rest of your Easter Sunday.

Happy Easter and Game Day!

Sorry about no post yesterday…I enjoyed the nice weather and helped get prepared for a pre-game Easter brunch at the Kemper household.  I hope you enjoyed spring,  known as yesterday, as we are back to the rain today.

Game 2 goes later this afternoon at 5:00 at the Rose Garden between the Portland Winterhawks and the Spokane Chiefs with the Hawks looking to even the series at 1-1 heading to Spokane for games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday.  With a win, the Hawks can force a Game 5 next Saturday at the Rose Garden.

Spokane played a suffocating style in Game 1, pressuring the puck in all three zones, and got the early goal to allow them to play their style.  The Chiefs, much like Portland, play very well with the lead and that is especially huge for them on the road.  Portland did have their chances and if they bury one earlier in the game, it could have very well been a different outcome.  But, both goaltenders played well and I expect tonight to be a close, tight battle.

We’ll see what adjustments both teams have made after Game 1 and just how much having Tyler Johnson back in the line-up affects the on-ice play.

The broadcast with yours truly, the Vrooman’s and John Kirby will be on 95.5 The Game FM with the pre-game show at 4:30.

Chiefs Take Game 1…

The Spokane Chiefs played a solid road game, and skated away with a 2-1 victory at the Rose Garden tonight to take  a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Final.  I’ll post some more thoughts on Game 1 on Saturday….

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