The Portland Winterhawks made short work of the Everett Silvertips of the opening round of the WHL playoffs, finishing off a 4-0 sweep after a 6-2 win last night in Everett.
It was a dominant series from start to finish for Portland, outscoring Everett 22-8 in the four games, having trailed only twice in the four games. The Hawks outscored, out shot and won the physical battles and when you do that, you have success.
It would have been interesting to see how the series would have unfolded if Kent Simpson had been healthy for Everett as he is a difference maker in net. But, injuries are a part of sport…and I’m sure Portland would say that both Brett Ponich and Oliver Gabriel would have impacted the series as well.
Nino Niederreiter led the Hawks up front with 4-6-10 in the four games (after having a scoring change after the game last night, changing the goal originally credited to Joe Morrow to Nino on the deflection). Nino had three multiple point games and is tied atop the WHL playoff scoring race. But, he wasn’t alone…the Hawks had seven players average at least a point per game in the series versus Everett.
It was interesting to hear the thoughts of the Silvertips broadcasters Jon Rosen and Al Kinisky on Hawks forward Riley Boychuk. They felt that Boychuk was “out of control” with his physical play. In all honesty…the facts of the matter are that there is no one on the Silvertips roster that can match the physical play of Boychuk. Boychuk was far from “out of control” and while they deemed that Boychuk was only going after smaller players…well, it’s hard not to do that when the ‘Tips have no one the size of Boychuk. Campbell Elynuik is probably the closest, but he spent a lot of time going after Brendan Leipsic…who, by the way, is considerably smaller than Elynuik.
The sweep was the first for Portland since the WHL Championship Series in 1998 when the Hawks swept the Brandon Wheat Kings. It was the first opening round sweep since 1993-94 when the Hawks took out the then Tacoma Rockets in four straight. It is just the sixth sweep in Hawks history, the others being in 1982-83 (1st round over Seattle), 1986-87 (1st round over Spokane – 5 wins in a best of 9), 1992 -93 (1st round over Tri-City) and the two listed above.
Mac Carruth played well in the four games, posting a 2.00 GAA and a .944 save percentage in the four wins with one shutout.
On special teams, the Hawks finish the series going 5 for 17, just under 30%, on the power play while killing 16 of 19, 84.1%, which is pretty much where the penalty kill was in the regular season.
While it is still up in the air who the Hawks will play in the second round, it will be either the Kelowna Rockets or the Chilliwack Bruins. The Bruins would have to win the final three games of their series against the Spokane Chiefs to make it to the second round. Dates are still to be determined and once they are known, they will be announced at www.winterhawks.com.