The Portland Winterhawks continued their strong road play last night in Kelowna, taking Game 3 of the second round series with the Rockets and taking a 2-1 lead heading into Game 4 tonight. The Hawks have now gone 9-1 in their last ten road playoff games stretching back to last season. Add in regular season and the Hawks have won 56 times in 82 road games the past two years, a winning percentage of .683…not too shabby.
But…it is about the next game, not the last one, for this team as the focus shifts to Game 4 tonight.
Some thoughts about last night:
– Lots of special team time last night with 16 power plays being handed out. The WHL site shows the Hawks at 3 for 10, but it is actually 3 for 9 (and hopefully that will be corrected soon) as the online game sheet shows the checking from behind penalty on Jessey Astles at both the 0:00 and 12:08 mark of the third period. There was a lot of grumbling on the Kelowna side from their fans about the officiating, but I thought it was actually pretty good from Colby Smith and Derek Zalaski. But, maybe just having more power plays than the opponent for a change may have had a factor in that.
– Craig Cunningham took some stitches after the hit from behind by Spencer Main that brought out a double minor penalty. Cunningham is a warrior though…opting to get quickly patched up and back on the bench, not missing a shift, and then getting stitched up later.
– Mac Carruth had arguably his best game of the postseason, despite giving up four goals. His play, especially late in the second period was outstanding. The fans were on the Carruth after he drew a goaltender interference penalty on Cody Chikie in the first period, as they booed when Carruth played the puck. I think if anything…Mac liked it. He doesn’t mind playing the villain role and it probably inspired him.
– Faceoffs are becoming a huge factor in the series as Portland scored twice on power plays off of clean faceoff wins. We’ll have some comments from Mike Johnston on that in our pre-game show tonight and his comments illuminate just how important faceoffs are and how often times they are overlooked as key parts of a game by some fans.
– The crowd may have been smaller than normal last night in Kelowna, but I thought it was one of the louder crowds in that building that I have heard. They were into the game until Portland went up 5-3. It got quiet then, but it picked up again after the Rockets got back to within one goal. It will be interesting to see what the crowd is like tonight with the Vancouver Canucks starting their playoffs tonight with Game 1 on TV against the Chicago Blackhawks.
– Lastly…the Hawks got another 5 on 3 goal last night from Riley Boychuk, giving him three two-man advantage goals in the postseason. If you’re wondering, the Hawks had only four 5 on 3 goals in the 72 game regular season.
Some photo’s of the trip…