The goal is 16 wins…the Portland Winterhawks are halfway there at 8 after knocking off the Kelowna Rockets in six games last night at the Prospera Place in Kelowna to advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001.
Mac Carruth made 45 saves to lead the Hawks into the third round as Portland got great offensive support from the Sven Bartschi-Craig Cunningham-Ty Rattie line, who combined for three goals and seven points, and the Hawks held off a spirited Rockets rally in the final period to advance.
The B.C. Divison Champs gave the Hawks a great battle but we all know that each step towards the Ed Chynoweth Cup gets tougher and the Hawks should expect the next series to be more difficult, regardless if it is Spokane or Tri-City as the opponent. All the Hawks know is that they will be ready to go on Friday night at the Rose Garden.
After the game there were handshakes and a few hugs, but not a huge celebration. I think the team was just happy knowing that the bus was heading all the way home to Portland and there would be no Game 7 tomorrow. If there would have been a game tomorrow, the team would have stopped in Bellingham to spend the night and we’d still be on the bus right now. Sure, it was a late (or early, depending on how you look at it) arrival at the Rose Quarter at 5:30 this morning, but the ride seemed shorter after the win.
For me, there wasn’t much sleep (as there never is), and I’m tired right now. But sleep deprivation feels pretty good looking at Game 1 on Friday.
Thanks to Regan Bartel, Kevin Parnell, Doyle Potenteau and Gord McGarva for being good hosts in Kelowna and to the entire Rockets organization. That is a proud franchise and rightfully so.
The Hawks start the next round at home on Friday at 7:00 and Sunday at 5:00, both games will be heard live on 95.5 The Game FM.
A few more pics from last night: