Spokane Series Wrap…

After a good nights sleep…here are some final (or should that be Final?) thoughts on the Western Conference Championship Series that the Portland Winterhawks finished off in Game 6 on Monday night in Spokane.

— For me…the unsung hero for Portland wasn’t on the ice, but he was on the bench – Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach Rich Campbell.  The longer the series went with Spokane, the more it showed that the Winterhawks conditioning was top notch as the Hawks wore down the Spokane Chiefs and it really showed in Game 6 in a three games in four nights stretch.  Portland looked fresh and Spokane looked gassed.  Richie had the guys prepared physically and although he takes some ribbing about meals from the guys, he had them properly fueled as well.

— How good was Sven Bärtschi in Games 5 and 6?  He took over the game at times and picked up six points in those two games.  He is up for the WHL Rookie of the Year of the award today for the WHL.  Import players haven’t had great success in this award as the last to win it was Pavel Brendl in 1998-99…but if Sven doesn’t win, that would be a huge oversight by the WHL.

— Mac Carruth picked up his 17th playoff victory in his career, tying the teams all-time record held by Darrell May, Sr., and Mac has an opportunity to move to the top of the list now against Kootenay.

— Congrats to Ryan Johansen for winning the MVP award for the Western Conference Championship by posting 5-3-8 in the six games.  Johansen was on my ballot as well as Carruth and Craig Cunningham as we were asked to vote for three players.

— Speaking of Cunningham…his spin-o-rama goal in Game 6 was the goal of the series and should make the plays of the 3rd round by the WHL.  That trade continues to bring dividends to Portland and Cunningham now has another chance to play for a league title.

— If it couldn’t be Brett Ponich picking up the Conference Champsionship Trophy, it is only fitting that it be Tayler Jordan.  Jordan is a big part of the heart and soul of this team and his career had ups and downs, but his leadership in the room can’t be denied.  TJ politely left the trophy on the table as he and team knows that the job isn’t done.

— From what I understand, Luke Walker was on hand to congratulate his former team on the win.  Walker’s season in the AHL ended in the past week or two and it is a short drive from Castlegar to Spokane and it was great to have Walks there.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to have Walks on this years team as an overage?  How would that have changed things?  Or would it have?  So much you can speculate on, but I’m sure Walker learned a a lot in the AHL and hopefully he’ll have a chance to dress for the Colorado Avalanche in the very near future.

— From a personal standpoint…the WHL broadcaster fraternity is a fairly close one and I know that the other 20 guys would love to be in the spot that Jeff Hollick of the Kootenay Ice and I are in right now…still calling games.  It is a great honor, and I hope to do my part to make it as good as it can be.

— Congrats to the Spokane Chiefs on a great year and a great series.  I know that Don Nachbaur and Tim Speltz will be ready to go again in 2011-12 and they have a great chance to be just as strong next year.

— This is just one more step on the road to the ultimate goal – the Ed Chynoweth Cup and the WHL Championship and ultimately an opportunity to play for the Memorial Cup.  The players celebrated the win, as they should, but they know the job isn’t done.  Everyone is ready for the battle the Kootenay Ice will provide and we are all anxious to get it started.

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