Hawks Win Game 3, Bulmer Gets 1 Game

It was another solid outing last night for the Portland Winterhawks as the Sven Bartschi/Marcel Noebels/Ty Rattie line exploded for 11 points in the 6-3 win in Game 3 against the Kelowna Rockets.  The Hawks now have a commanding 3-0 series lead with a chance to wrap up the series tomorrow night in Game 4 at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

From watching the game over the web, it was evident that the Rockets had no answer for the Hawks top line in Game 3 as they scored some very pretty goals and had numerous chances that they didn’t quite convert.  In the series, the line has combined for 8 goals, 17 assists and 25 points.   The Rockets have six goals as a team in the three games.

But it wasn’t just the top line going, all of the Hawks lines had chances and the Hawks continue to roll line after line to create pressure on the Rockets defense.  It was nice to have Brendan Leipsic back in uniform after missing the last four games.

The word from the Kelowna side is that is what their best effort in the series so far and I would tend to agree.  It may be a bit of a concern that all three Kelowna goals came from the defense as the forwards were held quiet for the second consecutive game.

Both teams were missing key players due to suspension as Oliver Gabriel and Brett Bulmer sat this one out.  Both will be back for Game 4 as the “TBD” on Bulmer’s suspension was filled with “One Game” this afternoon by the WHL.

I’m sure that most Portland fans will feel that the suspension wasn’t long enough based on the nature of the penalty.  I’ve said it before on this blog, it is what it is.   The Hawks won Games 1 & 2 with Bulmer in the line-up, and they have all the momentum heading into Game 4 with Bulmer in the line-up.

From being around the Hawks Coaching Staff the last few years, I can tell you that their focus will be on their players and their game.  If the Hawks play their game like we have seen in the first three games, there is a very real possibility this series ends on Thursday.  If they start to get distracted by off-ice happenings (or on-ice happenings) that possibility lessens.

It was helpful that Reagan Bartel posted some thoughts from VP of Hockey Richard Doerksen on his blog (Regan’s Rant, link on the left) and it was I expected to read.

Having Bulmer back should help the Rockets, but adding Gabriel back for Portland should counter that.  With Gabriel returning, it will be the first time the Hawks have had a full roster since before Bartschi left for his NHL stint.

The fourth victory is the hardest in any series, and tomorrow I’m sure that will hold true.

I’m looking forward to it…

 

Hawks Hold Serve, Send Message…

Photo Credit - The Oregonian

If there was any doubt, the photo is pretty conclusive that Sven Bartschi may actually be Superman.

While Super Sven didn’t score on this play, he has been a huge reason while the Portland Winterhawks have gone 2-0 in their opening round playoff series against the Kelowna Rockets picking up five assists (he will have one added on the Hawks first goal from Saturday night later today) on the 10 goals the Hawks have scored in the series.

For those fans that watched games 1 & 2 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum, they saw a Hawks team that not only has some incredible skill, but they have a fair share of grit as well.  The Rockets are a bigger team on paper, but the Hawks showed that they will not back down when pushed and they will not fall into the after the whistle silliness that has plagued this team in years past.

The Rockets, meanwhile, have tried to get into the Hawks heads with Adam Brown’s puck stealing after the Game 1 loss and the antics of Brett Bulmer in game 2 (more on that in a second).   In the end, the Hawks have been the more composed team and that has helped propel them to the two victories.

One of the things that Todd Vrooman and I have talked about all year is the Hawks depth and that has shown in the series so far.  There is no change to the Hawks game plan from line to line and everyone that has stepped on the ice has played with intensity and drive.   We have talked a lot on the broadcasts about the play of the line of Joey Baker, Taylor Peters and Taylor Leier, and they have effectively shut down the Rockets biggest offensive threats.

And that leads us to Bulmer, who should be the Rockets biggest offensive threat.  Last night it was evident from his opening shift that his focus was not necessarily on hockey when he got nailed for unsportsmanlike conduct for showering Mac Carruth with snow as Carruth covered the puck.  It only went downhill from there for Bulmer who finished the night with two unsportsmanlike minors, two kneeing minors, a kneeing major and a game misconduct.  I’m not sure if any player has received three kneeing penalties in one contest and each one got progressively more dangerous.

For me, you could see the circuits blowing for Bulmer after he was taken out on a tremendous hit from Tyler Wotherspoon in the second period and Bulmer went back to his bench and proceeded to slam his stick on the glass and slam the door once he got into the bench.  From that point on, he was gone mentally, in my opinion.

After the final straw for the hit on William Wrenn, it was important for Baker to step in and knock Bulmer on his can.  What I liked most about it is that Baker did not drop the gloves and start throwing punches, he just ran him over.

Now we wait to find out what additional sanctions, if any, are levied against Bulmer by the WHL.

Photo Credit - The Oregonian

Not to be lost in the shuffle of what happened in game 2 is the 20 save shutout performance of Mac Carruth.  Mac didn’t have to face a ton of shots as the Hawks did a nice job of limiting the Rockets opportunities (including only allowing four shots on five power play chances), but Mac was positionally solid and gave the Rockets nothing.

Maybe it was fitting that Carruth made 20 saves to pick up his 20th career playoff victory on the day before his 20th birthday.

The Rockets spent a lot of time trying to get into Carruth’s kitchen in games 1 and 2 and it had virtually no affect.  That will need to continue in the next two games in Kelowna.

 

 

I won’t be able to make the trip to Kelowna, but Todd Vrooman will bring you all the action on http://www.winterhawks.com.

 

 

It’s been a while…

But maybe the video above inspired me to write again…who knows.  But, I’m back…at least in some capacity, as I can’t guarantee daily updates or how often I will post, but I’m going to try to get back in the blogging groove, so, dear readers, thanks for stopping by and sticking around.

Here we are, the day before the 2012 WHL Playoffs start for the Portland Winterhawks.  It seems like only days ago that we were filing into the Winterhawks Skating Center getting our first look at what would make up the 2011-12 Winterhawks coming off of the WHL Western Conference Championship last season.

I knew then the Hawks would be a good hockey team, but I didn’t expect a 49 win, 102 point season.  Not with all that the Hawks lost (some expected, some not) to the professional ranks.  Losing two WHL star 19 year old players hurt, but it also opened the door for other players to step forward, and boy did they.

Maybe in Portland we take it for granted, but it is hard to comprehend just how good of a season Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi had in 2011-12.  Rattie blasted through the 50 goal, 100 point mark as an 18 year old – something that is a major accomplishment.  Rattie transformed his game from being a very good player to a dominant player in the span of a few months after being drafted by the St. Louis Blues.  We all knew he was a special player, but even he would admit that a 121 point season wasn’t in his wildest dreams.

Sven, well…I don’t know if a player has had a better 47 games in the WHL ever in a Winterhawks sweater.  Marian Hossa had 85 points in 53 games in 1997-98.  That may be as close to Sven’s numbers in the past 20 seasons.  To average 2.00 points per game is incredible, but what I like most about Sven’s game is his willingness to initiate contact and do whatever it takes to win.  He just wants the puck and won’t be stopped until he has it and the other team is fishing it out of the net.

This team had depth and Mike Johnston added to that with some deadline deals and getting a bit of a gift when Oliver Gabriel returned from pro hockey in December.

And all of that leads to where we are now…playoffs.  This is what every team fights to get to after 72 games.   The Hawks got very close to the ultimate major junior prize last season and the desire to not be denied that prize again is very prevalent in the locker room.  The team has confidence in their ability.  Some call it a swagger…and maybe they’re right.  But I’d rather enter a room with a swagger than with my head bowed.

It takes 16 wins to have the opportunity to play for the prize.  But, you can’t get to 16 without winning the first one…and the chance for that comes tomorrow at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Kelowna Rockets.  I’ll save the analysis for the extended pre-game show tomorrow that can be heard at 6:20 at http://www.winterhawks.com and in the building on 96.5 FM.

Win your shift, win the period, win the game and move on to the next.    This team has had the mantra “championship habits” all season.  Now is when the hard work gets rewarded.

Let’s get it going and thanks for checking back with the blog…

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