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…