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Portland Winterhawks Fall to Kelowna: One US Team Left to Battle for Memorial Cup

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

 

The Portland Winterhawks, try as they might, were unsuccessful in their bid to hoist a fifth consecutive Western Conference Championship banner this season. The Kelowna Rockets gave Portland all they could handle and then some as they took the series in six games. Portland had made it a real battle when both teams split the first four games, but Kelowna was able to do something that Portland hadn't been able to do. The comeback, an integral part of a sixty minutes game was seemingly always on the Rockets side and virtually non-existent for Portland. In Game 5, Portland gave up the first goal, something they hadn't done all series and were within five minutes from the end of the game, when Nic Petan found a way through the walls of the Kelowna defense and rifled a shot through the goaltenders legs to tie the score at one apiece.

The game then headed to overtime and it was Kelowna with being down, finding that inner strength, that used all its might to overpower the Winterhawks. A goal seven minutes into the extra frame gave the Rockets the win and the edge in the series and a trip to Portland for game six.

Portland came flying out of the gate in game six, peppering Jackson Whistle with quality shots and crashing the net. It was just over six minutes in that the battling had paid dividends. Chase De Leo finished off a Nic Petan pass and the Hawks led 1-0. Portland would add two more goals in just eight shots over thirteen minutes including the second of the night for De Leo who also assisted on Portland's second goal. That was the night for Whistle as Michael Herringer took over between the pipes. Just over a minute later, Kelowna using that comeback spirit, notched their first goal with a wraparound from behind the net by Tyson Baillie to Madison Bowey right at the crease. The Hawks came out flatter in the second period and Kelowna took control with a goal four minutes into the frame and then tied it after Portland got caught up ice while on the power play. The two on one for Kelowna worked perfectly and now the Hawks seemed to be on their heels.

Kelowna would take their first lead nearly seven minutes into the third period and seemed to back up Portland considerably. Layne Viveiros would help finish off a Paul Bittner, Nic Petan connection to tie the game, but the Hawks seemed to be wavering under the pressure. Two goals less than two minutes apart, put the Hawks in desperation mode with less than seven minutes to play. The Hawks pulled Adin Hill twice in the last two minutes of the game, but turnovers cost them on both occasions as the Kelowna Rockets eliminated the Portland Winterhawks 8-4.

There were some milestones hit in the series as Nic Petan played in his 88th WHL playoff game, surpassing the record of 87 by the Red Deer Rebels Shay Stephenson in 2006. Petan also scored a point in every playoff game during the 2015 season amassing 10 goals and 18 assists for 28 points. Petan also has a seven point lead over the remaining team's players in the overall scoring race. It is highly unlikely that Petan will return to junior hockey next season as a 20 year old. Another who will certainly make the jump to professional hockey will be Oliver Bjorkstrand. A steal of a draft choice by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round two years ago, Bjorkstrand compiled 13 goals and 12 assists in this season's playoff run. 

The Hawks had Caleb Jones in attendance at the game on Sunday in Portland and he had the chance to see a team he will be helping to quarterback the power play with. With defense being a weak point this season and the loss of Anton Cederholm, Adam Henry and Josh Hanson to age and professional hockey, the team will be once again, looking to fill in some gaps. Forwards Miles Koules and possibly Chase De Leo moving on will add to the Hawks building process in the off season. 

Kelowna now moves on to the WHL Final against the Brandon Wheat Kings starting next Friday. The Wheat Kings and Rockets were the top two teams in the WHL with 114 and 112 points respectively. The format will see the first two games play in Brandon, Manitoba with the next three games if needed to be played in Kelowna. The last two games if needed would be played in Brandon. The winner moves onto the Memorial Cup which will be played in Quebec starting on May 21.

The two teams in the Quebec league will be in the Memorial Cup as a host team, Quebec Ramparts and Rimouski Oceanic which was the overall QMJHL leader in the standings. Though both enter the tournament, they will compete for the President's Cup and bragging rights. Their series starts Tuesday.

The Ontario Hockey League will see the Erie Otters of Pennsylvania facing the Oshawa Generals after the Otters took out Sault Saint Marie Greyhounds and the Generals took out North Bay Battalion, both in six games. The Otters bring the expected number one overall NHL draft pick Connor McDavid and the Generals a franchise best 51 win regular season in 68 games, Erie had 50 wins. This series will begin this coming weekend.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club ended the season with 530 members and donated over $10,000 to local area hockey related charities in the Portland Metropolitan area. While the hockey season is over, the Booster Club announced that it will appear at Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver during the annual Rose Cup Tournament which runs the second and third week of June. All eyes will be on the NHL Draft which starts on Friday, June 27 to see where Winterhawks players Paul Bittner, Nick Heid, Alex Overhardt and Adin Hill could land.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

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