How can the Portland Winter Hawks not be soaring with confidence these days?

The Winter Hawks beat Spokane 4-2 and 3-1 over the weekend, riding the play of goalie Krister Toews, some resurging veterans and tighter defense to go ahead 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Hockey League playoff series.

The series moves to Spokane for games Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (all 7 p.m. starts). Portland has won twice and lost 6-5 in overtime in the last three games at the Spokane Arena.

'We're a different team now,' says forward Craig Valette, who ended a slump by scoring goals in both games at the Rose Garden. Fellow vets Brad Priestlay and Chad Wolkowski also have also scored goals.

'It makesÊ(Spokane) even more desperate,' Valette says. 'Let's finish it up there. The pressure is to prove something to ourselves and our fans.'

The Winter Hawks won five of their last 33 games in the regular season, but postseason saw the return of defenseman Braydon Coburn and forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Wolkowski. Defenseman Joey Hope remains out, and coach Mike Williamson says there's 'almost no chance' of him playing this week.

The Winter Hawks also benefited from strong games by the young line of Alex Aldred (two goals in Game 1), Roman Prazak and Daniel DaSilva. Toews has stopped 50 of 53 shots Ñ 'he's been a wall,' Williamson says, although Spokane has been weaker offensively without Jeff Lucky and Tim Krymusa, both of whom Williamson expects to play this week.

nÊReed College will carry the No. 1 seed into this weekend's Pacific Coast regional playoffs in women's rugby at the Southeast Portland school. Reed will open at noon Saturday against Humboldt State, with Western Washington facing Chico State at 2 p.m. The losers will play at noon Sunday, and the winners will meet at 2 p.m. Sunday for a berth in the national Sweet 16 quarterfinals. Reed won its league, beating runner-up Oregon on March 8. 'We have great depth, with 23 on the roster,' says coach Peter Carmine, whose club was led this season by fourth-year senior players Ann Erickson, Michelle Poyourow and Elyse Fenton.

• The PSU football coaching staff has a new look. Two coaches have departed: Brian Harris to Boise State and Randy Hanson to the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Tim Walsh has hired two former Viking players to fill their spots. Brian Warner, a tailback in 1995 and '96, will coach running backs. Tony Cichoke, a fullback in 1982 and '83, will coach the linebackers. Defensive coordinator Greg Lupfer will switch from linebackers to strong safeties. Nigel Burton will continue to coach cornerbacks while adding deep safeties and special-teams duties.

nÊControversial recruit Rodney Woods is not expected to enroll early at the University of Oregon, which means he will miss Duck football spring practice in April. A school official says the defensive back is finalizing academic requirements at Fresno City College.

nÊThe Portland Shockwave beat the Boise Xtreme 32-8 Saturday at Beaverton High in the Independent Women's Football League opener for both teams.

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