Hawks win 4-2, can clinch series Friday
The Portland Winterhawks are one win away from moving on to the Western Hockey League Western Conference finals.
The Winterhawks beat Kelowna 4-2 Wednesday at Kelowna, British Columbia, to take a 3-1 lead in the WHL second-round series.
The Hawks can clinch the series at 7 Friday night at the Rose Garden in Game 5.
Meanwhile, a stunning development has taken place in the Eastern Conference. Saskatoon, by far the league's best team during the regular season, got swept by the Kootenay Ice 4-0.
The Winterhawks opened the Game 4 scoring at the 12:25 mark of the first period on the third goal of the playoffs from Ty Rattie, and quickly followed just 39 seconds later on a goal by Taylor Peters to take a 2-0 lead. Nino Niederreiter picked up an assist on Peters' goal, giving him at least one point in all eight playoff games.
The Rockets got one back when Shane McColgan scored on a power play at the 17:39 mark to cut Portland's lead to 2-1.
After a scoreless second period in which Portland held a 15-7 advantage in shots, the Winterhawks regained a two-goal lead 2:30 into the third period when Joe Morrow scored with a slap shot on a power play to make it 3-1.
The Rockets got back within one when Brett Bulmer scored an unassisted goal at the 12:46 mark to cut Portland's lead to 3-2. It would be short-lived though as Ryan Johansen got behind the Kelowna defense and took a pass from Niederreiter for a breakaway, beating Rockets netminder Adam Brown to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead with just under four minutes to go, a score that would stand as the final.
Niederreiter finished with three assists on the night, giving him 17 points in eight playoff games.
Mac Carruth earned the win in net for the Hawks, stopping 24 of 26 Kelowna shots. Brown made 35 saves on the 39 Winterhawks shots he faced.
Spokane leads Tri-City 2-1 in the other Western Conference semifinal. With its 5-2 win over Saskatoon on Wednesday, Kootenay advanced to the Eastern finals; Medicine Hat leads Red Deer 3-1 in the other Eastern semifinal.