Kelowna goalie stymies Hawks; Rockets win in overtime to force Game 6

Portland peppers Adam Brown with 55 shots, but scores only once
by: BRYAN HEIM Nino Niederreiter skates Friday night in Game 5 of the Portland-Kelowna series at the Rose Garden. Niederreiter tied the score with a second-period goal, but the Winterhawks lost 2-1 in overtime.

It's going to be a long, eight-hour bus ride back to Kelowna for the Portland Winterhawks, who blew a great opportunity to end the Western Hockey League series Friday night.

The Rockets' Jessey Astles intercepted a pass and beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth with a forehand shot 7:08 into overtime as Kelowna beat Portland 2-1 before 8,505 at the Rose Garden to force a Game 6 in the series.

The Hawks, who had 55 shots on goal but got only Nino Niederreiter's tally past goalie Adam Brown, lead the series 3-2 heading into the 5 p.m. Sunday game at Kelowna, British Columbia.

Game 7 would be Tuesday in Portland.

"Every series you enter, you have to expect it to go 7," Portland coach Mike Johnston said. "You have to be ready for every game.

"It's playoff hockey," he added, of the travel. "You've got to be able to battle through it, makes you stronger, makes you tougher. We'll be ready for Sunday."

Said Portland forward Ty Rattie: "That was definitely playoff hockey (Friday), 1-1, crowd into it, they were into it, we were into it. Just an OT goal. That's the way it goes sometimes. We're going to roll with it. ... It's the playoffs, you're going to lose games like that. It's a big test of our character."

Brown helped Kelowna win Game 1 in Portland 5-1, and then ramped up his play with the Rockets' season on the line.

"The only thing I was thinking," he said, of his mindset, "was, 'Wow, this is pretty exciting.' The crowd was really into it, and it was a lot of fun to play tonight."

Rattie figured he should have had a hat trick by himself in the first period. "Pucks weren't bouncing my way. Maybe next game," he said.

Like the previous games, it was intense and hard-hitting. Brad Ross returned to the Winterhawk lineup after missing three games, having been suspended after a hit on Kelowna's Zach Franko in Game 1. The Rockets retaliated in the first period, as Colton Jobke jarred Ross with a hit on the boards, and Ross skated away with a cut on his face. Jobke got a five-minute major and a game misconduct penalty.

Ross said he didn't expect retaliation.

"You like to think that nobody's trying to hurt you out there," he said. "I didn't see it coming."

Adds Johnston: "That was a cheap hit. I didn't expect that. I thought (the Rockets) were above that, but I guess not."

The Hawks had a 5-on-3 power play, after another penalty, but they couldn't convert. Kelowna got on the board at 4:38 of the second period, when Mitchell Callahan slammed home a rebound.

But the Hawks would tie it, as Niederreiter stole a pass from Tyson Barrie behind Brown's net, skated to the goalie's side and put the puck in the net - a reward for an onslaught of offense.

Portland's strong offensive play would continue in the third period, with a particularly strong stretch of 5-on-5 play late. But Brown rose up to the challenge as the Rockets managed to force overtime on the road.

Carruth knew he was in for a battle opposite Brown "about midway through the game. He was making big saves all night. We just weren't there for second chances. They did a good job of boxing us out, their D-men played well in front of him."

Adds Ross: "Brown played really, really good. He stole the game for them. We just have to bury our chances."

That is exactly what Astles did against Carruth. Astles stole a pass from Derrick Pouliot to Tyler Wotherspoon, and skated just ahead of Wotherspoon converging on Carruth. "He put it right where he wanted it, right?" Carruth said. "Good shot. Unfortunately, I couldn't come up with the save. ... Gotta forget about it and move on to the next one."

Johnston said Pouliot, a 16-year-old rookie, should have taken a shot or passed the puck in back of the Kelowna net.

The loss sent the Hawks to the bus again for the trip back to Kelowna, and scratching their heads about how to beat Brown. Johnston also added, interestingly, that the Rose Garden ice surface wasn't conducive to scoring. The Hawks outshot Kelowna 55-38.

"We had some opportunities around the net, but I didn't think the ice was particularly good," he said, "especially at certain times of the game. Sometimes this ice gets heavy, and it affected play around the net; on heavy ice, it's harder to get your shot away."

The coach does like the ice at Kelowna's Prospera Place, where the Hawks won twice this week.

"We're all looking forward to it," Rattie said, of Game 6.

"We've played well in this series, and we have to continue to do the same type of thing," Johnston said. "We get 45 or 50 shots, we should be able to get three goals.

"In the playoffs, you're going to lose a game here and there. You have to rebound."