Portland's rally falls short; Kootenay wins Game 2, 7-5

Ice score five second-period goals as Portland loses composure
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Sven Bartschi led the Portland Winterhawks with two goals Saturday night, but the Hawks couldn't quite recover from a 6-1 deficit in Game 2 against Kootenay.

A second-period implosion gave way to a third-period explosion, but the damage had been done. The Kootenay Ice held on to edge the Portland Winterhawks 7-5 Saturday in the second game of the Western Hockey League finals at a raucous, soldout Rose Garden.

The second period was one to forget, the third period one to remember as Portland prepares to travel to Cranbrook, British Columbia, for Game 3 at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Game 4 at 6 p.m. Wednesday, both on Comcast SportsNet.

The Ice scored five second-period goals, the final four coming on power plays with the Winterhawks whistled for a string of penalties. The list included a double-minor to Brad Ross, who was injured in a collision with Kootenay's Matt Fraser, and five-minute majors to Tayler Jordan and Riley Boychuk, who also received game misconducts.

While they had the advantage, the Ice built their lead to 6-1, chased goalie Mac Carruth and appeared to put the game away.

It was the sort of transgression rarely seen in hockey games, much less in the WHL finals. Portland coach Mike Johnston couldn't believe how things went down with officials and their whistles.

"There were a couple hits I didn't see, but we did take 18 penalty minutes in a row and, obviously, it was a key turning point for them to take advantage of that," Johnston said. "I've never seen that in all my years of coaching - I've coached more than 25 years and I've never seen that many calls in a row on a team.

"Are some of them questionable? I'm not sure. I don't want to comment on that."

But Portland rallied, getting a goal back when Ryan Johansen corraled his own rebound and fed Sven Bartschi, who beat Kootenay netminder Nathan Lieuwen for a shorthanded score late in the second period.

As the Rose Garden noise increased with each third-period goal, the Winterhawks climbed back into the game. Bartschi scored again on the power play, Taylor Peters scored, and then Joe Morrow scored at 8:14 of the third - three goals in 2:02, and it was 6-5 with nearly 12 minutes to play - and the crowd of 10,947 might have never been louder for hockey.

"We knew Portland wouldn't go away," Kootenay coach Kris Knoblauch said. "Unfortunately, we gave them a little bit of life in the second period with the shorthanded goal.

"They came out strong in the third period, and we got away from our game plan. ... We ended up getting the win, and that's what we came here for."

It was a combination of Kootenay letting down with the big lead, and Portland playing with some desperation.

"They had a lot of excitement, had nothing to lose, they came out strong," Knoblauch said. "I thought we definitely got away from our game plan, with turnovers going into the offensive zone, something we don't usually do, and taking two penalties to give them opportunities on the power play."

Johnston complimented his players after the game for their third period.

"We felt if we came out in the third period and got the first goal, we knew with the crowd behind us ... you never know what can happen in a hockey game," Johnston said. "You saw the surge. Ryan just about tapped in the tying goal in the backdoor (later), and I thought we had them on their heels. I was really proud of how we played in the third. But we let our emotions get the best of us in that second period."

Indeed, Lieuwen stoned Johansen with an empty net, and he also stopped Nino Niederreiter's shot during the Portland rally.

After a media timeout, Kootenay settled down. Portland, with an extra attacker and goalie Keith Hamilton on the bench, had a couple chances late, but couldn't get the equalizer. Kevin King's empty-net goal sealed it.

Fraser scored Kootenay's first two goals. He opened the scoring at 5:14 of the first period, but Portland's Brendan Leipsic tied the score 1-1 at 9:20.

Then, the wild second period ensued. Lieuwen stopped Bartschi on a penalty shot just 2:40 in. But the intensity ramped up at 7:25 when Ross and Fraser collided; Fraser had to be helped off the ice (he wouldn't return) and Ross received a double-minor for roughing and tripping (he returned to the bench later, but he wouldn't return to the game).

Only 23 seconds later, Jordan received his major and game misconduct for checking-from-behind on Steele Boomer. So, it was a Kootenay 5-on-3 power play for 3:37, and the Ice took advantage. Max Reinhart scored at 8:47, Cody Eakin at 10:15. "We've had a lot of confidence in our power play, we move it around so well, it was a matter of time," Reinhart said, of the 5-on-3 goals.

Portland's Troy Rutkowski got called for interference, and Boomer scored at 13:04. Just after that goal, Portland's Pearce Eviston got called for tripping, and King scored at 14:32.

Boychuk hit Hayden Rintoul in the back of Portland's net and received a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing. It was the one call that Johnston disputed after the game.

"The referee explained that he had a concussion," the coach said. "Then, (Rintoul's) back right away. So, I'm not sure if he had a concussion."

The Ice didn't score after Boychuk's penalty, but the Hawks still had to play a man down for five minutes. Instead, Johansen and Bartschi teamed for the shorthanded marker with 41 seconds left in the period, which stopped the bleeding and set up the exciting third period.

But, again, the damage had been done.

"We may have lost our composure a little bit, but things like that happen," Morrow said. "You have to battle through it."

Johnston said that given the majors on Jordan and Boychuk he wondered how Kootenay's James Martin didn't receive a major penalty for a late third-period "blindside" hit on Bartschi.

After all the events in the game, it still ended with Kootenay evening the series.

The Ice and Winterhawks are tied 1-1 going into Game 3, and star players Reinhart and Eakin said the first two games of the series convinced Kootenay about how to play against Portland.

"We have to be extremely disciplined, with the firepower they have," Reinhart said. "They're going to score goals. We have to do a better job of limiting their chances."

Added Eakin: "Two games now we haven't played a complete 60 minutes. We're not doing that, and still coming out with a win is huge for us. We need to shape up."

It remains to be seen how the events of Saturday night will affect the rest of the series.

Will Fraser be back? Ross? Will Ross or Jordan or Boychuk face suspensions? The Winterhawks, who take an eight-bus trip to Cranbrook on Sunday, will soon find out.