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Winterhawks score 5-2 comeback win over West rival

Nic Petan nets winning goal five minutes into third period Wednesday against Kamloops


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland's Taylor Peters looks for the puck in front of the Kamloops goal during the second period of the Winterhawks' 5-2 win Wednesday night.

The Portland Winterhawks beat Kamloops at its own game Wednesday night, putting up five straight goals to claim a 5-2 comeback win over the Blazers in a rematch of last year’s Western Hockey League Western Conference finals.

“They came back on us three times in the playoffs last year, but tonight we were lucky enough to get it done to them,” Portland goaltender Mac Carruth said. “It felt like a playoff game out there, so it’s a big boost to our confidence.”

The Winterhawks (41-7-1-2) continue to lead the conference by seven points over Kelowna, while Kamloops (33-15-2-3) sits in third place.

After giving up two goals in the first period, Portland evened the score in a flash midway through the second.

Ty Rattie got the Winterhawks on the board, setting up in front and deflecting a pass from Nic Petan past Kamloops goalie Cole Cheveldave.

Portland’s next rush down the ice also found the net. Presten Kopeck fought for a spot in front of the goal, but failed to connect. The Winterhawks maintained possession, cycling the puck around the perimeter and allowing Joe Mahon to join the fray. The puck found his stick, and he pounded it home cleanly.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Portland's Joe Mahon tied the score midway through the second period, then dropped gloves with the Blazers' Kale Kessy a minute later.

The Blazers earned a power play late in the period, but struggled to get much going. The team squandered the last 25 seconds of the man-advantage when Portland’s Taylor Peters won the puck in the corner between two blue shirts. Kamloops eventually gained it back, but was tripped up again when Portland’s Brendan Leipsic deflected a pass near the blue line, not allowing the Blazers to escape their own zone.

Kamloops fired only four shots in the middle period and the game remained deadlocked 2-2 heading into the third.

“It felt great going into that second intermission tied up,” Petan said. “We felt that our hard work was going to pay off. When you play good defense, the offense is going to come.”

Petan supplied the night’s winning goal, getting loose in the faceoff circle and putting the puck airborne through a tight window, sneaking it between Cheveldave’s legs and just inside the far post.

“I went down the wing and had no one on me, so I just wanted to put a shot on net,” he said.

Kamloops had several chances to pull even, but Carruth came up with a series of big saves.

The first chance came after the Blazers won a faceoff in Portland’s zone, and Tyler Hansen put a quick slap shot on target only to see Carruth come up with the glove save.

A minute later, Carruth came out front to challenge the puck, which found its way through traffic and sat loose near the post. The Blazers’ Tim Bozon took a swipe at it, but Carruth twisted back and laid his stick across the ice to make the block.

Kamloops then went on its final power play, as the clock ticked to under five minutes. Blazers left wing Brendan Ranford centered a slow, sliding pass across the mouth of the goal but had no teammates in position to make a play. Instead, the puck went to the far side, where Portland’s Taylor Leier cleared it ahead. Peters was breaking past the blue line, coming onto the puck at center ice, and escaped for a short-handed breakaway that put the game out of reach.

“We stuck with the game plan and stayed focused,” Portland coach Travis Green said. “We played a good game start to finish.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Seth Jones and the Winterhawks' back line held Kamloops scoreless through the final 43 minutes, after having shut out Portland previous three opponents.

Leipsic added an empty-net tally in the final minute.

The Winterhawks have taken two of three against the Blazers, with the final game in the regular-season series coming Feb. 20 in British Columbia.

Portland travels to Seattle on Friday before returning to Memorial Coliseum to face Spokane at 7 p.m. Saturday.