Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Local Weather

Cloudy

44°F

Portland

Cloudy

Humidity: 93%

Wind: 9 mph

  • 27 Dec 2014

    Showers 46°F 40°F

  • 28 Dec 2014

    Showers 46°F 36°F


Lotz of trouble as Hawks fall in playoff opener

The earth moved under their feet as the Everett Silvertips celebrated together in the visitors' locker room at the Rose Garden Friday night.

"Whose house?" a single voice asked.

"Our house!" the group roared.

"Whose house?" the voice asked again.

"Our house!" they cried.

"Whose house?" the question rang out for a third time.

"Our effin' house!" the group bellowed.

For a night, at least, the Silvertips owned the Rose Garden and the Winterhawks after a stunning 4-3 victory in the opener of their first-round, best-of-seven Western Hockey League playoff series.

As upsets in the WHL go, they don't get much bigger.

This was the Chicago Blackhawks falling to the Florida Panthers, but even that doesn't do justice to the shocker at the Garden.

Portland entered the postseason with the WHL's best regular-season record at 57-12-1-2, setting a franchise record for points in a season. The Hawks beat Everett in nine of 10 meetings by an aggregate 54-22 count. They were expected to roll past the Silvertips, who gained the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth with a 25-40-3-4 record and entered the postseason having won four of their last 22 games.

"There weren't a lot of people in the (Canadian Hockey League) who thought we had a chance at squeaking out one (win) in this series," said Everett's Kohl Bauml, a 5-8, 165-pound center who scored two goals, including the game-winner with 7:14 to play. "But we had a good week of practice. We knew what we had to do. Our coaches prepared us. We had a good game plan in place, and we executed real well tonight."

Everett's interim head coach has plenty of inside knowledge on the Hawks. Garry Davidson came to Portland in 2008 when Mike Johnston was hired as general manager and coach, serving as the club's director of player personnel until leaving to become the GM at Everett on Feb. 15, 2012.

Davidson took over as the Silvertips' coach after firing coach Mark Ferner on Jan. 8. There was no quick turnaround. Under Davidson, Everett finished the season 9-16-3-2. But when it came time to deliver a scouting report on Portland, Davidson needed no consultants.

"I'm pretty familiar with that group of players in the other locker room," Davidson said.

It helped that Everett's Austin Lotz had the game of his career. The Hawks launched 58 shots on goal at the 17-year-old goaltender, and he stopped 55 of them.

"We knew if we were to have a chance in this series, he'd have to play spectacular," Bauml said. "That's exactly what he did tonight. He stood on his head. He made a couple of un-bee-lievable saves."

Perhaps the best one came in the third period, after Portland's Ty Rattie had re-ignited the Hawks and the Garden throng of 9,390 with a goal that cut Everett's lead to 3-2 with 10:23 remaining. Moments later, Taylor Leier had an open net and launched a shot from the left side that was somehow blocked by a sprawling Lotz.

"Oh my God, that was ridiculous," said Bauml, a Saskatoon native who played three years of minor junior hockey there with Leier. "I don't know many goalies who would have made that save."

Davidson's plan was simple.

"We knew we had to get outstanding goaltending, which we got," he said. "We thought we had to manage the puck. We don't have the skill and finesse they have, and that has cost us a lot of nights where we were trying to do cute things we're not capable of doing as a group.

"We thought special teams would be important, but (the Hawks) still managed two power-play goals. And we wanted to get some pucks on the net, and we managed to do that. Our guys worked exceptionally hard."

Portland put a barrage of pressure on Lotz, outshooting Everett 22-9 in both the first and third periods. It wasn't enough.

"We weren't at our best tonight," Rattie said. "We had a chance to win the game, but we didn't capitalize on it. (The Silvertips) turned around and put the puck in the net. That was the difference in the game -- one goal.

"We knew (Lotz) was good going into this game. He made some acrobatic saves. But their defense played tight on us and their forwards back-checked hard. It was a team effort -- kudos to them."

As he met with the media afterward, Travis Green displayed the same calm demeanor he has shown since taking over for the suspended Mike Johnston as interim head coach of the Hawks in late November.

Lotz "played really well," Green said. "We had some good chances. We didn't put the puck behind him, but that's playoff hockey. That's going to happen. There are going to be games where you play well and lose. Tonight we played pretty well. We probably played well enough to win. But in the playoffs, anything can happen.

"We made some mistakes we don't normally make. Our puck management wasn't as sharp for 60 minutes. There were stages where we tried to do too much with the puck, which resulted in them getting momentum."

The Hawks now face the pressure of being in an 0-1 hole going into Saturday's Game 2 at the Garden before trekking to Everett for the next two games of the series.

"i never doubt these guys," Green said. "They have bounced back all year. They compete very hard. We'll make some adjustments and we'll play better" Saturday.

If this was Chaminade upsetting Virginia, Rattie wasn't letting on.

"I'm not shocked," he said. The Silvertips "are a good team. Thank God it's a seven-game series. We're going to be better" Saturday.

The Silvertips aren't counting their chickens before they're hatched.

The Hawks "deserve all the hype they've gotten," Bauml said. "They had the top three scorers in the league, the best goaltender in the league. We just came in here and worked our butts off and -- what do you know? -- we came out with a win.

"We're going to take it one game at a time. We're going to celebrate this win tonight, but it's a quick turnaround. We know we have to be just as good if not better (Saturday). We know they're going to come out flying. They're going to be ticked off they lost this one, especially Game 1 in their home building. We have to try to match, if not be better."

Davidson admitted from a personal standpoint, "the extra bonus to this was (the win was) over Portland. But it's only one game. We'll take this first one, dig in and get another shot at them" Saturday.

That's when the Hawks will have some extra proving to do. Because Friday night, the Rose Garden was the Silvertips' house.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @kerryeggers