Hawks must tinker to battle Silvertips
As their best-of-seven series shifts to Portland, odds are the games will become tighter between the Portland Winterhawks and Everett Silvertips.
Both teams have adjustments to make after Portland won Game 1, 5-2, and then lost 6-0, last weekend at Everett. But those opening games in the Western Hockey League Western Conference semifinal were more competitive than the scores might indicate.
"We played some good hockey (in Game 2)," Hawks captain Keoni Texeira says. "We just got some unlucky bounces."
Game 3 is 7 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum. Game 4 is 7 p.m. Thursday at Moda Center.
"We have another level we can reach," Texeira says, "and we plan on reaching that the next couple games here.
"Everett's a really good team. They're going to work hard, and we're going to work hard. So it's going to come down to the bounces and who wants it more. It's going to be a battle of a series."
A key part of that battle, as always happens, will take place in front of the goalies.
In Game 1, Portland threw pucks at Everett goalie Carter Hart at every opportunity. Jake Gricius and Conor MacEachern knocked in rebounds for two early goals.
The Hawks had 31 shots on goal in the first 40 minutes of Game 1 and had four goals against Hart.
The next night, Everett set the tone early, scoring 1:03 into the game off a redirected shot from the point. It was just what a desperate bunch of Silvertips needed to grab some momentum.
At the other end of the rink, Portland put 21 shots on goal through two periods of Game 2, but this time the Winterhawks were not quite in the right places to convert on the rebounds some of those shots created.
Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston says his team played some of its best hockey during the second period of Game 2, when the Silvertips scored three times on seven shots to build a 5-0 lead.
"They got a few bounces that went their way. It was that type of night," Johnston says. "We really out-chanced them in the second period."
The host Silvertips probably had a similar feeling about the second period of Game 1, when they scored twice to pull within a goal, only to see Portland's Skyler McKenzie score a momentum-shifting goal with 1.4 seconds left in the period.
Kieffer Bellows made the play after gaining possession with seven seconds left in his defensive zone. Bellows carried the puck to center ice and banked it off the right-wing boards.
With the Portland bench counting down the seconds, Bellows reached the puck and threw a pass into the crease, where McKenzie chipped it into the goal.
Power plays were not a huge factor at Everett — though the Silvertips were 2 for 3 in Game 2. In Friday's opener, each team had just one opportunity.
Everett's Patrick Bajkov scored two of his three goals on Saturday during power plays, one of them into an empty net after a fortuitous carom off of McKenzie and the other in the final minute with the game long decided.
• With Conor MacEachern and rookie defenseman John Ludvig each scoring in Game 1, a dozen Winterhawks have at least one goal through the first nine playoff games this season. Nine Hawks have at least two goals.
Cody Glass and defenseman Dennis Cholowski lead the team with four apiece. Cholowski, who had one goal in 32 regular-season games after arriving in Portland from Prince George, had two near misses in Game 2. He hit the post in the first period and just missed from the slot in the second period.
• Winterhawks forward Lane Gilliss — a key penalty killer — limped to the bench with just under nine minutes left in Game 2 and did not return.
Portland remains without injured forward Lukus MacKenzie. The 19-year-old has not played since March 11 and is not expected back during this series.
WHL Western Conference semifinals
Best of seven
Game 1 — Portland 5, Everett 2
Game 2 — Everett 6, Portland 0, series tied 1-1
Game 3 — Everett at Portland, Memorial Coliseum, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Game 4 — Everett at Portland, Moda Center, 7 p.m. Thursday
Game 5 — Portland at Everett, 7:30 p.m. Friday
Game 6 — Everett at Portland, Memorial Coliseum, 5 p.m., Sunday, if necessary
Game 7 — Portland at Everett, 7 p.m. April 17, if necessary
• Winner advances to the Western Conference finals against the winner of series between Victoria and Tri-City.