Posted on April 7, 2013 at 11:17 PM
The nice thing about winning the first playoff series in 5 games? The chance to rest and prepare for nearly a week for your next matchup. For the Chiefs though, their next series would be their most formidable challenge of the season as they would face the top team in the Western Hockey League and the 2nd ranked outfit in the entire Canadian Hockey League. Spokane had not fared well against the Winterhawks during the regular season, dropping 7 of 9 meetings, including the last 4 in a row. The Chiefs had been outscored 21-4 over those 4 defeats, although the 6-1 loss in the season's regular season finale saw Spokane sit 6 of their top 7 players in a game that had no impact on the playoff seeding.
The Chiefs had won 2 straight over the Hawks in late January, winning the first one in one of their most impressive performances of the year, a 5-2 win on January 21st at the Memorial Coliseum that snapped the Hawks 20 game winning streak in that building. The Coliseum would be the site of game one as Spokane hoped to seize the early advantage in the series. Portland would take the early lead though on a Taylor Leier rebound at 5:46 of the first to go up 1-0. Spokane would turn up their game from that point and would equalize on a 4 on 4 goal from Mike Aviani at 9:04 of the period to send the two teams to the first intermission tied at one.
Portland would re-take the lead just 4:05 into the second on an Oliver Bjorkstrand goal, but once again the Chiefs fought back. Portland, which had the #1 power play in the WHL coming into the game at a 39% success rate, would go on the man advantage with a chance to take a 3-1 lead. Instead, the Chiefs Todd Fiddler scored shorthanded after Portland goalie Mac Carruth mismanaged the puck by his own net at 7:23 of the second to tie the game at two. Spokane than had a chance to take the lead on the power play, one of just 3 chances in the game for the Chiefs, but Spokane took a penalty to force a 4 on 4. The Hawks took immediate advantage as Bjorkstrand scored his second of the period at 14:44 to give Portland the lead for good at 3-2. Defenseman Derrick Pouliot then scored at 17:23 as he went through the Chiefs defense to make it 4-2 Portland heading to the third period.
The Chiefs never recovered. Ty Rattie went on a one man wrecking crew mission in the third as he scored a natural hat trick with goals 47 seconds in, at 5:28 and again at 16:23. The first and third goals were on the power play as Portland went 2 for 8 with the man advantage. No question the Chiefs gave up wayyy too many power play chances to the Hawks and in the end, killing that many penalties wore Spokane out in the third as the Hawks skated to an easy 7-2 game one win. The discouraging part was the Chiefs were right in the game midway through the contest until Spokane starting putting Portland on the power play.
The two teams would walk across the parking lot the next night to the Rose Garden for game two as the Chiefs hoped to keep the Winterhawks power play unit off the ice at a far greater rate than the night before. Both teams went back and forth in the first half of the first period as the two teams went scoreless. Portland then turned up their offensive game and broke through on a Chase DeLeo goal at 13:17 to go up 1-0 after one. The Winterhawks put up 20 shots on the Chiefs in the first and they would come out in the second and keep up the pressure. Nick Petan scored just 1:05 into the period to give Portland a 2-0 advantage, a lead that would hold up through the second.
Spokane got their one and only power play early in the third period, but Dylan Walchuk's net front attempt hit the post and kicked out as the Chiefs continued to trail by two. Portland then put the game away on a Brendan Leipsic goal at 9:02 to wrap up a 3-0 Portland win and take a 2-0 series lead. Spokane was outshot 43-27 while getting just one power play in the game. One positive was the Chiefs were a perfect 4-4 on the penalty kill as they cut Portland's opportunities on the power play in half. Unfortunately, the number of offensive chances were lacking for Spokane will need to increase if the Chiefs hope to get back in the series.
Spokane now heads home for games 3 and 4 Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Spokane Arena. Game 3 is a must win, and if the Chiefs have any real chance of winning the series, they must win both home games to make it a best of 3. I don't see Spokane coming back from a 3-0 or 3-1 deficit against the top team in the WHL in the regular season, so the Chiefs must find a way to get their top guns going as they have largely been silent thus far. I'll have the call on 1510 KGA both nights, with the pre-game shows at 6:30pm and puck drops at 7:05pm. We hope the boys get your support this week and we hope to see you at the rink!