The Portland Winterhawks lost a pair of matches to the Vancouver Giants in the WHL Western Conference Semifinals over the weekend at the Memorial Coliseum, and the next two games will be played on the road
The Portland Winterhawks lost a pair of matches to the Vancouver Giants in the WHL Western Conference Semifinals over the weekend at the Memorial Coliseum, and the next two games will be played on the road.
This is the first postseason trip for the Hawks in four years, and a perfect road record against the Spokane Chiefs marked their first round results. However, Portland has struggled at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum in years past, and the Hawks and Giants split the regular-season series 2–2, each winning one at home and one away.
The Hawks outscored the Chiefs in seven games 24–23, whereas the Giants swept the Kamloops Blazers and outscored them 20–14. So far this series, Vancouver has dominated the net and put away 16 goals to Portland’s 10.
During Saturday’s opener, the Hawks were outscored by the Giants in each period, and ended the game with a 9–6 loss. Even though Portland increased their goal tally each period, Vancouver found an answer at the offensive end for each Portland score, as the Giants put away one more goal per period than the Hawks.
The Giants took 49 shots, including 22 in the first period, and the Hawks fired 37 over three periods. Portland coach Mike Johnston tried changing up goaltending duties between starter Mac Carruth and backup Ian Curtis after Carruth let six go by, but 13 Portland penalties in the final period led to four Vancouver goals, sealing their victory.
Sunday’s match was similar to the first, with Vancouver’s offensive blitz resulting in a 7–4 victory. They ended the first period ahead 4–1, followed by three Portland goals in the second period. However, the Hawks also committed six penalties in second period and went scoreless in the final period.
Portland took more shots in the second match, attacking the net 48 times compared to 50 tries from the Giants. Curtis had 17 saves in the second period to follow Carruth’s 16 in the first, and Giants goalie Mark Segal, who has played every minute of the series so far, had 44 saves to bring his series total to 75.
The high scoring and fierce play is to be expected, as these teams have a longstanding rivalry and both have something to prove: The last time Portland played in the conference semifinals, they lost to Vancouver in five games during the 2006 playoffs, when Vancouver went on to win the championship.
“It’s been an exciting series thus far,” said Vancouver assistant coach Chad Scharff in a press release. “I don’t think we expected tonight to be the same as last night, but the more we look at the series, I think we understand the way they’re going to play.”
For Vancouver, beating the Hawks would mean advancing to the conference finals and a shot at revenge against the Kelowna Rockets after they knocked the Giants out of last year’s playoff contention and went on to become the champions. The Rockets are currently 1–1 in their semifinals against the Tri-City Americans.
The postseason continues at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia. Game Three starts at 7 p.m. on Wednesday and Game Four at 7:30 p.m. on Friday. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster and the games can be heard on Freedom 970 AM or viewed online, for a $6.95 fee, at livestream.whl.ca.
Scores by period
1 2 3 Final
Hawks 1 2 3 6
Chiefs 2 3 4 9
1 2 3 Final
Hawks 1 3 0 4
Chiefs 4 2 1 7