Keys to Crushing Kamloops: Game 7 preview
April 18, 2012, 11:09 am
After jumping to a 3-0 lead, the Portland Winterhawks hoped their second-round Western Hockey League playoff series against the Kamloops Blazers wouldn’t come down to a deciding Game 7. Hawks Coach and GM Mike Johnston weighs in on the series thus far and what needs to go right to take the series.
In game 1, you were down in the first few seconds, trailed by 3 goals and scored 4 in the final 10 minutes. Game 2 and game 3 got physical, where the Winterhawks dominated, but then the tide started shifting towards Kamloops. Coach Johnston talks about when and how that shift began, leading to a series tied at 3 with a game 7 match-up on the way Wednesday night at the Memorial Collesium.
The Blazers clearly have momentum on their side, having survived three consecutive elimination games, including Game 6 on Monday when they rallied from a 5-2 deficit entering the third period and won 7-6 in Kamloops.
Coach Johnston weighs in on whether or not having a 3-0 lead could have been their own Achilles heel, taking leads late into games 4 and 6, yet unable to close the game out. Where did things go wrong in the past 3 games?
The Winterhawks have six players – Mac Carruth, Oliver Gabriel, Joe Morrow, Troy Rutkowski, Rattie and Ross -- who saw action in Game 7 against Spokane in the opening round of the 2009-10 playoffs.
One of the biggest blows, both literally and figuratively, has been to the Winterhawks perennial scorer, Ty Rattie. It began in game 2, where Rattie was checked several times into the boards from behind by JC Lipon. That continued, insinuating fights, banter back and forth, and suspensions. After being face checked into the boards in game 4 of the 2nd round series, Rattie made an early exit with a neck injury, fearing vertebrae damage, which led to a WHL suspension on Lipon. Game 5, it was Rattie’s decision to play, though coach said he must go at 100%. Though no one will admit, it was clear: that was not Rattie at 100%. He was left goalless and without an assist, and the Hawks couldn’t close out the series; nor could they in Kamloops for game 6, despite 2 Rattie assists on goal. Coach Johnston talks about the progression of Rattie’s game since the injury and weighs in on how much that will affect tonight’s game.
Side note: Rattie scored the game-winner in overtime for his first career playoff goal, and Carruth stopped 26 of 30 shots in goal, pacing the Winterhawks to a 5-4 victory in Spokane. His two assists in Monday’s loss extended his point scoring streak to 10 games and now leads the WHL in playoff scoring with 13 goals and 10 assists.
Another anchor, goalie Mac Carruth, has had a handful of shutouts this season, but the last two games, he was pulled from the game in game 5 and allowed 12 goals in the the same span. Chad asks Coach Johnston what he expects out of the seasoned goalie.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. and the winner advances to the Western Conference finals against the winner of Wednesday's other Game 7 showdown between Spokane and Tri-City at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, Wash.
This marks the 11th time in franchise history that Portland has gone to Game 7 in a best-of-seven series. In the previous 10, the Winterhawks are 4-6, including a 2-2 mark at home.
What does Coach Johnston expect in tonight’s pivotal match-up against rival Kamloops? Will he continue to see a shootout type of game or will both buckle down and play tighter? All that with Winterhawks Head Coach and GM Mike Johnston on the MSP.