The Winterhawks pound Victoria 8-2 to take Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: PARKER LEE - Winterhawks goalie Brendan Burke turned away 25 shots during the teams 8-2 win over Victoria to open the Western Conference semifinals Friday night. Not even a nine-day lay-off could cool off the red-hot Winterhawks.

Portland showed no signs of rustiness on Friday night as it embarrassed the Victoria Royals 8-2 to take the first game of the Western Conference semifinals.

Victoria gave the Winterhawks some trouble in the regular season as it held Portland to eight total goals in four games. The Winterhawks only needed two-and-a-half periods to hit eight goals against the Royals in Game 1.

The difference for Portland against the Royals this time around was its numerous power-play chances, as well as its ability to capitalize on the Royals’ turnovers. Victoria put itself in short-handed situations throughout the contest and the Winterhawks made it hurt.

“We are going to score if we get that many opportunities,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “If we aren’t going to score, we are going to get a lot of chances which truly changes the momentum of the game.”

The Royals made very few mistakes in the opening seven or eight minutes, but they made a costly one with about 11 minutes to go in the first period. A lazy Victoria pass was intercepted by the Winterhawks and Oliver Bjorkstrand sprinted out on a breakaway. Just as Victoria goaltender Patrik Polivka committed, Bjorkstrand flipped the puck to Chase De Leo who was trailing him on the right. De Leo flung it into net inside the right post before Polivka could correct.

Portland struck again on a goal from Brendan Leipsic with 6:45 left in the period to take a two-goal lead into intermission.

The sky fell down on Victoria in the second period as the Winterhawks netted four goals to build an untouchable advantage. There were a few times when things seemed to be turning the Royals’ way, but their station was only getting bleaker.

Portland’s Nic Petan was pummeled into the boards a minute into the second period, but was comically called for boarding. His trip to the penalty box actually hurt Victoria because he happened to exit just as Leipsic was leading a breakaway. No Royal picked up Petan and Leipsic found him for an easy goal.

“That was awesome,” Petan said. “My thoughts were to just not go offside and be ready for the one-timer.”

Bjorkstrand scored two goals in the period, one coming on a power play, and Matt Dumba netted his first goal of the playoffs on a missile of a one-timer. The Royals got two goals back, but still looked deflated as they trailed 6-2 entering the final period.

The penalties really stacked up on top of the Royals in the final 12 minutes, preventing them from making the game remotely competitive. They got hit with two penalties in about a minute and Portland’s Derrick Pouliot took advantage by beating their defense for the Winterhawks seventh goal of the night.

Frustration finally caught up to the Royals and all five players on the ice instigated a fight only seconds after Pouliot’s goal. The melee led to yet another 5-on-3 advantage for the Winterhawks which Dumba used to score his second goal of the night on a one-timer that was identical to his first one.

All told, Portland scored three power-play goals in the contest as the Royals tallied 74 minutes of penalty time.

Bjorkstrand and Dumba each added an assist to their goals while Leipsic and Pouliot pitched in two assists to go along with each of their goals. Goaltender Brendan Burke recorded 25 saves on 27 chances.

Petan led the team in points by posting three assists and the one goal. He said it is crucial for the Winterhawks to avoid a letdown in Game 2 on Saturday night by maintaining a high level of energy.

“It’s a new day tomorrow,” Petan said. “They are going to come out strong, and we have to play the same way.”

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