Spokane pushes Winterhawks to Game 7
If they are to advance to the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks will need to win on Tuesday in a building that has been a less than friendly home.
The Spokane Chiefs played their strongest game of the series on Monday in front of 3,509 fans at Spokane Arena, taking control early and beating Portland 5-2 in Game 6 of the best-of-seven series.
The series will come down to a Game 7 at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum. The winner will advance to face Everett in the Western Conference semifinal series, beginning Friday at Everett.
Winterhawks coach/GM/VP Mike Johnston said after Monday's loss that his team will be fired up to play again Tuesday night.
"I think they're looking forward to it after tonight's game," Johnston said. "There was a lot of animosity in the game, a lot of edge to the game (on Monday). I think they're looking forward to getting back at these guys."
Portland has won only eight of 23 games at the coliseum this season, though a series of midseason losses came with the Hawks' roster shorthanded. Spokane has won two of the three games at Portland in this series, both in overtime.
Johnston noted that the big advantage playing at home is the second line change prior to faceoffs, which gives him a chance to find favorable match-ups for Portland's top offensive players.
On Monday, the Cody Glass-Skyler McKenzie-Kieffer Bellows line was often up against Spokane's top offensive line, which meant extra attention to defensive responsibility for Portland's big guns.
Another area Johnston hopes to turn around is special teams.
In the last two games, Spokane has had 11 power plays to five for Portland. The Hawks are 3 for 21 in the series and the Chiefs are 6 for 24.
"I thought our power play looked dangerous tonight. We just need more. We need a game where we get five or six power plays and they get two or three. That's a big difference in a game right there," Johnston said. "Power plays are key to creating scoring chances, but more importantly giving you momentum in the game."
Spokane had most of Monday's momentum during the first two periods as the Chiefs built a three-goal lead. The Chiefs scored two goals 14 seconds apart late in the first period, and had an answer every time Portland made a push.
Mason Mannek and Henri Jokiharju scored for Portland, and goalie Cole Kehler made some big stops early on his way to 22 saves.
Jake McGrew, Eli Zummack and Ty Smith each had a goal and an assist for the Chiefs. Smith, a rookie defenseman, was plus-4 on the night.
The Hawks finished 1 for 3 on the power play, while Spokane again had an edge in power-play chances and finished 1 for 5. That power-play goal extended the Chiefs' lead to three goals late in the second period.
The Winterhawks briefly pulled within a goal at 2-1 when defenseman Keoni Texeira made a move around Nolan Reid and sent a pass to Mannek in front for the power-play finish 3:42 into the second period.
But, four minutes later, Smith netted his first playoff goal on a four-on-two rush.
Six minutes after that, Ethan McIndoe stuffed the puck into an open net at the end of a quick passing sequence with the Chiefs on a power play.
The Winterhawks showed life in the third period, when they out-shot Spokane 15-3 and got a goal on a wicked wrist shot by Jokiharju with 15:51 left.
The Hawks created several chances over the next 10 minutes, but Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherill was steady.
The back-breaker for Portland came with 3:21 remaining, when Luke Toporowski scored on an odd-man rush that happened when Portland's Reece Newkirk appeared to be tackled at center ice.
Portland was on its heels for much of the first two periods, and Spokane scored twice in a 14-second span of the first period.
Following an icing call, Portland had two chances to clear the zone, but Spokane held in the puck, and Zummack found McGrew alone in front against a tired Portland unit to open the scoring 16:29 into the game.
The second goal again came after Portland lost a puck battle in the defensive zone. A Tyson Helgesen shot from the left point was deflected in by Zummack in front of the goal.
The margin would have been larger if not for a pair of top-notch saves by Kehler. Midway through the first periodm the Portland goalie snapped his glove to deny Luke Toporowski's close-range backhander. Late in the period, with Spokane on a power play, Kehler while on his back somehow got a piece of a Hudson Elynuik shot.
Portland's one good chance in the first period came with the game scoreless. A Newkirk shot from the slot off the post after Conor MacEachern won a battle below the goal line.