KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Down 3-1, Portland looks for return of Cody Glass and some momentum vs. Spokane

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A sprawled John Ludvig of the Portland Winterhawks tries to defend against Riley Woods of the Spokane Chiefs. The Chiefs won 4-3 in overtime Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum to go in front 3-1 in the best-of-seven WHL first-round playoff series.After Spokane's Adam Beckman wristed the game-winner past Winterhawks goaltender Joel Hofer for a 4-3 victory in overtime Wednesday night, the Chiefs engaged in a group hootenanny on the Memorial Coliseum ice.

They hoped they were dancing on the graves of the Hawks in their Western Hockey League first-round playoff series.

The Hawks intend for that not to be the case, of course.

But Portland is now down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, meaning it must win three in a row to advance — two on the road, including Game 5 at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Hawks coach Mike Johnston pumped optimism in his pep talk after Game 4. He emphasized to his players that in last year's postseason, Portland built a 3-1 lead in its series with Spokane only to have the Chiefs win two in a row, forcing a Game 7 (won by the Hawks).

"We played really well tonight," Johnston said. "All we have to do is play the same the next game. We're going to be fine in the series. We win in Spokane, then we come back here (for Game 6) on Monday. (The Chiefs) don't want to come back here. As the series has gone along, our team has gotten better every game."

The Hawks will have a not-so-secret weapon in uniform to give them a boost Saturday night — center Cody Glass, who has missed the series with a sore knee. Glass, a first-round draft pick of the NHL's Las Vegas Golden Knights, has been cleared for duty both by the Knights and the Hawks' medical staff, as long as he fares well in Thursday and Friday practice sessions.

"We expect Cody to be able to play on Saturday," Johnston said. "He's the best player in the league. It's huge to have him back. If we get that game and get momentum back on our side, that's all we need."

Due to injury and participation in all-star tournaments, Glass has played only 38 games with the Hawks this season. He has missed 22 of their last 26 games, including 12 in a row, because of the injury. Portland is 26-10-0-2 with Glass in the lineup and 15-13-4-2 without him.

"It's going to be a huge difference, for sure," said linemate Joachim Blichfeld, the WHL regular-season scoring champion and, like Glass, a first-team all-Western Conference selection this season. "He's a game changer with his play-making ability and ability to hold on to pucks and to see the game. He makes the game a lot easier for the rest of us."

Asked if he would be physically ready to play Saturday, a tight-lipped Glass said, "I'm good."

Can the Hawks still find a win to this series?

"I don't see why not," he said, standing outside the locker room. "It's best-of-seven."

This is not to suggest that the Hawks can't come back and claim the series. It's just likely they won't, especially with two games on the opponents' ice. Glass is sure to be rusty, too, after having not played in nearly a month.

There may also be some emotional hangover from the way Spokane came back from two-goal deficits to steal victories at the coliseum on back-to-back nights in Games 3 and 4.

Wednesday's loss was particularly crushing. Portland led 3-1 after two periods and was still ahead 3-2 when the Chiefs pulled goalie Bailey Brkin with 1:40 remaining in regulation. Forty seconds later, after Eli Zummack scored the equalizer, you could have heard a pin drop in the coliseum.

The Hawks got a bit unlucky when 16-year-old rookie center Seth Jarvis drew a delay-of-game penalty in overtime for flipping the puck — however unintentionally — into the stands. That set up Beckman's power-goal, which left the partisans filing out of the arena in silence.

"That's a tough way to finish off the game, for sure," Johnston said.

The Hawks could have made things easier on themselves by beating Seattle once in a home-and-home series to end the regular season. The Thunderbirds won both, allowing Spokane to beat Portland by one point in the standings and command home ice advantage in the playoff series.

Johnston felt this year's team, led by Glass and Blichfeld, could do some damage in the playoffs even with a youthful roster. In Game 4, the Hawks trotted out four 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds among the 12 forwards in their rotation. Wings Cross Hanas and Robbie Fromm-Delorme, both 16-year-old players, were on the same line much of the night.

"We have a really young team, but (the 16- and 17-year-olds) are handling things well," Johnston said. "They've matured over the course of the year. Their preparation during the year has been for this moment. I'm proud of our guys. Without Cody, and without (defenseman John) Ludvig for two games (due to suspension), we've done a great job in this series."

The Chiefs and Hawks have had just a sliver of difference between them in 10 regular season and postseason meetings this season. Portland was the better team through much of the going in Game 4.

"I'm sure (the Chiefs) are saying, 'Thank God they didn't have Cody and Ludvig,'" Johnston said, "because I think we can beat this team."

"You never want to be down 3-1, but it's a seven-game series," Blichfeld said bravely. "It's not done yet. We're going to keep believing. We have a game on Saturday."

As Glass and his father, Jeff, walked out of Memorial Coliseum to their car, an arena worker bid them good night.

"See you Monday," she said.

That's the Hawks' plan, anyway.

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