Winterhawks season ends
The Portland Winterhawks' season ended Saturday in Spokane as the Chiefs continued to play well on special teams in a 4-1 win that closed out the Hawks in Game 5 of the Western Hockey League playoff series.
Spokane took the best-of-seven series 4-1 and advances to meet Everett in the second round of the playoffs.
Luke Toporowski and Riley Woods scored two goals apiece for Spokane, and Chiefs goalie Bailey Brkin was solid in a 38-save performance in front of 5,670 fans at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
Cody Glass scored a shorthanded goal to give Portland an early 1-0 lead, but Toporowski scored 48 seconds later on the same power play to stifle any early momentum for the Hawks.
Toporowski scored his second of the period at 17:52, exiting the penalty box to collect a pass from Nolan Reid and score on a breakaway after the Chiefs killed off a Winterhawks power play.
Spokane set the tone with strong play in the offensive zone early, and Portland struggled to build a consistent attack early in the game.
"I thought Spokane worked really hard to get their bounces, especially in a game like tonight," Winterhawks associate coach/assistant GM Kyle Gustafson said. "They seemed to be quick to pucks. They were hard and heavy when they got it.
Portland played a strong second period, putting 18 shots on goal, but was unable to beat Brkin.
Gustafson said the Chiefs played strong positional hockey in their defensive zone.
"We thought we tried as best we could to get on the inside of them and try to get some rebounds and good looks at the net. You've got to give them a lot of credit because they really took it away from us," Gustafson said.
Woods scored twice in the first 3:13 of the third period to turn a one-goal game into a three-goal deficit, and the Chiefs managed the lead the rest of the way.
Portland's Joel Hofer finished with 31 saves, including a series of nice reaction stops in tight.
Gustafson said the 18-year-old Hofer did well in his first WHL playoff series.
"He was good. He was able to give us a chance every night," Gustafson said. "He weathered the storm and Spokane had a lot of flurries at our net. They stayed on pucks and had second and third whacks at it and he was able to defuse that, and (the goals) were just some bounces, too."
Glass got his first action of the playoffs. It was his first game in five weeks and only his fifth game since suffering a knee injury on Jan. 26. It was likely his last for the Winterhawks as the highly-regarded Vegas Golden Knights center will be in line to play in either the American Hockey League or the NHL as a 20-year-old.
Saturday also marked the end of the WHL careers for forward Joachim Blichfeld and defensemen Brendan De Jong and Jared Freadrich, who completed their 20-year-old seasons.
Portland was 0 for 4 on the power play and finished the series 2 for 13 — with both goals and eight of those power plays coming in Game 1. Portland did score once on a delayed penalty.
Spokane, which entered the playoffs with the most productive power play in the WHL, finished the series 6 for 11. Two of the Chiefs' power-play goals were game-winners, including Adam Beckman's overtime winner in Game 4 at Portland.
Gustafson emphasized that the series was well officiated and credited Spokane's talented power play for converting its chances.
"They're a great team. They're built for a long run," Gustafson said. "You look at the makeup of their team, they're filled with a little bit of the older player and they've got some stars in (defenseman Ty) Smith and Jaret Anderson-Dolan that can be difference makers. Two real professional kind of players. They're good on both sides of the puck and obviously they've got some pretty good international experience at World Juniors."
In addition to the absence of Glass and playing almost three full games without top defenseman John Ludvig, from Portland's perspective the series will be remembered for losing the two home games in overtime after having a two-goal lead in the third period of each of those games.
One silver lining for the Hawks is an abundance of playoff experience for young players, including four 16-year-old forwards and 17-year-old Jaydon Dureau who gained significant playoff experience as WHL rookies.
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