Kelowna Rockets have skill, experience to pose major challenge for Portland

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The Portland Winterhawks celebrate one of their four playoff victories against the Prince George Cougars.To trace how the Portland Winterhawks morphed into a team capable of beating the Western Hockey League's big boys at the biggest time of the year, look back at Jan. 28.

The Rockets had won the first three meetings with Portland and looked ready to sweep the regular-season series, leading 4-1 that evening.

Instead of accepting their fate, the Hawks went to work. And, when Joachim Blichfeld scored with four seconds left, Portland had a 5-4 win.

Now, as Winterhawks prepare to take on the Rockets in the second round of the WHL playoffs, that January triumph — the third in an eight-game win streak — shines as a moment that injected belief into a raw, young team.

"That was really huge for our confidence," 19-year-old forward Alex Overhardt said after Portland polished off Prince George with a 4-2 Monday playoff victory at Memorial Coliseum. "It showed we can play with those top teams in the league, those big heavy strong teams and skilled teams."

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