Strong start carries host Rockets to 4-2 win over Portland in Game 1 of WHL conference semifinal series

COURTESY: MARISSA BAECKER - Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks goes on the attack against the Kelowna Rockets in Game 1 of their second-round Western Hockey League playoff series Friday night at Kelowna, British Columbia.The Kelowna Rockets dominated the attack zone for the firstg two periods on Friday in a 4-2 Western Hockey League playoff win over the Portland Winterhawks.

The Rockets scored four goals in the second period, then held off a late push from the Winterhawks in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Brad Ginnell and Cody Glass scored third-period goals for Portland, which did not have a real high-quality scoring chance during the first two periods.

Calvin Thurkauf had a goal and two assists to lead the Kelowna offense. Kole Lind and Reid Gardiner each had a goal and an assist and Dillon Dube also scored for the Rockets.

Kelowna outshot Portland 43-12 while controlling the game for first two periods.

"They came at us hard and really had us on our heels," Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston said.

Winterhawks goalie Cole Kehler finished the night with 50 saves.

Kelowna's speed on the forecheck kept Portland hemmed in for long stretches during the first two periods. Strong play from Kehler kept the game scoreless through the first period, despite a 21-7 shot advantage for Kelowna.

The Rockets' pressure finally paid off early in the second period, when they scored three goals in a span of 1:35.

Thurkauf opened the scoring 3:42 into the second period, scoring at the end of an extended Kelowna forecheck.

The next two goals came from odd-man rushes, with Lind converting at 4:32 and Gardiner at 5:17.

Dube scored a power-play at 16:08 of the second period for the fourth Rockets goal, converting a pass from Thurkauf on a quick push into the zone from a Portland turnover in neutral ice.

"It was really off the rush" that the Rockets caused the most problems, Johnston said. "We got caught with our defense in too deep a few times and gave them a lot of good opportunities. We can't do that against a team like Kelowna."

The Winterhawks finally got some flow to their play in the third period. Ginnell nearly scored from a faceoff play, his shot catching the crossbar on Portland's first high-quality scoring chance. Moments later Skyler McKenzie forced a save from Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer.

"I thought we got our skating going in the third period," said Johnston who also pointed to fewer turnovers as a key to establishing some attack time in the third period.

The first Portland goal was scored by Ginnell at 10:50 of the third period with a delayed penalty call against Kelowna. Ginnell put home his second playoff goal from a rebound off a shot from Brendan De Jong.

From then on the Winterhawks continued to assert themselves. Glass scored his third goal of these playoffs with 2:26 left in the game to make it 4-2.

Portland got one more chance with a power play, and Herringer robbed McKenzie of a goal with a lunging glove save to keep the Rockets two-goal cushion.

Portland outshot Kelowna 17-11 in the third period, when the game became more end-to-end.

"We have to play like we did in the third," Johnston said. "We've got to carry that over into the next game."

Getting the tempo up and playing a speed game starts with having poise on the puck in the defensive zone and making smart decisions on break-out plays, Johnston said.

The Winterhawks also must do a better job of winning battles for loose pucks, Johnston said.

Herringer finished with 27 saves on the night, including a quality stop on a chance for Evan Weinger with the score 4-1.

The Winterhawks were 1 for 5 on the power play, though both goals came with an extra skater on the ice. The Rockets power play finished 1 for 4.

Games 3 and 4 of the series will be played at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at Memorial Coliseum.

In the other Western Conference semifinal series, Seattle won Game 1 at Everett 3-2, scoring the winner with 59 seconds left in the third period.

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