Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Not surprised at game 3 outcome

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  • Am I surprised at last night's game three result? Honestly, no. Why? We knew the Portland Winterhawks are a better team than what they showed in games 1 and 2. You don't win 40 games by fluke my friends. The urgency level would also be higher for the home team in an effort not to go down 3-0 in this series. The third reason I wasn't surprised at last night's Winterhawks 4-2 win was the Rockets inability to kick an opponent when they are down. We
    saw it in game three of an opening round series against the Kamloops Blazers when the Rockets won the opening two games. The Rockets lost game three - 4-1. The two game 3's are eerily similar. The Blazers opened the scoring in game three. The Rockets tied it. The Blazers would score three-second period goals. Sound familiar now? Last night, the execution was off. The race to loose pucks were lost and the team just didn't play with the type of jam you need to win. The Winterhawks were the better team without question and were full marks for getting back in this series. For my money, tonight, in game four, is the real indicator of where this series is headed.   
  • The Winterhawks had more puck possession in game three than maybe they had in games 1 and 2. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Portland had the puck more after chasing it when this series opened. I thought they did a better job of shot blocking and we saw, for the first time in this series, the d-core joining the rush and creating scoring chances. A good indicator was Keoni Texeira joining the attack less than 2 minutes into the first period and Caleb Jones was better with a goal and an assist. I thought Jones made better calculated decision and didn't try to do too much, which got him into trouble in the first two games. The Winterhawks forecheck, which was non-existent in game 1 and 2 because they never had the puck was solid. It was the little men that were doing the heavily lifting in that department. Ryan Hughes was buzzing around and Skyler MacKenzie was effective. Again, it all added up to a solid home ice win 
  • Calvin Thurkauf scored two power play goals, but this game may have been lost on the power play. Why? The back breaking goal for me was the shorthanded goal from MacKenzie with :57 seconds left in the second period. If the Rockets score, it's a 3-2 deficit. Instead, the 'shorty' gives the Winterhawks a 4-1 advantage going into the final 20 minutes. The goal was like shoving a nail into a rubber tube. The air came out and the fate of game three was sealed. Portland managed the puck well in the third, which all good teams do with a three goal lead, and the the hometown crowd celebrated with their first victory of the series.   
  • The elbow. Rockets d-man Cal Foote delivered an elbow to the face of Winterhawks forward Skyler MacKenzie with 40 seconds left in the game. The two were racing for a loose puck inside the Rockets zone against the boards. As Foote approached the puck, he saw MacKenzie coming and blatantly stuck out his elbow. The much smaller MacKenzie (5'8 160) went down quickly and Foote was accessed a 'hit to the head' minor penalty. It could have been more than just a 2 minute minor penalty and Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston rightfully let the officiating staff know. Will MacKenzie play in game four or does he sit out for concussion prodigal? Does Foote have a conversation with the WHL office? I don't think we've heard the last of this story.
  • While Cole Kehler was named the 1st star in last night's game, I thought it was his lightest workload of the series. The 19 year-old made 28 saves, but his biggest was a glove hand stop on Dillon Dube when the game was scoreless. Had Dube scored, what direction would the game have taken? It is the timely saves that are often the difference between winning and losing. Scoring the first goal doesn't hurt either. The team that has scored the opening goal has won all three games.
  • Winterhawks Head Coach Mike Johnston told me before game three that he thought his team was flat because of the extensive travel his team experienced in an opening round series with the Prince George Cougars. I am buying what he is selling. I don't see it as a lame excuse. If a coach makes a lame excuse for losing, I won't be afraid to call him out on this blog - trust me!
  • The Rockets coaching staff pointed out that they thought the best skater for them was rookie Kyle Topping. Topping was rewarded in the third period when he was seen playing alongside Dillon Dube and Carsen Twarynski. Topping was finishing checks and playing 'the right way'. But if Topping is your best player, that isn't a very good sign of the commitment of the older group on your roster that has to be at its best at this time of the year. I expect them to answer the bell tonight in game four. 
  • It was nice to see some familiar faces at last night's game. I ran into many Winterhawks fans that enjoy our broadcasts and like talking hockey. One gentleman even asked me if colour analyst Kent Simpson made the trip to Portland. That he did not. Simpson does have a day job. The one person I wish I was able to share a few minutes with last night was John Kirby. Kirby shockingly passed away in February at only 63. Man life sucks and is so short. That is why my mantra in life is to treat people right.  
  • I want to thank Todd Vrooman and Andy Kemper for joining me the last couple of games in an effort to give me and my listeners a Portland Winterhawks perspective on what they see in this series. Both are knowledgeable, outspoken and opinionated. I even attempted to goat Todd  into saying something positive about the Seattle Thunderbirds. Nothing! He spun it well, though ,saying the T-Birds are guided by a solid head coach who was a great Portland Winterhawks player. Well played.  
  • Regardless of the outcome of game four tonight at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, I will not be posting a blog entry on a recap of the game. I am traveling back to Kelowna for game five on Friday and the turnaround time is just too quick. 
  • I want to thank whoever put the words 'Veterans Memorial Coliseum' on the top of the score-clock. For whatever reason, I struggle saying those three words in a sentence.

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