Wednesday, April 6, 2011 Capital News
’Hawks favoured but Rockets undeterred Warren Henderson STAFF REPORTER
For at least two reasons—50 regular season wins and a better headto-head record—the Portland Winterhawks are favoured, by most, to ground the Kelowna Rockets in the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs. However, delete the first five weeks of the 2010-11 campaign and you’d be hard pressed to find much disparity between the teams. Since Nov.1, playoffs included, the Winterhawks have posted a 4217-0-2 record. Despite finishing with 16 fewer points overall, the Rockets ran up an uncannily similar mark of 43-18-0-1 during the same stretch. Portland took three of
four regular season meetings between the clubs but all three wins came before Oct. 31. The rejuvenated Rockets won the last encounter, 5-3 on Jan. 16 at Prospera Place. Toss out Kelowna’s shaky 4-10 start to the season and what does it all add up to ? A series that perhaps isn’t quite as cut and dried as the overall numbers would suggest. So while getting past the high-powered Winterhawks will prove a formidable task, Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton expects his team to put up a fight, for better or worse. “If we go into this thinking we can’t beat them, we’re in trouble before we start,” said Hamilton. “I think (Portland) played in a tougher division than us, so I don’t
Western Conference semi-final
ZAK STEBNER (left) and the Kelowna Rockets will take on Ty Rattie’s Portland Winterhawks Thursday in Game 1 of their Western Conference
Kelowna vs Portland
Thursday, April 7 Kelowna Rockets Winterhawks
@ 7 p.m.
Sunday, April 8 Kelowna Rockets Winterhawks
@ 5 p.m.
Tuesday, April 12 Portland Winterhawks Rockets
@ 7 p.m.
Wednesday, April 13 Portland Winterhawks Rockets
@ 7 p.m.
Friday, April 15 Kelowna Rockets Winterhawks
@ 7 p.m.*
Sunday, April 17 Portland Winterhawks Rockets
@ 5 p.m.*
Tuesday, April 19 Kelowna Rockets Winterhawks
@ 7 p.m.*
know how much you can read into those records. Having said that, our team has gotten a lot better since Christmas, we did win our division and that says something. In November, I don’t think anyone gave us a chance of being where we are. “We know this will be tough, but we have a chance to extend this thing.” At first glance, the series matches up as Portland’s potent offensive attack and skill against the Rockets work ethic, adherence to the system and goaltending. Led by the likes of Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Bartschi and Craig Cunningham, Portland scored the third most goals (303)
in the WHL this season. With Adam Brown holding the fort, the Rockets posted the second lowest goal total(201) in the Western Conference during the regular season. Hamilton expects goaltending to play a significant role in the series but said the 19-year-old Brown will need to be better than in Kelowna’s firstround sweep of Prince George when he yielded 13 goals. In the big picture, Hamilton said the Rockets’ success will hinge on team play prevailing over Portland’s talent. “A lot of their guys are high-end players so we can’t go battleship-tobattleship with them and expect to win,” said Hamilton. “They’re bigger and
they’re bit older, too. “For us, that’ll mean playing a better team game, making sure we make it difficult on them. We have to play a style of game that disrupts them, and frustrates them. This will be very tough for us, there’s no question.” “It will be a good challenge for our coaches and our players.” A potential challenge for both teams will be the protracted time it will take to play the first two games of the series. The Rockets left Tuesday for Portland with Games 1 and 2 slated for Thursday and Sunday. That means five days in the Oregon city before returning home in the wee hours of next Monday. The Rose Garden—
the Winterhawks home arena for the playoffs— is booked on both Friday and Saturday nights by basketball games. And while not the ideal situation, Hamilton doesn’t expect the extended layover to have an adverse effect on his team. “If anything, it’ll give us a chance to make some adjustments after the first game if we need to,” he said. “But really, both teams are in the same boat. It don’t think it’s going to be a problem, Portland’s a nice city and we’ll be able to create some things for the guys to do between games. After that, it really picks up, we could have four games in six days with a lot of travel added in. Maybe the downtime
now won’t be such a bad thing.” Games 3 and 4 are set for next Tuesday and Wednesday nights at Prospera Place.
Rockets centre Shane McColgan has earned WHL player of the week honours. The Manhattan Beach, Calif. native picked up five points on three goals and two assists to lead the Rockets to a four-game sweep of the Prince George in the opening round of the playoffs. With 10 points overall, McColgan shares the playoff scoring lead with Portland’s Nino Niederreiter and Saskatoon’s Brayden Schenn.
NO APPOINTMENT NEEDED! IT’S ABOUT A 10 MINUTE AVERAGE WAIT TIME.
Published on Apr 5, 2011