Winterhawks Secure Playoff Berth, look to Climb Ladder With 6 Games Left
Friday, March 10, 2017
Stuart Kemp, Oregon Sports News
Before the third period was over in the game between the Portland Winterhawks and Prince George Cougars, the Hawks knew that their playoff fate was sealed. In Spokane, the Chiefs fell flat and allowed Everett two goals in the first period, which is all they needed as the Silvertips cruised to a 4-0 shutout in Spokane. With the loss, there was simply no way for the Chiefs to pick up enough points to catch Portland.
The Hawks were also keeping their eye on another game in the BC Division between the Kamloops Blazers and Victoria Royals who were leading the Winterhawks by five points in the Conference standings. Victoria jumped out to a 2-0 lead but allowed a goal just seconds after scoring their second to end the first, but the spark was in Kamloops' favor. With four more unanswered goals in the next two periods, the Blazers skated away with a 5-2 win.
Portland, meanwhile had a chance to earn their playoff spot as well as take a bite out of the leads of the next two teams lead in the conference those being the idle Tri-City Americans and Victoria Royals who had just lost. Early in the game, Cody Glass and then Skyler McKenzie opened up a 2-0 lead, only to see a regular strength goal and powerplay goal by the Cougars to knot the game at 2 at the end of one period. Less than a minute into period two, an extended powerplay netted the Cougars their first lead of the game. Keegan Iverson netted his 22nd of the year to tie the game to end the second period. Cody Glass with his second of the night and Joachim Blichfeld pocketed a goal each before the midway point of the third to restore the two-goal lead in the game. Less than thirty seconds later, Colby McAuley scored for Prince George, but the Cougars could get no closer as the Hawks won a tough, hard fought, 5-4 victory.
With Spokane now officially eliminated, Portland sets its sights on the Americans and Royals with just six games left in the season and a three-point deficit. The Hawks can do no worse than eighth place and could end as high as sixth depending on how the two teams ahead of them do in the next week of games. The regular season will end on Sunday, March 19.
Portland will officially start on the road to start the playoffs on the weekend of March 24 and 25 in one of three potential cities and would look to have home games on March 28 and 29 if the schedule holds true as in previous years. Everett holds down top spot in the conference, one point up on Seattle and two points on Prince George with the Cougars having just four games remaining having played one more than Seattle and three more than Everett.
Portland has two games left against Spokane, one on the road this weekend and one at home to end the season that will be only games left where they will play a team with a lower record than them. It's playoff hockey mode now and the Hawks are in them again, a streak that started in 2009-10.