The Kelowna Rockets get set to take on the Portland Winterhawks in game five of the second round of the 2017 WHL Playoffs, hoping to close out the best-of-seven series.
The Rockets are coming off of a 7-2 bounce back victory last night in game four after dropping game three 4-2 in Portland. Head Coach Jason Smith says it was easy to see the difference in games three and four.
“Game four was a good bounce back game. We had more pace and more jump,” said Smith. “We had no pause or hesitation which allowed us to be quicker getting out of our defensive end and gave us more possession time to create more offence.”
Emotions are running high in this series. The two clubs are proving their playoff rivalry has not been lost. Smith says that’s what playoffs are about.
“Playoff hockey is always full of energy and intensity,” Smith said. “It’s what these players have worked for all season.”
Kelowna heads into Friday night with a 3-1 series lead.
The Series So Far:
Game One: The Rockets came out of the gates firing at will but Winterhawks netminder Cole Kehler held the two teams scoreless after one period, despite being outshot 21-7 in that frame. Calvin Thurkauf burst onto the scoreboard for the first time in the post season, finally solving Kehler in the second period. Less than a minute later Kole Lind scored his third, followed by Reid Gardiner who scored his sixth. Dillon Dube scored his fifth before the period was out and the Rockets took a 4-0 lead into the final frame. The Winterhawks pushed back in the third as Brad Ginnell picked up his second and Cody Glass scored his third but the Rockets held on for a 4-2 victory, with the final shots being 54-29 for Kelowna. Thurkauf led the Rockets with a goal and two assists.
Game Two: It took until the second period again but this time it was Kole Lind who got on the score sheet first midway through the period. Two minutes later Tomas Soustal tipped home his second of the playoffs. Before the second period was over Joachim Blichfeld cut the lead in half with his third of the post season for the Winterhawks. Six minutes into the third James Hilsendager took a wrist shot that found its way from the point to the back of the net for his first career playoff goal. Nick Merkley put home an empty netter to make the score 4-1 with just over a minute to play. Ryan Hughes responded immediately following that, but Merkley tallied a second empty netter for the Rockets to end game two with a 5-2 victory. Merkley led the Rockets with two goals and an assist.
Game Three: The Winterhawks made the most of their hometown crowd in game three. Evan Weinger got the ball rolling for the Hawks with his second. Then Calvin Thurkauf responded for the Rockets with his second to round out the first period scoring. In the middle frame the Winterhawks exploded for three to give themselves a 4-1 lead. Goal scorers were Joachim Blichfeld (4), Caleb Jones (1), and Skyler McKenzie (4). Thurkauf scored again collecting his third of the post season but it wouldn’t be enough as the Rockets fell 4-2.
Game Four: Kelowna came to play in game four. The scoring started early with Carsen Twarynski potting his third 1:48 in to the opening period. Both teams would be held scoreless for the remainder of that frame but then came the second period. Kelowna collected a pair of goals in the second period from Reid Gardiner (7, 8) before Cody Glass got the Hawks on the board with his fourth. Nick Merkley was then awarded a penalty shot in which he capitalized for his third to answer back for the Rockets. Then to close out the period Calvin Thurkauf scored his fourth and fifth to give the Rockets a commanding 6-1 lead. Caleb Jones would score in the final stanza for the Hawks, but Rodney Southam responded with a shorthanded marker for his first of the playoffs as the Rockets came out as 7-2 victors in game four. Reid Gardiner led Kelowna with two goals and two assists.
The Rockets will be without Cal Foote and Carsen Twarynski on Friday night as they are both serving suspensions. Foote was given a three game suspension following a hit on Winterhawks forward Skyler McKenzie in game three. Foote has served one game (did not play in game four) and has two remaining to serve. Twarynski’s suspension length has yet to be determined following a hit last night on Winterhawks captain Keegan Iverson.
The Winterhawks will be without forward Evan Weinger as he still has to serve one game of his two game suspension that he was given following game three.
Kelowna currently leads the best-of-seven series 3-1 making game five a possible elimination game. That game goes tomorrow night at Prospera Place at 7:05pm.
If necessary the series will shift back to Portland for game six.
The whole series schedule goes as follows:
|1||Portland||@||Kelowna||Friday, April 7||7:05|
|2||Portland||@||Kelowna||Saturday, April 8||7:05|
|3||Kelowna||@||Portland||Tuesday, April 11||7:00|
|4||Kelowna||@||Portland||Wednesday, April 12||7:00|
|5 *||Portland||@||Kelowna||Friday, April 14||7:05|
|6 *||Kelowna||@||Portland||Sunday, April 16||5:00|
|7 *||Portland||@||Kelowna||Tuesday, April 18||7:05|
* If necessary