Winterhawks remain confident heading into Game 7
Portland has put tough loss at Kamloops in past
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
PORTLAND -- Like a political campaign taking a hit in the polls, the Portland Winterhawks organization spent Tuesday trying to rally its base and shift the narrative.
The Western Hockey League club hung a banner on the Skidmore Street overpass above southbound Interstate 5 that read “Welcome to Hawkeytown.”
It used social media to encourage fans to welcome the team home from its latest frustrating trip to Canada.
The players seemed to appreciate the group of about 40 fans who answered the call, meeting the team’s bus when it arrived at Memorial Coliseum almost an hour behind schedule.
“It’s great to see the support out here today,” Winterhawks captain William Wrenn said. “I’m sure it helps the guys a lot.”
The Winterhawks will take all the help they can get today, when they tangle one last time with the Kamloops Blazers to decide who advances to the WHL Western Conference finals.
The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. The winner will advance to face Tri-City or Spokane (who play their own Game 7 today in Kennewick).
One week ago, a spot in the conference finals seemed a certainty for Portland. The Winterhawks won the first three games of this series, and took a 4-0 first-period lead in Game 4. From that point on, Kamloops has seized the moment. The latest was the Blazers’ third-period storm on Monday, turning a 5-2 deficit into a 7-6 win.
Wrenn said Kamloops deserves credit for turning the momentum around and forcing a seventh game. But not all of it.
“We decided to shoot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” Wrenn said. “But, they’re playing very well. They’re doing what then need to do as a team. They have a lot of confidence.”
The Winterhawks’ confidence?
“It’s fine,” veteran center Taylor Peters said. “On the bus the guys put everything in the past and we’re just focused on the task at hand. That’s winning one game.”
The Winterhawks have played some good hockey, and had significant leads in two of their three losses. But the puck seemed to bounce right for the Blazers when Kamloops most needed a break.
“It’s easy to play the pity card when we’re not getting bounces, but you’ve just got to overcome it,” Wrenn said. “You’ve just got to notch up your work ethic a little more. Stick to our game. Our coaches have been very smart about the systems they put in and the way they formed our team. So we just have to follow that plan, notch up our work ethic and be willing to sacrifice and block shots and take hits.”
Six of the current Winterhawks were in Game 7 at Spokane in 2010, when Portland overcame a 3-0 deficit and won on Ty Rattie’s overtime goal.
That is one example of the experience edge the Winterhawks believe gives them an edge.
“It’s about handling the moment, handling the situation,” Winterhawks head coach and general manager Mike Johnston said. “It’s about being ready, and about key guys rising up.”
The Trail Blazers play at the Rose Garden today. Winterhawks’ fans who buy tickets in advance can purchase Rose Quarter parking for $8 per car. ... If Portland wins today, the conference finals will start on Friday or Saturday, either at Kennewick if Tri-City is the opponent or in Portland if Spokane advances.