Winterhawks ride momentum

Bartschi said less mistakes led to Game 2 victory

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PORTLAND — Winning hockey isn’t complicated.

Not the way Portland Winterhawks forward Sven Bartschi sees it, anyway.

Which is why Bartschi wasn’t surprised the Winterhawks beat the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday to square the Western Hockey League championship series at one win apiece.

Bartschi, who had two goals in Friday’s 5-1 victory in Edmonton, said his team started to gain momentum midway through the first game on Thursday when they stopped giving away the puck.

“We didn’t make that many good decisions in the first game,” Bartschi said on Saturday, after the Winterhawks returned to Portland to begin preparations for Sunday’s Game 3, which starts at 6 p.m. in the sold-out Rose Garden.

“Hockey’s actually a really easy game,” Bartschi said, “You just have to make the right decisions out there. If you look at it, in the second game I thought they had more turnovers than we had.”

Adjustments had something to do with that. Portland and Edmonton played one regular-season game in October, so both teams are learning about the opponent on the fly.

In Game 1, Edmonton was the more consistent team between the blue lines, which for stretches prevented Portland’s high-speed transition attack from gaining traction.

“I thought after Game 1 our game plan was a little bit more specific, and we adjusted in a couple areas,” Winterhawks head coach and general manager Mike Johnston said.

His team was significantly better in the neutral zone between the blue lines, Johnston said, and also at getting out of its own end of the ice.

“(In Game 1) our breakouts weren’t as clean as we would have liked,” Johnston said. “We brought way too many pucks around the boards. Usually we’re better at settling the puck and making a direct play. I thought we did that better in Game 2.”

Troy Rutkowski, who assisted on Bartschi’s power-play goal that made the score 3-0 in the second period of Game 2, said the defensemen were more comfortable.

“After Game 1 we went through some video and saw what might work,” Rutkowski said. “We think we took advantage of that in Game 2.”

One place the Winterhawks had a significant advantage in Game 2 was the faceoff circles. Portland won 43 of 62 draws, meaning more possession time at both ends of the ice.

“In particular, I thought (Marcel) Noebels and (Taylor) Peters were excellent on the draws. I thought (Cam) Reid was right behind them,” Johnston said. “Those three guys are bigger bodies. They’re tougher guys to handle in the circle, and I think they have an advantage there.”

Notes

• Johnston said that selecting Caleb Jones with its second pick in Thursday’s bantam draft was independent of the fact that the Winterhawks are trying to recruit his older brother. Seth Jones, a defenseman, is considered a potential top pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Johnston said Seth and his mother, Amy, visited Portland last weekend. “I thought it went really well,” Johnston said.

• As for the draft, Johnston said: “(Caleb Jones) was our highest rated defenseman when our turn came up. We wanted to get two defensemen early. We feel our forward group for the next couple of years is going to be really, really good. We needed a couple of good defensemen to go with them.”

• Portland’s first pick in the draft, defenseman Keoni Texeira of Fontana, Calif., is visiting Portland this weekend, Johnston said.

• The Winterhawks announced Saturday afternoon that Game 3 on Sunday is sold out. Tickets still remained for Game 4 on Tuesday at the Rose Garden.