Winterhawks look to be road warriors

Portland tries to close out Everett in Game 6

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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There might not be an easy explanation for why the Everett Silvertips have played their best hockey in Portland, while the Winterhawks have been dominating in Everett so far in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs.

Perhaps road teams find it easier to stick to defensive responsibilities in front of a hostile crowd than in front of home fans eager for goals to cheer.

Everett did a solid job in its two wins at Portland of keeping the Winterhawks' attack on the perimeter.

"I'm not too sure," Portland's Ty Rattie said when asked why the road teams have won four of the first five games in the series. "I know when we go into Everett, their fans don't like us too much so we like to get out to a quick start and keep the fans quiet. I know they feel the same way coming in here. We're looking forward to going back to Everett. It's a good atmosphere there."

The Winterhawks will be back at Comcast Arena tonight, trying to finally close out the lowest seeded team in the Western Conference playoffs. An Everett win in Game 6 would mean a dicey Game 7 on Wednesday for a Portland team that had the league's best record in the regular season.

Interestingly, Portland has had more shots on goal in Everett's two wins than in the three games won by the Winterhawks. Portland averaged 51 shots on Everett goalie Austin Lotz in Games 1 and 5, while averaging only 34 in Portland's three wins. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise, given that the Winterhawks were trying to come from behind in the two losses.

A more telling statistic is the power play. The Winterhawks' power play is hot, scoring 11 goals on 28 opportunities in the series. In Portland's three wins, the Winterhawks have averaged more than six power plays. In Everett's wins, Portland has had a combined nine power-play chances (scoring on four of those).

So, the challenge for Everett is to limit penalties. That's where staying in position and ignoring temptations to gamble for offense will come into play.

Truth is, Portland shouldn't need to gamble. The Winterhawks' speed and skill is superior to the Silvertips. Truth is, if not for some tough luck on scoring chances Saturday, Portland wouldn't be in Everett tonight.

Rattie, who played extra shifts in Game 5 as the Winterhawks tried to erase a 3-0 deficit in the third period, blamed himself for Saturday's loss, pointing to a series of high-quality scoring chances that rolled off his stick or bounced off a post.

"I pride myself on putting those in all the time," Rattie said after the game. "(It was) one of those games where you had the chance to win and you didn't. Personally, I know I'll be better next game, and I know our team will be better."

NOTE — The Calgary Flames announced Sunday that they signed Winterhawks defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon to a three-year entry level contract. Wotherspoon was drafted by the Flames in the second round, 57th overall, in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.