Winterhawks focused on challenge ahead

Despite series lead, Portland anticipates big test at Spokane

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PORTLAND -- In the wake of his Winterhawks taking a 2-0 lead on Saturday in their Western Hockey League playoff series with the Spokane Chiefs, acting coach Travis Green was asked if he was concerned that his team would relax in Game 3.

Green noted that it is human nature to relax a bit when a team gains the upper hand in a series -- or in a game, for that matter.

Then the coach pointed out how this Portland team has done well by focusing on the task ahead, no matter what happened in the previous game.

As the best-of-seven series shifts to Spokane Arena for games Tuesday and Wednesday, the most interesting question is not how the Winterhawks will handle the road environment.

The more intriguing question is: How much better will Spokane be on home ice?

Despite losing Game 2 by a 3-0 score on Saturday, the Chiefs created enough scoring chances to be a threat. If Spokane makes a series of it, the Chiefs' dangerous transition offense will probably be the reason.

"You definitely have to be more aware than with some teams, because they feed off (transition) so much and their forwards are really skilled and they have a lot of speed," Winterhawks defensman Seth Jones said.

Jones said it is critical to be smart moving through neutral ice with the puck and when playing near either blue line.

"We need to get pucks deep, and we need to really take care of it. They like to transition on offense. If we take that away from them, I like our chances."

One thing the Winterhawks did not give the Chiefs in the first two games was many power plays. Spokane was a combined 0 for 4 with the man advantage in the first two games, including a couple of abbreviated power plays. Portland, by contrast, was 2 for 12.

Perhaps a less noticeable advantage for the Winterhawks in the first two games was the impact of Portland's third and fourth line players. While the first two lines have produced skilled goals, as usual, the Hawks' other lines have worn on the Chiefs with physical forechecking.

"If you have that depth it's good because you can roll four lines and keep the pace high like we want it," Green said.

NOTE -- Kenton Station, 8303 N. Denver Ave. in Portland is one of several restaurants hosting viewing parties for the games at Spokane. All ages are welcome.