Winterhawks eager to get going again

Playoff series with Kamloops doesn't start until Friday

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter






Friday, April 19

Kamloops at Portland, 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum

Saturday, April 20

Kamloops at Portland, 7 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum

Tuesday, April 23

Portland at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, April 24

Portland at Kamloops, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 26

Kamloops at Portland, 7 p.m. at Rose Garden Arena (if necessary)

Sunday, April 28

Portland at Kamloops, 6 p.m. (if necessary)

Tuesday, April 30

Kamloops at Portland, 7 p.m. at Rose Garden Arena (if necessary)

PORTLAND — Weeks off are nice, of course.

But the Portland Winterhawks and Kamloops Blazers probably would prefer not to wait until Friday to get their Western Hockey League Western Conference finals series started.

When a team is on a roll like the Winterhawks — who swept aside Spokane with unexpected domination — it wants to keep playing. But acting coach Travis Green is confident his Hawks will handle the off time with the same commitment it has shown much of this season.

Arriving back from Spokane after 4 a.m. on Thursday, the team was given Thursday and Friday off. Green said practices this week would be similar to most weeks during the season, with a couple of hard practices and several lighter sessions.

"I won't have to push them, they'll want to be pushed," Green said, noting that his team will be eager for some competitive practices during the week.

Green noted that Kamloops has the same layoff, so both teams will enter Game 1 on Friday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum rested and eager to compete.

In Kamloops, the Winterhawks face a team that returns many of the key parts of the team that took Portland to seven games in last season's playoffs. The Blazers went 47-20-2-3 in the regular-season, the fourth best record in the league. While that was 18 points fewer than the league-leading Winterhawks, Kamloops is a team that is built for a championship run, Green said.

"Kamloops has had a great season," Green said. "They're built to win (the championship). Their mind set is to try to win the whole thing this year, just like ours is. So it will be a tough series."

Both teams are 8-2 in the playoffs, and coming off four-game sweeps — the Winterhawks over Spokane and the Blazers over Kelowna (two in overtime).

Portland won three of the four regular-season games between the teams, including strong performances in a 5-2 win on Jan. 30 at home and in a 3-0 win on Feb. 20 in Kamloops.