PORTLAND — It started with some fabulous end-to-end play. It ended with a series of fracases.
The Winterhawks’ 4-1 win Friday over the Kamloops Blazers to begin the best-of-7 series had plenty to offer. There was a short-handed goal on a penalty shot from Ty Rattie that put Portland ahead to stay. Winterhawks goalie Mac Carruth shrugged off an early goal for the visitors and shut them out over the final 58 minutes. And the third period offered some old-time hockey anger.
The end result was a convincing win for Portland in the first game of the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference finals in front of 7,079 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
“I though our whole game was pretty solid,” acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. “I thought the start was a little bit sloppy for both teams, but I thought in general it was a pretty good hockey game.”
The teams are back at the Coliseum at 7 p.m. Saturday for Game 2 of the best-of-7 series. The question is, who might be missing after a series of altercations late in Friday’s game led to 10-minute misconduct penalties to three Blazers and a game misconduct for a major penalty against Rattie.
Kamloops scored on its first shot of the night, leading 1-0 only 2:08 into the contest. Joe Kornelsen put away a chance that bounced onto his stick after a Winterhawks turnover.
Portland made it 1-1 at 15:03, with Taylor Leier deflecting a Chase De Leo shot into the goal after the Winterhawks won an offensive zone faceoff.
But Carruth was the star of a first period that saw plenty of end-to-end action. Among his 11 saves in the opening period were a series of close-range denials during a pair of Kamloops power plays.
It was after one such stop that Rattie sped the other way. He got away a shot, but Kamloops defenseman Joel Edmundson was cited for hooking, and Rattie converted on the penalty shot.
“They found a couple of back-door guys early in the game. Luckily I was able to get a pad down there and they didn’t get (the puck) upstairs,” Carruth said. “I thought our D did better in the second and third (periods).”
After the frenzied start, Portland kept Kamloops attack on the perimeter and was especially effective during the Blazers’ five power plays.
“I think our guys played really, really hard. They battled in the corners,” said Carruth, who finished with 33 saves.
The score remained 2-1 until defenseman Troy Rutkowski jammed home a back-door rebound with Portland on the power-play 3:17 into the third period.
“Any time it goes down low, I’m going to go to the net,” Rutkowski said of his power-play responsibility.
He missed his first chance, but the puck came back to him.
“I was fortunate enough to see the puck there and I took a whack at it and it went in,” Rutkowski said.
The fourth goal, with six minutes left, was a Brendan Leipsic back-hander from in tight after the pesky forward forced a turnover and drove to the net for a pass from Nic Petan.
From then on the game became chippy, culminating in a scrum near the benches during which Rattie was cited for checking from behind and sent off. Blazers who earned 10-minute misconduct penalties in the third period were Kale Kessy, JC Lipon and Aaron Macklin.
“I’m sure they came out wanting to push us around,” Rutkowski said. “But I think we held our ground well.”
NOTES — Kamloops forwards Colin Smith and Tim Bozon both returned from the injured list in Game 1. Bozon’s appearance was not expected. He missed the previous seven games with a suspected hand fracture. Smith (head injury) missed the last three games of the Blazers series against Kelowna.