The Kamloops Blazers hope playing at home can generate some positive results against the Portland Winterhawks.
The Blazers haven’t scored a goal in 117 minutes and 50 seconds, since their first shot of the Western Conference finals surprised Winterhawks goalie Mac Carruth.
Portland scored four goals in each of the first two games of the Western Hockey League playoff series, but it was the Winterhawks’ defense that dominated the two games in Portland.
Including playoffs, the Blazers have won 31 of 41 games played this season at the 6,400-seat Interior Savings Center. Given that Kamloops has not advanced this far in the playoffs since 1999, the Winterhawks expect to face a revved up crowd.
But the noise isn’t likely to distract a Portland team that has been very focused in winning seven consecutive games. The Winterhawks won a WHL-record 29 road games during the regular season and are 4-0 away from Portland in these playoffs.
“We’ve had some success up in Kamloops. But it’s going to be a rocking barn. We’re going to have to be ready for some of their pushes,” Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic said after Game 2 on Saturday.
Leipsic pointed to defense as the main reason the Hawks have been so consistent away from home. And their defense certainly was consistent in the first two games.
“They’ve got a lot of good offensive guys, and we’ve kind of kept them quiet,” Leipsic said. “We’re looking forward to doing that again in Games 3 and 4.”
When asked how playing in Kamloops might help the Blazers, acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green stuck to his theme of focusing on his own team playing its best.
“I don’t know if they’ll play a lot better. I don’t know if they’ll be any different. Obviously that’s up to them,” Green said after Game 2. “The next game is a big one. I expect we’ll probably see their best game of the series in Game 3.”
Scoring first in Game 3 might be critical for Kamloops. Scoring more than once probably will be necessary, too.
Carruth has allowed one goal or fewer in five consecutive games, dating to a 7-2 win over Spokane in Game 2 of the second playoff round.
Portland’s top players have played big. Ty Rattie, who on Monday was named the WHL player of the week, had a goal and two assists in each of the first two games. Leipsic has two goals and three assists in the series. Portland’s defenseman have been active at both ends of the ice, and Carruth has stopped 60 consecutive shots.
One key to the first two games was the dominance of Portland’s penalty kill. Kamloops failed to convert on 10 power-play chances, and at times the Winterhawks were more dangerous a man short than the Blazers were a man up. Portland got a short-handed penalty-shot goal from Rattie in Game 1.
Portland is 3 for 11 on the power play in the series and is a league-best 19 for 63 (30.1 percent) through 12 playoff games.
• Carruth is the WHL’s nominee for the Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the week honor.
• Portland has six players averaging at least one point per game through 12 playoff contests, headed up by Rattie’s league-best 25 points (13 goals and 12 assists).
• Viewing parties — Kenton Station, 8303 N. Denver Ave., in Portland hosts an all-ages viewing party for all Winterhawks playoff road games. For Game 4 Wednesday, The Rock in Vancouver, 2420 Columbia House Blvd., also will host an all-ages viewing party.