Winterhawks' focus is on the Silvertips

Playoffs start Friday for Portland-Everett

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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A record-setting Western Hockey League regular-season behind them, the Portland Winterhawks on Friday begin pursuit of a championship.

The Everett Silvertips, the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, provide the first hurdle. Game 1 of the best-of-7 series starts at 7 p.m. at the Rose Garden.

Portland, which has reached the WHL finals the previous two seasons, won nine of the 10 regular-season games against Everett. In those games, the Winterhawks outscored the Silvertips 50-22.

Portland scored a league-best 334 goals over the 72-game regular-season. Everett scored a league-low 172.

Still, figure the Silvertips have the Hawks' attention.

"(The Silvertips) have good depth up front. They like to play four lines and they like to play with speed," Winterhawks acting head coach Travis Green said. "Their goalie (17-year-old Austin Lotz) has played well this year. Their defense is fairly deep. They'll be well prepared."

This will be the fourth go at the playoffs for Winterhawks Ty Rattie, Troy Rutkowski and Mac Carruth.

Rattie said that last season the Winterhawks played their best hockey during the playoffs. This team is deeper if a bit younger overall.

"I think we have more depth up front and a more sturdy back end," Rattie said, comparing this Winterhawks team with the one that came within one win of claiming the 2012 WHL title. "We're a speedy team. We are a little bit smaller, but we'll beat teams with our speed."

• Seven of the 12 WHL Western Conference all-stars are Winterhawks. Carruth, Seth Jones and Nic Petan are first-teamers. Rutkowski, Tyler Wotherspoon, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie are second-teamers. Carruth was named the Western Conference goalie of the year, and Jones the Western Conference rookie of the year.