Sure, the Portland Winterhawks wanted to avoid a return trip to Edmonton.
But, statistically anyway, the Winterhawks figure to be in their comfort zone for Sunday’s Game 6 of the Western Hockey League championship series. And not only because they still lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and have a second chance to clinch the league title.
Because in games away from Portland, these Winterhawks have been dominant.
In the playoffs, Portland has won eight of its nine road games, including Games 3 and 4 in Edmonton this week. That follows a regular season in which the Winterhawks won a league-record 29 times on the road, losing in regulation time only five times.
In comparison, the Winterhawks are 7-4 in home playoff games this season games after Friday’s heart-wrenching overtime loss that extended the championship series.
“We’ve been a phenomenal road team,” Winterhawks captain Troy Rutkowski said. “I think our guys enjoy the challenge of trying to go into an away barn and steal a game.”
Acting Winterhawks coach Travis Green said the success away from home is a reflection of how steady his team is emotionally.
“They don’t get affected by a lot of things that are happening that are real good to them, or a lot of things that most people would be affected (by) negatively,” Green said. “Our guys just go out play and compete and work hard.”
The Winterhawks did that on Friday. They produced 51 shots on goal and several dangerous chances that missed the target. They stayed out of the penalty box and with a little better luck probably would have been skating around the Rose Garden ice with the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
But, after coming up short in the finals the previous two seasons, the Winterhawks vividly understand that championships aren’t handed out.
“It’s a tough series,” Brendan Leipsic said. “We’re going on the road now, and good teams win on the road, so we’re going to have to get it done in Edmonton.”
• Vancouver native Trevor Cheek got as close to the action as he has been in the finals during Game 5 on Friday. Cheek, who has missed every game with an undisclosed injury, was on the bench with his Edmonton teammates dressed in suit and tie. Injured players usually watch from the stands, so it was a tribute to Cheek’s leadership for the Oil Kings that coach Derek Laxdal had Cheek on the bench.
• Game 7, if necessary, will be played at 7 p.m. Monday at the Rose Garden. Tickets went on sale immediately after Friday’s Game 5. For ticket information, visit www.winterhawks.com.