Craig Cunningham and Sven Bartschi both recorded 3-points to pace the Portland Winterhawks to a 6-3 win on Monday eliminating the Spokane Chiefs and punching their ticket to the WHL finals. Portland outshot Spokane 38-27 overall and in each individual period as well but they needed a big third period to take out the Chiefs.
After a lopsided Game 4 in which Spokane thumped Portland 8-3, the critics were out in full force and took aim at Portland. The Chiefs were considered the more well rounded team while the 'Hawks were described as a collection of individuals. But the embarrassing loss seemed to kick start Portland and they captured both Game 5 and 6 to claim the series.
Spokane jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than four minutes into Game 6 thanks to goals from Marek Kalus and Mike Aviani. The next three lamp lighters came from Portland shooters and then Spokane evened the game again to send the teams to the second intermission tied at 3.
Troy Rutkowski's eventual game winner came 5 minutes in the final period and Ty Rattie and Nino Niedrreiter added insurance markers as Portland scored three unanswered goals.
The WHL championship series will begin in Portland on Friday night. The Kootenay Ice, winners of 11 straight games and boasting two consecutive series sweeps, will likely be considered the underdog but there will be no chance that Portland takes them for granted.
Game 2 will be played Saturday and then there will be two days off before back-to-back nights for games 3 and 4 in Cranbrook.
More analysis of the Portland-Kootenay match up as the week goes on.