Kamloops goalie Cole Cheveldave missed most of last year's series vs. Portland due to injury (photo: WHL.ca)
The Kamloops Blazers didn’t quite pull off a stunning rally from a 3-0 series deficit against the Portland Winterhawks last season, but just forcing a Game 7 in their second-round series reawakened Kamloops as a hockey town.
After more than a decade of dormancy, the Blazers are now relevant again and get a second shot at the Winterhawks, who are seeking a third straight trip to the WHL final.
The Hawks and Blazers are old, bitter rivals that faced off nine times in the playoffs between 1982 and 1995, but last year’s series was their first against each other in 17 years.
Portland won the first three games and led handily in Game 4 before the Blazers began their comeback. Even though Kamloops managed to squeak out a Game 4 victory and then hammered the Hawks in Game 5 in Portland, the Hawks again looked likely to close out the series in six games.
But the Blazers had one more rally in them, coming back from 5-2 down in the third period of Game 6 to win 7-6 on a goal with 20 seconds left in regulation. A year later, “Game 6” is still talked about as one of the greatest moments in franchise history.
Of course, Portland fans will point out that the Blazers don’t talk much about Game 7, a breathtakingly intense affair the Winterhawks won 2-0 behind a brilliant performance from goalie Mac Carruth and a third-period insurance goal from Brendan Leipsic.
The Blazers used the rally and eventual disappointment as fuel for this season, while the Winterhawks have mostly tried to forget the palpable sense of dread that permeated the Portland air as a three-game lead disappeared.
Now, they get to do it all over again, and if it’s anything like last year, players, coaches and fans for both teams are in for some sleepless nights.
Below, BTN's Cam Charron and Scott Sepich take a look at the Western Conference final.
Read More »from Old adversaries Kamloops and Portland resume recently renewed rivalry: WHL Western Conference final preview