Nick Merkley scores to give Kelowna a 1-0 lead over Portland in the first period of Game 2 of the WHL's Western Conference final (Doyle Potenteau/The Daily Courier)KELOWNA — First-period leads seem to be the kiss of death in the WHL’s Western Conference final. On Friday, Portland led 3-0 before Kelowna rallied for a 5-4 Game 1 win.
In Game 2, the Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead through one period on two power-play goals, but the Winterhawks took control from there, earning a 5-3 victory to even the series as the teams head south of the border for Games 3 and 4.
Portland only got 26 shots on Rockets goalie Jordon Cooke in Game 1, but threw 53 shots his way in Game 2, including 24 in a decisive second period in which the Hawks scored four times.
“They were the better hockey club tonight,” said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. “They were skating and they made us defend a lot.
“When you get into the situation and stand around against a good team, they’ll do that to you.”
The three-goal lead the Hawks built in Game 1 was a bit of a mirage, as they weren’t completely sharp from the start. Turnovers mounted, and the Rockets eventually made Portland pay for its sloppiness.
Game 2 provided a dramatic shift in the Hawks’ fortunes, especially for defenceman Derrick Pouliot, who was on the ice for four of Kelowna’s five goals in Game 1 but turned things around with three assists on Saturday.
“We were playing our game tonight, when we weren’t right on it last night,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “When we’re on, our puck movement is really crisp and really sharp.
“When we’re not on, we’re sloppy with the puck. We’re trying to make plays, and if we’re off we look sloppy and don’t create as much. We were snapping it around pretty good tonight.”Read More »from Portland scores four unanswered goals against Kelowna to even WHL Western Conference final