The Spokane Chiefs and Portland Winterhawks have a best-of-3 showdown for the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference title, starting Saturday night in the Rose Garden.
That short, desperate series was set up when the two teams split the first four games, the latest an 8-3 Chiefs romp Friday night before 8,412 fans at the Arena.
Levko Koper had a hat trick and an assist, Collin Valcourt had a goal and three assists, and Tyler Johnson had a goal and two assists in the only blowout after the series opened with three one-goal games, the last two Portland wins.
Now 87 games into the season and postseason the Chiefs still haven’t had a three-game losing streak.
The Chiefs started their fourth line – Matt Marantz between Darren Kramer and Valcourt – and it paid immediate dividends, with all three credited with a point on Marantz’s fourth playoff goal 10 seconds into the game.
Valcourt scored early in the second period and, with Anthony Bardaro on the line later, he pounced on a rebound of a backhand by Kramer, a play that was started by Valcourt.
The Chiefs continued to struggle on the power play, their drought reaching 0 for 19 dating back to the second period of the first game before Koper’s third goal at 6:47 of the third period. It was their eight power-play opportunity of the night.
Johnson, who led the league with 53 goals in the regular season, scored in the first period on a feed from Koper to put the Chiefs up for good, 2-1. Koper’s first goal made it 5-2 after two periods.
Koper added two goals in the first 7 minutes of the third period, cleaning up a rebound of a Johnson breakaway and then scoring on a power play on a Johnson feed.
The Winterhawks pulled Mac Carruth, who made 22 saves on 28 shots, after Koper’s second goal, in favor of Keith Hamilton, who faced 13 shots.
Spokane goalie James Reid made 28 saves before being replaced by Mac Engel, who allowed a late power-play goal to Ryan Johansen, who has scored in every game.
Portland got a power-play goal – with 2 seconds left in the advantage – to tie the game at 1 midway through the first period, Joe Morrow letting fly from the top of the right circling after initially hesitating until he heard the crowd counting down the final seconds.
Midway through the second period, a rare mistake by Jared Cowen gave the Winterhawks an opportunity to notch their second short-handed goal of the series, this one by Tyler Wotherspoon that made it 3-2.