Portland Winterhawks Secure 2-0 First Round Series Lead vs. Prince George Cougars

Photo courtesy Keith Dwiggins/Portland Winterhawks

The Portland Winterhawks defeated the Prince George Cougars Saturday night by a score of 2-1. The win put Portland up 2-0 in their best of seven playoff series.

Game one of the series was a tale of two offenses. The Winterhawks struck hard and early. Aidan Litke scored the first goal of the series at 1:55 on the power-play. James Stefan and Cross Hanas would also bury goals before the end of the first period to give Portland a three-goal lead. The Cougars would respond in the second period with a power-play goal from Connor Bowie. However, Portland’s offense would not be stopped. Gabe Klassen would score late in the period to give Portland a 4-1 lead headed into the third. Riley Heidt would score for Prince George to cut into the lead, but an empty-net goal from Jack O’Brien would wrap up a 5-2 win for the Winterhawks in game one.

Game two at Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a more defensive battle. The Winterhawks would strike first again, thanks to a slap shot goal from Kurtis Smythe in the first period. Luca Cagnoni would score at 13:54 in the second period to give Portland a two-goal lead. Soon after, Prince George would score thanks to the efforts of Jonas Brøndberg. However, both teams would be shut out in the third period, allowing the Winterhawks to hold on and win game two.

With Games three and four right around the corner, there are two key points to take from the first two matches. The first is that Portland’s offense has hit the ground running this postseason. The Winterhawks have outshot Prince George by 27 shots through the first two games and outscored the Cougars 7-3. Part of the reason for this shot margin is because of penalties. Portland has had ten power-play opportunities this series, which is double the amount that Prince George has had. On top of that, all seven of Portland’s goals are spread across their roster. No one player for Portland has more than one goal in this series.

Secondly, the goaltending matchup should be an intriguing. Both teams’ goalies have had great performances. For the Winterhawks, Taylor Gauthier’s first playoff series has gone well, to say the least. On top of winning both game one and game two, Gauthier has made 54 saves on 57 shots this series. For Prince George, Ty Young got the start for the Cougars in game one but was quickly subbed out after letting in three goals on eight shots in the first period. However, Tyler Brennan has helped the Cougars settle down into this series. Since Brennan has stepped between the pipes, he’s made 72 saves on 76 shots. Brennan also earned himself the third star of the game in game two.

The next time the two teams take the ice will be at the CN Centre in Prince George on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.