Winterhawks Drop Series Opener 6-4 to Kamloops Blazers

Photo Credit: Allen Douglas

The Portland Winterhawks lost to the Kamloops Blazers in game one of their second round playoff series by a score of 6-4. Portland had played Kamloops four times during the regular season. While the Winterhawks were 3-1-0 in those games, two of those wins came in either overtime or the shootout. The last time these two teams met was on February 1, which saw the Blazers earning a 5-1 victory on their home ice.

Game one of this best-of-seven series took place at Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia. The number one seed out of the B.C. Division would get off to a quick start. The Blazers piled on 17 shots on goal in the first period. They would also find the first goal of the game, thanks to a 2-on-1 fast break. Emmitt Finnie’s wrist shot would whip past Jan Špunar to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead 8:30 into the period.

Portland would bounce back just 1:20 later. Kyle Chyzowski would work his way toward the slot, and have his initial wrist shot blocked. Chyzowski’s follow-up wrist shot would be saved by Blazers goaltender, Dylan Ernst. However, the rebound would trickle inside the post thanks to James Stefan’s efforts in front of the net. The Winterhawks would go into the second period tied at 1-1.

The second period held fairly even until the 13:45 minute mark of the period. Jakub Demek would win a battle for the puck behind the Winterhawks’ net. Demek boxed out his defender and looked to go for a wraparound shot. Demek held the puck until Špunar had slid out of position, and then banked a shot off the leg pad of Špunar, into the back of the net giving the Blazers the lead back.

Kamloops would extend their lead just 1:37 later. Fraser Minten would enter the offensive zone for the Blazers. Minten’s wrist shot was blocked in front of Špunar, but the rebound would deflect right back to Minten. Minten then took another shot that would zip past Špunar, and give Kamloops a 3-1 lead.

With 2:56 remaining in the period, the Winterhawks would once again cut into the Blazers’ lead. A shot from the blue line by Marek Alscher would catch Ernst completely off guard. Alscher’s shot was deflected by the stick of James Stefan, and the puck would careen back toward the far post, making the game 3-2 Kamloops.

However, the Blazers kept bringing the heat offensively. With only 24 seconds remaining in the period, Kamloops applied solid pressure around the Winterhawks’ net. Eventually, a pass from Olen Zellweger to the front of the net would find Jakub Demek, streaking toward Špunar. Demek’s shot would go high stick side, and make the score 4-2 Blazers after two periods.

The third period started going Kamloops’ way as well. Just 1:03 into the third period, the Winterhawks would turn the puck over in their defensive zone. Logan Stankoven would intercept a pass from the faceoff circle, and slide a pass over to Matthew Seminoff. Seminoff’s shot from in between the faceoff circles would fly past Špunar’s glove, into the back of the net, extending the Blazers’ lead.

The play that really stung for Portland came just 3:23 after Seminoff’s goal. Kyle Chyzowski found themselves on a breakaway, but with short time to shoot as a defenseman was gaining on him. Chyzowski uncorked a slapshot that Ernst would save. The rebound would go right to Olen Zellweger, who looked to move up with all five teammates pushing forward. Zellweger shifted a pass to Stankoven, who entered the zone slowly, but was unchallenged as all the Winterhawks had dropped back to deal with the forwards crashing the net. Stankoven’s wrist shot would beat Špunar five hole, and make the score 6-2 Kamloops.

Portland wouldn’t go down quietly in the third period, however. Late in regulation, the Winterhawks would find their first power-play goal of the night. A shot from the point by Alscher would be blocked by traffic in front of the net. The puck would kick out to Robbie Fromm-Delorme inside the faceoff dot, and his wrist shot would be denied. The rebound, however, would kick right back to Fromm-Delorme who would throw the puck towards the far post. Marcus Nguyen would redirect the puck over the line, and Portland would cut Kamloops’ lead in half.

In the final minutes of regulation, Portland would find themselves on another power play. Some great perimeter passing by Luca Cagnoni and Robbie Fromm-Delorme would set up James Stefan for a final shot of the night. Stefan’s one-timer would go in from the faceoff circle, giving Stefan a hat-trick for the night. However, the goal came with two seconds remaining in the period, meaning Portland was out of time. The final score of Game 1: Kamloops 6, Portland 4.

Game two of this playoff series is tonight at 7:00 p.m. local time, at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, B.C.