Portland (0-0) vs. Spokane (0-0) – First Round, Game #1 – 6:00 p.m. – VMC, Portland, OR
It’s Game One of the first-round matchup between the Winterhawks and the Chiefs tonight. This is the 11th time in WHL postseason history that the two teams have met in the playoffs. Last year in two rounds, Portland went 3-2 on home-ice.
If you can’t make it to tonight’s contest, Game Two is tomorrow at the VMC, tickets are available HERE!
TODAY’S OPPONENT: After Spokane missed the postseason last year, they find themselves as the third seed in the U.S. Division this year and are playing some of their best hockey heading into the postseason. The Chiefs have gone 15-6-0-1 since February 1st, and have won the last three head-to-head matchups with Portland.
No Chiefs player is hotter than Kailer Yamamoto right now. The Edmonton Oilers prospect had 52 points in 27 games since January 1st, the fourth most in the WHL over that span. Yamamoto has played in just one game versus Portland this year, recording a goal and an assist.
Forward Zach Fischer has been out of the Chiefs lineup since February 9th, but is expected to return tonight for the Chiefs. It will be interesting to see where exactly his game is after missing more than a month of action. Prior to his upper-body injury, Fischer had registered 21 goals in 43 games for the Chiefs.
Another question the Chiefs will be who gets the start in net. Dawson Weatherill got the majority of starts this year for Spokane, putting together a record of 26-12-3-3 with a 3.09 GAA and a .893 SV%. But Weatherill has been below-average over his last six games, posting a 4.15 GAA and a .853 SV%. Weatherill was pulled in his last start in the regular season, after allowing four goals on 12 shots to Seattle on March 14th.
The Chiefs could look towards 18-year old Bailey Brkin, who in seven games with Spokane has posted a .913 SV%. Spokane could also look at Donovan Buskey, who was solid in the season-finale against Portland, making 33 saves in the victory.
None of the Chiefs goaltenders have ever played in a WHL postseason game.
WINTERHAWKS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Cody Glass enters the postseason playing some of the best hockey of his WHL career. Over his last 21 games, Glass has 12 goals and 36 points, which ranks him second in the WHL in scoring over that span. He also has 28 points in 23 career games versus Spokane. The Vegas-Golden Knights draft-pick was named a Western Conference First-Team All-Star on Tuesday, as well as the Conference’s Most Sportsmanlike Player.
The Hawks leading scorer against the Chiefs this season in Skyler McKenzie. The Winnipeg Jets draft-pick had eight goals and six assists in eight games versus the Chiefs. McKenzie picked up his 47th goal of the season in the Hawks final regular season game against Spokane on Sunday. With the marker, McKenzie finished the year ranked sixth in the WHL in goals.
Forward Lane Gilliss is getting hot at the most opportune time for Portland. The third-line winger has eight points over his last nine games and has looked more and more confident carrying the puck as the season has gone on. The third line of Portland, Gilliss, Gricius and either Mannek or Kolle, could be a major factor in this series if they can continue to produce.
Cole Kehler is 5-2 this season against the Chiefs, posting a 2.87 GAA and .922 SV%. He finished the year 2nd in the WHL in goals-against-average and top-5 in the league in shutouts, wins and save-percentage. All teams need solid goaltending to go anywhere in the playoffs, and if Kehler can play like he did against Spokane during the regular-season, that would bode extremely well for the Hawks.
STAT OF THE DAY: Keoni Texeira’s 53 postseason games are the 18th most in Winterhawks franchise history. Nicolas Petan owns the franchise record playing in 88 playoff games, which is also a WHL record.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Portland: 5-2-0-1 Spokane: 3-5-0-0
October 6th, 2017 – Portland 6 at Spokane 1: Cole Kehler made 30 saves and allowed just one goal as the Hawks took down the Chiefs 6-1 in Spokane. After being tied at one after 20 minutes, the Hawks scored three times in the second period to take a commanding lead. Cody Glass and Ryan Hughes both had a goal and an assist in the Hawks win.
October 8th, 2017 – Spokane 2 at Portland 7: Conor MacEachern led Portland with a goal and two assists as the Hawks took down the Chiefs for the second time in three nights. Cole Kehler made 22 saves in the victory, while Skyler McKenzie and Ryan Hughes both had a pair of goals.
October 10th, 2017 – Spokane 0 at Portland 3: Cole Kehler had a massive 43-save shutout to lead Portland to a 3-0 victory over the Chiefs in the Rose City. Kieffer Bellows picked up a goal for Portland, while Skyler McKenzie had a pair of assists.
November 3rd, 2017 – Portland 4 at Spokane 1: Kieffer Bellows scored twice in the final five minutes of the first period to give Portland a 3-1 lead and they never looked back. Cole Kehler had another massive night against the Chiefs, allowing just one goal on 48 shots in the Hawks 4-1 victory. Henri Jokiharju had three assists from Portland’s blueline.
December 12th, 2017 – Portland 4 at Spokane 2: Keoni Texeira went end-to-end in the third period and beat Donovan Buskey to score one of the goals of the year in Portland’s 4-2 win over the Chiefs. It was the Hawks fifth straight victory over Spokane. Cole Kehler was solid once again, recording 30 saves and allowing two goals. Joachim Blichfeld had a pair of goals in the Portland win.
December 16th, 2017 – Spokane 6 at Portland 3: Jarret Anderson-Dolan and Eli Zummack both scored twice to lead the Chiefs to a 6-3 victory. Defenseman Ty Smith had a pair of assists in the win. On the Hawks side, Skyler McKenzie had a goal and an assist for Portland.
January 5th, 2018 – Portland 3 at Spokane 9: Hudson Elynuik and Jarret Anderson-Dolan both had a pair of goals and Eli Zummack had three assists in Spokane’s 9-3 victory. Cody Glass and Skyler McKenzie both scored for Portland.
March 18th, 2018 – Spokane 5 at Portland 4 (SO): Skyler McKenzie scored his team-leading 47th goal of the season, but a late third-period comeback by Spokane resulted in a 5-4 shootout win for the Chiefs. Kieffer Bellows, Ryan Hughes and Mason Mannek also scored for Portland. On the Chiefs side, Nolan Reid scored with less than a minute remaining to send the game to overtime. In the shootout, Riley McKay scored the winner in the fourth-round.
Game Two of this first-round series is tomorrow at the VMC, tickets are available HERE!
And if you’re not quite pumped up yet…just watch the video below.