Ding! Ding! Ding!
Ready for Round Two? Mac Carruth and Colton Sissons certainly are.
In a battle of the league's two top teams on Friday night, Carruth was rock-steady in Portland's net early on, as the Winterhawks beat the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 in WHL action at Prospera Place. His play proved important, as the Rockets rallied from a 4-0 deficit with three goals in the third period, with Sissons making it 4-3 with 1:18 remaining in the game.
• Video of the game's highlights
Had it not been for Carruth, last night's game would have been even better than the great affair it was.
"I thought we were consistent all night. I thought we deserved a lot better than when it was 4-0," said Sissons. "But we never said die, we came out strong (for the third), we killed some huge penalties and we almost did it. I'm very proud of our group right now."
The two teams meet again tonight, 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place.
Sissons and the Rockets want another shot at the league's top team.
"We were getting chances (early on), but we weren't finishing them," he said. "That happens in hockey, as we all know. That's something we need to improve upon to beat these guys."
"I thought we played well in the first two periods, but we left off the gas in the third," said Carruth, who stopped 29 shots. "But, as a whole, as a team, I thought we played pretty well. Hopefully I can come back with another big game like this."
Asked if he was looking forward to tonight's rematch, Carruth said "Absolutely. We're treating this as a playoff series - I'm sure they are too — and to come up with the first win in a playoff series is huge. We're looking to take the momentum into (tonight)."
Taylor Leier, with two goals, Presten Kopeck, Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic, with an empty-net goal to seal it, scored for Portland (44-8-1-2), which ended Kelowna's 23-game home winning streak. Heading into the game pitting the Western Conference's top two teams, Kelowna hadn't lost at home since Oct. 10, a 6-4 setback to Spokane.
• Click to see the WHL standings
J.T. Barnett and Cody Fowlie also scored for the Rockets (40-12-3-1). Jordon Cooke stopped 29 shots for Kelowna.
"I don't know if there was feeling-out process," Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said. "I think it was a pretty good game from the start to end. Portland has a lot of skill, a lot of good players on that side. When they had their opportunities, they were able to finish. When we had ours early, we didn't have that finish. That was the difference in the game. They capitalized and we didn't."
The loudest cheer of the night went to Kelowna's Tyrell Goulbourne for winning his second-period fight with Joe Mahon. At game's end, the standing-room crowd of 6,122 applauded the Rockets' efforts.
— Photo by Gary Nylander