Everett gave Portland a far better series than anyone could have predicted. But it was just a matter of time before Portland's superiority won out, and the Winterhawks finished the Tips off tonight, winning the best-of-seven series 4-2.
Portland was all over Everett, outshooting the Tips 52-13. Everett's players looked exhausted as chasing the Winterhawks all over the ice finally caught up with them. But the Tips turned in a valiant effort to keep the score reasonable. The energy may not have been there, but the effort was.
And it was a valiant performance by the Tips in the series. Everett finished 60 points behind Portland in the standings and lost the season series 9-1. Pretty much everyone, including me, predicted the Winterhawks would sweep the series. But those two playoff wins against the top team in the WHL should do wonders for Everett's confidence going forward.
The final two players to leave the ice for Everett tonight were Joshua Winquist and Austin Lotz, who gave one another a big hug before heading down the tunnel for the final time this season. That was an appropriate image as those were the two stars for the Tips in the series. Lotz had yet another spectacular game in goal -- did he have as good a playoff series ever by a goalie with a goals against average above 5.00? -- while Winquist finished the series with six goals (tonight's game was the only one in which he didn't score).
Portland advances to face either Seattle or Spokane in the next round. If Seattle overcomes Kelowna, the Winterhawks will face the seventh-seeded T-birds. If Seattle loses, Portland plays the fourth-seeded Chiefs.
Everett actually struck the first blow as Reid Petryk scored short-handed just 2:14 into the game. But Seth Jones showed why he's the potential first-overall pick in the upcoming NHL draft, muscling through a series of stick checks as he skated through the slot and putting a backhander over Lotz's shoulder to tie it up at 7:16. That set off Portland's domination the rest of the way.
First star: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Portland. Two goals and two assists, best game of the series by the Winterhawks' second line.
Second star: Jones. Two goals, too big and strong for the Tips to deal with.
Third star: Lotz. 47 saves, kept the score reasonable.
The Herald's honorable mention: Chase De Leo, Portland. Two assists and several high-quality scoring chances.
Portland 5, Everett 1
Game 1: Everett 4, Portland 3
Game 2: Portland 4, Everett 1
Game 3: Portland 7, Everett 3
Game 4: Portland 11, Everett 4
Game 5: Everett 3, Portland 2
Game 6: Portland 5, Everett 1 (Portland wins series 4-2)
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