With Portland’s win over Prince George Thursday night both Western Conference playoff series involving division winners against wild cards are knotted 2-2. Meanwhile Seattle leads Tri-City 3-0 in the 2-3 matchup in the U.S. Division and Kelowna leads Kamloops 3-1 in the 2-3 matchup in the B.C. Division.
Everett and Victoria spent much of Thursday in transit from Vancouver Island, but I got some time on the phone with head coach Kevin Constantine for a preview of Game 5 that goes down Friday night at 7:35 p.m. at Xfinity Arena.
Constantine was pleased with the energy the Tips showed Wednesday and we talked at length about the fact the Tips haven’t scored at five-on-five since Game 2.
“I thought our team did bring more energy to our game, created a little more, created more chances (at) even strength,” he said. “Probably didn’t get quite enough traffic in front of the net. It’s really important to get traffic in front of a goalie. Maybe we could have been a little better at that.”
As for the health of Riley Sutter who suffered an upper body injury in the regular-season finale at Tri-City?
“All I can tell you is Riley is closer to playing than he was in Games 1 and 2,” Constantine said. “He was close enough that he even took warm-ups (Wednesday) so it was kind of a 50-50 deal. Each day he would get closer, but he’s not ready to play. So he can’t play right now. He might Friday, but he might not. It’s still just kind of a 50-50 situation.”
Constantine also indicated it seems unlikely Devon Skoleski will play this weekend, so the Tips will have to continue with a patchwork of players playing out of position while comprising the bottom three lines.
As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post-game blog my internet feed cut out right about the time Connor Dewar had an apparent goal disallowed when Sean Richards made contact with goalie Griffen Outhouse in the crease.
I asked Constantine about that play from his perspective.
“The goalie gets some protection from being interfered with (and) it’s the obligation of the offensive player when he’s going to the net to kind of slow his momentum a little bit so you’re not letting your momentum run into the goalie,” he said. “Our player did everything legal – meaning he went to the net and stopped, came to a complete stop in front of the net – and then the Victoria defender came and cross-checked our guy into the goalie. That is not, in our understanding (of) the rules, goalie interference. We didn’t go into him; we were pushed, shoved, cross-checked into the goalie. We see that as a 100 percent legal goal.”
That was essentially the same thing assistant coach Mitch Love told Tips broadcaster Mike Benton in his post-game radio interview.
In other news
– The Spokane Chiefs “parted ways” with head coach Don Nachbaur Tuesday. The third-winningest coach in WHL history, Nachbaur had coached the Chiefs since 2010 and has franchise records for games and wins.