Fans of the Calgary Flames will be cheering Sven Baertschi’s name next season. On Tuesday night, though, he made fans of the Kelowna Rockets groan in disbelief.
Baertschi had two goals and two assists for Portland, with linemate Ty Rattie also scoring two and two, as the Winterhawks beat the Rockets 6-3 in WHL playoff action at Prospera Place on Tuesday evening. Portland leads the best-of-seven series 3-0, and the Winterhawks can close out the first-round affair with a victory Thursday night in Game 4.
“We’re happy with the win tonight,” said Baertschi, the game’s first star and Calgary draft pick, after Kelowna made things interesting with a late goal that made it 4-3 and a wild push in the final minute that almost tied the score.
Portland, however, survived Kelowna’s attempted rally, then added a pair of empty-net markers to seal the win.
“We have the series on our stick next game,” continued Baertschi. “If we keep playing the same way, it’s going to be good for us. We might be able to go home and get some rest. But there’s still a game we have to win, and we want to win it. We’re really looking forward to Game 4.”
For Kelowna, the tale of Tuesday’s tape was the scoresheet, with Baertschi and Rattie involved in Portland’s first four goals.
“I liked our effort,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Huska. “But it was the same thing; you make a bad decision against a good line like that and they make you pay. What’s been a struggle for us is trying to find a way to contain that line.”
Asked in the post-game press scrum what is Portland doing that’s confusing Kelowna, Huska said “it’s not confusing; they’re a good hockey team. We have to do a good job against them . . . the decisions you make with the puck have to be smart, because if you’re going to turn it over and allow them to play with speed against you, you’re asking for trouble.”
Added Rockets captain Colton Sissons: “Really, their one line of Rattie and Baertschi generates all their offence. We haven’t been able to figure out how to stop them yet. That’ll be huge if we can get back in the series and get a huge win on Thursday night.”
Joe Morrow and Taylor Leier, with those empty-net goals, also scored for Portland, which also received an outstanding effort from Marcel Noebels, who added three assists.
“(Four points) is pretty exciting, especially against a team like Kelowna and in a building like this,” said Rattie. “It’s always tough coming to Kelowna, but the pucks were going our way and it’s a big win.”
As for getting four points, including his fifth and sixth goals of the post-season, Rattie said “If I don’t get those kind of stats playing with a guy like Sven Baertschi, something’s wrong. I’m lucky to play on a great line.”
Damon Severson, with two goals, and Cole Martin, both defencemen, replied for Kelowna, which trailed 2-1 and 3-2 at the period breaks. Kelowna hasn’t been swept from the playoffs since 1994, when the franchise, then located in Tacoma, Wash., lost out in four to, of all teams, Portland.
Mac Carruth made 38 saves for the Winterhawks, while Adam Brown turned aside 40 shots for the Rockets.
ICE CHIPS: Game scratches — Kelowna: D Mitchell Chapman (upper-body injury), C Spencer Main (concussion), LW Brett Bulmer (kneeing suspension), RW Austin Ferguson, D Riley Stadel. Portland: D Ben Betker, LW Oliver Gabriel (1-game suspension), C Keegan Iverson, D Cody Castro, RW Alex Schoenborn, D Layne Viveiros and C Presten Kopeck.