While Sven Baertschi of the Portland Winterhawks skates to his bench, fans go wild at the Interior Savings Centre in Kamloops, B.C., following what proved to be Bronson Maschmeyer's game-winning goal at 19:39 of the third period during WHL playoff action on Monday night. Kamloops rallied from a 5-2 deficit to defeat Portland 7-6 in a highly entertaining game.
Jordan DePape, centre, celebrates one of Kamloops' five third-period goals, as does teammate Brandon Herrod, right.
That's the first thing I think of when trying to simply describe Game 6 of the WHL's Western Conference semifinals between the favoured Portland Winterhawks and the Kamloops Blazers.
In what should have been a gimme for Portland on Monday night, the Winterhawks instead coughed up a late lead, giving up five goals in the third period, and wound up losing 7-6 to the host Blazers at Interior Savings Centre. Yes, you read right: Five goals. In the final period.
Up 5-2 and you lose. How many times does that happen to a team? In the playoffs? There should be more on the game story here.
Or was Monday night a case of Kamloops not wanting to lose and forging an unbelievable comeback for the win, regardless what the odds were?
No matter how you slice it, Game 6 was hands-down entertaining. And kudos to the Blazers, who played one heck of a third and kept their season alive. It would have been easy for the Blazers to roll over following what was a flat second period by the host team, but they didn't, and an early marker by Marek Hrbas at 5:55 to make it 5-3 gave Kamloops a spark of life that turned into a torrent of energy.
Game 7 will be Wednesday night, 7 p.m., in Portland, and that should be a whale of a game, one certainly worth buying a ticket to experience.
And now, some brief comments about other aspects from Monday night:
1. Great hometown crowd. Yeah, it wasn't a sellout (announced attendance was a touch over 5,000), but it was loud. Really loud. How loud? Well, the loudest I've heard that building in the past dozen years. And certainly louder than any game at Prospera Place this past season, home to the Kelowna Rockets. At the same time, though, the crowd still wasn't as loud as league leaders Tri-City or Everett, but it was in the 90 percentile range, which is a remarkable improvement considering it was almost in library range two seasons ago.
2. Dirty glass. I did a lot of photography on Monday night, and moved around to three different areas. In each case, it looked liked the rink's glass panes hadn't been cleaned in days, maybe weeks, if not longer. Frankly, I've never seen a WHL rink with such filthy glass. Hopefully this gets cleared up — not from a standpoint of photography, but, rather, from a fan viewpoint. Fans pay good money to watch, and they shouldn't have to watch through sub-par glass.
3. 3 stars. All three stars were from Kamloops, which begs the question: What kind of homer pick was this? A one-goal game, with the winning goal decided in the final minute, and the home team sweeps the awards?
I'd understand the three-star sweep if Kamloops:
Had dominated (which it didn't).
Or lost (which it didn't). (As an aside, if a home team has its season come to an end, the trend is for all three stars to come from the home team, with the three usually being the trio of over-age players).
Whoever made the decision might be able to argue that it could be the Blazers' final game of the season, and thus Kamloops was deserving of all three stars. That argument, though, has no strength on the basis that it very well may not be, as Kamloops could very well win Game 7 and could advance to the Western Conference championship.
Hopefully a gaffe like this doesn't happen again, in Kamloops or any other hockey market.