April 22, 2014 - 12:08 PM
Heading into the Western Hockey League's Western Conference final between the Kelowna Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks, the series was hyped as the one that everyone wanted to see.
Two of the top three teams in the CHL rankings, the top two teams in the WHL and intense rivals who had met in the playoffs two of the past three seasons.
But could the series live up to the hype?
Well after the first two games in Kelowna the answer was a resounding yes as the Kelowna and Portland exchanged blows like two heavyweight boxers, standing in the ring and slugging away at each other.
Each team won a round with the Rockets claiming a 5-4 win Friday night before Portland answered back with a 5-3 decision on Saturday.
The best-of-seven series now shifts to Portland for games three and four tonight and Wednesday night.
The two games in Kelowna were fast-paced and hectic and played in front of two capacity crowds at Prospera Place. Rockets defenceman Damon Severson said Portland should be no different and he's looking forward to a couple of big road games for his team.
"Portland is a fun place to play," said Severson. "Their fans are going to be just like ours were (in games 1 and 2). That was the best fan base we've had in a few years. They are saying it was just like back in 2009 (when the Rockets won the WHL Championship). It was great to see our fans out like that. We just have to go down to Portland, really go for it, and see what happens."
The Rockets opened the series with an entertaining win on Friday. After falling behind 3-0, Kelowna raced back to take over the game in the second and third periods en route to the win.
Not to be outdone, the Winterhawks turned the trick on Kelowna in game 2, erasing a 2-0 Kelowna lead to dominate the rest of the way in a 5-3 win.
Severson says they had a let-down on Saturday and couldn't respond and says they need to play better in Portland.
"We need to play like we did in the first game, where we played such a strong game, other than the first few minutes," he said. "We need to stick to our game plan, be patient and be ready for Tuesday night."
The Rockets left for Portland on Sunday morning and had a full day to prepare on Monday, prior to game three on Tuesday.
Rockets head coach Ryan Huska said his team couldn't respond to a momentum change in game two against Portland but added they put the game behind them quickly and started to focus on the two road games ahead in Portland.
"You move on pretty quick," he said. "You don't have time to dwell on things. We're going to learn from some things, and change some things and be ready for Tuesday night. We know the type of team they have. They are very good when they are given time and space and on Saturday night they had a lot of it."
Game 5 in the series will take place on Friday night in Kelowna and tickets went on sale for the game on Monday morning through Select Your Tickets....Games one and two were both sellouts with standing room tickets still available at the door. Game one attendance was 6,218 while game two saw 6,341 fans jam Prospera Place.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014