Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Kelowna/Tacoma-Portland Playoff History

The Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks will meet in the playoffs for the 5th time in their franchises histories starting Friday, but 4 of the 5 match ups have occurred within the last 5 seasons.

Portland has yet to lose a playoff series to the Rockets and are currently 4-0 overall, winning a total of 16/19 games.

This is an oddity, considering both franchises have had a lot of success, since the Rockets joined the WHL in 1991-92 as the Tacoma Rockets. The two teams had an I-5 rivalry going before the Rockets moved out of the Tacoma Dome, north to the Okanogan.

Let's take a look at the team's playoff match up history:
1994 Division Semi-Finals:
-One year earlier, Portland and the then Tacoma Rockets had an epic finish to the season with Portland's two wins in a home and home to finish the season, clinching them the Western Conference, regular season title. I was actually lucky enough to go to both games and that home and home series is one of my favorite regular season Winterhawks memories. An upset by Spokane over Tacoma in the first round, kept the squads from facing each other in the playoffs. How Spokane won the series in 7 despite over-age Rockets forward Jamie Black notching 22 points, I'll never know.
-Portland was able to sweep a weaker Rockets team the following year in the first round, in 4 straight games.
-Future long time NHLers Kyle McLaren and Michal Grosek were leaders on that Rockets team.
-Portland was led by the Bob Clarke trophy winner Lonny Bohonos and the one and only Adam Deadmarsh.
-Portland went on to lose in 6 games to Kamloops in the West Division Finals.

2011 Conference Semi-Finals:
-17 years later, the two franchises finally met each other again.
-Portland again was able to beat the Rockets, this time 4 games to 2.
-After the now Kelowna Rockets won the first game by a score of 5-1. the Hawks reeled off 3 straight wins and went on to close out the series in 6 games.
-Ryan Johansen, Sven Baertschi and Nino Neiderreiter were Portland's playoff scoring leaders, while Kelowna was led by future (cup of coffee) Winterhawk Shane McColgan and Colorado Avalanche D-man Tyson Barrie.
-Portland went on to lose the Kootenay Ice in 5 games in the WHL Final.

2012 Conference Quarter-Finals:
-Exactly one year later the Rockets and Winterhawks were back at it again, this time in the first round.
-Portland overwhelmed the Rockets, outscoring them 21-9 overall and sweeping them in 4 straight games.
-The Hawks were again led by Sven Baertschi in playoff scoring, but he was joined this year by Ty Rattie as the team's leaders.
-Future Minnesota Wild forward Brett Bulmer had 5 points in the series for the Rockets, while Zach Franko had 4.
-The Hawks went on to lose in the WHL Finals again, this time to the Edmonton Oil Kings.


2014 Conference Finals:
-2 years later, the top two teams in the Conference all regular season, were fated to meet each other in the Western Conference Finals.
-Western Conference Goalie of the year Jordon Cooke was thought to give the Rockets the advantage by a lot of pundits and fans.
-Portland dropped the first game 5-4 in comeback fashion and were down 3-0 in Game two, before then Portland Coach Mike Johnston pulled Goalie Brendan Burke for backup Corbin Boes. Boes went on to lead the Hawks to four straight wins and a 4-1 series victory. Portland won the last two games by a combined 12-4 score.
-The Rockets were led by now New Jersey Devil Damon Severson, while Pittsburgh Penguins D-man Derrick Pouliot was probably Portland's best all around player in the series.
-The Hawks went on to lose to Edmonton again in the WHL Final, this time in 7 games.

2015 Conference Finals:
For the 2nd straight year the Western Conference representative will come out of Kelowna and Portland. This should not be too surprising considering the two proud franchises have had 188 players drafted to the NHL between them.

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