Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stock Options

It was just the first game of the WHL Finals but the message should be read loud and clear; people who are labeling the Kootenay Ice as the favorites over the Portland Winterhawks are backing the wrong team.

Even better was that it was the trio of Portland players expected to go in the first round who did most of the damage. Ty Rattie, Sven Bartschi and Joe Morrow all made strong contributions to help Portland win this game. 

Anyone who questions if this trio is not going to wind up as first round picks really needs to watch the tape of these prospects. Give us any 1 of these 3and they will help the Rangers or Islanders (we would even use a 2nd or 3rd round pick on Tyler Wotherspoon)

It took overtime but Portland took game 1 when Ty Rattie with a perfect deflection off a shot from Craig Cunningham scored a power play goal 55 seconds into the overtime for a 4-3 Portland win. It was Rattie's 7th goal of the playoffs and earned him the game's "Third Star".

Portland got 2 goals from the game's "First Star" Sven Bartschi and 1 from Nino Niederreiter as they ruined Kootenay's bid to tie the record for most consecutive wins during a playoff season. It was Kootenay's first loss since losing game 3 of their first round series with Moose Jaw.

It was a very good game as Portland jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 2:06 into the game on Bartschi's 6th goal of the playoffs. The assists on the goal went to Ty Rattie and Troy Rutkowski but Kootenay tied the game 4:25 later at 6:31 on an even strength goal.

Bartschi scored his 2nd goal of the game and 7th of the playoffs at 12:51 to give Portland a 2-1 lead. Troy Rutkowski picked up his 2nd assist of the game along with Ryan Johansen on the goal.

Kootenay tied the game at 2-2 at 17:50 and it look like the period would end tied except for the Ice forgot to stop Nino Niederreiter in their zone. Niederreiter was just too much for the Ice to handle and Nino scored his 9th of the playoffs at 19:57 to give Portland a 3-2 lead after 1.

The 2 teams played a scoreless 2nd period and going into the 3rd period it looked like the Winterhawks were going to hold off the Ice when their own rink let them down. One of the pieces of glass on the boards cracked which caused a delay that when play resumed the Ice caught the Winterhawks flatfooted and tied the game at 3-3 at 11:11 of the 3rd period.

Kootenay got the better of the play during the rest of the third period but Portland Goalie Mac Carruth was up to the task. A lot was made about the Kootenay's penalty kill but Portland's was better on this evening.

Portland had to kill a penalty on a questionable high sticking call with just 2:32 to go in the period. The kill combined with the Ice getting called for a questionable tripping call at 19:04 stopped the Ice from winning the game in regulation.

Though Portland tried to give the game away in the last few seconds, they survived to make it to the overtime where Rattie did his magic. Portland scored on their 6th power play of the night, the only team to score on the power play.

The win put an end to the Ice's 11 game playoff winning streak while giving Portland a 1-0 series lead. A lot was made about how the Ice had shut down every team that had faced in the earlier rounds top line.

Portland first line really was held to the one Nino Niederreiter goal but Kootenay could not stop Portland's 1A line as the Bartschi/Cunningham/Rattie line scored 3 of the Portland goals. As we said yesterday Craig Cunningham is going to be a key and he was setting up the game winner.

We are not going to say that this will be an easy series for either team but Portland's playoff record of 13-4 is nothing to overlook either. Game 2 will be Saturday night in Portland night and we will be there to cover it.

In Mississauga, Owen Sound coach Mark Reid facing a 0-2 start in the OHL finals caught everyone off guard by switching from Scott Stajcer to Michael Zador in goal. The move almost backfired as Owen Sound had a 5-3 lead going to the 3rd period but could not hold it as Mississauga tied the game to force overtime.

Owen Sound scored 56 seconds into overtime to earn a 6-5 win and new life cutting the Mississauga series lead to 2-1. The price it appears was Stajcer's starting job and sadly it is going to be hard for Stajcer to get back into the nets.

We are not going to knock Owen Sound for making the switch as the team has played terrible defense in this series even in this game. This time they found their offense to bail them out but we have serious doubts that Mississauga is going to give up 6 goals every game.

For Mississauga, Casey Cizikas once again making the biggest of plays for the Majors. It was Cizikas who set up Devante Smith-Pelly's 11th goal of the playoffs to force the game into overtime.

For Cizikas it was his 10th assist and 15th point of the playoffs. Cizikas has points in 10 of the 12 games he has played in and is on a 4 game scoring streak (3-3-6)

We get a very good laugh when we saw some people's Top Islander prospect list as Cizikas typically is not ranked very high. What most people always fail to realize that a lot of Cizikas contribution never shows up on the scoresheet.

His work ethic is outstanding and his leadership skills first rate. If the Islander fans do not want Cizikas; I am sure the Ranger fans would gladly take a player who always give 150%

Friendly advice to Islander fans, Cizikas is going to be an impact player on and off the ice.

(Images- Bartschi/Portland Winterhawks, Cizikas/Aaron Bell-OHL Images)

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