The Portland Winterhawks were called the "Evil Empire" during the season because of the sanctions that the franchise was hit with back in November by the WHL. Their fans have embraced that nickname and the Darth Vader image that goes along with it. But no that image isn't Portland Winterhawk goalie Mac Carruth choking the life out of the Edmonton Oil Kings but it is a very good description of the way the Winterhawks have dominated the WHL finals.
Game 4 saw Portland once again hold the Edmonton Oil Kings to just 1 goal as they earned a 2-1 win that really wasn't as close as the score indicates. Yes Edmonton held Portland to 8 combined shots in the 2nd and 3rd periods but Mac Carruth made sure that Edmonton wasn't going to score more than the 1 goal.
Toss away the 4 goals that Edmonton scored in game 1 and Carruth has given up 2 goals in 3 games and is the biggest reason why the Winterhawks are heading back to Portland for a game 5 with a 3-1 series lead. The team that entered the WHL finals with a WHL best 71 goals in just 16 games has no answers for how to score on the Winterhawks.
Michael St. Croix (NYR 2011 4th) has been held to just one goal in the 4 games and the Oil King power play is making the Ranger power play look like gangbusters failing to score on their last 28 straight power plays (0 for 4 in the game). And trailing 2-1 in the game's final minute, Henrik Samuelsson killed any hope of scoring the tying goal by taking a terrible high sticking minor.
Portland just played "keep away" for the remaining 56 seconds to seal the win and now the Winterhawks will have a sold out Rose Garden waiting for them on Friday night as they look to dethrone the Oil Kings.
In Baie-Comeau, Samuel Noreau (NYR 2011 5th) scored his first career playoff goal to give his Baie-Comeau Drakkar a 1-0 lead in game 4 of the QMJHL finals. The Drakkar would score an early 2nd period goal to take a 2-0 lead on the Halifax Mooseheads.
Then the Halifax offense woke up first scoring 2 goals in a span of 15 seconds to tie the game and even though the Drakkar scored to retake the lead, the Mooseheads blew the game open. The Mooseheads would score 5 unanswered goals to grab a 7-3 lead as they went on to earn a 7-4 win and a 3-1 series lead.
The Mooseheads are heading back to Halifax looking to win their first QMJHL championships on Friday evening and it is highly doubtful that the Drakkar will be able to stop them. For Noreau, he didn't play a bad game as he like many of his Drakkar teammates just couldn't stop the MacKinnon/Drouin/Frk line (a combined 11 points).
In Barrie, the London Knights are the heavy favorites who find themselves on the wrong end of a 3-1 series deficit after dropping game 4 to the Barrie Colts 6-4. The Knights coach Dale Hunter was complaining after the game about the Colts "diving" but it is doubtful anyone inside or out of the OHL will feel bad for Hunter.
The Colts who were missing Mitchell Theoret (NYI 2011 7th) who sat out the game with a "torso" injury used a 5 goal 3rd period to rally from down 3-1 to earn the win. Tommy Hughes (NYR 2013 UFA) had a much better game despite the loss as he stayed out of the penalty box and was just a -1 on the night.
Barrie with the 3-1 series lead has to try to earn the series win on the road in London on Friday night. It will be interesting that is for sure.