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Portland scores four unanswered goals against Kelowna to even WHL Western Conference final

KELOWNA — First-period leads seem to be the kiss of death in the WHL’s Western Conference final. On Friday, Portland led 3-0 before Kelowna rallied for a 5-4 Game 1 win.

In Game 2, the Rockets jumped out to a 2-0 lead through one period on two power-play goals, but the Winterhawks took control from there, earning a 5-3 victory to even the series as the teams head south of the border for Games 3 and 4.

Portland only got 26 shots on Rockets goalie Jordon Cooke in Game 1, but threw 53 shots his way in Game 2, including 24 in a decisive second period in which the Hawks scored four times.

“They were the better hockey club tonight,” said Kelowna coach Ryan Huska. “They were skating and they made us defend a lot.

“When you get into the situation and stand around against a good team, they’ll do that to you.”

The three-goal lead the Hawks built in Game 1 was a bit of a mirage, as they weren’t completely sharp from the start. Turnovers mounted, and the Rockets eventually made Portland pay for its sloppiness.

Game 2 provided a dramatic shift in the Hawks’ fortunes, especially for defenceman Derrick Pouliot, who was on the ice for four of Kelowna’s five goals in Game 1 but turned things around with three assists on Saturday.

“We were playing our game tonight, when we weren’t right on it last night,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “When we’re on, our puck movement is really crisp and really sharp.

“When we’re not on, we’re sloppy with the puck. We’re trying to make plays, and if we’re off we look sloppy and don’t create as much. We were snapping it around pretty good tonight.”

Here are some more notes from Game 2:

* Portland goaltender Brendan Burke was lifted early in the second period after giving up a goal on a deflected shot by Madison Bowey just over a minute after Dominic Turgeon had scored to put the Winterhawks on the board.

Burke stopped nine of 12 shots, and 20-year-old backup Corbin Boes came on to stop all 15 shots he faced.

Johnston now must decide who to go with in Game 3 in Portland, and he gave no indication as to which way he’s leaning.

“I don’t know, we’ll look at everything over the next two days and make a decision then,” Johnston said.

Johnston said he hadn’t really had a chance to Burke immediately after the game, and said the decision to make a change was “coaching instinct.”

“I thought he was out of place on two goals,” Johnston said. “Boes came in and settled the game down. The reason we got him is he’s a 20-year-old, he’s got experience and he’s poised.”

Portland traded a second-round bantam draft pick and forward Steven Alldridge to Lethbridge for Boes in January, but Johnston has stuck with Burke as the team’s No. 1 goalie.

But Burke has had a rough time against the Rockets this season, and Saturday was the third time he’s gotten the hook in the second period in five games against Kelowna this season.

“He needs to regroup, but he’s a mature guy,” said Portland forward Nic Petan, who lives with Burke. “The third goal went off a shoulder and in. He’ll regroup, and he’ll get good advice from his dad.”

Burke’s father is former NHL goalie Sean Burke.

* Huska called a delirious crowd of 6,218 on Friday night the “best crowd since ‘09” at Prospera Place, but an even larger crowd of 6,341 never really got all that loud Saturday, even when the Rockets took a two-goal lead in the first.

“Maybe it was the way we played that took energy away,” Johnston said. “Everything was magnified last night, when they scored the whole building erupted.

“It was incredible playoff atmosphere last night but it was a bit quieter tonight.”

Huska agreed that the Hawks’ performance in the last 40 minutes gave little reason for the crowd to get excited.

“You could feel the tide turn because they started having good shifts back-to-back-to-back,” said Huska. “We were looking for momentum shifts, but weren’t getting them in the offensive zone.”

* Johnston mentioned after Game 2 that Sportsnet’s coverage for Game 1 may have been detrimental to his team, as there were three media timeouts per period instead of the customary one.

“That was tough for us because we like to play with speed,” Johnston said. “I don’t really like it, I like to play the games the way it was tonight.”

Petan, who was the first star in the building with a goal and two assists, said fewer timeouts over the last two period helped the Winterhawks maintain their edge.

“We’re not on TV much so we’re not used to (the timeouts),” he said. “We were able to keep our momentum when we had it.”

* Kelowna defenceman Damon Severson, who hit the post in the third period and fired the puck into a fallen stick on another good scoring chance, said the Winterhawks were able to do Saturday what the Rockets had done Friday.

“It’s tough to see that we can play so well last night, and then tonight they score four straight goals and take the wind out of our sails,” Severson said. “They can put you back like that so quickly because they have such good offence. These guys are good and make you pay when they get opportunities.”

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