Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pick your poison

As the nine-day break drags into day four for the Kootenay Ice as they await their opponent in the WHL Finals, here's a look at who they might want as their foe.

Portland edged the Chiefs in Stumptown last night 3-2 to take a similar lead in the best-of-seven series. Game six goes Monday night in Spokane and Game Seven, if necessary, goes the next night back in Portland. Highlites are here.

Safe to say the Ice would like the series to go seven, overtime, too. Some asked the question whether or not the break would harm or help the Ice in the finals. If history serves - they had a similar break between Saskatoon and Medicine Hat - it'll help. All three of Drew Czerwonka (neck), Steele Boomer (concussion) and Brock Montogomery (mono) will be available for the Ed Chynoweth Cup series.

Pick your poison - So who would you like? Most fans, I would assume, want Spokane.

They're a natural rival, only three hours down the road and the two have a history in what would be a rematch of the 2000 WHL Finals. The two cities have a deep history and tradition in hockey going back to the 1950's and the senior Cranbrook Royals and Kimberley Dynamiter and the Spokane Flyers, Jets(1960's) and then Flyers again in the 70's.

In the five game regular season series the Ice dumped the Chiefs 6-2 and 6-3 in the first two match-ups. Most remember what happened next in the outdoor game January 15, an 11-2 romp by the Chiefs. Spokane grabbed the last two games with a 5-2 win and a 4-3 shootout win to end the match-up. They sport a line-up that doesn't look deep on paper but get's the job done. Tyler Johnson, Levko Koper, Brenden Kichton leading the team in scoring and NHL first-rounder (Ottawa) Jared Cowan. James Reid in the nets isn't bad either.

The Winterhawks and Ice only met once this season - as they have for the last five seasons - a 5-3 win for the Ice in Portland in December. Match-up wise the Winterhawks are deep, deep up front. Ryan Johansen, Craig Cunningham, Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie and Nino Niederreiter along with super-pest Brad Ross as the Hawks top-six.
On the blueline they're lead by Joe Morrow, Taylor Aronson, Troy Rutkowski, Brett Ponich and 2009 Top Bantam Draft pick D Derrick Pouliot. He was selected just ahead of Moose Jaw's Morgan Reilly who the Ice saw in the first round.
All-told the Hawks have a number one overall pick, a number two, a number five and two stellar import draft picks in Niederreiter and Bartschi.

With the Hawks an anticipated match-up of pests would be in order as Brad Ross, a Maple Leaf prospect, and Ice forward Jesse Ismond would be trying to one-up each other each shift.

Lots of talk of Hawks goaltender Mac Carruth and how he matches up. I think Nathan Lieuwen's play of late dicates an advantage but Carruth's got the job done for the Hawks so far.

The Winterhawks also had a tradition of holding the beginning of their annual training camp in Kimberley for a number of seasons in the late 80's and early 90's with the Junior A version of the Kimberley Dynamiters (RMJHL) an affiliate of the Winterhawks when Major Junior teams had such things.

On that note the return of Steele Boomer presents somewhat of a quandary for Ice head coach Kris Knoblauch. Does he interrupt the chemistry of the King-Eakin-Ismond line that formed after Boomer's injury in game one of the Tigers series? Moving Eakin to centre energized the line on the score-sheet with Ismond disturbing things enough to give both King and Eakin time and space. The Fraser-Reinhart-Antilla trio are going to stay intact but with Boomer back, along with Czerwonka, a third unit of Boomer centering Czerwonka and Pearce on the wings. Pearce is a natural centre but could easily play the wing on that line. The fourth unit becomes a lot deeper with the choice of Montgomery, Hurley or Benoit on the wings and Rossignol or Sam Reinhart at centre. The time-honoured tradition of an injury not claiming your spot in the line-up might not apply here. Boomer's great on faceoffs and a better overall defensive player but there's no denying the offensive wake-up of both Eakin and King during the Tiger series. It's a good problem to have...

As per Jeff Hollick's blog, the buildings in Spokane and Portland are open for the weekend to start the finals on both Friday and Saturday so games three and four will most certainly be back at the Plex Tuesday, Wednesday May 10,11.


Anonymous said...

I am scared thinking of Steele, centering Pearce and Chewy as our 3rd line. I think the Ice match up better against Portland actually. Their top 6 might be one notch better than ours.(But the way ours have been playing I think it could be even or Kootenay with the edge.) But Portlands defense is young and inexperienced. Morrow and Wotherspoon are 17 while Pouliot is 16. Wrenn just came from the NCAA and fatigue may be starting to set in for him with the longer schedule. Carruth isnt anything special. If Lieuwen continues his post season dominance the Ice will be in good shape. Must play disciplined and ware down and take away space from Johansen and Nino.

Jeff said...

You didn't elaborate why you'd be scared about Boomer centering the 3rd line. Knoblauch has options now if need be whether it be as a right-handed shot/key face-off or to shadow somebody.

Anonymous said...

Well you pretty much summed it up. Benoit-Pearce-Czerwonka was a good role playing line but inserting Steele on that unit would just add to the overall depth of the team. And on top of that I think Coach Knoblouch would feel a bit more comfortable with playing that line against one of Portlands top 2 lines and provide a better match up for the Eakin and Reinhart lines. That 3rd unit wouldnt be a huge impact on the score sheet but will pitch in occasionally. But on that note Coack K likes to sprinkle in Frasor, King, or Eakin the odd shift or two with the 3rd and 4th lines, so with King-Boomer-Czerwonka you have the teams top lines from earlier in the year. And BTW I just realized this now I meant scared in a good way!!!

ELL said...

Would not another option be having Pearce center the forth line. Having Sam Reinhart and Rossingnal sit?

Anonymous said...

I like Pearce, Czerwonka and Hurley. They played great together until Czerwonka got hurt-I think there was a little chemistry there. Furthermore, I didn't realize it at first but after it was pointed out to me in the Sask series-by games 3 and 4 noboby really wanted to go in the corner with Hurley-especially not the D. The could really see it in the Med Hat series. I would use the same game plan again. Use Czerwonka and Hurley to ware down the D which will open the ice for our skilled players. I was told by a friend in Med Hat, that it was Hurley's hits on Owuya that eventually took him out of game 4.

Cup Half Full said...

I checked the NHL schedule and see that if the Canucks/Preds series goes to a Game 7, it would be on Wednesday, May 11. Makes one wonder what that will do to attendance at the ICE game, assuming of course that the WHL follows what it has done for the previous rounds and our two home games do fall on the 10th and 11th. This could be a test for this town to see how important this team is to us. Of course one can hope that the Canucks/Preds series will not go to a Game 7. GO ICE GO!!

Anonymous said...

I like the Chiefs over Portland in seven games.
Then the Ice will have it's hands full when the Chiefs come to town.
The Ice and Chiefs will go six games,the results will be>
Spokane Chiefs = WHL Champions

Anonymous said...

I love the Canucks but I love the Ice just a little more....I will be at the Recplex and hope everyone else does the same. Go Ice Go.

Anonymous said...

I would go with Boomer, Czerwonka and Hurley for 3rd line; we need the grit.

Anonymous said...

ICE vs hawks