Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

From the Dub:  Postcard from the brink

The Kelowna Rockets and the Portland Winterhawks will face off tonight at Prospera Place on two very different sides of the Western Conference finals. The Winterhawks lead the series 3-1, and we all know what that means. The Rockets have been one of the few teams to truly challenge the Winterhawks this season, so I wouldn’t count them out just yet.  Here on the edge of either an epic comeback for Kelowna or a fourth Western Conference title for the Winterhawks, anything is possible for both teams.

Please rise and remove your hats. Winnipeg Jets prospect Nic Petan helped secure the Winterhawks’ 5-1 win over Kelowna on Wednesday with a hat trick.

Unleash the hounds. The Winterhawks took the Great Dane off the leash and Oliver Bjorkstrand promptly went to work on Tuesday with two goals, including a long overdue goal that temporarily tied the game at 1-1. Wednesday, he scored again with my personal favorite: shorthanded on a breakaway.  Get ready, Columbus. If you like Ryan Johansen, wait until you meet Oliver. Portland is proud to dispatch another top prospect and all around great person to the Blue Jackets. He’s worth the wait.

Fear the Leier.  Taylor scored the game winning goal exactly 10 minutes into overtime on Tuesday night.  As a lifetime Pens fan, in Taylor’s honor I have gone to the dark side and become a full-bore Flyers fan. I even plan to buy the Leier jersey if he sticks with the organization.  It wasn’t easy, but Taylor Leier is worth the sacrifice. Take the greatest of care with our prize, Philadelphia. There’s no one quite like Taylor and we expect only that you treat him as we have; with the greatest of care, much love and the utmost respect.

The third line is the new first line. If you’re keeping an eye on 2014 Entry Draft prospects, look no further than the trifecta of Alex Schoenborn, Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson.  Hard working, relentless and fearless, they’re coming on strong in the latter half of their draft year. The NHL teams that draft them will be choosing from among the Winterhawks’ very best talent.

Rocket Power. Look for some fireworks displays tonight from rookie Nick Merkley (he scored Kelowna’s lone goal on Wednesday), local Kelowna fan favorite Rourke Chartier and goalie Jordon Cooke.

Cooking with gas. Kelowna Rockets goalie Jordon Cooke stopped four of the Winterhawks’ 65 shots on Tuesday, earning a well-deserved second star and applause from local Portland fans. Alas for his team, it didn’t earn them the win, but I really don’t know what else he could have done besides literally stand on his head to give his team a chance.

Rattle the cage. Or not. Portland fans have already heard me say this, but it bears repeating. I have to hand it to Rockets head coach Ryan Huska.  The dude never flinches. Not even a little. Take a close look at his bench and you’ll see that he’s constantly working, thinking and strategizing. Whatever happens tonight, Ryan Huska has earned my respect. The Rockets are lucky to be led by one of the best in the league.

Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.  For the Kelowna perspective on tonight’s game, I recommend tuning in to our good friends Regan Bartel and Gord McGarva. They are hands down two of the best guys in this league. Todd Vrooman will be covering the Winterhawks on http://www.winterhawks.com

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It’s all good. The Kelowna Rockets are the BC Division Champions and they succeeded the Winterhawks as this year’s Scotty Munro Trophy winners for best league record. I have a feeling the Winterhawks will take care of business tonight, but  the Rockets will still get my respect for their stellar season. If they hang on and force Game 6 in Portland on Sunday afternoon, I would predict the Winterhawks will lock it up at that time.  Either way, the Western Conference finals have given fans here in the Dub much to be proud of and more than enough entertainment for one week. The Portland Winterhawks and the Kelowna Rockets have given us their very best this season; they deserve our best in return. 

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com