Chase Souto of the Kamloops Blazers isn't a household name in Portland. He will be enemy number one come Friday night. After another Winterhawks win (3-0 in Kamloops, BC), Souto was quoted by Marty Hastings in Kamloops This Week. "We did it last year. I think we're going to go in their barn, cause a ruck and shut their fans up," he said. "Bunch of losers down there. Just gonna give it our all."
That prompted the Winterhawks, who lead the Western Conference Finals 3-1, to order an all fan "White Out" for Friday night's game at the Rose Garden. All day Thursday, the Hawks players were all abuzz on Twitter and Facebook pushing the all-white look.
Already the series has been physical, emotional, and at times, controversial. But the fact remains, the Hawks have weathered this type of storm before. It was a year ago, in Round 2 of the Western Conference Championships, that the Hawks took on the Kamloops Blazers and a controversial hit by Oliver Gabriel on goaltender Cole Chevaldave landed him with a 4 game suspension. Kamloops rebounded in a series that Portland had led 3-0 to take it to a seventh game, only to lose to Portland 2-0.
The Hawks would make it to the WHL Finals, only to lose to Edmonton, a sore point for the Hawks as most felt they would have done far better in the Memorial Cup Tournament than Edmonton ultimately did. The same teams could be meeting again starting next weekend.
The emotions have probably never been rawer; it’s an odd statement in that the teams only see each other 4 times during the regular 72 game schedule, but something seems to happen magically when they face. Playoffs seem to get even more insane and after Wednesday’s delay in the game to clean up the debris that littered the ice following Winterhawk Keegan Iverson’s hit against Kamloops Brendan Ranford (resulting in Iverson receiving a 5 minute major for charging and a game misconduct). The replay showed a clear shoulder to chest check and a loose fitting chinstrap, which caused Ranford's helmet to come flying off. Jon Keen of Kamloops Radio NL was flying off the handle on the game feed, and he and I had words via Twitter, most of which cannot be written here.
No suspension by the league has been handed down and anyone who saw the replay can attest to the legit hit. Iverson weighs 215 pounds to Ranford’s; that makes a world of difference in the hit.
Souto's comments have enraged normally docile Winterhawks fans on message boards, Facebook and Twitter, the likes that haven't been seen in quite some time. The Blazers best be aware of the team that holds the series lead and that penalties can and will be called on the goon type tactics that have cropped up when the chips were down for the Blazers
The Evil Empire, aka the Portland Winterhawks, look to end this series in front of their hometown crowd Friday. The only black in the building will be the space where suspended GM and Head Coach Mike Johnston should be and 20 Storm Troopers on the Winterhawks squad who are looking to shut down not only Kamloops top lines yet again, but also one #12 in a Kamloops uniform in Chase Souto. It would be fitting for Darth Vader to make an appearance near the Winterhawks bench to promote the Evil Empire and send the Hawks on their way to a 4th Western Conference title.
It'll be a long 8 1/2 hour bus ride home for a very mouthy Chase Souto, who may have already put the proverbial fork in it after waking up the Empire!
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) Registered Charity