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Winterhawks Notes

The Victoria (48-20-1-3, 100 points) vs. Portland (54-13-2-3, 113 points), best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series starts 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Coliseum and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Moda Center, and continues next week on Vancouver Island.

• The Royals swept Spokane (outscoring the Chiefs 16-7) and Portland swept Vancouver (outscoring the Giants 19-7) in round one.

• Victoria won three of four games against Portland during the regular season — all by 3-2 scores, and all three in different ways. It was 3-2 on Nov. 9 in overtime, 3-2 Jan. 4 in regulation and 3-2 Jan. 10 in shootout. The Hawks beat Victoria 2-1 on Jan. 11, which started the team’s epic 21-game winning streak and wins in 32 of 33 games.

“It should be a great series,” says Mike Johnston, Portland general manager and coach. “We’re two very evenly matched teams.”

• The Royals might have the best goalie tandem pair in the WHL, with starter Patrik Polivka (28-12-0-2, .915 save percentage, 2.56 goals against) and Coleman Vollrath (20-8-1-1, .928, 2.29). Polivka started and played every game against Spokane.

Johnston says the Royals have good skaters, too.

“They have four really good lines, some depth up front,” he says, “and six experienced defensemen. They’re deep throughout their lineup.”

Although scoring 100 fewer goals than Portland in the regular season (238 to the Hawks’ 338), the Royals had six players with 20 or more goals, led by Austin Carroll with 34.

Brandon Magee led a list of seven players with 47 or more points, finishing the regular season with 25 goals-42 assists-67 points. “Magee is really slick with the puck,” Johnston says.

The Royals excel at defense. They allowed 181 goals, second fewest to Edmonton (179) and fewer than Kelowna (182). “They play a little bit more of a defensive game,” Johnston says.

• Portland center Nic Petan, on the Royals: “They’re a hard-working team, tough to play against. It’s going to be a hard round, for sure.

“They’ve got some skill up front. We just have to take advantage of their defensemen, because they’re big and rangy. We have to use our speed and skill. Nothing that makes us afraid.”

• Portland has been clicking in every phase of the game. How can the Hawks be better?

“There’s always room for improvement,” Petan says. “Sometimes our defensemen are not moving the puck quick enough or the forwards are turning over the puck. Those are two things that would set our team back.

“All around, we’re a solid team. We’re a skilled team. We have a lot of maturity on our team, and I think we’re the hardest-working team in the league.”

Johnston agrees, saying the breakout from the defensive zone and passing in the offensive zone remain keys.

• The other WHL second-round playoff series have been set. It’s Kelowna-Seattle in the West and Edmonton-Brandon and Medicine Hat-Kootenay in the Eastern Conference. Kootenay upended favored Calgary and coach Mike Williamson, 4-2.

• Former players sometimes move back to Canada to play university hockey. (Adam Rossignol, for example, might go the college route). By playing in the WHL, players become eligible for college scholarships, and many continue their careers (and education) north of the border; Canadian universities allow such participation, U.S. universities do not.

Kurtis Mucha, a former Winterhawks goaltender, recently led the University of Alberta Golden Bears past the Saskatchewan Huskies 3-1 to capture the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship.

Mucha, 24, holds the WHL record for most games (245) and most minutes (13,786) by a goaltender. He played most of his career in Portland before being traded to Kamloops; he then played some in the pro East Coast Hockey League.

He’s also been noteworthy for suiting up for the Edmonton Oilers for a game against the Ottawa Senators on March 4. A trade left the Oilers without an emergency, backup goalie; Mucha signed a one-day NHL deal and sat on the bench.