Each and every one of Tyrell Goulbourne’s previous four seasons in the Western Hockey League ended far too soon for the Edmonton-born forward’s liking.
On three occasions, the Portland Winterhawks have been responsible for sending his Kelowna Rockets packing—in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Growing weary of that recurring theme, Goulbourne and the Rockets are getting one more crack at the ‘Hawks as the hardened playoff foes face off Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
“It’s not fun losing, especially basically three straight times to (the Winterhawks),” said Goulbourne, 21, who was a rookie 2011 when the Rockets fell in six games to Portland in the conference semifinal. “They’re obviously a very good team, we’ve had some good teams in the past, but haven’t been able to get the better of them.
“I’m excited to get going because I think this is our best chance yet,” he added. “There’s bad blood between us, they’ve stopped us a few times from getting what we wanted, so I know we’re excited to get it going.”
Goulbourne, captain Madison Bowey and then-assistant coach Dan Lambert are the only three Rockets to have succumbed to Portland all three times in the past four years, including last spring’s six-game loss in the conference final.
Based on recent history, it’s no surprise that Kelowna is motivated for revenge against their U.S. Division adversaries.
Still, as emotionally charged for the series as his team may be, Bowey believes the Rockets will be better served by playing a simple game and staying focused.
“It still stings a little what’s happened in the past, especially when you have expectations of going further…we know it’s a good rivalry and what’s at stake,” said Bowey, in his second playoff as Rockets’ captain.
“We also know how much hype this series has had, so we just have to keep a level head…keep focusing on our game plan and the task at hand, and just stick to that all the way through.”
While there are plenty of familiar faces on either side, both teams are also considerably different than the ones who faced off in the post-season one year ago.
Bowey said with the combination of the team’s core group and the additions of players like Leon Draisaitl, Josh Morrissey, Gage Quinney, Chance Braid and Rodney Southam, the Rockets are as well equipped as ever to take on the ‘Hawks.
“We have the skill we need to go far, and our physicality and our role players are terrific,” Bowey added. “How close we are in the room, I think everything like that can come into play and be a factor in the series.
“I know this team is capable of going all the way, so our main focus is deal with these Portland Winterhawks and it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Game 2 goes Saturday night at Prospera Place, with Games 3 and 4 set for Portland on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.