Several teams played Tuesday as the Western Hockey league schedule ends this coming weekend and for those teams in the playoffs, still trying to figure out who they will play for round one. Portland took the travel to Kennewick, WA for a rare Tuesday night game and the Hawks knew a win in Tri-City and a loss by Victoria would give the Hawks a bit of breathing room.
Portland started the night off with a hard-fought goal by Skyler McKenzie just over five minutes into the game as the Hawks carried the edge in play in the opening minutes. A big hit by Morgan Geekie on Keegan Iverson seemed to spark Tri-City, but as quickly as that happened, the wheels fell off the roller for the Americans. A hit by Landon Fuller on Jake Gricius by the Tri-City bench was ruled a high hit and a charging major with game misconduct was assessed and the Hawks enjoyed a five minute powerplay. Caleb Jones took advantage after a great deal of stretching out the Tri-City penalty killers as he sent a shot through traffic and past Ryan Parenteau to put the Hawks up by two. The Hawks would make it three as just as the major expired as Layne Gilliss sent a shot through traffic and the five hole of Parenteau.
The early part of the second period was more Winterhawks and Jake Gricius used his own rebound from the seat of his pants to send the puck past Parenteau to put the Hawks up by four. For the remainder of the second period, the Hawks had become a bit complacent and Tri-City starting adding on the pressure. Cole Kehler had to be sharp to make several saves as the Americans had two successive powerplays, but were unsuccessful on either. The game took on a chippy tone as the Americans, frustrated with their lack of scoring touch and the Hawks who were trying to stem the flow on some of the Americans onslaught got into some penalty trouble. After over half the third period was over, and the teams playing four aside, Tri-City finally scored their first and only goal of the game as Kyle Olson was able to finally beat Cole Kehler to put Tri-City within three.
Late in the game, Keegan Iverson retrieved the puck from the boards in the Tri-City zone and fired a wrist shot past Parenteau to make it 5-1. Shortly thereafter, Brett Clayton was freed from the Winterhawks zone on a breakaway and threw a back hand shot past Parenteau, a goal that the entire Tri-City bench disputed claiming the play was set up by a high stick. The game saw more scrums as time wore down, the frustration that Tri-City was feeling, now dropping their fifth game in a row, with Portland gathering their second straight win to put them three points up on Tri-City with the Americans having a game in hand. Portland outshot Tri-City 37-36 and scored once on two powerplays, while Tri-City was scoreless on six chances.
Portland was also watching another game to the north as the Vancouver Giants, well out of the playoff race, hosted the Victoria Royals, a team that was just a point behind Portland in the conference standings. Vancouver, though outshot by a wide margin in the game, especially the third period, pulled off a 5-3 win over the Royals. With Victoria having played the same number of games as Portland, the Royals will have to win both their last two games and hope Portland doesn’t win one of their remaining two in order to reclaim the sixth seed. Tri-City has a bit easier route, though down three points to the Hawks, they do have a game in hand.
Portland will play on the road against the Seattle Thunderbirds before finishing the regular season on Sunday against the Spokane Chiefs. The game versus Spokane will be the annual awards night with presentations pregame. The Hawks will also be honoring INTEL with retro night as the jerseys will have a pixelated Hawk head on the front and digitalized number on the back and sleeves. The jerseys will be auctioned online for a local charity.
This past week, the Western Hockey League recognized Winterhawks forward Cody Glass as their player of the week. Glass has had a banner season with over 40 goals and continues to add to his total as the season winds down.
On another WHL note, the Kootenay Ice, who were looking to sell the franchise this season, were also looking to be possibly relocated to Nanaimo, BC. The Frank Crane Arena, home to the BCHL Nanaimo Clippers, is deemed too small for a WHL franchise at under 2,800 seats, but would be a temporary arena until a new one was built. Voters in Nanaimo were asked this past week to decide on the city borrowing up to 80 million dollars to build a facility for which the WHL would obtain a franchise for and guarantee a lease for twenty years. Of the 60,000 voters eligible, just under 24,000 participated and voted 80 percent no. Where this leaves the Ice is uncertain; there was talk of a local group that offered to buy the franchise from the Chynoweth family. The Ice, which has won just 14 games this season, has averaged about 1,700 fans in a 4,300 seat arena. WHL Commissioner Ron Robison was quoted in an article about the Ice early last year that the arena needed to draw at least 3,000 fans to be viable.