For the Portland Winterhawks, who had played just three games in two weeks, it was time to see how they would fare in a three games in three nights road trip. Starting in the northeast corner of Washington, the Hawks would battle the Spokane Chiefs, a team that had started the season surprisingly strong and was leading the division.
It didn’t take long for Spokane to show their muster as just over a minute into the game; Jake McGrew took advantage of errors in the Portland zone to score on Cole Kehler. However, that would be the only puck to get past Kehler and it seemed to ignite the Hawks. Just a minute later, Ty Kolle scored his first of the season to knot the game and keep it that way through the first period. The second period was all Hawks with an early goal by Bronson Sharp and goals by Sklyer McKenzie on the powerplay and Keoni Texeira late in the second, put the Hawks out of reach of a Chiefs comeback. The third period saw much of the same as Ryan Hughes on the powerplay and Cody Glass toward the end of the third, rounded out the scoring.
Cole Kehler stopped 30 of 31 shots as he was named the game’s first star, while Dawson Wetherill went the distance for Spokane stopping 28 of 34 Portland shots. Portland scored on two of five powerplay opportunities while Spokane was unable to convert on its seven chances with the man advantage.
Less than 24 hours later, Portland was at the ShoWare Center with a televised game against the Seattle Thunderbirds. The previous televised game in Portland saw the Hawks dismantle the Thunderbirds and they were hoping for a repeat. Earlier in the week, Turner Ottenbreit learned of his fate with being handed a six game suspension for his hit on Joachim Blichfeld on September 30 in Portland.
The Thunderbirds started the game in similar fashion to the Hawks versus Spokane game with an early goal just over a minute into the first period as Zack Andrusiak snapped a shot over the right shoulder of Shane Farkas to give the Birds an early lead. Midway through the first period, Keoni Texeira evened the game with blast from the point on the powerplay. Just a minute later, Skyler McKenzie put the Hawks in the lead and late in the period, Ryan Hughes added another Portland marker to put the Hawks up by two.
Early in the second period, Henri Jokiharju notched his first of the year, but was replied back by Sami Moilanen for Seattle to keep the Thunderbirds close. Less than sixteen seconds later, Jake Gricius scored his first of the year followed by Jokiharu’s second of the night, spelling the end of Seattle’s starting goaltender Matt Berlin. With Liam Hughes taking over net duties, Portland swarmed the Seattle zone time and time again and finally broke down the wall with Skyler McKenzie grabbing his fifth of the year. Seattle’s Matthew Wedman would add a late goal in the second period to make it a five goal game.
The third period saw Ty Kolle and Cody Glass score early before Sami Moilanen scored his second of the game. Mason Mannek, who made the Hawks roster this season for the first time, scored his first goal of the season to put the Hawks into double digits. Late in the game, Blake Barger scored for Seattle to make it just a five goal game.
Portland outshot Seattle 39-28 and went 1 for 2 on the powerplay. Seattle went 2 for 3 on the powerplay and, with the loss, dropped to the bottom of the US Division while Portland moved to the top.
Up next was a return date with the Spokane Chiefs, a team they will play twice at home in just three days. The Sunday afternoon matchup saw the Hawks take the lead just over five minutes into the game with Skyler McKenzie notching his sixth goal of the season. Just over a minute later it was Keoni Texeira with his fourth of the season to put the Hawks up by two.
Spokane made the board with Riley Woods scoring his fourth goal of the year, but the Hawks held the strong advantage in shots on goal. The second period was all Hawks as they scored four goals in ten minutes to put the game out of reach. Conor MacEachern, Mckenzie with one on the powerplay and a pair by Ryan Hughes including a short-handed goal which came as a result of a five minute powerplay to the Chiefs, were all the Hawks needed and then some. Donovan Buskey, who started the game for the Chiefs, was replaced by Dawson Weatherill who promptly gave up the short-handed goal to Hughes. The lengthy powerplay to the Chiefs came as a result of a cross check major to Brendan DeJong who will learn of any additional penalty on Monday. The Chiefs player was able to skate off on his own which may reduce DeJong’s time off. In the third, Henri Jokiharju put the Hawks up by six, before Spokane’s Eli Zummack completed the scoring to make it Portland 7 Spokane 2. The Winterhawks outshot the Chiefs 33 to 23 and blanked the Chiefs on six powerplay chances including the major, while Portland took one goal on three opportunities on the powerplay.
The same two teams will walk across the concourse to the Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday to play again and it will be interesting to see if the Hawks, who have now outscored their opponents 23- 8 in three games, will be as lucky in as many tries against Spokane. With the win, Portland took over sole possession of first place in the US Division and a tie for third overall in the Western Hockey League standings
The Western Hockey League made some announcements this past week with the Board of Governors accepting the sale of the Seattle Thunderbirds to Dan and Lindsey Leckett, who co-own an HVAC and data center equipment manufacturing company in Edmonton, Alberta and satellite offices in Phoenix, Virginia, Seattle and Dublin, Ireland. The Lecketts also have stakes in two Alberta based hockey clubs. As per the agreement, General Manager Russ Farwell and President Colin Campbell will stay on with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The WHL also announced that it was aligning its schedule with that of the OHL and QMJHL in running a 68 game regular season. Curerntly the WHL runs a 72 game season and that will hold for this year. Two home games and two road games will be removed, most likely in games versus divisional opponents and offer a better balanced schedule.