The first game seems to be the toughest when playing mid-week and against resurging teams. Such was the case with the Calgary Hitmen. The only loss Calgary suffered was the previous night where they lost 4-0 against Everett, so coming into Portland, they had a point to prove. They played Carl Stankowski in net; if the name sounds familiar to last season, it is because he was dealt to Calgary from Seattle after Stankowski ended up with an illness that knocked him out of last year.
He was stellar in net, stopping 38 shots, many highlight-reel saves including batting the puck in midair with his goal stick. Two Calgary markers were disallowed after being ruled as kicked in by Calgary. The Hawks Cody Glass notched another goal early on, another impressive streak in itself as the Hawks held onto that lead into the dressing room. A goal by Calgary on the powerplay at the midway point of the second period notched it up as the two teams then headed to the third. Two goals by Calgary prior to the eight minute marks gave the visitors a goal lead as they rounded the midway point. John Ludvig gave the Hawks life with a goal 15 minutes in, but it was two kicked-in goals that were disallowed by the officials that seemed to take the win from the sails of the Hawks and a win for the Hitmen. Portland was blanked on five man-advantage chances; Calgary went one of three and with Stankowski; he was named first star with a 38 save heroic performance. Shane Frakas stopped 25 of 28 in the Portland net. Two days later it would be a Battle with Seattle, which was televised on CW 32 and JoeTV in Seattle.
The Hawks, coming off a loss against Calgary at the Moda, brought their aggression to the VMC as they looked to get even with Seattle from last week. Reece Newkirk opened the scoring for Portland just over seven minutes in, but the lead was quickly interrupted by Zack Andrusiak just 20 seconds later. A goal late in the period restored the Hawks’ lead as Jaydon Dureau nailed his third of the year. That lead was added to by Cody Glass just over six minutes into the second period. Andrusiak got his second of the game two minutes later and once again, the game was close. Mason Mannek scored near the end of the second as Portland was not willing to roll over. They outshout Seattle by this point 32-12 as they would tally 45 shots to 18 for Seattle and could easily have taken full command if not for the tenacity of Liam Hughes in net for Seattle. Andrusiak would complete the hat trick for Seattle as time wound down and cut the lead to 4-3. Empty net chances went wide for icings as Portland tried to squeeze another goal out but couldn’t and settled for the win, nonetheless. Portland gave up a powerplay goal on three chances to Seattle and claimed one of their own on four tries as they tried to keep pace with Everett.
They would meet Everett the following night in Portland at the VMC as both teams eeked out tough wins the night before. Everett scored with less than a minute left in regulation to snag a 2-1 win over Kelowna and open an eight-point gap. Spokane, which has been quietly picking up wins, took third place with just a point separating Portland and Spokane in the US Division. Seattle remains well back at 19 points, which sits them currently in last place in the Western Conference.
Portland battled Everett as they looked to gain some traction in the US Division with now eight points separating the two teams. This was the only matchup in the WHL on Sunday. Everett found the back of the net first early in the game with Portland responding three minutes later. Within a very short time, Everett increased the lead by a goal and added another late in the frame to give them a two-goal cushion late in the second. Everett added another to give them a three-goal lead. Michael Kvasnica cut into that lead 20 seconds later as the teams skated to the locker room. Joachim Blichfeld added a powerplay goal near the midway point of the third and the Hawks were pressing. Late in the third, a costly turnover in the defensive zone gave Connor Dewar a shot at the empty net and he buried the puck as time wound down, Portland netted the only power play goal on five opportunities and blanked Everett on seven man advantage chances. Portland outshot the Silvertips 33 to 32 in the contest.
The Hawks will not play again until this Saturday as they face Spokane Chiefs in the annual Teddy Bear Toss and then face Kootenay the next night with the only appearance of the Ice this year.
The CHL poll came out just prior to the US Thanksgiving holiday and really holds few surprises. Prince Albert continues its domination, having lost just once in their 22 games played. They still hold the top spot in the CHL poll. Other WHL teams are well back as Red Deer, Everett and Vancouver, take the spots in the poll.