It’s not how they wanted to go into the Holiday break, giving up two heartbreaking wins in their Division, but that is what the Portland Winterhawks did as they gathered up all their belongings and headed home.
The Hawks took leads of 2-0 both in Tri City and Portland and ended up on the losing side of the score. In Kennewick, the Hawks played a very tentative game with Cody Glass away representing Canada at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver, BC. The first period remained scoreless and the Hawks, while they had chances, were often worried about making a mistake that would take the puck the other way. Joachim Blichfeld finally broke the deadlock with a Howitzer near the faceoff dot to the left of Neck Warm and put the Hawks in the lead after a Jake Gricius pass set Blichfeld free on a breakaway while shorthanded.
The third came and the Hawks built on the lead as Michal Kvasnica scored after another Gricius feed. Two minutes later, Tri City got on the board on what was thought to be an innocent play and with the goaltender out and a powerplay, the Hawks couldn’t weather the storm and gave up a goal with 30 seconds left in the frame. Blichfeld, who got the Hawks on the board, tried to wrap the puck on the glass and out, but it found its way out of play instead, leading to the power play marker. In Overtime on a bad change, Tri City found itself with the puck in the attack zone and making no mistake with a minute and a half left, they found a way to the back of the net and a win for Tri City. The next night, the Hawks intended to exact a little revenge. The teams were tied in shots at 34 each and Tri City was the only team to score as they went 1-of-6 on the man advantage; Portland shot a zero on its three attempts, but it did get a shorthanded goal.
Once again, another first period struggle as both teams played a very defensive manner as they were looking to the time away from hockey and the first period remained scoreless. Once again, Joachim Blichfeld broke the deadlock after being set up by Ryan Hughes. It was Tri City that took the lead with a pair of goals fewer than three minutes apart that put the Americans on top. Ryan Hughes got into the act with a goal just 50 seconds later to knot the game. Tri City took the lead again, midway through the third period. With Shane Farkas at the bench for an extra attacker, Jared Freadrich scored with just 30 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Things got very heated during the game and exploded into a brawl late in the overtime frame. Tri City had other plans as they used their shorthanded status to put the dagger into the heart of the Hawks in a 4-3 overtime win.
The Hawks get a point per game after making it through regulation, though four would have given them breathing room from Spokane Chiefs as they moved into a tie following a wild 6-5 win over Seattle. Tri City had a two-shot edge on Portland, 36-34, and both teams were blanked on the 11 total power plays; though Tri City notched a shorthanded goal.
Both Spokane and Portland are tied with 42 points after 34 games and remain 12 back of Everett with two games in hand on the Silvertips. Portland is off until December 28 when they face Tri City again in a home and home battle and a New Year’s Eve clash with the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Hawks will be on the road until January 19 as they hit the Eastern Swing.
Until December 27, there is a moratorium on trades in the league, but you can be sure that when the games resume, a few teams will look into the trade pool. With less than two weeks until trade deadline, only Prince Albert with only two regulation losses and a shootout loss are really guaranteed a playoff spot.
Speaking of the swing, the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is thinking big still a year or two away. The Eastern Swing has long eluded the PWHBC with its distance and in a very soft reminder, put the feelers out if there was interest. In fewer than two games, the event was already sold out with a waiting list to follow. The Club will fly to Regina and bus to the other teams before flying home from Regina. Two years back, the WHBC sold in two games the Central Swing where they filled a bus and went to all towns in Alberta and Southern British Columbia.
No word has yet been given on the status of the Cranbrook, BC Kootenay Ice. Much of that talk will take place during the WHL Governors meeting in a couple of months. If Kootenay moves next year as has been speculated, they would temporarily move into a 1400 seat arena in Winnipeg at the University of Manitoba. The Kootenay Ice have played in Cranbrook since the move from Edmonton in 1998 and have seen the 4200 seats arena most nights less than half full. The talk is that Winnipeg would look to a 5000 seat arena on the southwest corner of the city to open in two years following the move. Fifteen of 22 governors must approve the relocation, the first since 1998, which saw Edmonton relocate to Cranbrook. Winnipeg has its own share of issues; two teams have moved from there—the Warriors to Moose Jaw and the Monarchs, who became the Calgary Wranglers and eventually settled on Lethbridge as the Hurricanes.