The weather started to warm up a bit as the Portland Winterhawks ventured on a mid-week game in Medicine Hat, Alberta and one in Swift Current, Saskatchewan as they reached the midway point of the longest road trip, the swing.
They started back on September 27 with a road game in Vancouver, which they won 4-2 and then came home. Departing Tuesday starting with a team-building exercise, the Hawks dropped a pair to Lethbridge and Calgary. They would then have a couple of days off before a pair of games took them to the Gas City of Medicine Hat, Alberta and Swift Current, Saskatchewan nicknamed Speedy Creek.
The Hawks fell out of the rankings this week, not unexpected due to a pair of tough losses. Only Calgary made it to the top five and Prince Albert Raiders in sixth with Edmonton in ninth were the only teams in the WHL to make the poll this week.
Moose Jaw enters the poll as an honorable mention. Once again, the poll is very volatile and seems to be remaining that way as the teams still are adjusting. Here are the current rankings: (1) Oshawa Generals, (2) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (3) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (4) Cape Breton Eagles, (5) Calgary Hitmen, (6) Prince Albert Raiders, (7) Charlottetown Islanders, (8) London Knights, (9) Edmonton Oil Kings, and (10) Ottawa 67’s, with honourable mention to the Sudbury Wolves, Moose Jaw Warriors, and Shawinigan Cataractes.
The Hawks headed to Medicine Hat, hoping to break free of the past two games where they held the lead but lost it and only seemed to have success from the defence corps in the scoring department. Isaiah DiLaura made his debut for the team as the backup goaltender. Neither team was able to get on the board in the first as the two teams tried to also keep their men out of the penalty box.
Portland scored first as Jonas Brondberg bagged his first in the WHL and true to form, it was a defenceman again. Medicine Hat tied it up less than three minutes later. DiLaura also got his first point as he assisted on a Clay Hanus goal just under two minutes later to put the Hawks up at the end of two. Portland fell on its heels in the third with a goal given up on the powerplay to the Tigers eight minutes in and a bad bounce as DiLaura tried to scoop the puck but saw it enter the net a few seconds later. This put Medicine Hat up by a goal.
The Tigers then added a fourth goal after fourteen minutes of play to seal the win, The Tigers peppered DiLaura with 21 shots in that period and outshot the Hawks 48-28. For the barrage and the assist, DiLaura was named second star of the game.
Portland was not able to gain a single powerplay in the game, with Medicine Hat grabbing a goal on just two chances.
Joel Hofer returned between the pipes and a homecoming of sorts as he and the Winterhawks headed to Swift Current, the most eastern town on the swing and recently added to the Central Division with the realignment. For the first time on the swing, it was a forward who started the scoring touch for the Hawks as Simon Knak notched only his second goal in the season while the team was on the powerplay. Sift Current tallied a powerplay marker of their own just a minute later.
Midway through the first period, Seth Jarvis answered the call, which put Portland up 2-1 at the end of one.
To the second period, where Swift Current tied it up as they hit the powerplay again. Portland would not be denied as captain John Ludvig struck on the powerplay to put the Hawks ahead again. Reece Newkirk then added a powerplay marker of his own with his first goal, just past the thirteen-minute mark as Portland led 4-2 and had scored on all three powerplay opportunities afforded to them.
Portland opened the floodgates in the third period with goals by Cross Hanas, his third on the season, Kade Nolan with his first, Mason Mannek with his first, and then Lane Gilliss with his second of the season in a rout. Portland went 3 for 3 on the powerplay while giving Swift Current a pair on five tries. Portland also outshot Swift Current 40-26 and it was all Hawks on the three stars with Ludvig, Newkirk and Jarvis named in the building.
At only 1,916 fans in attendance, this the lowest for Swift Current in the turnstiles this year.
The 8-2 loss was the first time in 21 years, that Swift Current had given up eight goals to Portland and Swift Current had never lost to Portland by six goals before.
The Hawks now play a Red Deer Rebels team that is mired in mediocrity and then an Edmonton Oil Kings team on Sunday afternoon, which is boasting a strong win/loss record and a ninth spot in this weeks poll as they end the swing.
The Winterhawks will then be off for a week and then face two Eastern Division opponents, Brandon will play Portland on Saturday, October 19 and then Prince Albert will come to town on the 23rd. It should be noted for that game, that the Trailblazers play across in the Moda Center, meaning pricey and tough parking at the Rose Quarter as both events will be starting at the same time of 7pm.