Two weekend games for the Portland Winterhawks did not give them the results they wanted. A Regulation loss to Everett and a shootout loss to Seattle—both on the road—were tough pills for the Hawks to swallow.
The Everett game was tough. With the Hawks 1 for 2 on the powerplay and giving Everett four chances in which they scored once, the Hawks used their 35-23 shot advantage mostly in the first two periods. Though Portland outshot Everett 11-9 in the first period, no goals were produced, but the second period early was all theirs. An early goal by Jonas Brondberg put the visitors up by one and Jake Gricius made it two with a short-handed marker. Then the wheels seemed to come off. Bryce Kindopp scored twice for Everett, the first one on the powerplay with two other goals scored one in each of the periods and suddenly Everett was up 4-2. A John Ludvig powerplay goal narrowed the gap, but the Hawks couldn’t close the deal even when Lane Gilliss tried in the closing seconds. The final was 4-3 for Everett in regulation, the first time that has happened since November.
The next night it was a Battle with Seattle in Portland as the Hawks looked to regroup after the previous night’s defeat. Cross Hanas opened it up for Portland just over four minutes in. Seattle tied it at the 15-minute mark to send the game into the next frame all knotted. Cross Hanas would get the Hawks up with a goal just barely after puck drop, but Seattle tied the game less than 20 seconds later. Robbie Fromm-Delorme once again put the Hawks up while on the powerplay. Again Seattle would score eight minutes later to tie the game up. The third period remained scoreless and the game headed to overtime. It got scary for Portland as Jake Gricius was assessed a slashing minor in the overtime frame and Seattle had the full two minutes to work. Portland was able to thwart the attack and so the game headed to a shootout. Seattle and Portland each scored in the first three rounds of the shootout, which made it sudden death where the next goal scored versus a missed attempt would gain victory for that side. Seattle was able to score and skated out with a 4-3 shootout win despite being doubled in shots, 46-23. What has been amazing has been the games with the two squads. Despite a 30-point gap between the two teams, Seattle has been a hard one for Portland to gain the upper hand on.
A rare Tuesday-night game saw Portland host the Spokane Chiefs. Spokane sits seven points behind Everett but is comfortably in third spot with a huge difference to the next place team Seattle some fifteen points back. Portland was in a wild affair with 13 goals scored in the contest. Spokane scored the first three, two of them in the first period, with one on the powerplay and another early in the second. It certainly looked like a long night. Even when Portland’s Tyson Kozak scored, Spokane bagged two more goals and it looked like Portland was in it deep at 4-1. Mason Mannek and then John Ludvig on the powerplay late in the second period, made it 4-3.
Spokane netted one early in the third period. Jack O’Brien and Reece Newkirk with the man advantage and a late goal with the Portland goal empty by Jaydon Dureau sent the game into overtime tied at 6.
Portland made a horrible line change as overtime was coming to a close and Spokane took advantage with Jack Finley ending the game just over 4 minutes into overtime to take the game 7-6 for Spokane.
Portland scored twice on the powerplay with Spokane getting 1 on 2 chances. Portland outshot Spokane 48-40, with yet again another big outburst on the shot clock.
Despite two overtime losses and a regulation loss, the Hawks are still in third in the latest CHL Rankings, dropping one spot, but there is a great deal of belief that the Winterhawks will rebound very quickly.
Here are the latest CHL rankings: (1) Ottawa 67’s, (2) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (3) Portland Winterhawks, (4) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (5) Edmonton Oil Kings, (6) Moncton Wildcats, (7) Everett Silvertips, (8) London Knights, (9) Cape Breton Eagles, and (10) Kamloops Blazers, with honourable mention to the Kitchener Rangers, Lethbridge Hurricanes, and Rimouski Oceanic.
With the point gained in the Spokane game, they have officially clinched a playoff berth with 20 games to go. Clinching does not mean they are wrapping up first place, but it means that even if they lost every game in regulation from now until the end of the regular season, they would still make the playoffs. The losses by Seattle and Tri-City compounded the Hawks’ push into postseason. The Americans have really taken it in the shorts. Thought to be a top-ranked team at the season’s start, they have given up a lot of games recently, with close to double-digits nightly. Seattle has tried to use goaltender Roddy Ross as their ace in the hole, but the points Seattle has been given show they are far from a contender. Kelowna holds onto the tipping balance in their quest to host the Memorial Cup. They have recently dropped to wildcard status and are just twelve points up on Prince George with PG holding a game in hand. The Rockets made no moves at the trade deadline and are now 2-8 in the past 10 games. PG is 5-4-1-0 in the past ten and is closing the gap, but will it be enough? If the Cougars are able to catch up and pass Kelowna, it will be a long two months plus before Kelowna plays another game. The next month will be a heavy watch.