As the final games ticked off the calendar for the Portland Winterhawks before the Christmas break, there were injuries and three players off to their respective camps as they represented their home countries for the world championships. The Winterhawks would be without Simon Knak playing for team Switzerland, Jonas Brondnerg for team Denmark and Joel Hofer as he made the Canadian roster this week. Included in the injury department was Kishaun Gervais with a lower-body injury. The Winterhawks added two players who, at 15, will not get a ton of ice time, and a backup goaltender in Dante Giannuzzi, who will help tend the pipes with other backup goaltender Isaiah DiLaura, while main netminder Joel Hofer is away.
The Hawks had moved up to a battle with Everett for first place in the US Division and with the latest CHL Poll, had jumped to eighth place as they looked to face Everett in a showdown in Portland. The CHL rankings were released, and these are the rankings as released by the CHL this past week:
(1) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (2) Ottawa 67’s, (3) Moncton Wildcats, (4) Everett Silvertips, (5) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (6) Prince Albert Raiders, (7) Peterborough Petes, (8) Portland Winterhawks, (9) Medicine Hat Tigers, and (10) Guelph Storm, with honourable mention to the Windsor Spitfires, Edmonton Oil Kings, and Rimouski Oceanic.
The Hawks would battle a fully equipped Everett team with a team missing five players, but a desire to battle the David vs Goliath and at this time of year, why not?
The Tips had other plans as they scored in the middle part of the first period and early in the second frame to put the Hawks on their collective heels. Midway through the second period, Robbie Fromm-Delorme was able to be part of a give-and-go with Reece Newkirk and earned his fourth of the year. Despite the pressure, the Hawks couldn’t close the gap in the second period. The Hawks made the decision to pull DiLaura from the net for the extra attacker. Everything the Hawks tried wouldn’t go for them, until there was less than a minute left in the third period. Jaydon Dureau found a way to get the Hawks even. The Hawks took a penalty in the overtime frame but were able to kill it off. It was Everett who would them take a penalty of their own; the Hawks would cap the comeback as Reece Newkirk completed a Seth Jarvis and John Ludvig rush to gain an important two vs one point with just over twenty seconds left in the overtime frame. The Hawks, with the win 3-2 in overtime, took over the top spot in the US Division. The Hawks would then play two other US teams as they looked to keep pace with the Tips for the top spot in the US Division. The Hawks outshot Everett 35-26 and scored the only power play goal as the Hawks went 1 for 4 to Everett’s 0-3.
To Kennewick the next night as Dante Giannuzzi took between the pipes on Tri-Cities’ Teddy Bear Toss Night. The Hawks, even without their top team, made Tri-City pay over and over again. Tyson Kozak got the Hawks on the board midway through the first period and kept the fur from flying the whole period. The Hawks would add a second midway through the second period as Clay Hanus netted his seventh of the year. Tri-City finally got on the board just a minute later and the Teddy Bears were flying. It seemed that was the only highlight of their night. Five minutes later, James Stefan restored the two-goal lead and the period ended.
The wheels would come off in the third period as Gabe Klassen, Cross Hanas and Reece Newkirk would add goals before the media timeout in the third. Power play goals by Nick Ciecek and Clay Hanas would cap the night as the Hawks spanked the Tri-City Americans 8-1. The Hawks outshot The Americans 46-18 and went 2 for 5 of the power play while preventing any goals on Tri-City’s single chance. With the win, Portland keeps ahead of Everett who won against Vancouver in their Teddy Bear Toss at home. Portland would then come home to face Seattle in the final game before the Christmas Break.
We call it the Sugarplum game, many teams will probably have a rough time as the players, anxious to get home for the Christmas break, will undoubtedly make many mental mistakes.Seattle has barely made the double-digit in wins thus far this season and has recently made a big trade to Kelowna of Matthew Wedman for draft picks in the next season. Kelowna has been buying heavily leading to their hosting the Memorial Cup this season. With both teams playing their third game in three nights, it was going to be tough for both squads to keep going in the 60-minute battle.
It was a very exciting game however, with the Thunderbirds drawing first blood just over six minutes in, That lead would hold through the first. The Hawks scored twice in the second, first by James Stefan and then Seth Jarvis, but only held the lead for just over a minute when Seattle tied it up again. Early in the third period Jake Gricius put the Hawks up again by one and looked to be headed out with the win but Seattle had other plans. With Goaltender Roddy Ross out for the extra attacker, Seattle found a way to get the equalizer and send the game into overtime. Neither team found the back of the net during the extra five minutes, so it had to be settled in a shootout. Both teams failed with the first two shooters and Portland missed on the third. Seattle, who had gotten heroics from Connor Roulette to tie the game, spun him again in the shootout and he was able to capitalize. Seattle had won the come from behind 4-3 shootout. With Everett holding a game in hand over the Hawks, the two teams were tied in points heading into the Christmas break. Everett will make up that game this week when they host the Tri-City Americans. The Hawks have quietly jumped to second overall in the WHL and should figure strongly in the upcoming CHL polls over the next couple of weeks as they take five of a possible six points this week.