The Portland Winterhawks made a few roster moves leading up to this week’s games. The Hawks added some depth due to four players heading to World Junior Championships over the next few days. Fifteen-year-old Seth Jarvis, who was a first-round selection in this year’s Bantam Draft, comes in along with a pair of seventeen-year-olds in Jaydon Dureau and Connor Bowie, all of whom excelled at this season’s training camp. These players have had exceptional campaigns thus far with their respective minor teams and are expected to stick with the Winterhawks until the New Year’s Eve game.
The Hawks saw Cody Glass leave the Winterhawks on Monday to head to Canada’s national camp for the World Junior Championships, which take place in St. Catherines, Ontario over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Other Hawks heading out this week will be Keiffer Bellows (USA), Henri Jokiharju (Sweden) and Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark). With the exchange of players, Portland should be able to weather a storm of upcoming games against US Division opponents.
One such matchup happened Tuesday night as the Hawks traveled to Spokane to face the Chiefs. Without Glass, the Hawks elected not to use any of the call ups and rely on the current team structure to carry them through.
Both teams had plenty of chances, but were unable to hit the twine until Spokane’s Hudson Elynuik flew off the bench and fired a shot over the shoulder of Cole Kehler to open the scoring near the fifteen-minute mark of the first period. That lead would last until the middle of the second period when the teams had members of their respective teams in the penalty box and some four on four hockey was played. Joachim Blichfeld picked up his own rebound in front of Spokane goaltender Donovan Buskey and fired it into the open net to tie the game. Just over a minute later, Keiffer Bellows found himself on a breakaway and fired a shot over a sprawling Buskey to give the Hawks the lead. However, that was short-lived as less than three minutes later, Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto wristed a shot over the shoulder of Kehler to tie the game at two.
Keoni Texeira flew into the Chiefs zone following a back pass by Henri Jokiharju and he lifted a backhand shot over the pad of Buskey to put the Hawks back into the lead just under seven minutes into the third period. Spokane tried to gain the equalizer, but Kehler shut them down and the Hawks were as easily frustrated by the Chiefs. With just under two minutes remaining, Spokane pulled Buskey to try to get the equalizer and put the ensuing pressure put the Hawks on their heels. With less than ten seconds left in the game, Joachim Blichfeld freed the puck from the zone and set Sklyer McKenzie down the ice. McKenzie stopped at the net, passed the puck to Blichfeld who put the final nail in the game with just a second left on the clock.
Spokane outshot the Hawks 32 to 30 and both teams went 0 for 4 on the powerplay. With the win, the Hawks snapped their losing streak at five and give themselves a bit of breathing space atop the US Division. While on the losing skid, the Everett Silvertips got within a point of Portland, but gave up three games in hand. Portland still has two games on the Silvertips and will have a chance to increase their lead with a return match against Spokane on Saturday and a road game in Everett on Sunday. The Hawks will then break for the Christmas holiday and return with a game at home against the Tri-City Americans on Wednesday, December 27.
The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will conclude their annual Player Christmas Ornament Auction at Saturday’s game. The players decorated and signed an ornament each in late October with the funds raised from the auction going to several local charities and their annual Shop With A Hawk event. The Booster Club is still offering space aboard a fan bus to Everett on Saturday, January 6, 2018. Sign up is available at Saturday’s home game.