The Portland Winterhawks picked up two huge wins this week as they make their case for the CHL Poll. Twice, they knocked off the Vancouver Giants in a home-and-home series. The first was a tough 5-3 win for the Hawks in Portland. The Hawks led 1-0 on a Jake Gricius goal, then with less than a minute in the period, they saw that lead evaporate and a tie game headed into the second period with both goals coming on the powerplay.
It was a five-minute stretch to start the period where the Hawks saw the Giants score twice to open up a two-goal lead. Two goals, less than a minute apart in the middle of the third period by Cody Glass and Reece Newkirk gave the Hawks back the lead and an empty-net goal just over a minute left in the third period sealed the deal for Portland and gave it a win over the sixth ranked Vancouver Giants in the CHL Poll.
Portland went 2-for-4 on the powerplay and allowed one power-play goal on four chances to Vancouver. Outshooting the Giants 26-25, the Hawks hoped they would be able to regain the top spot in the US Division.
Less than one night later, Portland faced Vancouver one more time as it looked to not only take the lead in the US Division, but give the pollsters something to think about. It was a contested affair with both squads. Reece NewKirk started things off with a great feed on the Vancouver end from Jaydon Dureau and found an open net and the Hawks lead. That held up to the second period when Vancouver knotted the game with a hard-fought goal by Yannik Valenti. That score held through the end of regulation and it was time for defencemen to show up. Brendan DeJong took a pass from Newkirk and skated around the Vancouver defence and was initially blocked by goaltender Trent Miner. A second attempt as the Giants crashed the net saw DeJong make a second attempt and flipped it top shelf behind Miner to end the game. No one scored on the powerplay with a combined eight attempts: five to Portland, three to Vancouver. Portland also had a major edge on shots 33-19.
With the two wins, the Hawks vault into a tie with Spokane with a game in hand and sixth overall in the WHL. Prince Albert continues to be the dominant force with twelve wins and only one loss. Portland will face Spokane in a battle of US Division superpowers. Portland will complete the three games in three nights with two games against Kamloops at the Coliseum.
Portland has two meet and greets this week as they get ready for the showdown this weekend:
Vancouver Hazel Dell 917 Minnehaha St. Vancouver WA
Players: Matt Quigley, Reece Newkirk, Nick Perna
Milwaukie 16685 SE McLoughlin Bvld. Milwaukie OrR 97267
Players: Lane Gilliss, Michal Kvasnica, Shane Farkas, Robbie Fromm-Delorme