The Portland Winterhawks are proving to be a very tough team to defeat at home. After winning both home games in September and then doing that again in October, they will see if November is as good to them.
First, though, was a match in Everett against the Silvertips. Everett, which has surprised a few by being at the top of the Division, was itching to give the Hawks all they could handle and more. It seemed that was the other way around.
Seth Jarvis started things off for Portland with a powerplay goal less than five minutes in. Mason Mannek added to that total with a shorthanded goal, just past the midway mark of the period. Everett thought they had scored, but after video review, it was determined that time had expired when it crossed the line. Portland had a 2-0 lead going into the second period.
Portland added a powerplay goal less than five minutes into the second as Lane Gilliss tallied his fourth of the year. Everett countered three minutes later, but it was the only one by Hofer. Portland’s Matt Quigley added one just before the midway mark of the third. With that goal, starting goaltender Dustin Wolf was replaced by Keegan Karki, who went shutout hockey the rest of the way, but it didn’t matter. There was no scoring after that point and Everett was able to get just seven shots on goal in the third period. Portland was 2-of-5 on the man advantage and held Everett off the scoresheet with their five attempts. Portland held a 30-29 shots advantage as they vaulted into first place in the US Division.
The next night they played the first of 12 meetings in the Battle With Seattle starting things off on home ice. The event was compounded by Dean Scooter’s retirement, which after 32 years with the team was a big cause for celebration. The televised game was a hotly contested one, very defensive with 68 combined shots on net and no powerplay goals despite there being seven combined chances with the edge to Seattle 4-3 on man advantages.
Portland’s John Ludvig continues to dominate as a defenceman with his league-leading eighth goal, nearing the nine-minute mark of the game. Almost six minutes elapsed into the second period when goaltender Blake Lyda was unable to corral the puck for Seattle and Reece Newkirk was able to convert it. There was a review, which allowed the goal to stand. The only blemish to Hofer’s shutout bid happened thirteen minutes into the third when Alex Morozoff was able to tally one for the Thunderbirds. Joel Hofer, who was named second star the previous night, got first star of this game.
With that win, the Portland Winterhawks remain unbeaten at home in five tries as they then hosted the Kamloops Blazers.
With the time change back an hour and a loss by the Blazers the previous night against Everett, the desire to right the ship on the part of the Blazers was strong. It was the return of former Winterhawk Ryan Hughes, who was traded last season during the Eastern Swing to Saskatoon. Kamloops traded for him at the start of training camp and he has paid off handsomely. Ryan would score a goal and tack on an assist in a triumphant return to the Rose City.
Scoring three goals in the first 12 minutes of the first period, the Blazers were showing their anger from the previous game against Everett. The Hawks would score a pair thirty seconds apart as Cross Hanas and Simon Knak scored to make the game interesting. On the powerplay just over 18 minutes into the period, Kamloops regained the lead. Though the teams were tied at 12 shots each, Kamloops held a 4-2 lead. Portland scored the only goals of the second period as Mason Mannek and Seth Jarvis while on the powerplay, tallied to tie the game. Portland would take its only lead of the game early in the third period as Seth Jarvis converted a short-handed goal to give them the lead. With that goal, Kamloops replaced Royce Ramsey in the net with Dylan Grand. That change seemed to spark the Blazers, as the lead lasted all of ten seconds before Kamloops tied it up. Kamloops regained the lead just past the five-minute mark, which spelled the end of the night for Winterhawks backup goaltender and starter Issah DiLaua. Joel Hofer went the rest of the way stopping the five shots his way. The Hawks tried to get the equalizer but ran out of time as Kamloops skated away with a 6-5 win. Portland outshot Kamloops by a wide 43-29 margin, were 1 for 3 on the powerplay, while Kamloops was able to claim 1 of 2 with the man advantage.
That win was the first loss on home ice for the Winterhawks as they are off until Friday when they go to Vancouver to play the Giants before they turn around and play the next night to do it all over again in a home-and-home series.
Joel Hofer’s win in Everett and at home against Seattle, coupled with a shutout performance versus Kamloops, earned him Goaltender of the week. Hofer gave up only a pair of goals in that stretch and had a .969 save percentage in that stretch. He had already won this honor three weeks prior and was subsequently named to the WHL team when they face Russia in a couple of weeks. His strong performance leads many to see him also getting a call for the World Juniors during late-December or early-January.