The Portland Winterhawks picked a victory against the Edmonton Oil Kings to start the week off 5-2, where things weren’t in doubt from the get-go.
Aiden Litke and Josh Zareski got the Hawks on the board by the midway point of the first period. Edmonton tallied four minutes later to halve the lead, but Marcus Nguyen restored the two-goal lead about three minutes later. With seconds left in the first period, Edmonton got on the board again to make it 3-2 for the Hawks.
Goals by Luca Cagnoni in the second and Luke Schelter in the third period put the game away for the Hawks, now 6-0.
Neither team scored on the powerplay, with Portland 0 for 5 and Edmonton 0-2. Dante Giannuzzi in the Winterhawk net faced 18 shots, while Kolbe Hay on the Edmonton side faced 43 pieces of rubber his way.
The toughest test came a few days later when the Hawks once again faced the 2023 Memorial Cup hosts Kamloops Blazers. Unlike the last time, Kamloops had all of its NHL camp players return to the fold and is gunning for a top spot in the BC Division and to hold their current spot in the CHL Rankings at 5.
Kamloops headed to Portland in this battle and struck first as Matthew Seminoff converted a pass to put the Blazers on the board just over seven minutes in. Just over a minute later, Nicholas Johnson tagged his first of the year for Portland from the faceoff dot under the arm of goaltender Dylan Ernst to tie the game.
Kamloops then took a commanding lead. Two goals in three minutes by Logan Stankoven and the second of the night gave Kamloops a 3-1 lead at the end of the first. Just over five minutes into the second, Caeden Bankier tallied for the Blazers to put the Blazers up by three.
Portland wasn’t done as Robbie Fromm-Delorme got a shorthanded goal and then a powerplay goal eight minutes later to put the game at 4-3. With 44 seconds left in the period, Kyle Chyzowski scored to tie the game at 4.
Fromm-Delorme was denied a hat trick as he was told the goal he thought was his was waved off due to a high stick which sent the game into overtime.
Portland was assessed a penalty towards the end of the third period, which carried over to overtime, and the Hawks were able to weather the storm.
The game ended up in a shootout where goals by James Stefan and Marcus Nguyen ended being the difference as the Hawks only allowed one goal, which gave the Hawks a 5-4 shootout win and seven straight games with wins, tying them for the top spot in the Western Conference with Seattle Thunderbirds and tied with Red Deer Rebels for the overall WHL lead.
Three games remain for the Hawks in October, with a game this Saturday in Tri-City before a pair of games at home against the Kelowna Rockets, where the Hawks will welcome the player-parents to the game that weekend.
The Hawks were 8th in the CHL poll after being 10th last week. With the wins, will they move up again? Winnipeg still holds the top spot in the poll, but the poll frequently changes, so one will see.
Nicholas Andrusiak was reassigned to the Melville Millionaires of the SJHL, which reduced the roster to 25 players. Gabe Klassen and Ryder Thompson are still listed day-to-day on the injury list.