In what had to be one of the oddest schedules ever, the Portland Winterhawks played the same team three straight times with two on the road, a nine-hour bus ride home and within eight hours, be back on the ice to compete with the same team again. The Hawks were already depleted with Cody Glass and Kieffer Bellows out for perhaps another week or two, so sixteen-year-old Seth Jarvis was called into service to aid the ailing team.
With two games in Kamloops, Portland looked to keep pace with the Everett Silvertips for the US Division lead. The Tips, meanwhile, had taken off, going 9-0-0-1 in the past ten games and the Hawks would have their work cut out for them. The first game saw Kamloops show more dominance than seen in recent days as they worked the Hawks for every chance they got. Portland was able to strike twice on the powerplay, however, it was the only goals they would get and Kamloops was able to score in pairs in both the second and third period along with a single in the first to take the game 5-2. Kamloops scored once on their two powerplays and got strong goaltending from Dylan Ferguson to put the Hawks down in the first game. Matthew Quigley was suspended by the league for two games under supplemental discipline which had been put forth by the Blazers on a non-penalized event.
The firepower of the Hawks surfaced in game two as the Hawks scored two goals in the first twelve minutes of the first period to take their first lead in the series. Skyler McKenzie scored one of the goals while the team was shorthanded. The Blazers started chipping away in the second period with two goals in similar fashion to the Hawks’ first period and took the lead in the third period on a controversial play. While the puck was in the Hawks zone, Kamloop’s Nolan Kneen crosschecked Clay Hanus to the back of the head resulting in a loose puck which was snapped by Quinn Benjafield past Shane Farkas who started for the Hawks in net. The Blazers added a late empty net goal to steal a 4-2 win and put the Hawks five points back in the race for top spot in the US Division. Both teams were blanked on the powerplay and the Blazers held a 36-34 shot advantage.
The travel to Portland meant both teams would have to summon some serious inner energy as the third meeting in as many nights. After a scoreless first period, the Hawks exploded out of the gate picking up powerplay goals from Henri Jokiharju and Jake Gricius and adding a goal early in the third period to take what appeared to be a commanding lead. Like the game the night before in Kamloops, Nolan Kneen found himself the center of controversy with a hit on Seth Jarvis, which led to a slash by Joachim Blichfeld, a slash by Kneen and a crosscheck to the chin of Kneen, sending Kneen to the ice. Blichfeld was assessed a five minute major and game misconduct. Initially, the Hawks were able to weather the storm, however, at some point the defense broke down and two goals by the Blazers within two and a half minutes gave the Blazers some life. The second goal was particularly painful as Nolan Kneen was given the first assist. The Hawks refused to budge any further and the two teams raced toward the end of the game. Kamloops pressed when they pulled goaltender Dylan Ferguson, but couldn’t keep the puck in the Hawks zone and Skyler McKenzie dragged the puck into the Blazers zone. As he was being draped by a Kamloops defender, he was able to feed the puck to Mason Mannek, who found the back of the net to put the Hawks up by two to end the game. Portland went two for four on the powerplay with Kamloops getting two goals on three chances including the five-minute powerplay.
As of this writing, no further discipline has been assessed to Blichfeld, which unless something is handed down in the next day, he will be in the lineup for the next game versus Everett. The rest of the week will see the Hawks travel to Tri-City before heading home Saturday to play the Americans again on Mascot Night.
This week’s games versus Kamloops featured two important milestones and a special award. With Kamloops’ second victory in the three-game set, their coach, Don Hay, captured his 743rd win, which eclipsed the WHL record held by former Owner, General Manager and Coach of the Winterhawks, Ken Hodge. Hay’s main win streak came during his stint with the Vancouver Giants, where he captured a Memorial Cup and held record winning seasons there before taking on a challenging Kamloops team which has struggled over recent years. With Portland’s win in the third game, Vice President, General Manager and Coach Mike Johnston earned his 300th career win. Prior to the game in Portland, Sue Johnson was presented with the WHL Most Distinguished Service Award for 2018. Johnson, who has backboned the education of the Winterhawks players since taking over for Hazel Hansen over a decade ago, has earned high accolades from many around the league for her hard work and dedication. Graduating every Winterhawks player from high school with 71% receiving honors over her ten years with the team as Education Advisor and assisting for twenty years as a Guidance Counselor at Milwaukie High School, Johnson has established a legacy that has often been the deciding factor on the Winterhawks being the place to play for many aspiring players.
Johnson joins the late Jann Boss as the only members of the Portland Winterhawks Hockey Club to receive this award, which was established in 2004.