You knew it would be tough when Portland headed to Canada for the first time in years. First up was Brandon Wheat Kings, who hammered Regina Pats a couple of days earlier and would travel 8 hours to Prince Albert following the Hawks game.
The Hawks seemed to have bus legs, as passes weren’t connecting, and lines seemed a little off.
Brandon took advantage of building up a 3-0 lead before the Hawks got on the board. Jack O’Brien, early in the second period, and James Stefan in the middle of the third on the powerplay replied for the Hawks.
Brandon hung on for a 3-2 win.
Shots saw Portland have the advantage 36 – 25, and the Hawks scored once on the seven powerplays, with Brandon blanked on their four tries.
The following night Portland played the top team in the WHL, Winnipeg Ice, and the Ice was advertised as promised.
Three goals for. Benson and two goals for Matt Savoie saw the Ice double up on the Hawks 6 to 3. The Wayne Fleming arena, affectionately known as the ICE Cave at the University of Manitoba, is the smallest rink at just over 1700 seats and all wooden bleachers. The seven rows of the rink make it loud at every turn. Ryan McCleary, Robbie Fromm-Delorme, and Marcus Nguyen replied for the Hawks, who outshot Winnipeg 41 to 32. Neither team scored on the three powerplays afforded them.
Next up for Portland is Prince Albert, the only team with a sub-.500 record, which will be Tuesday.
It is also trade deadline day as well with teams freezing rosters.
Two major blockbusters happened between the ICE and Vancouver and between Kamloops and Everett.
The ICE deal saw the ice land captain Zach Ostopuk from Vancouver. In exchange, the ICE gave up two players, Skyler Bruce and Connor Dale, two prospects, Owen Brees and Hudson Landmark, and first-round selections in 2024, 2025, and 2026 along with a fifth-round pick in 2024.
Kamloops went all out, nabbing Ryan Hofer and Owen Zellwiger from Everett. To get them, Kamloops gave up ten picks, first rounds from 2023 through 26, second-round picks in 2023 and 25, third-round 2025, fourth-round 2024, and sixth-round 2026 in addition to Kaden Hammell, Rylan Pierce, and Drew Englot.
The cupboard will be pretty lean in the coming couple of years as the teams make runs to the Memorial Cup, and Kamloops, while hosting, wants to ensure they have a reasonable shot.
Everett then traded Drew Englot to Swift Current for Raphael Pelletier and a second round in 2024.
With those two trades, Portland may dabble but won’t in any way compete at that type of level. Portland did receive news that Chaz Lucius is being reassigned to the Hawks from Winnipeg Jets. Lucius is a first-round pick by the Jets and signed a standard WHL Player Contract. He will report following Eastern Swing with a home game on January 20.
Winnipeg also sent a player to Seattle, which loads them up further.
There have been a few minor trades since those blockbusters. Most don’t figure major trades will happen now that these two have happened.
Portland plays Prince Albert on Tuesday, with Saskatoon on Wednesday. Games against Moose Jaw and Regina will be Friday and Saturday.