This past week, the Portland Winterhawks jumped up a spot to fifth in the CHL rankings and Cole Kehler, coming off a Goaltender of the Week nod by the league, was looking to stymie the Kelowna Rockets with back to back games in Portland. For the Rockets, it was also a chance to jump up in the CHL rankings where they had been an honorable mention and the matchup looked to be as good as anything on paper.
Returning to the lineup after a several game absence for Portland was Joachim Blichfeld, who had been out with a concussion. The Hawks also learned that Ryan Hughes would be out indefinitely from the collision against Spokane in what we first thought might have been a concussion, but in fact was much further south in the body to the tune of a broken ankle. Hughes had surgery on Wednesday and could be out into the new year. Rykr Cole, who initiated the hit, was suspended three games. With the news, the Hawks looked to prove they were more than just a one-line team.
Joachim Blichfeld showed no rust in his return as he scored Portland’s first goal while on the powerplay just over seven minutes into the game. Kieffer Bellows on the powerplay and Henri Jokiharju just over a minute after Bellows goal gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead after the first period. The Hawks ran into penalty trouble in the second period as Keoni Texeira took a major penalty and game misconduct for check to the head and seconds later, Carsen Twarynski put the Rockets on the board. The Hawks would give up goals late in the second and early in the third period to tie the game. Three minutes later, Brad Ginnell scored to put the Hawks ahead. With just over four minutes left in the game, Twarynski netted his second of the game to send the contest into overtime. It was almost the blink of an eye, 24 seconds to be exact, before Skyler McKenzie potted the winner to give the Winterhawks a 4-3 final in overtime.
Portland went three of four on the powerplay while limiting Kelowna to just one goal on four opportunities. Portland outshot Kelowna 39 to 21.
The next night, Portland learned that Texeira was assessed a two game suspension, which pulled him from the lineup and allowed rookie Nick Cicek the chance to play his first WHL game of the season. Shane Farkas also made a return to the net, his first appearance since allowing five goals in the Hawks 10-5 win over Seattle in Kent, Washington the week prior.
The Hawks close brush with a loss the previous evening seemed to fire their engines as they scored three goals in the first 16 minutes of the game. Mason Mannek, Kieffer Bellows and Jake Gricius put the Rockets on the defensive as they doubled the shots on the Rockets starting goaltender Brodan Salmond versus those on Farkas and the Rockets elected to make a change at the start of the second period. James Porter relieved Salmond in the Rockets net and the Hawks once again found themselves in penalty trouble. Twice during the period, the Hawks gave the Rockets a two-man advantage of which the Rockets cashed in on one time. However, it was the Hawks would score three during the period with Bellows notching his second of the game and Skyler McKenzie picking up a pair to put the home squad ahead 6-1. Goals in the third period by Illijah Colina on the powerplay and Joachim Blichfeld made it 8-1. The Rockets Kyle Topping would squeeze a late goal past Shane Farkas on the powerplay, but the game was never in question as the Hawks skated away with an 8-2 drubbing of the Rockets. The shots on goal favored the Rockets 35-32, due to the two-man advantage powerplay chances the Rockets had. Portland went 3 for 6 on the powerplay with the Rockets scoring their two goals on eight opportunities.
The quirky schedule continues with the Rockets and Hawks meeting again this coming week, this time in Kelowna which will end their season series in the regular season. The Hawks will then look at two more games in the month of October, a once a season meeting with the very strong Eastern Division Moose Jaw Warriors and a battle with the Everett Silvertips.
Portland should improve in the CHL rankings this coming week after their performance and moving to within a point of the overall lead in the Western Hockey League.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks players will fan out to 12 Portland Metro and Southwest Washington Toyota dealerships on Saturday, October 28 from 12-2pm and will also appear at Les Schwab locations in Beaverton and Portland on November 7 from 4:30 to 6pm.