The Portland Winterhawks were looking to capitalize on their huge blowout win against the Calgary Hitmen last weekend with games against their division rivals Seattle Thunderbirds and a once a year matchup with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. For their battle with Seattle, the Hawks were looking to exact a bit of revenge over the last couple of games where they lost by one goal. Seattle had also gained back all their players that had been at NHL camps so the battle was as even as could be.
The game remained scoreless until near the 15 minute mark when Colton Veloso scored his 5th of the year with an assist by Ryan Hughes. That combo would work their magic again just before the end of the period except it was Veloso returning the favor to Hughes for his 8th of the year and took a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 1 period.
The second period was all Seattle as power play goals by captain Scott Eansor and Nolan Volcan and an even strength goal by Turner Ottenbreit gave the Thunderbirds their first lead of the game. The Hawks refused to quit and like the first period, picked up a goal as time was near expiration to knot the game at three. The Hawks weathered a huge storm of 25 shots to their 12 in that period, but still walked into the locker room knowing that they were very much in the game.
The third period saw goals by Seattle’s Alexander True and Keegan Iverson while on the power play to tie the game up at 4 and send the game into overtime. Just over 2 minutes into the overtime frame, Ryan Hughes picked up his second of the game and game winner on an unassisted play to give the Hawks a 5-4 win. Cole Kehler stopped 42 of 46 shots for Portland while Ryan Toth stopped 23 of 28 shots in the Seattle net. Portland scored on 2 of 7 power play chances while Seattle converted on 2 of their 7 opportunities.
No rest for the Hawks as they would play less than 20 hours later with the game against the Hurricanes. Portland would give up the first goal of the game to Riley Lindgren, but reply with a pair of their own as Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie scored less than three minutes apart. Zane Franklin would tie the game for Lethbridge just 28 seconds later. Joachim Blichfeld would give the Hawks the lead back just over seven minutes later and it spelled the end of the night for Lethbridge starting goaltender Stuart Skinner who gave up three goals on Portland’s first seven shots of the game. Just over six minutes into the second period, Caleb Jones would pad the Hawks lead which would drop to just a one goal lead when Tyler Wong made it a one goal lead for the Hawks. Just like the previous night, Portland would add the goal with seconds remaining in the period as Evan Weinger scored with another assist to Ryan Hughes and the Hawks restored their two goal lead.
The third period was all Lethbridge as they doubled the Hawks on the shot clock and scored twice with Riley Lindgren getting his second of the night and Giorgio Estephan midway and near the end of the period to tie the game at 5. The overtime went straight to Lethbridge as just 18 seconds in as Tyler Wong scored his second of the game to give Lethbridge the 6-5 overtime win. The Hawks went 1 for 7 on the power play and stopped 4 of 6 on Lethbridge attempts. The Hawks did pick up the single point in the overtime loss and kept pace in the division, just 1 point behind Seattle who has three games in hand and tied with Spokane, who also has games in hand on the Hawks.
Portland continues the week ahead with games against the Edmonton Oil Kings and a Daylight Classic game on Black Friday against Victoria Royals before ending the week with another early afternoon game against Prince George Cougars which will end Portland’s eight game homestand.
Prior to the last game against Calgary, the Winterhawks sent out a rather quiet tweet that defenseman Carter Czaikowski had elected to retire from hockey and focus attention to schooling. No further information was provided by the team. In his 66 total games with Portland over three seasons, Carter had one goal and eight assists. No further information has been released.
A scary situation involved Craig Cunningham who played with the Winterhawks in the 2010-11 season after being traded by Vancouver Giants midway through that season. Cunningham had moved onto a professional career with Boston Bruins and their affiliate and then traded to the Arizona Coyotes in the 2014-15 season, was with the Tuscon Roadrunners of the American Hockey league to start this season. All was going well during warmups, but just prior to the start of the National Anthem, Craig suffered a medical emergency where he collapsed to the ice in convulsions. Immediate medical attention was given where they cut away his jersey and started chest compressions. He was rushed to hospital where the team announced later that he was in critical but stable condition. The team stated that the family had requested privacy in this matter and no further comment would be provided. Craig’s situation was immediately tweeted by fellow hockey players from all leagues with everyone commenting their support and about how genuine he is. During his time in Portland Craig was always an easy person to talk to and I had the chance to be present when the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club gave him a copy of the player yearbook, the only one he would receive in his junior hockey career. Craig had always been a very cordial individual on any Hawks events he attended and has carried that same attitude throughout his hockey career. Bob McKenzie who works for The Sports Network (TSN) in Canada wrote a piece on Craig following the collapse on ice and documented what he felt led Craig to being so kind to so many people. A link to the story is here.
Our best wishes to Craig in his recovery and our best the Cunningham family.