After last week’s Coaches Poll where they were listed as an honorable mention, the Portland Winterhawks took to the ice at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in their last two home games of the stretch. The would take on the Everett Silvertips, who were rewarded in the poll with a number three spot, but the Hawks were looking to spoil that party.
Outshooting Everett by a nearly 2-1 margin in the first, the Hawks showed the puck the back of the net twice. Just a minute and a half into the game, Jake Gricius put his tenth of the year behind Dustin Wolf. Tyson Kozak, who has picked up extra minutes due to injuries, scored his fourth of the campaign close to the seventeen-minute mark. Everett came close in the second when they were able to capitalize just past the three-minute mark while on a powerplay.. A mistake by Wolf allowed Lane Gilliss to notch his sixth of the year and give Portland a two-goal lead that was extended to three when Seth Jarvis got into the act midway through the third. Everett was able to score twice late in the third, but the team couldn’t find the equalizer and the Hawks couldn’t find the empty net either. In the end, Portland edged Everett 34-31 in shots on goal and Portland gave up one goal on the powerplay with Everett’s five chances and went scoreless on their three attempts with the man advantage. Portland winning against Everett, kept them tied with the Tips atop the US Division.
The Saskatoon Blades came calling the next night. They have had a dreadful US Swing, having dropped a shutout to Spokane, then followed it up with a drubbing in Everett and losing a squeaker in Seattle. The Blades took it on the chin against an injury-riddled Winterhawks team. Three Hawks scored twice in this one with newcomer import Jonas Brondberg bookending the goals as he scored first and then last. Brondberg picked up his first just over three minutes into the game. Gabe Klassen was the other Hawk to score twice. Gabe has been a call-up due to injury as he scored less than two minutes after Brondberg’s first and then scored late in the period to give him three goals on the season. Mason Mannek also got into the act with his fourth goal, fifteen and a half minutes in.
Nolan Maier, the starter for Saskatoon, ended his night after twenty minutes, giving up four goals on fourteen shots in favor of rookie netminder Koen McInness. The Hawks were relentless allowing just four shots on goal in the second period, the lowest output given to an opposing team this year at home. Cross Hanas also got into the act with a pair in the second period as he scored just over seven minutes in and again just past the seventeen-minute mark in Portland’s only powerplay goal of the night. Jack O’Brien, who is also a newcomer to the Portland squad, got his third of the season just prior to the fourteen-minute mark.
Brondberg concluded the scoring as the Hawks took 25 shots on McIness for a combined 39 total shots on net. The Blades were able to muster a total of just 22 on Hofer as he scored his second shutout of the year. Portland’s one goal on five attempts was better than the zero for five that the Blades registered in the game.
Portland has played one more game than Everett, but are tied with them for points. Spokane is now seven back with Tri-City eight back. Despite all the losses, Saskatoon is still in third place in the Eastern Division, just a point back of the Winnipeg Ice.
The Portland Winterhawks will have to bundle up a bit as they head to Kamloops for a pair and then travel to the furthest north WHL Franchise in the Prince George Cougars. In a quirky schedule, the two teams will then, zip back to Portland and play a pair against each other just three days later.
The question is whether the Hawks will get into the poll and how far Everett, which won the following game in overtime against Tri-City, will fall.