Two big wins by Portland this weekend will make it a tough go for the homestretch as the top three US Division teams are battling to see who will raise the banner for the best in the US.
Portland continues to make strides toward the top place as they battled Everett, who were fresh on the heels of a shutout victory over the Seattle Thunderbirds in a clash held at the NHL home of the Kracken.
Portland played Taylor Gauthier opposite Everett’s Koen MacIness, and Everett came out blazing. Registering a 23-8 shots on goal, they built up a 2-0 lead on goals by Alex Swetlikoff and Jackson Berezowski on the man advantage. Portland picked up a pair to tie it in the second with James Stefan and then Cross Hanas on the powerplay and took a 15-12 shot advantage in that period. The third period was controlled by Everett on the shot clock at 14-7, but it was Portland who snagged the two goals. Robbie Fromm-Delorme, midway through the period, put the visitors on top and completed the night with a James Stefan empty-net goal with under thirty seconds left in the game. Final shots saw Everett with a 49 -30 advantage with Portland 1 for 3 on their powerplay versus 1 for 2 on Everett’s.
The next night, Portland was at home to face the Tri-City Americans. It was a strange night for Portland as Tri-City opened the scoring with Sasha Witala scoring just before the middle of the first period. That would hold until early in the second period when Aiden Litke scored for the Hawks. About two minutes later, Tyson Kozak scored to give Portland its first lead. That lead only lasted three minutes when Petr Moravec tied it up. Gabe Klassen and Tyson Kozak’s second of the night put the Hawks back on top heading to the third.
Three Hawks scored within three minutes in the middle of the third period, with Robbie-Fromm-Delorme, Marcus Nguyen, and Luca Cagnoni being the goal-getters before Rhett Melnyk hit the twine for the Americans on the powerplay. Gabe Klassen would add another for the Hawks a minute later to end the scoring at 8-3. Portland outshot Tri-City 39-30, with Portland 1 for 2 on the powerplay and Tri-City 1 for 4.
This week, the Hawks travel to Victoria for a pair of games before a battle in Seattle and a game in Portland, which is now a 5 pm start on Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum versus Vancouver with the mascots making their yearly appearance and a first-period clash on ice with the creatures.
Portland now sits three points back of Everett, with the Silvertips holding a game up on Portland. Seattle is four back of Portland but only has one game up on the Hawks.
With 15 to 16 games left and a possible 30-32 points at stake, anything is possible, and it seems like always, this will go down to the wire.