The Portland Winterhawks headed to their furthest north rivals in the Prince George Cougars and came away with a couple of wins.
On the first night, the Hawks played Taylor Gauthier between the pipes in his first game, returning to PG since the trade to Portland that would finish his junior career.
Fans in Prince George had many signs praising “The Goat” around the arena, and Gauthier was featured in a video display during the first period. Taylor responded with a 7-2 win. Portland started things off at 6:40 with a Kyle Chyzoswki goal and added a powerplay goal by Cross Hanus.
Prince George picked up a pair just 1:40 apart as former Winterhawk Connor Bowie started things off, and a powerplay goal by Hudson Thornton knotted the game.
The Hawks took over at that point with four answered goals. Gabe Klassen nabbed his 21st of the season and then a pair of goals just twenty-eight seconds apart with Marcus Nguyen, and Gabe Klassen’s second of the night gave the Hawks a commanding lead.
Prince George changed goaltenders with rookie Ty Young taking over for Tyler Brennan, but it didn’t seem to make a huge difference.
Jonny Hooker of Prince George took a major for Charging and a Game Misconduct which gave the Hawks a long powerplay. The Hawks capitalized with a pair of goals. James Stefan and Gabe Klassen with his third of the night to end the game at 7-2. The 52-27 shots on goal and getting three goals on 2 powerplays owing to the major penalty while Prince George went just 1 for 4, showed the power that Portland maintained.
The next night was a celebration of Mardi Gras and a huge 50/50 jackpot that was won by a local person at nearly $189,000. The Hawks switched goaltenders to allow Dante Giannuzzi to play opposite Tyler Brennan.
Portland started where they left off with James Stefan marker while on the powerplay just over 14 minutes in. The Hawks added a second goal in the second period, with Gabe Klassen scoring again. Hudson Thornton cut into the lead under a minute and a half later, but Portland responded with goals, with Klassen getting his second of the night just two minutes after Thornton’s goal and Tyson Kozak to start the third period.
Prince George made things interesting with a pair of goals of their own early in the third period, just a minute twenty seconds apart, as Riley Heidt picked up a couple. Just under a minute later, James Stefan finished the scoring under a minute later and allowed the Hawks to pick up a 5-3 win.
The shots were close at 36-32 Portland, and the Hawks were a perfect 1-1 on the powerplay, with Prince George scoring once on five tries.
The win by the Hawks secured yet another postseason berth as they are far enough in points to keep Tri-City, Victoria, and Spokane at bay which continues their streak at 11. Now it’s a waiting game to see who they will face; currently, the matchup appears to be ironically Prince George.
Before the first of the two Prince George games, Taylor Gauthier signed an entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. Gauthier joins other Winterhawks Joe Morrow and Derrick Pouliot, who were also originally signed by Pittsburgh.
In the CHL Poll, Portland places sixth overall, with Edmonton Oil Kings and Everett Silvertips topping the poll. Winnipeg Ice stays at third, with Hamilton Bulldogs holding down fourth. Charlottetown Islanders are fifth, followed by the Winterhawks, Shawinigan Cateractes, Kamloops Blazers, Quebec Ramparts, and Kingston Frontenacs, round out the top ten. Honorable mentions go to Flint Firebirds, Acadie-Bathhurst Titans, and London Knights.
The Hawks will have a relatively quiet weekend with a trip to Everett and a home game against Tri-City before heading to Victoria for a midweek pair with the Royals.
The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, on the heels of its first flight trip to Prince George, is planning the biggest trip in its history by air with the Eastern Swing next year. While the dates of the actual games have yet to be announced, it is known that the “Eastern Swing” will run in early January following a New Years Eve bash with Seattle. The dates appear to be January 5 -14, 2023, and already 20% of the available space is sold. Information on the trip is available through email@example.com.