It was a long 6-plus-hour drive to Prince George, BC where the Hawks set up shop for a pair of games before the long drive of nearly 16 hours south from the most Northern WHL town to face the same team this weekend.
That Portland Winterhawks learned today that Joel Hofer had also nabbed Goaltender of the Month honors from the WHL. Despite the loss in Kamloops, Hofer had a strong November with a 1.75 goals-against average and a save percentage of .925. These numbers will go a long way in securing a spot on Team Canada at next week’s camp. In the meantime, the Hawks had to face the Cougars, a team that has been hit in the loss column badly with winning just six games so far and sitting over a dozen points out of postseason action. They have been tough all the way through with snatching a victory here and there while surprising a few teams. The Hawks would also play against former Winterhawks Ilijah Colina and Connor Bowie.
The first game saw both goaltenders tested as Joel Hofer stopped a few Cougar flurries, and at the other end, Taylor Gauthier was giving the Hawks fits denying a few attempts his way. Just prior to the media timeout, the Hawks struck first. Seth Jarvis found Reece Newkirk all alone in the slot and he buried it past Gauthier for the 1-0 lead, a tally they would hold into the second period. The Hawks outshot the Cougars 16-5 in that period. Gauthier was again on his game for this one as he denied the Hawks time and time again. Finally, past the media timeout, Seth Jarvis got one of his own as he recovered a rebound at the right side of Gauthier and put it past him for the 2-0 lead. The Cougars had taken a penalty just a minute before. The defensive part of the game took over as the teams combined for just 13 shots on goal with the slight advantage to the Hawks. The shooting gallery ramped up as the Cougars tried to break the goose egg.
The Hawks scored early in the third—Jake Gricius capped off a mad scramble with being the only one open at the slot position to Gauthier’s left and he blasted in for the commanding lead less than 40 seconds in. Final shots of 33-23 indicated Prince George had made a valiant effort though they couldn’t get one past Joel Hofer. Gauthier was given a star as he tried to hold off the Hawks. Both Jarvis and Gricius were named stars as well. In the end, the 3-0 win goes to the Hawks.
The next night. The Hawks looked to get another two-point night, but they had to deal with a Prince George team that was shutout the previous night. Though the Hawks led in shots in the first period 14-10, it was Prince George that drew first blood. Prince George, who was blanked the previous night on the powerplay, took just thirty seconds to get on the board. To the second, where more Prince George antics midway through the frame would give them a 2-0 lead. Just over two minutes later Ronnie Fromm-Delorme captured one on the potent Portland Winterhawks powerplay. The third started well for the Cougars with former Winterhawk Ilijah Colina scored early to give the Cougars a two-goal lead. Penalty trouble then hit the Cougars, and the Hawks took full advantage.
Seth Jarvis on the powerplay scored four minutes later, John Ludvig would score with both teams at even strength almost six minutes later, and under two minutes later they would take their first lead as Reece Newkirk would sink one on the powerplay.
Prince George wasn’t done as they pulled their starting goaltender for the extra attacker. With just 46 seconds left, the Cougars were able to use that to their advantage and scored which then sent the game to overtime.
Just over two minutes into the extra frame, Clay Hanus was able to break the tie on the three-on-three overtime and give the Portland Winterhawks a hard-fought 5-4 overtime win.
The Hawks, now winning both games, will head back down to face the same Cougars this weekend. Portland edged Prince George 34-30 and on the powerplay, both teams had five chances each with Portland cashing in three times and the Cougars able to only do this once. Both John Ludvig and Robbie Fromm-Delorme scored once each with a pair of assists.
Joel Hofer may play one of the games at least as the camp for Team Canada doesn’t start until midweek in Ontario, but Jonas Brondberg has already left to practice with Team Denmark, which will play in the Czech Republic during December.
With the wins, Portland keeps pace with Everett as they take top spot in the US Division, though they give two games in hand to the Silvertips. The Hawks are currently tied for fourth overall in the WHL with Medicine Hat and giving both Prince Albert and Edmonton the nod ahead.
The CHL Poll rankings came out and Portland holds onto the honorable mention along with the Edmonton Oil Kings. Everett drops in the rankings while Prince Albert moves up. Edmonton enters the poll this week at number 9. As was shown in last week’s poll, the rankings, especially with the WHL, are very volatile indeed. Very little movement seems to be happening in the QMJHL or OHL, which continues to be led by Sherbrooke from the QMJHL. The Oshawa Generals, who led the poll, are now gone from the list as the season progresses.
Here are the latest poll results from the CHL.
(1) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (2) Moncton Wildcats, (3) Ottawa 67’s, (4) Prince Albert Raiders, (5) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (6) Everett Silvertips, (7) London Knights, (8) Windsor Spitfires, (9) Medicine Hat Tigers, and (10) Peterborough Petes, with honourable mention to the Portland Winterhawks, Rimouski Oceanic, and Edmonton Oil Kings.