The Portland Winterhawks look to be in several three game in three night matches as the WHL looks to complete its 68 game schedule on time. Currently, the OHL plays games to no crowds, and the QMJHL is looking at a reset in February.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are slowly moving up the US Division ladder after a pair of games against US Division opponents and a game that was to take place Wednesday and got bumped to Sunday against the tops in the BC Division.
The first was against Seattle, which was a televised game. The debut of Taylor Gauthier showed why the Hawks made the investment of him when he played in Kelowna, and his start against Seattle showed why he once again was a star of the game. The shots of 54-22 by Seattle and the 2 for 7 powerplays for Seattle vs. the 1 for 4 for Portland showed power by the Thunderbirds, but the Hawks controlled most of the game.
James Stefan started things off for Portland just 1:37 into the game and saw Seattle’s Connor Roulette tie it up on the powerplay just over six minutes in. Tyson Kozak restored the lead just over thirteen mutes in, and the lead held in, closing out the period.
Portland upped the total just over sixteen minutes into the second on Kozak’s second of the game.
Seattle tallied 23 shots in the third period and capitalized twice with goals by Jared Davidson and Gabe Ludwig just twenty seconds apart near the six-minute mark, and the game headed to overtime.
Just off the faceoff, James Stefan rushed into the Seattle zone and blasted a rocket that flew over the glove hand of Scott Ratzlaff, tinging off the line and post and registered as a goal with the Hawks snagging a 4-3 Overtime win.
The next night, the action returned to Portland with Tri-City Americans providing the opposition. The same goaltenders provided as the backstops like the last matchup with the two teams Dante Giannuzzi tending Portland and Nick Avakyan for Tri-City. It was a defensive war, unlike the 9-2 thrashing the last time the teams met.
The scoreless first period gave way to two goals in the second. Jake Sloan on the powerplay tallied for the Americans with the reply from Luca Cagnoni just five minutes later to tie the game and provide overtime action again. No goals were scored, so they headed to a shootout.
Controversy arose when it appeared that the second shooter for Portland in James Stefan had scored when the replays showed a huge white gap between the line and Avakyan’s glove. It went upstairs and was ruled no goal. Dwayne Jean Jr. scored on the third attempt for Tri-City, and victory was theirs. Portland was shutout on the powerplay with two chances to Tri-City at 1 for 5, and the shots heavily favored Portland 45-21.
Portland then had no time to wallow in the loss as they had to face Kamloops Blazers in a makeup game from Wednesday when Kamloops couldn’t field enough players due to COVID.
Portland handed a pair of goals to the Blazers during the first period, taking the 2-0 lead at the end of one. In the second, Portland picked up their bootstraps with goals by Aiden Litke, Luca Cagnoni, and Clay Hanus to take the lead 3-2 at the end of two.
In the third, Litke scored his second of the game, and James Stefan, with an empty-net goal, sealed the 5-2 win for the Hawks. Both teams were refuted on three tries, each with the powerplay with Portland outshooting Kamloops 34-27.
Trade deadline followed with only a handful of trades taking place. Much of this has to be the result of last year when the trade deadline took place; some teams built up for a run into the playoffs only to find that playoffs weren’t taking place. Kamloops made the most deals at three, with three players traded off for two players and two draft choices. Vancouver Giants also made three deals. With the deadline now over, teams are freezing their rosters and gearing up for a hopeful run at the playoffs.
The Memorial Cup is scheduled for a July run. Kamloops is bidding on the Cup for next year as this year belongs to the QMJHL.
The Winterhawks are looking at running their first viewing party of the year this Friday at Replay Restaurant, Bar, and Arcade. The all-ages event will be at 15700 NW Blueridge Dr, Beaverton, OR 97006, starting at 7 pm. The free event will be available to all ages and marks the first time not only at this location but the first viewing party in over two years.