After the Portland Winterhawks dismantled the Regina Pats 9-4 and kept their number three ranking came three games in as many nights, one on the road and then two at home. The road game was versus the Spokane Chiefs, a team thought to be pressing hard for the top of the division. Someone should have told the Portland Winterhawks, who have been on a tear and who continue to dominate everyone in sight.
Simon Knak scored just over four minutes in which Spokane replied to ten minutes later to end the period tied at one. Spokane took the lead just under fourteen minutes into the second, but that was quickly replied by the Hawks Tyson Kozak less than three minutes later. A pair of goals by the Hawks Simon Knak and Lane Gilliss with the only powerplay marker on the game made it very tough on the Chiefs. Though Spokane scored close to the seventeen-minute mark, Portland scored just as the Spokane goalie went to the bench for the extra attacker for the 5-3 win.
Spokane made several errors in this game; one glaring one was the non-conversion of seven powerplay opportunities. The Hawks went one for three with the man advantage with being outshot 42-37.
The next two nights were games at home as they faced the Memorial Cup host team Kelowna Rockets. With eight players out of the lineup due to injury and suspension, the Rockets fizzled in the first game. Joel Hofer took a rare night off as backup tender Dante Giannuzzi took between the pipes.
Neither Kelowna or Portland figured in the special teams scoring as both went scoreless on the man advantage with 8 chances between the two, the slight advantage to Portland on the powerplay chances. The Hawks scored twice in the first. Seth Jarvis blistered home a shot from the faceoff dot just two minutes into the game and Jack O’Brien scored just over nine minutes into the game. Portland broke open the game with 2 goals just over a minute apart in the second period, which chased Kelowna’s starting netminder Cole Schwebius from the game and Cole Tisdale came in relief. It wasn’t much relief for Tisdale as Jake Gricius Tyson Kozak and Seth Jarvis scored in the first ten minutes of the third period. Dante Giannuzzi faced just seventeen shots in the game while Portland with their 57 shot artillery on Kelowna took home a 7-0 thrashing of the Rockets. That win tied them with Edmonton Oil Kings for the league lead with another game to face the Rockets the next night.
Joel Hofer was given the assignment and the Hawks started early in the first, Reece Newkirk scored the game’s only powerplay goal midway through the first frame. Just over six minutes later it was Mason Mannek with his sixth of the year to propel the Hawks. Recently returned Jonas Brondberg scored just over a minute into the third period to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead. Kelowna came back with a goal just past the seven-minute mark. With time winding down the Rockets pulled goaltender Cole Schwebius, which did net them a goal with less than 20 seconds on the clock. Hofer tried twice to make the empty-net goal, but each time it went wide netting the Hawks an icing call.
The Hawks did win 3-2 and with it came sole possession of top spot in the WHL. The rankings won’t come out until later in the week, but based on the top teams in the poll, the Hawks will remain in their third spot this week as well.
Many think the Hawks were a year early in competing for top spot and they would probably be right. Next year could be amazing for the team now with 33 wins in 44 games played. Their current streak is 17-0-1-1. In perspective, there is currently no other team in a double-digit win streak. Kamloops is the next closest with 8 straight wins.
The Hawks will have a relatively light week, with two games this weekend including their first-ever PRIDE Night at the Moda Center as they take on Tri-City Americans. The Hawks will then travel to Seattle, before a pair of games next weekend take them up to Everett before a home game against Seattle.
February will be a busy month with 12 games slated as they face mostly US Division opponents with the exception of a pair in Kelowna and a home game versus an Eastern Division team with Moose Jaw arriving mid-month.
Ice Chips: The Booster Club is still hoping to have the US Trifecta trip in late February/ early March as a go. This Friday is the scheduled last day to sign up. Starting in February will be the renewals for Booster Club Membership. The rates remain the same as they have for nearly a decade now, which include a special lapel pin, a card giving discounts in a variety of areas within the Booster Club and the Newsletter which has been mammoth sized over the past few years. Upcoming meetings for members will feature long-time and recently retired Hawks broadcaster and historian Dean “Scooter” Vrooman.