A quirky schedule had the Portland Winterhawks face the Vancouver Giants three times in four nights. The Giants, long since eliminated from postseason play were looking to be Giant killers, while the Hawks were looking to put further separation between themselves and Spokane Chiefs for the final wildcard spot.
The Langley Events Centre in British Columbia would host the first game and the Giants came out flat as Portland steamrolled its way in the contest. A pair of goals from captain Keegan Iverson on the powerplay and rookie Jake Gricius with a regular strength and one powerplay goal, kept the Giants from making any serious threat in the game. Newly acquired Matt Revel added an empty net goal for the Hawks, who did allow one powerplay goal for the Giants early in the third period. Ryan Kubic, in net for Vancouver was stellar even allowing the four goals, in that the Hawks blasted 56 shots his way, to just 18 for the Giants. Up to the start of the third period, the Giants had only found 9 shots toward the Portland net, to Portland’s 36. In the end, it was a 5-1 victory for the Hawks.
The action would head to Portland for a pair of games just two days later with the same two teams in Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The teams ended with a scoreless first period and then the game opened up. Keegan Iverson scored just 47 seconds into the second period, but Vancouver rallied back with a pair of goals less than a minute apart toward the middle of the frame to take the lead. Portland roared back with three of their own by Skyler McKenzie, Brad Ginnell, and Matt Revel to take back the lead, this time by two goals.
A breakdown by the Hawks led to two goals by Vancouver after they had pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker right near the end of the third period to send the game into overtime. Just over a minute and a half into the extra session, Ryan Hughes scored to finish the game for the Hawks 5-4. Vancouver made a more respectable showing with 31 shots to Portland’s 42 as the Hawks saw Spokane lose in regulation that night.
The final of the three-game miniseries took place the next night and in similar fashion to the first game, it was a dominant offense by the Portland Winterhawks making the difference. Midway through the first period, Cody Glass scored his 27th goal of the season on the powerplay to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead. In that period, Vancouver was credited with just 1 shot on goal. Towards the end of the second period, Joachim Blichfeld added the insurance marker as Vancouver had a bit more offensive chances with 8 shots on net. By the third period, the Hawks clamped down again with Ryan Hughes scoring early in the period as the Giants spent a lot of time in the penalty box, giving Portland 8 powerplay chances, of which they scored once on and only mustering 3 shots on net for a three-period total of just 12 to Portland’s 39. Portland’s Cole Kehler gets the shutout as Portland wins 3-0.
Meanwhile, Spokane lost an overtime game which put them 12 points back of Portland with the Chiefs having a game in hand on Portland, but only 8 left on their regular season schedule. Spokane and Portland will meet in Spokane on March 10th and then both teams will finish the regular season in Portland on March 19th. Between then, Portland and Spokane will face the top teams in the Western Conference, with neither squad having an easy schedule. Spokane has a great deal of real estate to make up if they have any hope of catching Portland which at this point, seems nearly impossible.
The Portland Winterhawks announced that playoff packages will be mailed to season ticketholders starting on Monday, March 13th. This will follow three games that Portland and Spokane will have played and should solidify Portland’s lock on the final playoff spot. Who Portland plays is still very much up in the air. Everett, Seattle and Prince George are within a point of each other, but Everett had games in hand and Prince George has the fewest remaining to be played.
Ice Chips: The Western Hockey League has once again allowed teams to resume community activity events with fans and Portland will offer one last Burgerville meet and greet in Gresham on Monday, March 6th. This will be the final player appearance for the season. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club was announced this week as the Grand Marshal of the 82nd Avenue Parade of Roses. The parade which takes places starting at 9am on Saturday, April 29th from Eastport Plaza will mark the fourth year in a row that the Booster Club has been a part of the festivities.