The final week of the Central Swing dealt Portland Winterhawks two major accomplishments. First was the announcement of Cody Glass as the WHL and CHL Player of the Week. After a monstrous week of points against Kootenay, Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton, Glass finally got the nod as the Hawks first inductee this season. The Winterhawks also vaulted up the rankings of the CHL poll landing at number two, a two-place jump from last week. Sarnia continues to lead the poll as Moose Jaw and Swift Current in the WHL dropped a few places as did Blainville- Boisbriand from the QMJHL. The poll was very volatile this week with three new additions, two from the QMJHL and one from the OHL. Portland remains only one of three teams to be in the poll which is put together by a panel of NHL scouts.
The Hawks headed to Lethbridge, Alberta to face a Hurricanes team that had also been on a bit of a recent winning streak, though still not a .500 team. The way they played against Portland in the first period, you’d think the Hawks would run away with the game. Lethbridge goaltender Stuart Skinner was the difference as he turned aside 16 Portland shots in that period, while Cole Kehler faced just three. Early in the second period, two straight Lethbridge penalties led to goals as Illijah Colina and Henri Jokiharju opened a 2- 0 lead. Jordy Bellerive replied for the Canes just over two minutes after Jokiharju’s goal and it would remain that way until the third period. Cody Glass would add to the Hawks lead again on the powerplay which went 3 for 5 in the game. However, Portland couldn’t hold the lead as the Hurricanes hit up the Hawks for two powerplay goals as Zane Franklin and Bellerive with his second of the game within a minute of each other, tied it up and sent it to overtime. Lethbridge ended the game with two goals on five powerplay opportunities.
Despite Portland getting the only three shots on net during the overtime, the score remained tied and headed for a shootout. It took seven rounds before a winner was decided. Joachim Blichfeld was the only scorer for the Hawks while Jordy Bellerive and Zane Franklin replied for Lethbridge to hand the Hawks their first defeat on the swing and first in eleven games. Portland held a decisive 47-24 shots on goal but just couldn’t get to Skinner often enough.
The final game of the swing was in Medicine Hat, Alberta with the Central Division leading Tigers with a 15-9 record hosting on a Wednesday night. The Tigers had lost their last two games, but had won seven of their last ten. Portland hit the powerplay early in the contest and Cody Glass made the most of it, scoring just thirty seconds into the man advantage. Just over two minutes later, Gary Haden would tie the game for the Hat after Cole Kehler lost sight of the puck and couldn’t recover in time. Six minutes later, Mason Mannek stripped a Medicine Hat defenceman in front of the net which he forced up to Jake Gricius in front of the net and he made no mistake with it, to get Portland back into the lead.
The second period saw Medicine Hat’s Max Gerlach tie the score with just over two minutes remaining in the period, the only one where the Tigers held the lead in shots on goal. In the third period, Portland’s Joachim Blichfeld found a wraparound attempt surprise Hollett just over a minute into the period to re-establish the lead and from there, the Hawks defended at every opportunity. Up 3-2 with less than two minutes remaining, the Tigers pulled goaltender Jordan Hollett for an extra attacker and got some pucks into the Hawks zone, however the Hawks were able to clear. After a few mad scrambles in the Tiger’s zone, Cody Glass fired a shot from the right point, over a defender’s stick into the empty net to put the Hawks ahead by two. With less than a minute remaining, the Tigers tried the man advantage again and were able to get in the Hawks zone, but couldn’t get the shots through.
Mason Mannek forced the puck to the Portland side of center ice and fired a drifter that found the back of the open net to close the game with the final score at 5-2. The Hawks outshot the Tigers 38-31 and both teams were one for three on the powerplay. Goaltender Cole Kehler and Joachim Blichfeld for the Hawks were the number three and two stars with Jordan Hollett given the game’s first star.
With the win, the Hawks have 41 points in 25 games which puts them atop the WHL league standings as Moose Jaw Warriors, also with 41 points, have played one more game.
The Hawks now head back to Portland after going with a very successful five and one record on the swing and get a few days off playing as they await the Saskatoon Blades at the Moda Center on Sunday night in their only appearance of the season. That night will also be the Toy Drive at the game as attendees are asked to bring a new. unwrapped toy to the game. There will also be a mini-shop where fans can buy toys to be donated to the cause.