BY: STUART KEMP
The road trip from Alberta ended with the Portland Winterhawks nabbing eleven of twelve points and provided a solid cushion atop the US Division standings and got them within nipping distance of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the overall lead as the Warriors played a few extra games to keep their now very slim lead.
As the Hawks approached home, there came word of Cody Glass receiving the CHL Player of the Month award. Glass, who had been drafted sixth overall in the 2017 NHL draft and signed shortly thereafter, amassed 26 points in 12 games including a 5-game point streak toward the end of November and recorded points in all 12 games played in November. He was announced as the CHL winner after capturing the WHL On the Run Player of the Week ending in November.
The Hawks, after battling a tough Central Swing tour of six games in nine nights, came home to start a whirlwind five game in nine night run with three games at home and two back to back away games. Portland would start it off at home with a game against the Saskatoon Blades, who had been winless in their US Division swing thus far. On the same night, the Hawks welcomed the Les Schwab Fox 12 Toy Drive as they looked to collect a number of toys for the drive ending in mid-December.
The best part of the night was the over 2,000 toys collected at the Moda Center which will go to a variety of local area charities for Christmas. Either Saskatoon was very good on this night, or Portland took them way too lightly. Shane Farkas made the start in net for Portland and held the Blades scoreless in the first period; the same could be said for Nolan Maier in the Saskatoon net. The second period appeared to be the undoing for the Hawks as a costly penalty to John Ludvig gave the Blades their only powerplay goal of the game and the only goal the Blades really needed.
Things got a bit rough for the Hawks as two scraps resulted in Portland’s top line scorers Sklyer McKenzie being off the ice for 17 minutes and Keiffer Bellows getting ejected from the game for a separate scrap. Without the two, the burden fell to other members of the Hawks, who despite a 48-42 shots on goal difference, couldn’t find the back of the net. Oddly, that would be the end of the penalties with the Blades going 1 for 2 and Portland unable to convert on their three chances. Saskatoon would add their second goal of the game late in the second period and add another late in the third to take a commanding lead. Portland tried to add strength up front as they pulled Farkas for the extra attacker with just under two minutes left in the game, but couldn’t convert and allowed Saskatoon an empty net goal with about thirty seconds left to close the scoring and hand the Hawks only their second shutout defeat of the season.
The Hawks will have no time to dwell on the loss as they hit the road for games Tuesday in Vancouver, BC and Wednesday in Everett before returning to Portland to play in order the same two teams Friday and Saturday. The Saturday game will be the annual Teddy Bear Toss where thousands of plush toys will hit the ice following Portland’s first goal. Once that game is over, the Hawks will play just three more games as they head to the Christmas break. They will feature a home and home series with the Spokane Chiefs and an away game versus the Everett Silvertips.