BY STUART KEMP
Just a week ago, the Portland Winterhawks finished a brutal 7-day, 4-game,1900-mile roundtrip to three WHL Canadian cities and came away with two points courtesy of two shootout losses and a team battling the flu. A few days rest seemed to be the fix as the Hawks have now won three in a row.
Following their return to Portland, the Hawks had to face the Kamloops Blazers in a makeup game from earlier this month due to the ice storm and were looking to avenge a 4-3 shootout loss in Kamloops just four days earlier. Whatever the Hawks did to recover from the Canadian trip seemed to work and then some, as they swarmed the Kamloops net and scored four goals on thirteen shots in just the first ten minutes of the period. Under two minutes into the game Jochim Blichfeld opened the scoring for Portland which was followed just over two minutes later by a pair of goals just thirty seconds apart by Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie. Cody Glass would add the fourth marker for Portland and it ended Kamloops goaltender Connor Ingram’s night. Dylan Ferguson came in relief and shut down Portland for the remainder of the first period.
Just 23 seconds into the second period, Portland’s Ryan Hughes scored to give the home side a 5-0 lead. In the second period, the Blazers made a bit of a run with two goals to cut the lead to three. The Blazers turned it on in the third with a pair of goals by Rudolph Balcers just over three minutes apart midway through the third to cut the lead to one and appeared to be on their way to tying the game. A costly hooking penalty as the Blazers looked to be closing the gap was all Cody Glass needed as he scored his second of the night on the power play to seal the win for the Hawks. The goal on the power play was the only one scored on the man advantage by either team as Kamloops held a 43-42 shots on goal advantage.
Friday night, Portland traveled to the Everett Silvertips to face the top US Division team. A shorthanded marker by Alex Overhardt midway through the first period opened the scoring for the Hawks who carried the lead into the second period. Evan Weinger would score just over a minute into the second, before Everett’s Dominic Zwerger scored midway through the second period to make the game close. Brad Ginnell would extend Portland’s lead midway through the third and would seal it with an empty net goal by Ryan Hughes with seven seconds left in the game to give Portland a 4-1 win. Everett hammered the Hawks with shots by a 47-30 margin, but Cole Kehler was able to stop 46 of them in the win.
The Hawks would make a long, overnight drive to Kelowna, site of the 4-1 loss just a week ago to face the Rockets. The feisty game saw 11 power play opportunities with the first two goals of the game coming via that way, one by each team and just over a minute apart. Kelowna then took advantage of some sloppy defensive play in the Hawks zone to score two goals less than a minute apart and add another early in the second period to lead by a 4-1 score. Unlike the previous meeting, that score wouldn’t hold up as Portland took advantage of Rocket’s defense breakdowns to score twice in less than a minute as Skyler McKenzie and Ryan Hughes continued to add to their scoring totals midway through the second period. Jake Gricius would capitalize on Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer’s rebound to bang home just his fourth of the year at the midway point of the third period to tie the game at four. With just over thirty seconds left in the game, Portland coach Mike Johnston called a timeout with a faceoff in the Kelowna zone. The puck was barely kept in the zone by Skyler McKenzie who fed a quick pass to Brendan DeJong who found Joachim Blichfeld on the doorstep and somehow the puck found its way through traffic and past a befuddled Herringer with less than four seconds left in the game. The entire Rockets bench was stunned as the final seconds ticked off the clock and the Hawks, who had lost five straight going into this past week of action, were suddenly on a three-game win streak with their 5-4 win over the Rockets. Portland went 2 for 6 on the power play, with Kelowna at 1 for 5 and shots deadlocked at 35 each.
The Hawks played the games against Everett and Kelowna without top scorer Cody Glass and defenseman Henri Jokihariu who are taking part in the NHL Top Prospects game and will most likely miss the Tuesday home game versus Everett as well due to flights back from Canada.
Portland will now play the second of two makeup games from earlier this month, against the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday which will be followed by games against Kamloops the next night, a road game in Everett on Friday before a home game against the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday.
The standings currently have Portland in fourth place in the US Division, nine points behind Seattle and ten behind Tri-City. More importantly, the Hawks are five points up on the Spokane Chiefs with a game in hand for the last playoff spot.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will be starting its annual membership drive next Saturday during the game versus Seattle.
The Portland/ Seattle game which is set to air on CW32 will also be the annual mascot night where fans can see their favorite mascots roam the concourse of the Moda Center and watch them in action during Tom-A-Hawk’s hockey game which will take place during the second period intermission.