The Portland Winterhawks headed on the road to Canada with a few things to prove. Getting the Scotty Munro trophy was on the list as were records to break. The scoring title, best goals against average, most number of road wins and more. It almost came to a crashing halt... almost.
Things started on the wrong foot as the Royals' Steven Hodges retrieved the puck from the corner, fed it to Tyler Crunk who bounced it off Portland's Tyler Wotherspoon (celebrating his 20th birthday) and past Mac Carruth for the 1-0 lead at 19:32 of the first period. The period had been a rather lackluster effort as the Winterhawks seemed to have left all their enthusiasm on the mini golf course which they played on Monday. They did outshoot Victoria 13-11.
The 18 minute intermission gave the Hawks plenty to think about and they struck hard throughout the second. First, it was a powerplay goal for Ty Rattie, his 45th of the season with a great feed from Derrick Pouliot that started the Hawks turnaround. Another powerplay saw several opportunities and the Hawks were up 8-1 in shots by the midway point of the game. Mere seconds after the media timeout, a hard battle by Presten Kopeck in the corner, fed from Joe Mahon who setup Dominic Turgeon which he buried. For Mahon, it was his first assist of the season.
Then it was the Ty Rattie show with a beautiful, almost no look behind the back pass to Nic Petan, which gave Brendan Leipsic an easy goal and put the Hawks up 3-1. The Royals wouldn't be stopped though, as they headed to the powerplay. But it was a breakdown in the defensive zone by the Royals that allowed Taylor Leier to spring Taylor Peters and a breakaway. Peters made no mistake with a spin and backhand to put the puck past Coleman Vollrath who was making his second straight start versus the Hawks and extended the lead to 4-1. That period, the Hawks blitzed the Royals with 17 shots to just 4 for Victoria.
In the third, with the lead well in hand, the Hawks put it into cruise control and often toyed with the Royals for puck possession, confident in their now seemingly insurmountable lead.
The Hawks almost gave up the second of the night as Victoria's Jack Walker appeared to have put one past Carruth, however, the replay showed the puck bouncing off the crossbar to Carruth's right. Then the Royals turned up the heat. A nearly costly turnover by Josh Hanson on a pass in the defensive zone forced Carruth to make his most difficult save of the night and an suffer an apparent injury. Brendan Burke came in relief and made a couple of standup saves.
The Hawks found themselves in penalty trouble in the final two minutes with Turgeon for hooking and Petan less than a minute later to put the Hawks 2 men down for the remainder of the game. Victoria wasn't really able to take advantage of the situation and the Hawks walked out with the 4-1 win. Shots were 14-11 in the third period. The win was the Winterhawks 28th of the season on the road, tying a WHL record which could be broken on Saturday in Seattle. The goals by Leipsic and Rattie put them tied with goals with Nic Petan at 45. It also marked the first time this season that three Winterhawks players have been the top 3 in WHL scoring.
Mac Carruth earned his 31st win of the season as the Winterhawks for the second straight night, peppered 44 shots at the Victoria goal while giving up just 26.
Three stars of the night: (1) Ty Rattie (2) Taylor Peters (3) Derrick Pouliot
Ice Chips: The Winterhawks return home for three games in three nights. Friday and Saturday, they will compete in a home and home series with Seattle Thunderbirds, before ending the regular season at the Rose Garden versus Spokane Chiefs. Friday night is mascot night, with various team and other well-known mascots roaming the Rose Garden concourse and involved in a broomball hockey game at intermission. Pregame on Sunday will be awards night with individual awards being presented and 20 year old and graduating players from the Winterhawks being presented their jerseys.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club which works as a liaison between the Portland Winterhawks Hockey Club and its fans with fan trips, player photos and more. It's goal is to assist the WAHA Player's Education Fund and Junior Hockey Programs in the local area. http://www.pwhbc.com