The last time Portland visited Comcast Arena, the Tips served notice they’re a team to be reckoned with this season. This time the Winterhawks showed they’re still the team to beat in the U.S. Division. Portland played a quality game, and the Winterhawks used their patented quick-strike offense to blow the game open early in the third period, scoring three times in six minutes to take a 5-1 lead. Everett gave itself a glimmer of hope with two goals in a minute later in the period, but Portland got a sixth to finish the Tips off.
The first two periods seemed to be evenly played. However, that was a tad deceiving as Everett received the game’s first five power plays, all in the first 30 minutes of play. Once the game got into a bit of an even-strength flow following Everett’s fifth power play, Portland was the better team. The shot-on-goal totals (38-37 Everett) also indicate an evenly-played game, but that really doesn’t tell the story, and I’m not completely sure how accurate those numbers were tonight.
The victory moved Portland back into first place in the WHL’s standings with 45 points, one more than Everett. Kelowna continues to have the league’s best winning percentage, but the Rockets have played four fewer games than both the Tips and Hawks. It’s going to be tough for any team in the U.S. Division to beat Kelowna for the Scotty Munro Trophy this season, as it seems the U.S. Division is considerably stronger top-to-bottom than the B.C. Division.
Everett coach Kevin Constantine said following the game he thought the turning point was the Tips getting just one goal from those first five power plays. But the moment that really broke Everett’s back came early in the third period. The Tips were still in it at 2-1, but 2:59 into the period an unlucky bounce sunk Everett. Everett goaltender Austin Lotz saved Garrett Haar’s slap shot from the point straight up into the air. Lotz never saw the puck as it was airborne, and when it came down it appeared to deflect off Lotz’s back and across the goal line. Alex Schoenborn was credited with the goal, though I’m not certain exactly where he was involved. The goal forced Everett to open up its game, and that played further into Portland’s hands.
First star: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Portland. One goal and two assists, flashed a lot of speed.
Second star: Haar. One goal and one assist, his contributions came at critical times.
Third star: Joshua Winquist, Everett. Two goals, extended his franchise record points streak to 18 games.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Jujhar Khaira, Everett. There were other Portland players who I would have voted ahead of Khaira for the three stars, but I’m taking the opportunity to mention him because this was the best example yet of Khaira being the big, strong power forward who’s physically difficult for the opposition to handle. It just didn’t result in any points tonight.