EVERETT — The last time the Portland Winterhawks visited Comcast Arena, the Everett Silvertips showed they have what it takes to compete with the WHL’s elite.
This time the Winterhawks showed why they’re they’re still the team to beat in the U.S. Division.
Portland put together one of its patented scoring outbursts, finding the net three times in six minutes early in the third period en route to a 6-3 victory over Everett in Tuesday’s night battle for first place in the league standings.
Everett came into the game with the most points in the WHL (44), one ahead of Portland, and the Tips prevailed 3-2 when the teams had their first meeting on Nov. 15 in Everett.
But the defending league champions played a high-level game Tuesday, and quick goals from Alex Schoenborn, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Chase De Leo broke the game open for the Winterhawks in the third period.
“They’re good,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said of the Winterhawks. “I’ve always said they’re going to win their share of 9-2s and 7-2s, and it’s going to be really rare when we do. They don’t need a lot of chances — though they got plenty tonight — and you really have to be on top of every aspect of your game. You have to be very sharp to beat them, and we weren’t real sharp tonight.”
Garrett Haar, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot also scored for Portland (21-5-2-1), which moved a point ahead of Everett in the standings. Brendan Burke made 35 saves to earn the win in goal for the Winterhawks.
“The last time we were in here our first two periods were’t very good, and we wanted to correct that,” Portland coach Mike Johnston said. “I liked our game tonight. We gave up five power plays early, so that gave them a little more momentum than we would have liked. But we played a steady game overall, I liked how we played.”
Joshua Winquist scored twice to lead Everett (20-4-4-0). The goals extended Winquist’s franchise-record points streak to 18 games.
Ivan Nikolishin also scored for Tips, who saw a five-game winning streak come to an end. Austin Lotz stopped 28 of the 33 shots he faced in goal for Everett before being removed midway through the third period. Daniel Cotton stopped three of four in relief.
Everett had its chance to take control of the game. The Tips received the game’s first five power plays, all in the first 30 minutes of play. Everett scored on the first of those opportunities, a mere 3 minutes, 57 seconds into the game when Winquist converted a feed from Nikolishin. However, when the fifth power play ended Everett had just a 1-1 tie to show for it, and once the game reached a lengthy stretch of even-strength play, it was Portland that created the better scoring chances.
“I thought the turning point of the game was getting just one goal on our first power-play opportunities,” Constantine said. “If you’re going to get handed the first five power plays of the game and you’re really into your game, you get two goals out of that. I think our game was a bit sloppy in the first and I thought that affected our power play.”
Then Portland, the highest-scoring team in the league, did its thing in the third. Everett trailed 2-1 and was still in the game. But the Winterhawks forced Lotz into several tough saves early, then an unfortunate bounce opened the floodgates. Lotz saved Haar’s slap shot from the point straight up into the air. Lotz never saw the puck when it was in the air, and when it came down it appeared it deflected off Lotz’s back and across the goal line. Schoenborn was credited with the goal, which gave the Winterhawks a two-goal lead at 2:59.
Then in a blink it was 5-1. Portland broke into the Everett zone with speed, and though Lotz made two good saves, Bjorkstrand was able to put in the second rebound at 7:36. The Winterhawks received a power play 22 seconds later, and De Leo put in a rebound at 8:20, sending Lotz to the bench in favor of Cotton.
“We needed to come out in the third and find a goal, and right away they get two,” Constantine said. “That really took us out of the game.”
Everett gave itself a glimmer of hope with two goals in a minute later in the period. Nikolishin poked in a rebound at 15:18 to make it 5-2. Then Winquist sniped a shot past Burke following a Tyler Sandhu interception and feed 59 seconds later, getting the Tips back within two.
But Pouliot ended any thought of a miracle comeback at 17:01 when he had time to gather the puck in the high slot and switch to his forehand to rifle a shot into the top corner, completing the scoring.
Everett played without winger Logan Aasman, who returned home to Medicine Hat, Alberta, for personal reasons. Aasman is expected to rejoin the team Friday in Kelowna. … Portland was without three forwards, overagers Shane McColgan and Adam Rossignol as well as Presten Kopeck, because of upper-body injuries.
Winterhawks 6, Silvertips 3
Portland 1 1 4—6
Everett 1 0 2—3
First Period—1, Everett, Winquist 22 (Nikolishin, Pufahl), 3:57 (pp). 2, Portland, Haar 4 (Texeira), 17:21. Penalties—Alldridge, Portland (checking from behind), 2:46; Haar, Portland (cross checking), 5:25; Leier, Portland (tripping), 14:47.
Second Period—3, Portland, Leier 20 (Bjorkstrand), 14:56. Penalties—Hanson, Portland (interference), 0:15; Portland bench (too many men, served by Price), 6:31; Leipsic, Portland (embellishment), 9:00; Betker, Everett (roughing), 9:00; Davis, Everett (hooking), 18:22.
Third Period—4, Portland, Schoenborn 8 (Haar, Texeira), 2:59. 5, Portland, Bjorkstrand 24 (De Leo, Leier), 7:36. 6, Portland, De Leo 18 (Petan, Bjorkstrand), 8:20 (pp). 7, Everett, Nikolishin 8 (DeRoose, Betker), 15:18. 8, Everett, Winquist 23 (Sandhu), 16:19. 9, Portland, Pouliot 8 (De Champlain), 17:01. Penalties—Nikolishin, Everett (checking from behind), 7:58; Mueller, Everett (cross checking), 10:20.
Shots on goal—Portland 12-8-17—37. Everett 12-11-15—38. Power-play opportunities—Portland 1 of 3. Everett 1 of 5.
Goalies—Portland, Burke 19-4-2-1 (38 shots, 35 saves). Everett, Lotz 15-4-1-0 (33 shots, 28 saves), Cotton (4 shots, 3 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.