The Portland Winterhawks (13-4) and visiting Tri-City Americans (12-5-2-0) treated fans at the Moda Center to a lively contest Saturday night. They set the stage for what is sure to be an entertaining 10-game season series that very well may decide the fate of the U.S. Division.
After winning last night over Seattle, the Americans enjoyed a one-day lead in the division, before the Winterhawks took it back Saturday. Both team are tied at 26 points, but Portland has more wins and has played two less games.
Getting them back on top was a slump-busting sniper by the name of Joachim Blichfeld. The Danish import broke out in a big way, scoring twice and adding an assist for a three-point night. Kieffer Bellows extended his point streak to 12 games with a goal and two assists and Cody Glass added two assists.
Cole Kehler was marvelous again in the Portland net, back-stopping them to a win for the fourth straight game, behind 39 saves on 41 shots.
After a Tri-City power play expired, Portland got the game’s opening goal and it came off the stick of a player who was well overdue for a snipe. Joachim Blichfeld, who last scored on October 15th took a feed from Kieffer Bellows on the rush and buried one past the blocker of Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea. Blichfeld had fired 33 shots on net since his previous goal.
Skyler McKenzie then showcased his end-to-end play with 7:11 left in the period. First he picked the pocket of Tri-City forward Issac Johnson, then he fed Cody Glass for a rush up the ice. Glass then found him at the back door for the Sherwood Park native’s 14th of the season and the 2-0 lead.
After Alex Overhardt got called for tripping later in the session, Tri-City got on the board with a power play goal. Carson Focht walked in off the half-boards and fired a shot on Kehler. Maxwell James, who was the net-front presence on the man advantage, banged home the rebound for his fourth of the year.
Blichfeld then proved that he really had gotten the monkey off his back when he walked in from the point on the power play and beat Dea low to the blocker side for his second of the night.
Tri-City answered back on a play set up by one of their own imports. Juuso Vålimåki jumped up into the Portland zone and won a battle in the corner backhanding a pass right to the front of the net where Morgan Geekie was flying in to cut the Portland lead back to one at 3-2.
The Americans had plenty of chances to tie the game but Kehler was up to the task. Keoni Texeira then helped put the game to bed with an empty-net-goal with just under two minutes left.
Bellows added another empty netter, to close out the scoring at 5-2.
Tri-City had not lost in regulation since October 10th. Portland has won 11 of their last 14.
Portland has given up the least amount of goals in the league with 45 over 17 games (2.65 a game).
Patrick Dea turned away 44 of 47 in the loss.
The Winterhawks were 1/3 on the power play, while Tri-City went 1/5.