Portland started out their preseason Friday afternoon with what could be called a spirited affair against the Spokane Chiefs. Four players ended up with 14 or more penalty minutes and we saw our first fight at the annual tournament. Portland head coach, vice president and general manager Mike Johnston was not that surprised that we saw so many hits and penalties. “You have to remember that there is a lot of kids trying out and trying to earn a spot. Then there’s veterans who have played against each other four two-to-four years. You had a little bit out here but I thought it was fairly controlled. We had one fight, but that is a rare occurrence in exhibition games these days. It used to be that you’d have way more.”
Mixed into all the madness, Portland scored seven times with four of those coming on their nine power plays. Another one of their goals came just five seconds after a Spokane penalty had ended. Reece Newkirk scored twice, defensemen Matt Quigley and Clay Hanus each had three assists and Jake Gricius, Skyler McKenzie and Brad Ginnell all added two points. Johnston was pleased with the point production, especially from his young defensive group that saw the ice. “I was happy with our play. We had five of our six d-men that did not play with us last year. It’s a hard game to play when you are under pressure like that. Certainly when we play our older guys it will make our difference, but this time of our year, it’s about playing your young guys.”
Hanus and his three assists had an impact, especially considering he took a stick to the face and a knee in tight on his knee. “He had a good night and a bad night. It was a tough night physically for him, as he took a lot of hits but he’s going to have to get used to that. He didn’t play a lot last year and so his timing was off a little bit. He was out with hip surgery so I expect that will take him a little while but I was happy with his play. He got the puck through and had his head up and showed some poise.”
Portland got their first goal of the preseason off the stick of Bronson Sharp. He was in the right spot for the rebound after Jake Gricius fought through a stick check and got a shot in low on the pad of Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherhill. He poked home the rebound for his third career preseason goal. He has yet to find the twine in the regular season but is looking to change that this year. Spokane’s Kailer Yamamoto then showed why the Edmonton Oilers took him in the first round of the NHL draft under a minute later. He picked off an outlet pass and broke in alone on Farkas. He used his edges to get the Portland goalie going the wrong way before flicking one over him. The Winterhawks snagged that lead right back though as with 10:01 left in the first, Skyler McKenzie’s shot from the high slot careened off Spokane defenseman Tyson Helgesen and into the net. That goal came just nine seconds into the man advantage. Portland got their third power play of the game around six minutes later when Hudson Elynuik went low on Portland d-man Clay Hanus and took out his knee. The 16-year-old immediately grabbed at his knee and writhed in pain, though he did end up getting up and skating to the bench under his own power. Elynuik got five minutes for kneeing and a game misconduct.
The penalty situation would get much worse for Spokane in the second period as after clearing the Elynuik one, they took four straight from 4:58 to 8:37 into the middle frame. Despite dodging the proverbial bullet while down a man earlier in the period, they would not continue to do so. 16-year-old forward Reece Newkirk drove the net and Gricius appeared to bat the puck in over a down-and-out Weatherhill to make it 3-1 Portland. While the goals was announced as Gricius, it was later awarded to Newkirk. Connor Bowie followed that power play marker with one of his own. He scored it on the rebound. Gricius added a goal of his own later in the second as he used a strong screen from Newkirk and wired a shot down low to Weatherhill’s right. The Spokane goalie appeared to never see the puck.
The third period started off with fireworks of a different kind as John Ludvig and Riley McKay dropped mitts 40 seconds in. Both were assessed game misconducts due to WHL preseason rules. Portland extended their lead to 6-2 when the puck caromed off the boards right to Lane Gilliss and with Weatherhill well out of position.
Spokane appeared to score later in the period when Helgesen buried home a shot off a pass from Yamamoto and the goal light went on. The teams continued to play though for another minute plus before play was stopped and the goal was awarded to Helgesen. Reece Newkirk finished off Portland’s scoring with a powerful drive to the net and finish on the power play. The Chiefs added one more goal with 1.5 seconds left as Jeff Faith powered a shot past Farkas.
Shane Farkas played all game in net for Portland, stopping 26 of 29. Dawson Weatherhill faced 41 shots for the Chiefs and stopped 34 of them.
The Winterhawks are back in action at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday vs. Tri-City, while the Chiefs will play the Giants at 3 p.m.