The Portland Winterhawks didn’t empty the clip on the Kamloops Blazers like they did two nights earlier, but their talent persevered during an evenly played third period to escape with the Don Hay sweep.
The Winterhawks followed up their 7-3 victory in the first meeting of the season with a come-from-behind 5-3 victory Friday night at the Sandman Centre.
“It always feels good when you win. This game tonight was a wild affair, we won the first, they won the second and the third was back-and-forth,” said Winterhawks Assistant Coach Don Hay after his second, first return to Kamloops. “To put away two wins on the road says a lot about our team.”
The Blazers (2-4-0-0) came out with a little bit of attitude, wanting to right their wrongs from the lopsided affair Wednesday night.
Physical from puck drop, one of the Blazers’ leaders took things a little too far, depending who you ask.
Midway through the first, Jermaine Loewen added to his slow start this season when he drilled Matthew Quigley behind the Winterhawks’ net.
Quigley was retreating to his zone and under duress from Connor Zary. By peeling around his net, he ditched Zary but found himself on the Loewen trolley tracks. The refs determined that Loewen left his feet and hit Quigley in the head. As a result, Loewen was given two minutes for roughing, five minutes for checking to the head and a game misconduct.
“Jermaine’s the top guy and one of our go-tos. You obviously don’t want to lose him in the first period but I think we did a good job filling his hole in the lineup,” said Blazers’ winger Zane Franklin.
Although Dylan Ferguson flashed the leather for one of his 25 saves on a streaking Mason Mannek earlier in the period, his best work came on Loewen’s penalty.
Ferguson was under siege while fellow Vegas Golden Knights’ prospect Cody Glass went to work.
Glass is effortless at finding the open man when it is full strength. But give him an extended power play and you’re asking for trouble.
Ferguson couldn’t keep the Winterhawks (3-2-0-1) down for all five minutes. With 30 seconds left in the major, the Winterhawks worked it along the outside from Seth Jarvis, to Brendan De Jong and eventually to Ryan Hughes on the left faceoff circle. Hughes gripped it and ripped his first of the season.
Twenty-two seconds later, Glass made another brilliant Glass pass. Floating at the top of the zone and turning a corner down the right wing, Glass wired a backhander cross ice to his partner in crime Joachim Blinchfeld, who had the upper half of the net to aim at.
The 3,450 fans in attendance felt they were wronged earlier with the Loewen call, but benefited when Robbie Fromm-Delorme got called for high sticking in a post-whistle scrum.
Nolan Keen looked like he was entering hero mode and tried to pull off an end-to-end rush, but he lost the handle in the slot of the Winterhawks’ zone. The right man at the right time was the Blazers’ leader in goals, Zane Franklin. Without hesitation, he torched one over the left shoulder of Shane Farkas.
“Zane is reliable and he plays the game the right way. He’s definitely not the fastest, but he plays fast because he thinks fast and always finds good ice. He supports his teammates well in terms of puck movement and he has a really good shot,” said Hay’s replacement Serge Lajoie.
After getting worked 17-3 in shots in the first, the Blazers cranked it up a notch in the second, forced the Winterhawks into some undisciplined plays and most importantly, capitalized on their chances.
As much as Glass puts his team up on a nightly basis, he made a rare blunder and took a boarding call with the Winterhawks already on the penalty kill at the 7:32 mark of the second.
Zary kept the play alive despite a handful of high and wide shots. He found the puck at the top of the slot and sniped his first on the season.
The Blazers kept coming later in the period when alternate captain Luc Smith kept the play alive in the offensive zone with six minutes remaining in the middle frame on a shift that alone, produced more scoring chances than the opening frame.
Kobe Mohr queued up a one-timer from the right hash with less than a minute to go, but was quickly denied by Farkas for one of his 22 stops on the evening. Mohr wanted one more shot at the rebound, but Lane Gillis swiped the puck clean over the glass, giving the Blazers’ second-ranked power play a chance to strike before the break.
With less than 15 seconds remaining in the frame, defenceman Nolan Kneen made a powerful, heavy direct line up the ice. Deep in the Winterhawks’ zone, he quickly pivoted and sent a backhanded pass over to Franklin, who blasted one off the bar for his second of the game with only 6.5 seconds on the game clock, to give them their first lead since the first period Sept. 29 in Victoria.
“It’s been fun everyday, every shift out there. I play with some good players and having our power play clicking is a big part of that,” said Franklin, who now leads the Blazers with five goals. “I like to get open and they like to find me.”
As much momentum that the Blazers gained in the second, it quickly flew out the door 18 seconds into the third, when Blichfeld took over.
First, he picked off a dee-to-dee pass from Joonas Sillanpaa to Kneen, raced in on Ferguson and undressed him with a silky backhand move.
For his next trick, he raced in on a two-on-one rush by fending off the 6-foot-2 Quinn Schmiemann before flipping over a pass to Jake Gricius for the game-winner.
“Cody Glass is a real talented young player. SO calm and patient with the puck, all he does is make real good plays all the time. Blichfeld is a real pure shooter and a high-energy fun guy to have in your group. They’re two veteran guys that help our young players get better,” said Hay.
The Blazers battled back and finished the period tied 10-10 in shots, but dropped their fourth-straight when Mannek made good from earlier on and pocketed the empty netter.
“I think we were tested throughout the game. I challenged our guys to show a little more resiliency, they did that and it was a step in the right direction. Eventually, we will get the points, but it’s about the process right now,” said Lajoie. “I liked our guys’ compete and this was a way different game. I don’t like losing, but I can handle and accept this loss, as it gives us a platform to get better.”
The Blazers will have to regroup quickly, as they take on the team that started this schneid, when the Victoria Royals (5-0-0-0) are in town tomorrow night at 7 p.m.