(Kelowna, British Columbia) A rematch from Friday night saw two of the most iconic franchises in the WHL.
For the fourth and final time this regular season, the Portland Winterhawks (37-7-3-4) and Kelowna Rockets (23-25-1-2) met.
On Saturday, the Winterhawks were looking to sweep the season series against the Rockets for the first time since 2011-2012.
With a final score of 4-2, Portland accomplished the feat.
Reece Newkirk said, “Tonight’s win was huge for our team. I think losing three in a row, we wanted to get back in the win column again and start up a new streak.”
A night prior, the Winterhawks jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and chased starting goaltender Roman Basran before the media timeout.
Rockets head coach Adam Foote went back to Basran on Saturday and he responded with a solid, bounce-back effort in the first period. The 18-year-old stopped all 12 shots sent his way including a glove save on Newkirk labeled for the top corner.
Joel Hofer was equally solid in net in the first period and bailed out the Winterhawks who took four first-period penalties. Ethan Ernst thought he had his third goal against the U.S. Division leaders but Hofer stuck out his left pillow to deny the Weyburn, Saskatchewan, native.
Kelowna used a minute of five-on-three power-play time to help generate 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes — they had 20 all game on Friday.
Lane Gilliss also showed his defensive prowess, blocking several shots while down two men.
Having a strong penalty kill helped Portland remain in the game and eventually find its offense in the second period.
Four goals were scored and Portland led 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Cross Hanas opened the scoring with his 17th of the season. The tall winger from Texas made a move around Kaden Korczak in the corner and cut to the front of the net. The 17-year-old’s backhanded shot went off the post and into the net.
Hofer again was the Winterhawks’ best penalty killer and stopped a sure goal when he pushed hard from his right to his left.
Not long after the save, Seth Jarvis scored his first of two goals in the middle frame.
While trying to make a move to the front of the net, he had the puck carom in off a Rockets defender and five-hole on Basran.
Trailing by two, Kelowna picked up the physical play. A heavy hit on Matthew Quigley separated the 20-year-old from the puck, and the Rockets transitioned the other way.
Fellow overager Kyle Topping scored his seventh of the season off the rush. James Stefan was back defending, and unfortunately for him, the puck appeared to bounce in off of the 16-year-old’s sliding body and behind Hofer.
80 seconds later, Portland responded with a goal of its own.
Nick Cicek and Mark Liwiski each were called for roughing following a whistle. On the ensuing four-on-four, Portland completed a beautiful three-way passing play.
Jaydon Dureau entered the zone down the right-wing side and sent an area pass to Florida Panthers draft pick Johnny Ludvig. The Winterhawks captain kept his head up and spotted Jarvis alone to the left of Basran for a simple tap-in goal.
The second goal of the evening for Jarvis was a milestone for the young Winnipeg native.
In 46 games played, he now has his first 30-goal season in the WHL.
A case could be made that no 2020 NHL Draft prospect has raised his stock more than Jarvis.
Neither team was able to find the twine in the first 17-plus minutes of the third period. Mike Johnston’s group shut things down defensively, only allowing eight shots in the final frame.
Adam Foote pulled Basran for the extra attacker with 2:46 left on the clock. The gamble did not pay off as Newkirk walked in an empty-net goal.
With 44 seconds to play, Topping made the game interesting again with his second goal of the evening off a centering pass by Pavel Novak.
Joel Hofer finished the night with 36 saves on 38 shots. “Joel made some huge saves tonight,” Newkirk added. “He propelled us to the win.”
Meanwhile, Basran saved 32-of-35 sent his way by Portland.
Again, Portland needed the win to keep pace with the Everett Silvertips who were looking to close the gap at the top of the U.S. Division standings. The Silvertips won in Seattle and will use one of their two games in hand Sunday night in Spokane.
Portland is off now until Friday night when the team welcomes the Spokane Chiefs to the Moda Center. The Winterhawks have 17 games remaining in the regular season.
The schedule in the final quarter of the year is U.S. Division heavy.
Victoria comes to the Rose City for two games, Moose Jaw for one, and the other 14 are against teams from the state of Washington.
– Neither team was able to convert on the man advantage. Kelowna went 0-for-5. The Winterhawks failed to score on the power play for the first time in seven games, going 0-for-4.
– Pavel Novak registered the primary assist on both Kyle Topping goals, giving the 17-year-old import from Czech Republic 39 points.
– Reece Newkirk’s empty-net goal was his 25th of the season. It is the first time the 18-year-old has achieved this milestone in three years with the Winterhawks.
– Portland also swept the season series with the Prince George Cougars earlier this year.