Tonight’s game of the night is between the top two teams (win percentage-wise) in the WHL. The Everett Silvertips (21-6-1-0) head down to the Rose City and tangle with the Portland Winterhawks (20-6-1-2). They are tied atop the U.S. Division with Everett having a game in hand.
The game is at 7 pm PST.
Portland has won both games between the two teams so far this season. They got two points from Seth Jarvis and 28 stops from Joel Hofer in a 4-1 in Everett on November 1st. Then they edged the Silvertips 4-3 behind two-point games from Lane Gilliss and Jake Gricius.
This being the time of year teams are missing key players at the IIHF U20 World Junior Championships, there are some big names missing tonight.
For Portland, Hofer was named to the final Canadian roster and thus is gone through January 5th at least. They also have defenseman Jonas Brøndberg playing for Denmark at the Division 1 World Juniors tournament and forward Simon Knak at Switzerland’s World Juniors camp.
For Everett, goalie Dustin Wolf will be heading to USA Hockey’s World Juniors camp but is not leaving until Sunday.
Czech import Michal Gut was hurt during the road trip and thus despite being listed on the preliminary roster, could not battle for a chance to represent his country in his home country where the tournament is being held. Slovak import Martin Fasko-Rudas is listed on his country’s preliminary roster though and will miss some time.
Besides Gut, forwards Jalen Price and Tyson Phare are also listed on the weekly report as injured and out day-to-day.
Those injuries and Fasko-Rudas being gone mean that even with 16-year-old forward Carter Halamandaris being called up as an affiliate player, they might have only 10 forwards available to them.
Portland meanwhile called up affiliate 15-year-olds in forward Kyle Chyzowski and defenseman Ryder Thompson.
Thompson might just play tonight as Brøndberg being gone and overage blueliner Matthew Quigley being listed on the weekly report as out day-to-day with an upper-body injury, they have only five d-men available. Gilliss actually played a regular shift as a defenseman last Sunday in Portland’s win over the Prince George Cougars.
Forward Cross Hanas was also listed with an upper-body injury and is out day-to-day.
The four-game series sweep of the Cougars over the last week by Portland did not help them overtake the Silvertips as Everett cruised through their Central Division road trip with four straight wins. They outscored opponents 19-5 on the trip.
They were helped on that trip by overage defenseman Jake Christiansen being sent back by the Stockton Heat of the AHL. He came back in a big way with five goals and three assists for eight points in just three games. With him and Wyatte Wylie providing some offense form the blue line, the Silvertips’ depleted forward group will certainly receive some help creating offense.
For Portland, Jarvis led them in those four straight games with seven points, but underrated 17-year-old forward Robbie Fromm-Delorme pitched in six and many others provided points as well.
Expected in goal:
Isaiah DiLaura (Portland): After being acquired earlier this season from the Cougars, DiLaura has mostly watched Hofer put up a league-leading GAA from the bench. He along with call up Dante Giannuzzi will now be counted on over the next few weeks with Hofer gone. DiLaura has made just three appearances for Portland, posting a 4.98 GAA and 0.859 save percentage. He has not played since November 16th.
Dustin Wolf (Everett): He and Hofer seem to be battling for Western Conference goalie of the year honors this season. His GAA is right behind Hofer’s at 1.88 and his 0.943 save percentage is tops among all WHL goalies who have played more than six games. He has yet to beat Portland this season though and will be looking to get the monkey off his back tonight in Portland.
Also in action:
Kamloops Blazers @ Saskatoon Blades 7 pm CST
–Connor Zary comes back after being released from Canada’s World Juniors camp. This is also the return of Ryan Hughes to Saskatoon where he played last season.
Kelowna Rockets @ Regina Pats 7 pm CST
-Two games left on the East Division road trip for the Rockets. They are 3-1 so far with all three wins coming by a goal each.
Winnipeg ICE @ Prince Albert Raiders 7 pm CST
-We get another one-two matchup in the East Division as well with the ICE getting Peyton Krebs back for a battle with the division leaders.
Moose Jaw Warriors @Brandon Wheat Kings 7:30 pm CST
-The Warriors have won just once in their past 10 games. Things do not get any easier as the Wheat Kings get Braden Schneider back after he was released from Canada’s camp.
Swift Current Broncos @Edmonton Oil Kings 7 pm MST
-The Broncos got a highlight-reel goal by affiliate player Caleb Wyrostok earlier this week. They will need to continue to get offense form young players to take out the Oil Kings.
Medicine Hat Tigers @Red Deer Rebels 7 pm MST
-You cannot bounce back much better than the Tigers did on Tuesday, After dropping a contest to the Silvertips, they took it out on the Blades with an 11-3 blowout and followed that up with an 8-4 win in Prince Albert.
Victoria Royals @Prince George Cougars 7 pm PST
-The good news is the Cougars get Vladislav Mikhalchuk into the lineup as this game is in Canada and not the U.S. (Visa issues), but the bad news is they take on a team that has beaten them all four times so far this season. Each game was decided by a single goal and two went to the shootout.
Tri-City Americans @Seattle Thunderbirds 7:35 PST
-Another season series that has been lopsided in the win column but not on the ice. Tri-City has won all three so far but they have all been tight.