Tuesday evening was hockey night in Portland as the Regina Pats (13-23-3-2) came to town.
The Winterhawks (30-6-2-3) started the game on time and blitzed the visitors with a goal 34 seconds into the contest. Portland added four more goals before the opening period came to an end in route to a 9-4 victory.
A win over Regina was the Winterhawks 30th of the season, the first team in the WHL to reach the milestone.
Cross Hanas feels the team’s depth is the reason for their success. “Our depth is untouchable in this league. We are the first team with 30 wins, we have one of the best winning percentages in all of the CHL. We are not just one line, one person, we have a whole group of forwards, defensemen, and two great goalies to go with it. A true team effort.”
17-year-old Robbie Fromm-Delorme got the party started before many fans had a chance to get to their seats. New York Islanders draft pick Reece Newkirk sent a pass to the winger behind the Pats defense who went wide on starter Donovan Buskey. The primary assist pushed Newkirk’s point streak to 17 straight games.
Eight minutes later Portland scored two goals within 67 seconds one of another.
Captain Johnny Ludvig registered his 13th of the season which leads the WHL in goals by defensemen. Cross Hanas sent the puck back to the point from the goal line after Simon Knak created space low in the zone. A 3rd round selection by the Florida Panthers, Ludvig wired a wrist shot blocker side for the game’s second goal.
Rookie center Gabe Klassen showed his ability to protect the puck playing a game of individual keep away from three Pats. Emerging from the trio of defenders along the wall, the 16-year-old spotted Kishaun Gervais positioned at the top of the crease for the goal.
“I got the breakout pass from (Nick) Cicek and started going down the wall,” Klassen described the play. “I delayed a little bit and saw some traffic, no one was quite open yet so I decided to hang onto the puck a little while longer. Then, I was able to get through and get the puck to the slot for Gervais who made a nice finish.”
Simon Knak, playing his first game in Portland since returning from World Juniors, gained the offensive zone and left the puck for Hanas to skate onto. The 17-year-old Highland Village, Texas, native showed off fancy stickhandling in route to his 12th tally of the year.
Hanas was glad to have his linemate back, “He has been gone for awhile. We have been linemates pretty much all year. It was really nice to have him back and we are starting to have chemistry again. It was nice for both of us to get back on the score sheet.”
Lane Gilliss joined in on the goal scoring after backhanding a rebound chance to the far side of the net. The overager now has 10 goals joining six other Winterhawks in double digits.
Regina pushed back with several strong shifts and were rewarded for their effort when Carson Denomie stripped the puck from a Portland defender at his defensive blue line. The 19-year-old local Regina product led a two-on-one rush before showcasing his wrist shot.
A well-placed shot beat Joel Hofer high to the glove side gave Denomie 14 goals in his fourth WHL season.
Klassen said, “We knew they were coming off a big game in Everett and were going to be coming out hard. We knew we had to match that and play our game, we found some success early on getting a couple of quick ones in the first (period).”
The second period saw another five combined goals scored between the teams, four of which came within three minutes of one another.
Denomie’s second of the evening was deflected high into the air off a Portland stick landing behind Hofer.
Klassen responded for the Winterhawks 1:17 later with his sixth of the season. Jaydon Dureau stopped along the half wall allowing the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, native an opportunity to race through the slot.
“I was coming into the zone and saw Dureau on the wall,” Klassen recalled. “I thought, ‘I hope he can get me the puck.’ I was yelling and banging my stick, but I knew he would find a way to get me the puck, he’s so skilled. He was able to make a great play off the wall to find me all alone in the middle, all I had to do was beat the goalie blocker side.”
Jan Cikhart’s third goal, second with Regina after coming over in a trade with Tri-City, of the season came 41 seconds later. Logan Nijhoff was positioned in front of Hofer which came at the displeasure of defenseman Nick Cicek. The two were given five minutes for fighting. With an assist on the goal, Wytinck gained his 100th WHL point during his career.
Cross Hanas capped off the wild sequence with his second of the contest. Knak again was the catalyst of the play setting up a teammate for the third time. Rather than shooting himself, the rookie winger from Switzerland dropped the puck off for Hanas.
When asked if he was calling for the puck, Hanas said with a big smile, “I might have been.”
Portland’s speed gave the shorthanded Regina Pats fits all evening. Due to injuries, and being on the road, head coach Dave Struch was forced to ice only 17 skaters. Layton Feist, the 17th overall pick in the 2019 Bantam Draft, made his WHL debut on Tuesday.
Dureau’s speed entering the Regina zone forced a Pats hooking penalty. The Winterhawks, via Reece Newkirk, converted on the man advantage for the fourth straight game.
In the third period the teams traded goals. James Stefan led a rush up the right side and picked the blocker side on Buskey for his fifth goal of his rookie year.
Carter Chorney capitalized on a Pats power play. 20-year-old Robbie Holmes was credited with the primary assist giving him 100 WHL points.
The Winterhawks won 9-4 despite only leading on the shot clock 38-37.
Portland now prepares for a three-in-three this weekend starting with a road game in Spokane. On Saturday and Sunday the Memorial Cup hosts – Kelowna Rockets – come to the Rose City.
Klassen feels the focus needs to be “continuing with exactly how we have been playing. I think we have been really good with our game and have a lot of confidence. We need to keep our systems the same way and build off these wins to keep the streak going.”
– Depending on when you viewed the scoresheet, there were four scoring changes. The WHL game sheet is now accurate.
– 16 different Winterhawks ended the game with a point.
– Ludvig played in his 150th WHL game on Tuesday night.
– Austin Pratt left the game early and did not return.
– Jack O’Brien and Kade Nolan were a healthy scratch for Portland. Seth Jarvis missed the game as he is attending the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game on Thursday. He will also miss Friday’s game in Spokane before rejoining the team in time for Saturday’s home game against Kelowna.
– Gabe Klassen (1G, 2A) and Cross Hanas (2G, 2A) each had a career best point performance.
– The Winterhawks have five wins against the East Division with one team left to visit town. Moose Jaw is in town in February.