The Portland Winterhawks (1-0-0-0) scored four goals in the second period to help propel them to a 6-1, home-opener victory over the Tri-City Americans (1-1-0-0).
Portland came out ready to play in the first period as Cross Hanas scored his first of two goals only 2:21 into the first period.
Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston said, “I thought our first period was good. I thought we had a lot of jump. Certainly, they played last night; sometimes, early in the year, that is a factor until teams get in rhythm.
“I was also worried as we hadn’t played in two weeks. I was kind of nervous coming in. Everybody is nervous for the home opener. I just didn’t know how our guys would come out of the gate after not playing. I was happy with their game.”
Portland held the majority of the territory control through the opening period and had the momentum entering the second period.
Recently named captain Johnny Ludvig mentioned, “We came out with great energy. I think everyone was fired up for this home opener. It showed in our first period, and the starts to every period were great for us. We rode the momentum swing there (in the second), and got a couple quick. It was great to see.”
No doubt the highlight of the night came off the stick of Cross Hanas. The 17-year-old from Highland Village, Texas, scored a lacrosse-style goal over the shoulder of Tri-City’s Beck Warm.
“I started at the net, saw Kozy (Tyson Kozak) going to the net, tried to get it there, it hit a skate I think, and went behind on the play,” Hanas explained the goal. “I’ve tried the move a lot in practice; I’ve tried it a few times in a game. It finally worked out in a game for me; it was pretty nice.”
Add Ludvig to those impressed by the play of Hanas. “He is a super-skilled player, so it wasn’t too surprising. I’ve seen him do it in practice a couple of times; unreal goal by him.”
Johnston called Cross a “skilled player, and I’ve been on him to shoot more. I think he has to shoot more to be effective. He has to balance his game. He tends to try to make plays too much. I thought he was shooting the puck a little bit more tonight. I thought both Hanas (and Hanus) played well; Clay also from the backend played really well.”
Less than 30 seconds later, the before-mentioned Clay Hanus netted his first of two goals on Saturday to keep the momentum rolling for the Winterhawks.
After getting his first point on Portland’s opening goal, import Simon Knak scored his first WHL goal on a deflection in front.
The Switzerland native described his goal, “I think I had no other options. I wanted to put the puck on net for a rebound and it went in. I will take it.”
Knak wasn’t the only new Winterhawks import to find the score sheet. Defenseman Jonas Brøndberg finished the night with two assists.
The duo was playing their first WHL regular season game after appearing in a combined ten preseason games. “It is one step more, I think, maybe harder, more speed,” Knak said about the difference between the preseason and regular season. “The ice wasn’t really good today, but I think we played a good game, better than in the preseason.”
After Knak’s goal, Tri-City brought Talyn Boyko in to replace Beck Warm. However, a second Clay Hanus goal pushed the Portland lead to five before the second-period horn sounded.
When asked about the four goals in the second, Mike Johnston thought, “we should have scored more in the first probably. The ones went in in the second. The good chances we had in the first didn’t go in, but it was one of those things. Warm is a really good goaltender, but I thought we gave him traffic tonight and that is what you have to do against a good goaltender. A couple squeaked through him. One was unfortunate as his own guy tipped it in. If you are going to beat him, you have to play in front of him.”
Not everything went according to the game plan for Portland in the second period.
“I thought we let Tri-City back into it with a few penalties in the second period there, gave them some momentum,” Johnston expressed. “We can’t play that way. In the third, I thought we responded and played well. They (Tri-City) are a big team, hard to play against team, much like they were last year.”
With a 5-0 lead entering the third period, Portland kept putting pucks on net.
After waiting 23 games to get his first goal in 2018-2019, Ludvig didn’t need a full game this year.
“I got (the puck) on the blue line, made a move, saw some open ice, so I figured a shot there.”
The Florida Panthers draft pick commented on the amount of time and space he had. “I was surprised honestly. I wasn’t expecting to be so open there, but I was. It worked out good.”
2019 CHL Import Draft selection Jan Cikhart joined in on the import scoring with his first of the 2019-2020 campaign for Tri-City. The Czech Republic native picked up a loose puck to the right of Hofer and beat everyone back to the front of the net on a wrap-around goal.
The goal was not Cikhart’s first point in the WHL after he registered two assists on Friday night in Everett.
The Americans are now off until Friday when they travel to Kent, Washington to play the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Portland is back in action on Sunday when they host the Kamloops Blazers. After going 7-0 in the preseason, the Blazers are looking for their first win of the regular season. Kamloops fell to Spokane on Friday and Seattle on Saturday.
“I just think we have to play an energy game, but we also have to play disciplined,” Johnston said about facing Kamloops. “We can’t let the other teams have the power play advantage.”
Ludvig’s focus is on the momentum the team has after Saturday’s win. “We have the momentum and we are all excited now. We want to carry that energy right into (Sunday). (Kamloops) has a good team, so we have to be ready to go.”
– Portland scored on one of their six power play chances, while Tri-City could not find the net on any of their five opportunities. Per Mike Johnston, “The power play and penalty kill we are still trying to get units together. That was the first live action for anybody on special teams — that was a challenge. For me, special teams are still a work in progress this time of year.”
– Joel Hofer stopped 17-of-18 shots in his first win of the season. Beck Warm made 14 saves before Boyko came in relief. The six-foot-six netminder stopped 22-of-24 in just under 27 minutes of work.
– With 32 seconds left in the game, Nikita Krivokrasov was helped off the ice by his teammates and trainer. His status is unknown, and with so little time left in the game, he did not return to the ice.
– One of the many questions with import players is how well they speak English. Knak is well spoken for being in North America less than two months. He gave credit to fellow import Jonas Brøndberg. “He helped me a lot with English because he speaks better than me. I hope I will learn it quick.”
– Johnny Ludvig was named the 44th Winterhawks captain in team history. He spoke about what it means to him. “It is a huge honor. There have been plenty of captains before me on this team who are great players and people. (It’s) a big honor for me, and I want to help lead this team any way I can.” When asked to describe his leadership style, Ludvig said, “I’m not much of a loud guy, but I like to go out there and lead by example. I want to do the right things out there and stick up for my teammates.”
Cross Hanas was excited for Ludvig. “He deserves it and every single bit of it. He is a great leader in the locker room and he leads by example on the ice, sticks up for his teammates, blocks all those shots. He is a great character guy to have as captain.”
Simon Knak said, “I think he is a great leader. I think he can give the boys what he knows and what they don’t know already.”
– Mason Mannek, Reece Newkirk, Matthew Quigley, Jake Gricius, and Lane Gilliss were named alternate captains. The group of five will rotate throughout the year based upon home vs. road.