The Winterhawks returned home after playing six of their first seven on the road. Edmonton made their bi-annual trip to the Rose City as Portland hosts the Central division this season. Portland defeated the Oil Kings 8-2 with special teams playing a key role.
Portland’s top line of Cody Glass, Joachim Blichfeld, and Reece Newkirk was flying again tonight with a combined three goals and nine assists. Glass gave the Winterhawks a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game Johnston described as “not our best game. We know we need to play better if we want to be a good team in this league.” Portland gave up a few extended offensive zone chances to the Oil Kings who can roll four strong lines.
Newkirk continued his strong start to the season with his fifth goal on the campaign. Blichfeld stole the puck behind the Edmonton net and spotted Glass. Rather than shooting, Glass sent a goal mouth pass to Newkirk extending the Portland lead to 2-0. Blichfeld described Newkirk as a player who “works hard and creates space for Cody and me.”
Edmonton’s Trey Fix-Wolansky is off to a hot start as he was only two points behind the WHL-leading Joachim Blichfeld entering the game. Trey would add to his total when he scored eight seconds into the second period. However, when the night was over, Blichfeld had extended the margin as he became the first Winterhawk to record five assists in a game since Brendan Leipsic did so vs. Saskatoon in 2013. After the game Blichfeld credited his linemates for his success, “Cody and [Reece] Newkirk buried their chances which kept our line going.”
With Portland leading 2-1, the game turned when Wyatt McLeod and Jacson Alexander of Edmonton took back-to-back penalties. Portland scored on the 5-on-3 power play thanks to a Ryan Hughes one-timer from the top of the circle. The Winterhawks then got a goal from Mason Mannek on the subsequent 5-on-4 extending their lead to 4-1. Not long after, Edmonton had the same opportunity with two 5-on-3 power plays, but instead of cutting into the Portland lead, they gave up a short-handed goal as Glass and Blichfeld worked a 2-on-1 to beat Dylan Myskiw, Edmonton’s 19-year-old goaltender. Head coach Mike Johnston said after the game, “special teams were the story of the night. We had four power-play goals and we shut them out on their power play.”
Jake Gricius scored his fifth goal this season while on the power play in the third period. Gricius has been strong on the power play all year and he credits his success to “playing with Glass and Blichfeld. I park myself in front of the net and they find me.” Gricius also spoke about how the penalty kill for Portland gave the bench “positive energy.” The Winterhawks penalty kill units were a perfect 8-8 thanks to timely clears and shot blocks.
Michal Kvasnica, Portland’s second round pick in the 2018 CHL import draft, scored his first WHL goal. Post-game Kvasnica said it was “an easy goal as Jaydon Dureau passed me [the puck] and I shot it into net, thanks to him.” Kvasnica is making the transition to North American hockey which he describes as “a lot different, everyone goes to the net here. In Europe we play on the outside.” Michal said his teammates “have helped me a lot both on the ice and with the language. Thanks to them.”
Kvasnica was not the only Winterhawk to score his first WHL goal on Wednesday. Cross Hanas scored the Winterhawks eighth goal of the game when he batted the puck out of the air. Hanas’ goal came on the power play after Glass drew a kneeing penalty. Ryan Hughes and Seth Jarvis worked the puck around nicely before the goal was scored.
The Winterhawks have a few days off before they play Sunday against Everett for the third time this season. Blichfeld believes Portland has to get back to “our game plan and stay out of the [penalty] box” while Johnston is looking for his team to “bounce back and play better this weekend against a strong team.”
– Prior to the game, Cody Glass was named the 43rd captain in Winterhawks team history. Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Brendan De Jong was named permanent alternate captain. Ryan Hughes and Jake Gricius will wear the “A” when the Winterhawks wear their white jersey. San Jose Sharks 7th round pick Joachim Blichfeld and 20-year-old Jared Freadrich will have the additional letter on their jersey when the team wears red.
– Portland’s power play went 4-fo- 6 while the Oil Kings were 0-of-8.
– Edmonton replaced Dylan Myskiw with 2001-born Boston Bilous after Myskiw stopped 14 of 20 shots in the first two periods.
– Matthew Quigley missed his second game with an upper-body injury. Nick Cicek and Nick Perna played on the third defensive pair for Portland.