(Brandon, MB) After allowing two early goals, the Portland Winterhawks (24-11-3-2) scored four unanswered, and survived a late fury by the Brandon Wheat Kings (16-16-3-3) for a 4-3 victory.
The win gives Portland points in their last nine games, and a fifth straight, including three on their eastern road trip.
Ben McCartney came ready to play on Tuesday night scoring just 1:14 into the game. The opening goal of the game was his tenth on the season.
The 17-year-old did not have to wait long for his 11th as he finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play started by Ridly Greig. Greig also assisted on the first goal. Connor Gutenberg received the primary assist after utilizing his vision to spot McCartney wide open to the left of Winterhawks’ goalie Shane Farkas.
The Wheat Kings enjoyed a two-goal advantage for just under two minutes. Czech Republic import Michal Kvasnica got Portland on the board shortly thereafter.
Lane Gilliss found Kvasnica just inside the offensive zone who leveraged a screen in front of Wheat Kings’ goalie, and fellow Czech Republic import, Jiri Patera.
Kvasnica’s seventh of the season gave Portland life after appearing to struggle to find their legs early.
Seth Jarvis, a Winnipeg native, who was playing close to home, scored almost eight minutes later to tie the game. Behind Portland’s top line, the trio of Jaydon Dureau, Reece Newkirk, and Seth Jarvis continues to provide the secondary scoring head coach Mike Johnston often referenced in the first half of the season.
After 20 minutes the Wheat Kings and Winterhawks were tied despite a 22-9 shot edge for Portland. Patera showed strong poise in net and battled limiting rebound opportunities.
Entering the middle frame, Brandon pushed back on the run of play out shooting Portland early in the period. The Wheat Kings had adjusted to the Winterhawks’ speed through the neutral zone. McCartney nearly completed the hat trick, but Farkas made a timely save to keep the score deadlocked at two.
In the midst of a line change, Dureau and Jake Gricius entered on a rush into the Wheat Kings zone. Dureau found a loose puck to the side of Patera for his ninth of the season and second in his last three games.
The 17-year-old rookie’s goal proved to be the only tally of the period. Portland took a one-goal lead into the locker room for the second intermission.
Rookie defenseman Nick Cicek was locked up in battle near the front of the net, and ended up taking an interference penalty on the play. The momentum was tilting towards the Wheat Kings who were looking to leverage the power play to tie the game.
Instead, a scramble play in the Brandon zone resulted in Patera trying to clear the zone, but Gricius sealed the wall. The 19-year-old spotted Joachim Blichfeld behind Patera and a vacated net. Blichfeld had an empty net to score his 37th goal, and fourth short-handed goal of the year.
After trying to erase a two goal deficit, Caiden Daley won an offensive zone draw back to defenseman Braden Schneider. The second year, 2001-born defenseman sent a seeing-eye shot from the point which got through several bodies on the way to the net. The goal gave the Wheat Kings new life for one last push in the final five minutes of the contest.
Perhaps the best chance got by Farkas, but rang off the post. Brandon pulled their goalie with just over two minutes to play. However, Portland’s defense successfully defended the lead sealing the 4-3 victory.
– The teams only play once per year, but Brandon has now lost nine of the last ten head-to-head meetings.
– Winterhawks’ captain Cody Glass returned after representing team Canada at the World Juniors. The Vegas Golden Knights forward received a few additional days off after the tournament completed. Tuesday’s game marked his first game since December 8th against Prince George. The Wheat Kings ended his personal point streak at 16 games. The most recent game where Glass failed to register a point came against Spokane on October 26th.
– Matthew Quigley served his final game of a four-game suspension handed down by the league.