The Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs have some very talented players, some of which are signed NHL draft picks. Time and time again the likes of Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass for the Winterhawks and Ty Smith for the Chiefs have come up big for them.
On Saturday night in Veterans Memorial Coliseum though, both teams would need to handle the adversity of not having any of those three on the ice.
Despite losing two different two-goal leads, Portland got the better of Spokane in the shootout, taking the game 6-5.
Glass was hurt a week ago and is listed as out day-to-day. An awkward hit along the boards in the first period left the Chiefs without arguably their MVP this season in New Jersey Devils signed prospect Smith and Portland without Blichfeld.
Smith left the game injured and Blichfeld was assessed a five minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
Withgout those players available it was up to the depth players to come through and they did for both teams.
16-year-old center Cross Hanas had his first career three-point game with a goal and two assists, defensive defeneman John Ludvig had a goal and an assist and 12 total Winterhawks found the scoresheet in the shootout win.
Hanas credited a raucous environment at the VMC for the Winterhawks being able to bounce back every time Spokane scored.
“The energy in the rink was big tonight. Especially a game like that – a fun and fast game. It was competitive and the fans were great. They helped build that momentum back up for us toward the end,” Hanas said.
Ludvig was impressed with the play of the 2002-born forward.
“He was definitely on a high tonight. He’s a great player and he’s going to be a good player in this league for awhile.”
Portland flipped the script on Spokane in the shootout as Jaret Aderson-Dolan scored first, despite Portland shooting first.
Reece Newkirk and Jake Gricius both beat Spokane goalie Reece Klassen and Portland goalie Joel Hofer did not get beat by Riley Woods and Filip Kral to seal the win.
Just three nights earlier in Spokane, Portland suffered one of their worst losses this season. Ludvig remarked that the team was especially ready to get back at Spokane.
“We lost big to them the other night and we came out with revenge on our minds. I thought the group really battled through it for 60 minutes plus. A great group effort.”
Ludvig also was not surprised his team handled the adversity of being without either of their top two scorers.
“We wanted revenge. I could see it in the room before the game. Everyone was fired up for this one. When the games are on the line, everyone is going. There are no passengers on this team. Heading into the playoffs that is great to see.”
Spokane got things going Saturday night as while on an early power play. Nolan Reid took advantage of an ailing Gricus and sneaked a shot near post on Hofer over his left shoulder.
Gricius had just blocked a shot and was still trying to gain his feet.
Portland bounced back from the early Spokane surge. The Chiefs had the game’s first four shots in the game.
Portland took advantage of their very first shot. Haydn Delorme fed a pass right out front to Lane Gilliss and the 19-year-old center tied the game at one.
The assist for Delorme was his first ever in the WHL.
Midway through the first, what started out as an innocuous play, ended up taking two of the more accomplished players out of the game.
Ty Smith tried to corral a puck at center ice when it went to boards. As he was pursuing it, Blichfeld checked him. He went awkwardly into the boards and stayed on the ice awhile before skating off.
After conferring, the officials gave Blichfeld a five minute major for interference and a game misconduct.
Here is the hit Blichfeld threw on Smith as he was falling. He got a 5 minute major and GM for interference. pic.twitter.com/oHfFjql5o8
— Brandon Rivers (@BriversWHL) February 3, 2019
Spokane had a five-minute power play, but Hofer, Portland’s penalty killers and a post kept them at bay. The Chiefs fired six shots on net during their man advantage.
After the long penalty was killed, Portland went on the attack, taking the late first period lead. Robbie Fromm-Delorme dug the puck out at center ice and sent Michal Kvasnica and Jared Freadrich flying in on a two-on-one.
Kvasnica saucered a pass over to the overage d-man and Freadrich wired a low shot by Brkin.
Right off the faceoff in the second period, Portland drew a delayed penalty. They would not need the power play.
John Ludvig flipped the puck off the boards in the Spokane zone and Seth Jarvis smartly sent it out to him in space.
Ludvig then fired a shot by Brkin for the 3-1 Portland lead, just 20 seconds into the middle frame.
The goal was Ludvig’s third this season.
“I got it on the point and I saw the ref with his arm up so I knew they were getting the penalty. I made a risky chip to Jarvis and he made a nice pass to me back in the slot. I buried my head and put it in the back of the net,” Ludvig said.
Portland looked comfortable in holding a two-goal lead, but for the first of two times on the night, the Chiefs crawled back.
A shot from Luc Smith went off the end-boards behind Hofer and ricocheted out to a waiting Egor Arbuzov. He fired a quick shot that Hofer got his glove on.
Spokane celebrated but no goal had been signaled. After video review though, the glove of Hofer clearly went over the whole goal line.
Spokane's Arbuzov had his shot stopped by Joel Hofer but then had it overruled and called a goal after video review. pic.twitter.com/ejmOyH8cAz
— Brandon Rivers (@BriversWHL) February 3, 2019
Reid then added another goal with 5:05 left in the second to tie the game at three.
Before the second was over though, the dormant Portland power play finally broke through.
The Winterhawks’ man advantage was 0-for-2 in the game and had not found the net on their last 29 power plays when Luke Toporowski took a penalty with 4:12 left in the middle frame.
Portland would not go zero for their last 30.
On the rush, Brendan De Jong flipped a pass to Cross Hanas on the rush and the 16-year-old Texan wired a shot over Brkin’s glove.
“Getting pucks on net was our biggest goal tonight for the power play. I think we found early on the rush. I found the lane and (De Jong) made a good pass and I found a lane to get it on net and it went in,” Hanas said.
Brkin did not come out to start the third, giving up four goals on 19 shots. Reece Klassen, who had a shutout Friday night against Kelowna, came on the ice in relief.
He was greeted with a goal off the stick of Portland defenseman Matthew Quigley.
Then the Winterhawks saw another two-goal lead disappear.
First, Adam Beckman solved Hofer after the Portland defense got tied up with their goalie.
Then, on the power play, Filip Kral walked in from the point and beat a screened Hofer to tie the game at five.
A late power play for Portland was not taken advantage of and the game went to overtime.
Both goalies were called upon to make big stops in the extra session with the best being a series of three stops that Hofer made with the Chiefs buzzing.
“I thought we had great bounce back all night. We dealt with ups and downs. There was penalties and goals were happening quickly. I thought our group handled it really well tonight,” Ludvig said.
Despite the back and forth style to the game and 10 combined goals, Ludvig ended up with a plus-three even though he was tasked with shutting down Anderson-Dolan’s line for much of the night.
“That’s my main focus out there. I’m not much of a point guy per se. I get a few points but that is not my focus. I want to stop the other guys from scoring,” Ludvig said.
“I’ve got a good relationship with my coaches and we’ve got great coaching staff. I’m pretty sure almost anyone on our team can play against those guys. They are good players and they are fun to compete against,” he added.
Getting the extra point, means Portland now has an 11-point lead over Spokane for second in the U.S. Division.
-Portland kept their forward lines from Friday night. Defensemen Kade Nolan and Nick Perna were scratched along with captain Cody Glass.
-Spokane scratched forwards Erik Atchison and Connor Gabruch and injured defenseman Matt Leduc.
-Spokane was 2-for-5 on the power play, while Portland was 1-of-4.
-Hofer earned his fifth win with Portland. He stopped 35-of-40. Klassen turned away nine-of-10 in relief for the Chiefs.
-Everett took down Seattle on Saturday 7-1, meaning they maintain their seven point lead on the Winterhawks for the U.S. Division lead. Hanas mentioned how big the next series of games are since they are all within the division.
“U.S. Division teams are very tough to play against and we need those huge points to get back up in the standing and hopefully get the lead over Everett soon.”
-Ludvig agreed that the team is looking forward to the next series of games. They play Tri-City on Tuesday, before heading north and taking on Seattle Friday and Everett on Saturday.
“We are winding down. 17 games or so left until playoffs and we want to let every team in our division know that we are not going to be an easy matchup in the playoffs.”