(Kennewick, WA) Third-period goals from Gabe Klassen and Tyson Kozak fueled the Portland Winterhawks to a 4-3 victory over the Spokane Chiefs.
With both the Winterhawks and Chiefs scratching enough talent to almost form another team, the team’s younger talent had an opportunity to showcase their skills.
“This tournament is all about the young kids playing on every team with so many guys away at NHL camps,” Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston said. “It is basically giving young kids experience in this league, giving them an opportunity to play in different situations, and then evaluating how ready are they. We are taking three games and seeing who is ready to play.”
Gabe Klassen spoke about his opportunity. “It is good to get in the game and see what the league is all about and getting used to the pace and tempo if I want to stick. I want to keep getting used to the speed.”
Portland’s youth came out firing shots at Spokane’s 16-year-old netminder, Campbell Arnold, right from the drop of the puck. In the opening frame, Arnold faced 17 Winterhawks shots and stopped 16. Only a scramble play in front, finished off by Cross Hanas, was able to beat Arnold.
The Chiefs settled into the game in the second period and received two goals from 19-year-old forward Michael King to get back into the game.
Jaydon Dureau later tied the game for Portland using both speed and power to drive around the outside before tucking the puck into the far side of the net.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Winterhawks had 31 shots on net, while Lochlan Gordon only faced 14 Spokane shots.
Mike Johnston commented on the challenge a netminder can face when he goes a long time between shots, “It is always tough for a goaltender in a game like that when you know you are playing a full game. (Gordon) hasn’t had many of those. I think if you don’t get shots, it is about keeping him busy and keeping him sharp. I thought he did that.”
Less than four minutes into the third period, rookie forward Gabe Klassen gave Portland the lead after finishing a chance off the rush.
“It was a good breakout. (James) Stefan got it over to Kishaun (Gervais), beat the guy wide, delayed a bit, made a great pass over to me, and I was able to finish it off up top in the net. It felt pretty good,” Klassen described the goal.
Johnston feels, “Klassen is looking more and more comfortable every game.”
After allowing three power-play goals to Tri-City the night before, Portland’s penalty kill successfully killed all four of Spokane’s man-advantage opportunities.
“Our penalty kill was really good. Certainly, Spokane was missing a lot of their key guys,” Johnston expressed. “I think our penalty kill is improving every week. Don (Hay) has done a good job with it, and we had more jump and energy on the kill (Friday).”
Tyson Kozak, one of Portland’s five 17-year-old forwards, gave the Winterhawks a two-goal lead just as a Spokane penalty was about to expire.
Kozak’s goal proved to be necessary as the Chiefs scored only 21 seconds later with Arnold on the bench for an extra attacker. Cordel Larson scored his first goal of the preseason to get the Chiefs within one with a minute to play.
Gordon and the young Winterhawks were able to hang on for a 4-3 victory.
Klassen felt how the team played in the first period was a key to their success on Friday. “I thought it was a pretty good start, and we got on them early. I thought my line was humming pretty good and really took it to them. I feel we got better as the game went on.”
Portland has one more game left in their preseason, which concludes back-to-back weekends where they play three games in as many nights.
Johnston talked about how the schedule can impact some of the younger players. “Three-in-threes are never easy, especially in a tournament like this where they are a little bit nervous and under pressure. You want to see them under pressure and see how they react. I just think every game they get like this in the league is going to help them out. Even for young kids who have to return to Midget or U-16, they still will benefit from this experience.”
Spokane has two more games left in their preseason. They face the host Tri-City Americans twice — today at 7:05, and then they will make the trip back to the Toyota Center in a week for one final tuneup before the regular season starts.
– The Winterhawks finished the game with 44 shots, while the Chiefs ended with 19.
– Spokane dressed 18 players for Friday’s game instead of the normal 20. Defenseman Bobby Russel left the game with an injury early in the first period and did not return. This left the Chiefs with only 15 available skaters for the remaining 48 minutes of the game.
– Portland has five players away at NHL camps, while Spokane sent eight: Jake McGrew (San Jose), Adam Beckman (Minnesota), Filip Kral (Toronto), Ty Smith (New Jersey), Lukas Parik (Los Angeles), Luke Toporowski (Winnipeg), Eli Zummack (Tampa Bay), and Noah King (New Jersey).