Saturday night in Portland was a night to remember for the Winterhawks (15-10-0-2) as they battled the Spokane Chiefs (14-9-2-2). The contest was Portland’s 21st annual Teddy Bear game, and 19-year-old Lane Gilliss scored on a rebound just over two minutes into the game sending 10,451 teddy bears onto the ice.
Portland had the momentum right from the drop of the puck and scored three goals before the first period media timeout. By the time the final horn sounded, seven different players scored for the Winterhawks, Ryan Hughes netted two, and 12 players contributed a point in a 8-2 victory.
Head coach Mike Johnston was pleased with his team’s start, “I thought it was one of those nights where we had a lot of energy. We knew they had played a tough game last night. I watched the game, I thought Spokane played really well against Everett. Then Everett came back on them and pushed it into overtime, so they had a late night coming in here. I thought we got the jump, the energy from the crowd, the teddy bear toss. It was a combination of getting them back on their heels.”
Last season Portland didn’t score the teddy bear toss goal until the third period, but Gilliss ensured the wait would be much shorter this year. In fact, the Winterhawks’ fourth line was not able to get a shift before Lane scored. Ryan Hughes said, “It happened so quick. I know the fourth line didn’t even have a chance to go yet, so they were giving lane some crap about that after the game.”
The play started with 16-year-old rookie Robbie Fromm-Delorme making a play down low and getting the puck high to fellow rookie Nick Perna. Fromm-Delorme said, “it was a great play by Perna and Gilliss standing in front of the net in perfect position. It was great with all the fans and an unbelievable experience. I saw the play the develop when Perna put it on net and Lane tip it. I knew as soon as he spun around he would put it into the net.”
Perna described the play and moment for him, “I got a great pass up from Robbie and saw a lane to the net and just shot. Lane was there to get the rebound, and it was a great finish by him. It was good to get the crowd into it early. It was an awesome experience. I think I got hit by a few [bears], it was really fun though. The guys really came together and wanted to pepper the goalie early.”
“It was an incredible feeling, I mean, first shift.,” Gilliss said. “Robbie made a good play to Perna and Perna put a nice shot on net there. It was an easy rebound and felt good to get that one. I will always remember that.”
Lane said, “We just kept hounding them and kept pressuring them.” after play resumed. Joachim Blichfeld scored his 22nd goal of the season only a 1:33 of game time after Gilliss’ goal. Once again defenseman Nick Perna started the play. The Dallas, Texas native kept the puck alive in the offensive zone and directed the puck towards the net. Blichfeld was able to beat Dawson Weatherill to the far side.
Each team only had two power play chances, and Portland converted on their first opportunity. Winterhawks’ captain Cody Glass created additional time and space for himself before sending a pass to the front of the net where Jake Gricius was positioned. The tip-in goal was Gricius 13th goal of the season and 11th on the power play.
The three goals in the first period was enough for Spokane to replace Weatherill with Bailey Brkin to start the second period. Once again Glass was able to separate himself from a defender and found a wide open Hughes at the far post. The 19-year-old had the entire net to aim for and made no mistake for his eighth goal of the season.
Portland’s second penalty gave Spokane some life midway through the second period. Filip Kral scored from the point with help from a Luke Toporowski screen in front of Winterhawks’ goalie Shane Farkas.
The Chiefs’ push-back continued as Jake McGrew’s seventh goal of the season came after several nice plays by Adam Beckman and Luke Gallagher on a 3-on-2 rush up the ice. Spokane pinned Portland in their own zone on the next shift, but was not able to convert the pressure into a goal.
2019 NHL draft eligible Winterhawks’ forward Reece Newkirk won a puck battle at center ice and broke into the Chiefs’ zone. Newkirk kept his head up the entire way and spotted Jaydon Dureau breaking to the net with a backhand pass. The goal was Dureau’s fourth of the season.
Jaydon has shown the last several weeks to be a player who competes just as hard without the puck as he does with the puck. He backchecked hard as Spokane tried to exit the zone, stole the puck and sent Seth Jarvis, Portland’s 2017 1st round Bantam Draft pick, on a breakaway. Jarvis went forehand-backhand and top shelf on Brkin restoring the Winterhawks’ two goal lead.
Johnston said, “I thought the key turning point in the game for me was when they came back 4-2. Then we got back-to-back goals. I thought that was good push back by our team. When we were playing well and they scored, it just seemed like we just picked up the pace a little bit more.”
“That one line of Newkirk, Jarvis, and Dureau had a really good night,” Johnston continued. They were hunting the puck from behind all night. I just that as a group we had a lot of contributors. I didn’t have to shorten the bench at any time.”
The Winterhawks scored two goals in the third period with Hughes’ second of the game and Newkirk’s 15th of the season resulting in Portland scoring eight goals against Spokane for the second game in a row. The two teams played back on November 4th in Spokane and Portland won 8-6.
12 different players found themselves on the score sheet on Saturday, and Johnston said, “it is good for our young kids, guys that haven’t played in the league a lot, to get some points and feel good about their game.”
Glass and Blichfeld each had three points, but their depth scoring came through as well. Dureau, Jarvis, and Perna each had multiple point nights as well.
Portland’s attention now turns towards Kootenay as the Ice visit the Moda Center on Sunday night. The two teams only play once this season. The ICE are an unfamiliar opponent for the Winterhawks after playing four straight division rivals.
The Ice are led by Peyton Krebs, who the NHL Central Scouting Service lists as an “A” rated skater for the 2019 NHL draft. An “A” rated skater indicates a first round candidate. Johnston noted, “Don [Hay] and Kyle [Gustafson] put together the scouting reports on these teams. I haven’t watched Kootenay very much; I did watch a little bit of their game last night. They have 3-in-3 so we have to push the pace. Krebs is a great player so we have to shut him down.”
– Keeping an eye on the 6th defenseman rotation, Nick Perna played his 12th game this season.
– Cody Glass missed Portland’s last game with an injury. I asked Johnston after the game about the injury and he said, “seems to be okay there with Cody.”
– Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass are third and fourth respectively in the WHL in points. Blichfeld has 49 points in 27 games and Glass has 46 points in 23 games. Glass’ 37 assists are second in the league behind Edmonton’s Trey Fix-Wolansky’s 38. The Edmonton forward has played in seven more games than Glass.