(Kent, WA) On a snowy Friday evening in the Pacific Northwest, the Portland Winterhawks (33-15-3-2) traveled north to square off with the Seattle Thunderbirds (20-26-4-1). Joachim Blichfeld and John Ludvig scored in the first period pacing the Winterhawks to a 4-1 victory.
Portland Winterhawks Head Coach Mike Johnston spoke after the game crediting his team’s start as a key moment, “I liked our start for sure. We have had some great starts lately.”
Blichfeld opened the scoring on the game’s first shot as he entered the zone with speed. The WHL’s leading scorer’s shot got by Seattle’s Cole Schwebius for his 44th of the season.
Portland’s struggle on the power play continued going zero-for-two on Friday. However, defenseman John Ludvig scored his fourth of the season just one second after a man advantage expired. The penalized Seattle player did not have a chance to impact the play, but for statistical purposes, the goal came at even strength.
Ludvig assisted on Blichfeld’s goal, so with a goal of his own, the 18-year-old defenseman recorded his first multi-point game in the WHL. After the game he told Winterhawks.com, “It was good. The guys are playing great around me. Made a play up to [Newkirk] who made a great play up to [Blichfeld] who had a great shot. Same with [Jarvis] who made a good pass on the wall there to me.”
Portland outshot and possessed the puck more in the first period compared to Seattle. However, Seattle pushed back in the second period, but was unable to get anything behind Winterhawks goalie Shane Farkas.
19-year-old Lane Gilliss netted his 13th goal of the season with an assist to rookie Seth Jarvis.
Head coach Mike Johnston made adjustments to all four forward lines entering the evening.
“Since Cody [Glass] has been out we’ve juggled the lines a little bit” Johnston commented. “We haven’t had them as locked in as we had before, but I think it is good with Cody gone that other guys are getting different minutes and different opportunities. It is a good opportunity to give guys a chance to play different roles so come playoff time we are ready for anything.”
Both Gilliss and Jarvis picked up their 30th point on the campaign.
As play progressed into the third period neither team established control of the game. Mike Johnston felt his team had a better effort in the final 20 minutes compared to previous games, “Certainly in the third period in a couple of games last two weeks I haven’t been overly happy about it. Tonight, I thought our third period was good other than the penalties. We can’t take penalties to give them a little bit of momentum. We have to make sure we cut down giving them six power play opportunities tonight, which allowed them a chance to get back into the game.”
On a scramble in front of Farkas, after Seattle overager Sean Richards hit the post, Portland committed a second penalty. The five-on-four turned into a five-on-three for 39 seconds for the Thunderbirds 39 seconds.
Matthew Wedman one-timed a Noah Philp pass from just below the faceoff dot to get Seattle on the board.
In the last meeting between the U.S. Division rivals, Seattle scored twice in the final seconds with Schwebius pulled for an extra attacker. The Thunderbirds were not able to pull the rabbit out of the hat again. Josh Paterson scored an empty-net goal which restored Portland’s three-goal cushion.
Shane Farkas stopped 25-of-26 shots for his ninth win against Seattle. Farkas after the game said, “As a team it was a real turning point as the last couple of games haven’t been the way we wanted them to go, so to get back on the right side of things is a really good feeling. It is always fun to play a divisional opponent, so when things go well, it makes things fun.”
Seattle hosts the Medicine Hat Tigers tomorrow while Portland travels further north to play division leading Everett.
Medicine Hat defeated Everett 1-0 on Friday. Therefore, on Saturday evening, Portland has an opportunity to cut the Silvertips’ lead in the division down to three points with a win in regulation.
– After being listed on the line charts, defenseman Matthew Quigley was a late scratch. Rookie defenseman Nick Cicek entered the lineup instead. The decision to play Cicek was not a result of an injury to Quigley as the 19-year-old is healthy.
– Josh Paterson’s empty-net goal gives him back-to-back seasons with at least 20 goals.
– Shane Farkas has stopped 58 of the last 60 shots he has faced.