The Portland Winterhawks are back on the ice and have logged their first full month of play. The defending Western Hockey League champions are off to a slow start, ranking sixth in the Western Conference. Last week the Winterhawks suited up for a meeting with the No. 2-ranked Spokane Chiefs and a two-day stand with the No. 1-ranked Kelowna Rockets.
The Chiefs came into the rink boasting a hot 4–0 start, but the Winterhawks were ready for the battle to come. Nearly 5,000 fans gathered at the newly named Moda Center, and the Winterhawks rode the electric energy to a 4–1 lead in just the first nine minutes. Spokane, down a player, scratched Portland’s lead to 4–2 a minute later. As the third period played out, a power play gave the Winterhawks another goal, making it 5–2, but the Chiefs made another rally, scoring two goals, both from power plays. With the Winterhawks only up by one, the Chiefs opted to pull their goalie and hope an extra set of skates would help with the deficit. The Winterhawks’ Nic Petan closed that door quickly as he scored the final goal of the match, 6–4 Winterhawks.
The Winterhawks embarked next on a two-day stand with the Rockets. The Winterhawks again logged the first goal in the opening five minutes, but the Rockets recorded the next four consecutive goals, going up 4–1 in the third period. Portland finally answered two minutes later with a goal of their own, but the Rockets picked up their momentum again with two more goals, flashing by the Winterhawks 6–2.
With Portland’s pride on the line, they again came out strong to start, scoring the first goal of Saturday’s match. Riding the revenge train, Portland recorded another goal, going up 2–0 in just the first three minutes. The Rockets were not fazed whatsoever as they reached top speed, logging an impressive three goals in the duration of two minutes, placing the Rockets in the lead at 3–2. As the Rockets continued to close down all attempts at offense for the Winterhawks, they again scored, going up 4–2. In the third period, the Winterhawks came on strong, scoring a shorthanded goal to bring the score to within one, but the Rockets showed why they hold the top spot in the Western Conference with two more quick goals to finish the game 6–3.
The Winterhawks (3–3-0–1) have not experienced the start they were hoping for after a season in which they handily won the Western Hockey League Championship and a ticket to the Memorial Cup. To be fair, the Winterhawks are without a few of the centerpieces that led them to such success: Ty Rattie, the leading scorer in last year’s playoffs, is now in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, and WHL West First All-Star goalie Mac Curruth is in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Portland is off until Saturday, when they will welcome the
No. 9 Kamloops Blazers to Moda Center at 7 p.m. for another Western Conference battle—one they hope will give them some needed energy.