Portland (26-14-1-3) vs Broncos (32-10-3-0) – 7:00 p.m. – Veterans Memorial Coliseum
This is the first and only meeting between the Winterhawks and Broncos this season. Swift Current got the better of Portland in their one game season series last year, with the Hawks falling 7-3 on the road during their East Division swing. The Winterhawks have won three straight meetings over Swift Current here in Portland; the last time the Broncos won in the Rose City was Dec 18th, 2009 in a 6-3 victory.
PREVIOUS GAME: Winterhawks 2 vs Royals 4: The Winterhawks and Royals faced off on Wednesday in their first matchup of the season, with Victoria pulling away late to pick up a 4-2 victory.
The Royals got on the board first 8:28 into the opening frame but the Hawks responded under a minute later on a powerplay goal from Skyler McKenzie. For McKenzie, it was his 34th of the season and 14th in his last 13 games.
In the second, the Royals took the lead when Matthew Smith put home a nice feed from Matthew Phillips to make it 2-1 Victoria. The Hawks responded again on the powerplay, with Cody Glass wristing one home from the left circle to tie things at two 7:21 into the third period.
Victoria would bury two more however, less than a minute apart, midway through the period to take a 4-2 lead. Phillips scored the fourth for the Royals, his third point on the night. Cole Kehler had a stellar game, making several big stops and finished the night with 29 saves. But his effort wasn’t enough, as the Royals came away with the 4-2 win.
TODAY’S OPPONENT: In recent years, the U.S. road trip for the Broncos has not been a kind one. Swift Current went 0-5 on their last trip through the U.S. Division, but the Broncos came away with a 3-2 OT win over Tri-City on Tuesday to start their current trip on a good note.
In that game, Aleksi Heponiemi had two goals and assist to extend his point streak to 25-games. The streak is the longest the Western Hockey League has seen since 1996. On the season, Heponiemi has 82 points in just 33 games played. The line of Heponiemi, Tyler Steenbergen and Glenn Gawdin has been one of the best in the league. Steenbergen has 35 goals in just 30 games, while Gawdin is fourth in the WHL in points 81.
Swift Current added forward Matteo Gennaro earlier in the year from Calgary and he has enjoyed a massive year. Gennaro has 32 points in 20 games with the Broncos and 57 on the season.
The Broncos made several other key additions to their roster before the trade deadline last week. The biggest move was a massive deal with the Hurricanes that gave the Broncos forwards Giorgio Estephan, Tanner Nagel and goaltender Stuart Skinner. Estephan is an over-ager who is over a point-per-game on the year, while Skinner is a 6’4 goaltender and third round pick of the Edmonton Oilers.
The Broncos enter tonight’s contest with points in seven straight and the top power-play unit in the WHL.
WINTERHAWKS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Skyler McKenzie enters tonight with five goals in his last three games and 14 markers over his last 13 contests. McKenzie picked up a goal in the Hawks lone game against Swift Current last season.
Dennis Cholowski has four points in four games as a Winterhawk. The Langley, BC born D-man has come as advertised, jumping into the rush when he can and a quick first pass out of the defensive zone. Both him and Henri Jokiharju are two of just 11 defenseman in the WHL this season to average over a point-per-game.
16-year old forward Jaydon Dureau has been added to Portland’s roster before a weekend of three-games in three-nights.
STAT OF THE DAY: Portland Winterhawks Vice President, General Manger and Head Coach Mike Johnston is away from the team tonight on scouting and GM duties, so the Hawks will have Assistant Coach Danny Flynn step in as head coach against the Broncos. For Flynn, he becomes just the fourth person in Canadian Hockey League history to be a Head Coach in the QMJHL, OHL and the WHL.
Flynn joins Mike Kelly (Brandon, Windsor/North Bay, Saint John) Ron Harris (Spokane, Windsor, Saint-Jean) and Joe Canale (Medicine Hat, Sarnia, Shawinigan/Chicoutimi/Beauport/Sherbrooke) as the only people to have been Head Coach in all three leagues.
Johnston will return to the team tomorrow.
Here’s how the two teams have played head-to-head this season:
Winterhawks: 0-0-0-0 Broncos: 0-0-0-0
This Year’s Season Series:
01/19/18 – Swift Current @ Portland
Portland is on the road tomorrow night in Vancouver but return home on Sunday for a match-up with the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Moda Center. Make sure to grab your tickets HERE!