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Winterhawks Game Day Preview: Portland at Brandon – Game #40

Ben Ludeman

The Winterhawks ride a four-game winning streak with them to Manitoba as they take on the Brandon Wheat Kings. Portland has been on the right side of the series history, winning eight of the last nine head-to-head meetings against Brandon.

Puck Drop: 5:00 p.m. PST / 7:00 p.m. CT

Venue: Westoba Place

Listen: winterhawks.com/listen

Watch: WHL Live

PREVIOUS GAME – Winterhawks 6 vs. Warriors 0: For the third time this season, the Winterhawks shutout their opponent, beating the Moose Jaw Warriors 6-0 on the road. The Hawks handed the Warriors their largest loss of the season.

Portland had one of its best starts of the season, leaping out to a 4-0 lead at the end of the first period. Reece Newkirk, the native of Moose Jaw, scored the first of the night on a shot from the right circle to wedge it through the glove of Adam Evanoff. The tally gave him points in his last four games.

Approaching the media timeout, Joachim Blichfeld made a head fake pass to find Jake Gricius streaking through the slot. The Colorado native faked out Evanoff and slid the puck passed his left pad, giving the Hawks a 2-0 lead. Minutes later the Hawks made a tic-tac-toe pass to find Lane Gilliss on the right wing for a one-time goal and a 3-0 advantage.

Moose Jaw tried to claw its way back in the game, but Shane Farkas made a combo of impressive pad stops and the defense locked down. Before the end of the period, Nick Cicek fired a low point shot that pinballed out to Clay Hanus. He blasted in the rebound to give the Hawks a four-goal cushion heading into the locker room. The Hawks chased starting goaltender Adam Evanoff after seeing just 11 shots.

Coming out for the second and third periods, the Hawks maintained momentum by scoring early. Seth Jarvis cashed in on a hustle play to open the second period, stripping the puck from backup goaltender Brodan Salmond 18 seconds into the middle frame. Joachim Blichfeld added to his WHL point lead with a nifty top shelf goal to make it 6-0 Portland.

Shane Farkas put together a marvelous performance, denying all 23 shots he faced on Saturday night to earn his sixth shutout of his WHL career. With the win, Portland increases its win streak to four straight games.

TODAY’S MATCH-UP:

After a pair of impressive wins to start the road trip, the Hawks drive to Manitoba for a Tuesday night game against the Wheat Kings. Brandon is sliding with just two wins in its last ten games. Those wins were against Seattle and an overtime win at home against Saskatoon.

Third year WHL forward Luka Burzan has been a bright spot for Brandon. At only 18 years old, he is second on the team in points with 46 and he tallied seven points (4G-3A) in his last two games. The Wheat Kings have eight home games this month, and are seeking their first win against the Hawks since 2014. In their lone win this decade, Brandon scored ten goals led by current Philadelphia Flyers Nolan Patrick and Ivan Provorov.

Outside of the top two scorers in Burzan and Carolina Hurricanes prospect Stelio Mattheos, the Wheat Kings have struggled with their depth productivity. In net, Jiri Patera became one of the first import goalies drafted in the WHL after the new rule. The Vegas Golden Knights prospect is 2-1-0-1 against U.S. Division opponents this season, including a 36 save win against Everett in the fall.

Joachim Blichfeld has goals in ten of twelve games since December 1 and the Hawks have averaged nearly six goals per game over that stretch. The Danish forward leads the way with five points in two career games against Brandon. Lane Gilliss is the only other current Hawk with multiple points (1G-1A) against the Manitoba-based team.

In his last game, Ryan Hughes recorded his 150th career WHL point and is expected to be back on the wing with Blichfeld and Glass for the mid-week games. Captain Cody Glass is expected to make his return to the lineup on Tuesday after missing the last nine games to compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships. Defensively speaking, the Hawks have done well in the two games against the East Division, only allowing 23 shots per game.

For the Hawks to succeed in Brandon, a top priority will be shutting down Brandon’s top line and taking control early. The Hawks are 18-2-0-0 when leading after the first period this season. Tuesday night begins a tough stretch again with the Winterhawks playing four games in the next five days before heading home.

Portland is in the midst of his bi-annual trip to Saskatchewan/Manitoba to face the East Division opponents. They return home on Saturday, January 19 for a sunset game against the Everett Silvertips at 5:00 p.m. at the Coliseum. It’s also a Belmont Station Beer and Cider Tasting Night. Be sure to visit¬†winterhawks.com/tickets¬†for full details on pricing and availability.

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